§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to move,That this House recognises the need for establishing a stable economy in Welsh rural areas, and for greater efforts on the part of the Government to attract new industries to the valleys of South Wales.It will be seen that the Motion is in two parts. Apart from a certain coastal strip in South Wales, it covers practically the whole of our little country. I hope that the Government will pay more attention in a practical fashion to our rural areas and to the valleys of South Wales than they have done hitherto. We have heard most eloquent speeches from Government representatives with but very little practical results for the people in the communities to which I refer.
Over the years, our rural counties and the rural areas of other Welsh counties have been—I do not exaggerate—disgracefully neglected. The people there for long years have been forced by economic necessity to leave their homes and seek the means of life elsewhere, generally in a country other than Wales. It is within my own memory that at one time the villages and hamlets of rural Wales bustled with life. This was commented upon quite recently by a Welsh writer in an organ of the Press which, to put it mildly, does not go out of its way to give the least support to this side of the House or to what it stands for.
656 This Welsh writer said:Those were the days when the countryside was plentifully sprinkled with cottages, all with large families, all contributing to schools, entertainments and chapels and, in time, to talent and scholarship.We cannot make English thinking people appreciate that Wales overwhelmingly owes its culture to the shepherd, the small farmer, the farm labourer, the village schoolmaster, the preacher, the miner, and the iron-worker. It was from such workers that the inspiration and drive for higher education in Wales came. In no part of this island—I hope that my Scottish friends will not take umbrage at this—did the intermediate Education Act have such a tremendous reception and impact as it did on the people of Wales.
In a very short time, certainly within the memory of some of us, a spate of secondary grammar schools came into being in our Welsh towns and villages. The rural and industrial areas of Wales showed by far the highest percentage in the whole country of children going from primary to secondary grammar schools and from there to university. But the large majority of those who graduated, many with distinction in our universities, had to seek employment outside their own country, and this has hurt our Welsh sentiments over the years. The sacrifice entailed in getting our young people by the thousands into different universities before there was much State help was enormous.
Economically and industrially, our towns and villages were, and still are, cruelly neglected. The younger men and women had to leave their homes, but the sick, maimed and crippled, together with the older people, were tied to their towns and villages. This was responsible for a tremendous struggle on the part of our Welsh local authorities, with their meagre resources, to care for those who needed care most.
The solution to all this will not be found in the destruction of our present local government units or by merging them into large soulless bureaucratic regions. The financial strains and stresses experienced by a number of Welsh local authorities are due directly to the neglect of Governments who have 657 turned a blind eye, or have been indifferent, to the depopulation of a number of local government areas in Wales. No effort has been made to stop this.
I have here a publication entitled Digest of Welsh Statistics. It is for 1959, and it is the latest that it is possible to get. Since I have made passing reference to the subject of local government, let me deal with the populations of our administrative counties over the years. Forty years ago, in 1921, the population of the administrative counties in Wales was 2,126,000. In 1959, it was 2,041,000, a drop of 85,000. In the same period, the population of England soared by the millions.
§ Mr. Davies
My hon. Friend says, "Hear, hear." I have a suspicion that Scotland can tell a similar tragic story. In 21 years, the administrative counties of Wales lost 85,000 people.
Now let me consider the position in some of the rural counties of Wales, which I suspect will form the major part of our debate today. In 1921, the population of Breconshire was 61,000. In 1959, it was 56,000. The population of Caernarvonshire went down from 131,000 to 121,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) has been called away from the House, but I am sure that he will not mind my giving these figures. Merioneth is a beautiful county. In 1881, its population was 51,967. It is now 39,000.
As I have said before in the House, most of these beautiful counties have not been scientifically prospected to see what mineral wealth is in them, but some of us who have spent our lives in Wales and have been interested in matters of this kind have a shrewd suspicion that there is considerable untapped mineral wealth in these depopulated counties. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) will not mind if I refer to Montgomeryshire. In 1881, its population was nearly 66,000. The latest figure is 45,000.
Let me now deal with the so-called industrial counties. Forty years ago, in the administrative county of Glamorgan the population was 815,000. In 1959, it was 746,000, which shows a very substantial 658 drop in 20 years. Forty years ago, the population of the administrative county of Monmouthshire was 358,000. In 1959, it had dropped to 329,000. In the administrative county of Glamorgan there is one county borough, and that is my own constituency. In 1911, its population was over 80,000. In 1959, it was 59,000. Therefore, within the area of the administrative county of Glamorgan with Merthyr Tydvil, which is a part of the valleys, the population has been reduced by over 90,000 in twenty years. To put it mildly, that is irresponsible and absurdly silly. On the other hand, in England, just over the border, which is a country not as rich relatively as Wales, the population has been increasing by leaps and bounds.
What have the Government in mind particularly about our rural counties? The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs made a speech early this week in Birmingham, when we were told that a new water supply policy was being evolved. That speech had a fairly good Press in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman must remember, however, that our experience of the Government compels us to regard that speech of his as being sinister, if not menacing, to the interests of Wales.
Much was said by the Minister about the Severn River and how its upper reaches would be converted to supply water over a large area. A good deal of that river runs through the heart of Wales and we have vivid memories of Tryweryn. We have seen the Elan Valley used, not by Welsh people, but by people who are not in the least interested in our country but only in what they can get out of it. We remember the shock to Wales when the threat was made to take over Glynceiriog, in North Wales. I wish that I could say something happier than this, but the Minister must remember that he does not have the confidence of the Welsh people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, and I am not interrupting him on that point, which is a matter of opinion. It is simply because I was not satisfied over everything that happened in the case of Tryweryn that now, in the case of the 659 Severn, I have taken special pains to make sure that the Montgomeryshire County Council and the Montgomeryshire Water Board are being kept fully in touch and are playing an active part in everything that is happening as regards the future of the Severn water.
§ Mr. Davies
I shall leave the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery to comment on that. I suspect what the nature of his comment will be, but he will be able to express it far more vigorously than I. When the Minister enlarges upon that theme in his speech to the House later today, will he tell us what plans in addition to the question of water supply he has in mind for rural Wales?
We object most strongly to the treatment that is given to these counties of Wales. Whether we speak the language or not, we cannot help doing all we can to keep Governments fully conscious of the fact that we are Welsh people and that we must protest when our beautiful country is abused in the manner in which it has been abused. In these days, when there is so much talk about planning, the planning we see is to make these towns and villages of rural Wales the prey of unplanned English sociological monstrosities and of vast aggregations of people. We are a community in Wales. In the Midlands or on Merseyside, the bigger these aggregations grow, the more insoluble are the social problems which they throw up.
Here in this City of London, to ease the traffic congestion in one small area, £12 million to £15 million is spent to push the congestion to some other area. What a boon that £12 million or £15 million would be to, say, the counties of Merioneth, Montgomery and Radnor. They would know what to do with it. I hope that the Minister will give thought to what we could do with this money, which resolves nothing in these huge unplanned areas—I cannot call them communities, because they are not—they are mere aggregations of people. How well we could use in one of our rural counties the money which is to be spent in the building of a few garages of 10, 15 or 20 floors which, we are told, will be built in this city or to remove a so-called bottleneck.
It is not a bit of good Ministers telling us that Wales is not being neglected. It 660 is, and the figures of our depopulation and unemployment make it abundantly clear. We are not only getting tired of it. We are getting more and more angry that our country—and Wales is ours—is regarded just as a milch cow whose skills, talents and knowledge, even its towns, villages and its very existence, are used to cater for the pleasures, the needs, the whims and the idiosyncrasies of people who are not of our country.
Our country has natural resources and potentialities that could maintain happily and prosperously three times the largely stagnant population that we have today in the whole of Wales. I know Wales and its neglected rural areas. I have lived there. My suggestion to the Government—I do not know whether it is worth making a constructive suggestion to them, but I shall try—is that having regard to our Mid-Wales rural areas, they should send somebody with an open mind, and not somebody who is fossilised in Tory traditions, to study and learn from the great and splendid Tennessee Valley achievement. That tremendous project was carried out by the United States Government and financed by the United States Government, and large areas of land which were almost completely useless, far more barren than anything we have in mid-Wales, are now giving life and pleasure and work to thousands of people.
Or, better still, why not send an intelligent person to, say, the Soviet Union—it is becoming more popular than ever to refer to the Soviet Union today, and I am jolly glad—so that he could report back to this extremely unimaginative Government how there, in a matter of a few years, huge areas, bigger than the rural counties of Mid-Wales, areas which at one time, and within recent times, too, were nothing other than sandy deserts, have been transformed into fruitful and prosperous areas? At least let not the Government turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the vast achievements in other parts of the world.
We know that the economic and industrial problems of Wales could be solved. On that aspect of our case today I will leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether we have always been right in saying that in this country the Tories never learn and never can learn, and I say that in anticipation of what we are likely to hear from the 661 other side of the House during this debate, but I am prepared to withdraw those words if the Minister proves me to be wrong. However, as I have been in this House quite a long time, do not blame me for having used them: we have to blame the Tories and their conduct over the years.
Briefly as to unemployment in the valleys of South Wales. There is an illusion—and the right hon. Gentleman knows that I have referred to this on other occasions—which is being fostered, and fostered by Government spokesmen, that the new steel works on that strip of the South Wales coast will solve the unemployment in our South Wales valleys. Take either the Rhonddas or the Merthyr areas. They cannot be even dormitory towns to either Port Talbot or Llanwern, Newport. From Merthyr Tydvil to the steelworks at Llanwern and back is a 70-mile return journey, but there some of my constituents are working, doing the rough, hard spade-work which is needed. They are up at 4.30 in the morning to leave Merthyr and they do not return till 7 o'clock or 7.30 in the evening. Buses carry them away there and buses bring them back. From most of the Rhondda to those steel works the journey is about as long. We cannot expect people to stand that sort of thing very long. It is inhuman and should be regarded as out of date.
Industries must come to these valleys, for if not the towns and villages in those valleys of Glamorgan and Monmouth will be destroyed or partially destroyed as have towns and villages in many of our rural areas.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to consider the unemployment figures we have in South Wales. In my own constituency, which is not the worst affected, I will say frankly, unemployment has been running from about 3.4 per cent. to 6.5 per cent. and over in the last 12 to 15 months. In the Rhondda at the moment it is 4.1 per cent. My two hon. Friends who represent the two Rhondda constituencies have had to leave the House to go down there because at this very moment the existence of works in the Rhondda Valley is being threatened and there is a fear that 550 more will be thrown out into the ranks of the unemployed.
662 Take the Llanelly development area. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) will not mind my mentioning it. The last figure for unemployment there was 5.7 per cent. At Ammanford, Pontardawe and Ystalyfera it is 4.4 per cent. They are shockingly high unemployment figures in these days.
Were I to give them for the rural areas of Wales, about which I have taken more of the time of the House than I had intended, we should find that the figures are bigger and more tragic still, as for instance, at Anglesey 8.6 per cent., at Caernarvon, Bangor, Blaenau Festiniog, Portmadoc and Pwllheli 7.2 per cent. At Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock they are 11.9 per cent.
The claim of the Government that they are attempting to cope with these problems, which are fundamental, and which affect the whole life of Wales, I say is not correct. I say that the record of this Government in Wales is a disgraceful one. We need more than speeches, even eloquent speeches, to save those communities, which are being depopulated, whose life and culture are being destroyed, communities which are being wiped out in many instances. It is not a laughing matter, and any Minister who will not try, and try honestly and courageously, to cope with it is a person in whom Wales can have no confidence at all.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Morgan (Denbigh)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) will not expect me for one moment to associate myself with his final remark, that the Government's record is a disgraceful one. Indeed, all the facts show that in economic affairs the Government have served Wales well.
In the few observations which I have to make on this Motion I will deal primarily with the problem of rural depopulation, because that rather than heavy unemployment is the one which most concerns the division I have the honour to represent. I will not take up the suggestion made by the hon. Member that someone from Wales should visit the Soviet Union to get advice and help on these matters. I intend to keep my feet firmly on the ground and 663 to deal with pressing problems in Wales at the present time.
I am sure that cogent remarks on the unemployment position in Wales generally and on the industrial position in South Wales in particular will be made in due course by my hon. Friends the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) and Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) and that there will be an equitable division of labour between us on this side of the House. But in view of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil I should like to make one observation about the unemployment situation in order to get the matter into perspective.
I think that all of us have felt satisfaction at the improvement in the unemployment position in the Principality in the last year and, in particular, with the latest figures which show a total of just over 25,000 unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire, a decrease of no less than nearly 2,500 on the February figures. Although these figures give room for satisfaction, there can be no room for complacency so long as the Welsh percentage is running at a little more than 2½ per cent., which is higher than the average for Britain as a whole. The recent Government White Paper on Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire rightly describes South Wales as…one of Britain's main centres of industrial growth.I am sure, however, that it will be conceded on all hands that a great deal still remains to be done in Mid-Wales and in certain areas of North Wales as well.
In this connection I welcome the announcement which was made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs at Machynlleth on 12th March, when he opened a new clothing factory, that a technical committee had been set up to study the situation in North Wales and to diagnose the problems of the area. I welcome also the announcement that the Board of Trade has almost completed plans for a new factory at Amlwch in Anglesey.
I would agree at once that depopulation is one of the greatest tragedies of our age. It is no comfort at all to us in Wales that this sort of thing has been happening in other parts of Great Britain, in parts of England and particularly in Scotland, and has been going on 664 for a century or more, because the rural areas of Wales are the buttresses of our national language and tradition. In as much as this is to a great extent a natural economic development, it would be quite unfair to seek to place the blame for it on any set of politicians. It has been going on under Governments representative of the three political parties which have seats in Wales. But one cannot fail to be impressed by what has been happening, for example, in the constituency of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies).
The right hon. and learned Member eloquently referred to this in a speech which he made to the Welsh Grand Committee on 1st June, 1960, when he pointed out that his division had a smaller population today than it had when the first census was taken in 1801. That must be unique in all counties, at least south of the Scottish border. It is true to say, as the right hon. and learned Member said, that Montgomeryshire has been spared an unemployment problem purely because of the continual migration of its people.
This is a very wide subject and in the limited time at my disposal I should like to confine myself to what appear to me to be the best remedies for the situation. It seems to me that they fall into two groups; firstly, the preservation of a sound rural economy, and, secondly, the provision of those amenities to which country people are entitled and without which assuredly the drift away from the countryside will continue.
As to the preservation of the rural economy, I do not want to be partisan, as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has been. I want to be as fair as I can be to Governments of all political shades. It is right to say that both Labour and Conservative Governments in the last twenty years have done their utmost to build a healthy Welsh agriculture. I refer in particular to the Agriculture Act, 1947, the Hill Farming Act under the Labour Government, the Agriculture Act, 1957, under a Conservative Government, and last but not least to the Small Farmers Scheme. The last-named is a most important development for Wales, and I was happy to note that, according to recent figures, up to the end of 1960 over 7,000 applications had been received in Wales and Monmouthshire. This represents rather 665 more than 80 per cent. of eligible farms, and more than two-thirds of those applications have been approved.
When I spoke in the Welsh Grand Committee on the problems of rural Wales I commented on the fact that the Price Review of 1960 had reacted to some extent against the scheme and I expressed the view that I was not very happy about that review. I do not propose to go through those criticisms again because they are now a matter of history, nor do I wish to retract them, but I should like to express satisfaction that the present Price Review has been negotiated between the National Farmers' Union and the Government.
As for rural amenities, I should like to confine my attention to two—rural electricity and rural communications. It is quite true that progress is being made with rural electricity in many areas. However, it is still much too slow, and a substantial proportion of the correspondence that I receive from my constituency is devoted to criticisms of this. In fact, only about 60 per cent. of farms in North Wales are at present connected with an electricity supply. I feel that a good deal more could be done to bring isolated pockets within existing schemes. There has been a failure of planning in this respect. There are many such pockets within my division.
It must not be thought that I do not appreciate the difficulties that confront the electricity boards. It is obvious that they must do their best to pay their way. They have to make a profit, if they can, and obviously capital investment in the rural areas is much less productive than in industrial areas. I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) will agree with me, in view of what she said in the Welsh Grand Committee, that the answer is a direct Government subsidy for electrification in rural areas. The figures should be included in the global sum at the Annual Price Review. I believe that that would be the most satisfactory solution.
On the subject of rural roads and railways. I think that there is universal agreement that the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955, was a most beneficial Measure for which the Government deserve the greatest commendation. I was interested to see that of the £4 million to be spent under the 666 Act about £2 million was to be devoted to Wales. I understand that £824,000 had been devoted to improvements in Wales up to the end of 1959, and the 1960–61 allocation for Wales and Monmouthshire was £612,000. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs pointed out to the Welsh Grand Committee, the Government have been approving work under that Act on an increasing scale.
I repeat the prayer I made in the Welsh Grand Committee that consideration should be given to the scope of this Measure being extended. I do not ask for more than a modest extension but there should be some extension both in amount and in terms of time. As things stand, schemes are limited to those approved before 20th December, 1962. I understand that the Act will come up for review in the course of next year and I hope that consideration will be given to the points that I have mentioned.
