But there is a need for a more massive change of heart and direction. Under this Labour Government, Wales faces the greatest catastrophe 853 known during the lifetime of half its population. Labour is a party of the past. It dwells in the past; but this is a tragedy of the present. Labour cannot now be content to relive the history of 854 40 years ago. It must face up to its own responsibility for the disaster that is destroying our country today. If it fails to do so, it is the people who will suffer and the people who will not forgive.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I wish to pay my tribute to the late James Griffiths. He was one of the most notable Welshmen of this century, and his contribution in so many spheres will be remembered and in some instances will be lasting. His work in double harness with another great Welshman, Aneurin Bevan, will be remembered for centuries. I followed him in the Welsh Office, and I shall always remember his personal kindness and friendship.
I hope that early in the new Session we shall have a full-scale debate on Welsh affairs. In the discussions on the Report stage of the Welsh Development Bill this afternoon many hon. Members were able to refer to problems in their constituencies and to their hopes for the Agency. However, I was disappointed to hear the jeremiad by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards). It is something we have come to expect from him. On this occasion he had something to be gloomy about—but the trouble was that he seemed to enjoy his gloom. It becomes more inspissated under his dark wand.
It was the height of inequity for the hon. Gentleman to attribute blame for unemployment to the Labour Government. He turned only later to the world recession. Nobody can blame the Government for the unemployment situation. It was unworthy of the hon. Gentleman, speaking from the Tory Front Bench, to seek to do so, because he knows it is not true. Are the present Labour Government responsible for unemployment in the United States, in France or in Italy? He well knows that the whole world is suffering from unemployment. Indeed, I believe that under a Labour Government we have suffered less than most.
The hon. Gentleman also had the gall to mention rate increases. Reorganisation in local government, the National Health Service and water undertakings was the responsibility of the Conservative Government, and I am sorry to say that that reorganisation has made a substantial contribution to the inflationary position of this country and to the increase in public expenditure. Therefore, if we are to discuss these matters, let it be on the basis of equity and fairness. That was the 856 great failure of the hon. Gentleman's speech.
I should not have intervened in the debate were it not for the grave unemployment position in Anglesey. Although we are an island on the north coast of Wales, albeit a famous island—Mon Mam Cymru—on the periphery of affairs we have by dint of effort, enterprise and determination succeeded in constructing a new economy and industrial base since the war. It has not been easy, as hon. Members will appreciate. In 25 years or so we have increased our population by 25 per cent.; we have attracted new and stable manufacturing industry; our agriculture has, on the whole, prospered; and we have substantially improved the infrastructure.
We give everybody a warm welcome in Anglesey, but we do not like unemployment. We have seen too much of it in the past and have lost too many of our young people because of it and we want to see an end of it. The current unemployment figure is bad—11.2 per cent. of the insured population—and I should like to analyse it briefly for the benefit of my right hon. and hon. Friends so that they may have some idea of the nature and depth of the problem.
Although I am anxious, I am not despondent, provided the Government approach the problem in a constructive way, as I believe they will. It is significant to note that of the total out-of-work population in Anglesey, including people under 18 years of age, about 75 per cent. are registered as having worked in the construction and service industries. There is also unemployment on the manufacturing side.
An encouraging factor is that manufacturing firms in Anglesey have held up well during the period of recession. That is something new in Anglesey, because in the past, when a recession took place, it was the industries on the periphery which suffered. The converse has been true in the past two or three years. I hope that manufacturing firms can sustain their present work force until the predicted upturn in the economy.
In the meantime there are some crucial projects which must be carried out, which 857 I believe will be carried out, in order to prevent a worsening of the position, and I should like to mention some of them.
First, council house schemes, even modest ones, can play their part in providing work while meeting the urgent need for houses. I welcome what the Secretary of State said about progress in that respect. Secondly, the Central Electricity Generating Board pump storage scheme at Llanberis, which is vital to the long-term interest to the nation as a whole, will provide work for a large number of men in Gwynedd over a number of years. Thirdly, the new general hospital at Bangor and the road span over the Brittania Bridge—two projects in which I have taken a close personal interest for many years—will be of vital importance.
