§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
This occasion affords us an opportunity to review the unemployment position in Wales. On 24th February last the House debated the general unemployment position of the country. On that occasion my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and other hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies stressed the extent of unemployment in Wales. In addition, a number of deputations have waited on Ministers from time to time, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Ministers for so readily making themselves available to hear the views of representatives from the Principality, as well as the views of right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House.
Judging from the reply of the President of the Board of Trade yesterday to a Question concerning the administration of the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, it seems that the representations which we have made from time to time have at long last had some effect upon the Government. That is not a matter which I can discuss at the moment, but it is quite evident that the Government are now going to try to put some new life into that legislation.
We make no apology for returning to this subject of unemployment because we are deeply concerned and continue to be concerned about the serious unemployment position in the Principality. It is sometimes said that we in Wales are sensitive about these matters and I suppose that we are. We suffered much in the inter-war years with their misery and poverty. We lost thousands of our young men and women during those years because they were forced to seek work elsewhere. It was a loss to the Welsh nation, and that migration continues. 1626 Nevertheless, since the war and in common with other parts of the country the people of Wales have enjoyed increased prosperity. Like other people, they have enjoyed a higher standard of living and have tried to forget the past.
The vigorous operation of the Distribution of Industry legislation by the Labour Government brought new life to South Wales and we entered on a new era. But some of the wounds and scars remain. I will deal with one, the ports of South Wales. These ports were built on the coal trade, upon the export trade. Millions of tons of coal poured from the Welsh valleys into the ports of Cardiff, Barry, Newport and other places, resulting in a valuable contribution to the wealth of the nation. When the depression came the coal exports fell. There has been a falling off of those exports year by year ever since, and the ports have never been able to recover from the serious position which was created in those days.
Now they have had to resort to trade in general cargo, and in so doing they are faced with at least one handicap. There are others, but the one I wish to mention is that imposed by port charges. The ports of South Wales have to pay a higher charge for exporting commodities. I know that some hon. Members on this side of the House have intimate knowledge of the conditions in the ports of South Wales, and they desire to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and so I will not discuss the matter at great length. But I beg the right hon. Gentleman to try to bring pressure on shipowners and others so that we may have some uniformity in port charges throughout the country and so that these ports, the exporters and the shippers can compete with other parts of the country on a fair basis. I hope that the Minister will give us some assurance on that matter.
Regarding the general situation, the percentage of unemployment in Wales, as at 16th June, was 3.7 per cent., the highest in the United Kingdom with the exception of Northern Ireland. The unemployment percentage in Wales is higher than in Scotland. If we examine the position in some of the Welsh regions we find that it remains serious. In the Caernarvon area the figure is about 10.2 per cent.; in Anglesey, about 9.4; in Llanelly, 8.7 and in parts of 1627 Monmouth, Abertillery, Rhymney and Tredegar it is about 4 per cent. The House will appreciate that we are now at the height of the summer season, when the seasonal unemployment should be at its lowest level, so that there is every possibility, unfortunately, that these figures will rise in the coming months.
What is more alarming is that the number of unemployed is approximately four times greater than the number of available vacancies. In June, 1958, the number of available vacancies had dropped to 8,131 and the number had been dropping month by month. The number of unemployed is 34,944, so that in South Wales we have a situation in which there are four men seeking one job. It must be remembered that there are thousands of men working short-time and purchasing power is falling. The percentage of unemployment in Anglesey and Caernarvon shows little change, and the position in North-West Wales remains tragic. Many men have remained unemployed for years. Younger men are leaving the district, and this part of Wales is still being depopulated.
We are told that new projects are on the way. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can give us some detailed information about that. How many men are likely to be employed in the new organisations? What are these new works? What are the prospects? I hope that we shall hear something concerning the serious position in North-West Wales.
The House will be familiar with the serious position in South-West Wales because of the closing down of the old steel and tinplate mills which were rendered redundant by the modern plants. In June, there were 8,000 men unemployed, which means that as the weeks go by the nation is losing the skill and the craftsmanship of those men. There is a waste of industrial skill in steel and tinplate work which has taken many years to produce. This creeping paralysis of unemployment is creating despair among the population of townships in Monmouthshire.
I hope that the Government will learn a lesson from the position in South-West Wales. They must have known some years ago of the prospects of those old tinplate works, yet they took no effective steps to prepare for the position. I 1628 appreciate that efforts are now being made to bring new industries into this locality and into some others in Wales. I fully appreciate, for instance, that Lord Brecon is doing all he possibly can to bring new industries to Wales. From this side of the House we wish him well in his efforts in this direction.
It is, however, becoming late for men of 50 and 55. What are they to do, even if new industries go there within the next twelve months or two years? These men have very little prospect of getting suitable work. That is the tragedy of West Wales at the present time. I would like the Government to give special consideration to the men who have given a lifetime of work in this industry. Special assistance might be given to local authorities to embark on schemes of social amenity and, among other things, Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act might be properly and efficiently applied.
In addition to that, what is equally serious is that we have not yet had any promise of the restoration of Section 62 of the National Insurance Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly raised this point in the debate on 24th February. What is to be the position if Section 62 is not restored? These men of 50 and 55 years of age will, after some time—six months, twelve months or eighteen months at the most—have their unemployment benefit discontinued and will be forced to take National Assistance.
I beg the House to realise what the position is. These steel and tinplate workers have given service all their lives. Many of them purchased their own homes many years ago. They are not men who have wasted their lives or their money. They have worked hard, but now, after two years of unemployment, they may find themselves taking National Assistance. This is a relic of the dark days of Wales.
I can imagine that if this position continues there will be serious protests up and down South Wales at the treatment of these men. I still hope that the right hon. Gentleman—although I know that he is not directly responsible—will remember the promise that was made by the Minister of Labour on 24th February that he would consult the Minister of Pensions whether anything could be done to help these men.
1629 There can be no doubt that there is a need for an industrial survey of the future prospects in Wales. What are the prospects? We need consciously to plan the future of Wales, as far as that is possible. That means consciously assessing its economic exploitation. That is the chief factor which the Government should bear in mind. What do I mean? One has to try to be practical. Recently five collieries were closing in South Wales but, as the result of negotiation between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board, arrangements were made for the men declared redundant to be employed at neighbouring collieries. Those steps are now being taken.
I want the House to appreciate that some old collieries in South Wales are losing more than £1 per ton, with the result that prospects are not at all bright. It may well be that within the next few years numbers of those collieries will close down, and then it will be exceedingly difficult to get all the men reabsorbed in other collieries.
That is the future, and it is not a very pleasant one, of the mining industry at the present moment in South Wales. Consultation should take place immediately with the National Coal Board to prepare for emergencies and to ascertain what is to happen in the next few years to these collieries, what collieries are likely to close down and about when? I am sure that the National Coal Board would give the right hon. Gentleman information about that position. If we are to be faced in twelve months' time, more or less, with the closing down of pits and men being rendered idle, and with no arrangements having been made, we shall see a repetition, but on a larger scale, of what we have seen in South-West Wales.
Quite a number of steel and tinplate works, in places like Morriston and Gorseignon, are all of the old type. One wonders how long they will continue. If they are to suffer the fate of the mills in South-West Wales without any measures of preparedness being taken by the Government, here again we shall have a repetition of what happened in South-West Wales. Therefore, the Government should look now into the situation, and assess the economic position.
It is not sufficient to say, after these men have been made idle because their 1630 mills have closed down, "We are going to put into operation the Distribution of Industry Act". That is all very well, and we certainly want that done, but I suggest that the Government should make preparations beforehand in order to avoid the calamity. The situation needs planning and preparedness on the part of the Government. When one mentions the word "planning" it is treated with a degree of scepticism by Government supporters, but if the Government let things drift and we experience a repetition of what happened in South-West Wales without measures having been taken beforehand to meet the situation, I venture to say that the Government will never be forgiven. It is the duty of any Government to maintain and to sustain the community life of the nation.
The other problem which is causing anxiety is the increasing difficulty of youth-employment officers to get young people into work. The officers are doing an excellent job of vocational guidance, yet more young people are failing to be placed in occupations. In Monmouthshire, which I know fairly well, a high proportion of young men in the past have found work in coal mines and steel undertakings, but those sources of employment are now drying up. Recruitment for them in my area stopped some time ago, and has just been resumed, I think.
Take the upper part of the Rhymney Valley where the MacLaren Colliery is closing down. This is one of the five collieries that are to be reabsorbed by other pits, but the prospects for young people are small. The only other industries in the upper part of the Valley are light engineering, brewery and clothing. There are no large warehouses or offices. The young people are in a very serious position; there is no outlet for the school-leavers.
Hon. Members will appreciate that for young people to be in enforced idleness for any length of time creates a feeling of frustration and lack of confidence which may have a damaging effect. We must also remember that we have not yet arrived at the bulge. I have been trying to estimate the position in Monmouthshire, where, I am told, by 1962 there will be 24½ per cent. of our young people seeking employment.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the position of young 1631 people needs special attention. When it is so difficult to get young people into mining and steel work we have to look round for other employment for them, but some employers have not been enthusiastic about taking on young people. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could use his influence with some of those big undertakings to see what can be done to provide an avenue of employment for the growing number of young people who are unemployed.
If we are to face the future with any degree of confidence there must be new factories and greater diversification of industry in Wales. I am, of course, glad to learn that the President of the Board of Trade has decided to examine more critically applications both for new buildings and extensions outside Development Areas. We have been pressing for that for a very long time. We have drawn attention to the number of factories being built in South Wales compared with the numbers in the Home Counties. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will remember that. We drew attention to the fact that in 1957 only 1,585,000 square feet of factory space were built in South Wales compared with 9,632,000 square feet in the Home Counties. That wide disparity has been explained as being due to what are termed "extensions".
I thought, as I believe other hon. Members did, at one time that those extensions were merely additions to buildings, but we have since ascertained that they also include extensions to existing industries. We ask what kind of new industrial development is not an extension of an existing industrial development? What is the position? These so-called extensions have resulted in the employment of many hundreds, if not thousands, of industrial workers in districts which are already densely populated. The other day I was reading a letter in The Times on this point and I found it very illuminating. A Mr. Ritson wrote in The Times on 29th July:Statistics published by the Ministry of Labour and National Service show that between 1951 and 1957 the insured population of Great Britain increased by over one million and that half of this increase was in the London, South-Eastern and Southern regions. It is also shown that the net migration of workers into the Southern regions amounted to 142,000 while there was net migration from 1632 Scotland of 49,000, the North-West region of 22,000, East and West Ridings 21,000. Northern region 19,000 and Wales 27,000.The writer went on to remind his readers that:Some 18 years ago the report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the distribution of the industrial population drew attention to the southward drift of industry and population and made recommendations designed to redress the balance. The influence of this report was seen in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and for a time it appeared that rigorous action was being taken. In recent years, however, the trend to the South appears to have gathered momentum.It is true that the southern counties are getting more and more congested and that migration of workers to them is continuing from Wales. The time has arrived for some inquiry to be made about this change in population. The new proposals of the Government in connection with the Distribution of Industry Act, if used effectively, could help, in some degree at least, to stop the increasing migration, but, although we have words on this subject, we want deeds. We want to see how this is to work out in practice. Do the Government mean to put their shoulder to this job and to do it efficiently?
One or two proposals in the statement by the President of the Board of Trade need clarification. We are having this debate today on unemployment in Wales and it is very significant that a Question was replied to yesterday on the subject. It would have been more satisfactory if we had had some knowledge of this in order to be in a position to debate it today. The President of the Board of Trade said:I realise that the location of a new development in one of these places may result in a firm having to bear increased costs both in building the new factory"—I quite appreciate that—and in connection with the movement of its plant or its key workers, or in the marketing of its products."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1958; Vol. 592, c. 157.]Do I understand that transport costs will be included in these marketing arrangements? I particularly stress this because I know that some industrialists have long been asking that costs should be included and compensation should be given if they move to remote areas, that is, that those costs should be paid for by the Government in order to help industrialists who have to pay more for transport to go into 1633 remote areas, which increases the cost of their products. It is necessary to get some clarification of what is meant by saying that assistance will be given in the marketing of products. If a legitimate case can be made by firms that their costs of production have been increased through longer transport haul of goods to the marketing centres, that would be a powerful inducement for undertakings to come to remote areas. The Government will realise that it is essential to be clearly satisfied in each case before such help is given.
Perhaps the Government will tell us how much money is likely to be involved in such projects, when such funds are to be available from the Treasury and if these proposals entirely exclude other areas. I have already mentioned certain areas in Monmouthshire where the unemployment is equal to 4 per cent. There are other parts of Wales in the same position. Are they to be left out when the Government—quite rightly, I have no quarrel with that—are concentrating on the areas mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade? Does this exclude assistance being given when industrialists are prepared to go to areas which are not those mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade? It is important that we should have some clarification of that.
The unemployment position in Wales cannot be dissociated from the general economy of Britain. The immediate outlook for the whole country is not at all promising. Although so far we have not suffered greatly from the American recession and the general world situation, it is clear that there has already been some effect of the American recession and there is likely to be much greater effect in the near future. I do not believe the recent Government measures go far enough towards solving these problems. There is considerable waste of industrial capacity in the country and every danger of increased unemployment in the months to come with a falling demand and falling production. We require a greatly expanding economy. This is one of the reasons why I fail to understand the long delay in siting the proposed strip mill. In the Financial Times on Tuesday an industrial correspondent wrote:The Iron and Steel Board is still anxious that a start should be made as soon as possible because unless present estimates are wildly out 1634 even the addition to the capacity of the existing three mills will not suffice to meet the existing demand in the middle 'sixties.The right hon. Gentleman will realise that if work is commenced on this new strip mill it will take some years before it is in full production. In view of the unemployment in Wales and the serious position we face, I hope he will give some indication without delay that this mill, which would considerably ease the unemployment situation, is to be sited in Wales.
There was an article in the Daily Mail which said that new plans had been put forward for a strip mill in Scotland. I do not know what truth there is in that. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give us some assurance as to what is the position.
