§ 1. Mr. Coleman
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has to introduce a scheme that funds projects for children under five years of age similar to that existing in England; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
We have been considering what further steps might be taken to help with the under-fives in Wales. We shall shortly be consulting representatives from relevant statutory authorities and voluntary organisations about the precise range of need and the best means of meeting it.
§ Mr. Coleman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but is he aware of the complaints from the voluntary societies and, in particular, from the Children's Society to the effect that the absence of such a scheme in Wales is impeding their work especially among one-parent families? Will he discuss with the Secretary of State for Social Services the speedy implementation of that scheme in Wales?
§ Mr. Roberts
We are certainly aware of the desire that has been expressed by hon. Members, among others, for 2 such a scheme. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that we do not always slavishly follow in the wake of England. Indeed, neither do the Scots nor the Northern Irish. We have our own priorities. Nevertheless, we shall be consulting many of the bodies involved with small children.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has just said that the Welsh Office has its own priorities, but is he aware that the joint initiative on the under-fives should be a priority for every territorial Department in Britain, given that this is the area in which young children are most clearly open to deprivation? Will the Minister now ensure that Wales follows the lead given progressively by England?
§ Mr. Roberts
By "our own priorities" I was, of course, referring to our mental handicap intitiative and to that on perinatal mortality, for example. However, the further consultations that we are undertaking will give us a guide as to the resources required for this initiative. I am happy to say that up to £100,000 a year in the next three years can be made available, if necessary.