HC Deb 04 February 1952 vol 495 cc650-759

3.52 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. In the course of my researches into Welsh affairs, I discovered that in 1542 Parliament passed an Act dividing Wales into counties. Whatever may be thought of the Act, the Preamble is unexceptionable, and runs as follows: Our Soveraigne Lorde the Kinges Majestie, of his tendre zeale and affection that he beareth towardes his loving and obedient subjects of his dominion principalitie and countrie of Wales, for good rule and ordere to be from henseforthe kepte and mainteyned within the same, wherby his saide subjects may growe and ryse to more wealthe and prosperytie, hath devysed and made divers soondrye good and necessarye ordinances. … His Majesty's Government today are no less concerned that the Principality shall prosper, and I welcome this opportunity to discuss their "soondrye good and necessarye ordinances" for meeting the needs, interests and aspirations of Wales.

I speak on this occasion as Minister for Welsh Affairs. As the House well knows, my functions in that capacity are not executive. Other Ministers keep their executive responsibilities for administration in Wales, and I do not trespass. Nor is the Minister for Welsh Affairs a court of appeal from the decisions of other Ministers on matters of local interest. My task is—and I am proud of it—to be the advocate for Wales, and my success will depend first on my ability in getting up and understanding my brief. That involves finding out the special problems and needs of Wales, which includes the strength of feeling that those problems engender in Welsh minds and hearts. It also depends on my ability in urging on my colleagues the measures necessary to deal with those problems while maintaining the mantle of collective responsibility.

But I am very conscious that I can succeed only if I secure some measure of confidence from the Welsh people and share their interests, as well as try to understand their problems and feelings. I was, therefore, most anxious to refresh my personal knowledge, and, as a beginning, I paid two visits to the Principality during the Recess. I also met representatives of the Welsh local authorities, and, having had that experience, I am very glad to be able to say that other visits are already arranged.

My object, as I said, was to listen and learn. I found those personal contacts most valuable, and, as I have indicated, I intend to maintain and extend them. I should like to say—I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will forgive me for dealing with this personal aspect of the matter—that I was received in a most friendly fashion, with true Welsh hospitality, and I spoke with people who represented a great variety of interests—

Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke in Welsh?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

—and whose politics were also varied. Some did not see eye to eye with me in that respect, but there was no variation in their friendliness and traditional hospitality. I was very glad to learn something at first hand of the problems of Welsh agriculture, of the urgent need for houses, of the problems of road transport, roads, and water supplies, and the setting up of new industries, and I shall have some words to say about some of those problems today.

It was also a great pleasure to me to meet members of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the work they are doing. I think they have been very wise in their choice of problems to tackle: the employment of the disabled, the de-population of rural areas, marginal land, the ports—and I have every reason to know and be proud of the fact that Elder and Fyffes sail into Cardiff—and lastly the problem of administrative devolution. These, in my view—and, I think, that of everyone in this Chamber—are urgent Welsh problems, and some of them I hope to discuss in the course of my speech.

With regard to rural de-population, I was particularly interested in the pilot survey, the research that the Council have started in an area of mid-Wales which includes parts of the Counties of Montgomery, Brecon, Radnor, and Cardigan. It has been an anxiety to all lovers of the Welsh way of life and the Welsh language that, over the last half century, there has been a steady migration from Wales, and particularly from the rural areas. The movement from country to town has been greater in Wales than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. For example, I think I am right in saying that the population of the County of Montgomery is only three-quarters of what it was a century ago.

I believe that, if the distinctive Welsh way of life is to be preserved, and if Welsh is to survive as a living language, the present drift must be at least stopped, if not reversed. The Government are very anxious to give every help to the investigation which the Council are conducting. I hope that it will have profitable results, and I am sure that we all look forward with interest to this new approach and detailed examination.

May I just say one general word on another problem which I found very live and worrying, especially in South Wales, and that is the feared decline of the new industries. We all know that the measures which have had to be introduced by both Governments with regard to re-armament and inflation must bring about changes in the pattern of commerce and industry. They will affect Wales as much as other parts of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the effect on Wales may be even more marked, because many of the new industries are small and not yet fully established, and many Welsh factories have been designedly put up in remote areas which are prima facie industrially unattractive. I am sure everyone will understand what I mean by that, because that was the object of their creation. In these areas there is little other work.

I want to make it quite clear that it will be the policy of the Government to place re-armament contracts in the Welsh development areas wherever possible, and to encourage Government contractors to place sub-contracts there. During the war, Welsh workers showed that they could turn their hands readily to other skills than those used in the heavy industries, and I have no doubt that they will tackle these defence jobs with the same success.

I know that the period of adjustment is bound to be one of some uncertainty, and it would be wrong to suggest that the transition can be achieved without some measure of difficulty, but the Government are well aware of the special difficulties of Wales and will do everything in their power to keep up the level of employment. I should like to remind the House, as I am sure everyone interested knows, that my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade has been giving this problem special attention on the spot, and I can assure the House that when I say "special attention" I mean special attention. He and I have had the opportunity of discussing it in detail, with names and places, and with all the information which will be helpful.

Another problem to which the Government will have to give special attention is the employment of old and disabled workers, particularly those who suffer from pneumoconiosis; they form rather more than one-third of the disabled unemployed at the present time. I believe that the Grenfell Scheme has done much to bring new hope into the lives of the disabled in Wales, and we must try to make sure that the effects of coming changes in industry will not undo the good work. Both I and my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade have been considering these matters; and we are very anxious today to get the views of all those whom I see in front of me who are deeply interested in this problem, so that we shall be able to take measures for watching, warding and improving.

Let me for the moment pass to another aspect of the matter. I did say that since my appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs, and particularly during my visits to Wales, I learned of many matters of special importance to Wales which the Government will have to consider, and on which it is my duty to represent the views of Wales. I should like in these introductory remarks to speak about three of them. First, there is the question of further devolution of the administration of Government Departments in Wales, which is one of the matters, hon. Members will remember, that was raised and discussed by the Council for Wales. Another is the proposal that an Army training ground should be established in the Lleyn Peninsula. The third is the proposal that part of the Upper Towy Valley should be developed by the Forestry Commission.

It might be convenient if I dealt first with the question of the training ground in the Lleyn Peninsula. When I visited North Wales, that topic was foremost in the minds of most of those to whom I talked, and I received a deputation on this question from the Caernarvon County Council. Incidentally, I think that I am the first Cabinet Minister who has had the honour of meeting a Welsh local authority in its own council chamber. I was very much impressed by the unanimity of the opposition to this proposal, so one of my first tasks when I return to London was to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, and to impress upon him the very strong feelings that the proposal had aroused among all sections of Welsh opinion. I am pleased to announce that, as a result of these discussions, the War Office have abandoned for 1952 their proposal to use land in the Lleyn Peninsula.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Come to Scotland.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

This has been possible because the temporary absence of Regular Army formations from this country has enabled us to make do with other areas in the United Kingdom. I am, however, assured by my right hon. Friend that in future years the need for an area of this nature is likely to recur. He is, therefore, reconsidering the proposal with the aim of finding a solution which will be acceptable to all. Until the whole field has been fully examined, I cannot say how this will be achieved, but I can say that the greatest weight will be attached to the views of the local inhabitants and the needs of agricultural production.

At the same time, we must remember that our troops must be in a state of readiness which has not been necessary in peace-time before. I want to remind the House that the need for training and for finding suitable training areas was emphasised to both the deputations I had the honour to meet on this matter—the deputation of the county council and the deputation of the National Farmers' Union—and I did go so far as to ask them for any help they could give us in finding suitable areas, and I repeat that. I know that they were being sincere when they urged upon me that it was not because of objection to the question of training, and I hope that they will be able to help.

I now come to the question of administrative devolution. As I said a moment ago, devolution of Government administration in Wales is a matter which has engaged the attention of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire for some time. I believe that they made some representations about it to the late Government. I was certainly told their views as soon as I took up office, and it was one of the first matters to which I gave attention.

I found that the Council were concerned in particular with the organisation in Wales of two Departments, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education. I was told that the head of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, which, as everyone knows, is at Aberystwyth, did not hold a position of sufficient authority, and was not responsible for all the services provided in Wales by the Ministry of Agriculture.

I have discussed this with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He has decided to increase the status of the Secretary of the Welsh Department and to put greater emphasis on the arrangement to ensure that the Welsh Secretary is brought into consultation on all matters in which Wales has a special interest, or where it is important that the Welsh point of view should be borne in mind. This arrangement will also apply to matters concerning the administration of the technical services of the Ministry; but the Minister is satisfied that it would not be in the interests of sound administration or, indeed, of Wales itself for the National Agricultural Advisory Service and the Agricultural Land Service in Wales to be segregated for separate administration. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will understand how important it is in a specialised service that there should be an intimate connection with national development.

I want to urge—and I hope that the House as a whole will appreciate—that the increased status of the Welsh Secretary reflects the importance that the Government attach to Welsh agriculture. Anyone who has seen and has examined, as I have tried to examine, the great strides which are being made in production, while, at the same time, keeping the grazing and sheep side going properly, will agree with me that that emphasis is not misplaced.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

What does increased status mean? Does it mean promotion, or does it mean that the Welsh Secretary has additional functions, or is it both?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I think "both" is the answer. He is up-graded and, at the same time, greater emphasis is being placed on the arrangement to see that he is brought into consultation on all matters in which Wales has a special interest. His status is raised, and he is given a greater purview and liaison on other matters; it also secures that his voice will be heard on all matters affecting Wales.

Mr. Callaghan

Does that mean that he has greater power of decision at Aberystwyth than he had before, or not?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I should think that it does.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us in what spheres the Welsh Secretary will have these additional powers?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am afraid that I cannot go into the details, but the upgrading to the new rank which he holds carries with it, of course, the additional powers that such up-grading demands.

Mr. Callaghan


Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, smiles and says "No." I have tried to consider this from the point of view of the Ministry. We are not discussing submarines; we are discussing agriculture in North Wales.

Mr. Callaghan

We are discussing a matter of procedure in the Civil Service, and it is frequently the case that a civil servant's status is improved by promoting him in order to recognise the value of his job, without giving him any more work to do or any greater powers of responsibility. I am trying to find out whether that is so in this case.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I did try to explain to the hon. Gentleman that the improvements are on the lines of arranging with the Welsh Secretary that his raised status will result in his being brought into further and better consultation on all matters in which Wales has an interest in regard to agriculture; and I think that is a most important point. I do not know how familiar the hon. Gentleman is with Welsh agriculture.

Mr. Callaghan

More familiar than is the Civil Service.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I have some knowledge about North Wales. I believe that Welsh agriculture, and especially agriculture in North Wales, has made a tremendous advance, and that those engaged in it have shown great resource and courage in dealing with their special problems.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

It is very important that Wales should have this concession; but what will be the relationship of the Welsh Secretary in Aberystwyth to the Land Commissioners in Cardiff and to the Welsh Land Commission?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The position, as I understand it, is this: any matter initiated by the Land Service or the other advisory services will be referred to the Welsh Secretary for his comment from the aspect, which I have endeavoured to stress, of special Welsh interest in the matter.

Mr. Watkins

That is very important.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I agree. I hope that no one will denigrate the special contribution which those engaged in agriculture in North Wales are making, and the courage and great effort which they have shown; and it is, as I say, a recognition of efforts strongly and well made that this new step has been taken and the importance of Welsh agriculture more fully recognised.

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

No one wants to say anything against what has been done in North Wales, particularly in regard to the new grass advance. What we do want to know is whether or not the Welsh Secretary is to have power to look at schemes before they come to London, or will London send them to the Welsh Secretary when it deems fit to send them?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I think that I have already indicated that in my answer to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I indicate it again. Any scheme, initiated by any Department, which concerns Wales will be referred to the Welsh Secretary for his consideration from the Welsh point of view. I want to make that quite clear.

The next question to which I wish to turn is the Ministry of Education. As the House is aware, a Welsh Department has existed within the Ministry since 1907, but it was stationed in London, and the Council for Wales expressed the view that there would be closer contact with the Welsh Joint Education Committee and with individual education authorities if the Welsh Department of the Ministry were stationed in Cardiff. The Council indicated that they appreciated that there were some advantages in the present arrangement, which enables close contact to be maintained between the Welsh Department and the Ministry's specialised services and ensures that the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department is always readily available when matters of policy are under discussion.

I have discussed this question and the varying views with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education and she has told me that she proposes to make changes in the organisation of the Welsh Department. She intends to keep the higher officers of the Department in London but to establish in Cardiff a new unit of the Department for which the Permanent Secretary will be responsible. Day-to-day decisions within the policy laid down by the Minister will be given from the Cardiff office, and all consultations except those with Ministers will take place there unless the local education authorities or other bodies concerned prefer to go to London. The Permanent Secretary will make himself as easily accessible as possible not only within the two units in Cardiff and London but also within the headquarters of the Ministry itself. My right hon. Friend proposes to discuss the details of the reorganisation with the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, and the new arrangements will be made as quickly as possible.

I now wish to say a word about the Towy Valley afforestation—

Mr. Cove

Before we leave the subject of education, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me where the Ministerial responsibility lies? As I have known the position over many years, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education has been the Minister responsible. Personally, I see no great advantages in going to Cardiff. I am concerned to find where Ministerial responsibility lies in the Welsh education field, Is there a Minister responsible for Welsh education?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The Ministerial responsibility remains in the only place where it can exist, and that is in the Minister of Education. What was sought by the Council for Wales, who have given a great deal of consideration to this matter, was greater administrative devolution, and the step which has been taken in establishing the unit in Cardiff had that as its object.

Mr. Cove

It is merely a change of residence. I may be wrong, but there seems to be no further devolution whatever of powers in the educational field as a result of this step.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

To make this clear, I can summarise it like this: under the new procedure, decisions can be made in Cardiff which could not have been made there before. I understand that that was what was desired, and that is what we have tried to do.

Mr. Cove

It does not make the slightest difference.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his views, but when one is trying to consider the problem, all one can do is first of all read and inwardly digest what the Council for Wales have said, then discuss it with the Council for Wales and with other people who are interested in Wales, and, finally, try to make an improvement to meet the general view which has been expressed. That is what I have tried to do.

The Council for Wales had in mind four Departments, those dealing with health, town and country planning, agriculture and education. The problems in relation to those Departments have now been considered. Two of them were considered by the late Government and two have now been considered again. The process which the Council for Wales were anxious should take place in regard to those Departments has now come to a point where definite improvement has been made. That is at any rate some satisfaction. I hope no one will consider that one is patting oneself on the back or being objectionably complacent. I am putting forward these matters as steps which have been taken to meet opinion which I found to be strongly expressed. That is what I think I am here for. I am very anxious that hon. Members should at any time express their view on how further improvements should be made, and they will receive a most attentive hearing from me.

The other topic with which I wish to deal is afforestation in the Towy Valley. I found that the proposal for compulsory purchase by the Ministry of Agriculture of this large area in the Towy Valley was being widely discussed in Wales, and I received representations against the proposal from many bodies in Wales. Again, I discussed it with the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, and I took note—again, that is what I think I am for—of the strength of the opposition to the proposal, which had already shown itself in a local inquiry.

On my return to London, I discussed it with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Agriculture, and the House will remember that he announced last week his decision not to make an order for compulsory purchase. As my right hon. and gallant Friend said, his decision must not be regarded as indicating that the importance of increasing our home production of timber has in any way lessened; but I am sure that with co-operation between all the interests concerned—I shall be glad to do anything I can to secure that co-operation—it will be possible to reconcile the needs of forestry and agriculture in Wales.

I found that the most helpful view, and the view that seemed most generally acceptable, was that any project that was put forward should be considered from the two points of view: the production of food and the agricultural aspect on the one hand, and the production of timber on the other. With a reasonable approach from both sides, a great deal of apprehension should disappear. If I might very modestly make a personal appeal to farmers in Wales, I should ask them to help to achieve the very important objective of extending our plantations of growing trees, which is as important to Wales as it is to the rest of the country. In return, I ask them to accept that their wishes and food producing power will not be forgotten by us.

I have taken these three subjects as being matters which were most pressed upon me for immediate decision. Therefore, I thought it was right in my introductory remarks that I should come to the House and give hon. Members an account of my stewardship. I do not want the House to think for a moment that the other questions which I have mentioned—the best methods of dealing with the disabled, the extent to which it is believed by hon. Members that people should be employed in their own work in their own area, the way that Grenfell factories, Remploy factories and the like have developed—are not in my mind. They are in the minds of both my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and myself, and we want to hear everyone's views regarding them.

I have tried to deal with the specific points which were put to me. It is, of course, too soon to ask the House to judge whether the Government's action, and the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs, will be sufficient to give proper recognition to the special needs and characteristics of Wales without depriving Wales of the advantages of unified administration. I hope that hon. Members in all quarters of the House will think that what has been achieved—in what is, after all, the rather short period of three months—holds out some promise for the future, and I look forward to hearing the views of hon. Members on all these problems and on very many others in the course of this debate.

There is one last personal note. I have to acquaint the House that the Under-Secretary of State specially charged with Welsh Affairs is not well at the moment, and cannot be with us today. Therefore, I shall ask the House in due time to give me leave to say a further word in order that I may deal with the points that are raised.

4.33 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

I think we can all unite in congratulating the Minister for Welsh Affairs on the spirit in which he has approached his first baptism of fire in a debate on Welsh affairs. We have no doubt about his ability or his sincerity, and if we cannot accord him political support we can all give him our personal good will. I should like at the outset to say how sorry I am that the Under-Secretary of State charged with Welsh affairs cannot be here because of ill-health. We shall look forward to his early return.

There are one or two points which arise from the interesting and fair statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman with which I should like to deal before passing on to some of the matters which the Welsh Parliamentary Party as a whole would like me to place before the House. As the Member for the constituency, I was naturally interested in the future of the Lleyn Peninsula. I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman most sincerely for the action he has taken. It would be most ungenerous on my part to try to get from him whether this is a stay of execution until 1953. I do not know whether as Home Secretary he might more usefully than as Minister for Welsh Affairs make a statement on that. However, we are grateful, and I am quite sure that my constituents, and, indeed, the Welsh people as a whole, are appreciative of what has been done.

I shall mention the Towy Valley later on, and I quickly pass to the point the right hon. and learned Gentleman made about further devolution. I am quite sure that he has done his utmost to meet the representations of the Council for Wales, but prima facie the reforms he has announced today do not appear to me to be more than a nibble at the main problem. I am inhibited this afternoon from dealing at any great length with the constitutional question. I have the responsibility of making the main general points which the Welsh Members wish me to make, but I cannot pass on to that part of my speech without very briefly mentioning this point.

Speaking quite personally, I do not think that a full inquiry into the constitutional position of Britain can be long delayed. I have never believed that Britain is naturally a unitary State. It is not; it is naturally a federation, and sooner or later—sooner in my opinion—we shall have to tackle the question of devolution, not merely on the administrative level, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has described it this afternoon, but on the legislative level as well. That is my personal view, and I know hon. Members in all parts of the House agree with me. It is not necessarily the view of the Welsh Parliamen- tary Party, of which I have the honour to be chairman this Session.

The three main subjects which we as Welsh Members, on both sides of the House, wish to raise today are employment, rural depopulation and communications. The Minister for Welsh Affairs has dealt with all three, and probably when he replies to the debate he may be able to say more about these three great questions than he has already done.

Employment has always been a main Welsh problem. When we last debated the economic position in Wales about a year ago, the predominant mood was one of cautious optimism. Indeed, we were justified in that because we had seen in the Report of Government activities in Wales (Cmd. 8385), published last October, that by last June the level of Welsh unemployment had declined to a little over 20,000, the lowest recorded figure for peace time in Wales. Admittedly there were difficulties, but we had the impression of past achievement and of strong faith in the future.

That feeling has now given place to one of apprehension. It is true that with many employers and workmen in Wales the feeling of security created during the six years after the war is now not so strong. I will give great credit to the Labour Government for having given to Wales a more diversified industrial structure. They brought in something like 500 totally new concerns mainly of a manufacturing character, so reducing the ill balance of the past, which meant that most of our workers in Wales were dependent on two or three heavy industries.

I fear that today, partly because of declared Government policy, the new structure of manufacturing industry is in danger. Our apprehensions would be fewer if we thought that that was a temporary phenomenon and that the background of United Kingdom policy, as adumbrated by the Government of the day, would help us. We have not that confidence. Statements made on 6th November and on Tuesday last by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have given rise to a chill in the Welsh heart. We fear that the result of Government policy will be to start once more the old ill-health of heavy unemployment and mass migration from Wales across the Border.

