§ 3.43 P.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the publication of the White Paper on Wales and Monmouthshire and takes note of the Government's proposal further to integrate and co-ordinate Government and Administrative machinery in Wales and Monmouthshire.I would remind the House that it is almost exactly two years since we last had an opportunity of debating Welsh affairs. On that occasion the Debate took place, I think, on a Motion for the Adjournment. The Debate today is taking place on a substantive Motion which will give a wider scope for discussion. In order to assist hon. Members the most material of the administrative facts concerning Wales and Monmouthshire have been collected and printed in the form of the White Paper which no doubt most hon. Members have in their hands today. This White Paper is the first of its kind; it has had to be prepared rather rapidly, and in the midst of a great deal of other work, so that its form and content may not in all cases be the best. No doubt additions and subtractions will be made in future White Papers until the form most convenient to the House and most useful to the people of Wales has been worked out.
As the House will see from a perusal of this document, a great deal can be said about administration in Wales. There are also certain aspects of the administrative problem in which the hon. Members representative of Welsh constituencies, I know, are interested, and which will no doubt be raised today. Therefore, perhaps it would be convenient, if, in introducing this matter to the House, I were to begin with a short statement of what the Government are aiming at, leading on to the methods at present adopted for its achievement, before, finally, coming to deal with the methods suggested for improving administration. I think there is always some danger that in discussing Welsh matters, we may tend to have in mind the coalmining areas. There are, of course, other important interests in Wales, including agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Although the economic difficulties and large-scale unemployment were concentrated during the interwar years largely 298 in the South Wales coalfields, yet there are other parts of Wales the problems of which require particular consideration in view of the special difficulties which affect them. As typical examples, I might mention Pembroke Docks and the slate quarries of the Nantlle Valley.
But what has been particularly marked, and marked with tragedy, in the valleys of South Wales and Monmouthshire, is the long-term and persistent unemployment of the interwar years, which from present appearances, might be thought to be rearing its head once again at a time when owing to the overall shortage of labour in the country, there should be plenty of work available for every one who is ready and willing to work. Indeed, this long-term unemployment was stressed as the general factor in the statement which was presented by the Members of the Welsh Parliamentary Party to the Prime Minister on 6th March last. I would like to say, therefore, that the Government are quite determined that this long-term unemployment shall not recur. They are convinced that the steps which are now being taken, and with which I propose to deal later, will overcome the danger of a recurrence. If they do not succeed in overcoming that danger, then further and other measures will be taken, for we will not tolerate, and the country will not tolerate, a recurrence of the circumstances which ruled in that area between the two wars. It is not only natural but right that in present circumstances, the representatives of the Welsh constituencies affected should make the most searching inquiry into what is being done to relieve the situation, and see whether any administrative improvements can be introduced, which will make those measures, when adopted, more effective.
This problem of dealing with long-term unemployment which existed before the war is not, of course, peculiar to Wales. It is the problem of all the development areas and its solution must come from the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing native industries, coupled with the introduction into these areas of new industries, or services initiated in most cases from outside the areas themselves. It is not by administrative isolation of these development areas that we can best help them, but rather by bringing them right into the main current of the industrial life of the country. In the past they have been too isolated and specialised. One of their 299 principal needs is a diversity of employment, an industrial mixing up with the traditional industries of other areas or with new industries altogether. Though, of course, due attention must be paid to the employment of the people in their own native industries, it has been by the introduction into Wales of many new industries from England that we have been able to help that area. So it is important, in our view, that nothing should be done to segregate or isolate Wales or its economic problems from the general industrial and administrative life of the country as a whole.
In speaking of the size of the economic problem in Wales, and the steps which we have taken to deal with it, I shall, as a matter of convenience, deal with the South Wales and Monmouthshire coal area, but that does not mean, of course, that we disregard the problem of North Wales or that of other areas. There were, before the war, in South Wales, 111,000 unemployed, of whom 104,000 were men and 7,000 only were women. That was on the basis of the employment then available in the major basic industries, those of coal, steel and tinplate. During the war, as we all know, those figures of unemployment fell to negligible proportions, and, in addition to that, tens of thousands of Welsh women came into industry for the first time. To that extent, the pattern of employment in Wales has changed with the introduction of female labour into the great Royal Ordnance and other factories, such, for instance, as the one at Bridgend. In that Royal Ordnance factory alone, at one time, over 30,000 people were employed, a great many of them women. When the war ended, this great munition works had to be closed down almost at once, and there was a relapse into unemployment, for there was no alternative ready to take the places of these munition factories.
What has been so serious, and, indeed, so tragic to the people of South Wales was to see once again, after the cessation of war activity, a swelling volume of unemployment which has now persisted, in some areas, for well over 12 months, and has risen, in particular cases, to as much as a quarter of the insured population. There is, too, an additional problem, accentuated by the more careful review of the health of the mining population— 300 a review which, in itself, everybody must welcome, but which has now resulted in a great many men being declared to be unfit for work in the mines, due to silicosis and other medical reasons. Today men are coming out of the mines at the rate of 100 per week in South Wales on this score alone, and there is an accumulated backwash of unemployed silicotics of anything up to 10,000 or 15,000 people, for whom suitable employment must be found.
Unfortunately, the organisation of new productive employment takes time, and, during the period when preparations should have been made for solving these difficulties, it was quite impossible, because of the nation's concentration on the war effort and victory, to do anything very effective towards preparing for peacetime conditions. Certain opportunities, it is true, have been arising out of the war. Steps were taken to provide factories in locations that would make them useful for peacetime production, but that was a small contribution only, in relation to the totality of the problem. It was not indeed, until the last days of the war that work on these other preparations could be begun, and it is only in recent months that the vast amount of preparatory work has actually begun to materialise in the form of new opportunities of employment. Undoubtedly, from a geographical point of view, South Wales is not an easy proposition for locating industry. Not only are some of its valleys so narrow as not to provide a flat site at all for factories, but the approach roads are often narrow, twisting and steep, while a great part of the ground available is honeycombed with underground workings, or covered with soft peat which is quite unsuitable for factory foundations.
In starting a new factory, it is not only necessary to get a solid and firmly-founded building. One has to get a tenant as well. In principle, our desire is to take the work to the workers wherever that is possible, and, although we have not yet been able to cover completely the whole of the development area, our plans will, I think, if they are studied in detail, in Tables 5, 6 and 7 of the White Paper, show that we have gone quite a long way in that direction. It is indeed remarkable to note the way in which industrialists have been prepared to start up manufacturing in areas which were once re- 301 garded as remote and where such activities have never been known in the past.
I myself last week visited South Wales to see how these various schemes are progressing, and I would like to give to the House a short summary of the situation. I would emphasise that what I am going to say gives the facts of the situation, and anyone who is sufficiently interested can check up on the facts by visiting South Wales. Our objective at present is to provide adequate opportunities of employment for all those who, on the basis of our prewar experience and our present experience, might otherwise be without that opportunity. We assume that, in order to accomplish that in the South Wales Development Area, work must be found for an additional 70,000 to 75,000 men and 50,000 to 55,000 women, and that is, at the moment, our target, although it is always possible, as matters develop that we may have to change our target, which is not fixed and unchangeable. That target has been broken down in the different localities, as we must deal with the problem as one of comparatively small areas, if we are to bring the work to the workers. Table 4 gives the present overall unemployment situation, and that has been broken down so as to show the present state of unemployment in each labour exchange area, and the factory building programme has been laid out, as far as possible, to absorb not only the existing unemployed, but the estimated total of unemployed on the basis of prewar figures and present experience, and, of course, on the basis of the completion of demobilisation.
I think I can best illustrate how that has been done by taking two actual examples, at random, in the Swansea Valley and the Merthyr districts. In the Swansea Valley district, there were unemployed in July, 1938, 16,600 men and 1,650 women. The total new employment created or planned since that date is for 5,000 men and 8,000 women, and, of that, there has already been provided in actual employment, work for 1,500 men and 1,300 women, leaving, still to come, on balance, employment for 3,500 men and 6,700 women.
That compares with the present state of unemployment of 4,600 men and 2,850 women. It will be seen from those figures that, in fact, woman labour has been over catered for, whereas man labour has been rather under catered for at the present 302 time. If one takes the Merthyr figures in the same way, one finds that the actual total of employment created or planned since 1938 is just under 5,000 for men, and just over 5,000 for women. Of those employment has already been obtained for 1,820 men and 1,350 women, leaving 2,950 places under the scheme for men and 4,400 for women, whereas the present unemployed figures are 2,800 men and 1,250 women. There, again, is a case where the men's employment has been under catered for, and the women's employment has been over catered for.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman has them, can he give us the correct figures of the number of unemployed workers who have been compelled to leave South Wales since the end of the war, because of unemployment?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am afraid I have not those figures with me at present, but I shall certainly see whether we can get them for the hon. Gentleman later on. A great deal of the unemployment in South Wales before the war was the result of the general depression. There is no doubt that, with higher standards of full employment in the area, there will be a great deal more demand for the absorption of workers in all the ancillary industries and services, such as the transport services, the distributive trade, and so on, so that these factory figures indicate only those who would be directly employed in the factories. Other employment will, we hope, flow as a result of this greater amount of factory employment. If the whole area is examined on the basis of the two examples that I have given, a very approximate—and I emphasise that it is very approximate—overall balance is observed between the probable supply of labour and the jobs that will be available. It is not, of course, an absolute balance—indeed, the figures of estimated labour available and of employment that will be given, are too uncertain to make it possible to arrive at any kind of exact balance. Unfortunately, there are some cases where geography is so much against us, that it is impossible to make the balance within the small area that we would wish.
If I may take an example of such a case it is in the Abertillery Division about which, I know, my hon. Friend who represents that constituency (Mr. Daggar) 303 is extremely worried, and I have great sympathy with him. This is an area which has experienced heavy unemployment in the past and where, at present, 1,700 persons, men and women, are unemployed. It was impossible to find suitable sites in Abertillery itself and after consultation with the local authorities of Abertillery, Nantyglo and Brynmawr it was agreed to locate the factories on the fringe of that area. At Newbridge, Abercarn, two factories of 30,000 square feet are to go up; at Brynmawr and Nantyglo one factory of 277,000 square feet—a very large unit—and at the Dingle site, Brynmawr, four other factories. That is not a wholly satisfactory solution, but it is the best we can do in the geographical circumstances and should, overall, provide the employment required, though at the cost of rather longer travelling for some people than we would like to see.
The estimated figures of employment with which we have dealt in these various statistics, are those which were given to us by the employers who will be the tenants of these factories, or who will own them, and where it has not been possible to obtain such figures because the factories are to be built in advance of actual letting, they have had to be calculated on the floor areas of the factories. In the first instance, the general policy was to build factories for specific tenants, that is to say, catch your tenant first and then build your factory. But now that the area is becoming recognised as a general industrial area, we shall build factories in advance of actual lettings, so that there may be no delay in their starting up. Forty such factories are now planned. In addition to that, we are building a number of special factories in order to assist in finding employment for silicotics following up the very valuable report made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) when he presided over a small working party for that purpose. But it should also be remembered that factories, other than the special factories for silicotics will give employment to those industrial casualties. I was in one of the other factories at Ammanford where, already, 28 per cent. of the total employees are silicotics. That is a very good record for which the owners of the factory are to be very much complimented.
304 In addition to the new building now proceeding or completed during this year, there are the Government wartime factories and the Royal Ordnance Factories, two of which, the one at Bridgend and the one at Hirwaun, are being converted into trading estates, as is also the one in the north at Wrexham, Marchwiel. The overall position as regards factory building today is as follows. There are two lists of factories, those financed by the Treasury and those by private enterprise. Taking, first the Government list, there are 87 for specific tenants, 40 advance factories and nine special factories for silicotics, making 136 in all. Of those, right of entry to the site has been obtained in rather more than 90, the tenders have been put out in 79, the contracts have been let in 73, the site clearance has commenced in 19, building has started in 9 others, steel work has been erected or is in process of erection in 22 others and 15 are substantially complete.
So far as private enterprise factories are concerned there are 68, including extensions. In practically every case the right of entry to the site has been obtained. In 38 cases the contracts have been let; in two, the site clearance has commenced; in three the building has started; in nine the steel work is in process of erection, and 17 are either just finished or just finishing. That shows that this programme, though perhaps not going as fast as many of us would like, is making substantial strides. It must, of course, be realised, that the completion of the factory building is only the first step towards providing employment. There follows the equipment with machinery and the training of the employees, though, wherever possible, we are arranging temporary accommodation in which the training can take place in advance of the actual completion of the building.
It will be seen from these figures that though much has been done, much more still remains to be done and a considerable period of time must elapse before the jobs will be available in anything like the volume that we require. That gap in time is, unfortunately, inevitable. It is a sequel to our war effort, and all we can do is to hurry on as speedily as possible with the labour and materials that are available for the purpose. We are taking special measures to try to avoid delays due to shortages of materials, and, of course, the most difficult of all 305 today is structural steel. That shortage, as the House knows, is very serious at the present time and it looks as if it might be another 12 months before the position improves. When we have built these factories we do not anticipate any difficulty in finding tenants for them as soon as they are ready, with the possible exception of some of the special silicotic factories and one or two others which are not very conveniently and accessibly placed. However, those difficulties, if they should occur, will be overcome in one way or another, and I have no doubt that very shortly after all these factories are completed they will be allocated and occupied. As the House will see from the figures which I have given, there has been a very real difficulty in trying to obtain a balance between the male and female labour in this area, as in others.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
Would my right hon. and learned Friend answer this question? He has told the House the number of factories which have been planned, approved or are in course of construction. Is it not correct to say that the total number of men employed in doing that work in South Wales is not in excess of 1,400? If that figure is correct, can my right hon. and learned Friend say how long it will take before the factories are constructed in order to absorb the existing army of unemployed in South Wales?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The figure which my hon. Friend has given is rather less than the actual number employed at the present time. From recollection, I think it is about 1,700. We anticipate that, substantially speaking, the whole of the factory buildings will be completed by the end of next year unless we are held up very much by lack of raw materials.
§ Mr. Daggar
It will take perhaps five years before the existing plans are completed, and that will not meet the position in South Wales now.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not think my hon. Friend is accurate when he says "perhaps five years." It is possible to say "perhaps" about anything. Our estimate is that we hope substantially to complete them by the end of next year.
§ Mr. Daggar
Is it not true to say that a reply to a Question has already been given to the effect that in the last three years the number of factories built in 306 South Wales has not been in excess of six? At that rate the unemployed will never be absorbed in South Wales.
§ Sir S. Cripps
If my hon. Friend takes two years of war and one year immediately afterwards, he cannot expect many factories to be built in that time. A great deal of preparatory work has had to be done, and it has been bearing fruit. Our estimate is that it will be completed at the end of next year.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I hope they will not die as quickly as that in South Wales. I was proceeding to deal with the difficulty in obtaining a balance between the male and female labour. Undoubtedly, the tendency of the new factories which are being occupied by many of the lighter industries is towards employing female labour. I may say that all the industrialists to whom I have spoken have the highest praise for the female labour in South Wales, and all seem to think that it suits them almost better than the male labour in South Wales. That tendency has been very difficult to combat, because to move the heavier industries is a much greater task than to move the lighter industries. We are now trying to correct that balance by introducing, where necessary, industries which employ predominantly men. Given the ability to get such male employing industries in their proper proportion in advance factories when they are let, we should, according to our present calculations, just about absorb all the men and women who are likely to be unemployed. We hope that with a gradually rising curve of employment in these new factories from new tenants—and it is already starting—in something like two years from now we shall almost have reached our goal. That would be three years from the end of the war, and I do not think that is an unduly long time for so very large and extensive an undertaking of industrialisation. There is one word of warning that I must add, however. The present world difficulties with regard to certain raw materials such as timber, leather, steel, oils and textiles may result in the holding back of employment, but we shall do our utmost to see, as we are now doing, that in regard to such shortages the development areas receive preferential treatment. So much, then, for the long term plan for South Wales.
307 The other areas of difficulties are in the North of Wales around Wrexham where we have an industrial estate at Marchwiel which, when developed, according to the present arrangements, will more than provide all the employment required in that area. The rest of North Wales is, however, a much more difficult proposition because the pockets of unemployment are small, and it is not an area to which industrialists from England are likely to be ready to go. We have tried them and they are not ready to go. But that matter is now being studied on the basis of the Report of the North Wales Development Council, and from the middle of next month I hope to be in a position to take the matter up with that Development Council. In placing these new factories in Wales, we have attempted to avoid concentration upon any particular type of industry and to give as large a spread as possible so far as the size and type of the manufacture is concerned. For instance, 15 of the factories sited deal with individual units of over 100,000 square feet, which is a large factory, whereas 50 or more of them deal with places between 10,000 and 100,000 square feet. I will not weary the House with recitals of the various articles to be manufactured in them, but they range from structural steel to toys, from wireless valves to heavy electric cables, with a multitude of consumer commodities including a very good sprinkling of clothing of all sorts and kinds.
We realise that the mere building of factories alone is not sufficient. If we are to create a stable and continuing industrial life in Wales we must adapt the transport facilities, services, amenities and housing facilities to that industrial development. Hitherto, road transport has not played a very vital part in the heavy industries in South Wales. They have been serviced very largely by the railways, but with the present development and much wider spread of industry, road transport and, therefore, better roads must play an essential part. There is, therefore, an extensive plan for road development from the Severn Bridge at one end, to the main trunk road to the Midlands at the other, in addition to a great deal of local work in and around the factory sites and up and down the valleys. This work which can, of course, provide a considerable volume of temporary employment has not yet got 308 into its stride as the necessary preliminary services have not been completed—everyone knows what the position is as regards the shortage of surveyors—but we hope that by next spring a great deal of it will have been got under way.
Another thing that is essential, especially in the more narrow valleys, is to clear some of the derelict sites, both to improve amenities and in some cases to provide new sites for factories and other buildings. Plans are now ready to start on that work on three sites at Treorchy, Tregynon and Mountain Ash for the improvement of amenities, and on another five sites in the Rhondda, Merthyr Tydfil and Mountain Ash clearing will take place partly for factory buildings and partly for amenity purposes. In addition to that, three derelict sites in the Rhondda are to be cleared for immediate development. That work will involve the clearance of about 175 acres of derelict land. That, of course, is in addition to the large sites at Dowlais and Cyfarthfa, which have already been cleared and completed. We believe clearance is one of the ways in which South Wales will be made more attractive for the industrialist, which is an important factor in its development. The general principle is for the clearance work to be done by the Government where it is a question of providing factory sites, and by the local authority with 100 per cent. grants from the Government for clearance work, in appropriate cases, where it is a question of improving amenities or providing sites for housing, recreation grounds or whatever it may be, which is a local matter. Housing, of course, is for the local authorities, but there is a special requirement for houses for key workers and instructors who must be brought into Wales in order to teach the new processes, and for managers who often have to come from other distant districts. In nearly every case now, after a great deal of prolonged negotiation, the local authorities have undertaken to carry out this special work as the housing authority, and to fit it in with their other housing work.
§ Mr. Davies
Is it implied that the local authorities have been in the least responsible for building such houses for staffs, executives and so on?
§ Sir S. Cripps
No, they are not. The negotiations have been carried on in order that they should take on that work, and fit it in with their general building programme.
§ Mr. Davies
Then, by implication, it must mean that either the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Health, or both, have been responsible for the hold-up.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Not at all. It has been a difficult problem to arrange, and has required prolonged negotiation. Some local authorities have not yet agreed to do it, although they have been pressed to do it. Although some to whom I spoke personally when down in South Wales, refused to do it, I hope now they will be convinced that it is a good thing. All I am pointing out is that to arrange this matter, has involved prolonged negotiation. We hope it is practically arranged that the local authorities will do this building for us in providing these houses, and fit it in with their own schemes. It is only in special cases where, for some reason or other, they cannot arrange to build the appropriate type of house that my Department will do the building themselves.
The question of services is not, as a whole, holding up development at the present time, though it will be necessary later to improve water, gas and power supplies in a number of cases. Gas supply is the most difficult, at present, especially in connection with the development of the Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory as a trading estate. There, a large scheme will be required before the estate can be fully developed, and that scheme is now under review for bringing gas from Port Talbot. I would like to point out that local authorities can help very much in the present period before the factories absorb all the labour available. There must be many schemes which they could carry out for the improvement of their districts. Where these are such that they will improve the industrial amenity of the 310 districts the local authorities can obtain 100 per cent. grants from the Government for carrying them out. I hope they will interest themselves actively in using this opportunity, and thus assist the employment situation just at the time when factory employment is still at a low level.
The problem of the South Wales ports is a very special one. As hon. Members know only too well, these ports were largely built for, and have always relied upon, the export of coal as their main basis of employment. Today that export has substantially disappeared, or at least been greatly reduced. Our total imports in the country are running at only about two-thirds of the prewar volume; and though exports have reached the prewar volume they are not such as naturally gravitate to South Wales, nor, indeed, do the sailings of liners take place from those ports. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to see what can be done until such time as coal exports revive. We are investigating the possibility of increasing the traffic in raw material—timber, for instance—through the South Wales ports, and we hope that when the industrial development has been completed in South Wales, the new factories there will provide both an export and an import trade through the South Wales ports.
