§ 3.36 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 policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the matters referred to in the recent Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper, No. 8678).The Government felt that it would be more convenient to the House that the debate should take place on a substantive Motion rather than on a Motion for the Adjournment, and this Motion has been drafted in wide terms in order to give full scope for discussion of the varied problems of Wales.
The debate which took place on 4th February of last year ranged over a wide field, but there were four main subjects of discussion: first, the broad question of Government administration in Wales; secondly, agriculture and rural depopulation; thirdly, communications; and fourthly, industry and employment. The Chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party has been good enough to send me a list of the main subjects likely to be raised in this debate, and these include all the subjects I have mentioned and one or two more. I hope to say something about most of the subjects, and I ask in advance the indulgence of the House if the speech I make is somewhat lengthy in consequence.
With regard to administration in Wales, I said in my speech in the debate last year that the object of the administrative changes introduced by the Government was to give proper recognition to the special needs and characteristics of Wales without depriving Wales of the advantages of unified administration. If I may, with due diffidence, speak first of my own position as Minister for Welsh Affairs, the experience of the work done in the past year has, I think, shown that, whatever may be thought of my own qualifications for this very responsible office, the decision that there should be a senior Cabinet Minister with a special responsibility for studying the problems and needs of Wales as a whole, and for presenting these needs to his colleagues, has been worth making.
412 Whatever may be thought of additional needs—and I know that hon. Members have varying views—there is a need for a personal gathering up of Welsh problems and opinions thereon, and that I have tried to provide during the year that has gone. That has enabled the Welsh local authorities and others to bring before the Government their views on problems of general Welsh interest which may transcend the responsibilities of particular Ministers without in any way interfering with the executive responsibilities of my colleagues in their own fields.
I should like to say—and I hope that everyone will appreciate the sincerity with which I say it—that I look back with real pleasure on the many visits I have made to Wales during the past year, not only because of the great kindness and hospitality with which I have been received everywhere, but because of the spirit of good will and the common interest in the general well-being of Wales which has been present throughout the discussions I have had with representatives of all sides of Welsh life. These personal contacts have been of great value to me and, I hope, of some service to Wales. It is my intention to extend them during the coming year.
I am afraid that on the occasion of my latest visit to Cardiff last week, some Welsh hopes were not fulfilled; but that was in a contest in which my personal intervention would have been of little assistance. It is a sad fact that someone referred to me the other day by saying, "When I first met the speaker he was a slim and speedy three-quarter." Mr. Speaker, you will remember a Latin poem that begins. "Mourn for fleeting things; the years slip away." Unfortunately, it is not only the years that slip with the passage of time.
Tomorrow I shall be returning to Cardiff on more serious business, when I shall have the pleasure of meeting members of the Welsh Board for Industry, which, under the energetic chairmanship of Sir Percy Thomas, has done so much to help the Government with the special problems of industrial development in Wales. I shall also be meeting again tomorrow some of the members of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, who advise the Government on Welsh problems over a rather wider field.
413 The Council will very shortly be submitting a further report on their activities, which will, I understand, include the results of the pilot survey which the Council have been conducting in mid-Wales. I should like to acknowledge also the help that I have had from the Council and their Chairman, Alderman Huw Edwards, on many questions of general Welsh interest which have arisen during the past year. It is perhaps not always realised that, apart from the reports which the Council send us from time to time, they are always available for consultation, and it has been my practice and the practice of my colleagues to ensure that their views are obtained on any question of Governmental action in Wales which raises issues of general Welsh interest.
The second aspect of the administrative changes which I announced last year is the devolution of the administration of certain Government Departments, and, in particular, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education.
I shall deal first with agriculture. As I informed the House, the Welsh Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture has been given the rank of Under-Secretary, and my right hon. Friend the Minister has taken special steps to ensure that he is kept fully informed of all developments in agricultural policy and administration which are of special interest to Wales. The Welsh Secretary pays frequent and regular visits to London for this purpose.
The arrangement by which the Provincial Director of the National Agricultural Advisory Service and the Provincial Land Commissioner are responsible for the administration of these services in Wales continues, but I do not think this has led to any difficulties in the general application of agricultural policy in Wales. Indeed, as far as I can see, the present arrangement has many advantages for Wales, in that it ensures that Wales is kept abreast of the most recent technical developments.
I now come to the question of education, which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) raised a short time ago. I think that this is a difficult question, and I hope that I am meeting the wishes of the House in spending a little time on it in order to try to show 414 how it works out. The special needs of Wales, as practically every hon. Member knows, have long been recognised in the administrative organisation of the Ministry of Education. I think that some people outside the House do not remember that the Welsh Department dates as far back as 1907, and it is in the charge of a Permanent Secretary who is appointed by the Minister with the approval of the Prime Minister.
The Permanent Secretary is stationed in London, as my right hon. Friend said; but now, as a result of the reorganisation to which I referred last year, he has also an office in Cardiff. In addition to the Cardiff office, there are offices in Swansea and Wrexham, mainly for the convenience of the inspectors of schools, and the local authorities with whom they deal, in West and North Wales. By far the greater part of the day-to-day administration of education in Wales is carried on in Cardiff.
The officers of the Ministry stationed in London whose work concerns Wales have been instructed by my right hon. Friend to meet the Welsh education authorities in Cardiff on all occasions, except when the authorities themselves request that the meetings should take place in London. The Chief Inspector of Schools for Wales also conducts his business from this office, as do the Welsh priority officer and the architect, whose task it is to help the Welsh authorities to press forward with their building programmes.
The House will also remember that my right hon. Friend receives advice on the special problems of education in Wales from two bodies appointed under the Education Act, 1944—the Central Advisory Council for Education for Wales, whose duty it is to advise her on such matters as appear good to them, or matters that the Minister refers to them for advice; and the second body is the Welsh Joint Education Committee, which, besides conducting certain examinations, advises on matters affecting education in Wales, such as the co-ordination of facilities for the special educational treatment of handicapped pupils, further education, the curriculum of schools, with special reference to the teaching of the Welsh language and culture, and questions about recreation and social and physical training.
415 It is, I know, the wish of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education that I should pay a very sincere tribute to the assistance which she receives from these bodies, and to which, in addition to the individual local authorities, she looks for advice on all matters pertaining to Wales. The object of this arrangement was to preserve the distinctive educational traditions, forms and needs of Wales, particularly in matters concerning the Welsh language and Welsh literature, and to maintain the highest standard of administrative efficiency within her Department. That, I think, brings us to the point on which there has been some difficulty and, as I have heard, differences of opinion.
My right hon. Friend attaches the utmost importance to the retention of the office of the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department in London in addition to the office in Cardiff, in order to ensure that he should be continually available in London for discussion on matters of educational policy as they arise. I put it graphically as it was put to me when I inquired into this matter. Any matter of educational policy that arises at once raises the question of its Welsh aspect, and therefore, when a matter of policy does arise, it is vital, in the view of my right hon. Friend, that the Permanent Secretary should be there to give such advice.
The existing arrangements to which I have referred ensure that my right hon. Friend is fully advised on all questions of educational administration and substance in Wales, while the day-to-day administration of the educational services from the office which she has established in Cardiff already gives every promise of being a real advantage.
I wish to point out, especially as I am speaking at the beginning of the debate, that the new arrangements for the devolution of administration have been in force for less than a year, and, of course, may need some reconsideration, especially in matters of detail; but I felt it right to explain to the House the general considerations of principle which have influenced the form that they now take.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman used a word which is certainly current in Wales today—"devolution." Apart from the 416 appointment of committees, will he explain what additional executive powers have been conferred upon Welsh representative bodies in matters of education?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It would not be fair to claim any additional powers, because, as I said, the powers of the two bodies are contained in the Act of 1944 and no additional powers have been given. Two points form the substantive answer. The first—I must frankly say that no additional statutory powers have been given—is the use which the two bodies have made of their powers, the work that they have done, and the help that they have given. The second concerns the devolution of practical administration, as opposed to powers, which has taken place through the increased importance of the Cardiff office especially and the time that the Permanent Secretary spends there. I do not want to make any false point. No additional statutory power has been granted; if I conveyed that, I am sorry.
I want now to say a few words about agriculture and the problems of the Welsh countryside. The June figures of agricultural production which are given in the Report which we are discussing show the remarkable achievements of Welsh agriculture; and the September figures, which are now available, give an even better picture. I was very glad—I am sure everyone in the House was—to realise that the falling trend in the number of cattle, which began in the autumn of 1950, has now been reversed. In September of this year there were 970,000 cattle—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
No, not this year. The right hon. Gentleman has quite correctly set my clock back. In September of last year there were 970,000 cattle on Welsh farms, an increase of more than 12,000 on the figure for September, 1951. The sales of milk from Welsh farms in the year ending 30th September, 1952, amounted to nearly 180 million gallons, an increase of 10 million gallons over the previous year.
It has been said that shortage of labour is hindering agricultural production, but, fortunately, the total number of agricultural workers in Wales 417 increased during the year ended 30th June, 1952, although I say at once that the number of regular workers declined slightly. Moreover, the amount of machinery on Welsh farms has been increasing steadily, and this to some extent lightens the tasks that have to be done. In 1952 there were over 3,000 more tractors and nearly 2,000 more milking machines in Wales than in 1950. However, I do not want to minimise what I said; the fall in the number of regular workers certainly gives cause for concern. The long-term solution must lie in making the agricultural industry sufficiently attractive to enable it to secure an adequate number of workers of the right kind, and to secure them by normal recruitment.
The call-up of agricultural workers has, of course, been a matter of criticism, but the present deferment arrangements seem to cover all workers who are really essential. I say this because up to the end of September, 1952, the total number of agricultural workers called up in Wales from the 1933–34 age group was only 383, and up to the end of December 3,398 deferments had been granted and only 130 refused.
I want also to say a word about farmers' working capital, because it has been represented to me during visits to agricultural parts that farmers who want to increase production are sometimes handicapped by shortage of working capital. I should like to point out—I think it is right that it should be pointed out—that the Government have done a great deal to help. There are now grants of £5 per acre for ploughing up grass which has been down since 1949, there are grants of £10 per acre for ploughing really difficult land which has been under grass since before the war. and there are grants to cover 30 per cent. of the cost of phosphatic fertilisers and 15 per cent. of the cost of fertilisers containing nitrogen.
The Government are reintroducing a subsidy for steer calves and for heifer calves of beef type, and in addition they are continuing the hill sheep and cattle subsidies, the improvement grants under the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts—the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) will know what use has been made of those grants in his constituency—the marginal production schemes, the grants for field drainage and 418 water supplies, and the lime subsidy. A new drainage scheme was introduced in October abolishing the former upper limit of £15 per acre for grants towards tile drainage schemes and of £2 per acre for mole drainage schemes.
I should like to repeat that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken steps to make clear to the banks, which—directly or indirectly—supply a large proportion of the working capital which farmers use, his wish that they should give full weight to the vital importance of agricultural production in applying their policy on advances. In addition, of course, owners of agricultural land can obtain loans for improvements from the Land Improvement Company and the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation.
Everyone will agree that Welsh agriculture has every reason to be proud of its achievements in the past year. I have seen for myself during a recent visit to Pembrokeshire the great strides which have been made in the development of good husbandry and the care of stock. I was particularly impressed by the progress which has been made in Wales in the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. Of the cattle in Wales, 58 per cent. are now attested, compared with 37 per cent. in England, while in the County of Pembroke the proportion has increased rapidly from 42 per cent. to 72 per cent. Since October, 1952, North Pembroke, with Cardigan and most of Carmarthen, has formed the South Wales Tuberculosis Eradication Area. the first of the kind south of the Tweed.
Non-attested herds will now be tested, compulsory reactors sent to slaughter, and compensation paid on the market value of the animals as untested animals. I hope that in a matter of a few months the area will become an attested area, and it is proposed in a year's time to extend the eradication area to South Pembroke and eastwards beyond Carmarthen, so that in a few years Wales should achieve the goal of a country free from bovine tuberculosis.
I used—and I hope the House will think I was right in using—a note of optimism concerning the performance and achievements of Welsh agriculture, but I am sure the House will equally agree with me that there is no room for complacency about the future of the 419 Welsh countryside. Its prosperity and happiness are a matter of vital importance to the Welsh way of life, with its distinctive language and culture.
As I have already mentioned, the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire have been conducting a detailed examination of rural depopulation in relation to a particular area in mid-Wales, and I understand that their report will be submitted very shortly. I and my colleagues in the Government will give the most careful consideration to the Council's recommendations on this very important matter.
One matter about which we are all deeply concerned is the state of the roads of Wales. In passing from the agricultural aspect, I would point out that grants are available under the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts towards the cost of construction or improvement of private roads giving access to farms and, under the Marginal Land Scheme, towards the repair of private roads within farm boundaries. But I am very conscious that the present need to restrict capital expenditure has meant that the funds available for improvements to public roads are very limited, and much work which we should all like to see done now has had to be postponed. The Government fully recognise the need for the improvement of road communications in Wales and between Wales and England, and I shall have something to say on this point in a moment or two.
I also want to say a word on the problem of the possible development of air services in Wales, because I have been approached about it several times in the course of the year. There are, as hon. and right hon. Members are well aware, special difficulties which must be faced, because, apart from a few industrial centres, the population is comparatively small and in dispersed communities which do not offer sufficient traffic to sustain regular services.
We have considered the possibility of using helicopters, but I think it will be a matter of some years before they will be available for this purpose. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation is very sympathetic to suggestions made from Wales about the need to consider the development of some type of small aircraft with low operating costs and inexpensive ground requirements which 420 would suit the needs of Wales; but, so far as travel over longer distances is concerned, we must wait to see what support the services using the new airport at Rhoose will receive.
My right hon. Friend has decided that Rhoose should become the main airport for Cardiff, and it is proposed to cease to operate the airport at Pengam Moors as soon as adequate accommodation can be provided for Cambrian Airways at the other airport. Again, because of present restrictions on capital expenditure, the development of Rhoose Airport will have to proceed gradually; but it will proceed, and we shall judge as it proceeds what use the Welsh travelling public is likely to make of it.
I now turn to the group of subjects which, of all others, most occupied the minds of hon. Members who spoke in the debate last year—industry and employment. Fears were expressed by several hon. Members of the return of what was described by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) as the old ill-health of heavy unemployment and mass migration from Wales across the border. These fears, I am glad to say—and I am sure the hon. Member for Caernarvon is glad to say—have not been realised. As the figures in the Annual Report show, while there was some increase in unemployment during the period covered by the Report, it was not large, and the number of unemployed at the latest date for which figures are available, December, 1952, is no higher than the number at the time of last year's debate.
Generally speaking, the industry of Wales, with its new variety and flexibility which we on both sides of the House have done our best to develop, has stood up well to this difficult period of adjustment. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort), in a most valuable contribution to last year's debate, mentioned one particular problem—the modernisation of the steel and tinplate industry. He welcomed the introduction of the new methods of production, but expressed some disquiet about their effects on employment in the old works.
The coming into production of the vast new steel and tinplate works at Margam and Trostre and the decision to proceed with the erection of a second tinplate works at Velindre do, indeed, raise great issues about the future industrial development of west South Wales, to which the 421 Government have been giving the closest attention. It has been necessary, as hon. Members are well aware, while the new works have been building and coming into production, to maintain the maximum output from the old mills, and it has not been possible hitherto to make in advance practical arrangements for the immediate re-employment of workers.
It has long been recognised that the great advances which have been made in the modernisation of the steel and tinplate industry of this area must eventually lead to the closing of the older hand works, the products of which can never be competitive either in quality or in price; and the time has now come when the closing of some of the older works is inevitable. It is not possible to forecast exactly what may be necessary during the next year or two, but the Government understand that seven tinplate works will be wholly closed and three partially closed at the end of next week.
These steps will result in a redundancy of some 2,400 workers. Negotiations have been taking place on a sub-committee of the Joint Industrial Council, and plans are under consideration which, by the transfer of men and women to other works, will employ a substantial proportion of the mill men displaced by the closures.
I am glad to be able to pay tribute to the way in which both sides of industry are co-operating in endeavouring to resolve this problem. We have to face that it may be necessary during the next two years to close a number of sheet and steel works. So far as can be ascertained, the total number of workers who may become redundant as a result of these closures within the next two years is about 5,000, but the need to close the old works depends upon the availability of raw materials and the demand for finished products, and the number might be larger or smaller. One cannot say that it is the final figure.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
Does the number 5,000 include the 2,400 who are now under notice? I should think not.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I should like to verify that point, but I do not think so. [Interruption.] I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that that was wrong. The larger figure does include the less. I am sorry that I was not 422 informed at once upon the point, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has now given the information to me. It is clear that by the time the new plant at Velindre comes into operation in about five years' time, economic production at the old, hand tinplate works, with a very few exceptions dealing with specialised work, will be quite impracticable. That is the problem we have to face. If there were no other changes during the next five years, this would mean a total redundancy of from 10,000 to 12,000 workers.
It ought to be made clear that this problem is unique. The need for the provision of new opportunities of employment for the people of west South Wales comes not from the decaying of old-established industry but from its vigorous and far-sighted modern development. That development is taking place with the encouragement and full support of this Government just as of their predecessors, and the Government must accept some measure of responsibility for dealing with its results.
West South Wales will be the centre of the most modern steel tinplate industry in the world, and it is in the national interest as much as in the interest of this comparatively small area that it should be developed and modernised in keeping with the standard set by these new plants. The Government cannot direct new industry to the area, but there are ways in which we can help to make the area more attractive to industry, and we are determined to do everything within our power towards this end.
As I have indicated, one of the most urgent needs of the area is for improved communications, on which work has been delayed because of the general restriction on capital investment during the last few years. The roads both to London and to the Midlands are inadequate. Although it may not be practical to undertake the whole of the improvements which are required, the Government have come to the conclusion that the exceptional circumstances in west South Wales justify some relaxation of existing restrictions. It has accordingly been decided to authorise work on the improvement of the road between Llanelly and Neath, and urgent consideration will be given to other improvements in road and rail communications which can be shown to be 423 economic and essential to the industrial modernisation of the area.
The Government have decided to conduct a survey of the area, with a view to carrying out the advance preparation of one or more sites for factories; and other work will be necessary, for example, the clearance of the sites of some of the old works, to improve its amenities and industrial potentialities.
In addition to these measures, the Government will also make full use of their powers under the Distribution of Industry Acts, including, where necessary, the relaxation of restrictions on building for the purpose of encouraging suitable new industries—I stress what I am going to say—particularly those closely related to the major developments that have come to west South Wales, and to other suitable developments. When I say "other suitable developments," I do not mean of the same nature. I mean what development may be helpful, even if it is of a different kind.
In order to ensure that Government action is speedy and well informed by Welsh opinion, it is the intention of the Government to appoint a committee of which my noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State will be the Chairman. We hope that its members will consist of representatives of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, the Welsh Board for Industry, and both sides of industry, including representatives of industry outside Wales. I am sure that Welsh Members will appreciate the importance of that, in view of the objectives at which we are aiming.
The committee will have two main tasks: first, to advise the Government on specific measures which are necessary for the modernisation of the area; and secondly, to consider methods of attracting new industries. By these means the Government will be kept constantly informed of the detailed problems of industrial and social readjustment which must be faced during the next few years.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
Before he leaves that point, will the Home Secretary indicate the position in Monmouthshire so far as steel tinplate works are concerned? We are very 424 much concerned on this subject in Monmouthshire.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to develop that point. I will have a look at the, special points which are raised and, if the House will give me leave to speak again, I hope I shall be able to say something about them later. At the moment I want to deal with this specific point, because there has been a great deal about west South Wales in the Press, and considerable apprehension has been generally felt whether the matter was receiving consideration. I wanted to make it quite clear to the House that we had been considering it for months now, that we had certain proposals, and that we wished to continue to be well-informed.
It is inevitable that during this process of readjustment there will be some temporary unemployment. The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) recognised that point last year and urged us to bear it in mind. We have tried to take this counsel to heart. It is well that we should all face the fact that the carrying out of the measures required for the modernisation of the area will provide some alternative employment.
Though that is not their primary object, they should afford a welcome relief during the period when insufficient alternative employment is available for the workers who become redundant before the new measures bear fruit in the growth of new industry. This is for west South Wales a great opportunity to build a new and prosperous centre of industry, but the opportunity must be grasped quickly and courageously. If it is, the difficulties of the period of readjustment should not be unduly severe or prolonged.