I appreciate that railways are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, but I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs would take note of one matter which I should like to bring to his notice on this occasion. I want to be as reasonable as I can. A balance has to be kept by British Railways between economic efficiency on the one hand and the service of the public on the other.
There is, however, serious concern in North Wales about the threatened further closure of branch lines there. A good deal was said in the Welsh Grand Committee last December by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) about the closure of the Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog line. I cannot agree with the strictures which he pronounced in that debate, but I think that I can put up a stronger case about the proposed closure of the Ruthin—Denbigh—Chester line, which is the last link between the more highly populated areas of Denbigh and Ruthin and the surrounding countryside and the main line. The only other link to Rhyl disappeared some years ago.
I understand that an undertaking was then given that this remaining link would remain untouched, but it appears that an assault is being prepared on this, the last communication link between 667 those areas and the main line. I take this as an example, but it is an important example, because, apart from the country people who move in and out of these towns, a substantial number of school children and of workers from Denbigh who work in areas further east make use of this line. It will be appreciated that, in the last analysis, the whittling down of communications of this kind can only encourage further migration from these rural areas.
I end by saying something in direct contradiction to what the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil said in closing. I much appreciate the efforts which the Government have made. I am sure that in their actions in respect of rural Wales they will always bear in mind that they are dealing not merely with the economic prosperity of a rural area, but also with the preservation of a separate language, a separate culture, and a separate way of life.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I hope that the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) will forgive me if I do not follow him into a discussion of the important questions of roads and communications, not because I am not conscious of their importance but because we had a full debate on this subject in the Welsh Grand Committee recently. The House also knows that recently the Jacks Committee reported, and I hope that we shall shortly have an opportunity in the House to discuss this valuable Report.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for introducing this Motion and for giving us the opportunity to discuss a variety of problems affecting Wales. I shall be forgiven, I know, if I devote myself to that part of the Motion which calls the Government's attention to the need to establisha stable economy in Welsh rural areas.No one suggests that this is an easy problem to solve. It has been with us for over half a century, ever since the pattern of self-contained and self-sufficient communities began to break down. A great deal has been written about it. There have been several Reports in recent years. We had the Second Memorandum of the Council for Wales and 668 Monmouthshire, which we debated in the House. Following that, we had the Mid-Wales Investigation Report, which we also debated. We then had the Government's White Paper on Rural Wales. In short, this problem has been causing the House and the Principality concern over a number of years.
We should realise also that this is not an exclusively Welsh problem, because depopulation and the disintegration of rural communities has been going on in Scotland and in parts of England, as well as in Wales. I would point out, however, that in Wales the breakdown has special significance, for reasons which have already been given by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Denbigh. The disintegration has gravely weakened the Welsh language and culture in those very areas in which they were most strongly entrenched.
The extent of the depopulation is not always apparent from population figures. Young people have to leave the areas because there is no work for them. For example, this year there will be between 600 and 700 school leavers in Anglesey. Next year, when the bulge is at its peak, and the following year, there will be 800 to 900 young people leaving school. There will not be work in the country for more than about 20 per cent. of them, and that creates a very serious situation.
While the young people leave, an increasing number of people are coming into these areas either to retire or to buy houses for holiday purposes. I do not object to that. We are hospitable people in Wales, and we are always glad to welcome visitors. Nevertheless, it is a factor to be borne in mind, because if the trend continues of an intake of rather more elderly people and an emigration of the younger people, it will result in unbalanced communities.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member has been good enough to tell me that he may not be able to stay in the Chamber until I make my speech at the end of the debate. May I, therefore, interrupt him to ask what evidence there is for his statement that all but 20 per cent. of the school leavers in Anglesey will have to leave the area in the next few years to find work outside Anglesey? I doubt the accuracy of that statement. 669 He said that they would have to leave because there would be no work for them in Anglesey. That figure which he gave the House surprises me very much.
§ Mr. Hughes
I base my information on conversations which I have had from time to time with the Ministry of Labour and with the youth employment officers for the area. The task of youth employment officers in Welsh rural areas is most difficult. The Minister knows well that the opportunities for work and especially for apprenticeship for these young people leaving school are virtually non-existent. I will deal later with the prospects.
If the Minister can give us hope that in the coming years the percentage will decrease, no one will be more pleased than I, but he should bear in mind that the ending of conscription will tend to make the situation even more critical unless work can be found.
§ Mr. Brooke
I know that the hon. Member is speaking with all sincerity about his constituency, but my information is that it is wholly untrue to say that in the last year or two 80 per cent. of the school leavers in Anglesey have had to go outside the county to find work.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the Minister is in possession of accurate statistics to gainsay what I have said, I shall be grateful if he will give them to the House in his speech. I shall be glad to hear more favourable information than that in my possession.
Notwithstanding that, and whatever the exact figures are, the situation is serious, and far too high a percentage of our young people have to leave the areas to find work. Once they go into the industrial areas of England it is highly unlikely that a large number will return.
As my hon. Friend has said, unemployment in the rural counties continues to be high. Although, the unemployment figures themselves are serious they do not in themselves disclose the extent of the problem, because prosperity is reflected by the number of people who are actually working out of the total population. It puzzled me for some time why Anglesey and Caernarvonshire and some of the 670 other rural parts of Wales were comparatively so poor, because in the aggregate the number of unemployed is not large, although the percentage is high.
Nevertheless, by comparison with English agricultural counties, there is little prosperity. Standards are much lower. I sought the reason for this. It is that the proportion of people working out of the total population in the six North Wales counties is very low. Lest there be any dispute I will give the figures: in Anglesey, 23 per cent. of the people are working; in Caernarvonshire the figure is 30 per cent.; in Denbighshire it is 33 per cent.; in Flintshire 22 per cent.; in Merionethshire 20 per cent. and in Montgomeryshire 27 per cent. The figure for Wales as a whole is 36 per cent. The comparable figure for the United Kingdom as a whole is 43 per cent.
Thus Anglesey, which has the highest unemployment figure, has also the lowest percentage of people in work, and that is 20 per cent. below the national average. In order to get the picture right, I must add that these figures do not include self-employed persons. It is clear that in highly industrialised areas the figure will be well above the average 43 per cent. I understand that in the Midlands and the London area it may be as high as 60 to 70 per cent. of the population.
This gives us some idea of the magnitude of the task that faces us. If we are to ascertain how many jobs are needed in the Welsh rural areas in order to bring them up to the national average of prosperity, we can easily work it out from the figures that I have given. It will be many years before 43 per cent. of the people of Anglesey are in full work. It means finding thousands of jobs. I realise the complexity and the difficulty of doing that. But if I felt that in a comparatively short period the figure would be increased from 23 per cent. even to the 33 per cent. of Denbighshire, then I should begin to feel more hopeful.
What are the solutions? It would need a very able and brave man who could put forward all the solutions to the problem. We can say that in all these areas agriculture is the basic industry. Today it is more efficient and 671 more forward-looking than it was before the war, but the paradox is that efficiency itself creates new problems. Mechanisation and increased productivity mean that less men are needed on the land. For example, last year 26,000 fewer men were working full time on the land in England and Wales than in 1959.
Another reason for the trend is that there are so few prospects for young men in agriculture. There is not a great deal of future for the ambitious young man. I wish there was some scheme which ensured that an able young farm worker, who had been working hard and perhaps had studied in an agricultural college, could have some prospects of obtaining a farm of his own when still in his twenties. Perhaps that could be done by an extension of the county councils' smallholdings scheme. Will the Minister give the matter consideration, and tell us what he thinks the Government do to help?
One thing which is abundantly clear is that agriculture on its own will not solve the unemployment problem. But a great deal more could be done with industries ancillary to agriculture and forestry. For instance, modern slaughterhouses are now to be built in Wales. A new one has just been approved for Anglesey. How much thought has been given, and is being given, to the possibility of processing by-products? It might not be possible to do that as an adjunct to every abattoir in every county, but with a little co-operation between the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture it might be possible to do it at central points, perhaps in North Wales, Mid-Wales, and Southwest Wales, to make use of the by-products.
Then there is the big and expanding market for canned and frozen foods. What steps has the Board of Trade taken to see whether one of these great canning firms could come to a hard-hit Welsh rural area? I know from my talks with the National Farmers' Union and with the Farmers' Union of Wales, that the farmers would co-operate in every way with these big canning firms. The water is available. We make the tinplate in Wales. We supply all the cans, but so far we have not had the opportunity of putting anything in them.
672 I have been reading with great interest recently the account of the research at the Torry Research Station, Aberdeen. I understand that the scientists there have perfected methods of food preservation which are now being used by private firms. I understand that this is a new and successful process of dehydrating food and preserving it for a long period without losing its flavour. Here is an opportunity for the Government to say to private firms which are using this new process, "There should be some quid pro quo here." Firms using this process, which is the result of Government research, could be invited to the rural areas of Scotland and Wales.
Another avenue which should be explored with profit is the small village industry. The Rural Industries Bureau has done excellent work in giving practical help to small village industries. The work of the Bureau in Anglesey is beyond praise. These industries include not only the old traditional crafts ancillary to agriculture, such as fishing, the blacksmiths, the woodworkers, and wrought-iron workers, but newer industries as well. I was fascinated to read in the report of the Rural Industries Bureau for 1959 the following paragraph.It might surprise some that amongst the small producers with whom the Bureau has been in touch and has helped, are manufacturers of dentists' chairs, glass fibre kitchen sinks, scientific instruments, television masts and aerials, surgical appliances for spastics, plastic flooring, lithographic printing machines, and many hundreds of other products equally as diverse and unrelated.It must be asked, how can these be termed 'rural industries'?—to which we would reply that they are examples of small industries, located in villages or small country towns, which employ up to twenty skilled operatives and which are providing alternative occupations for country folk who otherwise might be compelled to join the multitudes who have drifted from the country to seek employment in our large cities. The many thousands of such small industries are an integral part of this country's rural economy.What an enormous contribution these small firms are making. I hope that the Board of Trade is working in close conjunction with the Bureau and that these industries will be given assistance under the Local Employment Act when genuine and worthwhile applications are made. One such industry, of either the older or new kind, employing twenty 673 men in a small village in a rural area of Wales could preserve that community and be the backbone of that village. What a vital contribution to the life of Wales in these days that would be.
It would be churlish of me not to give credit where credit is due. We all appreciate the progress made during the years since the war. We have made great strides in electrification, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Denbigh. In Anglesey, we have made great strides with piped water supplies, but it is worth pointing out that there are still 15,000 farms in Wales without electricity. I hope that the work of bringing in electricity to the rural areas and bringing piper water and sewerage to the villages and the countryside will be accelerated.
I am not terribly happy about rural housing in Wales. I think that the Minister in fairness would accept that since the withdrawal of the housing subsidy for general need, there has been a slowing down by some rural district councils, and in some cases there has been a halt. The houses are just not being built. That is extremely serious because the extent of slum dwellings in a rural area is not as apparent as it would be in a town.
From time to time we have all called attention to the notable report which was produced, before the war, by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) about housing conditions in Wales. It is a matter of distress to me to have to say that some of the houses which were condemned by him in his report as being places which infected people with tuberculosis are still being occupied today. I ask the Minister to study the housing situation in rural Wales to see what can be done as a matter of urgency.
Finally, in some areas we are getting new industries. Ideally, industries in rural Wales should be located either in or near towns which have industrial traditions. We know that there are large-scale projects in Merionethshire, in the Ffestiniog area where constructional work is now going on and where thousands of men are employed. It may well be that that will happen in Anglesey in a few years where an atomic energy electricity generating station is projected. I put it to the 674 Minister that where thousands of men are employed on constructional work there is inherent in that a new problem for the future. I know that Merionethshire is worried about it and I ask the Minister to say what study is now being made so that when the constructional work comes to an end and unemployment recurs, it will be possible to take steps to deal with the problem. We should be anticipating that now.
I am glad to say that in Anglesey new factories have been built at Holyhead and Llangefni and a new factory is projected at Amlwch. They will not solve the problem, but I cannot begin to describe to the House how much these new factories have meant to the people of Anglesey. They have given new hope and they have raised the morale of the people. I am glad to say that the firms concerned are delighted with the area and with the quality of the local workers and the co-operation which they have received from local authorities and others. I hope that other industries will follow until we achieve that economic stability and prosperity for which the Motion asks.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
In the interesting and varied speeches which we have heard so far this morning, it has become more and more evident to me that prosperity produces its own brand of problems. Some of these lie behind some portion at least of the Motion. However much my hon. Friends and I may disagree with hon. Members opposite on points of detail, on one thing we shall all agree, and that is that we in Wales are very much happier grappling with the problems of prosperity today than with the problems of adversity which were so prevalent in our country only a few years ago.
It is ironical that the outstanding successes of the Government and various trade associations in providing new industries for Wales should have had the effect not only of creating a shortage of labour in some parts, but also a steady drain on the population of the valleys and the rural areas, particularly among young people who seek to fill the growing list of well-paid and progressive jobs in the thriving new industries of Wales.
In the depressing years before the war, and even in some periods after the war, 675 many of our brightest young men and women migrated to London and elsewhere in search of jobs. That our loss was London's gain is proved by the number of prominent Welsh names which will be found among the leaders of trade and industry, finance and professions in the City of London and elsewhere. Fortunately, this form of depopulation from town and country has now virtually ceased. If anything, it has been replaced by a steady drift back to Wales of the people who had left in search of opportunities for advancement which just did not seem to exist in our own country at that time.
Now the position is transformed. Now the problem of rural Wales is one of depopulation rather than unemployment. The unequal distribution of the population throughout Wales is no help in this respect. With two-thirds of the total living in Glamorgan and Montgomery, there are inevitably large areas which are thinly populated. Even where substantial communities exist, most of them are faced with their own problems of how to retain the interest and presence of the younger generation.
After reading the excellent progress report recently published by the Development Corporation for Wales, it is hardly surprising to me that young people are lured from the rural areas by prospects of higher wages and the diversions of city life. In what the Corporation describes as a momentous year for Wales, it tells of six substantial new factories being built by such well-known companies as the British Motor Corporation, Rover, Ferrodo and B.T. Chemicals. Rapid progress is being made at the Richard Thomas and Baldwins giant new steel works at Llanwern and with the extensions to the Steel Company of Wales plant, Guest Keen and John Summers among many others, the occupation of larger premises by nine companies wanting to expand their existing factories in various parts of Wales, the start of production at Prestcold near Swansea and Crawley Industrial Products at Llanelly, the opening of the Esso Oil Refinery at Milford Haven and the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd, and many other exciting new developments in Wales. Those developments are enumerated in some detail under 20 or so headings in the Report.
676 On the debit side and in fairness it is also pointed out that some parts of Wales have not shared as fully as others in the revival. Though the prospects of Caernarvonshire and Anglesey and others have improved as a result of increased interest shown by firms in those counties, their main problems are not yet wholly solved. Though the situation in Pembrokeshire is far from satisfactory, there are recent encouraging reports of an American chemical and plastic firm investigating sites around Milford Haven. In Mid-Wales also, the Development Corporation reports, the attraction of suitable new industry continues to be difficult and the threat of depopulation remains acute despite the commendable efforts of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association.
In the light of those remarks, it is difficult to see what best can be done to stem the drain of depopulation from rural areas. True, the Forestry Commission which now employs over 3,000 in Wales provides excellent employment opportunities which are being further extended, but we need more light industry to supplement the traditional agricultural industries—more industry like the eighty-five new manufacturing firms which have come to rural Wales in the past fifteen years. If and when they can be found—and I do not under-estimate the difficulty of finding them—they should if possible be suitable for the employment of young people who can be recruited before they leave school and before they get the urge to leave home.
In addition, some effort must be made to increase the appeal of community life in these areas. Boredom often stimulates the desire to sample the so-called attractions of the bright lights of the city. It is, I think, a sobering thought that though many people from the rural areas hanker for a time after city life they soon tire of it and long to return, particularly if they are able to make a little money at it in the meantime.
The second part of the Motion calls for greater efforts on the part of the Government to attract new industries to the valleys of South Wales. It is probably not appreciated that over 100 new factories have been built in these valley towns since the war, apart from the new industry which is housed in wartime and other premises. This has already resulted 677 in a valuable diversity of industry, including both light and heavy industry at the heads of the valleys, and production of a lighter kind in the valleys themselves.
The biggest further improvement in this respect seems likely to come from improvements in road communications into and throughout Wales. The Heads of Valley Road connecting Wales and the Midlands, the Severn Bridge, and the improvements between the South Wales coast and the valleys will all help to make these valleys more accessible, and consequently more attractive to new industries in the future.
Meanwhile, the coal industry seems to be poised for a new lease of life which will bring still further prosperity to the inhabitants of the South Wales valleys. This prosperity is referred to in a chapter headed "Signs of an affluent Society" in another excellent Development Corporation for Wales publication entitled "Wales—Land of Opportunity". It reads:Undoubtedly the most striking fact about post-war Wales is that it is now an affluent society. This is not only true of boom towns like Newport and Port Talbot; 20 years of full employment have completely changed the material standards and the way of life of the mining communities in the valleys.In case any hon. Member opposite should doubt the accuracy of that statement, I would remind him that the text of this excellent document was written by Professor Brinley Thomas of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, a leading Socialist in the life of Wales.