I must now turn to the question of the administrative organisation in Wales. It has been suggested that this programme of industrial development might have moved forward faster if there had been more coordination in Wales of the various Government Departments concerned. I can assure the House that the Departments do not forget or overlook Wales. Nor, indeed, could they do so even if they wished, for the Welsh Members of Parliament are far too vocal and persistent to allow any of us to become complacent about Wales. In fact, I believe that, in view of the difficulties which are necessarily entailed in such an enterprise where so many factories have to be considered, including always the wishes of those who are to be ultimately responsible for running the factories, we have not done so badly in reaching the point we have in a little more than a year from the end of the war. Nevertheless, if anything can be done to improve the speed or efficiency of performance, the Government are certainly anxious to adopt any improvement they can. In 311 the White Paper a description of the regional organisation of the various Departments is set out In addition to this, representatives of all those Departments, together with representatives of the employers and of the trades unions, meet in the Regional Board for Wales. In a body so constituted there can and should be a real meeting of minds and pooling of ideas, which should help to coordinate, focus and stimulate all the various activities of the Departments, and to give an impetus to the breaking down of bottlenecks and the overcoming of particular difficulties.
During the war, the regional boards, though they were then constituted in a slightly different way, did invaluable work along that line, and we hope they will prove no less useful in their peacetime job. Every encouragement ought to be given to them in the locality. I hope they will develop in prestige and in performance so as to play a really distinguished part in the industrial life of the country. I believe them to be instruments admirably suited to their job, and I hope, therefore, the fullest use will be made of them and their district committees. Each month that regional board receives a report from regional controllers of every Department summarising the work of the Board of Trade in Wales for the month. That ought to keep them in close touch with everything that is going on. In addition to this liaison through the regional board, there is close collaboration between the various regional controllers themselves. In fact, a great deal of the work is carried through locally with very little interference though, I hope, plenty of encouragement from Whitehall.
The question that has been put is whether there might not be greater concentration on the problems of Wales if some arrangements were made for the supervision of Welsh affairs by a special Minister, or in some other way. The first observation I would make on that is, that from the industrial point of view Wales has everything to lose and nothing to gain by isolating herself from the rest of the country. If we examine the industrial development that is now taking place, it will be seen that practically none of it is local in character in the sense of being either financed or originated from Wales itself.
§ Mr. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
No one on behalf of Wales has made any suggestion of the kind. No one has suggested isolating Wales in the slightest degree.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am going to point out what the effect on Wales would be. I am glad we are agreed, in the first instance, that nobody wants to isolate Wales, either administratively or in any other way.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
May I point out that my hon. Friend is taking upon himself too much?
§ Sir S. Cripps
This taking of industry out of England, where there is a shortage of labour, and placing it in Wales, where there is an excess of labour, is exactly what is happening with regard to the other development areas, and that is essentially a part of national planning, and not district or local planning.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am glad my hon. Friend accepts that. I thank him very much. If Welsh matters were to become the primary interest of a Welsh Minister, they could not fail to suffer in their treatment as part of the overall national plan. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Perhaps hon. Members will be a little patient. They would then tend to become segregated and isolated from the main stream of the industrial life of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] There is, in reality, no more specialised a view of Welsh economic problems than there is about those of Durham, or the North East coast. Their special character arises from the general economic facts of the past, and it is those general economic facts that have constituted the South Wales Development Area; and it is as one of a number of development areas that South Wales needs to be dealt with on its economic side, fitting in with and getting the benefit of those unrestricted contacts with the other industrial centres of the country. The same can be said of the field of the activities of all the production Departments, such as the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of 313 Works and Buildings, and the Ministry of Health in the building of houses. On the economic side, therefore, it is to the benefit of Wales not to be dealt with specially, and the real problems of Wales today are economic problems.
This does not mean, of course, that the closest attention should not be paid to Welsh problems. It is essential that so important a part of the country should not only be administered properly but that the people should be satisfied with the administration. Every effort should be made in the Departments to see that the fullest attention is paid to Welsh matters, weaving them into the general pattern of the national economy, and seeing that they do not in any way suffer because of the distance of the territory from the capital. Clearly, Glamorgan and Monmouth, from their very geographical situation, have more economic problems in common than many other counties; and it is, therefore, desirable to have the closest liaison, not only between the various Welsh authorities, but also between all those authorities and the responsible officers of the several Departments of State. Nor is it desirable that the business specifically relating to Wales should be carried out in London, except where it is part of the larger and wider administration. This certainly points to a strong and well-integrated regional organisation in Wales, keeping in the closest touch with the Welsh authorities, and settling many points in Wales itself.
Before I proceed to deal with the Government's proposals in this matter, I must mention the other functions of Government which deal with the non-economic matters. In the field of education and health, there has already been a large measure of devolution to the Welsh Board of Health, and the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is in this field that support has been given to the idea of separate Ministerial responsibility.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to repeat that last sentence? It is very important to know what he said.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Certainly. What I was saying was, that in the field of health and education there has already been a large measure of devolution to the Welsh Board of Health, in the case of health, and to the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education, in the case of education; and it is in that field that support has, I think, been given to the idea of separate Ministerial responsibility for Welsh affairs, based on the cultural and linguistic differences between the Welsh and English people. It must, however, be borne in mind that, so far as Wales is concerned, there are no differences in the constitutional or legal system, as there are, of course, in the case of Scotland; and in that matter, therefore, the situation of Wales is quite different from that of Scotland. As we know, in many matters special Scottish Bills have to be passed in this House, owing to constitutional and legal differences, and it would hardly be a practical suggestion that special Bills for Wales ought to be passed in every case, because, in Wales, there are no differences in the legal system.
If there were to be some special super Ministerial authority for Wales, it would, I am convinced, lead to nothing but delay and inefficiency. There would be an extra channel through which all documents and decisions would have to pass. Even in the case of Scotland, those economic matters, with which Wales is deeply concerned, do not fall within the ambit of the responsibility of the Scottish Office. The development area in Scotland is in precisely the same position as that, in South Wales, and my Department has equal responsibility in both. The same can be said as regards the activities of the other production Departments, such as the Ministries of Food, Fuel and Power, Supply, and so on. It has been realised and accepted that, even where the law and constitution differ, economic matters must still be planned nationally for the mutual benefit of all parts of the United Kingdom; and, in my view, it would be a very retrograde step to depart from that principle.
There is another important aspect of this question which will appeal especially to those who are anxious about the quality of administration. With an area and population to draw upon so small as that of Wales, it would be quite impossible to maintain the standard of administration, in purely Welsh services, as high as 315 that which is possible when these services cover the entire country.
§ Sir S. Cripps
They have been educated, but one does not get quite the same large choice from a few millions as one gets from tens of millions of people. For these many reasons the idea of a Welsh Office and Secretary of State has been abandoned, as, in the view of the Government, it must be abandoned.
Then we are met with the suggestion that there might be some sort of supervising Ministry especially charged with Welsh affairs. I at once ask myself how such a scheme would affect my Departmental responsibilities, taking that as a typical example. Would it increase or decrease the efficiency of the carrying out of its work of my Department in Wales? For that is really the ultimate test. A great deal of my administration as regards development areas must cover such areas as a whole, and decisions must be taken not in the light of the circumstances of one particular area only, but having regard to the whole problem of the location of industry nationally. My Welsh colleague, my supervising Welsh Minister, would have nothing to do with Scotland or the North-East Coast, or Lancashire, which areas would have no special representation themselves in this and similar matters. Where, then, would this special Minister come in? Should I be expected to consult him on all matters affecting Wales? In one way or another nearly everything done in my Department affects Wales, because it affects the country as a whole. If I did not consult him he might just as well not be there, and if I did it would mean a very great slowing up of administration. It might also mean a great many disputes to be taken to the Cabinet, because he would be judging problems from a purely local point of view, whereas I must judge them from the national point of view, as a whole. He would, in fact, at best be an empty symbol, or at worst a very great impediment to the efficient administration of Welsh and English affairs alike. It is really impossible to localise ministerial responsibility where there is no practical economic or legal boundary.
316 While, therefore, the Government have considered this suggestion of a separate Minister for Welsh affairs, with the greatest sympathy and care, and with the special help, I may say, of the large number of Welsh Members who are in the Government today, we are firmly convinced that, from the point of view of the efficiency of Welsh administration, it would be wrong to institute any such arrangement. On the other hand, we do, of course, recognise that there is, as I have said, a closeness or kinship between the different parts of Wales and Monmouthshire which gives them many common interests. From that point of view we have decided, for instance, to set aside annually a day in the House of Commons for the discussion of Welsh affairs, and we believe it will be helpful to have annually a White Paper very much on the lines of that at present before the House. For the same reason, it is most important to have the maximum possible devolution of responsibility to departmental officials working in Wales. It is far more convenient for Welsh people to go to Cardiff than it is for them to come to Whitehall.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman enlarge on the last statement he has made? Along what lines should this larger measure of devolution take place? How does he anticipate that that increase in devolution will be achieved so far as Wales is concerned?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The way it takes place is like this. Authority is given to the Regional Controllers to settle matters locally, without having to refer them to Whitehall. That is the way in which authority is increased locally, and where questions do not concern general policy, but concern some particular matter which relates to Wales alone, a very much larger measure of authority will be given to the Regional Controllers to settle them locally in consultation with one another, or with local authorities, or whoever the interested parties may be.
§ Mr. Davies
Has my right hon. and learned Friend consulted with his fellow Ministers, responsible for other Ministries which have also a very important bearing on the matter?
§ Sir S. Cripps
Certainly. What I am announcing today is Government policy. I am speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether any alteration is contemplated in the arrangements made hitherto for the Education Department?
§ Sir S. Cripps
Apart from also devolving a further measure of responsibility to people in Wales, no structural change is contemplated in the Education Department.
§ Sir S. Cripps
We believe that the efficiency of administration would also be served by having a regular quarterly meeting of all the principal departmental officials in Wales under the chairmanship of a senior civil servant, who would be selected specially for that task. At this meeting any particular problems affecting Wales would be brought up and reported upon, and the senior civil servant would be able to report them directly to the responsible Ministers. Thus a general supervision would be kept over the administration in Wales. This meeting, formalising a great deal of what is already being done, would give evidence I hope of the more effective liaison of departmental officers in Wales, and would I hope impress the people of Wales with the fact that they were getting the best of both worlds, from sharing in the wider administration and having particular attention paid to their own problems. The Government believe that it is along these lines, rather than by cutting Wales off from the main stream of administration, that the best results will be achieved. We are satisfied that the energy and devotion of the Welsh Members will always be such that Wales will get not less, but even more, than its due share of attention.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had resumed his seat ten minutes ago, I would have been prepared to congratulate him upon a very competent and sympathetic speech. I must now confess that the sympathy had disappeared long before he ended his speech and, the more comprehensive he became, the less sympathetic he was. I now find that I have no occasion to congratulate the Government, although I still want to pay my personal tribute to the patience and industry of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the 318 President of the Board of Trade, for this White Paper which has been presented to us is either thoroughly misunderstood by me, or it is not capable of being understood or explained. I do not know what in the world the Government propose to do, I am sorry to say. We enter upon this Debate, at the conclusion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, with more confusion than I have ever known on a matter of this kind. I propose, therefore, to say what I think of the White Paper to begin with. After all, this is the first White Paper, and we welcome it for that reason. We think that the second may be better, and the third be still more closely related to Welsh life, so as to enable us to proceed to a rational examination of Welsh affairs in this House. I think I can assure the House that that is highly essential to the improvement of government for Britain as a whole.
After all, this is not an attempt by ourselves to snatch some kind of concession from the Government. This is an attempt to make a contribution to the better government, and better economic organisation, of this country to which we all belong. We have just as much right in England as anybody else has, and just as much right in Wales as any people have, to manage the affairs of our own country. I am one of the believers in the advantages of the British form of political association—our freedom to speak and think, our freedom to hold different opinions, our freedom to find sensible and convenient agreements at all times. We made these proposals in good faith six months ago, but there has been no answer yet worthy of the proposals we made. Our proposals and representations were put down on paper and can be read by the nation as a whole, and I believe they should and, indeed, must be after what has been said today.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken of the White Paper; he does not claim too much for it, but he does find in it virtues which entirely elude me. I cannot find them in the White Paper. I think the key to the character of this White Paper is found in the second page of the document, where there is a map of Wales. I would ask hon. Members to look at this map. They will see a hatched or shaded portion in the South and a little shaded portion in the North. Most of the counties are left entirely blank.
319 There are no references to towns, roads and railways. Brecknockshire is blank, Montgomeryshire is blank, Merionethshire is blank, and Flintshire is blank. What does this White Paper propose to do for Wales? [HON. MEMBERS: "Create blanks."] Is there any indication by those who drew this map of any great solicitude on the part of the Government for Wales? Is this map drawn by the same kind of person who has drawn many of the other things for Wales in the past? This map is on a scale of 28 miles to one inch. Who has ever heard of such a scale for a map? It belongs to nothing on earth. It has no longitudes or latitudes. This is outside the world. It is a new idea in mapping and planning. The fact is that there is no plan for Wales.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
May I ask my hon. Friend to look again at the shaded portions of the map? These portions are shaded in order to set out which are the development areas. That is the reason why the rest of the map is blank—because all of Wales is not a development area.
§ Mr. Grenfell
The right hon. Gentleman has not seen this map as I see it. The shaded portions remind me of the shadows of anxiety through which Wales has passed. My thoughts go straight to blue books. I challenge any Member on the Front Bench not of Welsh descent and tradition to say something about the exposures in blue books, which revealed to the world and Wales the tragedy of maladministration and disorder which prevailed in Wales less than 100 years ago. I challenge the representative of the Board of Education to say what he knows about that—not tonight, but some other time. One of the first things the White Paper refers to is population. On page 3, it states:The population of Wales and Monmouthshire at the 30th June, 1946, was 2,488,800. Details of population, changes, migration into and out of Wales, and vital statistics are shown in the Appendix, Tables 1, 2 and 3.It begins and ends with 30th June, 1946. Anyone who approaches the problem of Wales and starts from that date must lose his way, because there is no direction to his mind in studying the problem. From 1891 to 1926, the population of Wales increased by 1,000,000. That was a period of Welsh expansion without the aid of the Board of Trade. There was no 320 Board of Trade, and Wales prospered. Wales went on from prosperity to prosperity, and attracted from all parts of England nearly half its present population. The first thing to learn about Wales is that in the last four generations the population became so mixed that it formed a different class of people. I myself am partly a mixture of English and Welsh, with no apologies for either. There is no other place in Britain, in the world, which can show a rate of expansion such as was witnessed during the years since the early part of last century. No place in Britain has made so large a contribution, in substance and value, to trade and commerce, and to British prestige all over the world.
Does not the population alarm the Government? I am waiting for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to speak. I want to know if he has any tremulous feelings at all about Wales. There are 300,000 fewer people in Wales than in 1926. The young men have gone away, the old have tarried; and the old people are not so productive or reproductive as the young people. This is a time when the economic fabric of Wales must be re-examined, but not by patchwork, by tinkering or local alleviation. There must be a plan for Wales. We are as entitled as any one to have a plan; we are the people who have suffered most for the want of planning. Let me give the House some figures; they are not known to it. This House in some respects is nearly the most ignorant place in the world. I have spent 25 years in the House, and I am very proud of my association with it. But the House does not know, because it is not a specialist, economic organisation. From 1920 to 1935, in the black years of depression, hardship and sacrifice, the wage earners in the heavy industries alone lost no less than £100 million per year in wages. This was too small a place to have its own rights. These people were regarded as a side-show. I have made a computation—and I challenge my right hon. Friend on this—that in capital value, property values and loss of income the cost to Wales, from 1920 to 1940, is not one penny less than £2,500 million. Show me another place which has suffered such economic damage. Show me another place which has been so neglected and so rewarded for the contribution it has made to the upkeep of the country.
321 This White Paper is tinkering with the situation, and it does not reveal any understanding of the problems which have to be solved. Now, we find that we have no fewer than 70,000 people unemployed in Wales. They have been unemployed every day, on an average, this year, and they still go away. They go away every day, because there is no work for them in Wales. They are told, "Go somewhere else. Swim in the streams of prosperity elsewhere." That has not been the history of people who have been compelled to go elsewhere. It has been found that their standard of living has been permanently reduced when they have had to move to other parts of Britain. We are determined, so far as we can, to explore the possibilities of a scientific economic organisation in Wales for the benefit of Welsh people, for their full employment, and the return of prosperity to Wales.
The President of the Board of Trade has made a speech which will, no doubt, look a wonderful speech in tomorrow's HANSARD. Those who read HANSARD are very few, but there will be reports passing through to Wales, and Welsh people will say, "What does all this mean? Will it find more employment, means by which the unexcelled natural wealth of Wales can be employed for the benefit of our people?" We have the finest coalfield in Britain. It has provided 40 per cent. of the British coal which has been exported to all parts of the world. This coal went from South Wales ports. We have coal in reserve for hundreds of years. We have a good coalfield in North Wales, and a coalfield in Pembrokeshire of which we have high hopes. They are the raw material of industry. The raw material of electricity is coal and water, and we have an abundance of the best fuel. We have an industrial experience which is unexcelled by any people in the world. We have ports and tidal harbours which enable us to send goods abroad and bring in the products of all nations. There is no 8,000 square miles anywhere which can be more easily planned, no 8,000 square miles which has more of the resources of modern industry than Wales. I am asked to go away, and say that nothing can be done. We must still starve in Wales, still send our young people away and reduce our standard of living because of this Parliament, which has been built up largely by the people of Wales, and this 322 Government, which would not have come into existence had it not been for the example set by the people of Wales.
This is not the last Debate about Wales. I make no claim on the grounds that we speak a different language, although I pay homage to it as much as any man. Welsh is one of the most expressive of modern languages, but because we hold on to it we do not look with disdain on an Englishman or a Scotsman who cannot talk in the same terms. Welsh people have played their part as Welshmen. The bowmen of Wales were the storm troopers of England for two centuries. The Welsh language was heard in France at the decisive battles of Agincourt and Cressy. A famous English dramatist found it difficult to pronounce the names of Dafydd Gam and Llewelyn. The closest Shakespeare could get to the latter war Fluellen, who was a droll and lovable character. Wales has played her part in the enterprises which have made Britain great everywhere. Wales is demanding her right to build up, in Wales, the conditions to which Welsh people are entitled by every right.
I would like to convey to the House something of the background which can never be shared by anybody except ourselves. One of my earliest recollections were the political controversies of 1886–7. Home Rule for Scotland, for Ireland, and for Wales was loudly demanded by the people of these respective countries. In the small village in which I lived there were only a few hundred people. The majority of the men were miners, steel workers and tin platers, and there were a few small farmers and tradesmen, the schoolmaster, the policeman and the postman whom we shared with neighbouring villages. I well remember a summer's morning of 1887, when my father and the village schoolmaster—and I can assure my hon. Friends that the schoolmaster and workman are closer together in Wales than in most parts of Britain—set off to walk to Swansea, seven miles away. They went to hear and see the great Mr. Gladstone who was to speak in Swansea that day. I was a boy of six at the time, and I well remember them coming back that night and telling us about it. Years afterwards, I read the life of Gladstone by Morley, who said this of that day in June, 1887:His reception was one of the greatest and most triumphant of his career. Ninety-nine 323 hundred of the vast crowd who gave up wages for the sake of seeing him and doing him honour were strong Protestants, yet they made their demonstration in order to secure, firstly and mainly, justice for Catholic Ireland."Then," said Mr. Gladstone, "it is not, after all, a bad country in which such things take place." We were Liberals then in Wales. I remember the time when there were 33 Welsh Members of Parliament—30 Liberals and three Conservatives. There were no Labour Members then. But I remember watching the developments from year to year, and taking a small part in bringing about the change in political forces. Today we stand here supporting the Government of this country. Some people think that it is not the best Government, but it is a Government to which Wales has made a contribution as large as any. I could name one or two people—Robert Owen, Ernest Jones, Henry Richard the Apostle of Peace, and William Morris, poet and artist—all good Welshmen—and no four men from any one country in the world have made so large a contribution to the ideas and practices of modern Government. We stand here today and all we ask, not as a concession or a favour, but as a contribution to the better Government Wales, that the Government shall give us this power, let us have a plan, and let the Welsh people have a voice in it.
I have been ashamed of things now possible in Wales. In Cardiff, Government Departments meet together, consult together, but not with the elected Members of Parliament for Wales. On the last day of April of this year, I was in Cardiff to do a broadcast talk, and I saw officials of two Government Departments. I greeted them because I am a friendly person and in Wales we are a friendly people. That same afternoon, I was told that there had been a great "hand-out" to the Press in London. The Press from London and all over the country had been summoned to Cardiff, and the next day I saw the most fantastic stories of progress and development in Wales. It is too bad. The President of the Board of Trade has a Department which is probably well staffed. I have not a single word to say against any individual person, but the way in which the business of Government is done in Wales leaves everything to be desired. The other day there was a committee of some party in this House which 324 went to South Wales, and they had "hand-outs," and they know all about it now—but the Members of Parliament for Wales were by-passed; they were not asked.
I can assure the House that we are determined to get better value in Wales. If the Minister of Health, who is to reply, will tell me tonight that he is satisfied with the condition of things in Wales I shall be very surprised. if he is not satisfied and wishes to drive away more men and girls—who are going away every day, leaving the population of Wales less competent and less fitted for their social responsibilities—then the onus is upon him. Let him say what he is prepared to do. Does this White Paper satisfy him? Is this all too sketchy account, which has been given by the President of the Board of Trade, positive enough for him? If not, the responsibility is upon him to say so.
