§ 3.51 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. James Griffiths)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report on Wales for 1964 (Command Paper No. 2602).This is the first time the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) will have taken part in our debates on Welsh affairs in his new rôle of shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and I take it that that confirms what was said by the former Leader of the Opposition when he said that, in the unlikely event of the party opposite ever being returned to power, it, too, would have a Secretary of State for Wales. Since the right hon. Gentleman is the Member for Monmouth, may I say that his appearance in our debate is further proof, if that were needed, that Monmouth is an integral part of Wales.
Before I turn to survey the past year in Wales and give some account of Government action in our country, I should like to make a brief reference to two Reports, both of importance to Wales, which have been published since the Report which we are discussing today. There is first what has come to be known as the Hughes Parry Report of the Committee on the Legal Status of the Welsh Language. I have already expressed our gratitude to Sir David Hughes Parry and his colleagues for the thorough way in which they have examined this problem, and I repeat that expression of gratitude today. They have made very important recommendations and I have appealed to all my compatriots to consider those recommendations objectively, free from prejudice on either side, and to give them the attention which they deserve.
I was very glad to see that the first representative body to consider that Report, the Council of the Churches for Wales, approached it in the right spirit and in the right way and decided that before it would make any pronouncements on the recommendations, either any of them or in total, the first thing to do was to appoint a number from among its ranks to give very full and detailed consideration to the Report. I hope that that example will be followed by others.
I recall that this Report emanated from a desire by the Welsh Parliamen- 1244 tary Party, representing hon. Members of all parties within Wales, for an examination of this difficult problem. That request was made to the then Minister for Welsh Affairs who agreed to set up this Committee. I commend it to my compatriots as a very honest job of work, and perhaps in due time we may have an opportunity to discuss it and give one of our Welsh Grand Committee sittings to it when the time is appropriate.
The other Report, which has just been published, is the Llewellyn-Jones Report on Science and Education in Wales. This is very important, and I commend it to all hon. Members, not only Members for Wales, for it deals with a matter of great importance not only to Wales but to the whole country, as we approach this new technological age. I express my thanks to all who took part in the study and the preparation of the Report, and I express the hope that some day that, too, may have our consideration.
Ever since these annual debates on Welsh affairs were instituted—and I have taken part in most of them and took part in the first—now and again I have refreshed my memory and read the reports of them all over again. Running through them has been the recurrent theme of the problems of jobs and livelihoods for our people and the prosperity of our communities. It is understandable that that theme should have dominated our debates. Over the past generation and more we have seen all our basic industries in Wales—agriculture, coal, steel, tinplate and slate—each in its turn, and sometimes simultaneously, affected by very great changes, changes in demand, decline in markets, changes in fashion and sometimes other changes. The result has been that over very many years in these annual debates we have returned to this theme, and I propose to begin with it today.
I have seen, as we have all seen, a great transformation in Wales. We have very great successes to our credit. We have established many new industries and the economy is healthier. But, notwithstanding all that has been done and all the success achieved, it is the plain truth that in Wales there are still large areas in the south and in the north where the percentage of unemployment stubbornly remains above the national average. There are other areas, like Mid-Wales, 1245 in which the problem is expressed in another way. Although it is the same problem, it has another name and it is called depopulation. It is therefore right and proper in these Welsh debates to call attention to these problems. I also propose to say a few words about two other problems which will be uppermost in the minds of many hon. Members and to which I know they will refer. There is, first, the future of the coal-mining industry and, secondly, the problem of the steel industry.
We are proud of the success of our great steel plants. I have seen the transition, for I saw the old steel industry and grew up with it and my family provided some of its employees. I have seen the great change, and it is of vital importance to Wales that we should sustain and help the steel industry to maintain its place in what is a very harsh' and competitive world market. That has been behind some of the proposals which have been made about iron ore imports. At the same time, we know from experience in this country and from reading accounts of comparable plants now operating in Europe that in this industry technical changes are taking place at a tremendously rapid rate, with consequent changes in levels of employment. For a given output, fewer and fewer men are required almost annually. We know perfectly well that this problem of the level of employment in future in this great industry is a matter of great concern to all my hon. Friends, and in some of the decisions which the Government have made it has been one of the factors which we have taken into account, for example, in deciding what areas should be covered by the Local Employment Acts.
I now wish to speak about coal. I am an old coalminer and I have been associated with the industry all my life. I grew up with it. I grew up with it and I have had experience of all its ups and downs.
I remember its heyday in 1913, when, in the South Wales coalfield alone, we produced 56 million tons of coal and exported through our ports 36 million tons. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade are both present. 1246 What would they not give to have 36 million tons of coal flowing through the South Wales ports these days?
I spent the middle part of my life as an officer for the South Wales miners, for whom I was for some time privileged to be their president. I saw the industry contract. I am a Welshman with all a Welshman's nostalgia and, therefore, it is sad to see a great industry contracting in decline.
If I may recall and think back to the 1930s, when I was a young man, there were some of my colleagues, notably Mr. Vernon Hartson, who had the right approach to the problem and realised that in the changed world situation the market for 36 million tons of coal abroad would not continue and that the sensible thing to do was to face the fact that changes were coming and that the industry should be adjusted to the change in a planned, orderly, humane way.
We did not do it. I say "we", but I do not want to go back to the 1930s and all that. It was not done. The Government did not do it. The owners and the industry did not do it. The result was that the adjustment took place over a generation of conflict, strife and poverty, which dragged down this great industry to the mire. Ever since those days I have endeavoured to be realistic about this. I want to look at the situation realistically to see what changes are coming and to prepare for the change. If contraction becomes inevitable, I want to see it done in an orderly, humane way, caring for all the people involved, looking after them and caring for the communities, leaving behind in the end an industry which, even if smaller than of yore, having been modernised with modern techniques and the donkey-work having been done away with, can provide good standards of life for my people.
In the change which is now coming to us in the policy outlined by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power in his fuel and power policy and in the White Paper published today concerning the massive aid which we are bringing to the industry, I believe that with the co-operation of both sides in the industry we can come through in the end, even if it is with a loss of manpower and of pits. We can come through with an industry which thereafter can play an 1247 important part in the life of Wales and of the United Kingdom. It is in that spirit that I commend this policy.
If I am asked how many pits will close, I do not know. I do not think that anybody has yet made up his mind. I have taken the opportunity in the course of the past few weeks to have thorough discussions about this matter with some of my hon. Friends, with the officers and representatives of the executive of the South Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers and with officers and representatives of the North Wales area of the N.U.M.
With them, I have been through the whole list of collieries, some of them economic, some nearing exhaustion, some making heavy losses and some making slight losses. I spent two and a half hours in going through them with my old union colleagues and with my successor as president, to whose constructive approach I pay tribute. I knew every one of those collieries and I have been to most of them. We sat down and discussed them. I know all the problems.
We had the great advantage of the advice and guidance of the union's technical expert, a man with wide and deep knowledge of the South Wales coalfield. I had similar opportunities in North Wales. I spoke to them as one collier, not to another, but with another, with each other, and went through the list. I am convinced, and I said so to them, and I believe that they were convinced, too, that with co-operation—and, believe me, all this requires co-operation—between the Government, the Coal Board and the N.U.M., some of those pits can be saved and made economic, although not without effort, on both sides. This is a job for management as well as men. We are determined to do what we can. If I do not go into details today, it is because there will be opportunities to do so later. I believe, however, that by the policy announced by the Government, we can get through this transition.
I have seen a great contraction of this kind in the 1930s. May God preserve us from a situation of that kind. As one who has looked at the situation, in the light of my experience, with all the knowledge which I have and the res- 1248 ponsibility which I have shared with all my colleagues of working out a policy for the Government, I believe that the way to handle the situation now is by co-operation between the industry and the Government.
The next stage is important, too. If there is to be contraction in the industry, we must bend all our energies to providing the men and the communities with alternative employment. I speak in the presence of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade. I pay my tribute to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade for his full co-operation in this matter.
It is inevitable that I shall use figures, but I shall present the House with a plain, factual account of what my Government have done to provide new employment in Wales in this first year. It is a record of which we need not be ashamed. I want, however, to use the figures with circumspection. I want them to be realistic. I was made much more careful about this when, the other day, I noted that after an interview with the right hon. Member for Monmouth, he was reported in the Liverpool Daily Post of 8th October as saying:It is worthy of note that 4,000 new factories have come to Wales since 1958, creating 30,000 new jobs.When I saw that, I knew at once that something was wrong and that the right hon. Gentleman had been misheard or misreported. Somebody had put in a "0", because the figure was not 4,000, but nearer 400, and the hope of 30,000 new jobs was not realised. Part of that number were to have been 4,000 which should have come through the new Prestcold factory at Swansea, which ultimately failed.
I want to present a factual report of the new employment and new industry that has been established in Wales in this first year of our Government. Thirty-four firms have established new industries and 112 have expanded existing industries, which means that there have been 146 new factories or extensions of existing factories, all of them providing jobs now and prospects of jobs if they develop. These mean about 10,600 new jobs for Wales in one year. This is the highest number provided for very many years.
1249 Another way of viewing this is the number of industrial development certificates isused for Wales. In the first year of the Labour Government the number of industrial development certificates issued in Wales numbered 119, covering projects with a total area of 4.4 million sq. ft., which is the highest provision of this kind since 1960.
Between 1959 and 1964 the Tory Party built eight advance factories in Wales. In the first year we have built 13. The purpose of this from the very beginning was to enable the Government to build factories in areas to which we wanted to attract industry and where we knew there would be difficulties in attracting industry. We therefore established these 13 advance factories covering the whole area of Wales. All of them have been established in the hope—indeed, we believe, in more than the hope—that they will be used, that they will provide employment, and that they will bring fresh life to these areas.
I will give two examples of the particular success of this policy. I will give one example for North Wales—Blaenau Ffestiniog. There we decided to build an advance factory of 10,000 sq. ft. Already this factory has been taken over by a very reputable firm. I am very glad for the sake of Blaenau Ffestiniog, for the people of which I have such a deep regard. The firm concerned has said that it wants the factory extended fivefold to 50,000 sq. ft. The other example is at Pontardulais, up the valley. The new advance factory which we are to build there has been let before a brick has been laid. I quote these as two examples in which the policy in respect of advance factories can succeed. I believe that in our efforts in the past 12 months, through my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and his regional controller, we have done a very good job for Wales.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
Does the Secretary of State mean that there are 11 of the advance factories still vacant at this moment? How many have been occupied?
§ Mr. Griffiths
None of these 13 is built as yet. These are 13 factories we plan to build. I was indicating that already, before it is built, the firm which is coming to Blaenau Ffestiniog wants 1250 the factory increased fivefold, which is something we all welcome. A firm has already indicated its willingness to take over the factory at Pontardulais, of which we have not yet laid a brick.
There were two other developments this year of very great importance in two widely separated areas of Wales, both of which are bases for a wide hinterland of development and of population and which are in two basic industries around which in the future there can be immediate growth. There is, first, Ford's at Swansea. There is, secondly, announced only last week, Firestone at Wrexham in the heart of the North Wales coalfield. This is a £6 million factory with a 10-year development scheme. This will provide employment for 1,500.
I must make a brief reference to a new development in Wales. One of our desires has been to diversify as much as possible the pattern of employment in Wales. What we want is a wide diversification, a multi-pattern. I am very glad to be able to report to the House that in the course of this year we have secured two Government offices for South Wales—a passport office at Newport, to be established in 1967 with a staff of 90, and a land registry office to be established at Swansea in 1968 with a staff of 500. I believe that this marks another noteworthy advance in Wales. In addition to the establishment of a wide variety of industries, we want the kind of industries which bring their own staff with them. The very fact that they are there provides new opportunities of employment for our young people who will come along in the years ahead. They are a very great boon.
My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has recently scheduled virtually the whole of the South Wales coalfield and the coastal towns in South Wales under the Local Employment Act. I mention both the coalfield and the coastal towns, because here we meet two problems—the changes that may take place in the coal industry, and indeed in other industries, and the changes which may take place in the level of employment in the steel industry. I must tell the House that when the Local Employment Act was before us I thought that it was the wrong concept. I was very concerned because it pinpointed a local employment exchange and I thought 1251 that that would have a circumscribing effect. The trading estate built by public money at Treforest, for example, was outside the area. As my right hon. Friend knows, the Government are giving consideration to future legislation of this type. The whole of the South Wales coalfield is now covered. This area is being taken as a whole, coastal towns and valleys.
I speak as a son of the valleys. I have their future at heart. Do not let us dissociate the valleys from the towns. Here I must be very careful and not express too much indignation, lest I cause a storm. Every Welshman has a village, a valley and a town. I believe that the concept of linking the valleys with the towns—here I believe I speak for all my compatriots—is vitally important in more than one way. Therefore, I rejoice in this.
I turn to Mid-Wales. Earlier this year we had a discussion in the Welsh Grand Committee about Mid-Wales and its problem of depopulation. I announced what was the Government policy then, that we would seek, in conjunction with the Mid-Wales Industrial Association, through the medium of the Development Commission—this latter body having come to us through a Budget many years ago of the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George)—to double the number of jobs which the Development Commission had planned for the Mid-Wales Industrial Association to provide in Mid-Wales. It had aimed to provide 100 new jobs a year. This does not seem a lot, but in an area like this when village communities are being rebuilt it means a great deal. One hundred new jobs a year can mean saving a village in an area which has been losing its population at the rate of a village per year. We decided that we would seek to double that and provide 200 new jobs. Two hundred new jobs can give livelihood to a community of 500. If this can be done every year—livelihood for a community of 500—Mid-Wales in 20 years' time will have changed a great deal. Depopulation has been going on for much longer than 20 years.
I will now give a factual account of what we have done in Mid-Wales in the last year. First, two new advance fac- 1252 tories are to be built—one at Llandrindod and one at Aberystwyth—two splendid communities. Three extensions of existing factories have been authorised at Machynlleth, Brecon and Knighton. These five developments together will provide about 320 jobs.
There are other projects. At Welsh-pool an advance factory is let to a firm manufacturing plastic goods. At Welsh-pool, too, a new factory will be taken over by another firm. Two firms are taking over existing premises at Llandrindod and Llandeilo. Two engineering firms will build small factories at Rhayader and Llanidloes. Other new firms at Aberystwyth and Cardigan are already in production. In Newtown there will be an expansion by a firm known as B.R.D. Ltd. Then there is Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Let me add this up. If our hopes for new jobs come to fruition, in due time—in two or three years, perhaps more—we shall have provided 1,200 new jobs in Mid-Wales. We are therefore making a real attack upon one of the great evils of our countryside—depopulation—particularly in Mid-Wales, and I am glad to report this to the House.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Could the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the factory in Welshpool to which he has referred is one which was approved last year by his predecessor?
§ Mr. Griffiths
Yes, that is quite true.
In the matter of roads and communications, next year will be a notable one in Wales because it will see the completion of two great schemes which will do much to link Mid-Wales with important areas of the Midlands and South Wales beyond Offa's Dyke. If things go as planned, and I see no reason why they should not, we shall see next year the opening of the Severn Bridge and the completion of the Heads of the Valleys road. We are all looking forward very much to the completion of these schemes, both of which can be of immense advantage to the coast and valleys of Wales.
Looking further ahead, I must make plain to the House what the position was when I took over responsibility for roads in Wales early this year. I found that in the combined England and Wales programme of the previous Administration the estimated expenditure on new 1253 constructions and major improvements of motorways, trunk roads and classified roads would fall from £12.8 million in 1965–66 to £7.45 million in 1969–70. The House will realise that one of the problems of road construction is that it takes a few years—many people believe that it takes too long, and perhaps we should take steps to shorten the period—before the various stages of preparation and planning can be followed by the actual commencement of work. For this reason there was comparatively little that I could do at once to make up for the decline which I had inherited from our predecessors.
The Government have reviewed final expenditure on the road programme up to 1969–70. Exchequer expenditure on new constructions and major improvements in Wales will now be £8.7 million in 1969–70 compared with £7.5 million envisaged by the previous Administration in their plan. I have already taken a decision about this. I can be specific about it today and say what I have in mind for 1969–70, the last year of the present planning period. Preparatory work can now be started on three trunk road schemes in Wales. The first is stage III from Glyntaff to Abercynon of the Cardiff-Merthyr A.470 road improvement scheme. The second is the Wrexham bypass and the third is the "C" section of the Carmarthen diversion, which is of such great importance to the whole of South-West Wales beyond Swansea. Later I hope to make another announcement about additional schemes for classified roads.
On housing, I want to pay a tribute which I am sure the right hon. Member for Monmouth will appreciate. There are two great responsibilities which we have had to place specially upon local authorities in Wales, though private building has played its part. We have placed upon the local authorities th responsibility of seeking to build houses for those who are desperately in need of homes and for young people, but in addition many of our local authorities have been asked by the Government and by Departments, such as the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Power, to provide houses for key-workers and those moving to new industries. It was, for example, a big job to provide houses for those who 1254 moved from South-West Wales and other parts of Wales to the Spencer Works.
I should like to pay tribute to the local authorities. If one has people on the doorstep desperately in need of houses it is not an easy task to tell them, "We are sorry, but you will have to wait. This house has been let to a key-worker." I am glad that the local authorities have taken on this burden, and this year it looks as if there will be 20,000 completions of houses, representing an increase of 5 per cent. over last year.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Welsh Office will refer to other aspects of our work, and no doubt many questions will be raised by hon. Members in the course of the debate. There is always great competition to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on these occasions and it behoves me as much as everybody else not to take up too much time. But I have spoken of some of the most important aspects of Government activity, dealing with jobs, livelihoods, communications, and homes. There are many other things which I and others would like to speak about and we shall have opportunities in the Welsh Grand Committee.
Yesterday, the House debated and—I was interested to note—unanimously welcomed the National Plan setting before the country the objective of attaining a certain level of economic growth by 1970. Those who have read and studied the Plan know perfectly well that we have no hope of being able to achieve it unless we make the fullest use of the unused and under-used resources and potential of our people in every part of the country. In Wales for years there has been unemployment above the average and an activity rate far below the average. We have a working force which has proved itself, as any industralist would testify. The industrialists who come from Mid-Wales and establish factories in areas where there is no great background of industrial experience and knowledge have all taken root. Not one has left, and all are glad that they have come.
When I first took my present job, hon. Members opposite were worried that I should never be able to visit Wales. They said, "Look at what happened when we had a Minister of State in another place and he had all the time in the world to visit Wales". I have visited every county 1255 in Wales in the last twelve months. I have visited all the towns and scores of the villages and many of the festivals, from Cardiff Arms Park to Llangollen and Newtown. I have met my people.
I believe that we have a working population in Wales who are as skilled and adaptable and as ready to learn as any in the world, with a cultural background and a sense of neighbourliness. I am proud of the intimate democracy of Wales, and I believe that we have a great opportunity and a great part to play in the National Plan. The Welsh Planning Board is working on the problems. It has already studied the problems of Mid-Wales and we have acted upon that study. It has nearly completed a study of South Wales, and a study of North Wales is well in hand. The Economic Council, under the chairmanship of the Minister of State, Welsh Office and with the help of the Parliamentary Secretary, is engaged on these tasks. We are determined to see that Wales which has contributed so much to the strength of the country in days gone by and which played such a notable part in the first Industrial Revolution will have the opportunity to play its full part in the coming new age and to make its full contribution to the strength and wellbeing of the country. I present this account of the first twelve months of my work as Secretary of State, with my colleagues, and I hope that we shall not be thought immodest if we claim that we have done a good job for Wales.
My last word is to my compatriots in Wales. A fresh new opportunity for Wales is coming under the National Plan. I believe that we shall rise to the challenge and build a Wales of tomorrow which will be equal to the inheritance bequeathed to us.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
In his tribute to the people of Wales, to their adaptability and to their courage, the Secretary of State will carry the whole House. For my part, I count it an honour to stand here as the shadow Secretary of State for Wales and seek to make my contribution, to the best of my ability, to the solution of some of the great problems which the right hon. Gentleman was discussing and which are dealt with in some detail in the Report before us. The 1256 right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that I am the Member for Monmouth, but I ask him not to probe in too much detail the precise relationship of my constituency with the Principality. It is happily merged and obscured in the mists of history. We intertwine the rose and the leek in the insignia of our county, and we are proud to count ourselves as members of the ancient Kingdom of Gwent. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to leave us in that proud position, not yielding at all in our loyalty to the Principality and its interests, as, I hope, my presence here alone will show.
In a sense, the debate is non-controversial. I always hesitate to use that term in the House, because it is remarkable how much controversy we can extract from the most non-controversial situations, and I may have a word or two to say which would fall a little into that category. But, in essence, what we are discussing is a tribute, a very fair tribute, to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and Lord Brecon and admirably set out—I pay my tribute to the fairness of the Secretary of State for it—in paragraph after paragraph of this document dealing with the great problems of communications, advance factories, the coal industry and the rest, and covering a period three-quarters of which at least came under the full responsibility of my right hon. Friend. I am very ready to take note of it. Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman had gone a little further, I think that we should have been prepared to accept a Motion which welcomed it.
The background to this discussion is that, whatever differences may exist between us in the House, all of us are proud of the change which has taken place in the face of Wales over the past 25 years. Twenty-five or 30 years ago, there was 40 per cent. unemployment in the Newport employment exchange area. The conditions of those days were wonderfully set out in a book, which I am sure all of us have read, "How Green Was My Valley"—a wonderful description of those years, with the face of the valleys scarred by industrial development but with small real profit to the people of Wales, because many of them were compelled to leave their homeland; a picture of a place without hope, without jobs and without much of a future.
1257 A comparison of that situation with the situation today gives cause for everyone on both sides of the House and in every occupation and place in Wales who contributed to it to feel heartily grateful. Today, in South Wales alone, light industry employs 60 per cent. more people than coal and iron and steel put together. This is a far healthier distribution of the employment pattern. It lends a far greater stability to the whole position of men and their families living in that part of the world.
The right hon. Gentleman called attention to an error in the sub-editing of a report in the Liverpool Daily Post—he must have been a good Tory sub-editor, I think, who added a nought to the number of factories built, though as each would have employed only eight people on the calculations set out the error was fairly obvious—but it remains the fact that, since 1959, 400 new factories have been brought in. One factory may close but another comes in. There is the new Ford factory, and we all pay tribute to Mr. Hugh Rees who, alas, is not a Member of the House of Commons, for the efforts which he made to bring Ford in. In one way or another, a total of about 30,000 new jobs can be provided.