As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the great majority of the new factories produce consumer goods. In many cases they do not produce for export or for defence, and consequently they fall outside the two rigid priorities which the Chancellor has announced in the House. As such, they will be severely restricted in regard to the two vital things, credit and raw materials. I want to know, and we shall all want to know, from the Minister for Welsh Affairs how far he is going to take action at the highest level in getting credit and a more sympathetic attitude in regard to raw materials for the new manufacturing industrial structure in Wales.

Some of these firms hope to be able to count on the support which will be forthcoming for exporting firms and firms engaged in re-armament. In my part of the country there are small indigenous concerns who are now shivering in the icy wind of Treasury policy, and they will continue to suffer unless there is a variation of United Kingdom financial and raw materials policy in respect of this new industrial structure in Wales. However, I am afraid that as the months go on we shall experience a recrudescence of our old enemy, mass unemployment.

I pass on to the special aspect of the unemployment problem in Wales which was mentioned by the Minister. Fully one-third of our unemployed are disabled. That is an appallingly high figure, and constitutes a specifically Welsh problem. I am indeed glad to see the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), present. He has done more than any other individual to assist the disabled workers of Wales. I hope that he will intervene in the debate and will speak about the pneumoconiotics and the silicotics, those victims of the coal dust of the south and of the slate dust of the north of Wales. I hope we shall be told that rent rebates for people taking over these factories are not enough, and that there must be special provision of raw material for the factories which, after all, are special ones meeting special cases.

It is not only in our towns and industrial valleys that the spectre of unemployment is once more arising. Farmers are laying off labourers and the drift from the countryside, which had to some extent been stayed between 1946 and 1951, is once more beginning in Wales. There are a number of reasons for it. We all know that in all rural areas people are leaving the towns because of lack of modern amenities. That is true of the whole world, but in Wales all those grim agents of expulsion—lack of water, sanitation, electricity and transport—are possibly more rampant than in any other part of Western Europe.

The figures speak for themselves. I have few here and I hope that the House will bear with me while I briefly quote them. About 40 per cent. of the houses in rural Wales are without piped water. I know that great advances have been made since 1944, but there is still a terribly long way to go. Then 45 per cent. of the houses have no electricity. In Anglesey, the proportion is 63 per cent. and in Radnor it is 80 per cent. Of farm workers' houses, 34 per cent. are in need of major repairs and reconditioning, a proportion of one-third, while 50 per cent. of them have no sewerage. In one county in Wales, 88 per cent. of the rural dwellings depend upon earth closets or cesspools.

That is a state of affairs which cannot possibly conduce to persuading people, especially young people, to stay in the rural areas and do the work which benefits everybody in the country. The rural dweller everywhere pays in cash, effort and health for living and working where he does, but in Wales he is positively punished for it.

We add to the passive perils and terrors connected with lack of amenity the active threat to the Welsh countryside, the War Office. I have said that I am very grateful for the decision to lay off Lleyn, but the demand may be made next year again. Is there any guarantee, basing our experience on the methods of the War Department, that they will not pounce on some other section of Wales? The Welsh countryside as a whole is in a state of uncertainty, frustration and bitterness about the way in which the War Department have been making incursions upon good farming land during the past few years.

Another agency which causes uncertainty and frustration in Wales, particularly among farmers, is the Forestry Commission. I am glad that the infamous proposal to evacuate 46 farmers in the Towy Valley has been abandoned. The Commission seem incapable of planting a few conifers without uprooting a whole community. I am all in favour of a proper policy of afforestation—very strongly in favour—but there are two conditions which must be met. Land which can be used for agricultural purposes must not be taken over in this ruthless fashion for planting. The tendency is for the Commission to grab the easy land. Let them tackle the more difficult land. They have plenty of power and finance. Let them replant some of the industrial valleys of Wales.

The late much-beloved George Daggar felt very deeply on this subject. In days gone by some of our South Wales industrial valleys used to be glorious with forests. They have been denuded for many a long year and the late George Daggar often said that the Forestry Commission might well go into those valleys and replant them for amenity purposes and for economic gain for the country as a whole.

Secondly, afforestation should be accompanied by ancillary industries. I think the Forestry Commission are a little blinkered in their view of what afforestation should mean. It is not just tree-planting. It should mean that, side by side with afforestation, there should be the making of furniture, woodcraft, woodwork and even paper-making. In that way afforestatioin in Wales could make a real contribution to the maintenance of a vigorous and populous rural community.

There is a third question which we wish to raise, but which I shall raise only in a general fashion. It is the question of Welsh communications. Obviously our economy, whether industrial or rural, depends to a very large degree on the utility of our transport system. It is a melancholy fact that a transport system within Wales, in any planned sense, does not exist. All roads and rails lead from Wales. Very few of them join North and South. There is not as much as one proper arterial road joining North and South Wales. We are held together with a network of rural lanes.

The first point I should like to make on this question of communications is that if the nation is to grow more cohesive, integrated and united, it must have an internal transport system which will hold it together. In North and South Wales we have grown away from each other, and part of the reason is that there has not been proper communication between the two regions. I should like to ask the Minister for Welsh Affairs to look into the question of a better road link between North and South. The last Government at least made a start in this direction, and I ask the Minister to see whether he can improve on that good start.

I am not denying that there is a very great need for improving roads which lead out of Wales, because those roads lead also into Wales, and I want to make two pleas on that score. I plead for a vastly improved road system between the ports of South Wales and the Midlands. That should have a very high priority indeed. Other hon. Members will deal in detail and with knowledge—far greater knowledge than I have—with the ports of South Wales. I am quite certain that one of the factors which militate against the fullest utilisation of those ports is that the road communications between them and the Midlands of England are not what they ought to be.

The second plea I make is one for North Wales. The main artery from the rich agricultural area of North-West Wales to Merseyside, which is its natural market and to some extent its natural source of material as well, is the coastal artery—a very picturesque road which follows the sea along the north-west coast. At one vital point that artery is continually being clogged. This is not a constituency point. I see the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) is here. The position in regard to the Conway Bridge is as if you had deliberately introduced a blood clot into an arterial stream. The bridge is dangerous and, even if it were not, in its present size and disposition it is far too small to cope with the very great economic traffic which passes between the agricultural area and the great industrial district of Merseyside.

Those were the three points we wished to raise. Other hon. Members, as I said, will go into details, but we are all agreed on those points. We are agreed that our main economic preoccupation in Wales today is the maintenance of the near-full employment which we have achieved during the past six years. Secondly, we are united in our determination to preserve our rural heritage because that, after all, is the reservoir of our language and way of life. Thirdly, we believe that our economy can never be healthy unless a proper attack is made upon the problem of internal transport in Wales as well as the external transport from Wales to its markets and sources of raw materials.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

Before I come to the Motion before the House I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) on his excellent, thoughtful, well constructed and very helpful speech. I should like to join with him in the kindly references he made to the Minister and to congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman upon his sympathetic approach to the problems and interests of our fellow countrymen of Wales.

I was glad to hear him pay a tribute to the way in which he had been received and the hospitality which has been extended to him in Wales. He is also aware that they have paid him a very high compliment in giving him a pet name already, shortening his name to a Welsh form and even adding to it a very luscious and beneficial fruit which, I might point out, is exotic as far as Wales is concerned. It does show the desire of all my people to have a sympathetic consideration of their problems.

I thank the Government for putting down a substantive Motion, which enables us to bring before the House a number of matters which, I am quite sure, my colleagues for the other constituencies of Wales would like to raise. It does make it difficult to deal with these matters if the question before the House is limited to the Adjournment. I am very grateful to the Government and to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for putting it in this way.

The other thing which is obvious from this is a recognition on the part of the Government, in the appointment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleague, not only that they are to take an interest in Welsh affairs, but that steps are necessary in order that special consideration should be given to the problems of Wales and the interests of Wales to enable the Welsh people at some time or other to attain their aspirations. At any rate, there is a recognition that we have problems of our own and interests and aspirations of our own.

I agree at once with the hon. Member for Caernarvon, whose remarks about this I was glad to hear, that the action that has been taken can be extended. The strides may go along much faster and greater than hitherto, but the aspirations of Wales will never be attained until Welsh people can look after their own Welsh affairs in Wales.

There has been a reference to the movement of offices. There has been for a very long time a realisation in the House that we have our own point of view and our own outlook. There is a recognition now that we have our own language, which we spoke here before the Anglo-Saxons ever arrived and even before the time of the Roman invaders. We still speak the language of our ancestors. The House has recognised by a number of legislative acts that special Acts of Parliament have to be passed in reference to us. Beginning at about 1907, special offices were created, such as that of the Department for Welsh Education, to be followed by the Ministry of Health then having their own special office.

There has been, and still is, a considerable amount of criticism with regard to Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may move the office and the civil servants from Whitehall to Cardiff, but that will not solve our problem.

Mr. Cove

A Parliament for Wales.

Mr. Davies

We want a Parliament for Wales, where Welsh people can, with their own knowledge, discuss and debate these matters. The hon. Member for Caernarvon was right in referring to the need for devolution. It has been pointed out in the House for 60 years or more that the success of democracy will depend upon the efficiency and effectiveness of its institutions. It was pointed out then—60 years ago, when the amount of interference with the ordinary, everyday affairs was trifling compared with what it is today—that this House was then overburdened. I wonder what they would have said with regard to it today. Our predecessors saw the need then for devolution, so that Scots people could look after their affairs, Irish people look after theirs, and, in particular, England look after English affairs. Probably our pre- decessors would want the North, the Midlands and certainly, as I pointed out to a committee over which I had the honour to preside, London left to look after their own affairs.

It is not often realised that within 30 miles of here, one-fourth of the population of these islands is crowded together and have their own problems, which cannot possibly be solved by local councils referring to a Department in Whitehall. There are regional problems. If that is true of all these other areas a fortiori it is true of Wales, with its own language, customs, traditions and glorious history, of which it is so eminently proud.

There are a number of other problems that my colleagues from Wales will want to explain. The one to which I desire to draw the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman today is that about which I have so often had to speak in the House, and I sincerely hope now that more attention will be paid to it. I have the satisfaction, however, of knowing that it is one of the problems that the Council for Wales has dealt with. I dealt with it also and made a pretty full inquiry throughout Wales in 1938 and 1939. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The difference between the Council's inquiry and mine was that I felt it was impossible to make a proper, searching inquiry unless it were made in public, allowing everybody to take part and to give their evidence.

The Council have, however, now turned part of their attention to what I consider is the real tragedy of Wales. I know the tragedy of South Wales: the tremendous exodus that took place between 1924 and 1939, when out of Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Monmouth and South Brecon no less than, I think, 327,000 people left That was, of course, a tragedy of that time, but it is a continuing tragedy in rural Wales. The exodus from rural Wales into the industrial areas is a permanent tragedy and is with us all the time. The migration is referred to in paragraph 86 of the Council's Report, where it is pointed out that— The greatest relative losses occurred in Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Breconshire each with a 25 per cent. loss"— in those few years. I shall come back to my own county presently, because it illustrates my point, probably, more clearly than any other area and not merely because I have the honour of representing it.

Paragraphs 91 and 92 of the Report emphasise something to which I called attention and which I stressed as hard as I possibly could in the Report to which I have already referred: The Panel are satisfied that no sociological factor has affected Wales more seriously over a long period than the continued loss of population through migration and that the adverse effect of this migration on the future of the nation as a whole, and especially upon the rural areas which are acknowledged to be"— I emphasise this: the mainstay of her traditions and culture, cannot be over-estimated. The next paragraph states: It is important to emphasise that the gravity of this situation for Wales and her future lies in the fact that the migrants are mainly the young workers and the future mothers. This process deprives the nation not only of the migrants themselves, but of their potential offspring. That is the sad story. It is the young and vigorous who go. On one occasion, I tried to emphasise this matter and bring it to the attention of the House, and I said that if this went on my county and the rural areas of Wales would be confined, as far as population was concerned, to old-age pensioners.

Now, I turn to my county as the one that best illustrates this tragedy. It is one of the most beautiful counties in Britain. We in Wales may differ as to whether it is the most beautiful, but, at any rate, we are agreed that it is one of the most beautiful. It certainly is one of the most fruitful. Five hundred and ten thousand acres there are of good soil; none of it is so rough that it does not produce either grass, trees, or a covering of some kind. There are not the harsh hills that there are in Caernarvonshire. These 510,000 acres, recognised as the premier agricultural county, are watered by the great rivers the Severn and the Dovey, and there are strong tributaries, the Vyrnwy, for which Liverpool owes so much, the Banw and the Tanat, and those delightful, fruitful valleys.

What has happened? We are, I believe, even today, the only county in England and Wales with a smaller population than 150 years ago. That in itself bespeaks the tragedy. I can take this tragedy as representing rural areas, for we have no industry except a recent one which has come into Newtown and another small one at Llanidloes. Apart from these, there is nothing there whatever except agriculture. We have not the seaboard of Caernarvon nor the quarries of Cardiganshire or Merionethshire.

In 1801 we had a population of 48,184. It went up steadily every tenth year until, in 1841, we had 69,607. That was our highest figure and we remained in the 60,000's until 1891 when we came to the 50,000's. By 1931 we had fallen to 48,473. The census was taken last year and in May, or June, we had our census figures. They were: 1951, Montgomeryshire, 45,989, as against 48,184 in 1801.

I now turn to an even more tragic matter. We have six little boroughs and down to 1918 they returned an hon. Member to this House. In the little boroughs the population has gone up just a little. For example, in Welshpool it went up a little, seven per cent., and in Newtown and Llandiloes it went up by five per cent. Now I come to the rural areas. Forden went down by 5.2 per cent., Newtown rural area went down 9.2 per cent., Machynlleth went down 10.5 per cent. and my own little rural area of Llanfyllin went down 12.5 per cent. All the time there has been the exodus of young people who will not stay there.

Much has been made of unemployment figures in the industrial areas, but rarely do we get unemployment figures for the rural areas. That is because the moment a boy starts looking for work he leaves the rural area and he is not on any employment books. He goes to an urban area in search of work. Why? It was due in the past primarily to economic conditions the attraction in South Wales of higher wages. I remember that period only too well when the young men left my area. They did not go mainly to Swansea or Cardiff, but to Merthyr and Tredegar.

Then they would come back to visit the area. One would come back at the end of 12 months, far better dressed than those he had left at home. Usually he had a large Albert chain—a thing we had not seen—and an enormous watch. He accompanied his very proud mother to the Nonconformist chapel on Sunday. Thereupon he explained what he earned and what was happening and, almost invariably, when he went back at the end of a week, or a shorter period, at least six others would go with him.

It must be remembered that at the time of which I am talking there was no workmen's compensation. They went and if they came back permanently they came back to die of tuberculosis, silicosis, pneumoconiosis—names unknown to us then, even the name tuberculosis, which, because there was no hope, we called "The decay," as we still call it. They were attracted by higher wages and they left. There has been an improvement in wages in agricultural areas recently, but that still does not prevent young people leaving.

They are still leaving for the reasons referred to by the hon. Member for Caernarvon—lack of amenities. There is bad housing and, even if one has a fairly decent house, there is lack of amenities—the carrying of water often across a couple of fields in buckets because there is not even a pump at the side of the road. Then there are the bad sanitary conditions. I am not going through all this again. I went through, not only every county, but every parish in Wales, almost with a toothcombe at that time.

There is one point I want to make in answer to the hon. Member for Caernarvon on a matter on which I differ from him. He seemed to think that conditions in Wales were exceptionally bad and worse than elsewhere. Bad as I found them they would be found equally bad in England if I went through them, and in Scotland. May I remind the House of a debate during the war in which I was referring to the very things the hon. Member has referred to when hon. Members opposite shouted, "Oh, that is Wales." I had to say, "I know it is Wales, but I fear that conditions are much the same elsewhere."

A week or so later a document had been sent to me and about two days later there was another debate on the same subject. Again I intervened and this time I read from that document when again hon. Members said, "Wales." I read a part of it and the descriptions that were given made my strong language pale in comparison. It was a description given by the Women's Institute, who had an inquiry made in 2,000 villages in England and conditions were found to be much the same. I do not want the hon. Mem- ber to think that conditions are worse, though they are bad and we ought to do everything we can to put them right.

What can be done? We must have better housing conditions, water, electricity and all the amenities, but even that is not enough. We must have other amenities. Young people today are not satisfied. They want to enjoy things about which we had never heard when we were their age. We need a better distribution of industry. At present we have a concentration of industry in uran areas leading to what one might call an artificial life. We see it at its worst here in London in the terrible rush in the morning and at night when people are going to and from their work. It cannot be right that men and women should be all the time on edge in these matters.

Industry should be distributed more fairly. The hon. Member for Caernarvon rightly referred to what can be done in regard to timber. So many things can come in the rural areas in the way of ancillary industries. There is timber, dairy produce and the question of abattoirs which should be set up in more convenient places. That would save a great deal of cruelty to animals and the meat could then be dealt with in refrigerators and all kinds of meat dishes could be turned out by the employment of local people.

I want to draw particular attention to this because of the need for such help in our little market towns. They have stood the test of time and it would not be unnatural to follow this practice. They have been the centre of a large community for hundreds of years and they are the places to which people naturally go. They were the centres of trade in the old days when wool was of more importance. Little Newtown and Welshpool were at one time regarded as Leeds and Bradford are regarded today. They are natural centres and can be used again.

But what has been happening? I had to make a protest on behalf of them when the Act in connection with the Development Areas was going through the House. I was then begging, "Do not crowd all these industries into these areas." If another war should come, which God forbid, we shall require to scatter our industries so that it will be as distant as possible from where bombs may be dropped. That had to be done hurriedly during the last war Let us do it for the benefit of the community now, quite apart from war considerations. That is what I asked for at that time.

I brought a deputation to see the then President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and they explained to him our conditions in Welshpool. It has a first-class little council; it has built more houses than all the other councils in the county of Montgomeryshire. The council has even bought land for the use of industry. The town is perfectly situated, with a railway north, south and east, and roads north, east and south—a wonderful centre. The right hon. Gentleman was so impressed at that time that he said he would do his best to encourage industry to go there. It has never come. I have had a really hard struggle to keep one small industry.

By contrast, in towns in development areas, where people are crowded, encouragement is given. If a new building, a new siding for the railway or a new road is required that is promised. But in our case the answer is, "No." It would be far healthier life for the workpeople if industry were taken to such towns as I have mentioned. It would add to the wealth of the countryside and there would be a closer co-operation between the rural people and the old market towns to which they are so accustomed. I press that strongly upon the Government.

Also, I wish that the Minister would look at the costs which are falling upon these rural areas, costs which they can ill afford. Time and again I have had to call attention to it. I wish to thank the late Government, as I have often done previously, for what they did in readjusting the grants to the various counties. That certainly relieved our rural counties a great deal, but their position is still difficult, and I will end my speech with mention of one of their difficulties—the tremendous cost of roads in our area in respect of unclassified roads.

There is a world of difference between an unclassified road in Montgomeryshire and one in Middlesex. In Middlesex the unclassified road will occasionally be used by a coal cart or a milk van, and possibly some cars. But our unclassified roads are the arteries down which come the food and other materials which the country needs. They were never built for heavy traffic but down them come, at a tremendous pace, young men driving heavy milk lorries and still heavier timber wagons, and, of course, they knock those roads to pieces.

Recently the Government called, at a conference with the local authorities, for a 90 per cent. reduction in expenditure on unclassified roads. We cannot do that. I cannot remember the figures for today, but the figures when I was making that inquiry showed that the road rate for Middlesex was 9d. in the pound whereas that for Montgomeryshire was 13s. 4d. in the pound and for Cardiganshire 13s. 8d. in the pound. That is the sort of thing that puts an additional burden upon those places.

Would the Minister look again into the possibility of creating more smallholdings in Wales? We have, certainly in Montgomeryshire, very few agricultural workers in the sense that they exist in England. Our farmers are family farmers, the children remain at home to help. The one thing they understand and know about is agriculture, and their one anxiety is to get a holding of their own, and there are so few of them.

Other matters are the necessity to bring water, electricity and other amenities to rural Wales, and to do all that is possible to stop the continued export from Wales of our young men and women which, if allowed to continue, will mean ultimately a complete change in our countryside, with a disastrous result on our tradition, culture and heritage.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)

I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and that of the House, not only because I rise to address the House for the first time but also because I am following the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), which is always a difficult task.