In conclusion, I want to say that we have to tidy up Wales as a whole and South Wales in particular. We know that Lord Brecon is doing what he can to bring new industries to Wales, but if the Government want to make his task easier they should get rid of some of those awful sites in some of the districts of Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman has travelled Wales a good deal, but I do not know whether he has travelled to Swansea and passed through Landore which is a most distressing area. It is the graveyard of industry. Swansea was smashed up in the war but has been rebuilt gloriously. Yet, when coming into Swansea one sees this old site. It is not very encouraging for prospective industrialists when coming into the district, and, perhaps never having been there before, to see old works of that kind. When one is a prospective tenant one likes to see the rooms and to be able to say what fine rooms they are. We are not doing that yet in Wales. We have a similar position in Bargoed, where the old coke ovens are closing down. Are they to remain there year in and year out, taking up valuable sites which could be used for new industry?
I do not want the House to infer from this that we have not beautiful country in Wales; but very often these new undertakings are wanted in the very places where these old sites prevail. Therefore, I am wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman could enter into consultation with the local authorities, 1635 the National Coal Board or with industrialists. I am not in a position to say that he is responsible for this state of affairs, but he will be doing a great service if he will take some measures to deal with the position that I have described.
We are all anxious to see new industries come to Wales, and we did not raise this debate in any carping criticism, but I say that the position in South Wales and in Wales generally remains serious. I want again to emphasise that we do not want a repetition of what has occurred in South-West Wales. We want the Government to plan and prepare. If they do not do that, there will be in South Wales a feeling of hostility which the Government will take many years to recover from.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I listened to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), as I am sure the whole House did with the greatest attention, although I cannot say with total agreement. I do not wish to do him any harm when I say that I should like to hear him speaking from the Dispatch Box very much more often than we now hear him. I am sure that I am speaking for every hon. Member who has heard him this afternoon when I say that he has spoken with complete authority. It was a delight to hear every word that he had to say.
I should also like to say personally, and I am sure I speak for many other hon. Members, how strange it is to have a debate on unemployment and about industrial conditions in Wales without Mr. Granville West being with us. While we congratulate him on his translation, many hon. Members in this House will miss him very much indeed.
Although this debate is rightly and properly concerned with unemployment—and I have no quarrel with its timing—I think that national self-interest and truth alike require that we should avoid giving the impression that the Welsh scene is one of unrelieved gloom. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bedwellty went out of his way not to do so.
We have, of course, many blessings to count, as has been rightly conceded. In all parts of the House the news that progress 1636 is to be resumed on the Severn Bridge and yesterday's news that there is to be a better road link with the Midlands will be greeted with pleasure. If the bottlenecks at Chepstow and Newport are also tackled it will no longer be arguable that bad roads to England are solely responsible for the plight of Cardiff Docks.
I do not intend to speak again about that plight at any length this afternoon, because the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) can speak with the authority of specialisation and of representing in this House the docks themselves. I would say however that despite frequent requests to more Governments than one the vicious circle still persists with the British Transport Commission saying, "Get more trade and we will provide more facilities," and Cardiff saying, "Provide facilities and then we can get more trade." Meanwhile, as the hon. Member for Bedwellty pointed out, the antiquated structure of charges remains and there is widespread feeling—whether it is justified or not I cannot tell—that the British Transport Commission is content for Cardiff to run down to the point of redundancy.
If this is the intention, it would be rather kinder to say so frankly. Cardiff Docks could then become a scheduled area and qualify for the full treatment of State aid. I have also noted, and I think it it right, that the Government plan to help non-industrial projects in the new scheduled areas. I should like to see this extended to enterprises of outstanding social value in the non-scheduled areas.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House will share in the pride which Wales has felt, and feels, at the success of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. It was one of the happiest Commonwealth gatherings ever to have taken place anywhere, especially with its wonderful climax. I hope that it will not be thought frivolous on my part or irrelevant to the debate if I say one word about the athletic track at Cardiff Arms Park, which was the best in the world and which is now being dismantled, partly to provide more room along the touchline and partly to enable greyhounds to resume their night patrols. Posterity may judge that this is carrying love of 1637 animals too far. This is not the fault of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation or of the Cardiff Arms Park authorities. They are both bound together by the terms of an inevitable contract. The fact is that this track is in danger of being lost to Wales for the want of a mere £8,000, despite the fact that there is land available at Parc Cae Delyn, near Whitchurch. The Cardiff Rural District Council is anxious to acquire it and is willing to provide all ancillary buildings, but it cannot raise the money that is required. I am asking my right hon. Friend whether a grant or loan for the re-erection of this track could be made to a local authority or to a contractor to a local authority or to a body of guarantors, either in a scheduled area or outside. Whatever the answer may be, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with great urgency in order to ensure that this track may be saved, either by means of the new Act or by some other means.
Of far greater importance is the effect of the Government's developing policy on the siting of the new strip mill. Are we to understand now that if a strip mill comes to Wales it will be built in a scheduled area? Secondly, can the Minister give a pledge that it will not be built in a non-scheduled area outside Wales?
I saw that The Times deplored, in a leading article this morning, the absence of any adequate reference to efficiency in the Government's plans. I cannot grasp how, in terms of health and welfare—with their bearing on production—it is efficient to overcrowd the Home Counties and the Midlands while leaving men to rot in Wales, and denuding whole communities of young people.
A case on the grounds of efficiency could have been made against almost every project established in Wales in the 1930s, and since the war. The other day, I had the privilege and pleasure of being with the hon. Member for Bedwellty and the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) at the South Wales Switchgear Works in Pontllanfraith. There, I am certain, the firm was told originally of the difficulties of getting managers to Wales, the difficulties of communication, the shortage of skilled labour and so on; but what that 1638 firm has found is that, given a fair deal and inspired leadership, such as has been provided by Mr. A. J. Nicholas, Welsh labour is the most adaptable, skilled and loyal to be found.
Finally, who is to tell the world what Wales has to offer? I believe that my right hon. Friend has hinted at the formation of a Welsh council for industry. It has been suggested in the Press that what is wanted for such a council is a Welsh chairman of the calibre of Lord Chandos, to carry out the work in Wales that has been done in Northern Ireland. I believe that, in the development of this policy, this council is now a most urgent need. I am sure that it should consist of men in industry whose names, whose firms and whose trade unions are already household words throughout the world. I understand the danger of forcing a growth of this kind, but I believe that if the Government's plans are to have the best chance of success, the sooner such a council is formed the better.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
I should like to join with the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) on what was, if I may say so, a most admirable, able and moving speech. The hon. Member stressed the very serious nature of the unemployment problem in Wales, he gave figures, which showed that Wales has now the unenviable position of having the highest unemployment figures in the United Kingdom. As he said, it is a case of four men applying for one job.
As the House well knows, unemployment in South-West Wales has more than doubled since last year, and, to show that this is no new problem, the percentage of insured workers unemployed in Carmarthenshire alone has been almost double the national average for the past five years. And that is not unusual in other rural areas in the country. This, of course, is by no means the whole picture. We have to consider not only those who are unemployed now, but the school leavers, for whom employment has to be found. We find that in Wales the total number of school leavers is 30,000, almost as great as the number of those unemployed. That will give the House some idea of the nature of the problem with which we have to contend.
1639 When the House last debated unemployment, the Government put before us a proposal that a four-man panel should be appointed to inquire into the possibility of readapting the old hand tinplate mills in South-West Wales for modern use. The Government have now had the panel's report, and we have had a sort of bowdlerised version of it. We now know that the report is completely negative, and that the shutters will be pulled down on all the hand tinplate mills by 1959.
The Government said, through that report, "You must abandon any ideas of readapting the old hand tinplate mills, and look to the diversification of industry for any future development." The Government assured us that they were pursuing this policy with energy. So far, I believe that three or four—or, possibly, a maximum of five—industries are in process of coming to the South-West. That is a beginning, a good beginning—but it is only a beginning.
I should like to consider these industrial projects in the cold light of the employment that they will provide. On the short-term basis, we are assured that these industries will provide employment for about 3,000 workers; on the long-term basis, the figure will be about 5,000. But the ultimate unemployment figure for South-West Wales alone will be in the region of 14,000 or 15,000, so that the House must see, in spite of everything that has been said, that the gap is still alarmingly wide.
The Government now say, "But that is not all. We shall now take further action under the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act." Of course, we are all delighted that the areas that have been left out in the cold for so long, particularly in North Wales, will now qualify for Government assistance. Nevertheless, I must say that I cannot join in the rejoicing, because I cannot say that I feel that the battle has been won.
When I opened one of my Welsh newspapers this morning I saw a large headline, "Wales—The Promised Land." Of course, Wales is the promised land, but not because the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, is to apply there. It is the promised land for many other reasons. It is the promised land 1640 because it has a great many of the things that industrialists need.
It has power and good sites. It has among the most intelligent workers that could be found anywhere. It has extremely good labour relations, a very important asset. It has admirable educational facilities, and it is a far healthier place to live in. To me, it is an extraordinary thing that we have to pass laws to discourage people from living in Greater London and encourage them to live in Wales. I should have thought that it would have been almost a law of nature.
I should like to look at these provisions of the new Distribution of Industry Act. Does it provide for new or additional powers? The main power is the same as in the old Act, and it is a negative one. Under it, the Board of Trade simply says to an industrialist, "You may not go, or we shall do our best to persuade you from going, to the Greater London or the Birmingham areas." How has that worked out in the past? In 1957, it resulted in 1,580,000 sq. ft. of factory space in Wales, and 9,632,000 sq. ft. of factory space in the Home Counties.
And now the Government say, "Look at what we are doing. See how generous we are. We shall extend this practice at present applied in the Greater London and Birmingham areas to other parts of the United Kingdom where unemployment is low." As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty said, I hope that that negative power will be used to far greater effect than that. I also hope, and I stress this, that no major industrial development will be sanctioned in an area where unemployment is now, and certainly not in an area of full employment. In addition to this negative power, the Government are entitled to say, "We have got inducements which we are offering to industrialists", and the inducements are certainly considerable. We should stress that fact, and they are being extended in this new Measure and we on this side of the House are very glad of that.
But what machinery is there in the Board of Trade to ensure that all these facilities are made known to industrialists, particularly in the two largest catchment areas, London and Birmingham? It 1641 seems to me, from two or three cases that have been brought to my personal notice, that information should be made more generally available about the exact assistance which industrialists can expect if they set up in these areas. Has the Board of Trade any machinery for this purpose? Has it a list compiled of industrialists who are ready to establish themselves in these areas?
The Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, Lord Brecon, has been doing some admirable sales talk in the Midlands, and we should all like to pay a tribute to him because we appreciate the efforts that he has made and particularly the sincerity that lies behind those efforts. But occasional visits, however stimulating, are not enough. We should go out and find these industries. There should be continual contact with large industrial groups, because those are the people whom we wish to encourage.
The highest industrial mortality rate in Wales has been among the small firms and branch firms. Out of 500 or 600 firms which have been introduced to Wales since the war, only about 370 still survive. We want firms which are prepared to stay the course—not extensions or branch factories which will close down at the first chill wind of a recession.
Are the Government depending only on industrial and non-industrial ventures to relieve unemployment? Are they quite sure that industrialists are in the mood for expansion at the moment? Have they the means for expansion, particularly at a time when credit facilities are still difficult, in spite of recent changes? The President of the Board of Trade warned the O.E.E.C. on Monday that the recession was likely to hit Europe and, of course, we are likely to feel the backwash of that recession. Demand has already slackened in Europe for coal, steel, and textiles, and the most ominous sign of all is that the earnings of primary producing countries are lower.
I should like to know, therefore, whether the Government are relying solely on industrial undertakings. Are they prepared to consider as part of special assistance in unemployment areas a programme of public works? We have heard very little about that in past debates. Only the other day the President of the Board of Trade said that it often happens that it is not a factory that will 1642 attract a firm, but better communications, and that has been very true of Wales. We were all very glad to hear yesterday that work is to proceed on the Heads-of-the-Valleys Road, the Ross Spur motorway and the Port Talbot Bypass. When will those road schemes be completed, and will the work be accelerated because of the unemployment conditions in Wales? Would the Government further make available in areas of high unemployment additional grants so that urgent road development schemes can be proceeded with?
I should like to know whether the Government are prepared to relax their restrictions in the public investment sector. After all, public investment is more or less directly within the control of the Government. The Chancellor said the other day that if it seemed wise to increase the total programme the Government would take appropriate action. Will the Government consider giving further special assistance to these scheduled areas with regard to roads, railways and electricity, and even to the coal investment programme?
Reference has been made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty to the need for an economic plan for Wales, and the need for assessing her resources in coal, land, power and water. I should like to make a practical suggestion in that respect, and ask whether it might be possible to have a Welsh representative on the Treasury Investment Committee which is responsible for investment in the public sector. After all, we have no Secretary of State for Wales as yet, although Scotland has.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The Scots can keep him. We shall choose our own when the time comes, and we shall see to it that he is a Welshman.
It would be an enormous advantage to us in the meantime if we could be in at the planning stage of this important operation. We have got not only unemployment but depopulation in Wales, and both these devitalising processes are lowering our standard of life. I want the Government to realise that we shall not be satisfied with generalisations. Our wrath will not be turned away by soft answers. We shall not be satisfied with 1643 projects in the air. We shall only be satisfied with industries which are properly grounded on Welsh sites.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The House will have noted that this debate is in many ways superior in form to previous Welsh debates. That is probably due to the fact that for once we are able to concentrate on a fairly narrow field in Welsh affairs—indeed, upon one main subject. It indicates the need in future of having other debates on single subjects rather than having the rather haphazard and diversified approach on many topics which characterises our usual Welsh debates.
Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I should like to say how much I appreciate the manner in which the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) opened this debate. He did so without extravagance and without extreme partisan expressions, in a manner which was acceptable to us all. I should like to make one or two comments on the hon. Member's speech, but my comments will not be provocative or very critical. He implied that by careful planning we could to a large degree isolate ourselves as a country, or hide ourselves or protect ourselves from the effects of even a major world-wide depression in trade and industry.
I doubt whether that is so. I doubt whether any country can achieve that by internal planning of its own affairs, particularly a country like ours, where so much depends on exports to other parts of the world. Nevertheless, I agree that by planning we can mitigate the effects of what I believe is not serious long-term unemployment or depression, but is a shorter-term matter.