The Government are determined to do everything in their power towards that end and have shown their belief in the industrial future of the area by the decisions which I have just announced. If all concerned in industry, both in Wales and beyond it, will respond to this opportunity in the same spirit, the confidence of the Government and these exceptional measures, which will make heavy demands on our resources for capital investment, will be fully justified.
I have tried to cover in the three groups of subjects the most important 425 aspects of the matters put to me. It might be worthy of the consideration of the House whether, in view of the variety of subjects which are likely to be raised, hon. Members might grant me the indulgence of speaking again, in which case I shall try to do my utmost to deal with points that are raised and which I have omitted from this first speech. I thank the House very much for the indulgence and patience with which they have listened.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
Hon. and right hon. Members are much obliged to the Minister for Welsh Affairs for the informative and interesting statement he has just made. As I listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I recalled the first speech he made in Cardiff when he had an appointment with the Council for Wales. In the course of that statement, he said:The face of Wales has been transformed in recent years.I do not remember the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledging that the transforming agency was the Labour Government in their activities between 1945 and 1950. The acid test of the Government he now so well represents will be found in the transforming work they will do during the next two or three years when the difficulties to which he has referred will mature.
As a review of the past 12 months and of the work of administration, the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was faultless, but I was a little uneasy when he simply made promises which, judging from our experience of the Tory Party in years gone by, can be mere pious promises. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made no specific suggestion as to what Government policy will be in respect of redundancy in the years that are to come. The appointment of another committee does not encourage us very much. There is ample information available now. There are reports waiting to be implemented. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will confer with the county councils and local authorities, they will give him sufficient information to enable him to advise his colleagues to start on these new ventures straight away, without waiting for further reports.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman visited Wales 23 times during 1952, so 426 there can be no reproach upon him personally. However, I must ask him to seek an early opportunity of a meeting with the Prime Minister to tell him that in our view a peripatetic Minister, or even Ministers, is not a satisfactory substitute for initiative, enterprise and wise Government planning for the needs of the nation. The social and economic needs of Wales demand far more time than any wandering minstrel can give them, however skilfully he may be able to play upon the hearts of the people.
§ Mr. Morris
A writer in a local newspaper was very critical of the Minister for Welsh Affairs about a fortnight ago, pointing out that he had written a most interesting article entitled "My Job" published in the Tory document "Challenge." In that document the right hon. and learned Gentleman describes the many and varied tasks and responsibilities that rest upon him as Home Secretary but his responsibilities for Welsh affairs completely escaped his memory.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I explained how that happened in Wales last week. I was addressing the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce, and as I had already made three speeches in Cardiff on my work as Minister for Welsh Affairs, I made a speech which I entitled "My Other Job." This was taken as the basis of one article in a series on Ministerial jobs. The "Other," unfortunately, came out. I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman—I will not embarrass anyone who was there at the meeting—that I could call witnesses to prove that this is what happened.
§ Mr. Morris
I would not deny the right hon. and learned Gentleman the refuge of that interpolation, and his political friends in the City of Cardiff were very patient in not reminding him of the fact that he should say something further to them about his work for Wales.
The major anxiety in South Wales at the moment has already been referred to, namely, the further rationalisation of the tinplate industry. I want to make it perfectly clear that we are not apeing King Canute and pretending for a moment that we ought to try to prevent that modernisation. We recognise that if we are to maintain our hold on the markets of the world, British industry must attain a 427 maximum of efficiency. Experience has demonstrated that these modern machines for the tinplate industry are the only means we have of getting maximum output at the lowest possible cost.
At the same time we must have regard to the social consequences. As recently as Monday last, men engaged in the industry waited upon my colleagues the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) and the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). They asked what the Government intend to do in the interim period. It is true that the Standing Joint Committee had been able to reach agreement for the absorption of part of the displaced labour, but the men pointed out that this can only be done by the men in the works who are being retained working six hours a day. It means, in effect, that they are rescuing their comrades at the expense of a reduction of 25 per cent. in their earnings, and that is something which they Cannot afford.
So the Government are faced with two problems. The immediate problem is caused by the closing of these seven works. I am prepared to accept the figures given by the Minister and apparently assented to by my right hon. Friend, but the men seem to think that 5,000 is a low estimate and that the figure is likely to be nearer 8,000 or 9,000. The problem is one of absorbing this displaced labour here and now, and making provision for the 7,000 who are likely to be displaced within two years The people of Wales have long memories and they cannot forget what happened in the years between the wars. They are fearful that the people who were responsible for that condition in the years between the wars may be equally indifferent or incompetent in the years that lie ahead.
For that reason they have asked us to emphasise in this debate the paramount importance of the Government not only making promises, but giving definite indications of the kind of work that is to be introduced into South-West Wales and the provision that is to be made for the displaced men. Because, when the extensions to the works at Margam Abbey and Trostre are completed, and the new plant is put up at Velindre, there will be very little other work in the tinplate world for the men of South Wales. I leave that point with the Minister, hoping that the 428 promises he has made will be amply fulfilled.
The second point to which I would direct attention has already been referred to by the Minister, namely, road and rail communications. What reply did the right hon. and learned Gentleman send to the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire and the British Road Federation when they wrote to him on 24th September asking him to do something to improve the road communications in the interests of national prosperity and of safeguarding life?
Theirs is not the only voice. Sir Arthur Smout, Director of the Metals Division of addressed a meeting in South Wales recently. I quote from his speech:I have given a lot of study to this aspect of the South Wales economy. Birmingham and the West Midlands is a natural market for products of South Wales industry and the South Wales ports are admirably suited for handling the export trade of Birmingham and the Midlands, which is one of the largest in the country. The weak link between them is the totally inadequate system generally—the indifferent rail service and the particularly poor roads. I feel that South Wales cannot make its full contribution because of these poor transport facilities.This year it is anticipated that no less than £340 million will be derived from the motor taxation of this country. I am not asking that that taxation should be eased, but I do ask on grounds of equity that a much larger proportion of it shall be used for the improvement of road communications throughout the whole of Wales. If the Government are not prepared to do that, the motor industry ought not to be asked to pay such a fabulous amount in taxation.
Last year reference was made to the Conway bridge. I think the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) described it as a "clot" and pleaded with the right hon. and learned Gentleman to get something done. Nothing has been done, and commercial vehicles still have to make a detour of eight miles. This impoverishes the transport facilities of six counties. In the summer months on Conway bridge there are no fewer than between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles daily, and the time is very much overdue when road communications in North Wales should be drastically improved.
The Severn bridge has been approved in principle for a number of years, but 429 that principle still awaits implementation. The only major scheme that has not only been approved but is actually in being is that of the Neath River bridge, but unfortunately even that has virtually come to a standstill. I know it fairly well, and perhaps I may be allowed to illustrate this point. From Port Talbot to Swansea is 14¼ miles. If this scheme were completed, the distance would be reduced by 5½ miles. It would provide a speedy and much safer access not merely to Swansea but throughout West Wales.
In 1946 the Glamorgan County Council spent £370,000 on a new road from the site of the bridge to the Swansea boundary. Three years later the Ministry of Transport commenced this new bridge and the greater portion of it has been completed at a cost of approximately £11 million. A further £130,000 has been spent on the Swansea side, but the rest of the work is held up. The total scheme costs just over £3 million. Nearly £2 million has already been expended. But we are at a standstill.
This is a part of the road described by the "News Chronicle" investigator as a road that is more like a farmyard than a lifeline to English commerce. It does not require a committee; it does not require any further investigation for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to recognise the importance of this work. Otherwise, the money will have been spent in vain and there will be no easement to traffic; there will be no greater facilities for business and industry, and neither will the roads in that area be any safer. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman to have this matter examined specially by the Minister of Transport.
A passing word about port facilities. The ports of South Wales are nearer to North America than are London or Merseyside. From a strategic point of view, they ought to be maintained and used at the highest point of efficiency. Swansea, as it happens, is fortunate just now on account of the oil imports, but we still need a lot more coal to export. Cardiff, for whom I am delighted to say a good word, has docks but is capable of any type of work suitable to a port. It is tragic that it should be languishing just now. Its neighbour Barry is experiencing similar difficulties.
Why allow congestion to remain in London and the Merseyside and else- 430 where? Why not divert some of this traffic direct to the South Wales ports, thus making the journeys shorter and giving a quicker service? The turn-round in the ports of South Wales is equal to, if not better than, any other port in the country. I am not claiming that; I say that on the authority of the present "Overlord" for Transport, who was very pleased to repeat that to us during the war and subsequently.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes his Government to get the maximum advantage from port facilities, it would pay him to examine the position in Cardiff and Barry and, indeed, in Swansea, and lend us a helping hand. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he will not listen to me, to listen to the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. He has a vested interest in the matter, but he is quite ready to declare it here and now.
With a view to securing an orderly debate, we indicated to the right hon. and learned Gentleman some of the most important subjects which would be raised, but, having regard to the number of my colleagues who wish to contribute to the discussion, I can scarcely do anything more than introduce the subjects.
I must say a word about hospital services. I was astonished to learn a few months ago that if the hospital service of Wales were modernised and made adequate, it would cost £1 million per annum for 25 years. That is not the statement of a politician. It is the estimate of a very experienced businessman who is endowed with a good deal of public spirit, who served the last Government and is serving this Government in an advisory capacity. As a result of the work of his committee and their investigations, they are forced to the conclusion that £25 million should be spent to give Wales a reasonable hospital service.
An official survey published by the Welsh Board of Health in 1945 indicated that in South Wales we should have 10 beds per 1,000 of the population. We are short of no fewer than 1,314. The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), in a very convincing speech some time ago, drew attention to the great need in North Wales, where at a minimum they require 500 beds to provide for the sick people of North Wales: and in South Wales we are desperately in need of a 431 hospital with between at least 800 and 1,000 beds.
I am not saying that without any supporting evidence. I will quote three groups of figures. I am advised that there are no fewer than 1,714 gynaecological cases on the waiting lists; there are 1,702 ear, nose and throat cases, and 1,842 surgery cases. In the gynaecological cases many women have been waiting between four and five years, and in the ear, nose and throat cases people have been waiting for over two years. Who can measure the misery and the suffering due to this lack of treatment and who can gauge the handicap under which thousands of women are working in their homes, hoping that the day will soon come when they can be given proper medical or surgical attention?
After the blitzing of Swansea during the war, we were short of maternity homes. We have one 15 miles from the centre of the town and, because of the housing conditions and other consequences of the war, they can take into that hospital only the very serious medical and obstetrical cases. Forty-five per cent. of other applications have to be refused. There is an out-patient list—in this group, not in Swansea alone—of no less than 3,900 cases. That is not the kind of thing on which to economise. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he is to help us at all, to do something to obtain for us a better and more adequate hospital provision in North and South Wales.
The debate on rural Wales will take place on a later occasion, but Mr. Hugh Edwards, to whom the Minister has already referred, has advised him already that if rural Wales is to be given a fair opportunity the Government should provide at least £14 to £16 million. I heard with great interest what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to say about agriculture. He said that this industry must be made more attractive if the drift is to stop. We heartily agree. But he should have gone a little further and told the House what this Government proposed to do in respect of the housing of agricultural workers or the provision of water supplies and electricity and transport facilities. It is one thing to say that the drift must stop, but he will find it a formidable task which calls for immediate 432 attention if he is to provide the facilities I have mentioned in order to encourage agricultural workers to remain in the countryside. We owe them a great debt of gratitude, and I trust that the Government will recognise their claim.
If I may make a passing reference to education in the presence of so many authorities, let me say how disappointed we are with what we have heard this afternoon about the increased cost of school meals and with our experience in local authorities, where the right hon. Lady is hindering the development of the school building programme. Because of that, within a very short time there will be hundreds of children for whom no school places are available. When addressing hon. and right hon. Members I like to be as factual as possible. I asked for a factual, not an emotional, statement in respect of education, and this is the report I have had:Owing to the restrictions placed upon the Authority's building programme, a considerable gap has developed between the occupation of houses on new housing estates and the provision of school places on these same estates. One estate with 1,463 houses already occupied, will have no primary school places until the middle of February, 1953, and will have no provision for secondary pupils for at least another two and a half years. Even then, there will be secondary provision on the estate for boys only. … Unless the Ministry of Education is prepared to increase to a substantial degree the number of major building projects to be included in the 1953–54 and 1954–55 programmes as comparedwith previous programmes, we shall still be very seriously in arrears. It means that local authorities are facing their responsibilities in respect of the provision of houses, but that, because of restrictions imposed by the right hon. Lady, there will be no suitable school provision for those children. I think that is economy of the worst kind.
May I here put in a plea for children who suffer from severe physical, not mental, handicaps? I refer to the oft-repeated promise that something will be done for spastics. I am very disappointed to learn that that promise has not been fulfilled. Will the right hon. Lady do something to encourage the voluntary effort that is being made in South Wales on behalf of spastic children, where members of the public are contributing in money and in kind with a view to giving these children the desired facilities? It is a burden and a responsibility which 433 ought not to be borne by public charity, and we beg the Ministry of Education both to examine the suggestions which have been made for the new school under her authority and to give some encouragement to the voluntary school which has been proposed in South-West Wales.
If we are to succeed in Wales in the years to come in the direction which the Minister indicated, we must have more technological training. We are still waiting for the necessary authority to build a college of technology. Incidentally, £260 million has been invested in Welsh industries in recent years and, if they are to be properly manned with efficient technicians, we must have the facilities to train the technicians now.
In the educational sphere, in one area alone, we have 228 classes each with over 35 children. We find that localities are short of places, that there is no facility for this training in technology, and that authorities are now being hindered by the increase in the cost of school meals. Economy, in fact, is the only note which is being struck in this vital public service. It does not matter to what sphere I turn: the only cry is, "Halt," or "Retreat." We must not spend, we must not venture forward at all. It is time the Tory Government —and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman can help us in that direction we shall be grateful —recognised the special claims of Wales and gave us the necessary authority to go on with our work.
Having regard to my special brief, I ask why it is that a town which has been so seriously handicapped by blitzing, during the war is still refused permission to complete its building programme. On the one hand, we are told it is a question of a shortage of steel; when we demonstrate that the steel can be made available, we are told that it is a restriction on capital investment; and when we point out that if the Government recognised the handicap under which the blitzed areas are suffering they could find the money, they come back and say, "It is a shortage of steel." The people of Wales are discovering that, despite the urbanity of the Minister for Welsh Affairs and despite the frequent visits of other Ministers, in legislation and in practice nothing has been done to help Wales, and that we are engaging in retrograde steps all along. That is why we welcome this 434 opportunity to ventilate our complaints today.
I close on this personal note. I gather that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to be assisted by a noble Lord, a member of another place. I have never met him, to my knowledge, and I think that is true among many other Welsh hon. Members. No doubt he is interesed in this debate. He is of Quaker descent. I have a very profound regard for Quakers, for their principles and teaching, and if he is to be true to that teaching, he has a supreme opportunity in Wales. I am sorry he is not here for us to put questions to him and to discuss the problems with him, but if he is to lend a helping hand, this is a great opportunity. I hope he will not shrink from cutting the tape of Tory restrictions and from making free for the whole of Wales the material, the money and the opportunities which we need. It is with those ends in view that I hope, not merely to assent to the Report, but to impress upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the need to expedite our work.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
This is an occasion when I find it somewhat difficult to speak and yet impossible to be silent, difficult at any rate to speak critically, because I am aware of some share of responsibility which I do not attempt to disown for the contents of the Report that is before the House. I find it impossible to be silent because I feel the need to advocate certain changes and requirements before another year is passed.
I am sure, therefore, that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) will forgive me if I do not follow all the trails which he has blazed and if I do not seek to argue about what he described as factual statements but which at times I thought had a strong emotional content. An observer might well think. or some one reading the debate tomorrow might think, that it was a Tory Government that had been in power since 1945, because all the ills of the time are now laid at our door.
First of all, I should like to thank most sincerely my colleagues in the Welsh Parliamentary Party for the help they gave me when I was Under-Secretary of State and had the great privilege of serving under my right hon. and learned 435 Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs. Normally I find political life about one part nectar and three parts ashes, but so far as the Welsh Parliamentary Party were concerned they more than reversed the balance. They wreathed the rod of criticism with roses and I am very grateful for it, although no one could accuse the hon. Member for Swansea, West of having wreathed the rod in that fashion today.
There are, of course, many constituency matters which jostle for precedence with national issues, and one issue to which I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend will refer when he winds up the debate is the continued plight of Cardiff Docks. This matter is now so serious that I think that I can say we can discuss it on this occasion, at any rate, without any marked political bias, because it is not new, it has been with us for some years, and it is not as if the facts were not known. They are known to Ministers today and they were known to Ministers a year or so back. If nothing is done then the plight of Cardiff and of the workers throughout the whole area of Cardiff and of Barry as well will be sore indeed. I am hoping and trusting that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to add the name of Cardiff Docks to the triumphs of Towey and Lleyn.
Time and time again in the Report that is before us—and it has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Swansea, West in a stirring paragraph which might be paraphrased as setting the people free—there is a reference to the effect of financial stringency upon our affairs in Wales. I believe that more could be done to encourage the Welsh people to relieve that stringency themselves. I noted with great interest in the "Sunday Times" that it was proposed that the National Savings Movement should be used and its resources harnessed to aid the gathering of savings and money in order to assist in Commonwealth development. That seems to me a most enlightened form of self-interest.
In addition, there is surely a strong case for having a campaign on the lines of "Saving for Wales" and for the provision of special facilities to assist it. I am quite certain that there would be a most tremendous response, provided that the 436 terms of borrowing compared favourably with current market terms and also that the objects for which the money would be used were made known.
High among those objects, of course, would come the revival of Welsh agriculture. My right hon. and learned Friend gave us some encouraging figures. But I think that it is quite fair to say that Welsh agriculture cannot carry on indefinitely under its present conditions, and that the gateway to the revival of rural Wales cannot be opened without the key of markedly increased financial aid. I believe that a figure of £14 million to £16 million has been mentioned. I believe that the people of Wales would raise that in a relatively short time provided that they could be assured that that was one of the objects on which the money would be spent.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
If we have the security of the National Savings Movement for Commonwealth development surely the security of the Government would be good enough for the principality of Wales.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am glad, at any rate, that the hon. Member is embracing the idea, and if he has any refinements of his own at a later stage I should be delighted to listen to them. I am sure that the revival of Welsh agriculture would mean, and that it alone would mean, the survival of the Welsh language, because if the land goes I do not believe that we shall be able to save the language of Wales.
I should like to turn now to some administrative matters. I had the great privilege of presiding over the quarterly meetings of heads of Government offices in Wales. I should like to pay tribute to the heads of the Government Departments who attend these meetings and to say how very well Wales is served by them. I suggest that more use should be made of them and that there should be regular meetings of groups under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State from time to time. For example, it would be of great help if representatives in Wales of the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Works and the 437 Ministry of Labour were brought together regularly, not only to deal with the unemployment that exists but also with the unemployment that is inevitably threatened by great industrial changes.
There might also be occasional group meetings for specific purposes. For example, it would be a help if, again under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary, representatives of agriculture, the Forestry Commission, and the Ministry of Fuel and Power could meet and discuss the development of afforestation and re-afforestation of the mining valleys. Unless something on those lines is done it will be difficult to stop raids on agricultural land.
It may be objected, "Ah, yes, but liaison already exists between Government Departments in Wales." That is true, but I think that it is also true that each Department has its own special interest and angle and responsibility and that at these meetings it is inevitable that the viewpoints of the most powerful personality can tend to predominate, and those viewpoints are not necessarily right. Although the presence of an Under-Secretary would not automatically correct that, I believe that it would help to redress the balance and it would therefore be easier for an Under-Secretary to be in a position to advise his Minister constantly on developments in Welsh affairs.
Where these meetings would take place is, I think, of secondary importance. Most of them no doubt, as at present, would take place in the administrative capital. I am not saying a word more about that because there are already too many feet up in that particular scrum for any self-respecting referee to have any alternative other than to blow his whistle.
Secondly, and I say this with very great respect to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, I believe it to be very important that heads of Departments in Wales are not put in a subordinate position under the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. It has been suggested that decisions which have a highly inflammable political content should be referred to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.
But there are very few matters in Welsh affairs which are not of a highly inflammable content and I think it would be bad from three points of view. First, 438 it would be bound to lead to administrative delay if only from the fact that the Council is not permanently in session; second, Government officers in Wales are not exactly lacking in advisory bodies, though I do say that the methods of selection and recommendation need very close examination; third, because the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire itself is neither equipped nor manned to give such advice. On this point I add only that if these developments take place I believe that before very long it will become necessary for the Joint Under-Secretary of State not to be peripatetic, as the hon. Member for Swansea, West said; I believe it will be necessary for him to live in Wales and be permanently available.
