§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
As I was saying, it is too often assumed that these vast armies of unemployed in the Principality were to be found only in the industrial south. The truth is that there was also, for a great many years, widespread unemployment and poverty in the rural areas. It is upon the future of the countryside in Wales that I wish mostly to speak this evening. After all, it is there that the well springs of our language and prescriptively Welsh way of life are to be found, and the survival of these 579 things as the hon. Member for Aberavon so eloquently pointed out, depends on the prosperity of these rural areas and of those who live and labour there.
To a far greater degree than in England or in Scotland, the Welsh farmer has to contend with land which is marginal, or even worse. A very high proportion of our farms are hill farms. It is true that their lot has improved in recent years, but it still needs to be further improved. Because he has to farm on such a narrow margin, the hill farmer has little or no capital to devote to the improvement of his holding. It is perfectly true that the White Paper shows an encouraging increase in the number of hill farmers who are applying for various types of grants, but I am sure also that there must be quite a large number who are holding back from applying because they cannot provide even 50 per cent. of the total cost of improvement schemes.
I think that the position ought to be reviewed to see if some further assistance can be made available to these intrepid people who constitute such a valuable element in the social and cultural pattern of Welsh life. Secondly, if we are to maintain a sufficient proportion of our people on the land, I think we shall have to direct attention to the problem of creating new holdings in Wales. One of the most encouraging features in the Welsh countryside today is the number of farmers' sons and farm workers who are anxious to obtain holdings of their own, but prosperity is such that tenancies are not becoming vacant at all rapidly and the queue of would-be farmers on their own account is dishearteningly long.
I believe there are two sources of new land in Wales. The first, which is subject, of course, to the investment of considerable new capital, is the marginal land. There is a good deal of that land which might with new capital be put into use. The second is that some of the land now held by the Service Departments could very well be released for the creation of new holdings. We were told in the White Paper that at present the Service Departments hold 53,000 acres. They have climbed down from the preposterous demand of three years ago of 500,000 acres of Welsh land, but 53,000 acres is still too much, because it is proportionately a higher demand upon Wales 580 than upon England or Scotland, and there should be equality in this matter.
Then again, like the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), I want to see a new urgency in pressing forward water and sanitation schemes in the Welsh countryside. I have some figures here of the needs, and of the progress which has been made since the war. I feel fairly hopeful of the future in this respect because, as the new policy of equalisation of rates proceeds, some of our poorer Welsh counties ought in time to catch up with their richer fellows. The noble Lady also referred to certain proposals for hydro-electrification in North Wales. I have taken the view that these proposals ought not to be condemned outright.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am glad to hear that the noble Lady agrees with that general view, and I join with her in asking that the fullest possible information should be made available to the Parliamentary representatives of Wales, to the local authorities, and, of course, to the amenity societies who are quite rightly concerned. At the moment, I do not think that we have the full facts, and subject to an examination of the fullest facts about these schemes, I am frankly prepared to look with sympathy upon the use of North Wales natural water power in this direction.
Let me support the plea that in any scheme which we may have in North Wales, we should secure that the needs of the local population are met, which, I think, is a reasonable proviso, and also that our natural scenic amenities are reasonably safeguarded. While I am on this subject of rural life in Wales, may I pay a compliment to the work of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education, particularly in regard to their action in restraining some of our local authorities in Wales who have been a little bit too previous in closing village schools. There is no surer way of helping rural depopulation than to close village schools.
I turn for a moment to another rural industry in Wales—the slate industry. I am glad to see that a section of the White Paper is devoted to it, but I wish that the information could have been a little 581 fuller. The position in the slate industry is this: We have two or three large-scale workings which appear to be in no need of outside assistance, but we also have a relatively large number of smaller quarries which are finding it difficult to finance the cost of clearance. This is clearance which ought to have been entered upon during the war years, but which was neglected patriotically because the Government of the day asked them to concentrate upon the production of roofing slates and to leave clearance alone. There is a case here for generous assistance; indeed, I would call it a case for compensation. I hope that very soon the Ministry of Works will do something in respect of the proposals already made to them both by management and men in the industry.
I should be loath to conclude any contribution of mine to a Debate on Welsh affairs without touching upon what we call the constitutional issue. I intended to join battle with the hon. Member for Anglesey on the subject of the Council for Wales, but time is running short and I will content myself with saying just this. The council got going on 20th May of this year. Surely it is a little premature to get up in this House and demand that the council should show substantial results? I think it will be good time to examine what it has done next year.
Leaving the question of the council on one side, I conclude by saying that there is a problem of constitutional status in Wales which will have to be faced. Up to now, our people have been preoccupied and often obsessed with the struggle for subsistence, but I believe that our primary task, as a social democracy in Wales, is nearing its completion, that is to say, laying the foundations of our economic life. When that task is completed, as I am certain it will be if social democracy remains the Government of this country, there will come a time when the minds of our people will be free to consider other questions, and among them will be the question of a progressive autonomy for the Welsh people, possibly side by side with the Scots and even the English.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
The House has listened with considerable attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts). I should like to endorse what he said in his concluding remarks on the constitu- 582 tional position in Wales. The Minister of National Insurance made a very able review of the situation. I really got more information and light on one or two matters from him than from the White Paper itself. I felt, however, that he confined his attention too much to economic matters, instead of dealing with other issues that are arising in Wales. After all, it is not all a matter of economics. We had a little gesture today from the Gallery, which is an indication that Wales is not a happy nation at the present time.
I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that, economically, the situation in Wales has considerably improved in the last few years. No one will deny that, but we are living in a post-war era, in a world of scarcity, when naturally all avenues of employment are open, and time will show whether Wales will be able to bear its proportion of low employment when we come to a world glut of goods; the needs of the world will soon pass and we shall leave the sellers' market.
Reference has been made to the question of electrification of the rural areas. I have a matter to raise in this connection, which is of some consequence in my own county, the County of Denbigh, and I bring it forward as an illustration of how difficult it is to get electrification carried out. We have a village hall in a village called Trefnant. All they require in that village hall is heating for the winter. There is electricity in the hall at the present time. It is clear that this village hall, which is of immense benefit to the locality, will be useless during the winter if we are unable to get heating for it. The Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board have sent me a very courteous letter. It comes from their commercial officer, and it gives various reasons why the board cannot allow this village to have warmth for the winter at present.
The point I want to emphasise is that this board quoted for the work to be done, that is for the electrification and wiring of this hall for heating, and when a lower quotation came in from another source, namely, a private firm, the board were unable to sanction the work to be carried out. I should not like to accuse the board of discouraging private competition, but the fact remains that, having given a quotation for the work to be done and private enterprise having put in 583 a lower tender, the board felt unable to allow the work to be carried out. That is a matter which is causing some concern in parts of North Wales.
Now I come to a much more important matter, the attitude of certain English officials in Wales to the Welsh language. I take the case of forestry, which is a very important industry in Wales as the right hon. Gentleman knows only too well. Surely it is not a qualification for a forester to be a master of the English language—at least, one would think not. Some of the foresters in Wales, some of the ablest men in the rural areas and uplands, are Welsh-speaking Welshmen, but that is not to say they are not very intelligent and educated men. I received a letter the other day from a forester telling me that he has spent his life in forestry and would like to go on with it, but that because he has not a good knowledge of the English language, be has been precluded from carrying out a school course in forestry in the County of Caernarvon and sitting for the examination.
There is a feeling among young foresters in Wales that the Forestry Commission and their committee in Wales have a rather anti-Welsh bias. I do not know whether there is any real evidence for that. I know the Chairman and some of the members of the Commission, and I should not like to accuse them of bias. But the feeling is there, and does not encourage some of these very desirable recruits to the industry. When I sent to the Chairman of the Commission the letter from this young man; asking whether he could take his examination in the Welsh language, it was found inconvenient to accede to his request. Why cannot a forester in Wales pass an examination in his own language? I ask the Government to look into this matter, because this valuable materia!—if I may call these young men "material "—can make a fine contribution to forestry in Wales.
Now I wish to read a letter to the House to show the attitude of some English officials in Wales towards the Welsh language. I am very sorry to say that it relates to a member of my own profession, but I am still going to read it to the House. Two years ago I would not have raised it but, of 584 course, medicine was not then State controlled. It was a private profession; now it is a State profession. In this case the Welsh Regional Hospital Board is the authority. My constituent writes:I had occasion to take my little daughter, aged two, to an orthopaedic clinic at Colwyn Bay on Thursday, 25th inst. The surgeon asked certain relevant questions, and then, naturally, asked to see the child walk across the room. I had, of course, to tell her in Welsh what was expected of her. When this was over the surgeon turned to me and said 'Do you always speak Welsh to your child?' I answered that most certainly I did, whereupon he proceeded to denounce me in front of all the other patients: did I know I was doing the child harm? She would always be slow thinking. She would have to think in Welsh and then translate into English every utterance. In his hospital experience he had found Welsh-speaking nurses always slow thinking, owing to having to translate their thoughts.Having continued this tirade for a time, I brought the conversation to a close by telling him that I found my knowledge of Welsh no burden to carry along with me through life, and that it had not hampered me or ruined my career as I possessed an arts degree of the University of Wales. I am bringing this to your notice in order that if at all possible you will bring the matter up in the House of Commons. Is it right to send a man so opposed to all things Welsh to treat patients from an area such as Llanwrst"—it is a rural, Welsh town in my constituency—where almost all the inhabitants are Welsh speaking and Welsh is the first language in school? Surely, as an orthopaedic surgeon, he should have confined his remarks to medical matters whereas, in actual fact, I was told nothing about my child's complaint.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isle worth)
What would the B.M.A. say about non-professional conduct?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate that there is a Welsh Hospitals Board, which is responsible for hospitals in Wales.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
This surgeon comes under the Regional Hospital Board for Wales. He is not a Welshman. I have his name here, but I do not want to read it in the House although I will give it to the Minister.
I know a large number of English officials in Wales. Some are personal friends of mine. There are quite a number coming into Wales now under the Health Service scheme, many of them from England, 585 from the borders. If these gentlemen cannot at least master the Welsh language as a compliment to our nation—if they went tc Belgium, Luxembourg or Roumania they would have to learn the language of those countries if they wished to work in them—they might have the courtesy, at all events, to respect the sentiments and aspirations of the Welsh people. I have had several cases brought to my attention in recent months, and I thought it was my duty to put this case before the House tonight. Wales will not tolerate this attitude on the part of the officials, no matter who they are, and I trust the Government will issue an edict to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I am one of those who are prepared to congratulate the Government on the production of this interesting White Paper. There have been some criticisms of it—and it is not difficult to criticise a White Paper of this kind which, after all, deals with so many questions—but the satisfactory thing is that this is the fullest and most detailed White Paper of the series which we have had over four years.
I think it is well that the figures given in the White Paper should be compared with those for the United Kingdom as a whole, so that we may have a comparatively complete picture of the economic life of our little country. Let us not forget that Wales suffered during the years of depression almost more than any other part of the United Kingdom. It was a particularly tragic experience to tramp the streets of South Wales and to find many shops and houses empty and men standing at street corners, or to find that the men had left the district altogether. Such experiences were eating into the vitals of the nation, and we on this side of the House are proud that something has. been done to redeem the position.
If we study the White Paper, it is obvious that we are still suffering from serious disabilities which ought to be carefully considered by the Government. One is the decline in the population of Wales, which the White Paper does not bring out clearly. Appendix I shows an overall decline of 300 people, but that is not the whole story by any means. The table on page 60 shows that the urban population, as in so many other countries, 586 improved during the last six months of 1948 by 2,760, whereas the rural population declined by 3,070—a decline of just over 300. But not only did we lose 300' people; we also lost the increase in the population of the industrial areas. Consequently, we ought to combine the two figures of the increase in the urban population and the decline in the rural population, which give an overall decline not of 300 but of some 6,000.
That is a very considerable figure. This question of rural depopulation is one which has been raised by speakers who have preceded me. It is rather ridiculous to draw conclusions from a period of only six months, and I would suggest that when a new White Paper is produced it should cover at least the four years for which we have already had White Papers. We cannot make any definite comparison by taking only the six last months of 1948, but the decline during 1948 amounts to the very considerable figure of 6,000 persons.
