§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the failure of successive Governments in not creating an industrial infrastructure for Wales which includes a road, rail and air communications system and which would make possible the development of a balanced Welsh economy.The situation that we hope to uncover in this short debate on the Welsh economic infrastructure is a sorry one. There are few features to lighten the record of misgovernment in Wales, unless one includes good intentions. We have had endless promises of jam tomorrow but scarcely ever jam today. So it was in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and so it is to this day.
For two decades Wales was submitted to a policy of transference of labour which uprooted 500,000 Welsh people and provided work for them in England. Our rich little country has for two generations been depopulated and bled white of her people, and still after generations of ruinous migration unemployment in Wales is worse than in any region or country in this island. Between 1925 and 1975 the population of England grew by 28.9 per cent. The population of Wales grew by 0.8 per cent., and that despite the influx of scores of thousands of retired people from England.
The London Establishment will not face up to the basic cause of a situation that has been destroying a nation, because the cause is in the structure of this unitary, centralist metropolis-dominated State which it is determined to maintain. It has always claimed that the Welsh situation was a temporary distortion. Everything in the Welsh garden will be beautiful, so the story has been, when the great upturn in the English economy comes, or when we have true Socialism, as we still hear from some supporters of this eighth Labour Government. As we saw in the devolution debate, Left and 1441 Right are united in defence of the present State structure. The first of many to congratulate the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on what he called his splendid speech "was the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Grist). When it comes to fundamental structural change, Members of the Government party can claim that they are all conservative unionists now.
The structural change that Wales needs is a radical decentralisation of power. If the declaration made in Cardiff by Lord Rosebery as Prime Minister in 1895, and by this House three months later, in favour of home rule for Wales as well as for Ireland and Scotland had been implemented, the economy of Wales today would probably be as strong and the civilisation of Wales as secure as those of any one of the five Scandinavian countries. Wales today would be living a full national life.
It pays the Establishment to pay lip service to Welsh nationhood, to acknowledge that Wales is a nation. But what the Establishment is determined to do is to prevent Wales acting as a nation, making her own decisions, taking her own initiatives, fashioning the conditions of her national environment. If Wales is a nation, here economy should be designed to provide a strong basis for the life of the national community, and the Welsh people should have the political power to design their own economy. Economics should always be subordinate to politics, and politics should also be surbordinate to social needs, such as creating in Wales a national community that is fair, just and Welsh.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if he and his party achieve what they are setting out to achieve Wales will have for the foreseeable future a one-party, Socialist Government? Has he reflected on the economic consequences of that for the Principality?
§ Mr. Evans
I have stated my belief in the House before that within 10 years the strongest party in Wales will be Plaid Cymru, and the Welsh Labour Party—
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)rose—1442
§ Mr. Evans
Just as the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party, we are due to replace the Labour Party.
The Welsh nation is today, as it has been for centuries, subordinated to English economics and politics. Economically, the function of Wales has been to supply England with raw materials and the products of heavy industries and to be a pool of labour. Geographically, it has been to provide the citizens of the English conurbations with a lung in her beautiful but depopulated countryside. Politically, her function has been to contribute to England's might and prestige. Welshmen were treated as economic men, as mobile, abstract beings. But they are not abstract beings. They are Welshmen, members of a Welsh nation which lives where it has always lived in the ancient homeland of Wales. The people of Wales have their roots, their identity, their history, their traditions, values, and civilisations, all of which are essential to fullness of human life.
We in Wales should be in a position to create a balanced economy which would adequately sustain the people, the community and the civilisation of Wales, but this has never been attempted by the British State. Until recently it scorned the very idea of a Welsh economy. What it has done in the past 50 years is to respond to chronic Welsh deprivation by the palliative of regional planning. What is the result of this palliative? It is our scandously high unemployment rate and our scandalously low economic employment activity rate. The measure of the success of 50 years of regional planning in Wales is that there are today 115,000 fewer jobs for men in the country than there were 10 years ago. But still we hear the parrot cry that it will be much better in the future. Where is the evidence that centralist, metropolitan-dominated Government is anywhere near a solution?
Wales has for generations been conned into a belief that this old, imperial, centralist structure serves her best interests. The time has come when the conning will have to stop. The only effective planning that Wales will ever see is planning by the Welsh people through their own elected Government. They alone have sufficient incentive to do the job.
1443 Basic to a balanced economic development is economic infrastructure. The condition of the Welsh infrastructure demonstrates conclusively that London has never had the will to create a strong Welsh economy. Nothing in the infrastructure is more vital than transport communications. The Government's current attitude to Rhoose Airport typifies the attitude to communications in Wales. Wales has not even the sketchiest air transport system. Rhoose should have been built up as a national airport, but in the Government's view it is notindispensable to the national air system".That is, of course, a reference to the British system. From the standpoint of the Welsh national system there is no more indispensable airport than Rhoose. It should he the focal point of the network of domestic services linking Southern Wales with the other main centres of population and industry throughout Britain.