In that period, there was, of course, a massive investment planned and made in schools, housing, roads and bridges, and advance factories, including the one planned for Blaenau Ffestiniog reported in paragraph 69 of the Report. All these are matters of which the House can be proud and properly take note, paying tribute to those who played a part in them.
The question we have to ask ourselves this afternoon is: can we maintain the impetus, can we keep this great surge of development going forward? The development is there for all to see. I have no need to labour the point before this audience. We all recognise what is happening when we go there. Wales is not a country on the defensive pleading for people to come. People are proud to come to most parts of Wales, and we are very glad of it. Can we keep the impetus moving forward?
The decisive factor in whether we can do so or not is the central policy pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This more than anything else will determine 1258 our fortunes in Wales. I hope that the Secretary of State will convey to the Chancellor, who has just left, that a policy of inflation at the centre imperfectly contained by a squeeze at the extremities is remarkably uncomfortable to live with in the Principality. This is something which we must at all costs seek to avoid.
At this time—let us face it—we are suffering in some degree from the restrictive measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has thought necessary and proper to impose. I shall not debate the reasons now, but those restrictions can operate, and often do operate, far more damagingly at the extremities of a country than at the centre. On this point, I rather disagree with the First Secretary of State when he suggests that one can somehow arrange for the extremities to opt out. One can do something in that direction, I concede, but, in the broad development of the major monetary and fiscal policies of a country, it is the extremities which feel the pinch before anybody else. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bring these facts forcibly to the attention of the Chancellor.
This brings me to the rôle of the Secretary of State. It is one which we are told, and we know, consists in part of a responsibility for housing. He said that he would complete some 20,000 houses this year. That is a matter for congratulation, but it has to be observed that 21,176 were building in September 1964, and he would fall far below the level of our normal appreciation of him if he could not complete the houses which were started by his predecessors. Nevertheless, we welcome the figure of 20,000.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be watchful of the activities of the Minister of Housing. I trust that in the Principality we shall be allowed proper freedom in the building of houses. There is, after all, a demand for houses, and when there is a demand for houses and the builders exist to meet it, there is a lot to be said for giving the one freedom to do the other. If we are to impose on the builders of Wales any complex procedures through licensing, whether arranged through the building societies or otherwise, we shall be doing damage to the real interests of those we all wish to serve.
1259 The right hon. Gentleman's other responsibility is very largely for local government. Some reference is made to the history of that matter, particularly local government reform, in the document that we are considering. Local government reform is a highly controversial subject. It is a matter from which all of us tend perhaps a little to flinch. However, I believe that the future prosperity of Wales depends to a very large extent upon our having the courage to tackle the reform of local government. I believe that this must be done. Under our present structures local authorities are very often not in a position to attract the right sort of councillors, pay for the right sort of planning, or muster the right sort of resources to do the jobs which all of us recognise to be essential. Therefore, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will have to apply his energies—I am sure that he is doing so—along the lines, reported in this document, laid down by his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East, that a White Paper should be produced which would set out the Government's own proposals for local government. As that is reported here, I take it that the work is still going forward. When that White Paper is produced, it will have to deal—I hope it will—with powers as well as boundaries.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I had intended to say something about that, but I thought that was taking up too much time. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not au fait with what I have done in this field. My predecessor had promised a White Paper. I took another view about it. I made a new approach. The reason is that since 1945 we have had two major reports on local government reorganisation in Wales and both ended up in the wastepaper basket, including the one presented to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). So I made up my mind that it was time for a new approach.
I decided to set up a working party, and invited the local authority organisations to send representatives to a meeting, and I also invited them to appoint informal representatives of local authorities to sit with the working party and examine the problem in the hope that we should 1260 be able to arrive at some proposal which would meet with general approval. The working party is engaged on the work now, and the local authorities are co-operating. When the work is done, I shall be presenting proposals to the House. I am sorry that I did not deal with the matter earlier. I thought it would help if I informed the right hon. Gentleman about the position now.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
That seems to me to be precisely what I said, that the work should go forward, that the Government themselves, naturally in consultation with the local authorities, should seek to produce their own proposals, which seems a sensible way of doing it, and when the proposals are produced they should deal with powers as well as boundaries. I am not trying to make a difference in this matter. I think that the greater the continuity, particularly in matters of this kind, that we can produce, the better it is. So much for local government reform.
Another matter for which the right hon. Gentleman holds a direct responsibility is roads. We are rather concerned about the nature of his responsibility in some parts of Wales today, and not least in my constituency. The Government's agents and contractors there are in liquidation. On behalf of the United Kingdom Government the right hon. Gentleman owes £25,000 at the moment to the quarry owners in my constituency, and a great many other sums are owed, many of them to small people, to small hauliers, and so on, and there is the gravest anxiety. I hope that before the end of the debate the Government will say whether these debts are to be honoured or not, because, obviously, the standing and repute of Her Majesty's Government in matters of this kind are important, and, indeed, will have some effect on the energy and enthusiasm with which people can be recruited in all parts of Wales to play their part in carrying out Government contracts, in which, normally, firms are only too willing and happy to participate.
There are wider questions on roads. I am not for a moment saying that this narrow, though important point is the only matter. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) dealt with 1261 the right hon. Gentleman more harshly. He said:The road programme is a scandal. It is a bloody scandal.This is a literary quotation from the Western Mail of 23rd October. They are not words that I would wish to use in the House, but my constituents who have not been paid are rather in agreement with the hon. Member for Pembroke.
What is the right hon. Gentleman's broad policy here? He gave some indications. He read out some figures which quietly levelled out. That does not impress me very much. I have seen Government spending programmes both from the spending end and from the point of view of the Treasury. It does not impress the Treasury when one shows the graphs dipping. They all dip. One goes along happily to the Treasury saying that they will come down from ten to eight to seven, but new programmes are phased in. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of phasing some of them in.
But what is happening about a double carriageway road in Mid-Wales, a road which would open up Mid-Wales? The right hon. Gentleman referred to Mid-Wales and its problems. Such a road would open up Mid-Wales from the Midlands through Welshpool and Newtown to Machynlleth and on to Cardigan Bay. That would be a really practical contribution to the solution of some of the problems of the area. I should like to know the Government's thinking on that subject and where the project stands, if anywhere, in their priorities.
So far I have dealt with the matters for which the right hon. Gentleman has a direct and personal responsibility in the Government. But it would be a poor thing if his responsibilities as Secretary of State ended there. Not only in the White Paper, but in the eyes of all of us who represent Welsh constituencies, it must be regarded that he has a wider responsibility in some way. It is said here that he has some general oversight over a number of other matters—an oversight over planning. He paid a tribute to the National Plan, but my reading of the National Plan, as it applied to Wales, did not give me a good deal of encouragement. There were eight rather turgid paragraphs, which announced that there 1262 were mountains in Mid-Wales, and a few other interesting geographical notes, which fell far short of the purposive planning which we have always been told is such an important aspect of modern government.
Other things are happening which cause us some concern. Take the power industries which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. Let us begin with the gas industry. This is mentioned in the Report, and it is said that in 1964 there was no increase in the gas tariff. This year there is going to be an increase in the gas tariff. On 18th June, Mr. Mervyn Jones, the very able Chairman of the Welsh Gas Board, put up a proposal to increase the price of gas by 1½d. a therm. This came to the United Kingdom Government. What happened? Absolutely nothing at all. Mr. Jones was left ringing them up, writing to them, begging for some kind of answer. Eventually, on 8th September, he was told to raise the price of gas, not by 1½d. a therm, but by 2d. a therm. He was rather surprised, but he was assured that the Prices and Incomes Board would have no interest in this. Finally, at an hour's notice, he was told, on 20th October, that the whole thing would be referred to the Prices and Incomes Board.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman where was he consulted in all this, at what stage was the Welsh Office brought into this particular situation. It is all very well for the First Secretary to say, "What we want is planning, and what we want is machinery." We do want machinery, but we want the existing machinery of Whitehall to work. A situation like that, as the Chairman of the Welsh Gas Board pointed out, is a serious matter, because it is going to lose about a quarter of a million pounds on the present basis. He said that the combined result of the delay by the Ministry and the reference to the Prices and Incomes Board,will be to lose for our Board in irrecoverable revenue in this current year, something more than £250,000.I hope that the Minister will refer to this in his winding-up and say what his Department's view is, and what its judgment was, and what ad vice it tendered in a matter of this kind. Mr. Jones went on to say that, apart from all that, it put the Board into a very bad position of repute. It looked as though it had 1263 been trying to put the prices up and the Government had been trying to get them down, when the reverse was the case. It was the Government which was trying to put the prices up, and put them up higher than the Welsh Gas Board really sought to do.
Another aspect of the Plan deals with electricity. The South Wales Electricity Board has a proposal at the moment to spend somewhere near a million pounds on a new headquarters. Has that been approved by the Secretary of State, or has he been consulted about this? At a time when, in North Wales, we are putting back road projects and being told that we cannot have the new flyover bridge, when we are being told that hospital programmes have to be phased out, what is the sense of building an enormous new, palatial office for the South Wales Electricity Board? From a Government which lectures us on not having a sense of social priorities, which boasts of giving Welsh road schemes the go-ahead, this sounds strange. The road schemes, three of them, amount to £650,000. They do not amount to the cost of the offices which the South Wales Electricity Board is going to erect in the near future. Can we be told whether the Welsh Office has been consulted about all this; what part it played, and whether it really approved of these kind of priorities; whether it really thinks that the Government have their priorities right, and whether this building is going to take priority over hospitals and roads?
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Am I to understand, from the comments made by the right hon. Gentleman, that we can look forward to his support when a Bill is introduced to restrict office building, something which his Government never faced up to during one of the 13 years they were in power?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The hon. Gentleman might wait until I see the Bill. I am asking for something which is specifically within the Government's own control. They are, after all, masters of this particular situation. It is the Minister of Power himself who is in control of the electricity industry in this matter. I have not the slightest doubt that it is the Secretary for State for Wales who is consulted directly as to what the social priorities 1264 are. I think that I am entitled to an answer to the question, "Have we got the priorities right?" If it be the intention, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) says, to present a Bill to the House of Commons asking for these powers, how on earth are they allowing these particular proposals to go forward, for which they require no Bill at all? What hypocrisy. I shall, however, judge the Bill when it comes before the House.
I now turn to the major sector of the power industry. I make no apology for spending a little time with power, because it is of the very essence of the Welsh economy. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that great importance was to be attached to the future of the coal industry. What has happened in the case of coal? The Government have produced their National Plan, in which they envisage a reduction in the output of coal from around 200 million tons to something like 170 million or 180 million tons, phasing out between now and 1970 something like 175,000 men. This is at a time, and against a background, of rising coal output in South Wales. In this document which we are considering it is said that the output in South Wales actually rose, whereas the output in the rest of the country declined. I am not trying to minimise the problems of the coal industry in South Wales and the problems of uneconomic pits. I think that these are difficult decisions to take, but these are the proposals which the Government have made in the Plan. It is a running-down of the industry, and a running-down in a way which, whatever one does, is bound to affect very wide areas of population, not only men but their families.
Lord Robens does not seem to agree with this particular project. I hope that I do not overstate the situation when I say that Lord Robens, who has done a magnificent job—there can be no dispute about that on either side of the House—says that it is no way to talk of a great industry. If we want an industry to go ahead, we should not talk about running it down so that people are looking over their shoulder and wondering what will happen tomorrow. Let us square our shoulders and see how we can mine the coal and find the markets. Lord Robens has not been backward in seeking to do both, and, on the whole, he has been 1265 remarkably successful. We see from the Western Mail this morning that another pit at Blaenau is to be kept open because the management and men have got together and made a success of it. This is a better approach.
What I want to ask the Secretary of State is this: what effect will the National Plan, with its proposal to run down the mining industry, have on South Wales? I may not be alone in asking that question. Obviously the figures and tables in the Plan cannot have been just dreamt up by the First Secretary's office. They must have been obtained from somewhere. Some consultations must have taken place. I was interested that the right hon. Gentleman had talks with the unions in North and South Wales. It is admirable that he should have done so. From his past experience and record, he is well qualified to do so. But surely conversations must have taken place before the National Plan was produced, before these rather sensational figures were printed.
What is the planned effect on Wales? Obviously, nobody knows what the full effect will be. But what contribution in running down pits and in dismissing men were the Welsh mines intended to make to the figures in the National Plan? I am absolutely certain that those facts must have been known. However unpleasant, harsh or horrible they may be, for goodness' sake state them in the House and in this debate so that we know where we stand and what the Government have in mind for one of the great industries of Wales.
I turn to the question of steel, for which Wales must always carry a very heavy responsibility. We produce most of the tinplate and sheet steel and one-third of the crude steel for the whole of the United Kingdom, and magnificently we have done it. What are the plans for steel? We read in the National Plan remarkable statements about how the whole industry is to be refurbished—not nationalised, which is a naughty word, but rationalised, as it has now become. Is legislation contemplated? Is it in the Government's mind to carry out a major surgical operation on the steel industry? If not, what remarkable hypocrisy it is to talk about it in the National Plan. Who is it supposed to satisfy?
1266 If the Government believe that we have to refurbish the whole of the steel industry in South Wales—and most of it is in South Wales—they should have the guts to produce a Bill in the House to do that and to let right hon. and hon. Members express their opinion and judgment on whether it is right. But if they know that it is nonsense, they should keep it out of the National Plan, not because it is just silly, but because it has an effect on the confidence of the men engaged in the very tough task of producing steel for export and the home market.
I am bound to say this to the Secretary of State: the thing which is wanted more than anything else in South Wales, and, for that matter, in North Wales, is confidence. There will not be confidence in the coal mines if the Government leave people utterly uncertain about the future of their industry. The South Wales miner—and I can speak to no one better than the right hon. Gentleman about this—is the sort of man who prefers to be told the truth. A great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was directed to that end. Let the Minister of State tell us what the position is.
The managers of the steelworks are quite tough individuals. They want to know what they have to apply their minds to. If they have to spend the next year battling with some major reorganisation, then they should be told. But if their job is to produce steel, let them get on with the job. This is the way to achieve confidence. We shall not get the best out of South Wales if the coal miners and steel managers are utterly uncertain about what the Government intend to do, and it cannot be regarded in any sense as sensible planning to leave them in that situation.
These arguments apply to South Wales and North Wales alike, but there is a problem in Mid Wales. The Secretary of State said nothing about a new town, which I thought was significant. I have recently been in Mid Wales—
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman suffers from the disadvantage that he has not followed our debates on Welsh affairs. I do not blame him for that. However, he knows perfectly well that I have already announced that we have appointed consultants and that they will report at the end of this 1267 year. I thought that there was no need again to say that to the House, having announced it as Government policy.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have not come to this debate wholly unprepared. I have read with the greatest care, as I thought it my duty to the House to do, all the debates which have taken place in the Welsh Grand Committee and to inform myself to the best of a limited ability on some of these problems. I have also furnished myself with the terms of reference which the right hon. Gentleman gave to Economic Associates Limited. The right hon. Gentleman said:The consultants are being asked to make proposals for the provision, through the machinery of the New Towns Act, of an economically-viable urban centre in Mid-Wales which, by making available new opportunities for employment and by offering up-to-date shopping services and cultural and other facilities, including facilities for tourists, will arrest and I hope reverse the depopulation of the area and strengthen its economy"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd June, 1965; Vol. 713, c. 271.]That is a strange mixture of terms of reference and pious hope.
No doubt those would be the hopes of the Secretary of State if a new town were established. But the question which remains is: does it make any sense to build a new town? I have no doubt that Economic Associates, or probably anybody else, could produce a scheme for building something like Wolverhampton at Caersws if it made sense, but the effect which it would have on the depopulation of the hills of Mid-Wales and the almost disastrous effects it would have on the smaller townships of Newton and Welshpool, which would be bled of most of their best citizens, is something which we should ponder before we commit ourselves too far.
I am not too enthusiastic about some of the proposals of the Liberal Party. The suggestion for a motorway—not a double carriageway from which people could move into the lovely countryside of Montgomeryshire—which would sweep from the Midlands straight to Cardigan Bay, passing the constituency of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), was as removed from the realities of the situation as his proposal to build Aberystwyth's population to 150,000 mounting in 50 years' time to 250,000. If the hon. and learned 1268 Gentleman is not careful, there will not be anybody left in Montgomery, and even the people who do go there will sweep across the countryside. Only the sheep will be left to vote for the hon. and learned Gentleman. I beg him to pause and re-submit some of his ideas to the Liberal Party's research committee before he presses too far solutions which I think are very wide of the mark.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I should be more impressed by the right hon. Member's advice if he had visited Montgomery for a little more than three hours.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It seemed that I learned more in those three hours than the hon. and learned Member has learned in his whole time there. I must see him later and tell him something about what I found. I did not find there much enthusiasm for the new town or for his proposals.
I thought that the Secretary of State in his speech was coming much nearer to the realities of the matter with his talk about advance factories and the continuation of the policy of trying to bring new industry to those areas and trying to develop some of the townships which are there already. I put out the suggestion when I was there that possibly the establishment of a trading estate rather similar to those we have attempted—successfully attempted—in South Wales might well be of more benefit. But if we are to build advance factories I must concede that it will be necessary to build advance houses also because many of the workers, if anything of any size is established, will have to come from over the border into Wales.
I seriously ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully whether it would not be better to try to build on existing centres of communication, to use existing townships, with their spirit, their culture, their facilities and their skills in local government and otherwise, to try to build upon those rather than to try to establish something vast and new in some great area of the countryside. If he pursues the matter on those lines, bringing in industry to where people live and building up the centres of population and the population itself, by a steady but not too dramatic influx of new workers, there will be something which will be at 1269 any rate a solution of the Welsh problem rather than a mere overspill from Birmingham, which many other solutions appear to be. An approach on these lines would be far more consistent with the real spirit of Mid-Wales than some of the wilder suggestions which have been put forward.
The right hon. Gentleman set me a good example by not speaking for too long and I shall now come to a conclusion. It has been an honour to me to contribute to this debate, which I hope I have done in a not too controversial manner—at least not too controversial a manner for me. A little sharpening of the edges of debate is healthy, because in this way we emerge towards the truth of these events. I have posed some questions which I hope the Minister of State will seek to answer. In essence we go along with this Motion. This Motion pays tribute to the great heritage which this Government took over of a country with massive development going on, with new development planned ahead, being opened up to the South-West and to the Midlands. All this is there. There are great prizes to be won and our concern is that the Government will keep it going in every way. I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman—I believe that his heart is in the right place—but I have the gravest doubts about most of his colleagues.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
I want to promise my hon. Friends who are anxious to take part in this debate that I shall make hardly any reference to the many controversial points made this afternoon by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). If he lured me along that line I am afraid that it would be a long time before I came to the little which I had resolved beforehand that I would say in this debate.
It was a very great pleasure to me when my right hon. Friend was appointed to the post of Secretary of State for Wales. I have known him from those early days when we were in the anthracite collieries together. I know of no one better suited for the post. He was born in Wales, he is splendidly bilingual, and I know that he loves his country. My right hon. Friend will take 1270 that from me because I mean it, but I must say that on reflection the first question which came to my mind was, what powers have the Government vested in my right hon. Friend? To be perfectly frank with the House, the Government could vest as much power as I should like them to do. I know that those powers would not be abused by my right hon. Friend and I know that he would use them to the advantage of our country.
My right hon. Friend knows his country far better than any of his colleagues do. He knows its industrial history. He has been a very lively part of it in the last two generations. He has seen the South Wales coalfield being frittered away from an output, as he said, of nearly 57 million tons of coal a year and employing over a quarter of a million men and boys. He remembers those days. He was engaged in the industry, as I was. He was there when Tory Governments in the inter-war years drove more than 400,000 of our people away from the South Wales coalfield and did nothing in the way of introducing new industry, particularly in the mining valleys.
In my relatively small constituency alone 25,000 people were driven from our valley. Today I have to tell the House that the same dreaded threat of unemployment hangs above our heads in Merthyr Tydvil. There, the unemployment figure is said to be 4 per cent., but, as I have emphasised over and over again in this House, that 4 per cent. does not tell the whole truth. An increasing number of our people are forced by unemployment from their homes to seek work elsewhere. That is taking place in these days. Certain irresponsible people call this redeployment of labour. Where are these workers forced to go? To Birmingham, to this City of London, which has its own large, costly and almost insoluble problem?
This so-called redeployment of labour is the costliest of all lunatic expedients. People have to go long distances away from their homes which are beyond the reach of local transport. There homes will have to be built for them. Social services will have to be provided for them. Education has also to be provided, although that is not regarded as being of extreme importance in these densely cluttered-up areas to which 1271 workers are asked to be redeployed. Compared with such places as Merthyr Tydvil the record of the cluttered up places, even in education, is particularly bad.
I wonder whether the advocates of redeploying those unemployed people at long distances from their homes considered the cost of it, as I have asked? It would be far cheaper for the Government to provide alternative employment near the displaced workers' homes. That is the cheapest and the most fruitful of all expedients in the circumstances I have described.
I must urge my hon. and right hon. Friends to remember the maxim of the great—that is my own personal opinion—Hugh Dalton, and that was that industry must be made far more mobile than communities of men and women and children. This was inspired not only by his great humanity but by his equally great knowledge as an economist. This principle inspired his Distribution of Industry Bill, 1944, whose Clause 9 was intended to give him powers to redeploy industry. But what happened? He was opposed by the Tories of the day with the threat that they would destroy the whole Bill if he did not withdraw that Clause 9.
There are also other steps the Government should take in these matters. Who knows more than my right hon. Friend and I of the tragic consequences of vast unemployment in a constituency? There are steps which could and should be taken, and I will give them just one example.
On the fringe of my constituency is a works employing about 1,250 persons, almost entirely men, five-sixths of whom are constituents of mine. Their work is concerned with aircraft. It is a highly reputable firm, and has much to its credit in the aircraft industry, but a change in Government policy brought these works almost to the edge of ruin. So far, on the part of the Government, next to nothing has been done to help. When Government policy endangers the employment of people the Government should provide forthwith alternative forms of employment for those people. These are highly-skilled workers and they could do excellent work in other forms of production.
1272 I must refer to this instance because we all know that hundreds of millions of £s are spent on aircraft in this country. I take no exception to that, but only a trickle of it comes the way of these smaller but extremely reputable firms. The contracts go to three or four huge aircraft manufacturers; sub-contracts go very largely to their subsidiaries, and only a trickle goes to works of this kind I have mentioned.
