Skip to main content

National Assembly for Wales

Volume 517: debated on Wednesday 3 November 2010

2. What discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Government policy on the funding for the National Assembly for Wales determined in the comprehensive spending review. (20324)

I have discussed the comprehensive spending review with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Cabinet colleagues. The spending review sets out how the Government will carry out Britain’s unavoidable deficit reduction plan. We have secured a fair settlement for Wales. It is now for the Welsh Assembly Government to decide how to manage the reductions, reflecting their own policies and priorities.

The UK Government refuse to review Wales’s funding settlement, despite four independent reports highlighting the inequity of the Barnett formula, until the proposed March referendum. Will the Secretary of State explain the link between legislative competence for the National Assembly and funding for the Welsh Government, because under the terms of the Government of Wales Act 2006 they are distinct bodies?

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that there have been two recent reports to the Welsh Assembly Government by Gerald Holtham, both of which I have looked at and discussed with the First Minister. We are still waiting to see what the response is from the Welsh Assembly Government to the second report from Gerald Holtham and it is right and proper that we should wait and see what the Welsh Assembly Government say first. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the details in the coalition agreement are quite clear. We have said that the Barnett formula is coming towards the end of its time, but we have a priority to put this economy back into shape after it was left in such a disgusting mess by the outgoing Government.

On what date was the Secretary of State informed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport of his plans to change the status of S4C?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have many meetings with the Culture Secretary on S4C. I have discussed the future of S4C on many, many occasions.

You will have noticed that she did not answer the question, Mr Speaker. The day before the comprehensive spending review, on the evening of Tuesday 19 October, the BBC’s Nick Robinson first broke the news that S4C was to be joined with the BBC before the S4C authority had even been informed. It is not clear from her answer whether the Secretary of State knew what the Culture Secretary was planning before Nick Robinson did or whether, like the rest of us, she found out from him. It saddens me that she has absolutely no influence in the Cabinet. She failed to stand up for S4C, she failed to stand up for the defence training college, she failed to stand up for the Anglesey energy island, she failed to stand up for the Severn barrage and she got a terrible deal for Wales out of the comprehensive spending review. I am sorry to say that she is failing Wales abysmally. If she is not going to fight for Welsh jobs, she should not be in her job.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to his place on the Front Bench. For a brief moment during the elections for the shadow Cabinet, I thought we were going to be robbed of his charm and wit in Welsh questions, but that is not to be the case.

The Conservative party initiated the legislation on the Welsh language, which helped to put S4C on the map, and I have always supported S4C, both as the shadow Secretary of State for Wales and now as the Secretary of State. The deal for S4C is that it has firm funding for the next four years, and there will be meetings to ensure that it remains independent and continues to make a valuable contribution to Welsh language broadcasting.

Order. As I want to make some progress down the Order Paper, we must have shorter answers, so I shall cut them off if necessary.

Perhaps I can help the two Front Benchers. In a written answer to a question to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, I was told that he and others were informed of the S4C decision

“in the days leading up to, or at the time of, the spending review and licence fee settlement announcements.”—[Official Report, 28 October 2010; Vol. 517, c. 413W.]

Can our Secretary of State be a little more precise, or is her memory deficient—tactically or otherwise?

No, my memory is not deficient. I assure the hon. Gentleman that S4C has been so important to me that I have been supporting it through its troubles. He will be well aware of the precipitate departure of the chief executive. I remember going out clearly at the Eisteddfod and backing S4C and saying that it had a great broadcasting future and was secure in our hands. It has now secured its financial deal, the details of which will come later.