In that context, I should like to comment on the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that Section 62 of the National Insurance Act, 1948, should be revived or reintroduced in some new form. I suggest that that Section was rather more suitable for dealing with relatively short-term unemployment. I doubt whether, if we had large-scale unemployment over a wide section of the economy, even that would be adequate.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. The 1644 whole intention of Section 62 was not to deal with short-term unemployment. That is covered by the major provision in that Act. It was to deal precisely with long-term unemployment, and because it was so successful in that respect we think that it ought to be restored.
§ Mr. Gower
I have some doubt whether it would be adequate for serious unemployment of the kind that we had before the war. I think that in that case the fund would be rapidly exhausted and a new method of Treasury financing would be necessary. I do not think that we are facing unemployment of that kind, however. I think it is more specialised.
§ Mr. Gower
Should I say that the finances of the National Insurance Act would be even more out of gear than they are at present and that there would be an even greater need for some new proposals?
The unemployment which we are facing now is more particularised in two or three industries. It is not necessarily associated with the national conditions which affect the whole country. Certainly, that is not the case in unemployment in South-West Wales, which is due solely to the obsolescence of the old-type steel industries and the need to replace that industry by a much more modern form of steel works.
While we are all anxious about the position of the old-type mills, we must be equally gratified at the stable employment position around Port Talbot where, I read, the Ministry of Labour has reported full employment in the town and, indeed, wonderful prospects for the future. We have expectations and, indeed, hopes that future developments in Pembrokeshire may provide similar prospects in that part of South Wales.
I, like other hon. Members, would like to know whether we can now have a definite announcement about the siting of the Richard Thomas and Baldwins strip mill. The company wishes this new project to be situated in South Wales, and so does the Iron and Steel Board. This surely indicates that there are economic advantages in siting a new project in that part of the country. There is, 1645 for example, the advantage of available skilled labour. I hope that in the near future we shall have some information and that my right hon. Friend will be able to bring new hope to other parts of Wales. Some months ago we heard about an atomic energy project in North-West Wales, and I hope that we shall have some information about that as well in the near future. These are projects which can be of hopeful significance in Wales.
With regard to the unemployment level, my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have given hope by the announcement which we all read yesterday. I agree that in the past it has seemed to some of us that more could have been done to divert industries from the south-east of England and particularly from the Greater London area. It seems now that teeth are being put into the Development of Industry Acts, that the Board of Trade will definitely be very firm in dealing with applications for development certificates, which should do a lot to encourage firms to go to the areas where they are most needed. In addition, as the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) suggested, something could be done by public bodies. I hope that my right hon. Friend will represent to the Ministry of Transport that road development could take place with advantage in areas where there is this higher unemployment before starting such projects in other areas.
Why cannot representations be made to the British Transport Commission to concentrate its modernisation programme in the first place in these areas? Presumably, the Commission has an ambitious programme of modernisation spread over the whole country. Why not let these areas have the first go? This is a reasonable suggestion which could be made to the Transport Commission without interfering unduly with its plans.
I will not detain the House much longer, but I wish to reiterate the plea which has been made on so many occasions in recent months on behalf of the South Wales ports. The problem is not limited solely to the charges made by the Transport Commission, important as those are. The undertaking given by Sir Brian Robertson, a few years ago, that these ports would not be prejudiced by the freedom of permission to charge, and 1646 that they would be given a fair crack of the whip, should be implemented. There is, however, also the question of apportionment of the customary charges between exporters and shippers. This is of the highest importance. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use his influence in this direction.
Some of the people in South Wales who protest about the state of affairs in the docks are themselves associated with industries which are making our problem extremely difficult. The fact remains that they expect better terms and conditions when they come to the South Wales ports than they obtain when they go to Liverpool or London, or many other parts of the country. There is reason for all these apportionments and customs to be brought into line all over the country.
Another matter, which I raised at Question Time yesterday and which I should like to express again today, is that our ports cannot properly tackle their job of increasing their general cargo exports unless they quickly have better communications with the hinterland, and particularly the industrial hinterland of the Midlands. Here we must press the importance of the second crossing at Newport, to which reference has already been made. Anybody who tries to drive a motor car into South Wales through Chepstow and Newport knows the problem. For industrial traffic to have to take this route is a terrible handicap to our docks.
I hope that this question will receive the earnest attention of my right hon. Friend and of his colleague the Minister of Transport, because these docks, even today, are first-class establishments which can give great service. They have given very great service in wartime as well as in peace. It would be a tragedy if because of a change in the nature of the economic development of South Wales, their future was completely prejudiced.
I appreciate, as will the hon. Member for Bedwellty, that those docks, peculiarly enough, were more prosperous in the days of general industrial depression. Indeed, in a strange way, it is the economic prosperity of South Wales which has created part of their problem. As our industry has grown and used more coal, less coal has become available for export. This problem is likely to be increased, because with the use of increased coal 1647 supplies at places like Aberthaw and the Usk No. 2 power station, it is likely that the coal available for export will be further depleted. This increases the urgency of the problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) raised a problem which seemed to me to be slightly outside the scope of this debate when he referred to the Empire Games Stadium and its splendid track. Nevertheless, it is a borderline case. The holding of the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff brought a great number of overseas people to Wales. If it is possible for the Cardiff Rural District Council, Which is in part of my constituency, to be given assistance, I am sure that all over Wales there will be appreciation for any help that my right hon. Friend can give in this direction.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I echo the last sentence of the plea made by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that we should endeavour in some way to preserve the Empire Games track at Cardiff if at all possible. The need to give an outlet to young people in the South Wales valleys is of paramount importance and it could be done at small cost.
This is the only day in the year on which, as far as I know, a Welsh Labour Member envies the hon. Member for Barry and his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). On the doctrine that speakers alternate from side to side of the House, those two hon. Members can be quite certain of being called. That is, no doubt, a great advantage.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) had a tremendous opportunity at the Box today. He took it with both hands. He spoke with clarity, with firmness, with authority and with great skill. I venture to believe that it is not the last time that he will be speaking from that Box, or, who knows, perhaps from the Government Dispatch Box. As he has donned the mantle of responsibility, I have thrown it off. I promise my hon. Friends that I will not take more than 10 minutes to make the point I want to make about the position in the South Wales ports.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) recently 1648 raised the question of charges in South Wales, which is of vital importance not only to Cardiff, but also to the other ports in the area. The hon. Member for Barry has raised the matter again today. I would like my hon. Friends to appreciate the degree of unemployment that exists among those discharging and loading the ships. The figures which have been supplied to me from the National Dock Labour Board show some startling statistics.
Taking the last twelve months, the percentage of men unemployed in the docks, signing the register, without work, has run as follows: in the second quarter of last year, 27.7 per cent.; in the third quarter of last year, 23.4 per cent.; in the fourth quarter, 17.1 per cent.; in the first quarter of this year, 28.1 per cent.; and last quarter, which ended on 30th June, 27 per cent. These figures are of the utmost gravity in Cardiff as well as in the other ports of South Wales. It is for that reason that I want to spend a little time on the problem this afternoon.
Mr. Friend, who is well known in South Wales as the area secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, tells us, in a letter given to me by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), that the number of those employed through the National Dock Labour Board in the last five years has dropped from 4,445 to 2,725. This position is becoming of increasing gravity, particularly in the ports of Cardiff and of Barry, more so, indeed, than in Newport or in Swansea, for particular reasons known to my hon. Friends.
I agree with the hon. Member for Barry—and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West took almost the whole of his recent Adjournment debate on this point—that it is very necessary to try to get the charges right. I do not know what the Minister can do. This is a purely commercial matter between the exporters, those operating the docks and the shipowners. I do not know how the Minister can intervene, but it is an obstacle upon which we must continually focus attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said in his Adjournment debate the other night that it is this obstacle which prevents a certain amount of trade from coming to the South Wales 1649 ports. I do not believe that if we could get rid of this obstacle, we should then have tremendous prosperity in the South Wales ports, because trade gets itself into well-worn and deep grooves and those ruts now run through London, Liverpool, Hull and other ports of that nature. Nevertheless, there is no reason why we should erect barriers in the road for ourselves. That is one reason why we must continue to press the Government to use all their influence—I sympathise with the Minister in this—with the exporters and the shipowners to try to get treatment in the South Wales ports parallel to that which obtains in other ports throughout the United Kingdom.
Now I should like to say a word about dry docks and ship repairs. So far, I have been speaking about the wet docks. The dry docks position is just as grave. I would like to give the House some figures, kindly supplied to me by the Ministry of Labour, showing the position in the ship-repairing industry in Cardiff, Bute Docks, Penarth, Barry and Llantwit Major. The percentage of unemployment in the ship-repairing industry has varied in this way from January: in January, it was 7 per cent.; in February, 12.9 per cent.; in March, 8.1 per cent.; in April, 19.9 per cent.; in May, 24.8 per cent.; and in June, 16.4 per cent. In the wet docks, therefore, we have an average of over 20 per cent. of the men unemployed. In ship repairing, we are varying with between 7 and 24 per cent. of men out of work.
I am sure that I have the sympathy of my hon. Friends when I say that I could not keep quiet this afternoon knowing that this situation existed in these areas. I am constantly speaking about Cyprus, Malta and other important questions, but these are our own people. I had to bring this matter to the attention of the House and make certain suggestions to the Minister about the way in which this situation should be handled.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport has a similar problem there and he has given me the details which have been supplied to him on the ship-repairing side. His position is not as serious on the wet docks side, but it is just as serious as that of Cardiff on the ship-repairing side. We are faced with real poverty in the homes of many 1650 of the ship repairers, who are getting only one, two or three days' work a week.
While I am on this point, I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, whom I am very glad to see present. In 1957, the new National Insurance Act was passed. Section 4 was bitterly resisted both by the T.U.C. General Council and also by this side of the House. I do not know whether its effect was ever considered in relation to ship-repair workers, who, under the terms of their trade, work a five-day week. It is, however, having a serious effect upon these men who are now getting only two or three days' work a week, because their unemployment pay is related to a six-day working week.
I have calculated some figures which, I trust, are accurate. It is difficult to work out the figures exactly, but, as I see it, the position is that a ship repairer who is working a short working week of only three days will get only 26s. 8d. unemployment benefit—I am assuming that he is married and that the waiting days and all the rest have been observed—plus his three days' pay. If he is working for two days a week, he gets only 40s. unemployment insurance benefit. If he works only one day a week, he gets only 53s. 4d. on which to live, plus a day's wages. This is the administrative grievance. I do not propose a remedy for it—that would be for the Minister to propose—and I should be out of order if I did so. If the unemployment pay were related to the five-day working week which is customary in the industry, the amount of unemployment benefit would go up considerably.
The way I work it out, which is subject to correction, is that if a man worked two days a week, instead of getting 40s. a week dole he would get 48s. That can mean a substantial difference to a man who is living at that level. If he were working one day a week, instead of getting 53s. 4d. he would get 64s. a week.
I put this grievance very strongly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and I have both had representations on this point from the Transport and General Workers' Union, in Cardiff. It is not merely a grievance. It is a great hardship that in these days, when the average weekly wage is about £12, people in this casual 1651 industry should be living on £3, £4 or £5 a week for many weeks, as the unemployment figures of the last few months show. This has been going on for over a year, particularly in Cardiff and Newport. It is a very real grievance that needs remedying.
I have been eight minutes, Mr. Speaker, and in the two minutes left to me I want to make some proposals to the Government about what they could do to help. The Annual Report on Wales and Monmouthshire for the year ended 30th June, 1957, said:… major developments at Cardiff"—that is, by the British Transport Commission—must wait until there is a better prospect of a financial return being received on the investment involved.If we wait for that, it will never be done. When the president of the Licensed Victuallers' Association stands with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West on the same platform to campaign against the Sunday opening of "pubs", that will be the day when we shall see some return for that. Or, to give an even more fantastic example, when the Welsh Nationalist Party invites the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) to become its president in its anniversary year, these conditions will, perhaps, be satisfied. We simply cannot wait until then.
I have three proposals to make to the Government. In the first place, it is absolutely right that we ought to have a marginal amount of coal always available for export, a cushion on which the industry should rest. The suggestion made before from these benches, that there should be 10 million tons of coal exported every year, even if we had to import other types of coal, would make an absolutely invaluable contribution to the welfare of the South Wales ports.
In 1949, when I was at the Ministry of Transport, I went into the possibility, with the Cardiff City Council, of using the pool next to the Queen's Dock as a new dry dock. We set up an Admiralty committee to examine the matter—I think that I am at liberty to say this—and, in late 1950, it reported in favour of using this pool as a dry dock. Will the Minister now revive this plan and try to turn the pool, 600 ft. of the wall of which already exists, 1652 having been built in 1907 over fifty years ago, into a dry dock which could be used for the largest ships?
It may sound paradoxical to suggest more dry docks when there is unemployment in the ship-repairing industry. The truth is that our dry docks in South Wales are, on the whole, not capable of taking the larger ships of today, and, of course, the size of ships is tending to increase. There is the new Atlantic shipyard at Newport now in process of construction, but, on the whole, our dry docks, with one or two exceptions, are not capable of taking large vessels. The use of the pool for a dry dock would make a most valuable addition to resources of South Wales.
Sir Herbert Merrett made two proposals recently, bath of which ought to be taken up. He told us that the West Dock, in Cardiff, was derelict—it is his word, not mine—and the East Dock was obsolete—again his word, not mine. He suggested that these docks should be converted into an industrial estate of 150 to 200 acres. I am not competent to judge the technical merits of that suggestion. He has had a great deal of experience in South Wales, but if it could be done technically, then I believe that it would be a tremendous asset to the area.
Thirdly—this is his suggestion, with which I wish to associate myself—we should consider the possibility of submarine pipelines out into the Bristol Channel so that tankers might discharge oil while lying off-shore. It is done at Bahrein and Accra, and many of us have seen these things done elsewhere. There is a tremendous rise and fall of tide in South Wales, about 40 or 45 ft., but there would not be the same difficulty if we had off-shore facilities of this kind.
I ask the Minister not to let Cardiff die of slow starvation. We would sooner have our throats cut than that. I believe it to be true that the British Transport Commission is ignoring Cardiff and concentrating on Newport and Swansea. I envy those places—good luck to them—I am not complaining about that. The Transport Commission may have taken that decision as a matter of policy, and, for the Commission, it may be the right decision; but we in Cardiff have a right to know whether this is the policy of the Government as well as of the Commission. It ought not to be left to the Commission 1653 when it is of such vital importance to the capital city.
