Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House takes note of the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 9287).—[Major Lloyd-George.]
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I should like, first, to express my appreciation to my fellow hon. Members of the Welsh Parliamentary Party for inviting me to open this debate. Since we last had a Welsh day there has been a change in the identity of the Minister for Welsh Affairs and I think it appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pay an unqualified tribute to the work done for Wales by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's predecessor, now the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Kilmuir, for his unfailing courtesy and kindness to Welsh hon. Members and to Wales as a whole during the time he held this office. I should also like to express our very best wishes to the new Minister. I am sure that his background will be of help, and that his qualities and experience will be used to the best advantage so far as the principality is concerned.
We are asked to take note of the contents of this, the latest Report of Government action in Wales, the ninth Report. I think it fair to say, speaking generally, for the moment, that the picture which it paints is a pleasing one. The overall picture is one of a nation playing an honourable part both socially and economically in the affairs of a larger unit. Having said that, I wish to refer to one or two matters which are causing Welsh people, and particularly the Welsh Parliamentary party, real anxiety. The Report points out the good features concerning the social and economic position of Wales, and I suppose that we can hardly grudge any Government the right to point out matters which stand to their credit. But I believe that we have reached the stage—and I hope it will continue—where it is hardly necessary to underline or emphasise points on the credit side.
We have reached the stage where it would be advisable, I think, to set out boldly the problems which remain; to set out in a thoroughly down-to-earth and practical way the nature of those 1252 problems and the contribution which the Government propose to make towards their solution. The whole tendency of the Report is to be on the defensive. I take the view that, fortunately for Wales, that stage has passed. Let me give a small illustration of what I have in mind.
The Report refers to rural electrification, and the record of the South Wales Electricity Board in that matter. It points out that between 1953 and 1954 there has been a substantial stepping up in the connection of farms in the South Wales area, and for that we are deeply appreciative. What is equally important, indeed, far more important, is that the South Wales Electricity Board is, in this respect, still substantially behind other boards in England and Wales. Furthermore, even according to the forecast of the board itself, it will take another 13½ years to complete the rural electrification programme in South Wales. In the next Report I should like to see greater emphasis placed on the existing problems and possible solutions.
This year the Report has been reduced in size—owing to the presence of another document to which I shall refer in a moment—and I think that we could well have a lengthier Report, setting out specifically some of those problems which concern us. To use a phrase in the Report, it has this year a "companion document," that is to say, the Digest of Welsh Statistics. I wish to express our appreciation of the action of the Government in producing this Report which, I think, it would be right to describe as a belated but promising beginning.
The Report is particularly valuable in so far as the statistics relating to labour are concerned, the statistics relating to the number of persons employed and unemployed in the various industries. I take the view that this data, given for the first time, will be of use to us in dealing with our difficulties. I should like to see this Report increase in compass and take in gradually—or perhaps not so gradually—very many topics which are not embraced at the moment.
I have in mind, for example, an index of production for Wales. Is there any reason why we should not have an index of production for Wales, just as we have today for Scotland? Is there any reason why we should not have an income and expenditure White Paper for Wales? Why 1253 should we not have for Wales, just as we have for other parts of Great Britain, the means of assessing the normal income and expenditure per head of the population? Is there any reason why we should not have an estate office for Wales? That would assist us in obtaining further data for this digest.
I am sorry to have to refer—I hope not continually, but frequently—to Scotland. The Scottish digest is produced quarterly. Scotland is provided with information broken down into quarters and, quite frequently, into months. I will concede at once that one can go too far in this matter, but I should like to see a substantial expansion of this digest, now that it has come into existence.
I should like to pass from that topic to one of wider significance. The report deals with Government action and the greater part of Government action comes through the administrative machine. I do not want to refer to political devolution, if only not to aggravate "family differences." But I want to refer to the problem of administrative devolution.
I concede that a case can be made out for having the maximum of centralised administration. A case can also be made out for very extensive administrative devolution. The case for very extensive administrative devolution has been made in no uncertain terms in the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs, which was published in July this year—a Report which has been endorsed by this Government and to which the Prime Minister referred in this House on 18th November. There is a case for either having no devolution, or having devolution on the lines envisaged by the Royal Commission's Report on Scotland. I would respectfully suggest there is no place at all for piecemeal, half-hearted, disjointed devolution, such as we have in Wales today.
I direct the attention of the House to one or two of the conclusions in the Scottish Report. For example, the Commission comes to the conclusion about the position of the Secretary of State—after about 70 years' experience of Secretaries of State—that it isconvinced that the creation of this office has been an invaluable asset to Scotland.In paragraph 13 it sets out the principles which it has applied to this problem of further administrative devolution in 1254 Scotland. It sets out five of them and, if I may, I will refer to the first and the last. The first is:In the absence of convincing evidence of advantage to the contrary, the machinery of Government should be designed to dispose of Scottish business in Scotland.The last one reads:The vital community of interest between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom must be recognised.The Commission make what I suggest is another very important point, that the allocation of duties should finally be defined on a geographical rather than a functional basis. It is quite clear from this Report that this is not a party matter, because in the Report there is published a Treasury memorandum of June, 1946, which makes quite clear that the Government of that day shared the sentiments which are set out in this Report and which have been endorsed by the present Prime Minister.
I should like to ask the Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he concedes that the principles set out in the Report on Scotland apply equally to Wales. If they do, are these principles to be implemented? If he does not accept immediate implementation of these principles, does he not at least concede that this is a sphere in which there should be an immediate inquiry at the highest possible level? From my own experience of local government matters, I believe that even the existing measure of administrative devolution has been of very considerable help.
I want to pass from that topic to one of perhaps lighter weight, but still of considerable human interest—broadcasting in Wales. The position today, so far as the Welsh Home Service is concerned, is that Wales has virtually no broadcasting service; certainly none in the hours of darkness.
§ Mr. Bowen
I believe—and I hope I shall not be proved wrong—that those concerned with this problem are applying themselves to it with all the energy and resources at their command. If the action has been somewhat belated, I concede that a real attempt now is being made to come to grips with the problem. I am told that the only practical cure is for the establishment of a series of V.H.F. 1255 stations. I appreciate the action of the Government in conceding that, under present conditions, Wales should have priority in the establishment of these stations.
There is one practical matter which I want to raise. I am told that the only way that Wales can have a service now is by the establishment of these V.H.F. stations. I am told that once these stations are established, if people are to benefit from them, they will have to have new wireless sets, because existing wireless sets will be quite useless for reception from V.H.F. stations. I learn that wireless sets to receive from V.H.F. stations will be substantially more expensive than ordinary ones and certainly more expensive to maintain.
I understand that at present Purchase Tax on wireless sets is 50 per cent. I do not want to develop this point, but I would say that there is an exceedingly strong case for differentiation between normal reception wireless sets and those which are designed to receive V.H.F. If a substantial concession on these lines is not made, it means that people in Wales who want to receive the Welsh Home Service will be put to very substantial expense to receive a service to which they are entitled without extra expenditure.
I want to touch upon three or four problems which concern us as a party. I shall only touch upon them, because there are other hon. Members whose constituencies are directly concerned. In many instances, they are hon. Members who can speak with greater authority and knowledge than I can on the particular subjects to which I wish to refer. They are topics with which we, as a Parliamentary party, are mainly concerned at the moment.
Over two years ago, an announcement was made by the then Minister for Welsh Affairs that a committee was being set up to consider the problems which would inevitably arise in connection with redundancy in the old Welsh tinplate industry. That was the Lloyd Committee. We are reminded in this Report that that committee has already presented three reports to the Government—one concerned with road communications, another with rail services and the third with 1256 the problem of attracting new industries to that area.
We know about the action taken in relation to the first of these—road communications. But I hope the Minister will tell us how the stages of road improvement are progressing, particularly so far as the Port Talbot by-pass is concerned. We are being kept in complete ignorance about the other two. For some reason or other—they may be good reasons—the activities of the Lloyd Committee have been clouded in mystery and I ask the Minister to be far more forthcoming than he or his predecessor have been in this matter.
We are told in the Report that the Government will announce any decisions which are taken. Have the Government any decisions to announce today, do they anticipate being in a position to announce any decisions in the future, can they say whether positive action is now being prepared or when positive action will be taken to meet the great human problem which will inevitably arise in the course of the next two or three years?
Fortunately, the crisis has been delayed. We have the anomalous position of importing tinplate and also importing the labour which is needed in our tinplate works. Nevertheless, the fact remains that during the next two or three years, unless positive arrangements are made, several thousand men in the area will be faced with unemployment. Apart from the purely bread-and-butter problem, a great social problem, that of wastage of social capital, is involved. I therefore hope the Government will tell us that positive action is to be taken to meet the circumstances.
I hope the Government will indicate that the Lloyd Committee has considered the position in relation not only to South-West Wales but also to areas in Monmouthshire which are similarly placed, such as Blaenavon. At least one hon. Member will have a great deal more to say about that aspect of the problem.
§ Mr. Bowen
I also want to refer to the unemployment problem in relation not so much to Wales as a whole as to North-West Wales in particular. Average unemployment in Wales is 2.2 per cent. and in Great Britain 1.2 per cent. Having 1257 heard earlier today about the position in Northern Ireland, one might feel somewhat apologetic about raising this subject at all, but however small their numbers may be—the numbers are not really small—they deserve our greatest consideration. The fact that there is a high rate of employment in the country as a whole in a way aggravates the position of those who are, unfortunately, unemployed.
I do not propose now to refer to the chronic position in parts of South Wales. I wish to refer to the position in places like Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and Merioneth. The figures speak for themselves. Today, unemployment stands at 68 per cent. in Anglesey and 5.3 per cent. in Caernarvonshire. If one looks a little more closely into the problem one sees that the bulk of the unemployment is in well-defined limited areas; that is to say, one can put one's finger upon black spots within the area. I should have thought that that made it easier to tackle the problem than would be the case if the unemployed were distributed over a very wide area.
Officers of the Ministry of Labour have kindly furnished me with figures which emphasise the point which I have in mind. In the Caernarvon—Bangor—Bethesda—Penygroes area unemployment is 4.9 per cent. and the unemployed number 890. I should have thought that that was a concise collection of persons in a sufficiently substantial number to enable something practical to be done. The same applies to the Portmadoc—Pwllheli area, where the percentage of unemployment is 7.8 and the unemployed number 602. In Blaenau Festiniog unemployment is 5.3 per cent. and the unemployed in that relatively small town number 120. The overall picture in my county is rather better than that in the other places to which I have referred, but in the Llandyssul—Lampeter area the percentage of unemployment is 3.9.
I urge the Minister to consider the possibility of taking action to alleviate unemployment in those areas. This appears to me to be related to a wide topic which I do not think I should be justified in developing here. The whole concept of development areas and the powers in connection with them seems to me to be rather out-dated. It may well be that because these areas are outside development 1258 areas the Government have no power to deal with the problem. Yet I find it difficult to believe that something cannot be done by Government action or Government encouragement to alleviate the situation in specific black spots. Something has been done already in one or two areas. I should have thought that that was an indication that further action could be taken in the areas to which I have referred.
Another problem which is exercising the minds of the Welsh Parliamentary Party is that of the Welsh ports. I understand that the Council for Wales has submitted a report about the Welsh ports to the Minister, and I hope that we shall at some time see its contents and be told what the recommendations are.
The overall picture is certainly distressing. If one has any doubt about that, one has only to look at the figures published in the digest. It is clear that since 1946 the South Wales ports have failed to regain their pre-war trade and traffic. I am not saying that every year since 1946 there has been any substantial deterioration in the position—there has been some deterioration—but the South Wales ports have never been able to recapture their pre-war trade or been able to take advantage of the substantial increase in the volume of imports and exports which has been enjoyed by British ports as a Whole. The position would have been far worse if it had not been for the particularly fortunate position of Swansea in relation to oil.
The port in the most unfortunate position is undoubtedly Cardiff. I am sure that hon. Members representing Cardiff will have something to say about this subject. I wish to make just one point about it. It seems to me that if Cardiff is ever to have a prospect of rebuilding her port trade, the port charges question must be dealt with. It is almost impossible at present for Cardiff to compete on a fair basis with other areas. Ministers of Transport have promised ever since 1947 that a new charges system would be introduced. We still await a decision on this matter.
I could give a number of practical examples showing how Cardiff has been unable to compete with Bristol and Liverpool for traffic which, one would 1259 have thought, Cardiff would have been in a particularly advantageous position to carry. I was told of a case in which an effort was made to get business from Birmingham in the carrying of trailers and iron and steel bars for export. The published railway conveyance rates for both Liverpool and Cardiff were the same, but, when it came to the f.o.b. charges by shippers in the case of trailers, the Cardiff quotation was 17 times as much as the Liverpool quotation, while, in the case of iron and steel bars, the Cardiff quotation was three times as high as that of Liverpool.
Take the case of the importation of fresh meat from Ireland, some of which goes through Bristol and some through Cardiff. Those shippers making use of Bristol received a rebate of 6s. 7d. per ton, but no rebate at all was given at Cardiff. It seems to me that until this question of railway charges is tackled. Cardiff has no prospect at all of rebuilding her trade as a port, and I therefore hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will consult his colleague the Minister of Transport to see whether something cannot be done.
I now wish to mention another topic which is very near to my heart because it concerns the rural areas of Wales, and it is the question of roads. In the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire published in January, 1953, and also in the Government White Paper published in July, 1953, reference was made to the condition of roads in rural areas, and, in particular, to unclassified and unadopted roads. In paragraph 33 of the White Paper, if I remember correctly, the Government promised positive action on unadopted and unclassified roads in livestock rearing areas. What I want to know is when that promise is to be implemented, and when we are to have a Bill for carrying out what was then promised in that direction.
§ Mr. Bowen
My hon. Friend asks why we have not had it already. I think there is some substance in that observation, and I therefore hope that we shall hear that a Bill is to be introduced in the very near future.
1260 I should also like some indication of the lines on which the Government intend to proceed. I am told that, in regard to unclassified roads, the idea is that the Government should provide 75 per cent. of the cost of bringing these roads up to a satisfactory standard, and that the remaining 25 per cent. should be found by the local authorities concerned. As for unadopted roads, the suggestion is that the Government will provide 75 per cent. and that the other 25 per cent. should come from some other quarter. All I would say on that is that certainly no contribution should be expected for taking over these roads from the local authority itself. The burden of providing 25 per cent. of the cost of unclassified roads would be very high indeed.
Perhaps I might indicate that by giving some figures. In the county of Cardigan, there are over 500 miles of unclassified roads, 375 miles of which now require to be substantially improved to bring them up to anything like modern standards. At present rates, that would cost £1 million, and, even giving full allowance for the rate equalisation grant, that would mean, in my county, an increase in the rates of 8s. 4d. To emphasise the scale of the problem, I would add that at present the cost of maintaining roads in the rural counties of Wales varies between £6 and £7 per head of the population, whereas in England the cost is £1 13s. 9d. I therefore hope that the Government will give due consideration to the heavy burden which is already being borne by local authorities in respect of unclassified roads.
In Cardiganshire, the county council last year spent double the amount it spent in 1946 in maintaining unclassified roads. I should like to know how the other 25 per cent. for the improvement of unadopted roads is to be obtained. Is it to come from the farmers directly concerned? Who is to collect it, and how will it be assessed? In my own area, the problem is a practical one, and it is not academic in any area. It seems to me that unless all these matters are worked out very carefully indeed, any Act of Parliament which may be passed by this House is likely to remain a dead letter, because the local authorities will be afraid of implementing it lest they place upon their shoulders burdens which they are unable to bear.
The road position in Wales in general is far from satisfactory, though we are 1261 now moving into a better climate where road projects are concerned. I hope that that climate will be reflected where road works in Wales are involved. I should like the Minister to take up again the question of the Severn Bridge. After all, this project is the key one, no matter whether one looks to the Midlands, to Bristol or to London. It is the key to the whole problem of industrial road communications in Wales.
The position in regard to minor road improvements in Wales is no better in the industrial areas than it is in the rural areas. Glamorgan County Council, in the current financial year, submitted 66 schemes for minor road improvements, out of which only three have been allowed. I hope the Minister will have something to say to us about roads in rural areas of Wales, as well as on the whole question of roads in general.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman. While he has made a pertinent remark about road schemes in Glamorgan, would he admit that the major plan announced by the former Minister of Transport was disproportionately large in relation to Wales as compared with the rest of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Bowen
I certainly do not concede that point, and I think that the hon. Gentleman does a disservice to Wales in suggesting it.
I hope the Minister will also have something to say about the problems of the agricultural industry in Wales. In the Report of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire, reference was made to the rural areas and, in particular, to the problem of rural depopulation. The Government, while accepting the magnitude of the problem, rejected the solution put forward by the Council, and said that they intended to face up to the difficulties by alternative methods. I should like the Minister to tell us what has been done in that direction.
What information has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to give us about the work done by the Agricultural Land Sub-Commission. Study of this problem by the Council of Wales began in January, 1951, but, so far, we have had no indication that anything has been done to meet the difficulties outlined in the 1262 Council's Report and confirmed in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the Minister of Agriculture indicated in an answer to a Question by me the other day that the report is not to be presented for another 12 months?
§ Mr. Bowen
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. It suggests that there is not the slightest prospect of Government action in this matter for a number of years. One immediately asks oneself whether the reference to the Agricultural Land Sub-Commission was a genuine attempt to work out a solution or an opportunity of shelving the problem. The answer to that question will be found in what happens during the immediate future.
I turn to the chaotic position in the uplands of Wales because of the disastrous harvest we have had this year. The problem is not peculiar to Wales, or even to Britain. The problem of winter fodder supplies is particularly acute in the hill area, far more than in the agricultural community as a whole, but the extent of the disaster will not be known until March or April next year. I should like the Minister to tell us whether the Government propose to do anything to assist farmers and, despite the Government's unfortunate experiences in the past, to do anything about grass drying and silage projects so as to avoid a disaster of this kind in future. If something is not done to help the farmers, substantial harm will be done to food production.
I apologise for keeping the House so long—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but I have attempted to pinpoint one or two outstanding Welsh problems. I hope that: when he replies to the debate the Minister will be able to tell us about the Government's vigorous and imaginative action to deal with the problems which I have attempted to outline.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has made a speech which was characteristically generous and liberal, and which fully justified the trust which the Welsh Parliamentary Party placed in him. Although, in theory, it 1263 might be acceptable to him if I followed him on all the points he made, it might be somewhat unpopular, because other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
It is fair and right to point out the various black spots in Welsh industrial and social life, but we should not lose sight of the fact—and the hon. and learned Member did not do so—that the Digest of Welsh Statistics is full of good news. One item of good news which occurs in table 26 is that in June of this year the percentage of male unemployment in Wales was the lowest in our history. Another good item is that in 1953 there were 15,550 permanent houses completed in Wales, which was 3,000 more built by local authorities and 1,000 more built by private enterprise than in 1951. In addition, £14 million more has been spent on building and civil engineering work. The result in increased human happiness of the increased housing programme has been very great. There is evidence of it in Wales and, I am glad to say, throughout my own constituency.
I do not complain that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan should have turned the attention of the House to some black spots, but it was generous of Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor to say, in another place, that the people of Wales were never so well off as they are today. I agree as to the unwisdom of expressing only the good or only the bad. This is illustrated by table 62 in the Digest of Statistics, relating to fisheries. It shows that there is a slump in periwinkles, which is offset by a boom in mussels, that there is a spurt in cockles, but that there is a collapse in shrimps. Perhaps the Minister will explain all these coincidences.
In welcoming the Digest of Statistics, it would be a mistake to imagine that these figures will please the nationalist fringe. The nationalist really wants a Catto Committee to prove that Wales subsidises England more than England subsidises Wales. If, as the result of these deliberations, the figures were to prove precisely the opposite, it would then be shown once again that we cannot exorcise the spirit of nationalism with chartered accountancy. If the figures proved their point, it would be necessary to set up a committee to disprove the Christian tenet 1264 that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Of all the black spots referred to in the Digest and in the Report of the Council of Wales, the plight of Cardiff docks concerns me most. The facts are known, and many remedies have been suggested. There are those who think that the remedies put forward will meet in full the recommendations of the Report. I await with interest proposals by the Panel of the Advisory Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, which will cast new light on a problem the facts of which are well known to hon. Members and to Government Departments. I have heard it said that a charges scheme is likely to be presented in the spring. I would like to know whether that is so. I would stress that the South Wales ports are asking not for preference but for parity, and that this problem, although acute in Cardiff, is not exclusive to Cardiff. It is a South Wales problem. Parochialism in our approach to this matter is, therefore, to be deplored.
On 5th May last year, I raised the problem of Cardiff docks in an Adjournment debate. I am not the only hon. Member to have done this. I suggested that there should be established in or near Cardiff a United States ordnance depot. It might be either in Pengam or elsewhere. It seemed to me then to be quite sound that, in case of need, there should be some supplement to, or substitute for, the American ordnance depot at Burtonwood. On 4th June, 1953, I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence a letter from which I would like to read the following extract:Equipment and stores arriving in this country for the United States Forces are carried in American flag vessels which normally use Liverpool; the main U.S. Forces depot is at Burtonwood adjacent to that port, so that it would be useless to suggest to the Americans that they should direct more of their freight to Cardiff.Even at that time I did not think that particularly sound but since then we have heard from the Prime Minister, and from other military experts, a great deal about the changing conception of the scope and type of modern war and of the danger and folly of concentration. It seems quite extraordinary that the whole of the American ordnance should be concentrated at Burtonwood. I ask my 1265 right hon. Friend to take up this matter with the American authorities from the strategic point of view, and to find out whether, in fact, they share the views of the Ministry of Defence as stated on 4th June of last year. I believe that some alternative form of trade of that type would at any rate tide us over until coal exports revive.
