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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 82: debated on Monday 8 July 1985

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Wales

Unemployment And Health

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what studies are available to him of the relationship between unemployment and health; what consideration he has given to them; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend and I are aware that a number of studies have considered whether there might be any relationship between unemployment and health. All have shown how difficult it is to isolate the factors which contribute to the need for health care. We are committed to targeting health care resources in response to needs, no matter how those needs arise.

Is the Minister aware that at least 3,000 people have died because of unemployment, according to official data based on the 1971 census figures? Is he further aware that thousands more people have become chronically sick as a result of unemployment? How many more people have to die because of the Government's policies?

I repeat that there is no direct proven causal connection between unemployment and ill health. I remind the hon. Lady that when she last alleged that connection' in the Welsh Grand Committee in March, and I asked her for the material on which she based her view, she sent me an article from The Lancet, which simply reiterated what I have just said — that it is extremely difficult to prove any causal connection.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a close relationship between strike action, health and unemployment, in that many of the strikes that have been supported —

I was about to point out, Mr. Speaker, that strike action creates unemployment. Does not strike action in the Health Service lengthen the waiting lists for inpatients and outpatients? How did the strike action in 1981 affect those waiting lists?

There is no doubt, because the figures prove it, that the strike action in the Health Service to which my hon. Friend referred lengthened the waiting lists.

Do not all the reports on the valley towns show the deepening crisis and the social consequences — no doubt partly due to mass unemployment, but also to other factors? Rather than making such complacent replies, why do the Minister and his right hon. Friend not go to the Cabinet to try to obtain the additional resources needed to fight the consequences of their policies?

Of course there are reports from the valley towns, but, quite frankly, the reports to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and their conclusions are certainly not helped by, for example, strike action. There is a housing problem in the Cynon Valley, represented by the hon. Lady, but it was not improved by the coal strike.

Will the Minister tell us how many of those unemployed in the Health Service in Wales will be unemployed next year?

The hon. Gentleman knows that there has been a tremendous increase in staffing in the NHS in Wales.

I shall answer the hon. Gentleman. There was a 15·6 per cent. increase in front-line staff in the NHS in Wales between 1979 and 1984.

On current pay awards, it is very much to be hoped that they can be contained within the increased allocations given to health authorities in Wales, with, perhaps, a certain amount more being saved by authorities.

The Minister would do well to read today's Western Mail, in which Mr. Rodger Dobson's compelling and disturbing article relates the link between unemployment and bad health. Does the Minister understand that the Sneddon family, and tens of thousands like them throughout Wales, desperately need the hope of work? Was not the brutal message from Brecon that the people of Wales want more work and an end to unemployment?

One of the messages of Brecon and Radnor was that the Labour party has little to crow about today. Of course we all want a decline in unemployment.

Labour Statistics

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what information he has as to the percentage of workers in Wales employed in firms, industries, services or processes that have been established in Wales since 1965.

Comprehensive information is not available. However, new manufacturing units known to have opened in Wales since the end of 1965 and still in production directly provide some 72,000 manufacturing jobs, some 35 per cent. of the total number of employees in employment in manufacturing as at December 1984.

Is it not clear that those figures do not give the whole picture? Should not the Government concentrate greater resources on promoting the growth of new jobs and new industries and not on attempting to arrest the necessary decline of some traditional industries?

Although I agree that we should not attempt to arrest necessary decline, the introduction of new technology and the modernisation of existing industry is an important contribution to economic recovery. Some 400 manufacturing plants have opened since May 1979 and they already provide about 18,000 jobs. Many have only just started to take on employees and will provide considerably more jobs in due course.

I am aware that the Secretary of State and his Department have done much to attract new industries to south Wales, but will he devote the same attention to existing industries? When W. Ribbons in the Rhonnda wanted some help from the Department, the Secretary of State was swanning around Finland. What did he bring back from Finland?

The hon. Gentleman might be unaware that I went at the invitation of a company which directly employs 250 people in north Wales and which will provide 800 or 900 jobs in the forestry industry in Wales. I also visited a company which is the 50 per cent. shareholder of British Tissues, which employs many hundreds of people in south Wales. As the hon. Gentleman says, helping the development of existing industry is important. I hope that he will not belittle our efforts to ensure that those industries are strengthened and enlarged.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government have a creditable record in promoting new jobs since 1979, especially through overseas investment in Wales? Does he further agree that that record could be even better if it were not for the negative chorus from the Opposition, who revel in high unemployment and all things unattractive?