Certainly the latest employment figures for Wales show an improving trend and a not unsatisfactory position. The latest unemployment figure—issued about a month ago—of about 25,000 is the lowest for some time past, and a glance at the analysis by areas shows that this gradual reduction is almost universal throughout Wales. It is not confined to any one area. At the same time, the number of the vacancies has now reached the high figure of 13,374, a fair reflection of the growing opportunities which exist in Wales and to which I have already referred.
The size of this list of vacancies emphasises, if emphasis is indeed necessary, the need for more training schemes in the schools, in the technical colleges, and 678 in the universities, if we are to make the best use of the wealth of talent at our disposal. It also emphasises the dramatic improvement which has taken place in the economic life of Wales in recent years, an improvement for which the Government and the various trade associations for Wales can take credit for the part they have played in bringing this about. At the same time, the Government have shown that they are very much alive to the problems and difficulties which still exist and that they are determined to press on with their vigorous efforts in the interests of Wales and the Welsh people.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I want first to express my deep and sincere gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for using his good fortune in the Ballot to bring forward this Motion. It is not often that an hon. Member for an industrial constituency such as that of my hon. Friend calls attention to conditions in the rural areas. I do not blame them, for naturally every hon. Member is concerned with his own constituents, their problems, their anxieties, and their social conditions, but undoubtedly during the period I have been in the House the main concern has been with the industrial areas and the unemployment which exists there.
When I first entered the House in 1929 the main subject of debate in this House and elsewhere was the amount of unemployment in the country. The army of unemployed at that time was over 1¼ million, and it gradually increased until it exceeded 2 million. Any effort that was made by this House to draw attention to conditions generally was always directed to how to secure work for those people who were unemployed and very little attention was paid to the position in the rural areas.
I well remember that whenever I took part in those debates the call came across to me that there was no unemployment in Montgomeryshire. That is perfectly true. There never has been unemployment in Montgomeryshire; there has been only steady depopulation for over 160 years. As the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) rightly said, I have called attention to this on several occasions. We are in a unique position. 679 We are the only county which today has a population less than it was in 1901, and less than it was in 1801.
That is because my young people, not being able to find work in our own beautiful County of Montgomery, seek work elsewhere. This has become such a habit of my people that long before a boy or girl is due to leave school his parents communicate with their relatives or friends in other areas—it may be London, Manchester, Birmingham, or South Wales—and a post is found for the young man or woman, and we continually lose our people.
In the old days when I was a young man it was to the South Wales areas that they went, and the reception area for Montgomeryshire and Merthyr Tydvil and its immediate surroundings. I am therefore glad to hear that it is the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil who is directing attention back from the conditions in his area to our position. I am glad that he referred to the depopulation in Wales generally. I have already referred to the situation in 1929. There has been continuous depopulation from 1918. I have to charge my memory, but I think that I am right in saying that in my report of 1938, to which reference has been made, the figures showed that, in Glamorgan and Montgomeryshire alone, in the course of twenty years 480,000 people had left, never to return. That was the condition of things which faced us.
The Government naturally turned their attention to the question of aid for what were then called the distressed areas—and none could complain about that. We were all anxious to help. We knew the difficulties and the social distress that existed in those areas. We knew the depredation and the agony of mind that occurred, quite apart from the fact that the people there were living on the small amount of unemployment pay then called the dole. We all remember what happened about the May Report, and the consequences that followed.
Then came the war, and in 1944, in the Coalition Government, Mr. Dalton, as he then was, then President of the Board of Trade, brought in the Development Areas Bill, in order to help the old distressed areas and bring back industries into them. Generally speaking, the 680 purpose of the Bill was to encourage industrialists to go to the development areas and discourage them from going into areas such as Montgomeryshire. Every assistance was to be given to industrialists to enable them to move to the development areas. If they wanted a factory, it would be built for them; if they wanted a road to a factory, it would be made for them; if they were alongside a railway and needed a siding, it would be constructed, and if they wanted any financial help, they would receive it.
Attention being concentrated upon those areas, it meant once again that the position in the rural areas worsened. As new industries sprang up in the development areas the attraction increased for boys and girls to leave the rural areas of Montgomery and Mid-Wales. I protested at the time against the limited purpose of the Bill. I said that the Government ought to take a wider and more balanced view of the situation, and that they should take account of the position of those in the rural areas as well as in the industrial areas. It was no use. The cry was so great from those in what had been the distressed areas that any suggestion of mine on behalf of others similarly situated went unheard.
The same thing occurred when the present President of the Board of Trade brought in his Local Employment Bill, which attempted to deal with situations of acute unemployment or threatened acute unemployment. Whenever there is such a threat assistance is given to the development areas, and given straight away and without stint. On that occasion, too. I begged that the Government should not take too narrow a view of the matter, and I pointed out that they might be creating difficulties for themselves by doing so. By placing new industries in the development areas they were increasing the temptation for people to leave the rural areas, and Chen, if there was a change in the economic situation, and the development areas once again suffered from unemployment, there would be greater difficulties than there would have been if a wider view had been taken of the situation throughout the country and a better judgment had been made of the question whether it would have been wiser not to encourage so many new industries to go into the development areas, but to place some in 681 other areas. The fault of every Government in turn has been that they have not taken the wider view.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) rightly referred to a number of measures that have been taken, of which may be taken, to encourage small industries to go to the rural areas. I am glad to hear that Anglesey has been successful in getting what I have been begging for on behalf of Montgomeryshire for years and years, namely, a central market. Apart from anything else, this is a humane thing. From my early days I have been accustomed to what happens in fairs and markets, and the way in which animals, after suffering there, are hustled into goods trains and taken away, having to wait for perhaps forty-eight hours before being slaughtered.
Why should not all that be done in a central market in the rural areas? The meat could then be distributed, as it is in other places, and the by-products could also be dealt with there. I have failed to get this for Montgomeryshire but I am glad that the hon. Member for Anglesey has succeeded. I have long been asking for assistance for Montgomeryshire in the form of the establishment there of an industry ancillary to agriculture, because that is the only stabilised industry Montgomeryshire has.
Even that industry is losing its members all the time. The tendency today is to ranch—to join one farm to another in exactly the same way as big industries are joined together. Right in the centre of Montgomeryshire there are three biggish farms. When I was a boy each employed 20 men, from 20 families. Now, one employs three men and the other two employ two each. That example can be multiplied throughout the county. This process is developing because of new machinery and new methods.
Like the hon. Member for Anglesey, I wish that we could ensure that young people who know nothing else but farming could remain on the land and be able to farm for themselves. But whenever a smallholding falls vacant in my county there are 40 or sometimes 50 young couples applying for it, with nothing to choose between them for character and ability. Only one couple can be satisfied. The rest must go away. What happens then? There is nothing for them 682 in the rural areas, so they join the tens of thousands who are already in the industrial areas.
There is one thing that the House must bear in mind when considering the possibility of putting industries in small towns. When they come in there is great rejoicing. Work is found not only for the young people living in the towns but for those in the surrounding villages. They all come in, and all goes well, until an economic blizzard hits the industry. Then there is tragedy. Wherever there is unemployment there is bound to be tragedy, but the tragedy in a small town, where there is only one industry, is far greater than it is anywhere in an industrial area. It means that when the industry has closed down no other work is available in the area, and the men must leave.
That has happened in Montgomeryshire. The men have left my county to go to South Wales, Central England, Birmingham and Manchester. We are breaking up the families, which is the greatest tragedy of all. The man has to go while his wife remains at home and his children go to school. It may be that a long time afterwards he is able to make a new home in the area to which he has gone, and then his children's education is upset. It is bad enough when a factory closes down in an industrial area, but at least there is then the possibility that a husband and father may be able to find work in another factory just as near his home.
I call attention to that, because that is our position now in my largest town of Newtown. Ever since I became a Member of this House and even before, I have known these people, because was brought up amongst them. I know their views, their lives, their anxieties and their ambitions, and we tried in those days to see what we could do to bring industry there. We succeeded occasionally in bringing small industries into that town.
Just before the war, Lord Woolton took over an old industry which had been founded there by a former Member of this House who was Conservative Member for Montgomery Boroughs—Sir Pryce Jones. We all hoped that the industry would be extended with the great influence of the Manchester firm of 683 Lewis and Lewis, but there has been no extension, but rather a gradual closing down. I have seen other small industries come and go again.
Then, when the war came, we were fortunate in securing a large company to come in and start a small industry connected with war production. When the war was over, however, that was taken over by a firm connected with Tube Investments, Ltd. for the assembly of bicycles. At one period, that firm was employing between 600 and 700 people, whereas the whole town itself has a population of only 5,000. This was a miracle in the middle of Montgomeryshire. About three years ago, I was told by the chairman of the parent company—Tube Investments, Ltd.—that unfortunately the position was such that they would have to close down.
I then told him what the position would be and of the tragedy that would hit that little town of only 5,000 people, breaking up the homes, the school careers and so on. That great man replied "I quite agree, and we will do our very utmost for you." The only way in which they could help was to close a factory in an industrial area, which was bad enough for the people there, but at any rate it saved the homes of the people of Newtown, who have been able to continue there until this day.
Last week, that same company issued notices to all concerned that the demand for its products was going down. I think the demand in this country has fallen by about one and a quarter million bicycles, and the company had also lost a great number of markets in Africa. India and elsewhere, so that it was necessary for it to economise in some way or other. The chairman was good enough to say that he would do his utmost for these people, and I do not Chink that the firm will close down suddenly, though I believe that it is losing money day by day. It will probably transfer work from other factories, when it could probably be done cheaper in Nottingham, in order to keep these people at work, but there must come an end. That is the tragedy that is now facing these people.
After the first shock came, we found that many of the workers were leaving. 684 Indeed, some have already gone, hoping that they could secure work now before another tragedy hits them all. During that period, there have been seven small industries started in Mid-Wales. For three or four of them, grants have been given from the Government and assistance has come from the right hon. Gentleman, but how many people have been employed in these seven small industries. They number about 500, and that is equal to the annual rate of depopulation of Mid-Wales. These industries have not increased our population in any way, and they have not even stopped the outflow. The total number employed in actual new factories is just under 500, and still there is a rate of depopulation year by year of about 500.
What is the solution? I came to a conclusion some time ago as a result of my fortunate experience in regard to London. If I may turn to a personal matter, in 1946, the Prime Minister of the day, then Mr. Attlee, and Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he then was, asked me if I would tackle the "Plan for London" which had been prepared by the great Professor Abercrombie. It is a curious fact that Greater London, within the Abercrombie Plan, is exactly the same size as my own county of Montgomeryshire, which has a population of under 45,000. In 1946, the population of Greater London was 11 million, and I should imagine that today it is 12 million, and people are still pouring in.
In the Abercrombie Plan, there was put forward the suggestion for new towns. Naturally, I knew about town and country planning and some of the new village communities, but this was an entirely new idea. Instead of allowing the sprawl by which all our towns in the industrial areas have been developed, without any plan of any kind, here was a method of dealing with an area so that men would be near their work, women would be near the shops, children would be near their schools and all would be near open spaces, playing fields and so on. That was adopted as part of the plan, and new towns have been created, and what a success they are. I believe that now we are planning for eleven in England, three in Scotland and half of one in Wales—Cwmbran. Half has already been developed and now the other half is all that Wales is to get. In spite of 685 these figures of unemployment and the depopulation that has gone on and the distress that we have suffered, that is all that can be given for Wales.
With that in mind, I consulted my own people in Montgomeryshire, especially the county council and the men employed by the county council, and we are now putting forward a scheme for a new town such as that right in the centre of Montgomeryshire. We have come to the conclusion that only a major operation, which only the Government can carry out, can save the situation and bring about that stability without which we cannot hope for success. In view of our previous experience with a few small industries which had failed to achieve the objective, we hit upon this idea. Only the Government can do it; we cannot possibly do it ourselves.
The population of Montgomeryshire is under 45,000, but the product of a penny rate for the whole of the country for last year comes only to £1,093. What can the county council possibly do in forwarding a major scheme in those circumstances? It is not in a position in which it can carry out its duty to the people already there. The hon. Member for Anglesey referred to houses in Anglesey which I condemned in 1938 but which are still occupied. This is the position in my own beloved county. In the four rural areas all told, there are 8,099 houses, and of this number 1,769 should be condemned, and 4,642 are unfit today to be occupied but are capable of being repaired. That makes a total of 6,411 unfit houses out of 8,099. Over 75 per cent. of the rural houses have to be occupied by my decent people. That is the position.
The other day the right hon. Gentleman went down to my constituency to open one of these small industries. I, too, had been invited, and the right hon. Gentleman had the courtesy to write to me and say that he was going. I also had hoped to go. While he was there he made a statement which startled my constituents. He said:There are those who believe that the building of a whole new town somewhere in mid-Wales"—may I pause there to point out that it was I who believed in that, and that the right hon. Gentleman might have 686 said to my constituents, "Your Member is the man who put forward this scheme."—where thousands of people from Birmingham or somewhere else could come and live and work is the only effective way of saving mid-Wales.I do not know from where they could come. I know that Birmingham is bursting at the seams and is even anxious to get into its green belt Rightly the Minister refuses to allow that. The people of Birmingham have got to go elsewhere, and once they have left Birmingham they do not mind whether they go 40 or 80 miles.
Then comes the question of viability. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any of these places were viable before he provided the facilities for industry to come to them. Was there, for instance, any idea that Dagenham would be viable before the margarine companies went there to be followed later by the Ford company?
§ Mr. Brooke
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes on to Dagenham, will he be good enough to quote the next sentence from the speech of which he has already quoted one sentence?
§ Mr. Davies
We have first to see that these places are suitable, and so on, and to consider what can be done. The whole idea of the planning is to encourage industry to go to them. Look at the state of the roads today. What will it be like in 20 years' time with the rising living standards and with workmen, quite rightly, now able to afford cars and to go to work in them?
I should have liked to see the right hon. Gentleman appoint half a dozen first-class men to make a survey of the whole of Scotland, England and Wales in order to find suitable sites for starting new towns instead of adding to the chaos that exists at present. I will continue my quotation of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He went on to say:Whatever the attractions of that scheme, I am bound to point out that it would make harder the task of building up employment and prosperity in the existing towns of mid-Wales which I believe should come first and foremost.Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that I also should like to put my little market towns first and foremost? I have 687 been brought up among the people of those market towns and have lived their lives with them. My one anxiety has been for their welfare. I think that this was a cheap and cynical way on the part of the right hon. Gentleman of dealing with the subject. It was political humbug, which I have no doubt got a jeer when it was uttered. I only wish that I had been present to hear it. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, speaking of the Committee which would study the matter:This committee would prepare a thorough economic study of Mid-Wales and a diagnosis of the problems of that area. This will not be just another Government survey. It will be an impartial and detailed attempt to study the problems of depopulation in a way which, so far as I am aware, has not been done anywhere else in Britain.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that there was a great deal of rather vague talk about depopulation and its evils and to make many suggestions in general terms for ending it. Vague talk indeed, when we have had the figures and when I have given them so often in the House. Usually sitting behind me has been the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and he knows them as well as I do.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we have lived with this problem all our lives and had at last come to the conclusion that here was a way out? Then comes the sneer from the right hon. Gentleman. He has now set up a committee to inquire into the economic possibilities. We can tell him what they are. We know. We also know that we can do nothing unless the Government themselves come forward with a scheme which is worth while and which will make the area a partly industrial area that will attract our own people. Today they have to leave Montgomeryshire altogether; they have to leave their villages for other places. If something could be done in this way for Montgomeryshire these people would, at any rate, still be able to live in a beautiful land among their own people instead of having to go away and live among strangers. That is what I want to see.
I hope that the present Government or some other Government will turn their attention to us who have worked so well with England throughout the years and who have now been so 688 shabbily treated. "Shabby" is the word for it. It is well known that the people of Wales have had to leave their country and seek employment elsewhere. Instead of help being brought to them, they have been asked to go elsewhere to help others. It is time that the exodus from Wales stopped.
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Rees (Swansea, West)
A little later in my speech I should like to take up the point about the new town which was mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I think that the Motion on the Order Paper is one which is most acceptable and well worth Ale, and that it has resulted in a worth while discussion, but I was rather sorry that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) should have taken 1921 as his basis to show that there has been a depopulation of Wales. I am sorry that he did not go back to 1911 and consider what happened between 1911 and 1921 and between 1921 and 1931, and did not bear in mind the whole industrial and employment situation in Wales at that time. His own constituency of Merthyr Tydvil is a most interesting one. When building up the steelworks at Dowlais and starting the steel industry in Wales there was an intake of Irish and Cornish labour, and, indeed, labour from all parts of the country.
