§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
On the question of wireless jamming, we in Wales are experts because we have suffered it for the last four years, and I should not be surprised if some of my hon. Friends were to deal with that angle of the subject later this evening.
Since the publication of the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for the year ended June, 1955, we have also received another very important report, the Report of the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission. That Report is of great importance to us in Wales and we on this side feel that special time should be allocated for debating it before the Easter Recess. I ask the Minister to indicate, as I hope he will in the course of the day, the Government's intention in that respect. In any case, it is not our intention on this side of the House to deal with that Report this afternoon.
The Report under review is the ninth annual Report and it follows the usual pattern. It still remains merely a catalogue of figures and events, and I think that a serious attempt should now be made to produce a Report on different lines. The Report might well in future deal with a specific number of problems affecting us in Wales and indicate exactly what steps the Government have taken to solve those problems and to deal with them and, also, what they propose to do during the coming year.
It would be churlish on my part not to admit at the outset that as a catalogue the Report can be regarded as fairly good, but it does not give an account of the action of the Government. At least, it does not tell us what new things the Government have done during the past twelve months to solve the problems confronting Wales at the present time. It is a good catalogue, but that was not what we wanted or needed. What we want are accounts of the measures taken by the Government to solve our various problems. From that point of view, the Report is rather disappointing.
Let me refer to one pleasing observation in the Report. The first sentence of paragraph 8 states: 610The return of unemployment for June, 1955, shows that 14,942 persons were unemployed—the lowest number ever recorded in Wales in peacetime.That sentence should not end there. It has a very unfortunate omission. The full sentence should read:… the lowest number recorded in Wales in peacetime, thanks to the foresight, initiative and practical policy of the Labour Government.I cannot allow the present Government to take the credit for this state of affairs. The Government are reaping where they never sowed.
I should like briefly to remind the House of the position in Wales just before the war. It would be no exaggeration to say that no area in the whole of Europe was reduced to such a state of desolation as Wales during those years of Tory Government. Whole townships were unemployed, poverty was rampant. They were the days of hunger marches. Indeed, so despairing were our people that nearly a half a million of them left their native land never to return. It has been truly stated that our only export from Wales in those years was young men and young women. Fortunately for us, we saw the advent of the Labour Government in 1945 and, fortunately for us too, we had in that Government Members who had experienced and seen the depression.
What did the Labour Government do? They declared South Wales and a portion of North Wales to be Development Areas. The Labour Government compelled employers who were anxious to find factory space to go to those Development Areas. Employers went there, many of them against their will. Indeed, I rather believe that some of them are still there against their will. They went there because the Government of the day did not allow them an alternative. That was Government action with a vengeance, and it is as a direct result of that action that the Government can declare this afternoon that the number of unemployed in Wales is the lowest recorded in peacetime. I suggest that it is only by a similar policy that we can solve the unemployment, which is often referred to, which is found in North Wales. It is only along such lines that the problem can be solved.
I am far more concerned with the omissions from this year's Report than what it contains. Let me deal with one or two of them. I should have liked to have seen much more information on the serious un- 611 employment situation which we find today in Gwynedd, the counties of Merioneth, Caernarvon and Anglesey, and particularly the implications of this state of affairs, including its social implications.
In the last debate on Welsh affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), in winding up from this side, said that in losing these people from industry in North Wales and compelling them to leave their native land we were not only losing the population, but were losing also a form of culture which we wished to preserve. I want the Minister and the Government to note these social implications of the present situation in North Wales.
In last year's Report, there was a reference to the problems of local unemployment in North-West Wales. It was said quite explicitly that these problems were receiving the special attention of the Government and of the local authorities concerned; but it does not appear that these efforts have met with much success. I should like to know just where they have broken down. Where have they gone wrong? There is nothing in the Report to indicate that this special attention has been given by the Government.
This year much is being made of the two factories established at Llangefni, built with the aid of funds from the Development Commission. The larger factory is saidto be built… for occupation by a light engineering firm.I should like to know exactly what that means. We have read in the last few days of the tragic situation which is developing once again in the Nantlle Valley in Caernarvonshire, where a factory, built with Development Commission funds, is now closing.
If we examine the position closely we are forced to conclude that the main reason why it is closing is the fact that it is producing the wrong sort of article. The whole future of the unemployed of the Nantlle Valley was tied up with the defence programme, and the cutting back of defence expenditure was bound to create a worse problem than the problem originally to be solved. That is the situation one finds today in the Nantlle Valley. Is the same to happen in Llangefni? I rather suspect that it will.
612 There is no evidence in the Report that sufficient attention has been given by the Government to the possibilities of increasing employment in the basic industries of Wales or to trying to establish industries that are ancillary to the basic industries. We find in the Report that employment in the slate industry, for example, has been reduced from over 8,000 immediately before the last war to 3,400 in June, 1954. That figure is not correct now, for now it has gone down to 3,250, the lowest figure on record. We all know the difficulties of selling small slates nowadays for roofing.
This industry is in a very critical condition. Special action must be taken, and taken now, if the industry is to be saved. The question of disposing of small slates could be very soon answered if it were made possible for local authorities to have higher subsidies to slate houses, rather than to cover them with manufactured tiles. I am sure that expenditure of public moneys in that direction would be far more sensible and far better than pouring money out on factories which are going to close according to the whims of the Defence Department.
This does not mean that I am not in favour of bringing into the rural areas of Wales any type of factory that will provide employment. No. The important point is—and there is not sufficient evidence that this has been fully realised— that the first aim should be to buttres, and, if possible, expand the potentialities of the basic industries. The next step should be the establishment of industries with an ancillary relationship to the basic industries. Sometimes, of course, when the employment situation is as we find it today in the three counties I named, in Gwynedd, there is no alternative to the introduction of any type of industries. When these are introduced, however, they should have at least a measure of permanence assured them.
Another matter we should like to have had more information about in the Report is the progress made with the integration of forestry and agriculture in rural Wales, and particularly about the potentialities of developing forest work. There is no doubt that forestry can play a substantial part in the future economy of Wales, but there is very little evidence in the Report to prove that attention is being paid now to the development of the industry and, 613 in particular, to the establishment of industries which are akin, which are ancillary, to forestry. We may find, unless action is taken very soon, that all we are doing in Wales is to plant the trees, thin them, and then fell them.
We have already read in the paper that there is a massive paper mill to be established at Ellesmere Port. We have also seen that it is proposed to build a mill for converting wood into pulp. What a boon it would be for rural Wales if some of the processing work were established where the trees grow and where there is abundant labour. It would go a long way to solve the problem of the depopulation of rural Wales. It is along such lines, I believe, and along such lines only, that this problem can be solved.
The assumption is that at least 500 tons of timber will be sent weekly from Wales to Ellesmere Port. I give that figure because I read that the Chairman of the Wales Advisory Council said on this subject that he estimated that would be the quantity of timber that will be removed from Wales to Ellesmere Port weekly. Assuming that is correct, one sees the need for establishing this processing work on the spot, rather than to lumber the timber all the way to Ellesmere Port, because that transportation will create other problems.
In the winter there will be the rigours of the weather, in North Wales in particular; and in the summer it will disrupt very much the tourist industry. So everything can be said in favour of establishing the processing work on the spot rather than taking the timber all the way to Ellesmere Port. Moreover, I suggest that we can open our ports once again and resort to sea transport. I am thinking of Aberdovey, in Merioneth, an ideal port for this purpose.
It is now two years since the Government published their White Paper on Rural Wales, which, in paragraph 51 said:But the Government will have regard to the exceptional circumstances of the Welsh rural areas, and will look with special sympathy at an application for grant towards the cost of a water or sewerage scheme to serve these areas, where the scheme is necessary for strengthening the economy on the lines envisaged, and it is clear that an undue burden would otherwise fall on local rates.There is nothing in the Report to indicate that special sympathy has been given 614 to Welsh cases. Has there been any special treatment accorded to Wales? I do not mean, of course, those cases in which a promise of grant has been increased, due to increased costs; I mean where grant is higher because of the circumstances referred to in that White Paper.
I should like to deal with a number of subjects, but I cannot because I must stop soon and make way for hon. Friends of mine who are anxious to speak in this debate. I should have liked, for instance, to have dealt with roads. The Minister has given us a capital. Unlike Rome, it has no roads leading to it. After the letter which the Government sent to the local authorities last October it seems that we shall see no roads for at least the next four years, provided the present Government are in office.
There is also the question of housing. Is it not sad to relate that, in spite of the Government's boast about building houses last year, 2,400 fewer houses were built in Wales last year than were built the year before? Again, as a result of that message on action sent by the Government to the local authorities in October, how many houses shall we have built during the next twelve months?
I want to make a personal appeal to the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs. When he was appointed to his present office, we had high hopes of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. After all, he is one of us spiritually, culturally and temperamentally. I am only sorry that he finds himself with the mob opposite. Now that he is in charge of Welsh affairs I am sure that he is in a position to devote his time in the coming twelve months to solving the problem of depopulation in rural Wales. It is a sad state of affairs. The other night I was at Bala, the Athens of Wales. A small factory has been closed there and the people have had to go to Manchester to seek work.
I ask the Minister, as one who loves his native land, as I do, to see to it that, in spite of his hon. and right hon. Friends, every effort will be made during the coming twelve months to eliminate the pockets of unemployment m Merioneth, in Caernarvonshire and Anglesey. If he does that, we shall be grateful. We make that appeal to him and I hope that he will consider it seriously.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) in the debate and to congratulate him upon a very interesting speech. I do not recall a previous Welsh day in which the opening speech has embraced Bala, Aberdovey, Athens and Rome, but that was in keeping with the earlier part of the hon. Member's speech, which, I thought, was of a distinctly romantic nature.
I am sure that the hon. Member and I and all other hon. Members will share the regret that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) could not be here today to open the debate. In the choice of the hon. Member for Merioneth in his place, I hope that I do not see any symbolism that ought not to be there. It would be a pity, particularly after the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) on television the other night, to let nationalisation out of the back door in order to let Welsh nationalism in at the front.
It would be ungracious on my part if I did not start my speech by thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs for the decision which he and the Government have taken to recognise Cardiff as the capital city of Wales. This gives Wales a potentially unifying force which she has lacked in the past. She has now the chance to show whether she prefers the luxury of quarrelling over inessentials to the less glamorous and more immediate tasks of consolidation. I hope that there may be a debate upon this development before many weeks have passed, but, meanwhile, I would thank my right hon. Friends and the Government for the decision which has at last been taken and which is most welcome.
During our debate on the previous Welsh day I suggested that a Royal Commission should be appointed to examine Government administration in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) supported me with the weight of his authority, and I think that he was speaking on behalf of his party. Paragraph 4 of this year's Report on Wales and Monmouthshire states that the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire has set up a Government Administrative Panel to examine the machinery of Government administration 616 in Wales. Meanwhile, Government Departments as, for example, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, appear to be acting in advance of its recommendations with comprehensive measures of devolution of their own.
I do not quarrel with the fact that these steps should be taken, but this process of leapfrogging may render the Panel's findings out-of-date as soon as they are reached or presented. I do not believe that this Government Administration Panel is a sound alternative to a Royal Commission. I say without disrespect, having worked with many of them for quite a time, that the membership of the Advisory Council for Wales and Monmouthshire is composed very largely of professional public men who adorn so many administrative appendages in so many ways that it would be extremely difficult for them to examine the problem of devolution with the necessary detachment.
I can see positive danger in their viewpoint, because they will inevitably tend to judge devolution solely from an exclusively Welsh angle, whereas it is equally important to examine the problem from the centre as well as from the circumference. I believe that on our previous Welsh day the right hon. Member for Llanelly pointed out some of the difficulties which he had experienced when it came to devolving the operation of the scheme of National Insurance.
Devolution in itself is not necessarily good. If it makes for less competent administration it is bad. What is needed, and it is still not too late, is a Royal Commission to examine the whole question of the administration in Wales, department by department, and to embrace among other things the proliferation of councils, committees, advisory bodies and associations, many of which may well have outlived their original purpose and usefulness. Their retention may now well be considered extravagant. If a Royal Commission on Welsh administration were appointed to deal with the main problems of devolution and inter-departmental co-operation it would have the result, at the same time, of casting fresh light upon a wide range of other urgent problems. Until it is set up I cannot see that we have the necessary information for any development on a wide front.
617 I turn now to a matter concerning the Welsh Region of the B.B.C. over which, as the House knows, the Postmaster-General has definite powers. Quite recently, the Postmaster-General has threatened that he will exercise his veto to prevent party political broadcasts. In so doing he has struck a blow at the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties, as I shall endeavour to show. I should like to illustrate this point in two ways. On 17th December, four speeches of some importance were made in Wales. There was a speech by Alderman Gwynfor Evans relating largely to the constitutional position in Malta as it affects Wales. There was an interview with the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) by a person or persons unknown, and, thirdly, there was a speech about Welsh day in Parliament by the President of the Parliament for Wales Campaign.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
The hon. Gentleman will know if he consults any work of reference.
Fourthly, there was an important speech made by the Labour candidate, Mr. D. Caradog Jones, at his adoption meeting as prospective Socialist candidate for Montgomeryshire. As I might find myself out of order if I were to proceed too far with what he said, I quote shortly:The aim of the Parliament for Wales movement is to kill the Welsh Labour Party. … Half-truths and lies were being used in their propaganda, which appealed to a healthy emotion in Welsh people, for an unscrupulous end. The rank and file of the movement were guiltless, but many others were using it out of hatred for England and the English, which was a cankerous and immoral thing.… The kind of Wales they wanted was one in which lots of people were scratching for a living of any kind in the rural areas.I must pay tribute to Mr. Caradog Jones for I have never read a case put better than that. The point I am proceeding to is that when it came to the bulletin of the Welsh Region of the B.B.C. on the following Monday every one of these items was reported except the official point of view of the Labour Party. This is by no means an isolated case.
On 26th May—which, if my memory is correct, was the day after polling day— a survey was broadcast from the Home Service in which the Regions indicated how the campaign has gone. The Welsh 618 version, which was broadcast by a competent journalist who is a Welsh Nationalist, was built round two stories. The first story concerned a pensioner who complained to him of having to use the English letter "X" for voting—this, Mr. Speaker is how the Election went in Wales. The second main theme concerned an English farmer in Carmarthen voting Welsh Nationalist, to the anger of Labour voters who were made aware of the fact. I am not surprised at this. This is an account of how the country polled:This reaction a Nationalist might diagnose as shame disguised as anger.Over one-third of this broadcast was devoted to the Carmarthen election, where there was a Welsh Nationalist candidate who is described in "The TimesGuide to the House of Commons" as among other things, a broadcaster on Welsh affairs. Of course, as always happens in the south and west of Wales, she forfeited her deposit. In fact, at the last election the Welsh Nationalists polled 45,000 votes out of a total of 1,400,000 votes cast, and seven of the Welsh Nationalists who stood forfeited their deposits. Yet this programme, "How the country polled, "was put out to Wales and all over the United Kingdom.
It is true that there was one short reference to Cardiff and one to Swansea which caused me some amusement, as follows:I saw many in Cardiff who had waited until the end of the day to poll with their husbands. But, altogether, there were few favours worn, no songs were sung, and the only fighting that broke out was between rival gangs of children in Cardiff, and then it was only in mild skirmishing as if a candidate wasn't really worth a fight.I wonder whether that would have gone out if a Welsh Nationalist had been standing for every seat in Cardiff.
I do not want to take an undue proportion of the time of the House, so I have given only two examples, although scores could be given. Complaint after complaint has gone in from the great parties in Wales, but always we have run up against a series of stone-walling tactics which have got none of us anywhere. I make the direct charge in this House of Commons that there is a distinct bias on the Welsh Region of the B.B.C, in favour of Welsh Nationalism and Plaid Cymru, in favour of the Parliament of Wales Campaign and in favour of the individuals who support those movements.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Further—and I have weighed these words carefully—it is my conviction that in the news and broadcasting from Wales—though it is the news to which I am referring specifically—there is evidence of a misuse of power tantamount to a corruption of power besides which Crichel Down pales into insignificance.
I say that by suppression, selection and distortion the strength of Welsh Nationalism is exaggerated day in and day out. This is where the decision of the Postmaster-General strikes at the major parties. In a sense, then, we are having put over the air in Wales what amounts to six party political broadcasts a week in favour of the Welsh Nationalists and their allies.
This is not an isolated opinion. I am grateful to those hon. Members who have been able to indicate their support for what I am saying. This complaint crosses party barriers. I would not say that the Welsh Region was particularly hostile to the Conservative Party. In my judgment it is more hostile to the Labour Party. I say, however, it is monstrous that the wells of information which go out to the Welsh people should be poisoned at their source.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) in his remarks except to say that it is seldom, when the hon. Gentleman speaks, that I am able to say that many of my constituents support the general line of his argument. Certainly, I have come across similar complaints in all parts of my constituency.
We have before us today the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for the twelve months ended last June. It is important for us to realise that my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), who opened this debate in an exemplary speech, stated the necessary starting point of any debate on Welsh affairs.
In all parts of the House there will be agreement that it is good that unemployment in Wales has reached its lowest level in peacetime. Yet it is important for us to remember that the foundation of present Welsh prosperity is to be found 620 in the actions of the first majority Labour Government in Britain. Without the public ownership of basic industries, without the use of physical controls to steer industry to people instead of poverty and unemployment driving people to industry, this Government would not be able to report as it does in the Blue Book before us.
Sometimes members of the Conservative Party boast about the present prosperity of Wales. They seem to think that it is a miracle that they have not undone in four years what the Labour Party managed to do in six or seven. Given their past record, we can perhaps forgive them for thinking that it is a bit of a miracle. However, a glance at the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, shows that the economic reconstruction of Wales was but one part of the purpose for which the Act was designed. The other part was social reconstruction.
Whatever may be said about the Tories' failure to undo prosperity and full employment in Wales, it must be said that they have sabotaged social reconstruction. Page 40 of the Report on Government Action says:During the year no new water supply or sewerage scheme qualified for grant under the Act.That is the Distribution of Industry Act. What the Government really mean is that since the Tory Government's iniquitious circular in June, 1952, the circular which suspended grants of 80 or 100 per cent., no schemes have qualified for grant.
In view of the recent Report on Development Areas by the Select Committee on Estimates, we remember with some trepidation that it was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer who was the Minister responsible for issuing that circular which has sabotaged highly necessary public enterprises in the Welsh mining and other areas, enterprises which are necessary because of the stagnation and decay of pre-war times.
To take another example, page 28 of the Report contains this banal statement:In January, 1955, the Remploy Corporation decided not to extend its activities for the time being.Everyone knows that the truth is that in its economy campaign and in building up resources with which to cut the standard rate of Income Tax by 6d. last April, the Tory Government lopped 621 £300,000 from the estimates for Remploy for 1955–56. With that came the Ministry of Labour's announcement that there would be a general embargo on taking new entrants into Remploy.
I beg the Minister for Welsh Affairs to realise his special responsibility in matters of this kind. The nature of Welsh industry means that the incidence of severely disabled workers is greater in Wales than in most parts of the United Kingdom. I beg him to recognise, when these mean and contemptible cuts at the expense of the disabled come before the Cabinet, that as Minister for Welsh Affairs he has a special responsibility to defend the Welsh people from this kind of action.
In my constituency is one of the largest Remploy factories, now employing between 160 and 170 persons. It is clear that but for this last cut in the Government's subsidy to Remploy that factory would be employing 20 to 30 more disabled persons and that the problem in mid-Glamorgan would probably be substantially solved.
I take housing as my third illustration. The Report happily sets out the number of houses which have been built. The statistics themselves have had a good kick in the pants from my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth. We should remember that when the Report was being prepared the Government were plotting their attack on housing subsidies. I beg the Minister for Welsh Affairs to realise that though the Government's housing policy is a tragedy for the whole of the United Kingdom it is even worse for most parts of Wales, because stagnation and decay in the inter-war years meant substantially less house building in Wales than in more fortunate parts of the United Kingdom.
In my constituency are three mining valleys. On a population basis, those three mining valleys from the end of the First World War to the outbreak of the Second World War built but one-quarter of the council houses built in Britain as a whole. The need is, therefore, greater and the cut in subsidies and the rise in interest rates are even more pernicious in their effect on those areas than on the country generally.
It is all very well for the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make speeches about the rise in rents each year 622 if the cut in subsidies and the rise in interest rates are equally spread over all existing council houses. But the fact is that in the inter-war period many parts of Wales were building at only one-quarter of the rate of Britain as a whole. That means that there are fewer houses over which to spread the increase, even if that policy were accepted. The Minister's figure of 7d. per house per year bears no relation to the facts in the Maesteg, Garw, and Ogmore Valleys.
