§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
Despite the unfortunate delay in reaching this stage of the proceedings, Wales can take it with a smile. We shall come into our own on this special occasion. In the years before 1944, Members of Parliament from Wales and Monmouthshire did not know the luxury of special days in the House given entirely to Welsh affairs. In our generation, opportunities for debating matters concerning Wales have been fitted into Parliamentary arrangements. Despite our awareness of the imperfection of these debates, arising mainly from limited time, we prize the opportunity of having the Floor of the House to ourselves for a day.
We have been able to read and study yet another Report of Government action in Wales, making the eighth to date. This Report fills in the hard facts of the Principality's progress. It strikes me as a record not unblemished, but it acts as a window display of varied achievements and a kind of arcade of healthy rivalry. Nevertheless, taking all in all, what has been achieved during the period of these eight reports is a revolution compared with pre-war days.
Great credit and praise should go to all those who have played a part in that change. Their reward is in knowing and seeing the happier lot of the people. It is the result of hard and unremitting effort which plainly strengthens the existing chain of wide and varied production. The objective was the creation of jobs. Why has this noble objective been wrought in deeds? Mainly because Governments have increasingly used the resources at their command to strike at the roots of inertia, lack of will and enterprise. Now that we have reached this stage, I hope that full employment will endure. So much depends upon this that the arrangement to concentrate more or less on industrial matters today is a right decision.
I am very glad that the nationalised sectors of industry and services, shorn of important units such as the iron and steel 220 industry and road transport, are showing progress and vitality. The divisional coal board is enthusiastically pushing ahead with the modernisation and rehabilitation of the coalfields. This reorganisation and development is keeping alive a buoyant spirit in the industry. I trust that the enormous expenditure which is involved in implementing the coal plan in Wales and Monmouth will secure such an output that we shall see the black diamonds again available to give us a rich harvest of exports, so that our economic position can reach a firmer stability. This would be to everyone's advantage.
A big and flourishing production of coal would also bring long-awaited relief to the hard-hit ports of Wales, where so much capacity lies idle. This fulfilment of the coal plan for Wales and Monmouth is the big challenge of the day. There is an attraction and an inspiration in facing up to it and winning through. The nation, the management and the men are a three-stranded human cord of great strength which, in unity, can give to the commonweal the full response that the urgency of the task demands.
A message should go out from this House on this Welsh day. It is the joint good will and common purpose of management and men as public servants—now perceptibly growing but not yet perfected—that alone can bring us through to success. The expansion of the gas and electricity industries goes on apace. We watch with intense interest their steady progress in meeting the requirements of industry and the public. The great gas grid mains, the harnessing of coke oven gas, the butane-air development, and the bringing into use of methane gas from underground workings show encouraging conception and high management and technical qualities. Again, one notes with pleasure that regard is being paid by the two Electricity Boards serving Wales to the urgent need to extend to the rural areas—and by greater and speedier measures than hitherto, which is important—the boon of electricity.
It is a matter for pride, too, to see the private sector of industry, in the many hundreds of works and factories, plodding away so merrily, although with a certain amount of anxiety, some of them turning out a marvellous array of products for home consumption and export 221 to all parts of the world. Wales has taken them to her heart and I think they have found a fair degree of co-operation from the workers, the authorities and Governmental agencies. They have been strong pillars to our new industrial strength. Many of them, of course, are very small, but wisdom, I believe, beckons us not to despise the day of small beginnings.
Serving all these industries is the nationalised sector of British Railways—the Western Region—providing industry and the public with a vital transport service. Many improvements have been made and greater efficiency has, I think, been seen in the Western Region since nationalisation. All I ask is that we should be given more so that the esteem held for those who serve the railways can be still further increased.
Although the general economic conditions of Wales at present is set fair, that does not mean that we have no fears, no problems and no difficulties. There are occasional jolts such as when news is given that 50 or 100 or 200 or more employees in a factory or industry are to be declared redundant; or, again, when short time extends like a creeping paralysis. These clouds in varying gradations are now over the iron and steel industry, temporarily abated in West Wales, West Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. They appear over the British Overseas Airways Corporation, Treforest; Creeds Ltd., Treforest; Northern Aluminium Works, Rogerstone; and the Royal Ordnance Factory, Llanishen. These are matters which we cannot pass by lightly. They cause very deep anxieties. Should these unpleasant threats be vaporised and soon pass away, let their appearance alert us against any complacency, which can prove to be our greatest enemy.
A very keen competition is developing for world trade. We have heard of the agreement with Japan and the consternation which it has caused. This competition is bound to get keener and keener, and, if we are to hold our own successfully, every facet of industrial life will need to give of its best. The time is here to take stock and to look in what directions the taking of new courses might strengthen and reinforce our industrial set-up in Wales. 222 In bringing new factories into Wales there could be but very little selectivity as to the choice of industries; almost all and sundry were welcomed. No one was to blame for that. It met the circumstances of the time. Jobs all round was the first necessity. The aim was to develop them in a comparatively short time.
This, I suggest, has left some weaknesses. I am not satisfied that the proportion of skilled jobs is sufficient when compared with unskilled types of work. Creating good jobs is a problem for industry. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs endeavour to see that attention is paid to this aspect in order that, if it is found desirable, a course may be set which will help to build up those industries giving a progressive number of skilled jobs? The youth of Wales is keen, intelligent and industrious; and a goodly percentage of our young people fill our grammar and technical schools and provide a steady intake to universities not only in Wales but throughout Britain.
Where do these and other most excellent products of our higher schools and universities find their careers? Do a fair proportion find their opportunities in Wales? A local industrial structure which can absorb more of them will be a marked gain in the long term or the long haul. They would be able to provide the industrial shoots of future development. In this connection the Minister's backroom boys—and I am thinking of the various Ministerial Departments—should carefully study the matter.
The thought-provoking article of Mr. A. J. Nicholas in the "Western Mail" Industrial Review entitled, "Importance of Capital Plant Manufacture" deserves close attention. I do not think it is unbecoming of me to pay a real tribute here to the splendid work which the "Western Mail" have done in this direction—if it is one of the few jobs they have done. But there it is; they have done that, and I think they should have credit for it. It was a very good production indeed.
After pointing out that capital plant manufacture, with its large proportion of skilled labour, forms an important part 223 of the economy of important parts of the United Kingdom, Mr. Nicholas wrote:We need in this area a large number of skilled men and organisations capable of training men. These needs are bi-lateral. We must have the industries to train the men and we need the trained men in order to establish the industries. Pioneer work is necessary and the inception problems are of a delicate order.He refers here to the South Wales Switch Gear, Ltd., and he says:Our own works dealing with capital plant illustrate this problem. Twelve years ago the works had a very small personnel of 30 people rising within the first 12 months to 60. Apprentices were immediately obtained"—and many of these from the grammar schools locally—but these could be only few in number because of the size of the factory. As these apprentices matured, however, more apprentices could be absorbed. Today we have 100 apprentices in the organisation and the number will grow year by year. This is a snowball process and training begets training on an increasing scale.I well remember this little factory commencing its operations 12 years ago. I felt from the very beginning that Mr. Nicholas had the right conception. He went to the grammar schools for the apprentices. That factory has now been enlarged, with its own apprentices, and is producing switch gear and transformers competing successfully with firms all over the world. One of the big tasks facing Wales is that of getting the increased skill. We shall ignore the task at our cost. There is room for the backroom boys here.
So much for skilled jobs. I refer now to a most interesting radio talk about what was termed the "good" jobs. Mr. Brennan, the gentleman who gave the talk, asked about the other avenues of promotion and advancement in industry apart from those represented by skilled manual work. Fortunately, there is an approximate yardstick to measure this.
Before the National Insurance Scheme came into operation in 1948, certain classes of workers were exempt from unemployment insurance on the general ground that they were too well off to need it. This group consisted mainly of employers and self-employed, and non-manual workers earning over £420 a year. This covered civil servants, electrical engineers, overmen, established employees 224 in transport—in other words, people who had fairly good jobs.
These people received insurance cards for the first time in 1948 and, for men under 65, the number of such cards issued for any industry, or in any area, can be used as a fair index of the number of "good" jobs provided by that industry or in that area. It is intensely interesting. Mr. Brennan said:Comparing one area with another, the average proportion of ' good' jobs to other jobs in Great Britain is, for men, about one in four: for Wales it is one in five: for western South Wales, that is the area round Port Talbot, Neath, Swansea, Llanelly and the anthracite coalfield, it is slightly less than one in seven.Mr. Brennan commented:The Swansea area in particular is deficient in opportunities for good type jobs. This means that the basis on which new products and new processes and new businesses might arise is, to a large extent, missing.That is the weak link in our structure. We have, so to speak, marched forward one mile. Now we ought to review the position about the next mile. There is a first stage and a second stage—whatever metaphor one might use.
My submission is that what has been done is commendable but it is only part of the solution. The quality and degree of skill in the 137,000 new jobs created in the Principality should be weighed and closely studied for the next march forward. The key for a stronger industrial base might be found in the direction of capital plant expenditure.
Many of my hon. Friends have been pressing for separate statistics for Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has promised from the Dispatch Box that the Government intended to publish a separate annual digest of Welsh statistics. That promise was generally welcomed. Can he now be firmer in his undertaking by giving an assurance that these statistics, in their completeness, shall be in no way inferior to those issued for Scotland? They should at least assist in helping us to be intelligent in our conflicts over political differences and enable us to base our arguments on facts.
I am sorry to have to raise this King Charles' head again, but the Severn Bridge is another matter in which as Welsh Members we are bound to take an interest. What about the Severn Bridge and the essential road links? The 225 British Road Federation, a most active and lively body, supply us with a good deal of material. This question is bound to be voiced repeatedly until authorisation of the erection of the new bridge is given. The impetus and driving force for this important project come from the knowledge that both South Wales and vital parts of England suffer because the road communications between them are incredibly bad.
Our industries are stunted as a result. Our ports lose trade. Huge capital outlays are crippled. Welsh Members of Parliament avow that this is a key bridge. We must have it. We are informed on the cost and conscious of its magnitude. We cannot accept the Government's decision that this key bridge has still to be considered as a long way off. We beg that there should be a reconsideration of the question and urge the economic necessity of road developments for the efficiency of our industries in Wales.
I come to miscellaneous matters, one or two of which affect my own constituency. There is the British Overseas Airways Corporation redundancy problem at Treforest Trading Estate. There is a serious threatened redundancy problem at this establishment. Aero-engine overhaul and certain development work has successfully been carried out for upwards of 14 years. A big capital outlay is being, and has been, made on the erection of engine test beds, including test beds for jet engines. In addition, costly equipment is installed at the factory, where a rattling good job has been done.
My information is that this redundancy is the result, in part, of the Government's policy of restrictions on the British Air Corporations. The B.O.A.C. have a number of Hermes aircraft lying idle. Though they are suitable for trooping purposes, they cannot be used because trooping contracts are restricted to charter companies. This is an unfortunate policy which gravely affects the intake of Hermes engines for overhaul at the Treforest B.O.A.C. factory.
I have made the strongest possible representations to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Supply, and also I have asked the Minister for Welsh Affairs to use his good offices in the matter. It will be a grave disservice to South Wales if the factory, with its most excellent personnel, is 226 allowed to slide into decay and disuse. Should the Minister have some encouraging news to give the House, it will be welcomed.
Another matter is the concern felt about the proposed power station at The Leys, Gilestown, Glamorgan. Concern was felt not only at siting the power station where it is proposed to site it, but at the process in deciding the site. We know that we must have additional power stations, but why are amenity areas chosen when such a choice whips up fierce opposition? In two cases in Monmouthshire—certainly at Llanover and Machen—the projects had to be turned down after a public inquiry.
I think that opposition is being marshalled against the proposals about The Leys. I do not quarrel with the procedure of public inquiry, but why do not the Electricity Commissioners first consult the planning authority for the area in an effort to agree upon the site rather than go to a lot of expense in arbitrarily selecting a site and testing for foundations, only to be opposed by all sorts of interests and the planning authority for the area, probably being forced finally to a public inquiry, and perhaps, in the end, the Minister refusing consent? I think it is a great waste of money.
I submit to the House that the people of Wales have many achievements to their credit. They can and will have many more. Given encouragement and a fair share of the national expenditure for Wales' essential needs, fair play in the earning of their living, sympathy and understanding for Welsh culture, they will remain true, loyal and firm friends in helping to overcome any difficulties that the future may hold for the nation.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I am very pleased to be able to follow the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) in the commercial and industrial survey which he gave us, and which, I think, rivals in excellence the articles to which he generously referred in the "Western Mail." I am also pleased because he has the doubtful distinction of being my Member of Parliament and I must say, having heard him this afternoon, that I shall be tempted to vote for him at the next Election if only he will come over to this side of the House. 227 I think it would also be somewhat inappropriate, speaking as one Welsh Guardsman alter another, if we were to quarrel in front of so many representatives of regiments of the line. Having heard the hon. Gentleman, I think there is very little occasion to do so.
Regarding what he says about The Leys, I am in full agreement not to contract further the coastline of Glamorgan. At a time when more and more people have more money and more leisure, it seems to me foolish to pawn the future health and the well-being of the industrial population of South Wales, for the coastline and the beaches are the lungs through which the industrial areas breathe. I should like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the lead he has given in this connection.
It is always tempting to use a "Welsh day" for the airing of importantlocal problems, and there are plenty of them. There is the problem of Cardiff Docks, the redundancy at the Royal Ordnance factory at Llanishan, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and also the need for the Severn Bridge. But I will be brief and set an example, at least, in exercising a reasonable self-denying ordinance. I would rather speak this afternoon on two matters of a somewhat wider nature. First of all, in regard to statistics. The hon. Member for Pontypridd referred to what my right hon. Friend said in the House on, I think, 3rd December, that it is the Government's intention to publish a separate annual digest of Welsh statistics in future at the same time as the Annual Report is published on Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire.
When statistics are needed for policy making or for measuring the results of policy, for example, the trends of tuberculosis in Wales, there is, of course, an unanswerable case for producing them. In my view, that case is sufficiently strong in its own right without having to drag in the slogan of parity with Scotland, or anywhere else.
But this demand for statistics is already, in part, tainted with nationalism. There was an article in the "Wales and Monmouthshire Commercial and Industrial Review," written by Professor Brinley Thomas. I do not know whether he is a Welsh Nationalist or not, but the 228 article was an example of what I mean. In that article, Professor Thomas asked for certain information ranging from the number of estates in Wales liable to Estate Duty, by range of estate, age and sex, to how much of the income generated in Wales is spent elsewhere.
It would be very remarkable if it could be calculated exactly how much income is generated in Wales, and even more remarkable if a deduction could be made of the sums which flow over Offa's Dyke in both directions. Every pint drunk over the border, every coupon sent to Liverpool, every mail order sent to Manchester, and, finally, a thousand and one other considerations would have to be taken into account, and, at the end of the day, what possible interest would the answer be?
We have just had the first fruits of the Catto Committee in regard to Scotland. I am told that there is already considerable disagreement as to what the figures mean. Turning to the "Financial Times," I find that out of the total revenue raised in the United Kingdom, Scotland contributed less than 10 per cent., whereas out of expenditure allocated for the benefit of residents in England, Wales and Scotland she received 12 per cent.
But who is the wiser for that? Certainly not the Scottish Nationalist for, as the "Financial Times" commented yesterday:The spirit of nationalism cannot be exorcised by chartered accountancy.Are the English any the wiser by knowing now what they have long suspected? I do not think so for one moment. Long experience has taught the English that it is no less blessed to give than to receive.
Speaking from a limited experience of dealing with able civil servants, I have learned that it is extremely rare for them to complain that they are hamstrung for lack of knowledge or for lack of statistics. I think it is the politicians who complain about the lack of statistics, first, when they do not like the statistics they have got, and, secondly, when they find it difficult to make a political decision.
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) will not mind if I quote one of the many wise sayings 229 of her very wise father. Dr. Thomas Jones. He said:Englishmen feed themselves with the facts and deduce their faith from them; the Welsh bring their faith to the facts, and if they clash so much the worse for the facts.As one Welshman to another, I agree with what Dr. Thomas Jones wrote.
I seriously ask my right hon. and learned Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bear these considerations in mind when they are asked to produce costly statistics of no economic or social value whatsoever. I would also ask them to remember the views expressed in "The Conservative Policy for Wales and Monmouthshire," where it says:There is no economic separateness of Wales to correspond with its national separateness…To treat Wales in isolation from England economically would mean the impoverishment of both countries, and not least of Wales itself.I therefore ask my right hon. and learned Friend to publish statistics which will serve useful purposes, but to reject those which are of no value.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Perhaps people will never agree about what is significant and what is not, but the people who must judge are those with the best brains in the Government of the day, and their advisers.
There have been recent signs that the Labour Party are coming to grips with the disease of Welsh nationalism. I hope that no Conservative will seek to turn this welcome change to party advantage, for it is supremely important that the people of Wales should be in no doubt that both the Conservative and the Labour Parties reject Welsh nationalism and all the evils that flow from it. That is not to say necessarily that the present administrative, Governmental arrangements are perfect. However, I believe that any imperfections can readily be put right.
§ Mr. Davies
As to this very interesting matter which is exercising the hon. Gentleman's mind and the emotions of many people in Wales, will he please explain on what grounds satisfactory to himself he insists that Cardiff should be recognised as the capital of Wales, if the Welsh are not a nation? Capital of what does he seek that Cardiff should be? Will he please tell the House?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I have not denied for one moment that the Welsh are a nation. We have been described, I think very aptly, as a nation of quarrelsome nightingales. Why we should not sing for our own city as capital I do not know. However, the difficulties that may confront us in the administrative field could, in my view, be quite readily put right. It may be the case that more powers of devolution should be granted to more Government Departments. If it is the case, I am aware of no insurmountable obstacles in the way of doing that. I hope that nothing will be done, by either side of the House, that is rooted in the desire to appease nationalist sentiment, but that the sole criterion will be the well-being of the Welsh people.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
We are reminded that this is the eighth Annual Report of Government action in Wales. Recent reports at least reveal the vast changes that have taken place in Wales in recent years. It is no longer a country primarily concerned with coal production, steel, agriculture, or the quarrying industry. We have seen in recent years the establishment of many factories producing consumer goods for both domestic and foreign trade. What is more important, there is an ever increasing output of capital goods. So Wales is making a very valuable contribution to the national production.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) in pointing out that Wales, particularly the south, is now in a more prosperous position than ever. It is largely due to the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. We on this side of the House take a great deal of pride in what has been achieved through that Act. It has created new life in Wales, and we are now reaping what the Labour Government sowed. It is very gratifying indeed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is able to give us a favourable report upon the activities under that Act. When the present Government came to power just over two years ago, they were able to take advantage of this increase in the production of Wales and in the better economy of Wales.