Inward investment from overseas is undoubtedly an important contributory factor to the modernisation of Welsh industry, but we should not exaggerate. Of the 1,000 or so manufacturing units which still exist and have come into being during the past 20 years, only about 65 represent direct inward investment, whereas nearly half represent small companies starting up new businesses. That type of indigenous development is important for the future.

The right hon. Gentleman is far too complacent. He has not told us, for example, about Inmos today. Does he realise that under his regime 103,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in Wales since he took office? Did not the Brecon electorate brutally dismiss his policies as wretched failures? Is it not the case that the policies must be changed or the endangered species behind him will lose their seats?

I do not believe that anything that I said to the House about the changes necessary in industry showed complacency. What is undoubtedly a matter of congratulation is that we are attracting new jobs. Since last Question Time there has been the announcement from Control Data at Brynmawr of 100 new jobs, from Shopco (U.K.) Ltd of 100 new jobs and that NDN Aircraft is to manufacture new aircraft in Cardiff creating 100 new jobs. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the announcement by Seddons in the Delyn enterprise zone that it will take on about 250 people. I am not for one moment suggesting that we do not need a great deal more, but to suggest that that record of attracting new business and new industry smacks of complacency is absurd.

Secondary Schools (Expenditure)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much was spent per pupil in secondary schools in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and how this compares with the figure for 1978–79, at constant prices.

At 1983–84 prices, spending per secondary school pupil in Wales was £905 in 1978–79 and £1,006 in 1983–84. That is an increase of 11 per cent.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show satisfactory improvements since 1978–79? Do the Government intend to make more resources available for Welsh language education?

The figures are satisfactory, yes, but I am never satisfied. The charge of complacency levelled against us on any issue is a parrot cry. The figures are a refutation of the parrot cry about cuts. There has been no cut. There has been an 11 per cent. increase. In reply to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I have been giving careful consideration to calls for the establishment of a Welsh language education development body. When I met a deputation of six different Welsh language groups on that issue on 25 June—

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has a genius for interruption, but makes little constructive contribution. At that meeting I made it clear that I would not hold out any false hopes, because I must consider resources for Welsh language education alongside all other competing calls, and reconcile my final decision within the overriding public expenditure constraints, which are essential if we are to maintain the economy on the right lines.

Will the hon. Gentleman give similar figures in relation to school books and school library expenditure? I do not know whether he has children attending Welsh secondary schools. We have, and we notice the dog-eared books that they are bringing home, the lack of books and the shared books. Will we return to the slate and the chalk under this Government?

Capitation and the management of their resources is entirely a matter for the local authorities and not for central Government.

Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the other changes in secondary schools in Wales since 1979, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, has been the sharp fall in the number of pupils, and that resources for pupils might be better employed were some authorities to consider school amalgamations.

Yes, of course, Mr. Speaker. I accept that local education authorities have a difficult task to perform against a background of falling rolls. I have asked them to come to see me so that we may discuss that matter constructively to see how best it can be resolved.

Does the Minister appreciate that the rosy picture that he is trying to paint is not borne out by the facts? For example, the teachers' dispute drags on, and without a contented labour force to take charge of the schools our children will be at a disadvantage. When will the Government provide the means to bring about a just settlement for the teachers?

As the House will be aware, the Government's position has been made clear all along. There is no question of more money to fund an excessive public sector wages settlement. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that responsibility for the teachers' pay negotiations does not rest with me.

Labour Statistics

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the latest level of unemployment in North Wales.

Current levels of unemployment remain high, but considerable progress continues to be made in developing the area and attracting new investment.

Is the Minister aware that, under this Government, unemployment in north Wales has nearly doubled? Is that not a disgrace? Does the Secretary of State accept that job losses in the steel and textile industries, particularly in the Flint area, affect regions such as Merseyside, which, over the weekend, saw another 700 jobs lost at the Plessey factory at Huyton? When does the Secretary of State expect the economy to upturn so that we can provide more jobs in north Wales and Merseyside?

I am aware of the problems in north Wales and Merseyside. That is one of the reasons why the Government have spent some £350 million on roads and industrial infrastructure and enterprise zones in Clwyd since we came into office in 1979.

I joined my right hon. Friend in welcoming last week's announcement that the garment manufacturer Seddons is to set up a new plant in Delyn enterprise zone, employing initially 140 people. Is he aware that Delyn borough council expects to make a further significant job announcement within the next month?

I noticed Mr. Sharps doing a television broadcast recently in which he was optimistic about the prospects for that enterprise trust. I congratulate the local authority on the drive and energy that it has been putting behind the zone.