I would like to say a word or two to my right hon. Friend in the most friendly way. I admire his talents—I have admired them for years, even when he was rather a cheeky boy, if I may say so. At conferences in which we happened to do business may years ago, I admired his courage. I admire his courage today. I know that he has the most difficult task in the Government. He is more in danger of not getting the resources to do his work than anybody else. He is charged with the business of housing. I visualise him sometimes with plumb line and straight edge, and with trowel in hand, trying very hard to catch up with the building requirements of this country. I would say to him, as I would say to a shoemaker, "Stick to your last; stick to your trowel—and we will carry the mortar and bricks, as rapidly as we can, to help you build the houses. Do not stop the struggle to tell us that things cannot be done; we believe you can do your job. You must believe that we, too, can do our job."
I believe that we can produce sufficient coal in Wales to resume exports on a large scale. I want to see work being done in our pits, on our railways and on our land. The agricultural possibilities of Wales are infinitely higher than we have allowed the country to believe. This reconstruction of Wales and the raising up of Welsh standards, enlarging our industrial contribution, widening our poli- 325 tical influence—all this is our right. We beg this House not to refuse these rights to us. It will not do to deny the full right of a nation, prepared to work hard at home, and for a better world organisation, so that national rights shall be more adequately and properly acknowledged than ever before.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd-George (Pembroke)
As the President of the Board of Trade reminded us, it was two years ago that we had the first day's Debate on Welsh affairs in this House. We have now had the first White Paper, and I think that we can say that some progress has been made. But I think that I shall be speaking for the vast majority of my fellow Welsh Members, when I say that it is not enough. I agree with the eloquent speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), when he said that the first part of the speech of the President of the Board of Trade was a detailed and comprehensive statement of what was happening in Wales; but I share his disappointment with the latter part of that speech. He dealt almost entirely with material—or, as he called them—economic affairs. That is not the only problem with which we have to deal in Wales. It has been our contention for a great many years that there are special claims and special problems concerned with Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned this afternoon the linguistic and cultural differences—and that is part of our case—that other parts of the world, some of them not very much larger than our own country, are considered and taken into account by the British Government. When it comes to our own Government, for all practical legislative purposes we are treated as part of England or—as one hon. Member said—as a county of England. We have for many years in this House, and for many generations before we came here, tried to get that altered, and hitherto no Government has given us any real consideration. I am bound to say that I see no further consideration from this Government to that particular aspect of our problem.
We have been told today of important changes in administration which will take place, and we have been told that there are to be greater consultation and cooperation between the various regional offices. The White Paper gives an impressive array of the representation of various 326 Ministries in Wales. We were told in correspondence with the Prime Minister some time ago, that, as a further concession, a yearly statement of the Government's work in Wales would be presented to the House so that the House could judge whether it was adequate. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health whether he thinks that, looking round the House, the House is adequate to judge these things. When the Debate started, there were about 50 Members present, the majority of whom, not unnaturally, were Welshmen. The figures have not gone up since then. This is the House that is to he asked to decide whether what is proposed in the White Paper is adequate for the needs of Wales. This House is incompetent to decide that.
The Government say that we are agreed about our objective, the objective being what is best in the true interests of Wales. The only difference, they say, is in the method. As a Welshman, I say that that difference is fundamental. The whole point is the method of approach. Of course, we are all agreed—at any rate, I hope we are—that what we have in mind is the best interests of Wales. What we disagree about is the best way in which to do the thing. If you want to understand the needs of Wales and to act in the best interests of Wales, you must know Wales. I do not say a word about the regional offices. They are staffed, to a very large extent, by Welshman who know Wales, but the legislation that controls the activities of those regional offices is enacted here and in the Cabinet. The Government say they do not think there is any special need for a Minister especially devoted to Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said there are more Welsh Ministers than we have ever had before. I agree, and I am very glad it is so, but there have been periods of a very large number of years when there have been no Welsh Ministers in the Government. It is purely an accident—ability will come to the top—that there are so many Welsh Ministers today. But that may not always be so, and therefore, it is really not an answer to say that because there are a lot of Welsh Ministers in the Government we ought to be satisfied.
§ Mr. Bevan
Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appreciate that the reason there were hardly any Welsh Ministers in the Government before was 327 that Wales returned a very large number of Socialist Members, that there was a Conservative Government, and that Conservative Governments would hardly have Socialists among them?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am glad to say there have been some Liberals in the Government. The fact is that we may yet come to a position in which there will not be a single Welsh Minister in the Government. The result of the present state of things is that in the place where legislation is enacted, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, there is, and has been in the past, gross ignorance of conditions in Wales.
The President of the Board of Trade said that to have a Minister—I do not care whether it is a Secretary of State or a Minister responsible—would not increase the efficiency of administration. Let me give one or two examples I have come across where a lack of knowledge of Welsh affairs could, and probably did, lead to the grossest inefficiency. At the beginning of the war, I was approached by an officer of M.I.5 who told me that the Government were most anxious to take certain steps in every part of the country to be put into operation in the event of a German invasion. He told me he was very disturbed indeed about Wales. He said—I dare not mention the part of the country—that in one part there would be riots. He said that the whole position there was most unsatisfactory, that the place was seething with Welsh nationalism, and was totally unreliable, and he went so far as to say that the local Nonconformist minister in that part of Wales had as great, if not greater, influence on the people of the village than a Catholic priest in Ireland. That was what he told me. I asked him whether he would mind telling me whom he had sent down, and he said he had sent one of the ablest officers he had got. I said, "Of course, he knows Wales?" I was told that he did not. I asked, "Do you mind telling me whom he contacted?" He said, "A Mr. X." I asked who was Mr. X. He said, "A retired cotton broker from Manchester."
That is a funny story in some ways, but a report went back, I assume, to the Secretary of State on a most vital part of our defence system which showed, quite grotesquely, as those of us who know Wales will realise, that such a state of 328 affairs existed. I need only add that in that particular part of the country every Welsh Nationalist candidate before and since has forfeited his deposit. That shows the value of that report, but it is the only report that the Secretary of State for War would have on his table on a most vital matter. Today, there has been discussion about the Welsh agricultural industry. It is not long since a Livestock Commission was set up. The largest livestock area for its size is, I think, Wales; yet there was not a single Welsh representative on that Commission. We had in Wales at that time a regional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, but when the Livestock Commission was set up, there was not a single Welshman on it. There were deputations, but if my memory serves me correctly, we did not ever get a Welshman on to the Commission. It is vital that at the top there should be somebody who knows something about Wales.
I will give an instance of the same sort in connection with my own constituency, where we had one of those disasters which have taken place all over Wales. It was an Admiralty matter that led to the closing of the dockyard, but the social consequences were not a matter for the Admiralty. Those social consequences were appalling. There was unemployment of over 50 per cent. The Special Areas Act, 1934, did not have the slightest effect upon that area. What was the result? Four hundred men were involved. It is not the numbers that matter; the hardship is to each individual, and as far as the individual is concerned, there is no difference between 40 and 400. The social consequences were that 400 individuals and their families had to be moved from that place. Most of them owned their own houses. I do not think the Germans did anything worse than that in France. It is true that the French were forced to work in Germany, but where could these people go? They had to go because they were established men. That part of the country was denuded of a fine body of skilled workmen who may never go back to that area. The matter was one for the Admiralty, but it ought to have been a matter for somebody who could deal with the social consequences to the Welsh people.
What happens nowadays? In trying to do things for my constituents, I was asked to take deputations to eight different Ministries, and it was not unreasonable 329 that I should go to any one of these eight, because they all affected the life of the place concerned. The area is now a development area, and I am glad to say that two factories will be started at the end of this month. I have had the greatest consideration both from the President of the Board of Trade and from his officials, but we now come to the point that if we are to develop the area, transport is vital. I always understood that transport was the beginning of development. Now that these factories are to go to that part, there was a request that the road which serves the area should be made a trunk road, but the Minister of Transport turned down the request. I feel that we could avoid that sort of thing if we could have one Minister in the Cabinet who could put the Welsh point of view so that legislation which is purely English would have some regard to peculiarly Welsh conditions. I hope we shall be able to get the Government to reconsider their attitude. I said a moment ago that so far every Welsh nationalist has forfeited his deposit, but I am not sure that that condition will remain if we go on treating Wales as we have done. I hope the contrary will never happen. I believe that if we could get more consideration, if our problems could be discussed in the Cabinet, it would not only be to the interest of Wales, but in the long run to the interest of the whole country.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Edwards (Bedwellty)
I have been listening to this Debate on Wales since it began and have heard the good temper shown by some hon. Members and the exciting things which have been said by others. I have also heard things which I myself should have been afraid to say. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd-George), for example, complained of the small number of hon. Members present in the House, but I am myself absent sometimes when I should be here, as I daresay he is too, and I always keep away from a point like that. I thought the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade was very clear, and although we do not agree with some of it it contained much valuable information. He mentioned the question of a Chief Secretary for Wales and I think that for the first time today we have had a really considered statement on that point which 330 we should do well to read before saying much about it. It will be interesting tomorrow or the day after to read the "London Letter," or the leading article in the "Western Mail" on that subject, for I am sure that newspaper will deal with the matter very carefully.
The White Paper has been condemned on many points but I think it serves a very useful purpose. It contains a great deal of information in a concise form and I am in agreement with it. It mentions regional offices; we have heard them spoken of before, but personally I know nothing about them and we in Wales have no connection whatever with them. No fewer than 16 Departments are mentioned, most of them in Cardiff, although there are one or two in Aberystwyth, but I know nothing about them or about what they are doing. We deal with the heads of Departments mentioned in the White Paper. It might be as well if we knew something about the work of these Departments.
Another point discussed in the White Paper concerns roads. Eight main schemes are mentioned, the chief being the Severn Bridge project, which I hope to see going soon. It would be a great thing for both South Wales and the West of England. There are other schemes mentioned which, to my mind, have nothing to do with a road between North and South. We have no connection whatever between South and North. If we want to go North from Cardiff or Newport or Swansea we have to go nearly to Liverpool, via Crewe, to get there. It is possible to come to London three times in the time taken to get to North Wales once. There should be a better connection than that. In this respect the mountains are often mentioned as the difficulty. I know we have some mountains, but they can be got over in these days of motor travel without any trouble. While I was on holiday recently I went from Builth Wells to Brecon over the Eppynt Mountain. There is an immense area on top of that mountain where all the artillery in this country, the Canadian and American as well as our own, carried out their firing practice before going abroad. They built some splendid roads and during my journey I made use of them and crossed the mountain without any difficulty whatever. The mountains between the South and the North could be crossed just as 331 easily if we concentrated on building the necessary roads. I do not know whether the other proposals have any connecting link with this. We have talked about this road for years but we still have to go a long way round through England when travelling between North and South Wales.
I do not know whether I am qualified to speak for Wales since I belong to Monmouthshire, which is a state on its own—a kind of buffer state. Sometimes we are in Wales, and sometimes in England, but we are always in Wales on a Sunday. The White Paper also speaks of the planning officer for Wales. This seems to be a very important matter although whether it is is another thing. That officer can deal only with the coal tips and derelict buildings which can be used by industry; I do not know that he has any other power so that this does not carry us very far. The President of the Board of Trade mentioned today the reclamation of land, and there I think we could do something. I could mention between Newport and the Severn junction hundreds of acres which are flooded for nine months in the year and, of course, very little use for the other three. They are some of the best land in this country. No individual or group of individuals will ever put the matter right; pumping operations may be necessary, and it is too much for them. There would be the Severn bank to be raised and strengthened in some parts and sometimes a sea wall would have to be put up. This is a job the Government should take over. They should bring the land back into use and help to grow food to supply the people of this country. There is talk about mountains and flat land; give me a mountain any time for one can at least get up out of the water. I am not sure that the Government would need to introduce fresh legislation for this purpose; they may already have the power to undertake the reclamation of this valuable land.
Another proposal is for the erection of a generating station at Llanover. I am very glad that that has been turned down. This is one of the beauty spots of Monmouthshire and of Wales as well. It is a fine agricultural part of the country and I think it would be a sin to destroy it. There has been enough destruction already and there are plenty of derelict places 332 where the station could be built. I put a Question with regard to the Glascoed Royal Ordnance Factory the other day. There is a large space in that factory which is not used at all. I should like to know why it is being kept. The reason given is that it is needed for some potential provision for the Navy for the future—against some contingency we hope will never arise. I remember when this factory was built. It was a fine site and was erected in sections with some distance between them for safety purposes. Why could not some of these sections be used now? It would be no great expense to return them to their former use afterwards although, as I have said, we hope the need for that will never come. I believe that three parts of one shift are now working there whereas there were three whole shifts before. One can imagine the few people employed now compared with the number who were working in the ordinary way. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health needs material for house building why not use part of that building? I believe it could be done and that it should be done to absorb some of the unemployed we have there.
The President of the Board of Trade referred to coal as the most unpopular industry in the country. Men have worked in factories during the war and have found the work lighter, cleaner and healthier, and they will not go back to the mines if they can help it. I read a report by the medical officer of health in Bedwellty recently and he put the position of the miners very clearly indeed. His statement reads:The population of this urban district is gradually getting smaller and during the past 15 years it has fallen by 2,000. This may be partly due to the declining birth-rate, although there has not been a marked fall during the war years. The main cause of this decline is the migration of people—mostly the young able-bodied persons to England. Coal mining, with its by-products, is the only industry of any importance in this area, and it no longer attracts young people. The reasons for this are (1) the nature of the work, (2) the high rate of injuries compared to other types of employment, (3) the great increase of industrial diseases during the past decade, (4) the desire of parents to see their children better educated an thus enabled to lead a more congenial life than that to which they themselves had been accustomed.Most of the young men returning from the Forces will not settle down in these areas and resume underground work, having seen the social amenities in other parts of the country. In order therefore to retain this population, 333 other industries must be brought into the area. Another pressing problem is that no work can be found for a large number of the partially disabled miners suffering from pneumoconiosis.That is a very good statement of the facts.
There are many more factories today. To see that fact upon paper is very imposing, but I hope to see the factories actually in operation. One of my hon. Friends told me that that would not be done for five years yet. I am more hopeful than he. The President of the Board of Trade said a year; I hope that by the end of that time many of the factories that are being built will be working, and that we shall then have a more diversified industrial position in South Wales and Monmouthshire than we have today. I am looking forward to it. One of these factories was specially recommended by the Committee on which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) sat. It deals with cases of silicosis and gives employment to men who can no longer work in the mines. There are other infirmities and complaints. There is nystagmus. I believe that 700 cases of nystagmus were registered last year. A man with nystagmus can work anywhere and do any kind of work, provided that it is done in daylight. He cannot work in darkness underground. Three factories of this kind were recommended, and they ought to be working as soon as possible, in order to give such men something to do.
There are 60,000 people unemployed in Wales. Why are they unemployed? There is plenty of work in the country, I am told. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour spoke at a meeting, and said that there were a million jobs in this country crying out for people to do. Well, we have 60,000 unemployed in Wales, and there are large numbers of unemployed in other places. What is the cause of it? We ought to inquire into this matter. I think that one of the troubles—and the President of the Board of Trade referred to it—is the greater distances that now have to be covered by men going to the new factories. It is a point to which we must pay attention. The cost of transport is an important item. During the war, that cost was met by the Government when it was over 3s., I am told. I received a letter the other day from a man who 334 works four miles from his work and he says it costs him 9s. a week. We can therefore imagine the amount of money which has to be paid by men who have greater distances than that to travel. It would be a great inducement if help were given to men to meet the cost of transport. At the present time, that cost may be as much as 12s. or 15s. a week, and is equal to a reduction in wages, when compared with what is received by men who happen to live near their places of work. It would be money well spent if it induced people to live farther afield from their work. On the bigger trading estates, this point has to be considered. The bigger the estate, the wider afield it has to go in order to get people in to work there. I believe that transport payment is one of the causes of unemployment, and is a matter to which we ought to pay some attention.
The other day, I went to the opening of a hostel in Newport for agricultural labourers, and it is a very fine one. It is doing very fine work, which I hope will be carried on. When it is in full working order they hope to get 200 unemployed men. There will be buses to take the men to the farms where they work and to bring them back to the hostel. At the end of the week the men will have the full agricultural wage to take home, less the cost of their hostel expenses, about 26s. The Y.M.C.A. are doing this work, and doing it very well indeed. I was very much impressed by it and I hope that it will spread. It is also hoped that many of the men will settle down to agricultural work, which will be all to the good.
Another point in the White Paper is that there are 858 girls unemployed. At the same time, thousands of nurses are wanted. Why do those girls fight shy of nursing? It is one of the finest occupations in the world. I wonder what the objection can be and why some of the 858 Welsh girls now unemployed do not take up nursing? It would be a fine thing to get them to do so. There must be something wrong. There is a long list of people waiting to go into hospital, where the nursing and domestic staffs are not what they should be. That is another matter that we ought to consider. Some of those girls should be induced to give the reasons why they do not go into nursing, a profession which ought to be filled. It is 335 the highest and noblest profession of all. I am surprised at the figures, and I would like something to be done to put the matter right.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
I do not intend to approach this Debate in a party spirit because the Welsh Parliamentary Party, composed of Members of all parties, has shown much unanimity on this matter. The White Paper is a very well composed document, and contains a lot of information, especially regarding Welsh economic problems. It will be very helpful. It is the first time that Wales has had a White Paper on which to base a Debate of this character. It is an admirable production, but there are certain reservations with regard to it which I shall endeavour to outline to the House before I sit down.
There are important omissions from the White Paper. It makes no reference to broadcasting, that powerful instrument of propaganda, information, instruction and entertainment. Broadcasting has had very great repercussions upon Wales as a nation, and Wales has very definite views on the subject. On more than one, occasion the Welsh Parliamentary Party have made representations to the Government on the question. I am very sorry that the Government have made no mention of broadcasting in their White Paper or of the attitude that they take up on the subject, as regards the administration of broadcasting in Wales.
Another omission is that the White Paper makes no reference to the services to the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. There are large numbers of Welshmen in those Services. Wales as a nation is very much attached to peace, but Wales is still a nation which has been a great ally of England's in war, right through the ages. Wales has made many valuable contributions to all efforts by England on the Continent of Europe and in other parts of the world. I and other Members of the Welsh Parliamentary Party have on more than one occasion put to successive Ministers of War questions about giving Wales territorial associations with the Army. This small nation has been very helpful to England whenever there has been trouble, and yet all its men are incorporated in different units throughout the country. They lose 336 their Welsh identity and Welsh affiliation, and are officered by English officers. The whole thing is wrong. I hope that special attention will be given to Wales in this matter, in connection with the regrouping mentioned by the Secretary of State for War the other day. Wales should be considered territorially, and should have its own affiliations. The men should be officered by Welsh officers, and there should be units associated with counties. If the Government can do that there will be a different spirit in the Services and large numbers of these fine men will not be lost in the multifarious services of the British Army.
Another significant thing to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention is that there is very little mention of North Wales in the White Paper. It is true that North Wales is only one-fifth of the whole of Wales, but it is a part of Wales. It has its own individuality, and ethnological and geographical characteristics. I see that out of the 16 head offices dealing with Wales, only one is mentioned as being situated in North Wales. I was very surprised when I heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that it was more convenient for Welsh people to go to Cardiff than to London. I will not say that Cardiff may not be a suitable capital of Wales, but under present geographical conditions and transport difficulties in Wales, it is infinitely easier for some North Wales counties to conduct negotiations with Government Departments in London, than with Cardiff. I hope that the Government, when establishing offices in Wales, will establish liaison offices in North Wales—not sub-departmental offices but proper offices at such places as Wrexham, Colwyn Bay, Bangor and other central towns. North Wales is, at the moment, completely disconnected from Cardiff and South Wales. It is almost a separate country.
§ Mr. Walkden (Doncaster)
Will the hon. Member either sing what he has to say in Welsh or speak up. We cannot hear a word he is saying.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I shall endeavour to make my remaining few remarks rather 337 clearer than I seem to have done so far. I said at the beginning that the White Paper is very informative, but it is almost like a dissected body. It could never have been written by a Welshman. No doubt much of its information is based on facts supplied by Welshmen and those in charge of Welsh Departments, but I make the challenge that it was never drafted, as a whole, by a Welshman. It lacks soul. It does not refer to the nation as a nation. It is a series of economic contributions from different Departments. It loses the essence of the whole thing. The right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) put his finger on the point. No Government in this country so far has understood Wales. One would expect that this Government, having seven or eight Welsh Members, would understand it. There are few signs so far that they are understanding Wales better than some other Governments in the past have done. There is not sufficient evidence in the White Paper that the Government recognise the principle of the nationality of Wales as different from that of England. That is the whole point. I do not for one moment say that a Secretary of State for Wales will bring for Wales one more house than the miserable 112 that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has produced so far. I do not say that he would bring more food to Wales, I do not say he would bring any more work to a single industry in Wales. I confess that a Secretary of State for Wales will not make one iota of difference from the economic point of view in the immediate future. But the Government will be wise to consider this appointment as a symbol of Welsh nationality, and as some form of a conecting link between this Administration and Wales. There is no connecting link at the moment.