Finally, we know that certain matters of devolution have taken place. Those of us in close contact with Wales know that the spirit of reform is never very far away, and it is very much in the air at present. It may well be that whether we know it or not, or whether some of us like it or not, we may be witnessing the early stages of the development of a Welsh Parliament or of a much more formidable devolution of authority. I frankly do not know, but I do know that parochialism, holier than thou-ism, exclusivism and Anglophobia are the greatest enemies and barriers to any major changes.
On one occasion I went so far as to express mistrust of "professional Welshmen" who seek to gain on the swings of nationalism what they have lost on the roundabouts of their careers. There was at once an ugly rush to put this cap on other people's heads for whom it was not intended; even the dead were not spared. I would add that I did not apply those words to all the supporters of a Welsh Parliament, and I should like on this occasion to express my regret to those who sincerely felt that I was maligning them or their friends.
Lastly, I would say that it would be for the happiness of Wales if leaders of opinion took to heart some of the words of Alun Lewis, the soldier poet from Aberdare, whose death in Burma robbed us of a great messenger. He wrote back home, when he was out in India:The world is much much bigger than England, isn't it? I shall never be just Welsh or just English again.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
I am sure that all of us will be glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) has shown that he is regaining his normal health once again. We all regretted the fact that he had to resign his office for health reasons.
The Motion proposed by the Minister for Welsh Affairs asks us to take note of Government policy in the Report which is before us, which gives a very useful survey of the Government's activities, and those of others also in Wales and Monmouthshire. I think that the Minister has successfully brought together the various efforts which are struggling to do justice to the present call of the times, and it gives the House an opportunity to take a look at the Government's record. Our lives are sustained by the sum total and more of the efforts that are outlined in the Report, and whatever might be the failings of the Government which bring disappointment to the heart, I think that, politics apart, it is a very dulled soul which fails to hear the sounds of the toil, the struggle, the anxiety and the endeavour forming the music of what is left when the last pages of the Report are read.
In this respect I think not only of the work that right hon. and hon. Members have put into trying to make successful the great change that has come about over the past 15 years in the economic structure in Wales. I think also of the civil servants, many of them from Wales who now occupy honourable posts in the Civil Service. We are grateful for what they have done. In addition, I think of the hundred and one others who we can say have put their shoulders to the wheel and brought about a very big change indeed.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we are overwhelmingly Socialist in Wales—we have an overwhelming majority of Socialist Members—and I feel sure he will also agree that the overwhelming opinion in Wales and Monmouthshire accepts the vital need to mould the resources at our disposal to a definite plan of action for the future. This process can be very much better based now that Wales has been revitalised with new factories—about 350 of them. This has been the outstanding achievement of the last 15 years. I am sure that I shall be pardoned for men- 440 tioning that for six years of that 15 years a Labour Government was at the helm.
Resulting from the progress made there is undoubtedly a sharper knowledge, a riper experience and enterprise available if we will their use for the task. The establishment of those factories, with the continued flourishing condition of the heavy industries of coal and steel, brings us to the point where there is left only a limited problem of placing fit persons in employment. One can almost say that if it was not for the housing conditions there is a place for the fit unemployed. either in coal or some parts of the other heavy industries.
I am most anxious, as I am sure the whole House is, to retain and safeguard this attainment with all our might. It is a solid contribution to our people's welfare. The wisdom of converting the old economic structure of a limited range of heavy industry, depending to an unusual degree upon the export market, to a more balanced economy is there for all to witness. It is well said that the more insignificant the flower the handsomer are the bees which are attracted to it. The truth of the observation is perhaps borne out by the many enterprising industrial units now settled in the once shunned industrial areas of Wales and Monmouthshire.
Nevertheless, past difficulties through which the Welsh people have bravely struggled, still invest our problems with a special character. Plainly, we want to maintain a high level of employment But, as the Minister has said, there was a partial recession during the 12 months. covered by the Report. This caused un easiness, thoughts of short-time and increased unemployment. The development is not catastrophic by any means, but it shed a deep anxiety over the area.
Reference has been made to the technical changes in the steel and the tinplate industries. These changes are bound to have their repercussions. We recognise that conditions are more difficult from a trading point of view and that this is certainly not a time to recline at ease. We often wonder how the new economic structure will stand the strain of a decline in trade through, say, a general depression, or because of intense competition. No one can tell what will happen, but there is comfort in the knowledge that over the last few years many strands of strength 441 have been developed which were absent when the full blast of depression struck in the inter-war years. I am full of optimism because we have a stronger and more sensibly planned economic structure than we had then.
The Welsh people themselves can help. Some of the local authorities are very large. I wonder to what extent they consider helping the new industries which have not yet got very deep roots. They could be helped if their products were bought. I do not want to circumscribe a narrow economy and keep orders from other parts of Great Britain, but Welsh authorities could help these factories to get on their feet. I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is present.
I should like to point out that Wales now exports directly from its own industries and factories. Would it be possible for the House to be supplied with statistics showing the monetary value of these exports from the Principality? The figures would be most illuminating and we should be able to measure the change which has taken place. I am sure that it would be shown to be most significant.
At this point mention should be made of technical education. We know of the developments in Britain as a result of long-term research in universities, industry and Government establishments. We need only think of the remarkable advance in jet aircraft, civil and military, obviously as a result of a long-term investment. I think that that will pay one hundredfold. Certainly, the best way to consolidate the new industrial set-up in Wales is to make sure that there is an adequate supply of trained personnel.
The Government should ensure that facilities are available for the training of technologists. Steps should be taken to see that the training is adequate and progressive. The Government should spare no effort in endeavouring to put Wales ahead in this field. I should like to quote a friend of mine, Mr. Nicholas, who wrote in the "Western Mail" Commercial and Industrial Review a most excellent contribution about what is going on in Wales and Monmouthshire. I wholeheartedly agree with what he says. He wrote:High class brains are required whether on the superior class consumer goods with its high 442 tool development work or in the broader engineering work associated with capital plant. Statistics show that, pro rata with population, Switzerland is producing twice as many engineers of degree standard as we are. This fundamental truth cannot be emphasised too strongly, bearing in mind that it takes many Years for the university man to find his feet and become effective in industry at the higher level.But we must have these men. I am certain that we have the raw material in Wales. Many of the men are doing very well.Shipments abroad are our lifeblood, and the best support possible should be given to those industries that provide them, both by the Government Departments concerned and the educationists who provide the basic brain material.Let us look after them. Let us encourage them. I am certain that it will give us a good return. I am confident that this is an integral requirement in any future advance.
Another important question is that of the revision of the rents, not of houses, but of the majority of tenant firms who have what are called concessionary rents which were given to industrialists in Wales. The Wales and Monmouthshire Industrial Estates Ltd. is responsible for about 350 factories. It is most unfortunate that increased rents are threatened. The company is the landlord of these factories, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman should note that rents will probably be doubled. I consider that such action at this time is foolish and unwarranted. Attractive rents were offered as an inducement to bring industrialists to the development area. Now that they have come to the less attractive areas rents are to be doubled or, indeed, more than doubled. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might think that to be a small matter; but it does not help when overhead charges are continually increasing.
I can see the hand of the Treasury in this just as it is in so many other matters whether they concern education or grants for the provision of basic amenities in Wales. I am sure that the Treasury is behind this. There is no Treasury representative on the Front Bench. I think it is a great pity that these rents are being doubled and more than doubled at this time.
I know that Industrial Estates, Ltd., have spent a matter of £10 million or £12 million on the development of these 443 factories and estates, but is there not a great social expenditure in this development that should not require a financial return at all? I am thinking of the development, for instance, of the actual sites, levelling them out, digging into deep and awkward places in the industrial valleys, to provide the space for these factories. I do not think we should expect a return on that. I know that the Board of Trade have been receiving between 1 per cent. and 3 per cent. on the capital outlay, but why is it that there should now be this pressure for an amount of interest return on the capital outlay, much of which is social expenditure, to be found out of the increased rents of these factories?
It is an act of folly, in my opinion, and especially so at this time when the nourishment for these industries is so very sparse, and, with rising overheads and so on, it is particularly unfortunate. It is a true experience that if we discontinue the supply of nourishment to the roots, the branches will wither of their own accord, and some of these industries, with increasing overhead expenses, will find these increased rents a rather difficult proposition.
I want now to put in a word for the unemployed and the disabled man. It is a most unfortunate aspect of our life at this time. This is a question of 7,000 disabled men on the register, and they form a hard core, a high proportion of them suffering varying degrees of disability sustained in industry, and we ought to do something more for them. One of the great humanitarian jobs that we did was to make provision for the severely disabled men in the factories of Remploy, Ltd., but there is still a residue whom we are failing to place.
Do not let us numb our senses to the fact that they are there and that we are able to do something for them. I would like to see the completion of this humanitarian task. It is possible to do it if we will only apply ourselves with enthusiasm to its execution. I think that Remploy, Ltd. should be allowed to go on with some of those additional factories contemplated in the original Plan for Wales and Monmouthshire. That would be a step which would reduce to a minimum the second class of disabled persons who are unemployed, and, in regard to the others, I think all employers in industry in Wales 444 should be called together, under the leadership of the Government, to see whether something could be done to absorb at least 15 per cent. of those 5,000 to 7,000 who are now signing the disabled register.
My last point concerns our roads. Our highways are a costly drag upon Welsh industry. Efficient roads are the vital links in all forms of production and in social activities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that there are many schemes and plans, but that precious little has been done. Of course, someone will say that the nation is hard up, and others will tell us that there are restrictions on capital investment, but the sense of urgency demanded by this problem is missing from this Report. There is not, in this Report, the suggestion of that wholeheartedness which is necessary for the solution of this problem.
The delays on our roads in Wales, due to traffic congestion, are terrific. They result in sending up costs in the new light industries, and cause the capital investment of about £300 million in Welsh industries to miss the real contribution which it could still give if we had a really adequate road system. We are just hamstrung for the lack of vital roads of capacity and directness to the Midlands.
It is quite clear that, to remedy these overcrowded traffic routes in parts of Wales and Monmouthshire, we shall have to press on with major road improvements. The Severn Bridge and the motorways to the Midlands are vital needs for South Wales industry. We cannot put up any longer with the Treasury doctrine that the country can ill-afford the capital expenditure involved. I think that to invest all those hundreds of millions of pounds in industry and then leave the full effectiveness of all that invested money to lag behind because of the addition of some few millions more, to be expended on sound road widening schemes, is foolish.
The expenditure called for would be an investment returning many times the outlay to the country, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will do all he possibly can to bring about these things that we require to make Wales and Monmouthshire such a sound economic structure as would be, not only the pride of Wales, but the pride of the United Kingdom.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
The Motion before the House states:That this House takes note of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the matters referred to in the recent Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire.It is unfortunate that the Report itself comes to an end in June of last year, but we have been fortunate this afternoon in hearing a very comprehensive survey of the matter by my right hon. and learned Friend, which brought the Report up to date.
Speaking personally, I think it is a very encouraging survey which my right hon. and learned Friend has given us, and I was rather sorry that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), who has temporarily left us, did not accord due recognition to the feelings of most people of Wales concerning what my right hon. and learned Friend has done for Wales over the last year. I myself have had the opportunity during the last year of meeting people all over Wales and of all political parties, and I can assure my right hon. and learned Friend that they greatly appreciate his industry, his courtesy, his interest and his frequent visits to Wales.
There is a general feeling of a lessening of frustration which I find exists to a large extent in Wales since his appointment. The knowledge that our. Welsh problems, even minority problems, can be brought up to the highest level through a person who is acknowledged to be representative of Wales is appreciated, and, from that point of view, we are very grateful indeed to my right hon. and learned Friend for being ever present and ever willing to listen to our problems.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West, after he had made his party point in the initial stage of his speech-and one cannot blame him for that-on behalf of the Welsh Parliamentary Party gave an excellent survey of the situation.
I should like to speak for a short time on the subject of communications, but I do not wish to detain the House because I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak. This appears to me to be one of the most important matters discussed in this Report. I am sorry to see that the subject of highways occupies a very small portion of the 446 Report. My right hon. and learned Friend, when he opened this debate, said that we are all deeply concerned about the state of the roads in Wales. Most Governments in the past have said something similar, as indeed they have mentioned the fact that funds are very limited.
Nevertheless, the Government fully realise the importance of the problem of communications. The last Administration frequently said that about the roads, but my right hon. and learned Friend has gone one further than the last Government. He has given us concrete evidence of some activity by the Government on the roads in West and South Wales, and I commend that. One appreciates how very difficult it is if funds available for these schemes are limited, but we have had from my right hon. and learned Friend some indication of the serious way in which the present Administration approaches this problem.
The matter which I wish to mention is not a constituency problem nor a North Wales problem, but, as I prefer to think, it is a national problem. It is a matter which has been ventilated many times before in this House by those who preceded me as representatives for the area in North Wales which I now have the honour to represent in this House. The last time that it was mentioned in any detail was in December. 1950, by my predecessor. It is the subject of the Conway Bridge. That this mater is of some importance is indicated by the fact that the hon. Member for Swansea, West raised it when he gave us his survey on behalf of the Welsh Parliamentary Party. I notice the Report says:Commitments for new construction and major improvement on highways during the financial year 1951–52 were restricted to work necessary to preserve essential communications or to improve some of the worse danger spots.I also see this:During 1952–53 the very limited funds available for new works of construction and major improvement on trunk and classified roads are being confined to a number of small schemes of important benefit to road safety and to certain works on classified roads essential to the development of new towns.I am rather surprised that it has been thought fit to omit in the financial year 1952–53 what was contained in the previous year's Report about the preservation of essential communications.
447 The Conway Bridge is situated on a very important trunk road, the A55 from Chester to Bangor. Along this road flows the major portion of traffic from Lancashire, Cheshire, Denbighshire, and Flintshire into Caernarvon and Anglesey. This road runs over the Conway River by the Conway Bridge. There is no suitable alternative route. This has been an admitted fact for some time now and it was certainly admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) during the Adjournment debate in December, 1950, when he was the Minister of Transport.
This is a problem which will have to be dealt with. I appreciate the difficult financial position at the moment, but the Conway Bridge is another difficult inheritance that the present Government must face. If I may, I should briefly like to place before the House one or two of the problems relating to that particular bridge.
First of all it is an old bridge. It was built in 1826 and in 1933 the civil engineers who periodically inspect it came to the conclusion that it should be strengthened and enlarged. The Ministry of Transport told the Conway Bridge Commissioners, in whom the bridge is vested, that it was their intention to build a new bridge. After a public inquiry in July, 1939, the Ministry of Transport announced that all plans and specifications were ready for a very ambitious road scheme around Conway which would include a new bridge.
The war came and put a stop to that, and when the question was raised during the days of the previous Administration the same excuses were given repeatedly, namely, the limited amount of funds, and nothing has been done at all. The volume of traffic over the bridge has increased almost two-fold since 1939. It is rapidly deteriorating and the limit of improvisation in the strengthening of this bridge has now been reached. This means that restrictions have to be placed on loads crossing the bridge. The present restriction is that there must be no more than a live load of 5 tons provided that the vehicle does not in all exceed 7 tons, 15 cwts. It is a one-way bridge, and the speed of vehicles crossing it is limited to 5 miles an hour.
448 On 19th December, 1951, an inspection by the civil engineers in charge of the bridge was undertaken. Those engineers told the Conway Bridge Commissioners that if a vehicle of the maximum weight of 7 tons, 15 cwts. were crossing that bridge on no account was there to be another vehicle on the bridge at the same time. It was just permissible to allow two vehicles on the bridge provided both their weights did not exceed 8 tons, but they must be 30 feet apart.
That is the position on one of the busiest highways in North Wales. The result is quite obvious. In July and August the average number of vehicles per day is over 6,000, and the result is a complete bottleneck at the approaches to the Conway Bridge. Traffic has increased greatly and the problem is now becoming a serious one.
There is also another matter which should be mentioned. This is a toll bridge and all vehicles going over it have to pay a toll. That, in my submission, is an anachronistic imposition in these days when one is told that motor taxation will be £340 million for the current year. The effect on industry is apparent. I am informed that one company which deals mainly in road stone finds that the congestion at the bridge, with the consequent loss of time added to the fact that they have to restrict their loads, costs them £10,000 a year.
There is an added problem, because once the bridge has been negotiated, vehicles go into the ancient town of Conway and having gone through the narrow winding streets emerge through an archway on to the Bangor Road. This is a narrow archway, built by Telford, which can only admit one vehicle at a time. Therefore, in effect on this main trunk road there are two bottlenecks.
The Conway Bridge Commissioners have approached my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works about this matter, because they have to obtain his permission if they wish to do anything to the city walls. It was proposed to enlarge the archway to allow two lines of traffic in the hope that that would relieve the situation in Conway and then there would be no need at the moment to build the bypass contained in the Ministry's scheme and they could get down to the essential matter, namely, the bridge. I fear the Minister has not been able to accede to 449 the desire of the Conway Council and the County Council in the matter of the Bangor Road Archway, and that remains a problem still to be faced.
I can assure my right hon. and learned Friend that this congestion is very serious. I do not wish to exaggerate in any way but this problem has a serious effect on the cost and efficiency of road transport as a means of communication from Lancashire and Cheshire to the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey area. It has a serious effect on the tourist trade and on the life of the community in and around that part of North Wales. As I see it, and again I do not wish to exaggerate, it is a problem which must be faced. It is an urgent problem. It has been said to be urgent for many years but now it is getting very urgent, because if the present situation continues, what will happen if the engineers report to the Conway Bridge Commissioners that traffic must not be allowed to go over the bridge? That is a situation which is by no means impossible within the next year or two.
Are we to wait until that happens before anything is done? There is no suitable alternative road and the resulting cost and chaos which will ensue if the bridge were closed would greatly exceed the cost of a new bridge. At the moment the Ministry of Transport are in a position to ask for the necessary contracts as soon as funds are available. There is no need for the whole ambitious scheme to go forward. With due regard to the financial commitments of the present Government, I say a new bridge should be built. I know it is not the fault of the Ministry of Transport or the Treasury, but I would urge that this is a matter which should be put before the Treasury for earnest consideration.
There have been one or two digs at us from hon. Members opposite, and I am sure that they will excuse me if I have a dig at them.
§ Mr. Thomas
The last Administration spent a great deal of money on ambitious schemes, not all of them in Britain. A great many millions of pounds were spent and some of the schemes came to grief. One feels it would be rather a comfort 450 to some people in Wales to have a few millions back which were lost by the last Administration on some of their enterprises. The question we have to face is one of priority. Where does the priority lie? Although I have not been able to obtain strong confirmation on this matter I think that in North Wales we are about to start on the remainder of the proposed North Wales Hydro-Electric Scheme. The part with which I am mainly concerned is at Dolgarrog, an extension of an existing scheme work on which is due to begin at any time.
This scheme met with a great deal of opposition and there was very little support for it in this House. There was a great deal of criticism of the hydroelectric scheme as a whole in North Wales. Most people from that part of the world thought the scheme unjustified both from the economic and the aesthetic point of view. In that area of Rowen 100 per cent. of the householders signed petitions against it but still it went on. Is the Dolgarrog extension a necessary work which will do more good than, shall we say, the building of a new Conway Bridge. We are told that this scheme will cost something like £600,000. That is more than will be necessary to build the bridge at Conway. It may not be too late for the Treasury to have second thoughts about the wisdom of authorising this large capital expenditure.
It has been admitted by the B.E.A. that it will not advance the rural electrification of the area. If the B.E.A. could be induced to stop the scheme the money so released could be applied, with a certain amount of Treasury reshuffling, to the Conway Bridge, and I put that to the Treasury as a matter for consideration.
We are spending a vast amount on rearmament at present and we do so because we feel it is a very necessary thing. I suggest that the Conway Bridge should be considered as a vital road project part of our re-armament programme; as a communication insurance in the event of a national emergency.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Richards (Wrexham)
I do not intend to intervene for more than a short time, because I know that a great many hon. Friends of mine are anxious to take part in the debate. I do not know that they all agree with me, but I 451 think that we ought first to express our gratitude to the Minister for Welsh Affairs for the Report that he has given us again this year. It covers a great deal of ground, and from many points of view one is very tempted to try to follow the Report in detail and to bring out certain points that have possibly been omitted.
