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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK

Welsh Labour Party

The history of the Labour party is interwoven with much of the history of Wales in the 20th Century. The party was the vehicle for the social aspirations of a large proportion of the Welsh people for much of the century, and Welsh constituencies have provided the British party, and Britain as a whole, with some of their most able and innovative leaders.

In return, it has been Labour governments which have delivered some of the most substantial changes in Wales's status within the UK, most notably in creating the Welsh Office in 1964 and in finally delivering devolution in 1997, after the abortive attempt to do so in the dying weeks of James Callaghan's government in 1979.

As Wales's biggest party in Westminster terms for generations, Labour's hold on the Welsh Parliamentary seats has rarely been stronger. At the 1997 General Election it won 34 of the 40 seats. In local government terms, it is also by far Wales's biggest party, controlling 15 of the 20 unitary authorities.

The Labour Party

Labour's manifesto for Wales

Analysis of feasibility of election success
Labour is aiming to repeat its Westminster and local government success in the National Assembly elections, and is hoping for an overall majority when the votes are counted.

There is every likelihood that it will do so. A few, but only a few, of its seats could be considered genuinely vulnerable to challenges from other parties on the first-past-the-post vote, particularly Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where Plaid Cymru are challenging, and Monmouth, Cardiff North and Clwyd West, which are among the Tories' top targets.

A greater worry for Labour is how it will perform on the second vote, where there are indications that the other three parties, particularly Plaid Cymru, have the chance of picking up a larger number of seats than they have been hitherto able to do under the first-past-the-post system.

In the case of those regional list seats, second vote, Labour's likely success in most constituencies in the first vote is likely to handicap their chances of getting seats from the list.

However, it would take a particularly strong showing from the other parties, and some unexpected losses in the first ballot, for Labour to be unable to form an overall majority in the Assembly.

Labour says this is their number one priority, and that it has already been cutting class sizes, modernising schools and abolishing the nursery voucher scheme.

It has pledged to invest an extra 844 million to improve education and training at all levels in Wales over the next three years. It plans to extend nursery education to every three-year-old whose parents want it and to expand the network of out-of-school clubs.

It has set aims for children's achievements which it hopes to hit by 2002. These include increasing the proportion of GCSE passes, and cutting the number of pupils leaving school with no qualifications to below 9%.

Labour also wants to cut absenteeism from school to below 8%. Specific measures include: cutting class sizes for five, six and seven-year-olds to 30 or under by 2002; investing in a national grid for learning in Wales linking every school to the information superhighway, giving every pupil their own email address and Internet access; providing greater support for newly qualified teachers by developing the partnership between schools, higher education institutions and the teacher training agency in Wales; providing extra trained classroom assistants; investing millions in the repair and modernisation of schools, and expanding summer literacy and numeracy schemes during the school holidays to all parts of Wales.

It also plans to establish a General Teaching Council for Wales to raise standards in the profession. In Further and Higher Education, Labour says it will ensure 36,000 extra students go on to further and higher education, and that the Assembly will pilot education maintenance allowances for low-income families.

For Post-16 education, Labour says it will break down the existing barriers between academic and vocational courses, and education and training. Cuts in bureaucracy and competition would save 12m a year to be reinvested in post-16 education.

Labour has pledged to invest an extra 1bn in the NHS in Wales over the next three years to improve standards of patient care. It says it will end divisive competition and replace it with partnership, combining community health and acute services to create a single "seamless" health service for each area.

Labour says it has already cut hospital waiting lists, and will cut them further, abolishing waiting lists for some operations. It says that by the end of the Assembly_s first term, no one will wait more than six months for outpatient treatment, or more than 18 months for inpatient treatment.

It says it will set explicit service standards for health authorities, local health groups and NHS trusts, and will implement clear sanctions to ensure them. It says the Assembly will appoint a health supremo to break down the barriers between the NHS and local authority social services to eliminate _bed blocking_, to reduce inequalities in health standards and inequalities in access to health services.

It says Labour will radically modernise the NHS in a nation where life expectancy Wales has been among the worst in Europe.