I think that if we look at the statistics carefully—I know that one can very often adjust statistics to tell any story that one wants to tell—we find that quite a large proportion of the depopulation of Wales—the overall total, not the total of specific, individual areas—that took place between 1921 and 1931, at the beginning of the slump, and at the fall of the high prosperity of that time, was actually due to the fact that those who moved into the area had not got their roots in Wales. It was not only Welshmen that we are losing. We were losing them in part, but not in total. We were losing people who had come to the area, who had taken part in the prosperity of that time and whose labour had been required to develop our industries.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I do not take exception to anyone telling me about the history of my constituency, and I like listening to the history of South Wales, but in the inter-war period 217 collieries 689 in Wales were closed down, not to mention the other industries which were closed. Consequently, Welsh people had to leave the area. If the hon. Gentleman knew Merthyr and Dowlais as I do, he would appreciate that the chapels and other cultural organisations were pretty nearly wiped out. Most of those were Welsh-speaking cultural organisations.
§ Mr. Rees
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interruption, but I wish he had waited until I got on to those years. I was talking about his choice of base date as 1921 instead of 1911. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the base date of 1911 he will find that there has not been a depopulation of Wales as a total. What happened in the inter-war period was that Wales went up on the graph and then came down again.
There is a point here which I wish to relate to what the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said about a new town in Mid-Wales. In those days Merthyr was a new town, having its new industries and immigration from other areas, but now it has gone down. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may have a good case for asking for a new town as a temporary palliative to the problem, but if he looks further ahead at the development of Wales he may find that he will destroy the market towns and village communities which he so rightly cherishes and wishes to preserve. In the years ahead we may find that there is yet another change in industrial circumstances which will result in migration away from that new town, as happened at Merthyr. This matter should be looked at very carefully.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly said that his constituency has been losing population at the rate of about 1,000 a year. He has the greatest depopulation rate in Wales—16 per cent. over the last fifty years. The rate for his neighbouring county is 14 per cent., and Radnorshire has a rate slightly less than 16 per cent. If we look at these counties and see what they have to offer to retain their populations, it may give us some indication why we have depopulation and what we can do to remedy it.
Much has been said about the water supplies of Wales. Much has also been said about agriculture. The agricultural prosperity of Wales, turned into monetary 690 value, has increased, the reason being that agricultural efficiency has increased. As has already been said, where we previously had twenty families serving three farms, we now have two because of mechanisation. We have to find employment for those other people. The first tendency is for those people to move away from the area. If we are to try to retain them we must find some reasons, and some employment, to keep them there.
Before I deal with our second line of defence, I should like to talk about the precise depopulation rates in the agricultural communities. There has been a steady decrease since 1948. The total number engaged in agriculture—I am not at the moment talking about the total population—has dropped from 38,000 in 1948 to about 28,000 at present, a decrease of 10,000. However, it is interesting to notice that within the total bracket the numbers engaged in forestry have risen by the same proportion as the total has decreased. There has been a complete swing towards the forestry aspect of agriculture in respect of the numbers employed.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
Has the hon. Gentleman seen the latest figures in the Forestry Commission's Annual Report, which show that there has been a slight decline in afforestation labour?
§ Mr. Rees
I am interested to hear that from the hon. Gentleman, but has he also noticed that there is now an increase in the private development of forestry which has taken up all that labour? The Forestry Commission is one of the agencies dealing with forestry. The total employed population in forestry has not been decreased but has merely been shifted from one employer to the other.
In Wales over recent years we have seen the emphasis moving from the straightforward farming which we have known over the last century towards forestry. I wonder whether when we are considering the problem of the rural areas we should not start thinking now how we can use the forestry products and get more people engaged in dealing with the products or by-products of the forestry industry. I fully accept that at present we have not got the forests to warrant a full-scale pulp mill. It is not an economic proposition at the moment. 691 However, we are witnessing an increase, and now is the time to consider in relation to our economy as a whole the provision of a pulp mill.
Our second by-product—it is a dreadful eyesore in North Wales, but very often an ill wind blows some good—is slate waste. There has been a considerable amount of research into the use of slate waste in one form or another. Some reports of this have been seen, but I do not think we have seen the total that has been done. I do not suggest that it has been done secretly, but I believe that it has gone by unnoticed because it is not dramatic. If we could look to that product on our doorstep we might have more small units of employment in the area, which is what we need.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the Phillips bicycle factory. He explained the tragic position where it is seen that unemployment is likely to arise in the near future. He underlined the trouble which occurs if one brings in an industry which has no direct roots locally and does not obtain its raw material from the area in which it is situated. The parts were imported to the factory of which he spoke, and assembled there, and then the product went out of the area. If we are to strengthen our economy, it is important that we should look to the basic products of Wales and develop and manufacture them on the spot so that when troubles come along it will be easier for those industries to remain on the spot and they will not suffer an increase in their costs of transport. If that is done, we shall have a more stable economy.
The last point with which I wish to deal is water. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is not present at the moment, because I wanted to take up a point which he made. On the one hand, he said that part of our depopulation was due to the small amount of money which local authorities could use to extend their facilities—their low rateable values. Elsewhere in his speech he criticised the construction of water undertakings in Wales which bring in a large rateable value. That did not seem to me to be consistent. I am sure that Radnorshire would be upset if it lost the Elan Valley revenue. To put 692 it mildly, the finances of the county would be in Queer Street without those dams and pipelines.
What land is being taken for these projects? It is not land which is producing a comparable fund of money. How these water resources should be developed may be debatable, but I do not want to go into that now; it would be a very fitting debate for the Welsh Grand Committee. Nevertheless, I believe that one of the most important things for us to do is to ensure that the water resources of Wales are developed, and developed not on their own but in an integrated pattern for Great Britain as a whole. We may well find that in developing those water resources we shall be able to develop to an even greater extent our hydro-electric power. If there is a cheap source of power, industry will come. We shall not produce a great amount of power because we have not the locations for using our water, but we may be able to produce some. With increased rateable value, the counties will in course of time be able to provide better facilities and, gradually, industry will come back.
In the Welsh Grand Committee, I mentioned Welsh wool. The development of the Welsh woollen industry could provide employment in the villages. Welsh wool is highly respected and prized in the world. There is the competition of the man-made fibres such as Terylene and nylon which we produce in other parts of Wales, but, nevertheless, there is still a market for the hand-made product which people cherish. I should like to see the smaller woollen industry of Wales expanded.
One difficulty in developing the Welsh woollen industry is that the young people are not taking up the old crafts and following the old family traditions as they did in the past. The basic reason is that they are lured away to the larger towns and the cities where there are greater opportunities for employment and where they may enjoy the amenities which they prefer. This is one of the reasons for the decline of the Welsh woollen industry. In this respect, although it may sound strange, I believe that, as television spreads in Wales and reaches the country areas and as roads and other facilities improve, people will be more ready to remain in the country areas than they are now.
693 The hon. Member for Anglesey spoke of the comparatively low unemployment rate in Anglesey compared with its total population, and he stressed the fact that there was a small number of people employed. I think that he gave the figure of 28 per cent. I make the point in reply to him that in this country today, with the higher school-leaving age and the adjustments in the retiring age, one may split the population into three parts, one-third resting, one-third working and one-third learning. Taking those proportions, one finds that the hon. Member's 28 per cent. is not very far out. It is a few per cent. out, but the smaller the number upon which one takes ones percentages the more can the percentages be distorted. I do not think he will find that his percentage is very far out. From the other remark he made about employment and the bulge in the schools in Anglesey, it seems that he may, in fact, have more than one third learning. If one takes more than one-third learning, then I do not think that it is a fair comparison to suggest that there is a small number of people employed in Anglesey. I suggest that his employment figures are distorted.
What is more important in Anglesey today is an increase in rateable value. I think that that was the point the hon. Member was trying to make, having in mind the general prosperity of the area. In this respect, I was glad to hear that more industrial employment of one sort and another has recently become available in Anglesey.
In Wales, we believe in education. One of the greatest exports from Wales has been professional skill. Half the medical, legal and teaching professions of England are staffed by Welsh people.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
Will the hon. Member agree that, when 43 per cent. of the total population of the United Kingdom is working, 36 per cent. of the population of Wales is working, and only 23 per cent. of the population of Anglesey is working, the figures do indicate that there is a very large concealed pool of unemployment? That is the comparison which can be made, and it reveals a serious situation.
§ Mr. Rees
I do not accept that. The average family, for statistical purposes, 694 consists of about 1⅓ children and husband and wife. Among the families in Anglesey, I think one would find that, probably, one in every three had an additional child. In fact, in statistical terms, it means only two-thirds of a child, but that will produce the difference. In the country districts, there are probably more larger families than there are in the urban districts. Therefore, unless one is prepared to come down to the hard facts and deal with actual figures, not with percentages, one misleads oneself.
As I see it, there is every justification for the Motion. We want to see an expanding economy in the rural areas of Wales. I have deliberately not dealt with the valleys, because I think that the two problems are separate and I think it is a pity that they should be linked together in the Motion. I concentrated upon the one subject. I am sure that what has been done already, although it may not be enough, represents a great step forward, and I am convinced that my right hon. Friend, the Government, and all the agencies of one sort or another which have been set up in Wales are well aware of the problem. Our job is not to hit them on the back, but to give them ideas of how they can expand what they are now doing and try to help Wales as a whole.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
Hon. Members on both sides of the House are very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this important Motion and for the comprehensive and moving terms in which he spoke to it.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) quoted figures about depopulation in Wales. I agree with him thus far, that it is easy, if one chooses a specific period, to draw one's own conclusions; but I must take issue with him when he says that during the years he instanced we were not so much losing our own people but we were to a large measure losing Irish and other immigrants who had come to Wales from across the sea or across the border. This really is not so. The hon. Member must know that a great part of the labour in Wales was drawn from the rural areas of North Wales and from Mid-Wales. 695 It is quite unrelated to the facts to suggest that we were not at that time losing young Welshmen from the rural areas.
§ Mr. Rees
I took the increase in the figures from 1911 to 1921, from 2,421,000 to 2,600,000. If one takes into account the birth rate in Wales during that period—this also is shown in the Digest—one finds that that number of people could not possibly have been born in Wales. I think that they went out again between 1921 and 1931.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I was not saying that no workers were brought in. But the hon. Member was suggesting that we need not have worried about the loss of population then because in the first place they all came in from outside Wales. That really is not supported by the facts.
I wish to give figures of the loss of population from Wales between 1931 to 1951. They are very interesting figures, and they have not yet been given in this debate. The counties of Carmarthen, Monmouthshire and Merioneth all lost about 4 per cent. of their population in those years. Montgomeryshire lost 5 per cent. and Radnor lost 6.2 per cent. in those years.
If we wish to make a true estimate of the situation, we take the comparison between the decrease of population in the rural areas of Wales and the increase in the same years of rural population in English counties. The comparison is very remarkable. I take only four English counties. There was an increase in Cornwall of 8.7 per cent., in Hereford of 13.7 per cent. in Huntingdon of 23.2 per cent. and in Shropshire of 18.7 per cent. That is an increase in population in areas which were mainly rural in character. I have no doubt that this drift of population from the rural areas in Wales has continued, and, alas, is continuing up to this present day.
I now wish to revert to that part of the Motion which refers to the urgent need…for establishing a stable economy in the Welsh rural areas…".If we are to do this we must first and foremost secure a prosperous and efficient agriculture capable of providing a reasonable livelihood for workers and 696 farmers on the land and which will give much greater security than obtains today and greater opportunities to the small farmer whose living is piteously precarious. Many small farmers are merely scraping a living from marginal land.
But we must all recognise that, if the depopulation of the countryside is to be arrested, old rural industries must be revived and new industries established. The Minister for Welsh Affairs will perhaps say—he has said it often before, and I am sure that he will say it again when he replies to the debate—that the Government have been the means of providing employment in the construction of the nuclear station at Trawsfynydd, in the hydro-electric scheme at Ffestiniog and in Milford Haven. That is perfectly true. What we are concerned about is that the work is temporary. When the construction work is finished there will be very considerable unemployment in the areas in North Wales and Pembrokeshire. We saw what happened in Milford Haven when the construction work was completed.
I wish to follow what hon. Members on both sides of the House said about the need for bringing industrial development to the countryside. There was once a flourishing textile industry in the small towns and valleys of Wales. The mills produced "brathyn cartre". I do not suppose that the Minister knows whether that is an industry or a word of abuse. They produced very high-grade quality cloth. Many of them still do so, but they are small and are scattered all over the countryside. The argument is often advanced that we cannot infuse new life into these scattered units. It is Botany good saying that, because the tweed and woollen industry of Scotland is widely dispersed. It is scattered over the Highlands and Islands where communications are extremely bad and in areas which are among the most inaccessible in the whole of the United Kingdom.
What is needed to revive the woollen industry is modern machinery and modern sales methods. We cannot look for those things to the small mill owners themselves. They must have Government assistance and capital. I should have thought that for this purpose the Development Commission, which can do 697 very good work and which has not been given nearly enough opportunity, encouragement and finance, should assist in this matter.
There are many other industries ancillary to agriculture which are suitable, such as cheese and bacon. There are by-products from surplus milk. There are the canning firms to which my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) referred and many other industries of a like character. We often speak of the disadvantages and difficulties in inducing industrialists to go to rural areas, but we forget that there are many industries which need clean air for the manufacture of their products, such as the chocolate-making industry. There is certainly plenty of clean air in the rural areas of Wales.
I support the suggestion made by my hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil concerning the need for a national scheme on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority. There, the arid dust bowls were transformed into prosperous and fertile areas. If a coherent plan were worked out and financed—and we have never got within shouting distance of anything of that kind—new life and vitality could be infused into the countryside of Wales.
I am certain that the question of amenities is a vital element in keeping the young people in the countryside. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) spoke very movingly about the report which he produced and which shocked public opinion in Wales by its disclosures. He reminded us once again that many of the houses which were then condemned are still occupied. That is no credit to either side of the House, although the Labour Government in their short term of office made many changes and began to improve the situation.
The Council of Wales has recently produced a report on this matter in which it said:Reasonable standards of social life are not maintainable at present level of basic services.No one can deny the truth of that statement. It is incontrovertible. I cannot for the life of me see why the rural population of this country should be regarded as second-class citizens who are expected to be satisfied with conditions which should not be tolerated in a civilised country.
698 I now turn to the question of electricity. It is interesting to read the Mid-Wales Report and to look at the map attached to it which shows the areas likely to be served with electricity and water by 1960. It is shocking to see how small will be the fringe area covered and how large is the desert which is still not provided with these essential services. It is true that considerable progress has been made in rural electrification in both North and South Wales. It is estimated in the last Report on Government activity in Wales that, by March, 1964, 85 per cent. of all farms in Wales will be connected with electricity. I cannot quote the figure for England, but I know that it is considerably higher than that. If we make the same comparison between the two countries in the matter of water supplies, we find that 95 per cent. of rural properties have a piped water supply in England and Wales but that the figure for Wales alone is only 87 per cent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil spoke of Tryweryn and of the Severn. I am sure that the Minister will have made no mistake about it that my hon. Friend's passionate vehemence and denunciation of his action in that matter is shared by the majority of our fellow countrymen. We ask the Government to consider the problem of water supplies and water resources in Wales, not piecemeal, area by area, borough by borough, but to consider the needs of Wales as a whole and to consider the needs of Wales first.
Wales should surely have first call on its own natural resources. The Government should consider the needs of Wales, not for the next few years, but for the next fifty years. When Liverpool was considering its needs and drawing up the Tryweryn scheme, it was planning its needs for thirty or fifty years ahead. We know that the report on water resources of Wales has been with the Minister for some time. We hope that we will hear something from him today about this. We hope also that he may soon publish the report, so that the whole country may know where we are.
It is important that publication of that report should not be delayed. As the Minister well knows, projects are in hand for amalgamating and regrouping water undertakings. Many of them may 699 result in industrial communities forming water boards and leaving out the impoverished rural countryside. This will create even greater problems for the rural areas.
The largest water scheme in prospect is the West Glamorgan scheme to provide for the industrial expansion of that area. Everyone will agree that that expansion must be assisted in every way, but the question is, how and where from? Local authorities in that area have turned envious eyes on the resources of Carmarthenshire. The industrial needs of Carmarthenshire must also be safeguarded for the future and its own needs must be provided for first. I hope that Carmarthen's sights will not be set too low in providing for those needs.
Good agricultural land must not be sacrificed. This is important when we consider that something like three million acres has been lost to agriculture in Wales this century. One scheme has been abandoned, but another which is being considered, the Lower Cothi scheme, would mean the flooding of an area of 630 acres of fertile agricultural land including eight farms and parts of eight others, and it would affect in all 25 agricultural holdings, the small hamlet of Pontynyswen, a chapel and its burial ground. This project would mean the loss of yet another Welsh community.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West spoke about the rateable value which might accrue to the community from the flooding of a valley and said that as agricultural land, it would not produce anything comparable. Possibly, it would not do so in money values, but we cannot measure the loss of the value of such communities of such standards by the size of the village or by the number of inhabitants or farms. Had the Minister realised this, he would never have contemplated the flooding of Tryweryn. The Minister cannot learn of these things and of these values simply by reading "Welsh Rural Communities," a book which he commended to us in the Welsh Grand Committee.