The first thing that I want to point out is that owing to the diversification of industry in Wales in recent years as the result of deliberate Government policy, both by the present Government and by the previous one, the industrial structure in Wales is entirely different from what it was some 40 or 50 years ago. Wales, like many other parts of the country—he North and Scotland, for example—has suffered from the fact that all its eggs, so to speak, were in one basket or in two. There was concentration upon coal and iron, and one is very glad to find that the diversification and the coming of new industries has given us an entirely different pattern.
I wish to stress that the basis of the industrial prosperity of Wales still inheres in coal, iron and other heavy industries. The lighter industries, which we are very glad to have, are much more vulnerable than the stable industries, which have a long record behind them. Consequently, it is most important that we should always do whatever we possibly can, and particularly the Government, to encourage the heavier industries to still, further development. It is particularly encouraging to find the great development that has taken place in the coal industry, for example, and greater developments are foreshadowed in the Report.
Reference has already been made to the question of electricity, and there are references to it in the Report. I am pleased to find that the British Electricity Authority, for example, have decided on the whole that they will not desecrate North Wales, which is, after all, a unique part of these islands. Nothing more beautiful is to be found anywhere here, and once we desecrate and destroy it, it cannot be rebuilt. It is generally said that it has taken millions of years to form it as it is at present, and I do not see any human effort restoring it to anything like its pristine beauty. Consequently, I am one of those who rejoice greatly in that the British Electricity 452 Authority feel that they ought not to proceed with some of their schemes.
I am very pleased to learn from the Report that they have abandoned the Ffestiniog scheme also. The suggestion that they should build a big dam at Cwmarthin and increase the size of the lake is one of those fantastic things that the British Electricity Authority from time to time bring forward. I have been to most of their projects in North Wales and have surveyed them as far as it was possible for a mere amateur to do so, and I was tremendously struck more than once by the ridiculous character of their proposals. The Ffestiniog scheme was one of them.
Their intention was to extend Cwmarthin Lake, which is not a great lake, and to build a dam and increase the amount of water there, without considering for a moment that right beneath the lake was a quarry that had been working for about 120 years, where the rock was completely shattered and where the water was bound sooner or later to percolate on to the quarry and threaten the lives of no less than 600 men. That is the kind of scandalous things with which they have been playing, and I am very glad to understand that they have withdrawn their intention of building that dam.
It would be easy—all too easy, perhaps—to follow this very interesting Report in various details, but I want to confine myself to one or two points. I rejoice very much in seeing the progress that has been made in agriculture in Wales, and we are greatly indebted to the Ministry of Agriculture for the work that they have done. There is, however, one aspect about which I am not at all happy: that is, the great increase in the sales of milk, as given in the table. Since 1939, the amount of milk sold in Wales has, roughly, trebled.
I know that this means a fat cheque every month to some of the farmers, in which I greatly rejoice, because I know how hard their life has been, but the Welsh peasant farmer can be a very mean fellow, as most peasants are everywhere, with the unfortunate result that there are valleys of Wales where one cannot get a drop of milk. As for making butter and buttermilk, which is, of course, the ideal drink for a tea-drinking nation—nothing is better, I have 453 been told by experts, than drinking plenty of buttermilk—one cannot get buttermilk or butter, and I shudder to think of the injustice that is done by many of these farmers in getting rid of the whole of the milk that they produce.
I have been told by one of my colleagues here that there are schools, for example, in Radnorshire and Breconshire which cannot get half a pint of milk for the children in school and are reduced to using the usual powdered milk, which is no substitute whatever for the natural milk.
§ Mr. Richards
This is very tragic. I regret it, particularly because there is no need for the small Welsh farmer to do anything of this kind nowadays. They have never been in a better position than now. They are making money right and left, and I rejoice very much in their success in that respect, but they are committing a crime against their own children and the members of their own families.
I do not know what can be done. I know the arguments for selling all the milk. The price is so attractive. But whenever I see these lorries sweeping all the milk away so that one cannot get even half a pint I do not rejoice, because I believe that in the not very distant future it is going to result in a great disaster to the health of the community. The people need all the butter they can get because they are working very hard, and the children certainly need all the milk they can get. It is rather ironical that the educational authorities in Wales and elsewhere should say that they are providing children with milk when they know that there is not a drop of milk for these children to be had when they go to their homes.
I find, not from the Report itself but from other indications, that at last the right hon. and learned Gentleman has an Under-Secretary, but the Prime Minister, as usual, has had to go to the other place to find someone. I have not the honour of knowing Lord Lloyd. I knew his father and I know the family and the district from which it comes, but I regret to say that the Lloyds have lost all contact with Wales and with its traditional culture. They were once eminent Quakers. They took the lead in the fight for freedom and independence in the little county of Montgomery, but since they became 454 associated with business affairs in London their contact with Wales is not nearly as vital as I should like to see.
I sympathise with the Prime Minister because it is an extraordinarily difficult thing for him or anyone else to find a genuine Tory in Wales—and the explanation is perfectly simple. Since the great Election of 1868 the Tory Party has hopelessly declined, particularly in rural Wales, because what happened then was that many of the tenant farmers voted Liberal, with the result that the squires and the lords started turning some of them out of their farms. Wales has never forgotten that and it is the basis of Welsh radicalism.
For example, there was an hon. Member of this House and I do not think I am exaggerating in suggesting that he was the most popular Welsh Member ever returned to the House—who was the son of a small-holder in Merionethshire. As a result of that Election, although he was a Member of Parliament, his father was turned out of his farm. The Welsh people have never forgotten that and since then Wales has become not only the most radical part of the country but the most Socialist part. It has moved still further to the Left.
I hope that Lord Lloyd will rediscover his vital association with the small country of Wales and, if he does, I am sure we should all wish him well and wish him every success in his new post of Under-Secretary.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) will pardon me if I do not go quite so far back into history as he has done. I am certain that hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House will at least agree that the personality of the first occupier of the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs has done practically everything to justify the inauguration of that office. So far this debate has proved yet again how thorough has been the Minister's approach to Welsh problems.
But there is a danger of our imagining that all is well with our discussions. Only last night a journalist of some considerable reputation said to me, "What a farce your annual Welsh day really is. What a farce it is that you should go to the House of Commons and chat about 455 Welsh affairs for one day and then forget about them for a whole year. How long would Scottish Members of Parliament endure such conditions?" That was the attitude of a person who was not a Welsh member or even a Member of Parliament, but a distinguished journalist who has long taken an interest in Parliamentary and political affairs.
That same friend pointed out another thing which was likely to bring our annual Welsh day into disrepute. It is the fact that we are discussing a stale document. I say that not in criticism of the Government. I criticise us as Welsh Members. As Welsh Members—and I say it with respect to the Government and the Minister—we should assert our rights better and more forcibly than this, when we are discussing a document which is six months old. That gap has been bridged only by the excellence of the Minister, but that does not compensate for the defects in the document, as an old document.
I mention that because we must do everything possible to counter the arguments of those who are Welsh Nationalists or Welsh Republicans. We must establish the fact that Welsh interests are being effectively guarded under the present procedure. We are told that the Council for Wales is an effective body. In many ways I am content to accept the assurances of the present Minister that that is so: but so many Welsh people have no evidence of that fact and they want some evidence, and I ask the Minister if he can say something about the Council for Wales—how it functions, whether he considers that it is functioning satisfactorily, and whether he thinks it should sit more often or whether the present arrangements are completely adequate.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) mentioned another aspect of Welsh distinctiveness—the question of a capital city. This is a highly controversial matter which is not referred to expressly in the Report; but as the Chair has allowed so much latitude in bringing up to date this Report, I suggest that it might be a valuable thing for a decision to be arrived at at an early date.
For my part, I would rather see a capital in any part of Wales than none at all. I am satisfied that the claims of Cardiff are unanswerable, although I represent the constituency of Barry. The office of 456 the Permanent Secretary is at Cardiff. Cardiff is the best administrative centre in Wales and one of the chief administrative centres of the British Isles. It has one of the finest collections of public buildings in Europe, if not the world. It is the headquarters of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Health. It is becoming rapidly a headquarters of broadcasting and television. It is the headquarters of the Wales Gas Board. It is the seat of the headquarters of one of the major coal boards of the country. Also, in it are the headquarters of the South Wales Electricity Board. Above all, it is the site of the most famous rugby football ground in the world.
As revealed in the Report, the unemployment position is not nsatisfactory—with two notable exceptions. It might be said that in the peculiar circumstances which apply in Wales, and particularly in the industrial part of Wales, we are enjoying what is virtually full employment; except for those men permanently disabled and almost unemployable, and those who shortly may be disturbed owing to redundancy, caused by new developments in iron and steel.
The former present a continuing problem. Those disabled men, and the factories designed particularly for their needs, in order that they may continue with a large proportion of them on their pay roll, constitute a continuing problem and must receive continuous attention. The body of men who may be disturbed by new developments in iron and steel, once decisions were made for those new developments, found their misfortunes inevitable in some degree. I think, however, we may be comforted by the feeling that this is not an unfortunate happening, but rather a hopeful happening, as their disturbance must be temporary and, in the long run, their opportunities may be greater than those they had in the past.
In regard to coal, the Report is not nearly so comforting. While on both sides of the House we are sensible of the achievements of those responsible for the administration of the industry, particularly in South Wales, we cannot fail to note the decline in the production of saleable coal in the Welsh area. That is something to which no doubt the area coal board will give particular attention. The development at Nantgarw will, we hope, do a lot to improve the position 457 and prospects for the future. That those prospects need to be improved has been mentioned and I shall make some reference to that later in relation to the South Wales ports.
Fuel and power are referred to in the Report, and there is a noticeable difference between gas and electricity. The world of the Wales Gas Board seems to be one of peace, while that of the South Wales Electricity Board is not nearly so peaceful. I suggest that the organisation of the Wales Gas Board as a single unit may be particularly fortunate; but in regard to the Electricity Board in South Wales there has been an error of judgment of tactics. I think that if it had been put clearly and forcibly to those who reside in the urban areas that it was necessary to adjust charges to develop the rural areas the changes in tariffs might have been made more smoothly and have caused less unhappiness and concern.
Particularly unfortunate, was the basis of the charges, and the use of room space as a criterion for charges. Even now, to me it appears likely to encourage waste rather than thrift. Once the room space has been paid for, one may expand electricity freely at a comparatively low charge, at a time when it would appear to be in the national interest to conserve electricity. In Wales, as in other parts of the country, the policy of the Board seems peculiarly adjusted to national needs, when we see lavish advertising of electrical equipment at a time when economy in the use of electricity is still enjoined upon us.
In relation to the iron and steel industry, we all welcome the notable and epoch-making developments at Margam and Trostre which will establish the western part of South Wales as one of the great industrial areas of Wales, of Britain and one of the great steel and tinplate areas of the whole world. The subsidiary industries appear from the Report to have held their position far better than had been anticipated and, in some cases, than had been feared. Some of those industries are peculiarly susceptible to temporary depressions of trade, but nevertheless, in the South Wales area and the development area of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, those industries seem to have survived and shown a marked quality of survival.
458 The two great problems which I wish to stress and to underline are the twin problems of better communications for Wales—in particular, the industrial part of Wales—and of the South Wales ports. This is the only day of the year when I am at liberty to speak on transport or docks. The Bristol Channel ports of South Wales are really a national asset. In the recent war, it was shown that they were perhaps even more valuable than the more prosperous ports on the East Coast. When at times the East Coast ports were not usable, the ports of the Bristol Channel played an invaluable part. In the fullness of time those ports may again be required for our national survival.
I submit that this House and the country should feel that, whatever the balance of trade, the ports of Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Barry and Port Talbot are assets which we should maintain. One of the things which militates against the maintenance of those assets is the different rates of freight charges to and from those ports. It is no answer to say that the Railway Executive will quote favourable charges if the loads or orders are first obtained. Those charges must be on a similar basis to those for London and Liverpool if these ports are to have a fair chance, because they already labour under a shortage of landing gear and warehouse space, which the older ports possess.
Much has been said about roads to and from Wales. The Minister has underlined the most positive aspect of this problem. If these great new industries are to be developed, it surely becomes a matter of even greater urgency than before to improve the communications between the Midlands and South Wales and between the West of England and South Wales. Anyone who has seen the road between Chepstow and Newport in Monmouthshire, and the trail of British Road Service vehicles holding up faster vehicles—at some parts of the road there is often a single file of vehicles in either direction—must he aware that communications are grossly inadequate. Communications between Cardiff and the great industrial area of the Rhondda Valley leave much to be desired under modern conditions. The road out of Cardiff to the north is particularly overloaded at times.
459 But be that as it may, I think it can be said that Wales generally, in the industrial connotation, is not unprosperous; that her people are largely employed; that while her roads leave much to be desired, the second-class roads are of unrivalled quality; that her agriculture is also fully engaged, or largely deployed.
With regard to agriculture, I should like to mention only one point. In my constituency, as in many parts of Wales, the farms are small units. The farmers are small men in a business sense, and many of them are tenants without the security to obtain easily the capital often needed. In this respect the peculiarity of Wales is the smallness of the farms, and I think that my right hon. and learned Friend's most valuable function here may be to advise the Minister of Agriculture that the criterion of the large farm in many parts of England is a false criterion to adopt in considering the needs of Welsh agriculture.
In conclusion, I think that we, particularly those of us who represent Welsh constituencies, must feel grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for the trouble he has taken in the past year, and express the hope that his health may permit him again to visit us very frequently during the present year; and that next year he may, possibly, use his influence to enable our discussions to take place shortly after the publication of the Annual Report. Some of the best factual material we have had this year, some of the material that has served to amplify our information, has not been in the Report at all, but in the industrial supplement of the "Western Mail," and, not least, in the valuable articles in the same paper on the nature of the Welsh way of life.
I think it may be confessed that though we are different we are not completely different from the people of the rest of Britain. We are sometimes a little bit too conscious of our difference, but we believe that, if our difference can be maintained, our ultimate contribution to the wealth of the British community, and of the British Commonwealth at large, may be thereby rendered far greater.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I hope that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the fields which he traversed. What I would say with regard to his observations is this. On most of the points he touched he expressed views which were agreeable to us all. At least on one topic, which I need scarcely name, he expressed views which are highly controversial.
I want to return the House to the problems of rural Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, with obvious sincerity, to the warm hearted welcome he has always received on his frequent visits to the Principality. Let me assure him that the best is still to be, as he has yet to visit the County of Cardigan. He referred in eulogistic but, nevertheless, very well-deserved terms to the great efforts made by the rural communities of Wales, and, in particular, to the great efforts of our agricultural community. I, as Member for an agricultural constituency, thank him for his generous tribute. I think he might have added to it that these efforts and exertions and the results have been achieved despite very many handicaps.
I want to refer to one of them in particular. It is in connection with rural electrification, and I am pleased to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power is in his place. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of mentioning to him a little time ago that I was going to raise this matter. The farming community of South Wales are firmly of the belief that they are being very sorely treated by the South Wales Electricity Board. It is true that there is a general sense of dissatisfaction with regard to rural electrification, but one thing which the statistics which have been made available to me make clear is that, quite apart from the over-all lag throughout Great Britain in rural electrification, South Wales has been, for some unearthly reason, singled out for particularly bad treatment.
Without taking too much time and be-labouring the House with too many statistics, I should like to refer to one or two aspects of this problem. The Report talks, in language which, if this were not a serious problem, would be amusing, of 461 the "progress" made in rural electrification in South Wales. Now, these are the facts. With the exception of the areas combining Merseyside and North Wales, there are more holdings—I use the word "holdings" because statistics are more readily available for them than for rural households as a whole, but the argument applies to the rural areas generally—there are far more holdings awaiting electrification in South Wales than in any of the 10 other areas forming the B.E.A. set up in England and Wales.
Let me give the figures. The latest figures are 21,581 holdings awaiting electrification. The number of holdings connected up last year in South Wales was 275, so that, as a matter of arithmetic, if that "progress," to use the word in the Report, is maintained, the people at the end of the pipeline, probably in the County of Cardigan, will ultimately have electrification in something like 78 years.
The position is even worse than that, because not only has South Wales the largest number—with the exception I have mentioned—of holdings awaiting electrification, but the amount of electrification being done is lower in South Wales than in any of the other 10 areas of the B.E.A. in England and Wales—the lowest of all: 275. I would emphasise that still further. Not only is it the lowest of all, but it was less last year than the year before. Last year, 275; the year before, 341.
Let me, just to underline this point, if it needs underlining, give the figures for one or two other areas. As I say, quite apart from the problem of the slowness of rural electrification as a whole, there is no doubt from these figures that the position with regard to South Wales is really serious. Compare it, for example—I admit frankly that I am choosing one of the best of the other areas—with the Southern area. The Southern area last year, compared with 275 holdings connected in South Wales, had connected up 1,297. The East Midlands had 1,150; the Midlands, 1,194; the South Western, 1,174. As far as the Southern area is concerned, already of the 21,000-odd holdings in the Southern area, 14,000 have been connected. There are just over 7,000 to be completed. If they maintain their present rate, electrification in the Southern area will be completed in five years, as against 78 years in South Wales.
Coming a little closer home, let me compare the figures for Merseyside and 462 the North Wales area. Part of my constituency comes within the Merseyside and North Wales area for electrification purposes and part comes within the South Wales area, so that I am able to give a little information about the activities of both area boards. I am not saying for one moment that the situation in the Merseyside and North Wales area is satisfactory, but it is infinitely better than in South Wales. Let me give one illustration. Last year the number of holdings connected in the Merseyside and North Wales area was 981 compared with 275 in South Wales. Not only was it substantially larger, but it was double the number connected the year before, so that, while the number in South Wales went down from 341 to 275, in North Wales it went up from 451 to 981.
Now, what is the explanation? The explanation the public are asked to believe is cuts in capital expenditure. Apparently South Wales has been singled out for those cuts. But that explanation does not bear examination. According to the information I have been given, the facts are these. For 1952–53 the South Wales Area Board asked for and got £204,000 for rural electrification. There was no question of any limitation being put on it by the British Electricity Authority; no question of the Government putting any limitation on it under Section 5.
The South Wales Area Board got all it asked for. The North Wales Area Board asked for and got £500,000. There is the obvious explanation of the deplorable position of rural electrification in South Wales. Another interesting factor is that for rural electrification the South Wales Area Board asked for the lowest figure of the 11 area boards. That was the regard they had for rural electrification. Of all the boards, their request of £204,000 was the lowest.
This is not a matter simply for the board or the B.E.A. It is a matter for the Minister of Fuel and Power; and, with respect, it is a matter for the Minister for Welsh Affairs. We want an explanation of this situation. It is also a matter which concerns the Minister of Agriculture. What right has he to go to the farmers in my constituency and say, "Get on with your job," or to ask his county agricultural executive committees to wave the big stick, when compared with the 463 farmers in the other 11 areas of England and Wales they are being treated in a shocking manner from the point of view of electrification?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the problem of maintaining the number of regular workers in the industry. That only emphasises and underlines, as I have no doubt he will appreciate, the need for electrification in our agricultural communities. There are no indications that there is to be an improvement. The South Wales Area Board is about to go on with what they call Stages 4 and 5. I concede that Stage 4 shows some indications of helping in my constituency; but the indications are that Stage 5 will help very little. What is interesting is that the estimated expenditure of Stages 4 and 5, which are supposed to take at least two and probably three years, is £538,000—just the amount the North Wales Area Board asked for and used in a single year; so the signs are that there is no prospect of any real improvement in the next few years—and that in an area where there are 21,000 holdings awaiting electrification.
I now leave the problem of electrification, which I seriously contend is a matter the Minister for Welsh Affairs should take up with his colleagues the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Fuel and Power.
In the Report reference is made in page 29 to agricultural education, and there are references to efforts made to deal with further education, part-time courses and night schools for agricultural instruction. A question exercising my mind is what has been done by the Ministry to encourage technical instruction in agriculture in our secondary schools. My information is that the Ministry have been far from sympathetic, particularly in my county, towards the efforts made to improve facilities for technical education in agriculture in our schools. Over 10 per cent. of the employed people in Wales are employed in agriculture—double that in England. In my constituency, half the boys and one-third of the girls who leave secondary modern schools go straight back to agriculture. The figures for the grammar schools are certainly not so striking, but they are still striking, particularly for bilateral schools.