I want to emphasise the importance of social reconstruction not only in promoting a full life for our people, but also in its impact on Britain's economic future. Without an abundant supply of coal, Britain cannot solve its economic problems. The valleys in my constituency are narrow and precipitous. It is one thing to spend about £500,000 modernising the Ffaldau Colliery; but when that is accompanied by an interpretation of the Distribution of Industry Act which means that grants are not forthcoming for providing amenities—I refer, in particular, to the scheme for the Waunbant Recreation Ground—when it is accompanied by savage cuts in housing subsidies and rises in interest rates, it means that there will still be difficulty in maintaining an adequate supply of manpower, no matter what capital sums are spent on re-equipping the mines. In other words, there is a close connection between the provision of social amenities on the one hand and coal output and economic prosperity on the other.
I made a passing reference to the recent Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. No doubt the House will have a further opportunity to discuss that Report in detail. There are, however, one or two points which I should like to make. In that Report is the statement that State-provided factories account for only 5 per cent. of employment in the Development Areas. Of course, averages are very dangerous. In my own constituency the figure is not 5 per cent. Making allowances for the employment of persons who reside outside my constituency, about 15 per cent. of the insured workpeople in my constituency are engaged in State-provided factories, including the Bridgend Trading Estate. If one makes allowance for the multiplier effect, to use Keynesian language, or, in simpler terms, the snowball effect of full-employment on wages, and the prosperity of ancillary industries, 623 it would not be an exaggeration to say that without the special assistance of State-provided factories there would be mass unemployment in the Ogmore division today.
I would warn against any tendency to try to redraw the boundaries of Development Areas on the basis of unemployment figures for this or that district. In the examination of witnesses by the Select Committee, reference is made to my own constituency, and it shows that the unemployment figure now oscillates around the national average. Next door to the Ogmore Valley is the Rhondda Valley, and marginally, at any rate, the Bridgend Trading Estate will draw labour from the Rhondda Valley, and there the unemployment figure is three or four times what it is in the Ogmore constituency. Moreover, I think that we should be on our guard against any claim that the industries in the Development Areas are now strong enough to stand on their own feet.
It is true that, in the main, the new industries which have been steered into the Development Areas, including South Wales, have done fairly well. That is a tribute not only to public enterprise, but to private enterprise as well. But we have been living in a period of brimful employment with inflationary tendencies. When one remembers that many of these industries have been established in areas without that particular kind of industrial tradition, and when one remembers also that, quite often, they are branches of firms with the parent factory in England, one would be rash to assume that, if unfavourable economic breezes began to blow, it would not be necessary to use the full powers of the Distribution of Industry Act to preserve them.
I make a particular appeal for a realistic view of the accounts. I cannot resist the temptation to believe that the Treasury, and with it our own Select Committee, tend to regard the finances of the Development Areas in much the same light as one would regard the finances of a fried fish and chip shop. In other words, there is an attempt to draw up a narrow account in terms of income and expenditure. I am glad to see in the Select Committee's Report what is called a "cleaned-up" balance sheet for the Bridgend Trading Estate. I think that 624 there is something to be said for an attempt to separate social expenditure from economic expenditure, although I am rather doubtful as to how far that will provide a measure of efficiency as between one trading estate and another.
When we look at the balance sheet for the Bridgend Trading Estate we find that the capital figure is about £400,000 We find in another part of the Report that the Board of Trade expenditure in the post-war period has been £55 million or £56 million. What we ought to realise is that if unemployment rates had continued at even 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. in the Development Areas, the cost to the nation would be enormously greater.
May I give one illustration? When my association with the Ogmore constituency started in 1949, the unemployment figure was about 5 per cent. It is now just over 1 per cent. That decrease was due to the vigorous activity between 1948 and 1952. It means that 1,000 fewer persons are now unemployed in my constituency, and, on the most conservative estimate, that represents a saving of about £150,000 a year to the Government in unemployment benefits, National Assistance benefits, and so on. I would say that it is quite useless for us to attempt financial calculations with regard to the Development Areas as part of general economic planning on the simple bookkeeping arrangements of a small retail business.
I hope that when the House discusses the future of the Development Areas, with special reference to the Select Committee's Report, we shall bear in mind not only the magnificent contribution of the Distribution of Industry Act and the scheduling of areas as Development Areas as a means of providing employment, but also the contra-items of Government economy which must be set against expenditure incurred. I trust, therefore, that in this debate my colleagues from South Wales mining areas will emphasise, first, the need to continue with the policy inaugurated by the Labour Government with regard to the scheduling of the areas under the Distribution of Industry Act and the provision of employment, and, secondly, that they will emphasise the need to end Tory meanness and cheeseparing with regard to the provision of amenities and social reconstruction.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I hope that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) will forgive me if I do not follow him in all the matters dealt with in his speech, and if I follow instead the remarks of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). There was, however, a similarity between the two speeches. Both hon. Gentlemen paid lip-service to the fact that the unemployment situation in Wales at present is lower than it has ever been before in peacetime, but, of course, they—and one can quite understand it from their point of view—gave their own party reasons why it was so. The hon. Member for Merioneth mentioned, in particular, the Development Areas, which, he said, was a policy carried out by the Labour Administration. The hon. Member for Ogmore mentioned, in addition, the nationalisation of the basic industries in Wales.
I do not think that they were being particularly fair to the Report, because they will recollect from the Report that, in fact, the healthiest industry in Wales, which is surpassing all production records and which has the highest employment figure, is the iron and steel industry—the one which, they will recollect on thinking back four or five years, they were most anxious themselves to nationalise. The hon. Member for Merioneth, too, who paid such particular attention to the work of the Labour Government in the Development Areas, will not forget the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Acts before the war, and neither will he forget that it was as a result of Coalition endeavour, about 1944, that there was such a quick move in the Development Areas after the war.
The hon. Member for Merioneth talked, in particular, about the unemployment problem which we have in Northwest Wales, a problem of which we all know and one which has been ventilated in this House many times of late. He mentioned, especially, three things. He said that it was necessary, first, to expand the basic industries. He did not suggest how that should be done, apart from saying that more houses should be roofed with smaller slates. He will appreciate that the expansion of the slate industry is one which presents many difficult problems and, also, that in the slate industry in North Wales more workers could be taken on. It is not merely the 626 expansion of the industry which is the solution to this very difficult problem.
The hon. Gentleman then mentioned— and I entirely agree with him—that it was most important to have ancillary industries to the natural and basic resources of the area. He referred to the pulp and paper mills, and, lastly, talked about the Development Areas in South Wales and said that only a similar policy will solve the problem in North Wales. That is an interesting thought. Unfortunately, he did not assist the House by saying what he meant by a "similar policy." This is a difficult problem and we would have appreciated a specific illustration of what he meant by those words.
We are prohibited in this debate from suggesting legislation. Therefore, we must discuss the situation as it obtains now. The Board of Trade has been very well acquainted with the problem. It has conducted a survey of the area and expressed its views. We have been told that in its view it is not appropriate to schedule the area as a Development Area, but it says that it realises that industry must be attracted to the district. In the Report we are discussing today there are specific instances where the Development Commission has financially assisted in the building of factories, and it appears that the policy of the Board of Trade in this matter is to attract industry to North-West Wales by the offer of assistance in building factories from the Development Commission funds.
The question which people from that area want answered is, "Is that policy sufficient?" One can fully understand the point of view of the Board of Trade. It says that it will do all it can to attract industrialists to the area. There are in the area excellent attractions. There is a supply of labour, a natural water supply and many sites; but are those sufficient? Can we attract industry to the area on those features alone? There is a natural reluctance on the part of industrialists to go to a remote area where there is, or is thought to be, a declining economy.
For instance, on the borders of my constituency, in Mochdre, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans), industrialists are taking up sites for industry. But they are in a very easily accessible area with good services, and the unemployment situation is not grave. In one factory in 627 Mochdre which employs girls they nearly all come by bus daily from the constituency of the hon. Member for Merioneth, from as far away as Blaenau Festiniog. It is easy to attract industries to areas like that in North Wales, but it is difficult to get them west and north of Bangor and to Merioneth. The Board of Trade is doing all it can. Indeed, I think that hon. Gentlemen who represent these areas in North Wales will agree that the present Controller of the Board of Trade in Wales has been extremely helpful.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Would the hon. Gentleman mention one or two of the things that the Board of Trade has done to bring industry to the area?
§ Mr. Thomas
Yes. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop the point, I am saying that the Board of Trade is doing what it can.
§ Mr. Thomas
Its powers are limited, and it is on this question of limited powers that I want to address the House. It is unable to give any financial assistance to the industrialists who come to the area. Factories can be built by funds provided by the Development Commission but, after that, the Board of Trade can do no more.
The second point is that if the area merits special attention—and we are all agreed that it does—then special attention should be given not only by the Board of Trade but by other Government Departments. On that point, I suggest that there should be special attention and special priority in the form of Government contracts. If an industry of a nature alien to the general economy of an area is introduced, and, in particular, when public funds are spent on the erection of a factory, special priority should be given to the industry in Government contracts. The hon. Member for Merioneth mentioned Penygroes and Llangefni. He said that the Development Commission had spent public funds building factories. A factory has been built in Penygroes and one is in process of 628 being built in Llangefni. He said that the Penygroes factory is closing.
§ Mr. Thomas
It has just closed.
The hon. Member for Merioneth queried whether the same might happen in Llangefni. One of those factories was, and the other will be, under the control of a company which has been operating to the great benefit of the community in North Wales for the last four or five years. I do not blame that company for the closing of the factory in Penygroes. It has closed temporarily because a Government contract has come to an end. It is my opinion that the Ministry of Supply, knowing that that industry was introduced into the area to deal with a special problem, should have assisted it by a continuation of Government contracts until such time as it would stand on its own feet.
The same applies to Llangefni. That company is going there because it was promised a contract worth a great deal of money. I am told that that contract now will not materialise. Before the company has moved in the contract no longer exists. I ask the Ministry of Supply to pay special attention to this matter. If the Board of Trade thinks that there is a special problem which merits the spending of public funds to build factories in an area, then the Ministry of Supply should do all it can to assist those factories by giving them priority in Government contracts.
I said—and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr, C. Hughes) asked me a specific question about it—that the Board of Trade is doing as much as it can. I think that that is true, but it is limited by reason of the fact that once the Board has attracted industry to the area and housed that industry, it has no powers to do anything else.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
The Board has not attracted any industries into the area. It has not done anything at all.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman says that it has not attracted any industry in the area. But he knows very well of the two factories built at Llangefni by funds from the Development Commission.
§ Mr. Thomas
I know that the hon. Gentleman feels that the Board of Trade could do more. We shall be pleased to hear him speak later in the debate, when he can tell us what more the Board of Trade can do than it is doing at the moment with its existing powers.
I wish to put forward some suggestions, because I think that this problem requires to be met, not by the type of criticism which we heard from the hon. Member for Merioneth, who gave us no constructive ideas at all, but by suggestions to the Government from hon. Members representing the area about what may be done to ease the situation. We have been told by the Board of Trade, after it had completed a survey, that it was not possible to schedule this area as a Development Area under the Distribution of Industry Acts. Many people have accepted that view and said that they could understand it. In fact, hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, "Yes, we can understand the difficulty of scheduling this area as a Development Area."
But I wish to ask the Board of Trade what is the test today for scheduling an area as a Development Area. What are the considerations which are taken into account? Are they the same as those which obtained at the time when we had Special Areas and in 1945, when the Distribution of Industry Act was passed? If they are the same considerations, there is no area in the whole of Britain which could be scheduled as a Development Area.
Today, the Development Areas in Britain are developed. The old Special Areas are no longer distressed. Is the standard today the standard of the old Distressed Areas, or what is the present standard? In any event the principles of the Acts have not changed and, in my view, they should be applied to this area. As I see it, these are the principles: where there was, or was likely to be, a special danger of unemployment in an area, advantages should be given to potential employers so that they might be attracted to settle in the area.
What are the advantages? First, a potential employer is offered a supply of skilled and unskilled labour. Secondly, and on occasions, he is given a ready-made factory, or else there are factory sites available. Thirdly, in certain cases he has priority in Government contracts, 630 and, fourthly—and this is the most important—he can receive loans from the Government. The difficulty is that unless the area is scheduled as a Development Area the Board of Trade, through the Treasury, cannot assist industry which goes there. I should like my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to look at this matter again. I put forward these suggestions as a possible solution to some of our unemployment problem in that area.
I think that two or three small industries should be grouped together in certain strategic points in Gwynedd. I think that now we must accept the fact that we cannot have industry coming to every little village, and that people must be prepared to travel to work—indeed, they do so now. I suggest that there should be a small group of industries placed at certain central points. To be secure, because that is so important, these industries should be something of the nature of the industries mentioned by the hon. Member for Merioneth. They should be of a diversified nature and, if possible, ancillary to the basic industries and natural resources of the area.
If we are to have such industries, they will probably require a certain amount of financial assistance at the beginning. It may well be that the available labour will not be so skilled as to make the operations productive in the first years, and, therefore, they will need assistance to get over that initial hurdle. The only way in which this problem may be tackled is for those central points to be chosen and scheduled as Development Areas. Under the Act there is no need for a whole area to be scheduled as a Development Area. In fact, we find that often individual villages are mentioned, particularly in the Wrexham area.
The location of this central point is a matter for discussion, but, possibly, Caernarvon itself could take a small group of industries, which could serve Llanberis and Lleyn; in the same way Bethesda could deal with the Ogwen Valley and Llengefni could deal with Anglesey. A Gwynedd industrial estates corporation could be formed which could deal with those industries, and the industries eventually could be absorbed into the national economy of the area.
We in this House are all agreed on the necessity for preserving the life of this 631 historic and deserving part of Wales. We are grateful for what has been done and I do not wish my hon. Friend to think that we are not. There is no doubt that it has been a help to us, but I fear that it has not been a solution to our problem. More will have to be done and I hope that the few suggestions that I have put forward will be considered by my right hon. and gallant Friend.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail. On other occasions I have drawn attention to one specific subject to which I wish to refer today, the iron and steel and tinplate trade of South Wales. We produce 90 per cent. of the tinplate, and of late years have demonstrated to the world what marvellous steps can be taken in the direction of improving industry and output for the benefit of the nation. I make no apology for raising this question again. We can talk about the facilities for the development of amenities in Wales, and for the preservation of its language and characteristics, but if the life-blood of industry is not flowing we are attacking that task in vain. I want to refer briefly to a specific topic concerning this industry.
At the moment it is at the very height of success. It is breaking all previous records and providing employment for everyone who wishes to work in a tinplate mill. We have 600 Italians living there quite peaceably and happily, and performing a very useful task in supplying our customers with the tinplate they require. The Wales and Monmouthshire Report states that the fears of redundancy in the tinplate trade have not yet been realised. That is quite true. On that text I should like to address to the Minister and the Joint Under-Secretary a little Welsh sermon. We had fears of redundancy and, on the advice of the experts, the majority of the tinplate works were closed down. That was a great mistake. I hope that the Minister will not be so anxious to listen to the advice of the so-called experts in this connection.
There is a story connected with this development which I should like to repeat, because it has a basic moral. When the new strip mill at Margam was erected, the 632 original plan was to have two cold reducing plants, one in Swansea and one in Llanelly. The experts again said, "No; one will be sufficient." The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Gren-fell)—the Father of the House—and myself met the Government of the day. We told them very definitely—and I spoke with knowledge of the trade—that one works would never suffice, but the experts said it would.
Then there was a fight between my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and my hon. Friends who represented Swansea constituencies as to who was to have the works. Llanelly won. Why? When we met Sir Stafford Cripps he said, "We know the Swansea claim has most advantages; it is the better site, and transport charges will be lower. But the Government's function is not only to encourage industrial development; it is primarily to safeguard sociological and community interests. It will cost more to produce the plate at Llanelly, but a sociological problem exists there, and it is the function of the Government to see that community interests in the area are maintained and insulated from any industrial storm that might occur."
Is that the accepted principle of the Government? Is it the basis upon which this Government are proceeding? Do they approach these industrial problems in the same light. I think they do; at least, I hope they do. We must hold the balance and decide. The experts have now been proved wrong about Margam, and the second works is being built, and will start this year. But some very expensive years have been lost. What has happened in the meantime? We have had to import tinplate from America at enormous cost, in order to maintain our market until our own is ready. The Government should not pay too much attention to the views of experts, and I suggest that they obtain the advice of somebody who has an industrial background.
What has become of the Lloyd Committee? Is it dead? I know that it made valuable reports to the Minister, although I do not know the details of them. It was said that the Blaenavon Steel Works were closing down, having been sold for scrap to Thomas Wall. South Wales has 633 a problem which is causing grave concern to the small manufacturers of angles and rods. There is room in South Wales for more than one section mill. I have sheaves of correspondence from firms who are anxious to develop. They have to pay enormous prices ranging from £10 to £15 per ton for foreign steel—if they can get it—or for home-produced steel.
The Government should have the power to inform the people concerned that there is a demand for their products. The plant is there. As I have said on more than one occasion, to change it into a section mill would be a very cheap transaction, compared with costs in industry generally. The only thing needed is to change the housings in the mill. If that were done angles, small girders and rods could be rolled. But how can the Government use directives now? They have sacrificed their most effective weapon. After denationalising the steel trade they cannot issue directives because they have no power to do so.
Mr. Hickery, of Newport, who knows the South Wales steel and tinplate trade from A to Z, stressed the present need to bring steel sections from other parts of the country, and said that the delay involved meant extra cost and delay in deliveries. He believed that there was a sufficient demand in South Wales to justify the laying down of a new section mill. Why do not the Government take a step in that direction? I know that the Report says that some inquiries have been made at the Blaenavon works, but are those inquiries directed into the proper channels? The men who make these sections and fabricate them into buildings and roofs not only have to pay this extra cost; their allocation is now on the 1948 basis, which is wrong for a Development Area.
I do not know what hope we can have. Perhaps none at all. The steel trade is being transferred back to private owners. Who is doing it? People who believe in the community and the sociological aspect? No. They believe in private industry and financiers. The big fish are being considered. We see in the papers how it is being done. I warn the Government that in South Wales we know what will happen. The blow must fall, and it can be tempered only by Government action.
We do not know when the world demand for tinplate will recede. Although 634 we welcome the establishment of these industries, they do not absorb all the manpower. Thousands of men in South Wales today come to me or go to their trade union and ask, "Can you get me a job in Valindra? I am 50 years old and I have always worked in tinplate." They discover that that is not the kind of labour which is required.
I hope that the Government will be alive to this problem. I hope the Minister can just draw aside the curtain. He may say, "The distress is not there now. There is regular employment and good wages." Always, in the back of our minds, is the fear of what may happen. Can the Minister give us a word of hope and say that these questions are being considered by the Government, I hope from the same standpoint as they were considered by the previous Government? When the works were moved to Llanelly it was not because it was more profitable but because there was a community and sociological angle. That is the guiding principle.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
I am sure that we all listened to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) with great interest. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him. I would rather speak about rural Wales than about the steel industry of South Wales. One point in the hon. Gentleman's speech in which all Welshmen are particularly interested arose out of what he said about the joyous co-operation of Italian workers in his industry. I wish other sections of industry not only in South Wales but in Britain would take a leaf out of the book of the joyous workers in the tinplate industry.
The debate has been comparatively happy so far. On previous occasions we have heard a tale of gloom from hon. Members opposite when discussing this Annual Report and sometimes we did not recognise that we had been reading the same Report as they had. Today the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) said that he was not going to be churlish, and he certainly was not. Generally speaking, we are enjoying a higher standard of life in Wales than ever before. I would not like to change the phrase too much, but I will say that Wales is becoming a country fit for Welshmen to live in. Almost all the Report bears this out. Employment figures are the best ever.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I said "generally speaking." This is a good Report of solid success and progress over the last twelve months, even in agriculture. The Report tells of the gloomy weather of the previous year, but of great advances in employment. I am sure we all appreciated the constructive speech of the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas). Most of us who live in North Wales are desperately anxious about the livelihood of those who live in the remoter communities. Six years ago I tried to persuade the late Sir Stafford Cripps to extend the idea of the Development Area to the remoter valleys where unemployment was prevalent, but it was acknowledged that the difficulties were too great.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
In fairness to Sir Stafford Cripps and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), who had something to do with it, may I ask whether it is not a fact that they substituted for scheduling those areas the use of the Development Commission and its financial resources to build advance factories, two of which have been mentioned today, in Penygroes and Llangefni? The argument today for the scheduling of these areas arises from the experience which was so well described by the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas).
§ Mr. Garner Evans
Yes, I agree but it is rather late to talk in that way. I am referring to 1950. I was asking an extension of the Development Area to the Ceiriog Valley where, at the time, there was a pocket of unemployment. It seemed to us easy, on the map, to bring it into the Wrexham area. I am delighted that the Development Fund has now been used. We must all pay a tribute to my right hon. and gallant Friend's father who, as far back as 1909 or 1910, in a Finance Act, set aside this Development Fund to be available for the solving of problems like this, in rural areas. We must acknowledge the foresight of my right hon. and gallant Friend's illustrious father in this respect.