Not only ought we to have the figures for a longer period, but I should like to see some comparable figures from English counties that are more or less the same as ours. For example, there is the Lake District, which is not unlike North Wales. It would be interesting to see whether a similar decline is taking place there. The increase in the urban areas is particularly interesting. Cardiff's population increased by 1,500 people, Swansea's by 800 and Newport's by 500. Those are considerable increases. In the rural areas, on the other hand, the position is not by any means uniform over all the rural counties. Only one rural county registers an increase, and that is Cardigan, where there were 28 more people at the end of the six months than at the beginning. But Radnor lost 28 people, so we are practically where we were.
If we turn to the other counties, we find that Anglesey lost 360 people, but even there it is not easy to draw the conclusion that all these were rural people. There is the busy town of Holyhead, and it may be that the loss was not in the rural areas but in the industrial part of Holyhead. Caernarvonshire lost 1,577 people, but, again, Caernarvon is by no means a rural county. I see the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) in his place, and I know he will bear me out when I say that Caernarvonshire 587 is not particularly a rural area at all. There is considerable industry there, and, in addition, there is not only the slate industry but granite quarries. A large part of the county is engaged in Holyhead traffic. Caernarvonshire is not typically rural, and the serious decline in the county's population requires some looking into from several points of view. Glamorgan is looked on as the most highly industrialised county in Wales, and it lost 900 people in that short space of time. Carmarthen, which is also largely industrial, lost 210. Merioneth lost 186 and Montgomery 184—two typical rural counties—while Denbigh and Flint, where there is a combination of agriculture and industry, both gained about 200.
What conclusion can be drawn from these figures? The conclusion that is often drawn is that the rural parts of Wales are losing their population to the industrial parts, but it is a curious thing that this is a world-wide phenomenon. It is to be found in America, the land of opportunity, of new and vigorous agriculture, just as much as it is to be found in this country. In no fewer than 22 States in the Union the majority of people live in urban areas. It is rapidly changing from a rural country into an industrial country.
So it seems to me that, without a great deal of further inquiry, we cannot draw any conclusions with regard to Wales which will not apply to other countries as well. The curious thing, so I am told, is that the progress of mechanisation in America is driving people away from the land. We have been hoping that more mechanisation here would lead people back to the land. I am informed that in America many of the farmers, particularly in winter time, leave their holdings and go down to the coast at California. They return to their farms in May, do their ploughing pretty quickly, finish their harvest by the end of September, and go back again. There is a curious rural de-population problem of that kind in America, which is accentuated by the ease with which they can cultivate their land in a short time.
One or two industries referred to in in this White Paper have a bearing upon the rural life of Wales. One of these is agriculture, which is most important, and the second is forestry. In the figures 588 given in the White Paper I see none of the number of people who are employed in agriculture, and it is particularly difficult for us to discuss this question without figures referring to the two classes, farmers and labourers. Are more people being employed on the land today than was the case before the war, or is the number less? Has the tractor, which has become very general by this time, driven people away from the land, or is it attracting more people to undertake agriculture? Is agriculture providing the same amount of employment as it did in the old days before the tractor was introduced?
I find in this White Paper, as in many other White Papers a similar character, a very glowing paragraph referring to the remarkable increase in milk production in Wales. This very remarkable increase is one of over 70 per cent. in 10 years. I should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture whether the establishment of the Milk Marketing Board, which has brought prosperity to so many small farms, is not really undermining the agricultural economy of the country. For example, if we look at the certificates which are given in connection with the bulls that are kept for breeding, we find a very serious decline among the Herefords, the Shorthorns and the Welsh Black cattle. Wales is, after all, primarily a breeding country. I am wondering whether this mixture of Friesians, Jerseys and Ayrshires will not undermine the quality of the cattle that are bred on our countryside.
This is an important question. There is another aspect of it. There is a tremendous increase in the amount of milk produced, but that milk is no longer drunk in our countryside. It is one of the most difficult things imaginable in the countryside to get a drink either of fresh milk or of buttermilk. I am certain that, in a very short time, our population will suffer in many respects from malnutrition because of that fact. Can we do anything about it? The Ministry of Agriculture are sympathetic in their attitude towards this question, and are aware of the necessity to return to more breeding of healthy cattle and to get rid to some extent of the very unhealthy competition in producing milk.
Wherever we go in the country districts of Wales we see lorries carrying 589 milk, not to the villages or to the small towns, but right away to the factory and to the big English towns. We do not grudge the English people their milk and we are proud of the fact that the Milk Marketing Board organisation has resulted in improved conditions for many classes in the countryside, but I suggest that some plan should be worked out for reserving to the people who work on the land a certain proportion of the milk that they produce.
I turn to the subject of forestry. I know that some of my hon. Friends intend, if they are fortunate enough to be called upon to speak, to touch upon this question. I am sorry to see the emphasis which is laid upon acreage. We are much more concerned about men than about acres. I was very glad to hear my colleague the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) say that there is a complete lack of sympathy on the part of the Forestry Commission with Welsh ideals and the spirit of Wales. It seems to me that the Forestry Commission have never integrated themselves into the life of the rural community of Wales. Many of the forestry workers are Welsh, but the superintendents are generally English. There is a lack of sympathy which makes me feel that we have very little for which to thank the Forestry Commission in regard to whatever they may have done in Wales.
I should like to say one word about the electrical projects in North Wales. There is only one Snowdonia in the world. I am particularly concerned, as was the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), that nothing should be done in a hurry to detract from the extraordinary beauty of the country in North Wales. I have read the suggestions that have been made for the extension of electricity projects for utilising the rivers and the lakes of North Wales.
I am convinced that if this piece of vandalism is allowed to go on, it will create an entirely different North Wales from the one that we know at present. It is our duty to preserve it as a gift of the gods for those who come after us, that they may enjoy it, too. This project is supposed to be costing about £20 million. I suggest that there will be no commensurate return for the outlay. We are told that the scheme will take 15 years to complete. I hope it will never 590 be begun. It would be a great tragedy, the greatest tragedy that has ever happened in the history of Wales, if this plan were proceeded with. Before it is, I hope that we shall have many opportunities of criticising it and, if possible, of defeating it.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate. It is difficult to speak cogently in such a Debate, because it is impossible to cover the whole range of Welsh problems in a single day, and as a result the Debate tends to lack any shape or form. Indeed, if the Debate were to be effective, we should need the whole of the Cabinet to be on the Government Front Bench, but that would probably be too much to expect in a single day. I agree very much with the remarks made by the present Minister of Health, when he spoke in the Welsh Debate on 17th October, 1944, that, as a means of directing public attention upon particularly Welsh problems, the Welsh Day is a farce.
I felt I had to intervene because of a passage in the speech of the Minister of National Insurance, on the question of the co-ordination of Ministerial and Departmental activity in Wales. We have here evidence that there is still lack of co-ordination, amounting to administrative inefficiency, even at the highest level. I have given notice of this matter to the President of the Board of Trade, and he has been courteous enough to discuss it with me since, but I must raise the point here because it is important to my constituency. The House will be aware that one of the great efforts in my Division has been to establish a factory at Blaenau Ffestiniog for those unable to work in other industries. When that factory is finally established, with the assistance of the Government, no one will be more ready than I shall be to give to the Government their proper share of the credit.
The Minister said that the Treasury had approved a loan to the Ffestiniog local authority and that the local authority might now go ahead. The impression might be gained from that remark that all is now perfect, that the Government and the local authority understand each other, and that the Government say go ahead, in every sense, 591 to the local authority. But that is not so. When the cuts in capital expenditure were announced in this House I wrote to the President of the Board of Trade and asked what the effect of the cuts might be upon the project to erect the factory. The people of this part of the country have for years, not just since 1945, sought some alternative employment to the slate industry for those unable to work in the slate mines. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade replied, on 15th November, saying that the cuts would not affect this projected factory, but he concluded his letter by saying:You probably know that the Ffestiniog Urban District Council have refused to accept a loan for this purpose on the terms upon which the Treasury have offered it.I was very surprised indeed to hear that the council, which had been yearning for the factory, had turned down the loan. I at once made inquiries and I found that on 12th July this year the local council had written to the Treasury raising a query about the terms of interest. The fact is that they are still waiting a reply to that letter five months ago. It is in those circumstances that the Board of Trade tell me that the council have refused the loan and that the Minister, in yet another inconsistency, tells the House that the Treasury have approved the loan and that the local authority may go ahead. It is an instance to show that there is still a lack of efficiency and co-ordination in Government Departments in relation to Wales.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Edwards)
It will be within the recollection of the House that when my right hon. Friend was talking about this he was talking about two authorities. He said in respect of these two authorities that loans had been granted. I should like to clarify the position. I understand that the Gwyrfai Rural District Council has accepted the loan and started work but that the Ffestiniog Council object to the terms, and the position is that the Treasury are at present considering modifications in favour of the local authority. When my right hon. Friend said that the local authorities may now proceed, I think he was correct in that I believe the Ffestiniog local authority is in a position to go on with the practical work just as the other authority is. As the 592 point has been raised I will certainly see that it is considered. I believe that what my right hon. Friend said is correct, but it requires further amplification.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification, so far as it goes. Perhaps he will look into it as a matter of urgency in view of the misunderstanding which has arisen. I am sure he will agree—his former experience at the Ministry of Health will tell him—that a local authority which goes on with a project before receiving Government approval for the expenditure would be doing a very foolish thing.
I want to refer to another aspect of coordination. I referred just now to co-ordination for administrative efficiency, but an even more important co-ordination is that of policy. That is particularly important to those of us who are concerned with the vital problem of rural Wales. There is a very great need at present for co-ordination between all the Government Departments which are seeking to use land in Wales. There are many claimants. There are the claims of agriculture, the Forestry Commission, military camps and hydro-electricity authorities. There seems to be very little sitting round the table in conference and co-ordination of all those demands. One by one these Departments are eating into the rural areas where the life of Wales flourishes.
No impartial observer would deny that, economically at least, the position of industrial Wales is healthier than it was in the middle '30's or the years between the wars, but to say that we are satisfied is quite another thing. There are still immense problems facing Wales. They are special problems of our own. They may be similar to English problems but it must be remembered that in that part of the United Kingdom there flourishes a distinct way of life. We do not say it is a better one but we say that it is different.
We believe that preservation of that way of life will enrich the pattern of European civilisation. We must, of course, give it an economic foundation, but we say that we can never build economically in the best possible way, nor can we ensure the future of that way of life, until we have the power effectively to control our own Welsh affairs. This has been recognised and preached in this House and in all quarters at least since the beginning 593 of the century. It was a point made by Mr. Asquith when introducing the Irish Home Rule Bill in April, 1912. In the Welsh Debate on 17th October, 1944, the present Minister of National Insurance used these words, and with this I conclude:I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) expressing a view which I share completely; that is, that the time has come when the whole process of legislation and of administration in this country ought to be looked at, because I think devolution will be essential for the proper working of democracy in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 2314.]
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
I fear that several of the speeches delivered here today will, when read, savour of a pre-election estimate of how hon. Members will fare. They strike the attitude which hon. Members assume that they will have to strike when the General Election comes. I am not concerned about that aspect, nor do I propose to waste a moment in dwelling unnecessarily upon the achievements of the Government because they ought to speak for themselves. I am concerned with the problems about which my division is concerned, problems which still remain to be tackled and upon which the Government are open to grave criticism. I will quote a paragraph of the White Paper as an example of where hon. Members can justly draw attention to its inadequacy. Describing the position with regard to Grenfell factories and linking them with standard factories, paragraph 81 gives the impression that both sets of factories are in precisely the same position.
The Rhondda Valley has figured to a far greater degree, in suffering and depression over the last 20 years, than any other part of Wales, and it is still suffering to a greater degree than any other part of Wales, and yet deaf ears are still turned to our plea for effective steps to solve our difficulties. At present we have more than 3,500 unemployed. That means 3½ per cent. of the total population unemployed. We compare With the unemployment figures in England on an insurable basis, but Wales stands even higher on a population basis. Nearly 1,000 of the 3,500 unemployed are women, and of the remainder two-thirds are disabled men. The term "disabled" is used in such a loose 594 manner in Government Reports as to lose all meaning. Sometimes they talk about the "disablement register." Then they talk about men who require sheltered occupation. What in the wide world do they mean? One term means one thing, the other term means something entirely different.
In this connection there is a reference to the efforts of the Grenfell factories and to the Remploy programme to solve these problems. The Minister of National Insurance makes the position worse than it is in the White Paper. The White Paper says that six out of ten factories have been allotted, the Minister says that five have been allotted and five remain idle. This great scheme was designed to deal with disabled men throughout Wales, yet there are 12,000 men tonight waiting for a job who have been waiting for years and will, I fear, have to wait for years again. Thousands of these men will go out through the registrar of births and deaths and not through the Grenfell factories.