Government policy should at least be adapted to correct the consequences of their own actions by insisting that a due proportion of the money the Government spend be directed for such purposes as I have described. These works are in a development area and the Government should have a word as to how these vast sums of money, these millions of £s, are spent and where they should be spent. What is the use of marking nearly the whole of South Wales as active development areas when little or no economic power is exercised by the Government of the day? If they spend the money they should be in a position to say where it should be spent, generally speaking.
The same should be applied to the mining industry. I say deliberately as a miner that no coal mines should be closed down, unless the taking has been exhausted, till alternative industry is provided for those who are displaced either at or near their homes. No sensible society would allow things of this kind to happen. In my own constituency in the comparatively near future we shall have anything from 900 to 1,100 miners thrown out into the ranks of the unemployed, caused by closures in my constituency and out on the fringe of my constituency. It was only a few weeks ago that 800 or 900 were put off in one of our local factories. I am referring now to these people as my constituents.
Surely we must get some measure of control on this. The Government, sooner or later, will appreciate, as I have said, what an extremely costly thing it is to uproot communities—I have seen it in South Wales before—uproot complete communities, and drive them to other parts of the country; and the Government will be forced to provide at least basic human conveniences such as homes, and other things. I hope that the Government, under the drive of our 1273 own Secretary of State for Wales, will see to it that nothing approaching the slaughter of communities by Tory Governments of the past will be done by the Government of today. Who can blame my constituents for their fears, when these threats are over-hanging their lives? There is nothing on earth as important as a day's work and a reasonably good home for the worker to live in. We can talk just as we have a mind to but, to the vast mass of the people, those two things are by far the most important. Give those to us in Wales, and I know how the people generally will respond to the sense of security arising from them.
I know that my hon. Friend is as restless to get things done as I am, putting it mildly. I know that he will have the full support of his Welsh colleagues in the House, and I hope that the House will ask the Government to adopt and act upon the Dalton principle—"Industries must be made far more mobile than communities of men, women and children". That is a principle which certainly should be accepted by a Labour Government who know that success depends on Socialist principles and a society based on them.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not take what I have said as criticism of the work that he has done and of his ambitions on behalf of our country, but as comments coming from one who, like himself, cannot forget the horrible interwar years that devastated not merely areas and districts but homes in tens of thousands.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
. I want to raise three points that concern North Wales. The first of them is the Dee Estuary project. As many hon. Members will know, that is something that has been considered for a number of years, Rather over a year ago, it was brought to a head when two private firms put forward a project for building a causeway across the Dee Estuary and suggested that it should be financed by a toll. Since then, as I understand it, the present Government have encouraged at any rate the setting up of committees of officials from both the Flintshire and Cheshire County Councils, and a model is being built at the Hydraulics Research Station 1274 at Wallingford to test the feasibility of the project.
It is a very important project, but it will not get anywhere unless two things are done. We must be clear in our minds first of all, what we want to get out of it, because there are certain differing advantages that could be gained. It could be made into a water conservation scheme, it could be made into a land reclamation scheme, or it could be made into a communications scheme. In varying degrees, we can get all those out of it, but much the most important one is the question of communications. If communications between Liverpool, Birkenhead and the whole of North Wales could be shortened, I believe that industrially, commercially, from the point of view of tourists, and as a residential area, the whole of North Wales would be immensely benefited by such a scheme. So I should like a clear decision by the Government that the communications aspect of it is the important one, because the traffic mounts all the time.
Secondly I do not believe that it will ever come off unless we get private money into it, and it will certainly not come off unless it is decided to have a toll. After all, there is a toll on the Forth Bridge, and there is going to be a toll on the Severn Bridge. In my opinion, we ought to have tolls on our motorways, because we should be able to get more built if we had them. I beg the Government not to turn their faces away from the provision of private capital and the idea of a toll. If they do, what will happen is that the project will simply go to the bottom of the file, because there is a lot of money involved. It will not be done unless we clear our minds about what we want, and get it done in the most economical way.
The second matter that I wish to raise is also on communications. Quite a lot has been done in recent years to improve communications in North Wales, and the two worst bottlenecks, the Conway bridge and Queensferry bridge, have been dealt with. We have two new bridges which are operating satisfactorily. But, as so often happens, when a bottleneck is removed, a worse one is created somewhere else, and I would say that one of the worst bottlenecks in North Wales now is in St. Asaph.
There has been a project for bypassing St. Asaph for many years, and almost 1275 the first letter that I wrote to the then Labour Minister of Transport when I became a Member of Parliament in 1945 was on behalf of a constituent of mine who was anxious because his house might be pulled down in order to make way for the St. Asaph bypass. That was 20 years ago. I was able to get an answer from the Minister that the construction of a bypass was not imminent and therefore that my constituent need not worry too much about his house.
No doubt if I wrote again to the Secretary of State for Wales, he would give me an equally robust answer on behalf of my constituent. I have been in correspondence with the Welsh Office about it, and faintly encouraging noises have been made, but programmes are going back, and I hope now that the Secretary of State has responsibility for Welsh roads he will not concentrate entirely on South Wales but will realise that in the summer there is a most devastating bottleneck in North Wales, taking people anything up to an hour to get through, and that the bridges over the Clwyd and the Elwy are dangerous for pedestrians to cross as a result of the weight of heavy traffic.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I want to support the right hon. Gentleman in what he says, but is he right when he emphasises St. Asaph? I find when I travel in those parts that my difficulty is getting through Abergele.
§ Mr. Birch
If the hon. Gentleman will accompany me down the High Street of St. Asaph on a day in summer, he will realise what I mean. My own experience is that traffic is worse there than in Abergele. One gets an immense concentration of traffic in the short stretch along the main shopping street.
My last point is rather a different one, and concerns the Territorial Army in North Wales. Obviously in the present debate it would be wrong to go into the whole strategic argument about our reserves and what ought to happen about the Territorial Army as a backing for the Regular Army. I think that the Government's plans are wrong, and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in a speech that he made at the Conservative Party Conference about it. It is wrong to start knocking down our reserves before we decide what our main 1276 defence policy is going to be. But that is not the aspect of the problem at which I wish to look, because the one that interests me is what is to happen when the task of home defence and assistance to the civil power in an emergency—which is now one of the main functions of the Territorial Army—ceases. I am told that if this scheme goes through the only Territorials in the whole of North Wales will be one infantry company, and the old traditions of the regiments there will go.
Suppose there is a real scare. Suppose people think that civil defence will have to be used. North Wales is presumably an evacuation area. I wonder how many people in Liverpool have not got a relation in North Wales? There cannot be very many. If there is a scare, and people pour into North Wales, the existing police will obviously be incapable of dealing with the situation. One reason why the Territorial Army was kept on was to act as an aid to civil defence. Let us hope to goodness it will never happen, but if there is an emergency there may be panic, and one needs a disciplined body of men to control events. I doubt if we shall be able to keep even one isolated company going, so there will be nobody at all in that vast area to help the police in the event of an emergency. I beg the Secretary of State to put this point to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence before this T.A. scheme goes through, because if it does we will be left naked and in a position of danger.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I do not propose to deal with every suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), but perhaps I might recall the first meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee at which I had the privilege to be called to speak. I was followed by the right hon. Gentleman who taught me that I should not make a constituency speech in the Welsh Grand Committee. The chickens have now come home to roost, and we have heard a constituency speech from the right hon. Gentleman.
I should like to express my gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales for the good news given in his speech this afternoon with regard to the introduction of the Firestone Company to Wrexham. This will open a new 1277 chapter in the industrial history of the Wrexham area.
The setting up of the industrial estate in 1947 was a step in the right direction, in that it diversified industry in an area of basic industry, mainly coal. Prior to that the area had suffered the stresses and strains of that industry. Up to 1951 we thought what Wrexham's industrial future had hem assured, but after that we found that no new industries were being attracted into the area. Indeed, in 1960 the area was descheduled. But worse was to follow. The then Government decided to sell the industrial estate and, alarmed at the prospect of that, the local authorities sought permission to purchase the estate to make it into a public concern but the Government at that time were not prepared to allow that. They were refused.
The House will know that I fought hard on this question, and I felt that I was fighting and waging a losing battle, but time has proved to be on our side. Earlier this year the Firestone Company took an interest in that site and decided that Wrexham was the most suitable place for its factory. There were, of course, difficulties, almost insuperable difficulties, but the greater the difficulties, the greater the sense of achievement, and I am very pleased that, through the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State for Wales, the Firestone Company has come into Wrexham, and I warmly congratulate our Minister on what has been achieved, and in doing so I know that I am expressing the unanimous voice of the Wrexham division.
I do not want to detain the House for very long, and I propose to deal as briefly and as succinctly as possible with one particular point only. I am glad of this opportunity to do so, because I consider it to be a matter of extreme urgency, for 12 months from now it may be too late. The point to which I want to draw attention is the place of North Wales in the pattern of industrial development in this technical and electronic age.
Time was when geographical factors alone determined the location and distribution of industries. Today there are new factors which can have a marked effect on the location of industries. These new factors are scientific, technical 1278 and technological, and I feel that in this situation hitherto non-industrial areas will have a place in the new pattern of industrial development.
We are all familiar with the structure of modern industry. This is the age of the big firm. This is the age of the gigantic plant, one example of which is the steel industry. Yet alongside this development of giant plants there is another of tremendous significance. I am referring to the production of goods of the tiniest dimensions, the concentration of power and energy into small valves. This is the age of transistors, of telecommunications, and of precision instruments. Indeed, these are the red corpuscles in the bloodstream of the industrial giant.
Steel output and steel furnaces, to give but two examples, are regulated by tiny electronic devices which are becoming of increasing importance both in manufacture and in the product manufactured. They are already important in the manufacture of steel, in the building of ships, motor cars, fire extinguishers, and so on, and industrial plant and production will depend more and more on these tiny instruments of concentrated power. I believe that they are the key to industrial productivity in the immediate future.
Before I come to state the case for North Wales in this new development, perhaps I might be permitted to describe the new structure in outline. Industrial plants—for example steel—in their day to day activities are brought face to face with problems of a scientific or technical nature which call for solution. The problems are then handed over to the science departments of our universities where they are analysed scientifically and if possible solved theoretically. Once this has been achieved, the ground is ready for their practical application in industry. It is at this stage that the industrial research worker steps in. It is his task to produce the instrument, the prototype, and to assess its potential industrial use. We then get to the third stage, which is the manufacture of instruments to supply the needs of industry, and so, in a well-organised industrial system we should have a system of two-way traffic, first, from the industrial plants to the science departments of the universities with a request to study their problems, and, secondly, from the universities via industrial research plants 1279 and light engineering factories back to the giant industrial plants. Such is the general picture and there can be no doubt that this will become more true in the immediate future.
This fact opens out a new field and creates a new situation. More important, it demands a deliberate policy of a planned distribution of our national technological programmes. Programmes are not enough; they need to be distributed. We do not want to see them concentrated in one area—especially in the London area. We want to see them distributed between regions.
It is just at this point that the Welsh Planning Board and the Welsh Economic Council, along with the Ministry of Technology, enter the picture. We do not want to see a haphazard and accidental distribution of these technological programmes, but that has been the tendency. We have seen ideas conceived in the provincial universities taken to the London area for development. It is correct to say that one of the main objects of the regional planning boards and economic councils is to provide the regions with a fair share of these technical and technological programmes. If this is not done, and done quickly, and if these programmes are allowed to concentrate in one area, generation after generation of scientists who have trained at our universities will move to the area of concentration, and we shall witness in Wales a continuous and irresistible brain drain.
Wales has always suffered and is still suffering from rural depopulation—the draining away of its youth. But we cannot stand by complacently and witness this new phenomenon of a brain drain in this technological age. Let us be absolutely clear on this point. Scientists as a class are not attracted primarily by salaries, important though they are. They are usually dedicated to science and scientific research. That is their work and their life. What attracts them are suitable and ample facilities to carry out their work and to see the fruits of their researches.
Against that background I want to draw the attention of the House to the situation in North-West Wales, with special reference to Bangor. Culturally, Bangor is the seat of one of the university 1280 colleges of Wales. Geographically, it is centrally situated between the rural and semi-rural areas of Anglesey and Caernarvon. It is also situated roughly midway between the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station in Anglesey and the Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station of Merioneth. At the university there is an eminently successful school of engineering science. This is not in its infancy. It is not crawling and feeling its way, it is already well-established, and its reputation as a school of engineering science is fully recognised.
This school of engineering science receives in its research department the problems of industry, and it is solving them scientifically and theoretically. But I suggest that this is not enough. What is needed now are links between the university and industry, so that the results of the work of the school of engineering science can flow easily towards the industrial plants.
These links need to be established, and after being established they need to be strengthened. What happens at the moment is that ideas worked out at the university at Bangor are taken elsewhere to be developed. This is a procedure which can be most frustrating to the scientists working at the university. Hence, there is a new step—a projected industrial liaison unit which will establish links between the university and industry. This project will work in close connection with the school of engineering science at the university. As soon as a project assumes industrial significance it will be taken up by this liaison unit. But this unit will also establish contacts with industry. It will manufacture and sell equipment, and in due course will be able to plough back resources for greater development.
But this excellent and pioneering project needs resources, and it needs them now. Now is the time to make the decision. Now is the time to assist, in order to give this liaison unit the fullest encouragement. Here is a scheme to develop basic ideas into prototypes, to assess the industrial value of those prototypes and to manufacture instruments, opening out a new field of light engineering close to the university. If this liaison unit is well established it will have its repercussions in due course elsewhere in 1281 those rural areas of Wales which cry out for light engineering projects of this kind.
But that belongs to the future. Sufficient unto the day is the problem thereof. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to look very carefully and sympathetically at the needs and claims of this industrial liaison unit, so that it may play an immeasurable part in the economic life of Britain in general and Wales in particular.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
I was very interested in what the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) had to say about science and technology, and, in particular, the brain drain of graduates from the university. I had to study this subject and move a Motion at the Conservative Party Conference at Brighton recently, and I found a reference by Donald Hutchins, a lecturer at Oxford, who stated at a meeting of the British Association in Cambridge recently that one of the biggest dangers is that science and technology graduates prefer to stay in the university, in some academic post, rather than go out into industry. He pointed out how ironical it would be if the universities—the main providers of graduates in this sphere—were also to provide the biggest brain drain in this respect.
I congratulate the hon. Member on the fact that he has a new factory in Wrexham. We know that the Firestone Company has been looking round Wales for a considerable period. I believe that it looked at the old Prestcold factory at Swansea, but it is satisfactory, anyway, to find that it has come to Wales. This is a shaft of sunlight in the very gloomy picture presented today by the Secretary of State.
Before I pass to the main theme of my speech, I wish to enter a very strong protest at the lapse of about 16 months between the last opportunity we had of discussing Welsh affairs on the Floor of the House and today's debate. This seems to me to be a measure of the Government's scorn or even contempt for Wales and the Welsh people at present. Despite the promise which was given in their party document "Signposts to the New Wales" that there would be increased opportunities for the discussion 1282 of Welsh affairs on the Floor of the House, the Parliamentary time allocated is exactly the same as in the past, with the exception, of course, that on this occasion we have been relegated to the dregs of the present Session.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) pointed out, the Report which we are noting today covers only about 10 weeks—from mid-October to the end of December—of the Labour Government's period in office. As such, it is largely valueless as a document and a guide to what the Labour Government have or have not done for Wales in the past 12 months. It acts as a useful reminder of how pleasant life used to be in Wales under a Conservative Government.
Certainly, very little has happened since the publication of the Report to warrant any Welshmen or Welshwomen throwing their stovepipe hats into the air. Despite the flamboyant and optimistic claims expressed by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite on the last Welsh day which were based on their policy document, "Signposts to the New Wales", and repeated in their election manifesto, the last 12 months have seen little progress. It has been a period mainly of stagnation, and, in some cases, of downright retrogression in Wales.
Despite the optimistic predictions and forecasts of the great things which were to follow from the appointment of the first Secretary of State for Wales, I am afraid that little, if anything, has so far been forthcoming. The voice of Wales has been curiously muted during the past few months. I fear that the Secretary of State is in danger of being christened the silent Secretary for Wales if he carries on in this way.
We were promised first of all in the Labour Party policy document that we should have a co-ordinated transport system in Wales, by which, we were told, the roads and the railways would be integrated on a compact system basis. We were also told in that document that the Tories were dismantling the transport system of Wales and that many lines had been closed, and further closures were forecast.
We were also warned that whole communities in Wales were being deprived 1283 of their transport facilities. I well remember the protest marches against the rail closures in Wales. I also remember the Secretary of State himself leading a protest rally at the City Hall. On that occasion, the Welsh Dragon belched fire and fury—but where are the fire and fury today? I am afraid that they are doused to a flicker by the crocodile tears of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.
What has happened in Wales since the Labour Government took office? Did Dr. Beeching go into reverse right away? Were the lines reopened, or was there a great increase in the transport facilities for the rural areas? Certainly not. They first of all took the very stupid action of sacking Dr. Beeching and then putting in his place his right-hand man, Mr. S. T. Raymond, who, of course, is carrying out the identical policies—though perhaps with a little less flair and imagination than the doctor—which Dr. Beeching proposed when he headed British Railways.
More recently, we read in the Press that the Government briefed Lord Hinton to carry out a close study of the integration of road and rail transport, but, as we all know, that report has been suppressed simply because it did not give the Government the answer which they wanted to find.
Instead of a speed-up of roads, which we were promised when Labour came to power, work on many of them has been retarded by six months. Despite what we have heard today, the fact remains that the only major roads at present under construction in Wales are those which were authorised by a Conservative Government.
Then there is the reference in the document to the need for more deep-water ports, to cope in particular with the large iron-ore ships, the oil tankers, and the huge bulk cargo carriers now being constructed in the world's shipyards. As a result of the discussions and the arguments which went on, Milford Haven emerged as the premier oil terminal of Wales, and, possibly, of Great Britain as a whole.
However, when it came to iron ore, the Government produced what can only be described as an inconclusive White Paper. I call it inconclusive not because 1284 Cardiff was not selected as the premier iron-ore port for South Wales—although, naturally, I regret that—but because, almost on the day that the White Paper was issued, Richard Thomas and Baldwins, the nationalised steel firm, changed its mind and declared that it would not have a jetty out into the Bristol Channel.
On the question of bulk cargo carriers and bulk cargo ports, the Minister of Transport is now faced with the necessity to make a decision whether to authorise the construction of nine deep-water berths at Portbury on the Somerset side of the Bristol Channel at a cost of £30 million, or to authorise double the number at half the cost by using the South Wales ports. We could provide 18 deep-water berths in the South Wales ports at a cost of £15 million.
I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will intervene in this matter and point out to his colleagues in the Cabinet the obvious advantages which the South Wales ports have in this respect.
I turn now to the subject of coal. I can see from the expressions of hon. Members opposite that this is a very sombre day for South Wales. Obviously, some of them have read the White Paper which has been issued this afternoon. Time and again in the past we were told of the need for a national fuel policy and how Labour would ensure that coal, gas, electricity and atomic power would all work together in the national interest, rather than be forced—so we were told—by narrow Tory financial considerations to pursue sectional policies.
It seems that those same narrow financial considerations apply to a Labour Government just as they did to a Conservative Government. We have seen in recent weeks the proposals for the unprecedented contraction of the coal industry in South Wales. Despite this, there has not been one murmur, not one word of protest from the right hon. Gentleman. I say, shame on him for this as an old worker in the coal mines of Wales.
I do not believe that it is generally realised that the percentage of unemployment in Wales has now reached the same level as that in Scotland. They both stand at 2.7 per cent., yet in the past, 1285 listening to lengthy debates on Scotland, we have always considered that Scotland was one of the worst black spots in the whole of the United Kingdom. Now we find that we are at level pegging with them for the first time ever.
Naturally, this is very encouraging for the people of Scotland. As a result of good Conservative policies, their percentage of unemployment has come down. However, I would suggest that it is a very disturbing trend for Wales to find that unemployment is creeping up. When we take into account that this trend does not include the forecast, estimated at anything from 10,000 to 15,000 miners—the B.B.C. forecast 18,000 the other day—to be redundant as a result of the policy expressed in the White Paper and in the National Plan, it is hardly surprising that the Government have seen fit to introduce panic measures to preserve their image in South Wales and to preserve their votes in the mining valleys of Wales. They will certainly need them when people read this White Paper, because it is a real shock—a one-and-threepenny shock. It refers to special funds which are needed to speed the closures. They are mentioned on page 9 of the White Paper, and Scotland, the North-East and South Wales are specifically mentioned.
Page 4 refers to transferring the burden of the National Coal Board's debt from the Board to the taxpayer. Page 5 refers to the fact that the price increase which was forecast for 1st September will still be required in the future. I suggest that it is bad for the miners, bad for the taxpayers and bad for the customers of the coal industry. There is no doubt that the coal industry today is an unmitigated disaster, and that it is evidence of Socialism coming home to roost at last.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones
Would the hon. Member in any circumstances ever go down a mine to work or would he allow one of his children to work in a coal mine?
§ Mr. Box
If it were necessary to go down a mine to earn a living I think that I should be able to stand the strain.
The Government announcement, emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman today, is that they intend to authorise two more advance factories, in addition to those announced a little while ago, and to create eight new development areas, mainly in South Wales. This is all very well; it is one thing to design a factory for a special purpose or to designate a development area, but what guarantee can there be, what assurance can the right hon. Gentleman give, that industrialists will take advantage of the facilities which they are offered? After all, taxation is at a prohibitive level today, the credit squeeze is biting harder than ever and there are inevitable inhibitions when Socialist policies are being carried out by a Socialist Government. What incentive will there be to encourage industrialists to go to Wales for the first time?
§ Mr. Box
I am glad to hear that. If they do not do so, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman visualises some form of direction of industry. This was the policy which was often hinted at by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to the last General Election.
In the face of this undoubted trend in employment in Wales, in my opinion it is essential that Wales should not be besmirched by restrictive practices, by absenteeism and by unofficial strikes, particularly at this moment in history when we so badly need to attract new industries to Wales. Yet since the Labour Government took office just over 12 months ago we have suffered the worst plague of unofficial strikes which Wales has ever known. What has the Secretary of State done or said about it? Asbsolutely nothing. It started with the swear word strike at Deep Duffryn in the early months of this year which involved the National Union of Mineworkers and the Shot Firers Union, which affected thousands of people and which cost millions of pounds. There was no action by the Minister and not a word of condemnation by him.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Of course, there was. I have taken action by discussing it with the people concerned. I have not made public speeches. I say to the hon. Member, sincerely, that his utterances do not help at all in South Wales.