None of those schemes is a luxury. Most of them are overdue by years. They are all located in a special development area and in a region of chronic high unemployment; and in a lean year, as I believe most of 1976 will be, they will provide bread and butter for people who know hardship and hard work.
I turn to the problems of the port of Holyhead, the largest in North Wales. In terms of facilities, the work force and potential, it is one of the best on the western seaboard, and British Railways have invested substantial sums of money in modernising it. I am glad to say that the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for Wales, following a hearing in Holyhead in September, has recommended to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the proposal of British Railways to end the cattle service with Ireland should be rejected. I shall not enter into detail on that matter because I wish other hon. Members to have the opportunity to speak, but the TUCC's reasons for coming to this conclusion have been sent to my right hon. Friend, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will receive a copy. I am sure that both of them will give due weight to what the committee says.
We have also held meetings with the Shipping Division of British Railways about the general future of the port. We have been assured that it has a good future, although the economic recession 858 and the problems in Ireland are creating short-term difficulties.
One new and significant factor is that the recession has hit the container service all round the coast of the United Kingdom very hard indeed. I understand that it is down this year by approximately 20 per cent. This is a serious development. However, the roll on/roll off traffic has held up and, indeed, increased. Moreover, road transport in this period of economic difficulty is proving more attractive than rail. This is a matter which my right hon. and hon. Friends, especially the Minister for Transport, will wish to consider carefully as it has profound implications for future transport policy.
We in Anglesey are determined that Holyhead shall continue to play its historic rôle as a major port for Ireland. It would be criminal to neglect its potential in the interests of short-term expediency. We held a conference on unemployment in Anglesey on 10th October, and my right hon. and learned Friend, the Secretary of State, received the report and the recommendations made there. We are especially anxious to know how the Chancellor's proposals of 24th September will help Wales and how quickly they can be brought to bear. I should like to go into the proposals in detail, but I must do so on another occasion.
I must refer to the question of training, which is absolutely vital. We need a much broader training facility in Gwynedd, and this is something for which again I and others have been pressing for some years. I am informed that the Department of Employment is proceeding with plans to improve training in the area, and I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, when he winds up the debate, can give us some idea of the scope of these plans, because they are important for our young people.
We were all glad to hear what my right hon. and learned Friend had to say about the Regional Fund of the EEC. We should like to be told how quickly we shall benefit from the Fund and how the money will be spent. We shall also be glad to have confirmation that the Fund will be deployed through him and through the Welsh Office. I am fortified in my long-held belief that our membership of the EEC will be beneficial to Wales.
859 I should like to say a few words about the implications of the rundown of primary steelmaking at Shotton. I was glad to hear my hon Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry say during Question Time on Monday that the Government are giving the matter the most careful consideration and that they are taking social as well as economic factors into account. The Shotton problem has been hanging over our heads for many years. There was a time when we heard about the "task force" that was set up by the Conservatives. We heard that it was moving swiftly into action, but we have heard nothing about it since. Large-scale redundancies in Flint would unquestionably affect the whole of North Wales and make our task infinitely more difficult. I am sure that the Government will not be unmindful of this when they come to their conclusions.
Finally, of course, we need studies and strategic plans. I am sure that hon. Members share my experience when I point out that my locker in this House and the drawers of my desk are full of reports published over the years from various sources in Wales. They are like "the leaves in Vallombrosa" and they are as transient and as sere. I want no more reports. I want action. One good industry employing 100 men in my constituency is worth 1,000 reports however well-meaning. Therefore, we have high hopes of the Welsh Development Agency, notwithstanding what was said by the hon. Member for Pembroke. We realise that these economic times are less propitious than they might be and there must be limitation to what the Welsh Development Agency can achieve in this climate. All hon. Members realise that. Surely hon. Members of great experience must realise that we cannot expect too much over the next 12 months or so. However, the setting up of the Agency is, I believe, a landmark in Welsh industrial history. Like other hon. Members, I wish it well. We are going through bleak times, but if the will is there on the part of the Government, if there is a more constructive attitude by Opposition parties towards the Government and if local authorities co-operate, there is a chance of success in the foreseeable future.
