HC Deb 04 December 1995 vol 268 cc2-3
2. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what level of per capita support is paid to Wales from central Government; what were the figures in May 1979 in current prices; and if he will make a statement.[1857]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. William Hague)

In 1993-94, the latest year for which figures are available, identifiable general Government expenditure in Wales was estimated to be £3,913 per head. Directly comparable figures are not available for 1979 because of changes in the .definition and coverage of identifiable territorial public expenditure. However, on the basis of the best available data, the figure for 1979-80 is estimated to be £2,791 per head at 1993-94 prices.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures are remarkable? The Conservative Government have brought not only great material benefit to the people of Wales, but political and spiritual benefit. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the people of Wales would be very unwise to overturn this Conservative Government?

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend is as perceptive and right as ever. On the best available data, which I gave a few moments ago, spending per head in Wales is 40 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1979 and 13 per cent. higher per head than in England. Opposition Members sometimes call for still higher expenditure, but they had better think about how such calls fit with the lop tax rate called for by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown).

Mr. Ray Powell

Will the Secretary of State tell the House and the nation whether the figures he has just given to the House include the £2.5 billion that would come to Wales from the Treasury in normal circumstances—under the Barnett rules introduced in 1970?

Mr. Hague

Yes. The figures include the money provided under the long-established formula that has most recently been called the Barnett formula. The amount of money dealt with by the formula stands at 6.02 per cent. of spending elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and that continues to be the case.

Mr. Sweeney

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures he has given today fully justify Wales having a Secretary of State at Westminster battling in the interests of Wales, rather than a useless assembly based in Cardiff?

Mr. Hague

Yes. My hon. Friend underlines the importance of strong representation for Wales in this House and within the Government. It would certainly be undermined by the roomful of hot air that Opposition Members want to establish in Cardiff.

Mr. Ron Davies

We would love to have a Secretary of State battling for Wales in Westminster—the trouble is that we do not.

Will the Secretary of State confirm the figures in last week's Welsh Office press release that said that spending on his programmes in Wales for the coming financial year is to be cut by £100 million in real terms? Is it not also the case that the problems caused by the cuts are compounded by the inability of the Welsh Office to maximise support from the European Union? Is he aware that there is a massive backlog of applications to the objective 2 and objective 5b programmes and that millions of pounds of investment is being prejudiced by delays in his Department? Instead of wandering about Wales looking for photo opportunities, should not the Secretary of State spend more time sorting out the deficiencies in his Department?

Mr. Hague

To deal with the point about objective 5b first, the coverage in the press today is misleading. There is no question of Wales losing in terms of resources provided through the European Community and there are no unnecessary delays within my Department. Next year, public expenditure in Wales overall will reach its highest level ever. There will not be a real cut of £100 million, because the proceeds from Housing for Wales will be £65 million, as the hon. Gentleman is aware. If he is dissatisfied with the proposed level of expenditure, it is incumbent on him to say what he thinks the level of expenditure should be. He is reticent on that, which would be understandable if it were not so unusual. It is time for him to tell the House how much he thinks should be spent in Wales next year.