The programme of the Government was to put Grenfell factories in areas where no industrialist would go without inducement. If that was the approach of the Government, it is no wonder that they have failed. I remember very well that in 1935, when the Trading Estates were commenced at Treforest, it was admitted that some inducement would be required to bring industrialists even there. Think of dragging them to the ends of those valleys, and particularly to Grenfell factories, which are expected to take 50 per cent. of the disabled men.
Do the Government expect any one to take a Grenfell factory knowing beforehand that for every one healthy man they must take one disabled? That is a tremendous handicap for any industrialist to contemplate, even in the most favourably situated place in Britain. That is the fact we are up against, and it is no wonder that the Grenfell scheme has failed. The Remploy factories were intended to deal with the more grievously disabled section of these people. They are doing it. There is one such factory operating in my division and it is doing magnificent work, but the number of such factories is grievously inadequate to deal with the number of men waiting to go into them.
I want to say something else about the Grenfell scheme because it relates to another problem in my area. Why are the 595 Grenfell and other factories idle at this moment? They are idle because there are no houses for the industrialists to live in when they go there. This explanation has been given over and over again for years. Many an industrialist has come to the Rhondda Valley, has inspected these factories, has found them everything they desire, but there is no house available for any executive working for the industrialist. We have asked the Board of Trade over and over again, "Will you build houses at the same time as you build your factories?" There is no response, and tonight this unemployment problem exists in the Rhondda because no provision has been made effectively to use the factories that are there. How long will it take the Board of Trade to face up to this problem?
The Government need to be told quite bluntly where they fail. I do not believe in lavishing unnecessary plaudits upon the Government for what they have done. I do not believe in having inquests on victories. I hold inquests on failures. It is much more valuable for the people that it should be so. The grave problem in Rhondda is twofold: the existence of unemployment side by side with unused factories and lack of housing. That mining community is the worst housed community in Britain this night. Hundreds of miners and other industrial workers tonight have no safe roof over their heads. Whole families are living in one room. Adult young men and women are sleeping in the same bedroom as their parents, and not in ones and twos. I am not exaggerating; I am telling a real, grave, human story. Where is the drive and energy on these social problems? I will close in the time allotted to me but I wish I had a half hour in which to try to carry conviction to the minds of those people in authority who have the opportunity but have not the drive to solve these problems.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Evans (Ogmore)
I will not follow the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) in his violent denunciation. I congratulate the Government upon this White Paper, which shows a remarkable record of achievement during a time when there were tremendous difficulties to overcome, not merely in this country but also abroad. 596 It is because I think we should appreciate the tremendous achievements of the Government during this hard period that I pay this tribute.
In the introductory paragraphs of the White Paper there is reference to the recently appointed Council for Wales. We have heard some rather caustic remarks by hon. Members, particularly those on the opposite benches, of the nature and set-up of that council. I welcome the council. It has a tremendous job to do. Also, I rather like its constitution. It means that we have on it representatives from the local government bodies, cultural bodies and educational authorities. It may do much good in co-ordinating activities throughout Wales, and I am looking forward to some good results. There are many loose ends which the council may be able to gather together.
I had thought of dealing with life in the rural communities of Wales, but so much has already been said on it, and the time at my disposal is so short, that I will leave that aspect for the time being. I hope that the council will provide the necessary drive to ensure that there is a link up with North and South Wales, thus giving some life to the counties of mid-Wales.
I should like to make a few remarks ' regarding industry. I have lived all my life in South Wales and spent many years working at the coalface. I lived there throughout those depressing years after the First World War. Let it be said to the credit of the Government that there is today no unemployment amongst able-bodied men. The hard core of the present unemployment in South Wales comprises people who are either infirm or have reached an age at which they cannot keep pace with the speed of modern industry. In the past these people, the infirm and the aged, were left merely to the tender mercies of public assistance committees and, before that, to the poor law.
Now, for the very first time, the Government recognise that it is their duty to provide suitable employment for these people, many of whom have been maimed in industry. It stands very much to the credit of the present Government that they are first ever to have accepted this responsibility. Of the 90,000 jobs of this nature which have been already provided, two-thirds are for men. There still 597 remains, however, a hard core of some 36,000 men and women for whom employment must eventually be found and who can be absorbed as additional factories are erected.
I want to make a suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who is now present on the Front Bench. Paragraph 86 of the Annual Report of the National Coal Board says thatThe industry is badly off for good workshops in which mechanical and electrical equipment can be overhauled and repaired. The Board decided that new workshops were needed, and that most of them should serve a whole area. Standard layouts for workshops employing 100, 300 and 500 men were prepared …In my constituency there is a building which was used as a Royal Army Ordnance factory during the war and is now part of the Bridgend Trading Estate. Paragraph 85 of the White Paper says thatOne of the larger buildings at Bridgend"—in the trading estate—is vacant …I know that vacant building, and I cannot understand why there is not some kind of liaison between the Board of Trade and the National Coal Board. The N.C.B. want workshops; the Board of Trade have the vacant buildings. Why cannot those buildings be occupied? Their conversion into workshops, in the heart of the South Wales coalfields, would be a godsend.
I am very glad indeed to have had the opportunity of paying my tribute to the work done by the Government through the various Departments, and I feel certain that when the next General Election takes place we shall see this good work continued for a further useful period.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
I join with all sincerity in what most of my colleagues from Wales have said this afternoon about the work which the Government have done in that place called Wales. I am quite prepared to invite any hon. or right hon. Member from the benches opposite to visit my own and adjoining constituencies, and in so doing I would hope that they might have had the courage to have visited those constituen- 598 cies in the inter-war years. It is not necessary for us to spend a great deal of time in telling one another what the Government have done. One of my hon. Friends this afternoon said that the Government have constructed a great monument in the work they have done in many parts of Wales.
As has already been mentioned, however, our problems have not yet been entirely solved, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Main-waring) referred to the very serious and painful problem of finding employment for those who have the misfortune to be disabled. There is no justification for my taking up the time of the House to talk of things which are there to be seen by anyone who visits the valleys of Wales. What the Government have done will speak for itself, without the help of Welsh oratory, when the occasion arrives next year for the Government to justify themselves to the country.
There is one aspect of the White Paper to which I must refer. Whilst it represents a tremendous amount of good work in our economic and social life, what upsets me—and this point has received very little mention today—is that it refers to a geographical area in this island with the same kind of impersonal feeling as if we were discussing a White Paper covering, say, the north-east or the southwest of the country. There is a complete absence of appreciation in this White Paper of the fact that the figures and paragraphs refer to a nation, the Welsh nation, and not merely to a geographical area. They refer to the Cymru who still inhabit a part of this island.
The White Paper gives not the remotest recognition of the fundamental fact that we are dealing not just with a geographical area but with a people, a nation, which has its own language, its own literature, its own tradition and its own peculiar way of life. I must impress upon hon. and right hon. Friends who may have far greater influence with the Government than I have the necessity of trying to get it into their minds that when they talk about Wales they are not talking about a mere area, or district, but about a people who live their own life, as far as they are permitted to do so, and not just about a part of this island. I want to emphasise that because it is a fact that colours a great deal of our life.
599 That is my criticism of this White Paper and the reason why the reading of it is not as happy as it should have been. As Welshmen, we know that our political history has, perforce, been a part of the political history of Britain. Here the Picts and Scots can sympathise with us, but our social life has remained throughout the centuries and has not lost its native character. On a day like this I must emphasise that our culture is our own and springs from the people. In Wales our culture is often referred to as diwylliant gwerin, the culture of the people.
The word devolution has been used this afternoon. No one is more passionately prepared to support and sustain our Parliamentary democracy than I am, but when we people of Wales make the demand that a measure of devolution should be granted to us to manage and control our own affairs, we justify that demand by the very obvious fact that Parliamentary democracy will inevitably be destroyed by the terrific pressure of mass congestion of work which this House has to face unless a considerable measure of devolution is granted, not only to Wales, but to Scotland, as well as to England. As one of the three nations of this island, Wales will not let down the welfare of this island. If Wales is permitted to have some control of its own domestic affairs, certainly there would be no more loyal and hospitable part of this island than the people of Wales when that which is not a privilege but a right is granted to them.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
Four things I desire of the Government and, with a view to being helpful, I will come to them immediately, without any preamble. In the first place, I ask the Government to give the ports of Wales every facility so that they can work to full capacity. I make that request, in the interests not only of Wales, but of Great Britain. Hon. Members will readily recall that during the years of emergency, 1914–1918 and 1939–1945, the South Wales docks were a tremendous asset to the Government. Repeated tribute was paid by Ministers of Transport to the dockers for their effective work and their quick turn-round. I am gratified to observe in the White Paper that the repairs to the Queen Alexandra Lock, 600 the principal lock entrance to the Cardiff dock system, have now been completed. That will enable the authorities in that important city to accelerate their post-war progress.
Ten years ago I was a member of a deputation from the Swansea local authority which waited upon the then Minister of Transport, asking him to help us in the provision of a second entrance to the main dock in Swansea. We were very well received and there was every prospect of something being done, but unhappily the curse of war fell upon us and the work has yet to be carried out. If any grave mishap occurred to the existing entrance, the trade of the port would be completely paralysed and that would have a serious effect on the anthracite export trade and the import of oil. Repercussions would be felt throughout the whole of South and West Wales, and the problem of unemployment would be added to materially. I know that the matter is having the attention of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, but if the Parliamentary Secretary can give them an encouraging prod, we shall be grateful.
Last week we discussed the desirability of British ships being repaired in British ports. We have skilled men in Wales and Scotland waiting for such work, and if the Minister of Transport can use his influence to bring that work to our ports and have it fairly allocated, a very useful purpose will be served.
If it were not for the urgency of the matter, I would not return to the problem referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort), namely, the prospective redundancy in the steel and tinplate industry. It would be a very serious reproach to the Government if no plans were ready to employ the 10,000 to 12,000 redundant men who are expected.
There is another facet to the matter. Hon. Members may know that a large number of foreigners have been imported to cope with the present situation, and when this redundancy occurs these men from other countries will constitute a problem in themselves. Foresight is better than hindsight, and we have drawn the Government's attention to this matter for more than two years. I beg the President of the Board of Trade to give the matter his attention.
601 I wish also to mention the urgent need for greater flexibility on the part of the Ministry of Works in dealing with applications for building licences from the blitzed towns of Wales. I am not unmindful of the difficulties confronting the Minister, but he must agree that a town which has been almost completely destroyed needs at least a little more help than towns which were fortunate enough to escape such a disaster. I have had some disappointing experiences with the Ministry of Works in the last few months. I beg them to be conscious of the great problem which faces a town such as Swansea and indeed the City of Cardiff, which aim at being restored to their pre-war size and usefulness but cannot achieve their purpose unless they are allowed to have new buildings.
It is also very desirable that the Minister of Transport—I mention this to him as being a great friend of Wales—should help us by giving immediate authority for certain road works to be done and not to wait for the financial year 1950. Until these road works are executed, new roads in the town cannot be built, premises cannot be sited, and the restoration of a badly blitzed city will be seriously delayed. I mention this to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport because I freely acknowledge that his Department has been most helpful. Indeed, I cannot resist the conclusion that he is to reply tonight on behalf of the Government because, his Ministry has the very best record and is the least vulnerable to attack. I ask him to take note of the problems which I have mentioned so far as his Department is concerned, and if he will use his influence with the Ministry of Works and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, we shall feel that we are making better progress than ever. I acknowledge the merit of the White Paper and I congratulate the Government on what they have done. It is because of this that I want them to do a good deal more.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. David Thomas (Aberdare)
The subject to which I should once again like to draw the attention of the House has already been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), and I endorse much of what he has told us. I am referring to the Grenfell factories and the Advance 602 factories. I speak as the Member for Aberdare where we have three of the Advance factories and one of the Grenfell factories empty. The unemployed who have been waiting for such a long time for employment tend to believe that they are forgotten. The continually ask when these factories are to be tenanted.
I am satisfied that the officials of the Board of Trade are doing all they can to induce industrialists to take them over, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda in saying that we cannot expect industrialists to take over a factory and employ at least 50 per cent. of the disabled persons on their pay roll. I can see only one course for the Government to take, which is to offer incentives to industrialists. Instead of paying thousands of men unemployment benefit year in and year out, which costs thousands of pounds, let the Government give some monetary incentives to firms of high repute to take these factories over. If it is found that they will not take them over, the only alternative, which has been suggested on several occasions from these benches, is that the Government should not hesitate to take them over, employ these men and produce goods for the home and export markets.