We must not sell our country down the river. Our people have great qualities 860 and skills. We have one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I believe that, given the will and constructive support for the Government, we will come out of this difficulty more prosperous than we were before it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that there is only three-quarters of an hour left in this short debate, which must include winding-up speeches. If hon. Members could confine themselves to a maximum of five minutes, it would be most helpful.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
Anyone who required further evidence of the need for a Welsh Parliament need look no further than this debate. The first Welsh day for 19 months gives backbench Members about three-quarters of an hour, as I see it, to discuss the whole range of Welsh problems for which we have no other time on the Floor of the House.
I want to refer briefly to three matters. The first concerns the Cleddau Bridge, which collapsed on 2nd June 1970, when four men lost their lives. Four months later a similar box girder bridge collapsed in Australia. The Government then stepped in. That was the beginning of the Government's responsibility for the tremendous escalation in the cost of the Cleddau Bridge.
The Government took a number of decisions. First, they set up the Merrison Committee to consider the design and building of bridges of this kind. The local authority was asked to stay its hand until that committee reported, which was about a year after the collapse of the bridge. The local authority was then asked to abide by the findings of the committee and to adopt the recommendations made by Merrison and his colleagues. Those recommendations added considerably to the material used in the construction and, therefore, to the cost of the bridge and to the years of delay in rebuilding it. Those were years of inflation, so the cost of the whole scheme rose from £3 million to £12 million.
The Cleddau Bridge was used experimentally by the Government. Therefore, it was not unnatural that the 861 inspector from the Welsh Office who was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the matter should recommend the repayment to the Dyfed Council, which was by now responsible for the bridge, of the extra costs, which it had inherited, of applying the Merrison recommendations.
The Merrison recommendations were applied to a similar bridge at Avon-mouth. The building of the bridge was stayed for two years before the Merrison findings could be applied. That meant an extra cost of £6 million. The Government met that cost without demur. Their excuse for meeting the cost of the Avonmouth Bridge, but not of the Cleddau Bridge, was that one was on a motorway and the other was purely a local government matter.
The Government did not apply that argument to the Ronan Point flats which collapsed. They stepped in to meet the cost, although that was a local authority matter. Apparently there is one rule for a London local authority and another for a Welsh local authority. The Government did not make any fuss about meeting the extra cost of the Ronan Point collapse. They should not be allowed to get away with not meeting the extra cost involved in the Cleddau Bridge collapse in Wales either.
The result of the Government's attitude is that the ratepayers of old Carmarthenshire and old Cardiganshire have had to shoulder an even higher rate burden because of two accidents. The first accident was the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge and the second was their being knocked together with Pembrokeshire into a new authority. They would not have had any responsibility for this burden but for the Government's action. The Government are responsible for the extra cost, but they have refused to meet it.
The ratepayers of Dafydd face an annual charge of £1½ million for rebuilding the bridge. The local authorities could do a great deal with that money to straighten the rural roads in Wales and to allow bulk transporters to move freely. The rates are already too high, and as a result of their intervention the Government are responsible for increasing them. The Government's attitude is dictated by the Treasury. It is a disgracefully mean attitude. On behalf of the ratepayers of 862 old Carmarthenshire I appeal for a rapid reconsideration of this attitude.
I urge the Government to implement rapidly their decision to establish a Welsh national television service, using the fourth channel. As a result of the Crawford report, the Government accepted the principle of a Welsh national service and set up a working party, which is due to report next month. This is an urgent matter, and I hope that the Government will act quickly. The Welsh language and our Welsh civilisation are at stake. The Government could act effectively by reallocating defence funds to the defence of the Welsh way of life.