The Minister said that the chairman of the group of Departments in Wales would be a senior civil servant. Why should there not be a Minister? I hope the Government will reconsider this matter from that point of view. It may be an almost nebulous thing, and very difficult to bring out in an argument. I may not have the ability to prove to this House that a Minister for Wales would make very much difference economically, in matters such as working homes, food, and so forth. But I do say that it is time that a British Government should 338 recognise Wales as an individual nation. The Welsh people talk a separate language, they have separate, problems and ideals, and they make a separate contribution to the Commonwealth of which we are all so proud. Wales could make a much more signal contribution if the Government would change their mind on this question, and thus allow us to put in the common pool, what the innate genius of our people is capable of achieving.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mort (Swansea, East)
I have listened with great interest to the observations made in this Debate, and I am sorry if I disappoint my colleagues and friends by not following exactly the trend of their remarks. I do not think the case of Wales can be made any stronger by over-painting our opposition to some of the proposals that have been made. I have read the White Paper with great attention and I must say that, to date, it is the best contribution to the solution of Welsh problems that we have had. I do not say it is the last word, or the absolute remedy for everything but, in fairness to the Government, I must confess that there has been a genuine attempt to understand the problems of Wales. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) has, I think, made a confession of failure of the case we are putting up. If the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales or a Minister will not make any difference to Wales, why bother about it, because it is the difference to Wales we are bothering about?
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
The hon. Gentleman ought to be fair. I said it would possibly make no difference economically.
§ Mr. Mort
That is the whole problem; the problems of Wales are economic, they are not idealistic, and I shall not waste Parliamentary time in trying to pander to a symbol. We do not want symbols in Wales; we want work. We do not want to pander to the silly separatist idea which is going about, that Wales can be an economic unit. Of course, Wales is a nation. Nobody can deny us that; nobody can rid us of that and, as long as we maintain our tradition and our religion, and our language, no Government can take that away from us.
What is our immediate concern in Wales? The right hon. and learned Gentleman made out his case to his own 339 satisfaction, and I want to attack the Government on that particular standpoint. If the Government declare they can do these things with their present machinery, I want in the few moments I shall take up—because I shall set an example, which I hope will be followed, to give an opportunity to everybody else who wishes to speak—to make a few practical proposals which would give the Government an opportunity to implement their statement. I do not apologise for referring to my own constituency. I believe I am right in saying that, in the industrial aspect, Swansea is the blackest spot of all, and it is because of that black spot that I want to challenge the Government tonight. If they say they can deal with it by this method, let us have some evidence of it.
The port of Swansea is today in a most perilous position. After its wonderful record throughout the war, which caused the President of the United States of America to send a special envoy there to congratulate the men individually, what is our position today? With a previous trade of 3,500,000 tons, we are down today to 350,000 tons. There you have the great danger to Wales. Labour is being transferred to different parts of the country—yes, and leaving the area. There is an up-to-date port which is being denuded, which is brought to disaster, and there is no reason for it. We have tried to draw attention to it, in fact, we are still asking if a deputation can meet the Minister of Transport. Sufficient traffic is being sponsored by the Government, which could be directed to a port like Swansea, to keep it alive. And what do we find when we read reports? Here we have a port which is dying, but which could be kept alive, and yet we have newspaper reports from Hull, from Liverpool, from London showing that they cannot cope with the business. This is adding fuel to the fire of Welsh nationalism. Do the Government mean to tell me that it is impossible for them, with the power they have, to direct some of this traffic to ports like Swansea? If they say they can do it without a Secretary of State, I hope we shall have some evidence of it.
My other point is in reference to the steel and tinplate trade, which of course has its reaction on the port. I want to 340 make a practical suggestion to the Government. It is difficult for us to get men and women to go into the tinplate trade. Why? Because in South Wales an industrial revolution is going on. The strip mill will come in a few years' time, and there are no prospects in that industry, but we must have the tinplate now, so I respectfully suggest to the Government that they ought to schedule that trade so that any young men who go into it now will be exempt from military service while they are working there.
I hope the Government will endeavour sincerely to implement the policy of the White Paper. We want that in Wales. We have been without the ancillary industries of the Midlands and elsewhere. When our basic industries stopped, there was terrible depression throughout South Wales. So we want these industries. We want them to employ our young people, but, do not forget, the prosperity of South Wales will never be restored unless we can re-establish our basic industries of coal, iron and steel and tinplate. So to the Government I would say, "Think again. If you say you can do it, do it; if you find that you cannot do it, then meet the Welsh Members, and I think we can make valuable suggestions for solving the problem."
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Price - White (Caernarvon Boroughs)
With my small knowledge of the political history of this country, I have always felt that the attitude of a succession of Governments, both of my party and others, even the Government led by possibly the greatest Welshman we have known, was one of affectionate toleration for Wales and no more. Here today we have a Government from which I think the people of Wales were entitled to expect more than they have got from other Governments for their own wellbeing. I believe the actual number of Welshmen in the Government today is nine. I can assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that when the attitude of the Government tonight is made known in Wales, those nine will have become, in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Welsh people, renegade Welshmen. I shudder to think what are the true feelings of the Minister of National Insurance tonight.
I feel that this House does not fully appreciate the unity of desire and demand for special Ministerial control of Welsh affairs on the part of Welsh men and 341 women within Wales. The Prime Minister—I am convinced very sincerely —said recently that he felt there was no general demand for a Secretary of State for Wales, or for a Minister with special powers relating to Wales. With the utmost respect, I suggest to the Prime Minister that his intelligence staff on the Welsh side need sacking first and shooting afterwards. There is no doubt whatever that the whole of Wales is united, and is agitating more keenly every day, for some form of direct executive control of its administrative national and commercial affairs. What are we promised? What are we given? An act of affectionate toleration, "We will give you one day a year, when you can each have ten minutes to talk to your hearts' content and that will keep you going with your constituents until the following year." We are also given a White Paper. But, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) pointed out, the root of this matter is that there is something about the Welsh mentality, and the Welsh way of life, which is unique within the British Isles. It cannot be used to its fullest advantages, unless it is controlled, coordinated and corrected by someone who understands the Welshman in his own country. That is all we, as a Parliamentary group, are asking in this Debate.
I do not think the House is fully conscious of the growing minority in Wales which will, if allowed, exploit the situation, which the Government obviously, on today's showing, are convinced is the right situation to maintain. It is a small but growing political party of sincere and able men, who in my view, and the view of my colleagues, are running up the wrong path and will eventually de more harm than good to Wales. This House cannot afford to allow small minorities within Wales to take the very small step from real cultural nationalism, to the perversion of true nationalism. The attitude of the Government today will throw to the Welsh Nationalist Party more of the men and women of Wales who would otherwise be working in other parties for the betterment of Wales. There is another party, which, I know, concerns hon. Members on the other side more than the Nationalist Party. That is the Communist Party. This refusal to grant Wales the executive control which it sadly needs, is daily getting recruits in the Welsh 342 valleys and up in the more sublime North for the Communist Party.
This matter of control is simple. A Minister would have the power to go to this Department and that Department, and to say with a real knowledge of the Welsh background, and of the best way of getting the best out of a Welshman, "This must be done," and it would be done. That is all we ask. I am not prepared to quarrel about names; "Secretary of States for Wales" may be the wrong name. We are given a very wide survey of the problems of Wales which could have been given in regard to Kent, or Durham, or Clydeside. But the Minister failed utterly to direct the attention of this House to the one person who could revive Wales, who can understand Wales, think with Wales in a Welsh way and bring the best out of Wales. That is the root question before the House. What are we given? A White Paper, prepared hurriedly, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself said. We do not mind things done in a hurry in Wales if they are effective, but we do object to a White Paper thrown together hurriedly, on matters of really vital importance. The only difference between this White Paper and whitewash, is that whitewash is in liquid form. The White Paper is a conglomeration of small items so small and meaningless, that it leads one to suspect that there is a complete absence, on the part of the Government, of matters of record and fact, which do really count.
We are promised that our 16 heads of Welsh Departments in Wales shall meet in Wales four times a year. That is not very difficult, because their offices are in Wales. They, in turn, will report to superiors in Whitehall, and their superiors will report to the Cabinet. Then the scale will come down, and, maybe, something will be done. We of the Welsh Parliamentary group are accused of suggesting a bottleneck by the creation of a Secretary of State for Wales, and it is said that that would have a retarding effect. But here in the White Paper it is suggested that we should have three bottlenecks, and that, it is argued, would be for the ultimate betterment of Wales. In my judgment that will not make things any better, but will make them worse. Then we have a great achievement. This piece of solid whitewash goes so far as to suggest that one of the great achievements by H.M. Government in Wales is that the 343 postal services of Portmadoc, Criccieth, and Pwllheli have been improved by the institution of motor vans from Bangor. We may be a little sceptical in Caernarvonshire, but we labour under the delusion that far from being an action on the part of H.M.'s Government for the betterment of Wales, that is a normal routine job of an efficient postmaster in Bangor. The White Paper goes on, and on, and on, with these small matters, and then mentions a very significant fact in the world of education. It admits that it was found that the Welsh Central Advisory Council for education was able to translate to the Minister in Whitehall certain aspects of Welsh education which resulted in new and direct action within Wales. That is exactly what we as a Welsh Parliamentary group are seeking to do for all the other administrative Departments in Wales.
We have heard the troubles of South Wales, much more cogently put than I could possibly hope to put them. I know a little of the problems of South Wales. I had the misery of a visit to Swansea Docks three weeks ago. Four ships were in the dock. They had been there for a week, and it was very unlikely that they would leave with cargoes for another week. But I would like to direct the attention of the House to a question concerning the North. It is not in my constituency, but is hard by, and I am sure the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) will refer to it later. We have in the Nantlle Vale a slate quarry area which is as dead and depressed as anything one may find in South Wales, or in the industrial part of England. Twelve months ago the President of the Board of Trade received a report on which, he tells us today—almost 12 months later to the day—he hopes to make a statement next month. Nothing has been done in Nantlle Vale for 12 months. Very few people other than Welshmen could understand the feeling in Nantlle Vale.
Where in this White Paper is there a mention of the fishing industry? There is not one. Around the coasts of North Wales at one time were a number of small but prosperous fishing ports, but they are dead today. My colleagues and I have tried to engage the interest and support of the Government, and of the Department which looks after these things, but we 344 have met with complete failure in finding any encouragement. So an industry is dying, a small industry, but essentially Welsh with a tradition. That is the sort of thing a Welsh Minister would understand, and to which he could bring effective action to revive and rehabilitate the industry for all time. We are told in the White Paper that half the efforts of the Minister of Labour have been directed to assisting Welsh people to find work across Offa's Dyke, pending such time as factories were finished. But the factories have not been finished. It is a very dangerous step for a Government Department to take in regard to a country like Wales to encourage migration, temporary though it may be at first, and to take our best workers to other countries. It does not merely mean that a worker goes and comes back when the factory is finished. He goes and takes his home with him. Taking his home is a very big step, a step which we in Wales cannot afford to see happening with official Government sponsoring.
I wish the Minister of Transport were here tonight. For some reason or other he does not appear to like Wales. Earlier today he denied us, for the second time, a road linking North to South Wales, and said grudgingly that at least 50 per cent. of the cost of printing the Highway Code in Welsh would be borne by the Government. Does this House realise what is happening in Wales, how South and North Wales are two entirely different entities of people, whereas they should be one national whole? The whole administrative tendency of Government control in Wales is quietly to wean South Wales away from the bosom of its mother, into that of its foster mother, the South-West area. We in North Wales are quietly and insidiously losing our essentially Welsh offices as they become transferred to "Wales without"—to the North-West area of Manchester and Liverpool. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport that a road between North and South Wales is one of the greatest needs to bring about the fusion of interests, commercial and industrial, which will once again allow us to be, as we have not been for so long, a real Welsh nation, contributing, as we wish to contribute, as we will and always must contribute, to the commerce, industry and culture of the community of these isles which make up Great Britain.
345 The President of the Board of Trade has mentioned that it was to be even simpler for Welsh Government officials to proceed to Cardiff for Departmental conferences than to Whitehall. It takes two hours longer to get to Cardiff from Bangor in North Wales, which is fairly central, than it takes to get to London. In 1894 the journey could be done an hour quicker Hon. Members can examine Mr. Bradshaw on that point in the Library. It is a fact. A North to South Wales road is a vital consideration, and anyone who likes to make the journey will come back and support me on a future occasion. The White Paper tells us in regard to civil aviation that Valley aerodrome is available for civilian air traffic and that there is also Cardiff airfield. I spend seven hours on the L.M.S. every week thinking that Valley is available, and that that is as far as it will get. In the whole of Wales, 142 out of 181 local authorities are solid behind this demand, and the 13 county councils are quite solid and sincere in their belief that the result would be an understanding between Welsh officials and the Welsh people and would translate into the machinery of government all that is best in Wales, for the good of our whole community within the United Kingdom.
I understand that the Debate tonight is to be wound up by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. He, like myself, is a Welshman. At least we have that in common. I assume that it is unusual for someone, speaking from these benches, to draw the attention of the House to such virtues as the right hon. Gentleman may have, but he has at least the virtue of consistency. He has been consistent on this point, and I have not the slightest doubt that in his almost inimitable fashion he will seek to tear our arguments to bits. I would remind him of what I read of him only last week in a newspaper with a Welsh circulation. I would ask him to remember, for the sake of his home in Wales, that he is regarded there now, not as a Welsh Member of Parliament, but as a Member of Parliament for a Welsh constituency, which is a very different thing.
I would ask the Government to think again, to realise that behind this demand on the part of Welsh Members, is something that first goes to the real heart of Wales and then comes out of the real heart of Wales something which seeks to 346 bring about that well-being which we are all seeking for our people. It will bring to the Welshman at work an efficiency in his own surroundings and a background which he only has today in culture but which he must have in all things. It is something which can only be created, maintained and directed by a Minister with the power to cut out Department after Department and go straight down to John Robert Hughes, and to produce and then translate his work for the benefit of Joe Smith in London. This White Paper has the same colour as a halo. In it I see an attempt on the part of the Government to create themselves a halo for their work for Wales. I would remind the House that, as has been said, the only difference between a halo and a noose is a matter of six inches. If the well-being and the desire of the people of Wales are disregarded, it may be that the people of Wales will be the first to have the pleasure of tightening that noose around the neck of this Government which created their own false halo, while disregarding the real needs and desires of Wales and her people.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
Perhaps the Minister of Health will permit me to commiserate with him, as one Member for a Welsh constituency to another. Frankly, I see nothing particularly degrading in that. I should regret it if my right hon. Friend, in his capacity as Minister of Health, had permitted his Welsh associations to influence the job he has to do for the whole of Great Britain. It seems to me that, whilst remembering, as he has always done—and his eloquence always reminds us—that he is Welsh, he can do no other than remember also, that in his office he is responsible for the whole of Great Britain.
I should think that my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and those from Welsh constituencies who are sitting on the Front Bench, must be a little disappointed in this Debate. It has not been carried an inch further since the right hon. and learned Gentleman sat down. I will now try, with the aid of my colleague the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), to carry it a stage further. Perhaps I shall have better luck than those who have gone before. It is no 347 use importing emotion instead of reason into this Debate. The plain truth is that, up to the moment, the statement of the President of the Board of Trade holds the field. It has devastated those who have tried to show what will be the functions or range of responsibility of a Secretary of State or a Minister for Coordination, or whatever title one likes to give him. There has been no answer yet, no explanation to show what are intended to be either the range of his functions, or the extent of his responsibilities. Until that case is made out, I shall remain unconvinced that a Secretary of State or a Minister for Coordination will do anything at all to advance the economic welfare of Wales. That case has still to be made out.
If it is with a Minister of Coordination that we are concerned, let me remind my hon. Friends of the fate of the Minister who coordinated defence in 1936. Let them read in the White Paper issued a week or two ago what happened to that office, in which the Minister, who had responsibility without power, found his position described as anomalous, and found it described as being without power, and therefore without effective control. When the real test came in June, 1940, when he should have been at the height of his power, his post was quietly abolished and assumed by someone who took over executive control for the whole defence of the country. What the President of the Board of Trade showed is that unless Wales wants a Minister who is to be superior to the departmental Ministers in the British Cabinet and who can give them directions, there is no halfway house, and they must take up the position of the Welsh nationalist, that is, to set up a separate State, with its own customs frontiers, its own army, its own air force if you like, and to rely—
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
The nationalists have never claimed a separate army, customs or air force.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is the case. They know Britain would not invade—but why should not they start? We have got to the situation now in which one ardent Welsh nationalist stopped me in the Lobby and told me that the position which he wanted for Wales is one similar to that of 348 Eire. Nobody in this House takes up that extreme position. What I am attempting to demonstrate is that we cannot have a half-way house. An hon. Member asks me whether we can have a federal system. Unfortunately, I have only ten minutes at my disposal and I am not going to take up anybody else's time on that issue. It is something which perhaps we can discuss on another occasion. But as I see it a case has been made for further devolution not only to Wales but other parts of Great Britain. I think that as Socialism spreads, the need for devolution will be greater, it the administration is to be kept closely in touch with the people. However, that does not apply to Wales only. It applies to other parts of the country. If the problem can be focused in Wales, if that comes as the first illustration of the need, then it is a thoroughly good thing.
I turn to the White Paper, which I suggest is an answer to many of the dismal Jimmies, who have been prophesying failure and telling us that there is no plan for Wales and that we cannot expect anything. I think the very title of the White Paper is significant. It is "A summary of Government action." When one sees what has been done in a period of 12 months and when one compares it with the Debate that took place in October, 1944, when my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George), and others were calling upon the Government for a programme, one cannot, if one is reasonable, deny that the Government have made great strides during that time. It would be foolish to do anything else. I have many minor criticisms and one major criticism to make and I propose to devote my time to the major criticism. The Minister of Transport is not behaving like a Socialist in connection with the ports of South Wales. He is too much of a private enterpriser.
§ Mr. Callaghan
His approach to the problem of the South Wales ports has been one almost wholly of laissez faire. I am sure that the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) agrees with that approach. I see him laughing. That is one of the reasons why there will not be Conservative Members in South Wales any more, because his party is lagging behind my very intelligent docksmen in South Wales, and the shipowners, who are asking for Government control and direction of 349 shipping and cargoes, and they are people who normally voted for his party. The plain truth is that they can see what we all see—that unless the ports of this country are planned, unless the trade is directed to them, we shall not get a properly developed economy. My case against the Minister of Transport, whom I am happy to see here, is that he has no policy and he has not developed a policy for the South Wales ports. But he must remember that in 12 months time, if the ports and the transport system of the country are nationalised, the responsibility will be his. What is he going to do with the South Wales ports?
Their position was clearly stated by the President of the Board of Trade. There is no need for me to repeat details of the decline which has taken place down there. We are entitled to know from the Minister of Transport whether he has got a policy. If so, is it to dismantle the ports, is it to keep them running at full capacity, is it to keep them on a care and maintenance basis as a strategic reserve, or is it just to leave them living a hand to mouth existence as they are at the moment? Is he going to leave them on the basis of a good week this week, probably a bad week next week, with men in and out of work wondering what their future will be? He knows that when we talk about ports we are talking not only about cranes and wharfs but about the livelihood of men and women. The Minister of Transport in his plan must always remember that the dreadful prospect of unemployment in Wales causes even more bitter recollections there than in any other part of Great Britain. Of the total population of Wales, 40 per cent. live in a development area, an area which we used to call a distressed area. Just imagine what that would mean in England. White Papers, though they are encouraging to us, are extremely difficult things about which to persuade the unemployed man; nevertheless I am happy in the development which has taken place so far. The protests which I am receiving from my constituents at the moment are from allotment holders complaining that they are being turned off their land in order to make room to build factories. I welcome and rejoice in those complaints. It is a thoroughly good thing, and I am prepared to accept any number of protests of that sort. In con- 350 clusion, I have great faith in the plans now being worked out for the development of South Wales. I am certain that the development areas will be an achievement really worth while, and I believe that in five years time we shall be able to say to the rest of the world that here is an example of what Socialist planning can do to make better the lives of men and women.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George (Anglesey)
I think if anything were needed to prove the imperative necessity of an occasion for the case of Wales to be put before this House and the Government it was the speech we heard this afternoon from the President of the Board of Trade. If he had shown as little understanding and sympathy for Indian nationalism as he showed for Welsh nationalism this afternoon, I do not think he would have been asked to go to India a second time. I do not believe, and I hope I am right in this, that his attitude today represents the real policy and feeling of the Government. He gave us, and we have also been given in the White Paper, a survey of a few projects which have already been established, and of a great many factories and projects which are going to materialise in the somewhat nebulous future. The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) said that we must not allow ourselves to be carried away by sentiment but must stick to hard facts. I hope to do so.
The hardest fact which we have to face in Wales today is that there are 60,000 men and women out of work. We all realise perfectly well that we have to pass through a transitional period in Wales, as everywhere else, when we are changing over from war to peace-time conditions. But the danger to us in Wales of prolonging that period is that we will lose once again many of our skilled key workers. Thousands of young men and women are beginning to feel the old despair and hopelessness creeping over them once again. They are leaving in large numbers, and have been doing so for months. Talk about German workers being taken to Russia, Economic necessity in Wales for years between the two wars has driven away men and women, and now that tragic process is beginning again. This draining of some of the most virile of our young men and women cannot but seriously weaken the whole stamina of our nation. It is a very grave problem. If we 351 take into account the numbers of young men and women who have left Wales the figures of the unemployed would be very much grimmer than they are even today.
The President of the Board of Trade told us this afternoon of factories, new and old, in Wales, and of the employment which, ultimately, they will provide. What he did not say was what employment they had actually provided up to date, and I hope that perhaps the Minister of Health, when he replies to the Debate tonight, will be able to give us some information on that point. May I say that the President of the Board of Trade disposed of North Wales in almost one short cryptic sentence. I wish he could dispose of the problems of that area as quickly. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that that part of the world, the six counties of North Wales, have become heavily industrialised during the war, and that, unless those industries are going to remain there, a very serious unemployment problem will arise. Indeed, in time, we may find unless something is done another distressed area created in that part of Wales. The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) has already raised the problems of the slate and fishing industries.