When will the Secretary of State be in a position to make an announcement about the availability of EC aid in areas of rural north Wales which are not at the moment within assisted area zones?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are still considering that matter. I cannot gibe him a firm date.

The right hon. Gentleman is too serene in his ignorance. Is it not the case that in Clwyd and Gwynedd there are 37,000 jobless people and some 2,000 vacancies? Has he the guts to tell the Prime Minister to change her economic policy, or does he remain her lackey?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware, if he visits his constituency, of the considerable new investment there, and the fact that it is one of the most attractive areas in the whole of the United Kingdom for foreign investment and for new companies setting up. That should be a matter for pleasure and congratulation.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures available for the Wrexham area and for Wales.

The Secretary of State knows that he was unable to do anything about the Courtaulds closure. Dunlop is now proposing to close, and the Secretary of State, in an answer to me on Friday, was able to say only that he could take into account Clwyd's detailed proposals for allocation of planned resources. Will the Secretary of State do something to avert the closure at Dunlop? If he cannot, how long will he stay as Secretary of State, with the appalling level of unemployment in the Principality? The right hon. Gentleman should either do something about it or resign.

The hon. Gentleman should remember that in the past 12 months, in the Wrexham area, Laura Ashley, Metal Box, F.W. Bender, TetraPak and Sharp Corporation have announced new or major expansion projects. I have already pointed out that the Government have spent at least £350 million on industrial measures in Clwyd, and we shall continue to use every means at our disposal to attract new investment to the area.

Given the fruitless hard work that the Secretary of State for Wales recently put into the Brecon and Radnor by-election, and as unemployment was one of the main issues at Brecon, what statement will the right hon. Gentleman make on the by-election result? Does he not think that he owes to Wales, now that it has given its verdict on his employment policy, a full statement as to what new steps are to be taken? Will he merely repeat the old lessons and tell Wales that under this Government it must endure the same sort of unemployment as we have seen in the past few years? Has the Minister no comment to make on the Brecon and Radnor result?

All political parties should consider carefully the results of by-elections. I shall do so. The Labour party will no doubt also consider the complete panic of the electorate when it suddenly realised that might elect a Labour Member of Parliament. When one watches and listens to the performance of the hon. Gentleman, who can blame it?

Just which of the policies being advanced by the Opposition does my right hon. Friend consider would be most productive in bringing fresh jobs into Wales?

One feature of the Brecon and Radnor by-election was that the Opposition parties did not advance any policies, and that they were careful not to do so. The only close ally and supporter of the Labour party who advanced any policies was Mr. Scargill. He was the gentleman whom everybody on the Opposition Benches supported throughout the strike but who was so destructive of Welsh industry and Welsh employment.

How would the Secretary of State explain to the man on the top deck of the Brecon omnibus the logic of falling regional aid at a time of rising unemployment? Does the new "middle way" include a rethink of regional policy?

I know enough about Brecon and Radnor to know that they do not have double-decker buses there.

Despite the arrogance of the Secretary of State in his replies to some of the questions, particularly about unemployment in Wales and the Brecon and Radnor by-election, is he prepared to offer the House and the country an apology for his statement regarding disabled people when he referred to the Brecon and Radnor by-election?

Order. That is very wide of this question, which deals with unemployment.

None the less, Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to say that I have already written to a number of people expressing my regret and apologies for a carelessly phrased off-the-cuff remark that I should not have made. As someone who has introduced a major measure for the improvement of the care of the mentally handicapped and who has a close relative who is mentally handicapped, the last thing that I should wish to do would be to cause offence. Of course I apologise.

Vale Of Glamorgan (Road Traffic)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent complaints and reports he has received of excessive traffic of heavy vehicles on roads for which he is responsible within the area of the Vale of Glamorgan; what discussions he has had with the highway authority on the matter; and what steps are contemplated to reduce or divert such traffic.

I am responsible only for trunk roads within the Vale of Glamorgan area, but I am aware of the problems that have arisen on county roads and have received representations from my hon. Friend and others about the heavy lorries travelling through Dinas Powys, Llysworney and Colwinston. I hope that the matter can be resolved in the very near future.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the excessive traffic of heavy vehicles on some of these roads has underlined the need for bypasses of Dinas Powys, Aberthin Llysworney and Colwinston? The county council asserts that the lack of capital funds limits its ability to carry out these projects. Will my hon. Friend discuss these matters with the county council?