The Government should inform the Welsh National Water Authority that it has power under the Water Act 1973 to sell Welsh water. By selling the water at a reasonable price—say 10p per 1,000 gallons—the authority could reduce Welsh rates to the lowest level in Europe instead of them being the highest as at present.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Although I hope to observe your admonition, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that back benchers who hold minority views should have an opportunity of putting views which are relevant to the immediate situation, even though Front Bench speakers have not found it possible to sacrifice their time to allow the limited amount of time which back benchers require on the eve of discussions at Chequers to determine the constitutional future of Wales. Although I shall try to limit myself to the parameters which you have indicated, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not promise that I shall be able to complete my remarks in the few minutes suggested.
I represent Pontypool. As a result of the words and actions of the Welsh Office, there is now an insistence that alongside the existing Pontypool road signs there should be others proudly displaying the name Pontypwll. That may sound bewildering to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it will not bewilder those who know Wales and have the advantage of knowing Welsh.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) gave me some advice. However I pronounce "Pontypool"—whether in English or Welsh—it would be impossible for a person who was not a student of phonetics at a Celtic 863 academy to distinguish between the two. This is not a trivial matter which it may appear to be at first sight. It is not surprising that the Mayor of Torfaen, the district which has Pontypool within its boundaries, a good man who has the advantage of belonging to the 1 per cent. of my constituents who speak Welsh, when confronted with the Welsh's Office suggestion, said publicly that the requirement was "absolutely bloody crazy." In saying that he was echoing the opinion of all my constituents.
Similarly, I have had many letters of protest about the proliferation of new signs on the M4 which my constituents cannot read but which, when interpreted, tell them that there are toilets within half a mile. This displays a certain frivolity which does not correspond to the urgent need to economise to tackle inflation and our economic problems.
I would not stress such matters if they had not happened during a week in which, according to a letter which we all presumably received this morning and which causes grave concern to the people of Gwent, the Post Office has decided that in future two languages—Welsh and English—will be used, but that in each case the Welsh language will be given precedence. I do not know whether the Post Office is yielding to the blackguards who have behaved towards it as a pack of ruffians or whether it is being leaned upon by the Welsh Office. This type of practice is certainly regarded within English-speaking Gwent as highly provocative. Instead of assisting in the maturation of the language, such behaviour results in the public looking at the growth of the language along these lines with great suspicion.
I raise these matters because views are now being canvassed about a Welsh Assembly. Those of us with experience in the House, those of us who have read Dick Crossman's memoirs or discussed matters with him before he, unfortunately, died, know full well, whatever Ministers may say, how important are the civil servants, whom the Secretary of State rightly defended with such vigour. We are well aware that civil servants remain and that Ministers come and go.
When the Secretary of State goes to Chequers this weekend I want him to give—as I am sure he will—not only his per- 864 sonal opinions but the opinions of back benchers who represent important constituencies. I hope that he will convey the serious concern that is felt that a Welsh Assembly—if it is ever constituted—should have a Civil Service and secretariat in which, as has happened in every other devolved body so far, people must have a command of Welsh if they are to rise in the Civil Service hierarchy.
On behalf of my constituency I wish it to be clearly understood that my constituents would regard it as intolerable that any elitist Civil Service which would be necessary to serve that Assembly should consist of people who are chosen because they have the advantage of being Welsh-speaking, so that people coming from Gwent and similar areas would be excluded because of their lack of command of the language. Those who look after the interests of our English-speaking constituents believe that they should not be regarded as second-class citizens in their own country. Unless there is a copper-bottomed guarantee that the parity of esteem principle will not lead to English-speaking Welshmen being disadvantaged support will not be given by them to any devolved body.
There is, too, a widespread opinion in Gwent and Glamorgan that if powers are given to a devolved body it will inevitably mean a truncation of the number of county councillors and their functions and duties and the possible extinguishment of our district councils. The Tories were responsible for foisting upon us a system of local government which most of us find unsatisfactory, but it is there; it is a fact. If any powers are given to an Assembly, inevitably there will be an extinguishment of some powers of local government. At a time when Wales is wrestling with the acute economic problems and inflation caused by world factors, district councillors and county councillors in South Wales would find utterly unacceptable the creation of an Assembly which would mean yet another upheaval, another tumult, in local government. It would, too, be unfair to the thousands of people now working in local government, who have already had to see their career prospects being put at sixes and sevens, once again to find themselves having a shadow hanging over them. That would be the position if an Assembly came into existence at this moment.