The two main problems which I wish to discuss this afternoon both relate to the administration and pattern of Government. First, there has been considerable unrest and anxiety in the Civil Service in Wales concerning the recent appointment to an important post of a distinguished civil servant who lacks command of the Welsh language. Here I am afraid that I may disappoint one or two of those hon. Members who appear to agree with me at the moment, because I wish to speak about the extent to which the capacity to speak Welsh should influence the choice of personnel for particular posts.
A formula to meet the case has been suggested on these lines; that, where the qualifications of two candidates are equal, preference should be given to the candidate who speaks Welsh. In my view such a formula promises to add a twin to our political mythology. Hard on the heels of the common man, the average man, the economic man, and so on, we are now to have the twins with the same qualifications. It is true that one can have two men applying for a post who have the same technical qualifications, have passed the same examinations on the same day—and possibly with the same marks—and have done the same things ever since in the same way.
Nevertheless, character does not stand still, and where technical qualifications are as nearly equal as can be calculated, I say that preference should go to the man with the better qualities of character and leadership rather than to the better linguist. I do not in any way under-rate the value of a knowledge of Welsh to a civil servant in some parts of Wales—it is an important qualification——
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Whoever makes the appointment—but I can think of nothing more shattering to the morale of the Civil Service in Wales than for the 1266 impression to be created that any undue preference would be given to bilingual candidates.
This argument applies equally to Welsh industry. Once technicians were to suspect that their lack of Welsh could be a barrier to their promotion, there would be a dearth of young entries into industry in Wales from outside and a further impetus to the export of Welsh skill. In this we have the example of Eire. Very often before Welsh debates I have refreshed myself by reading from the works of Dr. Thomas Jones. I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) will be familiar with his book "Welsh Broth"—as will be, I dare say, large numbers of other hon. Members.
Writing of his experience in Ireland between 1905 and 1910, Dr. Jones wrote the following passage which is very apposite, and applies directly to Welsh affairs now. He said:Who was it forced the galaxy of educated Irishmen from Goldsmith, Swift and Burke to Moore, Shaw and Yeats to woo and cherish the language which is 'the greatest medium of expression in the world today'?Mr. De Valera's policy has been quite clear: 'If I were told tomorrow: "You can have a united Ireland if you give up your idea of restoring the national language to be the spoken language of the majority of the people," I would, for myself, say no.'And he had no illusions: 'You have frequently to take the second best. We have, in regard to certain appointments that have been made, appointments of a technical character, said that where a person has a competent knowledge of Irish, if he is otherwise qualified, he has to take precedence over those who may have even better technical knowledge. If you do not do that, you make no progress.' On which the historian of the Irish Senate, himself an Irish scholar, comments: 'This is not progress but retrogression, and it may easily lead to jobbery. The sacrifices … have to be made not by the politicians but by the poor. If the poor are ill, it is small consolation to them to know that their "second best" dispensary doctor has "a competent knowledge of Irish"'.That lesson applies no less to Wales. That passage is relevant to the case I have presented to the House of the folly of creating a linguistic barrier in the selection of candidates for the Civil Service.
Finally, I want to make a plea to the four or five hon. Members opposite who believe that a new Welsh executive—under, I think, new masters—could produce, as it is claimed, permanent benefits to the people of Wales. Very far-reaching 1267 claims have been made which are directly related to what might be termed the black spots in this Report. Examples are, the tragic problems of the disabled unemployed, pneumoconiotics and silicotics for whom rehabilitation work has still to be found, the decline of the North Wales slate industry, the question of the underdeveloped countryside, and so on. All these and other problems could be solved, so we are told, by a Welsh Parliament which would have what is called a margin of initiative in regard to wide problems. I do not know what that means, but perhaps others will explain.
Though it would be out of order were I to discuss at length the benefits which, it is said, would accrue from a Welsh Parliament, I hope that this very important matter will be debated in this House before very long. For too long it has been debated in Wales and not here. It is time for both parties to give an opportunity for the subject to be discussed. It might very well influence the fate of the petition for that Parliament which, I understand, is still being bandied about in Wales. I believe that it played some part in the election at Aberdare. As a son of Aberdare myself, I welcome, if I may, the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), whom I see in his place. I noted that petition made very little difference either to his position or to that of the Conservative candidate. It seems to me remarkably odd that the more signatures that are claimed for it, the greater the reluctance grows to present it to the House.
If there are remedies of a constitutional or administrative kind known to those four or five hon. Members, which could provide or secure the benefits which are claimed for them, then I say that common humanity demands that these remedies be made known and subjected as soon as possible to the test of debate in this House.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
It is with a sense of humility that I rise to speak on this, the first occasion on which I have addressed the House. I do so because I follow in the footsteps of a man who, by his conscientiousness, his loyalty to his party and, above all, his sincerity, earned the love of hon. Members of this House. Indeed, it has become apparent 1268 to me in the last fortnight that I have been here that that love has been shared by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I only hope that I shall be able to follow his example to the best of my ability. I refer, of course, to my predecessor the late hon. Member for Aberdare.
I ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments. I represent a constituency which is called a mining constituency; it is typical of many of the mining constituencies in South Wales. I feel, indeed, that "mining" is too specific an adjective these days because in post-war years we have seen such a radical change that I think it is fair to call these constituencies industrial, on a broader basis.
This has been brought about, of course, by the recruitment of the light industries to bolster up the basic industry of coalmining in my constituency, and by a successful policy of full employment. But in saying that, I should like to stress that quite unconsciously there has come about a certain complacency in dealing with pockets of unemployment. In the employment exchanges I believe those concerned are called, quite respectfully, the unemployable.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) referred to the percentage figures of unemployed in South Wales. I should like to read part of paragraph 25 of the Report, which says:The percentage figures of unemployment in Wales in June, 1954, were 1.9 for men, 2.6 for women and 2.1 in total. Those for Great Britain were 1.1 for men, 1.2 for women and 1.1 in total.I do not want to elaborate further what my hon. and learned Friend has said? about those figures in contrast to the figures for England, but what is significant to me is the next sentence:The higher percentage of unemployed men in Wales as compared with Great Britain is attributable to the higher proportion of disabled men in South Wales.That is the basis of my special plea today.
In my own constituency, if I may quote just a few more figures, the number of persons 18 years of age and over registered as unemployed on 17th November, 1954, were 379 men; I am not quoting women in this instance. The number of persons registered under the Disabled 1269 Persons Employment Act, 1944, not classified as suitable for ordinary employment were 224. In other words, of those 379, 224 are classified as disabled workers.
We must not allow ourselves to become complacent, because if we treat this problem successfully in my constituency and in constituencies similarly placed, we shall go a long way to bring about a psychological change in the minds of the miners themselves. Many hon. Members will have seen in today's papers that the recruitment to the mines again fell last year in South Wales. The coalmining industry today is of vital importance to the whole of the country, and if we can assure the miners that when they leave the mines through disablement they will not become a legion of the lost—because that is what it amounts to in my constituency—we shall find that men will be more inclined to go into the pits.
My simple plea today is that the Minister will place a Remploy factory in the Aberdare and Mountain Ash constituency. I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) that a number of people now go from my constituency to the Remploy factory at Merthyr. It will be appreciated that whatever their disablement is, travelling any distance is not conducive to the health of these persons.
In this connection, I feel that it is fair to pay a tribute to the industrial employers in my constituency. I refer in particular to those on the Rhigos trading estate. They are employing far in excess of the statutory 3 per cent. disabled, and in these days of harsh competition I think it is unfair to ask them to employ any greater number.
It must be remembered that in the South Wales mines we have a problem of dust, and despite the efforts of the National Coal Board to ameliorate those conditions, we shall have the problem of the disabled for many years. Therefore, I do not want the Minister to feel that once he eliminates the 224 men by placing a Remploy factory in Aberdare the problem will be over, because for many years to come we shall have this special problem of disabled workers from the mining industry.
There is another aspect of the problem on which I should like the Minister to 1270 keep a watchful eye. It is perhaps rather paradoxical, but it has the same bearing on the point that I was making just now. It is that we should have full employment on these trading estates, because if we have not these avenues of employment in the mining valleys, we shall lose the men from those valleys.
To illustrate my point, I would say that a short while ago I was talking to a lady, and I asked her what was happening to her son now that he was leaving school. She said to me, apologetically, which describes the attitude of people who can remember the pre-war years, "Oh, he has gone into the pits." Then she said, in good spirits, "There are good prospects there, and he is hoping to become a mining engineer." She then added—and this is significant—"But if he does not like the pits, there is plenty of employment on the Rhigos trading estate."
If that alternative employment were not there, that young boy would leave the valleys of South Wales and go to the industrial Midlands or London, and he would be lost to Wales for ever. Therefore, it is important that we should keep a watchful eye on the employment figures on the Rhigos trading estate.
There is a point which I consider is not wholly irrelevant to the debate, and that is the question of transport on these trading estates. Those who know South Wales will realise that, owing to the topographical and geographical construction of the valleys, these trading estates have to be placed quite a distance from them. Consequently, the employees have to make considerable journeys. Rhigos trading estate, for example, has been placed in the wettest and coldest part of South Wales, and those who know the rainfall of South Wales will appreciate to the full what I mean by that.
For some time the employees who work upon that estate have been faced with the problem of transport, and although the matter is being dealt with on a local level I want it placed on record here, because I feel that the difficulties are such that it will have to be brought to a higher level in the near future. It is no fun for these people to get soaked to the skin and cold while they wait half an hour or more for a bus to take them home. It is not conducive to good health, and I ask the Minister 1271 to give consideration to this matter when it is brought to his attention.
I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the courtesy which they have shown me in the fortnight that I have been here.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
This is the first time that I have had the honour of following an hon. Member who has made his maiden speech. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) upon his charm, his fluency, and his obvious knowledge. He has made an important contribution to this debate, and we all look forward to hearing him again. He has proved himself a worthy successor to one who was held in great esteem and affection by everyone in this House.
I also want to take the opportunity of echoing what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) in regard to my right hon. Friend the new Minister for Welsh Affairs. It is a great personal pleasure to me to see him in that office. He bears a name which is held in great reverence and affection in my part of Wales, and I can think of no one more fitted to carry on the excellent work begun by the previous Minister for Welsh affairs, who is now the noble Lord Kilmuir.
If I may be excused from doing so, I do not wish to follow many of the things which have been said this afternoon. I feel, however, that I must refer to something which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). I join issue with him upon one matter which is possibly of importance. He referred to the feeling in Wales in regard to the appointment of senior officials who have no Welsh language qualifications, and he appeared to cast scorn upon the suggestion that when there are two people with equal qualifications preference should be given to the one who has the added qualification of speaking Welsh. I could not appreciate his difficulty in this respect. If two people have equal academic qualifications, surely the speaking of Welsh must be a very important additional qualification, and, therefore, if one applicant has that ability he is a better qualified person.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish to misrepresent me in this matter. My point is that where these two remarkably rare creatures with equal technical qualifications exist, the qualities of character and leadership should be given preference over linguistic ability.
§ Mr. Thomas
That may be so, but if there are two people with equal academic qualifications and, apparently, similar qualities of character and leadership, there should be no doubt whatsoever that if one has the added qualification of speaking Welsh he should be chosen.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
In the event of neither of these equally qualified people being able to speak Welsh, if one could speak Cornish would the hon. Member appoint him?
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
A Cornishman is known in Wales as "Cousin Jack," so he ought to get the job.
§ Mr. Thomas
I should like to be able to treat the matter lightly, but it is of some importance, and I hope that the hon. Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Mr. Hayman) will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not follow him in the light way in which he asked his question.
I agree with very much of what the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan said in his excellent speech—he is usually regarded as a man of extreme fairness, not only politically but in his other capacities—but I thought that he did not do himself or the Report justice in his apparently rather grudging reference to the obvious good things contained in it. Although it might not be proper to express satisfaction with the Report—because satisfaction implies that one does not anticipate further advances and one thinks that it is good for all time—nevertheless I think that he should have shown a greater appreciation of the obvious progress that has been made and which has been described in what I regard as an encouraging Report.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North mentioned the low level 1273 of unemployment. That is a matter which deserves to be made public, because it can give people heart for the future. The level of unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in peace-time, and every Member should derive pleasure from making that fact known. Apart from that, more people are now employed in Wales than ever before. My hon. Friend also mentioned the housing figures. We cannot but be pleased at the record number of houses built last year, and if the returns this year are any indication, it appears that last year's record will be exceeded.
I was surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan, who comes from an agricultural constituency, did not mention the fact that there has been a great expansion in agricultural production, which is another matter about which we can be pleased. It may not be wholly this Government's doing, but it is a matter of pride to us all that bovine tuberculosis is being eradicated.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. and learned Member's county was one of those in the pioneer area. We can be very proud that this area has been extended and we are now approaching our goal of completely ridding Wales of this disease. At the moment the figures are very good. In Wales, over 60 per cent. of the cattle are attested, as compared with under 40 per cent. in England, and we have reason to feel very pleased about that.
I was surprised that the hon. and learned Member did not mention what I consider to be the two most important things in Wales, namely, the basic industries of coal and steel. It is only right that when we are talking about Wales as an entity we should remember that it depends for its economic survival upon these basic industries. The other industries, particularly those which are sometimes called light industries, are to be considered as only useful auxiliary industries. They are not indigenous, and the conditions of employment in them depend to a large extent on general conditions of prosperity, and that is especially true today when there is no longer a sellers' market. When the Government are considering help for Wales their main concern 1274 should be with the basic industries, coal and steel, to which, of course, should be added agriculture.
With certain reservations, mainly in regard to the recruitment for the mines, I should say that the general picture drawn in this Report is a very promising one and that, all in all, it indicates prosperity and progress in Wales. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred in detail to problems. Of course, we have many problems in Wales. They are continually being mentioned in these debates, but I think we can say that from this Report it appears that the Government are not only aware of these problems but are showing an understanding of them, and showing also a determination to meet them.
One problem mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman was that of local unemployment, which is described on page 4 of the Report as a matter which is "difficult and stubborn." He mentioned the figures of unemployment in Britain. We are very proud today to think that in Great Britain as a whole unemployment is only just over 1 per cent. of the insured population. It is a matter of concern to us in Wales, particularly in the areas most concerned, such as in Caernarvon and Anglesey where the percentage of the insured population who are unemployed is far higher. We have heard that in Caernarvon it is about 5 per cent. In Anglesey it is more, and in some parts of Caernarvon there are small pockets of unemployment where the percentage is well over seven.
The situation in my constituency, which is in Caernarvonshire, has shown an improvement over the last year in this respect. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), on the western side of the county, the position has worsened. To some extent this is a seasonal problem, but there is always a large core of unemployment, and this is a matter which has caused grave concern to the people in the area.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I appreciate what the hon. Member is saying about Caernarvon, but I hope that he will not insist that this is a seasonal problem, because year after year both the January and the June mean are going up. It is a chronic problem that is 1275 less and less related to seasonal difficulties.
§ Mr. Thomas
The words I used were that this is to some extent a seasonal problem. I think the hon. Gentleman must agree with me that to some extent it is. I agree with him that it is a chronic problem, and if he will allow me to continue I think he will understand that I feel just as deeply about it as he does. I am going to treat it as a chronic problem. It is one which is stated in the Report as being "difficult and stubborn." I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is. It is not a new problem. He himself has mentioned it time and time again in this House over many years. It is not new, but it has to be faced, and I should like it to be faced as quickly as possible.
There is no facile solution. It can be described as a Welsh problem because it occurs in that part of Wales which is essentially Welsh. My right hon. and gallant Friend, I know, will appreciate exactly what it entails for Wales and he will realise how important it is that this matter should be treated resolutely. The Government have made a survey of this area which, I believe, is still being conducted. We look forward to the result, and hope very much that some solution for the alleviation of this great difficulty can come.
Whatever innovations may be introduced to deal with the situation, I hope that they can be of a permanent character, that they will not be introduced as a panic move or as a stop-gap measure. I hope that nothing will be done that eventually will leave the situation worse, but that an attempt will be made to introduce a remedy that will have a permanent and beneficial effect in the area in dealing with these pockets of unemployment. There are untapped resources in Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth, and if industries are introduced I hope that whoever introduces them will pay great attention to the need for light industries auxiliary to the native wealth of the area, which is found, of course, in agriculture and forestry—and also in tourism, which, I think, we are apt to forget. [HON. MEMBERS: "Toryism?"] I am happy to say that Toryism also is becoming more felt in that area now than it was at one time.
1276 There is one matter we should always keep in mind, especially when considering Caernarvon. Many thousands of people depend for their livelihood on the quarries. I do not like to hear people running down the future of the quarries, as so many are prone to do. I reaffirm my own confidence in the future of the quarries, particularly of the slate quarries of North Wales. I do not wish to say much about them now because we had an Adjournment debate on the subject some time ago, when many points of view were put to the Government, but I should like my right hon. and gallant Friend to pay particular attention to the quarries because there are many ways in which the Government can assist this industry. I deplore the impression that this is a dying industry, because there are many needs the quarrying industry can meet, and in meeting them it can keep itself alive. There are many needs, for instance, in the repair of houses. There will be demands on the output of the quarries for many years to come. However, much more can be done to make this industry a growing industry for it is capable of growing beyond its present size.
I have mentioned generally the unemployment problem existing in the northwest of Wales, but there is one other problem which is even more urgent. It is a problem that cannot wait for discussion but must be attended to immediately. It is the problem of the closing down of the R.A.F. depots at Llanberis and Llandwrog. It is a problem that I know my right hon. and gallant Friend will understand. When these depots are closed down over 300 people may be declared redundant.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Four hundred and twenty. If the hon. Gentleman is going to make the case for my constituency, perhaps he will get the facts and figures right.
§ Mr. Thomas
The actual figure, of course, is not known. As the hon. Gentleman knows only too well, he having been on the same committee as I have on this matter, the actual figure is not known, in as much as several people at those depots are on the strength of the R.A.F. However, there will be a deep human problem occasioned by the closing of those depots, and I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend, who, I know, will understand 1277 exactly what the problem is, to look into this matter to see if he can urge on one Minister or another some action to alleviate a situation which will have a very grave effect on the life of that area.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)
It is appropriate that on the first occasion on which the new Minister is present on a Welsh day we should give him a welcome. I would classify it as a mother-in-law's welcome; we are very pleased to see him but we hope he will not stay too long. I hope he will not emulate the mother-in-law who came for a week-end and stayed for 20 years.
We are nevertheless very pleased to have what many people in Wales would describe as, "A man who understands us and speaks the language." I am not in that fortunate position, but as the Welsh language is not allowed in the Chamber I do not consider it as a great addition here.
I want to deal with one aspect of the problem. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) complained that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) had not referred to the basic industries. In fact, the hon. and learned Member made a passing reference to them. I think that in these debates it is wise that we should not generalise too much but should deal with those subjects upon which we can speak with some authority. I do not want to take up too much time and I will, therefore, deal briefly with what we decided would be the main theme of the debate—industry.
We have talked about the wonderful things which have happened in Wales—and, indeed, wonderful things have happened in Wales; but unless we can maintain the flow of industrial prosperity throughout the areas, we shall lose all these things which we cherish so much. Industry is the lifeblood of the nation. The Report gives a factual account of much progress made in many directions. When I look back over my life-time—and this applies to all hon. Members, and particularly to the Father of the House—I realise that we have seen the whole industrial face of Wales change. That is not accidental. It has changed because of a definite policy by the previous Government, who set out with the purpose of changing it and who succeeded.
1278 Wales today is more prosperous than she has ever been. More money is circulating. The blood is flowing through the veins. We have diversified our industries. I wonder what the old people would have thought if we had told them that we would make nylon and washing machines, for instance. Great credit is due to the previous Government, who laid the foundations and built up that great enterprise. We hope and trust that the present Government will build greater and bigger things on those foundations, for we have faith in Wales and in its people, who have demonstrated that they are versatile and adaptable and that they can fit themselves to new situations.
We welcome the change. I want to refer particularly to the greatest industrial change taking place in Wales, which is the establishment of the works at Margam, among the finest in the world. When one visits them, it is like visiting a town. When one asks where a man is working, the reply is, "You had better look for him; he is four miles away, even though he is in the works." I once saw a man walking around with a "walkie-talkie," and he told me that he was directing the engines in the works.
These works are enormous. As one who worked in the old plant, I can say that when we visit these plants we think they do not look like steelworks at all. They look like parks with beautiful design and colours. We have established a new era, and a new kind of person has grown up with it.
Last week, I had an opportunity to see an American picture on steelworks. The executive council of our trade union was invited to see it. The description was similar to that of Margam. One comment made was, "Where are the sweat towels?" A feature of the old plant worker was that he was never seen without his sweat towel. Apparently these have disappeared, which is an indication of how we have humanised production in these works.
The old tin-plate works are dying out. That day and generation is over—and glory be when it goes. I come from a generation of tin-platers. My father died at 35, worn out. God never meant men to work as the old tin-platers had to work in the old hand mills. The improvement has taken place not only in the tin-plate section but also in the other sections, 1279 where the inventive genius of man has been applied to production.
For many years we had tube mills in Swansea. They have been closed, and 900 men face redundancy. The tube mills in Landore, near Swansea, cannot live in the same world as the tube mills at Stewarts and Lloyds at Corby. These changes create a problem, and we cannot alter that fact. We welcome it. It is a grand thing, but it carries with it certain obligations.
What of the future? The Minister has a great opportunity today to paint a very bright picture. He can tell me that we have Italians working in the tin-plate trade in South Wales. Indeed, the divisional officer of our trade union was in Italy last week trying to recruit more Italian workers. There is a reason for this situation, however.
In 1953 there was a recession and, unfortunately, the position was misjudged. I am not blaming anyone, but some of these tin-plate works were closed. The recession did not last long, and it was followed by a world demand. In the meantime, some of the men had left the industry. How can we invite people to return to the tin-plate works if they can be given no prospects?
We have to think not only of the tin-plate works but also of the steelworks—those which will no longer be required when works now being built are completed. The closing down will spread. Velindre, Abbey Works and Trostre can supply all the tin-plate required. As a result of all these changes there is a prospect that 10,000 men—good men, qualified in the work they have always done—may be unemployed.