Other measure include: getting more health professionals into areas where there have been shortages, expanding the community dental service; publishing more clinical-performance indicators; developing the role and resourcing of community health councils in Wales; introducing NHS Direct, a 24-hour nurse-led helpline, to cover all parts of Wales.

Labour says it will introduce new Healthy Living Centres in the most deprived communities; a Wales Centre for Health to advise the Assembly on public health issues.

Health improvement goals include: cutting by at least 30% the number of breast cancer deaths of women aged 50-74 by 2002; cutting by at least 50% the incidence of cervical cancer by 2002; cutting by at least 50% the number of deaths from coronary heart disease of people under 65 by 2002.

Labour says it has developed a distinctive Welsh economic agenda, and that it is the only party that can transform Wales into a world-class economy to generate prosperity for everyone in Wales.

It points to the granting of to maximise European Objective 1 status as evidence of how it can deliver for Wales in a way the Tories never could, and says it will maximise the usage of the 1.3 billion EU aid to change Wales for good.

Labour too has recognised the need to move away from an excessive reliance on inward investment, saying that while it is still important, the Assembly_s priority must be to improve support for existing Welsh companies.

It promises to establish a _know-how centre_ for Wales, to give easy access for Welsh businesses to technical and research excellence in Welsh colleges and universities.

It also proposes establishing a Small Business Development Bank to provide seed capital and a business forum for Assembly members, business and trade union representatives.

It plans to increase the number of modern apprenticeships from 9000 in 1999/2000 to 14,000 in 2001/2002. In tourism, it promises a new strategy, improved partnership and co-ordination, and the promoting of a dynamic and attractive image for Wales.

On pay, Labour says that Wales, "the low-pay capital of the United Kingdom" under the Tories, some 109,000 people will benefit from the minimum wage this year, and that up to 70,000 people in Wales will benefit from the new Working Families Tax Credit in its first full year of operation.

It also promises that through the new Childcare Tax Credit, high-quality, affordable childcare is available to all families, not just a few.

Labour says it will continue the expansion in Wales of Labour_s New Deal welfare-to-work programme for young people, for the long-term unemployed, for people with disabilities and for lone parents, taking 30,000 unemployed young people off benefits and into work and training.

Labour says that agriculture, which provides 1bn to the Welsh economy and supports one in four rural workers, is an important issue and that it recognises farmers have been having a hard time.

It points to a package of more than 21m to help Welsh farmers, following an initial allocation of 12m. It says the Assembly will work with the Labour-created Rural Partnership for Wales, supported by the new Rural Unit in the Welsh Development Agency, to promote the rural economy.

Labour promises to develop well-branded products which can command premium prices at home and abroad, and also pledges greater encouragement for organic food production, pointing out that it has already made the changes necessary for the development of a Welsh Food Strategy, and says the Assembly will take that strategy forward, in partnership with the Welsh food industry.

Labour says it will seek to implement an integrated transport strategy, requiring councils to produce plans setting out their strategic transport priorities.

It promises more investment in public transport, cycling and walking. On top of the 2.25m rural bus subsidy introduced by Labour for the first time last year, it says it would add 3m this year to subsidise rural and urban bus services to radically improve transport choice and opportunity.

It has pledged a minimum half-fares concessionary scheme for pensioners travelling by bus, and a phased scheme for free bus travel for pensioners within the next three years.

Labour also pledges to improve north/south links, which it says "are essential to the future economic, social and cultural cohesion of Wales," and says it will address the need for improved road links and will work with rail and air operators to improve existing services and introduce new ones.

The party says a Labour Assembly will act to safeguard and improve Wales_s environment and will put through policies that are economically efficient, socially just and environmentally sound.

It says it will give more prominence to Tir Gofal, the government_s all-Wales agri-environmental scheme, which it says is a groundbreaking initiative, unparalleled in the UK.

It promises a substantial increase in funding of agri-environmental schemes, so 600 new applicants can join Tir Gofal each year. It also promises to support a "Sustainable Parks in Wales" scheme over the next three years for the Welsh National Parks.

Labour says it will ensure that the land use planning system helps to make sure that development is sustainable and is in the best interests of the whole community.