My officials are in touch with the county council and I know that it has traffic management proposals in mind for the immediate future. It has in mind proposals for a bypass of Dinas Powys and in addition is considering the possibility of traffic management measures. I am also informed that the county council is considering whether to include in its programme the proposed bypass of Llysworney. However, I must remind the House that the priority given to any of these road improvement schemes and to any scheme at Colwinston is a matter for the county council.

Labour Statistics

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people in Wales are jobless; how many were jobless in May 1979; by how much the total has increased as a figure and as a percentage; and what is the current figure of long-term unemployed.

On 13 June 1985 there were 173,422 unemployed claimants in Wales. The increase over the estimated equivalent figure of 77,200 in May 1979 is 96,222 or 124·6 per cent. The latest figure for the long-term unemployed relates to April 1985, when 75,573 had been unemloyed in Wales for over one year.

Given those frightening figures, why cannot Wales benefit from a major change in economic policy? Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that the Welsh people want their welfare state strengthened and unemployment tackled with urgency? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the rejection at Brecon and Radnor of his personal nominee, Mr. Butler, who was an adviser of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman, represents a crushing vote of no confidence in Welsh Office Ministers?

I agree that the Brecon and Radnor electorate want the welfare state to be strengthened. That aim will continue to be the Government's policy. The economic growth that is taking place provides the best guarantee for future employment. I very much welcome the recent statements by the CBI Welsh Council, which show the growing optimism of those in industry for economic activity in Wales.

Is there not much evidence throughout the Western world that politicians and other people are most anxious that economic recovery should lead to a reduction in unemployment? Is it not nonsense to pretend that there are people in this country who want high unemployment?

Whatever is happening in the rest of the Western world, can the right hon. Gentleman give my constitutuents any reassurance about the proposed closure of the Cardiff veterinary investigation centre, with the halving of staff numbers, and the possible loss of 200 staff in the Export Credits Guarantee Department? This morning I received representations from two constituents who are worried about their future employment.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food put forward a consultative paper on the future of the veterinary service. We are considering representations on that matter. On the ECGD, I understand that the management has put forward some proposals for future re-organisation within the ECGD. At present, no details of the manpower consequences are available. This matter is at an early stage of consultation.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Labour party that last year Wales obtained nearly a quarter of the total jobs created by inward investment in the United Kingdom — four times as many as Labour's feeble Welsh Office team created during the Labour Government's last year of office?

That is true. We have had that remarkable record for a part of the United Kingdom that represents 5 per cent. of the population. I am glad to say that, of the 1,000 or so manufacturing units in Wales that are known to have opened during the past 20 years, about 400–40 per cent.— have opened since May 1979.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the unemployment percentages that he cited in answer to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) will he further increased by redundancies at BP Llandarcy and Star Wrought Products at Briton Ferry? One thousand jobs have been lost during the past three months in the borough of Neath. When will the right hon. Gentleman change his regional policies? Does he not realise that, because of the policies pursued by the Labour Government, when he came to office unemployment in Neath was much lower than it is now? When will the right hon. Gentleman do something about this? Why does he not get out?

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would at least welcome the decrease of about 5,000 in unemployment in Wales compared with last month and the considerable relative improvement in Neath's position. That improvement was introduced during the last regional policy review.

M4 (Coryton Junction)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he now expects to carry out repairs to the area of badly pitted road surface on the westbound carriageway of the M4 at a point about three and a half miles east of the Coryton junction.

I am pleased to say that repair work was completed on 24 June.

On 14 February the Minister told me that remedial work would take place as soon as weather conditions improved. As it has taken a considerable time to remedy the position, will the hon. Gentleman look seriously at the possibility of lighting the whole of the M4 in Wales? When repairs are needed, potential accident spots occur. Better lighting would reduce risks and the danger to lives when people are travelling on the motorway.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that I advised him on 14 February last that remedial works would take place as soon as weather conditions permitted, because repairs of this nature are best carried out in favourable weather. The point about lighting is quite outwith the terms of the question, but I shall consider the matter. I give no undertaking.

As the road in question is located in my constituency, may I urge my hon. Friend to squash flat any notion that the M4 is a disincentive in attracting people to come to Cardiff, as has happened with the way in which the Severn bridge has been hyped up out of all proportion by the media and by Opposition Members?

I am in complete sympathy with the point of view of my hon. Friend. I believe that a disservice has been done by exaggerating any difficulties that may have occurred at the Severn bridge or anywhere else on the M4.

Is it not time that the Welsh Office took more interest in what is happening on the M4? For instance, can the hon. Gentle man tell the House what steps have been taken by his Department to notify the disabled of their right to travel free over the Severn bridge, particularly bearing in mind the exorbitant increases that are in operation?

