§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. George Thomas)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report on Wales for 1967 (Command Paper No. 3544).All right hon. and hon. Members will be glad to welcome back today my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who has been away for a long time after some ill-health. We all rejoice that he has returned to us.
During the six months that have elapsed since I came to this office I have been privileged to tour a great part of Wales. Already, I have met local authorities in North, South, East, West and Mid Wales and I have been tremendously moved by the appreciation expressed everywhere for the work of the Welsh Office since it was established under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). His stamp will always be on this office, and the contribution he has made to our national life in Wales cannot easily be exaggerated.
No one can travel about Wales today without being aware of a great movement in the life and thought of Wales. In almost every field, economic, cultural, social, and in the realm of political thought as well as elsewhere, we find new developments and new ideas being pressed forward. This ferment of ideas is nowhere seen more clearly than in the debates being conducted in the Press, television and elsewhere about the role of Wales, about its position in the United Kingdom, about the problem of devolution and the status of the Welsh language. I would like to speak briefly about some of these important issues before I turn to matters in the economic and allied fields which arise from the Report.
What impresses me perhaps more than anything else in the life of Wales today is the great interest being shown by ordinary men and women in the broad question of what it really means to be a citizen of Wales. For my part, I greatly welcome this. It is right that we as a nation—and, indeed, this House today—should give serious heed to these matters. I entirely understand the arguments of those who want a greater degree of responsibility entrusted to Wales for the conduct of its own affairs within the United Kingdom. This is something 225 quite different from separatism. I am absolutely convinced that extreme separatist attitudes are rejected by the great body of public opinion in Wales. Above all, the element of violence which has crept into and marred the image of Wales, particularly in recent months, is absolute anathema to Welsh people.
Let me take this opportunity of saying to this House and to all our fellow-citizens of the United Kingdom that the Welsh people as a whole are not like this. The extremists responsible for these outrages, culminating in the brutal affair at Pembrey, are thugs and criminals and in no sense reflect the mind and spirit of Wales. I like to think that the House supported the statement which I made about the airman who was injured at Pembrey, and I know that we all send our good wishes for as full a recovery as is possible. I can only hope and pray that what happened at Pembrey will bring the extremists to their senses and that there will be no more violence after this.
Nor, to move to a less violent plane, are we in Wales the discourteous boors who have commanded newspaper headlines by their ill-mannered and loutish behaviour towards the Prince of Wales at some of his appearances in the Principality. Those who talk so much about adult nationhood should remember that one is more likely to be treated as an adult if one behaves as an adult.
However, to reject separatism and condemn violence does not mean that we simply stand by the status quo. The Government, and I personally, certainly stand absolutely by the concept of partnership within the United Kingdom, and a close partnership. But the Government's mind is far from closed to the concept of reasonable devolution of functions from Whitehall. We have moved some way already. It was this Government who set up a Welsh Office.
The Opposition are now very interested in and fascinated by the subject of devolution. But the fact remains that in all their years in power they failed to nerve themselves to create a Welsh Office or a Secretary of State for Wales with a place in the Cabinet. They regarded my present task as a part-time occupation. In turn they considered it a spare-time hobby for the Home Secretary of the day and then for the Minister of 226 Housing and Local Government of the day. Let me assure the House that this is very much a full-time occupation.
Plenty of people will say that we have not gone far enough or fast enough, and I admit frankly that I would like to see a further extension of the functions of the Welsh Office. But I must stress the importance of basing policies on informed examination of their implications. Big issues arise in these fields and action, once taken, may not be easily reversible. We must study thoroughly their implications, so that whatsoever is done is done soundly and well. I believe that this is the wish of the people of Wales and that it is the right way to advance.
In this context, I should like to say something about local government reorganisation in Wales. This has been a substantial preoccupation of all Welsh Office Ministers since the Government proposals, which were deliberately presented as matters for public discussion. They were far-reaching in their effects and it was very important that the Government should be able to form as wide and clear a picture as possible of the reactions to them in Wales. Thus, over a period of six or seven months, since our last Welsh day, we have conducted a very full and detailed series of discussions about the proposals.
Twenty-five meetings have been held with local authorities and their associations. We have met virtually every local authority in Wales at district level and above. I doubt very much whether any Government proposals of this sort have ever been the subject of more thorough consultations. The brunt of the work has fallen on the shoulders of my colleagues the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State, to whom I should like to pay tribute for their great contribution to this dialogue between the Government and Welsh local authorities. We hear a good deal today about participation in government and our actions are surely a participation in the widest and truest sense.
All the evidence submitted is being very carefully assessed. I am conscious that Wales is impatient to know our future plans and intentions, and I fully accept the undesirability of prolonged uncertainty. I assure the House that there will be no avoidable delay in these matters. But if the work is to be done 227 properly, and correct judgments reached, we must study the views expressed carefully. Of course, whatever decisions are taken are bound to displease some. In a matter as complex as this, one cannot hope to satisfy all opinions. That is why I have thought it right, at the risk of delay, to give this matter such full examination. I am sure that the House will appreciate my position in this regard.
I should like to say a word about the Welsh language. We can look back over the past year with a sense of pride and achievement. In education, the Gittins Report is a courageous document. It faced issues squarely. Although not all of us may be fully in agreement with all the Committee's recommendations on the Welsh language, we recognise that they are based on a sincere assessment of the real value of educating our children in both languages wherever possible.
The Welsh language Act is, of course, a landmark of the first importance in this respect, for we have thus removed all the legal obstacles which existed to the use of Welsh in the administration of the law and in public administration in Wales. We may justly claim that the Labour Government have done more for the Welsh language than any other Government in history and the Welsh vernacular Press might some times show an appreciation of this fact—but it would be very unlikely, I suppose.
I should like now to refer to the work of the Advisory Translation Panel, which I had the pleasure of meeting a month ago. By the end of this year, about 200 Government forms will have been translated into Welsh and the text of the great majority has been approved by the panel. I am sure that the House would wish to congratulate its members for the work which they are doing. In view of their constructive and valuable advice, it is all the more regrettable that there was recently a resignation from the panel for what I must confess I can regard only as utterly misguided reasons. Of course, it has not been possible to accept all the suggestions which the panel has made, but, as I have shown, we have made substantial progress in a short time and we shall continue to press ahead.
The adoption of bilingual ballot papers for the local polls on Sunday opening, for example, has been recommended by 228 my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Critics should consider how much has been achieved during the last two or three years and compare it with progress in the past two or three decades. I look forward to a progressive and sensible extension of the use of Welsh in public administration. I stress the word "sensible", as I do not think total bilingualism is sensible or practicable in this field. There are many specialist forms whose translation is not required and would be a waste of time and money. For in the long run responsibility for the Welsh language cannot rest with the Government alone. The local authorities, and parents and, above all, each of us as individuals have also an important part to play. By co-operation and sympathetic understanding—and I stress this, for the language must never be allowed to become a divisive influence in our country—I am confident that we, in our generation, can ensure that the language will not only be preserved for those who follow us but will be given fresh sources of strength and vigour. In this connection, I read with deep interest the splendid leading article in the Western Mail today.
I would like now to turn to the economic situation in Wales and to the closely related problem of road communications. I know that this is of concern to us all. During the months that I have been privileged to be the Secretary of State, I have found in Wales a very high percentage of professional pessimists. They are the people who never miss an opportunity of shouting about our economic problems—but are curiously silent about the bright side of the picture. Indeed, I get the impression at times that these professional pessimists—for political reasons, perhaps—are really rather upset when they hear or read about the progress we are making towards solving the economic problems of Wales.
I propose to review the economic situation in the Principality on a geographical basis. I shall start in the North-East. The story of recent industrial development in that part of North-East Wales which is in the development area is truly remarkable. At the same time, I am very conscious that there are uncertainties surrounding the future of the coal industry in the area, in particular, the proposal to close Ifton Colliery.
229 But, despite the uncertainties, a realistic comparison of the jobs needed and the jobs in prospect in the area gives cause for optimism. The important point is that the jobs in prospects are not "pie in the sky"; they are being created now. B.I.C.C., Cadbury and Firestone—giants of industry—are but three of the firms which have appreciated the excellent locational advantages of the area and the attractiveness of the Governments development area incentives.
On the Flintshire side of the Dee Estuary the unemployment rate remains satisfactorily below the rate for Great Britain as a whole. There is, however, local concern because of the heavy dependence of the area on a few large industries, notably steel, the aircraft industry and synthetic yarn. So far as the steel industry is concerned—and this also applies to South Wales—the British Steel Corporation is still working on an outline plan for the long term development of the public sector of the industry While it is right for local authorities and other local bodies to take an intelligent interest in the future—this is what economic planning is all about—it would be wrong for anyone to make gloomy and alarmist prognostications The fact is that the Steel Corporation's plans are not complete. When they are, they will be the subject of close examination by and discussion with the Government.
In North-West Wales, the problems are more difficult to solve, largely because of the extended lines of communication. But progress is being made at a rate which should convince even the most biased of the Government's critics that our policies are working, and working well.
In Anglesey, there has been anxiety over the rundown in construction work at the Wylfa Power Station. Across the Menai Straits, in Caernarvonshire, there was but a little while ago the prestige industrial site at Llandegai, but there was until recently seemingly no one interested in it. At Caernarvon, a 25,000 sq. ft. advance factory was nearing completion with no tenant in sight; and at Pwllheli there was another advance factory, this one of 10,000 sq. ft., with again no tenant on the horizon. That was the position but three or four months ago.
Let us look at the position today. In Anglesey, one of the three aluminium smelters approved by the Government is 230 to be built, giving two-and-a-half to three years' work for up to 2,000 men on the construction site and 700 to 800 jobs in the smelter itself when it come on stream in 1971; and the construction work is starting now. Across the Menai Straits, a substantial part of the Llandegai site has been let for the building of a factory of 100,000 sq. ft which will provide 500 to 600 jobs, mostly for men. The two advance factories to which I referred have been let, the one at Pwellheli barely two weeks ago.
In Mid-Wales, there is steady progress to report. Since November, 1964, under arrangements made with the Development Commission, seven advance factories have been approved for Mid-Wales towns. Six of these have been let—largely because of the spirit of self-help which moved the county councils in the area to form the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, to which I give credit. There has also been considerable private factory building in the area, assisted, of course, by generous Government grants.
Let me now turn to South-West Wales and, in particular, Pembrokeshire. Despite the developments by the oil industry at Milford Haven, local people, as I have discovered in my visits, are rightly concerned about the unemployment situation. On the south side of the Haven, work is proceeding apace on the new power station, providing employment at present for a large number of the local people. But the Government are fully alive to the situation which might arise in two or three years when the station is commissioned, bearing in mind particularly that Pembrokeshire is more dependent on civilian employment in defence establishments than any other county in Wales. The possibility that recent changes in defence policy may result in a reduction in employment opportunities, both direct and indirect, or in the county is, I know, exercising the minds of responsible people in that part of the country.
Having recognised the problems, I can assure the House that we are doing everything within our power to ease them. In particular, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and his officials in Wales never miss an opportunity of seeking to interest industrialists in opening up factories in the area.
231 The greatest problems, however, arise in industrial South Wales. It is here that we find the most acute problems of change with the older traditional industries giving way to the new. It is no good seeking to hold back these processes of change. What we must continue to do is to enable the change to take place from the old to the new with the least possible hardship.
Those of us who were brought up in the valleys of South Wales in the days before the war need no reminding of the cruel effects of unemployment. The situation is infinitely better now than it was then, but we shall not be satisfied until there is work available for all who are capable of doing it and who want it. Full employment is our target. We aim to move from the 96 per cent, employed in Wales today to 98 or 99 per cent.
Let me now deal with industrial development certificates, which is a fair way of measuring our success in attracting new industry. Over the four years up to and including 1964, when the party opposite were in power, the total area of factory space approved in Wales was 9½ million sq. ft. During the four years since the present Government took office, the area approved was not 9½ million, but 25.7 million sq. ft. From 1961 to 1964, 20,000 additional jobs are estimated to have arisen from approvals. I am proud to tell the House that during the last four years the number of additional jobs is over 53,000, which is higher than I said when I was in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert). This is welcome evidence of the success of our policies.
Then there is the future. The level of forward inquiry for industrial space has also risen, and in the first nine months of this year it was nearly double that for the first nine months of 1967. The number of visits to Wales by industrialists seeking to inspect sites and premises has also risen, and in the first nine months of this year exceeded the total for the whole of 1967.
Let me now turn to advance factories so that I can put on record our achievement in this field. It is not many months since rarely a week went by without there being Questions on the Order Paper intended, no doubt, to show that our policy of building factories in ad- 232 vance of specific requirements was a failure. Our critics have now, apparently, gone to ground—they have certainly gone quiet—and it is not difficult to find the reason. The facts are that since October, 1964, 41 advance factories have been authorised for Wales. Of these, 27 are completed or are very near completion, 11 are at earlier stages of construction and three are in the planning stage.
Up until this morning, 24 of the factories had been allocated and I am very pleased to be able to inform the House that the Board of Trade has today announced that another advance factory at Merthyr Tydfil has been let. That makes 25 in all out of the 27 which have been constructed. The allocation of another three is now being negotiated with prospective tenants. Only one completed factory has not so far been finally or provisionally allocated. This is a spectacular record of success.
Twenty-five firm allocations and three near certain ones—a total of 28—out of 41 factories authorised does not seem to me to be evidence of a policy which has failed. Over 2,000 people are working in those advance factories, or will be within a very short while. What is really significant is that many of the firms which have entered into agreements to take over these factories would not have come to Wales if the factories had not been available.
In the special development areas—the areas likely to be hardest hit by the rundown in coal mining—16 advance factories have been authorised. Nine of these have already been allocated to tenants and another two are currently the subject of negotiations. That leaves five for which tenants have not yet been found, but none of these advance factories is yet nearing completion.
I am also greatly encouraged by the fact that in 1967–68, Wales' share of assistance offered by the Board of Trade under the Local Employment Acts was over £8½ million, which was nearly one-fifth of the total assistance offered under those Acts in the whole of Great Britain. On any basis of comparison, this was a very good share indeed. In fact, 1967–68 was the fourth year running when we increased our share of the assistance offered under those Acts. In the same financial year—I would like the hon. Member for 233 Carmarthen to hear this, because it will be music to his ears, I hope—investment grants paid to firms in Wales amounted to nearly £25 million, nearly £20 million of it to firms in the development area.
In addition to all this, major new Board of Trade sites were announced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade last November. The Llantrisant site is already fully taken up. It has the Fram Filters factory now being brought into use, the Perkin-Elmer Ltd. premises, due for completion later this year, and the Royal Mint, which is to be opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 17th December.
At Fforestfach, land already in Board of Trade ownership is being brought into use by reclamation for industrial development. In the Landore/Morriston area of Swansea, the Board of Trade has arranged to buy some 30 to 40 acres of land from the Swansea Corporation, and the Corporation is pressing ahead with its plans for the reclamation and redevelopment of the Lower Swansea Valley. Thus, factory development, housing development and the expansion of amenities will march forward step by step.
The development of the industrial estate at Kenfig will now go ahead very fast. The Borg Warner development, announced recently, will take up a very large site in the heart of the estate. The construction of the 50,000 sq. ft. advance factory is well in hand, and I am delighted to be able to tell the House that negotiations, for the occupation of this large advance factory at Kenfig Hill are at an advanced stage. A 25,000 sq. ft. advance factory is ready for occupation. The major part of the Kenfig Hill estate is accordingly now committed for development.
There is also the large new estate near Bridgend. The area has been extensively investigated and a site of 300 acres surveyed. The estate is to be called the Waterton Industrial Estate and the Board of Trade is now proceeding with the purchase of the land.
These are developments of which we have every reason to be proud, and there are several other major schemes in the offing. I am exceedingly hopeful that we shall soon be in a position to announce yet further major good news involving a substantial number of new jobs in South Wales. Such is the success of our policies 234 that it is becoming difficult to keep up to date with the number of jobs in prospect, but the very latest count shows 21,100 in prospect over the next four years, 14,100 of them jobs for men.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Would the Minister also give the figure for jobs which are likely to run out in the course of the same period? The one figure has no meaning unless it is placed opposite the other.
§ Mr. Thomas
I realise that the House wants that figure and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will no doubt deal with it in winding up the debate. Such an unbalanced picture has been presented before, and through public organs, that it is about time that the success story in Wales was told. I am very anxious to get this story across. I realise the importance of the jobs stopped. The hon. and learned Gentleman will have his figures in due course.
I should like, next, to turn to housing. This is less in the public mind than it used to be because so much has been achieved, but it is still one of my major concerns. Over the past four-and-a-half years more than 89,000 new houses have been built in Wales compared with fewer than 87,000 in the preceding seven years. Since the war, nearly 300,000 new dwellings have been built in Wales, so that out of every three families one is living in a new modern home.
Living conditions in Wales are being transformed, and as the next step we are beginning to concentrate on improving our older houses and replacing those not capable of improvement. I see the new policies of our White Paper, Old Houses into New Homes, having a particular significance for us in Wales, especially in the Valleys. Many of our older houses, which are solid structures, are capable of providing good accommodation for many years to come, and I am convinced that it is possible to give these houses the comforts and amenities of modern houses. That is my aim.
Finally, a word about roads. The House does not need me to tell it how important the provision of good road communications is for the development of any industrial society. Our general strategy for improving road communications is an ambitious one. The pieces cannot all come together at once, but as the outlines are seen and the details 235 filled in, I am sure that our road programme will be recognised as one of our outstanding achievements. It makes nonsense of the claim of some people that Wales is overlooked or forgotten.
I am pleased to tell the House today that I have decided to add eight new schemes totalling about £28 million to the road preparation pool. Its total value is now £61 million. The total Welsh trunk road programme now amounts for the first time to over £100 million. The House might like to have some details of these schemes which I have decided to add to the preparation pool.
First, there is an extension of the M.4 motorway from its present terminal west of Newport to as far as St. Mellons, where it will link with the Eastern Avenue in Cardiff. This will be a further step in the improvement of communications to Cardiff and beyond, the importance of which is clear, and which has been emphasised to me by the Welsh Council.
Secondly, Carmarthen has been a bottleneck on the main road to the West for many years. The capacity of the existing bridge over the River Towy and the junctions at each end are limited and I have decided to add to the preparation pool a southern by-pass of Carmarthen, including a new crossing of the River Towy. I know that the priority of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) is a north-south road, about which he keeps writing and talking, but I agree with the Carmarthen County Council that a second bridge over the Towy is more important.
Then I am adding to the pool Stage I of the Pontardulais by-pass, which will assist traffic to and from South-West Wales. I am also adding a southern and eastern by-pass of Brecon.
In North Wales, I am including an improvement of the A.55 road through Conway and Colwyn Bay. Details were given very recently of the report of a major traffic study in this area. I want it to be known in North Wales that I shall not make any decision about the route of this road until public opinion has had a fair chance to express itself and until there has been consultation with the local authorities concerned.
I am also including a further improvement on the A.55 in the form of the 236 length in Wales of a Chester southern ring road. The Ministry of Transport will be constructing the English length and the Welsh length must now be included in our own programme.
Finally, there are two schemes in Central Wales. One is a replacement of Brynderwen Bridge on the A.483 road, and the other a scheme to replace the Llanelltyd Bridge on the A.487 road north of Dolgellau.
I hope that the House will agree that these are desirable schemes. They are fully in conformity with the strategy set out in, Wales: The Way Ahead, and they have been discussed with the Welsh Council which, I am pleased to say, supports their addition to the programme. There never has been such an attack on improving road communications in Wales as we are seeing at present.
I should like to turn from trunk roads and motorways to principal roads, because these are essential lines of communication which, although of more local significance, nevertheless play an important part in our industrial strategy. We announced in our White Paper that we were considering with local authorities six schemes on principal roads to improve "travel-to-work" facilities for those who have longer journeys to make to new areas of employment following the closure of collieries in the South Wales coalfield. We have, in fact, agreed to consider for grant seven schemes, and preparation work on these schemes is going ahead as quickly as possible with a view to work being started by 1970–71.
These schemes are four by-passes, of Ystradgynlais, of Ystalyfera, of Aberkenfig and of Ebbw Vale; two improvements in Pontypridd, one on the A.4058 road north of Pontypridd town centre and the other on the same road between Pontypridd and the A.470 Cardiff—Merthyr Road; the last scheme is a link at Pontlottyn with the Heads of the Valleys Road to give better access between this road and the northern end of the Rhymney Valley. The value of these schemes is over £2½ million.
The progress made in recent years in Wales has been achieved only as a result of very hard work by people who care deeply about Wales. Having served in the Welsh Office as Minister of State and now as the Secretary of State I can testify to the House to the first-class team spirit 237 which exists between all the Government offices in the Principality. There are also close links with the new Welsh Council, with the Development Corporation for Wales, which helps greatly on the promotional side and in boosting overseas exports from Wales, and with the Wales Tourist Board, which is playing an outstanding part in selling a product second to none.
I have concentrated today on the successes we are achieving because I want the world to know that Wales is truly a land of opportunity. But I do not under-estimate the seriousness of the problems which still confront us. The changed pattern of fuel demand leading to the rundown in the mining industry, the reduction in manpower in the steel industry and the decline in the numbers employed in agriculture and in transport all present us with a tremendous challenge.