464 There has been no improvement in the last 25 years. Twenty-five years ago teachers were appointed to instruct in agricultural science, but after a few years they became merely teachers of botany and zoology, unable because of the absence of facilities to give practical instruction. In recent years my education authority has tried to pull things round, and have recently appointed an agricultural education organiser, although at the moment he has nothing to organise. We have asked the Ministry to let us have smallholdings, or a small farm of between 15 and 50 acres, to work in conjunction with our secondary modern and grammar schools as part of the technical instruction for our children. Bearing in mind that 50 per cent. of the boys and 33⅓ per cent. of the girls go straight back to agriculture, I think we have had a far from sympathetic response to our efforts in that direction.
I read with approval of the efforts wade in the field of technical education so far as engineering, plumbing and subjects of that type were concerned. I read how, for example, in Hatfield Technical College £750,000 has been spent on a building and £100,000 on equipment. We asked for the approval of the expenditure of £6,000 on a small farm to give practical every-day instruction at one of our schools to children going back into agriculture, and we did not receive the support and sympathy to which we were entitled.
I am glad to see the Minister of Education here and I hope that she will look into this matter again and give it more sympathetic consideration. I believe that this is the prime responsibility of the Minister of Education. I should like also the Minister of Agriculture to help in all ways he can, but so far as technical instruction in agriculture in our grammar and secondary modern schools is concerned, I think that the Minister of Education should shoulder that responsibility.
There is one other matter which I want to mention. A great deal has been said about highways. Reference has been made to Conway bridge, an area with which I have sympathetic associations, and I gladly support the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) in his plea for a new bridge there. My main concern at the moment is with regard to highways which are only too often forgotten—the unclassified highways of our rural areas. 465 They are becoming, in many instances, completely impassable. Not a weekend passes without my receiving communications from farmers who cannot get their fertilisers or coal delivered anywhere near their farms because of the condition of unclassified roads. I ask the Minister responsible for Welsh Affairs to take up with the Minister of Transport the possibility of revising their ideas, particularly as set out in Circulars 667 and 672, because if he does not this is going to be a serious handicap to the development of agriculture in areas such as mine.
I urge the Minister in particular to apply his mind to the problems which I have ventured to raise in relation to rural electrification in the South Wales area.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
We have now had over 12 months of Tory Government. The Report which we are discussing this afternoon gives a record of some eight months of Tory administration as it affects the people of Wales. I remember, when Conservative Members were in opposition and we were having our annual debate on Welsh affairs, how they poured scorn upon the planners and how they derided planning. I particularly remember the caustic remarks of the hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) upon the achievements of the Labour Government in connection with the affairs of Wales.
In their 1951 Report—the last year of their activity as a Government—the Labour Government dealt with the question of education. After six years in office they were able to report that, so far as school building. was concerned, the 1950 building programme consisted of 43 projects at an estimated cost of just over £2½ million. The Report stated:Work began on all projects for which starting dates were awarded. Two very small projects had to be deleted from the initial programme and two were carried forward, but have now begun. The operational and short-term programmes were virtually completed.They were also able to say, in paragraph 261 of that Report:Since the end of the war the number of new schools built or in building has exceeded the total number built between the years 1919 and 1939.After eight months of Conservative Government, what does the first Report of that Government say with regard to education? Paragraph 264 says: 466As a contribution to the national policy of economy, all local education authorities were asked, early in December, to review their forecasts of expenditure for 1952–53 and to aim at a reduction of these estimates by 5 per cent.It seems that some Welsh authorities failed to achieve a satisfactory reduction, and they were then asked to give further consideration to the request. The same Report states:Another part of the Government's economy measures was the rephasing of the educational building programme.So in education, after eight months of Conservative Government, we see the fabric of education in Wales being attacked.
What about water supplies and sewerage? In 1951, in the last Report of the Labour Government, they were able to say:During the year under review 44 grant-aided schemes of water supply, sewerage and sewage disposal costing £594,993 were completed, and 66 estimated to cost £1,633,338 were begun.Since the commencement of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, 1944, 107 grant-aided schemes in rural areas have been completed or put under construction.The Report went on to say:Under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, 130 schemes have been completed or put under construction since the commencement (40 schemes of water supply estimated to cost £2,806,837…After eight months of Conservative Government, what do we find? We find, in paragraph 336 of the 1952 Report:Water supply and sewerage schemes came within the temporary ban on starting dates imposed towards the end of 1951, and the shortage of steel has also delayed some projects.What about hospital services? In 1951, the Labour Government were able to report:Work began in December, 1950, on a new maternity unit for the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. The estimated cost of the building is £311,000, and 87 maternity beds and accommodation for 50 staff will be provided. The cost of this scheme is being met out of a special provision over and above the Board of Governors' normal capital allocation.After the appointment of the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the appointment of an Under-Secretary of State for Wales, what do we find after eight months of Tory administration? They report:A reduction has been necessary in the allocations for hospital capital purposes, and the amounts assigned to the Welsh Regional 467 Hospital Board and the Board of Governors of the United Cardiff Hospitals for the year ending 31st March, 1953, were £412,503 and £172,000, as against £505,000 and £186,000 for the preceding year.This, I would remind the House, at a time when during this year of Conservative rule the bankers have been able to report an increase in their profits. One of them has been able to declare an increase in dividend.
I am sure that we all respect the Minister for Welsh Affairs and his speech today was received by all hon. Members as being very fair and clearly expressed. What we are concerned about on this side of the House is not so much the appointment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as Minister for Welsh Affairs, but what he has done as Minister for Welsh Affairs during the last year in fighting the cause of Wales in the Conservative Cabinet.
It is all very well to talk about this Report, but it is not a report of progress. It is a report which condemns the Conservative Party in its policy in Wales. The statement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made this afternoon about the steel and tinplate works in West Wales is causing some anxiety in Monmouthshire. What is to be the position in Monmouthshire? In the "South Wales Argus" this week, it was reported that at the tinplate works at Panteg in my constituency short time is being started. Instead of working on Mondays now, the people will have Monday off and will start their week's work on Tuesday. What are the Government's proposals for dealing with the situation as it affects Monmouthshire?
A short time ago the Minister of Supply was good enough to receive a deputation from a number of Monmouthshire and bordering constituencies about the Roger-stone aluminium works. At that time there was a shortage of materials, and the case was made that orders would be lost if a bigger allocation of raw materials was not made. There is now no shortage of materials, but the works has had to declare redundancies because it has no orders.
The Conservative Party, which poured scorn upon the planners, has been lurching from difficulty to difficulty. At one time it created the difficulty about the 468 raw materials allocation, and now that has been overcome, it faces the situation whereby, because of the Conservative Party's policy, the company is unable to obtain orders, Now redundancy is being declared in that essential industry in which vast sums of money have been sunk. The aluminium industry is important to the interests of the country.
I wish to put a specific question to the right hon. and learned Gentleman as Minister for Welsh Affairs. In the first debate in the House of Commons on the Labour Government's White Paper in 1946, the late Sir Stafford Cripps, then President of the Board of Trade, gave the people of Wales the undertaking that the Labour Government were determined that the long-term unemployment which Wales had suffered should not recur. In 1948 my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), President of the Board of Trade at that time, reaffirmed that declaration by saying that the objective of the Labour Government's action in Wales was to guarantee to the Welsh people that the conditions under which they lived and suffered in the years before 1939 would never return.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, prepared to give, on behalf of the Conservative Party, a declaration in such precise terms as those by my right hon. Friends? If he is prepared to do so, what is he doing in administration to ensure that the conditions of the inter-war years never return to the people of Wales?
In the pamphlet dealing with the Conservative Party's policy for Wales, the reason given for the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs was that he would be able to co-ordinate as between the Ministries. What has the right hon. and learned Gentleman done about co-ordination between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Transport? I will give an instance of the difficulties which are being experienced. The Cwmbran Urban District Council, within whose area the Cwmbran New Town Corporation is functioning, considered it essential for the development of the area and for assisting the development of the Cwmbran Development Corporation that communications should be facilitated between the site at Cwmbran and the part of the town 469 which lies on the other side of the old Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
For this purpose it was desired to construct a bridge over the canal, which is under the control of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, but is not being used. In that part of the district there are a post office, a school, a public park and a number of business premises, and the bridge was necessary to reduce the traffic at the Half-way Bridge, Cwmbran, and its junction with Abbey Road. The bridge and the junction have long been considered very dangerous by the authorities. When the authorities applied to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive for permission to construct the bridge over the unused canal, they were met with a blank refusal, although the project was essential in the interests of safety and the interests of the proper development of the Cwmbran urban area.
What is the function of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive? Is it concerned with proper development, or is it there merely to obstruct local authorities who want to carry out essential development work? I begin to suspect that the Executive is seeking so to obstruct the work of the local authorities that the local authorities will be compelled to take over the responsibilities for canals so that the Executive may avoid its own responsibilities and the expense involved. But why should the Executive interfere with the proper development of an urban district council merely for considerations of that sort? I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make some inquiries as to why the Executive refused consent to the project. The urban district council will have to promote a Bill in Parliament unless some other step is taken.
With reference to new town policy, it was always understood under the Labour Government that Wales would have two new towns. We have one at Cwmbran, which I am very grateful, but since the Conservative Government has been in power we have not heard a single word about a second new town for Wales. Have the Government decided to abandon the project for a second new town?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was good enough to go to Cwmbran and view the development which was taking place. I think it is right and fair to 470 say that he was very impressed by the development. He will remember visiting some of the houses being built there and going into one house where I asked the tenant, who was delighted with the building itself, what she felt about the rent. The rent was extremely high, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will know. Our difficulty in the Cwmbran new town is the extraordinarily high rent which has to be paid. Last year's Report of the Public Accounts Committee contains some questions about new towns and about the Cwmbran new town in particular. It was stated that the Cwmbran new town has a special claim for additional assistance because it was designed as a housing estate to deal with the industrial situation as it developed in that area.
Rents are being charged in the new town far in excess of what the ordinary person can pay in that district, and the result is that if this continues at this high level, the new town policy of getting a balanced community will fail, and all we shall have in the new town are those people of the higher income groups who are able to pay the rents demanded. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman as the Minister for Welsh Affairs to look into that matter and see what he can do to persuade his colleagues in the Government to give this special consideration for the new town of Cwmbran in the hope that there will be some relief in the rents to be charged.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
It is inevitable that on a Welsh day the subjects that are covered should be wide in their scope. There is, indeed, a danger of the debate becoming so wide that it is sketchy in character, and at the end of the day the right hon. and learned Gentleman can pick and choose the items to which he will refer. Welsh day needs looking at again, for, if justice is to be done to the many demands of the Principality, one day to cover all subjects is quite inadequate to meet our needs.
It is true that this debate serves the purpose of reminding the House and the country that Wales has special and unique problems. For instance, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) and the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) referred to the claims of Cardiff to be the capital city of the Principality. In recent 471 weeks there has been an effort inside the Principality itself to reach agreement on this question. I do not suggest that this is the biggest problem or one of the biggest problems facing the Principality. Indeed, it may well be that there are more people in Cardiff concerned with seeing Cardiff at the top of the First Division than there are with seeing Cardiff the capital.
Without raising any feelings on the subject, I think we need to keep a sense of balance and proportion on this question. How foolish it is that Wales should be the only country in the world without a capital because parochial pride and civic jealousy prevent an agreement within the Principality itself. We have only ourselves to blame, and since it is now clear that there are dog-in-the-manger-minded people in the Principality, who would rather be without a capital if they cannot have their little town as capital, we had better leave the matter where it is. After all, everyone knows that Cardiff is the capital.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs has been attending a lot of dinner parties in the Principality. He took advantage of his position to come down to Cardiff on Saturday last. People in the city asked, "Who will this Scot, who is English Home Secretary representing Welsh affairs, cheer in the match?" They watched him with care, and at the end of the day he had cheered for no one. His native caution had come out on top.
The Minister in his present position has what they call in the Rhondda Valley "a cushy job" in Wales. He has the pleasure and the title of his office, and he tours the Principality making friendly speeches to a friendly people. But he has no special responsibility for any single decision taken on behalf of the Principality. Indeed, the Minister himself in West Wales recently relaxed and indicated that power remains vested in separate Ministers who are concerned with the Principality. He described his functions in the following terms at Haverford West on 9th January:My purpose as Minister for Welsh Affairs is to be the gathering ground not only of your difficulties but of your ideas; not only of your economic advancements, but of the spiritual messages which you have given to the world in the past.472 In short, the right hon. and learned Gentleman described himself as a safety valve for the Government. The Welsh may through him express what they found quite impossible to express before. He is now to be considered somehow as a gathering ground for Welsh sentiment. He may turn out to be the gathering storm, because he and his Man Friday from another place, whom I regret to say I would not recognise if I passed him in the City of Cardiff, may implore, may beseech and may supplicate their Ministerial colleagues to consider Welsh affairs, but they cannot command. Their powers are not negligible; they are non-existent.
The Tory Party has played a confidence trick on the Welsh people. It has not quite come off, and the only people who have fallen for this window-dressing are the handful of Tories who can be found sprinkled about the Principality, more in the north than in the south, and, of course, the "Western Mail." It is understandable, for the "Western Mail" is the "Daily Worker" of the Tory Party. It never finds fault with the Tories. Indeed, it faithfully sends up its little chorus of praise for every detail of every policy initiated by every Minister belonging to the Government.
There is a real testing time for the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the realm of education. There are no people within the confines of the United Kingdom with a deeper concern for education than those who dwell in the Principality. This is particularly obvious in the realm of adult education. Wales at the present time leads England, Scotland and Ireland in the number of adult classes in proportion to its population. Through the years we have been proud of the manner in which the Welsh miner, the Welsh quarry-worker, the Welsh farm worker and all those who have made the real life and culture of Wales what it is, have joined in the adult education movement.
A rough calculation is enough to prove that, in proportion to our population, we have four times as many classes as the average for England. The Ministry of Education have played havoc with our adult education service while the Minister for Welsh Affairs has been touring Wales making pretty speeches. The first step of the Minister of Education was to stabilise the grant for adult education at a time of rising costs and rising wages 473 within that service. There is now every indication that in next year's Estimates there will be a further substantial cut in the grant for adult education. This year the number of extra-mural classes in the Principality has been reduced; next year they will be hacked to pieces.
It is interesting to note the subjects of those classes in their order of popularity, the classes where our people meet to discuss or study during the week. They are: Social studies, No. 1; Welsh studies, No. 2; philosophy and religion, No. 3. Those subjects are dear to the heart and mind of the Welsh people, who are now being denied what they enjoy because of the mean and parsimonious attitude which the Ministry are adopting in regard to adult education. Will the Minister put into practice the fine promises he made to protect Welsh interests by saving our adult education services from the depredations of the present Minister of Education?
There is concern in the Principality about the lack of provision for our handicapped children. In North Wales and in South Wales there is the same unhappy story. In North Wales, education committees combined together and sought freedom to spend £60,000 to build a school for these unfortunate children who can never obtain from life as much as can the normal child. The Minister of Education has informed those North Wales education authorities that they shall not build this school for the next 10 years. That means that a generation will go without this provision. What has the Minister for Welsh Affairs done to enable those authorities to have that school?
In South Wales the same miserable story can be told. Glamorgan County Education Authority, on behalf of the Joint Committee for Wales, desire to build a school for spastic children, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea. West (Mr. P. Morris) has referred this afternoon. They have been held up, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education well knows. We ask for deeds and not for words with regard to the treatment of our people.
I have one last word on this question of education in the Principality. The House may know that I am a schoolmaster by profession. I know, as the late George Tomlinson often used to say, that 474 the greatest blot upon the education service is the large class. No teacher, whatever his nationality, can do justice to the children in his care if the numbers are too great for him to give adequate individual attention to them. In the Principality we are seeing the size of classes increase steadily.
Figures have been quoted for last year. I know that in the City of Cardiff there is alarm and concern at the way in which the size of classes increased during the last year. Children from the new housing estate, where the Minister held up the provision of a school at Fairwater, in Cardiff, are going as much as three or four miles to Canton, Ely and Riverside to get to school, all because this "economania" struck the Government in the early days.
The Minister for Welsh Affairs is learning new things about us every day, I have no doubt. Let him not be deceived by the warmth of the welcome that is given to him when he knocks at our door. We are a friendly people. We open our doors to people of strange and dubious reputation as well as to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I warn the Minister that the Welsh people will not be satisfied with pretty words. We look to him somehow or another to do what it seems that even the Prime Minister cannot do, and that is to influence his colleagues to agree that Welsh interests shall be protected.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has talked with great authority and his usual eloquence about some of the educational problems of Wales. He will understand why I do not follow him on that line. Like every Welshman, I have a passionate interest in education, but like every good Welshman my education has been badly neglected. My hon. Friend told the House that he was a schoolmaster by profession. Before I came to this House I was a collier by profession, and this evening for a few minutes I want to say a word or two about some of the economic problems of Wales.
This is the eighth debate we have had on Welsh affairs. The first took place in 1944. With the exception of 1945, we have had a debate every year since then. 475 The first White Paper on Wales was published in 1946, and a White Paper has appeared annually since then. This year the White Paper, like its predecessors, contained a mass of information about the social and economic situation in Wales. These Welsh debates have naturally covered a very wide field, and those who have taken part in them have tried to focus attention on some of the more pressing and urgent problems of Wales. In this we have certainly not suffered from shortage of material. Our real difficulty has been shortage of time to discuss adequately the many issues we would like to raise.
In the period covered by these debates, Wales has certainly had an abundance of problems. Most of them are not distinctively and peculiarly Welsh in character but common to the whole of Britain. Wales is a part of Britain, and it is intimately affected by the complex world processes which influence the British economy. The Welsh economy is not a separate and self-contained entity but is an integral part of the larger British economy.
There are, however, some problems which are peculiar to Wales. If they are not Welsh in character, they are certainly Welsh in location. In these debates we have tried to concentrate on those problems which have a special relationship to the economic and social pattern of Wales. I am not suggesting that this pattern is the product of any special national characteristic. The Welsh economy is not the product of any innate national qualities of the Welsh people. It is the creation of those social and economic forces which were realised during the laissez faire period of the industrial development of Britain.
The economy that grew up in Wales during this period was the characteristic and classic achievement of laissez faire industrial capitalism. It was unplanned. It was completely anarchic and chaotic in its operation. It lacked diversity, it lacked balance and it lacked stability. It failed to respond to the technical requirements of a new age and it failed to adapt itself to the changing pattern of world economics. It created in Wales an unemployment problem which, both in its size and in its duration, had no parallel in England, or indeed in Europe, and had 476 no precedent in our industrial history. For nearly 30 years—that is, for the span of a whole generation—mass unemployment was the paramount and primary problem of Wales.
The main emphasis in all these Welsh debates has naturally been on the economic problems of Wales. This was inevitable, for we all appreciated that the first need of Wales was a sound and prosperous economy. The pre-war Welsh economy had many serious shortcomings, and in its decline nearly destroyed the entire fabric of Welsh life. The grim experiences we all had during the interwar period convinced us all that there could be no future for Wales without a drastic and thorough reorganisation of our entire economic life.
This was the task that faced the Labour Government when it came to power in 1945. Since then there have been vast changes in the economic structure of Wales. Indeed, there was a major industrial revolution during those six years. In the past Wales had been dependent on two or three basic industries. All that has now been changed. In the six years when Labour was in power a wide variety of new industries was established in the Principality. Our economy has been diversified and we now have a much more balanced industrial structure. Vast projects have been launched for the modernisation and re-organisation of our basic industries. Areas which had been derelict for years have been converted into flourishing centres of industrial activity. Most important of all, the Welsh people now have wider and larger opportunities for employment than they had before.
Wales derived three special advantages from the policy pursued by the Labour Government. The first was the vigorous implementation of the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act, under which a large number of new industries was established in the development areas; and the local authorities were given generous assistance to provide essential services and important amenities for their communities.
Secondly, there was the Labour policy of maintaining a high rate of capital investment. For years Wales had been starved of capital. The condition of her basic industries was convincing proof of that. In the six years between 1945 and 477 1951 more industrial and social capital was invested in Wales than in the previous 20 years.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West has gone out, because I wanted to tell him that this kind of capital is of far greater importance for the future of Wales than the nominal designation of any town or city as a so-called national capital. The workers of Wales understand that. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman understands it, too. If some of our civic dignitaries in Wales understood this, we should have been spared some of the unseemly and squalid intrigues which we have witnessed recently.
The capitals of the world have come into existence through all kinds of varying circumstances. I do not know of a single case where a capital has been established by horse-trading transactions conducted behind the back of the nation. What Wales needs is not a titular capital but more social and industrial capital.