I should say by way of introduction that I have the honour to represent the Conway division of Caernarvonshire. I believe that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) is a constituent of mine, but I do not think he is a supporter. I was very pleased to hear him speak today. We have one thing in common despite our differences—we are both concerned for the welfare of Wales. I think that can be said for the vast majority of the people in our respective constituencies.

It is not only because of my views on the matter, but also because I represent a constituency which is in the heart of Wales that I was very pleased to hear my right hon. and learned Friend give in this House the assurance that the special problems and difficulties of Wales are well in the forefront of the thoughts of His Majesty's Government, and that my right hon. and learned Friend, as the advocate of Wales, will do his utmost to assist towards a solution of these problems and difficulties.

There have been great changes in the social and economic structure of Wales over the last ten years. Many of those changes have been changes for the good. In all sincerity, I should like to acknowledge the efforts made and the results achieved since 1945. But in my view, in the past, one thing has been lacking, namely, a sufficient acknowledgment by Governments that Wales is a separate and distinct nation with an individuality and way of life which is in sharp contrast to that which obtains in England.

This distinction has at last been recognised, and by the creation of a Minister for Welsh Affairs and an Under-Secretary of State specially charged with Welsh affairs, Wales can now be assured of constant representation at the highest level in all aspects of national policy. I believe that these steps which have been taken by His Majesty's Government will ensure that Welsh problems will be dealt with more speedily, more effectively, and what is more important, more sympathetically than has sometimes been the case in the past.

Moreover, I am of opinion that this recognition of Wales forms the basis of the greatest advance in the political life of Wales for centuries. There are many people, both inside and outside this House, who believe that Wales should have a far greater control over the conduct of her affairs than she has at the moment. Time alone can show whether that belief is well founded or otherwise, but should experience show that further devolution is advisable the gate-way is now unlocked for the first time.

The problems of Wales are many and varied, and my right hon. and learned Friend and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and the hon. Member for Caernarvon have mentioned many of these problems. They have discussed them fairly and truly. There were two matters of interest to me on which I would like to comment. I was most pleased to hear today for the first time that the scheme, or the proposal, of the War Department to acquire land in the Lleyn Peninsula of Caernarvonshire has now been abandoned for the time being. I was also most pleased to hear that the Towy Valley afforestation scheme has also been abandoned.

The proposal by the War Department to acquire this land in Lleyn is a matter which had caused much distress to the agricultural community and indeed the insatiable appetite of the War Department for Welsh land has been causing distress to Wales for some time. It is a matter which has a distinct local flavour, in as much as the conditions in these matters vary when they are in Wales. The point I would wish to make is that previously all the people who made protests against similar acquisition never had any feeling that their protests would receive consideration. The most for which they could hope was that there would be an inquiry by a tribunal appointed by the Minister concerned, with power only to refer back to him. It is a matter of comment that the decision of the Minister would very often be but the echo of his own departmental advisers, who would have no interest in or concern with the national character of Wales.

It was, therefore, a great pleasure to me to learn in the Recess that my right hon. and learned Friend had gone to the Lleyn area and had met people in that district and examined the problem personally. For the first time the people concerned in these matters experienced a far greater feeling of security, for they knew that my right hon. and learned Friend was there as a member of the Cabinet, but not representing a Government Department; nor was he representing the interests of a Government Department, nor indeed the interests of a Government. He was there as a Cabinet Minister representing the interests of Wales.

I had hoped to say a word about matters which affect my constituency. I was grateful to the hon. Member for Caernarvon when he mentioned the Conway Bridge and he was able to put the problem far more effectively than I could have done. It is an urgent problem, and I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend to examine it. If he feels it is time for a new bridge to be built I ask him to advocate that on behalf of the people in North Wales.

I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to consider two further matters. The first is that many of the problems of Wales are best dealt with by the people of Wales themselves and I would ask him to consider that local Government in Wales should be both local and government; that is, subject to the minimum of interference and dictation from Whitehall. Second, I would ask him carefully to consider the necessity for reconstituting the Council for Wales so that it can become a more effective and representative voice of feeling and opinion in Wales. As a start, I suggest they should meet more regularly and that their meetings should no longer be in secret.

I believe that an effective link between this House and the Cabinet and the Council for Wales can now be forged. When that is done our national aspirations will in a large measure have been attained.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

This is the first time that I have had the great honour and pleasure of following a maiden speaker in this House. I am glad that he should be a fellow countryman, and I make haste to offer not only my own sincere congratulations but also those of the House to the hon. Gentleman on his first speech.

The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) has shown his wisdom by the day which he selected for making his first contribution. It is fitting that a South Walian should be the one to congratulate a North Walian, for on this day we are united in our desires. If in the future the hon. Gentleman will reveal the same understanding of his subject and the same confidence as that with which he has spoken on this occasion, I am quite sure he will make contributions which hon. Members on both sides of the House will very much appreciate.

While I am saying these pleasant things, perhaps I may also say how sorry I am that the Under-Secretary who, with my colleague and myself, has the honour to represent the City of Cardiff in this House, is prevented by ill-health from being with us. I earnestly hope he will soon make a sound recovery and play his rightful part both in this House and in his Department.

The Minister for Welsh Affairs knows us a little better today than he did two months ago—I think that is a fair enough statement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said some very kind things today about the Welsh people. We are a modest people, but, like all other people in the world, we like to hear kind words said about our compatriots. And the right hon. Gentleman did himself a favour by those kind words which he addressed to us. It made us realise that he is a far-seeing and understanding man, and he has picked on the correct attributes from the Welsh character.

I shall not follow the hare of this constitutional reform. I think it quite unreal. It interests nobody except a few clergymen and university dons in the Principality of Wales. I earnestly hope the Minister was not misled by the little coteries he met here and there. I would make a suggestion to him and his colleagues who descended on us in goodly number during the last Recess—it was difficult to keep up with their movements, although I realise that the kindliness of the Welsh temperament would protect even Tories when moving about in the Principality.

I hope that the Minister will realise that the people of Wales are concerned with bread-and-butter issues and that all the other issues hang on the bread-and-butter question. Welsh people love to argue, but the issue of a Parliament for Wales is absolutely unreal when what they are concerned about is their protection by a welfare State and the guarantee of work to enable the bread-winner to maintain an adequate home.

Since 1945 the people of Wales have enjoyed a new sense of security. Indeed, this was the outstanding feature noticed by the Minister himself. I note that at the end of his tour in Wales he paid tribute to the astonishing degree of recovery in the Principality since the war. No one could fail to go there without noting that. There has been work for every able-bodied man in Wales for the first time in my memory and also work for the disabled men—for the fellows injured in their work. A miniature miracle was performed when so many of these disabled men were provided with occupation and employment.

It has been said that the Welsh people are adaptable in their character. That is true. They are a versatile and willing people. They have a very special pride in their home life, but they have learned the bitter lesson of experience—that economic insecurity not only imperils home life but can destroy native culture. We are extraordinarily sensitive to the movements of the barometer which indicates employment levels. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) made it clear that there are disturbing and unpleasant trends in the employment figures in the Principality.

There is a deep uneasiness spreading throughout the Principality on this question. The representatives of the Government, that is, the civil servants in Wales, have given a lead. In the "Western Mail" of 29th January last, Mr. Owen Taylor, the Controller for Wales with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, was reported as saying: The January figures for unemployment in Wales will show a substantial increase on the December figures. Industries chiefly affected will be iron and steel, textiles, clothing, furniture, radio and a number of the metal-using industries. Captain Oram, who is the Controller in charge of the Board of Trade in Wales, is reported in the "Western Mail" of the same day as saying that 80 per cent. of the new industries brought to the principality during the past 15 years are "reasonably secure." That is a frightening remark. It is distressing to hear that no less than one-fifth of the industries brought into Wales cannot even be put in the category of reasonable security.

Already South Wales light industry is being badly hit by the competition from Germany and Japan. In our export trade we are being undercut, especially in what are sometimes referred to as the native territories, in the sale of pots and pans and articles of that kind. The Japanese can easily undercut us, and German competition is getting bad. In the "South Wales Echo" of 29th January, there was a leading article which began with these words: The spectre of unemployment in Wales, even though it can never be on the scale it was during the great depression, is becoming disturbingly evident. Fresh examination of the entire pattern of Welsh employment is vitally necessary. The House will note that this is a Tory paper which supports the Government. It would be wrong to raise a scare in this House today and to cause unnecessary anxiety and heart-burning among our people way back at home; but it would be criminal to ignore the dangerous trends today.

Last week I visited the employment exchange at Cardiff and found that I had to push past the crowds of young men waiting to sign the register. They were able-bodied men and I assumed that there had been a local strike—one of these unofficial strikes which occur now and then. But I was told that there is a serious problem for manual labour in Cardiff. Then, again, one clothing factory has one-third of its staff unemployed every week. Another shirt factory in Cardiff has been working for only three days a week during the last few weeks.

This causes considerable anxiety. Our plastic industries are facing serious problems and I know of one which may not be able to weather the storm. I ask the Minister, who is to reply to this debate, to tell us what degree of priority the Government are giving to the supply of essential raw materials to industry in the development areas. One condition we must not see again is that where there are these heavy pockets of unemployment in that part of the United Kingdom which paid such a high price in the days between the wars. What assistance are the Government prepared to give to protect those trades in the development areas which are suffering the present recession?

I hope that the Minister will take the advice of one of my hon. Friends and try to get the banks to allow credit on a rather more generous scale within the development areas in order to keep these industries in operation during a difficult period. We in Wales, with our secondary industries, will feel the blow announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week ten times as hard as the Midlands or London. Once again we shall see economic prosperity in these big industrial centres and heartbreak in those little valleys which wind from the City of Cardiff to the north and north-east.

I give the Minister this warning. There are explosive possibilities in the Principality if deterioration is allowed in the field of employment, for we have there a generation who have tasted social security and who will not go back to the insecurity which they knew before the war. I ask the Minister, in his reply, to give us some indication of the Government's policy with regard to the supply of essential materials to industries in the development areas. What priority are we to have over the other areas and what is the attitude of the Government towards credit for these light industries which we are trying to keep alive?

Before I conclude, I want to say a word about the port of Cardiff. Hon. Members will appreciate that, although this great port is located in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), it employs labour from all parts of the great city of Cardiff, and if the docks are in trouble the life of Cardiff is paralised. I am glad to be able to note that since the war, through Government direction over bulk purchase cargoes, we were able to increase the import trade of Cardiff until it was better than before the War. As a result, our imports in 1951 were the best since 1927.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

Give the exports.

Mr. Thomas

I am coming to that. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) wants to know about the exports. In general traffic, the export figures are the best since 1946.

Mr. Bowen

Give the total tonnage.

Mr. Thomas

I am coming to that, too. The hon. Gentleman is almost as impatient in listening to me as I am when I am listening to him. The only difference is that I am saying something worthwhile. With the exception of the year 1947, in the export of coal this is the worst year since 1853. In the coming year we shall not be importing coal from America. I can understand political comment which has been made in Cardiff by hon. Gentlemen who support the party opposite on the fact that, cheek by jowl with coal going out of Cardiff, coal was coming into Cardiff from America. Those of us who knew the problem were very glad to note that if the coal had to come into the country, then it came in through Cardiff. The import of coal through Cardiff was good for Cardiff docks; it is an ill wind which blows nobody any good. Yet import of coal, as well as the export of coal, was good for us.

We have a special problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East, has earned glowing tributes from hon. Members of all parties for the way in which he has watched the interests of those docks. He may himself intervene in this debate; I do not know. I will, however, say this: I believe that the Transport Act of 1947 lays down that the Minister of Transport is responsible, within two years of the passing of the Act or such longer period as he may allow, for requiring the Transport Commission to prepare and submit a draft scheme of charges relating to all services and facilities provided.

The great difficulty for the port of Cardiff is that of obtaining truly competitive railway rates and charges. In addition, there is the problem of the system of rebates which operates at some competing ports. It is nearly four years since the passing of that Act and still the Minister and the Transport Commission appear to be doing nothing about those railway rates and charges and the system of rebates. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will realise that the question of the Welsh ports is one for which his very earnest consideration is required.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

Like the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), I face the ordeal of making my first essay at addressing this House. I have been advised by persons having more knowledge of these matters than myself that on such an occasion one should endeavour to have a sense of diffidence and a certain amount of awe and also should try to avoid the more blatant form of controversy. It is not necessary for me to simulate either the diffidence or the awe, and I shall, to the best of my ability, endeavour to avoid the rather dangerous pits of controversy.

One can thank both this Government and the Labour Governments which preceded them for the valuable advance which has been made over the field of devolution of government in Wales including, I believe, the county of Monmouthshire. We can thank the Labour Governments for instituting the Council for Wales which, despite its apparent limitations, is epoch making. While it has in justice been observed that it is purely an advisory body, I venture to suggest that, as an advisory body, it is unique in so far as it is the advisory council of the whole nation.

With respect, I implore the Minister and also the Chairman of that body to study the possibility of having some of its deliberations in public. One recognises the desirability of having certain sessions in secret, but it seems to me that while the deliberations and discussions of this House and similar assemblies all over the world of great importance are in public, there should be no deterrent in the ideal of having some of the deliberations of this Council for Wales also in public. A healthy spirit of publicity may surely benefit its counsels.

We can, too, with justice thank the present Government for following that most valuable inauguration of the Council for Wales with the supplemental appointment of a Minister specially charged with responsibility for Welsh affairs and, indeed, an Under-Secretary enjoying a peculiar responsibility for those affairs.

In the Principality, we are not, as it were, an extra English county. Recently, a Lancastrian friend of mine said to me, "If you have a day for Welsh affairs we should have a day for Lancashire affairs, because we have more Members of Parliament than you." That obscures the fact that, by and large, we are definitely a different kind of people. Whether we speak Welsh or not, whether we speak it fluently or badly, I suggest that we are a different kind of people. Had anybody doubting my Welsh-ness observed me at recent Rugby football internationals and noted my peculiar behaviour when Wates scored, he would no longer have had doubt about my nationality.

It may be that in the past we, as Welsh representatives have been somewhat lacking in that ability to bring pressure on the Government of the day in which the Scots excel. I hope the Minister will not misunderstand me when I say that I think collectively we can make greater nuisances of ourselves. Welsh people tend to be somewhat reticent and, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) observed, falsely modest on some occasions.

The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), advanced the suggestion that Wales should have its own Parliament. He, like the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), very properly stressed the need for greater devolution of Government within these islands. Many of us feel that such devolution within these islands must come, and I think it is a notable step forward that the present Government have added to the power of the Scottish Office. I sincerely hope that after the present experiment of a Minister charged with responsibility for Wales has been demonstrated as effective we, too, may move forward to a Welsh Office with a Welsh secretariat. Wales has a larger population than New Zealand, and it is manifestly quite a sizable and important community on its own.

With regard to the field of agriculture, I ask the Minister to note, as undoubtedly he has done already, that in Wales we have, by and large, a greater proportion of marginal and difficult land than in the whole of the British Isles. In industry, of course, our development has been unbalanced. Even today it is obvious that we are faced with the possibility that, dependent as we are in general on the major industries of coal, iron, and steel, and in view of the present crucial financial position of this country, these light industries may be insufficient to maintain that balanced form of industry which our country needs.

I sincerely hope the Minister will take that into consideration when considering what policy to adopt in order to maintain alternative forms of employment, particularly in those areas where the various Trading estates have been established in recent years and were established immediately before the war. Thanks to successive Governments—the National Government immediately prior to the war, the war-time Coalition Government and the Labour Governments which followed—we have those trading estates in various parts of South Wales. It is important that the industries started there and in the Remploy factories should be sustained, even though their sustenance may for a short time be an artificial prop.

In the field of transport—and many hon. Members have stressed the need for an efficient transport system—I think it fair to say that a great debt is due to the Minister of Transport in the last Labour Government and to the present Minister, and, indeed, to the permanent officials of the Ministry of Transport, for the excellent condition of the main trunk road from Chepstow as far west as Swansea, and, indeed, beyond. That, by and large, is an excellent road, but the traveller who leaves South Wales on his way to the West of England arrives at a bridge in Chepstow which is a major obstacle to further progress. From there to the City of Gloucester we have a very secondary highway indeed. I trust that the Minister will examine the possibility of giving high priority to the extension of the road. The highway between Newport and Chepstow to the West of England and the Midlands is one of first magnitude. The road from Newport to the West is indeed excellent and deserves a better extension.

The great scheme for completing the bridge over the river at Neath is also something which will be a most valuable addition to the transport system of South Wales and will do much to benefit industry, the Margam steel works, the town of Swansea and the surrounds. I trust the Minister will realise that Wales needs good transport facilities and good roads more between South Wales and the Midlands than between South and North Wales because the ports and cities of South Wales and the Midland cities are largely interdependent. Much of the products of industry which do not now, unfortunately, pass through the ports of South Wales, could, I believe, be attracted there if communications were better.

I sincerely hope that industrialists will realise what splendid facilities there are in some of the South Wales ports. What is more, the record of their dock workers is unparalleled in the whole country. There have been fewer strikes in the Welsh ports than in practically all the other ports in the country. Surely, shippers and importers must have some regard to that fact when deciding what ports they shall use. These ports have hitherto been dependent upon the export of coal, and they need other traffic. At one time my own constituency of Barry was probably the greatest of all coal exporting ports in the world, but today its export of coal is a mere trickle. The resuscitation of these ports should be a high priority for the examination of any Minister charged with the responsibility for Welsh affairs.

Finally, I would, with diffidence, mention one other consideration. I am told that as at present constituted the South Wales Electricity Board has no agriculturist on it at all. There is a strong desire that one should be represented on it because the western part of Wales—and I apologise to any hon. Members representing constituencies there for mentioning it—is singularly inadequately supplied with electricity. It seems to those who know that part of the country that great benefit would accrue to it if an agriculturist could be added to the strength of that Board.

I thank the House for its indulgence and for the attention it has paid to me in my ordeal of addressing it for the first time, and I also thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for enabling me to do so.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)

I know that I am voicing the opinion of hon. Members on both sides of this House when I extend to the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) my congratulations on a very excellent maiden speech. He spoke with considerable confidence, and had we not known that it was a maiden speech we might well have thought he had spoken before. I am also glad to have this opportunity of congratulating the hon. Gentleman because he represents the constituency in which I was born, and I am very pleased to have the privilege of following him after such an excellent maiden speech.

I realise, as I am sure many other hon. Members must, that many of the problems which confront Wales and the Welsh people today are problems common to other parts of the country. After hearing the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, I am beginning to wonder in what respect the Minister for Welsh Affairs can save us from what can only be described as the harsh economies which the Government contemplate.

I do not want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be under any illusion that the cuts which are to take place in education are not giving rise to considerable resentment among men and women in South Wales. If further cuts in school buildings are to be made, then it is no wonder that the Monmouth County Council, for instance, are in revolt. It is well known that if these conditions continue for any length of time, the Monmouth County Council will not be able to accommodate school children in many parts of their area. I am glad to learn that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is visiting Newport in the near future. We extend to him a very hearty invitation to Monmouth, and we hope that he will find time to go to the County Hall and hear the views of the education committee on the cuts contemplated by the Government.

The coal-mining industry is the basic industry in South Wales and the heart and pulse of South Wales are in the mining valleys. It is in these valleys that the people are making a valuable contribution to the economic life of the country, and yet it is in these mining valleys that there is a great lack of amenities as compared with the cities. I know that a great deal has been done for the miner. There has been an increase in wages and improved conditions of employment and already we are beginning to see at least some increase in recruitment to the industry.

But wages and improved conditions alone will not attract the men to the mines. Social life in the valleys plays an important part. In New Tredegar thousands of people depend on the mining industry, yet in that district there are no playing fields and children and young people play near the rubbish tips. They have no access to facilities for physical exercise and recreation. Representations have been made to the Government and to the Playing Fields Association, but we are informed that nothing can be done for the time being to establish playing fields in that part of my constituency. The problem is not confined to that area. Throughout the valleys of South Wales there is a lack of playing fields.

The Battle of Waterloo is said to have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the battle of coal will be lost in South Wales unless playing fields are established. We talk about absenteeism in the mines sometimes. The miners of South Wales like to see football and many young men like to take part in games. They do not always want to go to Cardiff and Newport, but there are no facilities in the valleys and no adequate playing fields to enable these people to take part in football and physical recreation.

