HC Deb 28 June 1971 vol 820 cc10-1
4. Mr. Elystan Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the numbers of persons under 30 years of age who will leave Wales in 1971, according to current trends.

Mr. Peter Thomas

No reliable estimate can be made.

Mr. Morgan

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that for a long time there has been a steady flow out of Wales of the younger and more virile element, and that in many areas of Wales there is no alternative employment to allow these young people to remain in their own country? Does he not appreciate that this is probably the most important of all the tasks confronting him as Secretary of State for Wales?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I agree that that is a very important matter. No reliable figures can be given, because this is a matter for the Census Office. The last figures were for the year before the 1966 Census, and in that year there was a net outflow of nearly 2,000 from Wales in the 18–24 age group. The only figure that one has now is that last year there was a net inward migration of 4,568, but it is impossible to divide that into age groups.

Mr. Fred Evans

Surely the Secretary of State has heard the saying in Wales that the moment a boy enters a grammar school he has taken the first step to leaving Wales? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, from my experience of sending about 50 boys a year to universities, I have made a careful check and found that if three in every 20 are able to take up employment in Wales, that is as high as the figure has ever been? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that to all those who care for Wales this is a deeply disturbing problem, and that part of the solution lies in diversifying industry, particularly in forward-looking, technological fields, so that we may retain some of this most valuable asset, our human energy?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The phrase "education for export" has been used in Wales for many years. I am happy to say that there are one or two industries in Wales which are expanding industries and offer good employment opportunities. I hope that we shall be able to attract even more such industries into Wales. I agree that diversification is of major importance.