865 There are matters in Wales that are serious and important. We are having to try to respond to those who have feelings of estrangement and alienation within our community. But it is not through any regional ballot box that solutions to such problems will be found. Let us, for example, consider the situation at Llanwern. Difficulties have arisen because we have not yet found the proper constitutional techniques to ensure that our State-owned industries do not degenerate into State capitalism. We must ensure that they are organisations that belong to the people. If people feel estranged at their work in their jobs they begin to feel lost. That is a problem that will not be resolved by yet another body being set up in Cardiff.
Since we have a greater proportion of nationalised industries in Wales than anywhere else in the country, we should be creating constitutional machinery to make them more accountable again instead of squandering our energies by turning to peripheral problems. We should be dealing with the problem of the multinational companies that exist in Wales. This is not the pejorative talk of some extremist Left-winger. Each and everyone of us, if we are acquainted with the companies within our constituencies, knows full well that decisions are constantly being taken elsewhere which involve jobs and the future of so many of our people in Wales.
In so many companies in my constituency decisions affecting the working lives of my people are being taken abroad. My right hon. and learned Friend has spoken with considerable vigour of the help that is now coming from Europe to Wales. Some could cynically say that he does this with the zeal of a proselyte, for no pamphleteer was more vigorous in his opposition to our entry into Europe. Many of us remember the occasions when he spoke against the Common Market. I would not, however, accuse him of cynicism. I believe the change has come because we have a Secretary of State who is open-minded and not rigid. I hope that he will employ the same open-mindedness and recognise that as a matter of priorities most of us are more concerned with future employment and inflation than with constitutional tinkering.
866 In many Welsh constituencies there are large numbers of multinationals and conglomerates. The unilateral decisions now taken by the multinationals will not be undermined by the decision-making that may be made by a group of men navel-gazing in Cardiff, pretending that they are determining the future of Wales; we require, in fact, a new constitutional approach within Europe which will lead to the containing of the manner of decision-making which now can be so disruptive to the lives of our people.
I hope that the Secretary of State has the message clearly. I do not speak for myself alone when I say that there is a considerable apprehension throughout the Labour movement of South Wales. At a time when we should be dealing with the acute difficulties of unemployment and the difficulties arising from the world recession, the Labour movement does not want to see us squandering our energies and efforts in a constitutional device which, whatever its merits, may be irrelevant to our real problems. I hope that the Secretary of State when he presents his views at Chequers will tell those with whom he is meeting that there are those of us who do not regard our Socialism as something which must degenerate into a narrow miserable chauvinism.
We came into this party in some cases—people like me—40 years ago influenced by men like Nye Bevan, who would not even attend a Welsh Parliamentary Party meeting because he believed that miners were miners whether they were in Pontypool or Durham. He believed that nylon workers, whether they were in Pontypool or Harrogate, had a common interest. The truth is that it would be a sorry and sad day if we were misled into believing that by taking a regressive step into chauvinism we could resolve the problems of Wales. If we did that we would be violating the principle of internationalism which brought us into this party, a principle which some of us intend to maintain to the end of our political careers.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
I begin by adding my tribute to the late James Griffiths, whom I had the pleasure of knowing personally over a number of years. I heard him speak on a number of occasions. One of his thoughts has 867 been hovering in my mind in the past few minutes. It was a thought that he put to me in the 1960s; namely, that the 1930s were not all that far away from us. We would all agree that his passing is certainly symbolic of the passing of an era.
As might have been expected, much of the debate has centred on the grim condition of the Welsh economy and the dark outlook for the coming months. Although we tend to paint the picture with figures and percentages, we are all deeply aware of the human misery lying behind the scene. We are all deeply aware of the demoralising effect of unemployment on the individual and the uphappiness it brings to every family it affects. We are aware of the gnawing fear of unemployment among those still at work who are surrounded by rumour of closure and redundancy.