I hesitate to think what would have happened to South Wales if it had not been for the Miners' Welfare Association. It has worked wonders. The cultural life of South Wales revolves round workmen's institutes. Our dramatic societies and musical organisations had their birth in these institutes, but they are becoming inadequate and cannot cope with the increasing population arising from the establishment of new factories. It is the improvement in the social amenities of the mining valleys which will play an important part in the mining industry.

We rightly say that coal is the basic industry, and we wish to improve the industry's output. One of the most important factors in increasing both manpower and output is the improvement of social life in the mining valleys and the giving to our people of a better opportunity of enjoying themselves. In South Wales we want to be able to enjoy the same social amenities as are enjoyed by other areas. As an example of the demand for social and cultural amenities in these mining areas, I quote the following from the "South Wales Echo": In a few hours after booking started for the three-day opera season at the Workman's Hall, Ferndale, on 21st, 22nd and 23rd April, the 3,000 seats were sold. That is the position in the Rhondda, and that is an example of the yearning for music and all aspects of culture in the Welsh mining valleys. In my own division we have the Blackwood Dramatic Society who perform in the Miners' Institute, and whenever they present a play all the seats are booked months beforehand.

There are not enough of these social amenities, and if we are to improve the position in the mining industry and obtain coal, young men must be enabled to realise that life in the mining valleys is as good as life in Newport, Cardiff or Barry. Our young men are prepared to run the dangers of the mining industry, but they want a better social life, and I hope that the Minister will take notice of their desires.

That brings me to my second point, to which hon. Members have already referred. I congratulate the late Government upon what they achieved in finding employment for disabled men. In 1947 there were 16,229 registered disabled on the books of the employment exchanges in South Wales. By July last, that figure had decreased to 7,400. Unfortunately, there has been a slight increase since then, and on 17th December the number was 7,822. A large proportion of these men are idle today and are suffering from pneumoconiosis. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to that disease, which is a great practical problem in South Wales. Over 80 per cent. of all the people in this country who suffer from the disease come from South Wales. The disease has been one of the most serious social and economic problems that has faced us for many years.

I am pleased to say that, as a result of the efforts made by the Ministry of Fuel and Power during the last six years, there are already signs that the incidence of the disease is lessening. There are fewer men certified today than there were a few years ago, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not to face the liability which the Labour Government had to face. In 1945 there were 4,227 certified cases in South Wales. By 1946 the figure had been reduced to 3,084. In 1948 the number was 3,824, in 1949 it was 3,809, in 1950 it was 2,044, and in 1951, 1,166.

We are now beginning to see the effects of the measures taken by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, but nothing succeeds like success and now that we have pneumoconiosis on the run, it is the very time for adopting even more effective measures to get rid of the disease entirely in South Wales. We can see now that the water diffusion and other dust suppression measures adopted during the last five or six years are having an effect. That should encourage the Government to proceed even more energetically in getting rid of this disease in the Welsh coalfields. They now have to face the responsibility of improving the position so far as pneumoconiosis is concerned.

There is another matter to which I wish to refer, and that is in connection with the Grenfell factories. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not make much reference to this question, and I wish he had dealt with it in more detail. After all, we looked to the Grenfell scheme to provide employment for disabled men. We appreciate the work that has been done by the Remploy factories, and I wonder whether steps can be taken to bring the Grenfell factories under a similar arrangement to that of Remploy. Remploy has done invaluable work for the disabled people in South Wales, whereas people working in Grenfell factories are often only working part time. If they could be brought under arrangements similar to those operating with Remploy, there would be a better chance of getting into work numbers of men who are still idle.

I wish to refer to the housing problem in the South Wales coalfields. It was the intention of the former Minister of Fuel and Power to make special arrangements with the Minister of Town and Country Planning for building more houses in the South Wales coal area. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman state what progress is being made with those special arrangements which were contemplated by the former Minister of Fuel and Power?

I know that the National Coal Board had under consideration a proposal whereby they would build houses, and this House is entitled to know what the Ministry are now prepared to do to improve the housing position in the coalfields of this country, and in particular in South Wales. Here is another problem affecting the output of coal. We want more houses. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman can tell us what steps are now contemplated to improve the housing position in the South Wales coalfields, it will be of some satisfaction to the miners in that area.

6.23 p.m.

Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)

I hope I may have the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time. I should like to say how pleased I am to be called upon to speak on this day—a day devoted to dealing with the problems and the affairs of the country I love most. I am one of those people who believe that Wales is a nation. We have our own language, traditions, culture and customs, and unless this fact is unreservedly recognised I suggest that Members will never understand the people of Wales. Indeed, neither can we understand the problems of Wales if we regard the Principality as merely an appendage to England.

I could spend some time relating the contributions that Wales has made to western civilisation in literature, commerce, religion and politics. Indeed, during the present century Wales added lustre to the prestige of this House in the counsels of the nation by giving it one of the most illustrious and famous of Prime Ministers. Wales is described as the land of song. The Prime Minister, whom I trust is still pursuing his study of Welsh, quite correctly referred to it in my own tongue—Môr o gân yw Cymru i gyd.

I would, however, remind the House of the economic blizzard which raged like fury through the valleys of South Wales between the two wars. We still sang, it was true, but we sang in those days not because of the prevailing circumstances but in spite of them. The tragedy of that period has been expressed not in books, not in song, not in verse, but in the faces of brave men and women now turned middle age. We had every reason to hang our harps on the willows. The valleys were full of misery, degradation and distress. We are a forgiving people. We can forgive the cruelty of those days, but we can never forget them.

How did the Government of that time endeavour to solve the problem? By forcing 250,000 of our people to leave their native land, the land of their fathers. As many as 250,000 of our young people had to leave. Exile and the breaking up of family life was what we experienced. Indeed, it was like a modern attempt to cure anaemia by a process of blood letting. It is because of our very sad experience that we appreciate this appointment which has been made by the Government, and I am quite prepared to congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs, and also his deputy, who unfortunately cannot be with us here today.

I do not know whether there is any significance in their names—David and Llewellyn. We do know the blessing conferred upon Wales by St. David. We know the exploits on behalf of Wales by Prince Llewellyn. But then, of course, every David is not a saint, and every Llewellyn is not worthy to be a prince. I hope that these gentlemen will emulate them.

His Majesty's Gracious Speech at the beginning of this Parliament included these words: I have approved new arrangements to bring added strength to the counsels of My Government upon the special problems and interests of Wales. It is fully recognised, therefore, in that speech that Wales has her special problems, and I want for a few minutes to deal with one of them in particular.

I wish to refer to the problem of depopulation in the countryside. The mischief of this problem is this. Not only do we lose the population, but other things that we value greatly also go in its wake. The language goes. We also lose that peculiar form of Welsh culture known to us as Diwylliant Cefn Gwlad—that peculiar form of Welsh culture which is so highly valued in Wales. When we lose that, Wales loses her very soul. We were told in this House last week how the population of the world is increasing at an alarming rate. Today the population of England is higher than ever. The population of the Welsh countryside is declining in each succeeding year. Every year the population goes down and down.

Let me give four examples from my own constituency of Merionethshire. During the last 20 years, the population of Edeyrnion rural district has declined by 11 per cent., that of Penllyn rural district by 21 per cent., that of Pennal parish by 15 per cent., and that of Deudraeth rural district by 4 per cent. Indeed, in a period of 30 years, the population of Penllyn and Edeyrnion, where we have this Diwylliant Cefn Gwlad that I spoke about, has lost 2,725 people. The population has decreased by that alarming number. The town of Blaenau Festiniog could once boast a population of 15,000; today, it is barely 8,000.

The problem can only be solved in one, two or three ways—by the expansion of existing industries, by the revival of old industries and by the establishment of new industries. May I be permitted to refer again to my own constituency of Merioneth? I naturally do so because it must be the best constituency in the Kingdom, but it is a typical North Wales county. What can be done there to check this tide of depopulation, which is the vital problem affecting Wales today?

I have time only to touch upon perhaps two or three projects. I most strongly urge the Government to revive the coastal shipping in Cardigan Bay, and in this connection I have in mind the three ports of Barmouth, Aberdovey and Portmadoc in Caernarvonshire. Aberdovey—we have all heard of the bells—was once a flourishing port; indeed, even up to the last year before the war, it had a flourishing trade. The re-opening of these ports would also revive the fishing industry, and may I add, in case an emergency which I hope will never arise does come upon us, these ports could also be used for national defence.

I also ask the Government to revive the woollen industry in North Wales. Merioneth is one of the principal wool-producing counties, not only in Wales, but in the whole of the Kingdom, and, therefore, has abundant supplies of raw material for a prosperous manufacture. The woollen industry in Dinas Mawddwy—I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman saw it when he was in my constituency; he honoured us with his presence there—is a pattern which is worthy of the closest attention of the Government, and this factory was established for the very simple purpose of trying to stem the flow of depopulation. Years ago, too, there were throughout the length and breadth of Wales a large number of leather tanneries, and I am sure that these could be re-established with great profit, and that they would provide employment for hundreds of people.

Lastly, the young people are leaving the countryside for another reason, which was touched upon by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch)—the lack of social amenities. We are living in a scientific age, and it will be agreed that the basis of progress today is electricity. North Wales is very much underdeveloped in this respect. I blame no one for this; on the contrary, I wish here and now to pay a high tribute to the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board for what it has been able to accomplish in the brief period of its existence. The chairman of that Board is one of the leading engineers of the country, and he has been ably served by the manager for North Wales. Both these gentlemen have a passion for rural electricity development, and we have the utmost confidence in them. Whatever economies are contemplated by the Government, I appeal to them as fervently as I possibly can not in any way to retard the progress of rural electrification.

In conclusion, may I reiterate that Wales is a nation, and a nation determined to live, as is evidenced in our slogans:

Tra Mor, Tra Meirion

Cymru am byth.

6.36 p.m.

Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)

I am very pleased to have the opportunity of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) on his very able speech, which was tinted, and rightly so, by Welsh fervour and Welsh enthusiasm, and I am sure that hon. Members will follow the example of the Prime Minister and endeavour to brush up their knowledge of the Welsh language in order that they may follow references like those made during the speech of my hon. Friend.

It has been a remarkable debate so far, because we have had four maiden speeches, and I include in that number the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In accordance with the usual formula for congratulating hon. Members who make maiden speeches, I express the hope that we shall have the opportunity of hearing the right hon. and learned Gentleman on many occasions in these debates.

I suppose that, at this period of the debate, the long-distance runners have gone, and I think that I am starting the era of the sprinters. I want to set an example myself by being short, sharp, and, I hope, to the point. Repetition, however, is not an unpardonable offence in this House; if it were, HANSARD would be one broadsheet. So I make no apology for dealing with the same theme as I have dealt with in every Welsh debate in which I have had the honour and privilege of addressing the House.

I make no complaint against the right hon. and learned Gentleman for not specifically referring to this point. What I am anxious to find out is whether the Government are seized of the industrial problem. I have lived and worked in Wales long enough to have witnessed a few stages in an industrial revolution. I can remember the time in the steel industry when everything was hand-operated, when our night-shifts were from 5 to 7 a.m. and when every pound of steel was hand-operated. I have seen the changeover from that process to the mechanisation of that industry. That very great change is a great compliment to the late Government, and I was very pleased to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the present Government intend to follow their example.

The infiltration into Wales of new methods of production will be of the greatest benefit if in the coming years, there should be a new economic storm. Our trouble in the past was mainly due to the fact that when iron and steel and coal were hit, economic disaster fell very sharply. I hope that the present Government will give encouragement and support for the provision of new industries which will take the edge off any such misfortune should it recur.

Those are two phases of the industrial revolution. The most important phase is this. We are witnessing now in South Wales the third phase of the industrial revolution, and that is the change in the tinplate and steel trade. We are not Luddites in South Wales. We welcome the introduction of the latest methods in the production of tinplate and steel, but, as I said on a former occasion, there was a tinplate philosopher whose opinion I asked of the great Abbey works at Margam. I asked his opinion of the effect on the tinplate workers. He replied, "Well, David, it is not much of a solution to know that the scaffold is made of gold if it is going to cut your head off." That was a very profound thought.

When this development comes along, there will be a possibility of displacing 10,000 tinplate workers. There is a cloud now as big as my hand; we have had three works closed already. It must come. It is inevitable. With the Abbey works in full production, and when we get all the raw materials required, the majority of the tinplate and steel works will be closed. It is not an immediate problem, and I do not blame the right hon. and learned Gentleman for it. We brought this point to the attention of the late Government on many occasions, and I believe they were seized of the possibility of this happening, and they allowed their minds to think over possible solutions.

In the area in which I live—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), are also concerned with this—we are concerned about that great site, still unused, upon which there was to have been built a cold reducing plant, which went to Llanelly for sociological reasons. I, with my knowledge of the steel trade, predicted—and I say now—that to deal with the output of the Abbey works we shall have to have another cold reducing plant.

It is upon that site that there should be built an industry to gather up the wonderful natural skill of the men who have been used to the heavy, hot work. They are there to be employed. The problem is not immediate, but its implications are already present. I should like to have an assurance from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, as much as the last Government, he is prepared to discuss this question and to be seized of its importance. If he is, credit will be due to him and the Government, and blessings will go to the constituents whom I represent.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I know many hon. Friends of mine want to take part in this debate, and I shall try not to delay them unduly while I present to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on the first occasion we have had him here in his capacity as Minister for Welsh Affairs, one of the special problems of Wales.

We hear much about the special problems of Wales, and to say that some of those problems are the special problems of Wales is, in my view, nonsense, because they are not special to Wales. But the problem I want to present to the Minister is one that is a special problem of Wales, and it is the problem of the South Wales ports, which were originally developed as ancillaries to the railway system of the country for the export of coal. The problem now arises from that fact, and it is the absence of that export of coal that causes the problem.

As a realist I see little prospect of those ports being used to their capacity in the export of coal for some time, and the question that exercised the last Government in the last six years, and which now falls to the Minister for Welsh Affairs for solution, is: How is it proposed to help the Welsh ports to overcome their particular problem? The trouble is that those ports concentrated on coal, and that while they did so other ports got into the general cargo trade; and as a result the Welsh ports were very late in the field for developing general cargo trade, and there is not enough trade in those South Wales ports now. That is the point I put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

It affects his own constituency, too, and I wonder how he is going to reconcile the interests of his constituency with his responsibilities as Minister for Welsh Affairs. It will be for him to resolve that problem. He knows that the Port of Liverpool and the Port of London, and other major ports of this country, are very congested. Ships are waiting for berths. They are waiting outside the docks in the Mersey. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes to his constituency, perhaps he sees them. Shipowners are keeping them there several days waiting for berths. Why are they kept waiting at Liverpool when there are empty berths at Swansea, Port Talbot, Newport and Cardiff?

One of the ways in which the Minister could really help the South Wales ports would be to persuade some of the shipowners in Liverpool—I pick on Liverpool because of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's connection with that place, but I should say the shipowners in London and of the North-East Coast ports as well—to send their ships to South Wales ports where there are dockers waiting for work and berths at which the ships could be accommodated, and good railway facilities for getting the cargo away.

A lot of local initiative has been displayed. A considerable local export trade has been built up in phosphates. There has also been a lot of local initiative in shipping motor cars. However, the solution of the problem needs the right hon. and learned Gentleman's help and constant encouragement. I would present this problem to him now so that he can help. The Government of which he is a member do not help; they hinder. There is congestion in some ports, and the Government are adding to that congestion in the ports outside of South Wales, and they are taking traffic away from the South Wales ports by some of their policy. The particular item of policy to which I refer is the abolition of bulk buying and Government control of softwood. Anybody who has travelled down through the Severn Tunnel knows that before one gets into Cardiff, one can see that great stack of timber outside St. Mellons, and kept waiting for dispersal.

The fact that the Government have handed back to the private trade the purchase of softwood has the consequence that the Government will now no longer have power to require ships to go to South Wales. It is a most serious matter, because of its effect upon the livelihood of the dockers and the welfare of those South Wales ports. There are experienced people in South Wales today in this trade who will tell the Minister, if he asks them, that the number of ships, or the amount of timber, that we can expect to get in the next year, during the next timber season, will be a third of what it was this year.

This is a very serious proposition. We forecast it: we said that this was likely to happen. Of course, no one can say that the Government did not say they intended to abolish bulk purchases. Indeed, they said that they would, but I do say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we must have some traffics to make up for this Government policy, which will undoubtedly rob the South Wales ports of a considerable amount of traffic during the next 12 months.

Just a few words upon other points which I want to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman without exceeding my time limit, and without being polemical. The first thing I ask him to do is to stir up the Minister of Food, who paid us a visit a short time ago and is not here now, and who has a great interest in South Wales. The late Government undertook that 7 per cent. of the imports of food into this country should pass through South Wales ports. They could do that because they controlled the import of food.

I would ask the Minister if he could give us an undertaking that the present Government and the present Minister of Food will continue to import 7 per cent. of the imports through South Wales ports. If he can, we shall be delighted. If he cannot, we shall have to press him on this matter very much indeed, because in the absence of coal exports it is only in this field of general cargoes that we really hope to get those ports alive, and so it is vitally important that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should press upon the Minister of Food the continuance of this pledge.

I also ask him to stir up the Ministry of Supply. When some of my right hon. Friends and I were members of the last Government we regularly went round Government Departments and—if I may whisper this in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's ear, so that no one else may hear—we asked the Ministries to see about South Wales ports; and we would see for a time a recrudescence of interest, with somebody's doing something about it; and then the interest or, at any rate, the activity, would wear off, so that a few months later we would go back and say the same thing all over again.

That will be a constant problem. I ask him to stir up the Ministry of Supply, in particular, and also the Service Ministries, who have a lot of cargoes passing through ports today. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Air here, because I am sure he would help us in this respect if it were in his power to do so. However, I assure him that it is a difficult job, as I know to my cost. But let them all do what they can, because the Service Ministries and the Ministry of Supply control a considerable number of Government cargoes. Let them undertake, so far as they can, to put as much of that traffic as is conveniently possible through the South Wales ports.

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman further, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to stir up the Transport Commission on the subject of rates and charges. The Secretary of State and I both know the problems of the Commission in this matter, but until railway rates are equalised between the South Wales ports and the Midlands, as between the Midlands and Liverpool, or the Midlands and Hull, or the Midlands and London, South Wales cannot hope to compete upon level terms.

There is one other matter in connection with dock charges which I would bring particularly to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attention, because again it will affect a very close local interest of his. Let him examine the basis upon which the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board charges exporters who send traffic through the Port of Liverpool, and when he has finished his investigation he will find, I think, that they manage to secure for themselves an advantage which does not fall to the South Wales ports. I do not wish to detail the problem because I have already exceeded my time, but there is a real problem there which I ask him to investigate.

I also ask him to keep constantly in mind the very valuable cold store in Cardiff. It is the most modern and up-to-date in the country, but for months on end it is practically empty. I know that Lord Woolton—I was about to say the late Lord Woolton; at any rate, his political reputation is in shreds; that has disappeared—when he was Minister of Food, in 1941 gave an undertaking to the industry that the cold store in Cardiff would not be used in normal commercial competition with other cold stores. I hope that that particular pledge will be forgotten and broken. After all, so many pledges have been forgotten and broken, what difference would one more make? Let us at any rate keep the cold store full at Cardiff if we can, because it can be kept full and it can do a very useful job.

There are two further things I wish to say to the Secretary of State. Whatever amendments he makes to the Transport Act, please let him not disturb the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive. That is a first-class organisation with considerable local autonomy, and it has put the docks of South Wales on the map. They are no longer just an appendix to the railway companies; they can speak with an equal and just as loud a voice to the British Transport Commission as can the Railway Executive. I therefore hope that he will maintain the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive and not roll it up into some glorified Railway Executive.

Finally, will he get after the shipowners and shippers of this country and try to get them to see that these ports of ours in South Wales are capable of doing as good a job as any other port in the country, and in many cases a better job. He can do as much good work for Wales in the Midlands among the exporters there as he can by coming to Wales, and I very much hope that he will use what influence he can in that direction. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) said in his maiden speech, the dockers in South Wales do a first-rate job of work; they work extraordinarily well; they are waiting for work, ready for it and wanting it, and anything he can do to help them get it will be most welcome.

I have not confined myself to the problems of the Cardiff Docks. They were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West. The problems of the South Wales ports affect Newport, Cardiff, Barry, Port Talbot and Swansea equally. I believe that we are far too parochial in South Wales about this problem. What is needed is common action on these ports. We need to think together, because what benefits one port will eventually benefit the remainder of the ports, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will endeavour to secure, as far as possible, common action.