We have pockets of unemployment in my division, and a serious one is arising in the Tanat Valley. The Board of Trade has done all it can to survey the area 636 but it has no power, even with the resources of the Development Fund, which are very small, to do much to help. I hope that the suggestions of the hon. Member will be followed up.
The two subjects to which I want to refer relate to rural Wales. I hoped that this afternoon would be an opportunity to discuss the Wynne Finch Report on Welsh Lands and the stabilising of our agricultural industry in the upland areas. It is one of the most excellent reports that has yet come our way. Whether or not we shall later have an opportunity to discuss it in detail I do not know, but I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission for their thorough, painstaking work. Their recommendations are worthy of the fullest consideration.
The problem confronting the Sub-Commission was how to bring about stability in agriculture in our more remote upland areas. The conclusion reached is that if the people in those areas are to enjoy a reasonably high standard of living there will have to be larger farming units. All the recommendations are very helpful, and throughout the Report there was not one word about compulsion. The idea that any governmental body can compel the amalgamation of farms or that one or other Ministry can grab land from a farmer is completely absent. All the recommendations are based on the idea of helpful co-operation between the parties concerned. In this connection I think that we owe a great debt of gratitude to Lord Kilmuir for having killed once and for all, I hope, the idea that the Forestry Commission or any Government Department can grab Welsh land by compulsory acquisition.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
We will come to them later—but there will not be many of them left, I am afraid.
The second point which the Report makes is that if we are to develop our agricultural resources in these areas, the basic services—roads, telephones, educational facilities and the like—must go ahead of any reorganisation of the upland regions. This is a new conception. Hitherto we have thought that if there is 637 a certain agricultural community prospering here or there we might construct a few roads, or install electricity supplies, but here are envisaged basic services provided ahead of the amalgamation of our farming units.
Roads are most important. All who live in rural Wales know that the inadequacy of our roads is probably the greatest hindrance to agricultural development. I am sorry to make a criticism of the Report, but I see that although the amount of money spent by the Government last year on the maintenance of roads has remained static the amount supplied last year for the improvement of roads was less than in the previous year.
I hope that the very fullest use will be made of the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act to improve road facilities in Wales. There will be at the disposal of the local authorities a sum of £4 million for the improvement of unclassified and unadopted roads, and I hope that there will be the very closest co-operation between the agricultural executive committees and the highway authorities in the various counties to see that that money is used rapidly to develop our communications.
The Report speaks of electrical development, and we in North Wales are pleased to see the good job being done there to provide electricity supplies in the rural areas. Solid progress is reported, but I should like to see more co-operation between the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board and the agricultural community. I know that the consultative committee works reasonably well but there is often the feeling that agricultural interests are ignored.
In that part of Wales we work on the block system—we decide that in a given period a certain block of territory will get electrical development—but very often the development blue-print turns out to be so rigid that one finds farming communities just beyond the line drawn on the plan being deprived of electrical services. There is nothing more frustrating than to be a farmer within sight of pylons—or even, as happens in some cases, with the pylons on one's own land—and very often to be within sight of electric light, but not to have for oneself the electrical services. I hope that there will be greater co- 638 operation here between M.A.N.W.E.B. and the agricultural executive committees. Much the same thing applies to telephone development. If only the Post Office people could feel that a revolution is going on in the Welsh agricultural industry and that they are part and parcel of a new development, they could be rather more helpful in the provision of telephone services. Again, one often feels that the local authorities responsible for the extension of water supplies do not yet realise that a revolution is taking place in farming in the upland areas. If only they could be imbued with a new spirit much greater and faster development could be undertaken.
Another aspect of Welsh rural life is the future of our language. The hon. Member for Swansea, East said that in South Wales there still exists the fear of unemployment. He said that that was, and possibly still is, the greatest bogy in some of our industrial areas. I am convinced that the real fear, which in certain sections of Wales today gives rise to a rather petulant nationalism, is the fear that we shall lose our language and our culture. For many of us in the Welsh-speaking areas that is the greatest fear.
I should like to receive an assurance from the Government that everything possible will be done to encourage and extend the use of the Welsh language. It is the greatest inheritance of our nation and the very basis of our culture. I think I heard the hon. Member for Cardiff, West say that there is nothing to stop us, but at present there are several things which do stop us.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I scarcely think so, although I have never known the hon. Member to be extremely eager or keen on the preservation of the Welsh language, which he does not possess, or its extension into his own vocabulary.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
The main bulwark of the Welsh language in the last hundred 639 years, and possibly more, has been organised religion in Wales, and because we as a Welsh people have failed the Church, the Church is now failing to act as the chief medium for the preservation of our language and our culture. We have to find other instruments, and there are two already at hand—education and broadcasting. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West says there is nothing to prevent us from extending the use of the Welsh language, but I wonder whether there is sufficient teaching of Welsh in the schools of Wales today.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I entirely share the hon. Gentleman's view, but I remind him that it was the Carmarthenshire authority, with a Labour majority, which first established Welsh schools in Wales.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
May I remind the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that the first Welsh school was established voluntarily in the county of Cardigan?
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
The foremost county in education matters, Glamorganshire, have several Welsh schools.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
May I remind the House that there is no need to establish Welsh schools in Anglesey because everybody there speaks Welsh?
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I should hate to enter the deep controversy on this issue, but when the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) says Carmarthenshire was first and the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) says Cardigan was first, I wonder to which century they are going back. If we go back to the 17th century we find the history of the establishment of Welsh schools, but at the moment I am discussing the use of Welsh in schools and suggesting that the teaching of Welsh should be encouraged even more than it is at present and the standard raised.
The second point is the establishment of Welsh schools throughout Wales. While there is a need for such schools in Carmarthenshire, I should not have 640 thought there was so much need in Cardigan, where Welsh is the language of the home. In areas which are predominantly English-speaking, there is surely a need for the establishment of Welsh schools for the children up to the age of eight and, possibly, eleven.
Great stress is being laid these days on technical education. Hitherto far too much stress has been laid on grammar school education in Wales, but nevertheless one of the most depressing things is that boys and girls from Welsh homes— Welsh-speaking boys and girls—often have no knowledge of the history of their own country, literature and language, because at eleven or twelve years old they are given a choice between Welsh and French or some other modern language. I would almost wish to make it compulsory that all Welsh-speaking children should be given a course in Welsh history and Welsh literature, even if they choose also some other modern language, such as German or French.
Let us consider broadcasting. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) has already had a few kind words to say on the subject of the Welsh B.B.C. He discussed it from the point of view of political education and I want to discuss it from the point of view of the re-education of Welsh people in their own tradition, culture and language. I agree with almost every word he said about the political influences now at work in the Welsh B.B.C, in Cardiff. I was delighted to see that pretty well every hon. Member agreed wholeheartedly with him in his denunciation of some of the activities of the Welsh B.B.C. In fact, there was such unanimity that an inquiry is called for into the political bias now shown in that office. A full and impartial enquiry should be held into the subject.
On the other hand, how many people can hear the Welsh programmes, in any event? We have heard earlier today about jamming Athens Radio in Cyprus, but we know that the reception of the Welsh programmes in Wales is still lamentably bad. The answer, of course, lies in V.H.F., but that will be an expensive business. Two years ago my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan suggested that as V.H.F. was developed certain financial arrangements should be made whereby the people could 641 get their new sets at a moderate charge, for it costs about £30 to get a new V.H.F. set. I doubt very much whether it is possible to differentiate in the purchase of sets between Wales and England, but I suggest that Purchase Tax should be taken off new V.H.F. sets throughout the United Kingdom. Why should we have a tax on such a medium of education and culture as the radio? I think Purchase Tax on these sets should be abolished completely.
I have one or two other suggestions to make, and one is that there should be an improvement in the quality of the Welsh Home Service. I do not say that, generally speaking, the Welsh Home Service is not providing a reasonably good service, considering the amount of money that it has to spend, but if we are to preserve our culture I think a larger grant should be made to the Welsh Home Service in order that it might develop greater quality and thereby attract a larger listening public.
Another small suggestion concerns television sets. Many television sets are now being bought in Wales and the sound on television sets is, of course, on V.H.F. Why should not a television set, already equipped with a V.H.F. receiver, have the wave band extended so that it can take in not only the sound for television programmes but also for the Welsh Home Service? Those are some of the suggestions I made for developing our educational and broadcasting services so as to maintain and increase use of the Welsh language and culture and to make sure that future generations shall enjoy what many of us have enjoyed by being brought up in that language.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I am very grateful for the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans). He spoke for a long time; I only wish he had had something to say.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) referred graciously at the beginning of his speech to the fact that Cardiff is now the capital city of Wales. I welcome the opportunity of associating myself at once with the expression of pride which the city feels at this honour which has been conferred upon it. The people of the City of Cardiff are mindful 642 of the high privilege which they enjoy in living in a city which is the capital of a country with such a rich history. I am only surprised that the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs, having the opportunity of announcing this honour to Cardiff and to Wales, should have slipped it in among Written Answers to Questions almost as if he were announcing the opening of a little shop in a back street.
§ Mr. Thomas
I always think in terms of opening. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will know how grateful we are for the decision which was reached, but I cannot help commenting on the lack of Parliamentary occasion which there was for such an important announcement to the country of which he is a not undistinguished son.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I should say that it was not altogether my fault that it was not a Parliamentary occasion. This debate was to have been held before Christmas and it was not my wish that it was postponed.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am grateful for the decision that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reached, although I think he might have made his statement after Questions and given us an opportunity then.
I took advantage of the opportunity of looking at the Report of Government Action for the year ended 30th June. 1954, and examined against that background the Report of Government Action for the year ended 30th June, 1955. In 1954, in regard to the South Wales ports, the Government said:Cargoes discharged or shipped at Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Barry, Port Talbot, Penarth or Briton Ferry during 1953 amounted in all to 21,734,304 tons—3.9 per cent. less than the total for the previous year.This year the Government report that the total was less than for last year. We are dealing here with an ever-declining figure. Last year the Minister deplored the fact that the number of vessels arriving at the South Wales docks fell below the previous year's figures. This vear he again 643 deplores the fact that the figure has fallen below last year's figure. I feel that the Government have a serious obligation to look at this question of life in the South Wales ports.
I understand that last year we imported into this country roughly 12 million tons of coal, and of that amount only ½.million tons was imported through the South Wales ports. Last week, in the important Adjournment debate raised by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), it was made perfectly clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that 600 coal trimmers in the City of Cardiff realise that their livelihood is in danger. Since the National Coal Board has a decisive power as to the ports which shall be used for the importation of foreign coal, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Board to see that a greater proportion of the coal which we shall import comes through the South Wales ports? Will he see that our manpower is used in coal trimming facilities equally for import as for export purposes? That might well be a means of helping us in the City of Cardiff.
I shall not pursue the question of the ports in view of the debate we had last week but, I hope the Minister will not feel that there is any room for complacency about the trade there. In Cardiff, in particular, I have much admired the way in which business people at the docks and the local authority representatives have been co-operating, with the assistance of Members of Parliament for the South Wales area, in seeking solutions to this problem. British Railways has been very helpful. Recently there was a conference at Cardiff at which one of the chief officers of British Railways met representatives of industry and commerce in Cardiff and serious discussion took place on the question of an alteration of freight rates.
I see that hope is held out in the Report that something might be possible in that regard. I earnestly hope that the Minister will lend his full support to a reconsideration of freight rates where that can help us, as well as bringing pressure to bear upon the shipowners, in Cardiff particularly, to alter their rates to make it a little more attractive for exports to take place from the City of Cardiff.
644 In passing, I would say that if the Report on the Distribution of Industries Act were acted upon it could well prove catastrophic for the City of Cardiff. I speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East and myself—and, I trust, for the hon. Member for Cardiff, North—when I say that we will have no part at all in any alteration of that Act, or any lessening of its powers. We reject completely any suggestion that there should be a weakening in that regard.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North speaks as the Member for the constituency in which I live. I am not saying that he is here with my support, but, since he is here, we accept him. The hon. Member has held the office of Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department with special responsibility for Welsh affairs. Therefore, when he speaks on Welsh affairs, he does so with a background of knowledge. It is common knowledge that very often I disagree with his conclusions, but I realise that he is very careful in collecting facts. It pays before we make a serious statement in this House to be sure of the ground on which we tread.
The hon. Member, who is not a man of straw in politics—or in anything else —the hon. Member, whose political words in Wales are listened to with respect as coming from his own party, has made more serious charges against the B.B.C. in Wales than have ever been made in this House before. He has indicated that it is corrupting the minds of Welsh people and that there is an unfair bias politically. I shall give my view in a moment. The Minister cannot ignore this serious charge made by a former Joint Under-Secretary in the very office which the Minister now holds.
It is seven years since I felt it incumbent upon me to make a complaint of political bias to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who was then Lord President of the Council and spoke in the House for the B.B.C. I remember sending to him a copy of a news bulletin given out as an impartial statement of news by the B.B.C. in Wales but which was dripping with Welsh Nationalist propaganda from the first word to the last.
It is significant that if hon. Members tend to Nationalism in their speeches, they 645 are well reported from Cardiff and Bangor, but if they are not given to supporting the Parliament for Wales campaign, if they follow their own party to which they have pledged their loyalty, by and large they are ignored by the Welsh B.B.C. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North has made what may well prove to be the most important speech today. I think he has adduced sufficient evidence of a prima facie case for the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of the Welsh Service of the B.B.C. Surely, nothing less would give satisfaction. Let this Commission search through the records of the past five years or more and, in my opinion, the bias to which reference has been made will soon be perfectly clear. I therefore add my support to the plea of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North that the Minister shall give the House the fullest assurance that an inquiry will be made into the use of time by the Welsh B.B.C.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I do not dissent from anything that the hon. Member has said on this subject except that from my own point of view I would not be inclined to press my right hon. and gallant Friend for a reply tonight. He might well wish to discuss the matter with the Postmaster-General, for example, and let the House know his views at a later date.
§ Mr. Thomas
I would not wish to press the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, because it would be a matter of Government policy. Much as, I have no doubt, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs holds the confidence of the Government, even they may fear to let him make Government policy on his own. I am content, therefore, to wait. I hope, however, that the Minister will make a reply tonight indicating that he will give further consideration to the very serious statement that has been made this afternoon.
I want to speak upon one other issue only before I give opportunity for others of my hon. Friends to speak; that is, in connection with the remarks by the hon. Member for Denbigh on Welsh culture. I am particularly glad to see in the House today some of our fellow countrymen who represent English constituencies. The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones), for example, is an English exile 646 who has found a home—he only just found it—in Watford. Since he has found it, I am glad he is taking an interest in the "Land of his Fathers" and of our fathers.
A lot of blah-blah is spoken about Welsh culture. There is a lot of dishonesty in the whole business. Welsh culture consists of Welsh character. It is what people are which expresses what their culture is. The hon. Member for Denbigh believes that the schools of Wales must be given the responsibility for saving the language of Wales. What a pitiful lack of understanding the hon. Member reveals. If the language is not spoken in the home, it is a foreign language in the school and it is unfair and unwise to expect the teachers of Wales to repair the damage done by the parents of Wales.
The place to save the Welsh language is in the Welsh home. It is at the Welsh hearth. If our Welsh-speaking people do not take sufficient pains with their children to see that they speak the language, then we must recognise that theirs is the responsibility. The hon. Member for Denbigh hinted, although he retreated at 100 miles an hour when we showed an interest, that somehow the Government are impeding the Welsh people and the spread of their culture. Who is there who is holding back Wales from the Welsh way of life? Is it anybody in England? Is it somebody in Whitehall? Is it the Government? It is a lot of poppycock. It is only Welsh people who can hold themselves back from the Welsh way of life and the hon. Member knows it very well. It is unwise, therefore, to expect the schools of Wales to repair damage which is done in the homes.
I wish in my heart that there were more people in Wales speaking Welsh. The hon. Member had a skit at my expense about my lack of education in the Welsh language. He may not know that I studied the three Caradors, that I have made many efforts and that I use such Welsh as I have at every possible opportunity—I say that for it to be on the record; but while I am one who is proud of the "Land of my Fathers," I am resentful of the bigotry of the minority. I resent the bigotry of some people who speak Welsh to those Welshmen who do not speak their native language. It so 647 happens that I speak for the majority of Welsh people on this matter, for the overwhelming majority of the Principality stand where I stand with regard to the language. They do their best and they ought to be encouraged, and not abused, as the hon. Member for Denbigh, to the best of his ability, which is not much, sought to do this afternoon.
One last point I wish to raise is in connection with the hon. Member's charge that young people leave the schools of Wales without a knowledge of Welsh history. Who is the hon. Member's informant? Has he been around asking questions of the youngsters as they leave school? Is he a sort of one-man quiz moving through the Principality? I venture to suggest that the children of Wales are as well informed of Welsh history, if not better informed, than children across the Border are informed of their history; for in the schools of Wales it is the custom and tradition to teach not according to the reigns of various monarchs, but according to the movements of thought, the developments of religion, the establishment of industry and the wholeness of our national life. I leave the hon. Gentleman, and trust that he will recognise that the teaching profession in Wales is doing a better job than he gave it credit for tonight.
I turn to the Minister, who bears an honoured name, a name to which every Welsh home makes a response. He has a mighty opportunity of serving the country from which we both spring, and I hope that he will recognise that one way in which he can serve this little country most of all is that of protecting the employment we have there today, of not assisting in the breaking down of any more of those protections which we have sought in other days. If he does that he will earn our thanks.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not at once follow him in what he has been saying, for I should like for the moment to return to the speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), in which he called attention in a very acceptable way to the condition of what he described as general prosperity and full employment prevailing in most 648 parts of Wales today. Quite naturally and legitimately, the hon. Gentleman attributed much of it to the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not object to that, certainly, but I think the hon. Gentleman went a little far in giving as much praise as he did to the Labour Government.
He spoke as though he had forgotten the term "Special Area." Indeed, I thought he had forgotten the name of Lord Portal. I well remember a journey I made through the Treforest area a year or two before the last war—about 1937 or 1938 I imagine—and seeing the sites being cleared and the preparations made for the erection of some of the earlier factories. What was then done there, I think, pointed the way for the Coalition Government and for the Labour Government which followed.
I believe, too, that we should not overlook—I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree with me about this—the contribution of the Jewish and Social Democrat refugees from Czechoslovakia and Germany who came of necessity to this country and whose skill, ingenuity, and business ability have meant so much to our Development Area in South Wales. They brought new industries in some cases. They brought new skills, and they brought products which had not before been manufactured in Wales. For a great deal that has been accomplished we must thank those people.
Let us also recall the work of the Welsh Industrial Development Association, associated so long with the name of the late Councillor George Williams, of Cardiff, who did a very valuable job with that organisation. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I suppose, will have noted with some regret an announcement that was made not long ago that that body felt that its work was done and that it would be terminated. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen on both sides will feel rather regretful at that statement.
Perhaps, then, we should pay yet more attention to a newer body, the Welsh Economic Association, of which at present, I must say frankly, I have not a great deal of knowledge. Obviously, 649 however, its aims are analogous to the aims of the former Industrial Development Association. I think this body owes most to the determination of the Secretary, Miss James, and its present Chairman, Mr. Cyril Morgan. But I refer to this body for a special reason.
I recall that a former hon. Member of this House, the noble Lord who represented Inverness for some years until a few years ago, was associated with a very valuable economic planning association in Scotland. It was a voluntary body. It attracted the interest of Scotsmen not only in Scotland, but also in London and in the United Kingdom as a whole, and, I believe, of Americans and others overseas. That body did a great deal to induce industrial concerns to open factories in even the least promising parts of Scotland. My theme is that we in Wales should not rely only on Government action in seeking to overcome our problems, and that there is room for that kind of voluntary activity in Wales also, as there has been in Scotland.
It may be a matter of regret to some hon. Members that Wales has at present no national bank, and that there is no Welsh insurance company.
§ Mr. Gower
I am not speaking nation-alistically in saying that. It would be agreeable to see Welsh business ability and Welsh initiative resulting in the setting up of some such institutions, which, to some extent, are an expression of the national life but in no way an expression of narrow nationalism.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) referred to one problem of importance which has disturbed a great many of us. I think it one of the problems whose consideration is most pertinent to this debate. He called attention to the possible closure, in times of financial difficulty, of factories in Wales, in Development Areas, and, in particular, to the closure of those factories whose owners' chief undertakings are in the Midlands or other parts of England.
I would interpolate here that I do not object to any of the main thesis of the hon. Gentleman, or to his insistence on the extra need we have of Government action in dealing with this problem. However, I wonder whether voluntary initia- 650 tive in Wales may result in due course in the setting up of a Welsh finance corporation which could render assistance in appropriate cases, to the establishment or maintenance of factories of that kind, when there is a possibility of a factory in Wales being closed because its owners, whose chief undertaking is situated in the Midlands or in London—or anywhere in England—decide to close their branch factory in Wales. It is a matter of great importance that we in Wales should protect the employment of those who work in such factories.