These men have served the nation loyally throughout the years by digging the coal which is absolutely necessary. Now that they are broken down in health as a result of accidents and industrial diseases, they deserve every sympathy and help from this Government. Other factories in my constituency are empty. Efforts have been made to get tenants for them, but as in the case of the Rhondda valleys there appears to be no hope at the moment that they will come into production. We are told that the number of unemployed is 36,000, of whom 12,000 or 13,000 are disabled workmen. Even if the factories which have been erected were functioning they would not be anything like the number required to employ the unemployed in South Wales.
Very little has been said today on the question of housing. While we appreciate the efforts of the Minister of Health in building the number of houses which he has done, and the full report he has given on page 33—I need not refer to any of the figures—much has yet to be 603 done. Practically every week I receive letters urging me to do what I can to find housing accommodation. There is still an immense amount of overcrowding in the Welsh valleys. Indeed it is amazing to me how some of these people can live under their existing conditions. We can do no more than urge the Government to regard this problem as one demanding priority because unless we have a contented body of people in the mining valleys and in the countryside we cannot hope to get the best results from them.
Another problem upon which I wish to touch—I have spoken about it before—relates to industrial diseases. The main industrial diseases we have are pneumoconiosis and silicosis. Now, since vesting day, if I remember aright, the medical board no longer suspend a man from the mining industry if he is suffering from pneumoconiosis unless it is accompanied by tuberculosis. That leads me to believe that those who have the disease in the first stages—let us assume that a man has 30 per cent. disability and receives a 30 per cent payment of 45s.—are not suspended, and as I understand the position are permitted to return to underground work.
Prior to this alteration, any man certified as suffering from this industrial disease would be suspended immediately from the industry and would not be allowed to go back again. I am satisfied that those who do decide to go back, knowing full well that they are affected, do so for economic reasons. If they knew that there were outside factories, and outside work, they would certainly not go back underground, but would accept more congenial work.
Hon. Members have referred to afforestation and the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) referred to the hydro-electric schemes in North Wales. We are agreed that the beauty of the countryside should not be spoiled, but she also said that she was afraid the valleys of South Wales could not be re-beautified. We read in the week-end papers that the Forestry Commission intend taking 20,000 acres of agricultural land in mid-Wales, involving 46 farms, ignoring altogether all the South Wales coal valleys which once upon a time, prior to the Industrial Revolu- 604 tion, were the beauty spots of South Wales.
Much can be done to grow timber on the hillsides of the mining valleys. We shall require it in the years to come. I do not think the Minister of Agriculture would deny that that is possible. In a neighbouring constituency of mine, the Neath Division, there is a beautiful valley of 18 or 19 miles of the same type of land as on those hillsides. What is there to prevent the Forestry Commission setting small plantations in the mining valleys and employing some of the disabled miners who are available?
In those areas there are roads already built. In mid-Wales roads must be constructed for the forests which would be very costly. In South Wales we have the roads already laid. Trees could be planted by the side of them, and the eventual cost of taking the timber would be negligible. I have communicated with the Minister on this subject, but I would urge upon him again to do all he can to get these small plantations planted in the South Wales Valleys and thus help to solve the unemployment problem.
I wish also to refer to the question of our slow-moving trains, and especially to the Carmarthen and Aberystwyth line, and right round the coast of North Wales. I would say that they are going slower now than when the railways were built. On the line from Merthyr up to mid-Wales it takes practically a day to go 40 or 50 miles. Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but in any case it is full time that every consideration was given to speeding up these trains in order to provide better transport in those districts.
§ 7.55 p.m.
Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
No Welsh Debate on the White Paper could be placed in its true perspective unless someone on this side of the House had some suggestions to make, or criticisms to offer. Last time I made some criticisms of which no notice was taken. Tonight I propose to offer some suggestions in the hope that more notice will be taken.
I am rather disappointed that the information in the White Paper which we are debating tonight, is entirely out of date. With regard to agriculture, we have later figures in the September 605 Returns. In the White Paper the four-and-a-half pages on agriculture seem very little, compared with the huge and important area in Wales which is devoted to agriculture. As a matter of fact, all the services connected with agriculture are not covered. If any hon. Member could peep at the documents laid before the heads of Departments in Cardiff at the quarterly meetings, we might get far more information than is contained in the White Paper.
I suggest that Wales in this respect should be treated in the same way as Scotland. Are we not entitled to a White Paper dealing with agriculture? Surely if Scotland can get a White Paper dealing with agriculture—
Scotland did not have one covering the last 10 years, but Scotland was not responsible for the war, and in future Scotland will get one. They had one in 1938, if I may remind the hon. Member of it, although he is a Welshman. Even if we cannot get a White Paper on agriculture for Wales, we ought to get a White Paper every six months in order to have our information right up to date.
I can mention a number of omissions even with regard to agriculture at the present time. Last year I called attention to the fact that there was no reference to the number of rural telephone kiosks erected in Wales. There is no reference to that again this year. There was no reference to rural electrification last year and there is no reference to it this year. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) mentioned that there was no reference to the labour force. Although it is stated that the output per man has increased, there is no information as to whether it is for regular or for casual workers. We have information about foreign workers, but that is no good to the Welsh people. What they want is information about their own workers.
There is no information about whether there are any horses in Wales. There is no information about machinery, or whether there are any grass dryers in existence—there are, of course, but there is no information about it. There is no information about insemination 606 centres, or seed potato production and cultivation or about houses or the forestry workers. If we examine the annual report of the Forestry Commission, we find that three forestry holdings have been derelict during the last 12 months, but there is no information about that in the White Paper. There is no reference to the classification or the mileage of Class I, II or HI or unclassified roads.
I can give 100 per cent. credit to the Minister of Agriculture for what has been done during the last 12 months. The difficulty we are in is that we do not know what has been done unless we go and see it. It is manifest round the countryside. There is a changed and a far better countryside than when I was a boy, or even before the war. Six out of 10 of our farmers are engaged in milk production and one can see the milk-churn stands by the side of the country roads in Wales. Far more important is the fact that the health of our younger people in the urban and industrial areas has improved, and that to me is most important. I think that the good work of any Government is reflected in its own people. I wish to render thanks to the Welsh Department; but I warn the Parliamentary Secretary that my information is that there is a great deal of autonomy being taken away from the Welsh Department. If that kind of thing is to be attempted, there are a good many fighters on this side of the House who will see that it does not take place. I hope that is not true and that I shall be told if I am wrong.
I want to give special thanks for what has been done in connection with the calf rearing subsidy and the marginal land production scheme. I do not want to use the words of the Opposition when they said that the Government spent £20 per acre on groundnuts in Africa and only one penny an acre on marginal land in this country, but I ask the Government to give more attention to marginal land in Wales. They should see that the scheme gets great support in the future, because it is worthy of it. There are common lands in Wales which are likely to go back to the farmers within the next 12 months or so. I hope that does not happen. The commons belong to the people, but it is no use owning them if they do nothing about them. I am concerned 607 that they should be used to the full for food production. In Wales we have our peculiar problems because of elevation and rainfall.
I say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture that too much emphasis on wheat growing ought not to be enforced on the agricultural committees. There are opportunities for useful work in livestock production which could be carried out if the hill farming scheme could be speeded up and prompt payments made of grants on account. That is very important. Also, sympathetic consideration should be given to the small tenant farmer and the owner-occupier who has very little capital, to allow them to get on with schemes of hill farming and marginal land work.
I wish to refer to the Council for Wales. One comment will be on the credit side and the other will be on the debit side. I will make my critical point first. I was very much surprised to find that during the weekend an announcement was made to a body of farmers. The notice convening the meeting at Llandovery stated, "You may bring one near relative to the meeting." What for? Just to hear their death sentence for the next 40 years. Forty-six farmers and their families were told at that meeting that their land would be absorbed by the Forestry Commission. Ought not that statement to have been made first in the House of Commons, so that we as Members of Parliament could have said something about it? Then, the announcement should have been made in the town of Llandovery without making such a rush for a Press conference in Cardiff and giving that more attention than was given to the people at the meeting.
I ask the junior Minister who is to close the Debate whether he agrees that this vital matter is one which ought to be considered by the Council for Wales. I suggest that the terms of reference provide for it. The first refers to:… interchange of views and information on developments and trends in the economic and cultural fields …Let us examine the economic trends. First, this is a question of trees versus sheep. From an economic standpoint it can be argued that trees are far more important than sheep, but is that so at the moment? In this area 14,000 sheep 608 are involved. If a loss of 14,000 sheep can be taken lightly by the Government in our present crisis of food production, I am very sorry for them. Food production is most important. In the last White Paper it was stated that the acquisition of land for forestry had to be slowed down because of food production. Is the position any better now? I suggest that the first step the Minister should have taken was to satisfy himself that all the old woodlands in Wales had been re-afforested not after the last war but after the 1914–18 war. There would have been sufficient acres then without considering what was cut down during the last war.
I suggest that the Commission are coming down on these poor hill farmers and others because their own dedication scheme has failed. If they want an advertisement for their Forestry Commission work, they should let farmers pass through the constituency of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and go through Plymlimon. That is not a very good advertisement for the Forestry Commission. Mention has been made of the relationship of officials of the Commission with the Welsh people. That is not good. I want the people in this area of Carmarthen, Cardigan and parts of Breconshire to have confidence in any scheme. They cannot very well have confidence if they find these things and that the great private landlords in Wales get away without any plantation at all.
From the cultural point of view, why, oh, why do they go into Welsh-speaking areas all the time? Why do they go to areas where the Welsh culture is predominant? I do not know whether or not they know anything about Welsh culture in the Ministry of Agriculture, but they ought not to do these things. Are they aware that the culture of Wales has been built up around these small farms and their attitude determined towards their religious, social and even political life? This is taking away the very foundation of our nation.
The Ministry ought to have their ears to the ground. They would then have known that last Sunday these Welsh people, desperate about their future, had gone into the chapels to offer prayers asking that they should be rid of this great invasion. I should be 100 per cent. with the highwayman Twm Shon Catti 609 if it were possible to ask him what he proposed to do about this action. I know on whose side he would be. With modern implements I would be behind him.
I suggest that the Government should examine No. 2 of the terms of reference:to secure that the Government are adequately informed of the impact of Government activities on the general life of the people of Wales.Is not this an aspect which the Council for Wales ought to examine? Is not this a clear case? Or is it a case that the council themselves look at problems and ask Government permission to examine them? Surely, this should be a two-way traffic. The Government should take steps to discover Welsh opinion upon this catastrophic aotion in my constituency and in neighbouring ones. When the position of the Forestry Commission is examined and one asks why they want trees, they do not emphasise that timber is wanted for housing but that it is wanted for the next war. I much prefer that they should consider agriculture and the feeding of our people rather than timber for the next war.
I am glad that the council are to examine the problem of depopulation in rural Wales. What a fine list of subjects one could offer to them, including water supplies, rural schools, housing, rural roads and telephones. There is one problem upon which I should like to get some information and it is concerned with rural electrification. We have heard about the Government decision, but are hon. Members aware that last Tuesday the chairman of the South Wales Electricity Board said:We don't know how it will affect our programme. Talks are taking place at a high level.Is not that board entitled, all this time after the Government decision, to know what cuts are to be made in schemes for rural electrification? I suggest that, of all activities in Wales, this is one upon which information should be given, because only 11 per cent. of farm holdings have any electricity at all.
I am glad to have had this opportunity of taking part in this Debate. I had intended to give as much credit as possible to the Government for what they have done. I give that credit, but part of it is taken away because of the action of 610 the Ministry of Agriculture in the place which I represent in the House of Commons. I welcome the White Paper and wish to pay my tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance for the increased statistics and facts given there, as well as for the charming way in which he introduced the White Paper to us.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
If there is one thing that has emerged in the Debate today, it is that, notwithstanding criticisms on various points, the policy of the Government, and particularly the policy for the diversification of industry in Wales, cannot be criticised by anybody in this House.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) made reference to the situation and came to the conclusion that the position in future would be more acute because of the shortage of labour. He also mentioned that in the Conservative Party policy for Wales, which he apparently endeavoured to publicise, reference was made to the further diversification of industry. The hon. Gentleman conceded that one of the great problems in future will be that of obtaining the labour with which to man the factories which the Government have already placed there, yet he still supports the policy of the Conservative Party, which he says is outlined in the pamphlet published in February of this year.