This is no doubt a very special problem of Wales. It is one on which he can do us a great service because of the activities of the Government in the commercial field as well as of the Service Ministries in their shipping programmes. I hope that he will keep this constantly under review, and will do his best to make sure that, as we cannot at the present time have coal exports, general cargoes will be built up there as quickly and as much as possible, in order that these ports may survive and thrive.

6.56 p.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I know that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), will not expect me to follow him into the field he has explored during the last few minutes. I wish to bring the attention of the House back to some of the problems related to our rural areas, but before I do so there are one or two points I should like to make on the speech of the Minister for Welsh Affairs.

There is no doubt that in Wales the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Joint Under-Secretary, who unfortunately cannot be with us today, have already built up for themselves a store of good will. I feel certain that at present there is in Wales, and particularly in rural Wales, a feeling that our problems have a prospect of receiving due consideration. That feeling of good will will no doubt be heightened by the announcements which have been made in relation to Lleyn and the Towy Valley, but I warn the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he has set for himself a very high standard and Wales will expect great things from him. We all hope, from the point of view of both the Welsh nation and his own political reputation, that he will not fail us.

The Motion we are debating refers to: steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. Well, the steps taken by His Majesty's Government were political steps; that is to say, giving to the Home Secretary particular responsibilities in relation to Wales, and the appointment of a Joint Under-Secretary whose main task was to look after Welsh problems. That is to say, we are concerned mainly with developments in the political field, and I was sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not tell us a good deal more than he did about the political aspect of this problem. He has described his task and his appointment as a stage, a transitional period, and has indicated that if he finds that the existing political make-up is not adequate for dealing with Welsh problems the position will be reviewed. I should like to know whether he is at present able to give us any views on whether the present political set-up is one which gives him satisfaction.

The Minister has indicated certain changes in the administrative field. I do not think the real problem will be solved by changes in this sphere. I welcome the increase in the status of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in Wales, but I think the step has been somewhat half-hearted and I should have liked the right hon. and learned Gentleman to have gone further. However, certainly that is helpful. The same applies to the small change which has been made in the Ministry of Education. I believe that if we are to get a really radical change in the treatment of and outlook towards Welsh problems, it will come primarily from changes in the political field.

I should like also to refer to the Towy Valley scheme because that was a matter in which I was particularly concerned. Of course, we welcome the announcement that the Forestry Commission itself concurs in the decision which has been come to, and I hope that indicates a change of heart and attitude on the part of the Forestry Commission with regard to land acquisition in the Principality.

The Minister referred to co-operation between agriculture and forestry. I can assure him that the farmers of Towy Valley are only too anxious to see a happy marriage between afforestation and agriculture and to do what they can to bring that about. I would say to the Minister that one factor which would contribute towards the spirit of goodwill and co-operation would be if the Forestry Commission paid particular attention to the cleaning and re-planting of derelict woodland. We have in Wales thousands of acres of derelict woodland which need to be re-planted. Before casting eyes upon good agricultural land now producing food, it would be a great help if the Forestry Commission went forward with plans for re-planting these vast derelict woodland areas.

I should like to refer to one other aspect of the problem of rural de-population in so far as it relates to amenities. That is a topic which has already been referred to, and mention has been made of the fact that the South Wales Electricity Board has no agricultural representative upon it. In fact, the South Wales Board is the only board outside London which has not a rural or agricultural representative upon it. We ask that it should have an agricultural representative, not as a matter of pride—at least not only as a matter of pride—but because it is quite clear that at present in South Wales plans for rural electrification are certainly not receiving adequate consideration.

Incidentally, when using the words "South Wales," I should like, if I may with respect, to correct the Minister when he talked about the "substantial strides" made in agriculture in North Wales. I would not for one moment attempt to belittle the agricultural activities of North Wales—it would be quite wrong to do so, and I am sure that the Minister's remark was not intended as a reflection upon the activities of South Wales.

I should like to mention one matter with pride. So far as the eradication of bovine tuberculosis is concerned, the three areas selected of all the areas in England and Wales for the establishment of a clean area are three areas in South Wales—Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I hope that the hon. Member will let me make it quite clear that I had not the slightest intention of casting any such reflection. It has been my good fortune so far to see agriculture in North Wales. I hope in a very short time to see it in South Wales, and then I shall be able to speak as an eye witness again.

Mr. Bowen

I appreciate the intervention of the Minister. We shall welcome him when he comes to see us in South Wales. North Wales is more fortunate than South Wales in this respect. Progress made in electrification of the rural areas of North Wales has been more substantial than the progress in South Wales. What is even more remarkable is that the progress of rural electrification in South Wales has been very substantially lower than in any other area coming within the jurisdiction of the British Electricity Authority. I want to illustrate that by referring to one or two figures.

The percentage of agricultural holdings connected with electricity in South Wales is the lowest of all given by the area boards, namely 13.08. Only 13 per cent. of the holdings of South Wales are electrified. That is out of total holdings of some 25,700, and it is of interest to compare these figures with, for example, the position of the Southern Area Board. In the Southern area, they have a total of 21,900 holdings; that is to say, fewer holdings than we have in South Wales; but last year 1,513 farms are connected in that area compared with only 341 in South Wales. That gives the Southern area a percentage of holdings connected of 53.66.

I can illustrate the point I am trying to make by referring almost to any other area board in England and, to a lesser degree, to the Merseyside and North Wales Boards. The answer which is given whenever we from the rural areas complain of the ineffective way in which rural electrification is being carried out is, of course, the cuts in capital expenditure. Those cuts are not peculiar to the South Wales Board. They are equally pronounced in other areas, but, despite that fact, the farms connected in all other areas coming within the British Electricity Authority are very much greater than in the case of South Wales.

I will mention one or two. In the East Midlands, 1,197; in the Midlands, 1,253. I have already referred to the Southern area figures of 1,513. The total in South Wales is 341. The reason I think in part, bearing in mind the cuts in capital expenditure, is that the South Wales Board has chosen to make its cuts particularly in the sphere of rural electrification. Even that is quite out of proportion. For example, they stated that over the two years 1951–52 they hoped to spend £300,000 on rural development, and they are well behind in that programme.

If it is suggested that that is due to a shortage of capital, I would point out that during the years 1950–51 they spent £249,500 on hire purchase equipment. They spent also very substantial sums on advertising. If the money that was spent on hire purchase equipment and advertising had been spent on rural electrification, then our figures of advancement would bear somewhat closer relationship to the advance made in the other areas.

For example, in the East Midland area they spent in one year £509,000 on rural electrification. But not only is South Wales receiving a raw deal in so far as the providing of services is concerned, we are also in a most invidious position so far as charges are concerned. I recognise full well that it is difficult to bring about a general level of charges immediately following upon the nationalisation of the electrical industry, but we get the most invidious position in Wales today. For example, the greater part of my constituency comes within the area of the South Wales Electricity Board. I should like to see the whole of the county of Cardigan within one board, for preference within the jurisdiction of the North-West Electricity Board on the basis of the treatment meted out to us in the last two or three years.

In South Wales there is no fixed scale of charges for connecting electricity to farms, and the charge is assessed by the district commercial manager. On the other hand, there is a fixed scale of charges in the North-West. In the South Wales area a farmer on a small holding of 25 acres which was only 300 yards from the main source applied to be connected up. There was no question of the provision of a transformer, and only five poles would be required to carry the wire. The farmer was told that he would have to pay £200 down and guarantee £35 a year consumption. If his farm had been in another part of the same county the fixed charge for connecting electricity to his farm would have been £12. We can well understand the feeling of frustration on the part of farmers who are charged £200 when others are charged only £12 for precisely the same service.

I hope the Minister will take steps to see that the South Wales Board increases its activities in the field of rural and agricultural electrification and that the question of charges is investigated without delay. It is because of the slowness of rural electrification that we in the county of Cardigan have displayed considerable enthusiasm for the hydro-electric scheme. Some of the South Wales electricity schemes are highly controversial and open to considerable objection, but the scheme in my area would generate the largest amount of electricity, and we look forward to its implementation in the belief that it will do a considerable amount to accelerate the provision of electricity for our farms.

I need hardly remind the House that in Wales agriculture is of far more importance than it is in England, in the sense that more than 10 per cent. of the population of Wales are engaged in agriculture. That is double the proportion in England. In addition, Wales has as many farmers as it has agricultural workers. The majority of persons engaged in agriculture in Wales are tenant farmers or owner occupiers, the overwhelming majority being owner occupiers. If these farmers are to play their part in increasing agricultural production, considerable progress must be made with rural electrification.

The class III and unclassified roads of Wales were built for a traffic very different from the traffic for which they are used today, and they were already in a sorry state before the war. The money for their repair had to be provided from local funds, and as the product of a 1d. rate in the county was about £600, there was not much prospect of a great amount of capital expenditure on those roads. The position today is slightly better because a number of unclassified roads have been made class III roads and now attract a 50 per cent. grant, but the effect in my county is that the burden upon the local rate in respect of class III and unclassified roads is double what it was before the war.

If we are to get any improvement in this respect it will come either from a special grant for class III and unclassified roads or from some development under the Hill Farming Act. Today we have the anomalous position that a farmer can get substantial assistance to improve a private road leading to his farm, but if the road happens to be an unclassified or a class III road there is very little prospect of its being put into a decent condition.

Time and time again I am given instances of persons who are delivering manure, coal and fertilisers to farms refusing to deliver them to the farms and dumping them some distance away because of the deplorable conditions of the class III or unclassified roads. Both the last Government and this Government have urged a reduction of expenditure on unclassified and class III roads.

I believe that if we are to increase agricultural production and to make a real effort to stem the drift from the countryside, there must be a change of policy in this direction. If the farmer is to make a valuable contribution towards increased production, it is essential to have an early improvement in the condition of our rural roads. It is true that we are facing grave economic difficulties, and I should prefer to see a reduction of expenditure on our trunk roads and first and second-class roads, for they can stand a reduction for some time, but the unclassified and class III roads in the rural areas of Wales are becoming almost impassable.

I hope the Minister will look into these two points, among others. I believe that if action were taken promptly in these two spheres it would help immediately to solve the burning problems of our rural areas and contribute to a solution of the major depopulation problem.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)

I wish to direct the Minister's attention to one of the oldest problems in the South Wales coalfield. We have heard tonight—we shall probably hear it again in this House—a great deal about the reappearance of pools of unemployment in various parts of the country. I would remind the House that the South Wales mining valleys have very many pools of unemployment which have been there for years. I refer particularly to the pools of unemployment among the disabled persons in the South Wales coalfield.

I wish to be brief and I have no desire to be in any way cynical or facetious. Having regard to the constant repetition of speeches on the problem—it has become a monotonous repetition—the briefest method of dealing with it is to refer the Minister to the last Welsh day and to previous Welsh days and to HANSARD for those days, because the problem in the South Wales mining valleys today is in the same proportion as it was in the days of long ago.

The danger is that the reappearance of pools of unemployment throughout the country will distract attention from the problem of the disabled miners in the South Wales coalfield. I will give a typical example from my own constituency in the heart of the coalfield. I will deal only with the unemployed. Out of 1,475 unemployed in my constituency, 55 per cent. are over 50 years of age. No less than 45 per cent. of them have been idle for 12 months or more, and others for six, seven, eight and nine years. Of the 1,475 men unemployed, 58 per cent. are disabled persons.

In a previous debate I referred to the Grenfell factories as being a means of helping to solve this problem. Those factories have not lived up to expectations. Then we had the introduction of Remploy factories, and I think my colleagues in the South Wales coalfields will agree with me that we have definite evidence of a substantial character as to what can be done by this means for disabled miners. In the Rhondda Valley we were promised four Remploy factories. We have had only two. We cannot expect private enterprise, even with all its initiative, goodwill and humanitarian instincts, to solve what is a social problem. This is a problem for the Government, and I trust that they will consider very seriously increasing the number of Remploy factories catering for these disabled men, who cannot find employment in the normal way.

In that connection I call attention to one point. Men who are entitled to employment in the Remploy factories are subject to a medical examination. We have in the coalfields the anomaly that there are miners who are sent for medical examination and their medical category is put too low for Remploy factories though they are certified as sufferers from disability, which places them in the category to be recruited for these factories. At the same time, at another medical examination, they are certified as being too low for the mining industry. Thus they cannot get employment either in the mines or in Remploy factories. Because of their age and disability, they are not amenable to training, and so are kept out of the normal channels of employment. Here is a very serious and grave problem in the heart of the South Wales coalfield.

Previous speakers have referred to the inter-relationship of industrial problems in South Wales with the important mining industry. If we are to recruit into the mining industry the best type of men in those valleys, and from outside, if possible, the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the National Coal Board must show them they are doing all they can to limit the consequences of dust diseases in the mines, and also that if they take the risk of employment in the mines and should become physical rejects at 45 or 50, employment will be found for them in the autumn of their lives. Serious consideration should be given to the establishment of more Remploy factories in the coalfield in order to absorb these disabled men.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

We have been debating what I thought was the White Paper on Wales, and the first point I want to put to the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs is whether or not we are to have a debate on the activities of the Council of Wales when the Report is published. That is very important. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who is taking notes for the Minister during his absence, will note that remark; and, in passing, I congratulate him most heartily on his appointment as one of the Under-Secretaries of State.

I should like also to pay tribute to the statements made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman this afternoon, because each one of them affected Wales very much indeed. The first one was most important. On the occasion of the last Welsh debate, I mentioned the pilot scheme in mid-Wales with regard to marginal land and rural depopulation. I hope that the Council for Wales will press on with the investigation into that problem and let us have a report as soon as possible. I should like to ask whether it will be the Land Commission for Wales or the Minister of Agriculture who will be responsible for applying the recommendations of that Committee when they are published. Perhaps that problem will solve itself in view of the announcement this afternoon.

I find myself in the extraordinary position, as a supporter of the late Government, whom I criticised so much in other Parliaments about the Tawy Valley scheme, of welcoming the present Government's announcement. However, a Government, whatever their political complexion, must at times pay attention to minority opinion, and I am glad that they have done so with such marked success. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an appeal to farmers, let him also turn to the Forestry Commission. In my last speech in a Welsh debate, I advocated that there ought to be better public relations between the Forestry Commission and Welsh public opinion. I hope that will come about.

I should like also to pay this tribute to the Government. They have consulted the Council of Wales on this subject. I asked the last Government to follow that course, and if they had done so they might have been able to make this announcement themselves; but I welcome the announcement which has been made. I have no doubt that it will be received with great satisfaction in that part of the country from which I come.

I welcome the announcement on devolution, particularly with regard to the Ministry of Agriculture. I want to read the announcement carefully in HANSARD tomorrow, and if it does not fit in with what I think is required, there will be more Questions on the Order Paper, and I shall have something to say when the next Welsh debate takes place.

There are two aspects of Welsh affairs to which I want to draw attention. The right hon. and learned Gentleman this afternoon asked for some suggestions, and I propose to say something which he can consider in the near future. I was very glad to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), and I silently applauded it. I was also pleased to hear the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), about rural depopulation. They were excellent speeches, and I want to mention a few points in connection with that problem.

I had a great deal to say about this subject when last we debated Welsh affairs. First, I want to mention rural electrification. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), and myself, recently attended a very large conference in Carmarthen on the subject of rural electrification, and we discovered that South Wales is having a very bad deal indeed. We found that only 341 connections of electricity supplies were given to farm holdings during the year ended 31st March, 1951.

If one looks at the report of the Council for Wales, one finds figures in regard to electricity. In North Wales counties, 38.5 per cent. of the holdings are without electricity, and in South Wales 64.2 per cent. I am certain that greater consideration should be given to South Wales. The remarkable thing is that in the White Paper on Wales reference is made to North Wales but no reference is made to South Wales in regard to rural electrification. We find that £500,000 was earmarked for rural electrification in the North for one year, while only £300,000 was regarded as the requirement in two years for South Wales. Although £300,000 has been allocated for two years, the total amount of work done to date is only 32.8 per cent.

My appeal to the Minister for Wales is this: I understand from the reply to a Question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) that the Minister of Fuel and Power is to make a statement on rural electrification. I hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will see that money is allowed for rural electrification, whatever parts of the country are concerned, and where the need is greater than that of South Wales I hope they will have preference. I join in the request which has been made that there should be a representative of the rural areas upon the South Wales Electricity Board.

The unclassified road problem in Wales has been a matter of concern to the County Councils Association and county councils in the rural areas for the last two years. The present Government and the previous Government have asked the county councils to reduce their expenditure on unclassified roads by 10 per cent. The total mileage in Wales of these roads is 8,908, but that is not a true figure because most of the roads in the rural districts were not scheduled in 1929. The importance of the unclassified roads is very great, particularly in regard to schemes under the Hill Farming Act and the new Livestock Act and, incidentally, because of the important statement made by the Minister of Agriculture today with regard to increased growing of feedingstuffs. It is no use making appeals and having schemes unless the unclassified roads are maintained, repaired and even extended.

My suggestion would be an increase in the present mileage of class III roads. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that there has been no increase in the mileage of class III roads since 1st April, 1946. In view of agricultural requirements, there should be another look at this matter to see whether unclassified roads can be extended and brought into class III. If that is not possible, I am sure, in view of the importance of agriculture as a dollar saver, that the Minister of Agriculture should be brought in to give a grant of one kind or another.

In regard to devolution, I notice that the Motion on the Order Paper recognises the aspirations of the people of Wales. I know that my view is not taken by most hon. Members who are from Wales. We have a minority opinion. The more devolution that Governments give to Wales, the less will be the cry for complete Home Rule in Wales. I want to see still greater devolutionary powers for Wales itself because of the congestion in this great House of Commons of ours.

I am sure, that if the aspirations of Wales are transferred into agitation, the ear of the Government must be on the ground. Let me ask them to do this. Once the Scottish Committee—the Catto Committee—make their report on Scotland from an economic standpoint I am sure the Government will consider whether it is possible for Wales to have their own commission or committee of inquiry and, once and for all, settle this business of whether it is good, bad, or indifferent for Wales to have it own Parliament.

I wish this debate could be extended over a week, with a different subject taken each day. What does this debate remind me of? It reminds me, more than anything else, of a Sunday school anniversary, when each person gets up to make his speech in his own way, about his own constituency and its problems, and then the president gives everybody a good slap on the back and says that it is all right for the next 12 months. I think we want something different from that. If the Government would place a definite Motion on the Order Paper with regard to Welsh problems, perhaps our debates would cover more major points which we could discuss as we have done on other occasions.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)

It is perhaps inevitable that in this annual debate attention should be concentrated on Welsh problems, particularly those which have not been solved. But I want my opening note to be that for the last six or seven years there has been persistent progress in tackling and solving long standing problems from which the Welsh people have suffered. The last White Paper, which is under review today, does in fact recall some of the crowning achievements of the progress made since the end of the war. I am happy to say that that White Paper singled out one of the principal towns in my own constituency, Maesteg, for special mention in so far as progress in the solution of the problem of unemployment among disabled miners is concerned.

Today, six months after the publication of that report, I am sorry to say that one of the four Advance factories in the Maesteg Valley is virtually idle, and I think that that virtually idle Advance factory in the Maesteg Valley is the symbol of the fear and anxiety which overhang the scene of industrial Wales today. To some extent this threat of a recurrence of unemployment on a substantial scale is due to a falling off in demand for particular goods, furniture, radios and things of that kind, but let us not forget that it is also linked up with the deliberate policy of the Government of the day.

First there is the switch over of industrial resources from the production of peace time goods to defence goods. Secondly, there is the pronouncement of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) who, on 8th November last, declared that the purpose of the Government's financial policy—the increase in the bank rate and all the rest—was to put pressure on marginal investment in order to crush it.

That is important, because many, if not most, of the new light industries which have been imported into the South Wales Development Area are marginal by their very nature. Either the firms are small and have slender financial resources, or they are offshoots or branches of parent firms in England. I put it to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if this policy of crushing marginal investment succeeds it will inevitably lead to the bankruptcy of small firms in the South Wales Development Area, or, perhaps, the closing down of South Wales factories which are the property of firms with headquarters in England.

I therefore say to the Government that they have a special responsibility: first, because of the basic policy at the present time of switching some industry from peace needs to defence needs, and secondly, because a part of the danger springs from the increase in the bank rate and the general monetary policy which is being pursued. The easiest solution, of course, would be to ensure that, as employment in connection with peace goods is reduced, defence orders are forthcoming to make up the gap; but there are real difficulties in the way of that being done on a sufficiently detailed scale of planning.