I would like to put another question to the President of the Board of Trade. The Government have so far turned down the request of North Wales to be treated as a development area, with the exception of Wrexham. Might I urge upon them—and I am sure the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) will say something on this matter—to make the Nantlle Valley a development area? It is a part of the world which unfortunately qualifies, in all respects, for designation as a development area. In spite of the fact that the Government have refused to designate North Wales as a development area they have said that they will give special consideration to what they call potential pockets of unemployment in North Wales. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what that means in practice.
I represent a constituency where unemployment is rising steadily and ominously. In Holyhead, there are 350 unemployed already, and that in a small town. There is a ratio of 12½ per cent. unemployed in 352 the whole Island of Anglesey, and this at a time when agricultural labourers are scarce and there is no unemployment among them. What is the special consideration which the Government have promised us? I will give the right hon. Gentleman an example of what is going on. An employer comes down to Holyhead and says he is anxious to start a factory there. Premises are found for him, but, unfortunately, they have been taken over by a Government Department. What happens? Representations are made to the Government Department and to the L.M.S., there are endless delays and an interminable exchange of letters, as a result of which that factory is lost to a little distressed town. The employer, tired of waiting, goes away to start his factory in another part of the country. I am quoting this, not because it is an isolated case, but because it is a symptom of a far too leisurely approach to an urgent problem.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us if special consideration in regard to these pockets of unemployment in this part of Wales means quick action in derequisitioning premises, if it means priority for materials, where this is possible, and also, to follow up a point made by my hon. Friend opposite, if it also means assistance towards travel schemes for workers who live a very long way from their work and cannot afford to pay the fares out of their wages? I hope he will take these matters into consideration.
There is one other problem that I would like to raise, and that is with regard to the wool industry. Here is an industry which, if extended and revived, could provide substantial permanent employment for workers in small towns all over Wales and in the rural areas, too. What is the position at the moment? I understand that the raw materials in the country which are being allotted to industry are allotted according to the proportion of raw materials allowed to mills before the war. The industry in Wales, before the war, was very small indeed. What is happening? Orders are pouring into Welsh mills at the moment, of which they cannot possibly take advantage, while, at the same time, there is a vast amount of unused raw materials in the mills in the North of England which cannot be used because there is a very serious 353 bottle-neck in the spinning section of the industry. This bottle-neck would not affect the Welsh industry, as the process is continuous in the Welsh mills and goes right down to the spinning section as well. If only the right hon. Gentleman will release more raw materials, it will be possible for these Welsh mills to take advantage of these orders, many of them from abroad, and it would make—
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
No, I am speaking about raw materials which they cannot get because of the restrictions.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The noble Lady is not quite right. There is a shortage of spun yarn, but there is no shortage of wool at all. There is no difficulty about wool; the difficulty is about yarn.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
But it is about yarn, which they are not able to get because they only get an allocation based on their allocation before the war.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
But I am told that there is a certain amount of yarn which cannot be used in North of England mills because of a bottle-neck in the spinning section, which could be made available.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The yarn is the stuff which is spun. It is the product of the spinning section. There cannot be a bottle-neck in the spinning section, because that is the stuff they produce and not the stuff they use.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find, if he looks into the circumstances of the case, that these raw materials, which at the moment are unused, are not available in Wales. I should be grateful if he would look into this matter, because representations have been made to me by the industry itself.
354 There is a definite feeling that, as yet, there is no national plan, and that there is no initiative or drive behind these problems of reconstruction in Wales. We feel that it is necessary that there should be such an impetus if we are not to slip back into the depression of the prewar years. The Minister of Health told us in the last Debate that there are no peculiarly Welsh problems. After all, the right hon. Gentleman said sheep are much the same in Cumberland as in Wales. Why did he not add "or in Czechoslovakia"? That is no argument for not giving special consideration to Welsh problems. That is an argument for wiping out all national boundaries, and is a question which should be addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. As a matter of fact, there are peculiarly Welsh problems. I am not at all sure that the Minister of Health is not himself a peculiarly Welsh problem. Some hon. Members have made out a case this afternoon, both on national and economic grounds, for a Minister who would plan, unify and coordinate policy in Wales. One thing is abundantly clear—that the present state of affairs is thoroughly unsatisfactory. There are few hon. Members in this House, wherever they sit, who would not agree with that.
We have been told that the Prime Minister's letter represents a great step forward. We have a White Paper which is admirable so far as it goes, but it does not go very far. What more are we offered? Coordination of administrative policy between Departments at all levels. There is nothing new in that. We are to have frequent informal consultations between officials. There is nothing new there. What is the new proposal? It is that the heads of Departments are to meet, I suppose formally instead of informally round a table over a cup of tea, three or four times a year in Wales. That is a proposal with which we are asked to be satisfied. But what Wales is crying out for is not a little titivation and tidying up of administration—we have had plenty of that. What we want is someone who will fight our battles at a higher level, at a Ministerial level. At the moment, Wales has an administrative machine without an executive head and there is no direction.
We are told that if we had a Secretary of State, that fact would not produce a single house or assist in solving our 355 economic problems. Some of us believe that it is going to be almost impossible for Wales to get its fair share of priorities, of factories, of work, of houses, of materials, and a fair opportunity of developing its ports and communications unless we have someone at a high level to initiate, coordinate and unify developments in Wales. Some people believe that that cannot be done by civil servants because, after all, it is not their function, and Heaven forbid that they should ever take over such a function We are asked, "If you had a Minister, would it help you? Would it work out the way you think it would?" "Look at Scotland," they say. We do, with envy in this one respect. They say, "You would be isolated." Has Scotland been isolated? I have seen no evidence of that. They say that questions of trade, labour and employment are all outside the Scottish Office. That is perfectly true, but does anyone seriously suggest that the fact that there is a Minister responsible for Scotland, whose whole task it is to watch her interest and to press her claims with the Ministry of Labour, with the Board of Trade, and with the Ministries of Transport and Fuel and Power, has not made an immense difference to her? Of course it has.
Take the hydro-electric scheme for the development of the Highlands. That has materialised, and does anyone think that it would have got to its present advanced stage without a Secretary of State for Scotland? Certainly it would not. Of course, the Scottish Members are not satisfied. Even English Members are not satisfied in every respect with the administration of their affairs. But would Scotland be prepared to relinquish her Secretary of State? After all, that is the final test. I believe that the voice of the people of Wales is entitled to carry far greater weight in this matter than it has done hitherto. The Atlantic Charter to which this country is solemnly pledged—if solemn pledges mean anything—has laid it down that all countries shall he governed, as far as possible, according to their desires. The people of Wales have made it abundantly clear what their desires in this matter are.
Therefore, I would urge the Prime Minister to reconsider the whole of this matter in the light of this Debate and of the speeches which have been made today. After all, even ex-enemy countries 356 are given the weightiest consideration and are allowed to put their case. Let us see to it that our small country, which made a great contribution in the fight for democracy, is not denied the first most elementary rights of democracy itself.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I am very glad of the opportunity of taking part in this Debate although my speech may be deemed a curious one in a Debate on Welsh affairs. I wish to make two points, one about the economic situation and the other about the moral case of Wales. The White Paper deals with the true needs and the best interests of Wales and will make the difficult economic situation easier To the Prime Minister I want to say, "Thank you." I also want to thank the regional officers, particularly the Board of Trade, for what they have already done, despite the fact that some of my colleagues may criticise what has been done. But that is not enough. Something drastic must be done within the next 12 months to put the plans into operation. One must also have regard to other areas besides development areas. South Wales and North Wales have had their say, but one cannot go to North Wales without going through Mid-Wales.
Unless something is done to develop the rural parts of Wales, we shall have to schedule the whole of Wales as a development area. First of all, there is an obligation to agriculture. One cannot properly carry out an agricultural policy without some further developments. There are authorities such as my own county council who, if they wish to buy 25-inch maps for their town and country planning, have to call for a farthing rate. That is the result of the depopulation of rural areas. Attention ought to be given to congenial employment in rural areas so that young men are not compelled to go to other areas and even outside the borders of Wales, and take others with them. Work ought to be provided for them in their own areas. Not all young people have a mind for agriculture. Surely, something could be done for those who have a mechanical turn of mind. I suggest that instead of water being exported to some of the rich English and Welsh towns, it should be harnessed for hydroelectric schemes. Electricity should not be exploited by some of the big grids in Wales and the Welsh people in the coun- 357 tryside left without electricity. I am certain that much could be learned from the T.V.A. in America, and that the Minister of Fuel and Power would welcome the production of electricity from water rather than its production from six coal burning stations as at present for Wales.
Something should also be done about the light industries. Agricultural machinery should be produced and repaired in the agricultural areas. I am sure the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) will forgive me when I say, What is the good of producing agricultural machinery in Merthyr when it could be better produced in Mid-Wales? Why cannot we benefit from the processing of agricultural produce such as cattle cake and that sort of thing? Why cannot we encourage Welsh rural craft factories? The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) referred to the question of wool. Why cannot we have a marketing scheme in Wales? After all, the price paid for wool at present is nothing like the price that the producer ought to have. A flat rate is paid instead of a price according to the variety and the quality of the commodity. I do not wish to add to what has already been said about the north to south road, but surely the main consideration in this connection ought not to be labour when there is adequate machinery which can build a road much quicker than was the case 60 years ago. I am sure that road development will be of great importance to the rural parts of Wales.
I am now coming to something with which some of my colleagues may not agree. I contend that Wales has a case for getting special consideration. Wales is not a province; it is not like Cornwall or the Black Country or Yorkshire. It is a nation possessing a separate identity which is worth preserving, with a special contribution to the community of nations. We do not ask for home rule or Dominion status or any form of political autonomy, but we have our own Church, Library, University and Museum, as well as a model association to deal with tuberculosis. Look at what our forefathers have done with regard to Sunday closing, intermediate education and disestablishment. Surely Wales had a case for these things years ago, and surely she has a moral case now. If the provision of a Secretary of State is not the answer, why can we 358 not have a Minister responsible to the Government? Since a civil servant has been appointed to look after the heads of Departments, I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health whether he would consider, as a personal favour to myself, because he took a lot of my constituency in 1918, to look into that Department and report what they are doing. We want a responsible Minister on the Front Bench to whom we can put questions.
The Government's White Paper has certainly given us concessions, but we do not want concessions merely as acts of patronage. We want something for which we are sure the Welsh nation has made out a case. Most newspapers, English as well as Welsh, have advocated special consideration for Wales for a number of years. Out of 182 local authorities 141 have asked for a Secretary of State in Wales. Before the war our history was one of blood, sweat and tears. I am certain we do not want to go back to that state of affairs, with physical deterioration in our Welsh communities. When the Minister of Health winds up the Debate tonight, I hope he will not show any bitterness to myself or to other colleagues of mine because we may have ruffled him in any questions concerning Wales. Let him not say anything which may hinder the aspirations of people like myself who advocate that Wales should be given a place in this great nation of ours. Having made those few remarks, I think I would overdo my case if I were to quote statistics or to do anything of that kind. The real case is based on, first, the economic standpoint and, second, the moral consideration for the claims of Wales.
§ 7.5 P.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
This Debate, I think, should concentrate upon one issue. That is the political issue of what Wales itself demands, namely, a Secretary of State. In the House of Commons there are three parties represented: The Government, who have the largest representation, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. But there are two parties which are not represented in the House at all. Two parties which fought in the last Election were the Welsh Nationalist Party and the Communist Party, neither of which are represented here. But the three parties which are represented and the two which are not are all alike in their demand for a Secre- 359 tary of State for Wales. The Welsh National Party, composed as it is of three parties, has, by a majority, demanded a Secretary of State. That was the main demand put forward to the Prime Minister last February.
I do not propose to use the 15 minutes or so at my disposal by dealing with the White Paper. I will confine myself to the demand for a Secretary of State to which this White Paper is no answer, although it is a partial answer. When the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health took part in the previous Debate on Welsh affairs he made what I thought was a valid point. He made a speech which I had not the privilege of hearing, but I had the opportunity of reading it. I regret that he is not at the moment in his place. He then said that to debate Welsh affairs in the form in which they were debated in the House at that time, and as they are debated today, was really a waste of time; that they could be more adequately debated on the proper Supply day. For instance, the subject of mining could be more properly debated on a Supply day devoted to mining affairs, and similarly with other matters. He said there was only one remedy, and that was devolution. I agree, except that I do not agree that it is the one remedy. The demand put forward by his own party and by every party alike today is that we want a Secretary of State. If we examine this White Paper closely—and I do not propose to do that—and turn, for instance, to the section dealing with education, we find it solemnly stated that one of the contributions, and the important contribution, as a result of representations made by the departments to the Minister, is this:As a result the Minister has invited the Central Foundation for Educational Research to constitute a Welsh Section and to devote its urgent attention to the production of record cards"—and I ask hon. Members to note the following words:and forms of intelligence tests suitable for schools.That is in the White Paper as one of the results of its power. Another odd result is that there is an account of what the Welsh Department is doing to conserve the Welsh language, and then we have the Minister of Transport presenting the Highway Code in English and declining to publish it in Welsh. Those are in- 360 consistencies. This White Paper is full of such oddities. In what way does this White Paper make out a case for a Secretary of State for Wales? What do the Government propose? As the hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) said, "What is there new?". The new proposal is that the heads of the Departments in Wales should meet three or four times a year. They are to discuss administration and policy in Wales. Policy is a political issue; it is a matter for this House; it is a matter for the Government of the day, who are responsible to this House. Who is the spokesman for that body when it meets a Civil Service body? Who is there to speak for and to be responsible for its activities in this House? Whom can we question? The answer is, "Nobody."
§ Mr. Callaghan
Has it not always been the function of the administrative Civil Service to discuss policy and to submit it to Ministers for decision?
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has an acute mind, and if he would just stop for a moment and think what happens he would see that there would be no point in making special mention of this as something new if it is already happening. What is there new about it? What is the new proposal? It is the discussion of policy. If the hon. Member doubts that, let me remind him that there was a meeting—I do not know whether he attended it—during a Recess of a number of Members of Parliament representing South Wales Divisions and—who? Officials of the Civil Service, members of the Board of Trade. However, the right hon. Gentleman was not there, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was not there. It was one of the most important meetings I have ever attended, and one of the most unconstitutional. I do not want to go into the details of the meeting. Are we going to enlarge that?
§ Mr. Cove
Is it not a fact that as far as industry in England is concerned, Members of Parliament have, over and over again, met responsible civil servants? I have been on many deputations and met high ranking civil servants of Departments, such as the Ministry of Supply. I do not see that there is any degradation in that.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Gentleman represents a Welsh Division, and if he had taken the trouble to exercise his responsibility and been present at that meeting in Cardiff he would know what I am talking about.
§ Mr. Morris
That is not at all a parallel, and is not relevant to my point. I wish to keep within my time, and I now pass to another very important matter. It arises from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and is of much more important concern than Wales alone. What is the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? He says: "Suppose there is a Secretary of State for Wales, a political demand. It will result in inefficiency of administration." I think that is a fair representation of his position. I think, with great respect, the right hon. Gentleman has not appreciated or given careful consideration to the implication of his answer. Efficiency is not a test to be applied to a political purpose or to a political organisation. Efficiency is a test applied to instruments. If the test of efficiency is applied to this assembly it might very well be abolished; dictators have abolished similar assemblies upon the very ground that it was an inefficient administrative instrument. The test of efficiency is one applied to an instrument itself, such as, "Does my knife cut well or badly?" Because it is an instrument I apply the test of efficiency, which is determined, not by the use that it has in itself, not by its own virtue, but the use and purpose to which I put it.
362 Purposes belong to the realm of politics and efficiency belongs to the realm of instruments. Purposes are either good or bad; they are not inefficient or efficient. It is the mixing of those two tests which really makes for the destruction of liberty. Therefore, the test whether the claim for Wales would result in efficiency or inefficiency is not applicable. The question is: Does Wales demand it? The answer to that question is: Yes, it does, all parties alike. That purpose, the goodness of which can only be determined of itself, does not stand alone. From my point of view, I am also a Liberal, and in my opinion that is important; I wish it were more important in the view of the country. If we are moving into the period of the planned State it becomes very important for us to know how we are to preserve liberty in the future. If we are moving into the period of the planned State in this country it is necessary that that planned State should have small divisions, and as many of them as possible. That not only strengthens but gives a new argument entirely to devolution and a completely new State, and it becomes necessary for a country like Scotland—
§ Mr. Morris
No, I will not, and I am asking Scotland at this time: Do not forget Wales. I am asking the Government: Do not forget Wales. In this White Paper the Government have made the case in a way it has not been made before, and they cannot allow the case to rest here. The arguments for a Secretary of State are contained in the White Paper. Arguments in keeping with the trend of the times for the preservation of liberty in the future are all contained here, and they all point to one thing: that the Government should reconsider the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance took part in the Debate to which I have referred. He said —and I suppose he was supporting the demand for a Secretary of State—"I am in favour of it. I want it, and I want devolution"—just like his colleague the Minister of Health. Why? "Because," he said, "Wales will be the first country in these islands to return a Socialist Government." Within six months there was a General Election and the country returned a Socialist Government, and he, unexpectedly to himself and everybody 363 else, is sitting upon the Front Government Bench. I do not suggest he has changed his mind for a moment. Whatever the case was then, whatever the value of the facts which go to the making of this White Paper, they point to the whole trend of modern movement. In view of the position of Wales itself as a nation, there can be no denying its demand for a Secretary of State.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
Tonight we have listened to many impassioned pleas for a Secretary of State for Wales. For my part, I am almost tempted to make a plea for a Treasurer for Wales, because it seems to me that what Wales needs above everything else is somebody to look after her real assets—her wealth, her resources and her people; and to do what every good treasurer does, to conserve and expand those resources and use them judiciously for the common good. The hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) said that Wales had peculiarly Welsh problems. I do not agree. I do agree however that Wales has peculiarly difficult economic problems. The main concern of the majority of Welsh people now is to solve the basic economic problems in Wales. What Wales needs is not economic separation from the rest of Britain. My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in his opening speech, castigated those people who argue for the economic separation of Wales from the rest of Britain. There are very few people in Wales who believe that that is possible, and no responsible Welshman, inside or outside of Wales, argues for the economic separation of Wales from Britain. It is well known that Britain cannot live independently of Europe and of the rest of the world. Wales certainly cannot live to herself. The day has gone past when we can take refuge behind Offa's Dyke, even if we built it skyhigh and reinforced it with barbed wire and concrete. Wales today cannot live on the achievements and conceptions of Roman times.
What Wales needs—and I want to stress this—is not separation from Britain, but closer integration with British economy. In the past, Wales has not had a fair share of British prosperity. We are not having our fair share now. In the past, Wales has had more than her fair share 364 of poverty and unemployment, and we are having more than our fair share of hose twin evils now. The experience of Wales between the two wars has often been described, and I do not propose to repeat that description in my very short speech tonight. What I do want to emphasise is, that Wales is going through the same tragic experience again. I heard my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade make a solemn pledge this afternoon that there would be no recurrence in Wales of the tragedies of the interwar period. May I remind him that the tragedy is there now? Every village, every valley, every town, has an acute unemployment problem.
§ Mr. Williams
Once again there are unemployed organisations in every part of Wales. There are meetings and demonstrations of unemployed people carrying banners with the slogan "Work or bread." That reminds us of the agony of Wales in the interwar period, and the tragedy is being re-enacted now. We have deputations of the unemployed to local authorities and Members of Parliament. We have people organising petitions to protest against the means test. We have demands for strike action as a protest against the slowness of the building of the new factories. That happened in my own constituency recently. We have once again a repetition of the tragedy of the exodus of Welsh people. All these ghastly things are being repeated. All the old spectres of the period of depression are haunting our people again, and the ghosts of the interwar years are walking our valleys once more. Someone said once that all historic events occur twice, once as tragedy and again as farce. He was wrong. There are no elements of comedy in the economic situation in Wales today. The position is grim and serious.
I know that the Government—we are told this in the White Paper—are busy persuading industrialists to set up factories in Wales. We have heard a good deal about this recently. If I may say so, we have heard too much and seen too little. I do not know if this is a Parliamentary expression—you will pardon me, Sir, if it is not—but there has been far too much ballyhoo about this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) referred to it today. It appears 365 to me that we are having people coming to South Wales today as we used to send Colonial expeditions to Africa, to see how the natives are faring. I want to tell the House that Welsh people are too proud for that, and our people resent it, most emphatically. There has been a great deal of publicity about these new industries. We have had far too many figures and too few factories; and, if I may use a homely Welsh expression, I would say the cockerel has crowed a lot but the pullet has not laid any eggs. We have received innumerable invoices, but the goods are not being delivered. There is in the White Paper—we have seen it all before—an impressive list of new industries to come to Wales. Far too few are in production. Very few are actually being constructive. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) said this afternoon, that less than 1,400 people are employed now, in the whole of Wales, in building the new industries for this new world we are promised.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. There are 1,400 skilled craftsmen employed—but there are all the rest of the ordinary building labour as well—on factories in South Wales today—something under 4,000 altogether.