In spite of all the minor criticisms which have been made in this Debate today, it seems to me that there are two tests which can be applied to discover whether the Government policy in the interests of Wales has succeeded or not. Those two tests are in addition to those of increased employment figures, increased numbers of factories and the general diversification of industry; but they are tests which do affect the interests of the people of Wales. The policy of diversification which the Government have pursued since 1945 is, of course, no new policy. Even the Labour Government of 1929 to 1931 enunciated this policy, but, because they were in a minority in the House of Commons, they were completely powerless to implement it. It is quite clear that the Conservative Party, when in power for many years preceding the war, did nothing at all to 611 implement that policy of diversification which they now say is their policy for the future.
In the years before the war, Wales was in great danger of disintegration, and it has been said that the population of Wales decreased by 430,000. From 1925 to 1938 the population of Wales consistently declined. Year after year, there was a drift of the population from Wales. What has been the position since the Labour Government came into power? There has been a consistent increase in the population, and the people who were driven from Wales have returned. In fact, the increase from 1945 to the 31st December, 1948, is no fewer than 130,000; and it has been a consistent increase for each of the years since 1945, thus completely reversing the trend that existed for the 13 years immediately before the war.
On that point alone, Wales has been assisted by this Labour Government by bringing back to the country many of the people who were driven away in the years before the war. If I have one criticism to make of the speech of the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), it is about his description of Wales. In fact the people now returning are returning to the land of their fathers because they know now that they will have economic security. On that account, this Government deserves well of the people of Wales.
There is another test which I will apply, a test concerning not the workers but the business people, the middle-class people of Wales and Monmouth. During the years between the wars, when there was so much unemployment, poverty and distress, and a consequent lack of purchasing power, the business community suffered severely. There were so many unable to pay their debts that they were driven into bankruptcy. For the 13 years before 1938, the average annual number of bankruptcies amongst the business population of Wales and Monmouth was 228. What has been the position since the Labour Government came into power in 1945? Have the business communities of South Wales and Monmouth been unable to pay their debts, and have they been driven into bankruptcy? The average number of bankruptcies per year from 1945 until the present time has 612 been, not 228, but 17. Let hon. Members remember those figures—17 in comparison with 228. Even the business community in South Wales—
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what were the figures for the years 1929–31?
§ Mr. West
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will give me a moment and allow me to go on with my speech, I will certainly give him the details, but he may take it as a fact, because I have extracted the figures myself and I believe they are correct. In addition to the tests applied in the White Paper these are two outstanding tests of the success of the policy of the Labour Government in regard to the interests of the people of Wales.
There are one or two other matters, however, to which I wish to draw the attention of the Government. Notwithstanding their great success in attacking the major problems of South Wales, there are still certain pockets which require special action, and I am referring particularly to areas which the Minister of National Insurance knows very well. One is the district of Blaenavon. It is not an isolated instance in South Wales, but is one of a number in South Wales which require special treatment on the part of the Government.
A special problem is presented there which cannot be solved by the attack which the Government have made upon general problems existing in South Wales. Furthermore, in certain areas, there are industries that have been closed down, where valuable factory sites are available but which cannot be obtained for the use of other industrialists because of the power of the owners of these premises to refuse reasonable terms. I feel that the Government should deal with that. They should take the necessary powers to ensure that if there is any available factory 613 space which is not being utilised to the full by the industrialist concerned, they can compulsorily acquire such premises in the interests of the community and in the interests of the district.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Does the hon. Gentleman really mean that if in the opinion of the Government a factory is only working at 30 par cent. of its efficiency or its production rate, the Government should step in and say, "We are taking over this place in order to give it to somebody else "?
§ Mr. West
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to ask a question on this matter even though he does not represent a Welsh constituency. I note that there is no hon. Member present on the benches opposite representing a Welsh constituency to put the question. I take the view that if there is vacant factory space available and the industrialist concerned is unable to satisfy the authorities that he has schemes for its developments and utilisation, he should not be able to retain those premises for the purpose of extracting unfair terms from anybody who desires to take them over.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to mislead the House, and I do not want to misunderstand him. I am very interested in the prosperity of Wales because the prosperity of the part of the country which I represent depends on the prosperity of South Wales. Does the hon. Gentleman really mean that the whole place has got to be vacant, or does he mean, what in fact he implied, that if some 60,70 or 70 per cent. of any industrial premises are vacant and cannot for some technical reason be used, the Government should at that stage step in and take the lot?
§ Mr. West
I am suggesting that where there are completely vacant factory premises which are not being utilised and the industrialist concerned has no plan for their utilisation, then he should not be allowed to hold the premises for the purpose of obtaining a higher price or of denuding the district of an additional industry merely because he is not prepared to come to reasonable terms for its acquisition. In such circumstances, I say that the Government should compulsorily acquire the premises, paying compensation on reasonable terms, thus preventing the industrialist from denying the 614 district the opportunity of having another industry.
There is another point on which I wish to touch—the question of technical education. Having regard to the expanding diversification of industry in South Wales and Monmouthshire, technical education becomes of first-class importance. I hope that the Government will do everything they can to develop technical education in Wales and Monmouthshire because the future of our industries depend on it. I am sorry I have taken up more time than I had intended and I am afraid there are still some points I have left untouched. I hope the hon. Gentleman who follows me will forgive me for having taken so long.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
I want to deal with a highly professional subject on which the Minister dilated in a most optimistic style this afternoon. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has done excellent work in this direction, but I wish to put in a plea for more information about dust with regard to silicosis and pneumoconiosis. I have taken the precaution to get from the Library the last two reports for 1946 and 1947 by His Majesty's Inspector of Factories in regard to these diseases. Could we not have a little better classification and a little more information in these reports? Having regard to the prevalence of this scourge in the coalfields and quarries of Wales, could not my right hon. Friend arrange for us to have a little more information? We are interested in the subject, not only patriotically from the point of view of Wales and Great Britain, but from the highly professional and technical aspect of this disease and its proper and early diagnosis.
In the 1946 report only one and a half pages are devoted to dust. But it is all general; there is nothing specific. Wales is particularly interested in this matter because the coalfield of Wales is hard compared with those in Lancashire, Yorkshire and other places. We have tried to get the figures, but we cannot get them.
§ Dr. Morgan
I am quoting from the last two reports of His Majesty's Inspector of Factories with regard to industrial diseases. As I have said, only one and a 615 half pages of the 1946 report are devoted to dust, and even then there is nothing specific. I want the statistics about this danger point in Wales.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I should like to get this clear My hon. Friend appreciates, of course, that pneumoconiosis in the mines is not covered in the report of His Majesty's Inspector of Factories, but in the coal mines report.
§ Dr. Morgan
We have been trying hard for years to get this information, but there seems to be a closed area which we cannot penetrate. I know how hard the Minister has to fight in his Department to get information, but the outside medical profession and we who are interested in the problem, want information with regard to pneumoconiosis, silicosis and tuberculosis in Wales.
It appears from the report that in spite of all that my right hon. Friend has done, the figures have risen from 132 in 1940 to 347 in 1947. I agree that there may be better and earlier diagnosis, and I appreciate all the very good work which my right hon. Friend is doing, but I am asking that the public should be given more information with regard to these diseases. Silicosis and tuberculosis figures are given, but it is all general. Let the Minister see whether we can have more specific information about the special coalfields in Wales, which are hard, dangerous and different from other coalfields. We want particulars of the medical arrangements that are being made; we want to be told what it is hoped to do in future.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am sure that the House is deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) for having raised such an important point. I am glad that he, with the surname that he has, has intervened in the Debate. I will come back to silicosis and pneumoconiosis in a few moments, but first I want to say that since 1944, when the then Welsh Members persuaded the then war-time Government to give us a day to debate Welsh affairs, we have had this annual Debate. Just like the first and suceeding Debates this one has been unsatisfactory, disjointed and ineffective.
I only wish that those hon. Members who have come here for the first time 616 since 1945 could have heard the scorn poured on our first Debate by the Minister of Health who, with the Minister of National Insurance, pointed out that there is only one way in which to deal with Welsh matters, and that is by devolution. That is why this Debate is so unsatisfactory. Fortunately, the present Government have a number of Welsh Ministers, but glad as we are to see the Minister of National Insurance—and he has been here for most of the day—we know that it is impossible for him to answer all the questions that have been put by hon. Members from various Welsh constituencies. I should have thought that that would have provided the complete answer to the solution which the Tory Party are suggesting for the Welsh problem.
They are content that there should be a Minister—not necessarily a Welshman, because I do not suppose they could provide one; it would be a rarity, especially if he sat for a Welsh constituency—with all the talents, and knowing everything going on in other Departments, to answer and be responsible for our country at all times. I wonder whether they will mete out the same treatment with regard to Scotland—and I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland here today. There may be an interesting announcement soon about their proposals for Scotland. I anticipate that they will show greater anxiety for Scotland than they have hitherto done for Wales.
§ Mr. Davies
The reason is that they have given up any hope of getting any effective representation for the Tory Party from Wales.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not intend to enter into the industrial area, but I am sure that those Members who come from Glamorgan, Carmarthen and Monmouth will realise the difficulties of calling attention to the question of the mining industry. It would have been necessary for the Minister of Fuel and Power or 617 the Minister of Labour and possibly the Minister of Health to be here to answer points. It is the first thing that is referred to in this White Paper, and it is rather significant. For example, why is it that there are not more recruits coming into the coal industry in South Wales? Why has no question been put with regard to that? In paragraph 10 it is referred to in these words:The total production of saleable coal from the South Wales coalfield for the 52 weeks ended 2nd July, 1949, was 22,572,100 tons compared with 21,879,100 tons for the preceding twelve months, an increase of 693,000 tons. The increase was restricted in some areas by lack of manpower and in others, particularly in the anthracite area, by low output from the manpower available.Hon. Members opposite who have worked in the coalfields of South Wales know what their output was. What is the answer with regard to that paragraph? Surely there ought to be questions on output today
On the matters raised in paragraph 25, I imagine that the Minister of Labour and possibly the Minister of Health might become involved:The number of workmen on colliery books in South Wales increased from 107,657 at the end of 1947 to 108,618 at the end of June, 1948, but has declined since, and at the end of June, 1949, amounted only to 106,300. Among the factors which contributed to the failure to achieve a larger labour force in 1948, were shortage of hostel accommodation …Who has denounced the past more than hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent colliery areas in South Wales? The lack of houses was rightly denounced today by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. J. Evans). I know those houses, and I denounced them in 1937, 1938 and 1939. If anybody deserves a decent. warm, comfortable house it is the miner, who goes into the bowels of the earth to get warmth for the rest of us; and yet I read this:Among the factors which contributed to the failure to achieve a larger labour force in 1948 were shortage of hostel accommodation in areas where there were demands for skilled labour …One of the main reasons why colliery production has not been higher is the absence of that skilled labour. Look at the other side:… inability to absorb European Volunteer Workers because of accommodation difficulties, objection by some colliery lodge committees to the employment of certain classes of foreign workers and the difficulty sometimes of accept- 618 ing new labour because of redundancy following reorganisation and closure of pits.Where are the Ministers who will give us information with regard to that?
Many of us knew the situation in Glamorgan and Monmouth between the two wars, and of the exodus from those two counties. Somebody has already given the figure—442,000 between 1921 and 1938. This afternoon there has been much boasting and a chorus of approval as to how much better and more wonderful things have been during the last four years. I will deal with that in a moment. Here in the Government's own report we are told that there is not sufficient hostel accommodation for skilled workers. If anybody deserves it, they do. Why were they not given priority?
If the right hon. Gentleman is thinking that all the other conditions which have come about since 1939 are due to his Government, I would ask: "Has he really forgotten that there was a war? Has he forgotten the shortages that were inevitable during those six years? Has he really forgotten that those shortages will have to be made up and that, with proper guidance, there ought not to be any unemployment, not merely for the past four years, but for two or three generations? The credit for that situation does not belong to any particular Government. Has the right hon. Gentleman also forgotten that the situation might have been terribly worse but for the help which we have from America?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I have not forgotten that, at the end of the First World War, the Government with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was associated unfortunately did not implement the Sankey Report.
§ Mr. Davies
It was not a Government with which I was associated, but with which hon. Members above the Gangway were associated. There was one person, I agree. The Minister of Fuel and Power ought to have been here to deal with these matters and give an explanation to the miners of South Wales, who deserve an answer on the details.