Our major task must be an even greater acceleration of new industries to match the pace of redundancies confronting us. We have to increase our training facilities still more so that the new skills needed by our new modern industries will be available. Of the 152 industries listed, 151 are to be found in the new Wales that is being established. In training and in other fields much has already been achieved, but the way ahead beckons us to even greater endeavour.
There is no short cut, as there is no quick and easy answer to our major problems, but I believe in my heart that the sum total of the Government's policies give to Wales the weapons that will ensure for our people a better and a brighter life than we have ever known before. By establishing the Welsh Office my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has established that the needs of Wales are a top priority with this Government. We are determined both to protect and to develop all that is best in the Welsh heritage and to ensure for our people an economic strength in which we may feel that our future is secure.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
The House has listened to the Secretary of State discussing many problems of Wales, and we were hoping that he would say something on the subject of devolution. We have been led to believe from what was said at Blackpool, not 238 only by him but by his right hon. Friends, that we would today advance a little in our knowledge of the thinking of the Government on this subject, Although the right hon. Gentleman had a good deal to say, boiled down it came to absolutely nothing.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who has fairly strong views upon this subject—what they are I am not quite certain—was here to listen to what his right hon. Friend had to say, but I do not think he will go away a penny the wiser from what he has heard. No one will deny that this is probably the most difficult problem that any Government, any party or any individual interested in Wales, or with a knowledge of Welsh affairs, has to deal with or to speak about.
The present Government are responsible for devolution becoming such a major problem in Wales. I will explain why I make this fairly strong accusation. I have heard many people from time to time say that they are dissatisfied with what they call remote London government. I suppose they mean by this phrase that decisions about Wales are taken in London, whether they are taken by Welsh Members of Parliament or by other Members of Parliament. This is an argument with which I would not agree but which I understand, as indeed does the right hon. Gentleman.
One matter which could be improved upon is the way in which Welsh debates are handled in the House. During the last four years, that is to say during the life of the present Government, the Secretary of State's Report has been regularly brought out in February and the Welsh debate has taken place regularly in November. This means that the Report of the Secretary of State is stale meat by the time we have returned from holiday and our conferences. I am making a party point here. It was different in 1963 when we debated the Report of the Minister of Welsh Affairs, as he then was, in June. I seriously say to the Government, as I have said on many occasions to the Leader of the House, that our Welsh debates must be held nearer to the time when the Report of the Secretary of State is produced. For that matter we could well have a debate, possibly in the Welsh Grand Committee, 239 on the Welsh Digest of Statistics, which comes out in September. This is perhaps one reason why people who follow our affairs in Wales very carefully feel that we are not giving them that sense of urgency which they deserve.
In July last year Cmnd. 3340, Local Government in Wales, was produced. That Report has lain on the table ever since, and has not been debated; yet, as the Report states, it was produced because of the very urgency of the need in Wales. I will read to the House the initial paragraph of the summary on page 23:61. Because of the urgency of the need in Wales and because, as a result of the work of the Local Government Commission for Wales and subsequent work, reorganisation proposals were well advanced, the Government decided to proceed with a reorganisation of local government in the Principality instead of waiting until that in England and Scotland could be carried out following the Royal Commissions' reports.The Report goes on to say, at the end of paragraph 62:Further adjustments might need to be made if experience of the working of the new system in Wales and of the changes decided on for England and Scotland showed them to be needed.As I have said, the document has not yet been debated, but the Government have had discussions with the local authorities, and they have carried out Part II of the Report with regard to councils. That I agree, but is it not time that we had a debate on this subject either in the House or in the Welsh Grand Committee? I am certain that all hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies have strong views upon this, and that until we have obtained the views of hon. Members upon the local government aspect, and until we can advance, irrespective of the progress in England following the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government, then I do not believe that we shall be able to tackle properly the question of devolution.
I feel, and I believe that my views are shared in many quarters, that just to plump for devolution, or any form of it, without getting a proper and sensible reorganisation of local government in Wales would be a step in the dark which would not necessarily be to the benefit of the Welsh people. I blame the Government for delaying debate and for not 240 pressing ahead further in local government reorganisation.
I come now to a point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but he now leads for the Opposition on Welsh matters. As he knows, the Opposition have available to them more than 20 days on which they can choose subjects for debate. Will he consider using one of them for the debate for which he asks?
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am grateful for that interruption. The right hon. Gentleman has heard me ask the Leader of the House over and over again for such time. However, he was not aware of the occasions on which I have asked my right hon. Friends. I have hopes that, at a date in the future, we may have a Supply day for Welsh affairs. I agree with him, but I am sure that he would not expect me to answer his question off the cuff.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
The subject that I was about to come to was the point that the Secretary of State made about the shocking explosions which have occurred in Wales. I do not want to say too much about them. I believe that everyone was both shocked and infuriated that such outrages could occur in our country. Certainly, they have given many people outside Wales a bad and totally incorrect impression of the sort of people that we are, and we join with the right hon. Gentleman in what he has said about the wounded airman.
There has been a sequence of explosions over a period of time, and what the public is asking is why the authorities are not able to report that a single person responsible has been brought to justice. I appreciate, that these are not events which have occurred merely during the period in office of this Government. There was an explosion three miles from my own home which happened well before the present Government came to office, so it is not entirely their responsibility, However, we hope for some progress in this—
§ Mr. George Thomas
Security in Wales is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I am surprised to 241 hear the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) lending himself to this denigration of the efforts which are being made. I hope that the whole House realises that those who are engaged in seeking out these villains are at full stretch and need our public support rather than hints of that sort.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
The right hon. Gentleman has used the word "denigration". I think that he is using an exaggerated expression. It is a bit strong. I was merely asking why the Government were not getting results, and that is what the general public is asking. After all, the Government are responsible for the police, just as successive Conservative Governments were up to 1964. Responsibility cannot be shelved in this way. The general public asks and urgently hopes that results will be obtained fairly soon, whether it is by the Secretary of State or the Home Secretary.
What evidence is there that there is any help in training and in money coming to these people from overseas? The job at Pembrey was not the work of amateurs. A number of hon. Members have enough experience in these matters to know that. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at this point very carefully.
Another point which I wish to make is not a personal one to the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will not take it as such. I would ask him what specific regulations the Welsh Office or the Home Office has given to firms and local authorities to control the way in which they keep gelignite for blasting and other purposes. Have the Government, resulting from this sequence of explosions, lately given special instructions about the way in which gelignite is looked after? I would like to be certain that controls have been tightened.
I want to refer now to a matter which affects Mid-Wales. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Tudor Watkins) is in his place and knows a great deal about the Mid-Wales railway. The House will remember that this railway, the last in Central Wales, was destined to be closed by British Railways in the period of office of the last Conservative Government. It was reprieved by the joint action my right hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and Leeds, 242 North-East (Sir K. Joseph). It was a political and not an economic decision. On economic grounds, it can be argued that the line is losing money, but I believe that it would be a psychological blow to Mid-Wales if it were to go.
This year, British Railways again showed their intention of closing the railway, and the matter was considered not only by the transport users' consultative committee but by a protest conference at Llandrindod Wells. After Parliament went into recess, British Railways started knocking down the stations.
The first act by any railway company which wants to bring a service to an end is to try and reduce the number of passengers using it. Of course, if one is old and trying to catch a train from a small station and there is no shelter on it, one will quickly seek some other form of transport. I am glad to hear that this knocking down of stations has ceased, but I would like to know about two matters from the Secretary of State.
It is said in the Western Mail that the Welsh Council has said that it would not be a good thing if this railway were to be closed. The right hon. Gentleman has told me on previous occasions that he will not reveal to the House what the Welsh Council says. If the Western Mail has a leak on this occasion and it is true that the Welsh Council has said that it would be a bad thing if the railway were to be closed, will the Secretary of State say so, because only he can stop the closure, as it is a political decision and not an economic one? I hope that he will ask his hon. Friend the Minister of State to give the House an answer when she replies to the debate, because it is a matter which is all-important in Mid-Wales.
I have been mocked on more than one occasion for saying that the subject of water is explosive. I do not retract. It is a very explosive subject in Wales today.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the Central Wales line, is he aware that, as the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, I made representations to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Transport and the Secretary of State about the stations? I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary 243 of State told me last week that Mr. Hilton, the divisional manager, probably because of a political decision, has now stopped the destruction of these station buildings.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I read a long letter on the subject which he wrote to the Brecon and Radnor Express. However, I do not withdraw my question to the right hon. Gentleman, because I think that it will strengthen the hon. Gentleman's arm, as well as those of the rest of us, to have a real answer from the Welsh Office.
The flooding of Welsh valleys has been going on for many years under successive Governments. Water is needed for industrial purposes, some of it for Wales and some across the border for England. There are two specific areas in Mid-Wales which are threatened today. One is in Southern Montgomeryshire, Dulas, and then there is the Usk Valley, where 1,800 acres are threatened in Breconshire. I expect that other right hon. and hon. Members will refer to water. Whatever the needs of water may be, I hope that the Government will consider carefully before they flood these areas, in particular, the 1,800 acres of excellent agricultural land just south of Brecon.
I also ask the Secretary of State what is happening about the inquiry, experiment and research into desalination. What is happening about the Dee Barrage Scheme and the Severn Barrage Scheme? Those of us who live in Wales do not wish to see this continuing swamping of the valleys which are known and loved so much. The right hon. Gentleman knows this problem, having had to face it both in opposition and in government. I ask him to bend his mind to this problem to see whether something bigger can be found to provide the water which is so necessary for industry.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke at length and gave us a lot of figures on the overall question of roads. What the Secretary of State did not say, and what I want to ask him, is what will happen to the 15 per cent, cut in maintenance on what I call the county council roads which came out last year. The right hon. Gentleman owes it to the county councils to give them good prior 244 warning whether this cut in road maintenance expenditure will be kept on and reinforced this year or will be taken off. It would be a great help if the Minister could tell us that at the end of her speech.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke a good deal about industry. I was glad that he did. He said that there were some professional pessimists about. The right hon. Gentleman will not find one at this Dispatch Box this afternoon, because I have never been a professional pessimist about Wales or anything else for that matter. I believe that the future of Wales is good. I said this when we were in power. It was not always echoed from the Opposition. But there is nothing like turning a poacher into a keeper. I was glad to hear some of the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave. I congratulate the Mid-Wales Industrial Association which, through the years under successive Governments, has made such a great contribution to industrial life, such as it is, in Mid-Wales. But the general picture of industrial activity and employment in Wales has not, getting down to figures, very greatly changed since the last Welsh debate. The figure for unemployed still remains obstinately around the 4 per cent. mark.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the rundown in the coal industry continues and remains one of the main problems. So many of those made redundant in this industry are well over 50 and this makes the problem of retraining very difficult. During the last 12 months only six miners have been retrained in Government retraining centres. This may be one of the reasons.
One of the greatest threats to employment in Wales is the engineering dispute. We hope that this will come to a speedy end, because nothing could have a worse effect on Wales. But what we really need above everything for industrial progress in Wales is an upturn in the economy. We have been promised this by successive Chancellors. An upturn in the economy would do more for Welsh industry than anything else. For the smaller firms in the service industries, particularly in the rural areas, cancellation of Selective Employment Tax is an essential. I doubt whether it will come under this Government, but it will certainly come under the next. The picture 245 and the problem in Wales has not greatly changed since last year. With the closing down of some of the last mines in Wales we have a great problem to face both in North and South Wales.
What the right hon. Gentleman said today about housing, roads and industry would, in my opinion, have come very much better at an earlier part of the year when he was speaking to his own Report on the Principality. Therefore, I end my speech by asking the right hon. Gentleman and the Government whether, when the Secretary of State's Report comes out in February next year, we may have our debate at a more seasonal time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. Many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. I therefore ask right hon. and hon. Members to keep their speeches as brief as possible so that as many as possible may take part.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, coming to the House from the cloistered and academic atmosphere of an ancient and large grammar school, and standing here undergoing the ordeal of a maiden speech, has forced me to the realisation of an inadequacy hitherto unspotted in that, as a headmaster, I feel sure that I did not enter fully or probably kindly enough into the emotions felt by new boys entering a venerable institution for the first time and feeling upon themselves the weight of tradition and the burden of custom, precedent and convention. Should it be my lot to be redrafted to my former sphere, I hope that this will have a salutary effect.
I have heard something of the conventions of this House, in particular, of maiden speeches which are supposed to be brief and non-controversial, although I have always wondered whether expecting any politician of any party at any time to be both brief and also non-controversial belongs rather to the realm of pious aspiration than to the realm of attainable fact. If, however, I inadvertently infringe any such convention, I trust that the House, with its customary generosity, will ascribe this not to conscious design but to having just com- 246 pleted five and a half days of actual sitting in the House.
I am very proud to have been elected as the Member for Caerphilly. For the past 60 years the mining areas of South Wales have sent a continual stream of men of very high calibre to this House. Caerphilly has returned a Labour Member to Parliament for the last 50 years. For most of that period my two predecessors, Morgan Jones and Ness Edwards, both men of note in the House, filled that position. They were both men of high ideals and great tenacity of purpose. Both were imprisoned for their beliefs. I trust that this is a precedent which will not be elevated into a convention.
My immediate predecessor, Ness Edwards, was a Member of the House for 29 years and held office on two occasions. He came from the same generation of miners as that from which my own father sprang. In fact, my father was a miner in the colliery at which Ness Edwards was the lodge secretary before he subsequently became a miners' agent and then Member of Parliament for Caerphilly. It was a generation which produced many illustrious figures on these benches, some of whom are present now. They were a generation of men who, denied the advantages of present-day education, found outlet for their intelligence and creative energy by dedicating themselves, through the trade union movement and the Labour Party, to the vision of a new democratic and egalitarian society. I think that when this generation, which produced at least one great Parliamentarian, Aneurin Bevan, finally passes, British politics will have lost some of its unique savour.
Ness Edwards was my friend and comrade. I was for a time his agent, and it has, therefore, been a source of deep gratification to me that in conversations with hon. Members on both sides of the House I have heard so many tributes paid to him. I can pay a high tribute to his qualities as a constituency Member and as a man of high ideals who believed in the fundamental socialism for which the Labour movement has always stood. If I can only fractionally attain the contribution which Ness Edwards made to his country, to this House and to his constituency I shall rest content.
247 Perhaps I might now refer to my constituency, and here I have a distinct advantage because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, many Members on this side of the House, and at least three Members of the handful on the other side, because of certain events at Caerphilly, are somewhat familiar with what I am going to discuss.
The constituency is a long and straggling one on the Glamorgan side of the Rhymney Valley, and is divided into two big urban areas. The Caerphilly urban area has, in the most part, outgrown its former dependence on the mining industry. Through the efforts of an imaginative local council we have managed by our own efforts to attract a considerable amount of small-scale diversified industry into the area. We even have a Harold Wilson Estate there, and I am glad to say that every site is occupied. Yet such is the impact of the great industrial changes going on in Wales today that even in this part of the constituency the unemployment figure is greater than the average for the rest of Wales, and quite considerably so.
In the northern part of the constituency we are entirely dependent on mining. We have seven pits. One was scheduled to be closed on 29th July, involving 680 jobs. Another one, involving 1,000 jobs, is, on the latest information available to me, scheduled for closure by March, 1969. Most of the other pits are those which can be classified as being in some danger of closure, and it is in this area that we have the most intractable problem in that the topography prevents the use of natural industrial sites.
The nature of this part of the valley will not suffice to provide sites to attract the kind of industries that we want, and a considerable amount of work needs to be done to create these sites. Fortunately, it is an area of derelict ballast and shale tips, and only earth-moving machinery is needed to create the necessary sites. As my right hon. Friend has given the glad news that at long last we are to have a trunk road from north of Pontllotyn to connect with the Head of the Valleys road, may I ask him to consider providing earth-moving machinery to create an industrial site, which could be far bigger than the Treforest Estate, adjacent to the Head of the Valleys road 248 and only 40 to 60 yards from it. This would give us the two growth points that we want in the Rhymney Valley, one in the south in the Caerphilly area, and one in the north at Pontllotyn. If that can be provided, we can save the valley.
I do not want to pour cold water on the picture painted by my right hon. Friend, but he has been in this valley and he must be aware of the feelings of frustration among mining communities at the moment, feelings, indeed, of bitterness over what is happening to them, fears that their communities may be compulsorily disintegrated, feelings that after many years of loyalty to a political ideal they are now in the process of being abandoned.
We give great praise to all that the Government have done. We know from utterances in the rarefied and heady atmosphere of conferences just what would happen if some other party had control of the situation, but we rely on this Labour Government to see that the mining areas receive the treatment which they deserve for their contribution in providing the base of the economic prosperity of this country for the last 100 years, and which they deserve as vivid communities, with their own cultural traditions, and with their own way of life which has led to the production of many of the finest men and women who have given their services to Britain and to Wales.
I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the Reports of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and that of the Economist Intelligence Unit, which, in my opinion, sets out a realistic programme for trying to do something about the mining areas. The Economist Intelligence Unit examined fuels. It examined the totality of the situation and the social costs in terms of what will have to be paid in redundancy and unemployment benefits, the cost of bringing alternative jobs into mining areas, the loss of revenue by British Railways as the major carrier for the National Coal Board, the problem of relying on strategically uncertain areas for the import of oil, and, above all, the possible longevity of supplies of North Sea Gas. It came up with the conclusion that the Government's White Paper on Fuel Policy was an underestimate of the coal demands of this country, and 249 that the figure should be 144 million tons in 1975 and 136 million in 1980.
I ask that consideration be given to certain points of actions so that communities like these in South Wales which I genuinely love, may be given the right of survival which they have so much earned. I ask that reconsideration of the White Paper on Fuel Policy should take place in the light of the findings of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, and the Report of the Economist Intelligence Unit; that pending this examination colliery closures should cease; and that in any case they should not occur until alternative jobs are provided, which means having the sites there and the jobs.
I should like to see full attention paid to the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when he said in Tredegar last week that the communities of the Welsh valleys must remain integrated and viable communities. We are most grateful that the communications system is being improved, which will allow jobs to be brought in. I am satisfied that, if my right hon. Friend's pledge is fulfilled, not only Wales as a whole, but that part of it to which I as a Member of the House am particularly dedicated, will have not just a future but a very great future.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Seldom, If ever, have I had the support of both sides of the House, but I know that I have that support now in complimenting the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) on his very effective first speech in the House.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was nervous; if he was, it was not at all visible to me. He spoke with an easy fluency and with a moderation which, in all essentials, was non-controversial. A particularly attractive feature of his speech was the amount of it which he devoted to a tribute to his two distinguished predecessors. I thought that an extremely attractive feature of what he said. After that, the hon. Gentleman showed his personal knowledge of the difficulties and problems of his constituency, and I feel that he can take real 250 satisfaction in the contribution which he made on the occasion of his first address to the House.
Despite the speech of the Secretary of State—I shall not attack the right hon. Gentleman in any way—many right hon. and hon. Members recognise that the last few years have constituted a strained and difficult period in Welsh life. It would be unrealistic and unfair to blame present Ministers or their predecessors. I am sure that the Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), shares with his predecessors, the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) and the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), a deep concern for the promotion of Welsh prosperity, but I doubt that, even in moments of euphoria, he or his right hon. Friends could really feel that their successes have equalled their hopes.
It would be foolish to deny that there are discontents in the Principality. What are the causes of the present discontents? In my view, these arise partly from an anxiety, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) has already referred, that the Government's political and economic administration is far too centralised. This anxiety, of course, is not to be found only in Wales. Then, there is the fact that Welsh Ministers have tried to help the Welsh economy in the context and against the background of the economic difficulties of the United Kingdom as a whole. Alongside the general economic and industrial problems of the United Kingdom, we have had, as has already been said, the accelerated decline of the coal industry. In addition, there have been the technological and technical changes in the iron and steel industry and in engineering. Further, there has been a significant and progressive decline in agricultural employment, which has its effect particularly in the Welsh rural counties, and, in addition, there is the undoubted inadequacy of some of the road communications to many of the less accessible parts of the Principality.
On top of those factors, there has been the introduction of new forms of taxation such as the Corporation Tax; not at all helpful to some of the small companies and undertakings to which Wales must look for a good deal of its industrial growth. We have the difficulties arising 251 from the sheer geography of the Principality, with the easiest communications east-west, and the problems created by population distribution, with most of our 2¾ million people being in the counties of Glamorgan, Monmouth, East Carmarthen, Flint and East Denbigh.
This has not been mentioned today, I think, but we still have an awkward pattern of employment. I need refer only to coal-mining, which in Wales even todays has 7.8 per cent, of employment as opposed to 2.4 per cent, in the United Kingdom as a whole. Metal manufacture accounts for 9.4 per cent, in Wales as opposed to only 2.5 per cent, in the United Kingdom as a whole. Chemicals, more significantly, perhaps, take 2.7 per cent, in Wales as opposed to 2.2 per cent, in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, we have far less in engineering and electrical industry. We have less than the United Kingdom average in vehicle building. We have less distribution in Wales than in the United Kingdom as a whole, and significantly less in the service industries.
Earlier today, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) intervened to ask the Secretary of State about the other side of the coin when the right hon. Gentleman mentioned new industries. Since 1960, there has been a 25 per cent, decline in employment in agriculture and a 50 per cent, decline in coal mining jobs. Whatever has been done, we have to recognise that new jobs have not been provided on anything like that scale.