Some of these men are being taken up with difficulty, but it is not a very promising thing for a man of 45 to 55 to be told that he can get a job but will have to travel to Llanelly or Port Talbot every day. Many are doing that, but it is not a very bright prospect. I want the Minister to believe me when I say that there is great fear in the minds of these men. A lot of them remember the days of the McKinlay tariff.
I was then very young. My mother related to me how, in my little home town, one could have a house if one 1280 lived in it and kept it in order. The streets were idle. What happened to some of our best men? They were driven to America.
My uncle went there. There is one thing that I might say, which has nothing to do with this debate, but which will, I think, demonstrate the adaptability of the tin-plate worker—that is that his granddaughter is Joan Crawford, the film star. These men are genuinely concerned—[Laughter.]—but not jealous. I do not mean that we all want granddaughters like Joan Crawford. I do not know whether it would be an appropriate or good thing for all Members of this House to have granddaughters like Joan Crawford.
But to revert to the serious aspect of this matter, not only he but thousands of others went to America. There are memories of those days, and these communities are facing absolute destruction from that standpoint. There is nothing there. In districts like Pontardawe, Gorseinon, Gowerton and Briton Ferry the only industry that they have to depend on is a few tin-plate works, and when they close the districts become derelict.
The Lord Lloyd Committee has presented three reports, I am not asking the Minister to give us all the details of those reports. We cannot expect him to do that. There have been private negotiations going on with industrialists, and it would be unfair to ask him to give the details. All that I am asking the Minister, as I have been requested to do, it to give us today, if possible, not the details, but to draw back the curtain a little. If he will do that and let in the sunshine of hope to these people, then I can quote his illustrious father when I say that he will bring hope there, andfear will then ascend like the mist from the Cambrian Hills.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I shall not repeat the welcome given to my right hon. and gallant Friend by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort). I join, however, in welcoming my right hon. and gallant Friend, and I prefer to do so not in terms as would be applied to a mother-in-law or, perhaps, in such terms as some people might use of their mothers-in-law. I say that we on this side of the House are glad to have him, 1281 and that we hope that he will stay as long as he wishes to.
I would tell my right hon. and gallant Friend, because it may be of some considerable encouragement to him, that when his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs was announced, a Labour constituent of mine, who supports the party opposite, said to me in private conversation, "I am particularly glad that a Welshman has been appointed, and I am even more glad that it is a Lloyd-George."
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) initiated this debate, and I do not entirely agree with what was said about his speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas). I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman covered an amazing amount of ground. I was reminded at one stage of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech of the lines of Johnson,'Let observation with extended view,Survey mankind from China to Peru;Perhaps the second line should read, "Survey mankind from Conway to Fochriw."
I think that he initiated this subject most effectively. I suppose that his function was not to call attention to the good things in the White Paper and the Report of Government Action, but rather to emphasise those matters which demand future consideration. I think that we all agree, on both sides of the House, that he performed that duty admirably. He also initiated this debate remarkably well in so far as he set an example to us all by introducing hardly any note of party politics. I think that course has been pursued. It was pursued in the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) and in the admirable maiden speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert). I believe that we can say that it was one of the most charming maiden speeches that many of us have heard, and I join with other hon. Members in congratulating him.
The picture of industrial Wales, as the hon. Member for Conway has already pointed out, is revealed in this report as a picture of tremendous industrial activity, with our economy fully deployed and with our heavy basic industries now supported by very many thriving subsidiary 1282 and newer industries, and with our population more fully employed than ever before in peace-time. In June the number of unemployed had sunk to 19,600, and that is certainly the lowest figure since the war. As the hon. Member for Conway pointed out, it is the lowest figure ever in peace-time.
I think that my hon. Friend also referred to the figure of those employed, which had risen to the highest level. Between 1951 and June of this year, the figure had risen from 910,000 to more than 916,000. The process of consolidating that position is continuing. I noted that the hon. Member for Swansea, East expressed the hope that it would continue. I was particularly pleased to see in the Report of Government Action reference to the new industrial production and extension—first, the sinking of new pits and the development of new and the extension of existing power stations.
Then, passing from the nationalised industries to the private industries, the Report refers to the growth in steel production at Ebbw Vale and Margam in particular. I was also pleased to note the approval of new works and extension of certain industrial firms including the Cwmbran Iron Foundry, the filter plant of Richard Thomas at Ebbw Vale and the turbine and boiler equipment of the firm of Darwen and Mostyn in Flintshire.
We were also glad to note 71 cases of the building of new factories and the extensions to existing factories. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Conway quite pertinently observed that outside the industrial picture many of us could derive solid satisfaction from the great increase in agricultural production.
This is a picture of a happy combination between the nationalised industries, private industries and, indeed, the Government Departments and local authorities. I cannot resist adding what is perhaps a political point and that is that, under the guidance of the Government, their financial policy, at any rate, has surely instilled some confidence in the future.
But for me there is one very black spot on this picture. Reference was made by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan to the position of the South Wales ports. He suggested that the plight of Cardiff might be most serious. The plight of the port of Barry, which falls within 1283 the constituency which I have the honour to represent, is almost worse than that of Cardiff, because Barry was even more dependent than any other port upon one kind of cargo—coal.
Cardiff and Barry are the ports which have suffered most in the past ten years from the failure, to which the hon. and learned Member referred, to recover their pre-war cargoes. This is the only day in the year when I may properly speak about transport matters, and I stress this matter to my right hon. and gallant Friend as a matter of major concern in South Wales.
The docks, for there are three docks at Barry, with a total water area of about 114 acres and a normal depth of 32 feet, are admirably sited. I am told that the depth of water at their entrances is greater than that in any of the neighbouring ports—Barry has an advantage in that respect—and comparatively little dredging is necessary. For about 50 years, the port of Barry has served the nation extremely well in peace and in war. It has an almost unequalled record of freedom from strikes and trade disputes, and for providing a very quick turn-round for ships. I hope that these facts will be particularly noted by my right hon. and gallant Friend, and that he will impress them upon his Cabinet colleagues.
Barry possesses dry dock facilities with the older Barry Graving Dock, 795 ft. long, and the more recently erected dry dock of Messrs. C. H. Bailey, which is 940 ft. in length and one of the biggest in South Wales. There are transit sheds, cold storage facilities, and a flour mill depot. Facilities are available for the importation of petroleum, pit props and general cargoes. Why, then, should these magnificent facilities be virtually wasted? As we all know, Barry has been associated with coal. Indeed, in 1913 it was the greatest coal port of the world. In that year, 11 million tons of coal was exported through the port. Apart from the decline in coal shipments, what reason is there for the failure of Barry to meet the challenge to obtain new cargoes?
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan mentioned the first reason, to which I want my right hon. and gallant Friend, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, to give special attention, that is, port charges. To what extent is there opposition from 1284 the older ports in the country? How long do London and Liverpool hope to hold their very privileged position in respect of rates? The problem, of course, is not limited to port charges but extends also to freight rates to and from the ports.
I remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Conway asked my right hon. and gallant Friend's predecessor to go and see the Conway Bridge, and the former Minister for Welsh Affairs, now Lord Kilmuir, paid a special visit within a very short time of that request. I apologise for making a similar request so early in my right hon. and gallant Friend's tenure of office, but I implore him similarly to come and see the port of Barry.
While he is there, he can also look at the port of Cardiff, because these are the two ports which, above all others, have suffered in this way. I do not say that Swansea and Newport also do not have their problems, but it is Barry above all whose needs are greatest. I should far prefer my right hon. and gallant Friend to come on this kind of mission than to pay any political visit to my constituency.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
Would the hon. Member not invite him to visit Pembroke docks at the same time?
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
If the hon. Member were the representative for Swansea, would he ask the Minister to go to Swansea and not bother about Barry?
§ Mr. Gower
I was quite comprehensive and considerate in my references to Swansea and Newport also, although, naturally, I am dealing specially with the constituency which it is my duty to represent.
I sincerely hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will deem this a reasonable request. He would be coming to a port where every effort is being made by the people themselves. We have a very active council and development committee, and people of all political parties and from all occupations in the town have co-operated. I will not repeat the phrase "explored every avenue," but that is literally what they have done.
They have been to the National Coal Board, both in the south-western area and at national level; they have seen the Chairman of the National Coal Board in London. They have been to see 1285 Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, and they really believe that something has to be done at a high level. There is no strong possibility of an immediate revival of the former level of coal exports. We want a fair opportunity to obtain some of the general cargoes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North made an interesting suggestion in connection with the problems of the port of Cardiff about the possibility of having an American army supply depôt nearby; but that would not necessarily solve the problem. We have at Sully, on the very edge of Barry, not an American army supply depôt, but a British army supply depôt. Even so, we do not get the exports from this depôt. Yesterday, I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Warto what extent it is proposed to use the port … at Barry for the export of goods and supplies from the supply reserve depot … at Sully … and what considerations have influenced his Department in the past …I obtained the reply that every effort was made to use the port of Barry and that the main considerationsare the need to get regular shipments to overseas theatres and the desirability of reducing movement by rail."—[Official Report, 23rd November, 1954; Vol. 533, c. 115.]But what happens in practice? Recently, a load was exported from the supply depôt at Sully to the Middle East. It was transported by road from Sully for about 20 miles to Newport, in one direction. It was then loaded on to a ship and it passed Barry a second time on its way by boat to the Middle East.
That is a fantastic state of affairs. I know that in respect of cargoes not within the province of any Government Department there is no power of direction, but surely a Government Department has some definite say in the matter to which I have referred. All I ask is that in cases like these, the long-term interests of individual ports should be highly regarded and not simply the easiest haphazard way followed.
One hopes that no supreme emergency of war may arise in the foreseeable future, but these ports were essential assets in the last war and I presume that in any future emergency the South Wales and 1286 Bristol Channel ports would be far more important than the ports on the East Coast. The old ports are in many cases maintaining their pre-war level of trade. The ports of South Wales and of the Bristol Channel have not attained anything like their pre-war traffic. I am sorry that I have necessarily devoted a lot of time to this one topic, but I think the House will agree that it is of peculiar importance, not only for my constituency, but for the whole of South Wales.
I should like to deal with one problem mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan. Somewhat diffidently I asked him, in an interruption, about expenditure on the roads in Wales. He and a lot of hon. Members disputed my suggestion that Wales had, in fact,? received a reasonable amount of money. I do not say that the global sum was sufficient, but I suggest that of the money spent in the whole of the United Kingdom, Wales got a larger share proportionately. Since saying that I have received information which bears out what I suggested.
I find that Wales now gets more per head for expenditure on new roads than any other region. Expenditure on new roads and major improvement projects works out at 10s. 1d. in Wales per head whereas in England and elsewhere it is 8s. 7d.
§ Mr. Gower
That may be so, and hon. Members can include that in their speeches, but I mention this to show that the major road projects mentioned by the former Minister of Transport certainly favour Wales.
Finally, the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan devoted some attention to the Report of the Royal Commission for Scotland, and although he did not say so I felt that his remarks inevitably led to the conclusion that there should be a similar commission for Wales. It is obvious to both sides of the House that, without being imbued with extreme nationalism, we are convinced that concrete benefits have accrued from the Royal Commission for Scotland. That was recognised when the Prime Minister the other day announced what the Government proposed to do about the findings.
1287 Would my right hon. and gallant Friend not agree that it would help us with many of our problems if a body of people of importance and experience similar to those who sat on the Scottish body were appointed to consider Welsh problems? I understand that the subject of a Scottish Parliament was not within the terms of the Commission. We could have a similar commission for Wales which would not include the subject of whether there should be further political devolution. I submit that, on balance, the findings and the results of the Scottish Commission have led us to the conclusion that it would be a useful thing to have a similar commission for Wales.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I hope there will be one or two points on which I can follow the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), but before I do that I should like to extend to my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister my own congratulations and my sincere good wishes for the future. I speak as the Member for the Caernarvon constituency, which is very substantially the same as that which was represented so illustriously and for so long by his famous father. I think, also, I have another family connection with him via my constituency in that I have the privilege and responsibility of representing both Caernarvon and "Lady Megan."
I know that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, with feelings of deep happiness, will cast his mind back to his boyhood days, spent in a delightful part of my constituency. I can assure him that the friendships he then formed still persist, and that quite a number of my constituents have asked me to extend to him this afternoon their own good wishes on his accession to this office. Indeed, I think I can say on behalf of my hon. Friends on this side of the House that much as some of us may deplore him politically, we rejoice in him personally.
I said that we wish him well in his new duties, and as I said it I heard a rustle of interest from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I wish that I knew more precisely what these new duties were in connection with Wales. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's full designation is a grandiose one, Her 1288 Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs. It is quite a mouthful, especially for a former Minister of Food.
We have a fairly good idea of what his duties are as Home Secretary. They are definite and substantial. He has a fine office, housed in a vast building in Whitehall, where he has an extensive and expert staff to assist him in his capacity as Home Secretary. But what about the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as Minister for Welsh Affairs? Is there, in fact, such a Minister officially? The arrangements in this House would tend to prove that there is really no such person. One cannot table a Question to him as Minister for Welsh Affairs. It can only be made to the Home Secretary. Is this Minister, therefore, more than an idea and a personality?
Further, where is the Ministry itself? Is there so much as one little ante-room in the whole vast conurbation of Whitehall which he can say is his very own? He has hundreds of rooms as Home Secretary but hardly a corner of one room as Minister for Welsh Affairs. And what about the staff? The other day I put a series of Questions about the staff. I wanted to know whether he had one at all as Minister for Welsh Affairs. He is staffed in every parish of the country as Home Secretary, but has he a whole-time staff entirely devoted to the questions of Wales?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will pardon me if I say that the answers which he gave were delivered with an ingenious gallantry but rather made me feel that a full-time Welsh staff, if it existed, was almost as elusive as some of his own prisoners from Strangeways Gaol. Surely Wales, as a country, should be accorded more substantial recognition. None of the parties can take undue pride in the amount which they have done in giving to the Principality what is due to it in the sense of Ministerial and Parliamentary recognition.
May I urge the right hon. and gallant Gentleman at the outset of his career, as Minister responsible for Wales to consider how that Ministerial responsibility can be strengthened and how the arrangements for consideration of Welsh Questions in this House can be organised effectively. Certainly, no one in Wales 1289 is satisfied with the way in which Welsh affairs are dealt with in this House. The time has come when Wales should be given its proper place within the business of this House, so that the details of its life can be periodically examined fully and at leisure by its representatives with full Ministerial responsibility and not with this rush, and hurry once or twice a year.
I welcome wholeheartedly the Digest of Welsh Statistics, now appearing for the first time. Like other hon. and right hon. Members, I had something to do with advocating the production of this publication, and I take this opportunity of saying a word in praise of the predecessor of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his sympathetic action in this matter. But what does the first page reveal?
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) referred to the fact that the number of registered unemployed in Wales is now tower than it has been since the end of the war. That is a statistical fact which, I suggest, masks an equally important and depressing fact. Because, in the very first line of the statistics in this new digest we are told that the population of Wales has fallen by 3,000 in the last three years. The level of births has been the same in that time and deaths have declined. Consequently, on a normally increasing population we have, on balance, a decrease for that period in the total population of 3,000. The lesson of that is obvious.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
Would it not be correct to say that, if we take the surplus births over deaths, and then add the decrease of 3,000, the decline in the population in Wales in the last three years is in the region of 35,000?
§ Mr. Roberts
My hon. Friend makes the point better than I can make it myself.
The fact is that the unemployment position dm Wales is masked by the intense migration which is proceeding at present from the Principality. So it is no use chirruping about the fact that the record shows only 19,000 people unemployed in Wales because, the rest of our normal unemployed migrated to England long ago, and that process is going on all the time, so let us not be too cheerful 1290 about the bare figures of unemployment because, behind those figures, lies a story of continuous and depressing migration.
§ Mr. P. Thomas
Has the hon. Gentleman seen table 25? It shows that since 1948 the number of people in employment has increased steadily. There were 919,000 in 1948 and today there are 926,000.
§ Mr. Roberts
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could explain to me why, in that case, the total population of Wales has declined 3,000 in the last three years?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman will realise that it is a percentage of the insured population. We do not know if the people who have left are young boys who have loft Wales to seek jobs elsewhere and were never part of the insured population.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the point so well for me. That is precisely what I was trying to explain. It is the youngest, most skilful and most enterprising of the boys who are doing precisely what he has described. It is this exodus of the youngest and strongest, especially from the rural areas, which is our great concern. Why are they going? Obviously, because they are forced to look for work elsewhere.
As a number of hon. Members have shown, in certain parts of Wales, particularly in the province of Gwynedd—the three north-west counties of Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth—the level of unemployment is now reaching the dreadful records of the 'thirties. The Minister of Labour told me the other day at Question time that in Caernarvon 5.3 per cent. of our insured population are now unemployed. In certain areas of the county the level is as high as 8 per cent., and the winter is only just beginning. By January we must contemplate the melancholy possibility of having 8, 9 or even 10 per cent. of our insured population in Caernarvonshire out of work.
I want to know what the Board of Trade is doing about this matter. Trade union, local authority, church and social leaders in Caernarvonshire are profoundly disappointed with the attitude of the Board of Trade to our problems in 1291 North-West Wales. It can only be described as one of supine indifference. We want the Minister to prod the Board of Trade to act to rescue these parishes. They are only parishes, so the extent of the difficulty is not superhuman. If the Labour Government, under the Distribution of Industries Act, could rescue entire counties such as Glamorgan and Mon-mouth, surely, under even this Government, a few parishes could be saved.
I do not want to leave this debate without a firm undertaking from the Minister that he will come to grips with the Board of Trade on this matter, because it is more than an economic issue. The Welsh nation will never die if it survives in Gwynedd. As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman well knows, it is Snowdonia, against which successive waves of invasion have beaten in vain. We have repelled or absorbed the invaders. But it is not invasion that threatens the language and the way of life of Wales today, it is migration. We have always known how to cope with invaders; what baffles us is how to cope with migration, and we are in the flood tide of a young, virile migration at the moment.
I see that the Under-Secretary of State for Air is present, and I am glad. I have mentioned our unemployment problems in Caernarvonshire and I have given some figures to show how bad is the position. The hon. Gentleman knows that it will become worse because the Air Ministry maintenance unit in Llanberis and Llandwrog is to be closed. Unless we hear something to the contrary this afternoon, about 400 families will face economic catastrophe. Workmen who are now middle-aged, whom the Air Ministry were more than glad to employ in past years, will now be cast on the scrap heap.
I should like to put a specific point to the Minister for Welsh Affairs. Can he get together with the President of the Board of Trade and the Under-Secretary of State for Air to arrange for the use of these fine buildings in Llanberis and those fine labour forces on the spot for constructive industrial purposes, so as to maintain these communities, whom he knows as well as I do, where they are used to living and working? If he can do that and can bring pressure to bear on the Air Ministry and the Board of Trade 1292 in respect to that area, we shall all be most grateful to him.
This is an old problem—the problem of supplementing the contracting contribution of the traditional slate quarrying industry to the employment position in the area. I agree with the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) that there is certainly a future for slate quarrying in my part of the country. On the other hand, we must face the fact that it is a future on a rather more restricted scale than that we have been used to, and, consequently, there is urgent need for new forms of industry to come to the rescue of the old.
The task of the Welsh trading estates in South Wales and Wrexham has been wonderfully and admirably done. We do not need any longer to pour industry into South Wales and Wrexham. Cannot the Welsh trading estates, within the terms of the Distribution of Industry Act, be deployed to come to the rescue of these few rural parishes, so small in extent but so essential to the vital life of Wales which some of us have tried to describe today?
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I should like to congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) upon his invaluable opening speech. He touched upon most of the problems which are worrying us today in Wales. I was particularly glad that he mentioned the problem of the poor reception of the B.B.C. Welsh Home Service. In addition to the fact that Welsh people who pay their wireless licences have a right to a reasonable reception, this matter has serious cultural implications. There is considerable feeling in the Principality about the appalling quality of the reception. It is gratifying to see a galaxy of Ministers on the Treasury Bench, but we are disappointed that the Assistant Postmaster-General is not present to hear our deep-felt complaints on this subject.
When I think of this problem I often feel that if it were the London Home Service that was involved, something would be done far more expeditiously. If this interference with the reception of the B.B.C Home Service station existed in areas of concentrations of population in England, far more expeditious action 1293 would have been taken. I hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will convey the deep concern of hon. Members in all parts of the House on this subject.
I should like to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman upon his appointment to his new office. He is a true Welshman by birth and upbringing and we expect great things of him during his tenure of office. On more than one occasion he has expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which Welsh affairs are dealt with in the House. In a debate on Welsh affairs in 1948 he said:We have but one day in the year. Contrast that with what happens in Scotland. They have three Ministers; they have debates on housing, on health, on practically every aspect of Scottish life."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1287.]We all appreciate that one day for the discussion of our affairs is quite inadequate, indeed we could have an effective debate on every section of the annual White Paper.
We hope that the Minister who has expressed such strong feelings in this matter will be able to effect some changes for the better during his term of office. The last Ministry over which he presided dissolved under his hands. I do not think that he will wish the Ministry for Welsh Affairs to disappear in such a way, but there are ominous signs that this Ministry is undergoing a peculiar change.
The House was given to understand in the debate on Second Reading of the Ministers of the Crown Bill in 1951 that there was to be a progressive building up of the office of Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs and that the Under-Secretaryshire would be a full-time job. Lord Kilmuir, who was then Minister of Welsh Affairs, said:I want this to be quite clear. My hon. Friend's job is Wales, …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 1765.]If we look carefully at the subsequent history of this office of Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs, we shall see that it has passed through three separate and distinct changes.
First, we had the Minister who was also Home Secretary with an Undersecretary in this House. We then had a second stage during which we had the Minister in this House and the Undersecretary in another place. Now, after the recent Government reshuffle, we have 1294 come to the third stage in which we have the Minister here and the Under-Secretary in another place, but an Under-Secretary who is not Welsh and who, I understand, knows very little about Wales, and who will be occupied with Home Office matters and not exclusively or even largely with Welsh affairs.