Between 1964 and 1974 the seven civil aerodromes received £25,150,000 in financial aid from the Government. Sumburgh received £6…8 million. In 1974 and up to October last year the Government made grants of £15,864,000 to airports in Scotland, but not a penny went to Wales.
§ Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)
We have all fought for the preservation of Rhoose Airport, but with the new development proposed at Newport will the hon. Gentleman's party be backing Newport or Rhoose?
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans
I am speaking now of the needs of Rhoose as a national airport for Wales, but it is not only Rhoose that should be helped. A number of airports in Wales should be helped, including some smaller ones such as Swansea, Haverfordwest and Valley, and there should be a small airport in Aberystwyth.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)
§ Mr. Evans
The matter is very important for the movement of freight and passengers. Nine out of 10 potential air passengers in Wales have expressed through a public opinion poll their desire to use a Welsh airport.
1444 The road system is almost equally inadequate. Investment in Welsh roads lags far behind that in English roads, and still more behind investment in continental countries. The system is so inadequate that Welsh industrialists more often than not state it as one of their biggest difficulties. Wales has about 10 per cent. of British road mileage but it has never had a bigger proportion of expenditure on Britain's roads than about 7 per cent. The proportion in 1964 was 5…5 per cent. and since then it has been 6…6 per cent., 6…6 per cent., 6…8 per cent., 4…6 per cent., 4…8 per cent., 4…5 per cent., 4.8 per cent., 6…6 per cent., 7…3 per cent. and, in 1974, 6…2 per cent.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North-West)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that successive Governments have been right to develop east-west communications—for example, by road across the Severn Bridge—in the interests of the economy of South Wales, rather than north-south communications?
§ Mr. Evans
I believe that if the money spent on the Severn Bridge had been spent on a road from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil that would have been of much greater benefit to all Welsh valleys with their half a million people.
§ Mr. Roberts
Where would the M4 go?
§ Mr. Evans
Expenditure per mile on Welsh roads during the past 10 years has been about half, or a little above half, that on English roads.
The motorway situation reflects the Welsh road situation as a whole. England has 1,045 miles and Wales has 27 miles of motorway. For Britain one mile in every 211 is motorway. In West Germany the figures are one in every 84, in Belgium one in every 92, in Holland one in every 61 and in Italy one in every 57, and in Wales one mile in every 726 is motorway. Holland is exactly twice the size of Wales. It has 850 miles of motorway in its 31,296 miles of trunk roads as compared with the 27 miles of motorway and 1,018 miles of trunk roads in Wales.
Wales has about the same mileage of trunk roads as it had mileage of Roman roads 1,800 years ago. The estimate for 1973 for dual carriageway trunk roads was 80 miles for Wales. England has 1445 14 times our length of dual carriageway trunk roads. In addition, our roads are not always designed to ensure the kind of balanced economic development that we need in the Welsh economy. The close relationship between the two needs no emphasis. For half a century the Government have been pressed to build a major north-south highway which, as a spine road, would unite Wales and have other major roads running off it from east to west.
In 1968, in answer to a Question which I tabled, the Government estimated that the cost of a dual carriageway running from Cardiff via Merthyr Tydfil to near Wrexham and across to Caernarvon would be about £110 million. The first part of that road as far as Cilfyndd has been splendidly built.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that to impose the kind of urban motorway system he has described on Wales, which is a quite different country geographically from England, would completely destroy the kind of society that he so insistently claims to defend?
§ Mr. Evans
I am not seeking to impose an urban system on the whole of Wales. I am speaking currently of a road from north to south. I remember contesting a parliamentary election in 1945 in the county of Merioneth when the Labour programme included two points. One was to establish a Welsh broadcasting corporation and the other was to establish a major north-south highway. Such a highway is necessary to the development of the depopulated hinterland of Wales. However, the idea has now been dismissed. The Government, speaking of the parts of Wales which they in their policies have denuded of people, say that there are no industries there and, therefore, there is no justification for a major road.
How different was the vision in Italy which caused the Autostrada del Sole to be built over barren hills from the North to the poverty-stricken South of Italy. The authority said that there was no industry there and, therefore, it must have a great road. That is the right way of looking at the situation. I hope that the coming of the national Assembly to Cardiff will provide an additional reason, apart from ease of transport, for building 1446 this major road between the north and the south and that the Government will re-examine the reasons for this long-needed road.
Lastly I turn to the railways, where the decimation of what was once a fine national system speaks for itself. In the early sixties, when I gathered the figures—possibly it is true today—the Southern Welsh Region was the most prosperous region of the whole of the British Rail network. That did not prevent it from being savaged at least as badly as any other region and perhaps worse than most. However, no one can honestly doubt that if Wales had had a Parliament in those days, or even a national transport authority, the attacks would have been far more restrained.