The problem with which we are confronted today is, what about the future? That is what Welshmen are particularly concerned about at present. I think the 231 right hon. and learned Gentleman himself posed the question in his message of welcome to the "Western Mail" Industrial Supplement:How are we going to keep up our exports in the teeth of the ever-increasing competition from other countries?There is no simple answer to this question, but of one thing I am certain. The adaptable have a great advantage in the race—the industrialist who is willing to develop new lines, and new methods, and give up cherished plans to do it, the employee who is not afraid to go into a new job and learn new processes when the demand for his traditional production falls off.That is very true, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman could have added that the Government should also be adaptable in these circumstances. I therefore put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, are the Government prepared to adapt themselves to the changing circumstances? What plans have the Government in mind to deal with the position in Wales? We are already reminded that competition is becoming keener. There is a fear—we hope only a fear—that there may be some trade recession. How are our industrialists and employees in Wales to cope with this competition in future? That is the problem that arises in this debate. That is what we are really concerned about, and we desire to know what plans are to be put into operation.
As my hon. Friend has already indicated, the state of many roads in Wales is deplorable. So we must start by saying that in Wales we are sufferinga severe handicap when we are asked to face serious competition. It is not a question only of the bottlenecks at Newport, which are very serious indeed, for through Monmouthshire goes all the transport bound for the Midlands. The bottlenecks at Newport are well known to those in the Principality, but there are also the bottlenecks at Chepstow. The whole road situation in the southern part of Wales is very serious, and the proposals we have had recently to improve it do not by any means meet the position.
Expenditure of £50 million was talked about in our last debate, and it has been talked about in the country generally, but that sum is not enough. It is only tinkering with the problem, because this is not only a question of the main arterial roads, for the roads in the valleys of Wales are in a deplorable state. Apart from resurfacing, the roads in the valleys are no 232 different now from what they were 50 and 60 years ago, and they are not capable of coping with the immense traffic travelling along the valleys of South Wales. In my own constituency, at Pontllanfraith, the railway level crossing is just as it was 100 years ago.
Involved in this question of roads are not only the movement of commodities and manufacturing costs, but welfare considerations, too. School children have to travel to and from school in buses through these valleys, and the men who are working shifts in factories travel them also. There is the question of danger to the public. The disadvantages to our transport constitute a serious handicap in facing serious industrial competition in the future. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to apply his mind to the fact that unless something is done to improve the roads in Wales we shall not have a fair chance in competing.
That brings me to my second point. I repeat: what plans have the Ministry should we be faced with a trade recession? Coal is still our basic industry, but it is not only coal as the raw material that is valuable to the nation. Many by-products have grown up. Plastics, synthetic fibre and other things can now be produced from coal, and as a result many new articles can be put on the export market to improve our trade.
There is coal in South Wales, and it seems to me that the development of these industries, in thelight of experience, could be undertaken to deal with the changed position, and some encouragement could be given to the industrialists in Wales so that they would be in a position to make arrangements for a quick change over to produce other commodities should the necessity arise. In time of war it is marvellous what we can do. We revolutionise industry, and in this struggle for economic survival the Government should be in a position to make plans after consulting the industrialists of Wales to see what changes could be brought about if they are to be faced with serious competition.
We should get in touch with the Coal Board and the research departments to see what products from coal can be brought to, and used in, many of the light industries in South Wales. In Monmouthshire there are at least seven or eight factories in the sewing industry producing 233 garments of various descriptions, which employ a large number of men and women. If we are to be faced with serious competition, to have these factories producing the same sort of commodities will be serious, and negotiations could surely take place to make preparations to enable transferment to other work in time of necessity.
It is plans of that kind which the Government should have in mind. I should be glad to know from the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the Government are seriously considering the position which may arise should we be faced with either a recession of trade or a situation in which competition is so great that many of the handicaps which exist in Wales could be removed and Wales could be given a better chance to help its people.
Of course, this involves planning. A great deal of attention needs to be given to the Welsh problem. With all due respect to the Minister, I say that I have sat in this House for some time and I have seen him taking on many problems on the part of the Government. He is put up to deal with so many aspects of Government policy at the present time that I cannot see what possible time he can give to dealing adequately with a new plan for Wales.
If Wales is to have a fair crack of the whip, we must have someone who is prepared to devote more of his time to Welsh affairs and the condition of the Welsh people, particularly so far as industry is concerned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman reminds me of those games of football where one is playing full-back one day, half-back the next and centre forward the next. He is all over the field and he can never score in those circumstances. He must be restricted to a particular job. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is very versatile, but I do not think that he is versatile enough to be able to deal with all the problems with which he is faced in this House and adequately to deal with Welsh problems in those circumstances.
We are now supposed to be in a fairly prosperous position, but I noticed that in a reply given to the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) a few days ago, on the question of unemployment in Anglesey, it was stated that of the 234 insured population 82 per cent. were unemployed whereas in the country as a whole it was 1.6 per cent. That is a very serious state of affairs. It requires planning and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to seriously look at the position in Anglesey, where the rate of unemployment is so serious.
That brings me to other problems. With all the prosperity which still exists in Wales, there are still over 5,800 disabled men unemployed, 1,000 of whom are men suffering from pneumoconiosis. It is true that the figure of unemployment for pneumoconiosis is considerably less than it was, but, nevertheless, it still remains a very serious problem. Of the 5,800 disabled unemployed, 4,000 come from South Wales—men who are seriously disabled.
I should have thought that with all the factories to which I have referred working, and the light industries, there would have been a better attempt made to find work for many of these disabled men. Scores of them have spent almost a lifetime in the mining industry. There are 1,000 of them still idle and they have been idle for many years, suffering from pneumoconiosis. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether any of the Government Departments has a programme for finding employment for these disabled men.
It is not only a question of, say, 1,000 or 2,000 men being disabled. They are also suffering a reduction in their income. Some time ago a petition was presented in the House concerning Section 62 of the National Insurance Act, and we hoped that the Government would again put that Section of the Act into operation, but instead of that we have had a Regulation whereby, after a period of time, these unemployed persons cease to get unemployment benefit and are forced on to National Assistance. When they come under National Assistance, every penny over £1 is taken into consideration by the Assistance Board as income coming into the home. As a result, some of these pneumoconiosis sufferers, and many other disabled men who were getting £2 or £3compensation, have a reduction of £1 or 30s. in their income.
Many of these men desire work which the Ministry of Labour is not in a position to give them. The Regulations 235 say, in effect, "Although you cannot find work, and although the Ministry is not in a position to give you any, your unemployment benefit is to be discontinued after a certain time." While wages are being increased in almost every industry, the disabled man has been suffering a reduction in income. This is a very serious matter, and I had hoped that the Minister of National Insurance would have been present. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will deal with that subject, because it is having a very serious effect upon people in South Wales.
There is one other point which I should like to address to the Minister for Welsh Affairs. That is in connection with men who are suspected of dying from pneumoconiosis. A practice is adopted by coroners in South Wales which, unfortunately, gives rise to a great deal of distress among widows. I know that in this matter I shall have the prompt attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
Some coroners, when a man is suspected of having died from pneumoconiosis, do what I regard as the right thing and convene an inquest. As it is a matter for a medical board for compensation purposes under the Industrial Injuries Act, the coroner adjourns the inquest and the matter is referred to the medical board. When the medical board has made its decision that a man has died from pneumoconiosis, the coroner resumes the inquest and a verdict is returned in accordance with the medical evidence given by the board. That seems to be a sensible way of dealing with this matter.
Many coroners, however, do not adopt that practice. When a workman is suspected of having died from pneumoconiosis, the coroner calls for local post mortem examination. A local post mortem is held and the local doctors may say that in their view the person concerned died from pneumoconiosis. The verdict is given at the inquest, and it appears in the local Press. In these circumstances, the widow fully expects to be paid compensation under the Industrial Injuries Act or the workmen's compensation Act, as the case may be.
In the meantime, however, the matter has had to be referred to the medical board, which has been set up under the 236 Industrial Injuries Act to decide whether death is due to the disease. In a fortnight or three weeks, the medical board gives its decision that the person has not died from pneumoconiosis. The widow then has two certificates, one from the local post mortem examination and another from the medical board at Cardiff. The House will appreciate the distress which this causes. However much one explains that the medical board is the authority under the Industrial Injuries Act for compensation purposes, the widow holds a death certificate signed by doctors as the result of a local post mortem which says that death was due to pneumoconiosis.
The matter does not rest there. The widow has friends in the mining villages. The result of the post mortem will have been given in the local Press, and as a result doubt is raised as to the competency of the medical board which is set up to deal with these problems, and the work of the trade union and all concerned with these unfortunate cases is rendered extremely difficult. Surely an arrangement could be made, or a general directive issued to coroners, to deal with this matter in a better way.
In the Rhondda, for example, yet another procedure is adopted. On a workman being suspected of having died from pneumoconiosis, the body is conveyed to Cardiff Infirmary. This may be desirable, but I do not know whether it is possible to convey the body to Cardiff in all these cases. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give this matter his attention.
Many men are working in the mines and factories of South Wales after the age of 65. They continue at work and earn the added increment of, I think, 1s. 6d. a year for a man and wife, so that after a few years, at the age of 67 or 68, they will have earned an extra pension of 3s. or 6s., as the case may be. Possibly one of these persons falls sick and has to draw National Assistance. When he does so, the added increment which he has earned by working after the age of 65 is taken into consideration as a means test. That is a wicked and iniquitous method to adopt.
The Government and the nation are asking men to work after the age of 65 wherever possible. Inducement is handed out through the Industrial Injuries Act 237 and the added increment if they work for another year or two. At the same time, however, if people have to go on to National Assistance, the few shillings added increment which they earn in the mines or elsewhere is taken into consideration. I hope that here, too, the right hon. and learned Gentleman can give a reply on behalf of the Ministry of National Insurance and Pensions, because men are being discouraged, particularly in the mining industry, from remaining at work to earn the extra few shillings when it is used against them in the event of their having to draw National Assistance.
I have dealt with the policy with which we are confronted in South Wales. I have also drawn the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to certain administrative difficulties which, I hope, will have his attention. I can only hope that as a result of the debate today, the Government will quickly make up their minds and tell us when they will have a policy to deal with any future contingencies in trade that might arise in the Principality.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I think that both sides of the House enjoyed the way in which the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) introduced the debate, and we all listened with great interest to the last remarks of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who spoke about disabled men. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to look at this question in their light.
Some time ago I raised one aspect, of this matter with my right hon. Friend the then Minister of National Insurance. I submit that it could possibly be arranged for all these men to be medically re-examined. Their re-examination should be upon a different basis, however, with the test, which I believe has been applied in individual cases, that if it is shown that their ability to obtain work is seriously prejudiced by their condition, they should be entitled to sick benefit, which they are still able to obtain under existing legislation. It would be out of order for me, one the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, to suggest legislation, but I think that within existing legislation there is a good opportunity for extending the benefits to men in genuine need whose ability to obtain work is 238 seriously prejudiced by their state of health arising from partial or total disablement.
Today's debate is, in one sense, momentous for those of us who represent Welsh constituencies, in as much as it is our second debate on Welsh affairs in the same Session. I hold the view that we should have at least two days in every Session. We demand less of the House than Scotland does, and, of course, we cannot be compared with Ulster, which has its own Parliament. We certainly have a strong claim for at least two days each Session; we could then proceed to discuss a third day. Neither does Wales occupy one day per week for Welsh Questions, as Scotland does for its Questions.
I think it will be agreed that the White Paper is an excellent document, but it is dated September, 1953. In this connection we have, fortunately, what might be deemed to be an additional White Paper—the Commercial and Industrial Review of 18th January, 1954, published by the "Western Mail." Indeed, it is this document which largely brings up to date the picture presented in the White Paper. I hope that on future occasions it will be possible for the White Paper to be published at a convenient date which will permit of a debate within reasonable time of publication. This is a matter of some importance, because there are many things in the White Paper upon which one cannot speak sensibly without later information. It is fortunate that in many more important questions there discussed, there have not been marked changes since the publication of that Report.
Before I venture to make any suggestions about industrial topics, I should like to follow up some remarks which have been made by other hon. Members. In Wales we have now a most peculiar constitutional system. It might be described as a five-tier system. We have my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs, as the top tier, though he might choose to regard himself as the basic tier. We have also an Under-Secretary of State concerned with Welsh Affairs, and we have a Council for Wales. Fourthly, there are several Departments of State which have Welsh offices, and, finally, we have certain public boards which have Welsh units, an example of which is the Wales Gas Board. 239 I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend—again, I would be out of order in suggesting anything that might be legislation—how this constitutional machinery is working. I do not think I am out of order in saying that I have arrived at a state of mind where I would support a Secretary for Wales. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) agrees with me in that view. I think, also, that I would have the support of the national daily for Wales which, in its columns and leading articles, has advocated that step. That would need legislation, but what I am asking now is how the constitutional machinery is working and whether it is working sufficiently well to suggest that other steps forward are a practical possibility? I am keeping to this particular form of words because, by the rules of debate, I am forced to take this course.
I believe, also—and this does not require legislation—that other Departments should, where possible, have a Welsh Department, and certainly they should have an office in Wales. I welcome the promise that there is to be a digest of statistics. I only hope, too, that there will be a separate financial return. With all respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), who has a very precious and individual view on this matter, which is certainly not borne out by many people in Wales, and even in the area which might be described as largely Anglicised in the eastern part of South Wales, I think such a digest would be welcome. I find that even people of doubtful Welsh ancestry, if I may so describe them, still feel there is a case for separate returns of Welsh statistics.
I well remember that when I raised this matter in the House some time ago, and supported the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), my hon. Friend then interjected with a supplementary that he was not in favour of this and that no one else wanted it. Soon afterwards I received a tremendous mail on the subject.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
If my hon. Friend will refer to that Question and answer, he will see that I said most people did not want that sort of information. I go further and say that nearly all Welsh people do not want to waste money on informa- 240 tion which is of no value to them. When the information is of value to them they should have it.
§ Mr. Gower
I would not dispute that if people who give no thought to such topics be included, most of the people will not want it, but many who think about these things would want it. I am discussing the large number who take an interest in these matters. I feel that it is not always right to judge questions on their material value. We must not be limited to material things, and it would be taking up a false attitude to say that these figures will be of no use to the Welsh people and, therefore, we should not have them. That is an attitude which I, personally, as a Welshman, cannot and will not take. I believe it is right and proper that we should have the best information for judgment purposes, not only in deciding our industrial future but also in arriving at a proper appraisement of our political and constitutional future.
I have also suggested that there should be separate Welsh offices in every Government Department. I believe that a case may be made out that where an industry is nationalised, there should be a separate Welsh unit. I know that I am on very controversial ground here, and I know that my hon. Friends on both sides of the House, particularly those representing North Wales constituencies, will probably challenge this, but I would draw attention to the remarkable success of the Wales Gas Board. It is perhaps successful because it is a Wales Gas Board and because it has such a capable Welshman as its chairman.
I would point out that this Board is showing a unique example in that recently certain wage and salary increases were granted. As I understand, it is now stated that these pay increases may not result in any extra cost, but will be absorbed in some way by improved administration.
The Electricity Board is upon a different basis, and I will not discuss that at any great length today. Most of us have read with pleasure that there is to be some extension by the South Wales Electricity Board in rural electrification in that part of South Wales which, in the past, was rather badly served, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) pointed out in a former debate. 241 The Electricity Board did make the point that the farming community had not always responded to the new service. I sincerely hope that farmers and rural consumers will realise fully the expense involved in taking this service to them and will co-operate by using it reasonably and widely, and not merely for the purposes of lighting.
I support the remarks of the hon. Member for Pontypridd and my hon. Friend for Cardiff, North about the Leys project. The Vale of Glamorgan has already been sadly despoiled by the development of the St. Athans airfield and, some time previously, by the development of certain cement works along the coast. Another large undertaking of this kind would certainly be, if not the last blow, a very serious blow to the small part of the county of Glamorgan which is still rural and beautiful. The power station, I am advised, is a project which must have serious effects upon the beaches. In this connection, it was recently reported to me that already deposits into the sea from the Uskmouth station at Newport are causing serious trouble, although at the time of the inquiry it was stated that no deposits would enter the sea which would produce sediment, discolouration or anything of that kind.
The beaches between Penarth and St. Athans, and Barry in particular, may be described as the playground of South Wales, providing an outlet for the industrial valleys of Rhondda and most of the Monmouthshire valleys. This should be a serious consideration, particularly when added to those which have already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Pontypridd, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North.
There is also a closely related problem which I may describe as the joint problem of coal production on the South Wales ports. I would be the last to say that our difficulties in South Wales are due to any one single reason. Indeed, it may be said that some of the factors which have produced prosperity have militated against the maintenance of large exports of coal; thus the consumption of available coal supplies has been increased by the large number of factories, the steel works and the electricity plants—which all use coal. 242 All those things have left a smaller surplus, but I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend will consult the Minister of Fuel and Power, because there is a strong suspicion in Cardiff and in Barry that large amounts of coal are being exported to England from the South Wales coalfield by land in order to bolster up exports from the eastern ports of England. That is the suspicion, I do not know what basis there is for it, but I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will try, in his office as Minister for Welsh Affairs, to arrive at some solution of the difficulty.
The future of the ports of Cardiff and Barry is something about which most people in those areas are extremely worried. They were worried a couple of years ago, but every month now their concern increases. I would remind the Minister that in wartime these ports were great strategic assets. We all hope that we shall not need them as such in the future, but in this uncertain world that possibility should be borne in mind, for a day may come again when those eastern ports, which now appear to be having the cream of trade in coal exports, may be unusable and this country may be glad to turn to the Bristol Channel ports, among others, which are in such difficulty today.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
The hon. Gentleman has recited what we all agree with, that there is a problem. Would he now tell us what he believes ought to be done for the ports of Cardiff and Barry?
§ Mr. Gower
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard me but, before I arrived at this point, I had been dealing with the difficulty of the Coal Board. I had suggested that there is a strong suspicion that coal is being exported from the South Wales coalfield to bolster up the exports of the English East Coast ports. I believe the remedy can only be the resumption of coal exports—
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
When the hon. Gentleman talks about the East Coast ports, to which ones is he alluding?
§ Mr. Gower
I was alluding particularly to the ports in the extreme north-east, where the coal exports are now at a very high percentage of their pre-war level as compared with the coal exports of South 243 Wales. I believe that the ultimate salvation of our South Wales ports must lie in the resumption of coal exports, because it is not easy to develop quickly general cargo traffic, particularly as we have a distinct liability with regard to inland transport charges. There is also the opposition of the employers and trade unions of the other ports and, apart from that, it is not easy to find the skill required for general cargo and it is not always available in ports which have dealt primarily with coal.
Only on days of Welsh debates can I make reference to matters of civil aviation and transport. In that connection I support the remarks of the hon. Member for Pontypridd about the B.O.A.C. establishment at Nantgarw in which several of my own constituents are working. It seems that there is an opinion that it is the policy of B.O.A.C. to centralise their work around London. I suggest that this may be strategically extremely unsound, and I would point out that when at the beginning of the last war B.O.A.C. came to that area, they brought some people with them but they also employed many local people. Those people have been provided with houses and it will mean much hardship if they have to return again with their families.
We can all say that there has been a distinct improvement in the punctuality of our railway passenger services as regards the South Wales area, though I cannot speak so well of the North Wales area. At the same time many of the trains are still extremely cold. I do not know if this is a problem that is common to the whole country—
§ Mr. Gower
The restaurant car services are still far too expensive and it is the common experience of hon. Members, I think, that not only they, but also people whom they see on those trains, generally wait until they arrive in London to get a meal.