Now I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West. He made some very pertinent remarks about the future of the South Wales ports, particularly Barry and Cardiff. In last week's Adjournment debate, to which he referred, when I raised this subject, I was able to deal only with matters falling within the responsibility of the Minister of Fuel and Power and of the National Coal Board. I would now ask my right hon. and gallant Friend what stage is now being reached in consideration of the Report about the Welsh ports; the Report which was submitted to him by the Council for Wales some time ago. There were some recommendations in that Report which deserve careful consideration. To my knowledge, they were based on a careful examination by the Council of the problems.
I need hardly tell my right hon. and gallant Friend that although, last week, I dealt with the coal aspect of the problem we in Barry—and, I am sure, those in Cardiff, too, as doubtless the hon. Member for Cardiff, West will agree—are sensible of the need to develop a general cargo trade. We acknowledge that it is quite impossible for any Government, Labour or Conservative, to direct international trade into one port. It would be virtually impossible, for instance, to direct a Greek tanker to go into Cardiff, if it wanted to go to another port.
There are, however, some departments where, willy-nilly, the Government can use their influence directly. There is near Barry a Supply Reserve Depot of the War Office which exports considerable amounts of material to different parts of the world. We in Barry feel that there is a case for seeing that a fair proportion of those exports leave through Barry We have had some 651 strange cases of shipments being conveyed by road to Cardiff through Newport and then being conveyed by ship past the place where the journey started. There may be some explanation connected with bottom cargoes or something of that kind which my right hon. and gallant Friend may be able to adduce, but I hope that the Government will make every effort to sustain ports which have been very valuable assets to the country in time of war and peace.
I do not want to speak about too many subjects today, but I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, West in welcoming the nomination of Cardiff as the capital of Wales. It seems to me to be the only possible choice. Provided that I do not venture into questions of Prerogative, which it would be improper for me to raise in the House, I should like to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether this will mean any enhanced dignity for the chief citizen of Cardiff, and whether he will enjoy titles similar to those customarily enjoyed by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the chief citizen of Belfast. If Cardiff is regarded as the capital city there seems to me to be a case for the chief citizen enjoying those dignities.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
The hon. Member will know that Cardiff City Council is discussing with the Home Office the very question to which he refers.
§ Mr. Gower
I am much obliged to the hon. Member.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North raised some very important matters affecting the B.B.C. More than enough has been said today for this problem to be fully investigated. I should like to mention another aspect of the Welsh administration of the B.B.C. and to inform my right hon. and gallant Friend that, after some experience of the directive which prohibits the Welsh Nationalist Party having any party broadcast, I am not at all happy about it. The case is not synonymous or comparable with the case of the Midlands or other regions, because if the Welsh Nationalist Party won almost every seat in Wales it seems that it still would not be entitled to a broadcast under the existing regulations.
652 If anything is calculated to encourage extremism it is the appearance of discrimination against a particular group. Whatever the merits of any other matter which has been raised in this debate, I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will have consultations again with the Postmaster-General on this subject because, after speaking to many people in many parts of Wales, I am quite satisfied that this ban on the Welsh Nationalist Party in party broadcasts is contrary to the considered opinion of adherents of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties in Wales.
§ Mr. Gower
Certainly. I do not believe in suppressing any party. I see no virtue, indeed I see a lack of wisdom, if, when one is opposed to a group, one denies to that group the right to express its opinions in the Press or elsewhere. This is a matter of some importance and I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will consult the Postmaster-General and whoever else needs to be consulted about this aspect of broadcasting in Wales.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) performed his task with great credit. His contribution set the tone of the debate, and in scope and content it was most appropriate. It is not an easy task to open a debate in this House.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) mentioned the distortion and distinct bias of the Welsh broadcasting news service, especially with regard to political affairs. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) have urged upon the Minister the need for a definite statement today about an inquiry into the matter, but I think that the Minister ought to have made up his mind already. The very fact that these charges have been made and mentioned by so many hon. Members on both sides of the House should lead the Minister to give the definite undertaking that a Government inquiry will be held. It is of vital importance that an inquiry should be held if 653 someone is not doing his job. We should ensure that the news which we have over the wireless is not distorted and is unbiased, particularly on the subject of politics.
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will notice that many familiar faces are not to be seen in the Chamber today. There is widespread illness. Some of my hon. Friends are seriously ill. I am sure that we would all wish to say how much their presence is missed in this debate.
References have been made in the course of the debate to the Report on Wales and Monmouthshire, recording Government action for the year ending 30th June, and also to the Mid-Wales Investigation Report. It is understood that we should wait for another occasion to give adequate attention to the second Report. It is very important, but I will not discuss it today.
The other Report, on Government action, provides the focal point each year for a concentrated stocktaking of the problems and the perspectives facing us. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth did not speak in very complimentary terms of the present set-up, and there is something to be said for his suggestion that Reports of this kind on the state of the nation should be accompanied by proposals for tackling the problems reported. The contents of this, the tenth Report, may be a little belated, but nevertheless the range of its survey is of great convenience to hon. Members. It gives a picture of the agencies that are at work to enable Wales to have the by-products of civilisation—more or less—according to which Government is in power.
The adequacy or otherwise of the action taken by the Government is in the Report for the searchlight of criticism to play upon it. Amidst the array of favourable results we can perceive many unfavourable aspects about which the Government appear to be complacent. I refer to the slow progress of road development, the pockets of unemployment, the ports, the faint shadows over the engineering industry, the growing uneasiness in agriculture, the slowing down in housing, schools and hospitals. These are unfavourable trends.
The intentions of the Government about these matters are unconvincing as 654 they appear in the Report and we need concrete assurance that there is a lively awareness of these unsatisfactory trends. Future needs keep pressing on us and delay is no solution. Let us make no mistake, it is time to put complacency aside and to reinforce the industrial structure in Wales. Competition is bound to become keener and keener, and if we are to hold our own successfully every phase of governmental and industrial life must give of its best.
I would like to be told more about what in the Report is called "The Conference of Heads of Government Offices in Wales." We know that this meets each quarter in Cardiff under a political chairman, so we ought to know what issues are considered. Are they matters of special difficulty to Wales? Does the conference consider such matters as charges made against the Welsh broadcasting service? Or does it merely make a contribution to compiling the Annual Report? Since pride seems to be taken in the fact that the conference continues to meet, has it any outstanding accomplishments to its credit? Is it in this conference that ideas germinate for the betterment of Wales? I appeal to the Minister to tell us something about it.
One paragraph in the Report under the heading "General Engineering" reads:Activity in all branches of the aircraft engineering industry has been well maintained.We are aware that the Report covers the period ending June, 1955. Since then, however, there have been unfavourable developments in the aircraft industry. For instance, after sixteen years Helliwells, which has made a considerable contribution by manufacturing aircraft parts, is to leave Wales for Birmingham.
It is well known, too, by now that there is within my own constituency an important British Overseas Airways aeroengine overhaul and repair factory. In its high endeavour of charting safe air transport, the Corporation has demonstrated the importance of stable instruments for the fulfilment of its mission. One of these instruments is the British Overseas Airways engine overhaul base at Treforest. Worthwhile achievements by its workers and staff have earned for it from far and wide the salute "Well done." Notwithstanding this, there is a danger that engine overhaul and repairs will cease at Treforest by 1960.
655 By now I hope it is plain to those responsible that they should give straightforward information upon the future policy for the repair and overhaul of aeroengines. There is at present an apparent stalemate which is unpleasant, because rumour outdoes rumour, and this leads to apprehension and dismay as time passes. At the very least the Minister for Welsh Affairs should today make a declaration that the Government intend the Treforest base to continue for at least ten years, and an even more specific commitment is warranted.
The problem facing the establishment is that the next three to four years will show a sharp decline in the Twin Wasp Dakota engines for overhaul which are the main intake at the factory. Coupled with the decline in the number of Twin Wasp engines for overhaul is the suggestion that B.O.A.C. might accept an "engine hours service" for later types with the manufacturers of those engines. One of the later type engines is the Proteus which is installed in the Britannia aircraft. It may interest the Minister to know that the Bristol Aeroplane Company has not sufficient facilities for testing the Proteus and so the company brings it to Treforest for testing purposes. Another engine is the Dart which engines the Viscount aircraft, mainly operated by British European Airways Corporation.
It appears farcical to me that the two Airways Corporations do not jointly run, and be responsible for, the Treforest factory. The adoption of an engine hours service by the manufacturers of the latest type of aero-engines must lead to a drastic curtailment in the working force at Treforest, it will make the operations at the factory uneconomic, and in time will involve its closing. What a prospect for the spendid array of specialists in aeroengine overhaul numbering 1,100. This B.O.A.C. factory has been in existence for fifteen years, during which it has had an outstanding record of achievement. Are these people to become redundant by the action of a Government-owned undertaking? If they are to be thrown on the scrap heap after such unsurpassed service to the nation, it will be a colossal shame.
Further, it will be extremely bad business for the British Overseas Airways 656 Corporation to place itself at the Mercy of the manufacturers for engine overhauls and repairs. I am sure that it will colour the whole fabric of the South Wales engineering activities with bitterness, suspicion and dismay. To substantiate that I should like to read a resolution— and this is only the commencement of the trouble. I want the Minister for Welsh Affairs to take a lively interest in this affair, because I am afraid of its spreading and causing considerable harm to our economic set up. I have received this resolution from the trade union side of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. It was unanimously adopted at a meeting held on Friday, 20th January, 1956. Regarding the overhaul establishment at Treforest, it says:The Trade Union side of the London Airport Local Joint Panel, having been made fully aware of the discussions and position of the B.O.A.C. engine overhaul establishment at Treforest and informs the Corporation that in the event of any redundancy being declared at Treforest as a result of the contract entered into between the Corporation and the Bristol Aircraft Company, engineering maintenance workers at London Airport will not perform any job on an aircraft powered by engines overhauled by an outside contractor, and we wish to impress upon the Corporation the fact that if the engineers at London Airport are compelled to take this action, the responsibility will be laid quite clearly at the doors of the Corporation.Is there a solution to this problem? I assert that the matter is one of national concern and not the concern of the Airways Corporations alone. The Government should be in on this. The Government must appreciate this fact.
Authoritative circles hold that the Corporation has no desire to see Treforest closed down. However, the problem of retaining it while not being able to utilise it on an economic basis will involve a financial burden. With good will this could be overcome. Let the Government join with the two Airways Corporations and the trade union side to safeguard the future of this highly skilled body of workers at Treforest. It is understandable that the Proteus engines of the Britannia aircraft, the Avon engines of the Comet IV and the Dart engines of the Viscount aircraft should be returned to the manufacturers for overhaul until teething troubles are overcome.
Nevertheless, it is after the first years of the operation of these new aero engines 657 —after the teething troubles are over— that plans and developments should be geared together to facilitate the growth of the intake into the Treforest reservoir of 1,100 specialists in this type of work who, after 15 years of successful operations, see dark clouds in their future. I implore the Minister to consider with his colleagues in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation whether the parties cannot be brought together to do something about it.
British European Airways Corporation has Viscount aircraft propelled by Dart engines in heavy airline service. I understand that the Corporation has a contract with Rolls Royce that ends in 1957. These engines might well be overhauled at Treforest. I see no reason why the contract with Rolls Royce should be renewed. It has been hinted that for British European Airways Corporation to do the work itself would require the erection of an engine overhaul base at London Airport. However, the estimated cost of establishing a new repair organisation for Dart engines would reach £300,000. Against that the estimated cost of equipping Treforest for this work would be about £50,000—a very large saving of public money. There is no sensible reason why Treforest should not be jointly operated by the two corporations and made a success.
What are the reasons for B.E.A. desiring to overhaul its own Dart engines? Firstly, both Treforest and British European Airways would have to "tool up" especially, because the Dart engine would be new to both. Secondly, overhauls at London Airport would save transport and "float" of extra engines between London and Treforest. Thirdly, B.E.A. would have more intimate knowledge of the engine and be able to control modification processes and techniques.
Against that, the local joint panel at the Treforest factory asserts firstly that equipment, tools and test beds already largely exist at Treforest; secondly, capital expenditure would be small compared with that of the London project; thirdly, the cost of transport is a negligible proportion of the cost of overhaul; fourthly, Treforest could offer collection and delivery services in a day and therefore no extra engine "float" would be necessary; fifthly, there has always been the closest technical collaboration between 658 the Treforest repair and overhaul service and the operators.
Now the hopes of the workers are being further gravely threatened by the possibility that the Britannias which have Proteus engines may go back to Filton, Bristol, for overhauls on an "engine hours service" contract. Should the British Overseas Airways Corporation tie itself down in these negotiations for a period beyond two years, it will cause gloom and despair among the 1,100 aircraft workers at Treforest.
The work load of the Treforest factory would in the immediate future depend to an increasing extent on the intake of turbine overhauls. Given the equipment, the employees of the B.O.A.C. at Treforest are beyond doubt competent to undertake overhaul of the latest developed types of aero-engines. In this sphere of engineering activities they are second to none. It is a matter of grave concern to the engineering industry in Wales, which has done so well since the unemployment depression, that these dark clouds should be overhanging and threatening to bring all these efforts to nothing.
I want also to mention the Second Report of the Select Committee on Estimates for the Session 1955–56. The Report has caused a good deal of concern in the Development Areas of Wales. Again and again tribute has been rightly paid to the Select Committee for its work in sifting and screening expenditure. It has carried out such a duty in the Development Areas and it has done it with competence and diligence.
However, its recommendations ought not to be over-hurriedly and uncritically accepted by the Government. The economic and social wounds of the 15 years of wholesale unemployment still need sympathetic, patient and continued care and attention. De-scheduling of areas because of the present full employment might be productive of too much harm if too hasty action is taken. I submit that there is no early end in sight to the necessity for Government help to the Development Areas.
The central question at the moment is not whether we should continue the Development Area aid system. It is rather how we can have the most efficient and effective aid possible. Let us remember that local authorities in Wales are still 659 carrying loans from the unemployment years at 6¼ and 7 per cent.—always an indelible mark of the lean times then prevailing. We talk now about interest rates going up to 5 and 5½ per cent., but think of those authorities carrying these loans even now at 7 per cent. That is an insight into the lean times which existed for so many years.
I am in full agreement with adequate accountancy, but de-scheduling should be a most careful operation. I am not convinced of the wisdom of transferring the industrial estates to the estate companies themselves, as recommended, nor do I think it wise to get rid of individual factories by sale of them to the firms at the moment occupying them.
Wales has certainly tasted the fruits of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and of the previous Special Area Acts, 1924 and 1937. It has proved wise to give added impetus to industral and social development where there was special need. This need is still there, especially on the social side. I implore the Government to hasten slowly in regard to de-scheduling areas which are drawing financial support under the Special Area Acts.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
We have had today a number of speeches covering various parts of the Report. I should like, first, to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) on his very excellent speech and for opening the debate in such a delightful way. I am sure that his manner of presentation was well received by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The second speech which we heard today contained the very serious charge made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). I have been a Member of this House many years, but I have never before heard a charge so serious and precise in its nature as the one made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North. He said—and what was perhaps surprising, with the approbation of nearly every Member in the House— that the B.B.C. in Wales was being manipulated for a special political purpose for a special party. In other words, that the interests of the people of Wales were being subordinated to the political propaganda of the Welsh Nationalist Party.
660 I had something to do, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), with the setting up of the Welsh Council for Broadcasting. In setting up that Council, we thought that it would see to it that the Welsh-speaking people and the English-speaking people had fair play, that there would be a balanced programme, that we would have some provincial fresh air, and that there would come from the area itself those forms of education and entertainment suited to the traditions of the area. I am extremely sorry that a charge of this nature could be made against the B.B.C, especially as it is functioning under a council of our own creation, consisting of people who live in Wales.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an undertaking that this matter will have his close and early attention. I think that it must be raised again on the Floor of the House. There must be an accounting to the House for this mis-spending of public money. We must either have a refutation, or the person who made the charge, and other hon. Members who think like him, should have an opportunity of disclosing their views and their evidence as to the nature of the charge.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I gather that since the debate began—I am sorry that I did not hear the speech in question—the B.B.C. has issued a denial of this. That makes it all the more urgent that the Minister should, in the course of the debate, either agree to have an inquiry or to give early consideration to it. I think that my right hon. Friend should know that.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
This is amazing. Here is something being discussed in the House, and before the Government can reply, the B.B.C. rushes on to the air in the course of the debate, to make a statement.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
So I understand. This is really going too far, and it is about time that the Government put the B.B.C. in its place. The chief authority in this country is the House of Commons and not Broadcasting House, either in Cardiff or in London. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give this matter his serious attention, and no doubt we shall have another opportunity of discussing it.
661 It was originally intended that during the debate we should have a discussion on a very excellent Report called the Mid-Wales Investigation Report. It is a remarkable document. It contains a fund of information and proposals which will require very close examination. It seems to me to be the first attempt of its kind to analyse the drift from the rural areas to the towns. It is important because it deals with a tendency which exists not only in Wales, but in almost any part of the country that has been industrialised—the rush from the land to the towns, and from agriculture to industry. I think that we should have a separate debate on the Report because of the far-reaching suggestions contained in it and the importance of the subject matter.
In addition to the areas referred to in this Report, there are in South Wales thousands of acres of land on top of the hills, and I should like to see the local farmers' unions and the local authorities getting together and putting forward plans whereby all these areas could be reclaimed and put to use in the production of food for this country.
I come now to the Report. I find it a little depressing because it recalls, first of all, that there is less chance for the disabled men in Wales. Remploy is not to be extended; in fact, it is to be cut. There is to be no new intake. The probability is that there will be even fewer houses, and the roads are not being extended at the rate that we expected from our last debate. Very few certificates have been given for factory locations. No Government factories have been built. It looks as if the Government have, in fact, abandoned the Distribution of Industry Act so far as it affects Wales. It is particularly with that matter that I should like to deal in the short time that I hope to address the House.
The purpose of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, as was recognised by hon. Members on both sides of the House when we passed that Measure, was to provide for the economic rehabilitation of the Development Areas and to make them more fit to live in. There were two sides to that Act. One was to take new industries into the area, and the other to improve all the basic services and amenities in the area; to provide work where the people live and to make the places where they live better places in which to 662 live. That was substantially the agreed purpose of the 1945 Act.
That Act saved South Wales, and when we talk about South Wales we are referring to about two-thirds of the people of Wales. New life was brought to South Wales. Thousands of jobs were provided, and opportunities for our boys and girls to earn their living in the places where they were born. That job has not been finished. There are places in the South Wales Development Area which still require attention. The Distribution of Industry Act was not the only weapon used. Other weapons were the location certificate and the building licence. This Government have thrown away the building licence, and their application of the principle of the location certification is one that gives the greatest factory development to the areas where there are the least number of workers.
We have had discussions in this House indicating that where there is the smallest labour force, there we find the greatest industrial development. These areas which will require to be dealt with in other ways, are not only in South Wales. But let me first deal with the Development Area position. I have the unemployment figures for December, 1955. In the South Wales Development Area, the percentage of unemployment is 1.5. For Wales as a whole the figure is 1.7. In all the Development Areas in the United Kingdom the figure is 1.9 per cent. and for the United Kingdom is 1 per cent. In other words, unemployment in the Development Areas now is still nearly double the rate for the United Kingdom. What would 2 or 3 per cent. national unemployment mean in the Development Areas? I say, therefore, that there ought not to be any de-scheduling of any of the Development Areas as recommended by the Select Committee.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman know that there has been great apprehension in South Wales during the last few weeks? The firm of Helliwells in Aberdare has already given notice that a substantial number of their men are to go, and Hoovers has said that it will have to put men off. As was indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson), B.O.A.C. has said that its future is very indefinite and uncertain. In Cardiff we had exactly the same thing in 663 the Hopkinson factory. There is apprehension among the dockers at Cardiff and at Barry. All round there is general apprehension that the credit squeeze will produce that unfortunate quota of unemployment first in the Development Areas. I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to use his great influence in the Government to see that there shall be no tampering with this very important Act and that South Wales shall not be de-scheduled.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman might go further. As was suggested by the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) he might apply the techniques of the Development Area to those places in North Wales where there is 6 per cent. unemployment. This is a long-standing problem. We have been promised many things in many debates about this. The Board of Trade has sent its emissaries to look at the place until I should think that the people must be sick of seeing Board of Trade representatives. It is time that something was done.