This is a most serious position and I think that the House is entitled to have some clarification of it. We are delighted that we have a Minister for Welsh Affairs who can speak the Welsh language, but that is no compensation for the loss of the Under-Secretaryship; we dislike the structure of the Under-Secretaryship being whittled away in this fashion. We should also remember that all this is taking place at a time when the powers of the Scottish Office are being progressively and substantially increased.
I suggest to the Minister that, instead of going along in this haphazard fashion, serious consideration should be now given to setting up a Royal Commission to look into the administration and co-ordination of Welsh affairs, in this House and in Government Departments in Whitehall and in the Principality.
I now turn to the problem—already dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and touched upon by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen)—of unemployment in North-West Wales. The House will agree that this is one of the most urgent questions in the Principality today. It is a chronic problem, which can be cured only by positive and constructive Government action.
Paragraph 27 of the White Paper refers to this problem, but in my submission it refers to it in an inadequate way as if those compiling the White Paper said to themselves, "This is a very good White Paper; a good success story. We do not want to spoil it by dilating upon this problem in Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire." The situation is very grave, but the Government do not appear to be dealing with it with the sense of urgency it demands.
Right hon. and hon. Members will remember that the situation in North-West Wales was very bad before the war. I remember a time between the wars when the percentage of unemployed among the insured population of Anglesey 1295 was between 43 per cent. and 48 per cent. There were also high percentages in Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire. The average unemployment in Anglesey, between 1932 and 1939 was higher than the average for the whole of the Development Areas.
The Development Areas have been dealt with by the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. The work that has been accomplished under the provisions of that Act has been excellent. An area of depression and despair in South Wales has been converted into an area of bustle, industry and hope. It is almost incredible to think of South Wales today and to remember the state of affairs before the war. Great credit must go to the Labour Government for the work they have achieved. But these are no longer Development Areas. We call them Development Areas, but they are now developed areas. The factories have been built; there is full employment—indeed, the employment exchanges in Anglesey tell young men to go to Flintshire or South Wales as there is plenty of work there.
If we look at the White Paper we see that the demand for labour exceeds the supply in those areas. Table 30 of the Digest of Statistics gives impressive figures of the progress which has been made in factory building. I feel that the time has come for the Government to think again about the Development Areas, to recast their policy towards them, and towards what are known as unemployment areas. The last Government and the present Government have set their faces against scheduling rural areas and semi-industrial pockets no matter how depressed they may be. For the life of me, I cannot see any valid argument in favour of such a short-sighted policy.
In the areas of Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire a great deal has been done by local initiative. Anglesey County Council, Caernarvonshire County Council and the County Council of Merionethshire have done a great deal to ease the position by public works. An illustration of this local initiative is the Anglesey county water scheme, work on new schools, road works and the preparatory work on the new factory at Amlwch. These things have helped, but now those works are coming to an end and unemployment 1296 figures are creeping up. Percentages are going up month by month and this is a matter which is creating a feeling of insecurity in the area.
Only last week the Anglesey County Council launched an industrial survey, drawn up by industrial consultants, with an introduction by Mr. Peter Scott, who did such excellent work at Brynmawr in the years of depression. I have given a copy of the survey to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and to the President of the Board of Trade. I hope he will give it most careful attention. I think that a small trading estate at Llangefni in the centre of Anglesey, a heavy industry in Holyhead and a factory at Amlwch would solve the problem once and for all. We should look at the table in the Report and think of the factories built in the Development Areas of Great Britain. When we realise that six or seven suitable factories built in the whole of this area of North-West Wales would go far towards ameliorating our problem, it will be appreciated that we are not asking for the impossible.
On 2nd March last the President of the Board of Trade said, in reply to a Question I asked, that he was instituting a survey into the unemployment problem in Anglesey. In response to a request by an hon. Friend, the survey was subsequently extended to cover Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire. Many months have passed and we would like to know what is happening about that survey. When can we expect to hear something about it? What is the outcome? Is it to be published? Are we to expect recommendations on what action the Government are to take?
I make a constructive suggestion to the Government. The mechanics of the Development Areas are in the hands of trading estate companies. A trading estate company has power to operate only within the limits of a Development Area, not outside those limits. Why not extend the powers of trading estate companies to operate, not only in Development Areas, but in areas which are recognised as unemployment areas? If a trading estate company could operate throughout Wales, alleviating the depopulation of Montgomeryshire and bringing to an end the migration from Anglesey, Merionethshire and Caernarvonshire, we would feel that something really constructive was being done.
1297 My appeal is that the Government should do something positive and progressive. Depopulation is no solution to the problem. To swell the populations of Flintshire and Glamorgan at the expense of Anglesey and Caernarvonshire is no solution at all.
These ancient communities of North Wales have made great contributions to the history of these islands, in culture, in independence of thought, in their tradition of practical democracy. Our appeal is that when things are at a low ebb in those areas the Government should give some practical assistance so that they may continue to make their distinctive contribution to the common pool of our island civilisation.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), in an effective speech, expressed delight, as other hon. Members have done, at the fact that the Minister now responsible for Welsh affairs is a Welshman—a Welshman with a very illustrious name. I warn the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that he will find the Opposition a harder task-master, because he is a Welshman, than did the former Minister. I was pleased that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) opened the debate, and the task which he performed came up to our expectations. I was delighted with the charming way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) made his maiden speech. Such an occasion is always a big ordeal for an hon. Member. To me it was a special source of pride, because I look upon the members of the Welsh group as my children.
This Motion enables us to take stock of the problems and the perspectives confronting us. People may say that this ninth Report brings into convenient range the hard facts of the progress of the Principality in the task of strengthening its economy. Many will say that the Report is not what it looks. I suggest that Government reports rarely are. Perhaps this debate will show the truth, or not, of that. In any case, Wales has certainly tasted the fruits of the Distribution of Industry Act of 1945, and the previous Special Area Acts of 1924 and 1937.
1298 How wise it has proved to give added impetus to industrial and social development where there was a special need of development because of unemployment. I wish to emphasise industrial employment and development once again, because it is bound to distinguish our proceedings, and it is this sector which has shown a favourable trend generally. But, as we have heard today, there are still areas in North Wales where the unemployment rate is far too high. In South-West Wales, and in the Blaenavon area of Monmouthshire, there exists a dark cloud of anxiety regarding the unemployment rate and possible redundancy.
We should be right, in fact it is our duty to do so, to expect that the Government will indicate what is to be done about the areas where there is far too high a percentage of unemployment. As I look back—and I hope I may be excused for mentioning it—to our debates on unemployment previous to 1938, I am doubtful if we did enough then to tackle the problem. We should have acted earlier, and more earnestly, and I would ask the Minister to consider the problem created by the black spots. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer urges us to increase the wealth of the nation, we should remember that in certain areas the unemployment percentages are as high as 7 per cent., 8 per cent., 9 per cent. and 10 per cent. We must be told what the Government intend to do about this problem.
It is our duty to warn the Government against complacency in their dealings with these unfavourable aspects. So far, the plans and intentions of the Government are not plain, and we need concrete assurances to satisfy us that the Government are aware of the problems. Our future needs keep pressing in on my mind. Make no mistake, the time is here to look in what directions new courses are necessary so as to strengthen and reinforce the industrial set-up in Wales. We have to face keener and keener competition from abroad. If we are to hold our own successfully, every facet of industrial life must give of its best.
The weak link in the chain of accomplishments is the insufficiency of skilled jobs compared with unskilled types of work. During our last debate on Welsh affairs I appealed for attention to be paid to this aspect in order that those industries giving a progressive number of 1299 skilled jobs might be built up. I wish to see in Wales an industrial structure which will absorb more and more of the products of our own universities, technical colleges and grammar schools. In the long term we are bound to reap marked gains by following such a course. It is from there that our future industrial shoots will come. We can profit from giving all the impetus possible to capital plant manufacture. Many local authorities in Wales call it heavy industry, but I call it capital plant manufacture, wherein the best brains and skill are required. We shall ignore this task at our cost.
That was the theme of my contribution on the last occasion when we debated Welsh affairs, and I was glad to note that in the second of his six Reith Lectures on "Britain and the Tide of World Affairs," Sir Oliver Franks said something which appeared to me to link with that. He said:Again, we send great quantities of manufactured goods, but requirements are changing, and we have to meet and anticipate the change.We have to see into the future and anticipate the change.Nowadays part of the definition of nationhood is industrial development. The other members of the Commonwealth are no exception. They are industrialising themselves as fast as they can: at times almost faster than they can afford. But they will not stop: it is part of being free and equal, independent nations. As secondary industries spring up overseas, and primary too, the type of British exports has to change,It has been changing fast since the war. We have to build and sell capital equipment and complex, long-lasting engineering goods at a price and quality and with delivery dates competitive with our rivals in the United States of America and Germany. The truth is shown there. We must see that Wales gets its share of secondary industries, but it will be found that it is in this capital plant manufacture that the best brains and the greatest degree of skill are required. This type of product is less likely to be made abroad. Government agencies in Wales ought consciously to be encouraging the expansion of manufactures requiring greater degrees of skill. In that way shall we find the balanced industry which we seek.
1300 Already there are promising brains, and I hope more will follow. The truth of what I am saying can be seen in some industries that have started from zero. Grammar school sixth form boys have been apprenticed in industries sending goods to all parts of the world. That process is continually expanding. If it is at all possible, Government agencies should make a contribution in this direction. Here can be our strength against inevitably keener competition from abroad.
What has been achieved has been encouraging, but we must not rest and lean back. The search for a stronger industrial base must proceed. No one can be blind to the arithmetic of the future and to what is ahead in the development of electronics and of the atom and of aeronautical engineering. We need our valuable coal in greater and greater quantities for many years yet. But when we compare it with the unworked power stored in unworked uranium and similar raw materials in the Commonwealth, we find that these new resources are at least 1,000 times more powerful than coal.
A very eminent scientist said that it was from the nation with the skill but without the raw materials—Britain is now the leader of such nations—that the work in putting this power to use would come. Hon. Members may ask what that has to do with our present position. It has a great deal to do with it, because it is to the extent that we see the picture of the future that we are now able to prepare for greater developments in Wales. In this respect I welcome the establishment in Cardiff of a branch office of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This is a very interesting development, and I hope that the Department will grow and greatly contribute to Wales.
In my miscellany I wish to refer to the problem of housing—an important feature of the Report. I have a constituency matter to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention. It is well known that suitable building land is very restricted in the valleys in South Wales, because of the heavy nature of the ground and its liability to subsidence.
Pontypridd Urban District Council needs land for the erection of about 2,000 (houses. Consequently the council became interested in 550 acres of land in 1301 and around Cefn and Glyncoch Farms, Pontypridd. Naturally the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was bound to come into the picture and, in meeting their objections and other limiting factors, the council's proposals were brought down to 98 acres.
The land included in a compulsory purchase order formed part of this area. Only 800 houses could be erected on this reduced area, so that instead of there being land for 2,000 houses, there was land for only about 800, so leaving an unsatisfied land need for 1,200 houses before the full demands could be met.
It is clear that every single acre of the total acreage covered in the order was now important to the council, making it nearly impossible to agree to the exclusion from the compulsory purchase order of seven acres Objected to by the farmers concerned.
Important to note was the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had signified agreement to the use of all the land in the order for housing. But there being objections from the farmers to the order, the Minister of Housing and Local Government set up an inquiry into the council's application for the confirmation of the compulsory purchase order, 1954.
The inspector, Mr. Idris Lewis, who conducted the inquiry, reported to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and the Minister decided to exclude the disputed seven acres from the order. This decision has aroused the indignation of both the Pontypridd Council and myself, because clearance of these seven acres for building had been given by the Minister of Agriculture on 3rd June, 1952.
Further, in a letter of the 20th June, 1953, confirmation was given that clearance had already been given. I want to quote a letter from the then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of 1st July, 1953. It said:Dear Pearson,Thank you for your letter of the 11th June enclosing this correspondence from the Clerk of the Pontypridd Urban District Council about the proposal to build houses on two fields belonging to Cefn farm.I am sorry that Mr. Clark's letters gave the impression that we should abject to the acquisition of this land by the Council. We reluctantly agree in June, 1952, that these fields could be used for building and we do not want to go back on that agreement.1302 That was a confirmation of the previous letter that clearance had been given. How does one reconcile the decision of the Minister of Housing and Local Government with the assurance given to the council and myself? This decision has enabled the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to go back on his undertaking.
I am bound to conclude that it is a somewhat shabby practice and it leaves the council of Pontypridd with a deep sense of grievance. What a situation. The Minister of Agriculture intimates and confirms that he agrees with the clearance for building of seven acres and the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is responsible for seeing that the maximum number of houses are built, refuses permission to build them. I have a suspicion that at the time the council and I were being assured that the seven acres would be available for building, the Ministry of Agriculture was assuring the objectors that in the end the land would be retained by them.
I know that the compulsory acquisition order cannot now be altered, but the public interest will be served if the Minister will look into the matter and ensure that the ghosts of Crichel Down are not allowed to hover over Departments and frighten them. When the public interest requires that land should be available for houses in the Glamorgan valleys, we should ensure that the land is made available.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I am glad to have an opportunity once more to take part in a Welsh debate, although I am at a disadvantage because I have a very bad cold.
As one of the officials of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, I wish to compliment its vice-chairman, the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), upon the excellent case which he put on behalf of the party when he opened the debate. He dealt with a number of matters in which we have been interested during the last six months. I was glad that he referred to the difficulty which we have in Wales in listening to the B.B.C. Whatever is being done by the provision of high-frequency stations, we in central Wales will not even hear the B.B.C. broadcasts then. I do not know what is to happen unless we follow the example of the Rebecca-ites and 1303 march on London to get something done about it.
The Minister is to speak at the end of the debate. We are thus at a disadvantage in that we do not know whether the Government have any new policy to announce. If the Minister does announce any new policy, it will be too late for us to criticise or welcome it. We have had 10 years of White Papers and debates, and I totally disagree with the debates although I take part in them. It is now time for us to have 10 years in which we have policy statements before the Welsh debates take place, for the debates would then be more of a reality.
I join in the congratulations which have been offered to the Minister, but I offer him a word of warning. When he comes to Wales he should forget all political matters and, instead, take a leaf out of his sister's book and my book and think first about the Welsh nation. I notice that one of the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench has suddenly awakened. If my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) wishes to perform a service, let him make arrangements with the Government to have a debate on this subject as soon as possible so that we can see who is right and whether there will be support for a Parliament for Wales.
I agree that the White Paper shows great achievements, but I want to deal with some of the problems which arise from the White Paper. Paragraph 17 records further expansion in agricultural production which I welcome very much indeed. At the same time, the last sentence in the paragraph reads:The labour force in the industry is still decreasing, and, while no serious difficulty on this account is being experienced over the farming enterprise as a whole, the persisting decline cannot be viewed without anxiety.Paragraph 86 states that the number of agricultural workers is 5 per cent. lower than last year. If this trend continues, we shall have a considerable decrease in the agricultural labour force. The paragraph draws attention to this by saying that the decline in the regular labour force shows a rather sharper incidence.
I can recount my experience and the experience of hon. Friends of mine in some of the Welsh rural counties recently. It is most difficult to obtain skilled work- 1304 men at the hiring fairs. Usually, young men for all types of agricultural labour make themselves available at the hiring fairs for contracts of service for six-monthly and 12-monthly periods, but at present midway between the six-monthly and the 12-monthly periods farmers are making advance arrangements with the men they already employ in order to ensure that they will have the necessary labour for the following 12 months. This points to the serious position which is arising and which will be reflected in agricultural output.
It is a matter of great consequence to hill farmers, who are unable to attract labour to their small farms and have thus to be self-reliant. I have seen the effect of this as a member of a local education authority. Requests are made for transport to schools from isolated farms. When an effort is made to get the farmers themselves to bring the children to school it is found that they cannot do so because they lack labour and have to do the work themselves. This is a serious matter in relation to hill farming schemes because, unless agricultural labour is provided, those schemes cannot continue to be the success which they are at present.
There is an aspect of this problem in connection with the reclamation of very difficult ground on which only caterpillar tractors can be used. The hill farmers cannot afford to buy expensive machinery, and they depend upon machinery made available by county agricultural executive committees. I understand that there is now a tendency to prune the labour employed by the machinery departments of the committees. I should like to be told what the intention of the Ministry is about the machinery departments. Although we say that they are very expensive, they are a great asset to the small farmers and we cannot do without them.
I am not now talking about general agricultural policy, but we ought to have an assurance from the Government on the subject of confidence in agriculture. The Minister may not be able to deal with that point. However, it has been left to the Fat Stock Marketing Corporation to bring whatever confidence there is into Welsh agriculture. Wales has given a lead to all other regions through the Fat Stock Marketing Corporation. This might be used as an argument in favour of having 1305 a Welsh Parliament, The people concerned have organised the fat stock marketing scheme so well that it is a great success. It is the only good thing that has happened to Welsh agriculture during the past 12 months.
As the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan said about the farm survey for mid-Wales, we cannot wait another 12 months before the report is presented to the Minister of Agriculture. I wonder how long we shall have to wait before there is an announcement in the House and before we can discuss the report. I do not think the report will see the light of day before the next General Election. I know the reasons for that. However, I do not want to enter into political controversy on that subject; I merely want to put a reasonable case in order for the first time to get something from the Minister. Nevertheless, it is important for us to receive the report much sooner than has been suggested.
Now that I have drawn attention to the difficulties with agricultural labour, what are my suggestions? First, in regard to the agricultural apprenticeships scheme, at the end of July last only 42 young persons had applied for such apprenticeships, and in three counties in Wales there had been no applications at all. The Ministry of Agriculture could help a great deal by giving greater publicity and sending information to farmers about this scheme. I know that farmers do not like filling up forms, but, when the Ministry send the agricultural returns to be completed, they might enclose in the same envelopes full information about this apprenticeship scheme.
Further, when they have meetings and conferences with organisations trying to help the farmers, the speakers might be encouraged to give information about this scheme at such gatherings. At the same time, there should be a greater insistence by the Ministry of Labour that the youth employment officers should have better facilities for doing their job, and that there should be more co-ordination with the Ministry of Agriculture in order to make the scheme better known.
There is another suggestion which I should like to make, but which might cause some disagreement. I wonder whether the introduction of new industries 1306 will have the effect of taking labour away from the farms, or whether it will have the reverse effect in that the impetus for whole families to move into certain areas because of the attraction of new industries might mean that the younger members of those families might go to work on the farms. It is a debatable question, but I am willing to take that risk in getting new industries in the market towns. In these circumstances, the attractiveness of the agricultural industry might well succeed in drawing more labour for the land.
I am strengthened in this view by the Report of the Barlow Committee, which stated that there should be a reasonable balance of industrial development in the rural areas, and I quite agree about that. I do not believe that all the eggs of agriculture should be in one basket in the rural areas. This policy of attracting new industries has been successful in the Development Areas in establishing new plants outside these areas of heavy industry, particularly in South Wales, where it has been a great success.
Although I do not entirely blame the responsible officials of the Board of Trade in Cardiff, I am sorry to say that there does not seem to be any encouragement from Whitehall for the establishment of new industries in the market towns of Wales, and the same thing can be said of quite a number of rural towns, apart from my own constituency. I welcome the visits made by the Welsh Board of Industry and its district committees, and I have been present on some of these occasions, but it does not seem to me to be much use for the chairman of the Welsh Board of Industry saying, according to a Welsh daily newspaper, that Brecon must attract these new industries itself without outside aid.
If people had been able to do that themselves, they would have done it a long time ago. I do not want the chairman of the Welsh Board of Industry telling people, "You must look out for yourselves and get on with the job." I believe that the Board of Trade ought to play a more prominent part in this matter, and I would welcome the President of the Board of Trade giving greater encouragement to the setting up of these new industries in Welsh communities.
1307 One of these reports refers to the town of Presteigne, in my constituency, and says that any project is unlikely to materialise without the incentives that existed in wartime. Within a month of that statement being made, the Urban Council and Chamber of Commerce in Presteigne were told that a local factory had received so many more orders for their products that 70 extra people had been able to obtain employment. That does not seem to tie up with the statement that the unemployment figures must be measured before any question of obtaining new industries can arise, and I say that the extent of rural depression cannot be measured only in terms of the unemployment figures.
Special attention ought to be given to schemes for the rural districts by which a balanced economy can be obtained under modern conditions in these rural neighbourhoods. I think that is essential. A very serious position was revealed to us in the second memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire in regard to school-leavers. We found that a number of boys and girls had no opportunities of going into jobs in which they had any chance of advancement, which is important.
I had occasion recently, since the inception of the youth employment service scheme in Brecon and Radnor, to examine some reports, on which I complimented these officers on the work they had done for young people who found themselves up against serious difficulties. These boys and girls, on leaving school, were able to enter only the available industries in the locality rather than enter occupations which they themselves desired. The competition for apprentices outside Wales is so great that there is no opportunity for boys in rural Wales to get into industries in the Midlands because of this competition. They are, therefore, at a very great disadvantage in that the necessary educational facilities which could fit them for meeting that competition are not available to them, and that is very important.
I welcome the very great strides which have been made by the nationalised industries in Wales, such as the electricity board, the gas undertaking, the Post Office and British Railways in order to get young people into apprenticeships of this 1308 kind, but there is not sufficient educational provision on the technical side, and a great deal more could be done in regard to rural technical schools.
Incidentally, I hope that when we receive the next Welsh Digest of Statistics we shall find included the statistics of the National Youth Employment Council Report and some account of the work of this service. This is very important, because we find that young boys are taking up these special aptitude schemes. In fact, a greater proportion of boys and girls are taking up these schemes than is the case in any other area in the country, and the results are not what we should like to see. If we get young people taking up these special aptitude schemes and then finding employment in Birmingham, instead of coming home to find employment in Wales, it is often the case that the whole family moves from Wales to Birmingham, and they are consequently lost to us, which is very serious.
