HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc941-3
6. Mr. Martin Caton (Gower)

If he will make a statement on his plans for tackling social exclusion in Wales. [41418]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths)

I announced on 1 May, the anniversary of our great election victory, a new social exclusion programme for Wales. The programme will tackle social exclusion in Wales through co-ordinated action to promote community development in six or more communities.

Mr. Caton

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the priorities in tackling social exclusion in Wales must be to deal with the problem of street homelessness? Can he assure me that, in tackling that problem, he is prepared to learn from best practice in other parts of the United Kingdom and, in particular, from the way in which the rough sleepers initiative has been implemented in England and Scotland?

Mr. Griffiths

I can assure my hon. Friend that we want to ensure that we have the best practice in community development to regenerate our deprived communities and, where homelessness is a serious problem, I shall certainly want to see it included in the projects that we approve.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

Does the Minister think that his social exclusion policy is working for farmers and others in rural Wales? Does he not realise that, month by month, the agriculture crisis is becoming worse; that the need for direct assistance for farmers and farm workers is becoming greater; and that, while he and the Secretary of State mouth platitudes and blame everyone but themselves, Welsh farming is quietly starving to death? Does he appreciate that, despite our holding the European presidency, Welsh agriculture has gained nothing from Europe, and the incomes of some Welsh farmers are now 83 per cent. lower than they were last year? Has the time not come to stop giving us complacent soundbites and do something for the hard-pressed people of rural Wales?

Mr. Griffiths

It is about time that the right hon. Gentleman took the matter seriously rather than seeking soundbites from it. In homing in on the figure of 83 per cent, he knows that he is exaggerating. Total farm income—we accept the seriousness of the position—has gone down by 43 per cent., which is rather less than the figure that he has given.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

So that's all right, is it?

Mr. Griffiths

It is not all right, but let us deal with the problem in a serious fashion, not by soundbites. We have already provided some £155 million extra in England and Wales, which would not have been provided under Tory spending plans. We are already researching into beef and lamb to improve the quality of Welsh products. We predict that during the next decade Welsh farming will be in a far stronger position than that in which it was left by the previous Conservative Government, who caused BSE, the root of our present problems.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

In the context of tackling social exclusion in Wales, will my hon. Friend initiate an Industrial Injuries Advisory Council study to find out whether there is recent research showing that those suffering from respiratory diseases include slate quarrymen, so that slate quarrymen may be covered by the PD12 provisions for chronic bronchitis and emphysema?

Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friend raises a serious matter, which would probably not come within the social exclusion programme, but my right hon. Friend is discussing it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.