Extra attention should be given to problems which have a peculiar incidence in Wales. I am not referring to new legislation, but I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will have in mind the leasehold problem in Wales. Another problem which I want to draw to his attention is the position of smallholdings. 244 In my part of South Wales, as no doubt in other parts, large numbers of people are on the waiting list for smallholdings. Yet, in answer to a Question asked last week by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), it was said that there has been a decline in the number of smallholdings. I appreciate that this is a matter of detail, but cannot my right hon. and learned Friend ask the Minister of Agriculture about it?
Most hon. Members who are acquainted with the problem of road communications would agree that the priorities fixed by the Government are generally correct. It was proper that priority should have been given to the road in the vicinity of Swansea and Llanelly in view of the great industrialisation there. I think it right that there should have been some improvement to the communicationson the road from Chepstow to Gloucester, but there one of the future schemes should include a major road by-passing Chepstow and continuing to the Midlands.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Pontypridd in his suggestion that the Severn Bridge is one of our first requirements, because I believe that the road to the Midlands should be a higher priority. The Severn Bridge scheme would absorb a disproportionate amount of labour and material and would cost a disproportionate amount of money.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am sorry to interrupt on such a sordid point as cost, but has my hon. Friend any idea what would be the cost of the road to by-pass Chepstow to which he referred?
§ Mr. Gower
No, I was not dealing with the cost. I said that one of the reasons for giving priority to the road to the Midlands was that it would cost far less than the Severn Bridge scheme. I have not the figures available.
I think hon. Members on this side of the House will say that the Government are entitled to a great deal of praise for their splendid housing record in Wales, 245 as in other parts of the British Isles. The figures for the last few years will show what progress has been made in housing. The production of houses in 1951 in Wales was only 9,500, in 1952 it increased to over 12,000, in 1953 it was over 15,000. That is a remarkable increase in the output of houses during the period. There has also been a marked development in the last year or so in factory building, particularly around Newport and around Cardiff, as I think the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) will agree.
§ Mr. Gower
That factory development is the kind of development which I believe all hon. Members agree is needed to variegate our industries and make us less dependent upon the basic industries on which we have relied far too much in the past. It is with pleasure that we can all say that in the last year there has been a high level of employment in the Principality. It is what we are entitled to describe generally as full employment.
§ Mr. Gower
I appreciate that in certain constituencies like Anglesey that is not so. But the general position is proof that this is not peculiarly due to the merit of one side of the House or one kind of Government. I think that the first step taken to tackle the problem was the establishment of the trading estates before the war. Progress was continued throughout the war years and proceeded very generously under the last Government. That progress has been largely consolidated during the two years and three months of office of the present Government. That is one thing about which all of us are pleased, and what, above all else, we wish to maintain next year. I sincerely hope that during the coming year not only the progress which is revealed in this report of Government action but that to which hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred today may be further consolidated.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I think that we on this side of the House have been entertained if not edified, by the exchange of views and the cross- 246 examination of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). In view of the tenor of the remarks of the former Under-Secretary of State one can only say that it was prudent of him not to have ventured further into Welsh Wales than Cardiff, North.
I have the honour to represent one of the two industrialised constituencies in North Wales, and I wish to speak of some of the problems which affect my own constituency. I should have liked to have raised various other points, as I am sure all of us would wish to do on this occasion. When we have but two days in the year to discuss Welsh affairs, it is very difficult to avoid making something of a hotch-potch of a speech touching on a very large number of topics.
I should have liked to raise one or two points in connection with education. During the afternoon we have had at one time or another a galaxy of talent on the Front Bench opposite, but at no time have we had a representative of the Ministry of Education.
§ Mrs. White
Whether the absence of a representative of that Ministry is significant or not, I leave the House to judge. I should like to know, for instance, what progress is being made in making provision for handicapped children in North Wales. I should have liked to have made some comments on the school building programme in North Wales, and particularly in Flintshire where there is still the strongest feeling of resentment that the school building programme for the current year, which was to have included six new schools, was cut to what amounted to half a school. There is the feeling that some of the Welsh authorities which made early progress in this matter are being penalised precisely because they are progressive and that, despite our Welsh traditions of emphasising secondary education, they are being held back to the general rate of progress for the United Kingdom and not being allowed to proceed as fast as they would have wished.
I should have liked to have referred to other matters, like our own county development plan and the very ambitious projects for improvements to the River Dee and its navigation. But I propose 247 primarily to refer today to two industries, one of which is mentioned in the Government Report which is before us, in one sentence only, and the other which, rather surprisingly, is not mentioned at all. One is the local rayon industry and the other the tourist industry. I have read virtually the whole of the Report, and I am astonished that it contains no reference whatsoever to the tourist industry.
As to the textile industry in Flintshire, in common with all other textile areas in the country, we in Flintshire are extremely apprehensive of the effects of the agreement which was announced yesterday by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. In my post this morning I had a very long letter from trade union representatives in Flintshire who are much concerned about the possible repercussions of Japanese competition on the rayon industry. They remember only too vividly the experience which they had between the wars. Their feelings are possibly accentuated by the fact that it was from Flintshire itself that a number of skilled workers went to Japan in the 1920s to instruct the Japanese in the processes of the manufacture of rayon.
They are very much concerned about how far the rayon industry will be affected. They are concerned as to what action the Government have taken, or propose to take, to make certain that, having concluded this Agreement with the Japanese, the textile industry in this country will be as efficiently placed as possible to deal with what may prove to be very hazardous competition. The rayon workers in my own constituency have been assured that the rayon staple and yarn which they manufacture is made at below the cost of that which is made in Japan. As far as it goes, that is reassuring, but unfortunately, when the staple or yarn reaches Lancashire and is turned there into fabric there is a very different story, because in Lancashire the cost is very much higher than the corresponding cost in Japan.
That is partly because of the low wage levels in Japan but that is not entirely the story. There is also the very large factor that the Japanese are using much more up-to-date machinery than is used in many undertakings in Lancashire and are using that machinery not just for one shift but for 144 hours out of the 168 248 hours in a week. In other words, they have not only the most modern machinery possible, some of which they have been helped to acquire with funds from the United States, but they are using that machinery to the utmost possible extent.
If the Government have concluded an agreement with Japanese to allow greater trade in textiles the very least that they can do is to make certain that the process, which was started by the late Sir Stafford Cripps, of pushing forward with the modernisation of the textile industry in Lancashire should be carried out by the present Government with equal enthusiasm, because unless we have further action in that direction we can look only with the most grave apprehension at the future of many sections of the textile industry in this country, including rayon and cotton.
Although this is the only corner of Wales where we are primarily concerned with textiles, the prosperity of almost the entire population of the area depends upon the industry. I hope very much that the Home Secretary will convey to his colleagues the very serious concern that is already felt in Flintshire following the announcement of this Agreement with Japan.
Having dealt briefly with that particular local industry, I want to turn to the other major industry in Wales which, to my amazement, has received no mention in this Report so far as I can discover. It so happens thattoday an extremely interesting document concerned with the tourist industry of Wales has been published. As has been already mentioned in this House, a survey has been made of the Welsh tourist industry on behalf of the Welsh Tourist Board by the British Tourist and Holidays Association, which receives Government assistance and is therefore a proper matter to discuss in this House. I think few people who have not had the opportunity of reading this survey may be aware of the extent to which we in Wales depend upon the tourist industry for our prosperity. We are accustomed to think of Wales in terms of coal, steel, of course agriculture, and to a lesser degree of slate quarrying and ancillary industries. But, according to the survey, the value of the tourist trade to Wales is in the region of rather more than £30 million a year. 249 That is a very considerable sum. It is, suggested that it would be possible to increase the value of this industry if certain development were undertaken. It is true that the major part of this industry is purely domestic in the sense that we receive visitors from other parts of the United Kingdom and they account for by far the largest proportion of the income we receive in Wales from tourists. This is principally becausethe English visitors, and perhaps a few Scots and Irish, mostly come to the seaside resorts and some to mountain resorts and spend their entire holiday in the Principality. They book their rooms for a week or a fortnight and spend their whole holiday there, whereas overseas visitors as a rule come either simply for a day trip or, at the most, spend one night in Wales. The reason appeals to be the lack of suitable accommodation in Wales for overseas visitors. It is suggested that if we could provide better facilities so that the touring companies—coach companies and so on—could make firm bookings and arrangements in advance for their clients, we might be able to do very much better with this industry than at present.
This has some importance for the general trade of the United Kingdom and not merely for Wales, because it is estimated that of roughly 80,000 overseas visitors to Wales in 1953 some 48,000—about 60 per cent.—were either American or Canadian and were, therefore, bringing in dollars. It is thought that we might be able to increase the number of overseas visitors in general and also the proportion of visitors from dollar countries if we could offer them the kind of accommodation required. It is suggested in the Report that the difficulties in the way of the tourist industry are, first, better hotels and better restaurants and it is stressed that there is need for capital investment. I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he has been able to consider the matter, to tell us what is the policy of the Government concerning this industry.
We have had Development Areas for industry. We have had Government assistance, special financial arrangements and so on for industry for the building of factories. Has it been considered that there are certain areas in Wales which are not industrial in the manufacturing
250 sense, but which might properly be considered industrial in the sense to which I have been referring—the tourist industry—and which would have at least an equally good claim to special financial consideration and credit terms which might be of use to them? Just before Christmas we were discussing the rehabilitation of rural Wales. We are not all agreed upon the various measures which should be taken, but I suggest that it is precisely in the areas of rural Wales, where we are concerned about de-population, that action of this sort might at least be one factor in meeting problems with which we are faced.
With this extremely interesting survey there are one or two detailed reports which I found extraordinarily interesting. For example, there were the comments of some of the tourist firms which organise tours in Wales, and in particular of coach companies which arrange comprehensive tours of the British Isles and the difficulties which they have in bringing people into Wales as opposed to taking them to parts of England and Scotland. I will quote from the comments of a very large firm in the Midlands which says that their problems of operating in Wales include,Narrow, difficult, congested roads. Suitable accommodation only in few main centres and in great demand. Restricted use of Conway Suspension Bridge: wide deviation by coaches necessary.Another Midlands firm speaks of hotels being unwilling to co-operate. I believe that unwillingness to co-operate is not dislike of having visitors, but the fact that such hotels as there are are already fully booked with home visitors. Another point which is more controversial is:Licensing restrictions a great handicap.At the risk of being a little controversial as a North Wales Member, I wish to say that while I have no sympathy whatever with those in the licensed trade who wish to open public houses in Wales on Sundays—I have always said very firmly that I have no wish whatever that that should take place—I must confess that I have a certain sympathy with the request that visitors should be able, if they wish, to obtain drinks when they are having meals in hotels or restaurants under a restricted licence. At the moment it is really incongruous that if one stays in an hotel and has a bed there one is able to obtain a drink with the Sunday lunch but, having slept somewhere else, if one 251 arrives by car or coach one may see others being served but cannot be served with drinks, although it is in the same room of the same premises. That does seem to be a direction in which we ought not to be bigoted. I would be in favour of extending the restricted licence on Sundays for drinks with meals instead of confining it entirely to residents in hotels.
There is a matter which the Welsh Tourist Board has already taken up and which, perhaps, could only be helped indirectly by Government action. That is the development of local crafts. Apparently, Wales compares most unfavourably with Scotland in providing the kind of article which American visitors in particular wish to take home with them. Most Americans are able to come here with a fair amount of money in their pockets and regard it as one of the pleasures of their holiday to buy souvenirs to take back with them. But the choice in Wales of Welsh articles is so restricted that it seems we are missing great opportunities for improving our trade in that respect. That is something with which the Welsh people themselves will have to deal, but if there should be any directions in which the Government can give assistance, I hope very much that they will do so.
I have deliberately confined myself to one or two points because there are other hon. Members who wish to speak and one does not wish to make too incoherent a speech on these occasions. I hope very much that we shall have replies to these points from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. One cannot help feeling a certain sympathy with him in his position as he is expected to be omniscient and he can hardly be that, even with his great capacity and diligence. I hope that at least he will pass on to his colleagues in the Government the concern which we feel on these matters and that he will try to give us information which we can pass on to those interested.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
I trust that the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) will forgive me if I do not follow the most interesting remarks she has been making. I should also like, in courtesy, to assure hon. 252 Members opposite who represent Welsh constituencies that I am not in any way just filling up time by taking part in this debate. For my loyalty to and affection for the Principality as someone brought up there, whose home is still there and who escapes there whenever he gets away from this House and from his constituency, is as great as that of any other hon. Member.
It is because of my experiences living in the Principality that I particularly wished to speak today. I realise, too, that because most of the speakers today have concentrated on the industrial side—I understand that is because of some unofficial agreement—I am further risking incurring displeasure by speaking more about the agricultural side, if only because I was unsuccessful in making these points during the debate we had a few weeks ago.
We live in a very typical Welsh hill farmstead which is extremely remote. We are aware of all the difficulties which have been spoken of and written about—inadequate communications, a telephone service that works only sometimes, and which is not working at the moment because of the snow, and a poor electric light service. In my non-political capacity I am therefore especially looking forward to the day when the amenities which we think should be enjoyed by the farming community as a whole will extend even into the upper reaches of the Dovey Valley.
Ever since I was a boy and walked over the Welsh mountains surrounding my home—which I still do fairly energetically—I can remember seeing farm after farm falling into decay because of its remoteness, because of the difficulty of finding people who would live in those wild areas and because of the difficulty in finding labour to keep down the constant threat of bracken and gorse and other enemies of the farmer from spreading down from the hilltops. Again, in a completely non-political sense, I would pay a tribute both to the preceding and the present Government in that nowadays in my walks I see welcome signs of an arrest in the decline in the Welsh hill farms. I can recall well some that had fallen into a state when there seemed to be only a cottage and a couple 253 of fields surrounded by the bracken-covered hillside which are now showing signs of improvement. We must take now into account how much further we can solve this problem of the more remote farms.
Listening to debates in this House, and reading various reports both by this Government and the last, I have noted two related suggestions which have been put forward. One is a big increase in afforestation and the other is various subsidies and expert advice to make existing farms more profitable. I would utter a note of warning about this. I think there is a danger of afforestation being accepted as a panacea for all Welsh ills. It is, after all, such an easy matter for a busy Department, when one has a lot of farm land which it is difficult to make productive, to say, "Make i t into a State woodland."
There have been a lot of improvements in the relationship between the Forestry Commission and farmers in recent years, but a lot more could be done if the Forestry Commission would try to work out, in genuine co-operation with the farmers, how certain parts of their farmland not useful for farming could beafforested; rather than that the whole farm should be taken over lock, stock and barrel with only one small area only round the house to be turned into a smallholding occupied by a tied tenant—a forestry worker. If their fears of total abruption were removed, many farmers would often welcome a belt of trees on their land which, among other advantages, would act as a wind break.
If the system is adopted that farms are taken over wholesale for afforestation it is not very long before the farmers on the periphery of the area also give up hope and their land becomes absorbed too into the area devoted to afforestation. To suggest that integration is taking place is not in accordance with the facts, because if there are two or three large blocks of forestry surrounding a farm the surviving farmer concerned becomes isolated from his neighbours in other areas with whom he formerly worked in close collaboration, particularly, for instance, during the lambing season, and it is not long before that farmer too decides to give up and to adopt some other means of livelihood. 254 In my home area I always try hard to work for collaboration between the Forestry Commission and the farmers, but not that the latter should be swallowed up, for I consider that there is room for an extended forestry programme to take place provided, as I say, that it is carried out with genuine collaboration with the farmers and not by taking over large blocks of farmland.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
Will the hon. Member agree that one thing which would help such co-operation would be the abandonment by the Forestry Commission of the exercise of compulsory purchase powers?
§ Mr. Bennett
I am glad the hon. and learned Member has mentioned that point. I do not wish to be drawn into too great detail, but I heard my right hon. and learned Friend make a categorical statement on a previous occasion that the Government would not use compulsory powers of acquisition in forseeable circumstances. I, for one, am prepared to accept that assurance and have already used it widely in my own area to reassure people who are nervous about the matter. There is no doubt that if farmers believe a threat is hanging over their heads it is impossible to obtain collaboration, even for limited planting, because they regard that as the thin end of the wedge and fear that later their whole farm may be taken over. But I would agree that more complete and mutual trust between the Commission and the farmers would result in increasing benefit to both.
One specific question I would ask the Minister to consider. At the moment there is a difference of 2s. between the basic wage of agricultural workers and the basic wage for forestry workers. Whatever variations may be made, the basic agricultural wage is always 2s. below that of the forestry worker. It cannot be said that there is no competition and no sense of rivalry between the two communities when from the word "go" there is a wage differential between two sets of workers living under exactly similar circumstances, having to work out in the open together. At the present time in an ordinary small Welsh village, such as that where I have lived, there may be found workmen living alongside one another and going out in all weathers. 255 some to their farm work and others into the forest, and yet one set of men having a different and a higher wage level than the other. I suggest that consideration be given to whether that can be remedied in due course.
I should like to mention one other point, a small one, tout one which I think important, particularly in view of the disease which is spreading among rabbits throughout the British Isles. It is that the forests are already proving a haven for vermin, particularly foxes, and it is impossible to have effective hunting on these tree-covered mountain slopes. These vermin prey on the farm animals, and if the rabbits should die out, which may well happen this summer, the depredations of foxes and other animals will increase. I think a special duty lies upon the Forestry Commission—though I know they are doing their best—to see that the forests do not provide a retreat for animals which harm the farm livestock.
Finally, the earlier comment about the tourist industry interested me, because I believe a great deal more can be done through the tourist industry to step up the prosperity of Wales. As a non-Welshman, I am free to say without bias that there is no other part of the British Isles, with the exception of some of the remoter parts of Scotland's Highlands, which can equal in beauty the scenery of Wales.
I have here another specific suggestion to offer. Formerly—and I admit the position has much improved recently—the Forestry Commission had a tendency to buy up a farm and plant it without sufficient regard to the scenery. I am sorry to keep coming back to the Commission, but they play a very important part in Welsh affairs today. Some hon. Members who passed through my home on a recent tour of Wales will know that there are parts of the country where the scenery has been spoiled by what I will call a strange-shaped postage stamp of fir-trees on the side of a beautiful Welsh hill. Recently, admittedly, much more care has been taken to consider the amenities when planting takes place.
I am sure the hon. Member for Flint, East agrees that it is largely the 256 beauty of the scenery which makes Wales such a special attraction to people from the Midlands in particular, who are within easy reach of it. I have made inquiries and I discovered that although care is taken of the amenities, when planting work takes place, if representations are made by such bodies as the Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales, there is no responsible official in the Forestry Commission whose primary duty it is to visit the area and, initially, look at it from the amenity point of view. There are dozens of ways of preserving beauty and still having forests, such as the planting a belt of deciduous trees around an area of ugly firs or pines. I am not suggesting the appointment of a new officer, but it would be worth considering whether one officer in each of the main forestry areas should not have the specified duty of looking after the amenities so that their planting programmes do not interfere with what is one of the chief attractions for tourists coming into Wales—tourists who spend their money, whether sterling or dollars.