§ Mr. Grenfell
The President of the Board of Trade has been himself on a site. On the following day they stopped 20 men on the job that he saw. The President of the Board of Trade was in Garnant in the Llanelly Division, and they stopped 20 men the next day.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not know about that. There must have been some reason. The site, when I was on it, was so wet that I was wondering how they were working on it at all.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
A real headache and a real heartache in Wales is the large army of unemployed ex-miners and other ex-heavy industrial workers who are not skilled builders, but who have been waiting, and have been waiting for a long time, for the promised new industries to be erected in Wales. Unfortunately, not all these new factories, even if they exist only in theory, are being allocated to the right places. There are scores of derelict villages in South Wales to which not one single new industry has been allocated.
§ Mr. Williams
I represent a constituency where there is an entire local authority area which you will not find named in the schedule in the White Paper. Whole valleys, many in my division, are being completely ignored and completely neglected. May I make one more criticism? Not all those industries that come to Wales are of the right kind. There are too many industries producing flimsy, trivial, cheap gadgets of all kinds—toys, cosmetics, and all sorts of frivolous things. We cannot build a stable, durable and balanced economy in Wales or anywhere else by the manufacture of paper flags for tin soldiers or glass eyes for wooden dolls. There is not a single factory scheduled in that list for the manufacture of mining equipment. The Minister of Fuel and Power—he was in Cardiff yesterday—said that the big job facing the Coal Board in South Wales was to mechanise the mining industry. We agree. We have said that for years. How is that industry to be mechanised? In the whole of South Wales there is not a single project for the erection of a factory to manufacture this machinery. It will have to be transported from other parts of Britain.
I see the Minister of Transport is here. We are told that transport is undergoing great strain just now. It will add another burden to the transport system to convey machinery from Birmingham, Wolverhampton or somewhere else down to South Wales, when it could be made on the spot by Welsh people, who, if they are trained, are the best and most skilled workmen in the world. Some of these factories which are now in production in South Wales are turning out cheap electrical gadgets of all kinds to be sold in the cheap multiple stores, whilst colliery development in South Wales is being held up because we cannot get electrical equipment, and we have to wait at least 18 months for delivery. I say that that indicates an entire absence of plan, a complete absence of any kind of coordination of economic activities in Wales.
The last criticism I want to make of the Board of Trade's programme is that these industries are not coming in fast enough. Our people are leaving Wales more rapidly than the new industries are coming in. I want to impress on my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade that we are engaged in 367 a race against time. We are not simply fighting the calender, we are fighting the clock; every minute counts because every train takes our young people away from Wales. Wales needs a better balance in her economy, and a greater diversity in her industrial structure. The programme of the Board of Trade gives us diversity of a kind—the wrong kind, may I add—but it does not give us balance, durability or permanence. As I have said, there is a complete absence of plan. What is the future economy envisaged for Wales? Nobody seems to know; nobody seems to be responsible for thinking it out. We are proceeding by haphazard and piecemeal methods, where details are decided in different departments. There is no coordination, no plan and no well thought out programme.
What needs to be done is to restore, first of all, Section 9 of the Development of Industry Act so as to give the Government power to direct industries to certain localities. If the Government cannot plan the location of industry, how in the name of commonsense can we have a planned economy? We simply cannot. Secondly, I would suggest that the Development of Industry Act should be extended to the whole of Wales, because it is not only in the valleys of South Wales that we have an unemployment problem; the whole of Wales is affected. Lastly, may I suggest very seriously, that I cannot be enthusiastic about a Secretary of State for Wales because I do not think a Secretary, however able or important, would meet the urgent economic problems of this present era. What I do suggest is that there should be established in Wales an economic planning authority, to establish for Wales a suitable economy—a balanced economy—and to maintain the proper relationship between town and country, industrial valley and seaboard, agriculture and industry, and among all the different parts of the Principality. We need these things very urgently. We need them in order that we may preserve and develop the life of our Welsh communities, with their sturdy and independant populations, their strong democratic conditions and their own rich and unique culture.
§ 7.33 P.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)
There has been a good deal of criticism of the Government today by hon. Members from South Wales, and it is very natural and right that those 368 like the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), whose constituents are suffering, should both feel strongly and express themselves strongly. It is no part of my duty to defend the Government, but I feel that some of the criticisms have not made sufficient allowances for the difficulties. This is a difficult transitional period, and the situation cannot be dealt with on the spur of the moment. As I see it, what the Government are doing is to pursue with energy the old policies under the Special Areas Acts of 1934 and 1937 and the Development of Industry Act of 1945 but—and this is the point—they are pursuing them in circumstances which are much more favourable to success than have ever obtained before. They are pursuing them in circumstances, in which, taking the country as a whole, there is a greater demand for labour than there is supply, where the demand for factory space exceeds the supply, and in circumstances in which a building licence is all important. I believe that in the medium short run there is no reason why these policies should not have a certain measure of success.
I thought that the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) was a little unfair to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, whom he more or less accused of deliberately diverting shipping from South Wales. The fact is that we cannot get the ports of South Wales right unless we again get coal exports, and I do not think that whatever Minister occupies that post he will be able to get round that dilemma. I will turn for a moment from South Wales to North Wales. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) raised a number of North Wales points and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White), but there is one point of importance that they did not raise, namely, the problem of coast erosion, which is becoming increasingly serious all along the North Wales coast. In particular, in my constituency, in the area of Rhyl and Prestatyn we are faced with a very serious position, and may easily have a number of houses washed away. One of the first things I looked for in the White Paper was something about coast erosion, and what I saw was the following:… there has been correspondence with 25 North Wales local authorities, who are 369 formulating schemes for sea defences and who have appointed a Joint Committee to consider what measures are necessary to prevent further inroads by the sea …There is no harm in receiving and exchanging correspondence, but when you have an urgent problem like that it does not get you much further, because what you want to know is what the Government are going to do, and who is to be responsible. The problem is right outside the scope of the authorities themselves. The local and county councils simply have not the resources to deal with it. It is one subject to which I hope th right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will at any rate allude in his reply.
That brings me to the subject of the Secretary of State or Minister for Wales, about which I should like to say a word or two. It is a subject on which, I hope, I take an objective view. I come from a border county, containing a very great many people of English blood; my own family were immigrants into Wales, I suppose, about 100 years ago. During the Election I was opposed by a Socialist lady who disapproved of the idea of a Secretary of State for Wales, and was honest enough to say so; I have therefore no "grouse" at all about anyone having been unfair to me. As I see this problem, there are two types of Welsh nationalist; there are the rabid nationalist and the reasonable one. The rabid nationalist ignores geography, ignores the fact that the economy of North Wales runs from West to East and that of South Wales runs the same way and out at its ports, not North and South and he presses for economic autarky, which is, in fact, entirely disastrous for Wales. He is the type of nationalist Lord Acton was thinking of when he said about nationalism:Its course will be marked by material as well as moral ruin.I believe that the rabid nationalist is in a small minority, and that the great majority of people who feel strongly upon this question are entirely reasonable about it. They realise that Wales cannot live in isolation and should not try to do so, and they give no support to the "Balkanisation" of the British Isles, which is what the rabid nationalist wants. But they do feel that the just claims of Wales have not been admitted as they should be. As the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. 370 Hopkin Morris) said, that is primarily a political question. They feel that they have not had the recognition politically that they should have. Apart from that, the great majority of those whom I know and have spoken to, feel that Wales would have done better in the past, would do better now, and would do better in the future if there was someone who could speak for them and put their case forward. They would do better not only culturally—in connection with education and that sort of thing—but economically as well. I agree. I simply do not believe that Wales would have gone through what she has gone through if she had had a Minister in this House to speak for her.
§ Mr. Scollan
In regard to the economic discontent which existed in South Wales, and in Wales generally, the unemployment and misery in Scotland were greater.
§ Mr. Birch
I will leave the hon. Member to his hon. Friend, because there are a lot of Members who still wish to speak. I think that the President of the Board of Trade made extraordinarily heavy weather about the administrative difficulties. He spoke of not isolating Wales, but I cannot see why Wales should be isolated any more than Scotland is isolated by having a Secretary of State. It seems to me that he made mountains out of molehills. I am quite certain that the thing could be made to work. It is admitted, in effect, in the White Paper that something of the sort is necessary, because, as has been pointed out, it contains the extraordinary sentence:In addition to the Committees which consider particular problems, arrangements have now been made for the heads of all Welsh Offices or Departments to meet three or four times a year in Wales.If they are going to meet now, and have not met before, it is obvious that coordination has not been all that it should be. As has been pointed out, the problems with which they have to deal are, ultimately, political problems, and civil 371 servants cannot themselves deal with political problems. If a narrow administrative view is taken of this matter, and an honest answer is not given to a just demand, we shall play into the hands of rabid nationalists, whom we should all be sorry to see getting their own way. I feel that a narrow administrative approach has been made by the Lord President of the Council and the President of the Board of Trade. They have behaved like a couple of suburban Machiavellis—which is what they are. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will be replying to the Debate. His opposition to the proposal for a Secretary of State is notorious, but I hope that in what I have said I have not diverted his eye from this particular question to the Tories. I have no doubt that he will abuse the Tories, and I very much hope that he will do so—indeed with him it is a conditioned reflex. As I say, I hope I have not diverted him from this main question, because I believe it goes very deep and needs a proper answer.
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
Those of us who represent Welsh constituencies—and for the moment I include Monmouthshire—are pleased again to welcome an opportunity to discuss our problems. This is the second occasion on which we have been permitted to do so, and some of my English colleagues will in all probability want to know why we devote a day specially to the problems of Wales. As Members who represent Scottish constituencies have had a similar privilege for a number of years, modesty will obviously prevent them from posing the same question. One simple answer is that as Welsh Members we are not going to tolerate the return of those inter-war days, if we can prevent it. That statement is made in full recollection of those painful days of privation, suffering and poverty. We shall never forget what it meant to those distressed areas in Wales and Monmouthshire during that period, and no Member of this House, and no Member of the Government, can expect us to tolerate conditions which, in my case, compelled 10,000 of my people to migrate to other parts of Great Britain, and Wales and Monmouthshire to lose one-seventh of their population. That was an experience which no other people in Great Britain had during that period.
372 There is another answer to the question of why there should be a day devoted to the discussion of Wales. It is the conditions which now exist in our part of the country. Apart from occasional fluctuations, we are concerned and anxious about the ever-increasing number of unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, in a speech at Barry, on 12th October, stated that the lowest unemployment figure for Wales was in 1943, when we then had a percentage of 1.9 unemployed. At present it stands at 8.5, as compared with 2.5 per cent. for the whole of Great Britain. These figures are a just cause for our anxiety, and are just cause for our demand for today's Debate.
We are naturally apprehensive of the future. On the 9th of this month, we were informed by the Parliamentary Secretary that within the last three years only seven new factories and five extensions had been erected in South Wales. The President of the Board of Trade took exception when I made an interjection during his speech. He observed that it represented seven factories in two years after the war, and in one year of a Labour Government. I submit, even if we concede credit to the Government for having erected all seven factories, that at that rate 60,000 unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire will never be absorbed in our lifetime. I am aware that the Parliamentary Secretary spoke of 60 new factories and 22 extensions at present in various stages of construction. I do not want to be informed by the President of the Board of Trade that construction of a factory precedes completion. Achievement is our consideration at the moment, and neither construction nor completion will solve our problem in Wales. The solution is much more than that. It is full production in these factories, and full production in an additional number of factories.
I readily admit that the Government must consider this question of unemployment as it affects the whole of Great Britain, and in this connection Ministers can point to the difference between the number of unemployed in this country in August, 1939, and the number of unemployed in August this year. We find that in the former period there were 1,135,000, whereas in August the figure was 364,000. We have the enormous 373 difference of 771,000. In a general sense, that speaks well for the policy of the Government. It provides no comfort or consolation for the 364,000 unemployed. In my Division, numbers of the men unemployed now are the same men who experienced nine or ten years of unemployment during the inter-war period.
It is very difficult to satisfy these unemployed men by repeating platitudes about the transition from war to peace. With these men it is transition from full employment to no employment, from good wages to bad doles, to six months at 26s. a week from the Assistance Board, with the operation of the infamous means test. I want to tell the Government that the unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire will not tolerate the delay in restoring to them the right to receive unemployment standard benefit, instead of assistance from the Assistance Board.
The President of the Board of Trade visited South Wales recently and is reported as having said that he had given the people there a review of his "run round"—an appropriate description for his so-called visit. The right hon. and learned Gentleman stressed the importance of the people of South Wales getting hold of the facts and not relying on generalities. The worst feature about the problem in South Wales is that, unlike the Government, Members of this House have to consider the interests of the people they represent. That involves each Member of Parliament fighting for his own hand, for the people he represents. The President of the Board of Trade is not entitled to assume that there are no sites for industries in Abertillery, which is part of my Division. We have sites there capable of maintaining self-produced units equally as large as any of the separate producing units on the Treforest Estate. What has been my experience? I have been told that industries have been anxious to come on to the borders of my Division, and have then decided to go elsewhere. The same thing happened in the Blaina and Nantyglo area. A local authority in another part of my Division was told to make arrangements to supply gas. Having been committed to a financial obligation, they were then told that the industry concerned had decided to go elsewhere. Members who do not represent Welsh constituencies will have seen in the newspapers recently that an industry wanted to go to Llanover, to go 374 into an area where there is the best agricultural land in the country. The final decision of that industry was that they did not want to go there.
Nothing was done in my area during the inter-war period, and nothing practical is being done now. That is the result of the policy of stealing industries, inducing them and encouraging them. We have been told by members of the Government that war against unemployment is equally as important as was the war against the Germans. Why not employ the same methods as were used during the war? I know it is said that they will interfere with personal liberty, but what liberty is the unemployed man getting today, when he is existing on 26s. a week? When the President of the Board of Trade visited a part of South Wales he left his hotel at 9 o'clock in the morning and got to his last meeting at 5.30, having been present at about 15 different places. In my opinion, his time could have been better served in visiting areas where no sites have been made available for new undertakings, and areas where no factories have been erected. It was more like an excursion than a useful visit. The newspapers recorded the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been, had seen, and was satisfied. He may be satisfied, but I know thousands of those 60,000 unemployed in Wales who are not satisfied. I want to say this with the least possible bitterness: If the Government can spare the right hon. and learned Gentleman for two months for a visit to India they can spare him to visit South Wales for more than eight hours for a run round. If a Tory had done a 100 mile tour in eight hours his visit would have been described as either a fraud or a farce.
On the 14th of this month we were told that 78 factories and extensions were in various stages of construction in South Wales. What we want to know is when they will be ready for full production. Whatever the President of the Board of Trade might say, with the present supply of labour it will take years to carry out the Government's plan. Reference has been made to the number of persons employed in the building industry in South Wales. On 8th October, the Minister of Works was asked:…how many skilled building workers are registered in South Wales, and how many are engaged on house construction, factory con- 375 struction, and non-priority work, respectively?The right hon. Gentleman's reply was:There were approximately 9,400 craftsmen engaged in the building and civil engineering industry in the South Wales development area at the end of August. Of these, just over 3,200 were engaged on housing work providing additional accommodation, and about 1,400 were employed on the construction and extension of factories. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th October, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 20.]What is the use of telling us about what is to be done if there are not the means to do it? As I have said, the President of the Board of Trade spoke about the necessity for people in South Wales getting hold of the facts. Those facts are not to be found in the White Paper. To know them the people of South Wales must hunt the columns of HANSARD—an amusement which no one wants willingly to undertake. We have agreed among ourselves, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to put a time limit on our speeches and, therefore, I leave much unsaid But I am dissatisfied with the progress made in providing employment for our people. To ask those who work to work harder while others are idle is sheer political humbug and cant. We have always wanted power. Now the Government have power. Why not use it? If they want to know how to use it let them consult the ornaments on the Opposition Front Bench. Whatever the consequences, we in Wales and Monmouthshire will not silently, or peacefully, again enter into those sorrowful days of the inter-war years. We want, and must have, economic security for the people we represent.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
In the short time at my disposal, I want to embark on a brief series of platitudes. That may not be anything new in this House, but perhaps it is new to proclaim it. But "platitude" seems to be the only word to describe what must be used as an argument in defence of what we claim from the Government for Wales. Our claim is so simple, plain and obvious, and it has been made so often in this House and elsewhere, that I am quite willing to be regarded as the deliverer of a speech of nothing but platitudes for the next few minutes. I should like first of all to say that I do not intend to speak as a Member of the Liberal Party or indeed of any particular party. I am 376 not going to criticise the Government. I have the greatest admiration for the Government, for what they have done in the past, and for what they are going to do in the future. My criticism tonight is of all the Governments in the past, and of any Government in the future, if the present White Paper is the only kind of answer which any Government can give to us when we are making this kind of demand.
My criticism is that all Governments have positively refused to understand my country, and have allowed it to drift into a state of frustration and unhappiness. What we complain of is the fact that, in Wales, in the past, its industries, and even its housing, have been manipulated for the sake of England. For example, every railway in Wales has been built to take Englishmen to Wales, and Welshmen to England. It has been built for the sake of London. It is based on London and to get from one province of Wales to another by railway is practically impossible; so impossible that the national institutions of Wales, like the university, hold their meetings in England because they cannot find a place in Wales, where the people of Swansea can meet the people of Bangor on the same day. My unfortunate and deluded countrymen who are so enthusiastic about the Severn Bridge will find that it will simply be another link between Wales and England, and another method of deporting people from Wales.
Wales, after two centuries of the most spectacular national development, was in the early part of the 19th century beginning to take its place in the world. We were full of optimism then. We thought that the British Governments in the future would understand our difficulties; we thought that they would appreciate our national habit and climate of thought. Instead of that, what we have had is nothing better than this White Paper. So far as I can see, it is entirely hopeless as an answer to any of our questions. It is hopeless even from the statistical point of view as an adequate summary because it does not contain the relative figures for Scotland and England.
I wish to speak on one aspect with which I am perhaps a little more familiar —the cultural life of Wales. There are other things in the totality of a nation besides economics, and the backbone of 377 Wales is still the countryside, and the people who dwell within it. That is a platitude, and it is one which should be familiar in Scotland and in England, as well as in Wales. In this respect we are similar, because we are all aware in our national life that all vigour, all stability and balance, as well as initiative and vision are ultimately derived from our rural blood. The "rude forefathers of the hamlet" are also the fathers of progress and reform.
I am loath to use the term "Welsh culture" because the word "culture" has been so debased during the last 20 or 30 years in Germany, and, I am sorry to say, in America. What we mean when we speak of Welsh culture is not quantitative but qualitative. We do not suggest that Wales has a higher culture than any other part of the country. We do not want, to use a colloquialism, to "high hat" any other part of the country. But we make the claim that Wales has a particular and distinct culture of its own, and a particular way of life of its own. It is distinct and separate from that of England, and because of that reason, we are still a mystery to the Englishman. I am sorry to have to say it, but the Englishman has only two ways of dealing with a mystery—either to hate it or to laugh at it—and we have had experience in Wales of both those reactions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health—whom it is a privilege to call my right hon. Friend in something more than a Parliamentary sense—will, I understand, reply to this Debate. Will he please remember that he was first a Welshman, before he ever came to the House of Commons, and will he remember, also, that, on the whole, if ever he makes a mistake in his career, he will find more sympathy in Wales than he will ever find in England? I think that I ought to say here that probably a good many of his English colleagues, as well as opponents, would not be surprised to see this wild Welshman coming to the House of Commons in blue woad, or with scythes attached to the wheels of his car, or offering up a succulent doctor as a human sacrifice.
When we ask the Government for a small administrative change of this kind, I should like to impress upon them that we are not seeking something which is not our own. We are reasonable people, and we are trying to devise some means of 378 keeping our national values. Are the Welsh really such impossible people? Or are we so patient and passive in our reactions that we are not likely to become an embarassment to any Government; and, therefore, something in the nature of this White Paper is quite good enough as an answer to all our claims. Are we to believe that the English will only concede justice to a minority when that minority becomes a nuisance? Is the history of the American Colonies, of India and of Ireland to be re-enacted again on the small-scale map of Wales? Twenty years ago there were practically no Welsh nationalists in Wales; today the party is growing from day to day. I have had Welsh nationalists as opponents at both Elections, but I should like to say that the Welsh nationalism, even in its extreme form, draws on the cream of the Welsh intellectuals. It may be said that the students in the universities are very largely members of the Welsh Nationalist Party, and when they become adults, they will be the intellectual population of Wales.
But it is not only the Nationalist Party that react to specifically Welsh problems, but the Communist Party as well have understood our needs, and the Communist Party have joined with us in our demand for a Secretaryship for Wales. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, and say it is a trick of the Communists, but it has also been a trick of the Communists to appoint as their organiser for North and South Wales a man who was trained as a theological student, who is still a devout Church member and still preaches on Sunday. I am putting that forward quite seriously as a proof that the Communists at least understand the Welsh mentality, and Welsh prejudices, if you like. Is it not about time that the traditional parties of this country, whether Conservative, Liberal or Labour, should take a lead from them and try to understand this little country, which can indeed, I assure the House, become a nuisance, but which has no desire whatever to be a nuisance Wales wishes to be a serving part of the totality of Britain.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)
I believe the House is in almost unanimous agreement that Wales is worth preserving, not only as an economic region, but as a nation, with its dis- 379 tinctive culture and contribution. The greatest threat to the national survival of Wales today is, of course, as always, its precarious economic position. Unless we can secure the economic basis of our life, we cannot preserve our society or nourish our culture. Our economic diseases today, as intermittently for the last century or two, are unemployment and migration. We fear that, having triumphed over invasion, we may succumb to migration. Between the two wars we became a nation on the means test Nearly half a million of our youngest and best were forced to leave the Principality for other parts to search for their livelihood, and when they had gone, they still left behind them upwards of 100,000 of their fellows still unemployed. The effects of this were not solely economic; it was felt in the spiritual, cultural and social life as well. Nor was it confined to the mining valleys of the South. It had its effect on the quarrying district of the North and the rural areas of the centre.