The Government of the day, up to now, has certainly placed very large defence orders but, in general, it has left it to the firms receiving those large orders to place sub-contracts—and I say that unless the Ministry of Supply is prepared to take further action to ensure that subcontracts do in fact go to these factories which are threatened with idleness in the South Wales Development Area, large pools of unemployment may occur.

I should not like it to be thought, however, that an enduring solution of the Welsh economic problem can be found in defence orders. To begin with, there is an inevitable element of artificiality in the new structure of light industry which has been growing up. Every other country in the modern world which developed infant industries did so behind high tariff walls and, therefore, it is not surprising that special assistance by Labour Governments was required to develop those industries, and it is not surprising that, in the future, special measures will be required to ensure that the industries take firm root and are able to withstand any competitive winds that blow.

I would utter a warning against any belief that there can be a solution of the long term economic problem of employment and prosperity in Wales simply by the importation of defence orders as the production of peace-time goods declines, because that, on a substantial scale, would increase the element of artificiality in the new industrial structure in Wales.

I think it would be true to say that in days gone by the industrial economy of South Wales was a major casualty in trade depressions which swept the whole of the United Kingdom and the world at large, because the Welsh economy was founded principally on coal and steel. The policy of having all our eggs in one basket led to disaster in days gone by, and I put it to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, therefore, that every effort should be made to ensure that where there is, in the South Wales Development Area, a factory belonging to a firm with headquarters in a more prosperous district of England, peace-time production should continue in the South Wales Development Area and the diversion to defence needs should take place in the parent factory in England.

If that policy is followed it will prevent an intensification of that element of artificiality which is inevitable at this stage in the reconstruction of Welsh life and industry. I therefore appeal to the Government to recognise that they have a direct responsibility for the happenings in industrial South Wales, which flow, first, from the speeding up of the defence programme and, second, from the basic financial policy which they have been pursuing since they came into power.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

We have had today a series of recitations on the anniversary which have been remarkable for their high standard. We are asked to take note of what the Government have done in their new appointments. We heard the maiden speech of the Minister for Wales. We heard three other maiden speeches, which, I am sure, everybody on both sides of the House admired and was pleased to hear.

I was amazed when comparing the way in which right hon. Gentlemen opposite conducted themselves in connection with this problem prior to the Election and the way in which they do so now. During the Election, the Minister for Wales was written up as being some outstanding measure. What the Labour Government had done was, in the view of the party opposite, quite inadequate, and there was now to be an entirely new approach to the problem.

Then, after the Election, we had the appointment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as Minister for Wales. I say straight away that if there is to be a Tory Minister for Wales, I know of no one I would choose other than the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He has always commanded our respect, and if he will protect Wales as well as he protected the miners when we used to employ him to defend them or to claim compensation, we may yet be well served.

But his appointment caused a great deal of amusement in Wales. As the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said, in North Wales the Minister was known as "Dai Bananas," and in South Wales he is becoming known as "Dai Soft Soap." It was an indication of what the Tories were going to give, but in fact it was simply to hide what they were going to take away.

What is the difference in the present set-up compared with the set-up under the Labour Government? Under the Labour Government, the Home Secretary had exactly the same function as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has today. When matters in Wales were to be discussed, he would call together the seven Welsh Members of the Administration, three of whom were in the Cabinet, and there would be a meeting, over which the Home Secretary would preside. Those were Welsh Members representing Welsh constituencies.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not have a single Welsh colleague with him in the present administration to consider matters that arise in Wales. Hence, he has had to appoint, as an afterthought, after the great outburst in Wales, after all the derision that was poured on the Conservative Government's appointment, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) as Under-Secretary to take charge of Welsh affairs. I, too, regret the reason for the absence of the Under-Secretary. We hope that he will soon be restored to health and will come amongst us again. If he is absent from us at all, we hope it will be for another reason and not the present one.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman appears to think that the present set-up will satisfy Wales. Preliminary reaction in Wales is one of complete dissatisfaction. When the appointment was announced, there was no welcome for it in any part of Wales. That, I think, is as a result of what was promised prior to the Election and the appointment that was made after the Election. However, we must make the best we can of it. As Sir Charles Edwards used to say in such circumstances, some good may come out of it, and we shall see what does come out of it in due course.

I do not want to take too long with what I have to say, because other colleagues of mine would like to speak, but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that Members on the other side were today able to compliment the Labour Government on what they did when they had power. I wish that similar generosity had been shown during the Election. On Friday, an article was published in a paper that is not favourable to the Labour Government. I refer to the "Financial Times," with which, I believe, Lord Bracken has some connection. This article discussed the future of the light industries in South Wales, and I direct the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to it. It was an important and thoughtful article, but it said this: Despite the many criticisms, the life of South Wales has been transformed. The scheme has been described as 'a second industrial revolution.' Rather it is a social revolution; and the new factories in the crater of Crawshay's original blast furnaces at Cyfarthfa, or placed among the gaunt stumps of old ironworks, appear as man's apology to man for the grim harvest of the past. We are glad to see that in a Conservative paper recognition is at last given to the efforts of the Labour Government.

But we never thought that we had solved all the problems in Wales. Our great task was to provide an opportunity for men to get a living in Wales without having to tramp out of Wales, as had been the policy during the régime of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues. Despite all that we did—the insurable population in Wales increased during our period in office by 200,000; we had provided 160,000 new jobs—we left behind problems which have not yet been solved and which still lie open for Government action.

Reference has been made to the disabled persons. We had cut this problem down to half; we had reduced the number of registered disabled unemployed persons to 8,000. More requires to be done on the lines on which we were working. The Remploy programme, the Grenfell factories, and so on, all require development, but I regret to say that the figures have started to creep back up. Not only is this true of the disabled, but it is happening with the able-bodied also.

On Friday, I passed the employment exchange in my town and I saw outside it a larger queue that I have seen for very many years. I said to one old collier—a pneumoconiosis victim, "Hello, what are you doing here?" He said, "Ah! The Tories are back." That is the feeling in South Wales. That is the general apprehension and the attitude of the mind running through all the speeches that have been made, including the speech of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower).

If that is discounted, hon. Members might have regard to what the "Financial Times" said on Friday. There is no need for anyone to take my view of it; here is Lord Bracken's pronouncement: The brick-built factories which look down on the ruins of the old blast furnaces or sit incongruously in a landscape of mountain, valley and ageing slag are a sign of the revolution which has come to South Wales in the last six years. Today that revolution appears to be threatened by circumstances of rearmament and credit restriction. To the problems of raw material shortages, disinflationary measures and diminished public buying are added the particular problems of the Development Area …. That is from the "Financial Times," which, too, warns us of difficulties that are ahead.

The Government cannot do everything, but they can do some things. Are they going to continue the policy of preferential allocation of orders to the development area? Are they going to see that it is exempt from capital investment cuts? Will they see that armament orders are placed in South Wales and, whilst I agree with the criticism of one of my hon. Friends, a firm or factory which is able to garner some fat through the re-armament programme is able to continue to give employment after the re-armament programme has come to an end? These are the assurances we should like to have from the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will use on his colleagues in the Cabinet the persuasive powers which he shows so frequently in the House. If his function is to defend Wales, he will find that he has to defend it not against hon. Members on this side but against himself as a member of the Cabinet and as Home Secretary.

I should like to throw out two or three points, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman might give attention and on which he can help. Why are we getting so many rows in Wales with particular Government Departments? Why do we perpetually have a row with the Forestry Commission? Why do we always get into collision with the War Office? Why it is that British Railways treat our representations with a scandalous indifference? The public relations of these three Departments want looking into. Why cannot they take the local authorities into consultation? I do not ask him to pay too much attention to the Birmingham and Manchester weekenders who want to keep Wales as a playground; but they should consult the elected authorities and hear what they have to say, and let us see whether we cannot go along together.

I am not a fanatic on this matter. I commend to hon. Members on both sides of the House a very sensible letter on afforestation which appeared in the "Western Mail", written by Mr. Craven Llewellyn. I cannot understand the Forestry Commission wishing to take the rich vale of the Towy when there is that vast stretch of moorland on the tops of our hills which used to grow trees, but which is now used by skylarks and nothing else. Here is a chance to restore the beauty of which Wales was deprived by the coal owners during the Industrial Revolution.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that in the anthracite coalfield there is going on probably one of the greatest developments that has ever taken place in the coal industry of this country. The anthracite coalfield is our richest dollar earner. Here is concentrated our greatest wealth and, as the President of the Board of Trade said the other day, the Battle of Britain may be won on the coalfaces of Britain. There is a huge project going forward there, and it will require manpower. There are advertisements in all the newspapers in South Wales asking young men to go into the pits. But how are the colleagues of the right hon. and learned Gentleman going to treat them? More injuries are suffered in the pits than anywhere else in the country. A "bob" per prescription—is that the story that will attract the South Wales miners?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to defend Wales; will he defend the old-age pensioners from the ravages of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? What hope is there for culture in Wales if there is to be a five per cent. cut imposed on education? Our education system is quite inadequate now. In three years' time we must have more school buildings. If the school buildings are not there, the excuse will be available to cut down school attendance ages. My hon. Friend has referred to the decision of Monmouthshire County Council. Glamor- ganshire County Council has already taken a similar decision. They cannot cut any further.

There is the other side of the problem at Nantgarw. There we have the most modern quarry and associated by-product plant in the country. It is one of the greatest and most imaginative undertakings of the National Coal Board. In order to provide the miners, houses have to be built. One of the authorities in my constituency has a programme of 1,000 houses. It is not a very large authority but the financial burden on that authority is becoming a crippling one and when the interest rate of the Public Works Loans Board is raised, the problem will become even worse.

Mr. Gower

Does not the right hon. Gentleman admit the validity of the need for economy at present and does he not recall that economies in education were made under the previous Labour Government?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I do not know that that point is really relevant. At the moment I am dealing with houses for the miners. Unless we get more miners and more coal, there is no hope of making progress. We must increase our coal production. In order to increase our coal production, we must provide accommodation for miners in the area of the new production units. We find it is being made impossible for local authorities to continue with their house building programmes.

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether the same assistance should be given to local authorities, in areas of this sort, who have to build more than the normal number of houses, as is given to the new towns. At the moment rents are going up and becoming too high for people to pay. In my constituency, where there are a large number of people in well-paid employment, there are many on the housing list who have to forgo their turn because they cannot afford to pay the rent. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to look at the problem, which is becoming a matter of major agitation in South Wales.

I should have liked to deal with other points, such as the question of devolution and rural depopulation. We have heard of the pilot scheme of the five counties. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider getting those five county councils together and asking them to put forward their proposals? Frequently I find that there is suspicion of what comes from Whitehall and people are always ready to look for deficiencies in the policy. I think that very often it is a good thing to get the people or the authority involved in the area to put forward their own schemes. It would not be a bad thing if, when the Under-Secretary of State is fit to resume duty, he could call a conference of the five authorities to discuss the problem and ask them to put forward propositions in order to make a contribution towards its solution.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he wants to take this matter out of the hands of the Council for Wales who have put forward this pilot scheme? Is that what he means?

Mr. Ness Edwards


Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "Whitehall"? This is not a Whitehall scheme, but a scheme put forward by the Council for Wales. Do I understand that it is the policy of the Opposition Front Bench—which I have not heard from the back benches—that the Council for Wales is to be so reduced in status that their schemes are to be disregarded? Otherwise, there is no meaning in the right hon. Gentleman's statement.

Mr. Ness Edwards

No, Sir. There is no question of going back on policy. What I am suggesting is that the Council for Wales would be wise to look at the problem, and what I have suggested is—

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

No, the right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. This is a Council for Wales proposal, and he said a moment ago that it was from Whitehall. Do let us get it clear; it is not from Whitehall, it is a Council for Wales proposal. The Council for Wales will, of course, co-operate with local authorities, but the right hon. Gentleman ought, in fairness—because he has been making a very militant speech—to get his facts right and not accuse the Government of something which is the proposal of the Council for Wales.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is getting it quite wrong. I made a general statement that I found that when proposals are put up from Whitehall—I did not suggest that this was a proposal from Whitehall—there is always a suspicion in the area to which they relate that there is something wrong about them. The people in the area seek an opportunity for looking for weaknesses.

All I suggested was that when the Council for Wales comes forward with proposals, the right hon. and learned Gentleman might call a meeting of the five county authorities concerned—presided over by himself, or by his Under-Secretary—to get their reactions. If they are not satisfied or have any criticism, let them put foward their propositions. They are the elected authority and the people who are supposed to know the problem. Upon them ought to be placed the responsibility of putting forward constructive views dealing with the situation. Anything I have suggested does not interfere at all with the work of the Council for Wales. That is the suggestion I make and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not turn it down willy-nilly, but will look at it.

We shall take note of what the Government have done. We shall watch with very great interest. I wish to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if there is any help which can be given by hon. Members on this side of the House, it will be readily given to him, in particular because of his general conduct in this House in relation to problems which arise in this House. We shall watch with care and concern, but we have a grim feeling that the function of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as Minister for Welsh Affairs will be militated against by the policy of his own Government.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I intervene very briefly only to refer to one of the observations which have been made by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), who said that Wales was today, after the new appointments made by the present Government, in no different administrative position from what it has known in the past. He said that hitherto whenever Wales was to be discussed in this House—which was about once a year—the Home Secretary, who was in charge of the debate, gathered together seven of his colleagues beforehand for a meeting of the responsible Departments to brief him for the debate.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to do me a disservice or to put words in my mouth which I never used. What I said was that when problems affecting Wales were discussed the Home Secretary called together all the members of the administration to discuss them. It was nothing to do with what took place in this House or briefing anyone.

Mr. Powell

At any rate, the fact is that when Wales was to be discussed in this House, which occurred approximately once a year, then for that occasion, and that occasion only, there was an ad hoc Government spokesman for Wales who obtained his briefing just beforehand for the purpose of that debate. There is today an entirely different situation. The Home Secretary, despite his great responsibilities in regard to the United Kingdom as a whole, can never for a single week—I should imagine never for a single day—forget his special responsibilities for Wales. There is, for the first time, someone in the Cabinet who can never forget how the general administrative policy of the Government impinges upon Wales. That is a substantial and important change.

Mr. Ness Edwards

No change at all.

Mr. Powell

In addition, by the very nature of his responsibilities, he will be brought into contact with the people and the problems of the Principality in a way that no Cabinet Minister as such has ever been in the past. Further, he is enabled to keep in touch by having an Under-Secretary of State specially for that purpose. I can assure the right hon. Member for Caerphilly that he is entirely mistaken in thinking that the appointment of an Under-Secretary of State was an afterthought. Those of us who before the election expounded the Conservative Party's policy for Wales frequently had occasion to say that the Cabinet Minister could not properly perform his function without a Parliamentary Secretary specially for Wales.

Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether in the declaration of the Tory Party's policy for Wales any indication was given whatever that there was to be an Under-Secretary of State?

Mr. Powell

No, Sir. In the printed statement, the brief reference to this appointment—and not at all an exaggerated reference as the right hon. Gentleman said—did not include a mention of the Under-Secretary of State. It was, however, made in a speech by the Chairman of the Conservative Party at the time of the Election and was frequently referred to by other party speakers. That fact alone deals with the contention that it was an afterthought on coming into office.

This constant contact between Members of the Government, on the one hand, and the Principality on the other is something new in kind. It is no use saying that in former Governments there have been Welshmen. Of course there have; but their responsibilities, both in the Government and in the Cabinet, have had no special relation to Wales. By reason of this administrative innovation it is ensured for the first time that Wales can never be forgotten at the council table.

I am not sure, after all, that the right hon. Gentleman was really serious in saying that there was no change and no improvement. Was he not a few moments ago leaning across the Despatch Box and appealing to my right hon. and learned Friend to "defend Wales"? He was appealing to him to "use his persuasive power on his colleagues in the Cabinet." In previous Governments there was no Minister to whom that appeal could be addressed either in this House or outside. In the very words of the right hon. Gentleman lies the proof that a very important administrative change has taken place.

Mr. Callaghan

When the hon. Gentleman reaches the stage of becoming a Minister—as I am quite sure he will one day—he will see just how far short his theorising falls of practice.

Mr. Powell

I shall indeed be surprised if I find that Cabinet Ministers neglect their own special Departmental responsibilities to go representing to their colleagues concerns with which they are not specifically charged.

I will conclude by saying that I hope stress will not be laid upon the fact that in the present administration there are many fewer Welshmen than there were in the previous one. This is a United Kingdom, and a United Kingdom Parliament. Once we begin jealously investigating the nationality of individual members of the administration and saying that only Scotsmen can concern themselves with the affairs of Scotland and Welshmen with the affairs of Wales, we shall be starting on the road which leads to the dissolution of the United Kingdom, a result which, at any rate, is not desired by either of the two main parties in this House.

For that reason I even feel there is a positive advantage in the fact that the first Minister in history to be Minister for Welsh Affairs should be a native of another part of the United Kingdom. I believe that in his heart of hearts the right hon. Member for Caerphilly believed that there was something to this new appointment and that he wished my right hon. and learned Friend well. But be that so or not, those of us on these benches who have in any way a connection with Wales, or an interest in Wales, will wish my right hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State every form of success.

8.17 p.m.

Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)

The debate has covered a very wide range, and until the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) I thought it was going to be without any deep-seated criticism, and I am rather sorry to have to follow his example. I would have been very much more impressed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) if the Minister for Welsh Affairs had not himself expressed so many misgivings. Over and over again since his appointment he has emphasised—he did so again this afternoon—that his duties are purely of a persuasive and advisory character. I regret that very much, because he has no executive authority at all.

One can readily appreciate that Ministers in charge of other important Government Departments would not accept the responsibility of office unless that had unfettered power, and the intrusion of another Minister, however eminent he may be, would be neither practicable nor acceptable. I very much fear that the Minister will be able to use his designation as a new type of alibi when we are discussing the Government's activities or lack of activities in Wales 12 months hence.

In his visit to North and South Wales, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in close touch with the representatives of local government. I was very glad to hear him say at Cardiff that since he had last been to Wales the face of Wales had been transformed. But I was a little disappointed that he did not add that the transformation was due to the legislation of the Labour Government.

In his speech this afternoon the right hon. and learned Gentleman invited us to make specific suggestions. I propose to make three; they are not entirely new, but I will make them by way of a reminder. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) anticipated some of the things I wanted to say about the ports of South Wales, and, if I may say so without being thought presumptuous, I entirely agree with everything he had to say in that respect. His experience as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport in the last Government stood us in good stead and stood him in good stead this afternoon.

One of the paramount problems in Wales today is that of communications, both road and rail. According to the memorandum prepared by the British Road Federation, about £220 million of capital investment projects are now being carried out in Wales and the necessary road improvements would involve an expenditure of approximately £35 million.

The Ministry may not accept those figures, but the fundamental principle remains unaltered, that unless we have adequate road communications the ports of South Wales will be unable to render the services they could render otherwise to the economy of this country and many of the millions to which I have referred will have been spent in vain. I should like to illustrate that point very briefly and cite two cases. I refer to the work now going on over the river at Neath. That work has been proceeding for about two years and will be completed in approximately eighteen months to two years at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds. But if the roads to the eastern approaches of Swansea are not widened the Neath by-pass will create an additional bottle-neck and the money will have been wasted entirely.

There is a scheme before the Ministry of Transport costing £1,750,000 approximately and covering a period of seven years which would afford an immediate improvement not only to Swansea but to West Wales. Unless that work is carried out the work on the river bridge need never have been contemplated at all. Other hon. Members have referred to the need for a by-pass at Port Talbot and there is desperate need in both urban and rural areas in Wales for improved communications.

The Minister was unable to be in the House at Question time today, and I make no complaint because I appreciate the load upon him, but reference was made at Question time to the urgent need of reform of leasehold law. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman not to under-estimate the feeling in Wales on that problem. Time is going and if this Government are to introduce legislation that will give justice to thousands of people who are now very anxious about that matter the problem will have to be tackled without any further delay. I content myself by mentioning it now. It will be on the record but the right hon. and learned Gentleman with his great legal knowledge appreciates the difficulty more than I do. It is a problem which gives us tremendous concern in Wales and I ask him to give it immediate attention.