Then we had a speech from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). I forget what his exact words were, although I wrote them down. He referred to the White Paper as a record of rejuvenation in Wales. I wish he had 619 stayed in to listen to the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) and the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). Too often, hon. Members for industrial areas confine their attention entirely to the conditions in their own areas. We who come from other areas do not confine our attention to the rural areas. We realise that a great deal of our prosperity will depend upon the prosperity of the industrial areas. Almost without exception the urban Members have paid no attention whatever to the rural areas. 'They referred to the exodus which took place between the two wars. They never referred to the fact that they drew, for something like 100 years from the rural areas, the very lifeblood of Wales, that the best people of Wales were poured into the Rhondda Valley and that, in the circumstances of those days, we saw them again only when they came home to die of tuberculosis or silicosis. Hon. Members rarely pay attention to that aspect of the matter. Let us look at it.
I will turn to the figures again of the number of people employed. They are: in mining and quarrying, 19.5 per cent.; agriculture and fishery—at a time when all of us are very concerned about food for now and the future—5.7 per cent. It is interesting to observe that there are more people in public administration, who eat the food that is produced by the people in agriculture and fisheries. They number 7.3 of the manpower of Wales, against only 5.7 who go into agriculture and fishery.
With regard to that point, one would like to have had the assistance of the Minister of Agriculture, who is also the Minister for forestry. He has not been near us all day. His Parliamentary Secretary put in a word during a minute or two to give information to the hon. Gentleman who is to reply for the Government. Here is an agricultural question which involves all the counties of Wales, including the industrial ones. The only reply from the Government will be by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. I do not suppose that he has had much experience of agriculture or forestry, for his life has led him along other paths. I do not for a moment depreciate what he has done; I admire his ability and courage at all 620 times; but he is not the man to reply on a serious question of agriculture and forestry.
An attempt was made to extract from Wales a larger percentage of land for military purposes than from England or from Scotland, and in the same way we are now threatened with a change in our life. The Minister of National Insurance said that there is a change in the outlook in Wales today. There will be if the forestry policy is pursued. The Welshman, the Welsh fanner and the culture of Wales, will be uprooted. Pine trees will be planted instead, and the Government will be bringing in alien people with an outlook entirely different from that which we have had.
The figures given by the hon. Member for Wrexham were confined to what he could find in the White Paper. Fortunately, I have extracted some figures in regard to the decrease in the rural population and compared them with the decrease in the industrial areas. We know the sad decrease which there was between 1921 and 1947. The decrease in Glamorgan between 1921 and 1947 was 82,211 or 10 per cent., some having returned. The decrease in Monmouth was 46,000 or 13 per cent. As for the rural counties, Brecon was 13 per cent., Cardigan 13 per cent., Merioneth 15 per cent., Montgomery 13 per cent., and Radnor 16 per cent. That has been going on ever since the industrial era began in South Wales. The real tragedy of Wales is the continued exodus from our rural areas. Our export from the rural areas is one of flesh and blood, of young men and young women.
§ Mr. Davies
It is continuing now, as the hon. Member will see in a moment when I come to the figures for the rural areas. Under his great Labour Government, the death rate in Anglesey exceeds the birthrate. So it does in Carmarthen, Cardigan and Merioneth and also last year, but not this year, in Montgomery. If that continues we shall have counties of old-age pensioners. We are being driven to that.
What are the Government doing to bring these people back. I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster promising us that they would do their 621 best to bring back to our market towns, industries allied to agriculture so that we might retain these people and bring prosperity to the countryside once more; and not only bring material prosperity but an increased moral value to the life these people would lead instead of their having to lead the artificial life we all have to lead in this great wen of London.
But what have they done? Increased the draw down again into the industrial areas of South Wales and into the Wrexham area of North Wales. And still nothing is being done for these rural areas. They say, "Yes, we have now turned on this great council to inquire into it." An inquiry in secret! We do not know what evidence the Council will take. We do not know anything about any conclusions it may reach. If the Government wanted this done openly they could have appointed a Royal Commission to inquire and could have taken evidence from the countryside. We would have been able to tell them what the position is, but now we do not know on whom these people will call. That is all, with regard to Wales as a whole, that the Government have to offer—this Council.
§ Mr. Davies
What has happened with regard to the views that were being expressed as recently as 1944 by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance? He knew then, as he knows now, what was the demand of Wales. 622 Standing at that Box then, he expressed that view. Why has that now been rejected and we are given instead what the noble Lady so rightly described as a spineless secret committee of this kind inquiring into the biggest problem of Wales—the problem of the exodus of our young men—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I should think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be the last man to decry the value of committees in Wales. The committee over which he presided did a good job.
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, but when are we to get any information with regard to it? This is a secret committee. The Lord President of the Council said it will sit in secret.
§ Mr. Davies
—is now calling the Lord President all kinds of names. I do not do that. The point made by the Lord President was that it should sit in secret and make its report to Ministers and make no report whatsoever to this House. It might by-pass hon. Members of this House even on questions such as have been rightly raised by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). How do we know what has been going on with regard to the forestry policy which is denuding the countryside of its population? How can we know? As the hon. Member has said, they make statements to a Press conference without any discussion with Members of Parliament. It may be that this precious council was called in and their advice was followed. There is only One solution both for the benefit of this House and for the benefit of Wales, and that is that there shall be devolution of powers from this House to Wales in order that the Welsh people can deal with their own affairs in their own country.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
I am much obliged to my right 623 hon. and learned Friend, if I may so call him across the House, for his characteristic courtesy and consideration in allowing me some time in which to make a few observations towards the end of this Debate. I regret that I differ so strongly from him about the Council of Wales, but we had this out a year ago.
I do not want to do what I did last time—that is, to devote the whole of my speech to the Council of Wales—and to neglect the ports for which I certainly have some responsibility in this House. It is on these ports in Wales that I wish to make some observations this evening. After the course of the Debate and some of the speeches which have been made, I feel that I must almost apologise for not making a violent attack upon the Government for their policy with regard to the Welsh ports.
Everyone, whatever his political complexion, who is in the least concerned with the ports and industry of Wales knows perfectly well that, whatever Government is in power, it can only succeed in bringing prosperity to Wales in so far as it pursues a Socialist policy. There are industrialists in Wales today who openly subscribe to the Tory party but secretly trust that, for the sake of South Wales, the Labour Government will again be returned. It is impossible for South Wales to survive except on a deliberate, planned policy, and the ports of Wales reflect the general policy of the Government towards Wales.
I have some figures dealing with the first 40 weeks—that is as late as I can get them—of 1949. Let me compare them with similar periods of 1938 and 1948. In 1938 the total import and export trade through the Welsh ports was 20 million tons; in 1948 it was 10 million tons; and in 1949, 12 million tons. For coal alone the 1938 export figure was 16 million tons; in 1948, five million tons; and in 1949, six million tons. We have here a gradual improvement of the position of the ports in Wales, and an export of six million tons of coal in the first 40 weeks of 1949.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport knows as well as I do that during the time of the 1945 Election, when we had conversations with those concerned with 624 exports in Cardiff and elsewhere in South Wales, it was not contemplated that it would be possible to export any coal at all from Wales within five years after the end of the war.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
But here we have exports starting long before the expiration of the five-year period, and we have this considerable tonnage going out through the South Wales ports. It is not only a question of the increase in coal through those ports; it is also a case of producing a more balanced trade through the ports than in the past. Inland, as everyone is perfectly aware, the policy of the Government has been to produce more varied industries and to relieve Wales from its utter dependence upon the heavy industries and from its liability to fall again into acute depression. The same thing is happening in the ports. Through them we now have a more varied output and intake than we had before.
I am concerned that, although the proportion of general cargo and other commodities in South Wales has increased commendably and appreciably, we do not have such a healthy variety of trade through the ports as we have succeeded in producing inland. That is a matter with which, I trust, the Government are not unfamiliar and to which, i hope, they will continue to give attention. I wish to refer briefly to this general cargo trade because it is an important matter in dealing with the question of variety, out of all proportion to the mere tonnage involved.
One point with which my hon. Friend is very familiar is the question of charges in the ports and the fact that in South Wales the ship-owners do not bear the same proportion of charges as in other ports. I am very glad to acknowledge that Houlder Brothers have given a lead in this respect. I hope that other shipowners will follow that very valuable indication of what they consider to be the just policy for South Wales.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
I am very glad to hear that. I wish to bring to my hon. Friend's attention, although he has no 625 doubt already seen it in the "Cardiff and Suburban News," a report of the' speech of the general manager of the docks of Cardiff a short time ago. He was speaking of the difficulty of getting the Midlands trade through the South Wales ports. He knows what opportunity there is for taking this traffic in order to increase the South Wales trade. He made this obviously, patently sincere and valuable statement in Cardiff:I have tried to face this matter in an honest way and, quite frankly, if Midland contacts were successful the truth is the shipping lines are not sailing out of Cardiff.My hon. Friend knows that at an earlier stage he and I and others were very much concerned that we should not dispense with our control over shipping and if there is any other method by which we can induce the shipping lines into the South Wales ports, I shall be very glad to hear of it. Despite the improvement in the South Wales ports and despite the increased variety in the South Wales ports, I would like to know how these ports compare in their traffic with English ports and I shall be obliged if my hon. Friend can enlighten us on that matter.
With regard to the distribution of trade between the different ports, I cannot give figures to substantiate my statement as time is not available, but my hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. P. Morris) must be relieved to know that Swansea has come on enormously in the last 12 months, far more than any other port in South Wales. As far as one can judge, Swansea is "sitting pretty." Newport is "sitting pretty" and Port Talbot is "sitting pretty "—the three of them largely because, and directly because of the efforts of this Government in establishing industries in South Wales. Those living in these three towns need have no fear for the future prosperity of their ports, and they owe that to this Government.
Cardiff and Barry are in a different position. Cardiff has suffered to a certain extent owing to works being carried on in the docks and Barry is awkwardly placed for a number of reasons into which I cannot go now. It is therefore encouraging, and I should like the people of Barry to know this, to find that the percentage increase in the. general cargo through Barry is as high as in 626 Newport. My hon. Friend has been troubled with the question of the dry dock in Barry. I had hoped to spend some time in referring to that, but I cannot. I have to dry up instead.
I hope that this will not be dealt with on a purely commercial basis. My reason for saying that is that I understand and sympathise with the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive. Obviously they have to produce a balance sheet and show that their industry pays. Unfortunately, we are still producing accounts for the socialised industries on a capitalised, narrow, profit-making basis. I wish we could produce accounts which took into consideration not merely the isolated activities of a particular concern in the same way as a private company but which took into consideration and showed in terms of figures, the other elements such as the movement of population, the rehousing, and all those social factors involved which cost must of necessity fall upon the community, but which never figure in the accounts of any private capitalist concern. I hope that my hon. Friend will approach the matter from a Socialist accounting position and not from a mere capitalist one. I should like to say to the Government on behalf of Barry and the ports of South Wales, so far as I am entitled to speak for them, "Thank you, and continue the Socialist policy which you have adopted." It is only by that policy that the ports of South Wales can prosper.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I am conscious that it requires no little temerity on the part of one who is not a Welshman to intervene in a discussion which is so much localised to the gallant Principality as the Debate today has been. I am glad that the discussion has taken place in the English language so that I have been able partly to follow it. I remember one occasion, when the Welsh Society in London did me the honour of making me their guest many years ago, when I was Minister of Agriculture and the speeches after dinner were almost entirely in the ancient Cambrian tongue. Even the gentleman who proposed my health made his speech almost entirely in Welsh, interpolating a few words of English here and there for my benefit, much as one throws a bone to a dog.
627 When my turn came to reply, I addressed the Assembly for the first five minutes in the Gaelic language, and it was rather interesting to observe the expressions of those who were the unwilling recipients of that linguistic freak, because they were courteous men. Those who could speak Welsh thought that I was speaking Welsh very badly but with their native Welsh politeness were unwilling to show this. Others who pretended to speak Welsh and really could not do so, thought that it was excellent Welsh. Afterwards I was able to lapse into the more modern tongue with suitable apologies.
Today I feel that as Gaelic is by far the older tongue—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—Welsh is a relatively modern corruption of the ancient Gaelic tongue—if I cannot be accepted by those present as an equal member of the family, perhaps I can offer a few observations in at least an avuncular capacity. Because of some remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) I ought to say that in the course of my duties as a Minister and otherwise, I have made frequent visits to Wales and retained the greatest respect and affection for its inhabitants. I remember going to the hon. Member's constituency and talking to the members of the local authority there. Although I am sure there was not one of them who was of my political faith, I was received with courtesy and kindness, which shows that there are some native virtues which even politics cannot impair.