There is another project and one which would satisfy the needs of the West Glamorgan authority and of both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. I refer to the scheme of the Milford Haven 700 Barrage, which was the subject of a Private Bill about 18 months ago. The Minister will remember that the scheme was rejected mainly on the ground that the substantial need of water to justify the scheme could not be proved. If the case could not be justified then, it certainly cannot be justified today, because two completely new factors have emerged. The first is the need of Pembrokeshire for industrial development, which has become acute because the unemployment in Milford and Pembroke is now 15 per cent., about the highest in the whole of the United Kingdom. The second factor is the need of West Glamorgan for large sources of water power.
The scheme is being considered by a technical committee of the local authorities. I urge the Minister, before coming to any decision, to await the report of that committee and to make his decision only in the light of the national report on water resources and the needs of Wales which is now in his hands.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil that the record of the Government in their treatment—their neglect, I should say—of the problems of the rural areas in Wales and of their failure to bring industries, not only into the countryside, but into the valleys of South Wales, is deplorable. The lack of understanding of the Minister for Welsh Affairs is lamentable indeed tragic. This is not just a problem on all fours with the problem of rural areas in England. That they have their problems I do not deny, but there are factors here which are peculiar to Wales. It is an urgent problem and not one that can be settled simply by carrying out the routine activities of Government Departments in the Principality.
In its Report, the Council for Wales said that the problem was so urgent that it called for an expenditure of £60 million over twelve years over and above the expenditure which is normally undertaken in all three countries by Government Departments. These problems are urgent and they demand urgent and new measures. I hope that at least this debate will provide the opportunity for the Government to tell us that those new measures are at long last to be undertaken, in order to revitalise the countryside which means so much in cultural values to the people of Wales.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) has my sympathy and support in what she has said. I agree with her that the points raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) are most interesting. I would respectfully suggest to him that, in as much as he is an active member of the Bow Group, a conference should be convened of all the Conservative associations of Wales at Llandrindod Wells to discuss these very important matters. Obviously the policy of this Government now starts in Llandrindod Wells, if the Licensing Bill is anything to go by. Therefore I suggest to him that here is an opportunity for him to get the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Minister of State to go there as observers, to hear the excellent points which have been made, so that they may ultimately become the policy of the Government. If I could attend as a Press representative for Llais Llafur I should be very glad to go.
However, I am very glad that we are having this debate today, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the Minister will have enough time to make a comprehensive statement about all these affairs. I shall come straightaway to that part of the Motion which deals with rural economy, because, as has been said, the rural economy of mid-Wales has recently, in the Press and in several reports, been the subject of comment.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) made reference to the Second Annual Report of the Development Corporation for Wales, and to a speech made by Sir Miles Thomas, the chairman. It was reported in the Western Mail on 8th April, and I would extract this sentence from the report of his speech:Despite remarkable industrial development there were still bare patches in Wales.One of those bare patches is mid-Wales. He emphasised this. The Liverpool Post on the same date reported this sentence:I would not suggest everything in the garden is lovely.Meaning Wales, of course. He again mentioned Mid-Wales as being one of the places where things were not lovely. That does not mean, of course, that the 702 scenery is not lovely, but the rural economy.
To read the Report of the Development Corporation is interesting. On page 14 there is this remark:The attraction of suitable new industry continues to be difficult and the threat of depopulation is still acute.On page 16, under the heading, "Mid-Wales", it says thatThe welfare of Wales as a whole is not secure so long as this problem of gradual decay of life at the centre continues.That is very important.
Of course, all this has been far better illustrated than by any speech I could make by the excellent booklet of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association called "Development in Mid-Wales". All Government Departments have copies of that, but I have not heard any comment about it except an occasional compliment to this excellent report. Today the Government have an excellent opportunity to let the House know, and Wales, too, what practical means they have in mind for dealing with the situation. I would say that first of all they should call for positive encouragement to industries by the various departments in Wales and especially Mid-Wales.
I would make the following suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. There has come now the time for those of us in public life, in Parliament, on the local authorities and associations to declare what is in our minds on rural economy—the sort of things which, significantly, have been said today on both sides of the House. We ought to be very careful to emphasise that Mid-Wales is not a distressed area. In fairness to the industrialists who are interested in Mid-Wales, we ought not to say all the time that it is a distressed area. It is not. The facts and the figures and graphs which we get from time to time are not the whole story. There are the people, and they belong to families who form part of the cultural community there.
We find that they are wondering about their future. When my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) put his Motion on the Paper I had to puzzle whether I should stop in the House of Commons to take part in this debate or to go to sing in the Aberhonddu Male Voice 703 Choir who are recording for a broadcast—whether to join them as first tenor. I came down in favour of staying here to help to secure the fulfilment of the needs of the people—and I hope that the choir will sing joyfully tonight.
It is very important that the people are wondering about the future. On 12th April the Western Mail had an article about Mid-Wales. I did not agree altogether with it. I disagree with the clerk of one of my own local authorities, that of Builth Rural, Llanwrtyd and Colwyn, who expressed his personal opinion that there was prosperity and contentment. It all depends how we measure prosperity, but there is certainly no contentment in some of the places in my constituency. Despair certainly does no reign, but there is a sense of sheer hopelessness which is creeping in.
During a recent weekend I was in Llanwrtyd Wells at one time one of the most famous spas of central Wales. There seems to have been a change in the habits of the people, for they do not want the waiters of Llanwrtyd Wells any longer, because of medical science, but we can still see elderly people still living there. Looking around, I felt a sense of hopelessness creeping upon me, seeing the very large boarding houses which in many ways could be better equipped, but rate assessments do not enable the proprietors to do that. There is no sign of any new economic activity coming into that area to make the rate burden less. I wondered to myself, here is a centre within a short distance of 50,000 acres of land which has been taken over by the Forestry Commission, and yet there is no ripple of activity here to induce people to want to come and live there.
I hope that something will be done, to help this famous spa and other similar places. There is for a few weeks pony trekking for the young people at Llanwrtyd Wells which is very acceptable there and to other centres in mid-Wales, but they cannot live on pony trekking alone.
There is the clothing factory allied to wool which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Swansea, West, but it is in the throes of extinction which could create another large migration. I know that there are conversations going on, and I hope I shall be able to join in them. 704 I suggest to the Minister that this factory be taken over lock, stock and barrel, by the Government. It could be used as a Remploy factory for the disabled, as houses have been built for the workers to live in. At present there is no sign of any activity for the future and unless we are very careful this will become another of the places which will gradually disappear. There is nothing to attract young people at all to live there, and the population is of elderly people, very old indeed, who are living quietly there—which ought to be an encouragement to Members of Parliament, who have better pensions, to go to live there. There is gloom and despair in the knowledge that there is nothing for the young people, the school-leavers. I am not going to quote percentages, but what has happened? What has happened is that there is nothing of the sort I should like to see to attract the school-leavers to stay.
We cannot ignore forestry and agriculture and tourism, which have an important part to play in the rural economy and for the marketing towns and centres in Mid-Wales which depend upon the agricultural industry. The Price Review has given a little impetus to the industry as compared with the depressed prices of nearly two years ago. Yet the under-20-acre farmer or smallholder whether full-time or part-time has nothing with which he can feel content, as the clerk to the Llanwrtyd Wells local authority said recently. It is encouraging, however, to find that my fellow-citizens who are traders in the ancient borough of Brecon have interested themselves in the civic trust with the object of introducing a scheme to give the town a "new look". I am anxious that when this new look has been brought about there shall be a sufficient number of young people in the district to have a good look at the new look.
My anxiety arises from the facts relating to three firms which have come into the town in the last two or three years. They were introduced largely under the aegis of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, supported by the Board of Trade, but each has since scuttled from Brecon in a very short time. One went to South Wales, and the Board of Trade made no protest about it. The same applies to Builth Wells where, heralded by a great 705 flourish of trumpets, a new factory was established at the local drill hall. Six weeks later the firm went bankrupt and the manager was left high and dry and there was nothing left for the employees. The place is now empty. The local authority cannot afford to keep it empty. They want to let it for local employment. I ask the Minister to look into the matter as soon as possible.
I interrupted the hon. Member for Swansea, West when he was speaking about afforestation. I agree that it has saved some of the remote areas from total extinction, but my quarrel with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) on the subject of a new town for central Wales is whether the population would remain occupied with afforestation so as to keep that industry going. I am therefore cautious in what I say about new towns. I agree, so far as it goes, with the Minister's pronouncement on this subject, but I prefer to see marketing centres brought up to a satisfactory level of employment and industries established so that not all our eggs are in one basket and, if there is need to bring people into Wales, that new towns should be established later and not at this stage.
Afforestation brings in £ 1½ million in wages into Wales and products valued at £490,000 were sold in the last year for which there is a financial report. The Forestry Commission reports, however, that there has been…a slight fall in the Commission's labour strength in Wales due mainly to difficulties in recruitment and the opportunity to earn higher wages in industry.Where there are no other industries, as, for example, in the two counties which I represent, this does not apply.
Workers have to be loaned by the Forestry Commission to land syndicates so that they may work overtime and at week-ends to augment their wages. This certainly was the situation twelve months ago and I hope that by now it is improved. There should be no bar on the amount of money that workers might reasonably earn from the Commission but agricultural forestry is not sufficient to maintain employment and it has become even more insufficient in recent years. Manpower is seriously declining in agriculture and is declining slightly in afforestation.
706 Alternatives have been proposed many times in Government reports and I do not want to repeat the figures of depopulation which I have quoted many times before in debates on this subject. There must be an alternative in the rural economy and I suggest that that alternative is the provision of light industry. What do the Government offer by way of special facilities for mid-Wales? This is the important question that I ask on behalf of Brecon and Radnor.
There should be greater positive encouragement for firms to show initiative in coming into the area. The Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association says thatThere has been no greater assistance from the Government for the attraction of industry into mid-Wales than when the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association was started in November, 1947. Short-term development is not going to succeed without more help from the Government.Greater interest and initiative should be shown by the Board of Trade office in Cardiff. The onus should not be left entirely on the shoulders of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association. The Board of Trade quite rightly emphasises the problem of unemployment but I believe that by overemphasising that problem the question of depopulation tends to be obscured altogether.
The Board of Trade has recently directed a firm to a non-development district at Caerphilly because greater inducements were offered there than at Brecon. The British Bedstead and Mattress Company Limited was lost to Brecon because of those inducements. If that is the policy of the Board of Trade, there is little hope for other places in Wales where new industries should be introduced. There is also a tendency in the Board of Trade to be too rigid in its requirements in the matter of building specifications and terms of leases. On this point I should like to know what has been happening to the proposal to establish a factory in Rhayader which the Minister recently reported. I understand that there have been some difficulties there but surely these difficulties ought not to be experienced at all in these areas in mid-Wales.
I hope that a suggestion which I should like to make to the Minister may come to fruition. It is that there should 707 be an officer at the Board of Trade specially appointed to deal with problems which arise and cause delays in the rural areas. I know that these matters are already dealt with in a department of the Board of Trade but I am sure that a special appointment would expedite the solution of these problems and give greater confidence all round.
The Board of Trade was to have introduced a firm to Llandrindod Wells, largely through the encouragement of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association and the local urban council. The council made land available. It is true that there was a dispute with the district valuer but that was overcome. Yet not a blade of grass on that site has since been trodden on, and we can obtain no satisfaction at all from the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Brooke
Is the hon. Member arguing that a private company should be compelled on a date fixed by the Government to start up somewhere?
§ Mr. Watkins
No, Sir, I would not agree with that for one moment, but the Board of Trade has been concerned for nearly twelve months now with the coming of this firm to Llandrindod Wells. I do not suggest that it is the fault of the Board of Trade, but the Department should say to the firm, "If you do not take up the site by a certain date, the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association can offer it to some other firm".
The Minister of Labour would not give 100 per cent. support for the establishment of a factory in Knighton because the local authority had to prove that the population was decreasing and yet at the same time had also to prove that there was sufficient labour there for the new industry. Obviously it could not prove both. The Ministry of Labour is too rigid in its requirements. It requires that there must be a certain percentage of labour available and has no regard to hidden labour—the workers who now travel long distances to the Midlands and the young girls who travel over the border to Shropshire. I know that the factory at Knighton is to proceed but its area is to be limited because of restrictions imposed by the Board of Trade.
708 I hope that the Minister will give information to the House, and certainly to those of us who come from Montgomery, Merioneth, Cardigan and Brecon and Radnor, with regard to publicity to enable firms going into those areas to obtain grants and loans from the Development Fund. The Board of Trade issues a pamphlet entitled "Expanding Industry". I have asked Questions in the House, the last one on 21st February to the President of the Board of Trade. There has been correspondence and great pressure on this subject. As to our complaint about the leaflet, here is a quotation from it about Northern Ireland:The Local Employment Act applies only to Great Britain. The Government of Northern Ireland have extensive powers to offer assistance to firms wishing to set up there.Then information is given about where to apply.
I know that this leaflet is issued in connection with the Local Employment Act, but there are funds available from the Development Commission for firms interested in going to rural areas. Could not a sentence to that effect be inserted by the Board of Trade? What happens? One brings it to the notice of the Treasury, and it passes it on to the Board of Trade. One brings it to the attention of the Board of Trade, and it passes it on to the Treasury. Then we raise the matter again with the Treasury, and the Treasury passes it on to the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade makes the excuse that it is nothing to do with it, and we are told that if any information is sought, the firms should get in contact with the Board of Trade itself. That is the only source where firms can get information about this matter apart from the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association.
The Minister has had proposals from the Mid-Wales Association about capital grants towards the cost of factory building, capital grants for local authorities for the provision of housing for key workers and basic services, resettlement grants for key workers brought into the areas and grants for firms transferring small businesses to Mid-Wales. That appears on page 4 of the leaflet. The Minister may not agree with all this, but I would emphasise that there is need for greater initiative in this direction.
709 I now come to a very interesting point which was raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. At Machynlleth on 10th March the Minister made a very important announcement with which I wholeheartedly agree. It was a valuable and acceptable statement about a blueprint for Mid-Wales. But why should information about the blueprint be kept under a bushel? Why cannot it be made available to all local authorities so that they may know what the Government are doing. The Minister's office in Cardiff has failed him badly on this occasion. I do not think that the Minister wants to deal with this from a political standpoint. I am sure he wants to be fair to people from mid-Wales, including myself.
There have been two very good Government White Papers on rural Wales. But there is more valuable information in the Minister's blueprint proposals than in either of those two White Papers. Why can we not have this issued as a White Paper, for that would be very useful for everybody concerned. The Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, of which I am a member, will give the right hon. Gentleman 100 per cent. support in what he is proposing.
I would say to the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen and other who have referred to this subject that the blueprint is a far better proposal for the time being than any suggestion of a Tennessee Valley Authority. If we were to have an authority such as that to examine economic matters and to concern itself with development, it would be outside the realms of influence of Members of Parliament and local authorities. Mid-Wales is not much informed yet on this proposal, although it was mentioned recently in an article in the Western Mail.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The mid-Wales report would cover a smaller area, and counties in South Wales and North Wales would be left out.
§ Mr. Watkins
Even so, I understand that a Tennessee Valley Authority scheme could pick and choose places in Wales. We have a given area in mid-Wales which would lend itself even to that.
The experiment of which the Minister has spoken as a blueprint would be supported by the Mid-Wales Association 710 and the county councils of the five counties. It would be not a matter of finding out information but a blueprint. What would be the idea of the blueprint? A local authority might be interested in building a school in a rural area. However, there is not much advantage in building such a school if the population of the district is bound to decline because the economy of the area is insufficient to keep the population there. That is the sort of thing that is wanted first of all.
Mr. Peter Garbett-Edwards, the excellent secretary of the Mid-Wales Association, and its very good chairman, Professor Beacham, maintain:that the Association is playing a modest part in arresting the general decline of the area and retarding it.We want something more than just the retarding of depopulation. We want the depopulation bought to an end to a great degree, certainly among the young people.
I appreciate the activities of the Minister of State for Wales and the Minister for Welsh Affairs in occasionally coming to that area to stimulate interest. I know that efforts have been made to meet firms, but I do not think that sufficient is done. The Mid-Wales area and rural areas generally are competing against the whole weight of Government publicity and a wide range of grants and loans to induce firms to go to development districts. All the weight of publicity is in that direction and there is no publicity directed to encouraging firms to go to the rural areas. The Board of Trade and others should have greater regard to the requirements of rural areas.
