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“One Wales” Document

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 10 October 2007

3. What discussions he has had with the First Minister since the signing of the “One Wales” document on the impact of the implementation of that document on the governance of Wales. (156152)

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Is he aware that several aspects of the “One Wales” document, such as council tax relief for older people and consultation on hospital reconfiguration, originally appeared in the Welsh Conservatives manifesto? Will he guarantee that those proposals will be implemented?

If they are sensible proposals, they will be a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government to implement.

I assume that the hon. Gentleman agrees with the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies), sitting behind him, who said in The Western Mail on 21 September:

“Some Conservatives like myself, and all my fellow MPs, feel we were correct to oppose the establishment of the Assembly and should continue to oppose further powers”

for the Welsh Assembly. I assume that the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) and Conservative Front Benchers agree with that, as the hon. Member for Monmouth was claiming ownership of all Conservative MPs.

Are not the Welsh Assembly Government to be congratulated on how they dealt with the recent farming difficulties—particularly the single farm payment and the recent health crises? They have been cautious, but practical and swift, in reducing the harm that was likely to be caused to the farmers. Can we now expect a hallelujah chorus of gratitude from the National Farmers Union to the “One Wales” Government?

If there were to be such a chorus, it would be the first. However, I agree with my hon. Friend’s comments on how the Welsh Assembly Government have handled the situation.

Yesterday’s spending review will have a devastating effect on the affordability of the programme set out in the “One Wales” document. It will also show how unfair the Barnett formula is for Wales. If the Assembly review of the formula recommends that it be scrapped, will the Secretary of State campaign for reform and be Wales’s man in the Cabinet, or will he remain true to form and be Westminster’s man in Wales?

I will be both Wales’s person in the Cabinet and Westminster’s person in Wales, because that is my job. The hon. Gentleman has said something extraordinary. Spending, however we define it, has been increased by more than £2 billion compared with the past year, according to the pre-Budget statement yesterday. That is a massive injection: a 2.4 per cent. real-terms increase per year, and an increase over the period of 14.5 per cent. Some £2 billion extra is coming into the Welsh budget; the hon. Gentleman should be applauding that.

We are always interested in what the Secretary of State says in The Western Mail. Given the Plaid Cymru-Labour coalition in the Assembly, how will the governance of Wales be helped by Plaid MPs calling the Chancellor’s settlement for Wales the worst settlement since devolution and the Secretary of State boasting that Wales gets £1,000 more expenditure per head than England and calling Plaid “the enemy”?

Does the Secretary of State agree that in addition to discussions with the First Minister, he needs to have urgent discussions with his coalition partners in this Chamber—or does the proposal and promise of “One Wales” not apply here in Westminster?

For the hon. Lady’s education, I should say that we have a Labour Government here. We do not have a coalition Government with anybody in Westminster, and I am pleased about that.

On the Welsh Assembly Government’s position on the Budget, Andrew Davies, the Welsh Assembly Finance Minister, said yesterday:

“I am confident that we can meet the challenges ahead and deliver our ambitious “One Wales” programme within the level of resources announced this afternoon.”

That compares with a black hole of £5.4 billion in the Tories’ future public financing plans, which would result in savage cuts in the Welsh budget for public services. The hon. Lady should seek to explain that position, not to attack a £2 billion increase—a real-terms increase—in the Welsh budget over the next three years.