§ Lord Roberts of Conwy
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will list their achievements in Wales since May 1977 in the economic field and in the social services areas. [HL525]
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
I am very pleased to announce the following achievements in the economic field:
Pathway to Prosperity
The consultation document, Economic Strategy for Wales, was published in October 1997.
Pathway to Prosperity—A New Economic Agenda for Wales was published in July 1998.
The Wales Information Society project was launched by the Secretary of State in July 1997 to promote the development of information and communication technologies in Wales.
Since 1 May 1997, we have seen almost 200 inward investment projects recorded for Wales, promising a total of almost 15,000 new jobs with associated capital investment of over £1 billion. These figures contain significant individual successes in the form of Toyota, Acer, Bank One, Panasonic, Firstplus, Legal and General, Cymru Country Chickens, RF Brookes and International Rectifier.
The above includes foreign direct investment as well as investment from elsewhere in the United Kingdom.133WA
Know How Wales
A Welsh Office consultation paper A Know How Centre for Wales was distributed widely within Wales last year, inviting views on encouraging more productive partnerships between industry and academia in Wales. The outcomes will be announced soon.
In November 1998, eight Millennium Advisers were appointed within the Business Connect consortia in Wales, to provide free advice and guidance on the year 2000 date change issue.
Training and Enterprise Councils
Action has been taken to bring elected local authority members on to the boards of Welsh training and enterprise councils (TECs) and to ensure that vacancies for all other TEC board places are advertised.
The number of TECs in Wales will be reduced from six to four with effect from 1 April 1999 with the consequent savings in management costs becoming available for reinvestment in TEC services to the public. The reduction is being brought about by the merger of the three existing TECs in South East Wales.
TEC boundaries are being adjusted to match the regional structure of the new WDA from 1 April 1999, with the existing Powys TEC being replaced by a TEC to serve the whole of Mid Wales.
Five million, six hundred thousand pounds will be released from the working capital of Welsh TECs over the next three years to kick-start Individual Learning Accounts for people who wish to improve their education and skills. A further £1.9 million will be provided for this purpose over this period from the balance of TEC reserves.
Legislation has been secured to enable the OHMCI to inspect training providers and Careers Service companies and preparations have been made for inspections to start from 1 April 1999.
A first annual report on the activities of TECs in Wales covering the financial year 1997–98 is to be published soon, fulfilling a recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Preparations are also in hand for a similar annual report on the activities of Careers Service companies in Wales, taking the current financial year as the first year to be reported on.
The first comprehensive survey of future skills needs in Wales has recently been completed under the oversight of the Welsh Office, TECs, local authorities and other partner organisations. The results will be published on 22 February.
The "Learning Direct" free helpline for adults seeking information and advice about learning opportunities and pathways to employment or career development has been established. It will provide a prime point of contact for information about courses and learning materials endorsed by the University for Industry in due course.
We have established the Education and Training Action Group and the group's draft action plan is currently out to consultation.134WA
We have introduced a new Training for Young People programme to replace the discredited Youth Training scheme; this has been well received by young people and employers.
We have introduced the Youth Access initiative to help reduce the number of young people who are not in education, training or employment.
We have published the Building Excellent Schools Together White Paper for Wales in July 1997 and the Learning is for Everyone Green Paper in April 1998, which set out the Government's proposals for education in the school years and for lifelong learning in Wales.
Work Based Training
Training for Work, which aimed to help long term unemployed people and others at a disadvantage in the labour market, back into work, was re-named Work Based Training for Adults and refocused following the introduction of the New Deal. Entry was targeted at those aged 25 and over and action was taken to ensure coherence with the New Deal for 25 plus. Pre Vocational Training, which provided basic skills training, was introduced to increase employability of participants and improve sustainability of employment.
The New Deal for 18–24s, an important strand of the Government's Welfare to Work agenda, was launched in the South West Wales Pathfinder in January 1998 and throughout the rest of Wales in April 1998. By the end of October 1998 (the latest information), over 12,000 young people had joined the New Deal for 18–24s in Wales and nearly 3,400 young people had secured employment.
During 1998, a range of other Welfare to Work programmes were successfully launched in Wales—the New Deal for Lone Parents, the New Deal for 25 plus, the New Deal for Disabled People and the North-West Wales Prototype Employment Zone.
On 1 October 1998, the merger of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) with the Development Board for Rural Wales (DBRW) and the Land Authority for Wales (LAW) was completed. This establishes for the first time an economic development organisation with an all-Wales remit as well as strengthening the regional operations of the new body compared to the previous arrangements.
A new Rural Partnership for Wales was established in March 1998 and in October 1998 a dedicated Rural Policy Unit was created within the new Welsh Development Agency to promote the development of coherent and integrated government policies and programmes impacting on rural communities and their businesses.
Welsh Capital Challenge
Twenty million pounds has been committed over a three-year period in the Welsh Capital Challenge package for 1998–1999 to create directly 700 jobs and lever in £5.5 million PSI with a further 8,000 indirect jobs and £138 million PSI forecast in the longer term.135WA
Twenty-one million pounds has been committed over a three-year period in the Welsh Capital Challenge package for 1999–2000 to create directly 2,300 jobs and lever in £30.8 million PSI with a further 2,200 indirect jobs and £50 million PSI forecast in the longer term.
In March 1998 an Objective 4 programme for the United Kingdom was approved by the European Commission. It is worth some £13 million to Wales in European Social Fund grant and is targeted at SMEs for the training of workers to adapt to industrial change.
Development of the Food Industry
Following a thorough review of the Food Strategy for Wales, Welsh Food Promotions Ltd. has been merged with the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to strengthen the promotion of food from Wales and integrate this work with the agency's strategic economic development function in the food sector. The merger took effect on 1 October 1998.
In order to secure a viable future for Welsh agriculture and to support the development of a sustainable economy in rural communities, the Welsh Office has set up three industry-led working groups in partnership with the WDA to develop action plans for the lamb and beef, dairy and organic sectors. The final action plans will be published in the spring.
Common Agricultural Policy Administration
The Welsh Office has reviewed the way that common agricultural policy schemes are administered and has undertaken an option appraisal for future administration. Twelve million pounds of funding has been secured from the Invest To Save budget, which will allow a major three-year project to be undertaken to revolutionise CAP payments and provide a co-ordinated and consistent approach to delivering government services in rural Wales.
Tir Gofal (Land Care)
A formal application to the European Community for an all-Wales agri-environmental scheme, "Tir Gofal", was submitted on 1 December 1998. The planned budget will allow for 600 new agreements each year at around £5,000 per agreement per year. Agreements will run for 10 years.
I am also very pleased to announce the following achievements in the social field:
The Government's response to the review of safeguards for children living away from home was issued by the Department of Health and the Welsh Office on 5 November 1998.
The Disability Rights Commission Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 3 December 1998 and received its second reading on 17 December. The purpose of the Bill is to establish the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which will have a similar role in respect of Disabled People to that of the Commission on Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission.136WA
The establishment of the Royal Commission on the Funding of Long Term Care for the Elderly was announced in December 1997. Its report is expected to be published soon.
The Prime Minister announced in June 1998 the development of a national strategy for carers which brings together into a single package the various strands of government policy impacting on carers.
The Social Services White Paper for Wales will be published shortly and will review the Government's achievements and plans for the future in respect of the social care field.