In conclusion, as an Englishman, I suppose I must not join in the earlier battles concerning what should be the capital of Wales. I have heard Cardiff mentioned, but at the risk of quarrelling with hon. Members from Cardiff I suggest that if we are to have a capital, there is at least a little evidence for having one in the northern part of Wales, particularly one such as the site of Owain Glyndwr's Parliament, Machynlleth, our local town. From the state capital point of view it certainly has great claims.
In that context, when I was in Rome recently, I saw on an outside wall by the Colosseum a large map of the world, in marble; the old Roman Empire, to which in 1940 Mussolini laid claim and hoped to reconquer, was in black marble. It was noticeable that he had included England and most of Wales within his future Dominions but that he had been fair enough to leave a small segment in white marble—a segment to which he did not make claim—which represented some of our northern counties of Western Wales. It appears that had the unlikely event occurred and had he won the war, only myself and a few hon. Members opposite would still maintain our liberties intact.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I do not intervene in the debate at this stage with any intention of closing it. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) will later say the last words from these benches, and I understand that the Minister has kindly agreed as far as possible to listen to the end of the debate and then to reply to the points which have been made.
May I tell the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett) that I do not intend to enter into the competition concerning what should be the capital of Wales? If the hon. Member knew Wales better he would realise that if we want a capital which presents the Welsh language and the Welsh culture, there is only one town for it—and that is Llanelly.
May I say a few words about the Report and make a suggestion to the Minister? This Report is the eighth of its kind. It is a very valuable survey, and I am sure it has rendered great service to Welsh Members of Parliament, to local authorities and to all who take an interest in Welsh matters. We are engaged in political controversies in Wales, not for the first time, but these are Welsh political controversies about what constitutional changes, if any, and of what kind, are desirable for Wales in the future.
It would not be in order for me to enter into that discussion today, but I think it is of the utmost importance for the people of Wales to be able to form an informed opinion upon this issue, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister and the Government will give consideration, when they publish the next Report, to publishing either as part of it or as a supplement to it—or to publish separately—something comparable with that which they have just published for Scotland—Command Paper 9051. It deals with revenue and expenditure and compares percentages of revenue derived from and expenditure spent in England and Wales, taken as one unit, and Scotland taken as another and separate unit.
I know this involves a good deal of work, but it is important that we should have all this information available so that the people of Wales, who have to make up their minds whether to take certain lines of action, shall have the information which is essential if they are to 258 arrive at an informed opinion. I therefore hope that the Minister will consider publishing for Wales a document comparable with that which has been published for Scotland. It may be more difficult to do it for Wales than it was to do it for Scotland, for reasons into which we need not enter, but it is not impossible and I hope it will be done.
In reading the Report, which is a survey of Welsh life and, in particular, of Welsh industrial life, with which we are concerned today and which was dealt with in an admirable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson), the first fact which strikes me is the transformation. I looked back the other day at some figures of the position in Wales in 1929, when we had already felt some of the cold blast of depression, but the colder blast was yet to come. In 1929 there were 583,000 registered insured workers in Wales, excluding agricultural workers. Of that total more than half—304,000—were registered—and hon. Members should note the word "registered" because many of these men were then unemployed—as being engaged in coal mining, iron and steel, tinplate and slate quarrying. That was the economy which grew up in Wales in the 19th Century. No one planned it; it just happened. The First World War brought the first draught, and then came the avalanche.
From 1929 to 1954, in one generation, we have travelled a complete cycle. We saw the economy break. We lived through it all. Now we have seen it built anew, reconstructed—a wonderful transformation. We have seen the transformation deepen and broaden, we have seen the pattern diversified. I say this in no party spirit but because it is a matter of great importance: the change which has taken place, has taken place because of Government initiative and planning. That is the important thing that stands out, and what it is important that all Governments, all parties and all people should realise is that the people believe that. The people now hold us responsible for full employment; they hold the Government and Parliament responsible. They have seen what has been done.
Therefore, for all of us in this country, the lesson is plain. The people of this country, and certainly the people of Wales, will not accept any return to the 259 old days, because, first of all, they believe that such a thing should not happen, and, secondly, they are convinced that the problem can be solved by Government action, associated with private enterprise, but the action and the drive, the initiative, planning and design, must come from the Government.
Today, they are not problems of disintegration and decay that face us, as was the case 20 years ago. Now, it is a problem of growth, a problem of change and adjustment, and I want to survey the scene briefly and take up some points which it is important for us to learn. I refer to the basic industries which are being reconstructed. As an old collier, one of many colliers here today, I read in this Report of new pits being sunk, of old pits being reconstructed and of the industry being built anew, after living for the past 20 years in an atmosphere in which we found, time after time, that yet another pit was closed and another village practically destroyed. Against that, we now get this picture of new development
My hon. Friends will not mind my referring to the anthracite pits. For the first time in my life, the anthracite industry is being replanned and redesigned. Abernant and Cynheidre are lovely Welsh words, but they are something more than that. They represent the beginning of a new chapter in the history of what I think is the best in the world and the best coal in the world. I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power is here, because the important thing is that every possible facility should be given to the National Coal Board to carry out its plan.
My colleagues and I, when we formed the Government, approved plans for the various developments in the industry all over the country under the direction of the National Coal Board. Some part of these plans have already been carried out, but I believe I am not wrong in saying that, at the present time, no one can say that the whole plan will be carried through in 15 years. This is very important, particularly in Wales, because it is a very old coalfield, and it is essential that the new pits shall be completed before the old ones are worked out.
I therefore hope that the Ministry of Fuel and Power will see to it that they give 260 the coalmining industry all the resources which may be required by the National Coal Board in order that that important plan may be carried out. It is of immense importance, not only to South Wales, but to the whole country. Indeed, anthracite is now one of our best dollar earners, and can become so again. I note that the production of the industry now is only 3½ million tons a year, when it used to be about 6 million tons, and I hope some attention will be paid to that.
I now wish to refer to a subject which is not given much attention in the Report, but which concerns the basic industries of slate mining and quarrying. What about the future of this industry? What are the Government's intentions and ideas? It is very important that we should know, because large areas of the country are dependent upon this tndustry. I hope it may be possible, when the next Report is published, to give us a fuller survey of the slate quarrying industry, its prospects for the future and any plans which may be in the mind of the Government concerning it. All of us know perfectly well that there are communities in the slate quarrying areas which are traditionally Welsh and as good as anything to be found in the Principality, but we also notice that they are declining, without any substitute to take their place.
In the case of iron and steel plate, here we are in the throes of a technical revolution, which, in its economic and social consequences as far as certain parts of the country are concerned, is comparable in our day with the earlier one. It is a new industrial revolution, and what a tremendous change it has brought about. In towns like Swansea and Llanelly, and in the neighbouring villages, we can see old tinplate mills still working. It is true that there have been some changes, but they are still there, although they are on their way out. What a debt this nation owes to them. It is the industry in which I believe men have to work the hardest of any industry in this country, and all this is going out and a new industry coming in. It is a tremendous change, and, like all these great changes, it brings its problems, but they are problems that can be solved.
The major problem is that which is now emerging and will emerge to become a very important one, and that is the problem of redundancy. It has been calculated and generally accepted that the total 261 redundancy when the new plants are complete will be something in the region of 10,000 men. Let me say a word about the reference in the Report to this matter. I detected in the Report, in its reference to this problem, perhaps a little complacency and optimism which I think may be false. The position is that, so far, those who have been rendered redundant have been absorbed into the old works, while others are being absorbed into constructional work which is going on. The problem of redundancy is still one of very great importance.
Some time ago, the Government set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Lloyd, one of the Joint Undersecretaries of State for Welsh Affairs, and none of us have bothered to ask them for a Report before they have toad time to examine the problem. They have now been sitting for some time. Have they reported yet? Have they made any recommendations? If so, what are those recommendations? Is it intended that their report shall be a private report to the Government or that it should be published?
In any case, when the matter was raised here, the Government told us that they would not then announce what they proposed to do. They said that they would study the report of the Lloyd Committee, upon which a number of influential men in the industry drawn both from Wales and outside, were giving their services. I hope that, when the Minister replies tonight, he will be able to give us at least a progress report from the Lloyd Committee on its examination of this problem.
An aspect of this problem which is one the Minister and those concerned should look at, and which worries me, is the effect of these changes on the older men. When there is a change from old to new methods—I have been through this myself in the mining industry—there are arguments whether a man at 50 years of age, or whatever age is selected, is too old to adapt himself to the new processes and machines. I understand that in the new plants, generally speaking, it is the men aged 50 and below 50 who are employed, not many over that age.
That means that we now have a very serious problem of highly skilled men—the roller men, the furnace men—who have given 25 or 30 years of their lives 262 in the industry since leaving school at the age of 13 or 14—they belong to my generation—who may now find themselves shut out of the mill. This is a problem of great importance, and I hope that special attention will be paid to it by the Ministry of Labour, which is now discussing the problem of the older unemployed. We are all of us aware that it is a very big problem, as I had reason to know when I was Minister of National Insurance and was concerned with the problem of age composition and the age-group changes in the country.
Here we are faced with a problem of men who are over 50 years of age who are in danger of finding themselves on the scrap heap. I hope that the Ministry of Labour will pay attention to the problem because these men deserve the best that we can give them and do for them because of their service to the nation. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear from the Minister this evening something of what the Lloyd Committee is proposing should be done about this problem.
So much for the older industries. I wish to say a few words about the new industries. It is a remarkable fact that 93,000 new jobs have been provided in Wales since 1945 at factories built by the Government. Taking those Government-financed and operated factories and the nationalised industries, it would be true to say that the majority of Welsh workers are engaged in Government undertakings.
Some of my hon. Friends have mentioned the problems there are. I will mention one. We had last year a recession, a set-back, a bit of a slump. We ought to learn the lessons of what happened in Wales during that period in the new sector of our economy. What happened was sufficient to show what are the problems.
One which arose in my constituency, and I believe in those of some of my hon. Friends, arose because by the very nature of the case many of these new factories are in a sense annexes to parent factories on the other side of the border. We are grateful that these firms have come to establish these smaller factories employing 100 or 200 people. I agree that the multiplicity of small industries is better from the standpoint of economic health.
What we saw last year was a tendency, when the recession in trade came, for the parent firm to concentrate production in 263 the parent factory. I do not wish to give any names but I can give some examples. If this new economy of ours is vulnerable to a small recession it might become very vulnerable to a bigger one. I hope that some attention will be paid to that consideration.
We have now diversified the pattern of industry a good deal, and I wish to make a suggestion to the Minister, the National Coal Board and the steel industry. The steel industry in Wales has so far not been denationalised and I hope that other events will catch up with it before that happens. In the case of both coal and steel we are in a new stage, and I hope that the Lloyd Committee has given attention to it—am sure it will have done. We ought now, in adding to the industries which we already have in Wales, to examine the possibility of adding industries which will have an organic connection with the iron, steel and tin-plate industry and the coal industry.
One of the shortcomings of our economy in the past has been that while we produced large quantities of coal we have sent most of it to the ends of the world; we have made very little use of it ourselves. The same is true of steel. We produce 24 per cent. of the crude steel of the country, 60 per cent. of its sheet production and 99 per cent. of its tinplate production. I hope that in the next Report we shall be told what proportion of this production is fabricated in Wales, and that some attention will be given to that aspect because it is a matter of importance.
I now wish to discuss one of our most difficult and urgent problems, that of the disabled. I will quote a figure from the report. This is not a bad year for the figures of disabled, but in the period covered by the Report, from the middle of 1952 to the middle of 1953 1,220 men were diagnosed by the Ministry of National Insurance medical boards as having pneumoconiosis. And, I repeat, that is not a bad year, the figure is down.
What a running sore—1,220 in a good year. I will not go into the figures in detail but will sum them up very briefly. Table 4 of the Appendix gives an analysis of the unemployed in Wales. Of the total of 14,418 wholly unemployed in June, 1953, more than one-third, 5,606, were disabled 'persons described as "suitable 264 for ordinary employment" in suitable conditions. Of those who had been totally unemployed for more than a year more than half—2,673 out of 4,140 were disabled.
I do not suggest that it is a problem which is easy to deal with, but that it is now time to review, in the light of experience, whether the provisions which we have made are the best we can make. There is first the special provision for those so totally disabled that they cannot be expected to seek, find and keep work in the ordinary labour market. Therefore, for them the Remploy factories are provided. There are 13 of those factories employing 1,068 men, though there is a large waiting list for Remploy factories as they are built. I do not minimise the cost of erecting them, but against it we must weight the cost of giving these men of 40 or 50 years of age a sense that their lives are over and done with.
Then I turn to Grenfell factories. Paragraph 215 of the Report says that there are nine occupied and one reallocated; that those operating Grenfell leases were employing 474 people, of whom 209 are disabled, and that of those 209, 127 have pneumoconiosis. There are three Grenfell factories in my constituency and at the weekend I found that they now employ 182 people. I believe the position is much the same at the others but, at the same time, they employ only about half the number of persons possible within the physical limits of the factories. Many of these are small firms fighting hard for survival, and I urge the Government to look at the problem.
When we were in Government we convened a conference in Cardiff attended by representatives from the Board of Trade, Ministry of Supply, Fuel and Power, National Insurance, the National Coal Board, and all others concerned, in order to review the problem, and I think the time has come for a special conference to review this matter again. It is of the utmost importance to the Ministry of Fuel and Power; with all their propaganda for recruitment, I can tell them that these people on the village square speak more eloquently than any posters. When I went to the pit there was no choice of employment. We did not discuss what boys should do—there was only the pit and, incidentally, my father believed that the pit was healthier than many people think. 265 There is now more choice of work in our villages and that element of choice has become important.
I am not minimising the difficulties, but it is of enormous importance to these men that the problem should be tackled. A doctor told me that one of the curious psychological features about pneumoconiosis is that the men suffering from it love to talk about it when they meet together, and that the best thing to assist their recovery is to get them a job. I hope therefore, that either a conference or other steps will be decided on to review the position. The National Coal Board have a special responsibility, and the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Supply can also help.
Education, though outside this, as related to it, and I have listened to many debates on that subject. There was one sentence in the Report which struck me as being very important and which I believe I can quote accurately from memory. In a paragraph dealing with what happened to school-leavers in the survey area it stated that, of the total number in the area, 70 boys and girls left it on leaving school, and that all but three of them were grammar school leavers. That not only means that the rural areas have been de-populated, but that the trained and educated pick of the youth are the very ones who are leaving.
Another thing which has come out of this analysis was the poverty of the facilities for technical training. At one time our technical training was limited to the old industries, and in the bad old days it fell almost into disrepute, but now, with all these new factories, we have the problem of key workers, and finding houses for them, and so on, and technical education must play an important part. This is a new age in South Wales—a new world, a happier world, but one which still has problems. Such problems can be managed. If the Government could find 93,000 jobs since 1945 we can solve the problem of 10,000 redundancies. What worries me in entering this free economy is how it will affect Wales—we know what happened before—but any Government with the will and the power can do the job, though not without difficulty. I hope, therefore, that we shall see provision made for that technical education which is the need of the new age into which we have entered in Wales. 266 Everywhere in Wales there is deep concern about the language and its future, and about much that has grown up from those old days—the intimate life of the community, the sharing of each other's successes and burdens, the social democracy and the rest. If to those we can add these new economic and social gains and keep something of the old spirit, we shall hand on to our children a better Wales than we inherited.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)
I wish to concentrate on one aspect and will not try to emulate the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—I think the only question he left out was dog licensing.
I think we should give a word of praise to the Council of Wales for producing, for the eighth time, a Report giving us factual information which enables us to see a picture, colourful in some respects, dark in others, but very useful. In complimenting the Council we must not forget the Government who made it possible. Since the institution of the Council we have had opportunities, each year, to read of what has happened in Wales, and to build around the dry bones of statistics.
In the last debate on rural depopulation, we were very pleased to hear the statement on the roads. Details were then given about the entrances to the docks and the approaches to the ports. But on page 33 of this Report I read with dismay that:During the period March to May, 1953, there was a substantial reduction in employment at the principal ship repairing yard at Swansea.Ship repairing at Swansea has never been on a very big scale, but if we want our ports to be successful and prosperous it is very important to add proper repair facilities. Everyone knows that some very large vessels come to Swansea and if there is pressure for an enlargement of these facilities I hope that the Minister will give it every encouragement.
The most important problem to which I want to refer has already been dealt with very fully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It was rather unfortunate that I had to follow him. Nevertheless, repetition is not an unpardonable offence 267 in this House; indeed, it is almost a compliment on occasions. Overshadowing all other problems—with regard to coal, building and industry generally—there is the cloud which has arisen in connection with the steel and tinplate trade. People in South Wales have not lost hope but they have been given no definite indication as to what will happen to them in this matter.
We tolerate this cold weather because we know it will improve very shortly. If there were no prospects of a break in it, and we lost hope, it would be very disastrous. That will soon be the position in South Wales. I am sure that the House will give me credit for stressing this matter in full sincerity. There is no other immediate problem. The 5,000 men who became unemployed when we had a recession a short time ago have been absorbed. The Italians are not an insuperable problem. They can be sent back to Italy to play their mandolines and paint their pictures.
I should like to give the House a few figures in this connection. There are eight tin-plate works in Monmouthshire and six in South Wales, which contain 81 mills. These are all certain to close in the not too distant future. They are owned by the Steel Company of Wales. People will say that another coal-producing plant is being built at Cwmfelin, but that should have been built alongside Trostre. That plant will employ only 1,000 men, and figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly show that the redundancy here will eventually reach a figure of 10,000 men.
Only a few steel works are readapting themselves to meet this situation and this readaptation cannot go on now, because they are providing the tin bar for the tin-works. People who operate in these plants often ask, "Are the Government doing anything? Are there any plans? This problem is bound to come; it is inevitable." My reply is, "The only information we have had is that a committee has been set up under the presidency of Lord Lloyd to investigate these problems, and it has been reported to us that they have been discussing roads." I agree that roads are very necessary, but can the right hon. and learned Gentleman draw the steel curtain 268 aside a little so that the people in the industry can see what is to happen?
These people have no faith in royal commissions or committees. They say, "You know what happens with these committees. They are like the old lady who was such a humanitarian that she informed her gardener that he was never to kill a worm. He used to gather them in a tin and put them on the wall for the birds to eat." I hope we shall not have to wait very much longer before we know whether the Lloyd Committee is dealing with this question, or whether it is cognisant of the fact that it exists.
Another matter which is not giving us much hope is the denationalisation of the steel trade. There will be no rush to buy up steel works in South Wales. When the time arrives it will not be very easy to dispose of some of them. I have expressed this opinion before about the steel works which provide the tin bar for the tinplate works. When the Lloyd Committee begin to investigate this question of readaptation I hope that they will pay great attention to this problem. I am not referring to the adaptation of the old tin-plate mills; they must go. But there are nine steel works there, with eight melting shops and nine mills, making ingots. They can easily be adapted without great capital outlay to produce angles and billets, as some of them are doing now.