I would remind the hon. Member for Conway that the substance of his argument was contained in an Adjournment debate on 14th April, 1954, which was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). He advanced those suggestions and the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said that the Board of Trade could not do anything. Apparently the hon. Member says today that the Board of Trade cannot do anything with its present powers. But the Board of Trade has thrown away the building licences. It does not operate the system of location certificates to the advantage of areas such as that represented by the hon. Member. If the Board of Trade has not the power, Ministers of the party opposite have been on the Government Front Bench long enough to have secured the powers to do the job, and the criticism of the hon. Member for Conway is a criticism of his own Government.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
That is true, and it threw them away. Now the hon. Gentleman is bemoaning the fact that his party has not the powers.
§ Mr. P. Thomas
I was saying that the Board of Trade has no power, if there is no Development Area. Of course, it still has the power if an area is scheduled as a Development Area. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that it has certain powers in the industrial development certificate.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentleman himself has said that those powers are not adequate. Why is an area not scheduled? The Government have the power to do so. The remedy lies in the hands of the Government. It is up to them. I hope that the hon. Member for Conway will go on pressing the Government and will assist my hon. Friends who have been urging the Government to do the very thing which he is suggesting.
I come now to the other part of the purpose of the Distribution of Industry Act, that it should be an instrument to improve the basic services, such as transport, health and other local authority services. In paragraph 222 this is pushed off with a half-truth. The Report states:During the year no new water supply or sewage scheme qualified for grant under the Act.Is that true? I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman which of those schemes did not qualify under the Act? Is it not the fact that all of them were excluded, not because they did not qualify, but because a circular was issued by the Minister of Housing and Local Government saying that no more grants would be made? I should have thought that less ambiguous words could have been used to indicate that none of these schemes received grants, because the Government had decided as a matter of policy that no grants would be made.
Let me carry it one step further. I now deal with this delightful document called the Second Report from the Select Committee on Estimates, relating to the Development Areas. It states:There appears, however, to be very little expenditure of this sort being incurred at the present time. Apart from token sums, only two items in the Board of Trade Estimate for 1955–56 relate to the improvement of amenities.That is one of the distressing features of this Government's policy.
I will follow it one step further. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has a special responsibility for Wales. I do not 665 know whether that special responsibility means anything at all. He knows that Wales has to suffer under Ministry of Housing and Local Government Circular No. 54/52, which says:It has been decided that grants under Section 3 of the Act for water and sewerage shall not be made in future.Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman satisfied that water supply and sewerage is adequate in South Wales? Has it not yet come to his notice that building sites in Rhymney Valley cannot be used because they cannot get water? Is he not aware that the then Minister of Housing and Local Government—who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer—refused any grant towards providing water?
Here is an area in which it is desired to expand manpower in the mining industry, but houses cannot be built there because of the inadequate water supply. The same thing is true of the Aberdare and Pontypridd districts. There was a capital expenditure of £11 million at Nantgarw, which is supposed to be the greatest mining undertaking in Great Britain—the show place—but houses cannot be built because it cannot get a water supply. Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made any representations to his colleagues about this position in South Wales? What I have said about the Rhymney Valley applies also to the Taff Fechan Water Board and the Grwyne Fawr Water Board in Monmouthshire, as well as to the lower reaches of the Pontypridd area.
The Report should have mentioned that from June to November, 1952, 29 schemes were turned down by the Treasury after being approved by the Welsh Office. That is the value of the Welsh Office. The existence of a Welsh Minister has not saved South Wales from this abandonment of the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act. I am not blaming him, and one cannot blame his Office. The Government are responsible; I suppose it is the Chancellor. This part of this Act is extremely important. All this money is being spent in South Wales to provide employment, and the one thing that has not been done is to make the valleys of South Wales fit places in which to live. I very often read about the Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales; what we want is a Council for the Social Rehabilitation of South Wales.
666 Half the job of the Distribution of Industry Act has not yet been done, and I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will use such influence as he has with his colleagues to see that we are able not only to attract new industrialists to South Wales but to keep them there by improving the amenities of the area.
I wish to say a word about the general future of Wales, especially with regard to the place of technical education. This question has not yet been touched upon. Most of us have a vision of the possibilities of the age upon which we are entering—the age of atomic energy, automation, electronics and a great chemical revolution, in which Barry is going to play an important part. All this is going on, and it looks as if mankind, in its productive capacity, is going to proceed with giant steps. The nature of industry is going to change. Are we providing our boys and girls with the best chance of taking their rightful place in this new age? That is one of the things about which we should be concerned.
In the field of education, we can be introspective, and here I am not blaming the Minister because with regard to education we have a great deal of home rule. We have a great deal of autonomy in Wales. It looks as if our educational system has been designed to produce a majority of teachers and preachers. We have been exporting teachers and preachers, and importing technicians. I will now quote from the speech of one of the outstanding educationists in South Wales. He said:In Wales, a country whose prosperity has been based on the growth of heavy industry, it would have been thought that a particular value would have been placed upon the development of technical education. This has not been done. In Wales technical education has been grievously neglected. The Act of 1904 gave education authorities the power to establish intermediate and technical schools. This power was, however, used throughout Wales almost entirely to establish grammar schools. The result has been that there are far too many grammar schools in Wales, and far too few technical schools. There has been a high production of 'teachers and preachers,' and a markedly low production of skilled technicians and technologists.He referred to the Rhymney Valley, and said:In this Rhymney Valley, for example,"—667 which is in the heart of the coalfield and right in the centre of heavy industry—there are seven large grammar schools, and two entirely inadequate technical schools. It would be more in touch with reality if the proportion had been reversed.He went on to deal generally with this position. I was rather interested to find out the true picture, and I asked for the figures and found that, in respect of full-time students at universities and university colleges in the academic year 1953–54, the proportion of technologists for England is I to 9—that is, for every nine students, one is a technologist. The proportion in Scotland is 1 to 6, and in Wales it is 1 to 13. The total number of students taking technology in the Welsh universities and colleges is 360. With regard to all science subjects, we find that in England there are 27 art students to 34 science students; in Scotland the proportion is 5 to 8, and in Wales it is 2 to 2. We shall never play our part in the new world that is coming if our educational system is so divorced from reality.
If South Wales is to keep its place it must produce its own technicians and technologists. I am informed on the highest authority that Wales needs 600 technologists. That is hardly believable. We are sending our technologists up to London to preach. We really want a complete reorientation, and this is within our capacity. We cannot blame the Minister; a great deal of the responsibility is upon our shoulders.
I have raised three main points. First, we must know something more about these charges in relation to the B.B.C. Secondly, we should like to get the assurance of the Minister that there will be no tampering with the Distribution of Industry Act, and that he will use his influence to enable the authorities in South Wales to obtain grants to make South Wales a fitter place in which to live. Thirdly, there is the question of technological education. I ask the Minister to give our children a chance to play their part in the new age, on the verge of which we are standing. I realise that these are not narrow Welsh points. The educational point is not merely a Welsh one; it is a United Kingdom one, and the development area point covers all the Development Areas.
668 Although this is a Welsh day, I have not taken a Nationalist view. My view is that the Government to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman belongs wants to put private purposes in front of social need. Whether the Tories are Scottish, English or Welsh, the same thing is true. We want to make Wales a fitter place to live in and to do the same for England and Scotland. We ask nothing more for Wales than we ask for the other countries. The Government are refusing to help us to build new houses. They are cutting the subsidies, although, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, the financial resources of development areas do not permit them to take on new burdens. The Government are also refusing financial aid for water and sewerage schemes and are denying the means of communication to make our industries possible. Our means of communication are entirely inadequate and are crippling the development of industry.
This is not a conflict between London and Cardiff and Edinburgh, but between those who claim to represent large masses of the people, be they English, Welsh or Scottish and those who, in our view, represent privileged people whether they are English, Welsh or Scottish. That is the basis of the conflict and of the debate.
We take what is happening in Wales as a consequence of what the Government are failing to do. Slowly but surely the Government are undoing the work which both this party and the Government party jointly agreed to do in 1944, when we debated the Bill which eventually became the Distribution of Industry Act.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
This has been a very interesting debate, and I begin my speech by congratulating very sincerely my colleagues who have spoken in it. They have done so at a very high level, beginning with the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) and continuing with the speech of the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, including the right hon. Gentieman's speech. They have been well-informed, informative, and often highly critical. What has been the pat-tern of the speeches? First, an hon. 669 Member deals with the problems of his own constituency and then travels on to wider matters. One day in the whole Parliamentary year is allotted to deal with Welsh affairs. Hon. Members will see from the Table of Contents in the Report that there are 28 separate subjects to be dealt with. If we devoted half an hour to each subject, which would be a short enough time, we should need fourteen Parliamentary hours, leaving no time for Ministers to reply to the criticisms made. That is our position.
I am not jealous of colleagues from Scottish divisions, but I am certainly envious of them. The population of Scotland is roughly about twice that of Wales. The productivity of industry or agriculture in Scotland is certainly not twice that of Wales. I wish we had half the time devoted to Welsh affairs in this House that is devoted to Scottish affairs. That is why some of us have called the attention of this House to the need for devolution.
Let me correct one impression that seems to be in the mind of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). He seemed to draw no distinction between people who call themselves Welsh Nationalists and those who think that this House would have more time to devote to general subjects and Wales would have a better administration if there were a local Parliament dealing with purely Welsh affairs. There is no animosity against any nation whatsoever in those of us who desire devolution. We desire to work together more harmoniously.
I would warn the House that the Welsh Nationalist movement arises out of a sense of frustration. Year after year representatives of Welsh constituences call attention to what are admitted to be problems and year after year they are ignored by Government after Government. It was interesting to listen to the speech by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly, very rightly denouncing the Government for the little attention they have paid to the problems of rural Wales and for abandoning the powers that were possessed by the late Government. I made exactly the same pleas year after year to the right hon. Gentleman's Government when they were in power. I made them not only in the House of Commons but I saw Minister after Minister and led deputation after deputation to Ministers. All they have done is to agree and show great 670 sympathy and to say that they will look into the matter, and we are left entirely where we were before. There is a sense of frustration among the Welsh people which is expressing itself now through those who call themselves Welsh Nationalists.
There are many subjects with which I ought to deal affecting our people, but time is so short that I must limit myself. I will refer to the very excellent Report that has been made by the Sub-Commission in the Mid-Wales Investigation Report. Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly was wrong in saying that this is the first Report. It is the second report about this very thing, because there was another made by the Welsh Council. The two deal with much the same area and the same problems. The present Report is very well done and very thorough, and has very carefully examined the problem. I join in asking for a special day to be given for the discussion of the subjects dealt with in that Report.
The Government Report with which we are dealing covers one area, but in principle it covers a number of other areas in both North and South Wales. Indeed, if this matter were properly dealt with it might be the basis for general legislation which could be applied to other parts of England and Scotland. I do not accept some of the conclusions of the Report. The Report passes too lightly over the smallholdings and the crofts. It dismisses them. If one wishes to live in those areas one must go in for larger units. That is a matter which should be approached with the very greatest care. It is from those areas, those smallholdings, those crofts, that has come what is best in Wales. It is there that is to be found Welsh culture. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) seemed to confuse character with culture——
§ Mr. Davies
They are different. One can get people of varying cultures the world over alike in character, but the seeds of culture are sown at the hearth. Our development depends on our thoughts, and the way that we express our thoughts depends on the language we use. Each nation, therefore, has its own culture of which it is rightly proud, as we in Wales are proud of the development of 671 our language, our literature, our art and our science. That last subject, raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly, is worthy not of a day's debate but of a week's debate—the part, we are to play in the future not only of our own country and of these islands, not only of the Commonwealth but of the world.
I should like to point out to the House that from a small croft in the centre of the poorest part of this very area came one of the greatest scientists in Britain today; a Fellow, a Vice-President and, at one time, the Secretary of the Royal Society. He came from just such a croft as these very excellent people, in their anxiety about the economics of the place, would abolish. One must therefore approach this question very seriously indeed.
The one subject to which I propose to refer is afforestation. Time and time again during the last quarter of a century I have referred to the drift from our land. That drift, in its origins, was a drift to the South Wales mines, where there was work and where the wages were high, but it still continues and we are all anxious to stop it. Reference has been made repeatedly to the Development Areas. I criticised the Distribution of Industry Bill when it was introduced in 1944 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). I did so, not because I disagreed with its intention, but because I wanted it put on a much broader basis so that it would not be confined to the six areas therein mentioned but that powers could be given to the Government to extend help to areas where a little help at that time would have kept young boys and girls within that area near to their homes. I made my plea in vain in 1944, in 1945, and I have pleaded in vain ever since, and one can now only turn to something which is actually being done—afforestation. Incidentally, we owe that to the father of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It was he who drew attention to it and proposed that Government assistance should be given and that the Forestry Commission should be set up.
My complaint is that the pace has been much too slow. I know that the Commission has been loath to exercise its compulsory powers, but had it taken other 672 ways of achieving its object it could have proceeded very much faster. Paragraph 129 of the Report says:In the year ended 30th September, 1954. 17,136 acres of plantable land were acquired, considerably more than in the previous year. In nine months since 1st October, 1954, 11,874 acres have been acquired. The reserve of plantable land has improved slightly in the last year but, to maintain an annual planting programme of 14,000 acres, it is barely sufficient for 3½ years.The Commission obviously takes the view that that is not enough, but what it is doing, I am afraid, is to go round, after drawing up its plans, to see individual owners and try to persuade them. Unfortunately, it finds some who are not prepared to part with their land and others who are prepared to part with it upon different conditions. Moreover, it is not yet ready to meet the needs of the sheep farmer of our uplands.
The sheep farmer, whether in Scotland, Cumberland, Westmorland or Wales, wants lowland coupled with moorland. If the moorland is taken away the whole of the lowlands have to be re-organised, but if the two are coupled, as they have been throughout the ages, the farm can be worked. Those farmers, therefore, ask that some of their moorlands should be helped by the Forestry Commission planting, not vast forests, but smaller plantations and shelters, so that the sheep can find a shelter and the farmer—who now is often also his own shepherd— knows where to find them when a storm comes.
The Commission has not so far been very helpful in that way. As I have said, it has been going from one farmer to another but, as I have suggested so often before, there is a very much better way. In these matters it is necessary to carry public opinion with one, but at present no one knows just what are the Forestry Commission's plans. They are made in the office and are not exhibited at all. What I have always asked for is that when the Commission has decided upon an area and has planned what it proposes to do in that area, details should be put up in the village halls.
Someone should be present to explain the plans, and a public meeting held to let the local people know what is about to be done, what land is required and what has already been acquired, how many men will be employed temporarily until the planting, draining and fencing 673 are finished, how many will then be employed permanently, how many houses will be needed and what the Commission proposes to do in regard to roads—which, again, would be of great inducement to the farmer. If the Commission carried the public with it I do not think any farmer would dare to stand out unreasonably against the Commission's requests. It would be a case not of the Government but of local public opinion using pressure.
There is an instance in my own county. At the head of a very fruitful and delightful valley—the Tanat Valley—which divides Montgomeryshire from Denbighshire, there is a little quarrying village called Llangynog. I remember that 50 years ago—yes, and more. That little community was so flourishing that it eventually got a Bill through this House to allow it to have its own light railway running from Oswestry, twenty miles away. The main subscribers to the cost of the railway were the local councillors and the local farmers.
I remember it being built, and I remember it being opened about 1904 or 1905; and I have seen it closed. Along the miles of it there are hundreds of derelict railway carriages and trucks of all kinds. The slate quarries are closed down. At one time there was a good deal of lead mining, and indeed there has been lead mining there since the days of the Romans. When the quarries closed down, or even before that, there was a good deal of activity in connection with macadam. All that has stopped.
This is the head of a valley and the people can find work only by crossing over the hills to the next valley. They can find work in the twelve miles from Llangynog to Bala and in the next valley; in fact they cross one of the most beautiful passes in Wales, but one of the most dangerous in winter. Cannot work be found for these people nearer their homes? On the other side they can travel some eight miles to Lake Vyrnwy, where Liverpool Corporation has carried out a fine afforestation scheme. These people go to one side or the other, but what they are anxious to do is to stay at work nearer home.
I have made inquiries from the Commissioners and undoubtedly they have a scheme for further planting there. Down the valley they have acquired some 584 674 acres, of which 233 are planted already, so there is not much left. They are anxious to acquire land further up the valley where there are thirty-seven owners with 4,400 plantable acres. Of these, twenty owners, owning 1,900 acres, are unwilling to sell, while seventeen owners, owning 2,500 acres, are in negotiation with the Commission, and the Commission hopes to buy at least 1,300 acres this year. That will give employment not to many—only twenty men; but twenty will make all the difference in the world to that little village and twenty homesteads will be happy.
The village to which I have referred will be remembered by hon. Members because it was the village where a very respected and beloved Member of the House was born, where he was brought up and from which he had to walk on a Monday morning ten miles to school, walking back again ten miles home on Friday. That is the type of person who has been raised in this village. I am referring to my very dear friend, Mr. Robert Richards, who was much respected in the House. It is on behalf of those he knew so well that I am making my plea. He and I stood together begging that the line should be kept open. We failed in that, but I hope I shall not fail with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman now.
The hon. Member for Merioneth asked that our timber should not be carried away out of the country, as is the case at present. My own county is famous for its oak, but the trees, when they are felled, are carried right away from the county. The result is that we have nothing left even for fences. If the work were done on the spot and the planks carried away, leaving us the slats for our fencing and gates, that would be comforting, but what is far and away more important is that we should be giving employment to local people near their homes. I ask the Minister to consider that position. I have asked time and again that an industry ancillary to our agriculture and our timber growing should be introduced.
May I put a question to the Minister on which he was much concerned when he was Minister of Food? What is happening about the abattoirs? What progress has been made?
A Bill has been brought before us to give a certain amount of help with rural 675 roads? Is it the Government's intention to press on with that Bill? It certainly is not enough, but it is some help towards the very high cost which we have to incur in this work and which we can so ill bear.
§ 7.36 p.m.
Mr. D. J. Willams (Neath)
This debate on Welsh affairs has covered a very wide field. We have had from both sides of the House contributions on Welsh industry, Welsh agriculture and Welsh culture. Time is going on and I want to be brief to give an opportunity to some of my hon. Friends who have not yet spoken in the debate. I want, therefore, to confine my remarks to one aspect of national policy as it affects Wales.
It was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), who opened the debate with an admirable speech, that this debate takes place on the Report of Government Action in Wales, and I want to say a word or two about that Report before I come to my main theme. The Report covers the period from July, 1954, to the end of June last year. That is a long time ago, and many things have happened in Wales since then. Many changes have taken place. It seems to me that the contents of the Report have very little relevance to the situation which exists in Wales now. The problems which are dealt with in the Report are not the really urgent problems which are now causing serious apprehension to the people of Wales.
This Report was published last October, and we were given to understand then—indeed, we took it for granted— that we should have an early opportunity to debate it. That has been the normal practice ever since the first Report on Welsh affairs was published in 1946. This time, however, that practice was not followed. The debate on the Report was repeatedly pushed back to meet the contingencies and emergencies of the Government's Parliamentary timetable.
I am sorry that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is not in his place because I am bound to say that he must accept some responsibility for this. After all, he is the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and we have always been told that one of his functions in that capacity is to make representations to the Government on matters affecting Wales. Surely a debate 676 on Welsh affairs is a matter affecting Wales. It is certainly a matter of interest to Wales. Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did make representations on the need for an early debate on this Report. Perhaps he failed to persuade his colleagues in the Government that this was an urgent matter. We do not know. What we know is that the debate has been repeatedly postponed. It has been constantly elbowed out to make room for Government business.
We are now given an opportunity to debate the Report, nearly four months after it was published, and nearly eight months after the end of the period which it covered. It is obvious that the Report is now hopelessly out of date. It deals with a period which ended in June of last year. Since then events have moved rapidly inside and outside Wales. New problems have emerged, but the Report has nothing to say about them. Since the end of the period covered by the Report the economic and social climate in Wales has been completely transformed. This Report is no longer a live document; it is now a chapter of history. It has been overtaken and left behind by events.
Since the Report was written the Government have initiated a series of measures, a series of new economic policies, which are bound to have far-reaching effects in Wales. They will affect our industry, our agriculture, our housing problem and—most important of all—our prospects of employment. They will affect the standard of living of the people of Wales.
Those measures are already causing considerable apprehension in Wales. I think it true to say that there is now more real anxiety in Wales about our future prospects than there has been for many years. Over the last ten years there has been a great deal of industrial expansion in Wales. Large numbers of new industries have been established, especially in South Wales. Older industries have been modernised, re-equipped and reorganised. For many years now in Wales we have enjoyed a comparatively high level of employment.
The Report gives us a mass of information about these developments, but, since the Report was completed, the Government have introduced the credit squeeze policy. The Report has nothing to say about that, and it has nothing to say 677 about the effects of that policy on Welsh industry and Welsh agriculture. Yet that problem now dwarfs all our other problems. It is now the major issue in economic policy; it is the problem which is uppermost in the minds of us all. We are all seriously concerned about the effects that that policy may have on the economy of Wales.