As the Secretary of State said, we live in a difficult and worrying time, a time when some of us are questioning whether old remedies still work and—if they do help us overcome our present difficulties—whether they will help us in the future. The OECD has just established a group to look into the policy issues involved in the pursuit of non-inflationary economic growth and high employment levels. That is a combination we all want in the future. But it is so far from our grasp now that it sounds like a Utopian dream.
What has happened here as elsewhere is that growth has faltered badly. We are faced with a high rate of inflation, unacceptable levels of unemployment and continuing pressure for increased public expenditure. The factors in this situation are much worse in Wales, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) pointed out when he spoke of the appalling decline in output in the second quarter of this year and the current 6.9 per cent. level of unemployment—nearly twice what it was a year ago.
The Government are under strong pressure to adopt reflationary measures. The pressure is likely to grow as the winter progresses and unemployment worsens. The Government cannot reflate, even if they wanted to. Inflation is so high and the public sector borrowing requirement so great that the Chancellor dare not tell us how much it is. While 868 I blame the Government for having got themselves into this situation by their profligate spending last year and the high wage settlements allowed under the social contract, I find those who are pressing for reflation now to be culpable in the extreme. It would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. They must know that or they are abysmally ignorant of the economic facts of life.
We on the Conservative side have been attacked for demanding cuts in public expenditure at a time of rising unemployment. It is also a time when Government spending is rising faster than Government revenue. In the first six months of this year Government spending rose by 47 per cent. and revenue by only 31 per cent. Local authority spending is also up by 40 per cent. in this financial year.
We know that there must be cuts. The Secretary of State agrees. He is carrying out certain cuts himself in health, education and the social services, as he told us. The Government agree that there must be cuts but hope to postpone the worst of them until the recovery in world trade. They are rather like St. Augustine with his prayer, to the Lord to save him, "but not yet".
What we object to in particular are sums such as the £40 million to £60 million to be spent on the Land Authority for Wales. It is unnecessary spending. It is also a very bad example to set to other authorities on which the Government are urging restraint.
Then there is the Welsh Development Agency, which is also to spend millions of pounds, and which, by the Secretary of State's own admission in the Welsh Grand Committee, is unlikely to be directly helpful in the present employment crisis. I do not think it is going to be particularly helpful later on, either, for reasons that I shall give in a moment or two.
I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not object to the Government measures that act directly on employment and do not appreciably increase the public sector borrowing requirement. The relief of unemployment, especially among school leavers, must have a high priority, and I have urged the Government to do more to provide training courses, especially at technical colleges, where the demand for places this year has been high 869 and far in excess of the places available in my constituency and on its borders.
We object to unnecessary spending by the Labour Government simply in order to carry out their manifesto, which they did not even bother to cost. How right my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was to say that what we are experiencing is a crisis of Socialism. That crisis might be even more painful in Wales, where a higher proportion of our people are employed in the public sector than in the rest of the United Kingdom, if our people were not temporarily cushioned and protected by the wholly illusory strength of the public sector.
What hope do the Government hold out for us? They pin their faith on a revival in world trade. The Prime Minister spoke of it in the debate five months ago, when he said:There is reason to begin to hope that some of our major trading partners are, or shortly will be, moving out of the worst depth of their own recession into a period of expansion.Later he went on to say:Because of this and, indeed, the most recent action taken only today by Germany there seem to be good reasons for hoping that the recovery in world trade-will have got under way by the end of this year and will be accelerating next year."—[Official Report, 22nd May, 1975; Vol. 892, c. 1662.]What has happened to those hopes? They have certainly faded. Their fulfilment has been postponed. I wonder whether those hopes were ever justified in the first place. Was it ever right that we should have been put in the position where we in this country were dependent on reflationary action by other countries suffering from high unemployment and cuts in public expenditure themselves last year, while we were being told to count ourselves lucky not to be suffering as much?