There are fewer Government employees proportionately in Wales than in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Obviously, I make no comment that there are fewer than in England. I noted recently that the Welsh Office, according to figures given in the Western Mail, has 530 civil servants of whom 30 are in London and the remainder in Wales. I do not disregard the fact that there are other Government Departments, for example, the Welsh Board of Health with 205 staff, but I ask the House to compare the small figure for Wales with the Scottish Office, which has 7,800 officers, and Northern Ireland where there are 11,860. Those large figures are to be set against mere hundreds in the Welsh Office. Moreover, there are fewer executives and 252 administrative personnel of large companies in Wales. We have, therefore, a distorted pattern of employment.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
It seems that the hon. Gentleman is out of sympathy with the rest of his party, for whom the name "civil servant" has something of a pejorative connotation.
§ Mr. Gower
No. I am speaking of the existing Civil Service and its distribution. I do not favour a vast expansion of Government Departments, but, given the Government Departments which we have, I am calling attention to the distribution of personnel. Plainly, the amount of devolution in respect of Wales is relatively small compared with that in respect of Scotland. In the private sector, as I was saying, there are fewer administrative and executive personnel. Thus, we have a disproportionate number of people doing unskilled or industrial jobs and significantly fewer administrators, executives and businesmen. All this makes for some distortion.
The other factor which has produced some of the discontent has arisen from the aspirations and longings of the Welsh speaking part of our population, spreading in some cases to the non-Welsh-speaking part, too.
I turn now to the remedies. The Secretary of State said little today about devolution. Some of our people advocate a sovereign Parliament. Others, like the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal bench, advocate a federal Parliament. Some even suggest the Northern Ireland pattern. Others, among whom I should probably number myself, look to some strengthening of the Welsh Office and the extension of its functions. Obviously, there are difficulties, to some of which I have just referred, but there is considerable scope in that direction. In addition, there is the debate going on about an elected Welsh Council or a non-elected or nominated one. Further, there are the local government changes to which reference was made earlier today.
I press upon the Minister of State and, through her, the Secretary of State the need to ensure that, if significant constitutional changes are to be made, the House and the Government take with them the whole of the Welsh people, so 253 far as that is possible. It is essential to take Monmouthshire as well as Anglesey with us, and public opinion in Flintshire as well as Cardigan, Cardiff as well as Caernarvon. This is not easy, and such changes should be acceptable to the non-Welsh-speaking as well as the Welsh-speaking people. This also is difficult. Such changes would be doubly significant, because they could not easily be reversed. It is a tremendous responsibility for a Government of any one party to make such fundamental changes, and it is even more a responsibility on any Parliament which, in any single epoch, made changes which were likely to bind its successors in a large degree.
Therefore, if any decision in principle is made in the lifetime of this Government, I merely suggest that such a decision should be followed, before any final Act is passed, by a constitutional referendum in the Welsh counties. This would be much more serious than licensing changes, for which we already have the machinery to ascertain the opinions of people. I make that merely as a suggestion.
What are our policy proposals on this side for dealing with some of these problems? My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford has mentioned the best—economically to restore the buoyancy of the United Kingdom, which must surely he the most positive contribution to improving the position of Wales. We certainly agree that Welsh road communications should be improved and that even more should be done, not only to serve industry but also in future to serve tourism and agriculture. The removal of the Selective Employment Tax will be one of our most earnest ambitions. I believe that, in some respects, to reappraise the comparative merits of investment allowances and investment grants and to alter the Corporation Tax to assist the smaller companies and close companies will also be important, particularly in Wales.
We would certainly support—I am sure that this is our view now—larger assistance than has yet been contemplated for the Welsh tourist industry. This should not be regarded, as it has been by all Governments in the past, as the poor relation of our industries. We would give even greater emphasis to Government retraining. We do not support the Rural Development Board, 254 which has been the subject of recent controversy. We would take steps, as my hon. Friend suggested, to protect good agricultural land from flooding. This is vitally important. I suggest to the right hon. Lady and the Secretary of State that the Government should institute a survey of land use in Wales. There are plenty of reasons for this. One, of course, is flooding, and another is the development of caravan sites, which are sometimes unsightly.
Another important question, about which I will not enter into the individual merits, is industrial development, like that of Rio Tinto Zinc. I will not discuss the merits of that case, but that kind of development is sometimes against the wishes of local residents. This could all be considered in the framework of some organisation and a survey of land use in the Principality. These are the lines of our thinking.
I will abbreviate my remarks in the interests of others who wish to speak. The Secretary of State and his predecessors are doing their very best in the difficult context of a United Kingdom economic malaise, but they are fighting under very difficult conditions. We wish them well. We hope, however, that one of the lessons will be learned, namely, that some of the forms of taxation are making their job more difficult than it need be and that the job can best be assisted by a form of taxation which does not impose such a burden and such difficulties on some of the smaller companies. I hope that, in the next twelve month, we shall see some progress along these lines.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) for his interesting maiden speech, which we all enjoyed, a speech which was typical of a secondary school headmaster. I look forward very much to hearing him in the future. I also thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his speech, which covered the whole of Wales, exactly as such a speech should.
Every area has its own problems and if that area is to survive, the problems must be faced and solved. That, of course, is the whole purpose of planning. We do not want to find in Wales what has been found in England, namely, a 255 concentration in the Midlands and the South and dereliction in the North, resulting in a divided kingdom. We want to see all Wales developing a pattern of industrial and economic prosperity.
I say that because I am one of those who believe that Wales is a nation. It is difficult to define nationhood, but I think that, very simply, it is a community expression of historical traditions and historical institutions within certain geographical boundaries. In Wales this may be blurred in the eastern part of the country, especially towards Monmouthshire, but in the West and the North-West the Welsh language is still spoken.
My right hon. Friend referred to the language problem. I know that it requires all the support and help that we can give and I am glad that the Government are doing what they are doing in this respect. At the same time, as I have said many times, the Welsh language will live so long as the people of Wales make up their minds to speak it. It should be the language of the home, because the children will speak the mother tongue; if it is preserved at home, it will be preserved in the life of the nation.
Recognising that Wales is a nation, and anxious as I am to preserve and cultivate the cultural elements in our country, we must see that our foundations are right. We need a successful economy in all areas in Wales, because people can live only where they can earn a living. That means—I think I speak for others on this side—that it would be fatal to regard Wales as an economic unit and it would be to the disadvantage of the national life of Wales to have economic separatism in the hope that that would preserve nationhood. Separation must result in the lowering of the standard of life and the lowering of economic activity.
The economy of Wales is integrated with that of Great Britain, as it has been integrated over the centuries. Here we have a common market with freedom of movement for capital, labour and goods. That has stood the experience of centuries. It puzzles me why those people who urge separatism for Wales at the same time advocate that an independent Wales should enter the Common Market of Europe. In my opinion, neither is the 256 solution. The solution for Wales is to be found neither in separatism nor in an independent Wales entering Europe. We need a plan for Wales—a twofold plan, which should cover the whole of Wales and which should be thoroughly integrated with the whole economy of Britain. That is the meaning and purpose of declaring almost the whole of Wales as a development area and certain parts of Wales as special development areas.
It is essential in this period of technical and technological changes that we have such a plan. In this period of change some industries are declining while others are expanding and yet are dispensing with manpower. Whether we have redundancies from expansion or redundancies from declining industries—whatever the cause—we have community problems created which must be solved. Therefore, there is a need for a through-going policy for Wales. I was pleased that the speech of the Secretary of State for Wales this afternoon gave a general picture of what is happening in Wales.
Coalmining is an example of a declining industry, for 72 coal mines have closed in South Wales since 1960. Between 1960 and 1964, 38 were closed, and between 1964 and 1968, 34 were closed. In Wrexham, two out of four collieries have already closed. Ifton, just over the border of the constituency, is threatened. Most of the workmen there come from my division. That colliery is about to close. If it closes next month, then out of five collieries affecting my division, three will have closed before the end of the year.
Hon. Members representing South Wales are in a better position than I am to understand the position in that part of the country and to judge the situation. I venture to suggest however, that while there should be factories in the valleys the plan to concentrate major development of industry in the valley mouths at Bridgend, Llantrisant, Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Abercarn is a sound one. Major development of the valley mouths can be a major contribution to solving the problems in South Wales caused by decline of the coal mining industry.
In my division Government policy has been at work—a very different policy from that which we saw at work in my area between 1951 and 1964. It is true that unemployment is still high in the 257 division because of pit closures. If Ifton is closed at the end of the year, that will aggravate the situation still further. But Government policy is being applied and is seen to be applied in my division.
The industrial estate, to which reference has been made, for example, is developing at an impressive rate. What was the policy of the previous Government? It was a policy of selling out and breaking up. The local authorities—Denbigh County Council, Wrexham Borough Council and Wrexham Rural District Council—sent a deputation to the President of the Board of Trade to ask permission to buy it and develop it as a public concern, but they were refused permission. That was the position as late as 1964. In 1963, when this was going on, we had an unemployment rate in Wrexham of 7.1 per cent. and all we were told was that there were 400 jobs on the way. They travelled hopefully, but the jobs never arrived.
In the Wrexham area, because of the policy of the Labour Government, there has been diversification not only in industry but in the size of industries, with a number of smaller industries being located near the old collieries in order to sustain the life of the mining communities. They have not reached the stage of production yet, but they will do so in the very near future.
We have the additional problem of Ifton, just over the border. May I ask my right hon. Friend to consider sympathetically bringing another factory into Chirk in view of this new problem created by the closing of Ifton? Five or six years ago my appeals fell on deaf ears, but I know that the ears are open today.
I will now leave the Wrexham area. Let us look for a while at the other end of North Wales to see Government action at work. There is the projected aluminium works at Holyhead as well as the projected development of the port facilities at Holyhead. We see plans for development at both extremities of North Wales—Holyhead in the North-West and Wrexham in the North-East. Nothing succeeds better than success. A successful industry will attract another successful industry. It is my view that Holyhead will throw its influences eastward and that Wrexham will throw its influences westward and in this way we 258 shall help to solve the problems of North Wales. I want the Wrexham area to become a bridge over which other smaller industries will go into the interior of North Wales to places such as Llangollen and Corwen, and beyond. That is the way in which economic development can proceed, and economic prosperity assured.
May I briefly comment on the situation in the rural areas because we have a problem of rural depopulation. This is not a problem peculiar to Wales for it is also taking part in Scotland and in most European countries, and the expression "flight from the land" is well known. This feature has played a prominent part in the 19th century. But for Wales it means that the young people leave the countryside and that we as a nation lose our people. That has an effect on the future of Wales and also on the life of our schools. In rural Wales schools have to be closed because the children are so few in numbers. The children are transported to other schools and in the context of the present situation that provides them with a better system of education, but the problem of rural depopulation is with us. Agriculture will not solve the problem. The woollen industry, once the thriving rural industry, has declined considerably and today it employs only 350 people.
There is another element in depopulation. We find a tendency for retired people to modernise the untenanted farmhouses of the rural area. Thus, there are two movements—the young moving out and the aged moving in. Very often those moving in object to the introduction of factories in the rural areas.
The only answer is to strengthen the old-established and larger community centres by introducing industries. We should see results from the setting-up of the Rural Industries Bureaux to advise the rural areas on marketing. As a result, industries should be introduced. But industries which are introduced should be able to produce goods in which transport costs figure insignificantly in total costs.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend refer this afternoon to so many advance factories being built in different parts of the country. We want to see private enterprise being introduced, too, but if they are not prepared to come to rural Wales, then I ask my right hon. Friend, 259 why not have Government factories to solve the problem? Schools, colleges, universities, and Government offices at central and local level would provide a wide and reliable market. This should be considered in order to strengthen the rural community life.
Having made my appeal to the Government, I want to make a plea to the rural communities themselves, because they can play their part. Protest has become the fashion of our time. Hardly a proposal is made these days, or there is hardly a rumour of a proposal these days, when the protests begin. Committees are set up for the conservation of this and the conservation of that, for the preservation of birds and the preservation of animals, and meanwhile we are losing our young people.
I should be the last to advocate the introduction of ugliness into the countryside, into the glorious valleys of Wales, because nothing appeals to me personally more than the harmony of nature, the appeal of rocks and the challenge of mountains. But in this modern age cultural landscape, factories well-planned and well placed, need not conflict with natural landscape any more than do bridges, farmhouses and aristocratic palaces. The greatest beauty in the rural areas is a living community. I urge the rural areas, when a factory is proposed, to extend the arms of welcome and at the same time to resist the voices of protest, to quiet them and eventually to silence all protests against the introduction of some of these industries into rural areas.
I have already spoken for too long, but I have a few words to say about university-industry collaboration. I want to see that development taking place in Bangor. I do not want to see the exercise ending with prototypes. I want the result of scientific research to be manufactured near the place itself, near Bangor, instead of being taken hundreds of miles away to other parts of England.
I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend's comments about the road programme. It was wonderful. I was pleased to be at the opening ceremony of the Abergele by-pass, and I have had great pleasure in seeing what is happening at St. Asaph, which I visit often for personal reasons. I was pleased to 260 read about the proposed new road through Colwyn Bay. I do not know whether the A483 road was mentioned today. It is a road which leaves the A5 near Chirk and passes through my division to Cheshire. For most of the journey it is like a coiled snake and little has been done to improve the road and reduce its hazards. If my right hon. Friend mentioned that road I did not hear him. I hope he did.
Government policy for Wales is doing great work. This is the start which will result in greater achievements in the future.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
As I listened to the Secretary of State I could not help reflecting on what office does for a man. If the right hon. Gentleman was not a professional pessimist on Wales when in opposition, he was certainly an enthusiastic amateur pessimist for most of the time. He has now projected himself into a form of professional optimist, no doubt to justify his office.
I appreciate that some of the criticisms made of the right hon. Gentleman have been unfair; and he no doubt wishes to redress the balance. However, listening to him today one would not have thought that he was describing a country which has such a high unemployment rate. The charming maiden speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) put the matter in perspective, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to study it, for only by appreciating past and present trends can we begin to solve the problems of Wales.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly mentioned two coal mines in his constituency and said that they were both scheduled to be closed. With this sword of Damocles hanging over his constituents, he said that 640 men would be out of work if one of the pits closed, while 1,200 men would be unemployed if the other closed. The Secretary of State had concluded his speech by saying that the Government could take pride in the achievements of the advance factory programme, which, he said, was providing jobs in Wales for 2,000 people.
The right hon. Gentleman must, like the hon. Member for Caerphilly, get the matter in perspective. If the men who will he made redundant in Caerphilly could be given the jobs being provided 261 under the advance factory programme, nearly all the jobs being provided by it would be taken up. This gives some idea of the size of the problem. I readily admit that the Government have done as well as any other Government in recent years to solve the problem of Wales, but much remains to be done and the industrial and economic problems of the Principality are huge.
I have no illusions about what is involved. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) refer to Wales as a nation. I agree that it is something that one feels rather than it is possible to describe. However, I am completely opposed to the idea that a nation must necessarily be enshrined as an economic entity; that one must have, as it were, a separate, independent sovereign state to enshrine a nation. Twelve of the 13 Welsh counties are heavily dependent on the Rate Deficiency Fund, none more so than my own constituency. Next year my county council plans to spend £2½ million. Of every £100 spent by it, £91 10s. will be provided by the British taxpayer through the Rate Deficiency Fund or grants. The ratepayers of Montgomeryshire will provide the other £8 10s. With the exception of Flintshire, this is the pattern throughout Wales to a greater or lesser degree.
Wales contributed rateably far more to the United Kingdom economically in the past than it now does. In the last century, when coal and iron and the industrial revolution were at their height, Wales contributed heavily to the economy of the United Kingdom. Now the huge problem facing us in Wales is the decline of the basic industries which attracted large populations to Wales in the first place.
It is all very well for politicians to try to score political points when considering these problems. Often the Opposition attack the Government and the Government attack the Opposition—[Interruption.]—and I do not deny that the Liberal Party and Plaid Cymru are involved in this, too. The truth is that we are at the end of an evolutionary process. It does not matter what complexion the Government of the day may be, a huge problem faces them and I regret that this problem is still being virtually tinkered with. The Secretary of State is lot beginning to cure the econo- 262 mic ills of Wales. He is doing his best, according to his lights, but he is still accepting the perspectives set by his predecessors. I urge him not always to compare himself with his counterparts of previous Governments. Many former Administrations have been lamentable in their treatment of Wales and it is, therefore, not all that creditable for the present Government to be saying that they are doing better.
The alarming acceleration of the decline of the coal industry and associated industries, the enormous acceleration of the flight from the land with the modern technocratic developments in agriculture have all tended to exascerbate the problems of Wales. As a boy, I was brought up on a relatively small farm on the Vale of Clwyd. On this farm my father regularly employed six men and at times of the year many others were employed. Today my brother farms a much larger acreage with one man, and probably achieves greater production.
The hon. Member for Wrexham made a good point when he said that the developments in Holyhead and Wrexham could have a marked effect elsewhere in Wales. I agree that these developments may be the focal point for other developments in the area. However, what is lacking in Wales today are promotional ideas for the future. We are now laying down the basis for the Welsh economy not only for this generation but probably for the next century. No longer do we in Wales have the resources which led to the industrial revolution which took place there. Coal is in decline. What will take its place?
When the Secretary of State spoke of Mid-Wales he referred to the number of advance factories that had been built and the fact that some factories had been built privately, with some Board of Trade aid. It is interesting to note that it is easier to develop Welshpool than Newtown, simply because the former is nearer the markets. Some private factories have been built in Welshpool, which is developing naturally. Some industrialists reject Government factories and build their own so that they will be nearer the markets than in the areas where the Government wish those industries to settle. It is important for an industrialist to be able to send a lorry to the Midlands and have it return the 263 same day, having been driven there and back by one driver, without the driver infringing the regulations. A driver may be at the wheel for only a number of hours in a day. This illustrates my belief that communications are the essential sub-structure for the development of the Welsh economy. Promotional ideas along these lines are lacking in Wales at the moment.
The Secretary of State was less than fair to the hon. Member for Carmarthen when he chided him about the road around Carmarthen. I suggest that he made a slick party point. The hon. Member for Carmarthen is right to emphasise the need for a North-South road. It is equally important that we have other main arteries, along the North Wales coast and the South Coast—and in Mid-Wales—
§ Mr. George Thomas
I interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman in the hope that he will be aware that one must choose one's priorities. The priority of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) is the North-South road.
§ Mr. Hooson
Like their predecessors, the present Government have lacked promotional ideas. I put forward a plan for developing Aberystwyth, with a main road right through the area, and then developing the roads between the end points, to Shrewsbury. Good communications of this sort tend to result in developments taking place elsewhere.
Without wishing to make a party point, a real concept of the future of Wales is not possessed by the Government. I accept that an enormous task faces any Government, but a start must be made on it. All the efforts of the Secretary of State, will be to no avail unless we have the right promotional ideas and a proper tackling of the task. Unemployment is still a tremendous problem in Wales and this will not he overcome without a great deal more money being spent on Wales. For this reason I entirely disagree with the hon. Member for Carmarthen. Indeed, I do not know from where this money would come if we were not part of the United Kingdom. We derive great benefits—economically, politically and socially—from being part of the United Kingdom.
264 However, I want to see more signs of the Government laying down foundations for the future prosperity of Wales. Milford Haven will be an important factor in this development and better communications to Holyhead will improve matters. As I said, once the right road programme is secured, it is easier to develop other areas. It is difficult to encourage industry to come to certain parts of Wales, including my constituency. I am glad to say that there are signs of improvement in my area, but it is easy to see what good communications can mean, particularly as Welshpool is developing with the least amount of Government help. Newtown needs more help, with better roads.
The problem of water resources is causing anxiety not only to people in rural Wales but to Welshmen generally. I urge the Secretary of State to establish a Welsh Water Resources Board. Not only does he need one, but the people of Wales would feel more reassured if such a specifically Welsh body existed. It could co-operate with the English Water Resources Board and advise the Secretary of State.
The compensation terms under the Water Resources Act are not good enough. When a valley is selected the community, as opposed to individuals in it, should derive benefit from the development of the resource. In 1961 the Lloyd-Owen Committee recommended that the community, apart from individuals, should reap greater benefits. New villages and community centres should be provided. Whatever is finally decided, the whole matter should be controlled and governed by a Welsh Water Resources Board. No doubt the Secretary of State has considered this matter. I hope that there will be an early Government announcement on it.
I reinforce what the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) said about the need for feasibility studies into barrage proposals for various estuaries in Wales. I appreciate that not all the estuaries considered will prove satisfactory, but feasibility studies would allay the considerable anxieties that exist in Wales on this topic.
It was disappointing that the right hon. Gentleman said so little about devolution. 265 I hope that the Government will introduce definite proposals for the devolution of power to a Welsh legislature of some sort. This problem cannot be tinkered with. A bold decision is necessary and I hope that adequate study is being given to the matter. The United Kingdom itself has gone through a great process of evolution. In past centuries many people left Wales, Scotland and rural England to go abroad—to develop the colonies and other countries—and we have now more or less gone full circle. We are in the twilight of Empire. There are psychological reasons why we in England, Wales and Scotland are driven back to our home resources and must solve our home problems ourselves. It is inevitable, therefore, that there should now be a greater awareness of nationhood in Scotland and Wales and that there should be a tremendous feeling of regionalism in parts of England. This problem must be solved creatively rather than tinkered with.