There is nothing that we need more in relation to Welsh transport than a Welsh transport board committed to the integration, modernisation, expansion and revitalisation of the Welsh transport system, both freight and passenger. The welfare of Wales would dominate the thought and policies of a Welsh board. However, it is very far from the thoughts of the gentlemen sitting in London on the British Railways Board or in Whitehall, where the road lobby has such complete domination.
I take the matter of electrification of lines as typifying the situation. Britain is not in the vanguard of railway electrification. Only some 17 per cent. of the British Rail network is electrified. It lags behind almost every other Western European country. France is ahead of us with 24 per cent., Western Germany has 28 per cent., Italy has 48 per cent. and mountainous Switzerland has 98.4 per cent. of its railways electrified. However, for the purposes of this debate the most relevant question is: how many of the nearly 2,200 miles of electrified railway on this island are found in Wales? The answer is that there is not one mile of electrified railway in Wales. There has not been one mile since the old Mumbles line closed down.
Wales is a great exporter of huge quantities of electricity but not one mile of Welsh railway line has been electrified. Yet there are some people who claim that this centralist, unitary, metropolitan-dominated Government do better for Wales than a Welsh Parliament would. 1447 Have they realised that since the Euston to Manchester and Liverpool route was electrified in 1966 the time was cut by an hour and a half and the traffic has increased by about 200 per cent.? Non-electrification of Welsh railways is reductio ad absurdum of the system which misgoverns our potentially great little country.
What can Wales look forward to under central control? What other than more closures and further decimation of our surviving fragments? I appeal to the Government not to allow one further mile of railway line in Wales to be closed until at least we have a Welsh Assembly on our soil and a Welsh Development Agency to review the situation.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
We all like the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) but it is difficult to take him seriously as a politician when he suggests that within 10 years his party will be the leading party in Wales. I recall first seeing him in 1966 when he came to this House and when he made the same claim. It is said of Billy Graham that he has many texts and one sermon. The same must apply to the hon. Gentleman, because whichever peg he has in the House it is the same dreary old sermon that is pulled out of the rather travel-stained bag.
It is good but difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman, because he has his feet firmly planted in the air and is far from the realities of Wales and the real needs of Wales which we see around us. Certainly the motion that he moved is correct in stressing the importance of communications as part of our industrial infrastructure and, by implication, the key rôle of communications as an industrial investment incentive. I recall being impressed by a survey of industrialists carried out by the Swansea District Council, which showed that access to a good transportation network was one of the major factors for those industrialists in terms of investment decisions.
South Wales is the closest development area to London. The theme of all reports on the Welsh economy—I have checked from the first Report in 1920 by the Ministry of Health South Wales Regional Survey Commit? 1448 tee to "Wales: The Way Ahead" and the Welsh Council Report for 1972—is the vital impact of the roadway system on the economy. "Wales: The Way Ahead" in 1967 stated thatGood roads are one of the keys to the future prosperity of Wales.Financial investment incentives can be given and can be taken away. Roads are there for good and, therefore, have a major and permanent impact on investment decisions. I join the hon. Member for Carmarthen in asking for greater public investment in Wales in both roads and railways, because of our greater need in employment terms, our lower activity rate, and other factors.
I ask, too, for greater co-ordination of transport facilities within the Principality and a greater awareness of the social implications of communications for our communities. Just as in our debates on devolution the possibility of rational discussion is complicated by the separatist framework within which the hon. Gentleman and his Friends operate—thinking of Wales as a siege economy, a self-contained unit, and naïvely suggesting self-government as the answer to our deep-seated problems—so is rational discussion of Welsh problems complicated by that unusual perspective.
We all understand the fear of railwaymen about future services in Wales—fears on which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends trade. Yet the railwaymen of my acquaintance have a deep-seated trust in the Labour Government They know, for example, that between 1964 and 1970 only five miles of railway track in Wales were closed, compared with 800 miles over the 13 years of the previous Conservative Administration. There are no hard facts on which to rely in relation to the future of the rail network, and it is wrong to fan the fears of railwaymen by speculation. When the new proposals are made, my hon. Friends and I will insist that full consideration and due and proper weight shall be given to the social and environmental factors.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen deplored the Rhoose decision, and so do I. The Welsh Labour Group of Members of Parliament pressed the Government very hard on that. The Welsh Labour Group is also convinced that the decision on the Bristol West Dock Scheme has 1449 been adverse to the future of the docks in the Bristol Channel.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
Is my hon. Friend fully acquainted with the facts? Does he recall that, despite several applications from Bristol, the then Labour Government rejected the scheme on social and economic grounds. When the Conservative Government came to power in 1970, they gave the go-ahead for the scheme. Now that costs are escalating, the Bristol ratepayers are worried and wish that they had never gone ahead with the scheme. When the scheme becomes fully operational every port on Severnside will be in jeopardy. That is the disaster that has been caused by that decision of the previous Conservative Government.