§ Mr. Box
An occasional utterance of condemnation by the right hon. Gentleman to his colleagues when he sees foolish unofficial strikes destroying the very industry which we are trying to maintain would do some service to the country.
Then we had the dilutee strike at Fisher and Ludlow, in the right hon. Gentleman's own constituency, when 300 members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union threw 20,000 of their trade union colleagues in various parts of the country out of work without a word of warning. This strike cost the country and the motor industry millions of pounds—and still no word of condemnation from and no action by the right hon. Gentleman. Furthermore, a most disturbing feature, as I understand it, is that exactly the same basis as originated that unofficial strike at Fisher and Ludlow a few weeks ago exists today, just as it existed for 12 months or so before that unofficial strike. What guarantee, what undertaking, can the right hon. Gentleman give that this will not flare up again into unofficial strike action, and what action is he taking about it? Is he consulting the Minister of Labour? I certainly hope so.
More recently we had a dock strike at Cardiff, which was a crippling blow at a time when all three hon. Members for Cardiff are trying to restore Cardiff as a port to be used substantially. On this occasion it involved hundreds, not thousands, of members of the Transport and General Workers Union, and I believe that it cost £1 million. It is, of course, impossible to assess what it cost Parliament, the country and the balance of payments. Still no action was taken. We read today of another unofficial strike, at John Summers in Flint-shire, threatening to put 12,000 steel workers out of work. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is keeping a close eye on that.
There have been others. We had an unofficial strike at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds in Cardiff when the unofficial strikers obtained temporary employment 1288 cards from the National Insurance office and got temporary jobs to tide them over while they were out on strike. Then we had the tea urn strike at another time. Happily this had less impact on the industrial scene, but this was no thanks to the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to be fair and reasonable. We do not expect the Secretary of State to intervene in every unofficial strike which takes place, but when his own industry is involved, when his own constituency is involved and when the country which he represents in the Cabinet is involved, then we are surely entitled to a little more courage and initiative than we have seen so far.
I want to take up with the right hon. Gentleman a question of social justice. When will he initiate an inquiry into the monstrous injustice which is taking place in the case of Michael Reardon, a ship repairer of Cardiff? Although this ex-Welsh Guardsman has been cleared of any charge by an inquiry comprising both the management and the Transport and General Workers Union—his union—he has been banned from work by his fellow trade unionists for the past nine months, and instead of earning an average wage of £37 a week, he and his family are living on National Assistance, and although he is reporting for work each day, he is never taken on strength.
The complaint against Mr. Michael Reardon was that when he was a supervisory charge hand at the Mount Stuart Dry Docks he exercised a discipline which was too tough for his colleagues. His version is that he believes in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, but apparently that did not go down too well. I cannot help feeling that I wish that we had 100,000 Michael Reardons in this country today. We should then show some of these foreigners what competition means. Now, although he is admitted to be an excellent worker, he is ignored by the management, ostracised by his colleagues and deserted by his union when he needs it most. Even non-union labour is engaged in preference to him. Although Mr. Reardon is admitted by the union to be right and his colleagues wrong, nothing is done about the matter. It is a pity that the Secretary of State has left the Chamber, because I wanted to know whether he can do something to stop this blatant victimisation of one union 1289 member, for I feel that if it were a company rather than a union which was to blame the right hon. Gentleman would have something to say.
I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman has been so silent. Or perhaps I can, for it seems that the right hon. Gentleman's silence on this and other important issues stems from the fact that his office as Secretary of State for Wales does not carry the authority that was forecast and foreshadowed before the appointment was made. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place because I was going to say something nice about him. He has occupied his office for about 12 months, is a man of obvious sincerity and considerable charm. I maintain that the experiment so far has been an utter failure and that it will continue to be unless we devise a means of increasing the authority of the post in future.
In the past hon. Gentlemen opposite have always complained that it was wrong that the office of the Minister of Welsh Affairs should be supplementary, tacked on, to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Home Office or whatever other Ministry it might be. Would it be possible to reverse the order; in other words, still to have the Secretary of State for Wales but to give him additional responsibilities and so increase his authority? I suggest that we consider tacking on the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. After all, we have plenty of land and natural resources in Wales and we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will introduce a measure of leasehold reform in the coming Session, for this is a subject which is vital to Wales. Or perhaps we could tack on the Ministry of Power. After all, the Minister of Power is responsible for coal and Wales is a big coal-mining area. Indeed, we produce more coal than any other part of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman might even be able to resolve the curious case which is going on between the Welsh Gas Board and the Ministry of Power. On all counts, most people will agree that the present office of the Secretary of State for Wales is profoundly unsatisfactory.
For the first time we have a Secretary of State for Wales, assisted by a Minister of State and an Under-Secretary of State 1290 as well. He also enjoys a greatly enlarged staff. I hope that the House will be told by how many his staff has been increased. There have been many occasions today when there have been more members of his staff in the Ministry box than there have been on the back benches opposite. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to more support from his back benchers. He got it last year, but not today. There is too much gloom in the air.
It seems that the representation—despite the increased staff and the increased number of Ministers appointed to look after Wales—is more ineffectual now than it was before. It is time that some of the promises were implemented, some of the forecasts achieved and some of the pledges redeemed. Unless some of these things happen in the near future, the people of Wales will take a cynical view of the Government and will be forced to the conclusion that the Labour Party means to treat Wales as a second-rate country.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
I will not comment closely on the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box), except to say that I was more persuaded by the sympathy shown towards the coal industry by his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) than by the crocodile tears shed upon the industry by the hon. Gentleman.
I wish to confine my remarks to paragraphs 141 and 142 of the Report which relate, in particular, to pit closures, and I confess at the outset that I will be critical of the Government. No one who represents a constituency where pit closures have taken place or are likely to take place can fail to be concerned with the serious social and economic consequences which follow. Indeed, the Government have recognised this and have put forward certain proposals which, they believe, will soften the impact of these closures and help to provide alternative employment.
My main criticism of the Government is based on two aspects of the problem. The first is that the help envisaged is not sufficiently urgent and the second, perhaps the most profound, is that the Government do not seem to appreciate—and 1291 this can be said of former Governments—the great loss to Britain resulting from any contraction in the coal-mining industry, which, after all, is the basic indigenous fuel industry of the country. I propose, therefore, to deal briefly with these two issues.
First, the urgency of the situation. I was not much impressed with what my right hon. Friend the First Secretary said yesterday when opening the debate on the National Plan. He said:We have undertaken to ensure that this is a phased job so that as pits go out of production either new industries come to the area affected or provision is made for the men who can move to do so. Our obligation is not only to the colliers but to their families and their communities, and these we undertake to look after in a phased operation so that hardship does not occur."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 1053.]I very much welcome those sentiments, and, of course, my right hon. Friend believes entirely what he says and intends to implement those sentiments. However, I am concerned that those responsible in the Government—whether in the Ministry of Power or elsewhere—have not recognised the simple fact that closures are taking place now. I believe that in the next two years many more will take place. Further, these closures are encouraged to take place as a result of the Government's own estimate of coal requirements in 1970; but I will come to that later.
It is not a bit of good saying that men will be found work in other industries when the other industries are not there now. We all accept that factories cannot be produced overnight and that it takes a considerable time to induce industries to go to certain places, even if the industrial requirement is present or if industrial expansion exists. It is not a bit of good telling workers in my constituency—although they are not affected in this sense—or in any other part of South Wales, "We are providing jobs for you and will assist you to get those jobs if you will move 100 or perhaps even 300 miles to, say, the Yorkshire coalfields or elsewhere". The problem will not be solved in that way. There are proposals on this subject in the White Paper published today.
It must also be remembered that these problems affect not only the individuals concerned but also the community to 1292 which they are to be sent. Perhaps the community to which they are going does not have sufficient capital investment to meet the amount of immigration—or perhaps the community which they are leaving has sunk a great deal of capital investment into the area and knows that it will no longer be used.
What effect will a refusal of such workers to move vast distances have on their entitlement under the Redundancy Payments Act—that is, if the refusal to travel is reasonable? The Government have recognised this problem by making certain proposals, to which I have referred. They certainly recognised it quickly, as can be seen from the spreading of the development districts. I compliment the Secretary of State and the President of the Board of Trade on having taken this action. They acted very quickly in making these extensions, for which many hon. Members have been campaigning for many years because of the anomalies which at present exist under the Local Employment Acts.
In this connection, I ask the Government to put into effect two proposals. The first, which I know will not be very popular, is that they should ask the National Coal Board to defer wherever possible such closures for a period sufficient to allow provisional alternative employment to be phased, as the First Secretary indicated in yesterday's debate. This would involve the National Coal Board in very considerable loss, but I am encouraged by the reference made in the White Paper to meeting this to the extent of 50 per cent. I do not believe that this is enough; nevertheless, I feel that the Government and the country should face up to the fact that if, because of the social and economic consequences to an area, the Coal Board is asked to defer a closure, the Board should not be responsible for that loss. It is far better to tackle the problem in this way than to put men on the dole, not only because of the cost to the State, but because of the social consequences and, indeed, degradation that could follow.
Secondly, would my hon. Friend the Minister of State ask the Coal Board to refer to the Regional Economic Planning Committees any such closure, not only in Wales but in the rest of the country, giving all necessary details of possible redundancy and the number—and 1293 this is very important—of disabled workers who could be absorbed locally. This seems to be a very sensible proposal and is a matter that the Economic Planning Committees could deal with. It has been said to me that it would simply delay the inevitable decision, but any such delay will probably give sufficient time for the provision of the alternative work that may be necessary.
My second and far more fundamental critcism of the Government, and of previous Governments in this respect, is the great loss to the country involved in any contraction in the mining industry. Here I say in all sincerity that I cannot understand how previous Governments and the present Government, whoever advises them, cannot see this point. In the White Paper on Fuel Policy published last month, I was struck by the paucity of information about security of supply and the effects upon our balance of payments of the oil industry.
It is a sad commentary that one has to glean the information, not from the Government nor from the Ministry of Fuel, but from the oil industry itself. Why are the Government and their advisers so coy about this matter? I believe that there is something in what I have been told, which is that they are afraid to reveal to the public the true effects of the importation of oil on our balance of payments. All the Government tell us in the White Paper is that last year it cost this country £484 million to import oil, and that in 1970, assuming we get the coal envisaged in the Plan—though with the present policy of the Government I think it possible that we shall not get that coal—
§ Mr. Probert
I shall come to that point almost at once.
The White Paper states that in 1970 the cost of this oil importation will rise on present estimates to £600 million. The Government blithely go on to say that the cost of imports is substantially less because of invisible earnings. I accept that statement. I have here some figures 1294 given by an oil company. These must be taken as very conservative figures, as they are given by an oil company which has a vested interest.
The Esso Magazine for the summer of 1964 states that in 1964 the drain on balance of payments—that is, taking the figure of £484 million for 1964—was in the region of £100 million or more. Therefore, on what I consider to be a very conservative estimate, it cost this country to import oil a net sum—and this. I think, answers the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—of at least £100 million. Taking the statement in the White Paper that in 1970, assuming that we get the 170 million or 180 million tons of coal prophesied in the statement, I estimate that it will cost the country at least £130 million to import oil. Another pointer to this, which was rather astonishing, appeared in the Sunday Telegraph of 24th October, 1965, which stated that the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea would promise to take some strain off the balance of payments—enough, perhaps, to take us off the knife edge between solvency and insolvency.
That is the position in relation to the importation of oil. Of course, we need this oil, and we shall need more and more of it, but I am worried because we are contracting an industry producing a basic indigenous fuel which we have in abundance. In estimates made by the Esso experts of fuel requirements and resources, it has been stated that when the oil resources of the world begin to diminish—which could be in the early part of the next century—there will still be enough coal in this country to last us for many years after that.
Of course, we have difficulties in the coalmining industry. There are geological and manning difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) referred to the manning difficulties yesterday in his excellent speech. There are difficulties of investment. Anyone who has studied the investment that the Coal Board has been forced into from 1955 to the present time will agree that it is wholly crazy. There are also the debts imposed on the Board, first to produce, in 1968 or 1969, 260 million or 250 million tons of coal, while this year the Board has been told in the White Paper on Fuel Policy that the 1295 target is to be 170 million or 180 million tons. What crazy economics! My Government, of course, are facing up to this by altering the financial structure of the Coal Board but, surely, with such indigenous fuel we have a prize well worth developing, but one which I am afraid our people do not fully appreciate. If the country has the will to solve the problems which face the industry—much more importantly, if the Government had the will to face then now—it would be found to be well worth while. The full effect on our balance of payments of the cost of protecting our vital oil interests overseas is anyone's guess, but it must be considerable and should, of course, be reckoned in arriving at the true cost to us of the importation of oil.
I am sorry that I have had to be critical of my Government's lack of imagination in this matter, but, for the reasons I have given, I feel that I am justified. I would end, however, with words of commendation that are quite sincere. The Government do appreciate the financial problems of the coal industry and have made very important and substantial financial proposals to diminish those problems. They are adjusting the scheduled areas to enable the industrial employment so necessary, not only for those areas but for the future productivity of the United Kingdom as a whole.
They are making other financial proposals for assistance for the deployment of the mining labour force, and for its retraining. We do not want to send miners from South Wales to Yorkshire. I have in my constituency at present miners from Durham. They are very happy and they fit in, but that is not the point. We have the social capital in South Wales. Yorkshire has its own social capital to deal with its problems, and so on. That is not the way to solve the problem. Nevertheless, I thank the Government for what they have done and what they intend to do.
I would just tell the hon. Member for Cardiff, North that I dread to think what would have happened in the valleys of South Wales now if the pits had been in private hands. He suggested that some of the uneconomic pits should be sold to private industry. Private industry would not take them. I shudder to think 1296 what the situation would have been at the present time if instead of having a Labour Government facing up to the problems we had had a continuation of the Tory Administration for 30 years. All the comments that I am making are in the forefront of the minds of the people of South Wales, the miners and their wives. They have been very loyal to the Labour Government and the Labour Party since the dark days of 1931 up to the present time.
I accept with gratitude what the Government have done, but I must repeat that Governments since 1951, including the present one, have failed to appreciate the great wealth that we have in our indigenous fuel, coal, and, faced with the difficulties of manpower, old pits and the crazy financial structure of the industry, have not attempted to find the real answers but have come forward only with the answer that the industry must contract. That is crazy.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Monmouth and his right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who opened for the Opposition in the debate on the National Plan yesterday. We want a new psychological approach to the problem. It was nonsense to say in the National Plan that the coal industry will be able to produce only 170 million or 180 million tons in 1970. That approach is completely wrong. The Government should have said, "If by 1970 the miners can produce 190 million tons to 200 million tons of the fuel, we as the Government will do all we can to see that it is used", for it could save the country millions of £s in our balance of payments.
If the Government had said that and had attempted to find ways and means of implementing it, the situation in the mining areas would have been transformed overnight. There would have been more hope and less frustration, and perhaps—I say it with a great question mark—a halt to the drift from the mining areas which is taking place, not only in the uneconomic areas but in the most prosperous ones. It is a psychological approach that we should have had. If we do not halt the drift, it will have serious effects not only upon the mining industry but the economic future of the country, and not in 10 or 15 years' time, but in 5 or 10 years' time.
1297 My main criticism of the Government is not of the help which they are projecting and promising to give to the mining industry. It is that they are not doing these things now when the pits are closing. Also, I criticise them because they and those who have advised them have not had sufficient imagination in their approach to give hope at least to our basic indigenous fuel industry.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his thoughtful and informed speech about a matter which is very close to his heart.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) will, I am sure, understand when I say that I was astonished to hear from him at the end of his speech the suggestion that the Labour Party regarded Wales as a second-rate nation, when only a moment before he had suggested that the responsibilities for Wales of the Secretary of State were unimportant and that the right hon. Gentleman should have added to them responsibilities for important Departments outside. I should have thought that if the hon. Gentleman cared for Wales and thought about it, what he would want to do would be to give the Secretary of State for Wales more responsibility within Wales.
My disappointment about the Secretary of State and his powers arises from the fact up to the present we have by no means realised the hope that he expressed in the Welsh debate last year, when he said:We therefore propose that the Labour Government which will be returned in the autumn shall appoint a Secretary of State for Wales, with a seat in the Cabinet, with executive authority over a number of Departments and overall responsibility for Government actions, policies and plans in Wales."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June. 1964; Vol. 697, c. 660.]Certainly to date, we have not seen that executive authority over a number of Departments. What we should be pressing for is that the Secretary of State should have increased authority over Welsh affairs.
I was disturbed during the Recess to read that the Leader of the Opposition had spoken, in Scotland, of the need to 1298 contract the size of the Cabinet but had given an undertaking that the Secretary of State for Scotland would be included in the Cabinet. He would give no such undertaking about the Secretary of State for Wales. Having heard the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), I begin to understand why. Nevertheless, we hope, for the sake of Wales, that if ever a Conservative Government is returned, the Secretary of State for Wales will remain in the Cabinet.
I listened, as always, with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Monmouth. He spoke about Welsh affairs with that great authority which some men bring whose acquaintance with the problems and facts is very recent. He visited my constituency for a few hours, and one of the suggestions that he made was that there should be rural trading estates. It so happens that a few years ago the Liberal Party put forward that very suggestion in the House and in the country, and it was described by the Conservative spokesmen of the day as a completely impractical plan. We are very glad to see the right hon. Member for Monmouth, in a maiden speech, I think, in a Welsh debate, bringing a fresh mind to these problems and suggesting as a possible solution something which his colleagues so described years ago. I think that the right hon. Gentleman's approach is the better one. The right hon. Gentleman said that the emblem of his county of Monmouth was a rose intertwined with a leek. I am very glad to see from the right hon. Gentleman some sign of loyalty to the leek. Late conversions are often the better ones, and we hope that this conversion lasts a long time.
I have been astonished to hear so much agreement between the two Front Benches. I listened attentively to the speech by the Secretary' of State. His speeches and reminiscences are always extremely interesting because he is almost a social history book in himself. Indeed, I find his speeches delightful. He was congratulating himself and the Government on their achievements in Wales. On the other hand, the right hon. Member for Monmouth claimed that the congratulations properly and legally belonged to the Secretary of State's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who 1299 used to be the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
But have we so much to congratulate ourselves about in Wales? This is the crux of the matter. Are we really making such good progress? No doubt, the Minister of State, when he replies, will be loyal to the Government, but I am sure that in his heart of hearts he knows that there are many things in Wales about which we ought not to be sanguine and satisfied.
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)
Of course, there is no room for complacency about the problems of Wales on either side of the House, neither in Wales nor here. But good progress has been made in past years, and especially in the last year. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not suggest for a moment that I am out of step with my right hon. Friend, who has put the position fairly and squarely.
§ Mr. Hooson
So often in these debates we have a comparison between the situation as it was 30 or 40 years ago and the present situation. No one would deny that progress has been made in Wales. But let us look at the situation in Europe or North America 30 or 40 years ago. All countries there were suffering from industrial depression and had millions of unemployed. That was similarly the situation in Wales. If we want to gauge progress, the right criterion is to compare our progress with like countries recovering from the kind of depression from which we suffered 30 or 40 years ago.
The other day, I was looking at some figures comparing progress in this country, industrial growth and so on, with that of Common Market, E.F.T.A. and North American countries. The truth is that our industrial growth in Wales, as in the rest of the country, does not compare with the growth rate between, say, 1958 to 1963 of any of the Common Market countries or North America, and North America is a rather different case, because it is on a very much larger industrial and financial base where the growth rates can be expected to be considerably slower than in the smaller European countries.
This brings me to a matter mentioned by the Secretary of State—the very im- 1300 portant and recently published Report of the Llewellyn-Jones Committee on science in education in Wales. I learned some rather startling facts from the Report. I agree with the Secretary of State that it is a most vital Report which we shall have the opportunity to consider at greater length and in more detail at some time in the Welsh Grand Committee.
It expresses the grave concern of its members about the shortage of teachers, and the general shortcomings in the teaching of science and mathematics in Welsh schools at all levels. Considering how important science is today, how important it is for our industrial future, it is a Report full of forebodings for the future industrial health of Wales.
For example, to give some of the facts to be gleaned from the Report, 75 per cent. of the mathematics teachers and 59 per cent. of the physics teachers at present in Welsh grammar schools have either third-class degrees or lower. The Report expresses concern about the progressive decline in the standard of recruitment and states that it will soon be impossible to maintain the standard of teaching of science in schools in Wales.
As the Advisory Committee points out, it is important to arrest that trend, because it is a vitally important and potentially dangerous trend. The Report concludes:It is our considered view that this matter is so serious as to imperil the whole stucture of science education in this country unless steps are taken, with the minimum of delay, to alleviate the present shortage and at the same time to increase the rate of recruitment of mathematics and science teachers. The magnitude of the crisis justifies and demands action which can only be taken by the Government.It is pointed out, for example, that very few Welsh education authorities employ technicians and technical assistants in school laboratories and how deficient most laboratory facilities are. I was greatly encouraged to read that local authorities are urged to set up employment and training schemes for laboratory assistants and technicians and to employ them in the schools. Surely the Secretary of State can use his influence to encouarge local authorities to do this quickly, even before the matter is considered by the Welsh Grand Committee.
We now come to a matter of crucial importance to Wales. Information 1301 gleaned from the Report has satisfied my mind on a matter about which I had considerable suspicion before. It is that Wales has by far the poorest proportion in the whole of Britain of young people entering industry as craft apprentices. In 1962 the proportion in Wales was 19 per cent. compared with an overall British average of 35 per cent., and 42 per cent. in the better areas. Everybody with any knowledge of the position in Wales will agree that far too few places are available for apprenticeships for the number of school leavers. As highly qualified technologists must be supported by an adequate number of technicians and craftsmen, this has led to a very serious situation in Wales.
The Advisory Committee states that the output from technical education and apprenticeship schemes in Wales is sufficient to support only 200 technologists in Wales. Yet, every year the University of Wales produces 700 technologists. On a simple mathematical calculation, it is clear that 500 out of the 700 technologists produced every year by the University of Wales necessarily have to leave Wales to find employment. This means that the majority must leave Wales, and that is one of the basic reasons for the brain drain from Wales which the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Tdwal Jones) mentioned.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not seek to disprove what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but may there not be a danger of over-emphasis? Are not many of the people trained in the University of Wales not necessarily from Wales? Are not many of them from overseas, as in Cardiff, for example, or from different parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Hooson
Certainly. The hon. Gentleman is correct about that. However, the majority are from Wales and we must remember that many Welsh students go to English and other universities and many of them to my knowledge would like to come back to Wales for technological employment. That is the other side of the coin.