I hope the House will forgive me if I turn to something of a purely domestic character but one, oddly enough, affecting not only my part of Wales but the whole of England. I am asked, according to the Motion on the Order Paper, to note … the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. I have seen a rather peculiar illustration of that recognition during the past fortnight. The town I have the honour to represent as one of its Members lost 350 shops through enemy action. Thirty acres in the heart of the town were completely gutted. After many years of patient negotiation and discussion we are just embarking upon a programme of reconstruction. In fact, 10 shops have been re-erected; we have had tenders for six others. Fifteen other people are prepared to erect substantial business premises as soon as they are able to obtain the necessary licences and rents have been agreed upon.

But if the policy of His Majesty's Government in respect of blitzed areas in this country remains unaltered the town of Swansea cannot possibly be reconstructed or even rehabilitated during the lifetime of this generation. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us quite frankly what the Government are going to do to enable the long-suffering people of Swansea to rebuild their town. They are not asking for charity or even for financial aid. They are asking that they be given reasonable facilities to rehabilitate trade and commerce and to reconstruct the town. The allocation of steel up to now amounts to nothing more than just over one ton a day. Imagine only one ton a day to reconstruct a blitzed town.

It is not our fault that the enemy selected the town of Swansea for attention. Why should we be penalised many times over? We have complained that Government Departments will not say how much money they are prepared to advance on account of work already done. We have purchased a great deal of land and have spent a good deal of money on development and plans, but if the policy I have mentioned remains unaltered Swansea will be a blitzed city for the rest of my life. If that is the sort of thing I am asked to note by the Government then I am very sorry we have had a change of Government.

I understand that Swansea is to have a visit from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I know that when he comes he will impress the people of Swansea with his dignity and suaveness. But I warn him that unless he is able to help us in the Cabinet in the reconstruction of that blitzed town he will hear not merely an echo but loud complaints right and left when he comes to Swansea. I ask him to appreciate our need. I remind the House once again of our need in Wales for improved road communication, leasehold reform and ordinary decent treatment for a port and town which has contributed very much indeed to the prosperity of Wales and which has played its part in the economy of Great Britain.

8.27 p.m.

Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)

I thought the simile used by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) was a very apposite one when he referred to this debate as in the first stages resembling a long distance race and then moving on to the short sprint. I now feel we are entering the obstacle race because most of the points with which I had intended to deal have already been referred to by several hon. Members.

I am very interested in the wording of the Motion before us, which asks the House to take note of the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. It may be my Celtic imagination, but I rather fancy that some of the words in the Motion are very suggestive, if I may say so, without being offensive in any sense at all. The ambiguity underlining the words "recognition is given" is in harmony with the ambiguity attached to the Ministerial appointment connected with Wales. I say that with respect, because we all join in acknowledging the fair mindedness of the person who holds that office. It is a post without any teeth and without any executive power. The problems of Wales do not need any further recognition. We have had recognition throughout the years. We want something more than recognition, and I hope that the Minister will try to strengthen that word as he undertakes the duties which now devolve upon him.

There are three possible headings in this Motion which appeal to me, because Welsh people are brought up in the tradition of three-tier sermons. The first one is "Problems"; we have had much reference to problems today. Time will permit me only to catalogue them. I want to underline a point which was brought out very forcibly by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) when he referred to the exceptional lack of social amenities in the mining valleys of Wales.

When we are dealing with the problems of Wales, we must try to distin- guish between the problems which are common to Wales, England and Scotland and the problems which are unique in Wales. If there is a problem which is unique in Wales, it is the problem of the mining valleys. The topographical feature of mining valleys is to be seen in Wales alone. Therefore, I am entitled to regard the mining valleys as being a unique feature both in the geographical structure and industrial set-up of the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend referred to this lack of amenities in his own division. But Bedwellty is a paradise compared to my division. I am sure that I am appealing to a man who is very charitably disposed and very conscientious. I hope that the Minister will pay a special visit to a typical mining valley. If he does, I am certain that he will return from such a visit convinced that if we are to get the best out of the people there, without whom our future is black, something must be done to make those places more attractive for people to live in them.

I live in my division, as I think it is proper for every Member of a mining constituency to do, and when I think of the deprivations in what are called social amenities in the mining valleys as compared with the amenities in the towns and cities elsewhere, I salute the miners and the miners' wives for remaining so loyally in places which offer them so very little in this important respect.

The next item in my catalogue is roads. Reference has been made to roads, and particularly the roads leading from Wales to the Midlands, particularly those from the Midlands to the seaports of Cardiff and Newport. I would also refer to the importance of trying to get some alternative employment in our mining valleys. I am glad to see the Minister of Labour here. That is is a problem which worries me very much. Once people are disabled in the mining industry and have to leave the mines, where can they go? What possible alternative employment is there in such a valley as I represent? It is a great tragedy that these people who are capable of so much productive effort for the benefit of the country are denied such possibilities. Things will be made increasingly difficult for them because the workmen's season tickets on the buses are being taken away, so that long-distance travelling is more or less ruled out in these mining valleys.

My hon. Friend also referred to the importance of houses in the mining valleys. I know that housing is a universal problem in the United Kingdom, but I make no apology for mentioning it on behalf of Wales. An assurance was given on the Floor of this House that particular attention would be given to the mining valleys. We cannot possibly hope to attract back to the mining industry men who may be temporarily employed in other industries, unless we can offer them houses. It is sad beyond description continually to hear about the terrible social problem inherent in the unfortunate housing situation in this country today.

Moving from the problems to the interests, I want to say that these, of course, are essentially cultural, and I believe that we Welsh people should attempt to be fairly objective in our dealing with cultural problems in Wales. There is a tendency for us to look for scapegoats and attack the Government and suggest that the Government has something to do with the cultural development of a nation.

Speaking for myself, I insist that these yearnings for self-expression in art, music and so on, are something outside the realm of politics, and I believe that honesty demands from us a preparedness to admit that. I think a lot of unnecessary criticism is levelled at the present Government and was levelled at the former Government by people in my own country who are activated by motives not too worthy in that regard.

Now I come to my final point, remembering my promise to my colleagues, and it concerns my third heading—aspirations. Before coming to the House this afternoon, I looked up in the Oxford Dictionary the definition of aspiration. There are two definitions in the Oxford Concise Dictionary, and one is "desire for." Well, what are the aspirations of the Welsh people? There is a tremendous variety of them, and it would be very difficult for us to bring that variety into any focusing point this evening. But there is another meaning in the Oxford Dictionary, which is "drawing of breath," and that is the literal meaning.

One can manage without many things which one desires, but one cannot live without breathing, and I should like to finish up by referring to those things without which we just cannot live. May I, first, pause at this point in order to say to the Minister in charge of Welsh affairs—not in any spirit of malice, because I would not like to be offensive—that his post and his responsibilities in that post, so far as Wales is concerned, are made doubly difficult because of the unfortunate past which he, in one sense, has to carry as a representative of the Conservative Party.

Conservatism as a political force finished in Wales in 1868, and that is a long time ago. Since then, it has been an increasingly waning force in Wales. I do not want to make any particular capital of that, but I want to emphasise that the present Government will find it very difficult to capture the imagination of Wales. I am thinking of a division like my own and that of my hon. Friend who sits for Bedwellty, and of the fact that 87 per cent. of the voters in my division voted for me and 83 per cent. of the voters in his division voted for my hon. Friend.

I think it is palpably absurd that, at this stage and in such constituencies as Abertillery and Bedwellty, the Conservative Party should see fit to appoint two full-time political agents to try to win people over to their cause. The Government are sacking 10,000 civil servants, and there is a shortage of manpower, and yet we have two political agents being appointed in those divisions. However, I mention that by way of an aside. What I want to say is this—

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Does not the hon. Gentleman know that there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth?

Rev. LI. Williams

There is something in the hon. Gentleman's point.

I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he has the sympathy of the Welsh people, and I would say to him that, if he wishes to carry out his party's pledges as far as Wales is concerned—and I will admit that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is prepared to do that to the best of his ability—the best way he can do so is to follow the great work which has been achieved in Wales during the last six years.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)

My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. Ll. Williams) has dealt with some of the social and economic problems which face us in Wales. I want to devote the little time that I have to one special aspect of the economic problems in Wales, but before I do that I want to make one or two general observations.

This debate is different in two respects from all previous debates on Welsh affairs. First, we now have a Tory Government in power. Wales, of course, bears no responsibility for that. If the rest of the country on 25th October last year had shown the same high level of political intelligence as Wales, Labour would still be in power with a larger majority than ever. The second difference is that we now have a Minister in charge of Welsh affairs, with an Under-Secretary to assist him.

I do not know what these appointments mean in terms of practical policy and practical administration. So far, we have had no precise and specific information about that. We have had to be content with vague generalisations which may mean anything or may mean nothing. It has not been overlooked in Wales that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his assistant occupy an office which, of all Government Departments concerned with internal affairs, has the least impact on Welsh life and Welsh problems. Wales has no particularly urgent problems and certainly no special problems connected with crime and criminals, the police, and prisons. Indeed, I believe Wales has less to do with those things than any other part of the country.

Our special problems in Wales are different in character and in kind from those normally dealt with by the Home Office. Indeed, I do not recall in any previous Welsh debate a single specifically Home Office issue being raised. All the really important Welsh problems lie outside the sphere of activities of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Department, and his writ does not run—indeed, he has admitted this, but not until after October—into that vast complex of Welsh problems—industry, agriculture, education, administration. In none of those things does the right hon. and learned Gentleman exercise any authority.

All previous Welsh debates have been dominated by one major issue. It is the problem of providing security of employment for the Welsh people. In all the previous Welsh debates this has been the central theme of almost every speech in every part of the House. This, of course, was inevitable, for the problem of employment has always been uppermost in the minds of the people whom we represent. Wales has other problems, but they are all subordinate to this basic, fundamental problem of employment. It is no use being eloquent about the culture and idealism of Wales if we fail to provide security of employment for the Welsh people.

A great deal has been said today about the notable achievements of the Labour Government. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who came to Wales, detailed those great achievements, but, unfortunately, he did not give the credit for them to the Labour Government that accomplished them.

One thing that has not been said here today is that the unemployment problem in Wales has never been completely solved. In the last six and a half years Britain has enjoyed full employment, but during the whole of that time we have been confronted in Wales with a serious and almost intractable unemployment problem. I agree that a tremendous amount of work has been done to reduce it, but the average unemployment figure for Wales has never come down to the national average; it has always been well above it. It is well above it today, and not only that but is increasing.

The point I want to make is that, before we were able to solve the old unemployment problem in Wales, we are now faced with a new unemployment problem of a different kind arising from different circumstances. During the last six and a half years many new industries have come to Wales. Most of them are light engineering industries producing, in the main, consumer goods for the home market. They are producing precisely those goods which are now regarded as the frills of the civilian economy, and which under re-armament have to be drastically cut.

Many industries of this type have been established in South Wales. Indeed, many communities have become totally dependent on them for employment, and in many parts they provide the only opportunities for employment for very large numbers of people. Now, I am not decrying these new industries in any way; I have no complaint to make against them; they are excellent industries; indeed, they are essential industries in any prosperous and flourishing economy. But an armament economy is not a prosperous and flourishing economy, and already the impact of this new re-armament policy is having devastating effects in certain parts of South Wales.

This problem has risen in a most acute form in my own constituency, though the majority of the people affected come from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas). On the Hirwaun Trading Estate many excellent industries have been established since 1945, most of them producing consumer goods, and many producing luxury and semi-luxury products. Many of them specialise in the production of radio and electronic equipment.

Until quite recently these firms were doing very well indeed, providing employment for large numbers of people, and bringing prosperity to an area which had been derelict for years. But since re-armament has come in as a policy, the whole situation has been completely transformed. In the first place, these firms cannot sell their goods. Even if they could sell them, they cannot get the raw materials to produce them, with the result they have been compelled to reduce their production drastically, and in the last six weeks or so over 1,000 people have lost their employment on the Hirwaun Trading Estate.

This has happened in an area which was most seriously affected by the great depression of the inter-war years. It is also an area in which we have never been able to solve the old unemployment problem. It is an area which since 1945 has been one of the black spots of South Wales, with unemployment percentage figures running four and five times above the national average. This new wave of unemployment has created consternation throughout the district. Indeed, it has caused widespread fear throughout South Wales. Everyone throughout the South Wales area is asking whether what is happening in Hirwaun today is going to happen in other parts of South Wales tomorrow; and I believe that the answer is "yes".

It is clear that industries of this kind cannot survive in an armament economy. There is no need for them; there is no room for them; they have to be squeezed out. There is no doubt at all that the industries at Hirwaun are simply the first casualties of the impact of rearmament on the new economy that has been built up in South Wales. There is no mystery about it; indeed, the remarkable feature about this development was that the Ministries concerned seemed to have been taken completely by surprise. Yet this was no trade slump about which the economists argue in abstruse theoretical treatises; it was not a classic recession caused by the mysteries of a market economy; it was a situation deliberately created by Government policy; and now we are entitled to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman what proposals he has for dealing with this very critical situation.

We have reached the stage when Ministers come here day after day and tell us that the arms deliveries are well behind schedule. The Minister of Labour, whom I am glad to see in his place, told us the other day that this was because of the shortage of labour for re-armament, yet in South Wales at this moment we have thousands of people unemployed, and well-equipped and highly mechanised productive capacity is lying idle. Last week the House debated the economic crisis. If this is the way in which we are deploying our resources, we shall not get arms and we shall not get exports, and we shall never solve the economic crisis that confronts us.

8.52 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I should like to follow hon. Members who have dealt with the problem of the rural de-population, because without doubt one of the greatest evils from which Wales has suffered during the last four or five decades has been the drift from the countryside. That is a very bad thing in any country, but it has a special significance in a small country like Wales, because not only does it have grave and far-reaching economic consequences, it also saps the vitality of that small nation. If this trend in Wales continues for another two generations, there is little doubt that it will lead to the virtual extinction of the Welsh language and the Welsh way of life, because the rural areas in Wales are the "power house" of our characteristic national way of life.

If this drift is to be halted, then certain positive and constructive tasks must be accomplished without delay. During the last few years, and particularly since 1945, a considerable amount of good work has been achieved, but it was only a small beginning, and if the drift is to be stopped our rural areas must have electricity, piped water, drainage, better roads and all the other amenities which have already been mentioned by previous speakers.

Speaking of my own constituency, I must say that since vesting date under the Electricity Act the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board have done a good job, but, as the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), said, there still remains 63 per cent. of the houses of the county to be supplied with electricity. The progress in the supplies of electricity and water must be maintained throughout the rural areas. The life of a housewife in the rural areas of Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and Merionethshire is truly a drudgery compared with the life of her counterpart in the urban areas.

As was said in an excellent speech by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), the housewife there still has to carry buckets of water long distances across fields. An admirable water scheme is being put into operation in Anglesey, which the Minister saw last month, and this will make a considerable difference to the life of the neighbourhood. Whatever further economies the Government have in view, I hope they will not be at the expense of the development of our rural areas, for that would have drastic consequences for the rural areas not only of Wales but throughout Britain.

Neither can the problem be tackled effectively unless people are properly housed. There are extremely bad housing conditions in our towns and cities, but nowhere are they worse than in the slums of our rural areas. Some of the agricultural cottages are squalid and mean. I visited some in Anglesey during the Recess. I inspected one row of cottages in the village of Malltraeth on Christmas Eve. The walls and ceilings of the cottages were sagging with damp. In one of them the husband had come home from hospital to spend Christmas with his family.

Those conditions are to be seen throughout the whole of Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and Merioneth and, indeed, throughout rural Britain. No matter how earnest the Minister is in his desire to fulfil his task in Wales, I am afraid that he can do very little in view of the Government's housing policy of Council houses for sale and the new ratio of one in two. I fear that this policy will not help the housing situation in our rural areas.

There is a crying need in our rural areas for improved transport facilities if we are to keep people, particularly our young people, in the countryside. This aspect has been neglected. I am illustrating what I have to say by referring to my own constituency, and I hope I shall be forgiven for doing so. There is a village called Aberffraw which was at one time the capital of North Wales, the residence of the Princes of Cymru, the residence of Llewellyn, the last of the Princes of Wales. The village is still there and only one 'bus a week calls there—on Thursday afternoon. That is the position. We cannot expect our young people to settle down in the rural areas of Wales in squalid conditions and without any modern amenities at all.

Most important of all is the employment problem. If facilities for employment are to be found in the large concentrations of population only our young men and women will continue to go there from the rural areas. We must encourage the factories in the small towns and the countryside generally, to which reference has also been made. I have been worried during the last few weeks by the cramping effect which the armament programme has had upon these small industries. The employees in at least two small factories in North Wales are already working alternate weeks because steel and other materials are going in other directions. If that policy is continued, it will have an extremely serious effect upon the employment situation throughout the rural areas of Wales. We are dependent upon the small factories to fill the breach in what were formerly pockets of unemployment.

Agriculture in Wales must of course be sustained, and in this context I should like to mention the position of the farm worker. I want to make a special plea for him, because his life has always been a precarious one, although he is in many ways the backbone of the rural community in Wales. In the years between the wars I do not know how he managed to live on a completely inadequate wage. He did not live; he merely existed; and the result was a tremendous drift from the land in those days. Our country folk in Wales are not particularly vocal, and they do not agitate very much, but it would be well for the future of our country if their reasonable claims were met. They are a hard working, industrious and ambitious people, and they deserve to be encouraged.

Some of my hon. Friends mentioned the future of the famous ports of South Wales, and I should like to mention the largest port in North Wales, Holyhead. It has had an extremely chequered career, particularly since 1922, with the emergence in that year of the Irish Free State and the amalgamation of the railways into the four main companies. It is not generally appreciated that the unemployment position in Anglesey, including Holyhead, between 1922 and 1939 was as serious as it was in any part of the country. In the middle 1930's the number of the insured population out of work was almost 45 per cent., which was a very serious position. Indeed, since 1945 the position has improved a great deal. We do not want to see a return to that unhappy pre-war state of affairs, and that is what we are concerned about.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably aware, Holyhead has one of the finest natural harbours in the whole country, with a breakwater, which is the longest in the world. I am open to correction on that point, but I think I am right. It is one and a half miles long, and the port is not being used to a fraction of its full capacity. That is something which the right hon. and learned Gentleman together with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport might look into, because in any future assessment of the ports of Wales, Holyhead, as the largest port in North Wales, must be given very careful consideration.

Before I resume my seat I should like to mention the constitutional issue and to welcome the administrative adjustments which the right hon. and learned Gentle- man mentioned this afternoon. That is a step in the right direction. The constitutional issue in Wales has been a burning topic for half a century, and it remains so. It is the talking point wherever one goes, whether in the literary societies of our churches and chapels throughout Wales, in the Cymru Fydd Societies and in many other places.

It is no use my hon. Friends taking up the position that all that concerns the Welsh are bread and butter matters. To the people of Wales the constitutional issue is in the forefront, particularly with the Welsh speaking people. I say that without intending to disparage the English speaking community in Wales in any way.

Mr. G. Thomas

Who are in the majority in Wales.

Mr. Hughes

That may be, but—

Mr. Thomas

The great majority.

Mr. Hughes

—we shall await the new census figures before we agree finally with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Could my hon. Friend say into which category he puts the bi-linguists, those who speak both languages?

Mr. Hughes

I put the bi-linguists within the bounds of salvation. One thing is, I think, generally accepted. It is that some radical reform is needed. I cannot see why a committee on the lines of the Catto Committee should not be set up at once.

In reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), on 15th November, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said: When the Government have received and considered the report of the Committee referred to"—[the Catto Committee]—"… they will consider whether it would be advantageous for a similar investigation to take place as regards Wales."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 65.] But I cannot see why Wales has to wait for Scotland. The information obtained from an investigation carried out by a fact-finding committee of this kind is a vital prerequisite to any consideration of Welsh constitutional reform, and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously to reconsider his decision on that point.

9.7 p.m.

Mr. David Thomas (Aberdare)

I realise that time is passing and I want to give fair play to other hon. Members, as well as to the Minister, who will have very many questions to answer. I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will do all he possibly can to make a success of his job. If he does not, the Government policy of putting a Minister in charge of Welsh affairs will be useless for the Welsh nation.

The subject on which I want to speak has been touched upon by several of my hon. Friends already. I hope the House will not object to listening to a few facts showing what I believe to be the most serious problem confronting Wales today—unemployment. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) for referring briefly to the position in my constituency. I want to mention the three phases of unemployment in my division. They are those who have been idle from two to three months; those who have been out of work from three to 12 months, and those who have been unemployed for five, six, seven or 10 years.