§ Mr. Anderson
I know what a strong fight has been put up by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) for all the South Wales ports. It is sad that he should have been proved right after his long and hard-fought opposition.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
I do not dissent from the main view held by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes), but is he aware that the Bristol scheme is the result not of a Government decision but of a Private Bill which was introduced by the Bristol Corporation and supported by the former Secretary of State for Industry, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn)?
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
That is not true.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
It is true. The hon. Gentleman should refer to Hansard if he is in doubt.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. I remind hon. Members that the debate was originally planned to finish by about 6 o'clock. We shall obviously have to extend that time, but it will assist in time allocation if hon. Members who seek to catch the Chair's eye do not make interventions.
§ Mr. Anderson
The Bristol development went ahead with the blessing of the then Government, and the large-scale investment that has to be recouped is causing considerable difficulty in South Wales ports.
1450 The word "balance" is stressed in the motion. I fear that "balance", in Welsh National usage, is defined as "unifying the nation"—this was stressed by the hon. Member for Carmarthen—and, therefore, distorting the needs of Wales. For me, "balance" principally means speeding up communications with our major markets. For the Welsh Nationals north-south links are important, whereas for those who are concerned with the economy of Wales the east-west links are important. I accept the conclusion contained on page 20 of the Welsh Council Report of 1974, "Roads in Wales" which says:We look for simultaneous application of resources on the two major areas requiring attention, namely, the east-west communication line in North Wales and the east-west communication line in South Wales. We consider that the connection between North and South Wales should be a second priority.Our real problems lie in achieving a social balance. I am especially concerned about the balance of public expenditure on subsidising bus routes serving new estates away from city centres in South Wales, and also the problem of isolated communities. We need to look carefully at the isolation of low-income rural communities in the Principality. The South Wales Transport Company has applied for a fourth increase in bus fares in the past year. Surely that cannot go on. Again, there must be a balance in assisting communities that are away from the valley mouths—where the main economic developments must come—with their long journeys to work. As an incentive for existing communities we must consider either direct subsidies or a tax allowance for those who have to travel, to make sure that the communities in our valleys are maintained.
The balance between public and private investment is wrong. For example, nationalised industries in tinplate and coil traffic to and from Tostre, Velindre and Abbey use private hauliers instead of British Rail.
The theme of the motion is neglect. I shall put forward what I believe to be a contrary and positive case. I salute the wisdom and the courage of the Secretary of State in giving priority to the M4 at the expense of expenditure on other major trunk road schemes in Wales. Swansea Bay City, as opposed to the former separate townships of Neath and 1451 Port Talbot, with a population of more than one-third of a million people, is possibly further away from the national motorway network than is any other unit of comparable size in the United Kingdom. That is particularly important because of the potential development of Celtic Sea oil. We need immediate action, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has ensured that.
I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will update the timetable of the M4. Will he tell us what he now believes to be the target date, and will he confirm that "full steam ahead" will be ordered on the M4 development proceeding into South Wales and opening up the area for industrial development, in spite of the climate of cut-back in public expenditure?
The picture painted by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, of the railways in Wales being a neglected backyard of the rail system, is far from the truth. I shall briefly give one or two facts in support of that contention. In October this year high-speed trains are to be introduced between Swansea and London. It will be the first scheduled service of high-speed trains anywhere in the United Kingdom. The journey time from London to Newport will be one hour 32 minutes, which, with the Coldra junction of the motorway network between the Midlands and South Wales, will make the Newport/Cardiff area an excellent one for industrial development. The London-Cardiff journey time is one hour 46 minutes, and the journey time from London to Swansea is 2 hours 44 minutes. We heard nothing about that development in the hon. Gentleman's speech.
A development of major importance to the area that I represent took place in March 1975, when the new airbrake network in South Wales was introduced on three important routes—namely, Swansea to Warrington, Swansea to East Anglia and Swansea to Willesden. The airbrake network is operated by a new type of general freight vehicle which operates at speeds up to 75 m.p.h. Far from Wales being a neglected backyard, it is the second area in Britain to see the introduction of this key technological change. Further, it is hoped to introduce next month the largest freight train on the whole of the British Rail network. It 1452 will run from Port Talbot to Llanwern. It will consist of 27 wagons of 100 tons gross weight. It is hoped that it will be hauled by three locomotives. It is a development of major importance to Wales in both passenger and freight sectors. It was neglected in the partial view that we heard from the hon. Gentleman.
The developments to which I have referred are important, in that they allow us to demonstrate to prospective industrialists how much shorter the journey time now is between the major markets in Wales, and how much easier is access to those markets. Road and rail barriers have been overcome as a result of these developments.