In the report on Brecon and Radnor, 1952–53, I find that £1,190 15s. 6d. was paid out in employment benefit and National Assistance to young people who should have been in useful employment. Surely it is a policy of despair that boys and girls leaving school and who cannot find jobs have to receive unemployment pay or National Assistance benefit. Surely that is starting them off on the wrong foot. The position in the last quarter has slightly improved, because in the county of Radnor nothing at all had been paid out on this account. I should be glad if the Minister could tell us that the youth employment service receives all the encouragement which he is able to give it.
My final point is this. I have never heard anyone except the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) say anything in a Welsh debate about the future of the Town Development Act, 1952, but I understand that that Act provided for some of the overspill populations of the towns to go into some of the rural areas of Wales. I think this is an important question, and I hope that we may soon have an opportunity of discussing it. I should welcome a debate of a more realistic character, in which we could discuss policies suggested from either side of the House or ideas which hon. Members might like to see 1309 followed up in Wales. At present, we are able to give credit to anybody responsible for producing such information but not a policy for Wales, but I am sure that it could be done.
What did we have as a result of the debate on rural depopulation? We had before us the recommendations of the panel, we heard the reply of the Government and welcomed some of the measures which were then suggested, but the whole thing stopped at that. Is that the only thing they can do for Wales? Is there no possibility of some Minister getting up and declaring that the T.V.A. experiment in America, which was such a great success, will be repeated in Wales over a great part of our rural areas? That is the sort of thing that should be examined. At present, no one will commit themselves to anything, but I think that we should be looking at something different from what we have at present.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I should like to begin by joining with my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and other hon. Members in all parts of the House in congratulating the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs, I am sure that all of us wish him well in his new job of looking after the affairs of Wales. We now have a Welshman instead of a Scotsman in this office, although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not represent a Welsh constituency in this House.
I think we all concede that it was a shrewd political move on the part of the Prime Minister to appoint a Welshman to this office, especially a Welshman who, like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, bears a name that has been famous in Welsh politics for generations. The intention of the Prime Minister was clear enough. He wanted to appeal to the national sentiment and the national emotions of the Welsh people. I doubt very much whether he has succeeded. I have seen no evidence in Wales that he has succeeded.
There is a legend that the Welsh are a highly emotional people. In some things they are, but not in politics. There has always been a strong current of idealism in Welsh politics, but that is not the same thing as national emotion. In political 1310 judgment and political behaviour the Welsh people have always been guided not by national emotion or emotional nationalism, but by practical and realistic consideration. That is why the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not evoke any intense national fervour in Wales. There were no bonfires on Snowdon, no flags out in Cardiff and no torchlight processions in the Rhondda Valley.
There were two criticisms of the previous Minister for Welsh Affairs. The first was that he was not a Welshman. He did not speak the Welsh language and he had no first-hand experience of Welsh life and Welsh problems. The second criticism was that although he was designated Minister for Welsh Affairs he had, in fact, no ministerial powers. He had no executive authority in matters affecting Wales. He could speak for Wales and plead for Wales, but he could not act for Wales. He was Minister in name, but not in fact.
In the first criticism there was a certain amount of narrow national Chauvinism. We have some of that, even in Wales, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will know. That criticism had no real political substance and it was never taken seriously by the great majority of the Welsh people. In any case, now that we have a Welshman as Minister for Welsh Affairs that criticism is no longer valid.
The second criticism had substance and, in spite of the change of Ministers, it still has. There has been a change of personnel, but no change of policy or of power. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not been vested with any new powers in his capacity as Minister for Welsh Affairs. Like his predecessor, he can speak for Wales, but he cannot act for Wales. He has power to make speeches about Wales, but no power to make decisions about Wales. The only difference between him and his predecessor is that he will be able to make his speeches in Welsh.
May I now say a word about this Report of Government Action in Wales, This is the ninth Report we have had, and it continues the story of the vast transformation that has taken place in Wales since the end of the war. It is a story of a great achievement, of great progress and of immense changes. During those years we have had an industrial 1311 revolution in Wales and out of it has emerged a new economy, more diversified and better balanced than anything we had before. The whole pattern of Welsh economic life has been transformed.
For generations Wales depended almost entirely upon three basic industries: coal and iron and steel in the South and slate quarrying in the North. Since then, a wide variety of new industries has been established in Wales and our economic structure has been revolutionised. We are no longer dependent for employment upon a few basic industries and our people now have far wider, fuller and better opportunities of being employed.
The first Welsh debate in this House took place in 1944. The problem which worried everybody then was the possibility of a recurrence of mass unemployment at the end of the war. That tragedy had haunted Wales for generations, but because of the establishment of new industries we were saved from the recurrence of that tragedy. This was the result of the policy pursued by the Labour Government. That policy brought new life to Wales and new hope to the Welsh people.
Since the end of the war there has been a reduction in the unemployment figures of Wales. We all welcome this, but in spite of the great improvement which has taken place, unemployment in Wales is still above the national average. Indeed, it is almost twice the national average. We have a very large number of disabled people unemployed in Wales. I speak from very wide experience of this problem and I am by no means satisfied that everything possible is being done to provide these disabled men with suitable employment.
With the Report of Government Action in Wales there has been issued, as a separate document, the Digest of Welsh Statistics. This is a very useful production. It contains a great deal of information of varying degrees of importance, but it has been, and is being, criticised in Wales on two grounds. First, it is said that it does not give a complete picture of Wales as a separate economic entity; secondly, that it does not show the basic economic and financial relations between Wales and the rest of Britain.
1312 The fact is, of course, that there is no separate Welsh economy, and to ask for figures of something which does not exist is to take us from the sphere of economics into the realms of the higher mathematics. Wales never had a separate national economy, and, with the vast economic changes of recent years, Welsh economic life is more closely integrated with the rest of Britain than ever before. Any figures of an imaginary Welsh national economy—even if they could be compiled—would be meaningless.
One of the most important features of the recent economic changes in Wales is the modernisation of the iron and steel industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) has said, this constitutes the key to the industrial revolution in South Wales. This modernisation process involves the closing down of the old hand mills and a concentration of production in the new giant undertakings. This process is essential; in any case it is inevitable and unavoidable, because it is part of the technical revolution of our times. Nevertheless, modernisation creates difficult problems of adjustment and adaptation for the communities built up around these old industries, for the local authorities serving those communities and, above all, for the men employed in the old industries.
In West Wales we are now facing a serious crisis of adjustment. In that area, a large number of communities have been built up around the old steel and tinplate mills. For most of these communities those mills provide the only industry and the means of employment. The closing down of the old mills creates serious social problems for the whole area. At Velindre, near Swansea, there is now in course of construction a new continuous strip mill. When this comes into production it is anticipated that all the remaining old hand mills in the tinplate industry will be closed. About 10,000 workers will become redundant.
There are, at present, no prospects of providing those workers with alternative employment. That is a very serious situation indeed, and it is already causing deep and widespread anxiety throughout West Wales. This is not a problem which has emerged overnight. It has been foreseen and feared for a long time. The issues involved have been debated at great length for many years. What we 1313 need now is action. I urge the Government to take action now before disaster overwhelms these areas in South-West Wales.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
Felicitious references have been made to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs. Although I should like to associate myself with those references, I must confess that I cannot go quite so far as did the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). He expressed the hope that the Minister would retain his present office for as long as he wished. For me, that would be much too long. I think that his appointment is of a purely temporary character—as he, himself, must realise.
After all, the possibilities are that we shall have a General Election before the next debate on Welsh affairs, and—if the Minister is returned to this House—he will find himself on this side of the House and not on that. At any rate, during the time that he is occupying his office we all wish him well, and we hope that, at the same time, we are wishing the Welsh people well.
Although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may be very proud to hold his present appointment, he will, undoubtedly, also find a little embarrassment in it. He will now have to work in close relationship to the Council for Wales. I do not know whether his attitude to that Council has changed, but I remember that, when the proposal to establish it was first introduced here, he argued against it. In fact, he poured scorn on it. Now, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, he has to follow the advice which he will receive from the Council and work in the closest harmony with it. I think we should know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has changed his views about the Council's value.
Some of the problems confronting the Minister have been referred to by many of my hon. Friends. He knows that the path which lies before him is immeasurably easier—as it was for his predecessor—than that which confronted the Labour Government in 1945. He is now in charge of the affairs of a country whose industrial life has been revived and prosperity among whose people has been widely spread. The right hon. and 1314 gallant Gentleman will realise, too—as I am sure hon. Members opposite must realise—that the measure of the prosperity which was brought to Wales by the Labour Government was reflected by the increasing population.
We all know that, in the years before the war, conditions in Wales were such that, year by year, thousands of people were migrating. It was not until the Labour Government applied their policy for the revitalising of Wales that that trend stopped and the population began to increase. When the Labour Government were in power the Welsh population increased by about 200,000.
Reference has been made to the statistics—which we are very glad to have—published by this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) was quite right in pointing out that, since the Tory Government has been in power, we are beginning to see a downward trend again. He pointed out that there has been a decrease of 3,000 in the population, but the decrease in the population is really far greater than that. In 1951, the total population was 2,597,000, whereas in 1953—the year now under review—it was 2,594,000.
But even that is not the whole of the picture. It must be remembered that from 1951 to 1953 there were 32,479 more births than deaths. Therefore, the true position is that since the Tory Government came into power there has been a decline in the population of 35,000. That is a complete reversal of the trends under the Labour Government.
What is the reason for this? It is that the people of Wales have not that same confidence in this Administration as they had in the Labour Government. If I might quote one example, I would refer to my own constituency. I am very glad to see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade here taking notes. He knows that I have asked him on many occasions about the position of Blaenavon. In that town there is a decline in population. People are emigrating to find more suitable employment in the towns of the Midlands and in the London region.
§ Mr. West
I will deal with that point in a moment.
1315 I would remind the hon. Member that Blaenavon was dependent upon one industry and that since the Tory Government have been in power that industry has been virtually closed. There is no other employment in Blaenavon for the people. In the Pontypool district there are other industries, but many of the experienced and skilled workmen who were engaged in that industry in Blaenavon have had to take employment in other parts of the Pontypool constituency. They have had to take labouring jobs at wages less than half those to which their skill and ability entitled them, and, in addition, they had to pay travelling expenses.
When we talk about the employment figures as shown in the statistics we must remember that many highly skilled and experienced workmen have had to take up labouring jobs. That, of course, is not contained in the statistics of employment.
§ Mr. Nabarro
As I sit for a Midlands constituency, perhaps I should ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this matter in its proper perspective. The alleged depopulation of Wales, which is down by 35,000 only—that is relatively small—in the last year or two is largely due to the attraction of Coventry, Birmingham, Kidderminster and other industrial towns in the Midlands where there are substantial higher wages in agreeable avocations.
§ Mr. West
That is a point I am going to deal with. I am very glad that the hon. Member has intervened because he knows that the Pontypool constituency was a Development Area, and the next point I want to come to is in regard to the Government's policy under the Distribution of Industry Acts. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that the Blaenavon community has been one of the finest communities and that there is an excellent community spirit prevailing. In that town excellent factory buildings and sites complete with railway sidings and offices are ready for occupation, and highly skilled and experienced work-people are ready to work in any industry. Yet the Government have been unable to do a thing about solving the problem of Blaenavon.
The Parliamentary Secretary said in reply to a Question the other day by my 1316 right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) that the method of carrying out the policy of securing a balanced distribution of industry throughout the country was by the appropriate use of the powers afforded by the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945 and 1950, by Section 14 (4) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and by advice to industrialists wishing to establish new industries.
But that answer is directly opposite to the point of view expressed by the Chairman of the Welsh Board for Industry, Sir Percy Thomas. Speaking to the Chamber of Trade at Brecon on 17th November, he said, according to a report which appeared in the "Western Mail."Now that building licences have been lifted industrialists could not be induced to go to any part of the country and the zeal and enthusiasm of local people would have to be the spur.What I want to know from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is, what is the policy of the Government with regard to the Distribution of Industry Acts? My hon. Friends from all parts of Wales have been asking for the designation for certain areas as development areas so that the Distribution of Industry Acts can be applied. But if they are so designated what do the Government intend to do to attract new industries into those areas?
If Sir Percy Thomas is right, where are the Government's powers for directing new industries into the Development Areas? We ought to know what powers they say they have and what they are trying to do in this field. I am much more alarmed about the position under the Distribution of Industry Acts than some of my hon. Friends appear to be, and I am gravely disturbed about whether this Government are really exercising any powers or whether they are writing off the Distribution of Industry Acts. The latter is what I fear.
I want now to turn to another point in the Report, which is the school building programme. This is dealt with in paragraph 198 of the Report. Hon. Members will know, if they have read the Report, that the local educational authorities have again been provided with considerably less for school building than was provided by the Labour Government. In the county of Monmouth, which is 1317 part of Wales for the purposes of this Report, we are faced with most serious difficulties as a result of the Government's policy. We have a new town at Cwmbran in Monmouth, and one would have thought that where a new town was set up to provide housing accommodation fat the industries already there provision would be made for new schools as well.
But that is not the case. New schools in Cwmbran have to be provided out of the funds which are allocated for school building purposes throughout the whole of the county. There cannot be a new town without new schools, and I say it is quite impossible for the local education authority to provide the new schools without special allowances for the new town for the purpose.
To try to meet some of the difficulties which we are experiencing in Monmouthshire as a result of this Government's policy, the local education authority, in order to provide the necessary school places for the children, many of whom are not able to get in at the appropriate age, have had to rent all sorts of halls, institutes, canteens, chapel vestries, and so on, and altogether they have to rent about 100 of them to provide the necessary school accommodation at a cost of nearly £9,000 a year.
This is a crazy policy. Nine thousand pounds a year are being spent on completely inadequate premises for the education of the children because there is not a reasonable allocation of funds to provide decent school premises. In Monmouthshire we are to have recurring crises over school accommodation. Unless something is done about it by this Government, then I fear there can be no alleviation of the situation until after the next General Election.
There are some other matters to which I should like to refer. One causes me great concern and I do not think that the Government can get rid of their responsibility for it. We know that in the Report reference is made to the supply of milk to children in schools. In Monmouthshire for some time past our school children have not been getting milk because the local education authority and the retail milk suppliers cannot agree upon the price. Where the services of retailers are available they should be used, but, at the same time, if any section 1318 of the community combines for the purpose of maintaining prices something must be done about it.
Although this situation has existed for weeks, and the school children have been deprived of milk, the Minister has not done a thing, so far as I can see, to try to solve the problem. When problems of this sort arise—and I understand that this is not a solitary example, a similar problem exists in another part of the country—the Minister must consider what should be done.
Perhaps if there were a reasonable approach by both parties the problem could be solved. It seems an awful scandal that children should be deprived of milk while the education authorities and the milk retailers are haggling over the price, and the Minister sits idly by doing nothing about it.
The Minister of Education ought to consider setting up a joint board of local education authorities to deal with these ancillary services, which in cases like this might have the right to buy from the Milk Marketing Board to ensure the supply of milk to the children. It is a difficult problem. I only hope that the parties will have some sense and will have some regard for the interests of the children.
I hope that the Minister also will consider the interests of the children and of the people of Wales, and will do something to solve the problems to which I have referred and to encourage industry to these parts, such as Blaenavon, which at present are suffering great difficulties.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
I have not had the pleasure of listening to the whole of this debate, but the speech which I have just heard, together with some others, prompts me to intervene, if only shortly.
It seemed to me that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) and some others who have spoken from the opposite benches, although they do not go so far as in specific terms to claim for the Socialist Party credit for the distribution of industry policy, came as near as they could to doing it without actually saying so.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Distribution of Industry Act was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) when he was in the Coalition Government.
§ Mr. Bell
Well, they took very good care of Wales. I would not say that the policy began with the 1945 Act. We had a distressed areas policy before the war. Then the name was changed to "special areas" because people did not like the word "distressed." That policy, which received certain statutory powers in the 1945 Act, had been in operation for a good many years before the war, and the Socialist Party has made no contribution to that policy at all except the 1950 Act which, if I may say so with great respect, was a very minor contribution; and in any case, it is scarcely possible that that Act should have made any contribution to the state of affairs under the last Government.
The hon. Member for Pontypool referred to the changing population of Wales. I thought that the figures he quoted were very marginal figures compared with the population of Wales. Really, what political conclusion can one draw from such fluctuations, that in the six years from 1945 to 1951 the population went up by 200,000? People were returning from the war. All the shifts of 1320 population that went on after the war, the demobilisation of the Forces, and so on—all these matters came into it.
There is one point to which I should like to refer, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) mentioned it. It is quite true—and we ought to recognise it—that industrial Wales is not a very attractive area for people to live in.
§ Mr. Bell
I am going to suggest that some of it is. I say that as one who has lived most of his life in industrial Wales, and indeed I once represented one of its constituencies in this House.
The industrial development of Wales has been bedevilled by politics for at least a generation. That is utterly and entirely true, especially of the coal industry and quite generally of heavy industry. Before the war—there may even have been after the war—there was a reluctance to make large capital investment in Wales. I was impressed when I read the National Coal Board's coal plan. There was a statutory body set up by the party opposite. Their plan for coal was produced years ago under the last Government. It was their first major publication.
They said—it struck me at the time, and it has never ceased to impress me—that the degree of development which they envisaged being undertaken in the different areas of the country must take into account various factors, which they mentioned. One of them was labour relations. They said that relations between employment and labour would limit their planned development in the South Wales coalfields.
That is very remarkable, and I think it illustrates what I said, that politics have bedevilled capital investment and industrial development in South Wales. That is primarily the responsibility of the party opposite. The industrial area of South Wales has been at the mercy of Socialist agitators, and in many cases of Communist agitators, for a good many years past.
§ Mr. Bell
I must not allow myself to be led too far up this by-path. I would be very willing on another occasion to 1321 discuss that battle of the past. I have no interest as a coal owner, not even indirectly, but I would be prepared on a suitable occasion to argue the rights and wrongs and the respective merits of that conflict which greatly damaged the South Wales coalfield before the war. The lack of new capital going into the South Wales coalfields in the past is at the root of some of our troubles in that area now, and politics was one of the reasons for it.
It is not very attractive even now to live in some of the Welsh valleys, and I blame Socialist local government for that. It has created a very unhappy atmosphere, of hatred and envy of all success—an atmosphere which makes a really vigorous and successful man feel that he wants to get away into the rather pleasanter conditions of English industrial areas. That is the truth, and hon. Members opposite know it.
§ Mr. Bell
Most certainly not. I have spoken in the House on that question on a previous occasion, when it was more relevant, namely, during the passage of the Landlord and Tenant Bill. On that occasion I spoke about the effect of the leasehold system in Wales, and I made bold to offer the City of Cardiff as a very good example of what enlightened town planning can do.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Member does not know the city. There are few more beautiful cities in the country, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) knows. It is one of the most beautifully planned cities which one could wish to visit. There are poor areas, but there have never been real slums of the kind one finds in big cities in England and Scotland. It is an ideal example of what the enlightened town planning of the Bute family could and did create in a new industrial city. Certainly the proponents of the leasehold system have nothing to apologise for in those parts of South Wales with which I am familiar, namely, Cardiff and its surroundings.
I venture to put two points to my right hon. Friend. First, the special 1322 areas policy which has been so beneficial to Wales can still be beneficial in a small way, but I do not believe that it can play a major rôle any longer. When I made my maiden speech in 1945 I criticised the Distribution of Industry Measure, because I did not think it was quite strong enough. I objected to some Amendments which were made in Clause 9, as it then was. I was speaking during the Third Reading debate and expressed regret that many things had been left out. It is probably the only occasion upon which I shall ever be permitted to do that upon the Third Reading of a Bill.
But we cannot maintain an industrial economy on a permanent basis by the operation of a special areas policy under a Distribution of Industry Act. The present figure of unemployment in Wales is now within a fraction of 2 per cent. With that degree of full employment there is no scope for drastic action under such an Act. If drastic action is taken it merely creates an unstable situation, which can be remedied only by a continuation of drastic action. The one object of that special areas policy was to prime the pump. Before the war some areas of Wales were so depressed, bore such a colossal rating burden, and were experiencing so much industrial unrest, that industrialists would not take the risk of going there to start up new factories and industries.
We had to offer an inducement, and we did so. That inducement has now substantially succeeded in its object, and we should now point out to the people of South Wales that they are on their own feet; that they have full employment; that they have these established secondary industries, and the risk is much better spread than it was before, so that they should now be able to attract and keep industries on their own merits. That is the safer and more secure way of approaching this matter in the long run. Therefore, as one who has warmly supported this policy in the past, I say that we should not press it too strongly now. We should certainly provide some help, but it is dangerous to use it too strongly when the pump has been primed and there is full employment.
The ports of South Wales are still having a rather disappointing and frus- 1323 trating time. Cardiff is mainly dependent upon the export of coal, and Newport is very largely so.
§ Mr. Bell
My hon. Friend mentions the town of Barry, but I would point out that it is really part of the port of Cardiff. I cannot see any great expansion in the export of coal in the immediate future. I hope that we shall see such an expansion, but the fact is that British manufacturing industry is also expanding fairly rapidly, and it is better not to export coal if we can use it at home to make goods which are even more valuable.
We must not approach this problem from too narrow an angle and say that we must export coal at all costs. It may be that in the general national interest we should not try to export too much but should try to mine as much as we can and use it in our own industries before selling it abroad. That argument, however, does not provide very good cheer for Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, and although I do not rate Government action too highly in these matters, I think the Government can help by improving the communications from these South Wales ports to the great consumer areas. I hope that my right hon. Friend will endeavour to see that his colleagues press on with the new roads which will open up better scope for the South Wales ports as importing centres, so that goods can be brought in to South Wales and sent from there to the Midlands.