I know that we have plenty of them in Wales, but I would ask the Minister to set up a committee to inquire into the special position of Cardiff Docks in particular, with a view to examining these technical matters concerning the dry docks, the submarine pipeline and the proposal to fill in the West and East Dock.
The Minister himself could be on that committee. Let him make Lord Brecon chairman of it; it would be a splendid idea if he were to take the chair at such an inquiry. Let the Ministry of Transport and the Admiralty be represented. Sir Herbert Merrett himself could be on it, and the local authority, the Cardiff City Council, could be associated with it. Let us see what we can do to get away from the past decade, the dreary dirge of dismal depression which has surrounded Cardiff Docks ever since—I am sorry to say—the end of the war. Let us try to revive them on some other basis.
I have exceeded my time, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to my hon. Friends for having done so, but, in extenuation, I can but say that this is the first time since 1952.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
This discussion on unemployment in Wales has been concentrated so far, and, no doubt, will continue to be concentrated quite naturally and properly, upon the industrial areas of Wales, in particular, those which have high unemployment, and those areas which have been selected by the President of the Board of Trade for special assistance under the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act of this year. But I believe that the overall picture in Wales cannot be presented properly if nothing is said about the situation in rural Wales and the problems encountered there through rural depopulation.
I do not in any way dissent from what has been said about the industrial areas of Wales. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) put the matter admirably, and I share many of his anxieties. I welcome the introduction of the Act to which I have just referred, and I particularly welcome what the President of the Board of Trade had to say yesterday. It is quite clear that the Government now 1654 have specific powers to assist those areas which are in need of special assistance. All one can hope is that they will make full use of them. The fact remains that these new steps are not likely, in themselves, to be of any assistance to the rural areas. Indeed, in some ways they may even aggravate them.
The criterion for the selection of particular areas under the Act has been their figures of unemployment. I do not complain about that. I wish to point out, however, that unemployment figures in rural areas provide only a partial indication of the plight with which such areas are faced. It is quite easy to have relatively small unemployment figures if the population has been steadily depleted by an exodus from the rural areas of people who have gone in search of work.
Unemployment figures in the rural areas in no way indicate the problem of school leavers, particularly in obtaining employment. In the rural areas of Wales there is a depleted and ever-ageing population. This is a feature which, unfortunately, is common to most rural areas, but there can be no doubt that the position is far more acute in the rural areas of Wales than it is in any other part of Great Britain.
I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because I know that there are hon. Members from areas where unemployment figures are high who wish to contribute to the discussion, but I wish to ask the Government whether they have any specific proposals for alleviating the rural depopulation problem in the principality.
If I may refer to my own constituency, at present the unemployment figures are rather more favourable than they have been for some time solely because we have a hydro-electric scheme in North Cardiganshire and also the Teifi Pools water scheme. We welcome both these admirable schemes, but they will make only a transitory contribution towards our unemployment difficulties; they will not make any long-term contribution towards providing employment for our young people. Year by year the cream of our population, our young men and women, are driven to seeking employment elsewhere, with the result that it is becoming more and more difficult for the local authorities in those areas to maintain adequate social services.
1655 The Rural Wales Committee stated in its Report that the possibility of establishing light industries in the rural areas was relatively unexplored, but also said, quite clearly, that where it had been attempted generally it had been highly successful. I should like to know whether the Government have any proposals for assisting the establishment of light industries in the rural areas of Wales.
I am delighted to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. Quite recently, he had the opportunity of meeting members of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association. That Association has specifically considered this problem, but unless it receives Government help and co-operation from private industry, and in particular, from the local authorities represented on that Association, all its efforts will be in vain.
The Development Area policy which has been pursued up to now, in particular since 1945, admirable though it was for the Development Areas concerned, has considerably aggravated the problem in the rural areas. I could give examples from my constituency where, since 1945, industrialists were contemplating establishing light industries, but, by reason of Government policy from 1945 onwards, were deliberately discouraged from establishing light industries in those areas. They were specifically told, "You will receive no Government help in establishing light industries in the rural areas. You will receive that assistance only if you go to Development Areas". Far from receiving assistance from the Government, from 1945 to 1958 Government action has been directed towards dissuading industrialists from going into rural areas. All I ask is that that process should be reversed and that every possible assistance should be given to private industry to develop in rural areas.
I welcomed the last two or three sentences of the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade yesterday, when he referred to the problem of rural depopulation. He referred to the existence of the Development Fund. As I understand, he implied that the fund was available to assist in the establishment of light industries in rural areas. 1656 How much has gone out of the Development Fund since, shall we say, 1945 towards the establishment of sources of employment in the rural areas? I suspect that very little money has left the fund for this purpose. What I want more particularly to know is whether it is envisaged that that fund will be used to any substantial extent to help in establishing light industries in rural areas in the future and on what basis the money is to be made available.
I believe that local authorities in these areas are acutely conscious of the important part they have to play if success is to be achieved. I believe that local authorities in most of our rural areas have come forward, or will come forward, with information about sites, services and the labour available. All I hope is that the Government will do what they can to persuade and assist private industry in going into those areas. If they do, they will not only be helping employment and making an economic contribution to the well-being of those areas, but they will be helping to solve a grave social problem.
Several hon. Members have referred to the importance of communications in relation to industry. One of the difficulties of rural areas in establishing light industries is that frequently the communication services which they can offer are not equal to those in other areas. All I would ask the Government is to ensure that they do all they can to avoid any worsening in communication services in rural areas during the next few years. During the last two or three years there has been a reduction in our bus services, the closing down of local railways lines and threats of further closures. If this trend continues at the rate of the last few years the problem will be accentuated and it will be far more difficult to attract light industries.
If, in a moderate way, some light industries could be established in rural areas it would soon be demonstrated that they were a sound economic proposition. They would grow and extend in a way which perhaps it is difficult to imagine at the moment. In the few rural areas where light industries have been established during recent years they have flourished and been an economic and social success.
1657 I urge the Government to give far more specific indications of the help that they will give towards encouraging light industries in these areas.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I should like to join with other hon. Members in paying a well-deserved compliment to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) for the attractive and incisive way in which he opened the debate. I feel that the debate has benefited from his speech.
I agree with the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that our debates on Welsh affairs clearly improve from being shortened, both as to subject and time. In the past, we have had portmanteau debates on a whole range of Welsh questions which have produced a diffuse, inchoate and inconclusive result. I hope that in future it will be possible to organise Welsh debates in a series of fairly short debates, each one specifically concerned with a definite subject like this one.
I wish to refer briefly to the problem of unemployment in Northern Wales and in Caernarvonshire. I promise not to keep the House very long on what is probably a peculiarly constituency matter. The fact is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) has said, that we have in southern Caernarvonshire still the highest average unemployment in the whole of Great Britain. The average for the whole of the county is 7 per cent. In southern Caernarvonshire, which is really a county in itself, it is between 10 per cent. and 11 per cent.—even now at the height of the summer season when, notionally, we should expect a considerable drop in the number of unemployed. It is not occurring, however, and that fact is very suggestive. It points to a fundamental, deep-seated weakness of our industrial economy in that part of Wales.
The major reason, as the Minister well knows, is the decline of the traditional slate and roadstone quarrying industry. We have repeatedly raised this matter in the House, and I want to do so again. I cannot see why the Government do not institute an authoritative and full-scale inquiry into the present position and future prospects of this famous Welsh industry on which substantial communities have depended for so many generations.
1658 That is one thing which I hope the Minister will seriously reconsider. The second thing, obviously, is to drive on with the efforts to introduce completely new industry into these declining slate and granite areas.
I join with other hon. Members on both sides of the House in paying my meed of praise to the sincerity of the Minister of State who has been extremely anxious to meet everybody concerned in the unemployment areas and to discuss with them possibilities of rehabilitation. He has been most active in travelling about Wales on this kind of business. He is the Minister's mobile reserve, and there is something to be said for such an appointment, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen that that will not lead to a solution of the chronic problems we have in North-West Wales, nor, indeed, South-West Wales. The Minister of State, howsoever mobile, has no powers. There may now be a few more powers behind the efforts of the Minister and his superior in the passage of the somewhat slight Distribution of Industry Act and also in what is contained in the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade in answer to a Question yesterday.
I want to pick up here a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty, who quite rightly stressed the importance of strongly discouraging the piling up of industry in conurbations which are already almost intolerably overcrowded with industry and population, and of pushing such industry into the perimeter which for many years has been at the back of the queue for work and livelihood.
Figures obtained from the President of the Board of Trade on 22nd April this year, show that since 1951, after the accession to power of this Government, the amount of industrial development in Development Areas has gone down and the amount of industrial building in the Home Counties has gone up. I have made my own calculations based on the official figures, and I find that between 1951 and 1957 inclusive the amount of industrial building sanctioned for the Home Counties was almost as much as the amount sanctioned for the whole of Great Britain put together, 51 million sq. ft., as compared with 62 million sq. ft.
1659 That is a deliberate contribution to the continued disbalance of industry and economy and population. Surely it should be possible to redress that disbalance at least partially so that areas which have been pining and declining for lack of a moderate amount of new industry may now enjoy that boon.
Let me briefly ask the Minister two or three questions related to southern Caernarvonshire. First, may I ask him whether he can tell us something tonight of the progress of the negotiations about the new chemical works proposed at Glynllifon Park, near Caernarvon? A splendid firm is interested in this site, but we are a little worried because the local rivers board has now, after two years of acquiescence, suddenly decided to call in a water consultant. There is plenty of water in Snowdonia, and I should not imagine that we would squabble about how to get it: there is plenty still left in spite of Liverpool Corporation and the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
The second question I want to raise is this. The Minister of Agriculture made an announcement last week, about the development of forestry and said that that would be related to employment needs in certain areas in Wales and Scotland. That is an excellent idea, which we have been pressing from these benches for the past few years. May I ask whether Wales will have a proper timber industry now? We have plenty of forestry, and a good deal of the thanks for this is due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), the Father of the House, who, as a Commissioner, pressed this policy in Wales and followed in this matter in the direct line of the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen.
Although we have forests galore I do not think that we have a single power mill in Wales. All we do is the planting and felling, while the processing and finishing are done over the Border.
§ Mr. Roberts
Let me put it like this. We have 50,000 acres of forests. We 1660 have only 4,500 workers engaged in forestry. If we had the processing and the finishing connected to these vast and beautiful forests then it would not be only 4,500 workers engaged at work on 50,000 acres of land, but more like 40,000.
The third point I want to make is this. When the Minister of State paid a visit to southern Caernarvonshire in the spring, and most courteously talked to us about our problems, we gave him a memorandum of practical suggestions. May I ask whether we now may expect a reply to that memorandum, in particular to a suggestion which was made then to him and his advisers that a new factory, built with Development Commission funds, in the way my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) suggested, should be put up in the town of Pwllheli? We have an industrialist. He is a local man who is anxious to expand. Having heard from the Board of Trade for so long the argument—the excuse—that it is difficult to find an industrialist to come to North-West Wales, surely, now that we have produced the man, the Minister can produce the factory.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) concentrated his efforts on the situation which has arisen as a result of unemployment in Wales. I am happy in the fact that there is no unemployment as such in my constituency, but I am anxious about the industrial fringes. I therefore want to try to stimulate interest in the problem of school-leavers in Mid-Wales, which I think is very important.
The excellent Carr Report entitled "Training for Skill" states that by the peak year from 1956 there will be an increase in the number of young people leaving school at the age of 18 of 109 per cent. I would say that the stork went into the rural areas as well as the industrial areas and therefore there will be what is now known as "the bulge" in the rural districts as well as the industrial districts. The problem already exists in the rural areas of Mid-Wales.
The important point is that when youngsters become unemployed they leave the area altogether. That accounts for the fact that there are no unemployment figures. The memoranda of the Council of Wales have featured this fact a great 1661 deal. The first memorandum stressed that the migration took place among those aged from 15 to 34 years. The second memorandum presented a survey of the counties of Mid-Wales and reported, for instance, that among grammar school leavers only one in five had even a limited prospect of advancement. The others were obliged to leave the area. One half of the secondary modern school leavers had no prospect at all of advancement.
The report on Mid-Wales also recorded the dreary fact that of ten parishes in Radnorshire five had no occupiers of farms who were under 30 years of age. In the remaining parishes there were only nine such occupiers. There were 60 occupiers over 70 years of age in the ten parishes. In fact, there were practically no young people but only an aged population.
I made researches in 15 or 16 parishes in North Breconshire and Radnorshire and I found the alarming situation that if the same proportionate decrease of electors continues in the next six years as in the last three years, some of these parishes will have no electors at all. In reply to a Question yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Flint. East (Mrs. White) was told that on 16th June unemployed boys under the age of 18 represented 2.8 per cent. for boys and 3.8 per cent. for girls. Those figures show that girls under 18 are unemployed in greater proportion than is represented by the total unemployed in the whole of Wales. This is an alarming picture.
I remember the Welsh Labour Group raising with the Minister for Welsh Affairs in an interview some time ago the question of the number of boys and girls who had left Wales for work outside the country. I had the alarming answer from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour that between May, 1955, and May, 1956, 1,200 boys and 1,200 girls under the age of 20 previously in employment had left Wales altogether. Are we beginning to go back to a situation in which we shall have migration on a large scale once again?
The youth employment officer for Radnorshire tells me that the employment situation facing school-leavers at present is worse than it has been since 1950. During the four months ending 31st May, unemployment benefit and National 1662 Assistance allowances were paid to 359 young persons in Breconshire whereas the figure for the same period twelve months earlier was 209 persons. Those are the up-to-date facts about rural depopulation. It would be far better if prospects of employment at home were provided for these young persons rather than that we should have paid out from the Exchequer or from the National Insurance Fund a sum of £513 during those months.
What a prospect this is for school-leavers between now and the peak year of the "bulge". What a prospect for those who are now unemployed. The figures given yesterday were that 92 young people under 20 years of age have been unemployed for over six months and 258 have been unemployed for between three and six months in Wales up to 27th June.
What can be done about this situation? I should like to offer some suggestion. Every ambitious boy and girl is faced with the prospect of leaving home in these Welsh rural counties. I suggest, first, that we should use the Youth Employment Service far more than it is being used at present in the rural areas. Excellent work is done by the officers of this service but I should like to see even more work done. The service could be used to greater advantage in the rural areas. These young people live many miles away from any centre where the range of information and possibilities of employment in the area is known.