Of course, we can criticise failings. My right hon. and hon. Friends have deplored Rhoose and the dock development. But Wales needs more St. Pauls, and all we have are Jeremiahs from Plaid Cymru. Too many people are raising scare stories and relying on speculation. It does a grave disservice to Wales to paint such a negative picture. If Plaid Cymru Members are concerned about our economic and social future they should join us as ambassadors for Wales, publicising the positive advantages of Wales to industrialists, such as the shortening of journey times. Let them cease selling Wales short.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
Like the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), I find it difficult to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). I notice that the hon. Gentleman gave us no word of explanation as to where the resources were to come from for the isolationist development of communications in Wales that he envisages.
The motion attacks the Conservative Party among others. My party, in government and in opposition has consistently stressed the importance of improving the Welsh infrastructure both as a means of promoting the existing economy and in atracting new business enterprises. Therefore, we cannot accept that the charge of failure should be levelled at the Conservative Administration. That administration had a first-class record of achievement in improving the infrastructure and establishing communication systems.
1453 During our period of office expenditure on roads in Wales was nearly doubled, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) anticipated when in the Welsh Grand Committee on 15th December 1971 he said:The total expenditure on Welsh roads, which was £37.8 million in 1969–70—and that is at 1971 survey prices—is now expected to increase from over £53 million in 1971–72 to nearly £62 million in 1972–73, and will reach nearly £70 million in 1975–76. I repeat that all those figures are at 1971 survey prices. I think that the Committee will agree that this is a pretty big increase."—[Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee; 15th December 1971, c. 5.]Indeed, it was a very large increase in expenditure on roads.
If the hon. Gentleman considers the relevant figures for the Conservative Government that were in office until 1964, he will find that per capita expenditure on roads in Wales was nearly twice as much as in the rest of the United Kingdom. During our years of government between 1970 and 1974, expenditure turned out to be very much as my right hon. and learned Friend anticipated. Tremendous progress was made in the development of Welsh roads. For example, there was the A470 from Cardiff to Merthyr, and roads leading to Wales, notably the M4 and its associated routes.
Our period of office saw the establishment of the western territorial headquarters of British Rail, in Cardiff. That provided 2,000 jobs. Grants for station improvements were given for the first time by a Secretary of State for Wales. Only one line—Bridgend to Treherbert—was closed, compared with 240 miles of line closed by the previous Labour Government.
My right hon. and learned Friend also gave financial support to the Welsh Council's decision to set up a major research project on passenger transport needs in Wales. We now have the result in the invaluable report of Professor Graham Rees and Richard Wragg. Similarly, the Conservative Government took a close interest in civil aviation in Wales. During our tenure of office the Welsh Advisory Committee for Civil Aviation produced its stratgey for Wales, which has provided the foundation for a great deal of subsequent thinking, as my 1454 hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) will testify. My hon. Friend now chairs a Conservative Party committee that is concerned with the future of Rhoose Airport.
The ports, which are not mentioned in the motion, flourished greatly during our period in Government. These matters did not happen by accident but were the beneficial outcome of deliberate policy, which was admirably summed up at the beginning of the Welsh Grand Committee to which I have referred. I do not think we can improve on my right hon. and learned Friend's words. He said:We need an efficient transport system with a network of services for passengers and freight covering every part of the Principality. This is essential to the proper maintenance and development of our social and economic life. To achieve this is—and must continue to be—one of our first priorities."—[Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee: 15th December 1971, c. 3.]We totally reject the charge of failure that is levelled against the Conservative Government. I suggest to the supporters of the motion that they would not have made the charge had they familiarised themselves properly with the achievements of our Government in improving communications in Wales. So much for the past and our honourable part in it. I apologise for having had to dwell upon it.
If the signatories to the motion had chosen their words more carefully and abstained from casting aspersions on our period in Government, they might have had our support in the Lobby if they decide to divide the House. As it is, they cannot expect us wrongly to condemn ourselves. However, Plaid Cymru has never been renowned for its careful choice of words. The harsh truth is that while there may be some selective improvement to the industrial infrastructure in terms of communications, many people fear that the existing infrastructure will be severely curtailed and damaged in the years immediately ahead.
In so far as the communications infrastructure is the responsibility of local government, anticipated curtailment has already been spelt out by Welsh Circular No. 228, issued on New Year's eve. Under the heading "Local Transport Services", paragraph 46 states thatlocal authorities will need to reduce expenditure on road construction and maintenance: 1455 increase car parking charges with the general objective of meeting a substantially larger proportion of the total costs of car parking … from that source; increase in many cases bus fares at a rate in excess of general movement in prices …; hold down administration costs to current levels and implement economies wherever possible.It is anticipated that there will be a standstill in central Government spending. With all the nationalised transport industries losing ever-increasing sums—British Rail will lose between £400 million and £500 million this year, according to The Times today, and British Waterways, British Airways, the National Bus Company and the National Freight Corporation are also losing large sums of money—it is very difficult to see the present investment being maintained in real terms, let alone being increased.