Secondly, fear exists among thousands of workers in South Wales today lest they become unemployed in the near future. Thirdly, I would mention the unemployment of the severely disabled, and pay a tribute to the efforts of past Governments. I hope that the present Government will continue with these efforts. We are grateful to the late Government for setting up an employment organisation which I understand is subsidised to the extent of 100 per cent. I hope that that organisation is not being hamstrung.

Since 1946, in the South Wales Development Area, 11 factories have been erected to provide training for the seriously disabled. Capacity in the factories is approximately 1,250 for seriously disabled miners and other disabled industrial workers. I find according to the latest return that the number employed in those Remploy factories, training the seriously disabled to manufacture very useful articles—hospital equipment—at the moment is under 1,000.

At the same time I want to pay tribute to Remploy for doing all they possibly can in these circumstances. They have indicated that they cannot go forward with erecting new factories, having regard, I take it, to the capital expenditure programme and also to the re-armament programme. As far as my district is concerned, I believe that there are buildings already at the Hirwaun Trading Estate which are not occupied and which could be used for training these seriously disabled persons. There can be no justification at all, whatever Government is in power, for holding back on this serious problem.

Everywhere we go we see posters saying "Join the Miners," with the inducement of high wages. Those who earn high wages in the mining industry have to work exceedingly hard for them. In the Press men are urged to go into the mining industry but, as was indicated by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), no promise is made; no indication is given as to what is likely to happen to any of those who might come into the mining industry and become seriously disabled or even slightly disabled.

If this or any other Government require men to go into the mines, I venture to say they must give a guarantee and a pledge. I know some Members are looking at me, but I have not been on my feet for more than three or four minutes. I shall not detain the House much longer. No indication is given to those who enter the mining industry that alternative work will be provided for them if they become disabled, seriously or otherwise.

I should like to see this Government working towards that end and giving an assurance to every miner that, should he become disabled, he will have suitable employment provided for him. One hon. Member said that we have had two Remploy factories. I come from one of the most progressive areas where, as far as coal production is concerned, I can say without fear of contradiction that the miners are doing an excellent job. They have made more progress since D-Day than any other district and yet we find not a few dozen, but thousands of disabled persons throughout the coalfields who are unemployed.

In one town in my constituency—Aberdare—the latest figures of unemployed are 925 men and 348 women and, in another town—Mountain Ash—four miles away, 326 men and 151 women. I am wondering what is going to happen to these unfortunate persons and, indeed, to others who are unemployed today.

I, too, am glad to see the Minister of Labour sitting in his place. Not so long ago he declared that there were 500,000 jobs available which could not be filled, and here we have factories erected which have been partially closed down. As has already been suggested, the industrial centres could, perhaps, cease producing goods which they continue to produce and allow the development area to produce them, inasmuch as there is any number of vacancies in those great industrial centres and if one factory closes down its workers can be transferred to another.

My remarks have been somewhat disjointed but I have had only very few minutes available to me, and I realise the difficulty of the time factor which will confront my hon. Friend who speaks next. I am glad also to see that the Secretary for Overseas Trade is in his place. I pay tribute to him for coming to meet my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) and Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and I. The hon. Gentleman realises the seriousness of the position and, having regard to the tone of his replies, I am perfectly satisfied that he will do all that he possibly can, in conjunction with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who also, I believe, will endeavour to solve these serious problems.

I believe that the appeals which have been made will not go unheeded. Do not let South Wales drift back to the position of again getting thousands of unemployed whilst other parts of the country have any number of jobs vacant. We look to the Government to provide the work which can be done in the South Wales area. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was influential, together, probably, with other officials, in getting the Towy scheme cast aside for some time and in upsetting the plans of the Forestry Commission. I have said this before, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has mentioned it.

Let the Forestry Commission come into the mining valleys which have been denuded of all trees and where trees can be grown. Proof of this is shown in our parks. The labour is available, main roads and side roads already exist, and trees can be planted very much cheaper than in places which have no roads at all. Not only in my constituency, but in any other constituency in South Wales, there is an opportunity for planting trees and endeavouring once again to beautify the places which have been denuded as a result of the industrial activities of coal-mining.

9.17 p.m.

Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas) need not have been concerned about the time he has taken, because the whole House will agree that his speech has maintained the high standard we have heard throughout the debate. I should like first, in winding up the debate on behalf of hon. Friends on this side, to associate myself with the expressions of kindly reference which have been made to the absence of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. We very much regret that as he has had the opportunity of taking part in a Welsh debate on one other occasion, he should not have the opportunity, to which I am sure he must have been looking forward, of winding up the debate today. We hope that he will very soon be restored to health.

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will bear in mind that we are expecting very shortly the Report of the Council of Wales and that he will see that we have another day's debate upon that Report, when his hon. Friend will have the opportunity of winding up the debate.

The debate today has been outstanding for three very remarkable maiden speeches. There was the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), who spoke with great assurance and clarity and put his case with great force and dignity. I think he impressed the House very much, as did his hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). Of course, on this side of the House we regret very much that they are here because we know that the former hon. Members they displaced had won the affection and esteem of all sides of the House but, as they are here we congratulate them on the excellent way in which they made their contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), distinguished himself by the way in which he made his maiden speech.

The Motion we are debating today asks us to take note of the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman indicated that the steps taken were the appointment of himself and his hon. Friend and indicated to us that his functions were in no way executive. He was not to be regarded in any way as a court of appeal, but as an advocate for Wales. We all realise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is one of the outstanding advocates of our time, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister had that in mind when he appointed the right hon. and learned Gentleman to be the advocate for Wales. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman's function is really to be the advocate for Wales, but, if he is the advocate for Wales and is prepared to fight all who would injure her—including his own Government—he will earn the respect and esteem of the people of Wales.

If, on the other hand—and I must say that when I heard of his appointment I was a little concerned because I knew of his great skill as an advocate—his appointment means that he will be trying to put over to the people of Wales the Tory Government's policy for Wales and to seek to justify it, then, of course, the people of Wales will have something to be concerned about. I hope that I am unnecessarily apprehensive about this.

I gather that as a result of representations he has already made, particularly in regard to the Lleyn Valley, the War Office have abandoned their scheme, at least for 1952. I understand that one of the reasons for the abandonment was that there was a temporary absence of Regular troops abroad. What we would like to know is that when Regular troops return to England and the War Office make claims on the Lleyn Valley we may be sure that there is to be a public inquiry before any decision is taken by the War Office.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said in regard to the Upper Towy Valley that as a result of his having taken note of the strength of opposition of the people representations have been made and the Minister has now decided not to confirm the Order for cumpulsory acquisition. Is it as a result of the intervention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that that Order was not confirmed, because, if so, it reveals a situation which causes considerable alarm? There was a public inquiry into the Upper Towy scheme. It was debated and I think two hon. Members took part in the investigation and the inquiry. Does the intervention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that the inquiry had decided in favour of the scheme but that his intervention prevented it from being carried through?

If it did, then we can understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done something for Wales, but, on the other hand, we must also bear in mind that it reveals a very serious situation if those who undertook the inquiry had, in fact, satisfied themselves that the scheme was a necessary one, and the right hon. Gentleman had overruled it as a result of the representations made by the Minister for Welsh Affairs. How can we be satisfied with such inquiries if as in this case it can be overruled?

The Motion before the House invites us to take note of the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales. Did it require the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs and an Under-Secretary of State for the Government to realise the problems of Wales? Of course it did not, because the problems of Wales today are those created by the party opposite. For 20 years a Tory Government controlled the destiny of Wales. There was no necessity for the appointment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in order to acquaint the Government with the problems of Wales. The experiences of the past were sufficient indication that those problems existed.

As the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said, in the years of Tory rule 400,000 people had to leave Wales and during that time there were on average every year 173,000 people unemployed. At one of my eve of the poll meetings at the last Election a lady asked me to give a message to the House of Commons. She was a lady advanced in years, and she said, "Tell them that since the Labour Government came into power the women of Blaenavon have had a sense of independence, and, what is more, we have been given back our self-respect."

It was the self-respect of these people which was destroyed by the application of the policies of the party opposite in the years between the wars, and by the iniquitous and degrading application of the Poor Law system which crushed the self-respect of the decent people of Wales. I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to the party opposite that for 20 years Wales was being slowly murdered by them. Had that treatment continued for a few more years it would surely have died. But it was rescued in time by the return of the Labour Government in 1945. When the Labour Government came into power its most urgent duty was to save Wales as a nation.

Many hon. Members today have referred to the constitutional issue. I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to the party opposite that Wales could not have been saved by the creation of a Minister for Welsh Affairs nor by the appointment of an Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs. It could not have been saved even by the creation of a Parliament for Wales. The only way was by the economic rehabilitation of its industries and its agriculture. New industries brought prosperity to the industrial areas and a sound agricultural policy brought prosperity to the countryside.

We know that there has been a greater sense of social security since 1945 and that the decline of the population which had existed year after year without ceasing up to the outbreak of the Second World War was arrested. The population of Wales suddenly began to build up again and in six years, under the Labour Government, increased by 175,000.

My hon. Friends have referred to the industrial position in South Wales. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he can tell us what is the Government's policy on the allocation of raw materials to industries in South Wales. Unless we have a clear declaration of that policy the fears which are now being spread throughout the whole of South Wales will undoubtedly materialise. South Wales is now fearing the return of the Tory policies which were applied in the inter-war years. People there are desperately afraid of unemployment and of an attack on the social services. They are fearful that the same policies are again about to be applied. They can see—and one can understand their feelings—that if these policies are applied Wales will have the same destitution, poverty and degradation that she suffered in the years between the wars.

The problems of rural depopulation and of communications have been dealt with adequately by my hon. Friends, although there is much I would wish to say about them. I hope the House will forgive me for having had to address it in such disjointed fashion, but time is so short. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to reply to the debate, I say to him that the problems outlined by my hon. Friends are not separate problems. They are all one problem, and solutions of the problems of communication, of rural depopulation and of industrial difficulties in South Wales are all necessary if Wales as a nation is to survive.

9.34 p.m.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sure I am voicing the opinion of everyone in this House when I say two things. First, we have had a very interesting debate in which a number of speeches rich in variety have covered practically every existing problem of the Principality.

Secondly, the debate has been enriched by three maiden speeches well up to the average of this House, and I do not think anyone could ask for more. I am specially glad because they came, in order, from my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), who represents an area which happens to be the stamping ground of my family and myself in the summer holidays, and then from my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). That speech also must have brought back to a number of hon. Members a favourite source of reading of mine—Giraldus Cambrensis—for, as hon. Members know, he was originally Gerald of Barry when he wrote his great work. Then we had the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), and I hope that when he returns to Dolgelley my friend Dewi Mai o Feirion will write as good a welcome in verse as he gave me on my visit to that place.

Of course, it is tempting for any party man to make his first and principal answer to the stronger party political content of the debate; but, for better or for worse, I shall try to keep myself under restraint, because I am anxious to answer the practical problems that have been put to me. I will only say this in honour of the philippic of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). He asked why I say so much about making known the problems of Wales, because, he said, they have always been known. I was looking at the terms of reference of the Council of Wales, and one of the reasons for which the late Government, fortified by the support of the hon. Member for Pontypool, appointed the Council of Wales was to secure that the Government were adequately informed of the impact of Government activities on the general life of the people of Wales and Mon-mouthshire. I do not think it is a bad thing that, if the late Government took one step in that direction, the present Govment should take another by the appointment of myself and my hon. Friend.

I should like to deal with the debating points which were urged with regard to the set-up. The right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said that there was no difference in the set-up and that the Home Secretary dealt with it in the past. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman was not quite right, because the Home Secretary dealt with it in his capacity as Leader of the House of Commons, and before that the Lord President of the Council dealt with it when he was Leader of the House of Commons. That was the set-up, and far be it for me to argue the question how it answered in a Welsh debate, because that is obviously not a matter one should argue at all.

Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to intervene?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will if the hon. Gentleman will let me finish my sentence.

That might answer for dealing with a Welsh debate, but it is not the purpose of the present appointment. The purpose of the present appointment is that there will be in the Cabinet someone who is constantly present and ready to put before his colleagues the way in which Wales as a whole—the life of Wales as a whole—is affected by Government proposals, and also to defend or explain that treatment to the House and the Principality.

Mr. Donnelly

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but it is important to get the point quite clear. Is it not a fact that in the period intervening between those periods which the previous Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) became charged with responsibility for Welsh affairs, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin was responsible, and he was not the Leader of the House, so that, therefore, the job did not go with the office of Leader of the House?

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) has given the history quite correctly. The Lord President of the Council undertook this duty, but when my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), was appointed Foreign Secretary, the Lord President of the Council was a Member of the House of Lords, and, therefore, a Member of the Government in the House of Commons was selected, and that person happened to be myself.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but the additions only assist in destroying the argument against me, which is that the duty was, and still continues to be, a mere appendage of the Home Office. There is no justification in history for that suggestion, and there is no justification for it today.

The next point with which I was anxious to deal was the question, which I think has more greatly concerned the House than anything else, of the position of what I think we are agreed in calling "the new industries," mainly in South Wales. I think it is important that we should get a correct picture of what these industries are, because I think the uninitiated, coming in for short visits to this Chamber, might think that they were merely industries producing consumer goods. Of course, that is very far from the truth.

If I might remind the House, the number of persons employed in new industrial developments in South Wales since 1937, the date of the passing of the Special Areas (Amendment) Act, amounts to over 105,000. Let us look at the distribution; I think it is worth doing. About 28,000 are employed in engineering processes of one kind or another in the capital goods and equipment group, and these include motor components, aircraft repairs and accessories, cycle components, bus bodies, ordnance engineering, colliery engineering, switchgear and transformers, and cables. About 18,000 are employed in the production of non-metallic raw materials, including chemicals, oils and nylon. About 9,500 are employed in steel and tinplate industries, and over 6,000 are employed in the non-ferrous metal industries.

So that we start from the position that about 60 per cent. of the 105,000 workers are engaged in the production of raw materials of one kind or another or in the engineering industries of the capital goods and equipment group and only about 36 per cent. of the 105,000 workers are employed in the consumer goods industries.

Again, these industries are by no means confined to a narrow range of products. They include 8,500 workers in clothing, about 8,000 making durable consumer goods, of whom 3,000 are engaged in radio, 2,700 in furniture, and over 2,000 in a miscellaneous group of industries, including spectacle frames, watches, and washing machines; about 3,000 making toys, and another 3,000 making fancy goods and luxury items.

Mr. G. Thomas

They are all in danger.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

That is the point I want to make. I do not accept that. I am glad the hon. Gentleman interrupted, because I do not accept his point and I want to show why. Even some of the firms in the section that I have dealt with—the 36 per cent.—have a useful export trade, because exports from South Wales include mechanical toys, artificial jewellery, glass and musical instruments. I mention these things—I have given the list—to show that some of these are exports. Therefore, when one considers the general figure that has been quoted of 80 per cent. having a reasonable security, a conservative figure, it is based on 60 per cent. of those new workers being engaged in the production of raw materials and a considerable proportion of the others being engaged in the export trade.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman disagreeing with the figure published by the Board of Trade that 80 per cent. are reasonably secure, which leads us to suppose that 20 per cent. are insecure?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

No. I am saying that that is the conservative view of the position, the guarded view; but I did want to make the industrial basis clear, and I am sure that it is far healthier than the impression generally given. But the hon. Gentleman will remember that I said in opening that that did not get rid of the difficulties. It is a fact that the industries were established in places where alternative employment was difficult to find, and that they had been deliberately established there; and that, as we all know, there is a high percentage of aged and disabled workers. Those points have been, and must always be, remembered; and I assure the House they will be borne in mind.

What I said before—that we have to try in the course of re-armament not only to give direct contracts in Wales but try to secure that sub-contracts are placed there—is of great importance. The Secretary for Overseas Trade and I have already considered, and will consider again, the allocation of special supplies. We have both been interested and informed about what has been said today.

There is just one point, if I may make a footnote, on Hirwaun. I am glad to say—I am sorry that the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) is not here at the moment—that nearly two-thirds of those who came out of employment are back in employment on the latest figures, and I thought he, the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas) and the House would be glad to hear that fact.

Mr. G. Thomas

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman link the question of light industries with the allocation of raw materials?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I shall certainly consider that point. I fully understand the importance of it, and we shall bear it in mind.

Now let me deal with some of the other aspects. If I rather race through them, the House will know that that is only because I am trying to cover as much ground as possible in the short time available. I was asked once or twice about the Lleyn Peninsula. I reiterate what I said before, that the Secretary of State for War has undertaken that the local feeling and local opinion will be given the most serious consideration before the decision is come to as to a training area.

I should like to assure the House, as I have already told the hon. Gentleman when he was good enough to bring the deputation to me, that the position with regard to Wales as a whole is that the original proposals for training areas have been reduced by over 40 per cent. I do want the House to bear that in mind. I repeat my appeal, that everyone should regard it as a duty to try to help in the search for the proper area, in order to get one that will perform its purpose and have the least effect on agriculture and local feeling.

I am very interested in what was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and others about the need for rural industries. I shall probably not be able to deal with much of what was said by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), but no doubt he and others will have in mind the new industry which has come to Amlwch. I think it will make a difference to the Island. What stuck in my mind, and left a very happy impression, were the creameries that I visited in Merioneth, where there is an enormous expansion of the industry; and I believe that there are others.

Mr. C. Davies

I only wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman were right. We have tried to get them in Montgomery but have been frustrated at every turn. I helped to get them in Merioneth; I got them there, but I cannot get them in my own county.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am sorry to hear that, because I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that those in Merioneth have done an admirable job, and, of course, have shown an amazing expansion of turnover.

There is one other aspect in that respect, and that is in relation to the industries in the Nantwy Valley and Blaenaw Ffestiniog. It will be appreciated that neither district lies inside a development area so that the Board of Trade had no power to spend any money in building factories or site preparation to encourage industrial development. However, as a result of local representation, the Treasury have authorised the Development Commission to grant assistance under the relevant Act, which is designed to help the development of rural industry. The Commission have made loans to the local authorities concerned for the erection of a factory in each district to attract industrial tenants. I could go into more detail, but time obviously does not permit.

Now let me say a word about transport. My hon. and right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench have listened with care to what has been said about the need for roads, but everyone realises the difficulty with regard to expenditure. Unclassified roads, referred to by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, are a problem which I think the Council for Wales are taking into their special study, and we are once more hoping for constructive suggestions, to which we shall give attention. The small ports are also the subject of an inquiry which is just being started by the Council for Wales.

In his reference to the Bristol Channel ports the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) omitted one fact. There has been a very considerable addition to the over-all trade during the last year, and, curiously enough, in view of what the hon. Gentleman said, there has been a slight decline in the volume of exports but an increase in the volume of imports, and an increase in the over-all trade. I think that one ought to have that in mind, but that does not answer the hon. Gentleman's main point, that these ports were designed and fitted for coal, and they have now to deal with a more general trade if they are to be successful. Again, I can promise him that I shall study carefully the various points he put forward, and we will do what we can to meet them.

Mr. Callaghan

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's words have considerable weight and I think he will agree that, although these ports were designed and fitted for coal, they are now designed and fitted with all the facilities needed for handling general cargo, and they are capable of handling it at this moment.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

In the variety of papers which I collected in order to answer the various questions which have been put to me, the one which dealt with the specific position of South Wales ports has, for the moment, eluded me. The point that I was making was that there has been, in comparison with 1950, a net increase in total trade of 1,800,000 tons. Considerable improvements have been brought about, and I could, if time permitted, explain what they are.

Mr. Callaghan

Much of this is due to oil at Swansea.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

But it has to be taken into account. I am sorry that I cannot go into the details of the matter, but I think that the main thing is that I realise the hon. Gentleman's point, and I shall consider it.

I was rather surprised at a statement made from the Opposition Front bench about houses. I should not have thought that there was any dispute or doubt whatsoever that we have to try and build houses for the encouragement of those working in the mines. I have been assiduously trying not to be controversial, but I should like to see the proportion of houses for Wales brought into more fair and equitable relationship with the houses that have been built in England. I think that is something which really requires looking into. The figures are very bad for the period since the war. Again, I do not want to be controversial but I think I shall have the whole House with me when I say that the problem ought to be looked into.

I have not had the time to deal with what one might call the intangible aspect of this matter. There has been some divergence of opinion, but—and I hope that this will not offend any hon. Member—I am unhesitatingly in favour of our stressing the importance of the intangible side—that is, tradition and language.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House takes note of the steps taken by His Majesty's Government to secure that recognition is given to the problems, interests and aspirations of Wales.

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