As has been pointed out, Wales is a highly industrialised nation. It was one of the most highly industrialised. Remembering the present and future importance of science-based industries, these figures are highly significant for the 1302 future of Wales and should put everybody, whatever his political convictions, on guard about the possible future decline of Welsh industry.
We speak glibly of expanding higher education in science in Wales, but what prospect is there, when we have such a gloomy report about science teaching in primary and secondary schools, and of the number of jobs available for technologists in Wales? Thus the brain drain from Wales continues.
I shall not mention the other matters emphasised in the Report and which might be more suitably considered elsewhere, save to make a passing reference to the great importance attached to what the Report calls the fusion of cultures; the importance of marrying them at some stage. It is very important to link up science training with education in the Arts so as to ensure that they are not divorced. In certain areas Welsh should be used more extensively for scientific training so as to ensure that the ability of our children is fully developed in their own language.
From some of the facts which I have described, there is obviously a great need in Wales for a more modern and dynamic approach. We greatly lack design, development and research centres in Wales. I recently read a report by Professor Fogarty of Cardiff University who in detail argued the case for creating a graduate school of business in Wales, for business training. Probably the most advanced commercial and industrial nation in the world is the United States. It is now rivalled in Europe, certainly by Western Germany. It is significant that these countries consider that graduate training for business is vital; yet there is no suggestion, other than in the report by Professor Fogarty, of such a graduate school of business for Wales. We ought to be pressing for this now.
In exactly the same way, graduates in science should have training in industrial management. Too often in Wales it is accepted that management is simply to be acquired by experience. No one is belittling the importance of experience, but I know from my own knowledge of friends and relatives from another continent how important training is considered. A Canadian relative of my wife had a scientific training and was then 1303 given a business training by one of the world's largest aluminium corporations, and even in his 'twenties was managing a very large concern. Such modern companies are always looking for young science and arts graduates to train in management. Where could they train them in Wales? I think that we have heard far too little of this kind of project in Wales.
May I also ask the Secretary of State, arising out of what I have said so far, whether it is possible for him to have discussions with the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. in Wales so as to ensure that television is used much more for educational training than at present? From what one has seen on the national television programmes, at Sunday lunch-time for example, science can be taught very well through the medium of television. In view of the great shortage of suitable science teachers in Wales, and the dearth of recruits of suitable standards, revealed by the Report, surely television should be used much more extensively for the schools in Wales than at present.
Another point that seems to be important is that we lack any major Government establishment of scientific research in Wales. The Report points out that in Scotland there are two such major establishments and several minor ones. Perhaps the Minister can tell us in his reply how much Government-sponsored research there is going on in Wales at the present time. I venture to think very little indeed. We lose considerably from this, and this leads me to a matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth raised when he chided me, and my party, over our plan for developing Aberystwith. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I suggest that, though he has a great deal to read in order to catch up on his knowledge of Wales, he ought, before criticising our policy, at least to read it. He will find in the policy, which I have here that the suggestion is that Aberystwith should be trebled in size and brought up to 60,000 people by the end of the century. This is what is important.
In Wales we tend to think of industry in a rather old-fashioned way, because our industry has developed from basic Indus- 1304 tries, like coal, steel, slate and so on. When we look at the countries growing rapidly today we see that more and more of their industries are science-based. I read recently an interesting study of the growth of California. I am not contrasting the climate of California with the climate of the west coast of Wales—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order for hon. Members to deal with their correspondence in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for relieving my feelings. For a moment I though you suggested that I was dealing with my correspondence.
The report on California is very interesting because, although the climate is very much warmer and better than ours in Wales, ours is an area of good amenity in Mid and West Wales. Many industries have moved to California not because of the natural resources but simply because people enjoy living there. When it was suggested, after considerable research by the Liberal Party, that Aberystwith should be developed we had discovered that its recorded hours of sunshine were among the best in Britain. I know that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) is dying to get up and tell me that it has quite a heavy rainfall but it had very much less than in many parts of Wales. Certainly the amenities there are excellent, and it is a fact that in all highly developed industrial countries there is a tendency for the population to move toward the coast. This is why it was thought that with its university, with Government research stations, and with science-based industries, Aberystwith was the right kind of place to develop.
There is no doubt that we must fashion our industry in the future having regard to modern trends, and not continue to think of industry in rather old-fashioned terms. The Secretary of State knows the differences that have existed between us on the proposed new town in eastern mid-Wales. The population would undoubtedly have to be drawn from the Midlands, whereas the kind of development I have in mind, for highly-skilled, highly-trained people, in science-based industries, would provide more work and opportunity for the young people of Wales, who have been trained and educated in Wales.
1305 For many years we from this party, and hon. and right hon. Members opposite, when they were in opposition, have pressed for a college of agriculture in Wales. I have pressed the present Minister of Education to provide such a college. I am not going into agricultural education generally, but this ties up with what I have been saying on the importance of getting more up-to-date education in Wales, and a college of agriculture is of very great importance. When is it to be set up?
I have tried to devote my remarks on the importance of science and education to the future of Wales industrially because, although I represent an agricultural area in Wales, we all know that Wales is a highly developed industrial nation. However, it has been tending, in spite of all the good work that has been done in the last few years, by many people of many parties, to fall behind. The report which I have used extensively, earlier, points to the fact that we have too many primary workers in Wales and too few top-layer workers, doing research and so on. This imbalance must be remedied in future, if we are going to look for growth in industry.
There are some general topics which I should like to raise, which can only be raised in a debate such as this. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Welsh publishing has always been a precarious matter. I have an interest to declare here because, as the Secretary of State knows, I have always been interested in Welsh publishing, and I am a director of the oldest publishing firm, Gwasg Gee. My financial interest in it is not great, and in any event, Welsh publishing does not pay. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power is smiling because he has knowledge of this too. Welsh publishing has to be subsidised by and large by the printing activities of the firms engaged. It has been supplemented, to the great benefit of Wales in recent years, by a grant. I understand, from the Association of Welsh Publishers, that if no grant is forthcoming, then no adult books will be published after the end of this year.
I understand that the Welsh Department has been considering this matter. Is it possible for the Minister to give some enlightenment, even if he cannot 1306 state the amount? I hope that it is only a question of amount that is being considered. I could hardly think that the Minister was considering the question of principle. Could he reassure Welsh publishing firms that a grant will be available at the end of this year to help with the publishing of adult books in Wales?
I am sure that the Minister of State will not be surprised to hear me raise the question of the flooding which we have had in the Severn Valley. I will not expect him to reply in detail because I intend, as I have informed him, to put a Parliamentary Question down, when we can have a more detailed explanation of the steps taken by the Government. He appreciates, as does the right hon. Gentleman, the great trepidation felt in Montgomeryshire, and along the whole of the Severn Valley, with the approach of the winter season. Those who saw the floods realise the intense amount of human suffering and understand the fear there is among the people there that there will be a repetition of this flooding if we have heavy rainfall. It is a highly technical and very expensive matter to decide on a proper scheme of flood alleviation, but everybody in Wales would like to be assured that it is being pursued with the greatest possible speed and thoroughness. I hope that without going into details the Minister of State will be able to give that reassurance in his reply.
I have been, as one would expect me to be—right hon. and hon. Members opposite know my views about these matters—critical of some aspects of the Government's work in Wales. Since the Secretary of State's Department has been set up, I have had the utmost courtesy from it, and I should like to pay tribute to its accessibility. This is one of the great benefits which have resulted from the setting up of the Secretary of State's office. When we had a mere Minister—I use the word "mere" to describe the functions in relation to Wales—who was responsible for another Department, with Wales tagged on, it was comparatively difficult to get attention paid to Welsh matters because of the larger Ministerial responsibilities. My experience as a result of the setting up of the Secretary of State's office is that the three Ministers in it have been readily accessible to Members with urgent problems. I pay tribute 1307 to them for that accessibility and the courtesy which I have received and which I am sure has been received by everyone else who has dealt with them.
As I said when the Secretary of State was absent from the Chamber, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will press the Government for an enlargement of his powers. He should be given greater executive power. I think of education, health and agriculture as obvious candidates to come within the aegis of the Secretary of State. I hope that those hon. Members opposite who believe, as I do, that we must not nominate merely councils and advisory councils for Wales but should have an elected body to represent the people of Wales will press the Government for a move in that direction.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
I will not follow the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) in his very interesting remarks, particularly those on technological education in Wales. However, I should like to add to what he said about the intervention in the debate of the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). The right hon. Gentleman has been a Welsh Member in the technical and full sense for about 20 years. I think that this is the first time that we have had the opportunity of hearing him address the House on a Welsh day. We have not yet had the pleasure of hearing him speak in the Welsh Grand Committee. However, we are very pleased that he has realised at last that Monmouthshire is in Wales and that there is a Wales beyond Monmouthshire.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) said that the Government were guilty of a disregard for Wales in the timing of this debate. I would remind him that when his party was in office the debate on Welsh affairs usually took place at the end of the summer. This debate could have taken place before the Recess, but it was mutually agreed that it should be postponed until this time.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
All I can say to that is that there is some lack in communication between the usual 1308 channels in the hon. Gentleman's party if he did not know about that.
The Government have shown a practical regard for Wales by appointing a Secretary of State for the first time and a Minister of State in the House and an Under-Secretary of State and a Swyddfa Gymreig in Whitehall. I realise that there is no pleasing the hon. Member for Cardiff, North. First he says that the Secretary of State has been a failure, and then he says that he wants to extend his powers. It is very difficult to know exactly what the hon. Gentleman wants. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, who says that already during the short period that the Secretary of State has been in office he has found the facilities and accessibility of the Welsh Office of great advantage, so much so that he would like to see the powers of the Secretary of State extended.
§ Mr. Box
May I make two points? Would the hon. Lady appreciate that I am trying to turn the present failure into success by giving the Secretary of State additional responsibility and increasing his authority? Would she also recognise that under the last Administration we had a virtually resident Minister of State at a Welsh Office in Cardiff which we do not have now?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I think that everyone would acknowledge that instead of having a Minister who was merely in touch with the Welsh Office we now have three Ministers who have regularly and consistently journeyed to Wales and who are in touch with the problems on the spot. That certainly was not possible when the Minister for Welsh Affairs in the Conservative Government was also burdened with the duties of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It was impossible for him to carry out his Welsh functions.
If ever a country suffered from the results of an unplanned economy, it is Wales. I am therefore very glad that at last we are to have a national plan and that the Secretary of State is to be responsible not only for its preparation but for its implementation. A great deal has been said in this debate about the coal industry. There is no doubt that a very serious situation faces the industry, particularly in South Wales.
1309 In yesterday's debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) spoke of the mood of pessimism which is spreading throughout the coalfield. It is hardly surprising that this should be so when the memory of the wholesale closures of 1959 carried out by the Conservative Administration is still fresh in the miners' minds. Closures were carried out without any attempt being made at phasing and men were left without the prospect of alternative work. They were forced to migrate and were lost to the mining industry for ever. Today, we are suffering from this loss. Miners have had to be brought from Durham to the coalfields of South Wales as a result of that chaotic action.
We have been assured that there is room in the South Wales coalfield for all able-bodied miners. If that is so, the problem is one of the partially disabled. It is a mistake to think that they are all older men. Many of them are quite young men of 35, 40 or 45 years of age with family responsibilities who cannot be asked to uproot themselves and their families. It is absolutely essential that work should be provided urgently for these men within a reasonable distance of their homes—and I really mean "a reasonable distance."
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) pointed out, in his powerful speech, it is all very well to say that alternative industries will be provided. But we know that this takes time. There is bound to be a time lag. What will happen to these men in the meantime? I hope that we shall have from the Minister of State a really practical answer to this problem, because we all have constituents who will be placed in this situation and I am sure that they would like to know what practical steps the Government will take.
We were also told that the whole of the coalfields and the coastal towns are now to be included in the development area. That is very good news, so far as it goes. My right hon. Friend has spoken of the smaller valleys, of the communities that live there, and how they are now to be included in this development area. A great many of these valleys have been within the development area for years, but there is not a single factory within a reasonable distance of those places. I 1310 know that there are difficulties. It is not easy to get an industrialist to go up one of these slightly inaccessible mining valleys, but nevertheless I hope that the Government will not forget these little communities. I hope that they will not concentrate all the industrial development in the larger centres.
I put that most strongly to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I say to him in all earnestness that whatever may have happened in the past—and it is a pretty terrible history in the coalfields of South Wales and hon. Members opposite have not much to be proud of here—if this Government do not solve the problem of the mining areas of South Wales, no other Government can. They have a very heavy responsibility. The miners expect a great deal from them. I do not think they will be disappointed.
Before leaving the question of the coal industry, I want to say one other thing. The right hon. Member for Monmouth spoke of the need for confidence in the mining industry. I suggest to him that he might say a word or two to the Jeremiah, the prophet of gloom who sits on the bench behind him, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who rarely misses an opportunity to try to undermine confidence in the mining industry in South Wales.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The hon. Member has consistently pursued a policy of undermining confidence at a moment when the industry is in a confidence crisis. He has done it without regard to the consequences and rendered a great disservice to Wales, to South Wales and the mining industry.
§ Mr. Box
I am grateful to the noble Lady for giving way. She is talking utter nonsense. I have criticised that section of the mining community who have been letting down their colleagues in the mines of South Wales. If she read her paper recently she would recognise that when they increased their output per man shift 1311 I was the first to offer them praise. It is all very well to sneer, but that is the truth.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
They have certainly increased their output in spite of all the propaganda that the hon. Member has been disseminating throughout the Principality.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
It is the hon. Member who has been guilty of misrepresentation by his statements.
Having got that off my chest, I want to turn from coal to transport. We have to face the fact that there never has been a road programme for Wales. The total programme for England and Wales has always been dominated by the need to relieve congestion in great cities, and dominated by the total figures of loss and accident. On these measures the English share of the programme has been growing much faster than the Welsh. This is a policy which the Government inherited from their predecessors. The Government, in all fairness to them, attempted to increase the total programme, but, if they are to follow the National Plan, they must no longer adhere to this measure only of congestion. They must have a new yardstick, the yardstick of development.
Such share of the road programme as we have is concentrated mainly in the south-east of Wales. I make no complaint about this but simply state the fact. Even there, if we judge by continental standards, the only road which by any stretch of Celtic imagination we can call a motorway is the length of 22 miles which will be built from the Severn Bridge to Newport. And although dual carriageways may be familiar in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire they are totally unknown in Carmarthenshire and certainly farther west. Even the Heads of the Valleys Road ends at Hirwaun. I do not know why that road cannot be extended to Llanelly—which should appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—and then to Carmarthen, which certainly would appeal to me.
We have to realise that when talking about the economic development of the country we cannot have such a National Plan unless we first have a modern road system in Wales. I hope very much that we shall not only have better roads 1312 in the south but that we shall remember there are other areas of the country which have to be served. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has spoken about Mid-Wales. He has not said a great deal about it today. When he gets the report of his consultants—we do not know what the report may contain—how is he to get round the question of transport costs and transport facilities? There is the Central Wales railway line, but the facilities are being cut and restricted all the time. Is this to be the main arterial connection for the industries which will come there? Have the Welsh Office plans ready for a new road there? It takes five years from the drawing board to the moment when we can travel on a road. Is that road already on the drawing board? When it is going to start?
It seems to me that these are all absolutely vital questions when we are talking about industrial expansion in Wales, but they are important also for the development of that industry which has become now, I think, the fourth greatest industry in Wales, and that, is the tourist trade. I was very glad to hear—I do not want the Secretary of State to think that I am ungrateful—very glad indeed to hear him say that the third stage of the Carmarthen Plan was to be carried out. This will be of great assistance. But it is not going to solve the problem. It will relieve congestion in one place and will create a bottleneck in another. It is going to create a bottleneck on what is the high road from Pembroke to Carmarthen and to the rest of Wales and to England. With the ferry car service on the cross-service to Ireland becoming increasingly popular it is now one of the high roads to Ireland as well.
One can be in a traffic block of 12 miles on the Pembrokeshire Road from St. Clears in the summer months. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider that point.
I should like also to raise one other point, and that is about the postponement or deferment of the Llandudno bypass. As has already been said in this debate, great improvements have been effected by the new Conway Bridge, but this is one of the vital points in the whole of Wales from the point of view of the tourist trade, because the 1961 figures, given in the Report of the Council for Wales on 1313 the Welsh Holiday Industry, show that of the holiday makers who take their main summer holidays in Wales 59 per cent. come to North Wales, and of that percentage by far the largest number have their holidays in Caernarvonshire. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be very glad to hear that. Of the places visited, second to the top in the popularity rating was Llandudno, and there we have got this one point between Llandudno and Conway. The other fact one has got to note is that 158,000 people visited Conway Castle. I really would suggest to my right hon. Friend that for the sake of this industry, which is of growing importance, which is producing an increased revenue every year for Wales, he should reconsider these points which affect the tourist industry in North and South Wales.
Wales, as far as some areas are concerned, is a highly developed industrial country. As for others it can be classified as an undeveloped territory. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery represents one of those areas. I believe that Wales has a great deal to gain from the National Plan, because if her resources are properly developed not only will Wales make an even greater contribution to the prosperity of her own people but also to the prosperity of Britain as a whole.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I listened with a lot of interest to, and a good deal of agreement with, the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) about the roads of the Principality, and I felt a sense of agreement that perhaps throughout the years Wales has not always had a fair share of the roads expenditure. That probably has been due to the fact that the yardstick in the past—and I trust the hon. Lady will agree with me in this—has tended to be industrial need, and to that extent road development has been confined to the parts of South Wales, and, as she pointed out, more particularly South-East Wales, and parts of North-East Wales, where there has been an industrial requirement. I agree with her that the time is coming when we, and in particular the Minister in the Cabinet, must assert the need of Wales for a 1314 larger share of what is being spent on the improvement of the roads of the United Kingdom.
There is one other reference I should like to make to what the hon. Lady said. I can hardly think she was serious in suggesting that the problems of the coal-mining industry in Wales were due to criticism by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box).
§ Mr. Gower
—has been not that there has been a lot of criticism on the part of my hon. Friend or other people, but an absence of ill-advised criticism, and I should have thought that such troubles as exist had nothing to do with any criticisms which have been made. The problem of the industry in South Wales is real, unfortunately, and the hon. Lady does know that.
When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State opening the debate I was tempted to imagine that all good things—"the new Jerusalem"—were created the day the Labour Party was elected last October. Then, more correctly, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) responded, he quite rightly pointed out that of all the good things which exist obviously most of them must have been due to efforts made before October of last year, and that became apparent when one looked more closely at the account given by the Secretary of State of industrial progress. Indeed, even when he dealt with some of the new advance factories and other factories which have been approved, or which have been let, 1315 it was noticeable that among them were included several which were planned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) when he was Minister some time ago.
However, as several hon. Members have pointed out, a good deal has happened since we last debated Welsh affairs. As we have been reminded this afternoon, the last Welsh debate on the Floor of the House was as long ago as 25th June, 1964, and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box), I am sorry that we have had to wait 17 months for what was intended to be at least an annual occasion. I hope that its relegation to the last business day of this Session does not indicate the Government's estimate of the importance of Welsh affairs.
The Secretary of State is entitled, of course, to refer to the institution of his Department and of his present office as among major changes of this last year. But I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that these changes have carried further the process which was commenced with the creation in 1951 of the office of Minister of Welsh Affairs and the addition some years later of a Minister of State. In the years of Conservative Administration we also saw the setting up of the Welsh Grand Committee, to which reference has been made, the devolution of the administration of many Government Departments in Wales, and the production of an intelligence unit in the Welsh Office. It can therefore justly be said that, whatever we failed to do in office, the party on this side did provide a basis or springboard for these further constitutional changes.
Now we have moved to a system which is analagous to though not exactly the same as the Scottish system. It is not quite so fully developed as yet. I would disagree in some measure with my hon. Friend for Cardiff North, because I feel that it is perhaps too soon yet to assess fully the efficacy of the new arrangements. But, inevitably, as the months pass, these constitutional changes will be examined more closely and more critically, not only here but in Wales, too.
I would like the Minister of State to give us more information, not so much about the functions which have been directly transferred to the responsibility of 1316 himself and his colleagues, but more about those other functions which my right hon. Friend for Monmouth mentioned, where direct control still reposes with United Kingdom Ministers.
Let me take one example which affects my own constituency and to which oblique reference has already been made. The docks at the port of Barry give employment directly and indirectly to some 2,500 of my constituents. They would undoubtedly suffer severely if the Port-bury scheme of the Port of Bristol Authority should be approved. I believe that all the South Wales ports would be adversely affected. The final decision about the Portbury scheme will lie with the Minister of Transport to whom I, in conjunction with the Barry council and others interested, have already made representations.
Meanwhile, what part is to be played by the Secretary of State for Wales? Will the right hon. Gentleman leave the decision entirely to the Minister of Transport, or will he assert the interests of those who work in the docks at Barry, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport? Ports are not one of the functions as yet transferred to his responsibility. Nevertheless, if his words a year ago mean anything at all, surely the ports are within his general responsibility. By virtue of his office, the Minister of Transport will seek to give a fair and dispassionate decision, but I think it is the proper function of the Secretary of State to make the strongest representations on behalf of the South Wales ports, and I would like some response, if possible, from the Minister of State about that.
Another obvious example arises in the future of the South Wales coalfield, to which so many speakers have referred today. When the First Secretary prepared his National Plan, did the Secretary of State for Wales advise on the extent to which the running down of the industry should be concentrated in the South Wales coalfield? If so, what was the extent of the reduction which he recommended? Can the Minister of State tell the House what assurances were given about the sorts of industries and the number of industries which would be provided for those miners who are to be made redundant? Although power is not amongst the functions which have been transferred to the direct control of 1317 the Minister of State, it is one of the functions where he has a very important rôle to fill. In short, it would be helpful to the House if Ministers could let us know how and to what extent they intervene regarding those other functions.