I will, of course, look into the matter to see exactly what steps have been taken, and will let the hon. Gentleman know. I totally reject any suggestion that my Department has not been very closely involved in anything to do with the M4 in relation to its importance to the south Wales economy.

Sheepmeat Regime

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is satisfied with the operation of the European Economic Community's sheepmeat regime in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. The sheepmeat regime has brought substantial benefits to Welsh sheep producers, who have a guaranteed price for fat lambs under the sheep variable premium scheme. Breeders also benefit from an annual premium on ewes and the breeding flock has been increasing by 2 to 3 per cent. a year. In the last full marketing year, 1983–84, the regime resulted in payments of £56·8 million to Welsh sheep producers.

How can the Secretary of State be satisfied with the operation of a regime which is now being used to penalise sheepmeat producers in the United Kingdom, and in Wales in particular? Is he satisfied with the present gap operating in the premia and what is his view of the future of the premium? Will it be phased out by the Community?

We have fought resolutely for the sheepmeat regime, which this Government introduced, and which has led to the substantial increase in the flock in Wales. I believe that is has made an enormous contribution to the rural economy. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was not possible to secure entirely satisfactory modifications to the clawback arrangements, to which I think he was referring. However, we shall continue to press for changes to alleviate the difficulties caused by clawback. The exemption from clawback for our exports outside the Community has been renewed to the end of 1987.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the industry wants him to make a better fight for the sheep farmer than he did for the small dairy farmer?

As I pointed out, we are talking about the sheepmeat regime, which was introduced by this Government in 1980 and which has been the biggest boost to the sheep industry in Wales that there has ever been.

Labour Statistics

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for unemployment in (a) Ogmore, (b) Mid-Glamorgan and (c) Wales; what were the equivalent figures in May 1979; and what is the percentage increase in each case.

On 13 June 1985 the number of unemployed claimants were 4,545, 34,657 and 173,422 respectively. In Wales the comparable figure is 77,200 in May 1979, representing an increase of 124·6 per cent. A comparable claimant-based figure for 1979 in Ogmore and Mid-Glamorgan is not available.

Does the Secretary of State realise that the 124 per cent. increase since 1979 about which he talks means, so far as Ogmore is concerned, that, with the closure of St. John's colliery, as a result of which 830 miners have lost their jobs, the percentage increase could rise to such an extent that 45 per cent. of male people in Maesteg will be seeking employment? Does he not think it is time that the Government, as a result of their defeat in the Brecon and Radnor by-election, changed their economic and social policies, and looked seriously at communities such as Maesteg, which suffer so badly when a colliery is closed?

I understand the problems of communities such as Maesteg, but during the past year projects from Invacare, Acrian, Align Rite, Biomet and the Chronar Corporation have been announced in the Bridgend area and promise about 1,200 new jobs. There are problems among the older industries, but we are succeeding in attracting many of the new technologies and new industries to the area.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the statements of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) would sound rather more convincing if he had not supported the miners' strike, despite the fact that 70 per cent. of the miners in his constituency voted against it? However, we are all concerned about unemployment and I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend has any news about future employment prospects at Borg Warner at Kenvig Hill, which are extremely important to my constituency?

My hon. Friend will know that about 600 jobs at Borg Warner have been under threat for a considerable time. It was with a good deal of pleasure that we heard that the company is proposing a new use for the factory and has applied for selective financial assistance, which is being considered by the Welsh Industrial Development Advisory Board. I am deeply concerned that the proposals that the Borg Warner management has put to the work force appear to have been rejected. I hope that the members of the work force will consider carefully the future of the plant. It would be tragic if the prospect of 600 secure jobs were put at risk by a careless and irresponsible approach to a serious proposition from the management.

Paymaster General

Government Expenditure

20.

asked the Paymaster-General how many staff in his Department have the responsibility for providing the Treasury with up-to-date information on central Government expenditure; and if he will make a statement.

One member of my Department's staff, a senior executive officer, is responsible for providing the Treasury with details of the amounts being paid out to meet the claims arising against central Government accounts during the course of the day's banking operations. In addition, three times each month computer tapes containing detailed analyses of voted expenditure authorised by Government Departments during the previous month are sent to the Treasury. These are produced by a computer system maintained by 13 clerical and technical staff.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. In view of the deserved reputation that his Department has in its efficient role in acting as the Government's banker, will he tell us whether he has received any representations or complaints about his role? Does he accept that it would be a good idea if the responsibilities of his Department were extended so that the Department acted as the banker for local authorities, bearing in mind the continual overshoot of local councils, which are responsible for about a quarter of all public expenditure?