The railway unions are under no illusion about the present situation. They state, in a letter sent to all Members of Parliament:We have learnt, following discussions with the Secretary of State for the Environment, that our fears that the Government is planning to freeze rail investment at a level of £328 million (at 1975 prices) for five years from 1976 onwards are justified. This is substantially lower than the levels accepted by the previous government in November 1973. We believe that this policy, in conjunction with the freezing of revenue support at the 1975 level, will do irreparable damage to the railway system.Now we know that the Government's reply to the implications of such a freeze—which are, of course, cuts in services—is to deny present awareness of proposals to close passenger lines in Wales. How naïve do they think we all are? The writing is on the wall. The Government pretend that it is not there. We can see it but they cannot. They are blind to the consequences of their own policies.
No doubt the Minister will say that we should await the outcome of the current review of transport policy as a whole. Such an answer will not quell the fears of the railway unions and others who are deeply disturbed about the grim prospect that lies ahead.
I hope that the Minister will "come clean" on the situation as he sees it developing in Wales and will tell us what is in store for us in terms of road, rail and air communications. The sooner we know the worst, the sooner we can make 1456 constructive criticisms of Government policies to deal with the situation, and the sooner hon. Members will stop asking for the moon—as the hon. Member for Carmarthen, in view of the present economic situation, tended to do.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to create unnecessary alarm and despondency in Wales, because the consultative document will shortly appear and will be the subject of wide consultation over a period of months before decisions are taken. The hon. Gentleman referred to the standstill on local government expenditure—a standstill that is unpalatable to every hon. Member. Will he outline his party's policy on that standstill and the circular to which he referred?
§ Mr. Roberts
I have no wish to create alarm and despondency in Wales, but I can only point out that that alarm and despondency already exists and needs no promotion from us.
On the question of the standstill in local government expenditure, the Government released the circular on New Year's Eve, and last year they released a similar circular two days before Christmas. My personal view is that central Government do not take their full share of responsibility for the cuts in rate support grant as they affect local authorities. I am trying to be helpful to the Government and I think that as my speech progresses they will see where we stand on that issue.
I wish to make other criticisms of the motion. In the first place "infrastructure" includes far more than a question of communications. As the motion stands, the implication is that the signatories have concluded that communications as defined are more important and have a higher priority than do housing, education and other amenities normally comprised in the term "infrastructure" in present political parlance.
Secondly, there is no mention of direct incentives to regional development such as those available under the Conservative legislation introduced in 1972. Perhaps I am wrong, but the implication of the motion is that incentives are not as important as is infrastructure development in the promotion of the Welsh economy.
1457 It is important to get right the relationship between infrastructure development and direct incentives. Judging by the Report of the Expenditure Committee, published on 13th December 1973, one view is taken by industrialists and another by academics. I believe that improvement of the infrastructure has a vital part to play in regional policy and largely determines the effectiveness of other measures. It is a view shared by the OECD as set out in its document "The Reappraisal of Regional Policy" published in 1974.
Infrastructure development is expensive. In an effort to be helpful to the Government, I suggest that in future they look carefully at infrastructure development proposals and try to assess their value as closely as possible in terms of the promotion of economic growth. There is only a limited amount of money available and it is vital that we obtain the maximum benefit from whatever investment the Government make in Wales. There is a strong case for applying cost-benefit techniques across the whole spectrum of demands for Government support.
In this context the Government's top priority—the completion of the M4 and the dualling of the A55—is absolutely right. Those were our priorities as stated in our election manifesto "For Wales and her people" in 1974. Both roads are lifelines to the Principality and it would be fatal to our future if they were not proceeded with as quickly as possible.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
Is my hon. Friend aware that I have been unable to extract from the Government any commitment about work on the A5 and the completion of work on the M4? The time scale laid down by the Conservative Government for the connection between the two roads seems to have vanished. Will my hon. Friend press the Government to give the House the present time scale?
§ Mr. Roberts
I am sure that the Minister has carefully noted what my hon. Friend said. I shall certainly add what weight I can by asking the Minister to comment, in his concluding speech, on my hon. Friend's observations. There were other proposals in our manifesto for improving communications in Wales. However, today we face a harsh reality. As much as one would like to press the 1458 Government for the implementation of our proposals I believe that at this stage it would be totally unrealistic to do so. We are living in a recession, not in a time of prosperity. We are living in a time of contraction and not of expansion. We are living under a Labour Government and not a Conservative Government.
As a responsible Opposition who will be called upon to govern before long, we must face the facts as we find them. We shall not delude the people and hold out promises that we cannot fulfil. Honesty is the best policy in this as in other matters. It is because we find this motion fundamentally lacking in realism that I cannot advise my hon. Friends to support it in the Lobby this evening. At the same time, I cannot advise them to support the Government, who have largely brought the present situation upon them-selves by encouraging the disastrous wage inflation of 1974 to win the October election, and by their spendthrift and profligate policies on Government spending.