I understand that the careers advisory officers visit schools twice a year. I suggest that they should visit them twice a term, since one visit is usually connected with talks and the other with interviews. In Radnorshire, 50 per cent. of the youngsters leaving school this summer term from the secondary modern schools have no chance at all of employment. They could be directed in many ways to useful work. Their attention could also be called to the training allowance scheme, which is excellent, though I believe that that scheme should be less restricted in the rural areas than it is in the industrial areas. I quote a classical example. The young person who makes an application for a grant cannot receive one if there are local applicants in the vacancy area. It follows, therefore, that as the "bulge" grows greater there will be less likelihood of vacancies in those areas in the 1663 future. I hope that the Minister of Labour will look at that point.
There is another matter of great importance to young people in these areas. Despite the facilities for training, there are no facilities for technical education in Mid-Wales except in Newtown, Aberystwyth and at Felinfach in Cardiganshire. There is nothing in the whole of Merionethshire or Radnorshire or in the rural parts of Breconshire. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has already mentioned the important matter of transport difficulties. The decay of economic and social life in Mid-Wales is not conducive to the development of a transport service. Attention should be given to this matter.
What is the basic requirement in connection with school-leavers in any part of the country? May I suggest that those who leave school should not only be able to find work in their own areas, or even in their own counties, or in Wales, but should have an opportunity to be trained in industry to be really skilled in accordance with their abilities and aptitudes. This is denied to the young people of Mid-Wales.
I was glad, as other hon. Members have been, to find a reference in the last sentence of the announcement made by the President of the Board of Trade to the Distribution of Industry Act. Ever since I have been in this House I have studied the work of the Development Commission and asked Questions. For some time I have not been enamoured of its work on industries in Wales, but I hope that in view of yesterday's announcement there will be an impetus given to the Association to do something in that respect.
The Government White Paper of 1957 on action in Wales expressed some doubt in paragraph 5 as follows:There has been a good deal at doubt as to the success with which industries could be established in the remoter and more rural parts of Wales.I hope this will not frighten industrialists, because no one has suggested having industries in the remoter parts of Wales. Indeed, some of us would like to get industries in the centres. This is being tackled by the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, which I am glad has been set up. I should like here to pay a tribute to Professor Beacham, 1664 not only for presiding over the Association but for his excellent articles in the Press and his addresses to the people concerned. I also wish to thank the Secretary, Mr. Peter Garbett-Edwards, for the really hard work he has been doing in this respect.
Now I have something to say to my good friend Lord Brecon. Incidentally, I was the only one not called to speak during the previous Welsh debate, otherwise I would have disagreed with what my colleagues said about him. I am glad they have changed their minds because I have known Lord Brecon since the days when I served with him on the Breconshire County Council. He is a tough one in political warfare, and if he can put as much into this job as he did in trying to stop me from coming to this House, he will do excellent work.
I ask him, therefore, to look on the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association with a kindly eye, to give it guidance, and at every opportunity to use his position as Minister of State to stimulate the local authorities to do two things: first, to prepare sites for industries; secondly, to gamble on providing services for industries. The key to the problem facing young people in Mid-Wales is the provision of new industries which are so urgently required. Therefore I hope that Lord Brecon, with the aid of the other Government Departments, will stimulate local authorities and give guidance to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association. In that respect I hope he will be able to convey to the local authorities, even if he has to call those in Mid-Wales together, the real requirements of industrialists who may want to go there but have not sufficient information.
I also suggest that in Mid-Wales we should not concentrate on large units of industry but should try to get a diversity of industries employing at the outset up to a maximum of fifty people. From the Report of the Rural Wales Committee I know that great emphasis has been placed on forestry for the future. I know that from one aspect forestry is a great national asset, but I cannot agree that this will be the solution of the problem facing youngsters in Mid-Wales. It is estimated that for every fifty acres one man is employed in afforestation, and that is not sufficient.
1665 If I may offer a word of criticism to the Forestry Commission, through the Minister, it is that I think it made a big mistake to contract out the thinning of forests to private interests. This has not been a success. In one establishment close to my constituency too much Irish labour has been employed, to the disadvantage of local labour, and had the Forestry Commission been doing this work, it would have been careful to select local labour. To the Rural Wales Committee I say, "Leave the philosophical aspect of your Reports and get down to brass tacks." I am sure the Committee will do that if it is stimulated by Lord Brecon and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
There are two other matters I want to raise. The first is for the Minister of Labour and concerns craftsmen in rural districts. Up to now, the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to grant deferment to any workers in our rural industries who are connected with food production. At the same time, woodworkers and carpenters are employed in connection with food production and they do not get deferment. However, with the coming into operation of the farm improvement schemes, grants will be given for new buildings and for reconditioning farm buildings, for which more carpenters and woodworkers will be needed. Yet these people are still being called up for National Service. If we call up skilled persons, even if they are apprentices at the end of their training, perhaps two or three workers will be lost from one small concern or business.
Finally I want to draw attention to the apprentices in the clock and watchmaking factories near Ystradgynlais. I appeal to Lord Brecon to consider whether something can be done to consolidate the industry. I am nervous about two things which are happening. First, there has been a change from the habit of using pocket watches and, therefore, skilled people are needed for making the new type of watch. Secondly, with the prospect of a European Free Trade Area there will be keen competition in the light industries, not only in Ystradgynlais but in other parts of Wales. If skilled people, trained by the industry, are called up for service in the Armed Forces, the consolidation of industry will be more difficult. I stress this point because those factories now employ 1,800 people. Not 1666 only that, but they employ a greater percentage of disabled persons than any other factory. You can see, Mr. Speaker, how important it is to ensure that ex-apprentices are not called up, and so I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to look into this point.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
It is not altogether without significance that yesterday we had the announcement of the method by which the Distribution of Industry Act is to work, that we have had an announcement about the resumption of preparatory work on the Severn Bridge and that we have been told something about road works in South Wales. There is a well-known classical tag to the effect that one should beware of those who come bearing gifts. Having a rather suspicious feminine nature, I am hoping that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs will not think that these announcements, welcome as they are so far as they go, are in any sense a substitute for the announcement that we really want from him about the steel strip mill.
The right hon. Gentleman may not be in a position to say anything about that today, but it is clear from all the representations we have made, and the representations that I myself was instructed to make to the Prime Minister not long ago, that a decision on this matter is by now overdue. It is extremely important for our colleagues in South Wales to know where they stand in this matter and whether or not this is to come to us. I say that in the full consciousness that I have my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) at my side.
§ Mrs. White
Both of us should know what the decision on this extremely important matter is to be.
I think the chief criticism that we can fairly make of the Government, and I am speaking now not of the immediate past but of the administration in general, is the slowness with which they have tackled some of these problems. We are extremely distressed about the situation in South-West Wales. There is nothing whatever new about it. It has been known for years and years that the situation which 1667 has now arisen would arise, and, therefore, I think we are entitled to say that plans should have been made earlier for the relief of unemployment in that area, and that we should not have had to wait until a few months ago for the four-member Commission to look into it. Those of us who represent areas which have not by any means the same acute degree of unemployment are fully justified in saying that we are anxious that there should be greater forethought as to possible developments in areas which, at the moment, do not have the very high rate of unemployment which affects so tragically some of our colleagues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has pointed out the position in Cardiff, and we want to know what the future of Cardiff is to be. In Flintshire, we do not have such an acute unemployment problem as in North-West Wales, but we are very much concerned about the future of the ancient Borough of Flint, which is dependent so very largely on the textile industry and which is suffering from a recession. We usually think of textiles as affecting only Lancashire, but I should like to remind the House that we in North Wales, and in my own constituency in particular, have been very seriously affected by the general recession in the textile industry.
One of our largest factories has been closed entirely and other factories are working on short time, varying from one factory to another from one week off in ten to one week off in four. There have been considerable dismissals of labour, not all of which are evident from the figures of unemployment. I was given in a Written Answer yesterday the most recent figures of unemployment in Flintshire and one cannot be unconcerned to find that nearly 1,500 people are unemployed, of whom 568 have been unemployed for longer than three months, and this at a time when we have the highest seasonal employment in the seaside towns at the other end of the county. We shall lose a great many of these seasonal jobs as the autumn draws on. Even more disturbing is the fact that the number of unfilled vacancies this year is fewer than 400, where as two years ago for the same period of the year the figure was approaching 1,000.
1668 We know that within the next few months there will be further closures of Service establishments, and this is something which concerns us very much in a number of parts of Wales. Owing to the change in defence policy, the Service establishments are being closed down. It is true that established civilian workers there may be offered employment in other parts of the country, but even to them that must be disturbing. Housing arrangements, educational arrangements for their children, and so on, are such that they hesitate very much before accepting employment offered, whereas in the case of unestablished workers no such arrangements can be expected.
I should like to know whether, in these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman is taking any active steps to "chivvy" the Service Departments to find out what they intend to do with the establishments which they are closing and vacating. We have in Flintshire a large maintenance unit which is to be closed down. I have tried to find out from the Air Ministry what it is going to do about it. I believe that it will have to go through a very long process, possibly because of the example of Crichel Down, and offer to give the land back to the original owners. If this is to drag on month after month, there will be this hiatus, and, possibly, a site for industry will be left unused.
We have also a very large American Air Force base which has been vacated by the American Air Force, part of which will be used by the Royal Air Force. It is very doubtful indeed whether, in fact, the R.A.F. will be able to use the whole of this very considerable establishment, which is ideally situated for industrial development. There is also a large factory in Flint which has been closed, and we have no idea what plans there are for its future use.
Although we are not, and cannot pretend to be, in such an extremely difficult situation as is North-West or South-West Wales, we are nevertheless anxious, and I should like to stress the fact that the official figures of unemployment do not give the full picture, partly because we have a great many women workers in textiles who do not draw unemployment benefit because they are not insured. They do not sign on at the employment exchanges, because they know that there is no work for them 1669 in the neighbourhood. If there was work, they would apply for it, but, knowing that there is not, they do not go to the employment exchanges week by week, and, therefore, simply do not appear in the figures.
Similarly, we have a number of men, some of whom have just reached pension age, who have also been dismissed. In view of the modern ideas that these men should be encouraged to continue in work, and the National Insurance arrangements encourage them to continue in the type of work they have been doing, which is suitable for older persons, once again they are drawing their retirement pensions, and as they know that no suitable work is available, they do not register at the exchanges, and therefore their numbers do not appear in the figures at all. The decrease in the family income, with the consequent effect on retail trade, for example, in the area, is just the same, even though they are not included in the official statistics.
I can only reiterate that, although our position is not as bad as that in some other areas, it is nevertheless serious. It is one which causes us considerable concern. We are very much concerned about the future of the buildings which are round us standing vacant for all to see, which have a discouraging effect on people without work and who have no immediate prospect of work. I know that Government Departments are aware that we have at least one, admittedly small, industrialist who wants to expand, and who wanted a building to which he could move which would provide work for women and girls, just the type of work in which we are lacking. He has bombarded one Government Department after another with letters in the last few months, and so far has got nowhere at all. His epistolary style is not exactly conventional, but I do not think that that should be held against him. I hope very much that something will be done in the fairly near future to see that a chance is given to someone who wishes to be enterprising and provide exactly the type of work which we need in our area.
There is one other topic on which I wish to touch, and that is the question of technical education in Flintshire. I do not propose to go into the whole vexed question of the Flintshire Technical College. That has had a long history, 1670 and there has been an investigation by a committee under Sir Hugh Chance, which has reported to the Minister of Education, who has accepted the report. That report was a very deep disappointment indeed to the County of Flint, and I think that it was an ungenerous report to Flintshire. On another occasion, I should like to have the opportunity of going into the matter more fully.
I should like to say that I have had representations from a number of students at the technical college who will not be allowed, under the terms of this report, to continue to an advanced level of education in their own localities, but will have to travel very much further to some other technical college to take the advanced courses which they thought they would be allowed to take in Flintshire. I have also had representations from industrialists in the area, who tell me that they are likely to be placed in very great difficulty if their employees are obliged to travel further in order to take up advanced technical education.
I want to refer to one or two passages from a letter which I have received from the manager of the large works of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, which are in Flintshire. He says that he is having to give serious thought as to whether in future he will not have to initiate a new policy and not accept engineering students from Flintshire. He adds:It seems to me, however, most undesirable that I should need to consider such a course, for we have obtained much excellent material from North Wales, and I feel it would be gravely wrong to deprive boys from this county of the chance of a career in Engineering.That is a very serious statement to those of us who want the young people of Flintshire to have the best possible chance of a career in modern industry.
We have also been told that Flintshire is not to be allowed to have a sandwich course in metallurgy, which it had hoped to have, but that the students must go to Birmingham. We have one of the largest and most progressive steel works in the country which undertakes advanced work in metallurgy and it seems most regrettable—and I know that the chief metallurgist of the works—John Summers and Sons—shares this opinion—that we should not be allowed to have a sandwich course in metallurgy, or in 1671 chemistry, upon which we have already embarked with some success.
I mention those things because they are of considerable local interest. I do not wish to go into the more controversial matters which have been discussed in the past in relation to the technical college. I simply want to stress that Flintshire is an expanding industrial area and we are extremely anxious that we should have adequate provision in the county for technical education and that we do not damage the prospects of our young people by depriving them of opportunities, or by asking them to travel so far that it is unreasonable to expect them to undertake their studies when they are tired after a day's work, and so far that it is unreasonable for employers to have to release them so early that time is lost because of the distances involved.
While we are grateful for what the Government are promising—so far as it goes—I would not like the Minister for one moment to think that we are satisfied, nor that we wish him to be complacent.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I support the eloquent and almost moving plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). We do not have the same difficulties at Swansea, in respect of wet docks, but the position with the dry docks is comparable. This is a longstanding grievance and we beg the right hon. Gentleman to do everything he possibly can to solve the problem.
I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). I have occasion to visit his constituency. It seems more like a continent than a constituency and we sometimes marvel at how he is able to cover the whole ground. While the problem of school-leavers, to which he referred, is very difficult in the industrial areas, I can well believe that it is exceptionally difficult in rural areas.
The Government are having quite a good day today. It seems that my hon. and right hon. Friends have come to the conclusion that more flies are caught with sugar than with vinegar. That may 1672 be true, but we must remind the right hon. Gentleman that many of the difficulties which are confronting us today are due to the failure of the present Government and pre-war Conservative Governments.