Reform of public bodiest
The Labour government is putting an end to the Tory quango state in Wales.We have drastically reduced the number of NHS trusts, abolished quangos such as Tai Cymru, merged others, such as the Welsh Development Agency, the Development Board for Rural Wales and the Land Authority for Wales, and introduced an open system of public appointments.

A Labour-led Assembly will take this work forward, through a further review of these bodies, governed by the principle that all public appointees should be accountable to elected politicians, whether at a local, regional or all-Wales level, and that the number of quangos is reduced to a minimum.

In particular, we envisage a strong role for the Assembly_s subject committees in monitoring the performance of non-departmental public bodies.

Local government
The Assembly will work with local councils to modernise local government in Wales and to achieve results in areas like education and social services where there is joint responsibility.

Labour will seek, in co-operation with local authority representatives through the Assembly_s Partnership Council, to pilot ideas, initiatives or ways of working that will enable local councils to do more for their communities.

Labour will also set out models for political management of local government, so that local councils can choose more effective structures that better represent the needs of their communities.

It will put before the Assembly a code of conduct, incorporating a new ethical framework which all councillors will be under a duty to observe. This will be drawn up in liaison with the Partnership Council and will ensure the highest standards of probity and honesty in civic office.

Tackling social exclusion is one of the major challenges facing the Assembly. We are already encouraging local government to work with health authorities and trusts, the police, local businesses and community groups to tackle the problems caused by crime, ill health, poverty, drug abuse and family breakdown.

We will use the social exclusion fund within the National Assembly budget to support pilot projects which harness our spending on health, social services, education and crime prevention even more effectively in the fight against social exclusion.

A Labour Assembly will produce an annual report monitoring changes in the key indicators of exclusion in Wales and appraising progress across the Assembly_s area of responsibility.

The party says a Labour-led Assembly will develop a distinct European role, establishing Wales as one of Europe's most prosperous and dynamic regions. It says the Assembly must work in partnership with local authorities, business, voluntary organisations and the people of Wales to ensure that the European funds which will flow from Objective 1 status and other European programmes are used in the most effective way.

It says that because the Assembly can make subordinate legislation implementing European law, it should have a presence in the United Kingdom_s permanent representation (UKRep) in Brussels and that there should be close and effective contact with secondees from the National Assembly and other Welsh organidsations to the European Union_s institutions.

It says the Assembly should also have an input into the work of the European Council of Ministers; and that the role of the Welsh European Centre in Brussels should be expanded to give the Assembly a voice of its own in Europe.

Labour says European issues will be given full and proper consideration in the Assembly, and that is why it has proposed that the Assembly should have a Standing Committee on European Affairs, chaired by an Assembly Secretary.

Labour says it is pleased that support for the Welsh language has in recent years proceeded on an all-party basis, and says Labour in the Assembly will work with the Welsh Language Board, with local authorities, and with public and private sector organisations to safeguard and promote the language.

The party says its commitment to the language has "destroyed the myth that the Welsh language is the sole preserve of Welsh nationalists, and ensured that the subject which in the past has been a subject of division should no longer be treated as a political football.

"We therefore reject the Tories_ recent attempts to undermine this consensus for short-term party political gain".

Generally, Labour says it will promise strong leadership under Alun Michael, and a strong and experienced Cabinet, who "can be trusted to do a good job, to work hard for Wales and to speak up for Wales."

It says it wants Wales to be a model _participatory democracy_ which engages all its citizens in shaping their own lives by giving them a stake in decisions which affect them. It says Plaid Cymru would divide Wales internally and from the rest of Britain, and would marginalise Wales in Brussels.

As for the Tories, Labour says they " would wreck the Assembly, just as they nearly wrecked Wales during 18 years of bitter Conservative Government. They too are a divisive force on the Welsh language and on their proposals to privatise schools.

Their arrogance and lack of commitment to the Assembly would damage Wales." The Liberals, Labour says, have no clear message as to what they stand for. Labour says: "Wales is standing on the brink of an exciting new era.

The devolution which Labour has delivered has engendered a new sense of self-confidence amongst the people of Wales. Labour is ready to offer the leadership that will build on that new confident identity and address the challenges we will face as a nation in the 21st century.

We stand for the future not the past; for togetherness not division; for the many not the few."

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