The third advantage which accrued to Wales from the policy of the Labour Government was the decision to give a high priority in capital investment to the coal and metal industries. These industries were the foundations of our economy and they benefited enormously from the policy pursued by the Labour Government. Labour injected new life into those industries that had been declining and languishing for years. The massive results of the policy are now seen in Nantgarw, Margam and Trostre— indeed, all over the development areas.
The present Government are always complaining of the difficulties they inherited from the Labour Government. They never mention the assets they inherited. In Wales they took over some solid and substantial assets. They took over hundreds of modern, well-equipped factories in full production. They took over the basic industries in better heart and better condition than they had ever been. Labour bequeathed them in Wales a healthier and more efficient economy than we had ever had before.
There was a striking contrast between the Wales of 1951, when the present Government took office, and the Wales of the 'thirties when the Tories were in power before. In spite of this great progress, however, all our economic problems have not been solved. Indeed, in some 478 respects we are still haunted by the ghosts of the past. The old fear of unemployment is still there. At present, as the Minister announced, we are faced with a serious redundancy problem in West Wales and we also have the problem of the disabled unemployed which is, and has been, causing us a great deal of worry.
I want, therefore, to urge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade —I see the Minister is not in his place —to stress to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the vital need for preventing the recurrence of mass unemployment in South Wales and of consolidating the great achievements which were made by the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
I have no doubt that in the course of this day, as has been the case on previous Welsh debates, a wide array of subjects affecting Wales will have been raised by the various speakers. If we were set to the test, I wonder which of all the subjects that are likely to be mentioned would, by a majority vote, be deemed to be the most important.
I want to make a plea this evening on behalf of the homeless of Wales, and they are not a few. I wonder if the Members of this House would care to know how many thousands of British people are tonight homeless. It is the dread of my life every week, and for several years, when I return to my own home to receive visitors, to hear of the plight of my constituents. As they would say in Wales, in our own phonetic clang, "Mr. Mainwaring, I come to seek your assistance. Can you do anything to find me a house?"
Only last weekend a young wife came to see me. She carried a baby in her arms and told me that there was another child and that her husband was a miner. I wonder how many miners in Rhondda tonight will have to sleep in a chair; how many miners in Britain have no bed to go to? This young wife told me that she, her husband and their two young children, were living in one room—one room, one bed, one cooking place, one kitchen, one sitting-room—just one room. And yet we pride ourselves that this is Christian Britain. I wish I could shock 479 the whole people of Britain against these sordid, tragic circumstances in which the industrial population lives.
My plea is for housing. Let no one talk to me about other problems. The outstanding social problem in Britain today is that of a house for the workman to live in. We are much concerned about events in Kenya and the Kikuyu. The Kikuyu are better housed than hundreds of miners in the Rhondda. It must not be assumed that that is generally the case in the Rhondda, but there are far too many hundreds of industrial workers in the Rhondda who cannot go to rest with anything like peace of mind.
What is to account for this? I am not uttering these words because there happens to be a Conservative Administration in office. I remember a previous occasion when I spoke to the same effect when we had a Labour Administration, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was Minister of Health and, therefore, in charge of housing. I told him then that the miners of the Rhondda were housed worse than African natives, and I repeat it tonight. It is, therefore, not a question of the colour of the Administration.
One might well ask where the responsibility lies. What about local authorities? They have their natural limitations and their natural boundary jealousies of all sorts. We need a supra-local authority with power to tackle this problem. It is time that a Government in Britain undertook a thorough investigation into the housing conditions of the people, cutting across all the jealousies and limitations of local authorities.
We have been brought up to be proud of the land of our birth, and as Welshmen we are all proud of it, but when our thoughts and minds are directed to social problems of this kind I, at least, can be anything but proud. I am not proud of the fact that hundreds of men, women and children in my constituency cannot go with any ease of mind to rest.
Only last week-end two women came to me with the same problem. The court had ordered their eviction. You, Mr. Speaker, are an honoured member of a learned and honoured profession; and many times have I heard it said of British justice that it has not only to be just, but 480 that it must be obviously just. A person can go to a court and ask the presiding magistrate or judge to determine that a certain tenant must leave, for reasons that may be good or bad, depending on the circumstances; and a court order can be given for the premises to be vacated in 28 days. As I have said, our justice must appear to be just, but how is it obviously just unless it is possible for that person to find alternative accommodation? If no alternative premises are available, it is not an act of justice. It is an inhuman act to turn any man, woman or child into the streets. No African native would put up with that, but it is done in Britain and I had to deal with two such cases last week-end.
We talk of a lack of coal and of the possible danger of a decline in output. One of these poor women was the mother of two Welsh miners, and yet she has to vacate her house by next Tuesday. Where is she to find a house? In the Rhondda? In the County of Glamorgan? No. I challenge any judicial authority in the County of Glamorgan to find that woman a house; and yet they dare to give a court order, with the assumption that British justice is obviously just.
This burns into my very soul. I cannot stand it, and I would tomorrow ask the miners of South Wales to strike against such nonsense. It is not justice. So long as this House permits conditions like that to prevail, we shall be unworthy of our name of being just and of being true representatives of the people who sent us here.
Housing is a blot on the escutcheon of this great country to which we belong. I ask the Minister, in the name of the innocent children and of the equally innocent mothers, who are compelled to suffer, to do something. Let him set up an investigation that will somehow find the means of constructing houses for our people. It is all very well talking about the investment of hundreds of millions in capital in distant parts of the world for the development of undeveloped regions. In the name of Him whom we have all been asked to worship, in the name of Christ, I ask the Minister to set up some authority that will provide something approaching decent housing conditions for the greatest working class in the world—the British—amongst whom the Welsh people form a section.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
In fairness to a number of other hon. Members who wish to speak, I shall endeavour to confine myself to a brief period of about 10 minutes, but the fact that one feels in honour bound so to confine oneself is in itself a clear indication that one single day in which to discuss Welsh affairs is not sufficient. The time has surely arrived when this period must be extended.
We are confined in our debate today to the Motion tabled by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in relation to the White Paper on Welsh affairs published recently. This, again, is unsatisfactory. I am not criticising the Minister, because this is not a precedent; it has happened before. But the great weakness in our debate today is the fact that we are discussing a Report of things accomplished, of things that are gone. We are now, in 1953, discussing 1952. To make this day of real value we should be considering a White Paper indicating the policy of the Government in relation to the future and in relation to problems which have arisen in Wales because, since the publication of this Report, we have had disturbing reports of circumstances worsening—and worsening considerably —in many parts of the Principality.
Perhaps it would be no exaggeration to say that no country in the world has suffered more from unemployment than Wales. We saw whole townships unemployed. We touched the very depths of depression and despair and poverty. Remembering that bitter past, I venture to say that nothing frightens the people of Wales so much as to believe that that ghastly social malady may reappear. But we see the monster raising its head again.
We have had reports this afternoon and evening of what is happening in South Wales. Coming to the House this morning, I was reading of what is happening in Newtown—of all places—in mid-Wales where there is to be an extraordinary meeting of the council to consider what is to be done to alleviate the position in view of the redundancy they will have in the local factory. I make an appeal to the Minister, and I hope that he will reply in the affirmative, that a day will be granted-at least one day-to discuss the Report of the Welsh Advisory Council immediately it is published.
482 Representing a rural constituency, I have naturally taken an interest in the chapter in the Report relating to agriculture. Time will not allow me this evening to pursue that matter at great length, but I will touch upon one point which has been omitted from the Report but which was brought to my notice only last week.
We hear a great call today for greater production from the land. We are still importing 50 per cent. of our food. There is one aspect of the problem which I have not heard discussed in this debate. In my constituency there is a healthy and very vigorous gardens and allotments association. Speaking at Dolgelly last week—where the Home Secretary will be speaking next week, but certainly without my assistance—[An HON. MEMBER: "But permission."]—with my permission of course, but it is a propaganda meeting —the secretary of the association made this very profound observation:Merionethshire is importing annually £100,000 worth of garden produce alone.If that is true of Merionethshire, it must also be true of Montgomeryshire, Anglesey and the rest of North Wales. The Minister will be aware of the Report published by a Committee under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). One of the recommendations of that Report was that the village produce associations should be merged into the allotments and gardens associations. But it was agreed to make similar grants to the new bodies as those which had always been given to the old bodies. What did the present Government do? They reduced the grant of £130 to Merionethshire alone by no less than £100 and that county received £30 last year as against £130 which was forthcoming from the last Government. What an encouragement to those in the Principality engaged in the production of food.
I asked a Question of the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs to which I received a written answer today. The Question was:What action he proposes to take to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Publications in the Welsh Language.This is the reply I received:The Government has asked the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire and the Welsh Joint Education Committee for their comments on the Committee's recommendations and 483 until these have been received and considered I regret that I am unable to make a statement of the Government's intentions.I am satisfied with that reply because I am also satisfied that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be asked by the Advisory Council to subscribe handsomely towards the cause. In the chapter on education in the Report, we have this sentence:There has been concern in many quarters in Wales about the shortage of suitable textbooks … in Welsh for use in the schools.Strenuous efforts are being made in the Principality today to preserve our native tongue, the oldest tongue in Britain—
§ Mr. Jones
—in the world, it may be, and certainly the only language to be spoken in the next world. Education in the Welsh language is vital to our sense of nationhood; but allied to the spoken tongue is the written language. Unless there is a living written language there is precious little hope for the spoken language. It is in this regard that the people of Wales find difficulty at present. Just at the moment, in this critical position in our cultural history, we are placed in a very peculiar situation and I fervently urge the Minister for Welsh Affairs to make a note of this point.
A declining speaking population means also a declining reading population, and vice versa. Reading and speaking are supplementary factors in the situation. A decrease in the number of those who speak a language means also a decrease in those who read the language and in those who purchase books. This inevitably raises the price of books and consequently reduces the number of purchases. Today, in the Principality of Wales publishers are unable to publish books in Welsh at an economic price.
Some might say that the Welsh people should help themselves in this respect. I assure the House that no Welsh author ever makes a profit out of his publications. My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) wrote a classic on the Middle Ages entitled "Cymru'r Oesoedd Canol." I give the title in Welsh for the edification of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Had my hon. Friend written in English he would have made a small fortune 484 probably, but he was not concerned about a small fortune, he was concerned in having the book published in the language in which he habitally expresses himself. That is true of all Welsh authors today. Our publishers also are not publishing with the hope of any great profit. Indeed, they have been publishing recently at a loss.
I beg the Minister to persuade the Government to give generously to assist us in overcoming the difficulties in which we find ourselves at the present moment. We feel that the language should be preserved because by preserving the language we preserve also a culture which, speaking as a Welshman, I think is equalled by none; and we preserve many other things that need preserving in Wales today.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I believe that the last four speakers in this debate have all referred to the wide variety of subjects which are raised annually on this occasion and to the paucity of time and opportunity for the representatives of Wales to make their contributions in these debates. I have decided most reluctantly to take some small part in this debate. I believe that I have spoken in every Welsh debate since 1945, but I was most reluctant to prepare for this debate in any way because for some time now—and today's experience confirms my feelings—I have felt that this method of ventilating Welsh feeling, complaint and request has outlived its usefulness.
It might have been that in 1944 it was a useful innovation and the publication of a compendious report on the activities of Government Departments in Wales in 1946 was also a step forward. But the time has now come when the method of considering Welsh affairs in this House must be radically reformed. What we are really attempting to do on these occasions is to review the state of a nation. I would have liked to have heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) on the question of rural depopulation and unemployment. He has not risen, I feel sure, because he feels that there is little time for other hon. Members to take part. The fact of the matter is that under the present system of having six hours annually 485 during which a vast range of Welsh complaints and demands are ventilated nothing really is done.
The Motion before the House asks that we should take note of the Command Paper. I should say that it was difficult to do much more than take note of it in the time at our disposal. The Report itself is a voluminous affair and is really a number of Departmental White Papers cut down and fitted into one publication. It suffers in consequence because, although it looks voluminous enough, when one examines its sections one finds that very important facts and figures have had to be omitted. I should have thought that everyone of those sections merited detailed scrutiny on a separate day within the procedure of this House.
I feel that what we call "Welsh Day" has become a kind of bloated Question time with too many questions and too few answers. I have every sympathy with the Minister and with those who are conscripted to attend him on these occasions—I can hardly imagine that there might be a volunteer among them. The Minister has no responsibility, he has no authority either to answer or to act, but he has to give the semblance of having that authority and of intending to act. As a result, speech after speech on these occasions is simply a hurried attempt to put some urgent constitutency point. I have done that myself, and there have been speeches of that kind today. It is inevitable under the system.
This must be changed, and I put the following points to the Minister. First of all, this annual rush and scramble through this kind of compendious Report must be replaced by something a little more orderly and satisfactory. Secondly, some six, seven or eight full reports on the Departmental position in Wales alone should be published and they should contain all the relevant facts and figures.
Thirdly—and here I speak entirely on my own authority apart from the fact that I believe that one or two other hon. Members have also considered this matter —I suggest that Welsh Members, with possibly added Members from other parts of the country, should be constituted as a Welsh Grand Committee meeting upstairs. They should meet on definite days, which are not days taken from the congested time-table of this Chamber, to consider separate reports on Departmental activities, with the appropriate Minister present 486 to take charge of the debate. There would be nothing to prevent us from joining in the general debates on the Floor of this House, but for the detailed scrutiny of the activities of the Government and the various Departmental heads in the Principality I cannot see any other way of doing it.
The real solution for this impasse in Parliamentary procedure is Parliamentary devolution in the federal sense and the handing over to Wales and to Scotland the initiative in regard to their own affairs. My impression is that the Scots are well on the way to achieving that; at least an inquiry as to their relationship, economic and other, with the rest of the United Kingdom is now in full swing. I was rather disappointed that the present Minister for Welsh Affairs refused to grant a similar inquiry in regard to the relationship of Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. I want him to reconsider that decision, because I believe he has a fund of goodwill and high intelligence which can yet assist us to place the constitutional, and consequently the executive and practical position of Wales, on a proper basis.
I have not raised any of the questions which my constituents, and the constituents of other hon. Members, feel are burning issues. I would very much have liked to raise the question of rural unemployment in all its bearings and what is happening to our small towns and our rural areas. They are drying up slowly, because of the inadequate provision of employment of a varied nature in Wales. I should have liked to deal with that question; but I felt on listening to the debate tonight that, in spite of the many excellent and sincere speeches which we have had, I would put forward a plea for a radical reform of the procedure of ventilating the Welsh case in this House.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I agree entirely with what has been said by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts). It is quite impossible for us to debate in this House the many and varied matters which concern us in Wales in the very short space of some six hours. And it is not even that. Although we are grateful, and rightly so, to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his excellent and fair speech, nevertheless that review took about an hour, and the 487 right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to reply. There are 37 hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies, each having his own particular problems of his constituency, and we must try to utilise a period of something under five hours to bring to the attention of the most important assembly in the world what are the problems which really concern us. Not only is that impossible, but I would go further and say it is a insult to a proud and noble people that they should be treated in that way. We. with our long history and our independence in point of view and mode of life, demand better treatment at the hands of other people than we are getting today.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon was quite right when he said that I had not intervened because there are so many matters to be raised and one is anxious that other people should have an opportunity to speak. Think of what I should have liked to mention; matters to which I directed attention in particular at the request of the Executive in 1938, and which have not been touched in all that time—nearly 14 years. Exactly the same conditions were present then as now, and I advanced them in this House as I did throughout rural Wales. The question of schools has been raised, and of hospitals. We are all deeply concerned about them, and everyone of these questions is entitled to a separate day's discussion. But we are limited to these few hours.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon mentioned the tragedy of rural Wales and the continued exodus of our young people because of the lack of amenities. I cannot touch on that in this short time, but I shall deal with one matter to which I wish to call the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Our rural counties are poor, unfortunately for the very reason to which I referred. The population is dwindling, and therefore they are getting poorer and deserve more assistance than they are getting, not only with regard to housing, water supplies, electricity and matters of that kind, but with regard to their schools.
Time and again in nearly a quarter of a century during which I have been a Member of this House I have called attention to this matter. I have given the figures so often that I have heard the 488 right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) repeat them for me. One of the counties I take as an important example is the county of which he was the chairman of the County Council. namely the County of Surrey. where a penny rate brings in £54,000 while the whole of our 13 counties and four county boroughs brought in £45,000 before the war and bring in £48,000 today. But I do not want to enter into that now; I mention it to show the need there is for assistance to be given to them.
It is no use my raising this matter with the Minister of Agriculture. If I do he nods his head—they all nod their heads —with the greatest sympathy, and sometimes almost with tears in his eyes. He says, "We all agree with you, but go to the Minister of Transport." I go to the Minister of Transport, and he says, "I absolutely agree with you, but go to the Minister of Housing and Local Government." The right hon. and learned Gentleman is in a position to bring them all together, and I hope that he will. That is my plea to him with regard to this one matter I wish to mention, namely, the expense of maintaining our roads in the rural areas, which falls very heavily upon us.
I have not the figures for today, but I do remember the figures for 1938 when the roads in Cardigan, which you, Sir, had the honour of representing at one time, were costing in rates alone 13s. 8d. in the £. In Montgomery they were 13s. 7d. in the £. The cost of maintaining roads in Middlesex is 9d. in the £. Wherein lies the heavy expense? It is because all these roads are by-roads. The by-roads in Middlesex never have upon them more than a milk barrow or an occasional taxi. But the roads of Cardigan, Merioneth, Montgomery, Caernarvon and Pembroke are the arteries down which come the produce on which the rest of us depend-milk, timber, and produce of all kinds.
Those roads were never built for the traffic they have to carry today. In fact, originally they were bridle tracks and then they became cart tracks. Today down them come the very heavy lorries, and in particular the young man driving a five-ton milk lorry, who knows nothing about speed limits and things of that kind. Then, just as one feels one is safe from him, round the corner comes something even worse, a lorry carrying tons and tons of heavy timber.
489 I brought this question to the attention of the House in 1940 when there was anxiety about production, and I did then get a response from the Coalition Government. They gave a certain amount to each of the rural counties. Montgomery received about £80,000 between 1941 and 1946 to help in dealing with this problem. In 1946 the money stopped, but the Government said that they would allow some of the unclassified roads to be made into classified roads. For the Class 3 roads we get a grant of 50 per cent., but it is just those roads which cost the most money. Montgomery has a dwindling population. It has gone down in the last 20 years by another 12 ½ per cent. It is a tragedy. Farms are going out of existence.
We cannot make use of the Hill Farming Act. We cannot get to many of the farms with the heavy machinery of today. It is almost a farce when the Government say, "We will give you this Act and these grants." I have known many bad cases in Montgomeryshire. I know every farm in the county. One farmer told me about his difficulties last year. He said, "May I tell you that the doctor managed to come to my house last winter and he said at once that my wife had to be taken to hospital? Do you know how I took her? I took her for two miles on a tractor. That was the only way. I had been warned that she must not be jerked. If I could have carried her for the two miles I would have done." That is the state of things.
And then we are asked, in a county where a penny rate produced £700, to carry on producing material and food, and so on, without the help that we deserve. I know the figures for 1951. Our exports of food amounted to £5 million. That is a pretty good contribution. I am sure that similar figures could be given for the other rural counties. We exported in 1951 to England 13 million gallons of milk; but the Government are cutting down the money for roads which fall into a more serious state every time a milk lorry uses them.
I have been round to every one of the Ministries telling the story and getting every sympathy but, please, I want something more than sympathy. I turn to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and ask him to bring the Ministries together to see that we are given some practical help. Then we can do without the sympathy.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
I am delighted to have the honour of following the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I hoped that he would develop a little further the constitutional argument. We have had some extremely good and fresh ideas on the constitutional position. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) has put forward the idea that we should constitute a Welsh Grand Committee. That is the best idea I have heard on this subject today. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) expressed a rather different idea, which was that we should build up this quarterly council of civil servants presided over by the Joint Under-Secretary. Of the two I am much more attracted by the suggestion of the hon. Member for Caernarvon. It is ludicrous that a Report such as the one we have before us should be discussed in a matter of five hours I hope that we shall continue to discuss this question further between ourselves and that we shall not wait until we have another debate in the House of Commons.
I wish to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs on the advance made in the last 12 months. There is no doubt that his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs has been an enormous success. It has caught the imagination of Wales. His perseverance in dealing with this job has brought to the notice of the Government a new understanding of Welsh problems. Already we feel that we are getting somewhere. We are on the road to greater devolution. We have seen already how our Departments in Wales have been given greater status.