If Press forecasts of Government action in Wales are fulfilled, today should prove one of the most encouraging days which hon. and right hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies have had for a very long time. I wish the Government had not persisted in dragging their feet. It is obviously true that nothing develops except under pressure, and I am glad to think that at long last the pressure which we have put on the Government is likely to bear fruit—at least, we hope so.
Today's Western Mail states:The long-awaited Government proposals for aiding pockets of local unemployment prove to be more helpful than many had dared hope. These are sweeping powers which mark the Government's determination to conquer problems which have hit Wales particularly hard. They represent a triumph of commonsense and common humanity over any dogmatic reluctance to direct new industrial building. They are in the main stream of Conservative efforts to eliminate local unemployment along the lines set by the Distressed Areas and Special Areas schemes of before the War.If that is the case, will the Minister explain why this "triumph of common sense and common humanity" is of such a belated character?
If these powers had been exercised only three years ago, much misery and anxiety would have been avoided. An average of 6 to 8 per cent. unemployed in North Wales and slightly less in other areas is something of which the Government should be thoroughly ashamed. It is a scandal that compact communities have been in danger of total eclipse.
The only committee which seems to have brought the Government down to earth, or, to change the metaphor, to brass tacks is the committee which we now know as the four-man team. That Committee went to the South-West Wales area and, after a brief but presumably very thorough examination, came to the conclusion that there was no hope in the major industries in South-West Wales, but only in diversification. The mechanisation and modernisation of the steel and tinplate industries have made it abundantly clear that we can have no more works of that kind and that if we are to 1673 cater for the unemployed, there must be much greater diversification.
I ask the Minister whether the Lloyd Committee came to the same conclusion. If so, why did not the Government implement its recommendations? If they decided to leave things as they stood and hope for the best, why have they not told us that? What prevents the Government taking hon. Members from Wales into their confidence and letting us know precisely what these various committees found and what their conclusions were?
We are very suspicious that the Lloyd Committee made recommendations which would have forestalled many of the difficulties which we are now trying to solve, unfortunately, we have failed to elicit any authentic information and I do not suppose that the Minister will be much more forthcoming tonight.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what has happened to the Reports of the Council for Wales? He has paid tribute to that Council on more than one occasion. The members of the Council have spent not only days but weeks on drafting reports and recommendations. What surprises me is that they have not resigned and given up the task. Will the Minister say what he thinks of the Council for Wales and its recommendations and which of them he proposes to adopt? Will he tell us whether he thinks it worth while to keep these people working in this way if he pays very little heed to their recommendations?
Reference has been made by hon. Members from North and South Wales to the question of the location of the strip mill. Do the Government appreciate the gnawing anxiety in the minds of men engaged in that industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us categorically whether the Government have definitely decided that they will allow the mill to be erected? If so, when and where? If he cannot give us a definite reply to either of those questions, will he tell us what prevents him from doing so? If certain economic considerations have to be examined, what are they? What hinders him from coming to a definite conclusion? The Minister of Power promised us a reply months ago, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken deputation after deputation to the Minister, putting the case to him and pleading with him to let us have some definite information.
1674 We are sometimes inclined to feel that the Government are trifling with these men, who have spent a lifetime in this very important industry. It is a great shame that compact communities are in danger of eclipse. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) referred to the overspill from Birmingham, the Midlands and elsewhere. If the Tory Government had faced their obligations before the war there would not now be thousands of men from Wales in Birmingham, the Midlands and Slough. They would be in their own country and our own industries would have been developed. The programme which the Government are now proposing is eight, ten or more years late.
A promise has been made that if a case is made out we may receive financial assistance for the building of other than industrial buildings. The Minister knows that Swansea is an industrial centre, but it is also a seaport, and it was a very badly blitzed town. One of our greatest handicaps today is the lack of first-class hotel accommodation. Those engaged in the hotel industry have told us that the cost of building and equipping a really good hotel is extremely high. If we can put forward a good case, will the right hon. Gentleman consider it and prevail upon the President of the Board of Trade to lend us a helping hand?
These are just a few of the difficulties with which we are having to cope year after year. I ask the Minister to tell us tonight what definite plan he has in view. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who opened the debate, said that we had heard words in the House, and had read promises, but what we really required above everything else were actual deeds. Let the Government implement their promises and bring hope to those who are now unemployed, not merely in South-West Wales but in the whole of Wales. If the Government look at the picture as a whole they must feel that there is a great deal of work for them to do, and the quicker they do it the better. We shall then be more inclined to believe that the Tory Government are interested in the people of Wales.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)
I want to deal with an aspect of the problem as it affects South-West Wales. The House will probably agree that for many 1675 years I have taken upon myself the obligation of speaking in this House on behalf of the steel worker and the tinplate worker. I re-echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) when I say that not only have Members on this side of the House but also hon. Members opposite expressed grave disappointment at the fact that the Government have not made any preparations. My Committee has been referred to. I cannot give the details of its report, because it is private, but we know that it was set up to deal as best it could with the situation.
There is an element of urgency about the matter. These loyal men who have invested their lives in the production of tinplate and steel, and have been building up our industrial prosperity in the process, has now been idle for six or seven months. We welcome the Government's proposals which were announced yesterday, but they represent a long-term policy. We cannot solve this question merely by putting a works in the backyard overnight. It will take time. I suggest that the Government should now encourage those local authorities which are prepared to clear sites of derelict works.
I do not want a repetition in my constituency of the conditions which exist in Landore. Recently, I was travelling in a train with an American, who said, "Old Hitler did a good job here". I said, "That happened a long time before Hitler came along." We do not want that in my constituency. I am pleased to hear from Lord Brecon that some firms are undertaking the clearance of these sites, but progressive corporations should also be allowed to do the work. The Cwmvelyn works, in Swansea, cover a large area. It could be cleared, and houses or other large buildings could be built upon it. I hope that the Government will take these suggestions into account.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwelty (Mr. Finch) said, the people about whom we are expressing concern are mainly between 50 and 55 years of age. That is a very awkward age for men to be put on the idle list, but there they are. I appeal to the Government not to allow hope to die in the hearts of those noble men—and they are noble men; they are good men—who have built up the communities in which they 1676 now live. Let us have some action now, so that the problem will eventually solve itself by the erection of new factories.
There are many difficulties about taking a decision on the question of the strip mill. I suggest that when the matter is being considered the question of a possible splitting up of the factory should be taken into account. There might be a split between the producing end and the finishing end. When Margam was being built it was felt that the most logical thing would be to have an integrated plan, and that everything should be put together in Margam, but the Labour Government said, "No; a sociological problem is involved in this." The project was split up, and we had Velindre and Trostra. It meant a little increase in the price of a box of tin, but the reply of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and Sir Stafford Cripps was, "Our job is to solve the sociological problem."
As my hon. Friend said, there is an obligation upon the Government to maintain the community life of Wales. The Government spend a lot of money on the preservation of ancient monuments. Let us preserve the communities—not as ancient monuments, but as great living centres where cultures have developed. If that is done it will bring a ray of hope into the lives of those men—lives which are now very darkened and dismayed.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
The Minister for Housing and Local Government and the Minister for Welsh Affairs has listened to every word spoken in the debate. During the past few days I seem to have met him frequently within the capital City of Cardiff. He has manifested a lively interest in the affairs of the city. I am very glad that he took such an active interest in the events of last week. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), who had the privilege of being called first among hon. Members opposite—and whom we have not seen since—referred to the fact that the racing track at Cardiff is being pulled up. It is a sad commentary upon our values when a track for the training of athletes in the Principality is torn up to make way for a dog racing track—
§ Mr. Thomas
—and people who seem to have the wrong social values.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North did the right thing in raising this question. I am very glad to see that he has now returned. I had just referred to him, and had said that we had not seen him since he made his speech. Now we have seen him.
I ask the Minister not to be in a hurry to turn down his hon. Friend's appeal. If he is unable to give a favourable reply tonight, I hope that he will at least leave the door open. The events of last week have created a new interest in athletics in general among the people of the Principality. It is a good thing for our young people to have these sporting facilities at their disposal. In the City of Cardiff we have not been unduly troubled by problems of Teddy boys and their excesses, although we have had our natural share, as a great city. This House ought to give every possible encouragement to those who are seeking to provide opportunities for the healthy development of our young people. On this issue I readily join with the hon. Member for Cardiff, North who represents me—and sometimes misrepresents me—in this House.
I now turn to the problem which unites all those who have the privilege of representing the people of the great City of Cardiff. The four Members who represent the people of Cardiff have taken part in the debate. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) represents the northern fringe of our city, and there are the other three of us. Everyone who touches the life of the city at all—regardless of his politics—is disturbed by the way in which the docks are rotting away. We have some of the best labour in the world. It is adaptable, but nearly 1,000 skilled engineers are now without work in the city. It is a dangerous situation.
I want to be constructive in my remarks. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred to Sir Herbert Merrett's proposals in regard to the extension of new industry. I am convinced that only by an increase in the light engineering industry, and all those industries which require export trade, is there any real hope for the future of our docks. I made 1678 this quite clear in an Adjournment debate a little while ago, when, in common with everybody else, I mentioned the injustice of the inequality of charges at Cardiff as compared with other ports. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East that even when that problem is settled, Cardiff Docks will not automatically become prosperous.
I wish to ask the Minister what positive steps he can say that the Government have taken—through the nationalised industries, if hon. Members wish—during the past twelve months to restore vitality to Cardiff Docks. Have they consulted the British Transport Commission since the last Adjournment debate in the House when it was suggested that the Commission has now decided to write off Cardiff Docks as an effective unit of the South Wales ports? The announcement to spend £1 million at Swansea, which as good Welshmen we all welcome, and a similar expenditure at Newport and expenditure on the other ports, makes it all the more significant that Cardiff should be told, "Increase your trade first, and then we will improve the facilities." It is not fair to a proud port and a worthy people, and I earnestly hope the Minister will give us some Indication of the proposals he has in mind.
One of our misfortunes has been that the recovery of Welsh industrial activity during the post-war years has of necessity been due to secondary industries being introduced into the life of the Principality. We shall always be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) for the way in which he guided industries to South Wales. We saw the Treforest Trading Estate grow, and we have seen the Cardiff Trading Estate grow; and I am grateful to those in the present Administration who have helped and encouraged industry to come to South Wales. But, when the first breath of recession reaches our people, it is the secondary industries which suffer. That is why the average unemployment for Wales is higher than it is here.
§ Mr. Thomas
Of course it is. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Glover) says "No". I do not know whether he has 1679 any better idea to advance, but if he has I will give way to him.
Undoubtedly, secondary industries belonging to major concerns in England have been closed. Will the Minister also tell us what he has been able to do about the Royal Ordnance Factory at Cardiff, a magnificent factory space where skilled labour is available? Are there now real prospects of good, substantial heavy industry being introduced there? What of the other factories which have been closed? I understand that the last furniture factory in Cardiff is to close this month. There skilled labour was employed.
Parliament is about to have a Recess of three months and that is why, earlier, I took advantage of the opportunity to protest against a long Recess. But I am glad that we are having this debate on Welsh affairs because it will give the Minister, I hope, an opportunity to tell us what proposals there are, not only for the North—if the Press is right he may have good things for the North—but also for the South. Above all, Welsh people ask only for the right to work. It is a basic human right, and we, understandably, are deeply grieved by the prospect of unemployment among our people.
There are good people in Cardiff, skilled craftsmen and unskilled people, who for many months have been queueing at the employment exchanges. As the Minister knows, the official figure for unemployment is about 3,500, but, counting those who do not sign the register, it is well over 4,000 in the city. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give urgent consideration to the plight of Cardiff.
To conclude, I would like it to be known that those who have the privilege of representing that great city share the concern of those in the North-West and the South-West about the employment of our people there. We are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr Finch) who in so striking and human a fashion has tonight advanced the natural demands of Wales.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I should like sincerely to thank every one of the hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. 1680 I thoroughly agree that this has been a much better and more practical debate than some debates on Welsh affairs to which I have listened in the past. It has been more coherent and more consolidated—which perhaps is appropriate considering that, technically, we are debating the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.
I hope that I shall be able to play my part, not by reading out a set reply—that seems to me to be an unsuitable course to take—but by trying to reply to as many as possible of the points which have been raised, and trying, if I can, to cover the whole of Wales. If I fail in any particular perhaps the hon. Member concerned will communicate with me, and then I will pursue the matter by writing to him.
One of the reasons I think that previous Welsh debates have not been as fruitful as they might have been is that the Annual Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales has tended to be published so many months after the end of the year. Following the suggestion I made during the last Welsh debate, I am proposing to publish the next Report for the eighteen months ending 31st December, and to do so early in the new year. I am advised that it will be far easier to secure early publication if in future the figures are based on the calendar year and not on the twelve months ending in June. There will not be the holiday period intervening just after 30th June as there has been. I trust that in that way one can make some contribution to rendering our future debates more practical and up to date.
There is another noticeable difference between this debate and the last one. During the last debate derision was poured by almost every hon. Member opposite on the appointment of a certain Mr. Lewis to be Minister of State. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) did not have a chance to speak then or I believe that he would have corrected the balance.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said, "in his tweed suit"; but Mr. Lewis, as soon as he became Lord Brecon, took off his coat and got down to work.
§ Mr. Thomas
I did not mention Lord Brecon, but I intended to. I gladly agree with what the Minister has now said. I know that Lord Brecon has endeavoured to serve the Principality as his friends said he would.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said about me personally a moment ago, and I am glad that in neither this debate nor, so far as I know, anywhere in Wales, has anything but praise been voiced in recent months for the service that the Minister of State has given.
We are rightly debating the unemployment situation in Wales. By comparison with the 1920s and 1930s there has been a transformation in the problem. If hon. Members will cast their minds back to those days and even to the war-time years, they will recall that 97 per cent. of employment and 3 per cent. of unemployment was taken, in common parlance, as full employment. We are now discussing a situation where there is 96.3 per cent. employment and 3.7 per cent. unemployment, but not for one moment do I demur at our doing it. I think it entirely right that Parliament should thus spend its time.