At present there is rather a lot of congestion in London, and there are many reasons—strategic and other—why that is not a good thing. For these many reasons we ought to try to decentralise our national importing, and the Government can best help in that respect by pressing on with the existing plans for improving the communications from South Wales.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I sincerely join my hon. Friends in congratulating the right hon. and gallant Gentleman upon his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs. Having said that, my felicitations must immediately cease, because I am very sorry that he found it necessary to go to England for support during this Welsh debate. I regret the 1324 remarks made by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) at the beginning of his speech. I can tell him that I would rather live with the warm-hearted people of Llanelly than with the snobbery of Buckinghamshire.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Member has turned my point a little unfairly. First, I would point out that I am a Scotsman, sitting for an English constituency, and that I can, therefore, bring an impartial mind to the problem. Secondly, in answer to his other point, I was not suggesting that the Welsh were not warmhearted or pleasant people to live with; I was suggesting that the conditions and the political atmosphere in some areas in Wales were not conducive to development.
§ Mr. Jones
I am glad to note that the hon. Member is a Scot. At least he has not quite fallen from grace.
I have read the Government's Report with some dismay and despondency. It is called, "Report of Government Action in Wales." As far as the areas in which I am particularly interested are concerned, it is a report of obdurate inaction.
According to the Report, the Government claim that in Wales today we have a record figure of employment. That has been emphasised by various speakers on the opposite side of the House, but I would remind the Minister and hon. Members opposite that there are two ways of solving the problem of unemployment. There is the obvious method of finding sufficient work for all, but there is a hard and a cruel method, too, and I remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that in my constituency it is the hard and cruel method which has been adopted. Does the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) say "No"? If so, I will prove it.
§ Mr. Jones
Young men and young women, unable to find work in their native counties, are compelled, against all their wishes and desires, to leave their homes and even their native land. Let me remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Counties of Merioneth, Caernarvon and Anglesey, where we 1325 have the highest percentage of unemployment in the whole of the United King-dam, there is a great exodus of the young men and young women. That exodus has kept the figures of unemployment where they are, instead of being forced to soar to very alarming heights indeed.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
The hon. Gentleman is trying to make a political point out of this. Will he tell me what the exodus from the county of Merioneth was between 1945 and 1950 as compared with the exodus from Merioneth in the last two years? I think he will find that the figures for the last two years are most reassuring.
§ Mr. Jones
This exodus is persistent, yet the Government have done nothing, are doing nothing, are not even promising to do anything to halt it.
I have read this Report very carefully; I have read it more than once to find some gleam of hope for my constituency. I am sorry I am making so much of this, but I cannot help it. I have looked for a gleam of hope, but I must declare that nowhere in the Report can I find any reason to believe that, as far as Merioneth is concerned, the position will improve.
§ Mr. P. Thomas
Is it not a fact that there is a new factory which is starting in Blaenau Ffestiniog? Does that not offer a small gleam of hope?
§ Mr. Jones
One factory, yes, and I will say something about that as I proceed, if I am allowed to proceed.
The Government are taking pride in the state of affairs, but the problem of unemployment is being solved, I repeat, through the process of depopulation. Yet the Government boast of their achievement. They say, "Look at our record- 1326 breaking statistics. See how successfully we have eliminated the blight of unemployment. What a healthy state of affairs we have."
Unemployment is like the blight of some epidemic, and the Government's way of dealing with it is like that of a medical officer of health who, when there is an outbreak of sickness in his town, transfers all the sick people to distant hospitals, and then says, "Now look at my town. What a credit it is to my industrious administration. Not a sick person within its confines. What a healthy town we have." It is precisely along those lines that the problem of unemployment in North Wales is being solved.
Industry is being congested today, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). In two areas, in Flintshire and East Denbighshire, development is unbalanced, with the result that we find ourselves in this anomalous position, that there is a shortage of workers in those areas, and a shortage of work in the areas that I and others of my hon. Friends represent. Hence the inevitable migration of the workers. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that they go to England, to the Midlands, because of the higher salaries and wages paid there. I do not believe that.
§ Mr. Jones
I have too high a regard for my fellow countrymen and women in Merioneth and Caernarvon and Anglesey to believe that. They prefer, with lower rates of wages and smaller salaries, to live in the environment in which they have been brought up, to being compelled against their wishes to go to the Midlands, or even to another part of the Principality.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is the hon. Gentleman denying the fact that there is a steady and continuous flow of male industrial workers, very largely single men, from all parts of Wales to Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, the Black Country, Kidderminster, attracted for the most part by the glamour of the very high rates of wages available in engineering factories? That is a legitimate emigration from Wales.
§ Mr. Jones
I cannot accept that myself. I have emphasised in this House on more than one occasion that the tragic aspect of all this is that not only are we losing our young people but we are also rapidly destroying a form of culture and a way of life which are peculiar to Wales. The present Minister of Welsh Affairs knows exactly what I mean by that: Diwylliant cefn gwlad. He was brought up on the Lleyn Peninsula. He knows that there is a form of culture in that part of the country which is not met with in any part of England or, indeed, in any other part of Europe. I am glad of it.
Nowhere have we a better example of that than in the quarrying areas of North Wales. It is those areas which have given to Wales its leading men of scholarship. It was the generosity of the quarry workers of North Wales which helped the establishment of the University College in Wales. How disappointing it is, therefore for me tonight to find in a Government Report of action of 247 paragraphs only one paragraph devoted to the slate quarrying industry. It is extremely disappointing. I am not blaming the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for that, because he has only just come into his present office, and the Report was probably in the printers' hands when he obtained his present office, but he, as Minister, must answer for the Government.
It is disgusting that any Government should dare dismiss one of the main industries in North Wales with a mere one-paragraph reference. I should forgive the Government if the solitary paragraph were one of hope and encouragement and optimism. On the contrary, it is the most depressing paragraph in the whole Report. Listen to the first sentence:Production of slates fell by over 5 per cent.That is about the only record of a slump that we have in the Report. In the iron and steel industry, employment has increased.The electricity and gas industries have made progress.
§ Mr. Jones
Output of bricks has continued to increase and was 7 per cent. higher than in 1952–53.But the sole paragraph dealing with the slate industry starts on a different note:Production of slates fell by over 5 per cent.The most depressing observation is to be found in the middle of the paragraph. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which paragraph?"] I am asked, "Which paragraph?"
§ Mr. Jones
It is the only paragraph which refers to slates. Fancy asking me which paragraph, after I have emphasised it for the last five minutes. That shows hon. Members' knowledge of the Report—their own Report. I do not know which paragraph it is; it is the only one which refers to this industry. The most depressing observation was in the middle of that paragraph:The number of people now employed, some 3,600, is the lowest on record.I am anxious to know from the Minister whether the Government have any plan to deal with this disturbing situation in the slate quarrying industry. If this decline is to continue, I am frightened of the prospect of a town like Blaenau Ffestiniog becoming derelict. The population has already been halved during the present century. There is a community of people at Blaenau Ffestiniog which we are anxious to preserve. We do not want to lose that community. We do not want to lose the culture which is inherent in it.
It can be preserved in only two ways, and the first is by resuscitating the main industry there. I ask for the Minister's particular attention here, because I feel it with all my heart when I see that famous town becoming derelict, as it must, if this industry continues to decline at the present rate. We have a high regard for the Minister because of who he is and because he comes from North Wales. I am asking him to take an interest in this industry and to see that something is done to raise the number of workers from 3,600 towards the 14,000 who were engaged in that industry at the end of the last century.
1329 Places like Blaenau Ffestiniog can be kept alive only by resuscitating the old industry and by the introduction of new industries. I appeal to the Minister not to let this town become as derelict as many of the South Wales towns became. I was glad to hear an hon. Member opposite talking about the great change which has taken place in the South Wales towns. If only he would go from Mardy to Rhigos and from Pontypridd over to Penrhys he would find a beauty not equalled in any part of England.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
A debate of this kind should not be the sole prerogative of the Parliamentary representatives of Welsh constituencies, because many matters of great importance which have been mentioned during the debate have a direct effect upon our national economy and upon industrial affairs in many parts of England.
I want to mention the speech made by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) and his references to the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. I took an active interest in that important piece of legislation 10 years ago, although not as a Member of the House, and I think that the terms and provisions of that Act generally commend themselves to every section of the industrial community as being the only reasonable formula for the prevention, in the post-war world, of the development of seriously distressed pockets in South Wales, on the North-East coast, in Cumberland and elsewhere.
I do not think any one political party should claim the credit for that Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell that to your hon. Friends."] I am not responsible for what my colleagues do. To put the matter strictly factually, the 1945 Act was a measure passed by the Coalition Government, and as there was a Socialist Government in office between 1945 and 1951, it fell principally to two successive Socialist Administrations to implement the terms and provisions of the Act. In my view, they carried out that task with commendable alacrity and not a little efficiency and success. A large number of light industries of a suitable character were attracted to the former distressed areas of South Wales, the North-East Coast, Cumberland and elsewhere.
I want to refer in particular to the hon. Member's wholly false allegation 1330 that the ending of industrial building licensing will negative the proper distribution or location of new industries under the 1945 Act. That is wholly wrong. It was not the function or the purpose of the building licensing system to act as an instrument for coercing or directing new industries to any part of the country. The industrial licensing system was solely for the purpose of controlling the allocation of scarce building materials and, to a lesser extent, labour, and for the purpose of assuring that the most essential industrial development took place first. It was in no way related to the distribution of Industry Act, 1945.
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) shakes her head. I have a great deal of experience of this matter, particularly in the industrial field. The Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs will readily confirm that no industrial enterprise can set up a new factory today, in any part of the country, without an industrial development certificate issued by the Board of Trade. The scrapping of the building licensing system has not affected in any way the system of, and granting or otherwise of, the industrial development certificates. That certificate controls where new factories will be sited in order to ensure continuity of policy and the implementation, on a long-term basis, of the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945.
I welcome the scrapping, the ending, of industrial building licensing. The industrial development certificate, in conjunction, as necessary, with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts, will now ensure the proper location of industry on a long-term basis. I hope that the hon. Member for Pontypool, who has not been able to remain in the Chamber, will read tomorrow what I have said and will examine the position closely. I have no doubt at all that he will then find that my interpretation of the position with the ending of building licensing is strictly correct.
Various speakers on the benches opposite have referred to an alleged decline in the number of industrial workers in Wales and a suggestion was made that it is a serious matter that the number of industrial workers in the Principality had declined by 35,000. In fact that is a tiny percentage of the whole industrial population of Wales. Even if 1331 that decline had taken place, which I seriously doubt from the published statistics, I would not regard it as a matter of very serious moment. In two interventions which hon. Members opposite have kindly allowed me to make, I have drawn attention to the position in the industrial Midlands. The emigration from Wales, as from County Durham to a lesser extent, is very largely to the industrial towns in the Midlands which at present have engineering factories with heavily overloaded order books and which are often short of skilled and semi-skilled labour.
Does anyone opposite dispute the position in Coventry, for example, where the motor industry and the machine-tool industry are probably in time of peace more busy today and more prosperous than at any time in their history? Does anybody deny the position in Kidderminster, with its staple industry of carpet manufacturing and with its shortage of labour, and in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the Black country towns? It is into these areas of England that there is a steady and continuous flow in the form of a minor immigration from South Wales and elsewhere.
What is the attraction? Why be ashamed to admit the attraction? The highest bracket of wages anywhere in industry today is to be found in the engineering shops of the Midlands. I welcome the fact that Welsh industrial workers, male or female, who are anxious to earn higher wages than perhaps they can earn in the immediate localities of their homes should emigrate to industrial centres. There is nothing wrong in that.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Does the hon. Member think that this emigration, wherever it comes from, into these crowded areas, which will become still more crowded, is a desirable development for the future of this country?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I agree that there is an acute danger that certain industrial areas of England may become permanently and more aggravatingly overcrowded, but it is a problem that cannot be solved solely by legislation dealing with the location of industry. There are many problems, social, technical and others, associated with the drift of labour into these centres.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
The hon. Member is being very fair, but surely there is a difference between the kind of single skilled worker whom he has in mind who voluntarily leaves some part of Wales for Coventry, for example, attracted by better prospects and wages, and the involuntary case of an unemployed family man, who nowadays has to pack up and move hundreds of miles across country and try to maintain two households on one wage, however high that wage might be.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I readily concede that if there is any drift of labour caused by involuntary circumstances it is a matter for my right hon. and gallant Friend and the Ministry of Labour, but it is a gross travesty of the facts, as hon. Members opposite have represented them to the House, to say that the emigration of labour from Wales is solely on account of unemployment in Wales. It is most largely due to the attraction of higher wages and often better conditions which are available in English factories, notably in the Midlands.
Earlier speakers opposite suggested that there is a declining industrial activity in Wales. The figures hardly support that allegation. If one wishes to measure the level of industrial activity at any given time, and in any given area, there is no truer arbiter than the figures of electric power consumption. That is nearly always a reliable guide. I direct the attention of all hon. Members to page 55 of the Sixth Annual Report of the British Electricity Authority for the year ended 31st March, 1954, and to the table at the foot of that page.
They will find there that the increase in electric power sales for 1953–54 over 1952–53 in respect of the South Wales Electricity Board was no less than 7.5 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nationalisation."] It has nothing to do with party political nostrums. That increase in electric power consumption for the South Wales area, of 7.5 per cent. compared with an average increase for all area boards in all parts of the United Kingdom, excluding the North of Scotland Area Board, of 6.5 per cent. In other words, the margin of increase in power consumption in the area of the South Wales Board was 15 per cent. higher than the increase of electric power consumption, taken as an average over the country as a whole.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden) rose——
§ Mr. Nabarro
I cannot give way until I have made this point.
The South Wales Board does not cover the whole Principality. The rest of the Principality is covered by a part of the area of the Merseyside and North Wales Board. There the increase in electric power consumption for the year 1953–54 over the year 1952–53 was 6.5 per cent., or exactly in accord with the national average increase. It follows, therefore, that the Principality of Wales as a whole showed an increase in electric power sales, most largely for industrial purposes, at a higher level than the increase as an average, for other parts of the United Kingdom. That is a complete negation of the argument put forward by hon. Members opposite to the effect that industrial activity in Wales is steadily declining.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
All I wanted to say to the hon. Member—I am afraid that it is now too late—was that in order to give us a true picture of the point which he was trying to make he should give us some idea of the amount of conversion from steam to electricity that had taken place in South Wales during the last year or two, compared with the average of such conversion in other parts. Will he do that?
§ Mr. Nabarro
No, Sir. The proper measure and comparison of electric power consumption is to be found in the analysis of figures in the Annual Report of the British Electricity Authority to which I have referred. If, before interrupting me again the hon. Member takes the trouble to go out and study the figures which I have quoted, he will find them irrefutable.
§ Mr. Williams rose——
§ Mr. Williams
Has the hon. Member studied the question of conversion? He has otherwise no right to say that there has been this tremendous increase in the consumption of electricity in South Wales except on the grounds of conversion.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not want to give the hon. Member a lesson in elementary electricity economics, but the figures I quoted were of the area boards' comparative sales to consumers. That, in respect of the two Welsh area boards, is a true reflection and measure of the general level of industrial activity in the Principality.
I turn to another aspect of this problem—the progress of rural electrification in Wales, to which reference was made earlier by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). Rural electrification in Wales has not been proceeding as fast as it might have done. It has not been proceeding as fast as it night have done because the policy of the British Electricity Authority is not a correct policy in so far as its application to rural Wales is concerned.
It has followed, particularly in the more sparsely populated areas of Wales, orthodox means of overhead transmission of current from stations such as that recently established at Connah's Quay and similar stations in South Wales, instead of studying the economy and circumstances of rural Wales, which lend themselves admirably to the establishment of a number of small independent diesel oil generating stations at infinitely less capital cost than building elaborate and expensive overhead transmission systems such as the area boards continue to instal.
In the recent debate upon the accounts of the British Electricity Authority I did not wish to dwell at unduly great length upon rural electrification matters in Wales, but merely to state a general principle. I took as an example the diesel foil generating station at Aberystwyth, which was established in pre-war years. It was established as a diesel oil generating station for certain special economic reasons; Aberystwyth is a long distance from the main steam generating stations to the east. It was considered more economic to bring in diesel oil by various means of transportation. With that station as a centre, it was considered more economic to carry electrification to the immediate countryside, based on relatively small diesel oil engines than by drawing current from further afield from the major steam generation plants. This principle is capable of infinite variety and widespread application in rural Wales today.
1335 What I want to see done in the more sparsely populated rural areas of England and Wales is the establishment of many small auto-diesel oil generating units providing power and lighting for hamlets, villages and localities, thereby largely avoiding the heavy capital expenditure inherent in the more orthodox systems of power distribution by overhead transmission, particularly over long distances.
I will quote a comparison in capital cost because that ought to impress Welsh hon. Members in all parts of the House. It cost the British Electricity Authority £70 in capital investment to install plant and equipment to generate one kilowatt hour of electricity. To do exactly the same thing from a small auto-diesel unit costs £35, or exactly one half the amount. In addition, there is the saving of a very large part of the transmission costs. As for the availability of auto-diesel units, famous engineering companies—which will go unnamed—mass produce such units. They are readily available.
I cannot understand why there need be this continuous stream of complaints about the slow progress of rural electrification in Wales, nor why those complaints have not been met by at least the establishment of 20 or 30 small auto-diesel units in areas such as Cardiganshire instead of going ahead with the vastly expensive orthodox methods of overhead transmission. The even greater extravagance is to talk of the very high cost involved—talking of it is all there is for the moment—in building new major hydro-electric schemes in the areas of Snowdon and Plynlimon such as the Rheidol scheme which is shortly to be submitted for Parliamentary consent. That scheme is approximately four or five times as costly in terms of capital investment, as a number of small, independent, auto-diesel units dotted about the country at convenient points for the available rural demand, all of which, incidentally, would be more easily maintained than the major orthodox stations and long lines of overhead transmission.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member says that he would like to see the expert figures. I advise him to consult the British Electricity Authority as to the 1336 capital cost of steam stations, the British Electricity Authority for the capital cost involved in the proposed hydro-electric stations in North Wales, the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board for the capital cost of hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands, and the Combustion Engineering Association of Great Britain for the capital cost of small auto-diesel units. From a comparison of those statistics the hon. Member will readily be able to form an opinion.
There is a further point in connection with Welsh affairs to which I wish to make reference—the position of the tinplate industry in West Wales. In 1953 there was a temporary recession in the demand for tinplate. That led to an acceleration in the rate of closure of many of the old hand mills in the Swansea and Llanelly area. In the course of the last 12 months or so not only has international demand for tinplate risen to its former levels, but shows all signs of substantially exceeding that level and reaching a record demand. It was the policy of the interested industrial firms—I believe with the cognizance of the Ministry of Supply—to shut down progressively those old hand mills in the West Wales area.
I wish to plead with my right hon. and gallant Friend that for at least three or four years ahead, or whatever length of time may be considered necessary in view of the demand for tinplate from all over the world and especially from this country, and as a temporary measure, as many as possible of the old hand mills be retained in operation until the more modern processes—the mechanical processes and high powered high speed plants of the Steel Company of Wales and others—can come to full fruition, which cannot be entirely the case, until 1957–8.
When he replies, I would like my right hon. and gallant Friend at least to tell us that he will talk to the Minister of Fuel and Power about what I have said on matters affecting the progress of rural electrification in Wales, and to talk to the Minister of Supply about this important matter of tinplate production. It is not only a matter of production but also of consumption in my constituency, one of the richest and lushest fruit growing areas of Great Britain. The fruit and vegetable canners and processors are very concerned about continuity and suffi- 1337 ciency of supplies of tinplate from West Wales.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
We have just heard a speech from, I suppose, one of the richest and lushest hon. Members in the House. On matters of rural electrification I cannot judge, but I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). We have heard something similar from him before. I should be prepared, on the face of it, to accept what he says, but he should address his remarks primarily to the members of his own Front Bench, who should be in charge of the industrial policy of this country. No doubt there are strategic considerations to be borne in mind in considering the dependence on oil for such public services.
I thought that the hon. Member for Kidderminster was fairer than his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) on the question of the Distribution of Industry Acts. The speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South was a very good example of what we have frequently heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite. When they wish to claim credit for anything brought about or discussed during the war-time period they call it a Conservative Measure. When, as they did last night on the question of cold storage, they wish to get out of a difficult situation, they emphasise that, of course, there was then a Coalition Government. If the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South had really been so interested in the fate of the port of Cardiff as he appeared to be from his speech tonight, he ought to have been in the House last night and taken part in the discussion on the cold storage plant.
I represent part of the County of Flint-shire, which is one of the expanding industrial areas in Wales, and I cannot pretend that at the moment we have any serious industrial problems. Rather, on the contrary, we are very proud that recently the steel workers in Shotton set up what I believe was a world record in steel production. Of course, we have had anxieties concerning the future of the Comet aircraft, some of which are made at one of the factories of Messrs. de Havilland at Broughton. But we have been very much heartened by the 1338 evidence given at the recent inquiry on the Comet to feel that the future of the later Comet models appears—so far as one can tell before the actual report of the inquiry is published—to be assured; and that the British aircraft industry will once more be in the lead in the construction of this type of aircraft.
As I say, in Flintshire we have no special problems, with one exception, which is concerned with the tourist industry at the other end of the county, in Rhyl, where we have a small but serious problem of seasonal unemployment—not uncommon in that industry. I was shocked to learn that in Rhyl in the winter months there are as many as 700 unemployed which, for a relatively small town, is a serious matter. Some provision is to be made for work for women in the town, but I understand from the county council that there is much concern about the lack of work for men; and that there has been some difficulty in obtaining the release of land on which premises might be erected which would go some distance to meet that problem.
I should like to say to the hon. Member for Kidderminster that he seems to have misapprehended the true gravamen of the arguments advanced from this side of the House about the seriousness of the unemployment problem in Wales. It is not so much a quantitative matter. I do not think that any hon. Member on this side of the House—and I have been in the Chamber during the greater part of the debate—has suggested that in numbers, over the whole of Wales, we have a serious unemployment problem; but it is a matter of quality. It is a qualitative problem of the communities in certain parts of North-West and South-West Wales.