In opening this Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance had his customary fling at the Industrial Revolution and events which took place before either he or I was born, accompanied, as we have all at some time had occasion to lament, by the squalor which sometimes accompanied that great accretion of wealth. But it should also be put on the credit side for our forefathers of those days that what happened then did result in an enormous increase in the population. I suppose that in those times the population of Wales did not exceed half a million, whereas now it is five times that number. Though we may deplore some of those things, I sometimes feel a modest doubt whether if we had been alive in those days, with the amount of knowledge then open to our forefathers, we should have done very much better. 628 We have therefore to have regard not to the past but to the present of Wales, and to its future.
The right hon. Gentleman was able to give us a relatively cheerful picture. Of course, it is his business to be cheerful on that Bench and he is naturally of a cheerful and hopeful disposition, which makes him an agreeable personality. The only criticism which I have to offer of his picture is that he was inclined, I think, to attribute too much of what he called improvement to the actions of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am very loath to disturb the garland of flowers which he placed on his own brow, but I am afraid I must do so in the interests of accuracy.
He said that now the situation in Wales, as in many parts of the country, is that the demand for products exceeds the supply, and that this economic fact is at the bottom, and is the cause, of the lack of unemployment in this country today. There is no getting away from the fact that the full employment which happily exists today is not due to the action of this Government. It is due to no statute which they have passed, but results from economic conditions which were foreseen by the Coalition Reconstruction Committee when framing their policy for employment after the war. It is due to the destruction and to the world lag in production during the war, and the great vacuum which has to be filled. While that is a feature of the general effect over the whole country, it is not due to the political action of any Government at all.
There are other matters which affect the prosperity of Wales and the United Kingdom and which are within the competence and responsibility of the Government. I am sure that every hon. Member, no matter in what part of the House he may sit, has as his main anxiety the future of our standard of living; the process of inflation, as it is called, or a rise in the cost of living; the decline in savings, and other manifestations, such as devaluation. If our money is not on a secure basis, we may be building not on sand, as one hon. Member said tonight, but on a morass. The more we build the deeper we sink. Consequently that is a feature of the Government policy which affects prosperity in Wales, and indeed in the whole of the United Kingdom.
629 Coming to the items mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. I must say that he reminded me a little of a very excellent anthology of verse compiled by that eminent soldier, Lord Wavell. He calls it, "Other Men's Flowers." He is modest enough to say that the pieces of poetry contained in that volume are not his own, but are the composition of other men. In presenting his picture, the right hon. Gentleman was not so modest, but claimed for himself and his colleagues actions which are really other men's flowers. For example, he noted with appreciation which we all share, the remarkable achievements of the steel and tinplate industries in Wales. That is a matter to which the Government have made no contribution whatever, except that of plunging the industry into uncertainty as to its future. The activities of the steel industry in Wales have been due to the foresight of those controlling it and to plans made by the industry at the instance of the Coalition Government during the war for its expansion and development in the future.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has dealt with the coal situation. In the time at my disposal, I do not wish to develop that further. He put before the House certain points of disquietude with regard to the situation in Wales which require considerable thought on the part of us all. The hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Main-waring) drew attention to another aspect of that matter. The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk of pneumoconiosis. I was delighted with what appears in the White Paper and what he said about the improvement in medical technology and diagnosis in dealing with this dread scourge.
I think he might have mentioned, if it was his business to do so—I do not charge him with any offence in not doing so—that the legislation on pneumoconiosis, which extended the Workmen's Compensation Act so as to embrace schemes for compensation for this disease, was introduced into the House of Commons in 1943. I remember the Second Reading of that Act being moved in eloquent terms by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) who usually sits with me on this 630 Bench. So much for that. I am delighted that the doctors have discovered this better method of diagnosis and I hope that the work will continue. There is no doubt that for the Welsh industrial population, the conquest of this disease would be one of the greatest victories of mankind.
The other point of which much has been made in this Debate is that of the diversity of industries which have been introduced into Wales. The hon. and learned Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) referred to the effect of this diversity upon the traffic of the ports but, of course, it has a wide bearing on the employment position in Wales. It is interesting to me to recollect that the first move in that direction made in this House was under the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934, and that that Act was only repealed and its relevant proposals re-enacted by the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. As it was in that year, I ought to tell the House that it received the Royal Assent on 15th June, 1945.
It is under that legislation, produced in a House of Commons with a predominantly Conservative majority throughout all that time, that the machinery was put into being which has proved so beneficial to Wales today. The proof of the pudding is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not found it necessary to add to that legislation. They have been content to rest upon the framework for diversifying the industry of Wales which was the creation of their predecessors.
When we come to agriculture in Wales, which is equally important as, if not in some ways more important than, industry there, two matters have been mentioned. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) made a most admirable speech which commended itself to all quarters of the House. He referred to the benefit which Welsh farmers had gained through the operations of the Milk Marketing Board. I seem to recollect that the Milk Marketing Board was not a creation of this Government but that it came into existence in, I think, 1932 as a consequence of the Act for which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) was responsible.
631 The second element in agricultural prosperity in Wales, which the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned, was the guaranteed prices. I remember very well, as Minister of Food, introducing, or being a party to introducing, that system during the war, and I recollect that the system was worked out before the war as a wartime measure to put agriculture on its feet and to encourage and enlarge our agricultural prosperity and production. These are all improvements on which hon. Gentlemen opposite pride themselves in regard to Wales. It is a garland of other men's flowers. I do not in the least resent it. I am glad that these Measures are bearing fruit, because it is always a satisfaction to one who has laboured in his day and generation to put hon. Gentlemen opposite on the right lines, which is always a very thankless task, to see that in fact the Measures which we introduced in those days are now a source of pride to them.
I have little to add, but I will say one word about the other aspect of this question which has engaged our attention from time to time, and that is the discussion, perfunctory though it has been, on altering the forms of Government in Wales so as better to express the national spirit of Wales. We have our own proposals about that, and we are proposing that there should be a Minister specially charged with observing the repercussions of all Governmental action upon the Principality and with ensuring co-ordination of Measures, so that Wales plays her true part and has a full, fair crack of the whip in anything that is going.
For my own part, I am bound to say—and here I speak as a Scotsman—that the true secret of national spirit and the ideals of a nation owe much less than is commonly supposed to the political forms in which they are clothed. After all, if one considers Wales itself, it has had all sorts of constitutions and all sorts of lack of constitution. She was a nation when she was governed by tribal chiefs, she endured the long disorder of the Wars of the Roses, the autarchy of the Tudors, which she herself foisted upon England, and went through the various stages of Parliamentary evolution and change without, in any way, so far as I can see, losing or modifying her national 632 culture. In fact, it may be safely assumed that those who care, as I do, for the continued existence of the separate Welsh culture, Welsh language and Welsh contribution may rest fully assured that the matter will only be affected in the very slightest degree by a Council for Wales or any other sort of political organisation.
The heart of Wales, and its message for mankind, rests still in its literature and language, its religion, its song and music, and in its history and tradition, and, so long as these things are maintained, I think that the mere trappings of political forms, whatever they may be, have very little to do with it. It is the hope of all of us in this House that Wales will continue to maintain her identity and her place in the United Kingdom, and that her inhabitants will continue to flourish.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan)
It is so long since my duties required me to make a speech in this House that I feel almost compelled to ask for the indulgence of hon. Members, but as I cannot promise to be non-controversial I think I had better take my chance. I hope I never shall be non-controversial because, as I understand it, democracy flourishes on controversy and not on agreement.
The usual technique of the Opposition is to deny that there is anything good about this country today; in so far as its state can be seen, it is bad, and it is all the fault of the Government. This afternoon we have seen a refinement of that technique. The facts are so clearly against the Opposition that they are compelled to admit that there is a marked contrast between the position in Wales today and the position which existed when they were responsible for it, and so now we have them gathering other men's flowers. They are the people who are going to take the credit for what is right in Wales since the war, and we are to be responsible for all the things not yet put right. I do not think that the people of Wales are going to be deceived by that refinement of technique any more than they were by the earlier aspects of Tory policy.
633 The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Tory Party's plans for a Minister of co-ordination. We had a Tory Minister for Wales before the war. He was the Minister of Labour, and he administered the dole queue. That was our Minister then. In so far as we want a Minister for co-ordination of Welsh Affairs today—and the Conservative Party have had experience of this sort of thing before—let me remind them of the most recent example. In 1936 they appointed a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. He operated for three years and when the real test came in 1940, as to whether the functions of his office were effective or not, they quietly wrapped up his Ministry in red tape and sent him into the House of Lords, and his functions were taken over by somebody who had executive responsibility for what he was doing.
I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman said about political trappings affecting the culture of a people. I have lived in Wales, although I cannot claim to be a Welshman. However, I should like to come back to that later. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party made some reference to the fact that I was winding up this Debate. I would point out to him—and I make no complaint—that the Government were, in fact, prepared to have a Debate divided into two sections, one on economic affairs and one on agricultural affairs. Had that proposition been acceptable, different arrangements could no doubt have been made, but, in point of fact, hon. Members took the decision—as they were entitled to do—that they preferred to raise individual points, and it therefore falls upon me to reply as best I can to the points that have been made.
§ Mr. C. Davies
This is the first that I have heard of this. I do not know who objected to the very reasonable suggestion of dividing the Debate into two parts, because that would have covered both rural and economic affairs.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I would prefer to leave the matter there so that I may get on with my speech. The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White), the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) all raised the question of the hydro-electric scheme. I do not dissent 634 from anything they said. It seemed to me that the proposition which they were making was a perfectly reasonable one. We have to ensure that the economic development of Wales does not proceed at the expense of spoiling the countryside. I know that part of Wales very well indeed, as the noble Lady knows, and I certainly think that some of the features that characterise parts of Snow-donia today are not very good monuments to those who built before us, and it is not right that we should perpetuate them. Therefore, I think that the British Electricity Authority have been very wise in proceeding on the basis of informing public opinion about their proposals before taking final decisions.
It is said quite clearly in paragraph 61 of the White Paper that notice has been taken of this matter. The actual words are:They have not yet reached a final decision as to what is practicable and economic although it was thought desirable that publicity should be given to the possible scale of development.That seems to be a very sensible and businesslike way of going about this project. I understand that Members who are interested in it are to get further details. It is clear that the British Electricity Authority will have to come to this House with a Private Bill before they can get sanction to proceed with their work. In that way it will be possible for those who wish to put points to do so. I am sure that the B.E.A. desire that public opinion should be consulted and the best possible arrangements made to combine economic development with the preservation of one of the most beautiful spots in the British Isles.
I want to turn to the point raised by my hon. Friends the Members for East Swansea (Mr. Mort) and West Swansea (Mr. P. Morris), about redundancy in the tinplate trade. I am told that it is not possible to say how soon redundancy in this trade consequential upon the completion of Margam will arise; it will depend on how the world level of demand for tinplate is maintained. I agree that it would be a grave reflection on the Government if we allowed this redundancy to creep upon us, however long it may take to develop, without making plans to deal with it.
Of course, that immediately gets us into the field of economic planning. It is no 635 use expecting that the laws of supply and demand and private enterprise will cope with such a situation in South Wales. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) was absolutely right when he said that the people of South Wales appreciate that it is only through a planned economic system, which Members on this side adhere to, that there can be material prosperity in Wales.
I turn to the question of the Council for Wales. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey said it had been in existence for some time, but that she had not yet seen any evidence of its work. The noble Lady has a nice garden—it is a delightful place, as I know—but I am sure she does not pull up the newly-planted flowers in it every two weeks, to see how they are getting on.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With great respect, it is not 10 months; it was set up on 20th May. One of the questions which it is suggested the council should deal with, and which was mentioned by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) and others, is the drift from the land. This is something which has been going on in Wales—and certainly in Scotland—for many years. Does the noble Lady really suggest that she expects to see a solution of this problem, all neatly tied up, in six months? Because, if so, her political realism has escaped her for the moment.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me of one thing which the council has done during the last eight or nine months?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I suggest that the noble Lady waits for the first 12 months' activity. Let us see what comes from it. If I may say so, on behalf of the Government, I am prepared to let the council be judged by results. Let us see whether they make any information available to the Government on which we can act. If it can do that, then the council will have been completely justified. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) asked if the council could deal with afforestation. There is nothing in this field which is 636 outside the purview of the council if it desires to study it. I cannot put matters on its agenda. It is for the council to decide the order of its business, as we think it should.