This dark cloud is not only over the tin-plate side of the industry, but hangs over the tube section also. In my constituency there is justifiable concern. The Landore tube works are old-fashioned and badly sited, and it is feared that the blow will come and a thousand men will be affected. I had the privilege of visiting Corby to see that most up-to-date tube plant which is owned by the same firm. Those thousand men in my constituency have the natural skill that comes from training and upbringing in the manufacture of tubes, but the fear is that we shall lose them.
My last point concerns the villages that have grown up around the iron and tin-plate works. My own town of Briton Ferry is typical. All my family were tinplaters. When I went home and told my brother that I had a job in a tinplate works, he said to me that my father, whom I do not remember, died at the "average" age of 35. He said that I was not to work in the tinplate trade, but 269 would go into steel; and he put me into it. I got into the steel trade and eventually to the House of Commons. What my next move will be, I do not know.
Our Welsh communities have grown up around the iron and steel works. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for the Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) is in his place. In Wales, we are a homely kind of people and we like our homes, but there is now a lot of disturbance over leasehold enfranchisement. The ideal of the steel and tinplate worker and the miner was to get their own little homes. On entering a Welsh house, before one is asked to stay for tea the kettle is put on the fire.
If the Minister or the Lloyd Committee have not yet had them, they will certainly have plans and ideas from the captains of industry of South Wales. I know them all personally. The tinplate industry has a redundancy fund, totalling a large figure, which is derived from a payment on every box of tinplate and is not contributed to by the workmen. These are public-spirited men, who have got down to the problem and are working out plans for the retention of the areas where works are becoming redundant.
All I ask is that sympathetic and earnest consideration be given to their proposals. While we want the Government to help, we are in the fortunate position of having an employees' section and an employers' section, who are alive to all the problems. When they make representations, I trust that it will be our privilege and opportunity to listen to statements made by the Minister, and made in our conferences in Swansea and in the tinplate trade, to assure us that these plans are being accepted.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) has told a moving story. He will understand if I do not follow him into the intricacies of the steel trade. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) reminded us of the human qualities of the Welsh people. As my hon. Friend has just pointed out, we are proud of the warmth of the fellowship which we find in Wales.
The Welsh people are not only warm-hearted; they are hard-headed. They know on which side their bread is 270 buttered. They are the most Socialist people in the world. For years, the Welsh people have said goodbye to the Conservative Party—at least, they have put the Conservative Party in its place. But against their will, and due to the vagaries of the English and the Scottish vote, we find ourselves with a Minister for Welsh Affairs who hails from Scotland, who represents a Liverpool constituency and who speaks with an Oxford accent. I am sorry. In saying that I could not think of anything better to say.
The problems which confront Wales are economic. There is a section in the long out-of-date Report which we are discussing which refers to the old age pensioner. It tells us that next September—which was last September—an old age pensioners' week was to be held in Wales, and that it was hoped to arouse tremendous enthusiasm. Instead, it was a damp squib, a complete flop. It is the National Old Age Pensioners' Association which concerns itself with the old age pensioners of Wales.
The needs of our old age pensioners are the same as those of the pensioners across the Border. They want more to eat, they want more security, and they want a guarantee that their roof will stay over their heads. That is why they were shocked to find that one hon. Member on the other side of the House who represents a South Wales constituency—the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—could say in the House that he was opposed to leasehold reform. He said that he was opposed to giving reform to the people who sent him here.
§ Mr. Gower
What I said was completely the opposite. I said that I moved a resolution at the Conservative Conference in 1950 in favour of a reform by which leases could be renewed and that I advocated, and asked my right hon. Friend in the debate last week, whether Wales could not have special treatment in the renewal of leases at their termination. Did I not say that the Bill before the House last week was the best bit of legislation ever to be brought forward to be put on the Statute Book as a permanent piece of legislation for the benefit of the leaseholder?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member is quite right in the last part of his remarks. I do not know what he did at 271 the Conservative Party Conference. I am too busily occupied in reading serious literature to follow what happens there. The hon. Member knows very well that he voted last Thursday night against leasehold enfranchisement.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are now on the Adjournment and very little is out of order except for proposing legislation. Whether what has been said is true, I do not know.
§ Mr. Thomas
What the hon. Gentleman means is, "Is it not a little hard on me to expose me," after the manner in which he has talked in Barry on leasehold reform.
§ Mr. Speaker
There is a facet of this matter to which I should direct the attention of the House. The Bill to which reference has been made is now going through the House. It is quite out of order, during a debate on the Adjournment, to spend time on a Bill which is in process of going through the House.
§ Mr. Thomas
I was not proposing to spend any time on the Bill, Sir, but upon the hon. Member for Barry. However, I will leave that point, at your request, and direct the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the hon. Member for Barry complained tonight that the trains running to South Wales were a little late and a little bit cold. I was waiting—
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman. He once made a request to the House that electors should have intelligence tests. He may remember making that request. After what the hon. Gentleman has said on Welsh affairs, I am not surprised that he thinks that the electors ought to have them. 272 The Report deals with the care of children. I am astonished to find what a high proportion of the children of Wales have to go into local authority care, and I wonder whether the Minister would be kind enough to let us know whether the percentage for Glamorgan is higher than the average. I am told that the figure is as high as 8 per cent. of the child population of the county. I should like this point checked, because the figures are a little out-of-date. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would confirm that for me, I should be grateful.
Reference has been made to the industrial prospects of Cardiff. There is anxiety there about redundancy in the Royal Ordnance Factory at Llanishen. As the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) pointed out, in his opening speech, for which we are all grateful, men have already been dismissed at that factory. In the constituency, last weekend, I heard that another 80 had been dismissed, and I had a letter some time ago telling me that more than 70 had been dismissed. It is high time that the Minister for Welsh Affairs interested himself in the dangerous position which is developing at this ordnance factory.
The future of the rest of Wales is linked to a planned economy. It is the basic nationalised industries which are giving the proper employment to our people, and I hope that the Government will do all they can to further that employment.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is leaving the Chamber—
§ Mr. Padley
—because he and I are old rivals. We contested the Ogmore Division in 1950. I think the concluding part of his speech today was a peroration delivered on the eve of the poll in February, 1950. He remarked that the White Paper showed that the employment and industrial situation in Wales was generally healthy, and he went on to say that it was not only under one Government that these things took place.
I would like to remind the hon. Gentleman that the present Government have had precious little to do with the results 273 recorded in the White Paper. Indeed, the good side of the White Paper is almost entirely due to the practice of the Socialist principles which are shared by the vast majority of the Welsh people, in defiance of the philosophy of the hon. Gentleman and his friends. Without public ownership and substantial public investment in the basic industries, and without power to steer private industries into South Wales and parts of North Wales, these achievements would not have been possible.
The record in this White Paper and previous White Papers shows conclusively that the Jeremiahs of the days gone by, exponents of the free enterprise gospel of the Tory Party, have been confounded. They used to argue that we should find the sites were wrong and the labour was not suitable, that we should be defying natural economic laws, and what you will. Well, the Jeremiahs have been confounded. There has been developed in the Welsh Development Areas a new structure of light industries.
The testing time may well come. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) referred to the possibility of repercussions in Britain of an American recession. I thought it appropriate that before this debate began the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have made a statement on the possibility of a recession in connection with the Commonwealth Conference of Finance Ministers. I found it intensely interesting when his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen-shire, East (Sir R. Boothby) asked whether future recessions were to be known as "adjustments." Great as have been the achievements of the new industries in South Wales, there can be no doubt whatever that if the American recession, which certainly has begun, develops and if its repercussions are found in the markets of the world, these new industries in South Wales would be most vulnerable.
My light hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to a number of these factories being branches of firms with headquarters in England, but of course many of the others have quite slender financial resources. Indeed, only on Saturday the Chairman of the Bridgend Tenants' Association came to see me about some of the problems of the Bridgend Trading Estate and pointed 274 out that many of the tenants, particularly the smaller firms, feel somewhat hitter about the way in which the Board of Trade have increased rents by up to 66⅔ per cent, without consideration of the difficulties confronting some of the firms. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will consider the renewed representations which are to be made to him.
The testing time may well be ahead, therefore, but can we expect from the Government the kind of policy which will prevent disaster from overtaking the promising developments in the new industries in South Wales? I must say that the general reaction of the Government, which up to now has been to take an ostrich-like attitude towards the beginning of the American recession, is not very consoling when one considers their apparent lack of policy with regard to preparatory plans to meet any emergency which may arise.
I should also like to point out that, since the Government came into power, so far from doing anything substantial to develop the policies which rescued the South Wales Development Area, they have taken a number of actions which are quite contrary to the whole policy of the Distribution of Industry Act. In this House some months ago we debated one aspect of that. The Minister of housing and Local Government has suspended the substantial payments which could be made under that Act in respect of sewage, water and similar schemes. How came it that those kind of provisions were in a Distribution of Industry Act? The answer is that the Act sought, first, industrial reconstruction to provide employment, and then social reconstruction to repair the ravages of the depressions of days gone by.
However, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government has suspended those grants. That means that work which should have been done many years ago is again held up. Only recently a further instance of how the Government are now sabotaging some important aspects of the Act came to my notice. In my constituency are three mining valleys. Two, the Garw Valley and the Ogmore Valley, are very narrow and precipitous but they contain some very valuable coal mines. Indeed, the Ffaldau scheme for reorganisation in the Garw Valley is costing something like £1 million. 275 In those narrow valleys there have never been decent social amenities by way of playing fields, and so on. In the Ogmore Valley, for example, the grammar school and the other schools are without proper recreational facilities. The miners in their leisure time, are, likewise, without proper playing field facilities. The Distribution of Industry Act anticipated this kind of situation. Under Section 5 it was possible for local authorities to make application for special grants for such schemes. In a narrow and precipitous valley it is a costly business to provide a playing field of any dimensions. One has either to excavate mountains or to level tips.
In the Ogmore Valley we were fortunate in establishing a case under Section 5 of the Act, but the Board of Trade would not give final sanction to the 100 per cent. grant until the Ministry of Education had agreed, under another Act, to provide a grant, when the Wyndham tip had been excavated and levelled, for developing it as a playing field. Finally, the Ministry of Education and the Board of Trade approved the scheme. Between £40,000 and £50,000 were spent in creating an area of about 16 acres level ground.
Then there was a General Election. The present Government, as a part of their financial policy, have gone back on the undertaking of the Ministry of Education in the days of the Labour Government to provide the grant to turn the 16 acres of levelled tip into a playing field. The reason why my constituents in the Ogmore Valley—in the main, miners and their children—are to be left without adequate playing field facilities is because the task of providing playing fields in this narrow and precipitous valley was a long and costly job. It was not completed by June, 1952. Therefore, no grant is payable from the Ministry of Education to enable the job to be finished.
On the one hand, over £40,000 of public money, viathe Board of Trade and the Distribution of Industry Act, has been expended, trot the Ministry of Education, presumalbly reflecting Government and Treasury policy, has vetoed the completion of the scheme. Some may say that this is a purely constituency point. However, I want to emphasise that it illustrates a problem which exists throughout the South Wales coalfields. Since public ownership there have been 276 large-scale reorganisation schemes involving the investment of many millions of public funds, but still there are manpower problems in the South Wales mining industry.
I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary that unless it is possible to provide good social amenities in the mining valleys there is little point in spending tremendous sums on reorganising the unit of production. If an adequate supply of miners is to be forthcoming in future, then reasonable social amenities must be provided for the men and women who live in these areas with their children. Therefore, I make a special appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman not only to take this case up with the Ministry of Education but to use his influence in the Cabinet to bring about a change of policy so that the Distribution of Industry Act can be implemented to the full in its provisions about amenities such as sewage, water and playing fields.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
I wish to support the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) in his forceful speech, and especially to agree with the emphasis he placed on the question of amenities in these narrow mining valleys. The valley which I am proud to represent in this House is topographically very similar to the three valleys which I am sure that my hon. Friend is equally proud to represent here.
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary is a Rugby enthusiast. He will see very graphically the point which my hon. Friend and I make when I tell him that in one part of my valley when a Rugby football match is being played we have to employ one person to stand in the river to fish out the ball every time someone kicks it into touch. That, in a veryhomely illustration, is typical of the difficulties with which we find ourselves confronted in the mining valleys of South Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) has shown a fine attitude toward the requirements of a debate such as this. He gave us a fine lead. His contribution was admirable. 277 He referred to the complete transformation in the Welsh industrial scene. Hon. Members on this side of the House have rightly laid claim to the contribution made by our party in effecting this transformation. But for a person such as myself who has lived all his life in the Principality, with the exception of a few years in London, it is really no over-estimation to use such a word as a "miracle" when one describes the difference between the economic and industrial scene in Wales today with that which prevailed a quarter of a century ago.
Visitors returning to Wales after, perhaps, 25 years or so in America or Australia comment almost in bated breath at the change in its industrial outlook. A person undertaking a journey in South Wales today—I cannot speak with authority about North Wales—must feel, unless he is too near to present day events to see them in their true perspective, that something approaching a miracle has taken place.
I am sure that on both sides of the House we are very anxious and concerned to preserve this fairly prosperous and successful industrial scene which we see in the Principality today. The basic industry, mining, is undergoing a complete reorientation of outlook. In my division, there are two largish collieries. In one there is an expected capital expenditure of £1 million and in the other a capital expenditure of £2 million on new development.
Just think how different would have been the social and economic history of my valley if such capital expenditure had been forthcoming in the 1920's and the 1930's. What terrible tragedies—domestic, personal and community—would have been averted if the far-seeing outlook of the National Coal Board had been in existence before the war when those mines were under private ownership.
But, even so, we are concerned—as it is right and proper that we should be—with those little clouds which might at this stage appear to be no bigger than the span of a hand. I and my colleagues who represent the mining valleys of Monmouthshire are concerned at the short-term working in the Northern Aluminium Company of Rogerstone. Some 1,800 278 workers in that company, a company which I am sure the Home Secretary will readily agree performed such excellent feats during the war, now lose three shifts in every fortnight's working. Such a state of affairs calls for close consideration lest it may be just an incipient sign of deterioration which will become more marked as time goes on.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) referred—as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)—to the existence of that hard core of a problem which we have in Wales, the difficulty of which we certainly do not minimise. It is the problem of the disabled workmen.
That great venture, the Remploy undertaking, has 90 factories in Great Britain today which employ 6,000 severely disabled workmen. That is something which must be evaluated beyond the ordinary statistics which have been mentioned. It is not merely a question of 6,000 people being employed. It is a question of 6,000 severely disabled people being employed, and a matter of the restoration of hope to people to whom life has dealt such severe blows.
I understand that there is a loss in the economic working of these Remploy factories equivalent to ll½d. per head of the population of Britain. That probably represents half a packet of cigarettes or half a pint of beer. I do not smoke so I would not know much about these analogies, but the loss is not much when we realise what it means in the way of new hope to these people who have been struck down in the middle of life.
Finally, I wish to refer to a question which has been touched upon in this debate only by the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett). It is the question of afforestation in Wales. I stand in this House as one who has been converted to the idea of afforestation in Wales, though that conversion, of course, is not as dramatic as some of the great religious conversions about which we know.
Last September, I journeyed with some of my colleagues to inspect the afforestation schemes in the Principality. I was converted to the wonderful work being done there, because, of course, Wales lends itself so naturally to such schemes. I would like to think that in the type of 279 valley in which I live and which I represent, a valley so crudely and harshly despoiled by the over-industrialisation of the last 100 years, with its bare tips and its bleak mountains or hills such as we have in the upper reaches of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire, the Forestry Commission could seriously set about tackling the question of having further plantations on these mountain reaches.
I know, as my right hon. Friend said in his interjection, that they are on the plan. I know that in the part of the western valley of Monmouthshire in which I live we have an excellent example of the beautifying effect that is possible with afforestation. I want that effect extended to the bleaker part of the upper reaches of that valley, particularly in Blaina and Nantyglo. It would make life much more tolerable for the miners, and it would add to the amenities.
The hon. Member for Reading, North spoke about his aesthetic reservations in connection with these coniferous plantations. Of course, that is a matter of taste, and in the more beautiful parts of Merionethshire or Caernarvonshire there may be something to be said for it. But in the bleaker valleys of Monmouthshire, the touch of greenery and symmetry which a fine plantation would bring to the people would be very much welcomed.
I hope that the Forestry Commission will help in meeting certain problems which are sometimes created through the industrialisation of South Wales. It may be that some disabled people could be employed in afforestation schemes. I know that they are doing excellent work in Llanfach and Abercarn. Over 3,000 men are employed in Wales in afforestation. There are 60 or 70 forestry units in Wales, and I believe, as was said by the hon. Member for Reading, North, that with true co-operation between the farming interests and the forestry interests we can, even in the present day industrialised setting, add considerably to the prosperity of the Principality.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
It must be due to the innate courtesy of hon. Members from Wales and the modesty of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that until the intervention of my hon. 280 Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) criticism of the Government had been in very tender and generous vein. I should be lacking in candour if I allowed this opportunity to go without saying categorically that the encouraging features of this Report are not due at all to any steps taken by the Conservative Government.
May I, first of all, repudiate the suggestion made in a London newspaper yesterday, that "Wales is up for auction." Nothing of the kind. It was disappointing to find a well-informed commentator, who usually writes with much understanding of and sympathy with Welsh problems, reaching such an erroneous conclusion.
The Labour Party need not bid for the soul of Wales. We won it almost wholly and completely in 1945 by redeeming Wales from the economic depression and the despair that she suffered, and by helping to restore her cultural pursuits after many bitter frustrating years of Tory rule. That great task was achieved almost immediately after six years of ghastly warfare. Whatever faults we may possess as a nation ingratitude is not one of them, and the people of Wales will be loyal to their best friends. I would remind the Minister for Welsh affairs, with great respect, that when he speaks in Wales he represents a minority Government so far as Wales is concerned. We are entitled to press our claims upon him.
"The face of Wales has been transformed in recent years," said the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he met the Council for Wales for the first time, but after two years of Tory rule I am forced to the conclusion that the face of Wales is being transfixed. Search this document from cover to cover, and hon. Members will find not a single new idea emanating from the Tory Cabinet. The only success achieved by the Government is when they have had the courage to continue the policy of the Labour Government and implement the plan for the redistribution of industry so well prepared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). There is not the slightest trace, in this document, of Tory enterprise or initiative, and if the Tories remain in power much longer our prosperity is sure to wane. 281 Wales is a nuisance to the Tory Party. We are treated accordingly, and opportunities to debate our problems are given very reluctantly and only after considerable pressure from this side of the House. It is well to remember that if the Tory Party had realised its obligations during the pre-war years many of the schemes to which we are directing attention today could have been completed at much less cost, providing work and maintenance, instead of meagre unemployment insurance. Road communications, water, gas, electricity and houses would have been available to our people long ago, and life in the industrial and the rural areas would have been easier and brighter.
There are one or two questions I wish to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Will he publish the report of the Lloyd Committee? My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) asked if that Committee had reported. I am very confident on information I have that it has. If it has not reported finally, it has submitted an interim report, and we should like to know what those gentlemen recommend, because the Committee consists of men of wide business experience, with a splendid sense of responsibility and a large amount of public spirit. They have given much of their time on a voluntary basis to considering the problems remitted to them by the Minister for Welsh Affairs. I think that, in the main, they were redundancy in the steel and tinplate industry, and how best to make transport more efficient in Wales.