When the Minister next meets the departments in Wales he should spur them on to greater activity. There should be greater special responsibility for rural Wales in this respect after this debate. After all, lots of Members make suggestions by means of Questions about advance factories. Is it beyond the scope of the Government to arrange for an advance factory to be put in any part of Mid-Wales? There are many centres in my constituency where I should like one to be placed. Would there be anything wrong about having a smaller advance factory than the usual type situated in Mid-Wales? 711 There has been a discussion in the Welsh Grand Committee and Press comment about a Welsh master plan for hospitals. Previously in connection with the development of industrial districts and in connection with pit closures it has been said that there ought to be greater liaison between the right hon. Gentleman's departments and local authorities about what is likely to happen to the local community. I have a suggestion to offer to the right hon. Gentleman in connection with health matters in Wales. There may be—one does not know—closures of hospitals in rural areas. If that sort of thing happens, the economy of an area may be affected. I suggest that liaison should take place between the Government Departments concerned and the local authorities if plans go forward for the establishment of base hospitals and the closure of other hospitals. If hospitals are closed in rural areas, how are the present workers at them to be employed? If a hospital closure occurs in a rural area, the proportion of unemployment caused is likely to be greater than any of the Welsh unemployment percentages at present. I hope that my prophecy is not correct, but I think I am not very far wrong in that respect, and I hope the Minister will look into the matter.
I have taken some time in developing my case for the stimulation of rural activities in connection with the rural economy in Wales because I probably have in my area a greater number of villages and other small centres than any other Member of Parliament. I have twenty-one local authorities to look after. With the exception of one or two industrial areas, all those local authorities are concerned about the future of the rural economy.
I am very glad that I did forgo the singing ofThere is a better land far, far awayso that I could urge the Minister to ask his good people in Wales to use greater initiative and activity in order to do something for the rural areas of Wales.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
We have all had great pleasure in listening to my hon. Friend the Member for 712 Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and I am sorry that certain people have been denied hearing him because he was unable to keep his appointment. Coming at the end of the debate, I have had to scrap practically every item I wanted to raise, and in any case I intended to deal specifically only with that part of the Motion which asks for greater efforts by the Government to attract new industries to the valleys.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on his good fortune in the Ballot, and, what is more important, on his choice of subject, because that has afforded us the opportunity of virtually another Welsh affairs debate. I also commend the interesting way in which he introduced his remarks. It was obvious that he spoke from the heart. I am very fond of my hon. Friend. I remember him when I was a young man. I listened to his great eloquence in the valleys. After what we heard today, one can imagine what he must have been like in his young days when he spoke for the distressed areas.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) criticised my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil for using 1921 as a base line, but 1921 is a very desirable base line to use. For instance, my own home town of Aberdare had a population of 55,000 in 1921, but if we went further back, perhaps to the earlier part of the 19th century, we would find that it had a population of 3,000, so that the arguments put by my hon. Friend were logical and rationally correct. We cannot go back so far, however, and in 1921 was held the first census after the First World War. It is a reasonable basis to go back forty years.
During that period we had the very distressing years of the 1920s and the 1930s. The present unemployment, when compared with the figures of the 'twenties and the 'thirties—I am speaking specifically of the valleys of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire—is, to say the least, very satisfactory. But it is satisfactory only if it is contrasted with the 1930s.
The three valleys which I know best are Merthyr Tydvil, the Rhondda and my own valley of Aberdare. At least two of them are areas which have had such a degree of unemployment that the Government considered that they 713 required assistance under the Local Employment Act, 1960. Thus, in the Government's opinion, the position is unsatisfactory, otherwise that Act would not have been applied to these areas.
Aberdare is my home town and it is also part of my constituency. In 1921 the population was 55,000. In 1961, it is under 40,000. The same goes for the other part of my constituency, the urban district of Mountain Ash. The figures over such a short period are fantastic. If the area had retained its population there would not merely have been the status quo but an increase through the natural processes of growth of population.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West says that there has not been mass emigration from Wales, though I consider people in England whose families came here in the 1900s or even in the 1850s, to be Welshmen still. When I was taking the higher certificate at the local grammar school in 1927–28, every person, except me, who took the certificate had to go out of the Aberdare area, and, indeed, out of Wales. When I sat for the examination for a job with the urban district council of Aberdare, 300 of us entered—and 299 had to emigrate. The hon. Member is a fairly young man and perhaps cannot appreciate those facts as we who are older can. But these are the things that we can discuss from personal experience.
It was stated recently in the House that since 1952 over 1 million jobs had been created in this country. I do not know whether that is a satisfactory figure due to natural industrial increase, but the significant feature is that more than 400,000 of these jobs went to the London area alone. That is fantastic in view of the problems of traffic congestion, overcrowded schools and lack of hospitals which London has to face, and which we who are unfortunate enough to be in London—I say that with no disrespect to any Londoner—can see. Yet areas like the valleys of South Wales have been denied so many of these jobs. This reveals an idiotic lack of planning.
Mere palliatives will not do. What is wanted is a national fiscal and economic policy from the Government to see that those in work are retained in work. We do not want the boom and bust economy of recent years. I say that particularly of the valleys because of their great 714 dependence on the coal industry. The basic industry of the Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire valleys is still coal. We have heard glowing reports about the future prospects of coal, and I hope that they prove to be correct, but I am not so satisfied about them. However, I do not want to digress about coal now, for I dealt with the subject at length in the recent debate on fuel and power policy—or lack of it.
Another aspect of the problem which is peculiar to South Wales is that of peripheral development. The coastline of South Wales has attracted many industries in recent years. Every responsible person agrees that the great industries must inevitably come along the coast. I accept that 100 per cent., and I make no criticism of it and would have advocated it. These great industries must develop along the coast for obvious reasons like the necessity of close proximity to ports for exports. Not hundreds but tens of thousands of people are necessary for manning these industries, so that they must be along the coast near the great centres of population.
But I impress on the Government that there will be subsidiary industries essential to the success of those basic industries. I claim that the valleys of South Wales, Monmouth and Glamorgan in particular, can justifiably claim precedence for having those subsidiary industries. They will have to be near the basic industries, but that does not mean that they must be on their doorsteps creating labour problems.
It is far better that the subsidiary industries should be in the valleys, thus avoiding traffic congestion and other problems upon which I need not digress but including social problems for local authorities. Cardiff and Port Talbot and other large towns are undoubtedly harassed with problems of housing and roads and schools, problems which have arisen because of the thousands of extra jobs. I am glad that those jobs have been provided, but I want the Government to step in now before it is too late to see that the subsidiary industries go to the valleys.
If that is done, apart from maintaining the splendid communities which exist in the valleys of South Wales—and although I am a member of such a community I can say that people from outside those areas have described them as the finest 715 communities in the United Kingdom—they will solve the severe employment problems of the valleys. That is not all.
This week we have been debating the Criminal Justice Bill. Many problems of juvenile delinquency obviously occur because the youngsters concerned do not have a proper home environment. By retaining these communities, we have a chance to keep the youngsters in their homes during those crucial years when they first leave school. In doing that we will do much to eliminate juvenile deliquency. If youngsters want to live away from home, they should be allowed to do so, but it should be a matter of choice and not of compulsion if they want to go out into the excitement of the modern age. My elder daughter has herself left home because she made that choice.
The problems of the coal industry are not fully appreciated. In that industry there is, unfortunately, a tremendous degree of disablement, not just the accidents which result in broken limbs, but industrial diseases like pneumoconiosis. In the coal mining areas in the post-war years hundreds of men suffering from pneumoconiosis and who have not been able to work in the pits have been able to seek employment in subsidiary industries in the area. That has safeguarded the coal industry and has not been to its detriment. It has meant that the men's families have stayed in the area instead of going to London or the Midlands and the industry has been able to recruit from those families.
Pneumoconiosis is a dread disease and I have seen dozens of my friends suffering from it. A man with such a disease cannot be expected to go into the madness of London and the great conurbations of the Midlands to seek work. He can do that only in his environment, and every industrialist will agree that having subsidiary industries in the coal mining areas has been of great advantage to those communities and also to the United Kingdom.
I want now to refer to the mobility of labour. We are to have a Budget on Monday and it has been suggested in many quarters that it is proposed to introduce a tax on the number employed in various industries. I do not want to debate that now, but if that were to come about it would be in an 716 endeavour to make labour mobile. That is fantastic. For years we have had mobile labour, but all that has happened is that it has gone to London which is already congested to the point where it is suffering from industrial indigestion. If that is what is meant by mobility of labour, the cost to the country will be in millions of pounds.
What we want is far greater mobility of industry—and I exclude from that the basic and very large industries which I mentioned earlier. But there are industries which could be mobile and which should be made to be mobile. It is no good directors or managers of firms complaining that they do not want to move because their families would not like to do so. We have to consider the hundreds of workers involved and to remember that if we are to solve the social problems taxing our conurbations—and the Minister for Welsh Affairs is as aware of them as any of us—we must tackle the problem of the mobility of industry.
Within one or two years, the Heads of the Valleys Road will be reaching my constituency. I am very pleased about that because, apart from providing good access for the valleys of Glamorgan, Merthyr and Rhondda, it will provide very agreeable access to South-West Wales.
But we also have to remember the district and county roads which are an absolute disgrace. Before entering Parliament I was a member of the engineering and surveyors staff of a local authority. No criticism should be levelled at district or county engineers in South Wales for the state of district roads. It is a miracle that they have been able to maintain them at all with the money available.
I plead with the Minister to ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to give more attention to the district roads in the valleys to help to bolster up the economy of South Wales. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) spoke of the severity of the problem which hits rural areas when railway branch lines are closed. I ask the Minister to view such closures with great concern when they occur in the industrial valleys of South Wales, because to close those branch lines is to detract from the facilities available to industry.
717 I should like to refer to Section 1 (4,c) of the Local Employment Act, 1960. This is for the purpose of obtaining a grant-in-aid for the construction of a required access road on the basis that, should a firm decide to ask for a factory there, consideration will be given to the application in the light of all the circumstances surrounding the case. I know of a large industrialist who has a factory on an estate outside my constituency. He approached one of my authorities, the Aberdare Urban District Council, to ask if it would provide a factory site for him within its area because his present lease was due to expire shortly. His factory at the moment is on the Hirwaun Trading Estate.
The local authority tried to provide such a site. I know about this case because I was involved in it. The first site selected by the local authority proved to be unsatisfactory to the industrialist. I am not blaming him for that. The local authority then produced what it considered to be a suitable site, but there arose the question of an access road. In accordance with the Local Employment Act the Board of Trade was asked to assist in providing an access road. The Board of Trade replied that in accordance with the Act to which I have referred it could not say whether it would assist in the construction of this access road until it knew whether the industrialist wanted the site. The industrialist said that he could not go to the site until he knew whether there was to be a suitable access road.
We have there the ridiculous position of the Board of Trade, which knows the industrialist, not being able to say that it will assist the local authority because it does not know whether the industrialist will build his factory, and the industrialist saying that he will not go to the site until an access road has been provided.
The Board of Trade is hiding behind the anomalies of this Act which is there to assist and not to create difficulties. I do not expect the Minister to give me a reply now. I have sent the information relevant to this case to his Department, and I ask him to see what can be done to assist. The Local Employment Act was designed to assist and not to impede progress, but we have here the ridiculous position which I have outlined. I ask 718 the Minister to speed up the decision one way or the other to enable the local authority to know where it stands.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I add my tribute to those paid to my hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I congratulate him on his luck in the Ballot. I have been in the House for 25 years, but I have not once come out in the Ballot. He has been here longer than I have, and perhaps I shall be lucky one day. I also express my thanks to him because we do not have many opportunities to discuss Welsh problems and he has provided what is virtually another Welsh day.
As my hon. Friend said, the Motion centres round two themes. If I might put it in my own way, my hon. Friend has been talking about the present and the future of the vales and valleys of Wales. Wales is a land of villages and valleys. Every Welshman has three circles round his life. He belongs to a village, a village is situated in a valley, and the valley is near a town—"Y pentre, y cwm, y dre'". My three are the best in the world, the village of Betws, the valley of Dyffrynaman and the town of Llanelly. What better trio could there be than that?
A debate on the vales and valleys of Wales often arouses emotion. It is sometimes difficult for hon. Members from other parts of these Islands, with the exception perhaps of those from Scotland, to realise that a debate of this kind, even on a quiet Friday, can be charged with emotion. When we talk about the vales and valleys we become eloquent and are charged with being sentimental. Perhaps I might therefore express what I have to say not in my own words but in words taken from the cold print of a Blue Book. They might carry more conviction. I could perhaps express this more eloquently in Welsh, but I will quote from the Report because it is relevant to at least one aspect of this problem of rural Wales.
This Report was issued five or six years ago, and I ask the Minister to comment on it. It was issued by the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission. I do not know where the "Sub" comes from. Why do we want a Sub-Commission? Why not call it the Welsh Agricultural Land Commission? 719 I want to cite the Mid-Wales Investigation Report because it explains this Motion. It says in paragraph 129:We feel that we cannot conclude this report without expressing our realisation of the magnitude of the issues which we have been considering. Our inquiry has been concerned with the rural economy which is changing rapidly under the influence of powerful social and economic forces, the effects of which have not yet run their full course. Although our investigation has been economic in its approach we would not be human if we did not appreciate the concern which is felt by many responsible Welshmen at the possibility of the disintegration of a way of life which has endured for centuries. Rural Wales has nurtured a democratic outlook and an appreciation of true values which are of lasting worth. We recall with pride and pleasure our meetings with members of the Rural community, men and women, typifying the spirit of rural Wales, content with their station in life, and deriving satisfaction from a daily task well done.That expresses what we all feel when we speak not about bricks and mortar and economics and £s and shillings but about human beings and about a way of life. We are talking about a culture and an essentially democratic way of life. Therefore, when we see the disintegration of these communities we are seeing the disintegration of a way of life in which we were nurtured and of which we are proud. If it is allowed to die, it will impoverish this nation and the world. It is essential to understand that.
I come now to the two themes of the Motion, and I want first to deal with the problem of depopulation. I should not have thought that it was necessary to argue that at this stage. Two things have happened, and are happening, in Wales. First, no one can question that during the years of the depression there was a net loss of population in Wales of half a million people. Secondly, we have not recovered in recent years. Since 1945 we have been able to stabilise the position, but, as I see it, young Welshmen in the next 10 to 25 years must begin to attract people back to Wales. I shall say something more about that later.
One of the problems confronting this country, upon which we shall have to take action on a national scale, is the development of a sensible geographical distribution of our population. In the end we shall be compelled to do that. That is the price of living as a sensible nation. A few days ago Sir Basil Spence, 720 the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, was referring to "our lovely land". All of it is a lovely land, and it is at its loveliest just now. We believe that Wales has some of the loveliest land. Sir Basil Spence said:Our lovely land is in danger of becoming a casino for the speculator.That is true. The problems of Wales cannot be settled apart from those of the whole country.
I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade here. I thank him for the work that he has been doing. I shall have the pleasure of joining him in Llanelly shortly, opening a new factory. We are always asked, "Would you direct private employers to go anywhere?" Of course we would not. But the Minister has powers not to direct them to go to a certain place but to stop them from going to other places. I am glad to say that the Board of Trade is beginning to do that now much more effectively.
On the other hand, we must make conditions as attractive as possible for industry. When we deal with the problem on a national scale, Wales ought to contain, sustain and provide a pleasant environment for a bigger population than it has at the moment. The same is true of Scotland and parts of England. Not long ago somebody gave a warning that if we go on as we are doing we shall eventually all be living in one town, which he called Lond-Birm. London and Birmingham will have joined up, and everybody will live there, every other area becoming depopulated. These problems cannot be solved except in the context of a national policy. We must deal with the fundamental problem of a proper geographical distribution of our industry and population.
I now want to say something about Wales and the countryside—"Cefn Gwlad"—and I do so with a good deal of trepidation. I commend to the Minister the speeches which have been made by my hon. Friends who have a much greater experience and a deeper knowledge of agriculture than I have and can speak about its problems with authority, which I am not able to do. But I thought it was my duty to seek to understand, as far as possible, the technical problems of agriculture in 721 Wales, and particularly mid-Wales, with which the Report is concerned. I therefore gathered from it what I thought to be the essential facts. I want to say a word about the history and setting up of this investigation by the Welsh Land Sub-Commission. First, there was a report from the Council for Wales, which recommended a bold and revolutionary proposal to rescue this heart of Wales—my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil referred to it—by means of a £60 million plan. The idea was to create a corporation to take over many of the functions of the existing local authorities, and to create a single authority to undertake the social and economic rehabilitation of this area. The idea was that the Government should provide £60 million.
Although that sounds a lot of money, we can all think of other sums far exceeding it which are being spent in less commendable ways. The Government turned down that suggestion, but I believe that we may have to think again about that plan, or one of a similar kind, not only for Central Wales but for other parts of the country, as part of the larger problem to which I have already referred. It is costing us much more than £60 million a year to deal with the problems of congestion in our population. We shall be spending more than this in trying to find parking places for cars.