I should like to say one word in reply to the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones). He raised three questions, one about a young man in forestry, one about a hospital and another about the heating of a building. All of them contained dangerous implications. He should be aware of the danger of reading a letter of this sort in the House of Commons if he has not substantiated his facts. He has done it before, and I should like to ask him whether he has raised these matters with the Ministers responsible and if so, what reply he has had.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
Before I read this letter in the House I took steps in so far as I could to discover the genuineness of the writer. I challenge any reply that will in any way undermine the contents of that letter. I gave it as an illustration of the bias which is being shown by certain officials in Wales against the Welsh language.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman's reply seems to me to be quite unsatisfactory. I asked him a direct question. Has he sent these details to the Ministers who are responsible for these matters, because he has implied—I will go no further—that in the case of the heating for the particular building to which he referred the electricity authority are deliberately avoiding doing the job that is required, because another firm's tender was for a lower figure than they can quote.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
The hon. Gentleman must allow me to reply to that. What I said—and I repeat it—is that the electricity authority for Merseyside and North Wales were asked whether they would supply heat in a building already fitted for electric light. They quoted for the work. Another tender was received for the work which was infinitely less than the tender of this public authority. My point, which I think is a good arguable one, is why this authority submitted any tender at all if it was not in a position to supply the electricity.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman told us that on the first occasion. What 637 he should have done, and what he ought to do now, is to let the Minister see the facts that he has made known to the House. It is a customary practice in this House for hon. Members who are going to raise matters of this sort to indicate beforehand either that they propose to do so, or to deal with the matter by correspondence with the Minister until they get the facts right. If they are then dissatisfied, they can raise the matter. The hon. Gentleman has used this technique before, and on the last occasion he did it he had to withdraw the allegations that he made.
I should like to say a word about the afforestation question, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor. He told us that 14,000 sheep were grazing on land in Llandovery, and they would have to go when afforestation came about. I understand the facts are these—that in 20 years' time 16 farmers will have been dispossessed. In 40 years' time 40 farmers will have been dispossessed. In 20 years the number of sheep in this area, which now stands at 14,000, will probably be reduced to 7,000. I am sure my hon. Friend knows better than I do what the sheep population of Wales is. A tremendous beneficial effect will result from planting the trees in this area of Wales, which is largely barren today. It is also bound to have a very valuable effect on the economy of the surrounding area, because it will increase the number of employed and the number of people who will be living there far above what it is today.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should now like to spend a short time on the question of the ports, which was raised by the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs, my hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas), who has served the people of South Wales and their dockers very well during the last five years. My hon. and learned Friend divided correctly this trade in the ports of South Wales into two parts. The first part was coal exports and the second part was general cargo. They are two distinct and separ- 638 ate problems. Those who look at the tonnages passing through South Wales and lump them both together, and then say how much worse the position is in 1949 than it was in 1939 are not distinguishing the essential facts which my hon. and learned Friend put in front of us.
As my hon. and learned Friend showed, the real point about South Wales ports is that coal exports have substantially declined since 1938. He went on to say that no one in 1945 expected export of coal through the South Wales ports for five years, and that was what we were working on at that time. As a matter of fact, coal exports, up to 6th November this year, are more than seven million tons, a remarkable recovery. This, incidentally, is equivalent to the total export for 1948, with rather less than two months to go.
As regards the general cargo position, imports are substantially higher today than in 1938, being 25 per cent. up. Exports through the South Wales ports are also up on 1938 to the extent of nearly 30 per cent. Those are substantial figures when we recall that the imports into this country are coming in at a lower level than in 1938. My hon. and gallant Friend drew the correct conclusion when he said that this remarkable increase in the trade passing through South Wales ports was due to Government encouragement and, to some extent, to Government diversion of traffics.
I should like to say a word to the right hon. Gentleman who is representing the Conservative Party. His right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) came down to South Wales and told us there, at one of those mammoth jamborees the Tories have, that the Tory Party was opposed to bulk buying in principle and desired to bring it to an end. He certainly said it in the right place because if there is one port in the country, or one system of ports, which has benefited from bulk buying, it is those in South Wales. It is only because the Minister of Food gave an assurance to the people of South Wales that the food which was intended for distribution in the hinterland of South Wales should pass through South Wales ports that many of the food ships have been going there at all.
639 I would say to the dockers of South Wales that if they want less work, let them support the party that believes in abolishing bulk buying. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, I am very glad that it has been made clear.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Surely he does not deny that before the war there was an immense importation of food into the Bristol Channel?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Ah, I notice that the right hon. Gentleman says, "the Bristol Channel." It is well known that Bristol, which is not in South Wales, is essentially an importing and not an exporting port and is essentially a port to which a great many cargoes of food have come for many years. I am talking about South Wales, and I have said that general cargo imports are 25 per cent. up on 1938. I will leave that point, because I have so many other good points on which to hang the. party opposite.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am really not going to be drawn into that question. It is sufficient that we can keep the economy of the South Wales ports moving by Government planning. In fact, this is precisely what has happened since the end of the war. The people of South Wales realise and understand that fact.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I cannot give way to an hon. Member who has not been here during the Debate but who came in after dinner.
The other point in regard to the difference between general cargo and coal is that, although the figures for coal exports are normally substantially higher in terms of tonnages than general cargo, the amount of work per ton of cargo is much greater in the case of general cargo than in the case of coal. I have here a typical example from the port of Swansea. In Swansea this year the number of dockers employed on the coal trade has been 63, but the number employed on general cargo has been 527. The last thing I want to imply is that I believe that the exports 640 of coal from South Wales ports are a small thing; they are not. We want to see them put up because they have an important indirect effect on the ports of South Wales. Those in South Wales who are constantly complaining must not over estimate the effect which the movement of a huge tonnage of coal has on the employment situation of the dockers.
These figures may be of interest to the House. The weekly gross earnings of dockers in all ports of the United Kingdom is £8 6s. and in South Wales the figure is £8 14s. I must qualify that to give a completely fair picture. The figure for South Wales is larger than that for the rest of the country partly because in one port there are exceptionally high earnings in relation to iron ore imports and secondly, because shift working is employed in some South Wales ports in a way which it is not in other parts of the country. Even if allowance is made for both factors, the House will agree that the dismal picture which has been painted by some people with vested and political interests in this matter is not borne out by the facts.
The ports of South Wales give an excellent turn-round. Hon. Members will know that I have visited every one of the South Wales ports, and down there I have found an excellent spirit. Any shipowner who goes there can be assured of a quick turn-round and a very quick discharge indeed. They are first-rate ports which ought to be used much more than they have been in the past. The rates which are charged are negotiated as a commercial matter between the exporter and the shipowner. The Government do not come into the transaction. The point at which the exporter leaves off paying and the shipowner takes on the payment is clearly a commercial matter.
As to railway rates, the British Transport Commission are very vitally affected. I am able to say that at a recent interview with the shipping and dock interests in South Wales, the Railway Executive gave an assurance that they were fully prepared to review any individual railway rates to which the other interests cared to call attention if there appeared to be a disparity between ports, with due regard to mileage. The results of such an investigation would have to depend on the facts disclosed, but, broadly speaking, a general review of these rates will be made. 641 Under Section 76 of the Transport Act the Commission are charged with the responsibility of going to the Transport Tribunal, after an examination of all the rates which exist, with proposals to adjust them if they are wrong.
Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will therefore understand the amusement with which I read in the Conservative policy for Wales and Monmouth that Conservative proposals for reorganising nationalised transport would provide machinery for the impartial review of rates and charges so far as the present structure of the South Wales ports was concerned. That is two years out of date. The Conservatives voted against Section 76 of the Transport Act. This review is already being undertaken. I am much obliged to the party opposite to know that at least we have their support in that matter.
I want to deal with one or two other matters in relation to the ports. One of the other proposals of the Labour Party's programme is to nationalise the cold stores. That, as far as South Wales is concerned, will put an end to the position by which the public interest has been subordinated to private profit, because one of the most efficient, cold stores in Great Britain today has been left half empty on account of a pledge given to the private interests who owned cold stores by Lord Woolton during the time when he was Minister of Food during the war that Government-owned cold stores would not be operated in opposition to them. These facts have been disclosed and are on record.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
The hon. Gentleman will no doubt forgive me for interrupting, but he is suddenly producing charges of a serious character without giving any notice of the matter and thereby enabling them to be refuted. This is a pledge of which I have heard for the first time tonight. I hope that the hon. Member will give us the references he has, so that the matter can be looked into?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I refer the right hon. Gentleman to his right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He will be able to give him the full references because the matter has been disclosed there.
642 Now, as I undertook to do, I will say a word about agriculture in Wales. Essentially the basic character of Welsh farming is crops and grass, and it is upon those that Welsh agriculture must continue to be based. Several hon. Gentlemen have referred to the fact that Welsh farmers sell milk. Indeed, they do. It was the monthly milk cheque which stood between many of them and bankruptcy in the years between the wars. Consumption has increased. We have practically achieved our target for increased milk in Wales.
One hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that it was going to England. It is also coming to the industrial towns of South Wales. In Cardiff today the consumption of milk is nearly double what it was before the war. That is because our people are at work. The hon. Gentleman must recognise the interaction between the rural areas and the industrial economy. It is precisely because we have full employment in South Wales that the Government can offer fixed prices and guaranteed markets to the farmers of Wales. If we are to continue along the lines which are revitalising Welsh agriculture today, we have to continue with full employment. So let it be clearly understood that the prosperity of one is bound up with the wellbeing of the other.
The amenities of many Welsh farms are poor. They were, and still are, but we are progressing. Many Acts have gone on to the Statute Book since the right hon. Gentleman left office and are now being fulfilled. I will quote two or three figures. The first is in relation to the backwardness in supplies of piped water. Some 5,800 new farm schemes have been approved costing £940,000; 30,000 farm drainage schemes are being carried out with Government assistance of £500,000. Drainage authorities have been helped to the extent of £110,000. Since 1945—let us be quite clear about that.
As far as the Hill Farming Act is concerned—which again is an enactment of this Government—there are 500 cases today in which authorisation to go ahead with work in advance of approval has been given and proposals have been received involving the expenditure of £1,500,000. These are formidable figures.
§ Mr. Price-White
Is it not a fact that all the developments to which the hon. Gentleman is referring come under the 1945 Act?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let me give one other illustration. If ever anything in the rural areas lagged behind in Wales in the inter-war years it was water supply and sewerage. Under the stimulus of this Government there has been remarkable activity on the part of local authorities. I want to give two figures by way of contrast. In the 20 years between the wars the total loans to local authorities for water supply and sewerage amounted to less than £9 million. In the four years since the war the total grant-aided schemes amount to £13 million.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman can have the benefit of all the legislation. We take pride in administering it and putting it into practice. Local authorities are undertaking a very great burden on the rates in connection with these schemes. They are doing so because there is today in Welsh agriculture a solid confidence in the future, a confidence that is based upon the administration of the present Government, because they have nothing from the past upon which to look back with any pride or joy as far as Welsh farming is concerned.
The pattern of Welsh life has been touched upon and it has been said that Governments can destroy a people's culture; they can break up a people's life. If they destroy their livelihood, that is the easiest and best way of breaking up their culture. One of the reasons for the drift which took place from rural Wales between the wars was that the livelihood of the people had disappeared. Let there be no mistake about that. My right hon. Friend referred to the atmosphere of hopelessness and despair which existed in those years. That sense of stagnation has now changed, both in rural and in industrial Wales. The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) smiles, but within 20 miles of my constituency are three of the biggest industrial schemes now being 644 undertaken in Europe; these are at Nantgarw, Margam and Mamhilad.
§ Mr. Callaghan
These three tremendous projects are restoring and revitalising the life of the people of Wales. The numbers of young men and women in the universities is as my right hon. Friend said, increasing, and greater opportunities for them are opening up. Those are the factors which will put the people of Wales in a position in which they can build their own culture.
This, I think, is the first time when I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury. I say that Governments can destroy a culture, and I agree with the right hon. Member that Governments cannot build it up. A Government can supply the material conditions in which a people's spirit can flourish and its culture can flower. What we are seeing in Wales today as the result of the conditions which have been created by this Government is a new flowering of the Welsh spirit. It is exemplified in the performances of the National Eisteddfod and in the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen. I claim on behalf of the Government that we have created conditions which will enable the people of Wales to blossom in their spirit and to come to full flower. Those of us who know and love the Welsh people know those things of which they are capable when they are given the opportunity.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.