I would personally prefer not to have an elected Welsh Council with little power but wait for an elected domestic Parliament. If we are to have devolution, let us do it properly. Let us give power to the people in Wales over their own domestic affairs. If this is not done, we will not entice and encourage in Wales the high calibre people we need to man such a legislature. A great deal of thought must be given to this issue and I hope that the Government will bring forward proposals about it before they reform local government, for the former is the essence of reforming the latter. This is essentially the first tier to be set up before one can decide the best pattern for local government in Wales.
I am seeing the Secretary of State for Wales on Friday on the subject of economies in my constituency, but he will appreciate that I must today say that when we have economies of the kind that are being made in Montgomeryshire against the kind of optimistic picture which the right hon. Gentleman has painted this afternoon it rather sticks in my gullet. In my constituency, his Department has decided—though I am sure that he will give sympathetic consideration to changing that decision—to economise by refusing to proceed with a sewerage scheme for villages that have never before had sewerage facilities. It is hard to understand the priorities in his Department 266 when such a decision as that is made, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is giving anxious thought to it between now and Friday.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
The House has heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) a very delightful maiden speech. I offer him my hearty congratulations. He has shown himself to be a worthy successor of our former colleague and respected Member, the Right Hon. Ness Edwards. The quality of the speech was outstanding, and I hope that we shall hear my hon. Friend many times again.
The Secretary of State for Wales started by referring to devolution. I do not think that there is anything in the Report on that subject. In those short remarks my right hon. Friend certainly clobbered the separatism that is advocated by a section of the Welsh people. We shall need more than one debate on devolution, and on whether it involves a Parliament for Wales, or whatever may be the structure: we obviously cannot adequately deal with the matter this evening.
All sorts of things grow upon the account of the Government's record given by the Secretary of State. He set out to lighten the fire of debate with fuel from the Annual Report and that fire burnt and crackled cheerfully. Its leaping tongues of flame rejoiced and welcomed the day. So the great talk was set going by an earnest speech by my right hon. Friend with the air of one fully prepared for everything that comes. I have a sneaking idea that he may have culled a little confidence from having a galaxy of "big guns" near by to assist in deploying his fire power in defence or attack.
For a period the critics' hoses will spurt their dampening reflections upon any tranquil contentment my right hon. Friend may possess. After all, we need to fit together the main creative suggestions for the better regulation of affairs in Wales. I cannot fail to note that we have been hustled along by change, with its momentum distressing and confusing so many people. Our problem is to see that the unfavourable by-products of this change are dealt with as intelligently as possible. It is helpful that projects of industrial expansion are going ahead, and I hope sincerely that this growth will 267 become still more courageous and comprehensive.
Let us not forget—and forgetting is a besetting sin of politicians and of other people—that new employment over the years has been introduced into Wales through the channels of over 350 Government-financed factory buildings, the establishment of which has been greatly accelerated under Labour's ceaseless advocacy. In addition, many privately financed enterprises have been established and have gone ahead successfully. Not far off, there will be in operation seven large electricity generating stations operated by staffs of highly skilled personnel, with administrative elements residing locally. They have given a splendid lift to some rural areas.
Further, the build-up of transferred Government offices and the Royal Mint not only brings employment, but makes a substantial contribution to the local rates which is very welcome, especially in the rural areas. This is a picture of industry positively on the move, and effectively wards off the arrows of criticism that little or nothing has been done. Some may claim that not enough has been accomplished, but to say that little or nothing has been done is just not true.
In a debate on Wales reference is bound to be made to the agonising problem of the coal industry. The Secretary of State has mentioned it, and so have hon. Members on both sides of the House. During the past four years, colliery closures have gone on at an average rate of nine per annum. Let it be said that this most unpleasant operation has been handled on the whole by the National Coal Board and the miners' unions with a deep degree of responsibility. Most of the employees have been absorbed in transfers to neighbouring collieries. Some men have retrained and gone into other industries, some have opted to retire and take redundancy compensation, and some have had to register as unemployed.
At the close of 1968 we have reached the point when the concentration of closure policy is becoming hard and more serious in its consequences. There are greater distances to travel to other places of employment. No balancing jobs are near. The social burden is increasing. Those left in the coal industry are getting alarmed at the darkening prospects of 268 being able to carve out a life's career in the mines. Change there must be, we know, but voices will grow stronger and louder against its going on at a pace when it overrides the welfare of communities and continuously stabs the morale of those remaining. Until the knowledge has been sought and beaten out as to how to balance closures with available jobs, the process should be slowed down. We are demanding this. I know that all sorts of considerations arise in this connection, but a very welcome indication is the decision to stay the threatened closure of the National and the Pantyfynnon collieries.
A matter that occupies my mind nowadays is the trend coming to the surface that to maintain the numbers at present employed at industrial estates more and more space for factory expansion is required. This additional space is becoming very difficult to obtain at Treforest and at the mouth of valleys which give a good deal of employment, and existing firms wanting to expand need to do so in adjoining premises or near their present activities. If they are to plan for their future, some assurance will be needed that their requirements in the years ahead in the form of extensions can be met. Otherwise, these firms will look elsewhere and the number employed in the area will go down.
It is, therefore, important that an additional 100 acres of land near the Treforest Estate should be acquired to allow for expansions. Perhaps the present layout of the estate calls for a new look so that the utmost economical use of land available is made. The approximate number of men and women finding employment at Treforest is 12,000. I do not want to see that number reduced. But technical and logical changes are such that more and more space is needed to retain the number of people employed, and it is important that we should see to this. Success in this direction partially lies in the availability of more land. I should like an assurance that this aspect of my anxiety will have serious attention.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
We heard from the Secretary of State a very gallant attempt to show that the Government have taken the measure of the situation in Wales and that they are trying to act in the way that the situation 269 demands. His was an optimistic speech, even euphoric. I do not suppose that he will be surprised to learn that I do not share his euphoria, and nor do the people of Wales. It is true that in 1964 the Government were elected with a big majority in Wales with very high hopes, but the history of the last four years has done a great deal to disillusion people about the potentiality not only of this Government but of this system. We now have in Wales, particularly as a result of the experience of the last four years, disillusionment not only about the party of government but about the system of government.
It is because we have this system of centralised London Government in Wales that every aspect of Welsh life which is deeply affected by Government action or inaction is in a very unhappy state; and this includes the economic aspect. Apologists for the present system have justified it on the ground that it has been splendid in its effect on the economy of Wales. But what we have seen in these years is a Welsh economy failing not only to match the rich resources of the country, but even to keep pace with the English regions.
On Tuesday last, the Chairman of the South Wales Electricity Board, Mr. David Fenton, speaking from the middle of the problem, said:industrial growth in South Wales is lagging in comparison with the rest of Britain".This lag affects the sale of electricity to industry. He pointed out that sales of electricity to industry in South Wales were less in 1967–68 than they were two years previously, in 1965–66. In the whole of Britain in the last four years there has been a growth of over 21 per cent. in the sales of electricity to industry, but in South Wales an increase of only about 7 per cent. —one third of the growth in the rest of Britain.
What we need in Wales is more development than there is in the English regions, not less because of the tremendous leeway which must be made up. Compared with the regions of England, there is plenty of room for complaint. What we see is our position getting steadily worse. It is the people of Wales who suffer from unemployment. It is they who suffer from lower living standards and enforced emigration. They suffer because their national or local 270 communities are being impoverished or because their nation is without the institutions of nationhood which enable it to live a full national life.
This century has seen more than one million people having to leave Wales because there was no work for them. There are only 2.7 million now. They are still leaving Wales at a terrible rate. In 1963–64, 33,000 people left; in 1964–65, 39,000 people left; and in 1965–66, 42,000 people left. At this rate, it would take only a quarter of a century for another one million people to leave. One million have left in half a century; another million at this rate would leave in a quarter of a century.
This drain, which is to a large extent a brain drain, is encouraged by the Government. It is encouraged in their education policy, in the colleges of education and in the university. The Government organise the export of brains from Wales to help solve English problems. This is one of our biggest exports. We lose about 1,000 teachers a year, and they are some of our ablest young people.
One might expect this terrible drain to cause a shortage of people for industry in Wales, but this is not what happens. It increases unemployment and causes a decrease in the number of people in employment. We still have 40,000 registered unemployed people, or nearly twice the English average. This is one dramatic indication of the Government's failure, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. The situation is far worse than this figure suggests. In addition to this massive figure, there is a great deal of hidden unemployment. When I asked in the House how many more people there would be at work in Wales if the activity rate were as high as it was in England, the answer which I was given was 200,000. We have a great army of hidden unemployed in our country. Here we have the measure of under-development in Wales. If we had an effective Government in Wales, these would be a great asset to them. But it is these, together with the registered unemployed, who define the extent of the need for new jobs.
The Government have never taken the true measure of the situation—or at least they have never revealed it. In the 1967 White Paper entitled "The Way Ahead", which was to be a plan for Wales, the 271 Government said that the shortfall of jobs in 1971 would be 15,000. They did not say how they arrived at that figure; it appears to be guesswork or wishful thinking. But this figure, which is ridiculously far removed from the true need, shows an irresponsible attitude to Wales by the Government. It shows that they have no real intention of taking the measures necessary to solve the problems of Wales. To tackle a problem of this magnitude, measures must be taken which none but a Welsh Government will take.
Professor Nevin, in his "Structure of the Welsh Economy", forecast that between 1964 and 1970 there would be an absolute drop of 59,000 in the number of jobs for men in Wales. This was laughed at from the Government Front Bench. The Professor said also that there would be a rise of 16,000 in the number of jobs for women. Today we are half-way between 1964 and 1970. Between 1964 and 1967, which is the last year for which we have figures, already the number of jobs for men in Wales has dropped by 41,000. There were 41,000 fewer men at work in 1967 than there were in 1964. The number of jobs for women has risen by 7,000. Thus there was a net decrease of 34,000 jobs, which shows that Professor Nevin was right on target. He was right and the Government were way out. Those who spoke in a rather denigrating way about the Professor's work owe him an apology.
This problem is at its worst in the coalfield. We have heard how 2,000 men can be thrown out of work when two mines close. This puts the concept of the 2,000 men employed in advance factories, although we are very grateful for such factories, in its proper perspective.
We know that the decline in the coal industry and the steady decline in manpower in agriculture explains in large measure what is happening. We knew that this decline would occur; this had been foreseen for years. There has been no more effective action here than there was in a similar situation when the tinplate works closed at the end of the 1940s, when thousands of Welshmen had to leave their land and go to England to find work. Today the same thing is happening.
272 The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said this at Blackpool recently:Most of our people are immeasurably better off in material terms than when we came to power.Let the right hon. Gentleman tell that to the Welsh miners—or to what his Government's policy have left of the Welsh miners.
The position was truly described in Parliament in these words:There is no plan for Wales. The Government are deceiving themselves. They do not understand what planning is. What they have done is to get together a series of uncoordinated projects. They do not put them side by side, they do not assess our resources or needs. …We need a national plan for Wales, to bring together our needs, to assess the changes for industry, to forecast the new jobs required and to provide the machinery to do it all.Therefore, I sum up our needs in this way: a national plan, which we have not got; a new town; the re-shaping of local government to bear the administrative structure that will be required when Wales starts to grow in the way we would like; the replacement of the Local Employment Act by planning on a wider basis; and a national fuel policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Welsh Grand Committee, 11th December, 1963; c. 12.]Those words were spoken at a meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee nearly five years ago by no less than a person than the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, who opened the debate for his Party. I do not think that any comment on the words is needed. They illustrate cruelly for the Government the failure of the system, not only of the Labour government, but of London government, too.
The Secretary of State for Wales has said that the Government intend to inquire into the matter of devolution. He has not described the nature of the inquiry, nor exactly what the Government intend inquiring into, nor even whether it is to be legislative devolution. I hope that evidence will be taken from other countries at this inquiry and that it will not be confined to what is happening in these countries of Britain.
How different the situation is in other small countries. I was recently in Denmark where I saw for myself the splendour in Copenhagen of their national cultural institutions, their opera house, their national theatres, their national orchestras, their national ballet, and so 273 on. Their language, their literature and their arts are in a flourishing state.
This is in a small country where the economy, too, has been flourishing. We have heard about the flight from the land, but Denmark is an agricultural country. Today only 7 per cent. of the workers in Denmark work on the land. The country has been industrialised throughout. There are not just one or two small pockets of industrialisation. Forty per cent. of industry in Denmark is to be found in Jutland, that great sandbank to the West. This has been done in a most remarkable way. The standard of living in Denmark is higher than it is in these countries. The gross national product per capita is higher than it is in these countries. This has been done in Denmark with nothing like the resources Wales has. In the past 100 years Wales has produced far more in wealth than the whole of the economy of Denmark.
The Danes have been able to raise their standard of living to this height because they have been a free country able to harness the energies of their own people to this task. That is what we need in Wales. We can do the same when we have the amount of freedom that the Danes enjoy. It has been said that we want separation, that we are separatists. I was able to go more than once from Denmark to Sweden. Nobody asked to see my passport; nobody looked at my baggage; there was freedom of passage back and forth. There was no separation of that kind even between Sweden and Denmark, so why should we have it in these countries when Wales has her own Government? There is no need for this separation. We cannot separate Wales economically from England. There is not this kind of separation now even in the Common Market countries.
§ Mr. George Thomas
In an article in the Sun on 20th July the hon. Gentleman made it perfectly clear that the hon. Gentleman would send representatives to Whitehall and would be wholly independent financially. Does not that mean economic separation, or does the hon. Gentleman want part separation?
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans
It means financial separation; it means administrative separation; it means political separation, but it does not mean economic separation [Laughter.] I am sorry if hon. 274 Members opposite have not the intelligence to see so obvious a point. The Common Market idea has completely transformed the conception of self-government and of complete political independence. This is something we have to take into account. There is between the countries of Scandinavia the Nordic Council. This is a civilised arrangement which would be possible for the countries of Britain. We should now be embarking on the creation of a Britannic Confederation of free and equal nations here in Britain, a confederation into which I am sure that Ireland would be very glad to come. For Wales and Scotland there is no substitute for national freedom. In 1971 this Government will pull out from east of Suez. I hope they will pull out from west of the Severn, too.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I join right hon. and hon. Members in offering felicitations to our colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans). He made a delightful maiden speech. As one of the few remaining members of the generation to which he referred, I thank him for his tribute to the generation which provided from coalmine, tinplate mill and railway what I believe will come to be regarded as a very good leadership for Wales in days gone by. I join my hon. Friend to the tribute he paid to his two predecessors, Morgan Jones and Ness Edwards, with both of whom I had the privilege of serving in the House.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his opening speech. I am glad to see him in such fine form. I am glad, too, that his spirits are so high, because during the Recess he has been subjected to a good deal of ill-natured criticism by very ignorant people in some quarters of Wales. I have known my right hon. Friend since he was a young man and have regarded him as being the personification of some of the best traditions of our valleys. He is a real son of the valley.
I speak for as many people in Wales as the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) does. Perhaps even more. I was born in Carmarthen. He was not. Lest people take the view that Carmarthen has gone berserk, let me tell the House that my majority was bigger 275 than the vote the hon. Member had, so that Carmarthenshire still breathes the right spirit.
I want to take up two or three major problems and I will try not to be too long. I am glad to follow the hon. Member. When he speaks in this House, he is much more dovish than when he speaks elsewhere. His speeches in Wales are hawkish, but here he is a real dove. I hope that some day he will do us, not the privilege, but the fairness of speaking to us in this House in the same tongue as he does in Wales.
I understand now that Plaid Cymru does not stand for economic separation. The hon. Member will correct me if I am wrong. I do not want to give a false interpretation and I do not want the country to have a false impression either. Plaid Cymru means, not economic separation, but only financial separation. I am not an economist, although I once studied economics, but how one can have financial separation without economic separation I simply do not know.
I understood that what the Plaid Cymru stood for was not only economic, but political separation and the establishment in Wales of an independent sovereign State. Now, I gather, the sovereignty is to be not full sovereignty, but some kind of qualified sovereignty within a confederation of the United Kingdom. One cannot have a confederation without surrendering sovereignty from the federal parts. I understand, therefore, that Plaid Cymru envisages not full independent sovereignty for Wales, but a sovereignty that would be qualified because part of it must be surrendered to a confederation. Now, we are getting somewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "Backsliding."] This is backsliding indeed.
I want to put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the problem of devolution. I say this to the Government to which I had the privilege to belong and which I still support and will go on supporting in this House and when I have left the House. I have belonged to this party all my life. I count it a great privilege and I do not want to belong to any other party.
I am speaking about devolution. I see the hon. and learned Member for 276 Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) in his place. For years the Liberal Party was dominant in the House of Commons with the biggest majority in modern history. When one considers this present century, and, indeed, the 19th century, one sees that in the devolution of authority to Wales the present Government have done more than any Government in history. For a century, the Liberal Party did not create the post of Secretary of State for Wales. The Liberal Party is the only party who have had 35 "Libs" and "Lib/Labs" with one Independent, Kier Hardie, in this House with an overall majority. In the years when they were in power, they did not bring about as much devolution to Wales as our Government did in 1964.
§ Mr. Hooson
The right hon. Gentleman is historically wrong. The Liberal Party want to give domestic Parliaments to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As he knows, time and time again they introduced a Bill to give first priority to Ireland, and it was thrown out by the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All I can say is that the Liberal Party has never produced a Bill to give a Secretary of State to Wales. I want to see the devolution continue. I hope that the authority, scope and power of the Welsh Office will be increased. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will work to that end.
I want to go on further with the question of devolution and to put this point looking to the future. There is no doubt that in the whole of this Kingdom, as elsewhere in the world, there is something of a revolt against over-centralisation of power. This is one of the important developments in our modern society. Indeed, it is not only political: it is industrial, also.
We are moving into the technological age and to the large units in industry. If I were back at work I would much prefer to work in the mine where I spent most of my life before coming here, with 300 others, all of whom I knew by their names and nicknames, than to work in a big factory with several thousand employees. People are feeling a bit lost in the large industrial units. There is, therefore, a feeling that power is slipping away from them and that they are not as effective as they used to be or think they used to be in exercising and participating 277 in their decision. This, therefore, is the problem of devolution.
Plans are being discussed for the reorganisation of local government. I have made no secret of my view that I would like to see as part of it the development of regional local government by an elected Council for Wales. I am expressing only my own view, but I believe that a reorganised local government, with a national, democratic, elected council, would serve the people of Wales much better than a mini-Parliament. Make no mistake about this. Presumably, this Parliament at Westminster will continue. However many Parliaments we get in the United Kingdom, while this Parliament is here they would live and work in the shadow of this one and be dominated by it.
I say to my compatriots in Wales that if we had a Parliament, for example, on the Northern Ireland model—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that is what is talked about—believe me, disillusion would follow, quickly because the people would see that it was not a Parliament at all. It is much better, therefore, to build up on an expanded Welsh Office and reorganised local government and for all this to meet together within Wales, with some devolution of authority from the centre arid, perhaps, among other things, a place where a democratic, elected council could take over the responsibilities that we now give to ad hoc bodies which are scattered all over Wales. That is my view.
I want to put the economic problem in this setting. Listening to the hon. Member for Carmarthen, one would think that Wales was not an economic problem until 1964. I am slightly older than the hon. Member. One would imagine from what he said that nobody except the Labour Government ever closed a mine. Where was the hon. Member in 1920 and 1930? I have seen two great periods—perhaps the economists would call them readjustments—of decline in the coal mining industry.
The first of those periods began in 1921. It followed the rejection by a Liberal Prime Minister from Wales of the Sankey Commission's Report. That was a London Prime Minister, but a Welsh Prime Minister, who rejected the Sankey Report. The history of Wales could 278 have been far different in the past half-century had the Report been implemented instead of rejected.
I speak as an old coal miner and remember what happened in the 1920s and 1930s. The first readjustment took place because the Welsh economy was not geared for Wales or for London but for the world when coal industry in Wales was at its height. Of a production of 56 million tons, 36 million tons was exported. It was changes in the world—not in London—that caused the great decline in our export industry in the 1920s and the 1930s. Does the hon. Member for Carmarthen suggest that the present period of readjustment, with all its problems and headaches, is not being tackled infinitely more humanely than happened before? Of course he does not.
I was a Carmarthenshire miner, and I put to him what he knows is true, that this problem of readjustment has been handled at the present time better, and the problem of redundancy has been treated more humanely, than ever before. This is to the credit of my right hon. Friend and the Welsh Office and the Government as a whole. They have handled this difficult and big problem better than it has been handled ever before.
I do not carry all the figures in my head, but in 1921 more than half of the people of Wales—that is, of the occupied population—were in three industries, mining and quarrying, steel and tinplate, and agriculture. Employment in the first has been cut by more than half. In my time the number employed in the mining industry has declined from 250,000 to less than 50,000. We retained the tinplate industry in Wales, but not without struggle. There is a story I could tell about that, at the appropriate time. It was not done without a struggle, but even there we are faced with the fact that it does not now, and is not likely in the future, to provide for the same proportion of our working population as it did in the old days, for reasons which are quite clear.