My personal view is that the Government are very unwise to rely too much on the revival in world trade. Granted that there will be such a revival, I doubt whether it will be of such a nature as to make an appreciable difference to our problems. Our problems are with us to stay, and the sooner the Government recognise it the better.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman believes he has an important part of the answer to the economic problems in the Welsh Development Agency, just as his colleagues believe that they have part of 870 the answer to the problems of the United Kingdom in the National Enterprise Board. They believe that these instruments are the proper means to secure greater investment in industry, which is certainly an essential objective. However, the Government's financial strategy is wrong, because if the public sector borrowing requirement is increased next year as planned, partly to finance the Welsh Development Agency and the National Enterprise Board, it is questionable whether there will be sufficient money left to finance the economic recovery for which the Government hope. In other words, the Government's deeply laid plan to finance industry through these Agencies and to extend public ownership will starve the economy of the capacity to recover when the up-swing in world trade finally comes.
There is a great and real danger that the up-swing will not be of the 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. order that was anticipated by the Prime Minister in May, but that it may be smaller and pass us by because we shall not be in a position to take advantage of it.
Therefore, first, the Government have to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement and cut out unnecessary spending on their pet schemes for extending public ownership. Some Government supporters are beginning to realise that their public ownership plans simply will not result in adequate investment within the right time scale, so they are turning to the private sector and urging that sector to invest. The truth of the matter is that with interest rates as high as they are, with the Government sucking in every penny they can to cover their deficit, and with inflation running at 25 per cent., profitable investment is virtually an impossibility.
Neither can the private sector borrow too extensively from the Government because the cost ultimately has to be borne by that sector. That cost is such that it inhibits profitability. Labour Members have brought this situation on their own heads, and on their heads be it and all the consequences.
There is little prospect for the recovery of the Welsh economy under this Government. They have reduced it to the deplorable condition it is in today, with industrial output 10 per cent. down in the second quarter as against the first quarter 871 of this year and with unemployment standing at 6.9 per cent. of the population, and likely to rise still further. Responsibility for Wales lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), whose name will go down in Welsh history as having presided over this disastrous situation. He had the audacity to quote the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren "Si monumentum quaeris circumspice". There is a much better direct translation—"If you require a monument, look around you". The Secretary of State's monument is Wales, the ruined Wales that lies about him today.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)
By tradition, Ministers replying to Welsh debates usually have to say that they will write to Opposition Members because time is short. Those hon. Members who were fortunate enough to speak today will understand that much of what I should have liked to say to them will have to be done through the medium of the written word.
I understand the interest and desire to have had a longer debate today. If the Opposition had agreed that the Second Reading of the Welsh Development Agency Bill could have been taken in Comittee, that would have given us longer for debate on the Floor of the House. Hon. Gentlemen know this to be true.
Some hon. Members have said that we have had no Welsh Day debates since March, 1974. I would remind them that, although we may not have had specific Welsh debates, many issues vital to the people of Wales have been discussed in this Chamber on many occasions since then. This year there has been more legislation concerning Wales than ever before. I would remind the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) that not one hon. Member of his party spoke throughout the whole of the Report stage of the Community Land Bill, a Bill which is of major significance to the people of Wales.
Most hon. Members who took part in the debate rightly referred to the serious problem of unemployment. I do not object to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) reminding me of the repugnance which I have expressed over high and unnecessary levels of unemploy- 872 ment. I hope that if ever I forget it the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North-West (Mr. Roberts) will remind me.
§ Mr. Jones
Whenever the House ceases to be concerned about unemployment it will be ceasing to fulfil one of its major purposes. When Labour Members cease to fight against unemployment they will have betrayed the people who support them.
In the fight against unemployment we have one hand tied behind our backs. It is tied firmly that position by the shackles of inflation. That is why it was right for my right hon. and learned Friend to emphasise that it is essential to control inflation. I do not want to appear complacent, but I should like to give greater detail of Government measures. My right hon. and learned Friend referred briefly to the September measures, which no one claims will solve the problem of unemployment, but which will at least mitigate its worst effects. It is too early to say what impact they will have.