The Government rejected this plan and set up the Land Sub-Commission, and I wish to base my argument upon its conclusions. I do not profess to have a deep knowledge of agriculture. The Report covered an investigation in which members of the Commission, severally or together, visited 1,404 farms in the area, which they called the reference area. After this investigation they concluded that of all these 1,404 farms—these 1,404 households, 1,404 families and 1,404 Welsh homesteads—57 per cent. were too small to provide viable economic units in the present state of agricultural technology and economics. The Commission concluded that those farms had no chance of making a livelihood. A further 31 per cent. were marginal. It was doubtful whether they could become viable in modern conditions. That left only 12 722 per cent. which could be regarded as being really sound, viable and economic enterprises, or capable of being made viable.
The Commission reported that even on those farms which it thought could be made into viable units the farm buildings were poor. On 42 per cent. of all those farms there were no tractors, and on 57 per cent. there were no vans or cars. That was the picture in 1955, and I doubt whether it has changed substantially since then. Many measures have been referred to. There was the principal Act of 1947 and there has been the recent Agriculture (Small Farmers) Act. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether the situation that existed in 1955 in this area is still the same. If it is, then it is a dying area. It cannot live. It has no chance of surviving. We believe that it is worth rescuing, not only because of its possible economic value but because, generally, it is one of the fortresses of our language and culture, and if it dies they may die, too.
There are other imponderables in this matter. I want to try to summarise some of the proposals of the Commission. It concluded that the only remedy, technically, was to create larger holdings, which it thought could be brought about by amalgamation. That was the only suggestion it could make in that connection, but I do not think that it is the only way. I wish that the Commission had gone to Israel and had seen the Kibbutz. If it had it would have seen that it was possible to meet current needs by co-operative farming. I should like to think that the Welsh farm could be adapted to meet modern necessities, and could be made part of a larger holding in order to become economic. The Commission said that in any case there must be larger holdings, and thought that they should be devoted mainly to large-scale sheep or cattle farming. It obviously means that fewer people will be employed.
Thirdly, there ought to be far greater integration between agriculture and forestry in the future development of the rural life of Wales, and on that I cordially agree that they are on a sound point. They also said that it would be useless to have large amalgamations of farms by one means or another unless in the replanning new buildings and new 723 equipment are provided, and that means that the Government must be willing to provide the money. Where do the Government stand on that matter now?
Side by side with that, there must also be the provision of amenities of all kinds. The conclusion to which I have come is that, when all this is done, we are still confronted in the rural areas with a problem of depopulation which I do not think will be cured by the application of these proposals to agriculture. A good deal has been said about depopulation already, and I would ask how do we measure this depopulation. We cannot measure it by the figures we are given, and here I wish to quote from another source.
I was interested the other day to find in the Western Mail—and I am sure that if I quote the Western Mail, which canonises him every week, the Minister will not dispute my authority. If he does, that be on his own head. However, the Western Mail was quoting an article from the Town and Country Planning Association's magazine, and I should like to quote its words, because the writer had been examining the Registrar-General's annual estimates of the population for 1960. If I could have the attention of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) and also of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) for a moment, because this is a debate on Wales, I want to quote some words and figures, because I think that they are more relevant than some others which I have seen:There is a certain hopelessness about the figures for the rural parts of Wales. In 1952, the population of Anglesey, Brecon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Merioneth, Montgomery, Pembroke and Radnor was about 528,000. By 1960 this had dropped to something over 520,000.Then, I note that this comment is added:But this is not a true measure of their decline, for the natural increase alone, had it been in this area on the same scale as in the rest of the country, would have brought to these areas a population of 554,000 by 1960.That is the measure of the decline, which is not shown by the figures of the decline itself. The fact is that we start with a figure of 528,000 in this case, and if the population had stayed there the natural increase would have brought the population up to the higher figure. Therefore, the decline in the population is much greater than appears from the plain 724 figures of the population in one year and another. That is true of this area and of the whole of Wales. In other words, the population of Wales had we been able to keep the people who left in the 'thirties would have been increased if the natural increase had been at the same rate as it was for the rest of the United Kingdom.
If I may give one other quotation, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery has handed me a copy of the Express and Times, which is published in his constituency, which puts the matter in another way. It refers to the Minister in very friendly terms, and it says:It is a pity that Mr. Henry Brooke could not have been at a public meeting in Llanwno on Monday, when a meeting was held in protest against the closing of the village school. He would have obtained in a nutshell the essence of the mid-Wales problem. It would have impressed him to learn that this school once had 150 pupils and that now the attendance is reduced to barely a dozen.The article goes on to say:He would have sympathised—he's a kindly man—with the impassioned plea that the closure of the school would 'sound the death knell' of village tradition. He would have appreciated keenly the dread truth of the argument that once youngsters leave a village they are reluctant to return. He would have gone back to Whitehall a sadder man, for he would have seen depopulation at work at first hand, not as something statistical and remote. And he would have realised that what is being done to solve our problem is not enough.The editor concludes:We have been patient, but depopulation takes no account of that virtue, and time is running out. If we are to preserve our heritage we must begin to be impatient.
§ Mr. Griffiths
"P'am Arglwydd y gwnaethost Cwm Pennant mor dlws A bywyd hen fugail mor fyr?" I hope you will forgive me, Mr. Speaker.
While I cannot speak with the deep knowledge and experience of some of my hon. Friends, it seems to me that the best way in which we should seek to rescue and stabilise our agriculture and employment, both in the ways suggested and in comparable ways, is by the better distribution of industry in those areas. The Welsh Report shows that last year there were 2,000 fewer people engaged in agriculture than in the year before, 725 and this is a general problem experienced all over the world. The number of people engaged in agriculture is declining everywhere, and it is declining in Wales.
I hope that some attention will be paid to the ideas put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) to whose speech I listened with very great care indeed. It was a speech of widespread knowledge, and my hon. Friend is an extraordinarily good Member who typifies central Wales in this problem. I am sorry that I did not hear the early part of his speech.
One of the troubles of Governments in tackling this problem of new industries is that it is possible to disperse them so widely that we get nowhere at all. They are apt to choose an area and to put everything into that area. My hon. Friend will remember the argument. I wonder if the Government are to make a bold attempt to bring in industry to supplement agriculture in mid-Wales, where we ought to have three or four focal points in which we should try to create a new economy, at the same time doing what we can for the villagers already there.
I have three such places in mind, and I have selected them from my own knowledge and from looking at the map. They are places that have already got adequate transport, and first of all I would select Builth Wells. I should very much like to build a new town there, and to bring back to that area from Birmingham some of the tens of thousands of Welshmen who have gone there, and thus build a new Welsh community. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not a bad idea."] Not a bad idea at all, because Birmingham's industry could be closed down tomorrow but for Wales.
Up in the Elan Valley, they could stop Birmingham by the turning of a tap. I am not complaining of what Birmingham has done there, because it has brought rateable value, but Birmingham depends upon the Elan Valley. If there was a revolution in Wales and the taps were turned off, Birmingham would come to a stop. I pay a very high tribute to the planners and engineers of Birmingham, because they have made a wonderful job of the Elan Valley, which is a very beautiful place indeed. I hope that 726 all our friends who go there seeking its waters will preserve as far as possible its great natural beauty.
I should like to make another centre with an integrated economy at Newtown. I should like to see that for sentimental reasons—the Co-operative movement play a part in this. I am a member of it and I am proud of it. The name of Robert Owen is a name that has its own niche in our history for ever. He was the founder of the Co-operative movement, of British Socialism and of the great idea which is now embodied in the Trades Union Congress. I should like to see the resources of the Co-operative movement and of ourselves employed in building a great area, to restore that area in memory of Robert Owen.
The third place is the Corwen-Bala area. I put that forward as an idea. Why not seek to create new towns and industrial areas there? If we concentrated on that we should get somewhere. Ideas have been mooted today which are proper in a debate of this kind. Speaking for myself and all my hon. Friends, I would say that we are determined to save these areas for they represent something precious in our tradition, in our life. Something vital would be lost if they were lost. We shall do everything in our power to save them, and we are ready to co-operate with everybody in order to give them a new breath of life.
Now a few words about the valleys. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) made a very interesting speech, and I join with him in saying that we are seeing something in South Wales which we all welcome. We see it every time that we go down by train and travel from the Severn Tunnel to the west of Wales. We see the new industrial life of Wales growing on the coastline—Newport, Cardiff. Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath, Swansea, Llanelly. I want to see an economic policy that is expanding and not one that leads to a slump. I can see that the problems of the coastline of Wales are on the way to being solved.
When the other day I visited Breconshire, where I lived for some years, and the areas where I began my public life, I sat down and turned the pages of memory. I was elected miners' agent for the anthracite coalfield in 1925, 36 years ago. I have the names here, but 727 I will not read them to the House. They are wonderful Welsh names. I was responsible for 29 lodges of the miners' union, each lodge being co-terminus with a coalmine. There were 29 separate collieries in these two valleys of which I was privileged to serve as agent for the miners' union.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I will give the names if the hon. Gentleman would like me to. They are Nantgwyn, Cwmllynfell, Brynhenllys, Gilwen, Betin, Pwllbach, Brynderi, Tirbach, Tarreni, Ystalyfera, Varteg, Lower Cwmtawe, Diamond, Wernplymus, Ystradfawr, Ynyscedwyn, Gwaunclawdd, International, Abercrave, Dulais, Upper Cwmtawe, Onllwyn, Maes Marohog, Seven Sisters, Bryntec, Dillnyn, Crynant, Ofn Coed, Llwnynon. Their names are absolute music.
The villages were built round a pit, or two or three pits, and sometimes plus a tinplate mill. Of these 29 collieries, only eight are still working, and one of the eight is doomed to die this year. Therefore, only seven will be left. All the tin works are closed. So we see Llanwern and we rejoice; we see Margam, and we rejoice still more; we see Trostre, and we rejoice still more again, and all the other industries in the valleys.
This is an important problem. Are the valleys doomed to be dormitories for the coastal towns? I have a deep regard for Swansea, and I have probably known it longer than has the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees), and I am very glad that Swansea is rising from the dust. The hon. Member well knows, however, that Swansea without the Swansea Valley would have a very impoverished life. That applies also to my town. I join my hon. Friend in saying that we have a new problem now that we have these giant plants serving these great industries. For years we produced—and still do produce—the tinplate and the sheet of the country, but all the fabricating industries were elsewhere. We sent sheet and tinplate from Wales. I know that the position is changing, but does not this show the point? The hon. Member said that we must try to live from our resources, and I agree—but these are our resources.
728 I hope that every effort will be made in these valleys to try to attract industries which are ancillary to or serve these great new giant plants. What I want to see is minor—if I may use that word comparatively—trading estates in the centres of the valleys. I know that every village is fighting for a factory and that they all want industries. We have to bear in mind that when Llangwern comes, Pontardawe dies.
These communities are worth keeping. It is vitally important that steps should be taken to preserve them. I should like to see all the authorities in the valleys and the Board of Trade join together for this purpose. Much has been done; I should not like it to be said that nothing has been done. But I do not want to see these valleys become dormitories. Something of their traditions and their culture has been derived from the fact that there has been unity between community, home and work. Those who have been valley workers have been valley citizens. If we want to build a decent society that is a point which we must bear in mind. One of the problems of our modern society, affluent though it may be, is to prevent relations from becoming completely depersonalised and everything from becoming remote.
These are some ideas which I throw into the pool of ideas and suggestions which have been made today. I am grateful, as are all hon. Members, to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil for giving us the opportunity of talking about this problem, of putting forward our ideas and of inviting the Minister to give his attention to them. We have done so in the belief that we are not only entitled to do so but that it is our duty, since we are children of the valleys and products of this culture. It is our duty to fight for the survival of this culture. We hope that in that we can join every one in the House, the Minister included, for we believe that the valleys are worth saving for themselves and that they enrich the life of the nation.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ The Minister for Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I have been present throughout the debate and have been waiting impatiently for this 729 opportunity to remove some of the dark shadows which have been painted on the picture by Opposition spokesmen. I care too much for Wales to allow to persist the gloom which a number of hon. Members have sought to spread about the future of the valleys of South Wales and the counties of mid-Wales.
I, too, am grateful to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for initiating this debate. I was delighted when I knew of it, and I think that it is excellent that we are having this extra four or five hours in which to debate the affairs of Wales. The hon. Member's speech seemed to me most strange. Anyone reading it in HANSARD would find it hard to believe that Wales as a whole is at this moment enjoying the highest level of prosperity at any time in her history.
The hon. Gentleman managed to speak at length about the problems of mid-Wales without once mentioning the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association which the Government regard as the most potent and valuable instrument in the whole of mid-Wales for the rehabilitation task which lies ahead. When I say that, I am in no way decrying all the assistance which others, both persons and bodies, can give; but I am quite convinced that we must try to reverse the century-old depopulation of Mid-Wales by a combination of action to strengthen the basis of agriculture throughout mid-Wales and, with the help of the Industrial Development Association, to attract industry to the towns.
The policy which the Government have been pursuing, at any rate since I have been Minister for Welsh Affairs, has been to seek to bring industry to those places in the whole of Wales which seemed at the time most likely to attract it. That appears to be a common-sense course of action, to fill up, first of all, those places where one is most likely to have success; and then, when one has done that, industrialists will be the more ready to go to more remote places, to places less easy or perhaps less prominent in their eyes. Quite definitely, we shall continue our policies with vigour until we have solved this problem not only right along the coastal belt of South Wales, as, virtually, we have done by now, but in 730 those places like Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven as well as any spots in the valleys where unemployment is still a serious factor, and over the whole of mid-Wales where the problem is not to absorb people who are unemployed but to find labour to make employment for those who could be employed in the factories which we seek to attract there.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) could not be here today. I wish to remind all hon. Members from constituencies in Wales that he has in Pembroke and Milford Haven today a much more serious unemployment problem than there is anywhere else in Wales. If it is suggested, as it has been in the debate, that there have been times when the Board of Trade might have taken more positive action to bring some industry or other to a place in the valleys suffering from 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of unemployment or a place in mid-Wales with no unemployment at all but suffering from depopulation, it must be borne in mind that the first priority should be to try to save communities where there is over 10 per cent. of unemployment. We should do nothing to divert any industry which might go, let us say, to Pembroke Dock, to the Milford Haven area or to places in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire where unemployment still is too high.
Taking the valleys first in my speech, there have quite recently been five or six developments which indicate how much is being done by the Government to respond to the need for further industry in certain places. The Government factory at Cymmer, which has been empty for as long as I can remember, has now been let to a firm of the highest repute. The only empty Government factory in the Rhondda has just been let. A substantial extension to an existing Government factory at Tonyrefail, Which, I agree, is outside the valleys but it certainly draws labour from the valleys, has recently been approved. A new factory is to be built in the Bargoed area with Government finance for a firm which is ready to go there. Just those five projects will create employment for 750 people. They have all been secured by direct Government action. I give them as the most recent sample of the success that Government policies have had in the valleys.
731 There are two places, and only two, in the whole of the South Wales valleys where, I would say, there is a difficult unemployment problem at the moment. One is the Rhondda. There, the task is made more difficult by the fact that a large number of people registered as unemployed are disabled. The other is Marthyr, where I very much hope that Hoover Ltd. will provide more employment. As the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil knows, the future situation there depends to a quite substantial extent on the employment-giving capacity of Hoovers. But all that Heads of the Valleys stretch, from Merthyr to Brynmawr, will be most favourably affected by the development of the Heads of the Valleys road. I set great store by that, another Government project, for stabilising the population there.
Although one would have expected, I should have thought, a quite considerable falling off in population along the Heads of the Valleys—those are the oldest areas and the population was first attracted there by the iron ore and coal, the iron ore now being all worked out—in fact it has been very small. I am certain that the Heads of the Valleys road will give them more life.
I wondered whether the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) would challenge me when I said that there are only two places where there is a difficult unemployment problem and would quote the Amman Valley.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is the Minister saying that he is completely satisfied with the position in the Swansea valleys, and in the Amman Valley both now and taking a long-term view, when presumably the consequences of Llanwern opening will be felt? Some old works, such as Pontardawe, may close. Sitting by the right hon. Gentleman's side is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who has certified them as local employment areas.
§ Mr. Brooke
I did not indicate that I was satisfied. I said that there were two places where there was a substantial unemployment problem at the moment. The number of people employed in the Amman Valley is comparatively small, partly because they are travelling to work 732 elsewhere. However, if hon. Members will do me the courtesy of reading what I have said, they will find that it was strictly correct.
It is not possible always to induce industrialists to go to certain places in the expectation that labour may be available there in two or three years' time. They will not do it. Naturally, they wish to make plans to go to places where they know that labour will be available as soon as they are ready to move in. It is extraordinarily hard to integrate exactly the running down of one industry and the building up of another.
In reply to the charge that the Government have treated these matters lightly, I say that we have vigorously used the powers in the Local Employment Act. We have agreed to give a grant of £60,000 to the Amman Valley Joint Sewerage Board for its sewerage scheme. We have promised a 35 per cent. grant to Merthyr for a new sewage disposal works that is likely, in my view, to cost over £1 million—all that to make certain that areas of that kind, where we shall need more work to come, will be able to equip themselves with modern services.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Is not that 35 per cent. grant miserably low having regard to the industrial history of that community and the fact that it has lost well over 20,000 of its population within the last generation or so?