I have in my constituency of Caernarvonshire a unique community, a really unique democratic community of people, living in the Nantlle Valley, reference to which has been made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) and the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George). Nantlle is the site of a dwindling traditional slate mining industry, and for the past 20 or 25 years the decline of that traditional industry has meant that Nantlle has carried a percentage of unemployed ranging from 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. Today these fine, truly democratic, and cultured people are suffering terribly. An appeal has been made that the Valley should be scheduled as a development area. I hope that something like that will be done, and if my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade finds that the Nantlle Valley is too small for that purpose let him join the town of Caernarvon, which is adjacent to it, to form a proper area for the purpose.
What I am getting at in mentioning Nantlle is that when I talk to the leaders of opinion in that valley they speak to me not solely of bread and butter but of the spiritual and cultural values which, with their bread and butter, are being menaced today. So we are concerned about the economic future of Wales not 380 only because men must eat to live but because we know that men must live to be men in the fullest sense. I should like to see more attention being paid to these pockets of depressed areas in the centre and north of Wales—Nantlle, Portmadoc, Festiniog, Llanberis and Holyhead. The President of the Board of Trade knows about them because they are the arteries of our Welsh national life to which the lifeblood of new industries will have to be directed.
We in Wales agree—and I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to pay particular attention to this—that economic planning must be done from the centre, and the wider the perimeter the better. Just now we have Socialism in Britain. Very well, the Socialist economic policy must naturally be planned from London. But while we agree on that point we also insist that the planning must penetrate to the perimeter. Our complaint is not that Wales is not granted economic sovereignty; nobody in his senses in Wales wants such a thing. Our complaint is that we in Wales, on the fringe of things, are not, any more than they are in parts of Scotland, receiving from the centre the central plan in quite its pristine force, urgency, and relevance. Therefore, the Welsh Parliamentary Party, representing 90 per cent. of the opinion of Wales, has suggested that a Minister for Welsh Affairs—perhaps not in charge of a department, perhaps merely an advisory Minister—might be appointed who would focus the desires of Wales, and answer for any obvious shortcomings in the progress and advance of the Principality.
It is not necessary to take from the President of the Board of Trade a slice of his economic powers and confer them on the new Minister for Wales, but a Minister for Wales is necessary and would be a boon to the Principality if he had only the duty of standing up in the Cabinet and speaking for Wales there. At present we have the Welsh Parliamentary Party which does its bit, and we have received a tribute from my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade today, for which we are duly grateful, but the Welsh Parliamentary Party have to chase up and down Whitehall from Ministry to Ministry striving to find a key to the solution of their problems. A Minister, even if he were only 381 an advisory Member of the Cabinet, would be a boon to the Principality.
I should like to make one further point which I hope the Minister of Health will consider particularly. May I say how glad I am to know that he will reply to this discussion, because although I know he is opposed to the secretaryship for Wales, I believe that his is the mind I would choose to look at the suggestion which I am going to make to him now. Apart from the merits of the appointment of a Minister—I believe that it is of interim urgency, for the reasons I have given—it is high time that this country looked at the possibility of recasting its legislative machinery. This House is overloaded, overworked and overtired. We give a cursory glance at most of the legislation and then fling it to the tender mercies of the bureaucracy. I am not sure that we are following a democratic way of sharing the task of legislation. I do not believe that the way to lessen the burden upon the House of Commons is to go in for bureaucratic delegation, but rather to go in for democratic devolution.
Let us have a real inquiry, a Royal Commission, to look at the possibility of creating a central British Parliament to take the broad decisions of policy under every head, together with the creation of local, national assemblies in Wales, Scotland and England to work out, in their local connotations and in their local and national relevance, the broad principles of Socialism that are agreed upon at the centre. In that way we should by-pass the perverted nationalisms which have bedevilled the world for so long. I hope that the Minister, after listening to the case for Wales, may, with his tremendous knowledge of the science and practice of local government, institute such an inquiry and show the world how the rights and obligations of nations, large and small, may be brought together.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. John Evans (Ogmore)
I am only a junior Member of this House and shall not take up very much of its time. In the first place, I would compliment the Government upon the White Paper. Previous speakers have rather flayed the Government Departments involved in this report, but a tremendous amount of information is contained in it. Here, too, there is evidence of fairly good planning.
382 I know there is an interim period that has to be filled in. I hope that we shall find ways and means of filling it, but that will largely be a matter for the local authorities, backed by the Treasury with a fairly generous grant. I believe that schemes are to be put into operation during the interim period in South Wales, which will enable us to weather the storm. We have a fairly big pocket of unemployment and, as has already been said, we have passed through such a bad time during the interwar years that we are very apprehensive that a somewhat similar time is ahead of us. I want to say that the position in Wales today is infinitely better than it was after the end of World War No. 1. I am sure that it is very pleasing to most of us.
Reference has been made to the machinery that is being used to meet the difficulties that have arisen during the aftermath of war. Although the machinery which has been instituted by the various Departments is quite good in its way, it can still be very much improved. I agree with the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) that the time has arrived when there should be a measure of devolution and the various parts of the whole country should have a measure of autonomy—if I may dare use that word. At any rate, there should be devolution in such a way that this House would not be cluttered up by all the details of major and minor legislation. There should be a spreading out of the work, so that although major matters would be decided here, other matters might be referred to the smaller localised bodies who would have some power locally and would impart drive.
Hon. Members have deprecated the fact that we are asking for a Secretary of State for Wales. I am not particularly keen whether he is called a Secretary of State or whether he is a Minister of Cabinet rank. Let us call him anything we will, as long as he does the job. There is a lot in what is being argued that we in Wales have certain peculiar features that entitle us to some special consideration. We have a distinct language. I do not want to overstress that, but we have a language of our own and a language that we want to preserve. We also have a culture. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) said the word "culture" was perhaps being rather maligned today, being asso- 383 ciated with all sorts of things, but the culture we have in Wales is peculiar to us. It is a pleasant culture—not a culture that has emerged from the universities or the great academies but a culture which is found right in the heart of our village life, whether it is a mining village or a little village tucked somewhere up in the mountains of Snowdonia. It is that native culture which we want to preserve.
All that is very important, but I know it is not all. The basis is complete economic security. To build upon that there are these other things, a sort of superstructure which, too, is worth preserving. I hope that, when the Minister of Health replies to this Debate, we shall have some inkling of what machinery is to be set up to enable us in Wales to tackle some of our own problems. We do not want to be severed from the rest of England economically. That certainly would not be a wise thing to do. None of us who has any thought for the generations to come, can think of severing completely from the rest of England. But we should like some measure of autonomy so that we may be able to give that drive which is necessary to preserve, not merely the economy of Wales, but its culture, its language, and all else that really belongs to us.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I have promised to be brief, and I will be brief. There is agreement on all sides of the House about the size of Welsh economic problems. The only divergence is on the immediate measures to be taken for tackling them. The President of the Board of Trade dealt more with the problems of the South than with those of the North. I am sorry that he and the Government Departments have not had an opportunity of arriving at a considered view of the proposals of the North Wales Development Committee, and I was sorry that he did not refer to the most important industry in North Wales, the slate industry. I know that the working party report is under consideration, but it is somewhat unfortunate that those two vital reports have not been discussed in this Debate. One has somewhat mixed feelings as this Debate draws to a close, but one feeling occurred to me very strongly, that while the President of the Board of Trade undoubtedly displays a 384 sincere desire that these great economic evils shall never return to our country, there was a complete absence of understanding of the way the Welsh people themselves feel about it, and that is an essential element in government. You cannot talk in terms of efficiency purely at the Whitehall level, as the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) pointed out; the very existence of the demand, and the overwhelming strength of it, are features to be considered.
The overwhelming mass of the Members of Parliament from Wales are agreed on three things: first, that Wales shall be treated as a region by all the different Departments of the Government—that is tremendously important; secondly, that there should be a comprehensive plan for the whole of Wales within the British Commonwealth and within the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, that there shall be a political Minister responsible for coordination of the regional work of each Department, responsible for the plan, and responsible to this House.
There is not a recognition of a single one of those demands in this White Paper. The information and the arguments in it concede the case, but in spite of the expressions of sympathy, it is still evident that we have to battle against antipathy in some of the Departments which are most important to Wales. I refer, in particular, to the Ministry of Transport. I am sorry the Minister of Transport is not present but I have given him due warning, so I am entitled to make my criticism. In the first place he has categorically refused to consider the idea of a North to South Wales road. The right hon. Gentleman dismissed it without considering whether a survey should be made, without even going into the matter in any detail at all. He refused, and still refuses, to accept as a matter of Government responsibility the translation of the Highway Code. He merely suggests that the Code should be distributed from door to door and that that will keep death off the roads in Wales in spite of the fact that there are at least 80,000 monolinguists in Wales to whom this Code will be useless. Thirdly, the Minister of Transport has been proposing to close his North Wales sub-regional office and, rather than that North Wales shall, as in the past, func- 385 tion with Cardiff as part of Wales, transfer it to the jurisdiction of Manchester—a complete denial of the claims of Wales as a region.
The Minister of Health is to reply to this Debate. We shall look forward to his dazzling oratory, but we know that he has been uniformly and consistently against this proposal. I hope he will give an assurance that he will consider carefully all the arguments that have been marshalled tonight, and promise to look at this matter again. I am sorry that the Minister for National Insurance is not present. He is a Minister for whom I have a great regard, and at one time was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the idea of a Secretary of State for Wales. I ask the Minister of Health to give us the assurance that the matter will be looked into again. I can assure him that if the Government maintain a dogmatic, blank refusal it will not only be present Members of Parliament from Wales whom they will alienate; they will stir up feelings of hostility all over the country, the like of which have not been seen before. They will pile up for the future in Wales the problems of another Ireland, and it may be that our country will send to this House men determined to win for the Principality, just demands by methods reminiscent of other days. Let us take into account this overwhelming public opinion, and look at the matter afresh. I feel sure that it will conduce, not to inefficiency, but to mobilising of the enthusiasm of the Welsh nation in its plans for regeneration.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
I hope that hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies will forgive me if I intervene for a very few minutes in a wholly Welsh Debate. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd-George) complained earlier today that very few English and Scottish Members were in the House. I have sat through practically the whole of the Debate—
§ Mr. Peake
—and I hope that Welsh Members will appreciate that if they expect English and Scottish Members to take an interest in Welsh affairs, they must not complain if they intervene in these Debates.
386 I have read the White Paper on which the Debate is founded. Like the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), I must confess that I find it a rather pedestrian document. I think it is unimaginative and uninspiring. I can apply the same adjectives with respect to the speech with which the President of the Board of Trade initiated the Debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the revival and rehabilitation of existing industries in Wales, along with the introduction of new industries. The revival and rehabilitation of existing industries is of primary importance. Much the biggest existing industries in Wales are coal and agriculture. I am sorry that the White Paper gives no indication, or even hope, that the export trade in coal from South Wales is likely to be revived. After all, all the problems of the South Wales ports would solve themselves if the export trade in coal could be revived. Since 1937 South Wales has lost no less than 17 million tons of export trade in coal. A much larger figure used to be exported in the years before the last war. What a tremendous contribution to our national economy could be made if the export trade of South Wales could be restored.
Both these two big industries, coal and agriculture, are industries from which labour is drifting away at the present time. It is peculiarly sad in the case of the coal industry in South Wales, because the pits are there, the ports are there and the ships are there; all that is wanted are the men to restore prosperity to South Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the review of the health of the South Wales mineworkers which has been taking place. That followed on the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1943, which gave a new definition to silicosis and pneumoconiosis. I was glad to be associated at the Home Office, at that time, with that Measure, as was the hon. Member for Gower. We worked together in the Government upon this subject. The thing that has probably contributed most to the decline in the attractiveness of the mining industry in South Wales to the working population there has been the dread fear of silicosis or pneumoconiosis. The Government should take every step in their power to see that the South Wales coal mines are made free from the prevalence of this dire and dread disease.
387 So far as agriculture is concerned, the problem in Wales is much the same as the problem in some parts of Scotland and in some of the dales of Yorkshire that I know so well. It is a country of small farms, and is very largely a country of hill sheep farms. The primary need among the agricultural communities in those areas today is improved, housing. Men are not leaving the hill farms because the wages are bad, or because they do not like the open air. They are drifting away because their womanhood will not stand the conditions in the cottages with which they have had to put up in the past. It is lack of water, lack of electricity, lack, of up-to-date heating appliances, which are causing the men and the women to drift away from the agricultural areas.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
Was not that the position when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in power?
§ Mr. Peake
Before the war there was a steady improvement going on. What I deplore, and what I think hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies will now deplore, is that any attempt to reconstruct or to improve agricultural cottages is, in fact, forbidden by the latest circular issued by the Ministry of Health: that is, Circular 171, which states those matters for which licences can alone be permitted at the present time. The result is that all the good objects at which the Minister of Agriculture aims so far as the improvement of rural housing conditions is concerned, in the Hill Farming Bill, which has recently passed through this House, will be frustrated so long as this circular remains the law.
On the administrative issue which has been raised in the Debate, there has been pressure from many hon. Members for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales. That demand was rejected, and rejected emphatically, by the President of the Board of Trade in his opening speech. One hon. Member supported the 388 view of the President of the Board of Trade. Other hon. Members, including my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke, did not go quite the whole hog in asking for the appointment of a Secretary of State. They asked for some Minister who would take a special interest in Welsh questions. I am not going to rush in where it is hinted that Ministers representing Welsh constituencies disagree and where even a brother and a sister representing Welsh constituencies do not see eye to eye. There has been drawn a comparison with the position in Scotland. Whilst there is a good deal to be said for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales as a concession to Welsh national sentiment, I am not convinced that all Welsh problems would be solved immediately. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nobody suggested that."] In my view the administrative question falls into comparative insignificance when set beside the real social and economic problems which Wales has to face. So far as my party is concerned, I should like to make it clear that the door on this question is kept very firmly open.
In my last remark, I should like to offer a hint, if I may respectfully do so, to all practical Welshmen. What I think is more important than the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales is that in any future British Government there should be a number of Welsh Ministers.
§ Mr. Peake
Yes, but the day may come, the day undoubtedly will come, when there will be another Conservative Government in this country. If Welshmen want to be practical, cautious, and sensible men, they will see that a future Conservative Prime Minister has a wide choice of able and qualified men whom he can appoint to office and who are drawn from Welsh constituencies.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
I am perhaps fortunate tonight in winding up for the Welsh Party, in that pretty nearly the only speech with which I have to deal is that of the President of the Board of Trade. Apart from him there is only one timorous undisciplined soul from Wales who has intervened and ventured to disagree with the claim put forward by Welsh Members. I refer to the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Calla- 389 ghan). We can safely leave his view to the judgment of a far more important body than he. I mean the view of the Cardiff City Council which, representing that great and important city, has decided long ago in favour of the demand made by Welsh Members for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales or a Minister, by whatever term we wish to call him, to represent our interests in connection with any development plans that may be outlined for that small nation.
I have no doubt that the White Paper which, on the one hand, has been lauded and, on the other, has been condemned or at least not held in high regard, will prove informative perhaps mainly to non-Welsh Members. Welsh Members have had small doses of this White Paper frequently as medicine in the last 12 months. The sort of information contained in the White Paper has come repeatedly in small doses from the various Government Departments in Wales, so that from the standpoint of giving broad information upon the problems with which we are dealing, it contains nothing new to us. Perhaps it would be welcome to the weaker vessels from England and Scotland, who need to be kept informed about Wales.
Secondly, I do not want to be discourteous or to be thought unappreciative of the efforts put forth by the Departments' representatives, who worked hard and produced this White Paper. After all, when hon. Members have chosen to compliment the Government upon their production, they should bear in mind that they are dealing with a Government with vast resources and with eminently trained men at their disposal, and if these pages were the best they could produce, the Lord help us. [Interruption.] Well, what do we expect from a Government Department but a paper that will impress somebody? If that is the only way in which hon. Members judge the White Paper, I share their appreciation of it.
The discussion today has naturally divided itself into two parts, because there are two problems. The Welsh Parliamentary Party Members have been dealing with the economic problem for several years. It has been pointed out in the course of the discussion today that the Welsh people are perhaps more apprehensive of unemployment than are their fellows in England and Scotland, and for 390 very good reasons. That is because of their bitter experience in the inter-war period, and it was shared by Scotland. I still say, however, that perhaps we are more apprehensive because it was more concentrated in South Wales and the people concerned were in larger numbers. People who have lived through 10 or 15 years of that horrible experience, in which middle-aged men became old, when young men broke their hearts, when children were reared and married without ever having a job, have lived in dread of a repetition of that experience.
We may be unduly apprehensive, but, by heaven, we ought to be excused for it. We have lived with this problem from the commencement of the war. This last terrible catastrophe in the world's history was actually a relief to South Wales, because the ghastly thing relieved us of unemployment. Immediately, we found our thousands of unemployed, including our womenfolk, were back in jobs again, and one reason why the women of Wales became available for work in their thousands is because they had lived on such a narrow economic basis that they were glad to welcome an added shilling. The Welsh Members of Parliament knew that, when the war ended, we were going to have a repetition of the old conditions. We could see the war industries absorbing all our people, and so we could see clearly that the end of the war would thrust them out of work again, and so we began an endless procession round different Government Departments in turn, interviewing some of our own colleagues who sit on that Front Bench. Month after month, and year after year we kept warning them, and the only thing to be said in their favour is that the Japanese war ended too suddenly. They might have had the excuse that they had plans but had no time to put them into effect, because we were suddenly in conditions of peace and it had become a realised fact that unemployment was once more amongst us.
The second point—the constitutional one—of our claim arises more generally throughout Wales at the present moment because of that underlying industrial economic condition. In the efforts to solve the one, what do we find? Reference has already been made to our marching up and down Whitehall and to the different Ministries here. The march up and down Whitehall was no longer than 391 that up and down the different Ministries in Cardiff. Nor was it any easier, because the moment we approached one Minister about a decision he would say, although he might be quite sympathetic, "Oh, that affects another Department." The next Department referred us to still another, and so it went on. Scottish Members have experienced the same thing in London; we experienced it both in London and Cardiff. Whenever we tried to get down to realities we were simply given promises and, on occasion after occasion, we received repeated doses of that sort of thing.
What did we complain about with respect to the administration and the efforts at finding a solution to these industrial economic problems? We have put this matter to the Prime Minister on several occasions We complained, first of all, that there was a lack of drive and energy in Cardiff. As has been enumerated in the White Paper, there are 16 of 18 Government Departments in Cardiff, but some of them might just as well be in Timbuctoo. There is a lack of energy and drive, and, if I may be permitted to use the phrase which was used in a memorandum to the Prime Minister:Wales is cluttered up with unfulfilled promises.—promises made repeatedly by each Department in turn, not simply to the people of Wales, but to us, their representatives. I could refer the President of the Board of Trade to promises made 12 months ago to clear a site in my Division. That site is still waiting to be cleared despite the many promises made during the intervening months by the right hon. Gentleman's departmental representatives. We have experienced this sort of thing over and over again. One finds one Department promising that something will be done and another intervening to stop it. There is frequent contradiction between them in their decisions and activities.
There is another thing which has been before us for some years, and certain Members of the present Government joined with us when we asked what was the precise function of the body that looms so large in the industrial history of Wales—Treforest or the Welsh Trading Estate Company. That is another matter for complaint. In 1934 or 1935 a small body of men were appointed to develop indus- 392 try in Wales. Suddenly, there was one agency for applying and developing the Board of Trade policy throughout the whole of Wales. We pointed out all these things, but there was no redress. It is the considered opinion of all of us from Wales that the Government insist on maintaining confidence in the policy and the instruments of Government which they lay down. We have no confidence in the instruments of government in South Wales. In their periodical reports these people use figures entirely without regard to facts. Over and over again they have been proved contradictory and without relation to the facts.
Some of the phrases they use are enough in themselves to show how unworthy this White Paper really is. We see such phrases as "programmes for building in advance," and reference is made to 40 factories. It has been said that the only difficulty the Government have is to build factories, not to fill them. By the time the Government are in the position of being compelled to build factories in advance of the demand they will all be old age pensioners. It is no good talking about building in advance just now. If there were 20 factories produced in my Division tomorrow, I would fill them. There is no difficulty in filling factories. About two and a half years ago the present Chancellor of the Exchequer came to my Division and gave a firm pledge that 12 factories would be provided in my Division to accommodate undertakings which were in buildings entirely unsuitable for the purpose. Indeed, if the Minister of Health did his job as Minister of Health he would close them down. Of those 12 factories promised, one of them is there, or on the way, at any rate. The people are there waiting. There is an obligation on the Government, because those people came to South Wales at the invitation of the Government.
I would like the President of the Board of Trade to bear in mind this point. In the White Paper there is reference to inducements to industrialists to go to South Wales. What are the inducements? In the same White Paper there is reference to the Treforest Trading Estate Company as a non-profit-making body. I do not know why, in an era of cheap money, when the Government can borrow money at 2½ per cent., it is necessary for a 393 non-profit-making body like the Treforest Trading Estate Company to charge a rent of 6 per cent. on capital expenditure. If it is a capitalist body that runs them, that 6 per cent. must definitely be described as a profit. Where is the inducement, to whom, and on what lines? This will become of some importance when the silicotic factories come along. The inducements that have been given so far have consisted of a quarter's rent, or some deduction in rent in one form or another. I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that this question of the rate upon which rent is assessed for the factories built by the Government ought now to be reconsidered.