This is the problem, and it involves, of course, tremendously difficult problems. The essence of Government success in this matter is to seek to use all the powers available to them to control decline and try to adjust the decline of 279 those old industries to the bringing in of new industries. This is the problem. It is not easy. As a coal miner, I was interested in a Question put to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power today. This is not merely a Welsh problem; it is a coal mining problem; it is not merely a British problem, for the same thing is happening in the Soviet Union. At present, in Wales as elsewhere, we are moving from a one-fuel economy to a four-fuel economy. The position in Wales, as elsewhere, but particularly in Wales and in my own constituency, is that the rundown in the coal mining industry is getting on to nearly double what is envisaged in the Government White Paper, and I beg my right hon. Friend to take note of this. I was very glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power say that this problem is being looked at, because it is very important indeed that we should do everything that we possibly can—and there is a lot still to be done—to slow down the closure of pits and to adjust the pace of that to the pace at which we provide alternative employment.
I must say just a word on depopulation. I have listened with very great interest to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and the hon. Member for Carmarthen. This is the first Government in our history to put depopulation as one of the criteria for assistance under the employment and development Acts. Let that be known. Let that be known to the credit of the Government in Wales, where the majority get less publicity than the minority—through all media, including television. I hone that my right hon. Friend's work will be publicised. By all means let there be criticism, but the people of Wales should know the facts about his and the Government's work.
As to depopulation of the countryside, I would say to the hon. Member for Carmarthen that it is not only a question of bringing in industry for there may not be people there to work it, but of bringing in industry and people as well, and so this is a problem of having growth points. I proposed a growth point. What did the Opposition Front Bench and the Liberals say about that? I proposed that there should be a focal point of growth 280 in Mid-Wales, at Caersws, near Newtown. I believe that I was right and that history will show I was right, and I am very glad indeed that most people in mid-Wales now think so. But hon. Members opposite do not think so.
§ Mr. Hooson
What the right hon. Gentleman proposed was to bring 70,000 people from the Midlands, not from Wales.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman today and he pleaded for Welshpool with the Secretary of State because it is nearer to the Midlands than Newtown.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I do not want to shout the right hon. Gentleman down on this matter. There are many matters on which he has every reason to be proud of what he has done, but I think he will agree that his original plan for a new town in Mid-Wales has been given up by his Government.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Then I am very sorry and I do not agree with my right hon. Friend, but I do not understand that it has been completely given up. I believe that plan is the best plan. I still hope that it will be promoted. Depopulation does present a very difficult job.
I do not take second place to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery or the hon. Member for Carmarthen, to either or both of them, in love of my country, its language, its traditions. I believed half a century ago, and still believe today, that we have opportunity of building a new Wales. I am convinced of that. I want to build a new Wales very different from the Wales which was not built up by Labour Governments or by Socialists or by planners, but by exploiters who desecrated our country and drove seven out of every 10 Welsh people to crowd into four counties.
The economy was on a very narrow base, and I welcome, therefore, the diversification of industry which is taking place. We have made a beginning. Let us build on the foundation we have laid. That is the way ahead for Wales.
I am sure that when the time comes the people of Wales, with all their experience, knowledge, and, indeed, their culture, will know that there is no hope for them except in a Socialist Wales as a part 281 of a Socialist Britain. That is the hope for Wales. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in the policy he is pursuing, and that when the time comes he will get the overwhelming majority of the people of Wales to vote in support of him.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Geraint Morgan (Denbigh)
As a Carmarthenshire man myself it gives me great pleasure to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). I, too, would like to join him in paying tribute to the new Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans), for his excellent contribution to this debate.
Had 1 time I should have liked to follow him in some of the things he said about devolution, but appreciating, as I do, that many others wish to speak, I propose to confine my remarks to two main considerations, the reorganisation of local government and communications. My interest in devolution is great, and always has been, and I think hon. Members opposite will remember that I supported the idea of having a Secretary of State for Wales long before my party did.
However, I wish to turn this afternoon, first, to local government reorganisation. I referred to this very briefly in the last Welsh debate, and that only underlines the fact that this is a thorny problem about which there should be some finality. I propose to limit my remarks to North Wales, which I know best. Probably the most far reaching change proposed by the Government in their White Paper is the creation of a large county in North Wales, and it is particularly with regard to that that I have something to say.
I appreciate that what I have to say on this will conflict with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt). On this subject I am speaking for myself, but I sincerely believe that the views I express represent those of the majority of responsible people in my constituency who are interested in local government problems. They also have the support of the Denbighshire County Council. My constituency is particularly concerned in this reorganisation. There are, of course, strong differences of opinion in the matter, but in my opinion the best solution for North Wales is tie big county, the union of five 282 counties, and others whom I have consulted and whose opinions I respect hold the same view.
I have lived with the problem of local government reorganisation ever since I have been in the House. A year after I first came here the draft proposals of the Commission constituted under the Act of 1958 were published. Those proposals suggested a distribution of counties which was quite different from anything that has subsequently been recommended. In many ways these proposals had much to commend them, but it was considered that the general scheme was not administratively viable, and no more was heard about it.
In 1963, three years later, the Commission surfaced again with what it described as its final proposals. I can dispose of them very quickly by saying that they pleased hardly anyone in Wales, and were the subject of a great deal of attack. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who was then responsible for Welsh affairs, acted wisely and properly when he shelved the proposals, and we then went back to "square one" so far as this problem was concerned.
There were two ways in which the proposals were particularly objectionable to the people of Wales. One was that they were essentially based upon tearing apart historic boundaries, and the identity of at least three counties would have been completely lost had the proposals been accepted. There were also anomalies in the proposals. If I may say so in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes), whom we are glad to see in the House, Anglesey was, for some extraordinary reason, excluded from the general scheme.
After the shelving of the 1963 proposals, I made it my duty to find out in my own constituency what sort of union or merger of counties in North Wales would be generally acceptable. I asked the views of the people in the anglicised areas round the coast, and also in the "cefn gwlad". The general view expressed to me was that if there were to be amalgamation it should be in the form of a large county. That was the view that I came to, on the advice which was I was given, before the Government came to the same conclusion. I have no 283 doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Anglesey very carefully considered all these facets of opinion before he came to his decision.
The idea of a large county may be criticised on the ground that it will be too large, but there are manifest advantages as well. If a large county comprising five counties were to be set up it would not be administratively as large as many existing counties, and it would greatly facilitate the planning of communications which, as we appreciate from this debate is a matter of great importance. Also, a powerful North Wales county would to some extent balance the heavily populated areas of the South. Implicit in the proposals that have been put forward is that historic boundaries will be respected in a way they would not have been under the proposals of 1963.
To any person who speaks in terms of two counties instead of one in North Wales, I would say that such a system would drive us back to the unpopular proposals of 1963. I do not think that we can have a straight union, for example, of the Counties of Denby and Flint. It would not be viable within the context of the 1958 Act because the property with high rateable value would be concentrated in those two eastern counties. Therefore, it is, in effect, a choice either of the 1963 proposals or those put forward by the Government, and I support the latter.
I come now to communications. It is a pity that the Report on which we are basing our debate is now very much out of date. Since it was published the Abergele bypass has been completed and the St. Asaph bypass has been commenced. I congratulate the Government on having pushed forward with that work. However, in another respect, my judgment upon them cannot be so favourable. I would like the Secretary of State to pay particular attention to what I have to say about this recent Collcon Report, which has only just been published and to which reference has been made. The proposal favoured by the Government, of a by-pass of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno has been described both by the Mayor of Colwyn Bay and by the County Planning Officer of Denbighshire as "startling". That is a description with which I entirely concur.
284 If these proposals were implemented they would have very serious implications for Colwyn Bay, which is the biggest town along the North Wales coast, as a residential and holiday centre. I am glad to note from the handout that accompanied the publication of the Report that the Government do not regard this proposal as final. I also understand that nothing will be done anyway for at least five years, which gives the right hon. Gentleman plenty of opportunity to reconsider his proposal and, I hope, to change it.
Every reasonable person accepts the necessity for this bypass. It is, I suppose, the cornerstone of the policy of road building in North Wales. I would also be the first to concede that: he problems are appreciably greater in bypassing a town the size of Colwyn Bay than in dealing with St. Asaph, or Abergeley, which are being or are about to be bypassed.
There are four proposals in the Report. Two propose a bypass running south of the town and two, in effect, propose a bypass which barges straight through the town. I would suggest that the last two should be rejected out of hand. I was surprised to see that it was admitted in terms that one of the disadvantages of the favoured proposal was its high cost. It was also said that the disruption of residential property would be minimal, although I can assure the Secretary of State that that is not the view which is held locally. It is true that it shortens the route, but the character of a town should surely take precedence over the convenience of the travelling public and the short extra distance involved in the other schemes is a price which users of the by-pass could reasonably be asked to pay. I ask the Secretary of State to give serious consideration to possible roads south of the town, that is to say, plan A and plan D.
If I may make one general remark on communications, I have always accepted that the Government were right in their decision in 1965 to give precedence to east-west roads rather than to a north-south road. But let us be reasonable about this. Every political party regards Wales as, at least, an administrative unit, and, therefore, north-south communications are of importance. The time has now come for serious consideration to be 285 given to an adequate north-south road within the context of the general road improvement plans of the Government.
I thought that the Secretary of State was rather less than kind when he said that the present Government had done more than any other for the Welsh language. This is really an effort by all parties. It was, after all, a Conservative Government that appointed the Hughes Parry Committee which gave birth to the Welsh Language Act. This is really as it should be, because the Welsh language is the common heritage of us all.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Rowlands (Cardiff, North)
It was a pleasure to listen to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans). Many of us remember tramping up and down his constituency at great length some weeks ago. It was also a pleasure for a young man like me to hear the marvellous contribution by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). Of the many speeches on Welsh affairs to which I have listened in the last two or three years, his was one of the best. It rammed home the facts of life and some of the necessary solutions.
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans). I am always open-minded on the subject of devolution, but I think that the hon. Gentleman would make a poor doctor. He is quite good at diagnosing some of Wales's troubles, but he is no good at providing solutions.
Whatever the arguments for or against devolution, it is not an economic solution as such, and certainly it is not the panacea for the solution of our problems. On the other hand, in his optimistic speech, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was right in correcting the impression that the Government have done nothing and that any London-based Government will neglect the problems of Wales.
Against those problems, we have to weigh the advance of the Government and their efforts and especially the variety of inducements that we offer to people to come and bring their capital to Wales. This is where the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was right in saying that the two have to be 286 measured together. One needs to know the sort of job gap that would exist in Wales over the next few years and whether the present programme and regional policies will be sufficient to meet the need.
This is the real problem, and today's debate is very much like last year's in that it is mainly repetitive. Hon. Members on the back benches say, "Well done" to the Government. "But there are greater problems ahead, and we want to know if they are being tackled and being conquered." Despite the efforts of the Government, the rate of unemployment in Wales is 4 per cent. compared with the rate of 2.5 per cent. in the rest of the United Kingdom. It appears that the shelter and protection which was to be given to the regions is leaky, and we have failed to understand the difficulties created particularly by the run-clown of the coal industry. In the course of last year, understandably, a variety of alternative policies have been recommended to solve the harsh problems caused by the rundown of the industry. Some have cried for the extension of the development area to cover the whole of Wales.
When an area like my own is left out of the development area, understandably the view is strongly held that we could do better if we were included. We have had to wait a long time for the Hunt Committee to report on the "grey" areas. It is rather like waiting for Godot. It is easy for an hon. Member representing an area left out of the development area to plead to join it, but, on the whole, hon. Members outside have resisted that temptation. But there are absurdities which arise when an industry moves only a couple of miles into a development district, because obviously that does not improve the employment position.
In the case of Cardiff, the number of such instances is very small. It could be accelerated by the Buchanan proposals, which may disrupt some of the small firms that exist in the city who will take advantage of moving into the development area. I am not against this. At the same time, I am not in favour of including the whole of the area which has been left out of the development area. It has not been proved that there would be a massive increase in the number of jobs available in the development area as a whole by the inclusion 287 of this area. What we want to do is to block the absurdities of this non-development area versus development area status and also help to reorganise and refashion the whole form of administration in South Wales in order to get proper planning on the broader scale beyond the needs of the county councils and country borough councils and the local jealousies which occur as a result.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen is quite wrong in saying that the problem has been created by an English conspiracy to neglect the needs of Wales. It may be said that the Government themselves fall down when they think that, if they offer juicy carrots, the capital will flow back into Wales. It will not come back in anything like the quantity required to solve the problems of unemployment and depopulation.
It must be remembered that capital came to Wales originally not because of a London-based Government but because Wales was where the quickest return could be found. When the valleys had been milked dry and it was found that coal was no longer a profitable investment, the capital left, and it will only come back when there is a genuine economic reason for it to return.
There are only two answers to this enormous problem. One is to find new reasons for the capital to return, and the other is to make sure that the circumstances are right for the capital to come back. That is why we hear so much talk about the need for roads and better communications, so making Wales attractive to investment. However, we must face up to the fact that while all these improvements are being made, more and more people become unemployed. It is all very well to have an immense programme of road improvements extending over ten or 15 years, but it is tomorrow and next month that mines are closing and when the immediate problems of our valleys worsen. What we need more than anything is more immediate and short-term solutions.
This is not a question of private capital. For a long time to come, Wales will be dependent on public capital. Everyone knows that it is dependent upon public capital in the forms of the rate deficiency grant and investment in nationalised industries, especially in steel. 288 One hopes that the Steel Corporation will follow regional policies strictly. The Central Electricity Generating Board, for example, proposes to rationalise its administrative offices out of Cardiff to Bristol. At the same time, we are trying to build up Cardiff as an administrative centre for the whole of Wales, including bringing down Government offices from London.
More importantly, if we are dependent upon public capital in the short term, the Government cannot burk the issue any longer and must face up to the problem of using a regional investment agency to sponsor industry which can meet the immediate and short-term needs of our valleys. If that is not done, the situation will worsen progressively, despite our efforts, and we shall not be facing up to the situation in which we find ourselves.
For that reason, I would like very much to see the Government committing themselves. This will be anathema to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it would be interesting to hear the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) and the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) trying to reconcile the policies of their party to the needs of Wales. They say that S.E.T. is to be scrapped, and it probably follows that they propose that R.E.P. should go as well. However, if the Conservatives ever return to power, we shall not hear the voice hon. Member for Hereford. It will be that of the Birmingham and the national C.B.I., who will say that these policies cannot be carried out because they are against the free market.
The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Trade has made a passionate plea against I.D.C. controls, and we see increasing pressure brought to bear on Conservative leaders. I am convinced that, despite the pleas of the hon. Members for Hereford and Barry, if the Conservatives return to power, we shall see the dismantling of regional controls.
In the long term, the answer will be to find a new reason for so many hundreds of thousands of people to live and work in Wales. We will have to find a replacement for coal. Where does it lie? It is not only in roads. It has to be a natural or national resource that we have which other areas do not possess. What is this commodity? It was pinpointed very forcefully by the National Ports Council a year or so ago when it said that the 289 scarcest national resource in Britain today is land capable of industrial development adjacent to docks and deep water ports.
One of the key points in the industrial development of Britain is the capacity to develop industries on a large scale adjacent to our major ports. An investigation was set up to look into this matter and of the top choice three sites one was the coastline from Llanwern to Barry and beyond. But it can be taken even further West. There are acres of land capable of major industrial expansion as a longterm scheme adjacent to the finest group of ports in the country.
By this time next year when we come to debate Welsh affairs, I should like to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State come to the Dispatch Box with a concrete set of proposals for major industrial expansion in the long-term for such an area. Only by developing what we know to be our new national resource capable of producing industry and employment to match the needs of our employment situation shall we discover the future of a new Wales.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Even though Liverpool likes to consider itself the capital of North Wales, it may seem odd that a Liverpool Member should take part in the debate. Therefore, I propose to take up the time of the House for only a few minutes.
I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of the speech of the Secretary of State. I had to go away to take the chair at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting. However, I did hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government were giving very careful consideration to the problem of local government. For a long time I have believed that as Britain is partially federated with Northern Ireland we might have Stormonts in Cardiff, in Scotland and in parts of England as well. But I doubt whether those Stormonts should be set up in Wales until the problem of communications, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Geraint Morgan), especially a north/south road, has been put right.
I have many Welsh constituents. Many of our Liverpool homes have been built by Welshmen. Every weekend and throughout the summer thousands of 290 people from Merseyside go into North Wales. I have the privilege of being a trustee for an estate in the Vale of Clwyd, which I suppose is one of the most beautiful valleys in the whole world. So far, it has not been spoilt by man.
The most important influence that Wales has on Liverpool is the supply of water, which has caused a certain amount of annoyance in Wales where Liverpool is concerned. I believe that Tryweryn and Lake Vyrnwy have added to the beauty of Wales, but Welsh Nationalists do not feel as I do. It was difficult for the Lord Mayor of Liverpool to hear himself speak when the power station and dam at. Tryweryn were opened.
I think that some Englishmen occasionally forget that man does not live by bread alone and that there are people who would prefer their old habitations, their sheddings the marshes that they have known well, the trout streams and even the hillsides to a modern house or school which has been put up by a rich corporation. We are apt to forget that many people do not really wish to live in the 1960s and have a great hankering after the life they have always known.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
Even though we may wish to live in the 1960s, there are a great many people who do not wish to see their valleys flooded. Whatever party we may belong to, I am sure that we are grateful for the way in which my hon. Friend is putting forward this subject.
§ Mr. Tilney
I thank my hon. Friend. I hope it is understood in the City of Liverpool how strongly the people of Wales can feel about the land grab through the power of Parliament.
Many people from all over our United Kingdom come to Wales. They enjoy the new beauty of Tryweryn; they picnic there. If the people of Wales decide to build more similar dams, I hope that they will take a lesson, oddly enough, from the free people of China. At a great multipurpose dam that I saw only last year they have space for cars for the picknickers and small restraurants, but also some magnificent fountains. We do not have enough fountains in this country. But the provision of fountains, as a part of the compensation water, has to be thought out in the planning stage. That is a minor suggestion on my part.
291 Instead of building dams up in the mountains, I urge the Government to consider the great sandy and rush-strewn wastes of the estuaries. I am thinking particularly of the Dee Estuary, which is so near Merseyside. A freshwater reservoir there could be multi-purpose for fishing and sailing and could provide an easy access from Cheshire into North Wales. It could be even better linked with a bridge from the south side of Liverpool across the Mersey. The Minister of State's constituency would be very much affected. We lack many amenities in the North compared with the South. We want to establish pleasant acres of water in the North-West where our people can enjoy recreation. Whether we should be as welcome in Wales as in the past, I do not know. This is not a problem for two counties. It is really for two nations, because the Dee Estuary runs along the frontier between England and Wales.
A few months ago I had the privilege of seeing the great Port of Rotterdam Europort. I stood a mile and three-quarters out in the middle of the North Sea where, only a week or two before, there had been 30 ft. of water. I looked back on a man-made beach 700 ft. wide and shelving one in 50. I might have been on the sands at Formby or Southport. It was a most remarkable feat, costing only £3,000 an acre and worth very much more almost immediately. I hope that the Government will look carefully into that. I realise that the problem of our tides is greater than the Dutch have to tackle. But if we could put a joint enterprise in hand I believe that we could produce in the Dee Estuary something which other nations would quickly come to see and admire.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
No one who heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales could fail to be impressed by the way in which he has grasped the many problems confronting Wales. It was a rousing and excellent speech, full of facts, and it fully substantiated the claim which many of us make that only a Labour Government can solve the problems affecting Wales.
My right hon. Friend has grasped the problems facing us because of his experi- 292 ence in dealing with the issues covered by the many departments over which he has a direct responsibility, and also those dealt with by departments for which he has an oversight responsibility. He is therefore able to see the problems confronting Wales on a wide basis and not merely on a departmental one.
During the short time my right hon. Friend has held his present office he has shown great courage. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths)—whose speech was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) as one of the best that he has heard in Welsh debates—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State thrashed the infantile utterings of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), whom I regard, because of his presence in this Chamber, as a disgrace to Welsh public opinion. However, I hesitate to follow that theme too far.
I want, first, to discuss the possible consequences of large scale industrial mergers, of which there have been a number during the last few months. Those who represent Welsh valley constituencies have for years experienced the fears of their constituents when there is an industrial recession. In the past, quite often industries which have been directed to South Wales have been those on the geographical periphery of industries based in the South-East or the Midlands, with the result that the first effects of any recession have been felt there. It is there that the first factory closures have taken place, and what one might call the bases of the industrial giants have suffered very little.
The fear of factory closures due to recessions has to a large extent been eliminated because of the success of the Government's policy in dispersing industry, but it has been replaced by another fear. People are now afraid of large scale mergers, because these are often followed by a process of rationalisation. I therefore suggest to my right hon. Friend that whenever a large-scale merger of the kind that we have seen in recent months is put to the Government for approval he should ask for an assurance that the consequences of any rationalisation will be less severe in the development areas than in the areas which are best fitted to experience them.
293 I do not want to dwell at length on the problems caused by pit closures, because a number of us have raised this issue on the Floor of the House on many occasions. We have been highly critical of the Government's policy, but it is as well to realise that the Government have contributed millions of £s to the coal industry to meet the social consequences of pit closures. This fact ought to be emphasised time and again.