The credit squeeze can have very serious effects on some of the new industries in Wales. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said, many of the new industries in Wales are subsidiaries of large firms operating mainly outside Wales. If the credit squeeze reduces the level of industrial activity, then those subsidiaries will be the first to be affected. If production is to be cut, it will be concentrated in the larger units outside Wales. The subsidiaries will be the first to be closed. Indeed that is already happening, and is causing fear and anxiety among the people employed in those industries in South Wales.
But not all the new industries in Wales are subsidiaries of outside firms. Many are local undertakings, established and built up in Wales since the end of the war. They are small independent business firms whose owners have worked hard to establish and build them up. Those are the people who are the first to feel the effects of the credit squeeze. They are the first affected and are the worst affected, because they have no large financial resources at their command.
The Economist said recently that a crop of bankruptcies would be healthy for the national economy. Those small firms will be the first to be made bankrupt, and we have many such firms in Wales. In the aggregate they employ a large number of people. They make a useful contribution to the Welsh economy, and it would indeed be a tragedy if they were driven out of business by the effects of the credit policy of the Government.
A section of the Report deals with agriculture. I am sure we are all interested in that because agriculture is a very important part of the economy of Wales. The Report contains a mass of information about Welsh agriculture during the period covered, but the Report is a factual document. It contains an abundance of 678 facts, but does not convey the trend of thought and feeling in the agricultural communities of Wales. It cannot reflect the climate of opinion in the Welsh countryside, but that is a very important factor in all our agricultural problems. Over the last twelve months there have been some very significant changes in the climate of opinion in rural Wales. A Welsh farmer said the other day that last year had been a year of frustration for Welsh agriculture.
There is now widespread resentment among the Welsh farmers, not only against the credit policy of the Government, but against the general agricultural policy of the Government and especially their attitude towards the small farmers of Wales. I am glad to see that the Minister of Agriculture is in his place. I hope he is paying some attention to recent developments in rural Wales. I hope also that he is paying some attention to expressions of opinion which are being made every day by farmers in Wales. Wales is a land of small farms. These people do not possess large financial resources. Most of them have a very hard struggle to meet their commitments; and some of them are already feeling the effects of the credit squeeze.
At the National Farmers' Union conference last week a Caernarvonshire farmer called for cheaper credit facilities; and he said that the small farmers of Wales were unable to take advantage of Government production grants because they did not have the necessary half of the money required to finance production. I am sure we all agree that that is a very serious handicap to the small farmers of Wales; and it is bound to retard the development of Welsh agriculture.
There is now a great deal of frustration in the Welsh countryside, and there is bitter criticism of Government policy. There is no doubt that that is the basic reason for the Welsh breakaway from the National Farmers' Union. That breakaway is not simply a revolt against the National Farmers' Union, it is a protest against Government policy towards the small farmers of Wales. The leader and secretary of the Welsh breakaway union was at one time a Conservative candidate in a large agricultural constituency in Wales. He resigned his candidature as a protest against the policy of the Government towards the small farmers of Wales.
679 The most serious aspect of the credit squeeze is its possible effects on employment. That is the aspect which most immediately concerns us in Wales, and especially in the industrial areas of South Wales. The aim of the credit squeeze policy is to reduce the level of industrial activity or, as the economists say, to create some slack in the economy. The ordinary worker does not understand the mechanism of the credit policy—indeed, I sometimes wonder if anybody else does —but the worker does take notice of any policy that endangers his employment. He pays particular attention to any policy that threatens his job.
The workers of South Wales may not know much about credit policies, but they know a great deal about unemployment. They have experienced unemployment and they have bitter memories of it, and the prospect of a return of unemployment creates real fear amongst them.
There has been recently, and there still is now, a recession in the motor industry in the Midlands. This is already causing considerable alarm amongst large numbers of workers employed in some of the new industries in South Wales. It is true that we have no integrated motor industry in South Wales but we have a number of industries which feed the motor industry in the Midlands, and these feeding industries employ large numbers of people. It is only natural, therefore, that the workers employed in these industries should be profoundly concerned about the situation in the Midlands, and they are wondering whether the recession there will extend down the line and endanger their own employment.
Indeed, during the last few days the problem has come much nearer home to us in South Wales. Over the weekend, we have had some very disquieting news. A firm in Merthyr Tydvil which produces washing machines is now dismissing 200 of its workers because of a reduction in home demand. This is the effect of the restrictions on hire purchase. Those restrictions in turn are part of the mechanism of the credit squeeze. Not only Merthyr Tydvil, but Aberdare, a few miles away, is similarly affected. I read in the Press over the weekend that in Aberdare 250 workmen have been informed that they will be redundant in April.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
Will my hon. Friend express that 250 in relation to the total employment in the factory? It is practically 40 or 50 per cent. That is an important factor which assists my hon. Friend's presentation of his case.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) for his useful and helpful intervention. All I wanted to say was that those 250 men have been informed that they will become redundant in April.
The point is that they have been employed in a subsidiary undertaking of a large Midlands firm. This firm is concentrating production in the Midlands. It has decided to cut down production of aircraft components in Aberdare and to transfer the production to a large factory in the Midlands. This news has spread fear and alarm throughout the industrial areas of South Wales.
South Wales is more sensitive to the dangers and fears of unemployment than any other part of Britain. The reasons for this are well known, and I need not go into them tonight. The people of South Wales have not forgotten the bitter experiences of the depression of the inter-war years.
The old memories are not dead. The old fears are still there, nothing causes so much real fear in South Wales as the possibility of a recurrence of unemployment. The old memories and the old fears are now being revived; and the clamour of certain influential people for the creation of a pool of unemployment sends cold shivers down the backs of the workers of South Wales.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I intend to be very brief because I know that two or three interesting and important contributions to the debate still remain to be made, but I wish to make two main points. The first is one which the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) so cogently argued in a speech to which the House listened with great attention. I refer to the fact that the arrangements for preparing and presenting information to this House about the position in Wales, as well as the arrangements for discussing that information, are appallingly bad. From year to year, some of us protest against 681 the position as we find it, but the Government make no move to improve the facilities so that Welsh affairs shall be considered in proper focus and with proper cohesion on the basis of information properly organised and presented, and with debates in which all Members have an appropriate opportunity of putting their points of view.
Since the debate was opened—and opened so well—by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), I have tried to count the number of separate topics which have been raised in this one debate by the Members who have taken part. I gave up counting when I reached 50. There is something radically wrong with the arrangements for the discussion of Welsh affairs in this House. Once more I implore the Minister, who, after all, is a Welshman, to consider the possibility of changing the method of studying and discussing the various aspects of Government action in Wales so that our debates have a focus and point and so that something eventuates from this somewhat inchoate and diffuse series of unrelated speeches.
It is true that we have had some very good speeches tonight, but the debate as a whole has not been of a high level—it cannot be. The fifty or so topics which have been thrown up cannot possibly be dealt with by the Minister for Welsh Affairs when he replies to the debate, even though he may be assisted by a huddle of newly-created Parliamentary Secretaries conscripted for the purpose. Not one of them has a clear idea of why he is here. It may be that they will be hurriedly consulted by the Minister about some point, but it may be any point. Consequently, when the Minister replies, the result will be, as in previous years, a sense of frustration and of dissatisfaction, and there will be no reform, no change, until the next Welsh day comes along.
Once more, I make the suggestion that instead of publishing the present general Report, which scratches the surface of practically every Department in Wales without exhaustively dealing with any of them, we should have throughout the Session a series of detailed White Papers on the various aspects of Welsh affairs and of Government action in Wales.
I suggest also that those White Papers might well be studied in a fairly leisurely manner in a Welsh Standing Committee, 682 with the appropriate Minister in attendance to answer points which are raised. Then, on the Floor of the House, there might from time to time be a portmanteau debate on a group of related subjects— say, the social services, including education, as one group, and industry, employment, and agriculture as another group. It is time that the provision of information about Wales and Welsh affairs were made in a better fashion than that which is now the practice and that the arrangements for their discussion were radically changed.
The only other matter I am going to mention is that of the mounting unemployment in north-west Wales. We could have a full debate about that problem alone. I am most grateful to those other hon. Members who have mentioned this matter, many of them most eloquently and most helpfully, and I know that the people in my constituency, a constituency which is stricken by this nightmare of insecurity of livelihood, will also be grateful to them. I add only this for the information of the House, and the stimulation of the Minister, if that is possible.
In the three North Wales counties referred to, Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth, 58 out of every 1,000 insured workers were unemployed in mid-December, and that at a time when the United Kingdom figure was only 10 out of every 1,000. That is an unemployment figure of almost six times the general average. In the constituency adjoining mine, in Anglesey, the figure was 8.4 per cent., 84 out of every 1,000 unemployed. Moreover, the position is worsening. I have given the figures for mid-December only. The position is always worse in January, as we all know.
This Report, by the way, gives only the figures for June. We all know that in mid-June everywhere, for seasonal and purely temporary reasons, the unemployment figures are at their very lowest. Why does not the Report give the figures for mid-winter, when unemployment bites most deeply? The figures for January are higher even than those for December which I have quoted. In the three counties the average must now be well over 6 per cent. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, as soon as the figures I have quoted were published, some seventy workers were sacked in a small factory in Caernarvon.
The other night I was called on the telephone to hear that the Development 683 Commission's factory at Penygroes was to be closed, a factory which had employed 193 workers a few months ago. This is a serious state of affairs. What is lying heavily on the minds of the people we represent is the feeling that the Govment do not really care, because for four or five years we have been pressing most urgently for Government action to come to the rescue of these stricken villages and valleys, but nothing has been done.
It is not only in Penygroes in the Nantlle Valley that the position is getting worse all the time. More than a year ago I asked the Minister if he would help in the matter of the workers employed in the Air Ministry's unit at Llanberis and Llandwrog. He said he would do his best. I believe he did his best, naturally; but the position now is, we have been told, that some five hundred men employed in the unit will be thrown out of work in the coming summer, and there is absolutely nothing waiting for them when that happens.
On it goes: there is mounting unemployment in these three counties, matched by increasing emigration and the gradual destruction of the social fabric of some of the finest communities in Wales—indeed, in Europe. I appeal to the Minister. I make this one plea tonight for these fine people in the Province of Gwynedd. I appeal to him to take urgent action to help these communities whom he and I know and love so well.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) has said, we have touched on many matters in this debate, but I think three subjects have been given the closest attention by the largest number of speakers, namely, the matter of the B.B.C. and its activities in Wales; Welsh culture; and industry and employment. I would say a word about the political aspects of broadcasting in Wales.
In London it is almost impossible for me, because of the rather ancient wireless set we possess at home, to hear the Welsh Service of the B.B.C. I understand, though, that the same is true in many parts of Wales. However, I cannot pretend from personal experience and firsthand information to judge whether or not 684 the charges made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) are correct. All I can say is that they are believed in many parts of Wales to be correct. That may not be the same thing, but it really is time that this accusation, which has been freely made for several years now, should be proved or disproved.
If any inquiry is made, one of the things which, I believe, will be said, is that the Welsh Nationalists are much more active in conveying news of their activities to the B.B.C. than are some other bodies. That may be. I would believe most readily that they had what one may call inner lines of communication, but I suggest that a body which is responsible for telling news is also responsible, at any rate to some extent, for gathering its news, so that, if that excuse is put up—and there may be some substance in it—it should be asked, what steps are taken by the B.B.C. News Service to keep in touch with other bodies and to inform them of the method by which news can be most readily—and most inexpensively—conveyed to it?
When this House was discussing the Motion to set up a Select Committee to consider the 14-day rule, I put down an Amendment, which was supported by one or two other hon. Members, but was not called, to the effect that it is wrong—I feel most strongly that it is wrong—that a matter of great importance politically and a matter of principle, namely, the veto on political broadcasts between Elections, should be settled behind closed doors by what are called the "usual channels." Therefore, no reasons are given for it. The Postmaster-General puts a veto on broadcasts. There are some of us who believe that there should be party political broadcasts in between Elections, and we believe that for those broadcasts there should be a fair basis of representation.
I have sometimes suggested, with which some of my hon. Friends agree, that as fair a basis as any is the aggregate number of votes cast in Wales at the previous General Election. That is at least one method for determining the number of speakers on either side. There may be other methods. I see that the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) disagrees with that method, but in any case, whatever the method to be adopted or the basis to be used, the people of 685 Wales are entitled to know the reasons why certain decisions are reached, and the decisions should not be reached behind closed doors. That is a matter which ought to be referred to the Select Committee.
I have learned that the allocation of other political broadcasts, such as the "Week in Westminster," has only very recently been changed so as to allow Members on this side of the House some opportunity to participate in the English-language broadcasts to Wales. Before that, because a certain number of Members on the Government side were incapable of giving broadcasts in Welsh——
§ Mr. Garner Evansrose——
§ Mrs. White
—but were willing to avail themselves of the opportunity of broadcasting, the Welsh broadcasts had to be provided by Members on this side of the House; thus we on this side did not have an opportunity of reaching the English-speaking people in Wales.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is it not true that, politically speaking, the Labour Party is the party upon which the preservation of the Welsh language depends?
§ Mrs. White
My right hon. Friend is perfectly correct.
It is right that the reasons for this decision should be known in Wales and that a decision of this importance should be based on argument and reasoning which are available to the general public. I hope that if, as I believe he must, the Minister does something by way of inquiry into the position of the B.B.C. in Wales and its political activities, this matter also will be subjected to such an inquiry.
There are two other points on which I wish to have information from the Minister. We have been discussing Welsh culture and the Welsh language. Is there any hope at all that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had second thoughts on the question of assistance in the publication of books in Welsh? His predecessor gave a solemn undertaking on that matter as we took it, but I understand from Press reports that the present holder of the office has declined to implement that undertaking. I should be glad to know whether the right hon. and 686 gallant Gentleman feels able to say anything further on the subject. I should also like to know whether he can give any good news about the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. I know that he was present when the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Lord Privy Seal received a very strong and representative deputation of Welsh Members.
In the matter of employment I am in my constituency in a better position than are many of my hon. Friends, in that at the moment there are in my constituency more vacancies than there are persons to fill them and we have modern large-scale industries with adequate capital behind them. Therefore I cannot pretend that, generally speaking, in East Flintshire we have the same apprehensions as one is very sad indeed to hear are now shared not only in North Wales but also in the South Wales valleys.
I should like to say something, however, about one industry which is of importance to Wales but which has not yet been mentioned today. It is the tourist industry, which I have mentioned on previous occasions. It is only right that we should pay tribute to the Welsh Tourist Board. It has been doing an admirable job. It would be proper also if we congratulated the Board's ambassadress, Janet Jones, who seems to have done a quite remarkable job in the United States last year. We hope very much that she will continue to be a representative of Wales in other countries of whom we can be really proud.
Last year, as far as can be calculated, more than four million visitors came to Wales. That is an astonishing figure. It is true that it includes a number who came only for a day, but others stayed longer and a large number were overseas, visitors. In other words, Wales is maintaining her proportion of overseas visitors who come to the British Isles. I think that we can be pleased at that situation as far as it goes. I asked some time ago what financial assistance was being afforded to the Board, and I now wonder whether the Minister can give us some information. I understand that the chairman of the Board is to visit Wales in the near future. I hope that we shall be assured that this very useful institution has the fullest possible support from the Government.
687 We know that a large number of tourists come by road in private cars or buses and coaches. I repeat the plea, which I have made several times in the House, that further attention should be given to the conditions in which road traffic operates. As far as I know, the South Wales problem has not been mentioned today. That is more of an industrial problem, but in North Wales the problem is partly industrial and partly one affecting the tourist traffic. No one who has seen the appalling traffic congestion on the North Wales coast roads, weekend after weekend, can help feeling that it is time more urgent attention was given to the matter.
I know that there are promises for the future and that something is being done at Conway, but there are other very serious bottle-necks on these roads and it would be very heartening if the Minister could give some intimation that something will be done at an early date. This traffic congestion adds greatly to the costs of industry. These flourishing industries in North Wales work round the clock throughout the week and do not stop for Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Therefore, this traffic congestion at weekends obviously affects the efficiency and the costs of industry as well as affecting the extremely important tourist trade. I feel very strongly that this is a matter of the greatest importance.
We were graced in this debate up to a moment ago by a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, but I believe that both the Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary have now departed. I hope that from reading the OFFICIAL REPORT they will be able to obtain some information about certain agricultural problems affecting Wales. 1 am fully aware that we are to discuss the special problem of Mid-Wales on some future occasion, so I will now only emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) said about the feeling in Wales that all is not as it should be with Welsh agriculture.
I should like to quote a few words from the official journal of the National Farmers' Union British Farmer, which in its last monthly issue referred to the Report on Government Action in Wales as it affects agriculture. The journal very clearly is not at all satisfied with the position. It notes the fall in Welsh farming 688 production during the period in question. It states that the Report dismisses this as… due to scarcity and high cost of winter keep following the bad harvest.The writer asks:Would this account for the 19 per cent. fall in pig production?If one looks at the Report one sees that the production of everything else has fallen. I am well aware that pig production has fallen all over the country, but it is disturbing to find that in Wales cattle and sheep production has also fallen and that, according to reports, the number of pigs is fewer than it was a year ago. There is also a fall of 5 per cent. in the number of farm workers, and there are more than 2,000 vacancies for farm workers. There is further adverse comment in British Farmer on the way in which the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme is reported to be working.
There is one point of detail on which I should like further information. In a milk-producing country such as Wales, is the Minister of Agriculture fully satisfied with the arrangements for the allocation of milk? I do not pretend to be expert on this subject, but a case was brought to me in my own constituency. The island of Maelor, which has a little of Denbighshire on one side and Shropshire and Cheshire surrounding it, is at the heart of one of the best milk-producing areas. I was astonished to learn that every day milk is brought to Maelor from South Caernarvonshire. That is a most uneconomic method of milk distribution, because some milk is then exported from there to the Merseyside. One would think that it would be more economical to send that milk direct from South Caernarvonshire. As far as I can judge, owing to the vested interest of the large dairy firms, the small bottling dairy is not permitted to collect direct from the farms more than a very small proportion of its total supplies.
So there is the fantastic situation in which this milk is collected from the farms by the United Dairies in their lorries. It is driven past the door of this dairy, which is not allowed to collect the milk for itself, and driven along the road for a mile and a half or more. Nothing whatever is done to it except that it is unloaded from the United Dairies lorries, reloaded into the lorries of the bottling dairy and driven back along precisely the same stretch of road, so that there are 689 three miles of dead mileage every day. It is then unloaded for a second time in the yard of the bottling dairy, processed, bottled and distributed.
This appears to be the result of an arrangement reached after the Milk Marketing Board was deprived of its full powers during the war. As far as I can judge from the correspondence, these large dairies appear to be hampering what would be the proper and economical distribution of milk. I am hoping that this case is not typical. I raise it because this is a Welsh day, it has been happening in my constituency, and as milk distribution is one of the great industries of Wales I have an uncomfortable feeling that this may not be the only case.
Apart from education, we have had little reference in this debate to the social services in Wales. I want to mention a matter which I find disturbing, and it is a problem arising particularly in North Wales, that of the handicapped or ineducable children. I have asked questions about this problem from time to time and I fully recognise the difficulties, because the numbers are small and therefore it is not economic to set up large establishments for these children.
However, the fact that they are few in number makes each individual case no less harrowing. We had hoped that during this year we would have had an occupation centre in Flintshire for some of these children who are not fit to go to the ordinary school. We had hoped this would be established at Rhyl within the coming year. I was disappointed to learn only last week that because of the Government policy of economy this will not materialise. We shall be able to send half a dozen children to Chester at the end of the month, but it is doubtful whether there will even be funds to send a few children to Wrexham, where there is already a centre in another corner of the county.
This may seem to be a small point, but amongst the most distressing cases of those among my constituents who come to see me are the parents of these children. It is sad that at a time when we say that we are in a period of great prosperity and material advance, when people are spending money on all kinds of luxuries, we have to economise in dealing with these unfortunate children and their 690 parents. So I hope very much that this economy will be reconsidered.
If there is one subject on which I find that my otherwise prosperous constituents feel deeply, it is on housing. There are hardly any places in Wales without a housing problem for one reason or another. In the areas which were depressed between the wars people were not able to build houses because they had not the resources. In the rural areas we know what shocking housing conditions existed from the pre-war reports of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). In more prosperous areas such as East Flintshire we have a different problem because of the many workers coming into the new industries. There are no old houses which can be converted into flats and, therefore, we are dependent upon new houses and have only a very small number of pre-war houses for a population which has expanded and is expanding greatly.