I would like to say something about the constitutional position. We are now demanding that a Minister should be appointed and suitably empowered to deal with Welsh affairs, because we are convinced that no other form of administration to deal with our economic and social problems in Wales can be effective. We must have a Minister who can apply his authority and energy to see that plans, once devised, are put into effect. I have often wondered why it is that men who visit Wales always take the opportunity to praise us, to say complimentary things about us. If any of the hon. or right hon. Gentlemen occupying the Government Front Bench went to Wales tomorrow they would repeat what their predecessors have said: "What a wonderful people you are. We admire your culture; we envy you your culture. We only wish we ourselves were Welshmen so that we could share it." That is the sort of thing we have heard. I would like to ask every hon. Member in the House this question now: Of what value will Welsh culture be if Wales is denuded of its population? Two years ago my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health made these remarks in the first Debate of this kind:Wales has a special place, a special individuality, a special culture and special claims"—but—I do not think that this is the place where any of them cars properly be considered.I presume what he meant was that, if he could have separated the economic problem and left merely the constitutional one, he would have talked rationally about Wales's place amongst the nations. He went on: 394There may be an argument—I think there is an argument—for considerable devolution of government.Does devolution 6f government mean more than a redistribution of the Civil Service? If it does mean more than that it is more than the President of the Board of Trade has promised us. All the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon meant was this: "We are now going to effect a greater distribution of the Civil Service. There will be a few more of them to meet you in Cardiff than there have been in the past." That is the amount of change he proposed. On the basis of the remarks made by the Minister of Health on the occasion of the previous Debate I do not see why so many of my hon. Friends suppose he is opposed to the demands of Wales. Those remarks can be quoted in support of the Welsh position. The same thing can be said about his right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance, who said on that occasion:We have a Government which is predominantly Conservative"—and all the worse for being so—and we have asked that Government"—the predominantly Conservative one—not for complete self-government, but for a measure of administrative devolution, and for recognition of our identity and unity as a nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th October, 1944; Vol. 403, C. 2311–2, 2315.]I suppose my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance, when he found himself returned and appointed a Minister of the Crown in a Socialist Government, must have felt his heart leap with joy at the prospect. The wicked Tories had gone; the predominantly Tory Government had disappeared and a predominantly Socialist Government was there instead. In fact, they were all Socialists. With what result?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
Let us take another point of view. This document I have here may be regarded almost as an official document. I quote:We believe that prosperity can be brought to South Wales, but we believe that this can only be done by thorough-going State action. South Wales must be considered as an economic unit, and its future must be planned. This involves a comprehensive review of existing industries and resources. It also involves the establishment of a responsible authority 395 to promote the necessary reorganisation. The device of special commissioners, even if their powers were extended, is inadequate. A vigorous and authoritative Minister of Cabinet rank should be charged with the responsibility for the special areas and for their planning.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
Yes, but note what it says:A … Minister charged with responsibility.Not divided responsibility. And this document is the Labour Party's own report. That is our own report on the devastated areas. It was made at a time when they were not embarrassed by official responsibilities; made at a time when they had not the embarrassment of meeting these demands; when the men who made that report were free to devote their minds to the problems. They arrived at that conclusion. We agree with them. As a matter of fact, I was complimented on one occasion, as I presented one of the first draft sections of that report to them.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
They accepted my view, and I agree with it still. I see no reason to change my mind. That may be why they have not changed my position into one of office.
The position in Wales today is that of a nation united, as no nation in the world can claim to be at this moment, on this issue. I put this to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. If, as Minister of Health, he found, in relation to any question he proposed, that all the local authorities of this country were opposed to him, what would he do? He would have to resign. There is no question about it. If all the local authorities of Britain opposed him or any other Minister, on any question, that would be an impossible situation for the Minister. Of course, it would. I go further than that. I put to him what we put to the Prime Minister. If all the Members of Parliament of England, and all the local authorities of England, and the industrial and political forces of England, united on a question against the Government, what could the Government do? There would be no Government. Obviously not. If the united political representatives of England in this House opposed the Government, what could the Government do?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
They would be compelled to resign. The position we are in is this. In point of fact, their position in Wales, in relation to this demand, is not one of principle. They dare to adopt it because of the comparative weakness of Wales. You could not do it with England, you could not do it with Scotland and Wales together—
§ Mr. Mainwaring
That is just what I want to do. I knew that would come, and I want to use it as a matter of fact as a warning to the Government. The Government can take this warning from me now. A fire has been lit in Wales on this issue; the economic and industrial background has caused it to spread in the last few years, and when people have as great unemployment and poverty as ours, they reach a point where they will not be able to reason very clearly but will be driven on by the forces around them. That is true in Wales now, and unless something is done very speedily to meet the position in Wales, I warn the Government that they are asking for trouble, there is no doubt about that, if the Scottish Celts joined the Welsh Celts—and there are quite a few of them in England too. Listen to this:
§ Gofynwn am fendith ar eich ymdrechion y dydd hwn a bydded ol yr ymdrech yn ymddangos trwy weled hawlau Cymru yn y lle blaenaf.
Mr. Deputy - Speaker (Sir Robert Young)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I do not understand a word. I must ask him to address the House in English.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I will. For the sake of the weaker brethren, may I say that it means:We ask for a blessing upon your efforts this day and fervently hope that they will result in Wales receiving its just claims.That came from Bethnal Green—from the Welsh Society in Bethnal Green. There are many English Members of this House who were returned largely because of the active Welsh men and women workers in their divisions. I could name several who are in that position.
397 I must close, because I promised to give way to the Minister, but I do most earnestly urge upon the Government to consider very carefully what they are going to do with Wales. We have started this claim, and it will not end in this House tonight. The Government would be well advised to take this back again for reconsideration, and consider carefully all the issues that have been raised. Broadly, it is sympathetically understood by hon. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom that there is a need for devolution. Wales is putting it forward now as an immediate practical need, and unless we receive it we shall do what the waters will do when they are pent up—we shall seek the line of least resistance and we shall fight. Make no mistake about that. Wales will fight for what it considers to be justice for itself and no body of Englishmen, or of any other nation on earth, will prevent a Welshman with a sense of injustice from fighting as long as he can for that which he considers to be his just due.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
We have had a most interesting Debate. I have listened to the whole of it, except for one absence lasting 20 minutes. On the whole, I think that the Debate has been amply justified. It was an excellent thing that we had it, not only to show the strength of the Government's position, but the weakness of the critics' position as well. My hon. Friends have spoken with their customary eloquence, but not with their customary cogency. I confess that I have never risen to speak in the House of Commons with a greater sense of disadvantage, because, frankly, there is not very much of a case to answer. My hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) quoted from a Labour Party document, and quoted as though those who sit on the Front Benches on this side of the House are not carrying out what they put in that document at that time. The fact is that that is precisely what we are doing. Every syllable of that document is now being carried out. There is a Minister in charge of the development areas, the President of the Board of Trade, and we have carried out in the last 15 months a greater degree of devolution than has ever been carried out in the history of this country. The Ministry of Health have established, in the course of 398 the last year or so, a very large regional organisation.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Is it the Minister's intention to attempt to persuade the House that the devolution which has been carried out has not been placed entirely in the hands of the non-elected representatives?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member confuses himself much more than he confuses the House. We were speaking about executive devolution. No one has so far suggested elective devolution. What we have been speaking about is machinery to try to see to it that the policies of the Government are given executive drive at the regional level.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
I advanced the argument for elective devolution, and I drew the distinction between bureaucratic delegation and democratic devolution.
§ Mr. Bevan
If my hon. Friend will permit me, I was about to pay my respects to what I thought was a very thoughtful speech. There is a great deal to be said for considering the whole field. Indeed, it is obvious that as the Government more and more intervenes in economic affairs, we may have to reconsider the whole structure of local government, and consider whether any new constitutional devices are necessary in order to put into the hands of elected persons at the regional level the obligation to carry out a good deal of Government administration. There is a lot to be said for that. I am not at the moment committing the Government. I am merely thinking aloud on the Debate which has just occurred. It must be obvious to everybody who has examined this problem, that we should have to consider what will be the effect on local government of many of the changes which are now 399 taking place, and will take place in the course of the next few years. But that is not the issue which has been put in the Debate tonight.
I want to separate the issues which have been put, into their proper parts. First, there is the economic argument. My hon. Friends from Wales will not, I know, assume that I need to have this argument impressed upon me. One of my hon. Friends said that he and the South Wales Members had been living with this problem since 1943. Well, I have lived with it ever since I was a boy. I have probably spent as much of my life handling this problem as any Member in the House. When I returned to South Wales from the Central Labour College, in 1921, I found my area plunged into unemployment. My first job when I got back was to help to dig a main for a gas works, which had two objects-one to provide the main, and the other to provide enough stamps on my card to get unemployment insurance benefit. At that time we were not entitled to unemployment benefit until we had made a certain number of contributions. We shared the pipe line. Never in the history of mankind did so many people lay so few pipes. It was not so much a piece of work, as an ante-room to the employment exchange, through which a number of people were able to obtain unemployment insurance benefit.
As I say, I have lived with this problem. I have helped, on more than one occasion, to organise hunger marches. So I do not need to have the reality of these impressions forced upon me. When I went to America and Canada in 1934, I saw in city after city men and women with whom I had gone to school, who had been driven out of Wales. Not only had they been driven out of Wales, but they had been driven out of Durham, Scotland, Northumberland, and Lancashire. They had been driven from their native country. They were the modern "wild geese," having to seek their livelihood in other countries because their own had neglected their welfare. I saw all that, and I am deeply conscious of the anxieties which Welsh Members feel. They would be doing less than their duty if they did not raise a cry at this moment, both here and in Wales, and tried with all their power, to prevent a resumption of those tragedies. Further, I agree with the noble Lady the 400 Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George), that there is a very great sense of urgency about this matter, because Wales does not want to lose any more of her young men. That is one of the reasons why the Government have devised this temporary plan by which young men and women who are unable to find employment are to go elsewhere on the strict understanding that when work is available they will have the first claim to it.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
The number who have left Wales this year is about 10,000. Less than one third have gone under the temporary transfer scheme, but a far greater number have gone permanently.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
But could the Minister tell us what is the distinction between temporary and permanent transfer?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
The same exchange offers a job to two men. One is permanently transferred, and one is temporarily transferred. Why?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member knows the distinction very well. We are hoping that when the works are established, a person who is transferred under a particular scheme and has identified himself, will, therefore, have a claim upon a job when the job is available. I entirely agree that it would be a tragedy for Wales, for the culture of Wales, and for the vitality of Wales, if we lost many more of our people. It is no use speaking about a nation if you are continually debilitating its spiritual and physical life by taking away its young men and young women. They must be preserved, and maintained there, if the nation is to have a continuing existence.
Furthermore, I have always been very proud and very jealous of Welsh culture and Welsh institutions. I would remind my hon. Friends from North Wales and Mid-Wales that the culture and cultural institutions of Wales do not belong entirely to North Wales or Mid-Wales. There exists in the English-speaking populations of Monmouthshire. Glamorganshire, and some parts of Caernarvonshire, a culture 401 as rich and profound as that which comes from the Welsh speaking people of North Wales. There is too great a tendency to identify Welsh culture with Welsh speaking. It has been my happy lot, in more than one place, to give encouragement and help to the English speaking Welshmen, and they have made very great contributions. What some of us are afraid of is that, if this psychosis is developed too far, we shall see in some of the English speaking parts of Wales a vast majority tyrannised over by a few Welsh speaking people in Cardiganshire. My hon. Friends must not assume that there is universal jubilation. There is, in some parts of Wales, a very considerable amount of anxiety. I suppose that one is entitled to regard Monmouthshire as a part of Wales. If you go round the valleys of Monmouthshire, you will find a great deal of disquiet about some of these new developments, because of the next stage of this slippery slope. There is first a Secretary of State for Wales, and because he is Secretary of State for Wales he must be a Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing Welshman.
§ Mr. Bevan
Certainly—speaking in terms of political ambition. But there is a large body of Welshmen who cannot speak Welsh, and they would immediately be disqualified. Some of our nationalist Friends are making an enclave. They are seeking a closed market, and making quite sure that, if there is to be a Secretary of State for Wales, he shall be Welsh-speaking and Welsh-writing. It would not stop there. It is one of our anxieties that if this thing develops further, all the civil servants appointed would have to be Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing Welshmen. What is the demand? The demand is: How can they understand the peculiar difficulties, distinctions, and characteristics, the penumbra of North Wales and Mid-Wales, unless they can speak the language of the people? The result, of course, is that the whole of the Civil Service of Wales would be eventually provided from those small pockets of Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing zealots, and the vast majority of Welshmen would be denied participation in the government of their country. That is exactly where some of these people are getting. I could give 402 instance after instance to show that. In fact, I could show Department after Department where it is absolutely impossible for Monmouthshire men to get appointments. [An HON. MEMBER: "They could learn Welsh?"] Exactly, they could learn Welsh. I know that every fanatic falls into exactly the same trap of saying "You can do it on my conditions." That is a situation we are not going to allow to grow up, and in stating that I represent far more Welshmen than do my hon. Friends.
Furthermore, my hon. Friends have not made up their minds what they want. The constitutional argument has wavered over three or four different objectives, not one of which has been clearly defined. The perorations have devoted themselves almost exclusively to Welsh nationalism and a Welsh Parliament. The exordiums have spoken about a Minister, a Secretary of State for Wales, or a Minister with separate responsibilities. My hon. Friends know that I have always been opposed to this. I am in the happy position of being able to say as a Minister exactly what I said on the Back Benches. I am happier still. I am happy to say that my experience in office has confirmed my untutored opinions as a Back Bencher. just imagine, for a moment, what would be the situation of a Minister responsible for Welsh affairs. My hon. Friends have insisted upon the catholicity of Welsh affairs. They have decried the White Paper for its omissions. They say that this was supposed to be a factual document. It has been described as a document without soul, not written by Welshmen at all, the assumption being, of course, that Wales has a monopoly of soul. But this was a document which was drawn up, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, hurriedly in order to provide a factual statement on the situation, and it will be refined and improved as time goes on, and more and more of these documents are issued. One hon. Member said that there ought to have been something in it about the B.B.C. The Government are not responsible for the administration of the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am going to point out the unhappy situation in which any Minister for Wales would find himself.
403 First, it is said that this document is not comprehensive enough, and that a lot more must go into it. The unfortunate man would have to stand here and defend every aspect of Welsh administration. As I have been sitting here tonight, there have been questions raised over the whole range of Government—agriculture, transport, education, housing, commerce, the Services and mining.
§ Mr. Bevan
The answer is, of course, that it would be impossible for any single Minister even to approach the problem. He would be overloaded and would have to take the advice and the information given to him by his colleagues, in which case he would be merely a mouthpiece. He would merely convey to the House what departmental Ministers would tell him to say. Is that what hon. Members want? Do they want a Welsh messenger boy? Do they want a Minister dressed up here in the panoply of a Welsh Office, who would he merely telling Welsh Members what he was told to say by departmental Ministers? That is what he would have to do.
§ Professor Gruffydd
Does the Minister suggest that a Welshman is less capable than a Scotsman of doing this job?
§ Mr. Bevan
The answer is that the Scotsman does not do it at the moment. The Secretary of State for Scotland is not responsible for this variety of things. As my right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, none of the main economic functions are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Grenfell
Two days every year are given to Scottish Estimates, and all these questions can be, and are, raised.
§ Mr. Bevan
My right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that the responsibility for the development areas in Scotland, England and Wales reposes in the 404 President of the Board of Trade. The responsibility for transport rests with the Minister of Transport, and the Ministers of National Insurance and Supply are responsible for matters within their respective domains. The whole difficulty about this nationalistic bias is that it would squeeze the administrative life of a nation into this constitutional device—I was about to say something stronger—rather than have sane administration. The point I am making is this, and it is incontrovertible: if hon. Members had what they are asking for, a Welsh Minister who would make himself responsible for all this and more besides, he would be nothing but a messenger boy.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
The Secretary for Scotland was given powers under the Act of 1885. An amending Act was introduced in 1887 to enlarge those powers, which were further enlarged in 1926 to make him a Secretary of State. Why has that enlargement gone on?
§ Mr. Bevan
The answer is that the Secretary of State for Scotland still has no economic functions although the enlargement has gone on—and I am not going to fall out with my friends from Scotland in this matter. Hon. Members have slipped from one argument to the other and in almost the same breath have said, "If not a Secretary for State, a Minister with overriding powers." What does that mean? A Minister with overriding powers obviously would have to possess as much knowledge or indeed more knowledge than the Ministers he would be overriding.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts
Will the Minister give us the name or constituency of one hon. Member who has said it?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
This point is very simple. We started off with the complaint about lack of coordination in Cardiff. Since we have failed in coordination there, we must have a Minister who can override these independent administrators in Cardiff.
§ Mr. Bevan
Now my hon. Friend is saying the same thing again, only in different words. He wants a Minister with authority to override all the other Ministers, in respect of their officers in Cardiff. That is a constitutional impossibility, and it would not succeed in integrating Welsh administration. It would succeed in disintegrating the Government. The idea of one Minister with overriding powers stepping over the heads of his colleagues and giving orders to the officials in Cardiff is ridiculous. My hon. Friends know very well that it is ridiculous. They are asking for something which is constitutionally impossible.
Furthermore, are not my hon. Friends—I say it with all respect—a little beside the mark? Is it not rather cruel to give the impression to the 60,000 unemployed men and women in Wales that their plight would be relieved and their distress removed by this constitutional change? It is not Socialism. It is escapism. This is exactly the way in which nation after nation has been ruined in the last 25 to 30 years, trying to pretend that deep-seated economic difficulties can be removed by constitutional changes. Over and over again, that has been proved wrong. I would speak frankly. I always Speak frankly to the House. In this propaganda in Wales, have not my hon. Friends noticed the company they are keeping? The wickedest, most irresponsible newspaper in Great Britain leads this campaign in Wales, the "Western Mail." Never was there a newspaper which, during my life, has been more out of touch with the physical and spiritual life of Wales than that miserable organ.
406 This proposal is a beautiful take-off. It diverts the attention of the Welsh people from their economic difficulties on to this decoy, this constitutional device, which we all know to be of no use. Is it not only cruel, but a complete refutation of many of the things for which my hon. Friends have stood all their lives, to suggest now that we can, under the aegis of Welsh nationalism, produce a constitutional change, and pretend it will be of any use to the Welsh people? I would rather be honest. I would say this to the Welsh people. It will take some time before we can reverse the economic ebb and flow of this country. I have been watching over the last 15 months the housing and industrial progress in Wales. The remarkable thing about it is that the local authorities in Wales came into action over housing more slowly than those in England. There are at the present time a larger proportion of local authorities in Wales not building houses than in other part of Britain. What is the explanation? It is that Wales is being victimised by its past.
The same thing is true of some of the other areas. Wales was an area of industrial contraction for over 25 years, and therefore there was no industrial vitality in the area. There was no building industry. Some local authorities in Wales put contracts out to tender and received no replies. There are no builders. If one goes around the Birmingham area or the outskirts of London, into which the Welsh population was drained in the interwar years, one finds that the local authorities there sprang into housing activity at once, because their area was full of builders. They had had an era of industrial expansion. In addition, therefore, to our other difficulties, we have to make good the industrial debilitation which occurred in Wales between the two wars, and that is a great problem. We have no technicians in some of those areas. I have been going about this country during the last 15 months and I have met Welsh architects and Welsh surveyors—excellent men—serving their local authorities enthusiastically, but not in Wales. They left Wales, because there was no building. Now we are trying to make bricks without straw. Now we are trying to meet all these problems in the Welsh areas with denuded industrial equipment. These are problems which we are trying to tackle as enthusiastically 407 as possible. I assure my hon. Friends that the Government are not satisfied—
§ Mr. Bevan
We are driving into Wales at the present time all the factories we can. We are short of timber at the moment in this country—badly short. I shall have to send out to local authorities a circular advising them to economise on timber again. Timber lies very largely outside our own control—
§ Mr. Bevan
My hon. Friend must let me finish. He is a little querulous. What I am saying is that we are attempting to solve these industrial difficulties in the development areas in times of extreme difficulty, and that many of the raw materials we need to solve the problems, lie outside our own control. Timber is one. We can get no timber from the Soviet Union this winter. The Northern ports are frozen up. Russia was our biggest supplier of softwood timber before the war. We shall have to try to get these things from other places, and we are doing our utmost, but these are physical limitations. They are not limitations that rhetoric can get around, but actual physical limitations. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) referred to steel. That is a very big difficulty. Hon. Members opposite ought not to smile at this, because one of the reasons why we are short of steel in Great Britain today is the so-called policy of rationalisation they carried out in the interwar years. Everything we touch in the development areas at the moment is the black heritage of what hon. Members opposite have left us. All our difficulties arise out of that. If it had not been for that—
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. and gallant Member will hear it over and over again. But already, in one year, we have provided more supplementary employment in the development areas than was done 408 in 30 or 40 years even with these difficulties, because we are convinced that it would be an abiding reproach to this land, and the Government would have failed, if they did not succeed ultimately in wiping out in the development areas the heritage we have had from the party opposite.
§ Question put, and agreed to
That this House welcomes the publication of the White Paper on Wales and Monmouthshire and takes note of the Government's proposal further to integrate and coordinate Government and Administrative machinery in Wales and Monmouthshire.