I do not know whether the nationalised industries—;the National Coal Board, the Gas Council, the Central Electricity Generating Board, and the new Steel Corporation—have power to do what I am about to suggest, but it seems that they are reluctant to set up ancillary industries in those areas which are grossly affected by contracting basic industries such as coal and steel. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North dealt effectively with this issue. Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to set up an appropriate body to make a feasibility study into whether the nationalised industries can set up ancillary industries in these blighted areas?
The nationalised industries spend millions of £s annually on purchasing various goods and services. If only a fraction of that money were devoted to these difficult areas the outlook for the people there would be far better. Remploy could assist by giving advice to whatever body my right hon. Friend considered necessary to consider this problem. I should like this body to investigate, too, how the Government's contracts preference scheme is working out. I do not think that it is working out as many of us hoped it would.
I propose, next, to discuss an issue about which, I warn my right hon. Friend, he will hear quite a lot in the near future. I am wondering whether legislation can be introduced to deal with the problem of straying animals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said on a previous occasion, this is a huge joke, but it is a serious problem in South Wales. Some months ago my right hon. Friend courteously received a deputation consisting of myself and certain of my colleagues to discuss this matter with him, and he promised to consider it. I hope, therefore, that in the near future he will bring forward his proposals for dealing 294 with this difficult problem. It is not merely a question of the number of accidents to pedestrians and motorists because of straying animals. We must consider the suffering 'of the animals themselves. This is a difficult problem, but I think that the time has come when a start must be made toward finding a solution.
I come, finally, to the issue raised for a different and political reason by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, namely, the bulk charge for electricity supplied to the South Wales Electricity Board. Some time ago a number of my Welsh colleagues and I raised this issue with the Minister of Power to see whether it was possible to amend the charges which the South Wales Electricity Board has to pay for bulk supplies received from the C.E.G.B.
Due to the contraction of the coal industry, the chemical industry, and perhaps the steel industry—but I cannot speak with any personal experience of that—the South Wales Electricity Board now supplies far less electricity to these basic industries than it did in the past. There is industrial growth in Wales, but not of industries which are what one might call large-scale consumers of electricity. The bulk tariff rate is based on the requirements of the C.E.G.B. in future years to take account of industrial growth nationally. The South Wales Electricity Board is having to pay the increased charges for industrial growth which is not taking place in its area. This is a vicious circle, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will discuss the matter with the Minister of Power to see whether it is possible to vary the rate paid by the South Wales Electricity Board to take account of the situation which I have described.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) on his maiden speech today. Those of us who knew him at Caerphilly were sure that he would be the next Member of Parliament for that constituency, and from what we have heard from him today we are sure that he will be a truly worthy successor to our late friend and colleague Ness Edwards. Also, as one of the newer Members on this side, I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the 295 Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). He made an outstanding contribution to today's debate. The House will be much the poorer place when he decides to leave us.
The theme of many of the speeches has been the decline of the old industries of coal, iron and steel and the delay in attracting and building up new industries. In a speech which he made at Swansea a short time ago, the Secretary of State for Wales referred to this process and said that Wales faced a race between the introduction of new industries and the decline of the old.
The fear ever present in the minds of the people of South Wales now, particularly in the mining valleys, is that in this race the decline of the old industries will win. Indeed, many of us fail to understand why the Government seem to be deliberately handicapping themselves in the race by their refusal to give public enterprise a proper rôle in the new economy.
There is some justification for the fear which is expressed. The Report which we are debating notes the fall in manpower in the coal industry over the past year. If my arithmetic is correct, there are now 4,890 fewer men employed in the coal industry in Wales. The Report itself says that this reduction of 5,000 male employees is "more than offset" by a 6,000 increase in female employment. I like those words, "more than offset". It may be statistically true that a 6,000 increase in female employment more than offsets a loss of 5,000 male jobs, but from a practical point of view the one certainly does not offset the other.
There is no substitute for alternative employment for men who are able, willing and anxious to work. This is why I join so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who argue the case for a slowing down of pit closures. We have put the case time and again from this side, but I make no apology for repeating it. I should be betraying my own people in the Rhondda if I did not add my word to what has already been said.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State noted the welcome signs of increased interest in Wales nowadays shown by firms which are considering expanding their industries and taking up advance 296 factories, and we were all pleased to hear the facts and figures which he gave. But I remind him and the Government that many of their policies to this end need time to come to fruition, and this time can be bought only if there is a slowing down in the rate of colliery closures.
The present procedure for dealing with pit closures is very suspect and much criticised in the mining valleys of South Wales. It seems to a good many of us that decisions to close collieries are often made while what are called jeopardy meetings are being held between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board. Further, it seems that decisions to close pits are sometimes made even before the Welsh Council is asked make a report and submit its observations.
The question which people are asking in connection with this procedure is this: what advice does the Welsh Council give on the question of colliery closures, and, more important, perhaps, do the Government or the N.C.B. pay any attention to the advice which is given? If the system of referring possible pit closures to the Welsh Council is to have any value and is to carry with it the confidence of the people of Wales, particularly the confidence of the miners, the reports of the Welsh Council ought to be made public.
I realise that all sorts of objections are raised to this; it is said that no provision is made for publication, it ought not to be done, and it has never been done. But, if the details of the reports cannot be made public, the recommendations certainly ought to be so that we may know on whose shoulder the final responsibility lies.
On page 12 of the Report there is a reference to the shortage of skilled workers, especially in engineering. Many of us received a report from the Welsh Region of the C.B.I. making the same point, in which it was said that the Principality was critically short of some skilled personnel. I know this to be true in my own constituency, where I meet industrialists. I know it to be true also because of a deputation which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) and I took last year to the Ministry of Labour, as it then was, advocating a new Government training centre in or near our area of 297 the Rhondda. Represented on that deputation were three local authorities, Rhondda, Pontypridd, and Llantrisant & Llantwit Fardre, all authorities which recognise the shortage of skilled labour which is necessary if we are to attract industry to our area.
The Government themselves have to a certain extent recognised the shortage. We know—I am sure that the Secretary of State would have given the figures if he had had time—that by 1970 we shall have seen a tenfold increase in the output of trained and skilled people from Government training centres, and we know also of the financial assistance, grants of £10 a week, and so on, for these training arrangements. Big improvements have been made. However, I do not believe that out training and retraining programmes are yet adequate to meet the needs of Wales.
Plainly, any industrial reconstruction in any part of Wales, and notably in the mining areas, calls for an adequate training programme, not just a training programme which is better than the Opposition brought in when they were in power—I see that they have all but disappeared from the benches opposite, but he that as it may—not just a programme which is slightly better in 1968 than in 1967, but a really adequate training programme lit to meet the need.
We need this training programme for two reasons. First, it will give redundant miners new opportunities, opportunities to which they are entitled by virtue of the years of service which they have given to their country. It is a matter of social justice to the miners themselves. Second, industrialists are more likely to be attracted to a new area if they know that in that area there are trained men waiting for work. Therefore, for social and economic reasons we need an adequate training programme and an extension of the existing system.
§ Mr. Jones
I share my hon. Friends' delight at having the Opposition represented on the benches opposite once more in the person of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr.Hooson). [An HON. MEMBER: "The alternative Government."] No, that idea has gone for all time.
298 I come now to two specific points regarding training. First, I mention the Ministry of Defence facilities which are now being used at R.A.F. St. Athan for training purposes. I visited it and saw the facilities offered to the men there, some from my constituency. Two things struck me. First was the sympathetic understanding of the R.A.F. personnel, who are determined that this scheme should work. They have changed the types of courses to accommodate the needs of the trainees. The second was the determination of the trainees themselves to make a success of their new careers.
R.A.F. St. Athan has, I understand, a maximum capacity for about 50 civilian trainees, yet they have never reached that target and there are always more places than trainees to fill them. Could my right hon. Friend not at least ensure that we make the maximum use of the facilities there? Further, could we look, not only at R.A.F. St. Athan, but at other defence establishments, to see whether there are not training facilities there which could be used?
Many of the existing colleges of further education and technical colleges had, and some still have, excellent facilities and courses especially geared to the needs of the coal mining industry, but now, with the changing pattern of industry, these mining courses are not needed and the mining departments in these establishments are completely run down—yet the specialist staff, the equipment and the workshop space is still there and available for use.
Is it not worth an investigation at least to see whether this spare capacity cannot be used to relieve the load on training centres? We know that there are heavy waiting lists for many of the courses at the training centres. I know that this would mean a tremendous amount of co-operation between Government Departments, because the Department of Employment and Productivity deals with grants, the Department of Education and Science controls the establishments and the trade unions are concerned in the recognition of the trained people, but my right hon. Friend could, I believe, examine this proposal in some detail. If it is feasible it will need not only the blessing of the Welsh 299 Office, but probably a hefty push from it as well.
I wish to deal now with the provision of employment for the registered disabled and also those who, though not registered, will suffer from minor disabilities, chest complaints, and so on, associated with many years work underground. The Report says that there are 1,381 disabled registered unemployed, and to this number can be added some thousands, both young and old, of ex-miners who suffer from these minor disabilities. We have had the miners' redundancy payments scheme, which was one of the most generous schemes of all time, but there are still many redundant ex-miners who are outside the scope of that scheme.
In my constituency, most of the collieries were closed before the scheme was introduced, so, if these people have been employed for more than 12 months, they are treated more harshly now, in 1968, than they were under the Act of 1948, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly. This is the subject of another debate, and I am sure that the Secretary of State would be interested to read in HANSARD his own contributions to the debate on the 1948 Bill, which I will quote to him on some suitable occasion.
However, whatever the scheme we have redundancy payments are no substitute for work for these people. It is equally unreasonable and unrealistic to expect these disabled—either registered or those with minor disabilities—to travel long distances, or even normal distances, outside the Valleys. We have Remploy factories in Wales, 13 of them, employing about 1,200 severely disabled people and they are doing a wonderful job, but this aspect of employment wants investigation to see whether it could not be extended to cater not only for the severely disabled but for those with minor disabilities who find it almost impossible these days to find work. We should look at it not as a charity but as an act, almost, of economic good sense.
I am convinced, looking at the picture of industrial development and training or the social provisions, that this Government have done better than any other. I suppose that it is equally true that Wales 300 is very grateful that our affairs are not the responsibility of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Despite that, the people of Wales still have many valid criticisms and expectations of greater and faster progress from this Government, simply because a Labour Government, which they returned to power. I hope that, in all the fields of Government endeavour, and on top of the real achievement which the Secretary of State listed, we will see, in the next 12 months, a far greater sense of urgency in all efforts.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I am very glad to be able to acknowledge what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about bypasses in my constituency. I have queried Secretaries of State about the Brecon bypass in the past whenever I was able, and I am most grateful to him. I only hope that the year which I was given before has been advanced by 12 months so that they can get on with it. In the summer months, I find it better and faster to travel with my wife on foot rather than to go by car; therefore a bypass will be a great improvement. The Ystradgynlais bypass will be a good scheme and will relieve the anxiety of people who could do with work.
Further devolution is our party policy, especially in respect of health, education and agriculture. I do not expect all those three to come at once, but at least let us start with health and see how far we can go. We have had the advantage for years of a Welsh Board of Health, so there is a foundation for devolution in that respect.
There is anxiety among those with constituency problems about why Ministers in other Departments rarely have consultations with the Welsh Office on problems which arise in Wales. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot tell the House or me what advice he gives to Ministers of colliery closures or the Central Wales line or hospital closures, but I hope that, some time, if they exceed his advice—this applies to the other Ministers as well—there will be such a flood of disagreement that one will rise in the House and say, "I am sorry, but I did not agree with what the Minister 301 has said about this problem." We must get to know that in some way or other.
I am anxious about the notice which is given. I have no collieries to complain about, because they are all gone, but I am satisfied that there was not sufficient regard paid by the Minister at the time to the advice given by the Secretary of State on colliery closures. I am satisfied that the Minister of Transport did not pay heed to what was said to her at the time about the proposed closures of the Central Wales line. There must be a limit to this situation and a proper accountability to hon. Members. We should be told the facts from time to time.
One problem arising is the proposed closure of the Adelina Patti Hospital in my constituency. I will say nothing about the merits of the case; but I hope that the Secretary of State for Wales will see that no announcement about it, favourable or unfavourable, is made without proper consultation and that he will be fully consulted.
I am afraid that my colleagues take too lightly the situation which has developed about devolution and a Federal Parliament. I am not nearly as much an elder statesman as is my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), but I think that I can say to my colleagues that the young people in Wales are not marching with us. There is a lesson in that. We must be careful—not to change policy but to see that we put our policy over to the people. Perhaps the young people in Wales look at television more than they read the newspapers. Indeed, I do not particularly want them to read the newspapers, because there is no newspaper which supports us. But I think they will look at television, and we ought to consider using it to put our policy across to them.
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) said that this debate should have taken place earlier. In my elder statesmanship, if I may use the phrase, I am worried whether the Welsh Grand Committee serves the purpose for which it was intended. Do we have as many Committee meetings as we ought to have? I do not know whose fault it is, but it seems to me that as back-bench Members we have a better chance to take part in debates in the House than in the Welsh Grand Committee, because the selection 302 of speakers is one-for-one—one Government speaker and one Opposition speaker. That is not your fault, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you are not in the Chair in Committee. That is the task of the Chairman of that Committee. There are 30 Labour Members in that Committee, yet the speeches are made alternately from the two sides of the Committee. There is something wrong with that.
The Secretary of State made a statement about local government reorganisation, but, with all respect, he did not give much information. I understand that. The Queen's Speech will be delivered next week or in the following week, and it may contain a reference to local government reorganisation, although I doubt it. It is important, for the sake of his staff in the different authorities, that the Secretary of State should make an announcement about a time-table for local government reorganisation. There have been three series of meetings with associations of local authorities—with county councils, county boroughs and district councils. Whatever the Ministers may have said at those meetings, we do not know their views—and we ought to know them. Would it not be a good idea to have a White Paper on the subject of local government? We have had many White Papers. Why not one on local government? If there is to be a radical change in policy we ought to have information about it. It may be that there is pressure for change: but in fact there is a great deal of support for the proposals.
We are discussing the White Paper on Wales and also paragraphs from the White Paper "Wales: The Way Ahead". I am interested particularly in the paragraphs dealing with the broad strategic planning with employment and industrial development. But I think of my constituents who have been made redundant because of mine closures or because of the proposed closure of the Mid-Wales line, or because of redundancy in factories following changes in defence policy. If I read these paragraphs to them, they would not know what I was talking about. I want our excellent White Paper on Wales and on the broad strategic plan to be simplified. Possibly discussion could be generated about it on the B.B.C. or T.W.W. It does not matter which. [HON. MEMBERS: "Harlech."] The Welsh station is now called Harlech, 303 which shows how out of date I am in these matters.
A redundant miner, who does not want to upset his home in order to move to an area where he has been offered a job in another pit, stays at home, but he does not get redundancy payment. He does not take a very favourable view of things. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly has often mentioned the number of collieries which he had as a miner's agent in the Swansea Valley. I remember nine collieries existing in the southern end of Breconshire. Today there is not one. I would not have minded collieries being closed had it not been a fact that there was no advance planning to provide work for those who became redundant. That is what has concerned me in the loss of collieries. I am grateful to the Controller of the Board of Trade in Wales for the great work which he has been doing to get the two advance factories at Yniscedwyn and Ystradaynlais occupied at long last.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) would like me to acknowledge the debt which we owe to the Secretary of State for Wales for the fact that there is to be an advance factory in Merthyr. I say that because some of my constituents live in Cefn Coed and they were working up to last week in the Teddingtons' factory. Because of defence policy changes a number have been made redundant. As a Socialist, of course, I have to recognise that I am prepared to accept cuts in defence expenditure. But it makes me worry when no alternative employment is provided. The Secretary of State for Wales has therefore saved me from an embarrassing situation because there is to be an advance factory.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hereford for mentioning the Big Usk site in my constituency. Of course, I represent Brecon and he does not—and hope to continue doing so.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
The hon. Member looks a great deal healthier now than when I had finished with him.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising the point. Some hon. Members would have been annoyed, but I am not. People will realise that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor 304 speaks with authority because they will see that even the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) supported me. We are concerned not only with that site but also with other sites, such as Senni, Tylwch and St. Harmon.
I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) that we are not simply preserving nature. We are preserving a livelihood in these places. He should think about that. He may be thinking about the flowers and the birds, but he must remember that people are living in these areas and that I want to preserve their livelihood.
I turn to the problem of water supply. The Minister of Agriculture is a Welsh-speaking Welsh man, and I am glad about that because he will tell the Secretary of State for Wales about the importance of keeping the valleys for agricultural purposes. Let us consider other ways of providing the water supply, such as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Liverpool. Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), or desalination, instead of drowning these valleys. Indeed, there is an easier way out; I remind my colleagues that a Water Board for Wales would be the easiest way to deal with the problem.
I turn to the question of development in Mid-Wales. We are very grateful in Mid-Wales for what has been done both by private industry and by the provision of advance factories. Whenever advance factories are provided in Mid-Wales, there are tenants ready to go into them at once. Perhaps the prospective tenants and their wives like the scenery and the salmon in our local rivers. Where opportunities occur industrialists have snapped them up, and I am grateful for the help that has been given by the Board of Trade and the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association.
I was pleased that the Secretary of State attended the National Parks Conference in Brecon. People from all over the country were there and they had an enjoyable time. My right hon. Friend's speech on that occasion was well received, and he might like to know that, as chairman of the conference, I had put in a good word for him when I referred to the support that had been given by the Welsh Office towards, for example, the mountain centre, which is only four miles from my home, and for 305 what the Welsh Office had done for the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal.
It may not be entirely within the rules of protocol to refer to a civil servant, but I gather from the Press that the Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Office, whom I have known for a long time in that post, is leaving to take up the important post of principal of the Aberystwyth College. I am pleased about this, because this is a vital post and he knows precisely what is required of students and what will be required of them in future. I hope that, like Napoleon, he will be what a leader in a university should be, which is a dealer in hope, and that he will instil into the students much hope for the future of Wales. As long as work of this kind is in good hands, I am sure that the policy to which those concerned are committed will be carried out, and that is saying something these days.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)
My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Tudor Watkins) concluded his excellent speech by referring to hope and the need to instil it. There is nothing we in Wales like more than a good funeral. There is an attitude in Wales today that we are witnessing the funeral of the Welsh economy and the Welsh way of life.
I do not entirely acquit the Labour Party of blame in this matter. We have instilled into the population of Wales the idea that there is no hope for the Welsh economy. This being so, we must try to analyse what has gone wrong and why there has been some disenchantment in Wales with the Labour Party. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor is a shrewd politician. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) referred to his state of health. Indeed, the state of health of his constituency is an example to all of us of the shrewdness with which he has dealt with the problems of his constituency.
The Labour Party raised hopes in Wales. We told the people there that all the things that were wrong were attributable to a sort of Conservative conspiracy which was London-Birmingham dominated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is time that we got this matter into perspective. The constant theme of politics in Wales for a number of years 306 has been to blame all the problems on that type of domination, and if we are to analyse the situation which now faces us we must understand the mood in Wales.
I am not talking in terms of nationalism and I hope that the Secretary of State is not being over-sensitive about my remarks, although perhaps some of the wording I have used has been unfortunate. Nor am I talking about any sort of nationalistic conspiracy. Before we came to office there was a feeling that many of the things that were wrong were due entirely to a neglect and misunderstanding of the problems of Wales. There was insufficient appreciation of the fact before we came to office that many of the problems which would face us were endemic.
It has been said that the Labour Party failed to realise that unless we changed the system on becoming the Government we would have to operate in a capitalist country and abide by the rules which controlled a capitalist economy. Time and again in Wales we promised—I remember the promise being made indeed, I admit that I was one of those who made it—when we fought elections that many improvements could be made. I was at fault in saying that I thought that all our railway closures could be deferred and in felling my constituents that we would be able to direct industries into areas, even if those industries did not want to go there voluntarily.
My colleagues are equally at fault now in trying to create the idea among some of our communities that if private enterprise does not go into them willingly, we have some sort of fund of State-controlled enterprise that we can put in. Let us realise once and for all that the problem of the declining areas is not confined to the coalmining areas of South Wales. The scale is different, but I have similar problems in my constituency. The slate quarrying industry has not been mentioned today. In my constituency I have the community of Blaenau Festiniog and there are more people still employed in the slate quarrying industry than in all the advance factories we have built in Wales. There are in my constituency the same problems as there are in the mining areas, although my area is not designated as an area in need of special attention. I will not tell my people 307 that it is possible to put State-controlled, State-directed and State-inspired industries into that part of Wales.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) and many others in Wales are doing exactly the same as in previous years. There were days when it was virtually impossible to live in Wales. At that time people went round preaching salvation. In the days when capitalist Governments were neglecting us completely, we preached ultimate Socialism, and we were listened to. When a Socialist Government came to power people expected to see the economic remedies that we had offered. Now they are preaching separation. The people of Wales are seeking some sort of economic salvation from a political party. We must make it clear that it will not come.