Just as Conservative Administrations provided a springboard for constitutional advances, so they provided a springboard for new economic and industrial progress in the Principality. Like my right hon. Friend for Monmouth, I trust that that impetus is to be maintained, and I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have that greatly in mind. I must confess to some disappointment, on looking at the National Plan, at the smallness in size and scope of the references to Wales. On the other hand, I believe that the foundations which have been laid and established in most parts of Wales are sound and should induce future growth.
In June of last year, in a similar debate, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer blamed most of the ills of the Welsh economy upon the tendency to "stop-go". In the past twelve months, at any rate, we have had a great amount of stop, and very little go. To that extent, one must feel less optimistic than one did. There has been none of the dramatic increase in production which the party opposite promised us some time ago. In that connection, I feel that the inflationary trends of the last twelve months must add to the difficult task of making British industry more competitive. As in the rest of the United Kingdom, in Wales we must not only produce more, but produce it more efficiently. That is the task of our industry, as it is the task of industry throughout Britain. While I am no dogmatic or partisan opponent of planning in its best sense, I feel that generally the battle will be won, often in the individual plant rather than in some planning committee. As elsewhere, industry in Wales must become more competitive, as the world markets which it seeks are themselves becoming more competitive.
I hope that the Government will soon be able to give us more encouraging news about the road improvements which have been mentioned by the hon. Lady for Carmarthen and others. Some of the urgently needed road improvement pro- 1318 grammes are being held back. As an example, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State referred to an improvement which he is approving in respect of part of the road to Merthyr. I forget the exact distance, but it omits part of the road between Cardiff and Pontypridd, and that part of the road carries very heavy industrial traffic. Between Whit-church and Pontypridd, there are serious bottlenecks, and that part of the scheme should be brought forward. Then there are the obvious danger spots which need early attention. One which I have brought recently to the notice of the Welsh Office is the extremely dangerous junction between the main road from Barry, in my own constituency, to Llantwit Major, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Arthur Pearson). There is a junction at Rhoose with the road known as Fonmon Road, which is extremely dangerous, and it is the sort of danger spot which should receive early attention.
Before I conclude I want to make one or two references to other extremely important matters. One of the most injurious steps which the Government have taken—they may feel that they had to take it—is the curtailment of minor educational works which were formerly within the discretion of local education authorities. I know that minor improvements are not so spectacular as new school projects, but in many parts of Wales minor improvements are more important than some of the new school projects. The sort of improvements which I have in mind—and I apologise for being rather parochial and giving another constituency example—is where there is a need for modern water closets, modern wash basins and efficient drinking water systems. All these were needed recently in the village school at Radyr in my constituency, and I have now had some assurance about this school, but I hope that the Minister of State will at an early date pay particular attention to the many schemes of this kind which are badly needed in many parts of the Principality.
The other matter to which I wish to refer in the educational sphere has already been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth. The party opposite, both individually and collectively, spoke in such strong terms about 1319 the need for an agricultural college in Wales that I thought they would announce their approval of it on the first day of taking office. I am astonished that we have not yet had this good news. A year or two ago the indication was that they would not waste a day in bringing forward this scheme once they got into office.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
It surely must be within the hon. Gentleman's recollection, as it is in the recollection of other hon. Members, that this proposal, which was pushed by Members from more than one party, had, as the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) said, died by the end of the last Parliament. Since then the Welsh Office in this Government has revived the proposal, and it is now being discussed between the Welsh Joint Education Authority and the local education authorities of Wales. It died, but it has been resurrected.
§ Mr. Gower
We had no knowledge that it was dead. Indeed, we thought that the Minister of State was most anxious to announce its early implementation.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the recently published report on the Welsh language. I agree with the Secretary of State that it is most desirable that we should discuss this at some length, and probably the best place to do so is in the Welsh Grand Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. I wholeheartedly accept the main recommendation as to the equal validity of our language in Wales. I do not accept all the subsidiary recommendations, which I do not necessarily agree are consequential thereto. This report is extremely important, but it will have to be considered with great care. The right hon. Gentleman, in his important office, knows that there are different circumstances in different parts of Wales, and whatever is decided will have to be done with great care and discretion.
I conclude by saying that I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth that after our years in office we gave the party opposite a very good send off. I hope that it will make the most of it.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)
While listening to the concluding remarks 1320 of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), my mind went back to the debate on 11th March, 1964, when the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) was questioned about his regional plan for Wales. He had not a clue, let alone a plan. He said that he would introduce two plans, one for South, and one for Mid-Wales, both of them after the election, and he asked the Welsh electors to sign a blank cheque, but fortunately they did not.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box). He is always interesting when he has something to say, but this was not one of his nights. I thought that that part of his speech which dealt with industrial relations was an atrocity perpetrated on reason. Speeches such as that cannot promote good feelings in industry and I urge the hon. Gentleman to turn to other matters with the zeal which is misplaced in this direction.
We are, in effect, discussing the first year of the Government's record, and I believe that the story unfolded by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a good one. It is within the province of right hon. and hon. Members to criticise the Government, but needless criticism has come from the other side of the House. I think that the majority of the Welsh electors, who, since the 'thirties, have sent a great preponderance of Labour Members to this House, are satisfied with the tale that was told by one of the best-loved of Welshmen.
I think that the Welsh Office, under capable direction, has shown a sense of urgent realism in relation to the problems of Wales. The National Plan declares that Wales needs a high infection of new industry, and the Government are alive to this. The necessity for this is emphasised by the contraction of industries such as mining and steel which is threatened by automation, and in this context Government action according development district status to many areas of South Wales has been welcomed. I welcome it particularly in the constituency which I have the honour to serve, as it includes Swansea, Swansea Docks, and Morriston.
The financial inducements available to industrialists—which could well have been made available by the party opposite but were not—should materially help 1321 executives when they are making decisions about the expansion of their industries. There is, of course, collaboration between the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Labour, and there is also the availability to industry of free depreciation and other financal assistance, which will be very helpful.
Another factor of considerable importance is the financial assistance provided for the rehabilitation of derelict land. This affects me particularly, because in my constituency the Liansamlet-Landorf area represents a great stretch of such land. Much valuable work has been done by the sponsors of the Lower Swansea Valley Project, but the magnitude of this problem in financial terms is such that a local authority like Swansea is prevented from even scratching at the problem.
Here I should like to pay tribute to the Ministers who have come to Swansea. They have visited us as Ministers of the Crown, and they have looked at the position for themselves. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Welsh Office, the President of the Board of Trade, and the Minister of Land and Natural Resources have all examined this matter, and I suggest that my right hon. Friend should consider increasing the financial grant for rehabilitation from the present 85–95 per cent. maximum to 100 per cent. I know that Ministers with their firsthand knowledge of this problem, which is as common to all Wales as it is to Swansea, will consider the financial implications closely.
Reverting to industry, I want to see in West Wales, and particularly in Swansea, modern light industries producing goods for the home market and for export, and in this connection I urge my right hon. Friend and also industrialists to examine the Swansea industrial sites survey which has been produced by the Swansea Junior Chamber of Trade. I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend has received any inquiries for the site, which extends over 27 acres, formerly occupied by the Upper Forest and Worcester Tinplate Company. There are many other large sites in the area, all with excellent main services. These sites will play a large part in the development of West Wales, and in the 1322 growth centre area that Swansea could be.
The Government might consider making available to industrialists a sites service study. In my opinion this must go hand in hand with the operation of the National Plan. Paragraph 26 of Appendix B of the Plan says:Wales will continue to need large injections of new industry.Naturally we ask what is the programme of industrial development for South Wales. In the area which is represented largely by my hon. Friends who represent Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, the southern fringe of Breconshire and the industrial area of Carmarthenshire, 70 per cent. of the total population of Wales resides, and it has 74 per cent. of the insured workers.
I will not belabour the point, because it has already been mentioned, that unemployment in Wales has persisted at a rate high above the national average. The provision of industry to meet the needs of an increasing population would lead one to suggest that the types of industry that might well be attracted to the area are modern types. I press my right hon. Friend to do all in his power to attract some of the heavy investment which is contemplated in the chemical industry. In another part of the country recently there have been important developments, and the Principality has the right to claim a share.
Then there is the possible extension of the petro-chemical industry. Both the chemical and the petro-chemical industry will be of increasing importance as we move towards the conclusion of the period of the National Plan. My hon. Friend the Member for 'Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) remarked that this was the day of the large firm. Of course it is. I request the Government, in considering the siting of industry, to look for the main developments—the large firms and the large-scale generating growth units. If the main industrial developments came to Wales then permanency would be secured, as would be the employment of those who work there.
In industrial development which is required because older industries are declining or contracting we must provide opportunities for the present population. We must also have special regard for 1323 the provision of openings for young people. The industrial extension and development which is envisaged in the National Plan is important to local authorities. I believe that the rate yield must be increased in the county boroughs of Wales in order to provide for the essential services and the capital which must be expended on many necessary social projects.
The problem of the provision and adequate maintenance of road services within the municipalities is another point of great expense, because the development of the road haulage industry has resulted in local authorities being faced with heavy bills for repairs. This has become important because of the magnitude of the volume of traffic on the roads now, and because of the increase in the dimensions of vehicles carrying heavy loads and the impact of these heavy vehicles travelling along the roads at 30 or 40 m.p.h. instead of the former 20 m.p.h. This has added to the wear and tear on roads, and the position of local authorities in this matter should be looked at.
If we must have a central growth point in West Wales, Swansea is the natural geographical location. Having heard the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) speak this evening of the good work done by a former Member of Parliament for Swansea, I must be thoroughly controversial and thoroughly biased and say that Swansea, West could not have a better representative than my colleague and right hon. Friend.
We are meeting to discuss matters in relation to the West Wales area, of which the port of Swansea is an undeniably important part. We have the potential to serve a large hinterland—a potential which is happily placed, with the best port labour relations in Britain, and we look forward to its playing a wider and more important part.
In their endeavours to attract industry the Government must remember that where industrial development occurs service industry and productive industry should merge together. There should not be an imbalance, with service industry exceeding productive industry. If such an imbalance occurs in an area several results accrue. It means that a disproportionately higher share of the rate burden 1324 is borne by ratepayers, whereas industry in a predominantly service area could make up the difference in itself. Another thing that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) about is that industry should be sited adjacent to the point of residence of workers, that is, adjacent to large aggregations of population. If it is not men and women have to travel long distances to work. This adds to their living costs and in some cases the cost of fares depresses their standard of living.
I ask the Government to consider the industrial position and requirements of South Wales, especially the western part. We want present and future needs to be met and we hope that development will provide for all future requirements. This will produce a healthy and balanced economy, but it will be done only if the rightful share of industrial expansion comes to Wales. I look forward to that expansion continuing under the wise guidance of my right hon. Friend and the continued successful work of the Labour Government.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
I listened with interest to the first appearance today of the Conservative spokesman on Welsh affairs. I now look forward to the next appearance of this right hon. Gentleman, which will be the occasion of his first useful and constructive contribution to a discussion on Welsh affairs—because today for three-quarters of an hour or more he showed that whereas he had a remarkable memory for fourth form quips and enjoyed party politics, he had absolutely no understanding of the basic problems which now confront Wales.
The pinnacle of his personal appeal on the problems of Wales was reached when he said of Mid-Wales, "Let us pause a little." This is perhaps a predictable request, but it sounds strange coming from a party which is already being attacked for having paused too much. Of course, when he was in office himself in that party, he always claimed that we were not pausing enough and, for this reason, he resigned from the Government.
He complained today about cuts which have been made in expenditure in Wales, yet when he was Chancellor of the 1325 Exchequer his great criticism of his own Government—I believe this was why he resigned—was that they were not willing to make enough cuts. Listening to his high-minded indignation about the problems of Wales under a Labour Government after one year, I was wondering how he reconciled it with the record of his own Government in which he found so much to praise. After all, in Mid-Wales, of which he spoke, depopulation doubled while his party was in office. He spoke of new jobs under the Conservative Administration—
§ Mr. Williams
I see that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) is shaking his head with a sense of achievement about this. If the hon. Member feels so proud about this, why is it that tie rate of increase in the number of new jobs in Wales during the 13 years of Conservative Government was half that in England? It was 9.3 per cent. in England, and 5.6 per cent. in Wales.
If that extra 4 per cent. of jobs had been created in Wales during the Conservative spell in office, there would now be 40,000 more jobs available. Who here cannot regret that those 40,000 jobs are not now available? Who can deny that it was the Conservative Party which failed to make these jobs available?
I do not want to waste too much time pondering on the fruitless irrelevancies raised by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). Instead, I should like to turn to the actual problems of Wales. I should like to take a slightly different approach to that of most of my colleagues, who tended to examine the problem from the viewpoint of the existing industries. I believe it to be useful for us at this stage, when we are expecting future development, to look to the siting and locational problems of new industries and to see whether there is any positive contribution which we can make to those which will confront many of these firms. Perhaps in that way we can help the Government in attracting firms into Wales.
We must recognise, within this context, just how dynamic the social background in Wales is at the moment, with popula- 1326 tion movement and with the consequent social changes. In four South Wales counties live 2 million of the country's population of 2.6 million, but in two of the counties—Glamorgan and Monmouthshire—was concentrated the whole of the country's increase in population of 3.5 per cent. over that period. Out of a total Welsh population increase of 89,000, 82,000 people live in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. So, for every 13 new people that there are in Wales, 12 of them live in two counties.
This trend will be perpetuated and magnified, acording to the reports of the planning officers. Glamorgan expect that in this one county alone there will be an increase of a quarter of a million in the population by the turn of the century. More significantly, of that increase, 200,000 will be in one small triangle—the south-east triangle of the county of Glamorgan, comprising Cardiff, Barry and Bridgend. It is interesting to know that this growth of population is not only in the south and south-east but, very substantially, towards the coast.
We can legitimately ask, therefore, why it is that industry has moved towards the south and south-east and towards the coast in particular. It is obvious why the population has moved—because the new jobs were in that area. Under the Conservative Government between 1951 and 1964, we can see how the balance of the Welsh economy became distorted, if we look at square footage of factory space per 1,000 of the population. Square footage of new factory space per 1,000 population which went to Carmarthen was 48,000, to Glamorgan, 17,000, to Monmouthshire, 18,000, and to Pembrokeshire, 22,000.
I do not expect hon. Members to remember these figures, but the important thing to notice is that the smallest in these four counties is the figure of 17,000. I say that it is significant, because in all the other counties of Wales there are only two that are even in double figures. If we take out the two already industrialised counties of Denbigh and Flint, the next highest is the figure of 6,000—virtually a third of Glamorgan's total—in Cardigan.
Therefore, one can see that the prosperity brought by the new jobs has been concentrated in a particular section of Wales, and because the new jobs are there 1327 the income potential for the worker is there as well. It is not surprising that in the whole of Wales the most prosperous section is the South Wales coast along to Swansea.
Perhaps this can be attributed largely to one industry—the steel industry. Although Wales has, on average, fractionally higher averages incomes than England, once we leave the steel industry out of account, remembering that steel is largely on the coast of South Wales, we find that the Welsh average earnings are 16s. 1d. lower than the English. The significance of this is not in the 16s. 1d. but in the fact that this much difference can be made simply by leaving one particular group of workers out of the statistics.
In other words, the industrial prosperity of Wales at the moment is largely focused not only in one area but very considerably upon one industrial group, the steel industry and allied industries. By comparison—this perhaps helps to explain why workers are willing to move from the coal industry to the steel industry—the average earnings in the coal industry, just a few miles away in many instances, are £3 1s. a week lower than in the steel industry. It is, therefore, understandable why men move from Monmouthshire and Glamorgan valleys to the steel works when they can get the jobs.
However, the significance of this situation is that it now creates more favourable social circumstances for even more new industry, because as the new population moves in housing programmes have to be expanded. We find that in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan one house in three has been built since the war. But in the counties which are losing the population the picture is different. In Radnorshire and Merionethshire only one in seven houses have been built since the war. Therefore, it is understandable that an industrialist and his management coming to Wales, perhaps having to bring key workers, find it more attractive to go to the already industrialised and urbanised south coast than to other parts of Wales.
Unfortunately, this trend is being accelerated by what I would consider to be the most influential single factor in the long-term development of the Welsh 1328 economy. I believe that the industry which will be most important to Wales in guiding our future prosperity is not coal or steel but, basically, transport. Perhaps I can explain it with several instances to show how transport itself is a distorted element in the Welsh picture.
I have referred in the Welsh Grand Committee to the impact which I felt might arise from the Severn Bridge. I pointed out that, with its related complex of motorways, it would inevitably attract industrialists to that part of Wales as opposed to other parts—even places like Swansea and certainly places like Milford Haven. Within 50 miles of the Severn Bridge there are four million people, and within 100 miles of it there are 17 million of the British population. In other words, one-third of the British market is within 17 miles of the Severn Bridge.
The present road pattern aggravates the situation which we see arising. We have had references to the inadequacy of the roads in Wales. The right hon. Member for Monmouth has complained about transport and has asked what we are doing about it. In Wales there are only 27 miles of four-lane trunk roads, of which 23 miles are in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. In other words, there are only four miles of four-lane roads outside those two counties. The position is not much better with the three-lane roads. In the whole of Wales there are 75 miles of three-lane roads, and 59 miles of them are in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. In other words, there are 16 miles of three-lane roads and four miles of four-lane trunk roads outside these two growth counties.
The Heads of the Valleys Road will serve these two counties, and it will not help the rest of Wales because it finishes too early. As my noble Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) said, it should strike much further west if it is to help Milford Haven, Caernarvon, Llanelly and Swansea.
The rail pattern which is emerging does not encourage one in thinking that the rail amenities will offset the influence of the road facilities, because the pattern which has been decided upon for rail development in Wales is particularly based, in terms of freight transport, upon the South Wales coastal road. The liner 1329 trains will work along the South Wales coast as far as Swansea, and these will act as a magnet to this coastal region. The final transport element is the availability of the ports themselves and, again, these are a South Wales coastal amenity.
Taking all these transport factors into account, it is apparent that an industrialist, and particularly a large industrialist, coming to Wales would have seriously to consider the South Wales coastal area before he looked at any other part of the country. A small firm might be able to ignore these factors but a large firm would not.
What choice does this offer us in planning the growth which we hope to achieve? The one thing which we can try to do is to arrest the growth along the coast and perhaps to stimulate the growth in the valley areas. That has been suggested today, and it is the basis of the development district policy. But—and this is an important factor—even when Rhonda was a development district and some of the coastal areas were not, Rhonda was still unable to attract the factories. This suggests that development district status in itself, at least on the present type of assistance given to development districts, will not attract many firms into those areas.
Will it be enough, therefore, to absorb the unemployment which will be created? Frankly, on the basis of past experience in the ineffectiveness of the development district policy, I very much doubt whether the present pattern of guarantees of aid will bring the firms into the valley areas. We may have to recognise that we must devise a new concept of the development districts, in which we have to step up very substantially the attractions which are offered to firms—in which case we have to designate areas which are entitled to Grade A help or Grade B help, according to the severity of the problem. But even that will not be enough, because none of these factors will fully offset the disadvantages.
I do not say that we should not have development district status nor do I say that we should not step it up, but we should also recognise that perhaps we should be using, rather than regarding as an enemy, the natural attractions of the south coast. We should be 1330 using these more effectively to offset the inland unemployment now being created in Wales. For this reason, we might think in terms of the development of trading estates at the heads of the valleys and at the mouths of the valleys, within commuter distance but also within the drawing power of transport amenities which will exist through the Heads of the Valley Road and the South Wales ports, roads and railways. We could then build up a new estate. For example, we could develop an estate such as Treforest in Swansea, where there are 30 acres which could be used immediately and another 30 acres which could be used with a certain amount of ground preparation. These areas could be used as a focal point for the daily movement of labour.
I do not suggest that this is an ideal solution or the solution which we want, but I suggest that it is obvious that we are not getting the other solutions. It has been pointed out that it is preferable for the job to be alongside the worker's home. I agree completely. But present experience is that it is very difficult within the valley situation of Wales to achieve this. It is surely preferable to have a commuting worker than to have a man who is statically unemployed. I suggest that as one of the methods of spreading the prosperity which we hope will be created into the valleys, we should consider development districts in these terms and should also consider trading estates such as the Treforest Estate, in convenient positions for travelling from the valley areas.
But this can be achieved only if the valley transport conditions are improved, and perhaps we should be looking more closely than we have looked in the past at this problem. We have spoken about north-south roads and about east-west roads but not much consideration has been given to the simple valley roads and the rôle which they could play in spreading prosperity. I trust that when he is devising his future plans the Secretary of State will bear this in mind.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The suggestions which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) are extremely constructive and I am sure that they will be taken fully into account by the 1331 Welsh Office and by the Government. Certainly anyone who represents the Ebbw Vale constituency has a very strong vested interest in improving road conditions which go up the valleys. I represent the narrowest valley of them all, and we have a road which certainly needs plenty more spent on it.
I was diffident about taking part in the debate, not because I was not extremely interested in the subject but because, owing to an inescapable engagement, I was not able to hear the concluding remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the whole of the speech of the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), and I do not like to criticise the right hon. Member for Monmouth without having been able to hear his speech.
However, I have been informed, on the absolutely reliable authority of many of my hon. Friends, that the right hon. Member for Monmouth was his usual outrageous self. I therefore think that it is quite proper for me to comment upon what he said, because he seems to have plucked up courage to talk about steel in the House of Commons, even though he very rarely does so in Monmouth. I can hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish many of the things which he dares to say here to be reported in Monmouthshire. In Monmouthshire he does not attack public ownership very strongly. I can understand that, since his constituency is dependent on public ownership in the steel industry.
At the last election the right hon. Member for Monmouth got back only by the narrowest of squeaks. I recall seeing during that election, in one of the circulars which he issued, a picture of the new Llanwern Steel Works. A great champion of private enterprise was trying to take credit for the achievements of public ownership. He did not explain in that circular that the publicly-owned section of the industry had gone ahead when private enterprise had fallen down on the job and had not been prepared to go on. That was omitted from the circular.
The right hon. Gentleman does not attempt in Monmouthshire to put the case against public ownership that he sometimes puts in the House of Commons. 1332 That is because he knows that the facts are there to deny what he says. The greatest expansion of the steel industry has occurred because of public enterprise, and it is no good the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) thinking that he can put me right on this because the whole world knows that what I am saying is correct.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I would not think of putting the hon. Gentleman right, but if he is talking about elections and about a controversy, I would only remind him that when he came to speak in my constituency during the last election—and although some steel is produced in my area—the whole of his speech on that occasion was entirely devoid of any remark about steel or nationalisation.