If we are not shown what these people are recommending to the Minister for Welsh Affairs will he tell us why not? Because if their recommendations are sound he will surely adopt them; if he regards them as unsound he will want to make an explanation to the public. It is due to us as public representatives, and due to the people of Wales, that we should know what such an independent body thinks should be done to improve our economic position. I ask the Minister to give that his very serious consideration. Redundancy has been on the horizon for at least 10 years, and the present relief is of a temporary character only, and it will be due to nothing but criminal neglect if the Government have no plan to cope with it when it arises.
Secondly, I ask whether the Cabinet have given any consideration to the ship- 282 building and ship- repairing industry. Facilities are available in most of the Welsh ports, including labour of exceptional skill. Is anything being done to stop the drift of work to the Continent? Has any effort been made to expedite the settlement of the dispute in that industry? Have the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and other Ministers concerned interested themselves in any way with a view to seeing that the shipbuilding industry in the Bristol Channel is restored to its wartime prosperity?
I am constrained, too, to refer to dock facilities. In the event of another international crisis arising, the docks and harbours of Wales will again be of great strategic importance. They need attention now. The principal dock at Swansea has only one entrance, and if that failed the consequences would be most serious. I need not remind the Minister of the importance of the oil industry in that particular area on the docks.
Having acquired trading estates in both North and South Wales with great potentialities, what are the Government doing to secure maximum advantage from that expenditure? Have they tried to introduce new industries such as tool making or the manufacture of machinery required for the modernisation and mechanisation of the coalfields? Industrialists who have come to Wales in recent years for the manufacture of mechanical toys, clocks, watches, etc., pay tribute to the excellent precision work of native labour. Cannot use be made of it to ease the pressure upon centres like Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Slough, and, in that way, encourage Welsh exiles to return home—to homes, by the way, they were compelled to leave because of Tory callousness in the time of economic depression?
I would remind the Government that the road improvements they authorised recently are a mere fleabite, nibbling at a problem which affords one of the major keys to industrial prosperity which would be of mutual advantage to England as well as Wales. In a circular dated 29th January, the British Road Federation point out thatThe overall case for road development for South Wales is based on economic necessity, linked with geography.The Federation refers to the Birmingham to Bristol road, the Severn Bridge, and 283 the Neath River Bridge, which, by the way, could have been finished last year but for Government indifference.
If further work is not authorised the completion of the Neath River Bridge will add to rather than diminish congestion on the main road to Swansea. I would emphasise that. The work that has already been authorised is not only inadequate, but incomplete. Even greater difficulty at the entrance to Swansea and to other parts of Wales could be created, unless further authorisation is given to complete the scheme that has been held up for two years. I ask the Minister to give this matter his very serious attention.
Unless the Government embark upon road construction on a more ambitious scale Wales will become nothing more than a warehouse holding accumulating stocks that cannot be distributed owing to the lack of transport facilities. The House and the Government must appreciate the tremendous changes that have taken place in the last 15 to 20 years, and that unless a modern highway system is brought about chaos in the transport world is inevitable. Something of a very substantial character must be done.
I was hoping that a representative of the Ministry of Education would be present, so that I could ask him one or two questions. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman inquire of the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education what she is doing in respect of a college of technology to cater for the needs of South-West Wales? This matter is of very great importance and if he can reply on that score, even at a later date, we shall be most grateful.
We are also concerned about the treatment of handicapped children. There has been a measure of progress, but we should like to see very much more done in respect of spastics. I gladly pay tribute to the work of the voluntary organisations in South Wales on behalf of spastic children. Obviously, their needs are of such a character and such a degree that they require something in the nature of very substantial Government assistance. We ought to do everything we possibly can for these children whose handicap is mostly physical and not mental. If they are given the necessary training, and proper facilities are 284 afforded them to develop their bodies and secure control of their limbs, they can still be very useful citizens when they grow up.
There is another subject which gives us great anxiety not only in South Wales but in North Wales. I refer to our hospital services. Indeed, if I had the time I could demonstrate that there is urgent need of more adequate hospital accommodation in North Wales, mid-Wales and South Wales, and the only answer the Government have made to that question up till tonight is to give us reduced grants. We have a tremendous amount of leeway to make up. If the Government can help us in this work of healing we shall be very grateful.
I would not like to do anybody an injustice, but I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman must appreciate that this Report goes to July, 1953, and it deals with the activities of the previous year. Given all the good will in the world, he cannot claim credit for any progress that it records, but we can ask him what his Government have done to introduce fresh measures, new activities, more diversity of industry and to improve our dock facilities. They have had two years in which to introduce ideas of their own, but all that has happened up to now is that they have enjoyed the legacy left them by a progressive Labour Government. If I was choosing an advocate on grounds of legal acumen and skill I would turn my eye to the Minister for Welsh Affairs, but are we not deceiving ourselves and the country if we pretend for a moment that he is able to cater for the needs of Wales and carry his other burdens as well?
It is a strange coincidence that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not only served the Government well as Home Secretary, but has been their principal speaker on at least two Bills which have given the greatest offence to Wales. I refer him to the Bill to help the brewers and the Bill last week that is to help the landlords—and I think that in between he had a word to say on behalf of the bankers. No man can pretend to represent and speak for Wales if he is the advocate of the three organisations I have mentioned.
I repeat once more that his incursion into Wales may be a delightful social 285 experience both for himself and for those who entertain him, but we are deceiving ourselves if we pretend that the needs of Wales in these changing days can be catered for by a peripatetic Minister. Even today, when all these questions are being raised, as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) pointed out, he is expected to be omniscient and omnipotent as well, but he is too modest to claim those powers. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind us once more asking him to go to the Prime Minister and say, "If we are really interested in Wales and want to convince the people of Wales that we are anxious to help them and regard them as an asset, you had better give someone else the opportunity of authority, because it is far too much to expect of the Home Secretary."
I still nave a feeling that Wales is a nuisance to the Tory Party and that, if they could, they would do without it. I beg them to realise that, as long as things remain as they are, they will hear the voice of Wales. We shall press the claim of our people, and if justice is not forthcoming from the Tory Government we shall appeal once more to England to follow our example and restore a Socialist Government to power.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
Time is passing quickly, and I should like to have an opportunity of hearing the musical voices of representatives of some of the North Wales constituencies, who are sitting here so patiently. Today, the debate has been predominantly South. I mention that because the South had the monopoly in the debate on rural depopulation.
I want to underline what I consider to be a very important problem, and that is the problem of the disabled person, particularly in the South Wales coalfield. On previous occasions during Welsh debates the attention of responsible Ministers has been called to the plight of disabled miners in the South Wales coalfield. I will not bore the House with the statistics that reflect the degree of the problem, because I think we are all fully acquainted with the facts. The Labour Government embarked on an experiment very optimistically and with a certain amount of enthusiasism, believing that the inauguration of the Grenfell scheme 286 would be one to bring about the solution of the problem of unemployment of disabled persons.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who sits here in front of me, showed, during the last Welsh debate, some natural resentment at what I quoted on that occasion. I said on that occasion—I repeat it today—that the conception of the Grenfell scheme was a very brilliant one. It was well-conceived and, as hon. Members know, the Grenfell factories carry the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower and everyone associated with that scheme had great hopes that it would solve the problem of disabled workers in South Wales.
We are all acquainted with the difficulties, and I think that the basic difficulty is one of principle. We laid too much stress and built our hopes on the possibility of providing employment and bearing the responsibility of bringing about the solution of what is, after all. a social problem. I know that some of the employers in my constituency in the Rhondda Valley have done everything possible within their power to give very generous approbation to the claims of the disabled person. But, after all, the efficient factory owner or manager is conscious of the fact that his factory is basically a commercial proposition, and he cannot overweight his factory with too high a percentage of disabled persons. We are very grateful to the private employers who have come into the South Wales valleys, set up their factories, trained the labour and taken on a certain percentage of disabled workers, but it is asking too much to expect these people to accept what is a Government responsibility.
The experiment with the Grenfell factories has gone on for several years and we must face the fact that the problem requires fresh thinking. We have had sufficient time to form a mature judgment, we have had a number of years' experience. We find that only about 366 pneumoconiosis victims have been employed in the Grenfell factories, for example. We are very grateful for the efforts which have been made in the Remploy factory scheme on behalf of the most seriously disabled; despite the many defects in the past, thanks must be expressed for the efforts which have been 287 made to make the Remploy factories a success. We hope and trust that the new conception and the new organisation being established will produce better results in the future.
I said that we require fresh thinking on this matter, and I ask the House and the Minister to face the fact that there cannot be a solution to this problem of giving some hope or some future to the 5,000 or 6,000 disabled in Wales unless the Government are prepared to accept a more direct responsibility for solving it. I know that in these days of economy the hand of the Treasury falls on the claims of the respective Departments and that economy has to be exercised in many ways, but I will make a suggestion to the Minister for his consideration—a suggestion to illustrate what I have in mind. I hope that my arithmetic is right.
We have 5,000 or 6,000 disabled persons in Wales. My fresh thinking leads me to make a suggestion to the Minister. Let us take the figure of 4,000 disabled persons now in receipt of unemployment benefit and let us assume that the average personal receipt of benefit is £3 a week. My arithmetic, worked out very hurriedly in the Library, suggests that this means £12,000 a week, or £600,000 a year, being paid from the Insurance Fund. It has been paid for year after year and, unless something fresh is done, it will be paid for year after year in the future. Let us assume that the Treasury would be prepared to be generous and to finance a new proposal to the extent of £12,000 a week—equal to the figure which I have quoted. That would mean another £600,000 a year, which would bring the total to £1,200,000 a year.
What do we get for that? We receive, first of all, the £600,000 which has been paid through the employment exchanges. That payment, in any event, has an inflationary effect because it is a quantity of money put into circulation without any productive effort in return. If we consider 4,000 unemployed men working five days a week, we get a very substantial total of manshifts and manhours. For the expenditure of this £1,200,000—that is, the saving in unemployment benefit and the extra £12,000 a week provided by the Treasury—we shall get one million 288 manshifts and seven million manhours in a year going to some productive effort.
The problem is, what can be the nature of the productive effort? During the war there was not a disabled man in the whole of Wales who was unemployed. With the requirements of all the nationalised industries and all the Services—the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and any other Services—surely something like that could be achieved again, if the will were there. It may be pointed out that there are difficulties in the way, but Governments are set up to solve difficulties, and if the will is there I am sure something can be done on the lines I have indicated to bring these forgotten men of industry back into employment.
Some of these men spent 25 or 30 years in the coal mines and then suffered from accidents, others have been affected by industrial disease. Something can be done to see that these men are taken off the street corners of Wales and given profitable employment, not solely because of the money values attached to the job, but also to save these men from having so much time at their disposal to brood and to become introverts, turning in on themselves because of their idleness.
I trust that in the Minister's reply we shall have a promise that there will be fresh thinking on this problem. I am sure that the experience gained in Remploy and Grenfell will be of great benefit in the consideration of this matter for the future.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I should like to associate myself with the observations of the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) on disabled persons, of whom he has a very large number in his constituency. A number of us had some direct experience with people in this category in the old days in the implementation of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, when workmen had to go through the farce of producing evidence of efforts made to get work and when there were attempts to bring workmen within what, if I remember rightly was called the "odd lot" principle.
Despite the genuine efforts made by past Governments to alleviate these serious social and economic problems, unfortunately, as the hon. Member for 289 Rhondda, West said, no marked success has been achieved. I would welcome a further review of existing measures to see whether far more substantial progress could be made to solve the problem than has been made so far. The fact that employment could be found for these people during the war clearly indicates that they are not in the category "unemployable."While they cannot compete in the ordinary labour market, and while it is difficult to persuade employers to accept them—employers who themselves have to compete in a market based on economic factors and on profits—I should like the Government to look at the suggestions which the hon. Member for Rhondda, West has put forward, and with which many of us find sympathy, to try to work out a more effective remedy. There is a serious economic aspect to the fact that 5,000 to 6,000 people are virtually permanently unemployed in a relatively limited area. But the most serious factor of all to my mind is the undoubted harm which this does to the social well-being of those men, and indeed to the community in which they live.
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I do not intend to keep the House for more than a few moments. The two points I have to make are in the category of Committee points. On the Report on Housing there are some figures which show that the housing authorities in Wales have not been unconscious of their responsibilities in this particular field, and I for one am not making a general charge against our local authorities or against the Minister of Housing and Local Government for lack of enthusiasm in putting forward housing programmes in the Principality.
But, from the limited data available to me, there is one aspect of the matter which I think is somewhat disquieting. I use the phrase "limited data," because it is difficult to get any specific information and the Report itself does not provide any enlightenment on this particular problem. What I am referring to is the efforts made by local authorities in Wales to provide accommodation for elderly people. I am not thinking of old people's homes in the sense of establishments, but the provision of bungalows, flats and small houses for elderly couples.
I am told—and I would be grateful if the Minister could provide us with figures 290 —that if one compares the number of houses, units of accommodation or whatever we like to call them, provided specifically by Welsh authorities for elderly people with those provided in England, the result is very surprising and a sad reflection upon our sense of duty towards these people.
I am informed, for example, that in the south-eastern area, which is comparable in population to Wales, eight times as many houses or accommodation units specially designed for elderly people have been provided than in Wales. I am speaking, of course, subject to correction on these figures, but, taking the picture as a whole and making full allowance for the population difference, the number of these houses built in England is five times as great as those built for this purpose in Wales, whereas the proportion of elderly people to the rest of the population is substantially higher in the Principality.
I believe that part of the reason for this is the fact, as has been revealed in survey after survey, that Welsh families are more inclined to look after their aged parents than their counterpart in England. If one compares the figures, to give a graphic example, of elderly people being cared for in their homes by the younger generation of Rhondda and London, the figures are very favourable to Rhondda, and the same is true of our rural areas. But when one gets a discrepancy of something like one in eight in the independent provision made, I suggest it is something that calls for investigation.
The prime responsibility is, of course, that of the local authorities. If in this respect they are lacking in their duty, then the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, should take steps to see that they are forcibly reminded of their duty to this particular section of society. I hope the Minister will see that something is done in this direction.
There is just one other point I wish to make, and that concerns our hospitals. I do not want to review the hospital situation in Wales. We had an opportunity recently of doing so. A great deal is said about the problem of tuberculosis and the provision of hospital accommodation for tuberculosis patients in Wales. Great strides have been made in that direction. The main problem is, I believe, 291 the problem of operative treatment for tuberculosis, but what is astonishing is that when one compares the number of deaths from tuberculosis in Wales today with the number of deaths from cancer and at the same time compares the facilities for tuberculosis treatment with the facilities for cancer treatment, one is struck with the fact that while substantial strides have been made in the one field and but little progress in the other.
I do not want in any way to underestimate the great scourge of tuberculosis and the necessity of facing up to it. But if we compare those figures and the efforts made, it is quite clear that for cancer a great deal more needs to be done in the Principality than is being done at the present time.
§ Mr. Bowen
But the fact remains that the waiting list for treatment and facilities in cases where remarkable results have been achieved is lengthy. I do not wish the House to think that I am not conscious of the great work done through the medium of existing facilities. Very fine work has certainly been carried out, but the only existing facilities for this specific treatment is a wing attached to a mental hospital. I should like the Minister to urge upon those responsible for this particular section of our health service to reconsider their plan for cancer treatment in Wales, because it is an urgent need which is not at present being met.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
The obvious disadvantage of today's debate is that we are being asked to consider a report on things achieved and not proposals for things to come. We are dealing with yesterday and not today and tomorrow. The greatest of teachers said:Let the dead bury their dead.I am sure we will all agree that the retrospective nature of the debate makes it far less interesting and valuable than it would otherwise be. In the world where events change so rapidly and when nothing can be regarded as fundamentally stable, prospection is of far greater interest and value than retrospection. 292 It is unfortunate, too, that we are dealing with a Report that was actually published last September. I am tired of looking at it, at least of the cover. This also has a tendency to make the debate less realistic, because I am sure that many of the figures which it contains are obviously out of date by now. When I read the Report—and I have read it carefully—I did so from the angle of North Wales, and one aspect of industrial development in North Wales in the Report deserves careful consideration.
As is known, North Wales is not highly industrialised, but the general industrial problem has a very serious aspect. There is a tendency to concentrate on industry in one area, East Hint and East Denbigh. As a result of this tendency a very undesirable situation has arisen. There is a shortage of manpower in that area coinciding with mounting unemployment in places like Anglesey and Merionethshire in North Wales. Not only is this serious, but the policy of concentrating industry in one area tends to depopulate still further the rural villages of North Wales. We have been discussing that in this House recently, and I am sure it is tending to aggravate the situation.
I have read the Report carefully and with great interest. It is rather exhaustive and deals with practically every industry in the Principality. There is one industry in North Wales in which I am particularly interested that does not even get an honourable mention in the Report, although it has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). I am referring to the tourist industry. Anyone who has visited North Wales will agree with me that the grandeur of its scenery is unsurpassed in the whole of Britain. I will not put it higher than that here in London; elsewhere I would say it a bit stronger. In some respects it is unsurpassed even in the whole continent.
§ Mr. Jones
I have never been to Switzerland, but I am told that that country can be regarded as the North Wales of Europe. Be that as it may, we can all agree with the vast possibilities of the tourist industry. If it were put on a sound footing it could develop into 293 a considerable dollar earning industry. Indeed it could perhaps permanently, partially solve the depopulation problem. I understand that the catering industry in North Wales finds employment today for no less than 12,000 people.
If the tourist industry could only be developed to the extent that it should be, there is no reason why that number should not be increased to at least 30,000. Before this can be done, however, it will be necessary to publicise our scenery or, in other words, to sell the attractions of Wales to the foreigner. At present the Tourist Board is unable to do this owing to lack of finance. A substantial grant from the Government, whose example I am sure would be readily followed by the local authorities of Wales, would enable the Tourist Board to perform its work effectively. Here, then, is an industry, much neglected in the past, which can be developed for the benefit of the entire nation.
I am anxious to emphasise something else which the Report does not contain, and I am hoping, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will not call me to order for discussing things not in the Report. As has been emphasised by others today, the time has arrived when we should be presented annually with official statistics relating to Wales as a separate unit. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) told us that this is tainted with nationalism—
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Will the hon. Gentleman excuse me for interrupting? I said that the demand has already become tainted with Welsh nationalism. I did not say that everyone who asks for fresh figures is tainted with nationalism.
§ Mr. Jones
I am proud to be a nationalist in that sense. I am a Welshman first and last and, but for the snow that covers my garden, probably I should be here today with a leek or a daffodil in 294 my coat. I am aware that the Minister has promised that we shall have a digest of statistics with the Annual Report. I hope earnestly that the proposed digest will not be routine tables culled from the regional officers of the Principality. We want something far more extensive than that.
One of the leading economists of Wales, Mr. Brinley Thomas, has asked several questions in the supplement which has been referred to so often today, published by the "Western Mail." I did not receive a copy but a friend of mine—
§ Mr. Jones
I compliment the "Western Mail"on that publication. It is as interesting, if not more so, than the White Paper we are discussing. These are some of the questions Mr. Thomas asked: what are the implications for Wales as a whole of the revolution that is taking place today in the iron and steel industry, how far has the progress of diversification gone, what different varieties of manufactured goods are now produced in Wales and how much of the income generated in Wales is spent elsewhere? These and kindred questions can only be answered when Wales is treated as a separate unit in relation to income, consumption, investment, expenditure and industrial activities.