A feature of this debate has been the frequent attacks on the hon. Member for Carmarthen because, we say, he is thinking in parochial and narrow nationalistic terms. But we have all been talking about solutions and of a Welsh economic plan. I am trying to face the facts of life, as I have been doing in my constituency. There is no Welsh economy from the point of view of its effect on my constituency.
Much has been said about the potential of Cardiff and the development of the Port of Cardiff. A great deal has been made about the effect it will have on the economy of Wales. It will have no effect on my constituency, in which there are three separate Welsh economies. My constituency is divided into two areas and is influenced by two areas, Merseyside and Birmingham. I have to relate the economy of my area to the state of the economy in Birmingham and in Merseyside. These are some of the hard facts of life that we have to face when discussing the Welsh economy.
In making this speech I did not intend to fall out with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and I hope that he has misunderstood me, but the fact is that it is no longer any use in Wales talking in terms of long-term plans. We have a series of short-term problems which vary from constituency to constituency and from one part of Wales to another, and we have to deal with many of them as quickly as possible.
308 Our biggest short-term problem is the coal mining industry. I speak with a great deal of sympathy for the men in that industry, but it is no use talking in terms of a national fuel policy to try to save the mining industry. That industry needs a short-term injection of money to enable the men to move into some other kind of industry. If there is one piece of good advice that has been given to the House by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, and I will use the privilege of the House to say so, it was his advice about the chairmanship of the National Coal Board following the Aberfan inquiry. It is a great pity for their own sake that the Government did not follow his advice, because I am absolutely convinced that the campaign being run by the Chairman of the Coal Board about the Government's fuel policy is doing untold harm to the future of the coal mining industry at the present time. We have to face these unpleasant facts, and a large number of difficult short-term problems.
I have the greatest faith that the economy of our country will prosper. We feel that prosperity is coming into Wales, but there are areas where the problem is different, where the solution is difficult to see, and where there are few things we can do. We must try to get some kind of reality about the exact numbers available for employment in areas of high unemployment. That situation has to be faced. We also have to look at the amount of money we are spending in Wales at present, and realise that there are great opportunities in Wales provided we put our money in the right amounts in the right places.
I am delighted with the investment being made in my part of Wales in roads and in advance factories. I am delighted that those factories are being let. I am delighted with the money being spent on education. I am also quite convinced that if we were to use the amount of money we are now putting into Wales in the form of regional employment premium in a far more rational and pragmatic way we could give untold benefit to many Welsh areas that are urgently in need of short-term assistance. We are putting £14 million into Wales, and a great deal of it is completely unnecessary in some areas because of the very success of our policies there, yet many prosperous industries are getting R.E.P.
309 We should use the money on something more sensible and more long-term, because if this Government were to go, and if Wales were to be left alone, deprived of the assistance it is now getting and without some new kind of structure having emerged, we in Wales will face a very serious situation. We are getting vast amounts of grants and subsidies, and we ought to see that those vast amounts are going into building something worth while which will give us a new superstructure to enable the new economy which is beginning to flourish in Wales to bloom and to give us a new future.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) in his thinkpiece, because fundamentally I agree with him in his scepticism in the search for some philosopher's stone—some ultimate salvation—in Wales to give us an answer to all our problems. I agree, too, with his division of Wales into three fundamentally separate economies.
Like the best Welsh ministers in their sermons, I will begin by saying that I hope to be brief and I shall choose but three points. I hope that, unlike most Welsh ministers, I shall in fact be brief. I want to deal with certain points affecting employment, communications and administration.
First, employment. I want to take up the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) about the revision of the job gap forecast in the Blue Paper "Wales; The Way Ahead" of 15.000 surplus men over jobs by 1971. Is the Secretary of State now in a position to give a revised estimate of that job gap by 1971 as a result of the new industries which he has described as having been attracted into Wales?
I want to touch briefly on regional policies. Clearly the needs of humanity alone insist that we give priority at present in South Wales to the areas of declining industries. No one would gainsay this. I hope that we shall do so in a logical way and without creating anomalies on the borders of the type described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands).
I will instance only two of these anomalies. I accept that they are partly 310 constituency points, but they have some general validity. First, there is the stubborn refusal of the Government to see Newport—this point is frequently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes)—as having the same role for the mouth of the valley in catering for the unemployment needs of the valleys of Monmouth as they see for Llantrisant, for the Rhondda Valley, and for the Swansea/Port Talbot complex for the Swansea and Neath Valleys.
There seems to be no logic, for example, in their refusal to extend certain of the development area grants to areas like Rogerstone. Last week I visited the firm of Rogerstone Precision, over two-thirds of whose work force come from within the development area. Similarly, the much larger international company of Alcan, also at Rogerstone, was attracted there in the first place because of the need to provide employment immediately after the war. This company, again, draws about two-thirds of its work force from the development area but gains no incentive from the Government to expand in that area. For every three jobs that are generated there, two will assist in solving the employment problems of areas like Risca, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch).
I very much hope that the Government will not simply say, "Wait for Hunt", like Godot, because we have been waiting for Hunt for a long time. These anomalies are having a considerably bad effect on areas on the fringe. I refer in particular to Cwmbran, where two policies of the Government appear at present to be in contradiction. There is, on the one hand, the expected increase in the population target of Cwmbran. There is, on the other hand, the fact that, since Cwmbran is outside a development area, firms can get the full range of benefits a mile or two up the road and may therefore not site themselves in the optimum site. Yet they provide employment for the same group of people in the Cwmbran area. Employment is the basic criterion for being a development area.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, make further points about Cwmbran. I understand that since July Cwmbran has been included in the eastern valley in terms of 311 journey-to-work groupings. Had the homework been done four years ago when the development area boundaries were first thought of, surely Cwmbran would have been included within the development area boundary. The time is certainly ripe for that provision to be made. I agree with what has been said about the need to look very carefully at the future of the development corporation in Cwmbran because of the anticipated slowing down of building in that area.
I will let the facts speak for themselves about the promise which we have had concerning the Government training centre in Monmouthshire. On 30th November, my hon. Friend the Minister of State said:Meanwhile, four Government training centres are already active or in prospect. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been holding discussions with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and it will not be long before we can give the House particulars of a fifth Government training centre. I cannot say exactly where it will be, but I can say that the special areas in South Wales stretch into Monmouthshire".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 781.]On 6th February, the Minister of Labour said:I now have to tell the House that which has not been announced, that, besides the six I have just mentioned, the Government have decided to build a further seven centres. They will be sited in West Monmouthshire…"— OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1968; Vol. 758, c. 257.]Since 6th February we have had silence. It is no wonder that local people are very disappointed at the delay.
Turning to the question of communications, we are now seeing the results of the failure of the Conservative Government in the early 1960s to give Wales that priority which it deserved. There is a remarkable contrast between the pace of development in Wales and the pace of development in central Scotland and North-East England between 1964 and 1966. The two White Papers on Central Scotland and the North-East which appeared in 1963 drew attention to the need for an accelerated roads programme. The result is seen in the figures for capital expenditure on roads in 1964–65 compared with 1966–67. In Scotland, expenditure rose from £20 million to £29 million; in the North-East from £8 million to £13 million; and in 312 Wales only from £12 million to £14 million, much less acceleration. The effect of further capital expenditure is being felt much later than we in Wales had hoped. We could have done with someone in the Cabinet in 1962–63 going with cloth cap, not only to the North-East, but to Wales. We could have done then with the voice of a Secretary of State in the Cabinet fighting for Wales and for roads in Wales.
The greatest need in communications in Wales must be the extension of the M4 westwards, opening up the valleys of Glamorgan to industrial development. I am glad that already in the preparation pool, following today's announcement, we have an extension as far as Bridgend. But the preparation pool is not the construction of the roads. It merely means that plans are afoot in the Welsh Office. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will give the M4 extension the greatest possible priority, because there is nothing more convincing to industrialists than seeing the confidence which the Government have shown in pushing roads further westwards into Wales.
On administration, I agree with the analysis of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that the current debate on devolution must be seen in the context of the twilight of the Empire. People are less proud to be British after the dissolution of the British Empire. There are two reactions to this in Wales. On the one hand, there is the separatist, parochial reaction of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), refusing to realise that the problems which we face in Wales are paralled by problems elsewhere in the United Kingdom and on the Continent, and, on the other hand, there is the much healthier reaction, the robust patriotism of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) and a genuine desire to bring more democracy and participation to the people. It is in this spirit that I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will frame his ultimate proposals.
Concerning the top-tier authority in Wales, I make the plea in passing that just as we have used the resources of the University of Wales in the economic field, we should also consider using the 313 expertise available in the University of Wales in the political science departments there—perhaps a Gregynog weekend—to consider what form the top tier in Wales should take. Clearly, a whole series of implications has to be considered, including the relationship with the super-counties foreseen by the local government reorganisation plan, the new welfare authorities, and so on.
A large part of the good will which existed at the time of publication of the White Paper on Local Government has evaporated as a result of the lack of information on detailed proposals. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). How can public discussions be meaningful or co-operation between authorities in anticipation of the proposals continue until the details are known? I make the plea to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to issue, yes, a further White Paper clarifying his ideas on the details contained in the White Paper so that a proper and informed debate can take place on local government reorganisation.
The Welsh Office has proved itself a success. There is an ease of access of our own local authorities to the Welsh Office which makes our English counterparts very jealous. I believe, like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that truly in Wales we have a land of opportunity beyond the problems which we now face and that we have an able team at the Welsh Office. I wish them well in tackling their formidable tasks.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies (Conway)
I would have liked to say something about devolution, but I had the opportunity to talk on this topic at Blackpool, when I had an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that this is a question which the Government will look at urgently. I was glad to hear a similar sentiment expressed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today.
I will, however, say this. As a party and as a Government, we have been interested in devolution. The very fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—a member of the Cabinet—opened the debate today is an indication of the progress which has been made.
314 The success of which we have heard today is also an indication of the growing attention which has been given to the problems of Wales.
We must remember that the Welsh Council of Labour, nearly two years ago, passed a motion in favour of an elected Council for Wales. It may be that the climate of opinion today makes it possible for us to go even further in that direction.
Undoubtedly, we are suffering from a measure of top-heaviness in Whitehall and Westminster. There is, however, the administrative point, also, that we have come as a matter of political fact to rely more and more on ad hoc regional boards—hospitals boards, regional boards, the boards of nationalised industries and regional offices of Ministries. We think of economic planning in regional terms. It is sad that in democracy this is a field of the official and the appointee and that there is no elected body at this level. I hope very much that developments will take place in this direction.
This is a British problem. In Wales and Scotland, there is the further fact of the desire for more than regional expression, namely, for national expression. I know that when the policy of the Labour Party is evolved in this direction, it will give scope to that desire for national expression. Should we not do so, the people of Wales and of Scotland will reject us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) referred, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to the recent Collcon Report on Traffic Problems in North Wales. The 10-mile stretch of the North Wales coast in the area of the A55 between Abergele and St. Asaph is of critical importance. In common with many people in North Wales, I had favoured an inland bypass over the mountains skirting the whole length of the A55 from Colwyn Bay, past Llandudno and Conway, Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan, to rejoin the existing road near Aber. I am prepared to accept the argument in this Report that through traffic in this area, based on an average day in August, is only 7,099 journeys and I am prepared to concede that this does not constitute a case for an inland route. I am, however, a little disturbed 315 about the presentation of the facts in the Report. I am less worried about the recommendations than the presentation of the facts. The Report examines Colwyn Bay, Conway and Llandudno and enumerates trips of three kinds made in the area—internal trips, trips in and out, and trips straight through. The point is made in the Report that of the 90,000, or so, trips which took place in that area as a whole in a day, only 7,099 were through trips—in other words only 8 per cent. of the total journeying through traffic, the rest being internal.
I make two points in this connection. One is that "trips" is a very odd measure. If I go from my house to the shops, half a mile, and back again, that is two trips. If somebody travels through the whole area, 10 miles, and makes a considerable contribution to traffic congestion there, that is only one trip.
Then there is the further point that many of these trips are not trips in the east-west direction of the A.55, but zigzag trips up and down. One would have thought, from the figures that only 8 per cent. of the traffic on Conway Bridge is through traffic. The figures for the bridge are not given in this Report, but looking at a number of different tables one can see that 18,300 trips are made across the Conway Bridge; the 7,099 are through trips, meaning that the through traffic is not 8 per cent. but amounts to as much as 38 per cent. of the traffic in the area. I am a little concerned about the way the facts have been put.
I accept the conclusion that the River Conway will have to be crossed by a new crossing somewhere in the neighbourhood of Conway itself. Three alternative routes are discussed, but one is picked out and recommended and that is a bridge across the estuary at Deganwy. I would urge the Secretary of State—he has given an assurance that no quick decision will be made on this question—to look at other possibilities which are discussed here, too, even though the cost may be up to £1 million more, because a bridge at Deganwy would ruin one of the finest estuaries in Wales and one of the most splendid residential areas. The Report mentions other possibilities and I would be grateful if the Secretary of State would look very carefully at those alternatives.
316 There is mention also in the Report of an alternative to a bridge. We have heard from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) that he is interested in using estuaries as sources of water supply. In an Appendix to the Report there is discussion, as an alternative to a bridge, of a barrage across the estuary. This would lead to a number of advantages. It would carry the road, but would also solve once for all the flooding problem of the Conway Valley by holding up the tide at times of heavy water. It would also lead to reclamation of about 1,000 acres in the lower reaches of the Conway Valley. Moreover, it would have a capacity of 450,000 million gallons, and since the flow of the river is 500 million gallons per day about 200 millions gallons per day could be used as a source of water supply.
This would more than offset the deficiency of the Dee till the end of the century. This reservoir, as it would then be, could also be used in conjunction with one of the mountain lakes above Dolgarrog for hydro-electric purposes and a pumped storage scheme could be built similar to that at Tanygrisiau. In addition, there would be two square miles of inland waterway, which would be of immense recreational value to the area.
I urge the Secretary of State that, when he considers the future of the North-Wales A55 route, he will bear in mind, as he naturally will, that the future of the economy and of the tourist industry in North Wales will depend upon his decision. Since whatever solution he chooses will be with us for at least 50 years, I urge upon him to ensure that the long-term needs of this area will not be sacrificed in the interest of short-term economies.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
We have as yet only one new town in Wales, and that is Cwmbran. As all of us who are associated with that town know, we are on the eve of important decisions. Decisions have to be taken as to how large Cwmbran should be and how it should be governed. We have been waiting for some considerable time for this decision, and I am sure that nobody who was informed and well aware of the facts would make any complaint about the delay in coming to a final decision.
317 It is important that the Government make a wise decision and not one that prevents the ultimate implementation of pledges made by our party, one of which was that in due time legislation would be introduced to abolish the New Towns Commission. I am aware that there are many difficulties which prompt delay. They must include the fact that we are waiting upon a Severnside study which may not be published for some years. We are aware that there is a need perhaps at some time in the future for an organisation to start off a new town northwards from Llantrisant.
We are aware that there is need for a decision to be taken by the Government on the ultimate management of the new towns and the future of the New Towns Commission. We are aware that there is a delay because one is waiting upon the publication of the Cullingworth report on Housing Management in New Towns. For all these reasons it is understandable that there is a great temptation on the part of the Government to put into effect a holding operation. It is an exceedingly tempting thing to do, and an open-ended holding operation is even more tempting to the Government. It postpones all real decision-making to some vague future.
I want to begin by giving the Secretary of State a gentle warning, one which I know he will realise is of importance. When the decision is announced as to what the future of the new town will be, then it must be announced not in an open-ended manner. It cannot simply be announced, if such were to be the decision, that the 45,000 target would be increased to 55,000 over a period of 15 years without at the same time making it abundantly clear that steps must now be taken to phase out the wind-up of the Development Corporation. If that is not done, I am quite certain that Monmouthshire will be deeply wounded.
The Secretary of State will already be aware of the considered views of the Monmouthshire Council. He will know their anxieties on this matter, and he can take it from me, as I know that he will, that when the Councils of Pontypool and Blaenavon are looking forward to the day when, together with Cwmbran, they will form one Eastern Valley Authority, the notion that such an Authority would find an intruding bureaucratic body en- 318 sconced in their midst to perform the modest task of building 100 or 200 houses a year, would be highly repugnant to the democratically elected councillors of both Pontypool and Blaenavon. Nor, in my view, could it possibly be regarded as healthy that the rôle of the Cwmbran Council should, pending the coming into existence of the Eastern Valley Authority, be undermined.
On the contrary, the rôle of the Cwmbran Urban Council should be enhanced so that it might be seen by the people of the new town that, through their elected representatives, they themselves run the town. The citizens of Cwmbran have the right to rule themselves in Cwmbran as speedily as possible. In Monmouthshire, we do not take kindly to neo-colonialism.
The Secretary of State should be pondering the question with an informed philosophical prejudice against the Development Corporation, because our party, as all its policy statements reveal, has always regarded development councils as necessary evils to be tolerated only as long as the complex and sophisticated task of putting a new town on its feet remains to be performed, but not a day longer.
On the board and the staff in Cwmbran, there are many who are zealous and dedicated, but there is an inherent weakness in all new town development corporations because they are not directly responsible to the people of the towns. They are essentially authoritarian. A new town corporation management is responsible, and then only indirectly, to the Secretary of State and thus is cocooned against public opinion. As the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) and I know, not only can it handle rent questions with extraordinary clumsiness, but sometimes it lapses into the belief that it is responsible to no one but itself.
I expect no reply from the Minister today, for I know that he is pondering on these matters. I expect only one comment, and it is on this little but very important issue. I hope that I shall receive an assurance that a rigorous inquiry will be held so that what I regard as a singular act of discourtesy, if not arrogance, to all local authorities in Monmouthshire will receive the reprimand that it deserves.
319 It is known that the Secretary of State is having confidential discussions with Members of Parliament and local authorities, and doing it with great delicacy, making certain that all opinions are collected. In view of that, it is lamentable that unilateral advertisements should now appear in the local government journals stating that Cwmbran New Town, in Monmouthshire, is inviting applications from chartered engineers for the jobs of principal assistant engineers, senior assistant engineers and assistant engineers, in which it is stated categorically thatIn addition to existing work out to contract, staff are required to assist in the substantial planning and design needs for the expansion of Cwmbran".I need hardly say that this pre-emption of the Secretary of State's right to make a decision is a matter which, when it is known throughout Monmouthshire, will create an opinion that the Cwmbran Development Corporation believes that it can go it alone, unilaterally. I know that the present discussions are not charades and that the Secretary of State has not made up his mind, but it does not appear that the Corporation is yet aware that the discussions with local authorities which are taking place are real and important.
May I suggest to the Secretary of State that, before he comes to any conclusion, it is very important to examine the discussions which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing had in 1967 with Corby, which made it clear that there was a need for a technique to be deevloped for that phasing out of a development corporation so that, for example, there could be joint housing management. I would direct my right hon. Friend's attention to the correspondence in 1967 between the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Corby, so that he may understand that there are techniques which have not yet been considered as to how to phase out the Development Corporation over, say, the next three years or so until the Eastern Valley Authority comes into existence.
In many respects, the situation is not a happy one. It cannot be happy when we are aware that the duplication existing is one which is uneconomic and which quite clearly causes grave offence. For example, it is absurd that the Cwmbran 320 Council should have a strong parts section at the same time as the Development Corporation have a strong landscaping section. The ridiculous situation exists of the two authorities carrying out grass cutting and similar work on the same sites and even on opposite sides of the same road. The same duplication of effort applies to street lighting and electric work, technical staff employment, and the carrying out of legal and administrative procedures. There could easily be some saving of effort if more thought was given to the possibility of a phased take over. I sincerely hope such a phasing out of the Corporation will now be considered.
As part of such a phasing out I gather it has been mooted that perhaps the Cwmbran Council should have greater representation on the Development Corporation. If that is done it is important that no councillor in the Cwmbran urban district should be placed in the position of the suggestion being made that he is seeking to prolong the life of the Cwmbran Corporation. It would undermine confidence and would be an injustice to the councillors if, as part of the phasing operation, they received any payment in taking up an appointment on the Development Corporation. It could undermine confidence among local people, and it is something which my local councillors who are high calibre would not, I am sure, desire.
I hope that the Minister will not be deceived into believing that any talk of phasing out is premature. The new town centre, which is said to be one of the main reasons why the Development Corporation should remain, is already a skeleton. It only needs clothing and, in any event, I am aware that private architects are doing the central buildings. If, again, the Minister fears to begin phasing out lest the future reveals the need for increased expansion, he should see to it that his officials are directed to examine with care what has taken place in other counties like Northumberland where careful arrangements have been made between county councils and local authorities under the Town Development Act, 1952, and where there can be co-operation which could be developed under the eagle eye of good planning officers and local authorities.
I am concerned that the county council should be more involved. It has a 321 wider picture of the county. It is able to make better judgments to balance the needs of old communities and to take into account the refurbishing of old sections of our valleys. It can help to balance the need for capital development in creating new towns as against preserving some of our older communities.
It would also mean that we have the possibility of getting away from some of the ghetto attitudes that I regret seem to be in form in some aspects of the Development Corporation's policy. I recently had a communication from the Chairman of the Corporation, no doubt will intentioned, bitterly complaining that it should be possible so easily for a firm to build a new factory within the Pontypool Urban area and have its employees living in the new town. For good measure, he complained that the road patterns of Cwmbran were not intended to carry the traffic to the new industrial estates, which, thanks to Government policy and local initiative, I am pleased to say are filling up in Pontypool. I believe these are droll complaints indeed.