§ Mr. Foot
When I spoke in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—and I propose to go there again the week after next—I answered the questions that were put to me. We had a good, rowdy meeting in Hereford on that occasion. At the beginning of it it was made so clear to me that his constituents were misinformed and curious on certain subjects that we devoted the whole of the meeting to questions. Thus, the whole meeting was devoted to the matters which his constituents wished to raise. I propose to perform the same service for his constituents, I think next Saturday week, when we can carry the instruction further forward.
The coal industry has, naturally, formed a major topic in the debate. Nobody can doubt the fear and concern that prevails in the Welsh valleys on this subject. What strikes me always as being so obscene about the views of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) is the callousness with which he speaks about this matter. He never seems to have any imagination or to understand what has happened over the years—and what has happened in the coal industry, and the results of those happenings over the years, is something unique to that industry.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not understand these facts and that is why they make so many mistakes about the industry. What has happened in the coal industry—and as far as I know in no other industry—is that for a period of 30 or more years the industry was declining. 1333 During that period those employed in the industry had to feel that their industry was being ground down and was heading for something like disaster. That went on from about 1920 until after the last war. A steady decline all through this period meant men having to live and work in an industry which they felt was declining and they had to suffer from the psychological factors which arise from such a state of affairs.
Then, after 1946–47, the industry was built up from the low position into which it had been allowed to fall. Year by year, as the result of enormous effort and by great exertion—chiefly on the part of the miners but also resulting from the superior technical organisation of public ownership—the industry was resurrected and built up to a position which very few people would have forecast as being possible. There was an increase in output of 30 million to 40 million tons of coal compared with the situation immediately after the war.
I should be grateful if the right hon. Member for Monmouth would make his second speech a little more softly so that I can hear myself speak; he may not wish to listen to what I am saying, but I do. The industry was built up to a position which many people prophesied could not happen. It was a great triumph for those who were responsible for its organisation and who worked in it. It was a great triumph for public ownership and for the nation, but particularly for the miners.
And now, for the second time in the same century, we see a declining position again. This is what is so unique about the industry; what is so bitter and difficult for these people to take. That is why I described the observations on the industry of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North as obscene, because he has no imagination to understand what has happened and how people in the industry feel.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman's remarks are not confirmed by Lord Robens at all. Lord Robens has never 1334 made the kind of remarks the hon. Gentleman constantly makes.
What I am trying to describe are the feelings, and I think that I have correctly represented them, of people who have seen their industry built up from the lowest by huge efforts and now see it forced into a decline again, by whatever may be the means that force it, whether economic circumstances assisted by Government decision, or what. That is the feeling, and no one can deny that this is a cruel disappointment that has befallen these people.
We are confronted with an extraordinary situation—that many of my hon. Friends have mentioned today, and which was underlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) in yesterday's debate—in which at the time when the South Wales miners and other miners are conducting campaigns to halt the closures, many mines are crying out for miners. That is the central paradox of the whole situation.
What is the cause of it? It is not easy to give a simple answer, but I will draw the attention of the Government and of my hon. Friends to an article in, admittedly, the newspaper Tribune. They do not always take account of what is in the Tribune, though they should. The article was written last week by Mr. Will Paynter, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, and an extremely important article it was, in my opinion.
I have heard Mr. Will Paynter speak in Wales, in Durham, in Scotland, and elsewhere, and I do not believe that any member of the Government would question the support he has given to trying to build up the coal industry, and contribute to its well-being. He analyses the figures very carefully. He says:My general conclusion is that the future of the coal industry will be decided less by the Government or the Coal Board than by the marching feet of miners. The future and size of the industry will depend on the number of men prepared to work in it and they are getting less and less wish increasing rapidity.That conclusion is elaborated in this article with what seems to me to be well-nigh incontrovertible facts. So the situation may very well be that in a few years' time the Government will not be able to maintain even the target for coal they have set in their Plan. That would be a very serious situation for the country 1335 and, for the reason stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), very serious from the balance of payments point of view.
It is no good suggesting that all the miners can be crowded into the two prosperous areas. That will not happen. They will not move there. They will move to industries paying much nearer the wage levels of the steel works as compared with the mines. So I say to the Government—and recognising how complicated the problem is, I say it not in any passion for criticising them—that I do not believe that they have yet produced the fuel plan the country requires. Even with this statement or the previous one I do not believe that they have produced it. I believe that Mr. Will Paynter's analysis of what is happening in the industry is correct, and my hon. Friends from Wales will know that if it is true of the whole country, it is even more true of Wales.
The Government must go further. They have already done a considerable amount, but I must say this—and I do not wish to be cantankerous. The Government's capitalisation programme for the industry is extremely good, I do not doubt it at all. It was action that the Government had to take, but I believe that if we had had that action within a month or two of their coming into power it would have made a great psychological difference in the industry. As it was, it was badly timed. In the same way, I think that it would have been better if the Government, in introducing their fuel policy, had produced the financial methods to be employed to assist the transferences that are to take place.
Over and above that, my most important conclusion about it is that I believe that the Government will have to go very much further, maybe to a fresh capitalisation programme, which would alter the test of which pits are uneconomic. Therefore, I plead with the Government not to be content with the measures that they have so far presented, because, although they have striven to assist the industry, I think they will have to go much further still. We certainly do not need any advice from the Opposition benches about the matter, because all of us can well remember how the Govern- 1336 ment's proposals about recapitalisation were received when they were announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.
In conclusion, I would merely say that I agree very strongly with my hon. Friends in what they have said about the Local Employment Act. We are glad that our areas are covered by it. I am very glad that the week before last the Government made an announcement about Ebbw Vale and Tredegar, an area which covers part of my constituency, which was not previously covered by the Act but is now to be covered. However, it is clear from previous experience and from what has been said from these benches that the Act by itself is insufficient to deal with the problems of the towns in the heads of the valleys—Ebbw Vale, Tredegar and so on. Ebbw Vale is in a slightly different position. We need to have a much bigger programme for varying the kind of industry that we have in such areas.
The resurrection of the coal industry after the Second World War was one of the great industrial feats of this country, a feat which has contributed so largely to the better position in Wales. This never receives any acknowledgement from the Opposition. They cannot boast of it because it has been done under public ownership. Most of the revivals in Wales have been done under public ownership. There was the money put into the coal industry and that put into the steel industry, particularly in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency—all of it done under public ownership. In the same way, it can only be by an extension of the methods of public ownership and by Government direct intervention to assist these areas that we can carry through the change in those places that we desire, and establish what I believe to be an obvious fact for anyone who has seen Wales or has a home there, as I have, that it is much better to live in the valley towns than down the coast. Anyone who had a choice between living in Tredegar and living in Newport and chose Newport of his own free will should be examined. So the Government start with great advantage in this respect. Therefore, I plead with them to consider how the application of the principle of public 1337 ownership has rebuilt the Wales of our time and how an extension of that principle can carry it very much further.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) was not here to receive the welcome given to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I am sure that my hon. Friend will not mind if I adopt some of the welcome which he intended to give to the right hon. Gentleman. As a near neighbour of his, I found the intervention of the right hon. Member an unusual one. We had at last an acknowledgment that I have never heard before, that he was a Welsh Member for a Welsh constituency. That was fascinating to me. I knew that something would follow, and it did.
We witnessed the zeal of the proselyte. Enthusiasm really ran riot. It ran riot to such an extent that it seemed for a while that the right hon. Gentleman had really become merged into the general Socialist spirit of Wales. He was deeply concerned to ration building according to social need in Wales. His example was a nationalised industry, something to do with electricity offices, but I am sure that he would not be so prejudiced or biased as to select a building of that kind in order to put his views. Although I could not understand how we were to ration office building in Wales while not in any way interfering with the builders of Wales, I do not doubt that in future speeches the right hon. Gentleman will resolve the paradoxes of his own contribution.
His enthusiasm was such that he even ran in his love of Wales to a new Chauvinism which I have never heard him express before. I do not doubt that many of his constituents will appreciate it, particularly those in Cwmbran. Many Englishmen are coming to Cwmbran New Town from the Midlands and the North—many, I am pleased to say, the sons and daughters of Welshmen who were driven away from Wales as a result of the policies conducted by the right hon. Gentleman in other years. When I hear him expressing such extreme diffidence about another new town in any circumstances being established in so far it might possibly attract Englishmen to it, I feel bound to say that it is difficult not 1338 to interpret that as anything but denigration of his own constituents who have had the privilege of coming into Wales and the welcome that Wales gives to those who come from outside areas to Cwmbran New Town.
Of course he wanted to spur us on. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale did not hear how we had a new ally. The right hon. Gentleman was deeply concerned that a steel Bill should soon be introduced so that the agony of mind of some whom he claimed to be in South Wales and who did not know what their future would be should be finally resolved.
§ Mr. Abse
The right hon. Gentleman nods his head. But the indecision and the agony of mind existed for many years under a Tory Government while they dithered and, while firmly declaring that they would take over the publicly-owned steel works of Llangwern, placed everybody in a dilemma. However, the steel workers of Monmouth and the right hon. Gentleman's constituency knew what they wanted, and well they showed it when they voted against the right hon. Gentleman, so that he evidently had such a traumatic experience that he even declares that he is now a Welshman for a Welsh constituency.
The fact is that the steel workers who live in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency know what public ownership means and they know that they do not want to be destroyed in the way that Tory policy wants to destroy them by handing over that great steelworks which in pamphlets which he distributed during the Election the right hon. Gentleman exhibited as if it were a product of private enterprise. The steel workers know quite well what would happen to them and their future if by any mischance we ever had a return to the government which has just gone.
I know, too, that legitimately much criticism has gone against the comments of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) on the coal industry. But I did not find the comments of the right hon. Gentleman any less disturbing. He is concerned now that the National Plan shall be well integrated with the proposed closures. His questions were directed to seeing whether the closures were part of a preconceived policy 1339 embodied within the National Plan, again a new attitude from the right hon. Gentleman who is apparently now concerned that we should not only plan, but plan very well.
I find that there is a sinister undercurrent in such a proposal, for if there were anything in the questioning by the right hon. Gentleman, it was to suggest that even the closures taking place were not the whole story. Such comments spread even greater alarm than the nonsense spoken by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who has so frequently spoken in so extravagant a manner on mines that no one in South Wales any longer takes any notice of him. But it is sinister of the right hon. Member for Monmouth to suggest such a thing to miners, who this moment are so replete with problems, and so full of anxieties that they are not, perhaps, seeing the full consequences of the situation, and I hope that speeches of that kind are not going to be made again, in this House or elsewhere. The problems we have within our mines are real enough without being added to by what I regard as mischievous comment. The problem is complex and sophisticated.
In South Wales it is a problem, because there are, on the one side, mines which are uneconomic and, on the other, we have, as in Monmouthshire, mines which are economic and yet could be rendered uneconomic because there is insufficient manpower, because they may not remain manned, and because the men are being attracted to other industries. If we are going to resolve this problem and are not going to reach the situation which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale rightly points out could arise—that long before this nation could afford to dispense with its mines, long before alternative fuels are available which we can afford as a nation we were to find ourselves without miners prepared to use the mines—then we will be in a disastrous situation. The indigenous fuel which we have would not be able to be deployed, and our balance of payments would get into a situation that could totally undermine all the National Plan and all the targets which we have set ourselves. That situation is not remote.
1340 I know, representing, as I do, a valley that has some economic mines and has other diversified industry within the region, how difficult it is to put the view to the sons of existing miners that they are needed in a mining industry. Unless in the West, where there is so much insecurity, because of closures, the Government take action to give these men there the feeling that they are not going to be abandoned, then their morale will fall. It is already falling and could spread into Monmouthshire and the economic mines, with the consequence that the men will run from those mines into other industries. If this nation opts, as it is opting in its present fuel policy, for a smaller sector of its fuel to come from coal, and if it says it is going to use gas and oil, then it is no good looking to the Coal Board or to the union to resolve the problem of our mines. It immediately becomes a national decision and therefore a national problem. The nation must accept responsibility. There is a way of getting men down the mines. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said he would be prepared to go down the mines.
§ Mr. Abse
But he would not have the safety and security which he enjoys as a professional worker above ground. He would have to face all the hazards that are there. With his singular insensitivity he has been speaking of how good it is to work in the mines today. It is quite true that they are different from the rat-holes of yesteryear, when they were owned by the coal owners. Those of us who have been down them, have seen the distinction between one and the other, but they are certainly not factory conditions. If the hon. Gentleman would look at the industrial injuries suffered in the mines he would understand the hazards that exist, and perhaps, if he represented a constituency which included miners, he would hear them coughing their lungs out 1341 and begin to understand what it means to be working in the mines.
It is no good him talking flippantly, as he does, about absenteeism. There is a good reason why there is absenteeism in the mines. Nobody finds absenteeism a feature of ex-miners now working in the nylon factories and steelworks. The reason for absenteeism in the mines is that it is an unpleasant job and a rotten occupation, and anybody with a ha'porth of sense looks forward to the day when this country can be emancipated from the need for mines. In the meantime, the nation must face the fact that we cannot have miners unless we are prepared to make them the aristocrats of labour and to subsidise them by giving them higher wages, if necessary, than are earned by stockbrokers or lawyers, because it is an irksome occupation which people do not wish to follow.
We have to think of providing miners, not with miserable pensions, but with worthwhile pensions at the end of their working lives. We have to give them shorter hours. A high percentage of miners will not work in the mines for a full working week because they are not prepared to tolerate the conditions for a full long week. It is not surprising. In some parts of the United States a four-day week was being worked by miners years ago, and they have earned wages which would have staggered many hon. Members.
If we are to have miners, they will have to be cosseted instead of being kicked round as they have been kicked round for generations. It is no good abusing them, and it is no good decrying them. We have to get to the stage of giving them pride of place among the British working class. That stage has not yet been reached.
I do not want to minimise what the Labour Government have done for the miners. There is a great gulf between the way in which they were treated by the last Government and the way in which they are treated by ourselves. We know of the capital reconstruction which has taken place. We know of the relief given to the obsolescent fund. We know about the 5 per cent. preference in respect of Government buildings and the guaranteed market in the gas and electricity industries. In principle, the Government have 1342 taken the problem to be a national responsibility. Nevertheless, it is not enough.
In the White Paper the Government say that they will make a 50 per cent. contribution to the Coal Board's social burden. I do not regard that as enough. If we are to move people from one end of Wales to the other, as perhaps we should, we will need very good resettlement grants and a considerble sum to cover removal costs. We shall have to have enlarged severance grants and higher redundancy payments. We have to treat miners with the consideration which alone will keep them underground. Unless we face these realities, there will be no miners in South Wales. On present trends, there will not be a miner left in Wales in a decade.
I turn to two other particular problems. I want first to talk about something which is causing deep concern in my constituency and which should be causing deep concern in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Monmouth. There are traditional industries in Wales which have to suffer agonising changes as a consequence of technological advances or because the national interests compel options to be taken up which adversely affect us in the Principality. However, what is quite intolerable is that severe and irrevocable damage should needlessly be inflicted upon any of our great new industries as a consequence of the private wars of rival capitalist groups or because of the personality conflicts of competing tycoons.
Three years ago, the 6,000 employees from all over Monmouthshire who are employed in the nylon industry in my constituency—many of them live in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Monmouth—looked on with dismay as they saw the man-made fibre industry, which in Pontypool was jointly owned by Courtaulds and I.C.I., made the object of a senseless and tasteless battle between rival directorates. To their disgust, my constituents found themselves booted around as a football buried amidst a scrum of undignified and brawling directorates battling for personal power, shareholders' profits and capital gains.
The dismay of Monmouthshire was all the greater because we knew that British Nylon Spinners was a splendid success. Constructed in Pontypool because of the 1343 Labour Government's pressure, it triumphed as a consequence of a long co-operative effort by management, research, and commercial staff and operatives in which all who have participated rightly take pride. But, as we all know, the trail of acrimony which was evidently left behind as a result of I.C.I.'s abortive bid to take over Courtaulds led to an untenable situation; and without reference to all those who had built this great industry in Monmouthshire, as part of the unscrambling deal to clear up the mess caused by this wilful and unnecessary quarrel, I.C.I. took over B.N.S. totally and absorbed it in the I.C.I. Fibres Division.
Now the headquarters has been brutally wrenched away from Pontypool and placed in, of all places, that area of high unemployment, Harrogate—hardly a place, I should have thought, which could be looked on with favour by a Government concerned that this industry should not become a satellite of an English company. Already denuding has taken place of some of the technical senior staff and worse may follow. An ultimate threat exists to 1,000 to 1,500 men employed in administrative, technical and commercial departments. The brains and quality of the men and women who over the years have been attracted to those departments have splendidly leavened our community in Monmouthshire.
To close down the research and development departments in Pontypool and to treat this huge industry as a mere satellite of an English-based company is a dismaying prospect. If these thoughts are in the minds of I.C.I. it is surely time that they thought again. I trust that I can have the Minister's assurance that the Welsh Office will not passively accept the development of such an unfortunate situation.
There is another matter I want to speak about before concluding my remarks. Sometimes we get so bogged down in present problems that we do not lift our eyes enough to look forward to the future, and occasionally schemes come into existence which may be ignored or buried. Few schemes touching upon the industrial future of South Wales and Monmouthshire could be more 1344 imaginative than the proposal that a completely new deepwater port on an island site should be created in the Severn Estuary.
This concept, coming from one of the leading firms of consulting engineers in Europe, is that the land around Denny Island, which is exposed at low time, may be raised to form a large artificial island, thus providing ample space for a new port which the authors of the scheme have named "Britport". This reclamation would enable an airport of international standards to be placed alongside the deepwater port with all the advantages of general communications and Customs facilities. In addition, it would have the dual merit of being close to the Severn Bridge, the nub of the new motorway, yet clear of any densely-populated area.
Those of us who do not represent any particular port in Wales must have felt that all the schemes affecting the Severn Estuary which have been submitted to the National Ports Council and discussed in committees were designed to suit particular needs, such as the discharge of iron ore, or the improvement of existing port facilities, but all have lacked a national approach. Yet the Rochdale Committee Report recommended the building of deep-water berths in large numbers as a matter of economic necessity for the United Kingdom and forecast a 100 per cent. growth of foreign trade in the United Kingdom by 1980—itself a conservative estimate in the light of the N.E.D.C. target growths.
With the Rochdale Report and the Iron and Steel Board forecasts of foreign trade spending in the South Wales ports by 1980 by way of dry cargo and iron ore—a further 12 million tons per annum—there may well be a demand for more than 20 deep-water berths linked to the northern shore of the Severn Estuary, apart from two special deep-water berths to meet the iron ore demands of the South Wales steel industry. The Denny Island scheme envisages that the island will accommodate 30 deep-water berths and could take vessels of up to 65,000 tons deadweight. In this respect it would match Europort. By its proximity to the Severn Railway Tunnel and the Severn Bridge, the heart of the inland transport network, it could share with Portbury the trade from the Midlands. It would have access to the 1345 Severn deep-water channel with a minimum of dredging, be linked with the main roadway network and clear of any major built-up area. It would satisfy the demand for all possible deep-water facilities. What is obvious, too, is the need for an international airport to take advantage of the great possibilities which exist in freight cargo.
This scheme, which could do so much at a future date for Wales, is one which, of course, requires examination by the Government, but the proposers believe that there is a need for an initial and detailed economic planning study in the Severn Estuary as a whole to test their conclusions, and if those conclusions are satisfactory there clearly will be a need for a detailed engineering study involving hydrological and geological research.
I hope the Minister today will encourage the sponsors of this bold scheme to place it before the Economic Council for Wales with an assurance that such a bold scheme, coming from so responsible a quarter, will not be ignored, or stifled by any vested interested. If we have the courage to face up to the complex problems which exist for Wales in the present whilst at the same time raising our eyes to see what could be a great future, then I am quite certain that, with a Government of the calibre of the Government we have now, Wales and Monmouthshire can look forward to a fine future.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
It is always a privilege to take part and to make a speech in a debate on Welsh affairs, whether in this Chamber or whether in the Welsh Grand Committee. If I do not follow the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) in everything he has said, I would just say that I forgive him for going a little over his time. He was, perhaps, a little infected by his enthusiasm for the criticisms made of my right hon. Friend in the intervention of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who suddenly discovered that it is Guy Fawkes' Day tomorrow and who thought to cheer things up a little. I rather likened the speeches of the two hon. Members to one of those firework displays when there are two Catherine wheels upon a wire: one infects and lights up the other.
1346 Earlier today the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and others, referred to the publishing of the two important Reports, first of all the Hughes-Parry Report, and secondly, the Llewellyn-Jones Report. Shortly I would say that I agree that these are both matters which we should discuss in the Welsh Grand Committee. They are both matters of great detail, and in the case of the Hughes-Parry Report it is a matter which has to be dealt with with the greatest care. For fear of offending any portion of our Welsh people, this is a matter which has to be thought on long and spoken of carefully.
I would go on from that to say that the debate today has covered a wide field, as is normal with our Welsh debates in the House and in Grand Committee. In Grand Committee we concentrate on specific subjects, and during this Session we have covered four of the most important ones, and in the Welsh affairs debate in the House Welsh Members raise problems of which they have particular and specific knowledge, and also problems from their own constituencies. The debate today has provided a kaleidoscope of individual problems, as we have heard.
The Motion tells us that we are debating Cmd. Paper No. 2602, and it is curiously unreal to be debating today what happened in Wales between 1st January and 31st December, 1964. However, with the curious blend of Celtic logic which is shown often by the Front Benches, we have been able to detect little discussion by the Secretary of State of the Command Paper. I do not blame him. He was speaking of what, in his new capacity of Secretary of State, he and his colleagues have been trying to do in Wales during the last 12 months. But I would take the opportunity of congratulating those individuals who have produced the Report on Wales, 1964, in such a very readable form. I was particularly interested to see the photographs in it. The first one shows an advance factory at Portmadoc, completed in May, 1964. Then we see a staff dining room in a general hospital, which rightly shows the importance attached to staff conditions in our hospital services. Next we have a road bridge over a reservoir, bringing to mind the large road construction programme which we have seen in Wales over the past years, whilst stressing the 1347 importance which we all attach to the ability of our architects to make bridges which fit in with the natural beauty of their country's surroundings. In the fourth picture we see a helicopter, not bearing the Secretary of State on this occasion, but bearing a microwave television link. It is often said that pictures talk, and certainly that selection demonstrates some of the activities which, in Wales, we believe to be important.