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that my staff in the Paymaster General's office have a deserved reputation for carrying out the Department's role as the Government's banker extremely efficiently. If that role were to be extended, that would be a matter for the Treasury. There is no doubt that the staff do an extremely good job.

Would it not be useful if the hon. Gentleman, as Paymaster General and chairman of the Conservative party, informed the Cabinet that there is no enthusiasm throughout the country for further public spending cuts? Surely that is the No. 1 lesson from the result of the Brecon and Radnor by-election. Why do Ministers go on about the presentation of policy when what is at issue is the policy itself?

If the hon. Gentleman had bothered to examine the facts he would have learnt that Government expenditure cuts in the National Health Service, for example, amounted to considerable increases in spending in real terms. The Government are now spending more per child in school than at any time in our history, again in real terms. The hon. Gentleman would do better to check his facts before speaking in the House. If he did that, he would never speak.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which he has some say in looking after the nation's finances with such a minute staff. Does he realise that not everyone shares the desire of the Opposition for greater public expenditure? Does he further realise that if public expenditure is to be reduced, even his small staff could become smaller still?

We should boast about the expansion of public expenditure where that is a good thing, and provide better services and boast, too, about the cutting of public expenditure when that reduces the waste that was so much a mark of the Labour Government.

Is it the Government's policy to make cuts and represent them as increases, or to make increases and represent them as cuts?

It is the Government's policy not to find themselves going to the International Monetary Fund as a debtor nation, but to continue to be a nation respected throughout the world for financial probity, which was not the mark of the Government when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that none of the civil servants at present concerned with the administration of pensions will be transferred to providing other statistics for the Treasury?

That certainly would not be a good thing, because since 1984 there have been only two complaints from Members of Parliament about the administration of pensions, although we provide 1·1 million pensioners with their pensions every year. That is a very good comment about my staff, in this, their 150th anniversary year.

As chairman of the Conservative party, does the hon. Gentleman support the view that the disastrous decline of the Conservative vote in Brecon and Radnor is due entirely to presentation, not policies?

The question asked by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) has little to do with my responsibilities as Paymaster General, but I am willing to answer it in my role as chairman of the Conservative party. The answer is simply this—

Order. Two wrongs will not make it right. We should stick to the Paymaster General's responsibilities.

I shall answer as Paymaster General. We monitor Government expenditure, and we see clearly that the Government are spending more money in the areas that matter and less where it would be wasted.

Bearing in mind that my hon. Friend acts as the Government's banker, is he satisfied that his 840 members of staff are monitoring properly and most carefully the payment of all cheques coming out of the Crawley offices? Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is his aim not only to reduce the number of cheques being paid but to reduce public expenditure, something of which the Conservative party should be proud?

I adhere to the principle that this nation should reduce the proportion of its wealth that is spent by the Government and continue to increase the proportion of its wealth that is spent by the people who make it. That must be the principle of government. It is also the principle of government to ensure that those in need are effectively helped. For that reason we have increased Government expenditure in the areas where it provides decent homes, schools, Health Service facilities and pensions. I am proud of our record in all those areas.

On the principle of spending more money where it matters and less where it goes to waste, is the Paymaster General proud of the fact that since 1979 expenditure on overseas aid has decreased by 18 per cent. and is now at the lowest level ever?

I am proud of the fact that in a period of extreme difficulty we have a better record on overseas aid than almost any other country in the world.

Is the Paymaster General aware that, in spite of the hard work of the staff in his Department, Ministers, including the Chancellor, who does not seem to know whether he has found a "middle way" or, public spending, have made confused and conflicting statements about the role of public spending? How many staff in his Department will be transferred from providing information to providing public relations, in a belated effort, following the Brecon disaster, to soften the Government's hard-nosed image on public spending? Will not that PR in itself be a substitute for any effort to restore public spending cuts?

The hon. Lady seems to have failed to remember that the disaster of Brecon and Radnor was the fact that her leader placed his own personal reputation on the line — [Interruption.] — and three quarters of her right hon. and hon. Friends went down to show that he did. The fact of Brecon and Radnor was this: once the people there feared that they might have a Labour Member of Parliament they did everything in their power to make sure that Labour's candidate did not win.

Wales

Llanwern Steelworks

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any recent discussions with the chairman of the British Steel Corporation concerning the future of Llanwern steelworks.

I met the chairman in May and in June for wide-ranging discussions.