There has been this transformation for the better since before the war, but, nevertheless, certain local difficulties have persisted. I would say to hon. Members opposite, who have made large claims for what their party did when in office, that neither they nor any of us have yet at any time satisfactorily solved the unemployment problem of Gwynedd, the difficulties of the depopulation of Mid-Wales or the difficulties besetting Pembroke Docks, for as long as any of us can remember. In fact, the lowest figure for unemployment in Wales at any time was under the Conservative Government three years ago, in 1955, when the total fell to about 13,000 and the percentage was 1.4, Now we are dealing with a new position, aggravated particularly by the closing of the hand tinplate and sheet mills and the steel works that serve them in west South-Wales.
Everyone knew that this closure would have to happen one day. Everyone hoped, I think reasonably, that the old mills would go out one by one over a period. What has accentuated our difficulties 1682 and created sadness in that area is the suddenness of the blow. There is no doubt that these closures are the reverse side of the picture, the other being the excellent fact that Wales has the finest sheet and tinplate mills in the whole country. It is because Wales is in the forefront of modernisation that the old works have had to go. Nevertheless, the human problem remains.
Fortunately, we can already see the Government's policy of stimulating new industry working there as elsewhere. I think it has been recognised in all quarters that the announcement yesterday by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has special significance for Wales. Ever since I became Minister for Welsh Affairs I have been pressed by certain people to try to get Gwynedd scheduled as a Development Area. I think we have realised as time has gone on that the scheduling and descheduling of areas was perhaps too rigid a way of dealing with these problems. The Government have now, with the help of Parliament, worked out a much more flexible system, and I have no doubt at all that this is of importance for Wales.
I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) for the cogent way in which he exposed the fallacy that in seeking the optimum distribution of industry one cannot wholly ignore the geographical whereabouts of unemployed men and women. We saw that fallacy stated in a leading newspaper this morning. I cannot sympathise with those who talk as if one can pick up and pack up a whole Welsh community and post it off to London or Birmingham. The Government have publicly told industry and every one the areas where in present circumstances financial assistance may be obtained under this new Act if they set up or extend their factories. We have D.A.T.A.C. prepared to consider applications. I think that hon. Members will find that industrialists now have been enabled to know where they stand and that they will have no difficulty, with the help of the Board of Trade—certainly with the help of the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs and with what help I can give—in ascertaining the possibilities. I only hope that the response will be swift and effective.
1683 I will now seek, as it were, to take a trip round the different parts of Wales that have been mentioned and try to say something about each of them.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, can he say whether the excellent policy outlined by the President of the Board of Trade yesterday will be pursued, both in its positive and negative aspects resolutely, firmly and vigorously by the Government?
§ Mr. Brooke
I have no doubt about that. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has been with me on the Bench through a large part of the debate and I know that I have his assurance—as well as my knowledge of the intentions of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade—that the Government are determined to pursue this policy vigorously both on the positive and the negative sides. Let us remember, however, that both England and Wales are free countries, and that we can no more direct industrialists where to go than we can wish to direct labour where to go in peace-time.
With regard to Milford Haven, I have never been one to believe that a vast increase in population would take place in that area, but I have believed that, without ruining the National Park, there could be reasonable and well-planned industrial development there. In particular, the Esso refinery is going forward. The outlook for Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock is a great deal brighter than it was when we last discussed Welsh affairs, and indeed the figures show it.
Unemployment in Milford Haven is down to 6.6 per cent. and in Pembroke Dock to 4.8 per cent., but they were about 10 per cent. not very long ago. The figures are not down to what I would wish them to be, but there is an atmosphere of hope there now whereas there was an atmosphere of doubt only a recent time ago.
A much more serious problem is presented by the old tinplate area. Since the beginning of 1957, about 8,000 men have left the industry—by which I mean the steel works and the sheet and tinplate mills—and have lost their jobs. It is a tribute to the resilience of the Welsh economy that at the present time fewer 1684 than one-quarter of those 8,000 men are unemployed. I am not saying that in any complacent way, because I accept the Report of the four-man team; I believe there are great difficulties ahead of us there. I do not think that the House needs any assurance from me that the Government take the problem of that area, the hinterland of Swansea and Llanelly, very seriously. Certainly there is no question of allowing things to drift, as one Opposition hon. Member suggested.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I should like the Minister to explain the figures. Our information is that 8,000 men have been displaced since January, 1957, and that they are being displaced all the time. Did I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that only one-quarter of them are now unemployed? The fact of the matter is that there are at this moment more than 8,000 unemployed in West Wales. Where have the 6,000 gone to? It is a rather difficult matter to understand.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am really speaking to put on record the fact that there is a serious unemployment problem in the area which is oversimplified by many people. It is regarded as a situation in which thousands and thousands of men have found themselves declared redundant in tinplate works and are now on the streets. In fact, large numbers of these men have already been absorbed elsewhere, and others—I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would tell me this if I did not mention it myself—have retired. There was quite a high age-level in that industry.
It is interesting and encouraging that such a large proportion of the men have already succeeded in getting work elsewhere, but what concerns me seriously is that, according to the findings of the four-man team, there will be other closures coming in the next eighteen months. I am certainly not seeking to look at anything through rose-coloured spectacles. It is better that we should all be perfectly frank about these matters.
A number of hon. Gentlemen have suggested that all these problems would be solved if a Government decision were taken to put the strip mill at Kidwelly. I understand that arrangements have been made for the whole question of the strip mill to be raised again by some 1685 other hon. Gentleman from Scotland later this evening. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] So I am informed. It may be that some of the Welsh Members would wish to stay for that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have informed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power, who is standing by for that debate, of the keen interest that has been shown in that debate by a number of hon. Members. As the responsible Minister, he will be hoping to speak later, before the Bill receives its Third Reading.
All I would say here is that among the problems, and there are many, which beset the whole question of the strip mill is this, that the site at Kidwelly is on top of coal. That is not something which one can lightly disregard, because one might be sterilising a substantial national asset by putting a mill on that site. It may be that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power will go into the whole matter more deeply later on.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I do not want to discuss this matter in detail, but are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that any site in South Wales under which there is coal is not available for industry?
§ Mr. Brooke
I was not seeking to say the last word on this subject, but only mentioning it, because the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) indicated to us that a decision in favour of Kidwelly ought to have been taken by now. That is one of the factors that have to be taken into account. Another factor is that if the Government were to accept the hon. Lady's argument that industrial development certificates must not be given for new industrial development where there is hardly any unemployment, that would debar the strip mill from being put in the place where the company wants to put it, near Newport. I am not urging any final conclusion but, as reference has been made to it, it seemed only proper to remind the House of some of the difficult factors which have to be taken into account.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
Is not it a fact that the greater proportion of the coal is not under the Kidwelly site, but under Carmarthen Bay?
§ Mr. Brooke
My information is that 200 million tons are under the site and the rest is under Carmarthen Bay, but it might be more difficult to work if the mill were put there.
In case hon. Members think that they must stay up to hear my hon. Friend, I should say that I believe they will be disappointed if they expect him suddenly, on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, to give a final answer today about where the mill is to go.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think that is a question which might be put to my hon. Friend when, having received notice that this specific matter is to be raised, he replies to that debate.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that if we wait we might hear more from his hon. Friend than we are now hearing from him? If he is not saying that, why cannot he tell us now? We want to know.
§ Mr. Brooke
All I am doing is informing the House that I have been made aware that another hon. Member has given notice to Mr. Speaker that he hopes to have an opportunity of raising this question later in the evening and has so notified my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power. I understand the Parliamentary Secretary will be here to reply to that debate.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May I raise a point of order with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with apologies to Mr. Speaker, who is not at the moment in the Chair? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition yesterday raised the question of the debates that would take place and one of the questions to which he directed attention—the Leader of the House agreed to consult my right hon. Friend about it—was in relation to the selection of topics for debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. In my experience of twenty-two years this is a novel procedure. I rise at this moment because this illustrates the difficulty to which my right hon. Friend referred. On the Consolidated Fund Bill it has always been possible for hon. Members to raise any topic and we have agreed to discuss Welsh unemployment. 1687 A part of that problem is the question of a strip mill and now the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs, who is a member of the Cabinet, tells us that there is to be a statement about this matter—which is of vital interest and importance to many communities—later on a subject which has been selected by Mr. Speaker. The Minister referred us to that debate. This illustrates the difficulty which my right hon. Friend pointed out in the allocation of subjects in this way. I think it my duty to point that out.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) no doubt heard the statement made by Mr. Speaker yesterday. The position is that no hon. Member is restricted by that statement in dealing with any particular subject. I understand that the Minister of Housing and Local Government said that another Minister will make a further statement on the same subject in the same debate.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I assume that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is not restricted and can give the House—as he ought as a senior member of the Government—any information which can be given to the House?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
As the Minister knows, it is understood that this will be a Cabinet decision, and the Prime Minister has very kindly seen deputations from various parts of the country on it. I do not want to pursue that, but we have been led to understand that when the decision is made it will be conveyed to the House by a member of the Cabinet.
§ Mr. Brooke
I have been in some difficulty also today, as will be appreciated. I think the House has perhaps at the moment got a misconceived idea that the Parliamentary Secretary is coming to the House later to make a statement. He will not be doing so, but he will be doing what every Minister always does as a matter of courtesy and duty. When informed that an hon. Member is likely to raise some matter on the Consolidated Fund Bill or on the Adjournment, it is the duty 1688 of the Minister to be here and to reply. That is the situation with which I have been seeking to deal. It seemed to me, however, that I would be wrong if I were to make no reference whatever to the strip mill in my reply to this debate, or if I were to conceal from the House that the subject may be raised again later in the evening.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I am very much involved in this question, although I have not said much about it. I have very strong opinions about the suitability of sites in South Wales. I know them better than any man in this House and, I think, better than any man in the country, as I taught geology and mining in that area and know the ground very well indeed. I do not think justice will be done to Wales or to men like myself if we ignore the subject of the location.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I put this, not as a point of order, but as a question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Are we to understand if there is to be a wide-ranging debate, such as we are having now, in which the question of the location of a particular mill is raised, one hon. Member can stop a reply being given by the Minister in that debate by indicating to some other Minister that he or she proposes to raise the issue later? That would seem an absurd situation because the major debate on this matter has taken place and it was open to any hon. Member to put any points he wished to raise on the Consolidated Fund Bill debate. I wonder whether, without any discourtesy, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power would be willing to give his views, so far as he can, on the question of the strip mill.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
On a point of order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was going to raise the point referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), which he disclaimed as a point of order. Perhaps the Minister will forgive me if I add a phrase to it as in some sense I am the nigger in the woodpile. The reason why I signified intention of raising the matter was that I assumed that during this debate the Welsh point of view would be put and that it might be as well later to take the opportunity of putting the Scottish point of view.
1689 The point of order I raise is that I regret, as a number of hon. Members regret, the fact that the matter has been made so rigid by the announcement made beforehand that these subjects were to be raised. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East will forgive me in this situation. It is not my fault, but I am more or less committed to raising this matter. I intended to raise it contingently on this debate if the Welsh case was put forward so that I could take the opportunity of putting forward the Scottish case.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I can assure the hon. Member that nothing has been made rigid by the statement by Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I apologise for the use of that phrase. I meant that instead of the matter being left entirely to one's judgment it has been publicised that the subject would be raised and that lays a certain constriction on one's judgment.
§ Mr. Brooke
All I am seeking to do is to serve the House. I have already let the cat out of the bag by saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power will not be giving the final answer of the Government on the question of the strip mill. I have no doubt that if questions are raised by Scottish hon. Members or Welsh hon. Members at that time he will seek to give answers and all the information he can.
I was about to remind the House that the policy of the Government of attracting individual new factories to this area of Wales is working successfully. We were pleased to hear that R.T.B. was to establish a press and fabrication shop at Gorseinon which is intended to employ 450 people. That is the right sort of industry. It is a suitable industry and shows that R.T.B. is not writing off this area. A day or two ago we had the case of Crawley Industrial Products intending to set up at Llanelly. I understand it proposes to employ 250 in the first instance and hopes that that number will rise to a greater number later. The element larger than either of those is the most welcome decision of the Pressed Steel Company to occupy a factory which is going to be built for it just outside Swansea, with the immediate intention of employing 2,000 people as soon as possible, again with the hope that, if 1690 the venture is successful, that will rise to a considerably greater number. It is no secret that other firms have been showing an interest in the area, and I am sure that it will be the wish of all of us that some of these other inquiries may fructify as those two I have just mentioned have done.
§ Mr. Gower
I apologise for interrupting my right hon. Friend, but, at the moment when various points of order were raised, he had just said something about the siting of the works at Newport, and he had referred to the suggestion by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) that, if the area had very full employment, it was thereby prohibited from having an industry. Surely, that is not the case. It is of tremendous importance that Newport is not to be prevented from having an industry simply because its unemployment is slightly less.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What I was doing was simply pointing out the weaknesses in the argument of the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen. It were established that a new industry should never have an I.D.C. to set up in an area where there is no unemployment or little unemployment, that would ab initio rule out Newport as a site for the steel works. The hon. Lady might wish to do that, but I do not think that any other hon. Members would wish to do it, and she herself would do it not out of any hatred of Monmouthshire but only out of love of Carmarthenshire.
Reference was made to the possibility of clearing the derelict Landore site, which I have known only too well for many years. That would cost money, and one must judge, when seeking to spend money, whether greater economic gain would be achieved by clearing an eyesore of that character rather than spending it for some more constructive purpose. It is not as though there were no other possible sites in the area. There is not at present a shortage of sites.
Reference were made to road improvements. If I may say so, I think that it would be a mistake to advocate road improvements as a sort of relief work just for absorbing the unemployed. If we are to carry out road improvements, they should be based on economic purpose. In fact, the great new motor roads which are being driven do not employ a 1691 very large number of people in relation to their cost.
The Government's policy, confirmed by an announcement to the House yesterday, is to carry forward with these road improvements designed to better the access to South Wales and West South Wales from the Midland area. We believe that that is of high economic importance, and, indeed, that it is essential if we are to secure one of our objects, namely, that men who are running successful businesses in Birmingham or the Midlands shall cast their minds westwards to Glamorgan or Carmarthenshire when they wish to expand. At the moment, anybody driving along the Heads of the Valley road can be held up for miles and miles because some bus is slowly climbing the hill in front.