I want, in conclusion, to refer to one subject mentioned in the Report, the river boards and arterial drainage. I am not satisfied that these boards receive sufficient grants, or at least that their resources are sufficient to enable them to carry out their true functions. I notice also from the Report that the works are on main rivers and not so much on the smaller streams. We have heard time and time again that during the coming years we shall have to depend more and more on the production of our own soil. I am sure I am not exaggerating when I say that there are hundreds of acres of land which formerly yielded food and which now lie derelict because of the lack of drainage.
I have previously called the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture to the condition of a very large area in my constituency, in the region of Dyffryn Ardudwy. The highland streams are 295 supposed to flow along prepared channels into Cardigan Bay but, due to the condition of the sluices and other factors, these streams do not reach their destination. They form stagnant pools and marshes. One farmer told me recently that he remembers grazing 30 cows on that land. Today it is not fit to support one cow. It is nothing short of criminal to neglect land in this way. The Minister does not happen to be in his place at the moment.
§ Mr. Jones
He deserves it. I hope he gets Welsh lamb. I ask the Minister to consider this terrible waste. I should like to see a Government representative appointed to investigate what is happening in this area. The river board seems to be helpless in the matter of bringing the land back to fertility. I have taken advantage of this debate to make that special appeal.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
Having listened to the whole of this debate, I want, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) and all those who have taken part in it. In contrast with the last debate on Welsh affairs when I had to lead for the Opposition, it has been a joy to sit and listen and I am grateful to my hon. Friends for the useful suggestions which they have put to the Minister. It would be impossible for him to deal with all the points and the suggestions which have been made today and I shall not attempt to raise any point to which I would expect him to reply this evening.
But while congratulating those who have taken part in the debate, I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House: how long we are to have debates of this kind? What do we really get at the end? The time has come when, after receiving a Report of the kind which the Government have presented on this occasion, there should be a statement of policy by the Government of the day before the debate. We had an excellent precedent for that in the debate on rural affairs, when we had a White Paper on rural policy.
Since it was known that we were to have a debate quite early in 1954, I 296 should have liked to see the Government publish a White Paper on industrial policy, because that subject has taken up the major part of this debate. I do not know how long that White Paper would have been required to be, assuming that the speech of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) had been known beforehand. That is the difficulty when Welshmen speak. They do not know when to stop or what best to bring forward. I hope, however, that the Minister will select from the debate the most important points dealing with industrial policy and reply to them before we finish.
I have the largest constituency in the country. As a result, I get all kinds of problems, but I try to contact the regional officers in Wales first. I want to thank them, not for the replies which they send to me—because they are not always satisfactory—but for the splendid work which they have done in the regional offices. There are quite a number of paragraphs in this Report on Government action where, one is gratified to find, excellent results are reported. What a good thing it is to read, for instance, the section of the Report which is devoted to the health service in Wales; but many problems still remain.
One problem concerns tuberculosis in central Wales. It is a matter not so much of the incidence of the disease, but of the shortage of staff at our sanatoria. If it is impossible to secure male or female staff for our hospitals I think the time has come to have a kind of rehabilitation school where former tuberculosis patients could do some hospital work. I believe that that suggestion merits attention.
I wish to say a word of congratulation to the Wales Gas Board and the South Wales Electricity Board, who have done very good work, after a great deal of pressure from this House. I was glad recently to find that a rural electricity development plan for £16 million worth of work is to be embarked upon. I wish them every success. May I make a suggestion to them? If electricity were under private control and were to be laid on to a village for the first time, there would be a terrific "to do." People would be called together few a tea and an opening ceremony. But nothing of that kind happens now. I think the Electricity Board should let people know that these facilities are being made available. 297 There is also good work done by county planning officers in Wales. They have a terrific task because in the economic structure of Wales it is most difficult to plan for the next 50 years and to forecast what is to happen in all the Welsh counties, particularly in the industrial areas. I wish to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) said about road policy. There is disappointment in some parts of Wales—in Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan and Monmouth—about the new road policy. I happen to be a member of the Welsh Counties Committee of the County Councils' Association. I hope that the Minister will take particular note of any protest that comes forward in the next couple of months from that direction.
I wish to raise two constituency points on roads and bridges. In Breconshire and Radnorshire, we have been waiting for a long time for something to be done to the Hay Bridge. If nothing is done for a long time a township will be isolated without any roads of any description. In another part of my constituency, on the borders of the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), is Ystalyfera, where a road runs to Brynaman, where there is a dangerous bridge under which double decker buses cannot pass. That bridge holds up labour for light industry factories in Ystradgynlais. We want to get more labour into those factories in order to increase our export trade, but the niggardly attitude of the Minister of Transport holds this up. You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, are interested in this subject and I think that something ought to be said sometimes on your behalf, because you are unable to say anything here. Something done about that problem would help you as well. Perhaps you will have more influence than I have with the Minister of Transport.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) raised a very important matter about school leavers and their employment. A portion of the Report deals with this subject under "Youth Employment Service." I am astounded to find that the Welsh Advisory Committee of the National Youth Employment Council has only met three times in the period covered by this Report. There is sufficient material in the 298 second memorandum of the Council for Wales on the employment of school leavers, particularly from grammar schools and secondary modern schools, for much greater consideration to be given to this very important subject. I find that the number of youngsters going in for apprenticeships in the establishments of rural counties is very low indeed.
There is a paragraph in the Report on publicity and information. Only in the last two days have I noticed that there are new charges for films. For what are those films used for? They were used for small country districts and hamlets between big centres in the industrial areas. They were used by church organisations and voluntary organisations. One of the things to which I used to attach myself before coming to this House was a young people's guild, connected with my chapel. I was secretary and I also ran a Young Wales club. We were fortunate at that time to get free films from the Ministry of Information. All that is stopped now and the Report says that the chapels and churches and youth organisations are mainly affected. A great service would be done if someone would look to this aspect of the problem.
I would inform the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) that he is in a minority of one in his views on the question of publicity and information, and why statistics for Wales should be issued at all. The more relevant information we can obtain the better, and no harm will be done by acquiring it. It is immaterial from what source such information may be derived, provided that it is obtained.
As I said at the outset, the Minister will find himself confronted by a formidable task if he attempts to reply to all the points which have been raised, but I hope that the House will consider at some time whether our debates on Welsh affairs could result in something more useful being achieved. I am not criticising the speeches which have been made by hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies, but I would ask, after the speeches, what next? If I have succeeded in promoting an interest in what is to happen after these speeches I shall feel that I have achieved a useful purpose by intervening in this debate.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
There is general agreement among hon. Members on tooth sides of the House that this is a satisfactory report. This is because we learn from it that full employment in Wales has been maintained during the year under discussion. That is a source of gratification to everyone of us. We remember the unfortunate period before 1939, when both North and South Wales was a black area of depression.
A point which has not been made, but which I think should be made, is that our position in Wales is not so good as that of England. In one of the appendices at the end of the Report we read that the percentage of unemployed in Wales in June, 1953, was 2.8 per cent. of the insured population, whereas the comparable percentage on the same date in Great Britain was 1.4. In other words, unemployment in Wales during the past few years has stood at double that of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, we are glad that unemployment has been kept at such a low level.
I had not anticipated that I should have an opportunity to speak in this debate. My hon. Friends from South Wales have been economical with their words—though their speeches have been no less effective because of it—and, consequently, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and myself have had the chance to intervene. I am glad of that because it enables me to put to the Minister and to the House one very important constituency point. It is that the unemployment position in my constituency of Anglesey is becoming increasingly serious.
It cannot really be said that the employment position in Wales is satisfactory if the situation in one county remains unsatisfactory. In the furthermost corner of Wales, in Anglesey or Monmouth, or Cardiff, and, indeed, in the countries of England, there will be concern because in Wales there remains a black spot of unemployment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the percentage of the insured population of Anglesey who are today unemployed is 8.2, compared with 1.5 per cent. for the country as a whole and 2.8 per cent. for Wales. 300 In these days of full employment that is a serious figure, although I know it is not comparable with the figures which prevailed before the war. In 1934–35, for instance, 45 per cent. of the insured population of Anglesey were out of work and Anglesey was one of the worst hit counties in the United Kingdom. The people of Anglesey are concerned about the situation because they remember those days of soup kitchens and dole queues, and when they see unemployment insidiously creeping back they fear a return to the inter-war situation.
Because of the gravity of the position, perhaps I may be permitted to describe the general background in the county. Anglesey is very largely an agricultural county. It is known in Welsh as "Môn, mam Cymru," which means "Anglesey, mother of Wales." At one time during the great wars between England and Wales, wars which, fortunately, have now ceased—
§ Mr. Hughes
—permanently, Itrust—it was known as the granary of Wales. It is an agricultural county, but there has been some diversification of industry there. We have a large factory in Beaumaris owned by Saunders-Roe Ltd., a well-known and reputable firm, now manufacturing omnibus bodies and employing a substantial number of persons. There is also an interesting and noteworthy new factory at Amlwch, which is extracting bromine from the waters of the sea. When it works to its full capacity it will employ about 150 people. In addition, there are three small factories at Holyhead.
In spite of these factories and notwithstanding the comparative prosperity of agriculture, there still remains a hard core of unemployment at Llangefni, in the centre of the county. There has been unemployment at Llangefni for a long period, and I suggest that the only way to cure it is to establish a small or medium heavy industry in the Llangefni area. Llangefni, a growing community, is the central market town of Anglesey, and such a factory could well be established, because all the necessary amenities exist there. If the Minister for Welsh Affairs will use his well publicised persuasive powers to bring such a factory to Llangefni, no one will be more grateful than I shall be. 301 We have today heard much about the great ports of South Wales, and, as a nation, we are proud of those ports and of their records, especially in wartime. But perhaps I may be permitted to mention the largest port in North Wales, Holyhead. If it were working to full capacity, the port of Holyhead would solve the unemployment problem of Anglesey. The port is owned and run by British Railways, and if the Minister and the Government can bring pressure to bear upon British Railways to make fuller use of the port, which maintains traffic with Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, a great deal will have been done to alleviate permanently the unemployment problem in this county.
I am grateful to the House for bearing with me in what is, after all, a constituency matter, but I believe it to be of sufficient importance to justify my bringing it to the notice of the Minister in this debate. I sincerely hope he will use his good offices as Minister for Welsh Affairs to bring this serious situation to the notice of the appropriate Government Departments.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
In this unaccustomed role of winding up the debate for my Welsh colleagues, I feel as if I were once more a maiden speaker, and I am almost inclined to ask for the indulgence of the House. I am sure that we are all deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) for the manner and content of his most excellent opening speech, for he very successfully brought into focus the industrial problems which confront us in the Principality.
As a result, this debate has perhaps been less diffuse than many of its predecessors, but this I believe is also due to the fact that all hon. Members have attempted to concentrate upon one group of specific subjects relating to industry and employment. Even so, the debate has necessarily had some serious limitations.
First of all, the Report we are discussing is eight months out of date. It covers the period ended 30th June, 1953, and today is 2nd February. Since 30th June, a good deal of snow has fallen on the Welsh hills, and more than one rural Tory candidate remains to be rescued 302 from the snow drifts, so that we have a slight feeling of unreality in dealing with the facts and figures contained in this very readable Report at this rather late stage.
Secondly, the Report itself, while it gives a good general review of Government action in the Principality, is often seriously incomplete in the information which it gives. When the Labour Government in 1945 began issuing this kind of Annual Report, we felt that it was a real step forward, and, in the conditions of that time, it was really felt that Wales was getting something which it had never had before—a periodical review of its position and progress. Surely it is now time for another step forward, and the Minister will have heard from more than one speaker today, and most powerfully from my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), our view that, while the Report says something about almost every Department in Wales affected by Government action, it does not tell the whole story about any of them. It might be Utopian to expect any Government to tell the whole truth, but even this Government could give us most of the statistics, and this Report does not do that.
Let me give one or two examples. There is a quantity of figures about the position of the great South Wales ports, and that is all to the good. They are not complete, but they are very helpful. There is, however, nothing that I can find in the Report relating to the smaller ports and packet stations such as Fishguard and Holyhead. If a proper picture of the ports position in Wales is to be obtained, we ought to have the full facts and figures for the whole country.
Secondly, there is, as there ought to be, a good deal of information about coal mining, and that, again, is all to the good. It is not complete, but it is most helpful, but there is practically nothing about the really important North Welsh industries, such as slate quarrying, and nothing at all about Welsh tourism, a major industry comparable in North and West Wales with agriculture itself in its importance.
I find that the statistics in the Report are even less helpful than in previous years. There is no means of judging population trends and migratory tendencies, which are of great importance to us in Wales. We are simply given the figures 303 for the last year. That brings me to my first request to the Minister, which has been repeatedly made today by other hon. Members, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should expedite what he has already promised, namely, the preparation and publication of a digest of Welsh statistics, on the analogy of the Digest of Scottish Statistics which is published bi-annually.
Let me now turn to the issues which were thrown up by this debate. First of all, there is obviously a consensus of opinion among hon. Members in dealing with industry and employment that although a fairly high level of employment has been maintained in the Principality there is room for uneasiness about the future. In fact, among Welsh workers, particularly those in the industries which have not been nationalised, there is a deep feeling of insecurity as to their future employment.
This is particularly true of the new manufacturing industries which have been established in the former depressed areas, particularly in South Wales. Most of these are offshoots of industries that are based in England. We fear that in any slump arising, possibly from the American recession—which is now in full force, from all the evidence—these will suffer first and will suffer most grievously.
This is our united request to the Minister. We want to know what Her Majesty's Government are doing to guard against that very real danger. The position of the new industries is vulnerable, and calls for his most careful and vigorous attention.
The third point concerns rural industries, the weakness of which in Wales has called forth a good many references in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) reminded us that in that county as many as 8.2 per cent. of the insured population are now unemployed. I think that the figure in my own county of Caernarvonshire is close upon 6 per cent., and I am not sure that the figure for Merioneth is much better. In a large rural area in North and West Wales there is a chronic problem of rural unemployment. I cannot say that this Government have shown a real interest in ths rural unemployment problem, because nothing has been done about it. We all know that agriculture is very important, 304 but there are other industries like that of the slate quarries which, so far as I can see, are just being allowed to wither away. No move at all has been made to assist that valuable extractive industry to regain something of its previous prosperity.
Throughout rural Wales there are also small factories and engineering works and small shipyards, which are of the utmost importance to the economic and social life of our small county towns and rural areas, and these are encountering very grave difficulty nowadays in keeping their workers employed. At the same time, we have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) reminding us that there is a scarcity of labour in the congested industrial areas of Flintshire and Denbighshire. Cannot the Minister exert his influence with Government Departments—particularly with the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Supply—to persuade them to devolve small contracts or sub-contracts to such workshops in the small rural parishes? Very little needs to be done in that way to rejuvenate those places, and I ask him to take this up with those Government Departments that I have mentioned.
The question of transport inside Wales, and between Wales and England—and the Midlands in particular—has been raised. I once said in this House that the road system in Wales is probably one of the worst in Europe, and it is a fact. We have heard hon. Members pressing for the erection of the Severn Bridge because, without that, there cannot be effective outlets for the manufactures of the Midlands to the ports of South Wales.
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) said about resuscitating the old coal exporting industry in the South Wales ports but, looking at what figures have been provided for us in this Report, I believe that the main hope of building up the activity of these ports will probably lie in their being the nearest ports to the dollar markets, and, therefore, most useful and suitable for exporting the products, not only of the manufacturing industries which have sprung up in South Wales, but also from the Birmingham area. In that sense the Severn Bridge is an economic necessity for the United Kingdom as a whole and South Wales in particular. 305 Another topic was technical education. We lag very far behind England in that matter, and I am not disposed to blame the predominant partner for this situation. I think that in Wales it is largely our own fault, because we have overbuilt our grammar school system and neglected the modern technical secondary system. I make no complaint on that score except, possibly, to the presiding educational authorities in Wales, but it is linked up with the future of Welsh industry.
Here I would refer once more to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontypridd has said about the disposition and proportion of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers in Wales. I have not the figures by me—they were given to me in conversation before this debate opened—but they are not controversial, and I think the whole House is aware of the position. I believe that in Wales, as a whole, for every 10 unskilled workers we have one skilled worker, but for the country as a whole the proportion is one skilled to every six unskilled workers. I am open to correction as to the figures, but the relative difference is something of that order. That is obviously an abnormal and an anomalous position for any country and nation. It is not a position which would normally last without some kind of social and economic crisis.
We must build up indigenous industries, based not on parent bodies across the Border—not that I have the slightest objection to any economic link; the closer the better—but upon our own resources, evolving from the strength of our minerals and agriculture satellite and ancillary activities which will provide permanent and reasonably secure employment for our people. Side by side with that we must build up a proper system of technical education.
The more one thinks about these different considerations, the more one is forced to the central question that this debate and the Report have brought before us, namely, where is the economic plan for the Principality? In an ad hoc way, in this industry and that, and in that Department or this, there has been growth, and gains have been maintained, but there is no cohesive, unifying vision and planning for the country as a whole. I am not thinking of Wales as a wholly separate entity, but as a component but individual part of 306 the wider economy of the United Kingdom.
Here, I should like to pay a sincere tribute to one who has not spoken in this debate—although he would automatically catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—and that is my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). As long as I have known him he has pressed the point that Wales needs an agency, ministerial or otherwise, which can look at our problem as an industrial, educational and cultural whole, and which can investigate our resources. In some respects we are deficient in resources; in others, we may be more wealthy than we ever thought.
This question needs investigation. We must get down to this basic investigation in order to evolve not a series of schemes based on the recommendations of a number of committees, but a national plan which will call forth the best energies and patriotism of the Welsh people.
There is no plan; there is no planner. I do not wish to depreciate in the slightest the fine qualities, personal and intellectual, of the present Minister for Welsh Affairs. I could almost wish that he were exclusively the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and I hope that that is putting it in a way which will express to him my feelings about him as a person. But Wales must move on. We must now step ahead and in some way reach an agreement about an agency which will look at our little country as a whole, probe its resources, lay out the plan and mobilise, for the implementation of that plan, the best energies of our people. I hope that this debate will at least have made us all feel that it is now time that such a step were taken.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I have had the good fortune today to hear the whole of 15 out of the 17 speeches and practically the whole of the other two, so I appreciate what has gone into the making of this debate, individually and collectively. I am sure the House will bear with me if I begin, as everyone would have liked to begin, by congratulating the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) on the admirable way in 307 which he opened the debate. I am sure he will take it as being completely sincere when I say that it has given pleasure to everyone in the House that he should have opened it.
I am conscious of my own dangers, and if I were not I should be reminded of them, but I hope, with the approval of the House, to try to run fairly quickly through the points which have been made and then to finish with three points to which I want to give more attention. If there is any point which I do not cover, I hope hon. Members will take it from me that I shall be very willing to see them or write to them about it.