Therefore, in all parts of Wales the housing policy of the Government bears very hardly on the people for different reasons. The fact that we may not need slum clearance does not mean that we do not have severe problems of overcrowding and pathetic cases of people who have no prospect of getting homes of their own. The building societies are not making advances, and if these people cannot get a council house their chances of a stable home life are small. Therefore I assure the Minister that this problem is acute in all parts of Wales and I hope he will use his influence with his colleagues about it.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
At the close of the debate I find it difficult to say anything original. The Report reminds me of a pupil at a grammar school who had wasted his time during term and who was afraid of having an unfavourable report. By devious methods he got a blank report which he filled in, and which he signed with a fair copy of his headmaster's signature. Above the word "progress" he wrote "quite satisfactory." I imagine that the author of this Report, when it was completed, sat back in his chair saying, "Quite satisfactory progress made."
I must admit that in many respects it is satisfactory. It is well compiled, interesting, factual and concise. It contains 691 excellent material and it reads very well indeed. But I am sorry to say that it is off the point. It is not written on the subject. I suggest that had the topic been submitted to the National Eisteddfod of Wales, with which the Minister is very familiar, the Report would have been condemned because it had not adhered to the subject.
The title of the Report is "Wales and Monmouthshire, Report of Government Action for the year ended 30th June, 1955." However, we will have to sift very carefully through the Report if we are to find any real gems of Government action. Time will not permit me to give many examples, but I will give one. In paragraph 126 we find the words:At Port Dinorwic the works of Messrs. Brooke Marine have been closed down, the firm having decided to concentrate all their activities at their Lowestoft yard.That information is very interesting and as an item of an economic survey it is quite satisfactory. The point I am trying to make is that if these works were still working, that would not be due to Government action, and the fact that they have closed down is not due to Government action. Anyhow, they have closed down, and there is nothing in the Report which indicates what Government action will follow the closing down.
The Report bristles with examples of a similar kind. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) said, it is the tenth of a series of Reports, and it has followed the same pattern as the previous nine. There should be three aspects to future Reports: an economic survey, of which the present Report is a fine example; a broad outline of the main problems facing the country; and a broad outline of Government plans to meet those problems. Those are three headings in true Nonconformist tradition.
As it stands, the Report gives the impression that there is no coherence. It gives the impression that the Government have tinkered here and there and dealt with matters in bits and pieces. It is not sufficiently comprehensive in scope nor sufficiently imaginative in its approach. To give an illustration of that point, in page 30 there is a very interesting review of the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. It is a very interesting section of the Report, and 692 a fine report it is. On that page we are told:The Geological Survey has continued work on the production of revised editions of the six inch to the mile and one inch to the mile geological maps of the South Wales Coalfield.That is very interesting and valuable, and I appreciate the work which has been done.
However, as a boy in school I was taught and I have taught other boys that there were coal resources in the Vale of Clwyd and coal resources in Anglesey. How long must we wait for factual information about the coal resources of the country as a whole? In page 30 we are also informed that there is a geological survey into lead at Llanrwst and barytes near Carmarthen. Surely there are other parts of Wales where there are lead resources. I am thinking of the mountains of East Denbighshire and Flintshire and North Cardiganshire and parts of Montgomery.
Has there been any attempt to make a geological survey of the whole area? I am told that there is gold in Merionethshire. Some say there is gold there, and other people say there is not. Has not the time arrived when we should know whether there is gold or not? We are told that there is uranium there, but no scientific survey is being made to find out exactly what quantities of uranium are likely to be found. In Anglesey we have copper, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) will deal with that matter, if he has an opportunity.
It was only the other day that I stood above the ruins of a lead mine in East Denbighshire which at one time produced more lead than any other mine in the whole of Britain. I shall not believe that those miners, with their primitive equipment more than 150 years ago, were able to exhaust all the lead in those Denbighshire hills. The time has now arrived for us to have a comprehensive geological survey to find exactly what treasure is to be found under the soil and in the rocks of our country. That is the way in which the United States of America and Russia deal with these problems, and we cannot afford very much longer to tinker with this very important matter.
I was very pleased to read, in paragraph 156, that there has been research into the degreasing of Welsh sheep-skins. 693 I urge the Government to encourage this form of research because it augurs well for the revival of the leather industry in Wales. It is one of the oldest industries in the Principality. At present it is virtually non-existent. It can trace its ancestry beyond the Middle Ages. Today it has practically no home in our country. Yet here is an industry which lends itself to the rural economy of the Principality, and it would find a natural home in the heart of our land. The forests are there, the sheep-skins are there, the water supply is there, all that we require is planning to bring this old industry back into its native place in the life of rural Wales.
Unfortunately, we in Wales lack a central industrial organisation—I should like to stress this point—to coalesce the economic, industrial, educational and local government life of the Principality. There are, of course, several organisations which are doing good work in their own limited field, but I have in mind something for Wales after the pattern of the Scottish Development Council. Are we in Wales perfectly happy in our minds that we are making full use of the Science Department of the University of Wales? Are we perfectly happy in our minds that we are making full use of the technical colleges? I have the feeling that the time has arrived for us to bring the science departments of the University and the technical colleges of Wales into active and living contact with the industrial life of the Principality.
Paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report deal with electricity, and I should like to support what is stated in those two paragraphs—that great progress has been made in North Wales in electrification. That is perfectly true, but much remains to be done, particularly in the rural areas. I know that plans have been very carefully drawn up by the authorities in order to bring this amenity to the rural areas of North Wales. I am bound to ask this question. Are those plans to be implemented without interruption in the next few years, because if they are interrupted, I am afraid that people living in rural areas will be very greatly disappointed?
I want to make this point. We know the Government's policy with regard to the restriction of capital development, but I have a feeling that there are areas in Great Britain where capital development is much more advanced in the case of 694 electricity than in others. If that is so, some areas can stand the economic strain better than the areas in north-west Wales. I should like to ask the Minister to inquire into this question, to see whether it is possible to ease the burden of economies on the electrification of north-west Wales.
The Ffestiniog hydro-electricity scheme will change the picture completely. If this scheme materialises North Wales will be in connection with the super-grid of the Central Electricity Authority. Has not the time therefore arrived when we can consider the siting of an atomic power station in North Wales? If that could be achieved, it would revolutionise the pattern of the economic life of north-west Wales.
I wish to say a word about what has been touched upon already by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). We are told, in paragraph 144, about Government action with regard to the education of handicapped children. That paragraph, in common with other sections, reads well, but only to the undiscerning. I am sorry to say that it is high-sounding nothingness. It reveals action for which the Government have no reason to be proud. It states that 220 new places have been found for the whole of Wales for the education of subnormal children, those who are handicapped physically and mentally. Only 220 places have been found for the whole of Wales, and that is called an achievement.
This miserable achievement might be tolerable were the children already cared for. But what is the position? Throughout North Wales today there is provision for 223 children—only one-sixtieth of those children who require special educational treatment. There are 223 places for the whole of North Wales, and for the whole of Wales we are offered an additional 220, and that is called Government action. I consider this to be one of the great scandals of the present day. I do not hold the present Minister responsible; he has come into an inheritance of neglect. But he has a glorious opportunity. Here is human material; children who, through no fault of their own, are less fortunate than their fellows, and they are compelled often to live under a severe handicap in what can be a very hard and cruel world. They enter the race of life handicapped from the start.
695 We concentrate upon those children who are bright, and we forget to concentrate on their less fortunate friends. I am of opinion that the community of the good is a house of many mansions in which there are places for everyone, however humble he may be. The educational system of Wales today—and I know something about it—is a house of many mansions. But the doors are securely locked to these unfortunate, handicapped children.
There is a rule in photography that if one wishes to have a well balanced picture in its light and shade, one must expose for shadows and let the lights take care of themselves. The educational system in Wales today, and in the past, has been exposing for the lights and we have forgotten the shadows, and the picture which we have had is a picture of soot and whitewash.
I appeal to the Minister to make an inquiry into this desperate situation regarding these unfortunate children. They have been neglected down the years, and now the Minister has a grand opportunity to redeem some of the mistakes and errors and the neglect of the years that have gone by.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
If I am to be fair to those who are to wind up this debate, I must limit my observations to some four or five minutes, and that will be my aim. In those circumstances, I should like to confine what I have to say to one sphere only. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) complained about the delay in debating this Report. I hope that his complaint will not apply equally to our opportunities not only for discussing the Mid-Wales Investigation Report, but for hearing the Government's views upon it and what they intend to do about it.
It is important to remember why this investigation was carried out. The reasons go back as far as 1950. In July of that year the Rural Development Panel of the Council for Wales submitted its first memorandum. In its second memorandum, submitted in February, 1953, it made specific recommendations and set out a plan to deal with this area. In their White Paper of November, 1953, the Government rejected that plan and said, 696 "We want further information before we decide what to do." As a result, this investigation was carried out and the Report was produced. Now that all the data for which they asked has been obtained, I urge the Government to apply their minds to the Report and to tell the House and the country what they propose to put forward as practicable alternatives to the suggestions made by the Council for Wales. I hope that the Minister will arrange for a full debate. The best course would probably be to have a debate upon Welsh agriculture generally, with special reference to the Report. That would enable us to discuss all the problems from every conceivable aspect.
I hope that the Government will be as quick as possible in making up their minds about the Report, but, while they are doing so, I would ask them to bear three points in mind. The first has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), namely, that it is especially important that there should be no slowing up in the electrification programme for the rural areas. Reference has already been made to the North Wales area. The South Wales Electricity Board is just getting into its stride in the rural areas. For almost the first time its figures are satisfactory, and I urge the Minister to do all in his power to see that, now that we have reached this position, the Board is allowed to continue to make steady progress in an area where it is urgently needed.
Secondly, I urge the Minister to try to ensure that the Forestry Commission is in tune with at least some of the recommendations contained in the Mid-Wales Investigation Report. One recommendation which I have in mind is that for the combination of hill and lowland units. The Report makes special reference to the importance of encouraging the farming of hill and lowland units in combination, and I hope that the Minister will do what he can to see that the Commission's policy does not cut across that recommendation. I know of one case where the taking of eight units—sheep walks—has affected the livelihood of 31 lowland farmers.
Thirdly, I ask the Minister to confer with his colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, about the possibility of extending the provisions of the Livestock Rearing Act so as to cover farmers who sell a certain quantity of milk, but are not dairy 697 farmers in the true sense of the term. Many of these are hill farmers in every sense except that they sell a certain quantity of milk, and they qualify for assistance under the Hill Farming Act and the Livestock Act, which would help them to meet the problems set out in the Mid-Wales Investigation Report.
I am grateful to those who are to wind up the debate for giving me time to speak. I urge the Minister to give us an opportunity to go into the whole Report fully at an early date, so that we can hear what the Government have to say about it.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
As is customary on these occasions, our debate has ranged over a very wide field. The Report which we are considering makes that inevitable because it covers the entire domestic scene in Wales, from agriculture to civil aviation and from the social services to the iron and steel industry. The debate is an annual survey on the state of the Welsh nation. If it appears at times to be diffuse and nebulous, it is nevertheless valuable because it enables right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from the Principality to pinpoint the weaknesses of Government policy in Wales. Our debate would probably be far more effective if we had comprehensive departmental reports which we could debate with more time and more facilities either on the Floor of the House or in Standing Committee.
I have listened very carefully indeed to all the speeches. I will concentrate on the main issues that have arisen during the course of the debate. Perhaps I should refer first to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). He made the most grave charges in the strongest possible terms against the Welsh B.B.C. His charges call for the closest and most objective inquiry, and I hope that the Government will not delay in putting the inquiry into motion.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
My hon. Friend will be aware that reference was also made in debate to the fact that within two minutes of the charge being made in the House the B.B.C. had denied it in Wales. This is an indication of the great concern with which it regards such charges.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
I am sure that the Minister will take into account what my hon. Friend has said when he goes into this question.
In the course of his most stimulating speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) drew our attention to the very important fact that the Government's Report was published in the same month as that in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued his message to local authorities in England and Wales. On pages 12 and 13 of the Report are details of the work of the Welsh Gas Board and of the two electricity boards which operate in the Principality. I would pay a tribute to the Welsh Gas Board, which is generally acknowledged to be most efficient and progressive. It is clear that the Mersey-side and North Wales Electricity Board and the South Wales Electricity Board have made considerable progress in bringing electricity into our rural areas.
We all recognise that the Electricity Act has brought remarkable benefits into the rural areas of Wales. Perhaps I may quote a significant example from my own constituency. In Anglesey, the number of premises that have been supplied with electricity has been doubled since 1947, but a great deal still remains to be done. As my hon. Friends have already said, rural electrification is vitally important in Wales from both an amenity and an agricultural standpoint. In paragraph 12 of the Report we read:Efforts are being made to maintain a high rate of rural electrification.In paragraph 54 we read:In 1955–56, some £1,300,000 will be spent on works to provide supplies in the rural areas of South Wales.Will the Minister tell us how those plans and the plan of the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board will be affected by the Government's economic policy? That is something that all Welsh farmers and dwellers in the rural areas will want to know. They—and we—want to know how the all-round percentage cut, to which the Chancellor referred in 699 his Budget statement on 26th October last, is to affect the position in the rural areas.
As the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has just said, there is in those areas a tremendous backlog of work, and I understand that already, as a result of the Chancellor's message, the area electricity boards are having to recast their schemes. I should like to know from the Minister whether or not it is true, as I am informed, that but for the Chancellor's message schemes which would have been carried out next year must now be postponed for as long as four or five years. If that is so it is a very serious situation.
Again, there is a very real fear that the Government's policy will very seriously affect our rural housing and sewerage schemes. The cut in the subsidies is bound, also, to affect the house-building programmes of local authorities in those areas. On both sides of the House it is acknowledged, I think, that the rural areas need such amenities as electrification, adequate piped water, sewerage schemes, housing schemes, and better roads. All have been mentioned in this debate.
Their provision was the underlying theme of the Second Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire which was debated in this House over two years ago, and we are entitled tonight to ask what we have had as a result of that Memorandum, a document which revealed a most grave situation and one which, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with his knowledge of Wales knows well, has not improved but has worsened. As far as I can see, all we have had has been the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act. The mountain has brought forth a mouse. I say that because that Measure will benefit only a very small area in Wales.
Can the Minister say what effect the Government's policy will have on the projects promised in paragraph 224 of the Report? The House is entitled to know just how much of this much-vaunted Report is realistic, and how many of the assurances contained in it are likely to be fulfilled in the next two or three years.
That leads me to the part of the Report which deals with agriculture in Wales. We have had two most excellent speeches 700 from my hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) and Flint, East (Mrs. White). I do not feel as sanguine about the agricultural position of Wales as did the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans). The most satisfactory paragraphs in that Report dealing with agriculture are those which concern improvement in animal health—paragraphs 91 to 93. For instance, paragraph 92 reads:The campaign to eradicate bovine tuberculosis has progressed satisfactorily.It says that there are now 400,000"clean"cattle in Wales.
Nevertheless, I do not feel very hopeful about the rest of the Report on agriculture. The most significant thing was the substantial fall in Welsh agricultural production, and I am not satisfied that this was due to the scarcity and the high cost of winter keep following the bad harvest, which is the explanation the Report gives. This would not account for the 19 per cent. fall in pig production. I think that it is due to the widespread feeling of insecurity among Welsh farmers. It is also due, as my hon. Friend the Member for Neath said, to the credit squeeze, the high mortgage interest which is demanded by the banks, and the lack of flexibility. It is due to the lack of confidence which farmers feel in the deficiency payments.
I should like to quote one case which came to my notice some months ago and which I conveyed to the Minister of Agriculture. A young farmer obtained a loan to buy a farm in the Welsh countryside. He brought into the farm electricity and water, and he built a new shippon. He changed that farm from a derelict holding into a first-class holding. As soon as the farm was in excellent condition, the Chancellor told the banks to restrict credit. This farmer received a letter from the bank manager telling him that he must reduce his overdraft by 10 per cent. What was he to do? All he could do was to sell his stock, which was the worst possible thing to do from the agricultural point of view.
That is the situation facing farmers in Wales today. There is dissatisfaction with the Government's agricultural policy and a nostalgic looking back—hiraeth— to the days of the Labour Government when the farmers of this country were given real security for the first time in 701 years. The Agriculture Act, 1947, was the finest charter that the farmers of this country have ever had, and they all acknowledge that today.
I do not think that this is irresponsible criticism on my part. It is what I have gathered from my talks with fanners both on their farms and in the markets of North Wales. Rural water supplies, rural electrification, rural roads, housing schemes and a coherent agricultural policy are the needs of Wales today. In spite of the hope that surrounds the Report which we are discussing, I do not feel too hopeful about the future of rural Wales under the present Administration.
A number of extremely important points have been raised in the debate about the future of the Development Areas. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), in a most excellent speech, spoke for us all when he referred to the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. The work is certainly not finished in the Development Areas in Wales—it is only half finished—and I think it would be a tragedy if any parts of those areas were to be de-scheduled at the present time. I hope that the Government will give most careful attention to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend on that matter and also in connection with North Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) drew attention to Gwynnedd where the position is continuing to cause the gravest concern to us all. The unemployment figures are still high, and young people continue to leave the district. The cream of the youth of those counties in North Wales continues to drift away. We cannot afford to lose them. It would be a very poor province if it lost the cream of its youth, but that is happening now.
I notice that the position of Anglesey is specifically mentioned in paragraph 168 of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. That is as it should be, because the percentage of the insured population unemployed there is the highest of any county in the United Kingdom. The local authorities in the area, Merioneth, Caernarvon and Anglesey, have shown plenty of initiative and done everything possible. I hope the Government will give them constructive cooperation. We have repeatedly raised this matter in the House in the last three or 702 four years and have put Questions about it. Ministers have said that they are sympathetic towards the situation, but sympathy is not enough. We need some constructive Government action.
I think that the Government might well look at paragraph 89 of the Select Committee's Report, which suggests that the other districts, although small, are in a sufficiently grave plight to warrant being added to the Schedule. That is a course which my hon. Friends and I have been suggesting for a long time. This is not a quantitative problem. The overall figures may not appear to be very much, but it is a qualitative problem and specifically a Welsh problem. If we look at the figures against the background of the United Kingdom as a whole it may not appear as a very important problem, but if we look at it against a Welsh background we realise how tremendously important it is because of the cultural and linguistic significance of these counties against the background of Wales as a whole. These counties have a special significance.
I would refer to what was said by my right hon. Friend about technological and technical education. The figures which he gave for Wales were most revealing. In those areas which are being denuded of their young people, there are no facilities for proper technical or technological education at all. I hope that the responsible authorities in Wales will read carefully what was said by my right hon. Friend and will take heed before it is too late.
It is most gratifying to learn from the Report that the level of employment is very high. I wish to ask the Minister one question on employment. In paragraph 22 of the Report it is stated:It is estimated that 35 per cent. of the insured employees in Great Britain are women whereas in Wales the percentage is only 28.Why is that? We are as richly endowed with the fair sex as any part of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] I am trying to be fair. Is it not because a large number of women in Wales, having failed to obtain work, are no longer on the employment registers? Is it that in Wales we have a hidden reservoir of unemployed which is not revealed in the statistics? If that is so, the figures are not so good as they would appear to be from the Report.
I wish to refer to one matter which has not been discussed by anyone in this debate, the question of civil aviation in 703 Wales. I think that all hon. Members are dissatisfied with the development of civil flying in the Principality. None of the public corporations operates in Wales. The B.E.A.C. does not and, although the private charter companies are doing what they can, we are completely hamstrung in this most important development. I think that one of the reasons why we are hamstrung is because of the monopoly employed by the Irish air company, Aer Lingus. I understand that protracted discussions have been going on for a long time. I hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will represent the Welsh point of view to the Government on this matter. We do not want to be left lagging behind the rest of the country. I have received a telegram during this debate pointing out that the airport of Haverfordwest is likely to be closed very shortly if agreement is not reached.
I add my congratulations to the City of Cardiff upon obtaining the status of the capital of Wales. I hope that the City will prove worthy of the great honour and will become a focal point of the aspirations and hopes of Welsh people. Administration in Wales can still be tidied up a great deal. I think that many Government offices now in London and in Aberystwyth could be brought to the capital city. I am glad to note from the Report that the Council of Wales is now investigating the machinery of government in Wales. This is something which needs overhauling very badly, and the Council's Report will be awaited with great interest. I am wondering whether the Minister can say when it is likely to be published.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) that in Wales we may be creating too many bodies which meet in private and which, perhaps, may accumulate powers of which this House has no knowledge. There is that danger. We should be told more about the conference of heads of Government offices in Wales, and we should have more information about the activities of the Council for Wales. I should like the Minister to say whether, in addition to the competent and excellent investigations that the Council for Wales carries out, it is consulted by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and by other Ministers on matters affecting local government and 704 other questions in Wales. If so, I consider that this House should be informed of the discussions and of the recommendations which are made by the Council for Wales. It would be dangerous if a non-elected, nominated body of this kind were to accumulate too much power behind closed doors.