In my view it is a crying shame that the British people must learn the hard way that Socialism undoubtedly means high and enduring unemployment. For the thousands who still have a job it means uncertainty for the future as well as hardship and a lower standard of living for the present. A Government who land the British people in this predicament cannot conceivably merit our support.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)
A few weeks ago there was a large lobby of railwaymen. I did not see any of the Welsh Nationalist Members present, but perhaps I missed them. However, I am certain that they would have been interested to hear about the type of fantasy world outlined in the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), which clearly adumbrated a separate Wales. Indeed, if we follow the hon. Gentleman's example, we may even have different railway line gauges to keep some people in and other people out.
The major issue in this debate is investment. The whole of the British railway system will depend entirely on investment. The Labour Party is committed by its annual conference decision 1459 and by its manifesto—so many people insist on the sanctity of manifestos—to an integral transport policy and to the offloading of much of the road traffic back on to the railway system.
Reference has been made to letters from railwaymen. The contents are largely rumour, and have been denied by the Government. They are merely impressions. At a period of high inflation we should really be saying that we shall consider the position, in the light of the economic situation, at the most year by year. Railwaymen's real fears have found their legitimate expression in letters of that kind. However, when we are being reported in the House we should be careful about sowing further despondency and holding out, as the hon. Gentleman said towards the end of his speech, the spectre of massive further unemployment leading to further railways cuts.
Wales suffered pretty severely under the Beeching cuts. It is arguable that if there are further cuts it is not likely to suffer to the same degree. I know that is a pessimistic argument and that I should be saying, in support of the railwaymen, that the railways should be reassuring the doubtful. What I have just said seems to be an acceptance of the fact that as we have already lost so much on a percentage basis we stand to lose not so much in the future.
Many Labour Members will press for further investment in the Welsh railways. If the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) had been present at the railwaymen's lobby he would know of the attitude taken by Members of Parliament who are closely linked with the various unions of British Railways. If he had attended the meetings in the Grand Committee Room and heard many of us speak to gatherings of 300 or 400 railwaymen at a time, he would know of the commitment, given by many Labour Members who are not railwaymen, to support railwaymen and their future.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
Our fears are based on the answer that was given by the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday at Question Time, when he confirmed that the investment rate would be £238 million per annum. We are concerned that if that holds true, 1460 and the amount is not for example, £350 million per annum, there will be repercussions in Wales and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Evans
That is for the current year. During the period when the Government tackle these problems the whole situation will be subject to constant review.
I committed myself to the support of the railwaymen's case at the meeting which took place a few weeks ago. We must not fail to recognise that investment in the totality of British Railways is bound to benefit Wales. There is an overflowing benefit even from investment in the English side of British Railways. That benefit is in the form of communications and movement of freight and people. We must recognise that with two countries so closely linked as England and Wales, development cannot take place in only the larger of the two partners without providing a psychological stimulus to the whole system. Whether the Government are willing or unwilling to invest, pressure will ensure that the system is evened out throughout the whole country.
The major road developments that the Government envisage have been recognised and accepted, certainly by the Conservative Party. In the major populated areas of Wales, and certainly in the area in which I live, there is the major problem of road transport from one narrow, twisting valley to another.
To supplement the infrastructure of the major developments which are taking place we need a whole series of new trunk roads covering South Wales, giving access to the ports, to the airport, up and down the valleys, and even transversely, to make transport far easier than it is at present. Within my own constituency it would take one of my constituents longer to visit me than for Members of Plaid Cymru to travel from Cardiff to that distant, remote, impersonal and non-caring place called London.
It was interesting today to read that some naughty people in Newport, who do not accept that the fight for Rhoose has failed, intend to come out with their own plans for an airport there. We want a balanced system of regional airports. However, the hon. Member for Carmarthen seemed to be arguing for a system of regional airports which amounted almost to one in every back 1461 yard, or certainly a helicopter service of that nature. I am sure that the Newport question will loom large when the idea is developed.
We live in a world of shrinking communications. We are conscious of events in India and China, for example, and we can get to those places easily. If we make appreciable sacrifices of our transport system, we shall drive communities back into themselves, unless people have motor cars. However, they will then have to cope with the difficult roads throughout the Welsh valleys to which I have referred. Driving the community back into itself will effectively rob Wales of the richness of its cultural life which attracts so many tourists. It will erode the sense of togetherness and the genuine warmth of communication which is found in Welsh communities. This will create more damage than some of the matters mentioned by the hon. Member for Carmarthen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said that a frozen transport system will encourage the development of a siege economy. People in Wales are now vividly beginning to realise that Wales could not subsist on its own economic resources. We shall always depend on a reciprocal interchange with other parts of the United Kingdom. Some Members of Plaid Cymru seem to think that we are having everything taken from us and are given nothing. There would be no educational system in England—it would be a nation of illiterates—were it not for the valuable export of Welsh teachers. Certainly we want industries and regional development in Wales. This is part of the pattern of a reasonable interchange between nations and is to be highly valued.