§ Mr. Evans
We should discuss this question and, if the people are not taking decisions for themselves when they have power to take them, we should make sure that we in Wales are served with people who have the "know how" of the Civil 491 Service. I am not belittling for one moment the great service performed by our heads of Departments in Wales; but some have come into posts from outside and are not yet used to the routine of the Civil Service.
Another point in connection with devolution is that it is high time that the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire was given the task of considering Welsh local government. We have had scores of debates in this House on the future of local government. We have discussed how local authorities are losing power, how they have no responsibilities and are simply becoming rubber stamps. We should have an inquiry into the future of local government. It should be conducted by the well appointed and organised Council already in existence which could decide the future responsibility of local authorities in Wales, with terms of reference saying that the main idea should be that of giving greater liberty and responsibility to the local authorities and taking it away from Whitehall.
I rose tonight to speak about Welsh agriculture. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery made some flattering remarks about Welsh agriculture. There is no doubt at all among those of us who have lived in Wales all our lives about the developments which have taken place, especially in the hill country. Very often, I walk up the Tanat Valley and look down into Montgomeryshire and very often into Merionethshire, and it is interesting to get up on the top of these moorlands and see the tremendous amount of work that is being done there and realise the potential value of these upland farms.
We have a couple of Acts on the Statute Book already which will enable us to produce more food from that land. There is nothing wrong with those Acts as such. The legislation is there, but it is very disappointing to read this Report. Marvellous schemes have been put forward by the farmers to improve their land, to fence it, to drain it, build better buildings and the like, but the number of schemes approved in principle during the last year was 2,300, while a further number was under consideration. The number of schemes on which work was authorised to begin was 2,100, but the number on which work had actually begun was only 700.
492 That is the problem. The amount of capital already authorised to be spent on the hill farms in Wales is £2 million, but the amount actually granted so far is £201,000. We are all most anxious to develop these hill farms, and yet we have this very practical problem that, although over £2 million has been authorised, only about £200,000 has been spent.
This Report goes on to say why it is that the rate of progress is so slow. The first point it makes, of course, is the fact that farmers cannot get contractors to do this work, and it is a very difficult problem. It is not easy for a farmer who wants to build a new shippon, wants a bit of fencing down, or some drainage or road work carried out, to find a contractor who will bring the labour, materials and machinery to his place to do that one small job. The shortage of contractors and the unwillingness of contractors to do this work is one of the main bottlenecks in the scheme.
I do not think the Government can be complacent about this. There is a landowner in my constituency, with whom I was discussing this problem the other day, and he owns 241 farms. What did he do? He went to a contractor in Montgomeryshire and said, "I will offer you a seven-year contract if you will look after these farms," and the contractor from Montgomeryshire has undertaken that work. It is quite easy for this landowner, because he knows the contractor will be looking after all his farms, but the main problem is that of the small scattered farmers. I think it should be the responsibility of county agricultural executive committees to get the farmers together to work out a plan among themselves for a five year period in order to find contractors who will take on that work. If a contractor has that certainty of work, he will be able to employ his labour force and invest capital in the necessary machinery.
The other point which this Report makes about unsatisfactory development in the hills is that of the lack of capital, but it rather covers it up. The Report talks about the reluctance of farmers to utilise credit facilities. If ever there was a euphemism, that is it. If we talk to any small farmer in the hills of Wales 493 about getting on with the job—ploughing up his bracken or what have you—we come back to this problem, and the reply we get is, "I have not got the money to do it, and the bank will not lend it to me."
When this Report talks about the reluctance of farmers to use credit facilities, the fact is that the credit facilities are not there for them, and I do suggest that we should have an Agricultural Bank, a Land Bank, or what I think the Liberal Party inquiry called a National Development Fund, which should be established to make available for these small farmers that capital which they so badly require.
There are many other things that we should do, but I know that, before long, we shall be having a debate on the depopulation of the countryside. There are lots of matters here which we will have to probe very thoroughly. I do not think that the Minister of Agriculture, who is, after all, responsible for developments in our rural areas, is conscious of the antics of some of the other Ministers. For instance, Circular 245 of the Ministry of Education which puts a complete stop on the rebuilding or replacement of slum schools in rural areas, is to my way of thinking completely mischievous. Again, the interpretation of the instructions with regard to transport, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery referred, seems to indicate that some of our Government Departments simply have no clue as to what the main issues of Government policy are.
We find it in the case of the Electricity Board and its policy, and I say, "Thank Heaven that North Wales does not come under the South Wales Electricity Board." When our Welsh Nationalists start talking about having a Welsh Electricity Board, I say, "Thank Heaven for England and the Merseyside." Not only have we got this difficulty in education, transport and electricity, but also with regard to water supplies for our rural areas.
Let us take the interpretation of the Act which is supposed to give us water supply and sewerage services in rural areas. It is the tight interpretation of that Act by Government Departments which deprives our rural areas of the very benefits which the 1944 Act was supposed to give them. I can quote at 494 least five examples in North Wales where we are depriving people of the benefits of that legislation. I can see that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) is most anxious to speak. Sitting alongside one of the Members for Cardiff he must be wanting to talk about a capital for Wales. However, I want to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on the work which he has done in this last 12 months, and I want to ask this House to consider further the ideas of Welsh devolution already put forward
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)
I am in perfect agreement with all the observations that have been made about the futility of Welsh days. It is about time that the Welsh Members got together to see whether they can get some more sensible arrangements so that the problems affecting us so intimately can be discussed adequately. I am not going to make the speech that I had thought about, but will deal only with one aspect of these matters, in order to be fair to other hon. Members who want to speak.
I was very pleased to hear the reference of the Minister to the problem of the industrial situation in South Wales. He informed the House of the fact that on the last Welsh day I raised the question. It would have been true if he had said that on every Welsh day in this House I have raised this particular question. I make no apology for doing so tonight. I have never considered myself to be absolutely divorced from the steel and tinplate workers. I live amongst these people. They are my neighbours. I spend my leisure time in their company. and I know what they are thinking, and of what it is that they are thinking.
In South Wales there is happening an industrial revolution as momentous—yes, and almost as harmful to the individuals —as the great Industrial Revolution of 100 years ago. But we have no Luddite movement there. We welcome with open arms the great change that is coming over what I describe very often as the cannibal side of the steel trade and of the tinplate works and the hand mills. We welcome this improvement. God never meant men to work as the tinplate worker works—in the heat and the heaviness of his toil. When he finishes his work it is as much as he can do to recuperate and recover sufficient energy to carry on the next day 495 That sort of thing is going, and we welcome the change.
But, as with all good things that happen in a community, there is a side to it that does not bring benefit. A few years ago I said I could see a cloud coming—a cloud as big as my hand. It was coming. I am not blaming the past Government. I am not blaming this Government yet. Circumstances were such that we could not deal with that situation then because we had full employment and we had a shortage of materials. The situation a few years ago was that with the world demand for tinplate one could be absolutely complacent, assured that for five years every man would be required. To keep the trade going 500 Italians had to be brought in.
Then suddenly the flow began to fall, and the works were closed one after the other. The Minister reported today that there were 10. Now, that is going to continue. The immediate situation can be dealt with. There will be very little redundancy now from the human standpoint because of the generosity and the humanity of the men working in the trade. As the Minister reported, they are going gack on six hours, as they have a legal right to do. They will lose 25 per cent. as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) reported, but they are doing that in order to absorb labour. But there is a limit to that. More works will close—not only tin works but the steel works that supply the tin works. The works I worked in are closed and derelict.
What is going to happen to those works that supply the tin works? They are going; they will close. The Minister mentioned a figure of 10,000 redundancies. What is to be done to meet a situation like that? He has been invited to come down to South Wales to meet trade union representatives and representatives from the particular industries. We can give him practical ideas about the ways in which this problem can be solved. Why cannot we have the dropforging industry in South Wales? During the war it was the South Wales tinplate workers who worked that industry. In the Swansea area modern, up-to-date plants are being closed down, but they could be turned into factories making machine tools. They are on convenient 496 sites, and with very little capital expenditure the steel works could be turned to producing sections, rods and billets.
I am very pleased that the Minister has, judging by his statement today, got the proper hang of this problem. These men are looking forward to this debate. They are a fine crowd of men. For the sake of their mates they are prepared to face difficulties. But what they want is the realisation that the Government are fully cognizant of the size of this problem. The Minister has said he is going to Cardiff tomorrow. I am sure that when this question is broached, he will find no lack of advice and assistance rendered by those who know this problem. All we can say to the House, to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and to everybody engaged in this matter, is: "If you can—as you can and must—help this body of men, you will not only be doing a good turn to South Wales, but a good turn to the finest body of men God ever created."
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
With most of my Welsh Parliamentary colleagues, I have sat here for about five hours while this debate on Welsh affairs has been carried on, and I share at least some of the mixed feelings of my colleagues I happen to be a Welshman, and I am afraid I have, perhaps, some of the feelings of my countrymen. I may be inordinately proud of the contribution Wales has made, industrially, economically, culturally, and religiously, to the general well-being of mankind, and frankly I am not very happy after listening to this debate.
Welsh people have not in their history supplicated over-much to those who are a barrier to the progress and general well-being of the Welsh people. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) described this debate as a farce. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) described the extraordinary appointment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman as Minister for Welsh Affairs as being a conspiracy. Throughout the day, we have listened to the story, which could have been anticipated, of redundancy in the tinplate industry—the pathetic and tragic story of Montgomery and the driving away of the people from that extraordinarily beautiful county, with its great potentialities, vast materials, food and so on.
497 We have heard of the continued depopulation of the Welsh countryside. We have heard what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) had to tell us on this. So this—and this is hateful to Welshmen—is a day of supplication, of knee-bending; and to whom? We Welsh people are not making this supplication to the Government, as it were, of this island—oh, no—but to the party that dominates the well-being and the progress and future of my own country and the country of my colleagues here today.
Wales is not a poor country. It is only poor where it has been despoiled by the adventurer, generally from outside our country of Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) said this afternoon that Wales could not do this or that unless it had capital. I had better remind my hon. Friends that for years and years we exported from Wales, or rather we had taken away from us, 15 to 20 times more value than we ever had from outside Wales. That is where the capital, which is needed today, has gone—to the adventurer in the capitalist development of South Wales.
This debate gives us the opportunity of saying something positive about Wales in addition to lamenting its shortcomings. It provides us at least with the opportunity of destroying the illusion that Wales is naturally and physically a poverty-stricken country. There is no reason why it should be. We know our own country, and we know that we can make a far better job of governing that country than any alien crowd can do. Even at the moment, Wales produces—and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) have given figures—52 per cent. of British steel. It produces 90 per cent., even now, of British tin. Our Welsh coal is still one of the best dollar earners in this country. Wales—and Cardiganshire I know will be upset at this —provides for export, as it has always provided for export, the skill and brains of our Welsh industrial workers.
Wales today provides for export 300 million units of electricity, and that figure will be vastly increased as the hydro-electric stations come into being. Only 10 per cent. of Welsh rural homesteads are supplied with electricity. We 498 must not forget why we are exporting this great quantity of electricity; farms in British rural areas have been supplied with electricity to as great an extent as 30 per cent.
I sympathise with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan when he laments the appalling situation which exists in his delightful county. Half the Welsh milk production is exported to England. Were that stopped, Wales could easily be self-supporting in at least butter and cheese. I am also advised that in eight to 10 years' time Wales could achieve self-sufficiency in meat production. Wales is also supplying Birmingham, Manchester and Birkenhead with domestic water.
There is no reason why we should supplicate in the way we are expected to do on these Welsh days. Wales is well provided with the basic necessities of life; she has a great deal of raw materials, power and food. I am absolutely confident that were Wales allowed to control and govern its own affairs, it could easily be made one of the richest countries in the world, and that within a generation.
The White Paper is wholly misleading as a picture of what Wales really is. The difference between Wales and the rest of this island is not only a statistical one in relation to population and industrial and agricultural production. In speaking of Wales, one speaks of a nation which is fully conscious of its nationhood, possessing a history, a culture and a tradition peculiarly its own. With all humility I urge my Welsh hon. Friends never to forget that and never to hesitate to say it in this House, which becomes more alien to me the more Welsh debates I listen to. I often have the feeling, as I have had it today, that Welsh Members are here largely on sufferance. They are here because of past favours granted to England and in anticipation of more favours to come. Why should we Welsh people quail at the thought of separation in a wholly political sense from England?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
It may very well be true that what the hon. Member says is important, but the subject of this debate, as I understand it, is the White Paper and the subjects mentioned in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Davies
I concede that without any hesitation, but am I not entitled to show how pathetically short is the picture given of the Wales I know. I take second place to no one in my love of Wales, and the White Paper does not reveal the correct picture, but is a collection of statistical data which does not do justice to my country.
I do not want to emphasise that aspect unduly, and I want to sit down in a moment or two, but I am entitled to put my finger on that which is fundamental, which is that Wales cannot be ordered, governed and managed successfully by any outside alien body of individuals. Surely on a Welsh day I am entitled to stress that in a way which I think it ought to be stressed. I urge my Welsh Parliamentary colleagues at least to regard these Welsh days as days of protest by the Welsh people against the subjection of our country by a people of alien tradition, alien culture and alien tongue.
I will close with this. The Wales we have been discussing all day strongly objects to this Parliament irrevocably dragging it into the abyss of destruction. We have no quarrel with any people or nation in this world. We are instinctively hospitable and we are a nation of workers. We can feel no enmity against any other people or nation, whatever their colour, creed or religion. We abhor the swashbuckling, fire-eating speeches which we had in this House, and as a Welsh nation we repudiate their sentiments. The heart of our hospitable country goes out to those who are struggling against tyranny and against obstruction, because we know that obstruction has been placed in the way of this little country to which I am proud to belong.
§ 8.55 p.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
We have been debating today the affairs of the most democratic Socialist country in the world. As an instance of this, I would recall that at the last two Parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom the five highest percentage votes for Socialism—which is the only valid criterion for any true assessment—were to be found in Wales. Were Wales alone the deciding factor in British political life, there would have been no Conservative Government since the early 1920s. What tragedies would have been averted had 500 that state of affairs obtained. Unfortunately, Wales must suffer because of the political immaturity of England and Scotland.
The Conservative Government have sought to woo the Welsh people with the pleasantries attached to the meaningless post of the Minister for Welsh Affairs. The Conservative Party delude themselves in a most ridiculous fashion if they believe that the allegiance of the vast majority of the Welsh people over so long a period to one political faith can be weakened by the frequent visits of the Home Secretary to social occasions in the Principality. The Home Secretary means well. I believe that; but the only real and substantial good that he can do in Wales will be either by consolidating the achievements of the Labour Government or by seeking to extend them by carrying out Socialist policy. If the Minister for Welsh Affairs carries out Socialist policy, he will do well. If he seeks to carry out Conservative policy in Wales, he is bound most miserably to fail. That is the position in which, willy-nilly, he finds himself.
Many of my hon. Friends have raised doubts about the desirability of these Welsh days, as they are called. They feel that the debate of necessity is too diffused to have any relevant significance. I believe that there is point and substance in that argument, but even if we did nothing else but recount the transformation that has taken place in the Welsh industrial scene as the result of the work of the Labour Government, we would at least have fulfilled some useful purpose.
The tendency to take things for granted is to be fought against. A generation has grown up in Wales who do not, and indeed cannot, know that the generally satisfactory character of Welsh economic development today is to be explained not as the continuance of a long-established status quo or as just fortuitous and accidental, but as the result of the deliberate and energetic planning of a Labour Government, in whose ranks Welsh Labour leaders so proudly and prominently played their part.
How precariously balanced was the Welsh industrial situation before the Labour Government took office in 1945. To cite the analogy which has been advanced once in this debate: all our industrial eggs—if one may speak in those terms—were in the same basket. When 501 the basket fell, as fall it did in the clumsy hands of Tory Governments and their capitalist friends, the eggs were smashed and there was no sustenance for the working population of Wales. Our few basic industries were all the protection we had in the blizzard. No light industries, no consumer goods industries were there to help out in the evil day.
But men came into power in 1945 who were resolved that such things should never happen again. Only a nationalised coal industry could function in the postwar years; only a planned economy on a large scale could re-establish hope in the hearts of Welsh people. Industrialists were induced to set up their factories in the development area of Wales, and a hitherto undreamed of diversification of industry was achieved.
The foundations of a stable Welsh economy were laid down and a new throbbing vitality was perceptible in the valleys and towns of Wales. I believe that we who have lived in Wales during these fateful years have in one sense been too close to these events and changes really to see them in their true revolutionary and transforming character. I have spoken during these last few years to visitors from abroad, people who knew Wales before 1945 and who have come back to visit the country since 1950. With one accord they have told me that the transformation is well-nigh miraculous. No revolution of any violent nature could possibly have changed the scene more than those years of Labour Government did. Some £260 million have been invested since the war in industrial development in South Wales. More than 100,000 new factory jobs have been created in this industrial and social revolution.
I claim that all this should be stated time and time again both in this House and outside. I believe that future historians will give it its just reward and acclamation in their annals. The Conservative Government have the inestimable privilege of carrying on where we left off. Difficulties have arisen and are arising, some of them inevitable. There is redundancy in the older type of tinplate works. There is considerable short-time working and, indeed, considerable redundancies in the Rogerstone Aluminium Works and other industrial plants. I should be much happier in my mind if there were a Socialist Minister of Supply 502 and a Socialist President of the Board of Trade to deal with these problems.
The drastic cuts in grants to the development areas with regard to water and sewerage schemes under Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, fill my colleagues and myself with considerable alarm. A Socialist Chancellor and a Socialist at the head of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing would be more likely to tackle these problems in the light of genuine concern for the people who have long ago decided that their political hopes and salvation are only to be entrusted to a Labour Government.
The only policies that are acceptable to the majority of Welsh people are Socialist policies. I conclude by expressing the hope that in the near future the Welsh people will see their wish fulfilled and that a Labour Government will be restored to confer its undoubted benefits once again on the working-class people of Wales, Scotland and England.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I am glad, even at this time of the evening, to be permitted to make my contribution to the discussions of this day. I am afraid that we have not been able to keep to the original scope and purpose of the Welsh day which we introduced into this House seven or eight years ago, but it is essential that we should try to examine some of these problems, all genuine difficult problems, affecting the life of Wales. However, they cannot be traversed in one day, neither can I expect a reply from the Minister on all the points that have been raised already, so I must not raise any new points.
I would remind the House that the main problem of today affecting the tinplate and the steel industry is not a new one even in this House. In those days was respectable and I took my place on the Front Bench, and I was asked to follow the President of the Board of Trade as far back as July, 1935. He startled, surprised and intimidated the House by the revelations which were part of his annual speech. He informed us that he was asked to make a choice between certain rival interests in this country and to determine whether to use the whole of his influence as President of the Board of Trade to authorise and to support the removal of the tinplate 503 industry entirely out of Wales—not to the United States of America, and not to Australia, where rival concerns are being built up which will shock some of our people when they get to know them in more detail.
The project then was to take the tinplate industry to Lincolnshire, with the support of the South Wales tinplate owners. I am not mentioning any names; we all know them. They have come to the City, and the Member for the City of London sat then where the Minister of Supply sits now; I welcome the change in occupation of the Front Bench. That Member for the City of London said that they were delighted at the opportunity of making a new investment and of building up a new, modernised steel and tinplate industry in Lincolnshire, with City of London money and with no Welsh labour, but certainly with the necessary modicum of Welsh experience, because this trail is a South Wales trail. No part of the Kingdom can claim to have originated or developed it. It came from the Harz Mountains in 1670. It was brought to near Pontypool by an adventurous fellow, a soldier of fortune named Andrew Yarranton, and the Monmouthshire firm was called Hanbury Williams. That was the beginning of tinplate working in South Wales.
It spread over the whole of South Wales, from Monmouthshire, through Glamorgan, westward into Carmarthen and Pembroke. The whole line of our seaboard was dotted with the small tinplate works of those days. They were added to and their output and their number of workpeople increased. They have moved up the Severn, up as far as the Avon, and to Birmingham. They went to the Dee Estuary in North Wales and to Cumberland. The South Wales industry sprang from that unpremeditated beginning. It just happened when an adventurous fellow with a secret came to Wales and was welcomed.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I did not say that he was a good fellow. That industry went to America, and all the competition that we expect nowadays from the world comes from places to which the industry has migrated in the course of years.
504 I am very proud of the history of the tinplate industry in Wales. I have never seen human beings work harder. As a boy, I was accustomed to hard work and could do a bit of farming and almost everything, as boys could in those days. I left school at 11 years of age to earn my living, and I knocked about. As the village carter I was a kind of general labourer who did anything, but I shunned those tin works, I would not go to them. The heat, weight, sweat and the snot discouraged me altogether and I went underground, and I have come to be fairly respectable after spending my time for 30 years in the coal mines.