How much longer is the haggling, which is doing untold harm to the steelworks, to go on? Why do the Government not resolve to reaffirm the stand taken by the Secretary of State for the Environment in December 1982, which was that the five integrated plants should remain? Why do they not also announce the Concast scheme for Llanwern?

In a debate in which the hon. Gentleman took part, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry said that the corporate plan would be presented to the Government by the end of July. In the light of that, I have nothing further to add, except to repeat that I am confident about the future of Llanwern.

Will the Secretary of State finally bring this matter to a conclusion? Can he not tell the country and the House that Llanwern will go ahead, and that it has a wonderful record? Will he finally make his mind up on the matter?

I have made my position and my confidence in the future of Llanwern absolutely clear. The right hon. Gentleman, who has had experience of the closure of steelworks while in government, will know that there are many difficult issues to be resolved about the future capacity and plans of the industry. The proper way for the Government to proceed is to wait for the proposals of the British Steel Corporation in its corporate plan, and then to take decisions on them.

Do not the splendid performances of both management and employees at the works at Llanwern and Port Talbot entitle them to some assurance that both these works will continue for a long time?

On many occasions I have said that the splendid performance of the workers at those two steel plants is by far the best guarantee of their future. As I have said, at present we are making a massive investment in Port Talbot, and I have great confidence in the future of Llanwern. While I have been in government I have, fortunately, never had to consider any proposal from the BSC for the closure of Llanwern. Therefore, some of the threats and allegations made have been purely hypothetical.

The Arts

Order. I shall take points of order afterwards. Otherwise, it will take time out of the hon. Gentleman's question, which is No. 21.

Order. I shall take the point of order afterwards. Otherwise it will take time out of this short question period.

Order. I shall take it afterwards. Does the hon. Gentleman want to ask question 21?

Order. I have no authority to allow injury time for questions. Does the hon. Gentleman want to ask question 21?

Objects In Lieu Of Tax

21.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what recent representations the Minister for the Arts has received concerning the allocation for acceptances of works of art in lieu of tax; and whether he will make a statement.

My noble Friend is advised on the allocation of acceptance-in-lieu offers by the Museums and Galleries Commission. He occasionally receives other representations from interested parties.

While we have great respect for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), who is answering, does he accept that already nobody answers for the arts in this House, and that we are now being presented with the monkey twice removed from the organ grinder?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are in danger of losing our heritage because of the wholly unacceptable position that pertains to works of art which are accepted in lieu of tax. Will he bear in mind that the Government make good money from the arts market? Will he also bear in mind the Government's promise to look at tax incentives for the arts? We have them for the live arts. Will he please extend those incentives to the arts in respect of pictures and museums?

On the first point, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Environment, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), wrote to the hon. Gentleman explaining that he had to be in Helsinki from 7 to 10 July to lead the United Kingdom delegation to the international convention on long-range transboundary air pollution. On the substantive question, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Government are reviewing arrangements for funding acceptance-in-lieu transactions. My noble Friend hopes to make an announcement at the earliest opportunity.

While I welcome what my hon. Friend said, does he agree that if the system is to fulfil its purpose it will not be satisfactory simply to lift the amount available for acceptance-in-lieu transactions from £2 million to some other arbitrary ceiling? Does he agree that we should unequivocally commit ourselves to ensuring that it will be possible to retain a strictly limited category of pre-eminent items for our heritage?

I can tell my hon. Friend that the more fundamental issues that he just mentioned are covered by the review. I shall ensure that my noble Friend is made aware of my hon. Friend's strong views.

Will the hon. Gentleman relate to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment who usually answers questions on the arts in this Chamber the dissatisfaction of the House that he is away dealing not with the arts but with something different? That is unsatisfactory, because his first duty should be to the House. Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that the Getty money and the large sums that are available for the purchase of works of art mean that the Treasury will have to reconsider these matters? It has lost some good opportunities for obtaining bargains. We look forward to a further consideration of such matters by the Treasury, guided by the Minister for the Arts.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the Treasury is an important partner in this review. The points that he has just made will be considered by all those who take part in it. I hope that my noble Friend will be able to announce the conclusion of the review before long.

Does the Minister agree that there has been a quite unacceptable delay in rescinding this ludicrous ceiling on the in lieu arrangements? Does he realise that all of us in this House back the Minister in his wish to smash this ceiling and ensure the retention of these treasures in Britain? Will he manage to prevail upon his hon. and noble Friend — or whatever the fellow is called — to get the Treasury to pull its costive finger out on this issue?

