HC Deb 23 November 1970 vol 807 cc13-5
16. Mr. John Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will pay an official visit to the Afan Valley in view of the employment problem in the area.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I have no plans at present to visit the Afan Valley, but I am well aware of the employment problem in the area.

Mr. Morris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it took nearly five weeks for his office to give my local authority the brush-off to a request to bring a deputation to see him? Is he aware that his predecessor had agreed to meet such a deputation? As there are now nearly 200 people unemployed in this area, representing about 10 per cent. of the insured male population, will he spare a little of his time to acquaint himself with some of the problems of industrial Glamorgan?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I apologise for the delay in replying to the letter in question. I shall certainly be prepared to consider a visit to the Afan Valley. I am aware of the problems of the area, as is the right hon. Gentleman, because these problems are not recent ones. The reason I did not make a visit was that the council was in close touch with the Department of Trade and Industry in Wales, which kept me fully informed.

Mr. Gower

As the ailments of the Welsh economy are constantly being described in speeches by hon. Gentlemen opposite, is it not a fact that the Labour Party cannot be exonerated from responsibility for those problems, since we have been in power for only four months?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) and his colleagues know perfectly well how the difficult employment situation arose in the Afan Valley.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while we appreciate that he can spare Wales only a limited amount of his time, this local authority was promised by me that the Secretary of State would pay the area a visit? Does he appreciate that the need for the Minister to visit this area to meet the people who are dealing with this problem on the spot is very real and that there are genuine grievances in Wales about the way in which the right hon. Gentleman is refusing to meet authorities which are concerned with problems of this scale?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I will not go into the question of the standard which the right hon. Gentleman set. He certainly concentrated on certain authorities. [Interruption.] I am perfectly prepared to meet authorities in Wales and to visit Wales, but it is quite clear, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that there are many demands on one's time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"]—and that one cannot accept every invitation. The demands on my time as Secretary of State for Wales are such that I have to be in London, in particular to attend the Cabinet and Cabinet Committees where the interests of Wales are put forward.

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