In his speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) referred to the activity which has gone on in the years that have just passed, which it is admitted on all sides of the House has brought a tremendous change in the position of Wales and in the condition of the Welsh people. However, he asks, can the impetus be maintained? That is the question to which we have to address our minds.
It is not the fault of the Opposition that the debate has to be so late in the Session. As I say, it deals with a period of time which finished over 10 months ago and, as the Government will realise, from this side we have asked repeatedly for the Welsh debates to take place earlier in the Session. I know the difficulties. There is the pressure of work, but, on the number of occasions that I have raised the matter with the Leader of the House, I am afraid that we have had no satisfaction. The Labour Administration today is full of Welshmen from Welsh constituencies. I say in all humility that, if Wales means so much to the Labour Party, can they not see that the debate on Welsh affairs does not take place on the last day, at the end of the longest Parliamentary fag-end in living memory?
§ Mr. James Griffiths
The practice has been that we have a whole series of Welsh Committees, with the Welsh debate at the end of the Session. It may be that we shall be looking at that, and I shall be pleased to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that, but it was not quite the point that I was making. We could have had the Welsh debate at the end of July. We are discussing a Report which is already 1348 many months out of date, and the fact that we are doing it so late makes it three months more out of date. But I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that it is a matter which we should look at.
My right hon. Friend for Monmouth then referred to the National Plan and, like myself, he was disappointed at the brevity and paucity of the remarks about Wales. I cannot help thinking that the Secretary of State must have had a hand in it, and I can say to him that we on this side are disappointed with what has been put in the National Plan about the future of the Principality. Speaking on television, Professor Niven said that the National Plan poses the questions, but gives none of the answers. Perhaps the most important answer which the National Plan has failed to give is with regard to the future of the steel and coal-mining industries in Wales, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will bear with me if I say a little about this. I know that many of them have a life-long interest in and knowledge of this matter.
The hon. Member for Pontypool criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth for saying that the Government should have some form of steel plan for South Wales. I do not think that that is a justifiable complaint. Those who are in a contracting industry in any part of the country today have a right to know what is going to happen to them. I realise that both with coal and with steel there must be a large confidence factor within them, and I therefore shall not pursue this matter too far, but I think it is right of my right hon. Friend to ask the Government what their plans are, and to ask them to be more specific. There is far too little in the National Plan to show what they intend to do.
With regard to redundancies, we are told that the coal-mining industry as a whole is going to lose 175,000 men over the country as a whole, and that agriculture is going to lose 142,000 men. We are pleased to see the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the Chamber. We are grateful to him for coming here and listening to the debate. There is nothing in the Welsh paragraphs of the Plan to tell us how many men in Wales are expected to be made redundant in agriculture, and how 1349 many in coal mining. Possibly it is an impossible answer to give accurately, but we would like to have some idea of what the trend is.
In the agricultural industry we have seen a continual decrease in the number of men working on the land, but I think the time is coming very soon—we may well be there now—when this decline is going to slow down. In spite of the arrangements which have been made by the Government to buy out, or shall I say help out, small farmers in Wales and other parts of the country, I still believe that there will be a slowing down of the speed at which men are leaving the land.
With regard to the mining industry, I believe that we should be told a little more so that those within the industry have a chance of understanding what the Government are up to. As right hon. and hon. Members have said, redundancy in large and basic industries of this sort is bound to mean redevelopment. Is that redevelopment going to take place on the coastal plain or at the mouth of the valleys, or up the valleys where there are centres of population? Everyone will have a different view about this, but here again I believe the Government should tell us what their views are in this respect. We ought to be told not only how many men it is thought will be in the industry in five years' time, but also what tonnage is expected, and here again the confidence factor comes in.
The National Plan was debated yesterday. It was debated and defended in one of the longest speeches that we have heard from the Chief Secretary for a long time. He spent 67 minutes trying to tell the House why it is, and how it is, that his Department has done so little so far. Hon. Members say "Tut", but it is clear that the National Plan has not been received as well in the country as some hon. Members believe. It may be a survey, but it is certainly not a plan. Within the National Plan we are told a good deal about what has been done on the roads. Command Paper 2602 also contains many references to what has been done.
There is one matter to which I wish to refer especially on the question of roads. We know that there have been certain cuts in road expenditure. We know, too, that the Welsh Office is 1350 responsible for road policy in Wales. I ask the Minister of State straight away whether Circulars Nos. 21/65 and 25/65, sent out to local authorities by the Welsh Office, and which indicate that expenditure on certain classes of road schemes should be deferred, can be varied. I apologise for not having given the hon. Gentleman notice of this, and if he is unable to give me an answer tonight I shall understand.
In effect, these circulars tell Welsh local authorities that certain schemes costing £25,000 and over must be deferred for six months. This is a form of cut in road expenditure. What is more important is the question of bridge-building. If a local authority is building a bridge over a river it normally starts work in March in order to get the benefit of the summer months. If such work is delayed for six months it will start work at the beginning of the winter. It is clear, therefore, that there will be a delay not of six months, but of 12 months. I therefore ask the Minister whether he can vary these provisions for those local authorities who are building river bridges.
During the debate my right hon. Friend referred to the question of Mid Wales. The Secretary of State said that a firm of consultants was looking into the question of the Mid-Wales towns. I will not refer to the subject in detail tonight; the Secretary of State knows my views on the matter, and I know his. But with regard to what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) said, I would only reply that in my opinion he is wrong. I will explain why. He denied that he had ever thought that Aberystwyth's population should be brought up to 250,000.
§ Mr. Hooson
I did not say that I had ever thought this. I said that the Liberal Party, as a party—and I have the policy statement here—had advocated that Aberystwyth should be built up to three times its size, and up to 60,000 by the end of the year. What the hon. Member is referring to is the first draft of a panel which made certain recommendations which were later considered by the party.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
All I can say is that the piece of paper which I have in mind was handed out by the Press 1351 officer of the Liberal Party. The chairman of the panel was the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery himself. On page 4, dealing with phase 2, one sentence says:It is envisaged that Aberystwyth should achieve a population of 150,000 within 30 years and should have a population of 250,000 within 50 years.The hon. and learned Member cannot get away from that. Those are the figures. They are not quite so many as have been given to us this afternoon by the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams)—that would be asking too much—but those figures are pretty definite. If the Liberals have changed their minds about Aberystwyth, if they have looked further into the climatic conditions of that estimable place—which I enjoy so much every time I visit it—I can only say that they have seen a little more sense.
Has the hon. Gentleman any further news to give us about iron ore ports? We debated the matter in the Welsh Grand Committee and when the White Paper which the Government presented said that the Government accepted the plan for the two independent terminals. Later they took out the word "the", I think, and accepted the plan for two independent terminals. What has happened in the last few months? Are we any nearer getting an answer on this most important question?
I should repeat the questions which were asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth and others on this side of the House. What have the Government to say about the east-west road in Mid-Wales? This is something which has been discussed many times. We do not know what priority the Government have given this project. Secondly, would the hon. Gentleman answer my right hon. Friend's point about not so much the building programme of the South Wales Electricity Board as the Government's own policy towards the building of public buildings and office blocks at a time when they have announced financial stringency in other directions.
Thirdly, could we hear a little more about what has been called the "Gas Board muddle"? It is no good blaming the Gas Board over this. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Goverment 1352 are to blame here and they should tell us a little more about it and about what they intend to do.
This debate marks the end of the first 12 months of the tenure of office of the Secretary of State. In his opening speech today he talked about the present day. He talked a good deal about the past, too. As I said, he might have told us a little more about the future, but if this is the first birthday, so to speak, of the Secretary of State, and if he has given us little candle and little cake we nevertheless recognise that the job which he is doing is a big one, a job which people of all political persuasions in the Principality want to see succeed.
During the next 12 months, although we shall not always agree with him, we shall watch the activity of his Department. I join here in remarks made by other hon. Members about the help which is given by the Welsh Office to many different hon. Members on both sides of the House. We hope that the central policy of the present Government will make it possible for him to do a good job in Wales.
We realise that, in many respects, his hands have been tied this year. We realise that this year the cuts which have been imposed—particularly on roads and public buildings—have made it difficult for him to give as good a showing on his first Ministerial birthday as he would have liked to do. The criticisms of Government policy today have not all come from this side of the House: some have come from behind him. I wish to give the Minister of State a full-half-hour to answer the points and criticisms which have been made, and we look forward to hearing his speech.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)
I very much appreciate the tone and the content of the remarks with which the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) finished his speech. I appreciate his kindly and gracious references to my right hon. Friend, who I think is regarded on both sides of the House, throughout Wales, and indeed in Britain and the Commonwealth, as a man of outstanding character, integrity and achievement. May I join the hon. Member in saluting my right hon. Friend, my chief, on this his political birthday as the First Secretary of 1353 State for Wales and in saying on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State and myself what a great privilege and pleasure it has been to be allowed to work with him through the past 12 months.
The hon. Member complained about the fact that the debate was being held today. He knows from his experience as a Government Whip in the past that, generally speaking, the Welsh debates in previous years were held towards the end of the Session. In fact, in 1958 there was not Welsh debate at all. I do not think that he was the responsible whip in that year. It may be that we shall have to look at these arrangements, as my right hon. Friend indicated, so that this tendency to hold the annual Welsh debate towards the end of the Session can be corrected. There is no reason why it should not be held at some other point of the year, and the meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee could be grouped before and after that debate.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
The reason why there was no Welsh debate in 1958 is that there were two in 1957, one in February and one in December. My complaint was not simply that this is at the end of the Session but that it is at the end of the longest fag-end of any Parliament that we have ever known.
§ Mr. Roberts
It is still a fact that the tendency has been to hold this annual debate towards the end of the Session. It may well be that through the usual channels we can correct that.
This has been a very good debate. It has ranged very widely indeed. A debate of this kind on the state of the nation is today perhaps more significant and effective because of the new constitutional status and the Ministerial responsibility which have been accorded to Wales by the present Government. In past years general debates of this kind tended to be diffuse and pointless, because there was no real Ministerial reply possible to the speeches made. Today there are responsible Ministers who must listen to the criticisms and reply as fairly as possible. It is their duty to bear the onus of replying.
It is natural and indeed legitimate that in a debate of this kind a number of hon. and right hon. Members have raised constituency points. I will do my best, in the time at my disposal, to answer such 1354 points as I can. If, however, through lack of time, it is impossible for me to deal with all of these, I can assure the hon. Members concerned that every point will be followed up by Ministers.
Underlying all these constituency points is our concern and determination that the economy of Wales and its people should be placed on a firm basis. Wide ranging as the debate has been, the common motif of almost every speech which we have heard has been the need to strengthen and modernise Welsh industry and the social infrastructure which sustains it and, indeed, is in turn sustained by it.
The purpose of the debate was to examine what progress we are making in these vital matters, and although we hang the debate on the peg of taking note of the Report of Government action for the previous year, we all know that this is the way in which we examine the performance of the Government of the day. It is quite fair that we on this side of the House should endeavour to explain what we are doing and have done and that the Opposition should criticise present performance as well as attempting to justify past performance on their part.
I think that it is utterly fair to say that on the facts and arguments which we have heard today, the record of the past 12 months is one of great encouragement based on solid achievement. This is generally recognised throughout Wales. In a very difficult year, Wales—with the present arrangements—has made very good progress indeed in the vital sectors of advance which affect its national wellbeing.
The central fact which must govern our thinking and policy is, as my right hon. Friend said when opening the debate, the fact that Wales has been for the better part of a century dependent largely on a few heavy basic industries and that for the past two or three decades those industries have, for a variety of reasons—chief among them automation and market changes—been providing fewer and fewer jobs for our people.
We are faced with a two-fold challenge. Indeed, for the past 20 years or more all Governments have been faced with this challenge. The first is to ensure that the old basic industries—coal, steel, slate, agriculture; not one of them by any means dead or obsolescent and every one 1355 of them with a big future—are enabled to find a viable life providing security of employment and proper reward to its workers in the circumstances which are emerging and in the light of the facts of the situation.
That is one side of the Challenge. It deals with the old industries which are with us and which will be with us; industries which are great assets to our life and economy. The second challenge is to plan so that new, modern industries move into those areas which are most likely to be affected by the closure of the old ones.
The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has been talking a lot recently about the need to create confidence among industrialists in Wales to maintain impetus. This is very true. By that test, the achievements of the past 12 months in Wales show that industrial confidence in Wales has substantially increased over that of the past few years and that the impetus has indeed not only been maintained but is quickening. For example, 146 new industrial undertakings have come into the Principality in the last 12 months. That compares with an average of 117 in the previous four years, when the right hon. Member for Monmouth and his party were responsible for inducing confidence and maintaining impetus in Wales. If 117 was good, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that 146 is 25 per cent. better? In terms of new jobs the contrast is even greater; 10,600 new jobs in the last 12 months compared with 6,800 on average during the period to which I have referred.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that the economic health of Wales, like that of other parts of the Kingdom, depended very largely on the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course it does. The right hon. Gentleman should know, for he was the Chancellor in 1957—and immediately the unemployment rate in Wales went up by nearly half, from 2.6 per cent. to 3.8 per cent. We indeed agree that the policy of the Chancellor affects Wales very deeply. The policy of the present Chancellor is helping Wales. It is designed not only to bring new industry into Wales but to modernise industry which has already reached the Principality.
1356 I turn from industry to the new towns. The right hon. Gentleman does not like the term "urban centre"—I rather like it. It does not pin one down to any particular traditional type of arrangement. I think that there is a fair measure of agreement in all parts of the House that three things are necessary in mid-Wales. First of all, there is the strengthening of the existing towns, and we are doing that. In the past 12 months we have introduced into mid-Wales seven Government-aided factories compared with eight over the four preceding years. The Opposition's average of two we have capped with a performance of seven in one year. This is precisely what we mean by strengthening existing towns.
May I here pay tribute once more to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, and its most able chairman and officers, for the part it is playing, with the Development Commission, in attracting and establishing these new industries in an area that so sorely needs them.
Secondly, apart from strengthening the existing towns, there is need to do everything we can to strengthen existing industry. From my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) we have heard of the importance of tourism; she is one of those Members who has long understood that tourism is a major industry in Wales, and could be an even bigger industry. In Mid-Wales as well as on the coast we would aim to link tourism—which is a seasonal industry with the great weakness that it employs people for only part of the year—with agriculture and, indeed, with forestry.
We shall seek by discussing in an appropriate place at an appropriate time the Government's proposal to set up a Rural Development Board for Wales, whose purpose will be to co-ordinate land use in areas of rural depopulation so that agriculture, forestry and tourism are linked together to form a new viable economy in such areas. This will need thinking out, but a great many people in Wales, in the holiday industry as well as agriculture, find themselves coming to this decision that we must link, shall we say, the smallholding with the tourist industry.
The new town itself forms the third prong of the policy, and I would ask 1357 hon. Members not to dismiss this, and regard it as inevitably an overspill of the Midlands. Why should it be? And if it were an overspill of the Midlands, are there not scores of thousands of Welsh families in the Midlands, many of them living in narrow streets, in housing one would wish to improve, and with their children in overcrowded schools. We are having to close schools in rural Wales because there are not enough children, while across the border in the great conurbation of the Midlands there are thousands of Welsh people and their children—children for whom there is really no room in the existing schools, and no teachers for them. If Wales has a surplus of anything apart from water, it is a surplus of teachers. They are our great export.
It is not inevitable that we should set up a new town in Wales to cater entirely for overspill. It should open its doors to people from outside—of course, it should—but it could also be Welsh in character, in spirit, and be a re-creation of the Welsh spirit in an area of Wales which since the time of the drovers has not been as literally Welsh as one would have liked to see it.
§ Mr. Roberts
Indeed, not as Welsh as Lianelly. Probably rugby has something to do with that. They play soccer in Mid-Wales.
Let us not dismiss this idea of a new urban centre. There will be three or four on the other side of Offa's Dyke. If those three or four modern new towns go up—because they must—will they not draw population not only from the hills of Wales but, to quote the right hon. Gentleman, from the towns as well? Should not we set up in Wales one new town into which can go people who must leave the rural areas. People do leave them even though they have not got to, and many people do so because they want to. Let us have an urban centre with all the facilities wanted today by those who wish to reside and work there and by those who need to go there from the villages. Mid-Wales is very far from the fairly large well-provided town which almost every family today wishes to visit for business purposes once a week or fortnight.
1358 There is a further point concerning coal, which was mentioned by a number of hon. Members. My noble Friend the Member for Carmarthen put it in perspective. We remember the headlong closures, as she called them, of 1959. There will be closures now, but what a difference in the attitude of the Government of the day towards the consequences of whatever closures may prove necessary! I will not bandy probable figures, localities and closures across the Floor of the House. I think it would be most unwise for us at this stage to begin to speculate or prognosticate where and how many, which pits and how many men will be displaced. This is a matter of continuing change. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) said that he was delighted with the upsurge of production in the Welsh pits in the last few weeks. So are we. My right hon. Friend said that it may be that production will go up in some pits, and so they will come off whatever list there is of closures. I do not think therefore that we should serve the interests of the mining industry by going into this.
But what I will say is this. I have been impressed by the concern of the Opposition about the miners who will be displaced, as they think, from the old industry. I recall that between 1945 and 1964 the mining population was almost halved. There may be closures and redundancies—over a short period, we hope—now, but this is not a new thing. The decline of the mining population has been going on for a long time. But, somehow, it is in the year of the Labour Government that there is this strident protest and concern from the later-day saints opposite about the position of the miners. What a contrast with the attitude of the Government. The measures are described in today's White Paper. There is capital reconstruction involving the wiping out of £400 million, with an immediate gain per annum of £30 million to the National Coal Board.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), as well as others, to indicate what the Government are doing to help the mining industry. Here it is—something that no Government has ever done before, the wiping out of that dead capital and linking the depreciation with it. We are 1359 working hard on the expansion of training facilities. As some hon. Members have indicated, there are miners who, while not by any means totally disabled, need special training in order to fit into other work. There is the 5 per cent. preference for coal over oil in Government Department buildings. There are the special and substantial funds to meet social difficulty arising from closures. On top of all this, there is the recent scheduling of practically the whole of the South Wales coalfield as a development district and the sanctioning of advance factories in the valleys for which one or two of my hon. Friends made an eloquent plea.
I agree that where communities have established themselves in the valleys and where there is valuable social capital and, even more valuable, community capital, we should make every effort, compatible with efficiency, to bring industries into the areas. It may be a combination of both. I was asked whether we would place these factories in the valleys, at the mouths of the valleys, or on the coast. Some inevitably will be placed on the coast and others at the mouths of the valleys. There are fine sites here and there in South Wales where we may and, I hope, will be able to set up industrial estates, but there are also sites in the valleys themselves. We want a combination of all. Let us not be too dogmatic about this, but do what is pragmatically practical. Those are the measures on which I have been asked to speak about what we are doing for the coal areas.
I turn from industry and particularly coal to roads. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said—that we have been saddled with the five-year programme which the previous administration arranged. We can change it only at the point where the five years end, that is, what we can do is to improve five years ahead all the time. But apart from that, as my right hon. Friend explained, we have already been able to improve the heritage given to us by something more than £1 million per annum. It is not enough.
I entirely agree with what has been said about the importance of roads and of good communications for industry and tourism in Wales. The Welsh Economic Council and the Welsh Planning Board 1360 have made a special study of this. This is not the appropriate time for me to go into detail, but the House will be interested to know that the general attitude is that there should be not perhaps motorways, but dual carriageways along the North Coast through the Midlands and through South Wales, lateral, horizontal roads, East-West roads; and also a communicating link North and South. After all, this is a country and a nation needing to be enabled to come together. Present communications between North and South, although greatly improved in the past 20 years, need further improvement still.
Those are the priorities. I agree that the economic priority is the East-West connection, but close on its heels is the need for the people of Wales, as a national entity and as a community, to be able to travel from North to South freely, and when the new town materialises in Montgomery or thereabouts, the North-South road will obviously be an extremely important communication.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I did not have an opportunity, because of matters beyond my control, to ask the question in debate, so perhaps I might ask it now. I should like to ask about the flyover at Llandudno Junction, the deferment of the bridge and the inconsistency of the answers which were given by the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Roberts
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may ask and he will be answered. There are no inconsistencies. This flyover bridge could not be exempted from deferment, because it did not come in any of the exemption categories as laid down by the Chancellor. It is, therefore, subject to the six months' delay. On examination we find that a certain amount of preliminary work can be put in hand during those six months, which will help to mitigate the effect of the deferment. We very much hope that a great deal of the deferment will be eliminated by the amount of preliminary work that may prove possible.
This flyover was first sanctioned in 1960 and the outcry against a six months' deferment by this Government contrasts with the comparative quiet which 1361 resounded through the Conway constituency for five years under the other Government. Let us have this in perspective.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am sorry I cannot give way any more. I have other questions to answer. I can assure the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), that the St. Asaph bypass will be put in hand in 1967–68. The question of the Dee Estuary, which he raised, is an extremely important matter, and must be dealt with in some detail, and he has agreed that I should see him or write to him about the project. No doubt other hon. Members will wish to know about the progress of this inquiry into the possibility of effecting a new communication across the Dee Estuary.
I will not mention housing, other than to say that there was comparatively little said about housing once it was understood that this year, under this arrangement, and this Government, we shall break all housebuilding records in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman insists that every house built in Wales was planned by him last year. This is of course impossible, but this is the way with everything we do. The Opposition explain it by saying "We planned it." But, having planned it, however nothing whatever happened. A feature of all this development in housing and industry is that the whole of Wales is sharing in it. The 1362 Welsh Economic Council, the Welsh Planning Board, and the Welsh Office Ministers look at Wales as a whole, North, South, Mid West—Wales is one entity for planning for its corporate progress.
Just as in industry, the whole of Wales has shared in the progress that has been made in the past year. Out of the 146 new undertakings mentioned, 40 are in the North and centre of Wales and 106 are in South Wales, which is about the right proportion according to the spread of population. Our housing is going up in every part of the Principality and the plans for the development of Wales as a whole are being prepared.
I have been asked why there has not been more reference to Wales in the National Plan. That is not the purpose of this document. This document was made as a statement for Britain. It was not the place for regional statements at all. Hon. and right hon. Members completely misunderstand the purpose of the publication called the National Plan However, there are more references and more space given to Wales in the National Plan than to any other region. If the Opposition have no hope for the future then Wales certainly has.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report on Wales for 1964 (Command Paper No. 2602).