I cannot accept the allegation that there has been undue delay. On 24 April my noble Friend announced that the review would take place, and I have just said that he hopes to make an announcement on its conclusions in the very near future. That is not too long a period for a review on such an important subject.

National Heritage Memorial Fund

22.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts how many persons employed in the Office of Arts and Libraries have direct or indirect responsibility in connection with the administration of the National Heritage Memorial Fund: and if he will make a statement.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund is an autonomous body and its administration is undertaken by its staff. However, a small percentage of the time of three Office of Arts and Libraries staff is given to administrative issues associated with the fund.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Although I appreciate that the fund is an autonomous body, does my hon. Friend accept that when the fund receives special applications for grants to save what, by any criteria, are important examples of Britain's great architectural heritage, the Department should sympathetically consider continuing to provide extra financial assistance to the fund so that it may discharge its duties for the benefit of our people?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government made a special allocation of £25 million earlier this year to enable the fund to help to ensure the future of Weston Park, Kedleston and Nostell Priory. The fund's negotiations on those three major properties are well advanced. As to my hon. Friend's broader point, the fund's annual report states:

"We have good reason for confidence not only in this Government's commitment to the objectives of conservation, but in their willingness to provide adequate funds to achieve those objectives."

Is one of those three officials responsible for monitoring section 16 of the National Heritage Act 1980? If so, will he sort out the nonsense that has arisen over the indemnity arrangements for the Kessler art exhibition?

I have seen the letter which my hon. Friend wrote to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on 2 July. I am sorry that the Tate gallery had apparently re-interpreted some rules which previously applied. We are in discussions with the Tate gallery, and I hope that the matter can be satisfactorily resolved.

Funding

23.

asked the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if the Minister for the Arts has any plans to meet North-West Arts to discuss provision for the overall funding of the arts in the context of the Government's plans to abolish the metropolitan counties; and if he will make a statement.

My noble Friend met the director of North-West Arts and the directors of a number of other regional arts associations on 7 June and had a very useful discussion on post-abolition funding for the arts.

Is the Minister aware that we in the north-west believe that the amount of centrally allocated money that will be made available should the metropolitan authorities be abolished is grossly inadequate? Does he also recognise that the Arts Council is not considered to be an unbiased allocator of funds, especially to areas such as the north-west? In those circumstances, will he use the same principles as were used in the Priestley report to guarantee that the funding announced by central Government will go to the northwest to ensure that the Royal Exchange, the Halle Orchestra and other such organisations of national importance receive the money that they need to allow them to continue?

I am slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman say that the Arts Council is biased in the regional distribution of funds, because this year's total allocation to North-West Arts represented a 17 per cent. increase on last year's grant. The Royal Exchange has received more funding from the Arts Council than has any other regional theatre. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that the Arts Council has discharged its obligation to the north-west as fairly as it can.

May we have an assurance that the financial grants and targets will be adjusted to make it possible for Manchester and Liverpool — both great cities — to make some contribution to the arts, as they obviously wish to do?

As my hon. Friend knows, my noble Friend was able to set aside £34 million in replacement of metropolitan county spending, of which £16 million went to the Arts Council, £1 million to the British Film Institute and £17 million to museums and galleries. The districts will be spared the task of having to raise the precept to hand on to the top tier authorities once they are abolished. That should give them the freedom to support worthwhile artistic institutions in their localities.

In view of the Arts Council's estimate that if and when the GLC and the six metropolitan counties are abolished there will be a shortfall of £46 million, and since the Arts Council is to be funded to the tune of £16 million, may we have a categorical assurance that the shortfall to North-West Arts of £790,000 will be met in full?

The Arts Council will be seeing my noble Friend shortly to discuss provisions for the 1986–87 budget, as is normal at this time of the year I am sure that that will be one of the matters that it will wish to raise with him.

Is it not unfortunate that the Minister is deputy to a deputy? He might have been warned that in the last month there was a £30 mill ton shortfall below estimate for all the arts, including North-West Arts. Is it not a fact that no guarantee has been forthcoming for the north-west or for other areas? Next year there will be £30 million short for a start. Will the Government replace that money, or not?

I must make it clear that the Government do not accept the Arts Council's estimate of the shortfall, which includes provision for some capital items which the GLC and the metropolitan counties have not provided, and a number of other items which fall more appropriately to the district councils. I cannot accept the premise. Of course, my hon. friend the Member for Bristol, West would have answered the question better than I, but at least my answers have been shorn of the Latin and Greek analogies, which I understand adorn his remarks.