After introducing the debate and pointing out the importance of the subject which we are discussing today, the hon. Member for Pontypridd paid a tribute to the working of the nationalised industries in Wales. I agree with him and entirely support what he said. He then went on to deal with what I thought was afascinating subject. I should tell the House that he was good enough to send me a note of the subjects with which he intended to deal and to refer me to the article on capital plant construction which he mentioned. I thought that this subject of capital plant construction, which introduced questions such as the proportion of skilled jobs and the general need for producing a higher proportion of skilled people, was a fascinating one and, as far as I can remember, it was a novel subject in our debates on Welsh affairs. I can assure him that not only have I heard his speech but I have also read the article.
There was one other aspect of it which I thought of great importance. I hope he will agree. It was the comment that in the industries which make capital plant, it takes a build-up of a considerable number of years before the skilled workers are fully deployed. As Mr. Nicholas, the writer, said, if that is so here, it is likely to take even longer in many other parts of the world. There is therefore this additional value; such industries would give us the power to make products which it is difficult to have made in the newer countries which are beginning to industrialise.
Perhaps I may next take a point rather out of order. It was also made 308 by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It is certainly my hope and my desire to do everything I can to help the industries which come to West South Wales, but in view of the modernisation of the steel and tinplate industries, I feel that they should, if possible, be connected industries. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that we cannot look a gift horse in the mouth. We have got to be ready for other industries, but that should be our aim, and I think that would fit in with the idea which the hon. Member for Pontypridd developed with great power this afternoon.
I think that he was the first hon. Member to raise the question of statistics and, of course, I have promised the House that the statistics will be forthcoming this year. The first number of the new Digest of Statistics will be published in the autumn of this year, and hon. Members will see, when they get the publication, how far it goes to meet their points. There is a difficulty, as I think hon. Members appreciate, about the separate financial statistics. I want to be quite frank with the House. There is a real difficulty of getting separate financial statistics at the present time without making very large demands on manpower, but I am most anxious that hon. Members should have something that is really helpful in the matter, and I will give it my personal attention and also refer to those who are considering the matter everything that has been said in this debate.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I remember distinctly the very nice answer to the question which I put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this matter some time ago. Could he briefly elaborate the difficulties that stand in the way of including in the Digest of Statistics a more or less detailed financial statement regarding Wales?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The difficulty which has been put to me is that of providing separate financial statistics without making very large demands for manpower to work them out.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am very willing to hear the hon. Gentleman's argument, but there is no need to separate the financial statistics of England and Wales on every point.
What I hope to do at the start is to give the fullest production statistics and everything of that kind; but manpower is the difficulty, and I thought that in fairness I ought to warn the House on that point. I am very anxious to look at the matter, and as I have said, I am referring those who have to consider the matter to everything that has been said today, and I will try to make the statistics which we produce as helpful as possible. I had the pleasure of meeting hon. Members on this point, and they indicated various approaches to the matter which they thought would be helpful.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I think that a number of us are in danger of becoming so mad on searching for new statistics that we never trouble to apply them to the circumstances to which the are related.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
May I, with the greatest good humour, remind you, Mr. Speaker, and the House of a remark by, I think Sidney Smith—but if it was not him it was worthy of him—about the two great approaches to statistics. He once said that a politician was apt to use statistics as a drunken man used a lamp post—for support rather than illumination.
My next point is the question of redundancy. I wish to remind the House of the examples that were given. We have to be very careful about starting scares. This is not because of any criticism of the Government, but it is with a view to the condition of Wales, and particularly industry in South Wales as a whole. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is a danger which may well have repercussive effect.
It is interesting that the first point taken was that of B.O.A.C. B.O.A.C. is a nationalised undertaking, and the arguments about its being an annex of an English firm do not apply in the way that hon. Members were mentioning. Another was the Royal Ordnance 310 Factory, which is also a Government organisation. Then there was a firm—Creeds—and there was the aluminium company, which the hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. Ll. Williams) mentioned. Thanks to the kindness of the hon. Member in warning me, I have looked into these matters, and especially into the point that was worrying him about the Hermes aircraft and the effect of not giving air trooping work to the nationalised companies.
I am informed by the Air Ministry that there are 19 Hermes. Only very few of these could be employed on new trooping work, and the transfer of existing contracts from independent companies to the Corporation would merely create another redundancy. I also verified the point, in case the hon. Member had it in mind, about Viking aircraft. The difficulty is that the company in this case are due to dispose of their Vikings by the end of October, and it would take them until then to prepare the factory for their overhaul. I wanted the hon. Gentleman to know that I had looked into these points because he was good enough to give me notice.
I am told by the Air Ministry that of the 1,300 men employed, 220 are now redundant, mainly owing to the increased efficiency of aero engines, resulting in a longer period between overhauls, and a falling off of outside work. I am also told, and I am glad to be told this additional point, that the Ministry of Labour do not expect difficulty in securing other employment in the area for the 220 workers now redundant.
The question of the R.O.F. is being discussed, and I think the hon. Gentleman would agree with me that we should be content to leave it like this. I have secured very full information on the problem, and the firm that I mentioned is a private enterprise one. I notice that he only referred to it in a few words, and I hope he will be satisfied with that, because I do not think it would be helpful to anyone if we discussed it on the Floor of the House of Commons. He knows the position that I have in mind, and I hope he will take it in that way.
The last of his special points was that of the siting of the new power station at The Leys in Glamorgan. I am told that no proposal for this power station has yet been submitted to the Minister of 311 Fuel and Power. The statutory procedure, to which all such proposals are subject, provides ample safeguards for securing that all interests are consulted and all objections heard before consent is given to a proposal. The Minister will, of course, weigh all considerations very carefully.
I should also like to inform the hon. Gentleman that there are many difficulties in the way of finding a site of this kind, and the British Electricity Authority are bound to make very careful investigations to decide whether a site is a practical proposition before submitting the problem to the Minister. If I can summarise the position, it is that the British Electricity Authority say: "We must look round and give careful consideration to the question before we present it." The matter has not been submitted to the Minister and, before the matter is decided, he will take everything into account.
These were all the points which the hon. Member raised, and then my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) gave a most interesting view on statistics. We have already discussed this matter, and I do not think I need go into that further at the moment.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) raised a number of interesting points. He mentioned roads, and I am going to deal with that separately, because it also raises the question of the Lloyd Report, about which I have been asked. The hon. Member referred to by-products from coal, and perhaps he will allow me to look into that because it is a rather technical subject.
He was keen about the subject of research generally, and I think he will find it of interest that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, commonly known as D.S.I.R., has decided to set up an office in Wales for an experimental period of five years. Its representative has already taken up his duties in Cardiff, and it is hoped that this new arrangement will be of assistance to the industrial firms in Wales by providing a more convenient access to the Department. It is not a great step, but it is a step in the right direction, and one which I hope hon. Members will appreciate.
The hon. Member was the first to mention the Grenfell factories to deal 312 with those who are incapacitated and out of work. I agree that it is a matter which must be kept under constant review. I am glad there has been certain progress in the past year, and I know that the hon. Member would like to have that in mind.
As the House is well aware, there are the Grenfell factories themselves, where the tenants are required to draw 50 per cent. of their labour force from disabled workers and, as a recompense, the rent is reduced by 50 per cent. I am sure the Father of the House will not object, when I say that there are also the near-Grenfell factories where there is employment on a sliding scale from 30 per cent. and an accordingly variably reduction in the rent.
In regard to the position last year, I can give the figures up to December, 1953. In December, 1952, the total employed in 10 Grenfell factories was 634. Of these the disabled were 238 and the number of pneumoconiosis cases was 134. I am glad to say that by December, 1953, there had been an increase to 781, with an increase in the number of disabled to 264 and an increase in the pneumoconiotics to 147. In December, 1952, there were four near-Grenfell factories which have increased to five, and the number employed has increased from 941 to 1,036, while the number of disabled has increased from 384 to 423 and the number of pneumoconiotics from 235 to 265. So there is a total increase of about 250, with an increase of some 65 in the number of disabled employed and an increase of 43 in the number of pneumoconiotics.
Therefore there has been an improvement, although it is not as great as we would all like, but there is the point that this is a field in which it is important that the best should not be the enemy of the good. I prefer, as has been the case, that those in charge should feel compelled to accept tenants whose density of employment per unit of floor area is less than would normally be required in a Government factory. That is why the numbers are not as large as was hoped originally, but we have the people there who will employ the disabled in this way.
I have listened with great interest to all that has been said on this subject 313 and with a realisation of the importance which speakers attach to it. I shall see that this is looked into, as has been suggested.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think so, and I am sure we all do. I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwellty will not hold it against me that I do not go at any length into his point on Section 62. The hon. Gentleman developed it here and, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was present, what he said on that point has been noted.
I thought that the point which he raised about coroners and the pneumoconiosis board was very interesting. As everyone appreciates, it is not an easy matter to interfere with the rights and discretion of a judicial officer, but I am examining that point and I hope that it will be possible to arrange some sort of consultation. I know the human side of this problem when people can read in the newspapers an account of two different medical opinions. I will try to see whether we can create some sort of consultation to deal with that problem.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
Some coroners adjourn the hearing until after the medical boards have been held. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say quite clearly tonight that that is a desirable thing?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I would rather have a look at that point, because there are different practices and I do not like to lay down a rule of conduct in the middle of a debate for judicial officers. So perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to look at the problem again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has ranged over a number of points. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I make no complaint at all. I enjoyed his speech. On one point about which he asked me I thought that he was sensing a feeling which has shown itself on both sides of the House. He put it that there was a kind of five-tier organisation and was good enough to put me at one end of it. There was the Joint Under-Secretary, then the Council for Wales, then the Departments with Welsh offices and finally the nationalised boards. Actually, of course, I am biased in the 314 matter, but I do not think that it is a bad set-up. I do not know how the nationalised boards come into it, however. That is a different problem. The relationship between Government and the nationalised boards is one of the most difficult problems of our time, which we all have to consider. Leaving that aside the present system is workable.
But the machinery of Government can never be a static thing. It must be something which adjusts itself to various problems, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Llanelly would agree that under a system of Cabinet responsibility it is difficult to give full publicity to methods of organisation, which nevertheless still work quite well behind the scenes. Publicity for these arrangements might do some damage to the Government. Both parties have always worked on that basis.
One hon. Member mentioned the need for nationalised boards in Wales being Welsh boards. I do not think anyone else got on to it, although I am not holding that against them. In regard to electricity, the topography, with mountains in the centre of the country, raises a great argument against one board for Wales. Although I shall be very glad some time to hear the matter debated at greater length, that is my view which I put to my hon. Friend.
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) raised two interesting points, one about the rayon industry and the other about the tourist industry. The rayon industry has made a recovery from the position which was worrying us about 18 months ago when I had the honour of meeting the hon. Lady on a deputation about the matter. There has been an improvement, but naturally I shall not only bear in mind but make special mention of the point she raised with regard to the Japanese Agreement.
I think the hon. Lady put her finger on the difficulty in regard to the tourist industry when she said that we have a big clientele from inside the United Kingdom who book up the hotels and that there is not much space left for those from overseas. I anticipated that a fair number of points would be raised, but I did not anticipate that somebody would suggest Government assistance for building hotels. I should like to look into 315 that question. It is a new suggestion to many of us; none the less I will look into it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am reminded that I am a brewer in my spare time, as we have State breweries in Carlisle. I will therefore look into the question as one impeccably and respectably connected with the business.
There was a very refreshing intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. M. Bennett). It is the first time that any hon. Member representing an English constituency, apart from myself, has dared to open his mouth in these debates. I think he gave us a delightful speech, because it was a personal view of the problems of Wales as he saw them. He raised the problem, which we all recognise as being very difficult, of how to apply afforestation. We all felt that the other day. I want compulsory purchase to be eschewed and afforestation to be fitted in with agriculture and not competing with or overwhelming it. We discussed the question at some length in the other debate, and I am not going into it again.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly made, as we all expect of him, a brilliant and moving speech on a subject that is very near to his heart. He asked if all who are connected with coalmines are on their toes to see that new methods are being used and whether that question is put constantly to the N.C.B. and everyone concerned. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power sent me a note which I think is rather interesting as an answer. My hon. Friend said that it may be seen how anxious the National Coal Board are for quick development—which was one of the points about which the right hon. Member expressed anxiety—as a German firm has been introduced to sink a new pit simply because they can do so quickly. He wanted me to make that point—and it is quite a serious point—to show that they have in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the need for speed in this matter.
I hope to deal with the question of the Lloyd Committee and the roads when I have disposed of these individual points. 316 I have already referred to the question of the Grenfell factories and given an assurance that I will keep it in mind. With regard to the Welsh language, which the right hon. Gentleman referred to, I hope to say a word about the Ready Report and the Welsh language before I finish my speech.
The hon. Members for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) and for Swansea, West(Mr. P. Morris), were, I thought, a little pessimistic about prospects in the tinplate industry. Putting the figures broadly, and without checking them, I would say that there are just over 10,000 now employed in old-type works. The 5,000 who became redundant in the last year have been re-absorbed, and that was one of the greatest reliefs to all who are interested in Welsh affairs. We are still left therefore with just over 10,000. There are among them 500 Italians, as was mentioned, and I should think 3,000 or 4,000 would be employed in the new works, so that we are left for two or three years ahead with a hard core of about 6,000 instead of 10,000. This is the best estimate which has been given to me, and that is an improvement on my original figure. I do not wish to be complacent, but, on the other hand, I do not wish to magnify the problem and to cause alarm and despondency thereby.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was in sportive rather than argumentative form, and I will not pursue his jeux ďespritfurther. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) raised an interesting point regarding the question of playing fields, which I will certainly look into. On the question of sewerage policy, he said it was contrary to the Distribution of Industries Act. I would remind him that the let-out, the "safety valve," is real industrial need. After all, that is the test for the Act.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is surely aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health announced in this House that no grant would be available under the Distribution of Industries Act for these amenities in the Development Areas?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I understood my right hon. Friend had said he was prepared to consider a case of "real" or "established" or "excessive"—I cannot remember the actual word—industrial need. If the right hon. Gentleman questions that I will verify it, but that was my impression. I will check it, and if I am wrong I will let the right hon. Gentleman know.
I have only 10 minutes left and I am afraid that I ought now to turn to the question of the Lloyd Committee. I do so with all the less reluctance because the point was raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, West among the criticisms which he made. I would remind the House that in my opening speech in the debate last year I spoke at some length on the problems raised by the modernisation of the steel and tinplate industry in West South Wales, and told the House of the steps that the Government were taking to meet the threat of unemployment and to strengthen the economy.
I then announced the appointment of the Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Lloyd to advise the Government on specific measures which are necessary for the modernisation of the area and to consider methods of attracting new industries. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a sincere tribute to the excellent work which the Committee has done in the past year.
The Committee decided, first of all, to concentrate its attention on the urgent problem of road communications beween West South Wales and the Midlands and London, and it gave me a detailed analysis of the situation, with recommendations for action. That was of the greatest value to the Government when decisions had to be taken about the best use which could be made in Wales of the increased capital investment which the Government had decided should be devoted to the improvement of road communications in the country as a whole.
The responsibility for these decisions lies, of course, with the Government, but the Committee deserves credit for the part it has played in the working out of a plan for the improvement of communications. I am sure it will make a most important contribution not only to what has already been announced but also to 318 the future layout and progress of road making in the area.
Secondly, there is the attraction of new industries. Every effort is being made by the Board of Trade to interest new industrialists. In addition, the Committee under the chairmanship of my noble Friend is making a detailed study of this aspect of the problem. I have already mentioned the actual position in tinplate in the general figures which I have given the House, but there is another point which I should like to mention because I think it is important. The Board of Trade—I foreshadowed last year that it would be done—has conducted a survey of the area with a view to carrying out the preparation of sites for factories, and on the basis of inquiries made so far, it does not expect that there will be any difficulty in providing industrialists with a good selection of excellent sites in different parts of the area.
I also indicated that other work would be necessary, particularly the clearance of some of the superseded works, in order to improve the amenities and industrial potentialities of the area. It gives me great pleasure to learn that some steel companies have the importance of this sort of improvement very much in mind. The boards of Richard Thomas and Baldwins and the Steel Company of Wales have made a comprehensive survey of all their disused works. In some cases works can be put to good use after slight adaptation. I understand that in the remaining cases the companies are taking steps to clear the sites, which will then be available for other uses.
Work has already begun at four works at Llanelly—the Old Burry Works, the South Wales Steel Works (Old Side), the South Wales Tinplate Works and the South Wales Foundry—and will begin within a few days at a further works at Pontardulais, at the Hendy Tinplate Works. I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's satisfaction at the work which is being done, because it is a step towards the attraction of new industries.
I am afraid I must apologise for rather rushing through my speech, but I wanted to say a word about the Ready Report on Welsh Book Publishing. The House will remember that, in October, 1952, there was published the Report of the 319 Committee on Welsh Language Publishing. I referred this Report to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, while my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education referred it to the Welsh Joint Education Committee for their consideration. The two bodies have considered the Report, and they have agreed on proposals for action which have been accepted by my right hon. Friend and myself. The pattern of the proposals is that the problem of Welsh publishing should be dealt with under two separate heads—the provision of Welsh books for schools and the provision of Welsh books for the general public.
Under the first head, it was decided that the Welsh Joint Education Committee should establish a Books Committee whose primary function will be to stimulate and organise the supply of Welsh books for use in schools. Each local education authority will be asked to undertake the annual purchase of books to a fixed sum based on the number of children taught Welsh in schools of the constituent authorities.
The annual programme contemplates a gross expenditure, including a grant under my right hon. Friend's main grant regulations, of £16,000 in the first year, rising to £30,000 in the fifth year. Annual requirements will be notified by local education authorities to the Books Committee, who will endeavour to ensure that the publishing trade organises itself to match the increase in demand.
An important feature will be that the Books Panel of the Welsh Joint Education Committee will be able to give some assurance to the trade that suitable manuscripts will find a market. This plan will undoubtedly lead to a great advance in the annual expenditure hitherto incurred by Welsh authorities on the purchase of Welsh books for schools, and my right hon. Friend and I hope that 320 the scheme will have every success and that suitable manuscripts will be forthcoming. I should also like to say that the question of the provision of Welsh books and periodicals for adult reading is still under consideration by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.
In the minute that I have left, I should like to say that I am very glad that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) was able to speak, and that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), who wound up and pulled all the points together so well, emphasised that the danger of unemployment does exist in the two rural areas of Anglesey and Caernarvon. I should like to tell them that I have gone into this point very carefully, and that, if I had time I should have liked to have taken it up. I hope the hon. Members will forgive me, but I have this matter very much in mind and will certainly bear in mind what has been said. I hope the House will allow me to apologise for having had to speak so rapidly, and to say how grateful I am for the patience it has shown me.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, when he comes to consider communications between South Wales and the South of England, he will give serious consideration to the position of the Severn Barrage, not for the sake of the barrage itself or the generation of electricity, but because the Severn Tunnel, which is the only means of communication, has been used every day for 70 years, and, if a breakdown took place there, it would result in great difficulties for South Wales? Will the Minister give serious consideration to the matter from that angle?
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.