From the Western Mail
Plaid urges Hain to halt loss of 1,000 tax jobs
Oct 30 2007 by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail
WELSH Secretary Peter Hain was urged yesterday to use his double role in Government to step in and save threatened Welsh jobs.
Mr Hain is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions as well as Wales, and Plaid Cymru say he could stop the loss of 1,000 posts in HM Revenue and Customs.
The cuts are part of a UK-wide efficiency drive, and with many of the jobs going in Objective One areas – where £1bn of EU cash is being spent to boost the economy – they have prompted claims of a lack of joined-up thinking.
Since becoming Welsh Secretary in 2002 Mr Hain has jointly held a series of other Cabinet roles. He has always shrugged off the “two jobs” tag, arguing that his dual portfolios can bring benefits to Wales.
But Plaid’s leader at Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd, said yesterday, “The Government crow that they are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on Objective One to bring jobs to the economically deprived West Wales and the Valleys, but at the same time they are destroying some of the best job opportunities in the area.”
There have already been cuts in Department of Work and Pensions offices and proposals for regionalised pay in the Court Service, he said, which together would make it “impossible” for the poorest parts of Wales to close the wealth gap with the rest of the UK.
“Mr Hain can bring pressure to bear on the Ministry of Justice and the Treasury, but he himself can make the decision on the DWP cuts,” said Mr Llwyd.
The Plaid MP has written to Mr Hain to ask for a meeting on the cuts and how he can “use his two roles to save public sector jobs”.
“I’m inviting him to show us how he can make a difference,” said Mr Llwyd.
He said he did not believe – as fellow Plaid MP Adam Price has argued – that the time had come for the Wales Office to be scrapped entirely.
A spokesman for the Wales Office said, “Peter Hain has always been and remains an energetic secretary of State for Wales. He is the man who delivered the historic Government of Wales Act, devolving more power to Wales, and consistently speaks up for Welsh interests in the Cabinet. *Nobody can question his commitment to Wales."
“The decision on the HMRC job cuts is a matter for the Treasury. Both the Secretary of State and the Wales Office Minister have met with Treasury ministers in a bid to safeguard as many Welsh jobs as possible. Those meetings are continuing over the next few weeks.”
Mr Hain also defended the Government’s child poverty targets yesterday, admitting they were “stiff” but would still be met.
The Government is committed to halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020.
Lisa Harker, who carried out an independent review into the targets in 2006, said the Government was falling behind, and the Conservatives said the number of children living in poverty was actually rising.
“People will say ‘well children are not living in the absolute poverty they were in generations past’ but, compared with others and their peers in playground or the classroom, they are and that is the target we have set ourselves,” said Mr Hain. “It is a stiff one, but we are determined to halve it by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.
Yesterday he announced a new Child Poverty Unit, a joint initiative from the DWP and Pensions and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Mr Hain said, “600,000 children in this country are no longer living in poverty because of measures introduced over the last 10 years – such as tax credits and the national minimum wage – and a record 29.1m people in work.
“I know that work is the best route out of poverty and worklessness deprives too many children of a fair chance in life.”
Save the Children’s UK child poverty campaigns manager, Phillipa Hunt, said, “We are calling for an investment of £4bn to ensure the Government halves child poverty by 2010. Next year’s Budget will be its first big test for this new Government unit.””
Tory spokesman Chris Grayling said, “The truth is the number of children living in poverty is going up, not down, and ministers are failing to get to grips with the issues that underlie child poverty, like the escalation of family breakdown.”
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