I know something about workpeople, but no people anywhere in the world have worked harder than the South Wales tinplate worker. I have seen the same category of worker in Australia, where there are marvellous works. We cannot shut our eyes to what is happening in Australia, where the works are already in production at Newcastle, New South Wales, and at Port Kembelia on the coast. I have seen the works in Indiana and Pennsylvania, where there are wonderful modernised tinplate works, producing far more steel and tinplate than we have here.
I am convinced that we have as much claim to the continuation of this basic industry as has anyone else. We can only hold our own in this modern world by retaining this industry. Things are moving in this new world and nothing more so than in the production of metal, metal goods, metallurgy and the new ingredients of industry. This tinplate industry of ours is still our main industry and if it were taken from us, as it could easily be taken, it would not come back. There would be a tremendous gap to fill.
I do not think that in my lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone here, could we repair the damage done by the loss of the tinplate industry of this country. When I heard Mr. Runciman, the then President of the Board of Trade, say that this industry would have to go to Lincolnshire, I felt it was an unmitigated offence against Wales. In a few days the fiat went round and we were given an opportunity in 1935 or 1936 of a two days debate mainly on this subject. We were told to go home and make a job of it.
The tin works owners and steel works owners in Wales are trying to modernise 505 their plants. It has not been easy to meet American competition on a constantly ascending scale of perfection in the production of steel and tinplate. I think that the Minister, in his reply, will be able to tell us more about this. We have won the privilege of doing this in Wales ourselves. The steel owners have the experience of an additional 15 years of development overseas. So we start from a level 15 years nearer perfection than when the threat was first made in this House. I do not want the opportunity to be lost. It would serve the industry if the Minister instructed those concerned not to take their eyes off the subject until we have at least the volume of production which we claim to be our share assured to us for many years to come, until some drastic revolutionary change produces something else in its place. But for years we shall want this employment.
My occupation has been that of a coal miner, and I give place to no one in my pride as a miner. I am more proud of my work as a miner than of anything done in this House of Commons. The work I have done underground has been far more valuable to my country. It is a noble, honest occupation. I put these two industries, coal and tinplate, at the very top level of the machinery of progress and development for the people of this island—this little island from which so many good things have gone forth. We shall not be humiliated in the eyes of the world if I can help it—we shall hold up our reputation and standards. our skill and courage and all the essential qualities connected with industry as much as with anything else. One builds character in industry and one secures the foundations by good practice.
I hope that the Minister will take his opportunity today. He has heard the voice of Wales. They speak as well in Wales as they do anywhere in the world. I have heard them. Our population is 2,500.000 in 8,000 square miles, and many parts of our small country are in a bad state of neglect. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) has to have two counties to return him to this House, and he is not very big at that. The people of two counties have to put their heads and their crosses together to send him here, and I am glad that they have done so. I would not mind if three counties were 506 involved if that meant that he would he returned.
My hon. Friend represents one of the most sparsely-populated areas in Britain. One may ask why people do not go there and stay there. They do not stay because there is too much poverty there, and they do not go there because there is no target at which they can aim. I have not much sympathy with a man and woman who will live in an area and keep themselves and their children in poverty if there is a home further on to which they can move.
When I was 22, I was a coal miner in Canada, working with people of all nationalities. My respect for them was quite high, but I never lost my self-respect or my pride in Wales because I worked with people elsewhere. There is something which is particular to Wales. Geography is partly responsible, and there is our ancient tradition and history. There is also the fact that we have been encouraged to take an interest in two languages. It has not hurt us at all to have two languages contesting for supremacy among us, as they do sometimes. In fact I am sure that we are all the better for it.
Owing to the conditions of poverty in the cottages in our countryside, it would be cruel to keep our people there if there is a better living elsewhere, although the tradition of those people is rooted in those areas. They are compelled to go away from Radnorshire, a pleasant little county, and from Brecon, and in the past they left my division—that is, before I became their Member of Parliament. Since then I have helped to keep them there.
I remember the time when every young fellow had a chance to go to sea for a while. I was very keen to go to sea, but my parents said, "Stay at home. You may go wrong and lose your way." I am still very fond of travelling by land. sea or air and this is an occasion when I should like to say something about what I feel on the problem of civil aviation.
I have been a voluntary member of the Advisory Council for Civil Aviation in Wales and I know that the Minister for Welsh Affairs takes a very keen interest in and has come into contact with the Council. I believe that we in Wales, historically and temperamentally, are too ready to go up in the air perhaps. Certainly we go with no unwillingness. I 507 have had the pleasure of flying about 100,000 miles. I have flown in all kinds of things that fly, and I am and have been a great helicopter fan—not for the last six years but since Hiram Maxim was working with clumsy pieces of junk nearly 50 years ago. There was no metal suitable for his constructions in those days, but the brains were there and the ideas took root. Men were willing to adventure, and I was a helicopter fan. I do not think the thing ever went very high—nothing came of it. Then Bleriot came and flew across the Channel in what was almost as bad—a collection of junk—and a new kind of aeroplane had established its right for some time.
But I still think the helicopter is in the running, and speaking in a Welsh debate, I think the best kind of contribution to give to Wales is something which can go up and down on the mountains without taking too many risks, because that is the kind of country Wales is. I do not know of anything that could come immediately and provide better travelling facilities. One of the grave weaknesses of our social and national set-up in Wales is the difficulty in traversing our mountain ridges and valleys. and a helicopter would help.
I hope the Minister will give us a push up. He will find me quite willing to be pushed, and I am sure that the people of Wales will accept any leadership he has to offer in this matter. But let us have a good try out for a civil aviation service in Wales. Let us have the helicopter, but do not let us bank on it coming at once. The thing will come. All these new ideas have come for enterprise and industry, and if the concomitant is a decent standard of living, let us have them all.
I charge the Minister to see that we go through this reorganisation crisis with the utmost possible help. It will not be an easy thing. Nothing in life is easy. But the Government can help, and I ask the Ministers here to do all they can to help us to overcome this problem of reorganising steel and tinplate and perhaps some other things, including coal.
I ought to say something about coal, because I claim to know about coal. That is my job and I should be very hurt if anyone told me that I 508 do not know anything about coal. Without offence or injury to anyone, let me give this warning. We have to watch the coal industry at this stage. We have reached a dangerous point. If we delay, even for 12 months, it may be difficult to repair the injury that will have been caused. Let us not lose one single day in making up our minds that this industry must not shrink to less than it is now. I should be infinitely happier if production were 20 per cent. higher than it is at the present time.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am grateful to the House for giving me leave to speak again. I should like at once to make a point with which I shall have the assent of the whole House. I believe I am entitled to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) on his first speech as Father of the House. I think everyone would not only wish to express the affection we all bear for him, but also to say that if nothing else had happened today his last words would be a matter of help and assistance to his countrymen, and also to express our wish that for long may he be in the position and able to address this House.
We have heard today, and it is a healthy characteristic of this House, some denigration of this occasion; but I remind the House that on the other side of the scale, apart from any words of mine, we have had 18 speeches from Members representing Welsh constituencies. That in itself is a justification for this occasion, but that does not mean that I shall not consider most carefully the restrained words which have been spoken from all quarters of the House about the difficulties of this occasion. I suggest—I throw it out just as a feeler—that before the time comes round again, we might meet and discuss whether we can see a clear way to an improvement in the debate.
It is only right and proper that I should start with the very cogent speech made by the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris). There is one point which I should like to take up. It may well be that in dealing with that part of my subject I was not as clear as I should have been. The hon. Gentleman said to me, as he is entitled to do, and I take no offence, "Get on with it; we want action, not consideration"—to paraphrase his 509 words. I would remind him and the House that I was announcing an authorisation of work on the improvement of the road from Llanelly to Neath. That was not consideration but an announcement of authorisation.
I said, and the debate has proved that I was right, that there ought to be urgent consideration of all the other possible improvements in road and rail communications which can be shown to be economic and essential to industrial modernisation. The second point is that again I was announcing that the Government have decided on the survey with a view to site clearance. I do not want to repeat everything I said: the hon. Gentleman will remember that point. Thirdly, apart from the promise of the full use of powers under the Distribution of Industry Act, I was announcing—and this is important at a time when everyone has emphasised how we are being held up by the restrictions on capital investment—a relaxation of restrictions on building for the purpose of encouraging new industries and the other development I mentioned.
So I was announcing decisions that had been taken. The purpose of the Committee that I have in mind is that in future we should not only have these thoughts in mind as a result of Government consideration over a considerable period, but that we should have help and guidance from those on the spot who are dealing from day to day with the problems.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) regretted that I had not dealt with the question of the ports. I understand completely his attitude on that. I merely want to indicate four points, and I will do it as shortly as I can. The first is that, in 1952 as compared with 1951, there has been an increase of both inward and outward cargoes. I will not give the tonnage, but the percentages. The increase in inward cargoes was 6.9 per cent., and in outward cargoes 13.5 per cent. There has also been an increase in overall tonnage of vessels, and although the number of vessels is practically the same, there has been an increase of an appreciable figure.
The next point with which I want to deal concerns a matter on which I received a deputation—it is the question of railway rates. As the hon. Member 510 for Cardiff, South-East knows, and no one knows better because he has been at the Ministry of Transport, the Minister has no power to require the railways to grant exceptional rates, but the Tribunal has. I very much hope that that matter will go forward, because, although I do not want to say more about it, since it is a matter to be considered judicially, I think I am entitled to say as Minister for Welsh Affairs that I was most impressed by the case made out to me on that point.
The other matter which I know the hon. Gentleman had in mind was the fair use of the ports especially by the Ministry of Food. The hon. Gentleman asked me to ensure this, and I should like to report that I have done so. and that the Minister himself has that point very much in mind. On the general point, it is a matter which I also have greatly in mind, and, again, should be glad if there are any further aspects of the question in the mind of the hon. Gentleman, who has not spoken in the debate today, if he would perhaps be good enough to tell me informally in the House some time, and I will then try to look into them and press them forward on behalf of the Welsh ports.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Perhaps I might, in a brief interjection, say that the problem has now almost resolved itself into one of the future of Cardiff and Barry. The other ports are mainly provided for, and, now that the decision has been taken on Pengam Moors airfield, there may be a prospect of securing large scale industry that could be sited there in order to enable the ports of Cardiff and Barry to be better used. If he could direct his attention to get something like that done, I think we could say that there would be a material improvement in the use of those ports.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That is exactly the kind of point which I should like to thank him for putting to me.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West and the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. Mainwaring) from different aspects. raised the question of housing, and the latter hon. Member pressed its importance in strong and moving words. I am glad to say that Wales has had an improvement in her percentage of the increased number of houses in the past 12 months. If we compare houses completed in the 511 first nine months of 1951 and 1952, the overall increase is over 31,000 or 22 per cent., and the increase in houses completed in Wales is 1,950 or 28 per cent. Of the houses built to let, the overall increase is 23,830 or 19 per cent. and in Wales, 1,621 or 26 per cent. I am glad that there has been some righting of the proportion of houses built in Wales to houses built in Great Britain, which was on the small side.
The other building problem that was raised, if I may take it separately from the other educational matter with which I am going to deal, was the question of the building of schools in new housing estates. There has been a difficulty in South Wales—and I am not going to pick out authorities—as to the time taken in building schools compared with the proportionate time taken in the building of houses. I am told that that matter has been considered, and an attempt is being made to improve that rate of time, which will deal with the problem which the hon. Gentleman raised.
With regard to hospitals, the position is that the maximum allocation is being given to the country as a whole. That is, of course, a matter of argument, in which people have different views; but in the opinion of the Government the maximum allocation is being given. I specially asked for the Departmental view on the next point, which seemed to me important in view of the criticism which has been made namely, whether Wales was getting a full share of the allocation, and I am assured that she is. I shall get the actual detailed figures later on, but I asked for that opinion because I thought that that was what the hon. Gentleman had in mind.
If I may deal with the important question that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) raised as to the question of spastic children, I should like to put this to him. The first difficulty in dealing with the problem was securing agreement among the local authorities concerned as to co-operation to deal with the problem. One appreciates that. Again, I do not think one need be very critical. We have all had our experience: we all know the difficulties of getting agreement on these matters. But that agreement has been obtained. There was the second point on 512 which there was difficulty in getting agreement, namely, which authority is to be the instrument of those who have decided to co-operate and deal with the problem. Well, I am told that those were the reasons for the delay, but I am glad to say that now agreement has been obtained on both points, and that the Glamorganshire County Council is chosen as the instrument. The Ministry have agreed with the proposal that is being put forward, so that we hope that the school will be established now that agreement has been obtained.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me? I thank him very much for giving way. Is he aware that his right hon. Friend answered a question of mine concerning this many months ago, and made it perfectly clear that, long after the Welsh Joint Education Committee had agreed that Glamorgan should build this school, the Minister held it up for 12 months by pushing it into the next year's programme? It was in HANSARD.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am giving the account I got on making inquiries, and that is the position. At any rate, I am very glad that the matter is going forward.
With regard to North Wales, there again there was an element of disagreement, but I am told there is every hope that that will be smoothed out and that matter will go forward in that area.
§ Mr. P. Morris
I do not want to hinder the right hon. and learned Gentleman in any way, but he may recall that I referred to a voluntary effort being made a little further down, in West Wales. I thought the promoters had been in touch with the right hon. Lady's Department and were hoping that she would encourage us to cater for approximately 60 to 80 children who would not be so readily available for the school my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West had in mind.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It is rather difficult to deal with this in the middle of a debate. I have tried to hear as many speeches as I possibly could, but it is difficult to get briefing on every point. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend has that in mind, and as Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs I am charged with the duty of considering this important problem.
§ Mr. Morris
I must admit that I am addressing the right hon. Lady through the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I rather thought that was part of my job.
The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) raised the question of the leases of factories. I think he will agree that that is a somewhat complicated matter because, as he knows, there are the old leases, which were granted subject to alteration after a certain period, and there are the new leases, which are on different terms. I should like to make clear just two points. First, any rent that is fixed is fixed by the district valuer subject to appeal to the superintendent valuer. Secondly, the rent does take into account the favourable or unfavourable situation of the factory, so that the increase will more in the case of a factory favourably situated than in the case of one situated—if I may put it like this without disrespect—rather at the back of beyond. I only wanted to make it clear that there is no question of a flat rate increase without consideration of the circumstances or without appeal.
I come now to the question of rural electrification, which the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) raised so forcibly. I should like to say at once that he made the point on completely accurate figures, as far as my information goes, so that the case he made ought to be carefully considered, because it is obviously a serious problem. The first point I would put forward for his consideration is that the completion of the new 132,000-volt line from Carmarthen Bay to Carmarthen, which was due by the end of last year, will enable a much more rapid development in his area.
This again is not said in any voice of criticism, but it is the fact that South Wales has always been backward in rural electrification. In 1946, the average proportion of holdings with electricity in England was 30 per cent., in Carmarthen 12 per cent., in Monmouth 13 per cent., in Cardigan 4 per cent., and in Radnor 1 per cent.
So one must take into account, when one starts, a much more difficult problem. Therefore, as I see it, the problem is due to the lack of any adequate high tension network in the area, and the Board are 514 in process of developing a £12 million scheme on mains and transformers. I was going on to the other question of the method of charging, but perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan would like to intervene.
§ Mr. Bowen
Is it not right that so far as the mains and transformers are concerned this charge falls on B.E.A. and has nothing to do with the capital sum used by the Electricity Board. So unless the South Wales Electricity Board asks for a much greater capital sum for rural electrification, it is not going to help them. The other point is the fact that there is leaway to make up, which is a reason why the Board should be doing far more than other Boards and not less.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Obviously, the last point is a very strong argument. But the point which I was making was the absence of an adequate high-tension network, and I wanted to assure the House that that was being dealt with. I will certainly pass on and get consideration of the point which the hon. and learned Member has made, but I wanted to put these other points forward.
On the question of charging, the Consultative Council, after prolonged consultations with the Board, came to the conclusion that, although not ideal, the room count basis for assessment was preferable to any other alternative; but the Board have agreed to review their tariffs after a year's operation, to adjust any serious hardship that may be found. That, as the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise, is the best that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I can tell him today, but we will certainly bear the matter in mind.
As I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, I did see a deputation from quite near his constituency on this point, and although I have not actually been in Cardigan, I have been on the other side of the bridge in the Towey Valley, and therefore I know the problems are very similar. I should like to assure him that I have made enquiries and shall continue to keep the point in mind. My hon. Friends in the Ministry of Fuel and Power are in the same position, and have his points before them.
May I say a word with regard to the matter raised by the hon. Member for 515 Pontypool (Mr. West). As to his fears, I shall of course investigate them thoroughly, but so far I have had no indication that there is any early likelihood of the closure of the Monmouthshire works. I hope that the hon. Members who represent East South Wales did not feel that there was a lack of proper balance in my speech. It seemed to me that in West South Wales there was a problem which had been posed to us, the problem of the modernisation of industry with full Government support. As I have said, in these circumstances there is a special duty. We are all agreed on that point. That was why I was so anxious to assure the House that we had been considering the point, that we already had suggestions to put before the House and that we want to be kept in the closest possible touch with this matter. In other words, I wanted the House to know that we realised the responsibility and were acting upon it.
The hon. Gentleman made a number of points on specific matters in which he said there had been a holding back or a decrease. He referred to the first sentence in paragraph 336. I should like him to look at paragraph 337, which deals with the number of schemes which have been completed and the number of new schemes which have been started. I have tried in this debate to refrain as much as I can from party controversy, not because, as a number of hon. Gentlemen know, I am in the least reluctant to indulge in party controversy, but because it seemed to me that that was the best method of tackling the job which lies to my hand.
I would say quite generally to the hon. Gentleman that at the present time we believe that we have two immense problems that take a heavy toll of capital investment. There is, first, the re-armament policy, which is broadly carrying on the re-armament policy of our predecessors, and, secondly, there is the balance of payments position and the need for developing the export trade. That is why we have felt that we are in a very difficult position about capital investment; investment at home has not only an indirect but also a direct effect on the export trade. I simply put that point, and I hope the House will accept it from me that I have put it in as uncontroversial a way as I can.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I have not full information as to the aluminium company but, naturally, I have discussed tinplate with a great variety of people over the last few months. The hon. Gentleman will find that I am right when I say it is a question not only of the products of older mills but also of the supply of certain markets which has affected the works over the last few months. I do not want to quote the names of firms, but I want the House to know that I have examined this matter myself to see whether any improvement could he effected. That is my answer on that point.
With regard to the aluminium company, as the hon. Gentleman is a member of my own profession, perhaps I may put it that I had not been briefed on that point and was not able to find a brief in the time available. However, I have tried to answer the other two points which he raised. I have tried to take the most important points, and I apologise to hon. Members if their special points have not been dealt with. I should like to reassure them that I have made a note of them and that they will be studied again when the OFFICIAL REPORT is published.
I should like to conclude with a word about my own job. An hon. Gentleman opposite once said to me, when we were discussing the matter of my job, that there was in it a considerable place for what might be termed the "small change" of politics. I will not say who the hon. Member was, but he may remember the conversation. On one side my party might seek to have some of the small change of politics through me being appointed to the job. On the other hand, hon. Members may well get some of the small change of politics from the fact that I have no executive power, as some have done today with great good temper, and about which I make no complaint.
I only want to emphasise three points. Firstly, whether I have executive power or not, I have the power and the oppor- 517 tunity of going to Wales and meeting an infinite variety of people and getting their problems from them, as I have tried to do. Secondly, for a considerable period of my life I have made my living as an advocate, and, therefore, I thought it was not a bad description that I should be described as the constitutional advocate who speaks before a decision is come to and tries to put the point for the whole of Wales. The third point, which, of course, is again of constitutional importance and must be borne in mind when people are saying that I have no power, is that I am a member of the Cabinet and I can raise in the Cabinet any matter on which there is disagreement and get a solution.
I do not want to make a song about myself and about my position, but I think, looking at it objectively, it is a position which fulfils a useful function. Whether it is well done is a different question entirely, and on that I have nothing at all to say. But I should like to assure the House—and I hope they will not take it the wrong way—that I shall do my best and, in the famous words of an English humourist about a patent medicine, perhaps at the end of the day hon. Members will say that at least it did not do any actual harm.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ That this House takes note of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the matters referred to in the recent Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper, No. 8678).