Monmouthshire has a big challenge. It probably needs 2,000 new jobs a year for many years to meet the problem of declining industry. Of course, I hope that the Hunt Committee will look favourably on the legitimate importuning of Cwmbran for new industry; but as long as my constituents have work and housing in the Eastern Valley it matters little where the work or the house is. All in the long run will be embraced by an Eastern Valley authority. There are no iron curtains to be drawn between the Pontypool Urban District Council and the Pontypool Rural Council, between Pontypool and Cwmbran, or, indeed, between Monmouth constituency and Pontypool constituency. The common objective is work for all and good housing for all. The vice-admiral, the Chairman of the Development Corporation, really must resist the temptation, albeit out of well intentioned loyalty to his Corporation, to declare U.D.I. for his designated area in Cwmbran.
I end as I began by counselling the Secretary of State not to be pushed into a precipitous decision. There are too many matters which still require more thought, not least how Wales and my right hon. Friend's office can have vested in them all the residue of assets which 322 ultimately may otherwise have to pass to the New Towns Commission in London. When the decision comes, I urge my right hon. Friend to spell out that that perhaps in three or four years' time, when the Eastern Valley Authority may be emerging, there will be a winding up of the Corporation. The colossal administrative costs of this organisation cannot possibly be justified to give birth to a few hundred houses a year.
My constituents, for the sake of their pockets, and for the sake of their democratic rights, are quite prepared to thank all those who have participated in the Cwmbran Development Corporation over the last 20 years. They are quite prepared to thank them sincerely and encourage them to move on to Llantrisant and Mid-Wales and leave Cwmbran to be governed by itself.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
I think that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will forgive me for not following him into the administrative mazes of Cwmbran. I cannot hope to match the eloquence of many of the hon. Members who have spoken at such length, so I shall make a short speech.
The late Professor W. J. Gruffydd, to whom I was very attached, always described the Welsh day as the annual saturnalia of the Welsh Parliamentary Party. It is not generally like that. It is generally a solid belly ache throughout, but I noticed today that a few hon. Members thought that something was going right somewhere in Wales.
I attribute that to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans). It is strange, in a way, that so gloomy and woolly-minded man can produce so happy a result—God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform;I was a little disappointed in the Secretary of State for Wales. He started talking about a number of things in which I have been interested. He talked about devolution, about local government boundaries in Wales, and he then mentioned rumours and troubles regarding Summers works. I was on tiptoe to receive the news, but each time he passed on before he gave any. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would earn his keep as a strip-tease artist.
323 Perhaps I might say a word, first, on the question of devolution. I think that there is almost universal agreement in the House that the economic separation of Wales from the rest of the United Kingdom would be ruinous. I say almost universal, because I am not certain where the hon. Member for Carmarthen stands, whether he said we could be economically separated but not financially, or financially separated but not economically. Either is nonsense. It is a meaningless concept.
If someone talks about rural depopulation, he should look at what has happened in the independent Republic of Ireland. I have friends in County Kerry, and I often spend my holidays there. Schools are closing, and so are churches. People go first to Dublin, and then to London. I believe that the people of Wales, if they split off, and had to endure a lower standard of living which would inevitably come, would vote with their feet.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
Has the right hon. Gentleman based his statement on figures produced by the Treasury, or on his own opinion without any figures at all?
§ Mr. Birch
If the hon. Lady had listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who told us how much rate assistance was received by every county except Flintshire, she might have got the point.
I think that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) was right when he said that it was not much good having a mini-Parliament. If the economy is together, a Parliament cannot really exist except in name. There are all sorts of other things that one can do, but any further measures of devolution should be carefully thought out. If the functions of the Welsh Office are enlarged, this may result in a situation in which one gets no further independence, or no further local say in what happens. One simply produces the situation that letters spend another 14 days in the post. I am not referring to 4d. letters, of course; one would expect that with them. I am referring to 5d. letters.
324 It would be only too easy to employ a lot of extra people without producing a better administration—or, indeed, even getting a much worse administration. So for goodness' sake let us think carefully. One hon. Member—I think that it was the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson)—made the rather good suggestion that we should bring some good minds from the universities on to it. Let us have some really deep thinking about anything we do, and be sure that we have it right before we do it.
Now, the question of local authority boundaries. This is becoming rather a bore: it goes on and on. As one hon. Member said, we still do not have the financial details even of the Government's proposals. It is impossible to judge them. However, I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Geraint Morgan) on the question of boundaries in North Wales. Flintshire is unanimously in favour of the two-county solution, and I am sure that my hon. Friend is not correct in saying that the great weight of opinion in Denbighshire is in favour of a single county. That is not in accordance with such information as I have. I do not believe that a one-county solution for North Wales is right. The distances are so great. Communications are not good. The area really divides itself psychologically at the Conway. We are having troubles with the Gwynedd police; there are certain difficulties of recruiting, particularly in Flintshire. The two do not really go very well together.
The thing is in a muddle. I earnestly hope that we shall have some sort of decision soon. The Secretary of State said that he had had 25 meetings. Who else has he to meet, I wonder? Perhaps H.M.S. "Fearless" might be anchored off Cardiff and everyone brought on board. We cannot go on as we are. It is wasteful and foolish.
Now, a word about Summers. I might not have mentioned this if the Secretary of State had not mentioned it himself. As the right hon. Lady knows, there have been a great many rumours and a good deal of anxiety in North Wales about the future of Summers. I thought it right to give what consolation or reassurance I could. We know that there is no plan in existence. What I did say, and what seems to me to be right, is 325 that, with a really efficient works like Summers, which has many tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds sunk in it, it seems dotty to root it out and start up again in a green field site. It would be a great joy if the right hon. Lady could put an end to the rumours now once and for all.
Now, the question of tourism. The Secretary of State said that we had everything to offer. I suppose that he means the scenery. We certainly have that to offer, but we have not everything to offer in the way of hotels. This business of giving special grants to a few hotels in places where people do not want to go very much anyway is really rather typical of the whole development of Wales—dribs and drabs which weaken the whole place. The coastal strip of North Wales, where people go and where the hotels are, receives no assistance at all; it is heavily penalised. We could have some new hotels built if the financial situation were right. A man came to see me the other day on this very question. He has been extremely efficient in bringing visitors from abroad, and so on, and he wants to expand, but, not being in a development area, he finds the taxation system right against him. It is not possible to do it, and this seems quite wrong.
That brings me to my last point, the question of industrial development in Wales generally. I agreed entirely with the point made by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards), that there has to be something permanent. The regional employment premium may be doing something, but it is doing very little, and that only temporarily. There will never be real industrial development in Wales unless the infrastructure is right. We should worry a great deal about the industrial future of Wales, because, as has been said, industry in Wales is very narrowly based, on coal, steel and slate, and certainly coal and slate are bound to go on declining. So it will not necessarily be right to develop in exactly the same places as the dying industries were.
I feel intensely that communications are probably the most important thing of all. This point was made in the Welsh section of the Report, which pointed out that it is lateral roads which matter, those 326 across North Wales, Mid-Wales and South Wales. The roads from north to south have a very low priority indeed from the industrial point of view, because the trade flows to England and does not flow from north to south or from mid-Wales to north and south. I would far rather have a concentration on development areas, financed by stopping the R.E.P. and putting the money into the real infrastructure, which is needed not only to get factories but to get viable ones which can make money and last through difficult times.
The trouble with dotting the factories about and spreading the margarine so thinly is that, in a bad time, an industrialist with very long communications and not a good situation will cut down in Wales and not elsewhere; whereas, if there is a real area with good communications there is something solid which can be relied on and from which one can develop.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mrs. Eirene White)
I am sure that the whole House will wish me to reiterate the compliments already paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) on his maiden speech. I do so with peculiar personal pleasure, because, until he became a Member of this House, he was headmaster of the school which, some 80 years ago, my father attended. It is true that he had to leave at the age of 13, but he had been taught by a most distinguished headmaster, the late Roger Jones, and, even at 13, he had instilled into my father the love of reading and learning which stood him in such good stead for the rest of his life. So anyone connected with the Lewis School, Pengam, on that account alone is sure of my regard. We are very happy to welcome the hon. Member to this House. We listened with attention to his speech.
The point which he particularly wished to impress upon us was the need to preserve the communities of the valleys. I can assure him that the words of the Secretary of State recently in Tredegar were truly spoken and that the Government are firmly of the view that whatever else we do, and whatever changes in the industrial or other structures may come about, the social structure of the valleys has a value for us in Wales which we wish very much to preserve.
327 We have had an extremely interesting debate. Some hon. Members have spoken in broad philosophic terms and others have made speeches which were—and none the worse for it—largely directed to constituency problems. If I do not deal in detail with some of the latter, I am sure that my hon. Friends will understand; I will be very happy either to see them or write to them about the points of detail which they have raised.
The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) referred to the late Professor Griffiths' designation of our debates as saturnalia. I have not quite felt in that mood myself today, although it has been an enjoyable debate, and, anyway, there has been one thing missing from it: that was Banquo's ghost. I am referring to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). One of the most interesting developments in recent weeks has been the emergence of what one might call the Wolverhampton-Carmarthen Axis. The way in which the hon. Member for Carmarthen and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, seem to be in perfect accord is astonishing. The hon. Member for Carmarthen is on record as having said that in his view Wales should have no representatives in Whitehall—he said "Whitehall", but that must have been a slip of the tongue, for he must have meant "Westminster"—and that Wales would be wholly self-dependent financially. He made this copyright in July of this year. It did not take very long for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton. South-West to say the same thing.
They are agreed financially, too. As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) pointed out, under the Carmarthen plan there would be no rate support grant, no development grant and very little of the £25 million to which my right hon. Friend referred. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is entirely in agreement. He does not want to help the development areas. It is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not honour us with his presence today because I should have liked him to develop his views about the position of Wales and its situation in the United Kingdom.
Another interesting novelty which has emerged from the debate is the notion of 328 the Britannic Confederation. We have moved back to B.C. I do not read every word published by the hon. Member for Carmarthen and his Party, and I must admit that I have never before heard mention of a Britannic Confederation. We should like to see that spelled out
May I turn to the rather more serious discussion of devolution in Wales. This is a subject which genuinely is puzzling a great many people. I was glad that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) emphasised it. This is not an easy problem. It is one in which we are groping towards a satisfactory solution. When I say "we" I mean those of us who are not extremists but who feel genuinely that in Wales—and I believe this to be true of other parts of the United Kingdom, too, but we are concerned today with Wales—we are not entirely satisfied with our present arrangements but we are not certain what would be the best course to take. There is no need to apologise for taking some time very carefully to consider the possibilities and the probable outcome of various courses of action.
I am not sure that I agree with the comment about remote control. Indeed, it does not lie in the mouths of any hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench to make such a comment, because after the development of the Welsh Office, with Welsh Ministers working in Wales, the relationship is much less remote than when we had the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) in charge of Welsh Affairs.
We have had contradictory advice today. The hon. Member for Hereford suggested that we should settle local government first and then look at the problem of devolution. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery gave completely contrary advice. He said that we should first settle devolution and that only then should we be in a position to tackle the problems of local government. It is not easy to conclude from these contrary opinions what is the best line to take.
My right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Government are giving the most serious attention to both the national problems and the problems of local government. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I were responsible for the greater number of the 25 meetings to which my right hon. Friend referred. 329 It was, I think, an extremely helpful exercise. It is fashionable today to talk of participation. It was most desirable that we should do exactly what we did. We had discussions with representatives of local authorities. There have been some complaints that we had not previously held a full-dress debate in the House on that White Paper, but we did the right thing, for it is those who are elected to local government who have the very first concern in this matter. I am sure that the discussions which we had with them have been of great value. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will before long be in a position to take matters a stage further.
I was a little surprised that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) should refer to the possibility of a referendum. That is the first time that I have heard that the Conservative, Party favour government by referendum. I do not think that we should follow that line.
We are very much concerned with what should be the next step, and the reference to this matter at the recent conference at Blackpool by the Home Secretary was not without significance We shall, I hope, be in a position before very long to say a little more about this subject.
Several hon. Members mentioned the Welsh Office itself and possible extensions of its functions. I did not have the pleasure of hearing the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Tudor Watkins), but I believe that he mentioned the Ministry of Health as a possible take-over bid. All these matters have to be considered very carefully in their full context and I am not in a position, therefore, to say much more about this subject tonight, beyond giving a full assurance that it is being most actively considered.
Apart from the extremely important subject of forms of government at national and local level, most hon. Members who have spoken have been more concerned about the economic infrastructure of Wales than about any other subject. During that debate hon. Members emphasised the position, which is familiar to all of us in the Principality, of the decline of the basic industries of coal and, in the North, of slate, and not the decline in production but the changes in the manpower requirements of the 330 other basic industries of steel and agriculture.
It is important to get the picture clear in our minds.
The whole House was encouraged by the report given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Those of us in the Welsh Office and in the other Government Departments concerned have become strongly conscious in the last few months of the change in climate and the change of pace in industrial developments in Wales. My right hon. Friend was this year in a more comfortable position than was my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last year because he had been doing the spade work and, the foundations having been dug, we are now beginning to see the results.
The figure given by my right hon. Friend of new jobs should be amplified if the House is to have the picture entirely clear because the 21,000 jobs which are firmly in view for the next four years are in authorised new industrial buildings or in buildings being extended for new projects and devolepments. These are in manufacturing industry and one must, therefore, add to these jobs which are firmly in prospect other jobs which we have every expectation will also accrue in the next four years or thereabouts.
There is nothing in the figure given by my right hon. Friend which takes into account what the economists call the "multiplier effect" of increased employment or of increases in job opportunities in existing enterprises and buildings. That would be a bonus and it is not an unreasonable expectation to envisage such an increase. One may fairly say, from the excellent trade figures published today—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—hon. Members will have been delighted to learn that we have now achieved an export level higher than ever before; I had, therefore, hoped that the cries of "Hear, hear" would come from hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as from my hon. Friends—that the momentum of the economy in general is improving. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that this will have its effect in Wales as in other parts of the country.
I remind the House that the figure given by my right hon. Friend does not 331 include another extremely important sector, which is the work which will arise from the deliberate Government policy of the dispersal of Government establishments. With the exception of the Mint, that is not included in the figure for manufacturing industry. Swansea, Cardiff. Newport and other areas will benefit from this deliberate Government policy. We reckon that within the next four years more than 9,000 additional jobs will be definitely in prospect arising from this source. One must, therefore, add to the basic figure given by my right hon. Friend these other opportunities for employment which we foresee.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) played around with the figure of 200,000 what he called "hidden unemployed". I suspect that he is probably included in that statistic. I am not sure whether he is self-employed or a company. In this House he is self-employed and would therefore not appear in any Welsh statistics as being an employed person. This is one difficulty of using statistics when one is not perhaps entirely aware of some of their connotations.
I grant him that it is undeniable that the years 1964–67 were not favourable for male employment in the Principality. This was partly due to the fact that under the former Administration fewer I.D.C.s were given to Wales. As a result, little of Wales was in the development area programme. It is only now that we are beginning to reap the benefit of the change of policy under the present Administration.
If one is asked about a possible diminution in jobs in the next four years to match the positive figures, then I would say that the estimates given in the White Paper "Wales: The Way Ahead" are, to the best of our knowledge and belief, as accurate as one can make such estimates. In other words, nothing has happened since those calculations were made which should be taken in any way to make what one might call the debit side any worse. On the credit side of extra jobs in prospect, on the other hand, we have had some very good news indeed and we believe, as my right hon. Friend said, that there is more good news coming, although we 332 are not absolutely in a position to announce it yet.
§ Mr. Hooson
Are we to take it from what the Minister has said that the estimated job gap is still the same as that estimated in the White Paper?
§ Mrs. White
It is no worse. I explained that we believe that there is some good news on the way.
My hon. Friend has mentioned various other matters concerning the economic development into which I should very much like an opportunity to go but time just does not permit this. I should be very glad, for instance, to see my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) on the subject of Government preference purchasing, and so on.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
Nothing much has been mentioned in this debate about pit closures. Do I understand now that the Council for Wales considers the social consequences of any proposals made by the National Coal Board to close a colliery and then make a recommendation or otherwise to the Minister? If that is the position, will such recommendations of the Council Wales in respect of social consequences of pit closures in any area be made public?
§ Mrs. White
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), whom we are delighted to see back in his place—[HON. MEMBERS: Hear hear."]—has not been with us, owing to illness, for some months. Perhaps he will allow me, as this is a rather complicated matter, to discuss with him afterwards these somewhat changed procedures in dealing with pit closures that have been made since he was with us before. I shall be very happy to do that.
Several hon. Members have referred to the need for the extension and speeding up of training as part of the redeployment process. I fully understand the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) about the delay in announcing the site of the proposed training centre in West Monmouth. I can assure him that this has been due to no lack of enthusiasm but to quite peculiar difficulties over sites thought to be suitable but found to be liable to subsidence. It has been a physical matter, and I hope that very soon we shall be 333 able to announce a satisfactory site. The House will be glad to know that the centre at Port Talbot is now in the very final stages of construction, and the first courses will start there next month. We are also awaiting the new centre at Wrexham.
A number of hon. Members have been concerned about the proposals, when we receive them, of the Hunt Committee. I fully understand the feelings of my hon. Friends the Members for Monmouth and for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) and others about the difficulties in which they find themselves in their constituencies. None of us likes waiting for Godot—Godot never appeared of course, but Hunt, I trust, will. But as soon as we have the Hunt Report we shall be very willing indeed to discuss with hon. Members concerned the proposals which might affect them in their constituencies.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool will forgive me if I do not follow him, at least now, into the maze of Cwmbran, but the House will wish to know that other new towns in the Principality are making progress. We hope to have the draft master plan for the new town in Montgomeryshire published in a few weeks' time, and I believe my right hon. Friends hoped to have the report on Llantrisant from the consultants before the end of the year. These are very important growth points in Mid-Wales and South Wales respectively.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I hope that the hon. Lady will be able to answer three questions that were put from this side: first, the Mid-Wales railway; second, the 15 per cent. maintenance for county council roads and, third, the Dee barrier.
§ Mrs. White
There are a great many points that I shall not be able to answer, but perhaps I might refer to the Dee barrage, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members and would have been mentioned by at least one other had he been called. The Dee barrage project, which is of the very greatest importance in North Wales, is being most actively pursued. The consultants for the socioeconomic study which is to supplement the physical study by the engineers have been appointed, and their terms of reference are now being fully worked out in consultation with the local authorities and others concerned. This exercise will 334 be of very great interest to those who are asking for barrages in other parts of Wales. It is a most complex procedure, and it must be if we are to undertake something which is not only a major physical project but also something which can have far-reaching social and economic effects on contiguous areas.
It can also have an effect on another matter which has been touched on and which is always of interest to Welsh Members. That is the whole question of water supply and the organisation of water resources within the Principality. I wish that there was time to say more about this. I think that we should have further discussion on this point, perhaps in the Welsh Grand Committee.
It has been a little disappointing to me to find that too many people in Wales, including bodies which I greatly respect—the county councils, for example—seem to take a rather superficial view of what can and cannot be done in the matter of water control. I know that water always causes "explosions" in Wales. If a thorough job is to be done, we must look very carefully, not only at water supply, but also at river authorities, flood control, and sewerage. They all come together as a complex of operations on the physical plane. They are divided now among various bodies for administrative responsibility. Rather like devolution, I think that we must consider this matter as a whole and not become too excited about any part of it. This we are trying to do in the Welsh Office.
Another matter touched upon by some speakers was the question of roads and other communications. Much has been said about the north/south road. What is suitable for Italy with its shape and geography is not necessarily suitable for Wales.
Mention has been made of proposals in North Wales which interest those of us who represent North Wales constituencies, particularly the rather controversial suggestions which have been published recently. I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) and others who are interested that we shall, as my right hon. Friend has said, consider very carefully the various points of view before reaching any final conclusions about this road project. I emphasise, as my right hon. Friend 335 has, that we are making tremendous improvement to road communications in Wales all the time. Anybody who goes on a car journey in Wales can see for himself the number of places at which corners are being rounded, gradients improved, and so on. It would be completely misleading to suggest that we are doing other than rapidly improving communications in Wales.
It is something which all of us speak of and which I believe is of the greatest importance for our industrial development. I am sure that good communications—rail, air and ports—matter for the industrialist considering the possibility of moving his enterprise into Wales. Road communications are probably the most important consideration of all. We in the Welsh Office are very well aware of that.
Road communications are also extremely important for that other growth industry of Wales, which is tourism. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Flint, West suggested that the Government were doing nothing but chickenfeed for tourism. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that far more money is now being spent on tourism in Wales than was ever spent under his Administration and that we are for the first time supporting a professional tourist industry in Wales and taking it seriously. Anyone who has seen the admirable publications of the Wales Tourist Board, which are commended all over the world, not only in Britain, will agree that we are now tackling this in a professional and satisfactory way. This is of great importance for the rural and coastal areas of Wales.
We can truly say that we have been faithful stewards and come with a good record. We ask for the support of hon. Members.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report on Wales for 1967 (Command Paper No. 3544).