The recruitment subsidy for school leavers introduced on 13th October could assist up to 35,000 young people. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) asked about training. The additional allocation for training programmes should enable the Training Services Agency to provide up to 8,000 extra training places. The additional grant to encourage worker mobility could enable up to 8,000 people to take advantage of the employment transfer scheme. The Manpower Services Commission work relation scheme became operational on 20th October, with a unit specially set up in Cardiff. Although they are not the answer, those short-term measures will be of considerable benefit to many of the people of Wales.
But we are not concerned only with the short term. We must think of the medium term. My right hon. and learned Friend's endeavours in this field are designed to ensure that when the upturn of the economy takes place Wales will be in a more favourable position to take advantage of it. That is why he announced with justifiable pride the advance factory programme that he announced today.
873 Apart from that programme, we have proceeded with the advance purchase of land so that we can speed up factory building. A total of 130 acres is to be purchased, with sites ranging from two and a half acres to 30 acres, distributed throughout Wales. We are embarked on the extension of Government industrial estates, authorised or completed, which will bring an additional 400 acres to be used for industry in Wales.
But we also face long-term problems. That is why it was necessary for my right hon. and learned Friend to find new tools. There can be no full solution to the unemployment problem of Wales without considerably strengthening the impact of the Government's regional policies. That is what the Welsh Development Agency will do. No one has pretended that the Agency can solve all our problems. But those who opposed giving it any real powers were saying that they believed that those policies which had failed Wales in the past should be given the opportunity to fail Wales again. I do not believe that the people of Wales would accept that.
The hon. Member for Pembroke spelt out the unemployment figures with some relish—
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Gentleman's answer would be to rely on the same Tory measures and philosophies as have never solved the problems of Wales in the past. They led to the population of my constituency being reduced from 160,000 to 85,000. The Tories have never learned. They never seek to change or improve.
We shall overcome inflation and the high unemployment associated with it because the Government's policies are recognised by the people as being fair and necessary and because they will command the support and co-operation of the majority of the people.
The hon. Member for Pembroke suggested that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was an expert in hypo- 874 crisy. The hon. Member talked about Concorde, but I do not recall the Opposition voting against Concorde. He talked about nationalisation, but can he tell me what sums we have spent on nationalisation under any legislation introduced by us? The hon. Member talked about what we should be doing and he mentioned Shotton, but it was a Conservative administration that endorsed the BSC strategy which has posed the threat to continued steelmaking at Shotton. We are doing the heart-searching on the consequences of the Tories' decision which threatens 7,000 jobs in Shotton. Little wonder we consider it necessary to take our time to consider a matter which could have far-reaching and painful consequences for the people employed there. Had it been left to a Tory Government, those jobs would have disappeared.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) raised a number of issues, including the selling of Welsh water. This subject was dealt with by the Daniel report, which did not come to any agreed conclusions. We have set up an inter-departmental committee to give priority to working out such matters as a fair charging system for Welsh water to ensure that the people of Wales have a fair return. It is dangerously attractive to suggest that by selling water to England we could solve all our problems. In many instances, far from benefiting, the people of Wales would lose in consequence.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey asked about Bangor hospital. Tenders for the first phase of the new district general hospital have been invited and the closing date is mid-November. It is hoped that building will begin in 1976. I will write to my right hon. Friend on the other points he raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), my colleague as Undersecretary, has been notable in the campaign he has waged on behalf of his constituents and his concern over the problems at Shotton. No Minister in the Welsh Office is unmindful of the needs and problems of Wales. We are not complacent. Many of our own cherished hopes and highest aspirations have had to be put aside temporarily.
Unless we overcome the inflation which is ravaging our economy, not only will the needs of the people, as spelled out 875 today, not be met, but the level of services will actually fall catastrophically. Anyone who suggests that there is a simple or painless way out of our problems is doing a disservice to the people of Wales.
§ It being Eleven o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.