I should like, in conclusion, to refer to a story which is told in the greatest Welsh classic—"The Mabinogion." It is a story of a giant who was leading his men. One day they came to a river which could not be bridged or forded. This great giant of a man lay down in the river so that his men might walk over his body on to the other side. Out of this charming story we have one of the best known Welsh proverbs—"Bid ben, bid bont," or, "He who would lead must be a bridge."
Wales is England's oldest partner, and I hope that the partnership may long continue. If it is to continue, it is the Government's duty to maintain that bridge so that commerce, culture and good will may pass and repass between the two countries. If that is not achieved, other and more sinister forces will come into play. We look to the Government for a lead and for constructive action in these important matters. They may appear to be small from over the Border, but we regard them as important and great. I hope that the Government, with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is a distinguished Welshman, will help to lead us to that desired goal.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
It is just over a year ago, I think, since we had the last debate of this character, when I spoke for the first time in the office which I am now privileged to hold. It has been a year which in many ways has been an eventful one for the Principality. During the year we had a debate in the House on a Bill dealing with the basis of government of the Principality, thanks to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). That gave us a chance of expressing our views.
Important Reports have been issued on such vital matters as the South Wales ports and hill fanning. The Report on the latter subject is one which, I think, everyone on both sides of the House is 705 agreed is a very remarkable and revealing document. Finally, the Government had the great pleasure of officially recognising the status of Cardiff as the capital city of the Principality. As a Caernarvon man, I was very pleased to be able to do it.
We have had a very good debate tonight. I hope hon. Gentlemen will not think me patronising, which I certainly am not, when I say that the speeches on both sides have been of a very high standard, and have raised matters which are of real importance to the Principality. I cannot, in the time at my disposal, deal with all of them. I shall do my best to deal with those which, I think, are peculiar to the Principality, because there will be other opportunities of discussing others. As the House will have noticed, a great number of my colleagues in the Government who have responsibility in the matters which have been discussed have been here practically throughout the whole of the debate. Indeed, the most crowded bench in the Chamber today has been the Government Front Bench. That, I think, is a great credit, and shows the interest we take in the affairs of Wales.
I was very interested in the excellent speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), who opened the debate. He said a rather interesting thing about the Report of Government Action in Wales. He said it was a good catalogue. It is a good thing to have a good catalogue if one knows what one wants. He also said that I ought to have expressed my thanks to the Labour Government for their foresight. I would have done, but nobody would have believed me. That was the real trouble. However, it is with the Report with which I am concerned. Honestly, I do not think it matters very much who did this or that. What we want to know is what the position is in Wales today. I had a certain sympathy with a good many of the speakers today, because I felt they were having some difficulty in picking up points of criticism. That, I think, was a good thing, because it showed that the position is pretty good.
We have had this year, as we have had before, a White Paper, and there has been published a second Digest of Welsh Statistics; and I hope that hon. Gentlemen have found that statistical Digest of some value in considering the affairs of the Principality and of obtaining informa- 706 tion. There is no doubt, of course, that it is susceptible of improvement. Of course it is, and I would assure the House that it is the wish of the Government that it should be as comprehensive as possible. My colleagues and I are always ready to consider any suggestion which will lead to an improvement in the document. Indeed, at this very moment Government Departments are, at my express wish, giving every facility to a research project into the Welsh economy at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth. The team engaged in this work is attempting to construct a set of social accounts for Wales, which may well prove to be of value. Taken in conjunction with the White Paper, I think that the Digest already provides a considerable body of information for the purpose of assessing the progress which the Principality is making.
I am trying to pick out subjects which, I think, will be of interest to hon. Gentlemen, and if I should miss out any matter I assure the House that I shall be very glad to discuss it later with any hon. Member. It must be obvious to the whole House that I could not possibly deal with everything in the time at my disposal. It is incumbent upon me, in a debate of this character, to attempt, however briefly, a statement on the present economic position of Wales.
In a debate of this kind it is inevitable that we should range over an enormous number of topics. It was stated earlier in the debate that we had already heard fifty topics mentioned. I have heard a further ten mentioned since. Therefore, I think that we have done pretty well. It is obvious that local problems must also be raised. I am not complaining about that but they tend at times to get the general outline a little blurred. Not unnaturally, we have stressed difficulties, but it is right that those should be set against the general background which at the moment is one of a country enjoying the highest level of prosperity generally that it has ever known.
Unemployment tends to be the key to the economic picture in our minds. It is not surprising that that should be so in view of the very unhappy memories that we have in our part of the world, but over the past year unemployment has fallen more in Wales than in Great Britain generally. As has been pointed out 707 already, unemployment in Wales has never been as low in peace time as it is now, and there is evidence of an almost universally high standard of living. At the time of a debate similar to this last year, the unemployment rate was 2.2 per cent., and by this year, or rather by the end of last year, it had fallen to 1.7 per cent. The gap between the figure for Wales and that for Great Britain as a whole has narrowed still further. As the White Paper on Wales and Monmouthshire points out, the average monthly total of persons unemployed in Wales during the year was about 22 per cent. lower than in the previous twelve months.
The only area of any size where current unemployment can be called high is in Caernarvonshire and in Anglesey and to a lesser extent in Merionethshire. West South Wales is sharing in the general prosperity, although the trend of redundancy in the tinplate industry has not entirely disappeared. I should like to deal with both areas separately a little later, but the picture given in the general survey in the opening paragraph of the White Paper is on the whole extremely encouraging. I am sure that we are all glad that that is so.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) referred to west South Wales. It is an area which has occupied a great deal of our time in previous debates. I regard the fact that we are able to wind up the Lloyd Committee as an encouraging sign of the present upward trend in Welsh economic prospects. I regard it as a mark of the confidence of the Government in the future of west South Wales. The prospect was that, provided demand was maintained at its expected level, the threat of redundancy in the steel industry was not so immediate and the redundancies, when they did occur, were not expected to be concentrated within a short period.
Since then the outlook has improved still further, and I am glad to say that at present the prospects for west South Wales are reassuring. We cannot expect that the old type of machine steel and tinplate works and their ancillary works will continue to operate for ever, but the demand for sheet and tinplate is buoyant at present. Tinplate consumption in 1955 was one-third higher than it was in 1954, and arrangements have had to be made 708 to import substantial quantities. A smaller, though still considerable deficiency, is expected in 1956. The demand for sheet in 1956 will almost certainly exceed the production, and substantial imports will probably continue to be necessary.
These gaps between supply and demand are expected despite the increase in sheet capacity planned next year at the great works at Margam and the beginning of tinplate production during the next year at the large works now under construction at Velindre. It is not possible to say when the old works will close or what redundancies will occur when they do. Certainly there is no early prospect of redundancy. The problem at present is how to maintain the labour force required in the old works whilst labour is being recruited for the new ones. Further efforts have had to be made to obtain foreign labour for the hand mills.
Manufacturing industry in the area has been expanding, and about a dozen local undertakings are known to have expansion schemes in prospect which, on employers' estimates, should result in the additional employment of more than 600 men and 400 women, and involve the construction of over 300,000 square feet of factory space. These developments include the construction at the titanium fabricating plant at Waunarlwydd which has recently been announced in the Press. The area has a good deal to offer to manufacturing industry, and we hope that these encouraging developments will continue.
Now I turn to another area where, frankly, the picture is not as good. West South Wales is the encouraging side of the picture but there has been a good deal of discussion during this debate about the situation in north-west Wales. This was especially considered in the White Paper on the Distribution of Industry published in 1948, in which certain new steps were proposed to help in the provision of new industry. Two small factories were built at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Penygroes out of the Development Fund. Since then unemployment has fluctuated, but the rate has remained relatively high. There was a fall in the number unemployed in that area as a whole when the rate was 5.7 per cent. of the insured population. Unemployment is seasonal in varying degrees according to different parts of the area.
In December there were about 1,150 unfilled vacancies for jobs in the area. 709 That is one unfilled vacancy to about three unemployed, compared with the substantial excess of unfilled vacancies over unemployed in the country as a whole. Whereas in this area there is one unfilled vacancy for three unemployed, in Great Britain as a whole the situation is two to one the other way round. The position in North Wales has had continuous attention from successive Governments for many years, and the question of adding the area to those scheduled has been considered on more than one occasion.
For reasons which were explained, the White Paper on the Distribution of Industry published in 1948 came to the conclusion that scheduling would not be appropriate as a means of dealing with the problem. As recently as 1954 it was decided to have a fresh look at it, and a detailed survey of the three counties concerned was made. We came to the same conclusion as did the Government in 1948.
Hon. Gentlemen have referred to the recent Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, and there has been the suggestion that there should be a general review of the Development Areas and districts which, though small, might be in a condition to warrant help and to be added to the Schedule. I will ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to take very close note of what hon. Gentlemen have said in this debate on this important matter and to see whether there are grounds for coming to a different conclusion. But I should point out that the Committee did not recommend that any particular area should be added to or removed from the Schedule.
Indeed, the Report of the Select Committee laid emphasis on the general need for the Government to economise on expenditure. The primary sources of employment in the area are and must remain— and personally I should like to see remain —agriculture, forestry, tourism and ancillary trades associated with them. I hope that what was said about hard winters will not be repeated, because I always regard that part of the world as one of the mildest parts of Great Britain.
The Government would welcome the introduction of a limited amount of suitable new industry into the area which would provide additional opportunities of 710 employment for those at present unemployed. Much can be done by the initiative of those in the area, but the Government are willing to do whatever is in their power to help to provide employment.
Before turning to the practical steps which the Government are taking to assist in the establishment of new industries in the area, I should like to say a word about the Report on Anglesey by Mr. Peter Scott, which the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) was good enough to let me see. It is a praiseworthy effort of local initiative. It has been carefully studied not only by myself but by my colleagues, and we have had the benefit of the advice of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, whose experience of these matters, as the House will appreciate, is of great value.
After careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it would not be wise, even if it were practicable, to go the full distance recommended in the Report in the direction of trying to increase the population of the county town by attracting population from urban areas in England. Those who visit us and know us know that we are not inhospitable people—on the contrary—but we are anxious to preserve our way of life and our culture, and I think that the Report under-estimates the impact of a large-scale transfer of population and industry to Anglesey.
Moreover, too large a concentration of industry at Llangefni would adversely affect the rural life of the country. There is already a certain amount of industry well distributed about the county, employing some 2,000 people, and a sizeable factory is under construction at Llangefni; but the county remains predominantly rural in character.
I now turn to the steps that the Government are taking, and will go on taking, to try to direct industry to north-west Wales in general. The Board of Trade's officers in all parts of the country are on the look-out for undertakings likely to be interested in the area. Wherever possible they have persuaded managements of such undertakings to go to north-west Wales to see for themselves what it has to offer. Some managements have already been escorted to the area by the Board's officers. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) will remember at 711 least one occasion when he himself was present. For some industrialists—let us face it—the area may possibly seem too remote, but it has valuable facilities to offer, a readily available supply of good labour, water, clean air and some very good sites.
It would be suitable, for example, for certain types of chemical or allied undertakings. It has been possible to attract between thirty and forty small new firms since the war, as well as three large new engineering units. Twelve of these are in premises built by the Government, including several in war-time factories, and the three factories so far built out of the Development Fund. One of these a small one at Llangefni, has been finished since our last debate, and is occupied by a company which, I believe, has not previously operated in Wales.
Another factory under construction at Llangefni is for occupation by a company already established in north-west Wales. This factory will be larger than the other three Development Fund factories put together. Some of the Air Ministry buildings at Llanberis have been let to an industrial tenant—I am not making a lot of this—and there are inquiries for others, although their range of usefulness for industry is limited. It is, of course, for industrialists themselves to decide whether the area has the facilities that they are looking for. This takes time, particularly with major expansions of undertakings of the kind providing substantial employment, which usually requires heavy capital investment.
In the case of many undertakings expansion cannot be carried out until a number of complex technical problems have been solved. Very sensibly, an industrialist with a substantial project looks at a number of sites in different parts of the country and, on balance, picks one which comes nearest to providing the facilities which his process demands. On the one hand, that means that it takes a long time to reach a decision in any particular case, and on the other, that a considerable number of industrialists may visit a site before one of them decides to use it.
It should be of assistance to industrialists thinking of establishing themselves in north-west Wales to know that the Development Commission is prepared in suitable cases to consider recommending the building of factories by means of 712 the Development Fund for letting to approved industrial tenants. I am glad to be able to announce that the President of the Board of Trade has agreed that the Wales and Monmouth Industrial Estates Limited may operate in north-west Wales as agents for the building and administering of these factories, and that the company has willingly agreed to do so.
Obviously the first step will be to find the industries. When suitable proposals for factories are put forward the services of the company will, if necessary, be available from the outset to make arrangements for the design and construction of the factories. I am afraid that we must face the fact that there is no quick or easy solution to the problem. Recent events show only too well the difficulties which, with the best will in the world, we cannot easily avoid.
The R.A.F. Maintenance Unit at Llandwrog must close towards the end of this year, as we forecast in the last Welsh debate, and developments affecting the Development Commission factory at Penygroes have given rise to some concern among hon. Members. I will first deal with Llandwrog. In the last debate we discussed the future of the R.A.F. Maintenance Unit there and also at Llanberis. I then explained that while the unit was likely to maintain its employment for another two years, there was no escape from the necessity to close down this unit as part of the general plan of reallocation of the whole storage supply system of the R.A.F. Since that time, and as we forecast, work has been transferred from Llanberis to Llandwrog. The work in hand at Llandwrog is likely to be completed, as we then expected, during the course of this year. I may say that suggestions, which have gained some currency, that the work is due to end almost immediately are without foundation. We expect the work to be completed and the unit to close towards the end of this year.
Every effort is being made to find interested firms who might prove acceptable tenants of the buildings at Llanberis. One company has taken the tenancy of some of the buildings; inquiries have been received from others and are being followed up. But the site is remote, and although the buildings are of sound construction, their range of usefulness for industrial purposes is limited. Our efforts 713 to find additional opportunities for employment, as part of our general policy for this area, will, of course, continue unremittingly, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter that I shall do everything possible to assist.
At Penygroes, the factory to which I referred, under the auspices of the Development Commission, has specialised in making civilian respirators. The contract upon which this factory has been engaged will come to an end very shortly, and this may affect the employment of the sixty workpeople there. Indeed, it may be diffi-cut to find other work which is suitable for the factory. At present, however, the firm holds a variety of Government contracts and sub-contracts, and also undertakes work at another of its associated factories, which I believe is in Bangor.
There is no objection to this firm transferring some of its work to the Penygroes factory, or seeking other commercial contracts in order to keep its workpeople employed. When further Government contracts for which its capacity is suitable are being placed it will also have full opportunity to tender for them and, as the factory is in an area with a special unemployment problem, it will qualify for the measure of preference which the Government accord in such cases.
I want to say a word about the point raised in connection with the B.B.C. I can say no more than that I will do what the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) suggested. I will pursue the matter with my right hon. Friend. Inquiry will have to be made to see what the position is. I am sure that the House will excuse me from saying more than that I will pursue the matter as a result of what has been said tonight. I would remind hon. Members that, up to date, the House has heard only one side of the question. I can certainly give the assurance that I will get in touch with my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman mean his right hon. Friend who is responsible for policy or the Postmaster-General?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I should first refer to the Postmaster-General, who is obviously responsible for that side, and see what is the position.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I have a rough idea that somebody may put down a Question about it. It may be only a rumour, but it is very likely.
Whatever anybody may say, the agricultural industry of Wales is in good shape, and has recovered well from the bad harvest of 1954 and the late spring of 1955. Reduction in cattle stocks, in view of last year's poor supply of fodder, was inevitable, but this was undoubtedly temporary, and there are already signs that the number of young cattle is increasing and that sheep numbers in 1956 may reach record levels.
Most hon. Members will be glad that an effort is to be made to discuss the Mid-Wales Report at some other time. It would be very wise to do so, because it is a very important document. Everybody agrees that it is a Report of outstanding merit. In reply to a Question a few days ago the Minister of Agriculture announced that he was consulting the Council of Wales and Monmouth and other Welsh interests about the Report. I take this opportunity of associating myself with my right hon. Friend in the thanks which he has already expressed to the Commission for its very valuable work. The Government are greatly indebted to the Chairman and other members for undertaking what was obviously —to anybody who has read the Report— a very arduous task, and producing this well-documented and courageous Report within the time allotted to it.
The question of South Wales ports is very important. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) referred to the drop in the trade going through those ports. That is only too true. It is the drastic reduction in coal exports which has brought about the present situation, because those ports were built largely for that purpose, and the future prosperity of the ports must depend upon the loss in coal exports being replaced by general cargo traffic. That is the crux of the problem. No one suggests for a moment that there is an easy solution. Since the dock facilities were built mainly to handle coal, handicaps in the ways of developing the general cargo trade have occurred. The White Paper makes it clear that the British Transport Commission has done 715 what it can to improve and adapt machinery for this purpose.
Undoubtedly the event of the year in this connection has been the publication in January of the Report of the Industrial Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire on the South Wales ports. I would pay my tribute to the valuable work which the Panel has done. It made two main recommendations, suggesting the re-examination of railway rates and port charges. My right hon. Friend has taken action on both of them. The Western Region of British Railways is investigating any case where rail traffic might be profitably developed, pending a review of the current rates. The interests concerned have agreed to set up a technical panel to examine the problem in detail, consisting of representatives of the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, the British Liner Committee and the British Transport Commission. They first met on 6th October, and the work goes on.
My right hon. Friend is well aware that his action cannot be represented as a dramatic attempt to solve the problem, but hon. Gentlemen should bear in mind that there is little direct action that the Government can take in this aspect of affairs to increase trade. Indeed, it is not Government policy to favour one group of ports as against another, but whatever help the Government can give they will be happy to render. Increase of traffic must depend to a very large extent on the efforts of local bodies and interests, and there is, I am glad to say, reassuring evidence that these bodies are alive and active in the matter.
I can tell the hon. Member who spoke about the position at Treforest—he has, of course, written to me about this and I shall reply to him in due course—that I am making inquiries into the matter. It seems to be a question full of uncertainties. There is a good deal of ground for the understandable anxiety of the workpeople in this factory about their future prospects, because the present trend in the country does not favour the factory's present activity. The precise prospect of the factory depends upon a number of complex commercial considerations which lie entirely within the responsibility of the Airways Corporation and not directly with the Government.
716 All I can say at the present time is that although there is no immediate prospect of closure or redundancy at this factory, I am getting in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on this matter. If there were to be a closure the prospect of work in alternative employment for the people involved are very good. Indeed, the unemployment rate in Pontypridd is lower than the national average: 0.8 per cent. as against 1 per cent. There is no shortage of employment. In fact, it is a labour shortage area. Nevertheless, we certainly do not wish the skill and experience of the workers to be dissipated.
There are two further points, in regard to the National Library and the Welsh book scheme. I am afraid that I have nothing at the moment to add about the National Library, because a decision has still not been reached. The Welsh book scheme was submitted to me by the Welsh Books for Adults Committee. As hon. Members will know, the scheme was worked out by that Committee to stimulate the publication of books in Welsh for adult readers. Its purpose was to supplement the plan for school books which my predecessor announced during the debate on Welsh affairs in, I think, February, 1954.
Briefly, the object of the scheme is to administer a fund which will be applied to encourage the publication in Welsh of approved books. I may say that the Government have never been in any doubt about the value of the scheme. We must, however, consider whether Government funds can be made available to finance the scheme at the outset so as to set it on its feet.
The Government considered the proposal very carefully, and I had a great deal of discussion about it with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was with great reluctance that we had eventually to conclude that there were objections to the use of Government funds in the form of a financial subsidy to book publishers interested in the scheme. Indeed, one of the main difficulties was that the Ready Committee itself had ruled out the possibility of a subsidy to publishers as involving a dangerous and impracticable principle.
Since our decision was announced there has been a great deal of further consideration, and only a very few days ago I was 717 happy to receive a deputation from the Welsh Books for Adults Committee, with whom I had a very interesting discussion. One point which the deputation pressed very strongly—and one which impressed me very much—was that without the Welsh book scheme there would be a gap in the arrangement for stimulating the publication of books in Welsh which might well invalidate the steps already taken to encourage the provision of suitable material in the schools.
That appeared to me to be a very serious point. It caused me a great deal of concern, since the efforts which the Government have been making to stimulate the publication of Welsh books were efforts to which I have attached great value. I made it clear to the deputation that I had an open mind on the subject. The Government have reconsidered the matter very carefully and I am glad to say that we are prepared to make available a grant of £1,000 a year for five years to assist in the inauguration of the scheme. Certain matters of practical detail still remain to be settled, but I thought that the House would like to have this early announcement of our decision.
I have tried to cover as much ground as possible in the time available. I appreciate that there are a good many other points with which I have not had time to deal. I assure the House that I will see that they are dealt with as soon as possible, and I hope that it will be possible to find the time to have a further discussion on these very important matters, in which all hon. Members are interested.