§ Mr. Brooke
It is perfectly easy to pull a long face at anything that is done. In my view, there will be a great many people in Wales, when they read the report of this debate, who will say that there was too much whining about the situation in Wales.
§ Mr. Davies
I must protest against that. What we are doing is fighting for a comparative measure of civilised justice.
§ Mr. Brooke
It is civilised justice that the Government are in course of bringing to Wales. We have already effected enormous improvements within the last three years.
I was speaking about water. The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen said 733 that still only 87 per cent. of all the houses in rural areas were provided with piped water. That is true. What she did not mention was that when this Government came into power ten years ago, the figure was only 69 per cent. We have given grants under the rural water and sewerage Acts to schemes in the rural districts of Wales much higher in proportion than the grants that we have given in England. When the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil says that the rural areas have been disgracefully neglected, I ask him how he reconciles that with the fact that we have given £6 million in grants since the war to rural water schemes alone and something like £3 million to rural sewerage schemes.
What we have to tackle in the rural areas is not a new phenomenon, but the reversal of a decline in population which has been going on for more than a hundred years, as the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) is so well aware from his experience. We must change the outlook and the attitude of mind. It cannot be done by words. Nevertheless, that is the essential part of all this.
It is not the case that all the young people leave because there are no opportunities for them. The young people of mid-Wales look elsewhere because they believe that they will get much better opportunities if they get into prosperous towns than if they stay where they are. We must reverse that by seeking to enhance the prosperity and the amenities of the small towns and villages where they live. We have to counter the insidious effect of television, newspapers, magazines and everything else which tend to strengthen the false idea that the only life worth living is in a big town.
I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that there is much to be done about housing conditions in the mid-Wales counties. I fancy that in the survey, more houses were originally classified as unfit and as slums that had to be demolished than will actually need to be demolished, because we were probably underrating the number of houses which could be rehabilitated by thoroughgoing improvement. But I am constantly pressing local authorities to get ahead with their slum clearance.
734 Slum clearance in Wales as a whole has not gone as fast as I would have wished it to do. It is in the hands of the local authorities, and I trust that the Housing Bill, which is now before a Standing Committee, will help a number of these poorer areas. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the total amount of subsidy in many cases will be increased under that Bill. I hope also that a number of these housing authorities which have given little thought as yet to building for old people will take that up, because in an ageing community it seems strange that a number of these county districts have done hardly any building especially designed for the elderly.
The basis for the economy of Mid-Wales must continue to be agriculture, and I can certainly say to the right hon. Gentleman, when he quotes the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission of some years ago, that a tremendous amount has been done by the Government since then to seek to help the farmers of Wales in making the agriculture of Wales healthy and well balanced.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May I make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman? This is the last complete survey we have of this kind and it is very important. It made a large number of recommendations. Will he consider whether in his next Report on the Government's activities in Wales there may be an appendix to the Report giving in complete detail the action taken upon that Report so that we may review progress and the present circumstances? The information we have is six years old.
§ Mr. Brooke
I will consider that. I am always anxious to hear suggestions from hon. Members on both sides of the House as to ways in which we might make that annual Report more interesting and informative.
The recent Price Review has been welcomed by Welsh farmers, and in particular the increase in the guaranteed price for beef, but what I wanted particularly to refer to was the success of the Small Farmer Scheme in Wales. I can give more up-to-date figures than are in the Report.
By the end of February this year the number of applications from Wales under the Small Farmer Scheme had 735 increased to 7,711, and of those 6,457 had submitted plans of which 5,293 had been approved. That number of applicants is well over 80 per cent. of the estimated number of all eligible farms in Wales. The total estimated amount of grants permitted for approved plans is nearing £4 million, and grants amounting to over £1 million have already been paid. I stress this and give these figures because the right hon. Gentleman made particular reference to the problem of the small farms. Under the Farm Improvement Scheme, farmers have not been slow in Wales to take advantage of the facilities offered. At the end of February, 14,322 applications had been received, and of those 8,882 had been approved, involving an estimated expenditure of nearly £5 million, and new applications are still coming in at the rate of about 300 a month, and that is all additional to the expenditure which is being incurred on improvement schemes under the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts.
I think that the House will see from the figures I have quoted that an immense amount of money is going into strengthening the basis of Welsh agriculture.
Reference was made to the Agricultural (Improvement of Roads) Act. We depend, of course, as the Report says, on the highway authorities to take up the money which is there available, and I greatly hope that we shall receive sufficient applications from the highway authorities to be able to spend the whole of the money available within the time permitted.
As the House may remember, the last day for approval of schemes under that Act is 20th December, 1962, and, as the Report says, it is up to the highway authorities to submit schemes in good time if all the money available under the Act is to be taken up. We have offered the Welsh highway authorities a further allocation of expenditure amounting to £700,000 for the coming financial year under that Act.
On the industrial side of the restoration of the economy of Mid-Wales, the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, under the excellent leadership of Professor Beacham and with a very good secretary in Mr. Garbett-Edwards, in addition to the factories it has attracted in 736 mid-Wales, has brought about a striking change of attitude among local authorities and public bodies in Wales. The House will be aware no doubt of the criticisms which the Association has made in its reports of the former attitude. It pointed out in the Blue Book to which reference has been made that of all mid-Wales authorities only Blaenau Ffestiniog held an industrial site when the Association began its work.
In its 1961 Report the Association says:It would be misleading if the Association suggested that all the Mid-Wales district authorities tackled the problem of industrial development with that amount of determination which it feels is necessary…nevertheless the year has shown a marked and most encouraging advance in the manner in which the authorities have approached the problem.All of us owe a debt of gratitude for the educative work which the Association is doing within Mid-Wales as well as the efforts that it is making to attract industry from outside.
§ Mr. C. Davies
I agree with every word that the right hon. Gentleman has said in appreciation of the tremendous work that has been done, especially by Professor Beacham and Mr. Garbett-Edwards of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, but they are as frightened as I or anybody else about the perilous position of these small industries scattered in various places unless there is a stabiliser, and agriculture does not provide that. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would tell us what is his remedy for this.
§ Mr. Brooke
I was describing what has happened hitherto. In recent years small industries of suitable kinds have come, through Government agency or otherwise, to a surprisingly large number of the smaller towns of Wales, for example to Amlwch, Llangefni, Denbigh, St. Asaph, Corwen, Llangollen, Welshpool, Machynlleth, Barmouth, Rhayader, Llandrindod Wells, Brecon and Llandovery. More recently the Association has had a direct part in securing extra work for Barmouth and Machynlleth. New factories are to be built with Development Commission funds at Rhayader and at Lampeter and there is a project under consideration for Knighton. I sincerely trust that that will not be the end. When I went to open an extension to Cardwell's the factory at 737 Machynlleth there was no doubt that the firm was very happy in its decision to go there, as was evidenced by its decision to open another factory in Lampeter.
I want now to speak about the survey, because there seemed to be some misapprehension here. The hon. Member for Merthyr suggested a Tennessee Valley Authority, and other hon. Members either supported or cast doubt on any such project. I expect that all of us will have read the comments in the Western Mail on Wednesday. Mr. Garbett-Edwards, the Secretary of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, doubted whether it would not be premature to have any new authority of that kind. He said that the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association was delighted that at its request the Minister for Welsh Affairs recently launched a technical survey of the area as a means of assessing ways in which the economy of mid-Wales might be developed and strengthened.
He added that Government initiative is necessary to solve the problem of mid-Wales and that it is only when this survey has been completed that we can assess what kind of development authority is needed. The survey is something which the Government are initiating in the closest contact with the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, with representation of the University of Wales on it, and I hope that it will be a more thorough and comprehensive examination of the real facts and the real nature of the problem of depopulation in mid-Wales than we have ever had before.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
By all means let us have the survey; but, in relation to this programme, I put it to the Minister that one of his predecessors—I forget which—asked the Council for Wales to make a survey, and it made a survey and produced a plan. It was a bold plan involving £60 million. The Agricultural Land Commission was asked to look at the agricultural side. I put it to the Minister that there is a widespread feeling that we are over-doing the survey side of it and under-doing the action side following surveys.
§ Mr. Brooke
That view is not shared by the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, which came forward with the proposal for this survey. As I 738 said in relation to the Welsh Land Agricultural Sub-Commission just now, a tremendous amount has been done since then by Government action for the small farms. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan), to whose speech I listened with great interest, for the support which he gave to the idea of a survey.
It would be terribly easy to spend millions and millions of pounds in mid-Wales, but one might spend it unwisely, without any permanent benefit coming there from. What we have to discover is how we can take action most fruitfully and beneficially in an area where it is hard to attract industry because there is no apparent unemployment. There may be hidden unemployment, I grant, but the industrialist is not much impressed when one tells him about hidden unemployment; he wants to see the figures
I should now like to refer to what the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said about my remarks at Machynlleth the other day. I spoke about a new town. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that I was cheap and cynical. Shortly after that in the debate the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) expressed approval of the line that I had taken. I seriously believe that if at this stage of things the Government were to announce that a new town of massive size was to be started, whether it was at Caersws or anywhere else in mid-Wales, that would immediately kill the efforts that we are making to get industry into the small towns. I believe that we should at once start draining people away from Dolgellau, Machynlleth, Lampeter, Cardigan, Aberystwyth and all kinds of towns into the place which was going to be the most modern of all. We have certainly seen the pulling power where new towns have been started elsewhere in Britain.
I say frankly that before I would lend my support strongly to a Government new town for Wales, I would first like to see us a long way further ahead with the building up of the economy of the existing towns. I appreciate the point put by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, and Montgomery County Council's interest in the matter. I appreciate also the council's feeling that if a big Government new town were 739 started there would be labour there which would attract industrialists.
I certainly could not promise him, however, that the industrialists would go to the town. The Government have been seeking to encourage and induce industrialists to move out of Birmingham and the West Midlands for a number of years, and have found them very hard to budge. It is not true, as those towns in Wales which have made agreements with Birmingham under the Town Development Act have found, that it is enough to make an agreement and to say that a site is available. One has to persuade business men to go, and it would be damaging rather than otherwise if we were to initiate a new town which turned out to be a failure.
I have seen from my own experience at the Ministry that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that if one starts a new town sufficient industry will go there. I think we now have things right in each of the existing new towns, but in years past we have had some very anxious moments with one or two of them.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Birmingham is in difficulties and must find an outlet. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Birmingham County Council is enthusiastic about the idea and might have influence with industrialists?
§ Mr. Brooke
I know that Birmingham City Council has been very anxious to get town development forward, though it has not had very much success with it. Because the city council wants something does not mean, as experience shows, that Birmingham business men immediately set to work and do it. I have not rejected the idea of a new town in Mid-Wales. I cannot say what may come of the future, but I thought that I should offer some cautionary words at Machynlleth the other day, because it seems to me that, if people say that there is no hope for Mid-Wales except through a Government new town, we might find ourselves in a position of damaging rather than assisting the existing communities of Mid-Wales.
I want to refer to a number of points raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Menthyr Tydvil said that these problems would not be remedied by having larger local authorities. He evidently 740 has some suspicion about what the Local Government Commission for Wales may recommend. Whatever the Commission recommends, the recommendations will be by Welshmen, because it is an entirely Welsh body. There is no doubt that, whatever its recommendations, whether sweeping or the reverse, they will be criticised in some quarters and applauded in others.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
It seems a long time since the Commission completed its investigations. Is it to report?
§ Mr. Brooke
The first thing is to publish the draft proposals, and I hope that the Commission will do that before long.
Reference has been made to water supplies. The report of the Welsh Water Advisory Committee will be published within the next few days. My Department produced a hydrological survey which the Committee said was of great value to it. When the Report becomes available it will be the subject of great interest in Wales. If the water resources of any country are to be developed and brought to maximum use, that inevitably involves considerable expense and almost always submerging a certain amount of land. There is no escape from it.
What we have to do is so to plan our policies that we produce a supply of pure water at the lowest reasonable cost to the domestic consumers and industries and farmers, while at the same time giving proper consideration to those who are concerned with the parts of the land from which the water comes. It is with that kind of thing in mind that I have managed to get a working party together to consider from all angles the problems of the Severn water, and I made a point of seeing that the Montgomeryshire County Council and the Montgomery Water Board were represented on it.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), who explained that he would have to leave before the end of the debate, was challenged by me when he said that there would be work in the county for not more than 20 per cent. of the school leavers.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of water supplies, can be say anything about the West Glamorgan and Milford Barrage schemes?
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not want to say anything about them before I receive the report of the Welsh Water Advisory Committee which will be coming out in the next few days. That body is advising me and it would be discourteous of me to express any views about either of those schemes.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Minister will recall that he gave me an undertaking that he would not give approval to the Cothi scheme before he had a chance to consider it in the light of that report.
§ Mr. Brooke
Certainly. The first thing to do is to have the report published and give public opinion in Wales an opportunity to play upon it. No hasty decision will be taken before everybody has had time to consider these matters.
The hon. Member for Anglesey said that there would not be work in the county for more than 20 per cent. of the school leavers, but my information is that last year about 60 per cent. of the school leavers were placed locally through the Youth Employment Service, and no doubt a considerable number more placed themselves without seeking official assistance. I challenged that figure partly because I knew that the hon. Member would have to leave before the end of the debate, and partly because it is harmful that these figures should go uncontradicted when they are in fact far from the truth.
I must also challenge the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) when he says that there has been a net loss of population in Wales of ½ million. The published statistics do not show that. They show a fall of about 200,000 and when the census is taken in a few days' time, I hope that it will show that the population of Wales has nearly reached a record level again.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
As the Minister has challenged me, may I say that I cited an expert view that the statistics of one year compared with another did not show the real loss, because if people had not migrated they would have stayed and there would have been the natural increase in population which has taken place in England and Scotland?
§ Mr. Brooke
The Digest of Welsh Statistics will show whether the right hon. Gentleman is right, or whether I am right.
742 My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) spoke of forestry. We are much nearer a happier understanding between forestry and agriculture in Mid-Wales than there has ever been. I do not believe that afforestation will bring vast amounts of employment anywhere, but I am sure that there are places in Mid-Wales where afforestation can do more than anything else to stabilise and gradually to improve the population figures.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) spoke of the utilisation of slate waste. My latest information is very discouraging. There is but little hope of being able to make use of any large part of these enormous heaps of waste.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor won my heart when he said that we should not always refer to Mid-Wales as a distressed area. He argued that there should be greater interest by the Board of Trade. I assure him that that interest exists, and if it is not Mid-Wales or his constituency which comes in the forefront of the Board of Trade's mind that is simply and solely because nobody who is concerned with employment in industry can forget Pembrokeshire and Gwynedd.
Any delays with regard to the factory he mentioned have been overcome. I must say that I doubt whether I should support the idea of another advance factory anywhere in mid-Wales until we had found a tenant for the one to be built at Pembroke Dock.
With regard to the closure of hospitals, that is exactly the kind of point which is picked up at the regular conference of heads of Government Departments in Wales over which I preside in Cardiff, and in the last four years I think that I have been able to achieve a good deal in making sure of the closest integration between the work of the various Government Departments.
I will certainly study the question raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) regarding that access road about which I understand he has written to me.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly spoke with great feeling, such as we would expect from him, about the disintegration of a way of life. I am entirely with him there. We are seeing 743 in parts of Wales, and also in parts of England and Scotland, a fundamental change. We must recognise that none of us can opt out of the 20th century. We cannot wish ourselves back in the 19th or 18th centuries. Do not let us always be looking over our shoulders at something in the past, however good it was. Let us rather be gazing ahead and seeing whether we cannot create in the years that lie before us something which will be changed, but which will retain much of the quality that mattered in the old and add something fresh from all the wealth of modern experience. I believe that in mid-Wales one has to change the attitude. I trust that what I have said today will prove beyond doubt that the Government are determined, by the action they initiate through this survey, and so on, to put a stop to this continued downward drift of population in Mid-Wales.
It seems odd that during the debate there has been no mention of the tourist industry. I cannot help thinking that one of the things which the mid-Wales counties could do for themselves is to improve standards of accommodation and standards of service, and indeed self-advertisement, to attract more holiday-makers and tourists. It is all very well to dismiss that as something superficial, but it matters, and it can bring in wealth.
I believe that when the history of these years in Wales comes to be written those who follow after will say that no one man did more to solve the problem which we have been discussing today in mid-Wales, and in the valleys and the coastal belt, than my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. I can say that he will be with me in everything that will be done to try to revitalise Mid-Wales.
Three or four years ago, when I spoke in a debate on a Welsh day, I was asked where the rainbow ended, and said the crock of gold would be found there. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has done more than any other man to bring that crock of gold within reach of thousands of families in Wales, but neither he nor I will be satisfied until all the shadows are lifted and a new and better life comes within sight for people in just that sort of community which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—the village which sees its 744 old life ebbing away and wonders what the future will bring. We must make certain that the future will bring happiness.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House recognises the need for establishing a stable economy in Welsh rural areas, and for greater efforts on the part of the Government to attract new industries to the valleys of South Wales.