I know that the hon. Member has certain industrial connections with part of Wales, in fact in my own constituency. But that does not necessarily lead him to appreciate the true arguments of those concerned about depopulation in certain specified areas, particularly the black spots referred to by the hon. Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes).
I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that one might put it like this, and that you, as a Welshman, would appreciate it. The true end of man is not necessarily the manufacturing of carpets in Kidder- 1339 minster—important as that occupation may be. There are other values in life. It is precisely because people in Wales have been shown to possess a keener appreciation of those values in life that those of us who are Welsh feel the seriousness of a situation in which men leave their native country—as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon—not because they are primarily attracted by the glittering prizes of the Midlands of England, but because of their realisation that there is no decent alternative open to them. Naturally, it is that with which we are concerned in Wales.
There are not so many of these areas now. Owing to the energetic administration of the Labour Government, the former major black spots in Wales, I am happy to say, no longer exist. The problem, therefore, is not one of frightening dimensions. But because it is qualitatively so important, one hopes that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who is now in general charge of Welsh affairs will not allow himself to be put off because of the smallness of the problem. Very often that is a deterrent. It is not only major problems which frighten Ministers. Sometimes something is so small that a Minister does not wish to make a fuss about it. But, as a good Welshman, I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the true arguments advanced from these benches for not overlooking these problems, which, in size, are small or inconsiderable, but in their value to the community concerned are very great indeed.
I make this plea for my colleagues representing other parts of Wales because, as I say, in my own county we are, happily, better placed. However, that is not to say that we have no anxieties in Flintshire. At the moment we have two concerns with which our future industrial prosperity is bound up. One is the matter of the technical training of young men in Flintshire, because, as an expanding industrial area, it is clear that we cannot keep our present happy position unless we are able to ensure the proper training of the young men for our present—and we trust future—industries.
In Flintshire, we have a technical training college which we believe is capable of providing training at an advanced level for the industries of our county. We 1340 believe that we are an expanding industrial area and that a really generous policy should be pursued by the Department concerned in dealing with advanced technical education in Flintshire. We would most strongly resent any attempt to keep back the advance of this county in technical education, because we think that it is only by having adequate technical education that we can fully insure our future as one of the major industrial counties in Wales.
Another problem is the question of transport. As an expanding industrial area, naturally we are deeply concerned with the need to have adequate economic transport facilities in the county. I am sorry to say that the roads in Flintshire were not planned for an industrial county. We are the gateway to North Wales, so that what is important to Flintshire is also of some importance to other North Wales counties.
I know the Conway Bridge, which is a monument of antiquity, was not designed for an industrial age. It has a certain priority in North Wales transport schemes, and pledges have been given that Conway Bridge is to be supplemented by a more modern structure. That is all to the good. But important as that is, I hope that the Ministry of Transport will be induced to look much more seriously than it has been doing at the problems of traffic entering North Wales.
We have had discussions about the Queensferry bridge and I believe a temporary bridge is to be built. It seems a great pity that one should have to spend money, as is now proposed, on a bridge which is not to last more than 15 years at the outside. It will cost a good deal of money and will not be a satisfactory solution. It would be better to be prepared boldly to undertake a major scheme for by-passing Queensferry. That scheme is well known to those concerned. However, I suppose that one-tenth of a loaf is better than no bread. Presumably, we are not to have a major scheme for many years and at least we are having an alleviating scheme at the present time.
But that is not the only difficulty. We have as a near neighbour the ancient City of Chester. A good deal of the traffic that comes into Flintshire is affected by traffic conditions in Chester. I have recently had communications from the trades council in Chester who has been 1341 writing to Members for neighbouring constituencies, as well as to the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield). The council pointed out that developments were begun before the last war which would have relieved a considerable amount of the traffic congestion in the City of Chester. It said that the time had surely now come to proceed with the development of the ring road, commenced before the last war, to avoid having so much traffic going through the City of Chester.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Lady means the ring road that starts in Saltney in her constituency and ends at the City of Chester.
§ Mrs. White
It does not entirely enable one to avoid going through Chester.
Another difficulty is the state of the main coast road in Flintshire. In Flint-shore, we have the highest accident rate—so I am told—both per mile of road and per 1,000 of population in Wales. That is largely because of the congested conditions, especially in the holiday season, on the coast road, particularly at Dee-side. We have conditions in holiday times when the industrial traffic of the area is most seriously impeded because of the flow of tourist traffic to the beauty spots further west.
It is very difficult indeed for an expanding industrial area which has a completely inadequate road system also to take the tourist traffic, which is of great importance to other parts of North Wales. I do not wish to worry the House with details of particular difficulties in this matter, but I do want very strongly to press for some further allocation of funds, so that more adequate roads in Flintshire will be provided.
They would certainly be of great direct industrial benefit to the county and would be of considerable indirect benefit to the rest of North Wales, because the traffic to those destinations passes through Flintshire. As we have been discussing employment difficulties in some of the counties which might be eased by expansion of tourist traffic, the Minister might be bestowing a benefit upon the whole of North Wales if he would, with the Minister of Transport, have another look at the road problems of the county.
Those are the major concerns of my part of North Wales. Although we are 1342 in a happier position than some other parts of Wales, I hope very much that that will not mean that our problems will be overlooked.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
I was glad to hear the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) talk about carpets from Kidderminster. I am sure that the Labour Party has worn out a lot of carpets during the last few days.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I welcome and congratulate the Minister for Welsh Affairs. It is a joy to see my right hon. and gallant Friend holding his present office. His predecessor, now Lord Kilmuir, was one of the most sympathetic men we have ever known as a colleague and the attention which he gave to Welsh affairs was extraordinary, but it is, nevertheless, good to have a Welshman doing the job. It is pleasant for my right hon. and gallant Friend to enter his new office with such a luxury of a Report. Right through the debate, from the opening speech by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), congratulation has been offered to the Government upon the splendid state of affairs in Wales at present.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
It is all very well to say that we are reaping what others sowed, but there must be someone to garner the harvest and the present Government are garnering well.
The Report is a progressive one. Irrespective of who is responsible for it, we in Wales can congratulate ourselves upon the present state of the Principality and the very low level of unemployment there now. It is altogether most encouraging.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I will come to some of the exceptions; there are many of them.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) made a most telling speech about Welsh broadcasting. We simply cannot put up with the present situation much longer. Something must be done 1343 The most constructive suggestion I have so far heard was that made by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan, that when we get V.H.F.—I am not as optimistic as he is about the priority which the Government will give to the V.H.F. programme, but we have a certain priority; we come after Brighton and one or two places of that sort—Purchase Tax should be removed from the V.H.F. receivers that we shall have to buy. I hope the Minister will take due note of the suggestion.
There are several other points in the Report about which we cannot be complacent. There is the question of rural roads, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). It is not good enough. This Report shows that consideration had been given to the contents of legislation, but it is over 12 months since we debated the subject of rural roads, and we all know quite well that that job could have been carried out by the Ministry of Transport and that there was no need whatever for legislation. But there the responsibility is on the Ministry of Agriculture. Therefore, I hope that when the Queen's Speech is received next week, there will definitely be mention of legislation to deal with this subject of rural roads, because it is a most important issue for our rural economy.
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) talked about education, but this Report contains some very good stuff on education. The hon. Lady talked about technical education in Flintshire. I am sorry, but I really must cross swords with her here. There are facilities for technical education in North Wales already. Over £750,000 has been spent on a technical college at Wrexham. I wish to goodness that our joint education committee had more authority than it has at present. Flintshire must use the facilities that already exist before an hon. Member for that county calls for greater expenditure of money in this direction. In fact, I think this joint committee should be given more power than it has at present.
I mention this only in passing, but most of us who represent rural constituencies know that one of the great problems in education and in maintaining our people in the countryside is the question of rural schools and of slum schools in the rural areas. All of us, I am sure, have 1344 in our own constituencies slum schools that are completely unsuitable for the education of children at present. The worst case in my own division is the school at Llansannan, which is shocking, Yet we are tied by certain circulars sent out by the Ministry of Education in 1950 and 1951 and sent out again now, so that we can still do nothing in respect of these schools.
I suggest that the joint education committee should be given a grant which it can spend at its discretion to abolish some of the worst cases of bad conditions at schools. If the money were available to them as a national committee to spend at their discretion, we should probably get rid of some of the particularly bad schools.
To come to the real point which has been discussed seriously and most earnestly throughout the debate, the problem of unemployment in North and North-West Wales, which the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East described as a qualitative problem, I suppose it is quite the most serious of the problems we have to face.
I am very glad to see the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) in his place. He lives at the top end of the Tanat Valley, and to get to his home he has to pass through one of the most lovely spots in Wales—Llanrhaiadr ym Mochnant. It is an ancient community—only a small village of possibly about 700 people—and one of the most cultured villages in Wales. It was there that Bishop Morgan translated the Bible into Welsh. It is the sheet anchor of our Welsh culture.
That small village—the whole community, with church, chapels, houses, roads, and all the rest of it—is now threatened with extinction, from unemployment. There are 120 men in that village now employed on pipeline services for the Liverpool Corporation Waterworks, but in April, 1955, that work will cease. The pipeline will have been laid. Possibly no more than 10 or 20 men will be employed on maintenance work and Llanrhaiadr will be blotted out, from the point of view of employment.
We can foresee the problem, but what is to be done about it? It is no good saying to these men, "You can go to 1345 England." Oswestry is not many miles away, but there is no work there. We cannot send them to Shropshire or Staffordshire. Here we have cultural wealth and social amenity, the real life of a Welsh-speaking civilised community. What is to be done about it? On a previous occasion we tried to get an extension of the Development Area, but Sir Stafford Cripps was unable to help us. We do not want an extension of the boundary of the Development Area in a case like this. The trading estate company, as at present legislated for and regulated, cannot help us.
I want to reinforce the pleas made by the hon. Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) that the Board of Trade should find out how to help these areas. Not only is there cultural wealth in them, but wealth of manpower and social amenity.
I would now say a word or two about devolution. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not more than two."] I can say it in two, but some people would need 20. First, I would recommend to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary the most invigorating and delightful Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs. It makes good bedside reading, does this Report. When my right hon. and gallant Friend wakes up in the morning, he will find that he has four Under-Secretaries to deal with Wales and a Minister of State to help him. We do not see how he can possibly cope with all the work he has to do as Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs. He needs two Under-Secretaries with knowledge of Wales. He has an enormous background knowledge of Wales. He is now assisted in looking after Welsh Affairs by a Joint Under-Secretary of State in another place who was dragged in as a sort of afterthought, so far as Welsh affairs were concerned.
I think that my right hon. and gallant Friend must be assisted in this matter. What I suggest is not a Royal Commission to go into the subject of administrative devolution, because this Royal Commission has already done the work—why duplicate it?—but that between now and next Tuesday my right hon. and gallant Friend should insist upon legislation being passed creating a new Minister of State for Welsh Affairs in another place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why in another place"?] Certainly in another place. Why should 1346 he have to go through the rough and tumble in this House? That would be most unpleasant.
The new Minister of State, I suggest, should only occasionally sit in another place so that he might be able to spend a lot of time going round our divisions in Wales, finding out the problems and bringing back first-hand reports for his political boss. I think that there is a lot to be said for having the Minister of State in another place, and I beg my right hon. and gallant Friend to consider that suggestion most seriously.
On the subject of devolution, I hope that in a very short time we shall have a Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs with his own Department looking after this matter among all our other interests. I conclude by congratulating and welcoming my right hon. and gallant Friend once again on his new office. I would also tell him—as he has not listened to a Welsh debate for some time—that according to my recollection, this is quite the best one that we have had in this House.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Freeman (Newport)
We must remember, first of all, that this is the last and concluding debate of this Session, and I am afraid that that fact is characteristic of the consideration which Wales very often receives. Nevertheless, we welcome the opportunity of having a day on which we can consider Welsh affairs, because that was not the general practice in times gone by. We must be grateful for the small mercies which we receive in that respect.
I desire to add my good wishes and congratulations to those already extended to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on his appointment to the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs and to wish him every success during his tenure of office. I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of every hon. Member when I say that we hope that he will do his best—indeed, I am sure that he will—during his period of office to solve some of the problems and to remedy some of the grievances to which attention has been called today.
Although faint praise has been given to this Report, what has struck me, and what must have struck everybody else listening to the debate, is the fact that 1347 every hon. Member who has spoken has concluded by calling attention to some serious grievance which has characterised either his own constituency or the affairs of Wales, even though he may have given praise to the Report generally. Not a single hon. Member has not been seriously perturbed about some factor or some activity in Wales which he thinks ought to be rectified.
It is rather Gilbertian that I as a Cockney should be championing the cause of Wales while an enthusiastic Welshman has to defend the activities of England and challenge some of the claims which we have laid. Nevertheless, we welcome not only this Report and this day on which to discuss these matters, but also the Council for Wales which was formed to inquire into Welsh activities. The statistical details in the digest give a clearer picture than we have ever had before of affairs in Wales, but there are still serious grievances. Many have been mentioned by other hon. Members; they are accumulating, and I have noticed the Minister taking voluminous notes of the various suggestions and criticisms made. I have no doubt that, in due course, he will try to rectify them.
It has been stated that Wales follows the economy of England—in the main it follows very far behind. Although conditions in Wales should, to some extent, be equal to those in England, they are, in almost every way, a good deal worse. Both countries are part of Great Britain. Wales, therefore, is entitled to enjoy the privileges and benefits enjoyed by the people of England. That is a real grievance at the present time.
While it is perfectly true that the unemployment situation today is better than it ever has been, that is not saying much. Wales has suffered as much as any country in the world, perhaps, from unemployment in the past. The scars still show in many families and individuals. The unemployment figure in Wales is 2.1 per cent. That is double the figure for England, three times the figure for London, and four times the figure for the Midlands. Wales rightly wants to know why it should suffer in that way.
One turns to housing. There is no question that the housing situation in Wales is worse than in England. There 1348 are a larger number of persons per house—or per room as, in many cases, it is in Wales—and the housing conditions themselves are worse than in England. Transport has been referred to several times. That has always been neglected in Wales. It is perhaps one of the reasons for the Welsh people's suffering in the past. The country has not had those adequate transport facilities which are the arteries of a nation's activities.
One of the most valuable assets that Wales had was the export of coal. That trade is now lacking, so the docks are left derelict and idle. The docks were 4 per cent. worse off in 1953 than in the previous year, so we have actually gone back in that respect. I think it is a Government responsibility to make good the loss resulting from that dwindling in coal exports.
One might hope that special consideration would be given to the air service which Wales claims, but, while some £10 million are being spent for a new airport at Gatwick, we are refused the few thousand pounds needed to provide facilities at Rhoose. As a result, any kind of development there is held up.
Mention has been made of electricity, education, agriculture and broadcasting, in all of which matters Wales feels that she is worse off than England is. As for the mines, I suppose that no people have been exploited more than have the miners in South Wales, with its tumbledown cottages and slag heaps ruining the countryside. Factors like that all emphasise the low standard of living in Wales compared with England, and Wales wants this put right. We in Wales want an equal share of the benefits and advantages which are being enjoyed by the rest of the country.
There has been reference to the population, but I do not think hon. Members opposite have made out their case, in view of the facts and figures in the digest which we have before us. The first line of the digest gives an indication of what Wales has had to tolerate. It is true that there has been a drop in population in Wales during the last three years, but only by 3,000. As has been pointed out, the population would be 30,000 or 40,000 more if the normal increase in population had taken place.
1349 But that is not the only factor to be taken into account. In 1921 the population was 2,656,000. It is 60,000 less than it was 30 years ago. There has been a very heavy exodus from Wales. No less than half a million people have left Wales during this century because they have been dissatisfied and have found conditions intolerable. The people of Wales are naturally home-loving, domesticated and more concerned with their family affairs and their cultural life than many other people are. Therefore, they do not leave Wales except under the greatest provocation. The exodus from Wales, which is still going on, indicates that the people are dissatisfied because they can find better conditions in other parts.
It is up to the Government to find some method of preventing this exodus of the young people. The second page of the Report shows that the large proportion of people who emigrate are between the ages of 15 and 35. Those who are left behind have to look after the old people and the children, and the burden left on those who stay behind is inevitably heavy.
One remembers the bad conditions in the inter-war years and before, and the large number of disabled, which adds to the burden. That is another problem which Wales requires to be solved. The standard of living must be improved. Employment facilities must be created in factories, workshops, agriculture and in other ways, so that Wales does not continue to lose its sons who go to find better opportunities in other parts of the world.
Nothing appears to be done effectively. Year by year we have had debates. We have had excellent statements, arguments, criticisms, facts and figures; we hear plausible replies from the Minister, all sorts of promises and good words, but nothing effective is done. That is why Wales is getting dissatisfied. It feels that something more should be done to remedy these grievances and make good some of the defects which are pointed out year by year in these debates.
I would welcome a Royal Commission on Welsh Affairs, on the lines of that for Scotland. Similar benefits can be put into operation. I hope that one day we shall have a Secretary of State for Wales who can give all his time to that country. Wales is entitled to full representation 1350 in the Cabinet. After these debates one always hears hon. Members say, "We talk and talk, but nothing happens." Although we are glad to have a day allocated for Welsh affairs, something more should be done to make it a reality.
I know that if a town or county has a problem it can present a Private Bill asking for something to be done. Is there any reason why the Council for Wales, after inquiries have been made, should not bring forward a Bill incorporating all the matters which have been discovered during the inquiries, and supported by Welsh Members, after consultation with them? Grievances and complaints could be put forward in a concrete form. The Bill should be presented to Parliament and the Government should then consider it on its merits and provide facilities for its debate. We should then know whether or not its recommendations were to be accepted, instead of beating the air as we do at present. I put that suggestion forward now, and I hope that the Minister will consider whether it is not possible to do something on those lines in order to deal with some of the grievances which I have mentioned.
There are one or two specific points which have already been raised but to which I should like to refer. First, there is the Severn Bridge. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was a champion of this bridge before I came to the House, which is more than 25 years ago. As he knows, a deputation has been waiting upon him to ask him to approach the Minister of Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to their receiving a deputation from South Wales to see if something practical cannot be done about this bridge. It has been mentioned as the key to many of the problems of South Wales. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to give any date or to make any statement about receiving that deputation.
Then there is the complaint that on many occasions there have been unsuccessful requests for a road linking North and South Wales. I remember putting a Question in this connection to the Minister of Transport on 26th June, 1950. In reply, he said that the whole of this North to South trunk road for Wales had been 1351 designated with the exception of one small section. That was four years ago, but what has been done since? The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that the Midlands are busy and active, but if Wales has no road from its centre how can we expect any development of industry to take place? That has been left for all these years, and Wales has been left almost as a desert, largely because it has not had either adequate railway facilities or adequate road facilities. I know that this is a hilly area, but modern transport can get over hills, and Wales must no longer be left in the derelict position it is today.
I wish to call attention now to one or two matters which especially affect my own constituency, and first to the question of the bridge over the Usk. The bridge links England with Wales. It is the only bridge that links South Wales with England. On each side of it half a dozen roads branch off in every direction, and the traffic congestion on that bridge is, I believe, unequalled by any traffic congestion anywhere outside London—indeed, by any other than that at the Bank of England. There are queues of traffic on almost every one of those roads. Whenever there is a football match or any other notable activity in Newport there are queues a mile long on each of those roads converging art that bridge. Approaches have been made repeatedly with the object of getting something done, but nothing has been done.
Two bridges are wanted, one to take the main traffic between England and Wales, between South Wales and the Midlands, and another to take all the local traffic from one side of Newport to the other.
Not only are the present traffic conditions intolerable, but that link in the communications is very vulnerable, as might be seen were there an emergency. All the activities of South Wales would be curtailed if anything happened to that bridge. They would be reduced almost to nothing. The coal industry, the steel industry, the factories would be brought to nought. Their produce could not be got away easily to England if anything were to happen to this one bridge which connects England and Wales. I hope that 1352 something practical will be done about that.
We have also asked for a factory in Newport for disabled men. A scheme was tabled a long time ago, but nothing has been done. We have a large number of disabled men, but nothing has been done to provide them with the facilities they require for carrying on the work they can do.
We also need a new slaughter house. The slaughter house in Newport is 100 years old. The conditions there are shocking, disgusting, unhygienic. They have been complained about repeatedly. The working of the slaughter house can be observed, and children are able to look at what goes on there day by day. Because of the disgraceful conditions and the stink of that slaughter house, it surprises me that everybody in Newport is not, as I am, an enthusiastic vegetarian.
Newport built a new civic centre. It went up during the war, but the war prevented it from being completed. We want facilities to enable it to be completed now, and to incorporate all the modern, convenient conditions that are to be found in almost every other modern building. I hope that the Minister will give me some indication of what can be done about that.
On the whole, Wales has had a raw deal for many years. It has been neglected, frustrated, forgotten. It is only today, on the last day of the Session, that we are able to bring all these things to the notice of the new Minister. I hope the Minister will give us some indication that he will take more active steps than ever have been taken in the past to ensure the consideration and justice that Wales demands in view of the services that Wales has rendered not only to the United Kingdom but to the Commonwealth. There is no more loyal member of the Commonwealth. On every occasion of difficulty and danger none works more arduously for the common cause than the Welsh workers. Wales is a land of great cultural refinement. It is a land with a great future, as it is a land with a great heritage from the past. It should, therefore, receive prior consideration, and I hope that these matters that have been discussed in this debate will not continue to be neglected as they have been for so many years.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
As this is my first appearance—I might almost call it my maiden speech—in this office, which I regard it as a very great privilege to hold, I want to say how deeply grateful I am to all those who have taken part in the debate for their kind references to myself and my family. I can assure them that I appreciate this more than I can say. I know, as the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) told me—and I am under no delusions about this—that it will be very much harder for me as a Welshman than it was for my predecessor; I know my Wales well enough for that.