One or two hon. Members expressed doubt and anxiety about future employment in the mining industry. I know that by one or two, at least, of the deputations received by Ministers not long ago, a request was made for an authoritative statement, particularly about future employment in the anthracite area. I have been in consultation with my noble Friend the Minister of Power about this and he has authorised me to say that the National Coal Board has informed him that, provided there is reasonable co-operation from the men, the Board does not expect any substantial decline in mining employment in the anthracite areas up to 1970. This is not to say that there will not be closures. On the contrary, a number of pits will be closed and new ones will come into production. It may well be, moreover, that some men from the closed pits will not be able to find work at the new or reconstructed pits, and there will also have to be movement within the anthracite areas. But, provided the men co-operate, there should be about as many men in mining in the anthracite areas in 1970 as there are now. I hope that that information available to my noble Friend will give reassurance in an area where I know doubt has existed.
§ Mr. Brooke
I quite realise that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) 1692 was referring rather to the Monmouthshire and Glamorgan valleys when he was speaking. As he knows, I visited many local authorities in those valleys during the Whitsun Recess, and I know that there are problems at the Heads of the Valleys particularly. It is not altogether easy to see what the future of those lively communities will be in the years ahead. I can certainly give the assurance that they will not be forgotten in all the efforts we are making to try to attract more industry to South Wales.
Monmouthshire as a whole, of course, is highly prosperous at the present time. There are many places in Monmouthshire where the percentage of unemployment is below the average for all England. Our policy has been very successful there. I know that there are problems in Monmouthshire. One I know only too well is the problem of road bottlenecks and the need for a second bridge over the Usk at Newport. An announcement has recently been made which brings the building of the Severn Bridge nearer, to the great pleasure, I believe, of everyone—certainly to the great pleasure of the Minister for Welsh Affairs. When that plan goes forward, it will help to relieve the Chepstow bottleneck that many of us know so well.
A good deal of the debate has been devoted to Cardiff, particularly to the situation in the docks there. This is a real problem. The British Transport Commission has been putting most of its money into the docks at the other ports. I am bound to say that, having regard to the falling off in the coal export trade, it seems that there is excess dock capacity along the South Wales coast. It is difficult to avoid that conclusion. One must recognise that. But it is not true that the British Transport Commission has written off Cardiff docks as though they were of no importance at all.
I took note of the points made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). Frankly, I do not think that there is anything in his idea of off-shore discharge of oil. I think that that is a non-starter, but I will certainly make sure that the other matters which he put are examined. Here again, it is a question of whether one should spend money on trying to prepare a site for an industrial estate in the dock area when it is known that there are industrial premises empty 1693 already in Cardiff. One has to determine the right priorities.
As regards the difficult question of dock charges, the hon. Gentleman was good enough to recognise that this is not something which any Government can solve by direct action. I have had discussion about it with my noble Friend Lord Brecon, and I know that it is one of the matters which he wishes to consider further in order to see whether he can, by rendering good offices, bring us further along the road to a solution of what has hitherto been a thoroughly intractable problem in South Wales. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) spoke—
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think there is a case for a committee of inquiry into that matter. I will certainly bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport everything that has been said. I meant that I proposed to take up all the points and suggestions that have been made not only about the docks but also about ship repairing. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East knows, this is not an easy period for ship repairing. What I am seeking to do is to convince the House that not only has the British Transport Commission not writen off Cardiff Docks; the Government also do not regard Cardiff Docks as of no account. This is a difficult problem and we have to try by hard work and study to see whether we can bring about improvements. I am not, however, promising early results. I am merely giving an assurance that this is a matter to which the Minister of State and I will be giving further consideration to see whether we, in conjunction with the Minister of Transport and other Ministers concerned, can find solutions for some of these problems.
Time is getting on and I think I should pass now to mid-Wales, about which the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan spoke. Owing to lack of opportunity for young people, there is an outflow of the younger element which keeps the unemployment figures down, but the average age level is rising all the time, and over a long period there has been a slow movement of depopulation, which is discouraging. There is no easy remedy for 1694 this problem. As evidence that the Government are not disregarding the needs of mid-Wales, I would point out that the Teifi Pools water scheme, which the hon. and learned Member mentioned, is receiving a larger Government grant than I think has ever been given to any rural water scheme in either England or Wales. I hope that the Government's farm improvement scheme will bring substantial help to Welsh farmers. As the hon. and learned Member knows, the Minister of Agriculture is interesting himself, in particular, in studying how further assistance can be given to small farmers. Largely, mid-Wales is a land of small farmers.
In his statement on forestry the other day, my right hon. Friend laid special stress on the importance of so balancing the forestry policy for Britain as a whole as to give due weight to the contribution that it can make to meeting the social needs of areas such as mid-Wales. Incidentally, it is not true that there are no timber-using industries in Wales. I am sure that the timber-using industries will grow as the timber matures.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
So far, the quite extensive afforestation in the Principality has not led to any considerable satellite ancillary industry. May I take it that now there will be a new departure as land is taken under the new programme for new afforestation so that processing and finishing industries will be added to those forests in Wales? It will be a new departure if it happens.
§ Mr. Brooke
Only last year I opened a board mill in Flintshire, which was a new departure. I am sorry to say that the last thing I heard was that the mill was not working full time because of lack of demand. That illustrates that one cannot have a pretty plan and introduce timber-using industries here, there or anywhere and be sure that they will be a success.
What one would like to see in the small towns of Mid-Wales are small factories and light industries, not belching chimneys. The small factories that are successfully running at Llangollen, for instance, which have stabilised the place, are creating opportunities for the boys and girls. I have great regard for the work that the Mid-Wales Development Association is doing, but I assure the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan 1695 that there is no truth in his assertion that Government action is devoted to dissuading industry from rural areas. I think that the hon. and learned Member was speaking of the past and not the present. However, like him, I attach importance to the passage at the end of the statement of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade yesterday when he referred to the Development Commission being available to assist light industry in rural areas suffering from depopulation. The development fund will no longer operate in areas where assistance under the new Act will be available. The factory at Pen-y-groes will be completed, but the Development Commission's activities will now be more concentrated in rural areas where depopulation is the difficulty, and the greater resources of the Exchequer will be available on the advice of D.A.T.A.C. in the areas which are included in the list as areas of high and persistent unemployment.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) asked me a minute ago what was happening at Glynllifon Park. The position is that the local authority prepared and sent forward a water order. In due course, I hope and expect that the rural district council will make a formal submission. After that, there will be a public inquiry. The sooner all that happens, the better. It seems to me that that is much the most practical way of getting the difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman referred thrashed out and decisions reached. I am, however, extremely anxious to see the Ashburton Chemicals project fructify. As the hon. Member knows, we have had a disappointment at Llangefni, but the two oil companies still seem interested in Holyhead. I think that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) is abroad at the moment, otherwise I am sure that he would have taken part in the debate.
I can promise the hon. Member for Caernarvon that he will receive replies to the points that he raised when Lord Brecon visited the Lleyn Peninsula. Negotiations are going on about one or two possible developments at Pwllheli. The numbers are not large in the area in which the hon. Gentleman is interested, but the percentages are high.
§ Mr. Brooke
Yes, but in comparison the numbers are not high. If one can find the right solution it should not be impossible to provide the employment that will transform the outlook for people there.
I still believe that more could be done through the tourist trade. I am convinced that Wales has a most valuable economic asset in its beauty, and I regret it when I hear people speaking as though the only thing to do is to get factories everywhere even if they do destroy the beauty of the Welsh mountains. I am quite sure that there can be a compromise between these two. I am quite sure that one can increase the amount of factory employment while not destroying the beauty and frightening off the visitors.
It is the case that the inquiry into the overseas tourist trade which the Government have put in hand will, of course, extend to Wales, and I for one should very much like to see a steadily increasing number of holiday visitors attracted to Wales, not because that is a substitute for factory work but because I think it is a pity if they go elsewhere and do not come to Wales.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting him again, but I think we are all agreed that there can be a marriage between new industry and scenic amenity. What we are concerned about is that the growth of a certain type of industry should not simply increase seasonal employment and throw up new problems arising from the fact that it is temporary, for two or three months each year.
§ Mr. Brooke
I appreciate that. At the same time it would be a pity if factories did not come, and I believe that both are possible.
I do not share the hon. Member's view that a fresh inquiry into the slate industry is desirable. I believe that the markets for Welsh slate can be further exploited. I have a feeling that there are too many committees of inquiry into Wales as a whole. I am more anxious for action than for more inquiries. I am certainly not despondent about the future of this industry. I do not think it is simply going to disappear. The comfort which the hon. Member for Caernarvon and his constituents can take is that now for the first time the same kind of Exchequer 1697 assistance becomes available in Anglesey, Caernarvon and Blaenau which hitherto has been available only in the Development Areas. I dearly hope that will bring assistance to the hon. Member's hard-hit county.
I should like to tell the House what has been happening about a matter which has aroused great interest and caused great controversy and concern in North Wales, and that is the possibility of a nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) had a Question down for written answer today, and he may by now have received the reply.
The facts are that the Minister of Power proposes to give his consent to the construction by the Central Electricity Generating Board of a nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd. I have been closely associated with my noble Friend in considering the planning aspect of this proposal. The site, as hon. Members know, is situated in the Snowdonia National Park. It is, therefore, very important from my point of view.
There was a three-day public inquiry last February, held jointly by inspectors of the Ministry of Power and my Ministry. That inquiry was also concerned with the transmission lines which will be needed to connect the new station with the main electricity grid and with the pump storage reservoir and stations which are now being constructed at Ffestiniog. The report of the inquiry is being made public and copies are now available to hon. Members in the Vote Office.
I hope that the decision will be acceptable.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will forgive my interrupting him, for he can appreciate that I cannot contain myself with joy at this wonderful announcement he has made. I am sure it will give great joy indeed to Trawsfynydd, Merioneth and the whole of North Wales. The answer that I got this afternoon to my Question was held back until the right hon. Gentleman was supposed to be on his feet at 6.30, and I want to bring the right hon. Gentleman into the picture. I asked whether the Paymaster-General was in a position to make a statement concerning the projected nuclear power station. This was the reply I had: 1698Yes, my noble Friend, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs has decided to give his consent to the construction of a nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd.I feel very grateful to the Minister for all he did to secure this. He can see that I am in a very generous mood, but this is not an indication to my colleagues to meet me at the close of this debate. I am sure that this news will be regarded as the greatest news that we have had in North Wales for many a long year.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his remarks. I am sure that the decision will be acceptable to him and I greatly hope that it will be acceptable to public opinion generally. I must say to those in and out of Wales who are anxious about the effect that this development may have on the national park that there are conditions attaching to the construction of the station and the planning of the overhead lines. The Generating Board will employ a landscape consultant to assist it and it will consult with the planning authority and the Royal Fine Art Commission about the general design and layout of the station.
As to the overhead lines, there is one section which has given by noble Friend and myself some concern and that is where the line has to cross the Vale of Ffestiniog. We are satisfied that the line cannot be put underground although it will, of course, have to cross a renowned and beautiful view. The difficulty and cost of putting the lines underground will rule that out, but even if it did not, the structures needed at the point where the line would be put underground would be most unsightly. My noble Friend has included in his consent the provision for a tolerance of up to 1,600 yards westward down the valley so that in consultation with the planning authority the Board may choose positions for the supporting piles which will be as inconspicuous as possible.
I went past Trawsfynydd last week when I accompanied His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on a tour through Wales, during which he was greeted with true Welsh enthusiasm. We ended up at a memorable closing ceremony at Cardiff Arms Park. During that week of the Empire Games, Wales excelled herself in 1699 organisation and hospitality. Many a tribute has been paid to Wales and her people by the overseas tourists. I should like to think that all Wales could rise to equal standards in attracting overseas visitors at all times. A tremendously high standard was set last week.
§ Mr. Brooke
I have been asked about the running track at Cardiff Arms Park. For my part, I think that it would be an excellent thing if means could be found to have a first-class athletic track of a permanent character established somewhere in South Wales. I do not know whether it can be done or how it could be done. It is more than a matter of moving the existing track. The whole question of constructing a stadium has to be thought out.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I should like to be associated with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. Rugby is part of our life in Wales and this is the famous Cardiff Arms Park. I say, not for any puritanical reason, that I am deeply distressed about this matter. I was privileged at one time to serve as chairman of the Youth Committee and I know how sadly lacking are these facilities in Wales.
This is a beautiful track which cost £15,000, and the athletes present at the Empire Games said that it was the best track that they had ever run on. It is very distressing that the track is now to be ploughed up to provide for greyhound racing. The Cardiff Athletic Club and the Welsh Rugby League wish to stop this track being ploughed up. They want to see it made available for a sport which will be of great advantage to the whole nation. We should be grateful if the Minister could help us in this respect.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
My right hon. Friend has asked what is missing. The Cardiff Rural District Council has a site ready. What is missing is £8,000.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am afraid it is not possible for the Government to make £8,000 available for an athletic track. If we 1700 did so there, we would be asked to do so for other places. If some solution to this could be found, it would be a very happy outcome. The difficulties have been stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North, who has brought the matter to the attention of the House today.
In conclusion may I say that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) anticipated what I was about to say. In order to attract industry we must now repeat the efficiency and organisation and, in the right sense, hospitality which was so brilliantly extended to the visitors to the Empire Games. I think we should not only encourage incoming industry but should also encourage Welshmen to start their own businesses. I deplore the articles which appear sometimes that speak solely in terms of trying to attract English business into Wales, and which overlook the fact that there should be men in Wales ready to risk their fortunes, ready to set up as their own masters to try to make a success of running their own businesses. If there could be that change in the atmosphere in Wales, it would be a most valuable step forward on the journey which we must take together to try to diversify further the industrial equipment of Wales.
It was my noble Friend the Minister of State who took the initiative in bringing together a number of industrialists to discuss the possibility of forming some kind of development commission or corporation. I attended the first meeting. I thought the discussion was a fruitful one. Unfortunately, by a slip, the Press reported me as having said that I thought it was not a very fruitful one. It was very fruitful and those discussions have continued. I have reason to believe that the fruit will ripen and that in due course we shall have a body, not under Government control or Government auspices, but certainly with Government approval, that will channel all these various efforts that have been, and are being made, to bring more industry into Wales, to build industry within Wales, and in all those ways to solve the main problem which this House has been discussing for the past four hours.