I do not think it would be right to let the debate pass without saying a word about my predecessor. The dignity with which he endowed this office and his energy and sympathy have been acknowledged on all sides. I am sure that we compliment him, too, on the skill with which he overcame the one disadvantage which he had. I know that I speak for every hon. Member when I say that the interests of Wales were well looked after during his period of office. I shall be quite content if I can maintain the high standard which my noble Friend set.
The Report appears in a slightly different form this year. This is not to be taken as direct evidence of a new broom in office for, as one hon. Member pointed out, the Report was probably in print before I took over the office. I hope that hon. Members have found it at least as useful in its new form as were its predecessors.
An attempt has been made, now that we have the Digest of Statistics as well, to make it a counterpart of that document. Some complaint was made by hon. Members about the date of this debate, but I am glad that we have been able to hold it so soon after the appearance of the Report. I think I am right in saying that that is in accordance with the wishes of both sides of the House.
The Digest of Statistics was produced to meet the wishes of hon. Members on both sides who, for a very long time, have maintained that the task of discussing Welsh affairs was hampered by the lack of such a publication. I know that statistics mean all things to all men, 1354 and I also note the scepticism in certain parts of the House about the need for such publications; but I hope that the Digest, now that it has appeared, will allay some of the suspicions of those who did not think much of it and will be of help to us in discussing Welsh affairs.
The work of preparing the Digest has been the result of contributions by several Government Departments and I want to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation to my colleagues, who have been so willing to give their assistance in getting out this publication. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is a perfect publication; of course it is not, and I am only too ready at any time to receive any suggestions for improvement.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) spoke of the possibility of having an index of production. I will look at that suggestion very carefully, although I am bound to say that it would involve a heavy drain on manpower. At any rate, I am grateful for the suggestion and we will look into it. I hope that the Digest in its present form will be recognised as a serious effort by the Government to meet Welsh aspirations for separate statistics, as far as that is reasonably possible.
We were told by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman) that many people had said how much they appreciated the new Digest of Statistics, but the hon. Gentleman then went on to criticise everything in the Report. I should be extremely surprised, after long experience in the House, if a debate ever went through without some criticism. Such a debate would be the most surprising I have ever taken part in, and I am not in the least complaining that there has been some criticism on this occasion.
Someone has described the debate as one of the best that we have had. It is certainly the best in which I have taken part. We have had some interesting and remarkable speeches, and particularly I should like to add my congratulations to those offered to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) on a speech which we all recognised as one of singular charm and a real contribution to our affairs. We can say with sincerity that the oftener he intervenes in our debates the better we shall be pleased.
1355 The debate has concentrated more on Welsh affairs in general than on constituency points. I am very glad of that. If we are to have this Welsh day I should like to see it treated as a day for advancing the cause of Wales, although I fully appreciate the importance of local affairs to hon. Members representing the constituencies concerned. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will bear with me if I deal with the affairs of Wales in general as they appear to me on my first appearance as Minister for Welsh Affairs. I will deal with some points of detail—and, of course, a tremendous number were raised today—but if I do not deal with some particular points today I can assure hon. Members that I shall do so in due course and communicate with them.
Some of the points I could not possibly deal with in the time at my disposal. The question of dock charges, for example, is a matter of immense importance to South Wales in particular. Curiously enough, only today I received a report from the Council of Wales on the whole subject of dock charges. I shall be going into that as soon as possible. The subject of the Severn Bridge has also been raised. I can assure the hon. Member for Newport that I hope to let him know very shortly the date on which I can receive a deputation. As he will not be surprised to hear, finance has a good deal to do with it and I am hoping to consult as soon as possible with my right hon. Friends.
Throughout the debate hon. Members have uttered several warnings to us and it is only natural that they should be pre-occupied with points that concern them in their own constituencies. I do not want to underestimate the importance of those problems. Indeed, I am only too well aware from my own experience how important they are. Nevertheless, I do not think it unfair to say on the evidence available in the Report which is before us that the industrial and labour position in Wales as a whole—and I stress "as a whole"—gives considerable cause for satisfaction, but not, I hasten to add, for complacency.
None of us who had experience of the situation in Wales between the wars will ever become complacent as long as there is the least danger that the setbacks of those years of depression will return. I think, however, that one can fairly say 1356 that at the present time the clouds on the horizon are few and the prospect as a whole—and I stress that again—is fair. I stress this because I do feel it important to put the whole background in the right perspective since, on an occasion of this kind—I am not complaining about it—there is a tendency to concentrate rather on the darker side of the picture.
The hon. Member for Newport said that nothing had been done, that we sit here year after year and nothing is ever done. I cannot accept that because the Report shows the situation in Wales and that the unemployment figures are the lowest ever recorded in Wales in peacetime. Output in the heavy industries has greatly increased. In some parts of Wales, far from there being an unemployment problem, there is a positive shortage of some kinds of labour. Although we are not at the moment concentrating on the subject of agriculture, I should add that, in general, the agricultural situation is improving and encouraging.
The points raised by several hon. Members showed quite clearly that the margin of prosperity in many areas is small and that there are still too many parts of Wales where any slight set-back in one industry or a fall in employment can still cause great fear of unemployment and a feeling of insecurity. For example, we have heard tonight from three hon. Members of the situation in North-West Wales where unemployment is relatively high. In South Wales there is a continuing social and economic problem which the industrial modernisation of the tinplate industry is causing. Those are two of the more widespread problems of the Principality at present, among others to which hon. Members have referred.
The Government have been steadily pursuing a policy towards Wales which is directed in the first instance to increasing what I have referred to as the margin of prosperity in the Principality so that the Principality may be better able to withstand any setback that might occur. This is a policy which I need hardly labour tonight. My predecessor expounded it on many occasions during discussions in this House, as was also done in another place in a debate earlier this year.
What is worth repeating is that a policy of this kind aims at long-term results 1357 and is not designed to produce an answer overnight to any local problem as it occurs. What it sets out to do is to reduce the frequency and seriousness of these local problems. In this connection, I think we are entitled to claim some success, as the general healthy state of Welsh economy bears witness. I cannot believe that it would be a good thing for Wales, or for any part of the United Kingdom, in the long run, to attempt to deal with local problems simply by temporarily bolstering up the existing economic structure at points where it has already shown itself to be inadequate to the needs of contemporary life. In the long run, that can only lead to further decay.
What is required, I am sure hon. Members will agree, is that we should have a new and healthy growth from the old stock. This is all one with the policy of the Government for rural Wales, which was enunciated in the White Paper on Rural Wales published a year ago. It is not irrelevant, even in a debate about industry, to refer to the part of that document which says that the Government could not agree that the way to establish a stable economy and to secure the full development of the resources of Wales was to subsidise still further the existing economy when it showed signs of breaking down despite considerable Government assistance.
The most important task was to assist rural Wales to become self-supporting. This is an attitude which we apply to the whole Welsh scene and one which I am sure hon. Members would concede to be correct and most likely to provide an enduring solution, which is what we want.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I have referred to the docks, and I cannot say more than that I am completely aware of the position. I have today received a report from the Council of Wales which I shall study very closely.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not wish to interrupt the Minister's train of thought, but he will realise that if he applies these principles to the docks in South Wales as he has announced them for rural Wales and maybe also for industrial Wales, the future will be rather black.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I cannot altogether agree. The hon. Gentleman knows that so far as the docks are concerned the information is encouraging. He will find that the drop in trade at the docks in South Wales is largely due to coal. We get the position as it exists in Swansea where there is practically double—at a rough figure—the trade compared with before the war. That is largely due to a different sort of fuel. I agree with the hon. Member. The problem is vast, especially in a city like Cardiff.
To be realistic it is the only approach which the Government can effectively make to a problem of this kind, unless they are to be armed with powers for the direction of industry, which is generally held to be distasteful in peace-time. When, therefore, local problems occur through the closure of works, as at Landore or Llanberis, the Government can rightly be expected to do everything in their power through the normal agencies to lessen the distress which may be created locally. The most useful task the Government can do in the long run is to direct the development of the Principality towards a future self-sufficiency, in which set-backs of this kind will cease to have such a great significance when set against a background of general economic prosperity and stability.
I wish now to deal with the very important question of the tinplate industry of west South Wales. I can best illustrate it by dealing with a particular question. In earlier debates we have been rightly preoccupied with the social and industrial problems involved in the tremendous enterprise of modernising the tinplate industry from which South Wales produces practically 100 per cent. of the tinplate of this country.
We all recognise that, however great may be the social disturbance caused by it, the operation is essential to ensure the survival of the industry as a vital element in the industrial structure of this country, and particularly of West South Wales, under modern conditions. This major development, coupled with the growth of new industry in the area, bears out my earlier remarks, that the important task in Wales is a long-term strengthening of the economy.
1359 Once that the whole process is completed, the area should be in a fat stronger position than it has ever been before. It will have a large modern steel industry equipped to be competitive in the home and overseas markets. It will also have a reorganised coal industry with the latest equipment, and using the latest mining techniques; and it will have oil refining and aluminium manufacture. The raw and semi-manufactured materials produced by these industries, together with the limestone, water and other natural assets, will be available for industries that consume them. There is already a well-established nucleus of manufacturing industries producing a wide range of articles from toys to concrete structures.
The particular problem with which the Government are faced is that of lessening the shock which must be caused to the community in South Wales by the large degree of social reorganisation entailed in the process. The concentration of operations in larger units and the elimination of many traditional skills and industrial processes must have obvious repercussions on communities whose way of life is based on an industrial structure inherited from the last century.
It is perhaps one of the most encouraging and helpful features of the whale scene in South Wales that when some 3,000 men were thrown out of work in 1953, owing to the closure of hand mills, all except very few found work—many even without the assistance of the Ministry of Labour—in a very short time. To such an extent was this true that when the question arose of reopening some of the tinplate mills there was a shortage of labour to man them. As my predecessor pointed out in a debate a year ago, those events illustrated a remarkable resilience in the area and an unsuspected capacity to absorb redundant labour.
Again, we do not take that as a cause for complacency, but it does, nevertheless, suggest that the type of continuing policy which I have been describing does bear fruit in Wales when emergencies occur. One can hope that as the industrial basis of west South Wales grows more suited to contemporary conditions its capacity to absorb shocks of this kind will show a corresponding improvement.
1360 Another encouraging feature is the probability that the number of redundancies which may ultimately occur when the hand tinplate mills finally close—as they are bound to—is likely to be considerably less than we had at one time feared. My predecessor assessed the likely redundancy at one time at about 6,000—I think it was in the last debate on Welsh affairs. The outlook is now rather better, although I should not like to hazard an estimate of numbers.
What I can say is that there is now a shortage of steel sheet and a rising demand from the motor car industry and other consumers, and that the demand for tinplate is such that we cannot meet it from our own resources. Indeed, hon. Members may have heard of the decision, announced today to allow a certain amount of tinplate to be imported to meet our own needs.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
As the Minister knows, I have had an opportunity of putting before him the view that is very strongly held in my constituency. We are glad to know about the position in the tinplate trade and its influence upon old works. But there is one important factor to which I direct his attention. That is that not only tinplate works, but steel works and engineering works and foundries were all geared to the old method of production. It is very important that serious and urgent consideration should be given to the adaptation of the steel works to the new end-products of the engineering works. One of the dangers in the existing system is that we may very substantially lose skilled men from both these fields unless there is a prospect of continuous work for them.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am very much aware of that and that I am looking into the matter. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman drew attention to it.
I now want to deal with anthracite and other steam coals developments, which will have an important effect and transform the mining parts of the area and greatly increase output. Part of this programme, as hon. Members will no doubt be aware, is the recently announced development costing £6 million at Brynlliw. This strengthening of one of the basic industries of west South Wales is another feature of the situation which holds great promise for the future.
1361 I have also just learnt about something else of a most encouraging nature, and that is a development by a United States firm in west South Wales. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company has plans for a expansion of its factory at Gorseinon, which is expected to provide employment for an additional 500 workers during the next year or two. This is very satisfactory.
At the risk of being criticised for dwelling too much on the bright side, I would emphasise what an important indication the events of 1953 in the tinplate industry were of a change in the industrial climate of South Wales. Memories of depression between the wars, as I mentioned just now, naturally haunt South Wales. Nobody would be surprised at that. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to let them sap the confidence of South Wales.
In the last 20 years there has been an industrial revolution in the area. No longer is it dependent upon one or two heavy industries. There is a wide range of other industries which have taken firm root and, in doing so, have paid a direct tribute to the skill and adaptability of Welsh working people. There is no doubt whatever about the will and capacity of the area to respond to new opportunities. This is the side of the picture which I suggest South Wales should stress—its positive inducements to new commercial enterprises—for, ultimately, the industry which South Wales gets will depend upon what it has to offer rather than upon what it demands.
The Government can, and do, help to the best of their ability, but they cannot make industry go where it does not want to go. Nor can they make it stay when it no longer finds it economic to stay. In the last resort the positive inducement must rest with the area itself, and while the Government may fairly claim some credit for what they have done to stimulate and develop the energies and resources of the area, the people of South Wales themselves have good cause for pride in the achievement of the last 20 years and for confidence in the future.
I am afraid that I still have rather a lot to say, but I will try to get through it as soon as I can. I have still to deal with one or two other problems. I do not think I need deal with the question of sites.
1362 I should like to say a word or two about the Lloyd Committee. It was appointed at a time when the tinplate crisis appeared to be immediate. For nearly two years the committee has been looking at the matter. It has had a lot of very useful contacts with industrial, commercial and local interests, and has been able to draw on the great experience of trade union representatives in the social problems inherent in the area's present development.
Its terms of reference were essentially directed to the long-term solution of the area's problems which we have been discussing. The committee was to advise the Government on specific measures necessary for the industrial modernisation of the tinplate area and to consider means of attracting new industries to the area. It has submitted reports covering both aspects of its terms of reference which have been and are still being studied by the Government with the greatest possible interest.
The programme of road works which my predecessor announced in the debate a year ago is one of the results of the committee's recommendations. I do not know whether the House realises how important these works will be for Wales. They will provide a fine motor road from east to west of South Wales, and they will also provide a good road linking the Midlands much more quickly and directly with South Wales than has ever been done before. They should not only assist in the attraction of new industries, but should greatly assist the industries which are already there.
Incidentally, I might mention that in this programme of road works Wales is getting a very fair share indeed of the national resources available for road work. I can assure hon. Members who represent the Principality that Wales can congratulate herself on having done very well. The benefits of these roads in South Wales will be increasingly felt as time goes by. They are quite evidently not the sort of improvement to solve a redundancy problem occurring tomorrow; they are obviously directed towards the future.
Many hon. Members have asked me about the third Report, which covers the question of attracting new industries, and I have been pressed for its publication. I know that many hon. Members will 1363 share my view that it would not, in the circumstances, be appropriate to publish the report. Much of the information given is confidential, but I can assure the House that the Government has been given some very good advice and information, and that upon it future policy will be based. These problems are not simple, and they are not capable of solution overnight, but I think we are all agreed that the committee has done a very good job. I have not yet had the opportunity of meeting the committee, but I will take the first possible opportunity of discussing the whole matter with its members.
§ Major Lloyd-George
That depends on certain factors. It might continue. I will have a look at that point.
I have been speaking of the tinplate area of Llanelly, and I do not think I need say any more on that except to repeat that it is an extraordinary thing, which rather confirms what I have been saying already, that when 134 men were made redundant, 40 were retained for clearing-up work, and of the 90 finally discharged, only 24 men and women are now registered as unemployed.
Then there is the question of the impending closure of the works at Landore, but I think the answer was given by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort), and it is true that, if it is more economic to make the tubes elsewhere, it is only a matter of time before the works are closed as uneconomic. The hon. Member will appreciate that I do not want to go into details on this matter, because there are points concerning other areas in Wales with which I have yet to deal.
On unemployment, I think everybody is satisfied that on the whole the situation in Wales is not too bad, and while it may be worse than in England, the difference between the Welsh and English figures today is much less than it was a few years ago, which is an encouraging sign. The actual figures show that Welsh unemployment is down by a half and English unemployment by one-third, so that the relative position is slightly improved.
1364 Now I come to the position in North-West Wales, and I think this is a very distressing matter. It is a question of long-standing unemployment facing certain areas in Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) suggested that I should not treat it as a small affair just because it happened to be a small affair in itself. The hon. Gentleman does not have to persuade me about that, because I had experience for 10 years of a small pocket of unemployment which was a very big affair in the district in which it occurred. Though it did not appear to be very much from the figures, it mattered very much in the households of the people concerned. It went up to 50 per cent. at some times and went on for very many years.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned Blaenau Ffestiniog, Penygroes and all those places which I knew very well as a small boy. There was the question of the prosperity of Blaenau Ffestiniog and the number of people employed there in those days. One of the troubles is the reduced demand for small slates, which is not as good as it was, so that there is a great stock to get rid of. I will do everything I can to help, and I fully appreciate the difficulties with these small pockets. Although the situation generally is improved, we come up against these very difficult small pockets of local unemployment, but I will certainly do everything I possibly can to help.
The Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire emphasised that the problem of these areas was not primarily industrial, although the development of industries ancillary to agriculture and forestry would be welcome. The Government accept this analysis, but, inevitably, those who remain unemployed look hopefully to new industries as a possible solution.
It has been suggested that North-West Wales should be scheduled as a Development Area, but hon. Gentlemen will appreciate that that is not very easy. Extending that system all over the country would be difficult. This is a flatter for my right hon. colleague the President of the Board of Trade, and a survey is being made of the industrial aspects of the matter. I cannot anticipate what the survey will say or what the 1365 Government's conclusions will be, but I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the Government's conclusions will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, much has been done and will continue to be done to assist the area and no opportunity of attracting industry to the area is being overlooked.
§ Major Lloyd-George
By the Board of Trade and the Government as a whole. I need hardly say that anything which local bodies can do to assist the Board of Trade will be welcomed. As I have said earlier, the Government have no power to direct industry to a particular place and no industrialist can be expected to stay in a particular place if the prospect of economic working disappears.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) very kindly sent me a report the other day of an industrial survey of Anglesey, and I am taking an early opportunity of studying it. Much of it concerns the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the President of the Board of Trade. I would say how much I welcome such an example of constructive thought applied by local initiative to one of the problems of the Principality. The report rightly stresses—and I am not surprised to hear it—the attractions of Anglesey, and, in doing so, pays a very just tribute to the enterprise of the local authorities there, whose record in the provision of housing and water supplies is impressive.
This is important because, like other areas, North-West Wales must rely upon the advantages it can offer. I hope that employers with labour problems will take note that this area has reserves of adaptable and industrious men and women awaiting employment. I cannot anticipate what the conclusions of the Government will be on these far-reaching proposals, but I can assure the hon. Member for Anglesey that the report will be most carefully considered.
I want to deal with two other points, one of which was raised by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and concerns the future of the maintenance unit at Llanberis. I need hardly stress that the decision to close down the unit was a difficult one to take and was only taken with the utmost reluctance. 1366 I am afraid that it was unavoidable. The whole storage supply system of the Royal Air Force was in a phase of concentration and reallocation to meet the peacetime needs of the Service, and there was no escape from the necessity to close down certain units throughout the country, including the unit at Llanberis, which has insufficient storage capacity for Air Ministry purposes and is awkwardly placed for the quick movement of stores to operational units in war. My right hon. colleague the Secretary of State for Air was, therefore, forced to an unavoidable conclusion.
Perhaps it will comfort the hon. Member, however, to know that the number of civilians employed at present is, I understand, 420–265 at Llanberis and 155 at Llandwrog. I am informed that the unit as a whole is likely to employ about the present number of people for another two years. At Llandwrog, during this period, there will be much more work available than there is now, mainly on disposing of surplus stores, but the Llanberis site is likely to close down in the near future. This will mean some inconvenience and, I am afraid, some hardship, especially as the work at Llandwrog is suitable only for men who are medically fit. All I can say is that the buildings at Llanberis are of very sound construction, and that the Ministry of Labour will do everything it can to find alternative employment for those who are discharged. Every effort will be made to take advantage of those buildings, which are in very good condition.
I now want to deal with the question of the rural economy, and I am afraid that I shall have to go through it fairly quickly. The area to which the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) referred lies between Tregavon and Knighton. As he knows, the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission have started work on an investigation of an upland area in Mid-Wales. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in the difficult situation of such areas it would be useless to do anything until one really had a knowledge of what the future held.
I understand that in spite of the bad weather, the Sub-Commission have made good progress. A farm-to-farm field survey has already been carried out. The very difficult task which the Sub-Commission have on hand is being carried out with every possible speed, and I hope 1367 that next year we shall get the report. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the fact that we must have all the facts before us before we can do anything. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are very much alive to the need for doing something in that area with regard to farming and afforestation. I can only say again that I shall do everything I can to push on with it.
One word about electrification. I have walked over those mountains a great deal, and had to lay out much of that area myself in days gone by. The real problem is that the number of farms in Wales which have an electricity supply is only about 25 per cent. In England it is about double. Electricity in mountain areas is a very expensive matter, and it is of vital importance that, where it is available, as much as possible should be used, because the capital charges are extremely heavy. Electrification is going on at a record speed at the moment, but the fact remains that only about 25 per cent. of the farms have electricity.
§ Major Lloyd-George
The House, I hope, will forgive me if I have not touched on all the points raised, but hon. Members will appreciate that quite a number of points were put forward. The ones with which I have not dealt, I will take up personally with hon. Members after the debate.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I have already said a little about it. I thought that I had shown that the picture for Wales as a Whole was not too bad. However, it is a point with which I will deal after the debate.
I think I can say that I have a good knowledge of Wales and of the problems of Wales, and, although I am new to the administration of Welsh Affairs, I can assure the hon. Member for Caernarvon that the room I have at the Home Office is big enough both for the Home Secretary and for the Minister for Welsh Affairs. I am proud of my present position, and my one ambition in my high 1368 office is to render What service I can to Wales and to the people of Wales.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 9287).