We must bring pressure on the Government to honour their commitments. Benefits will then flow into Wales. We should avoid a siege economy and the prospect of a miserable economic future for the Welsh people. We should put off the assertion made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen for 50 years, not 10 years.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)
Having listened with interest during the last hour, I should compare the comments made by right hon. and hon. 1462 Members of the two major parties with two bad dogs licking their wounds after a fight. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides are trying to cover up for their inept transport policies over the past two decades which have failed to safeguard the interests of the Welsh people.
One of the most notable failures of Governments over the years has been in the co-ordination of transport in Wales, and this underlines many of the economic difficulties we are experiencing today. It has had an adverse effect not only on the traditional industrial areas, but on the gradual depopulation of our rural areas to which it has been almost impossible to attract industry over the years. Parts of West and North Wales, which are badly in need of additional revenue and job opportunities, have suffered as a result.
Public transport in Ceredigion, as in most other rural areas, is very limited. Indeed, many villages have no means of transport, apart from the private car. Young people living in these villages find it difficult to get to the towns for work or pleasure. Consequently, there is a trend towards depopulation with its economic and social problems.
I know that many right hon. and hon. Members disagree with the sentiments I express, but they are facts. It is essential, therefore, that all interested parties—
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
§ Mr. Howells
No. I have taken the advice of Mr. Deputy Speaker not to give way during this short debate. It is essential, therefore, that all interested parties in Wales should get together to discuss the possibilities of improving transport and building new roads where suitable. It could be suggested to British Railways that they were too hasty in closing down some of the lines and that certain routes should be reopened. Certainly no more lines should be allowed to close. Schemes for improved bus services suiting the needs of communities should also be investigated. It is clear that action must be taken soon if we are to revitalise our rural communities and give them some of the advantages of modern life.
Many of my constituents, and many councillors, are worried. I have a copy 1463 of a letter written by the Chief Executive Officer of Ceredigion District Council, Mr. Kendal Harris, to Mr. F. W. Young, the divisional manager of British Railways. In that letter, dated 2nd February 1976, regarding railway services, he states:There has been much talk recently, as you know, about the reduction in the size of the railway network and the Divisional Manager at Cardiff wrote recently to the Chief Exectuive of Dyfed County Council denying 'that any proposals exist to reduce the system size on the scale which has been widely suggested in the press and the media'.Separately from this has been the publicity about the negotiations with the trade unions about the reductions in services.What definite information is available about these two matters as they affect the rail services here? It would be appreciated if you could make some informed comment to clarify the position.Referring again to my constituent, I understand that British Railways have less than 10 miles of track in Ceredigion, except for the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway, and the roads were certainly not designed for swift moving or heavy traffic.
There is no easy way to get from North to South Wales. It is a standing joke that if representatives of Welsh institutions want to get together they have to go to Shrewsbury, because that is the only place they can all reach. It is very unfortunate that they cannot get together in places like Aberystwyth and other parts of mid-Wales. Wales has never been an easy terrain on which to travel. Perhaps that is why we have kept our rugged individuality for so long. But it should be possible, with some foresight and intelligent application, to make use of existing facilities and adapt them to the needs of Wales today.
For example, it is important not to make hasty decisions about further cuts in rail services. I am particularly pleased to have been assured in the House that the Government consider rail services in Wales should make a maximum contribution to the transport system and that the rail system is important to Wales. I shall be reminding them of that statement as often as I can and asking them to fulfil their obligations by ensuring that the services are not only maintained, but improved.
1464 It has become increasingly obvious to me that if we do not solve our transport and communication problems in Wales, we shall never solve our economic problems. In Ceredigion, we have several nursery factories lying idle. Despite many efforts to fill them, no industrialist has been tempted to move in. The main reason is that there are no direct rail or road links between many towns in Ceredigion and firms, potential markets in England. On a recent visit to Scotland, I was very impressed with the air services operating there. This is an aspect of communication which has been neglected in Wales. I flew from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye and found that the air strips in Wales at places like Anglesey, Merioneth, Aberporth in my constituency, and Rhoose, some of which are owned by the Ministry of Defence, would be ideal for the kind of small aircraft that could be used. I wonder whether any research has been done into the possibility of an air link between Cardiff, North and West Wales?
No mention has yet been made of the facilities we have in Wales. For instance, we have many ports, including Aberystwyth, New Quay and Cardigan. The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) is not here at the moment, but I know that he is very worried that liners from Ireland are not able at present to come into Holyhead. This could have a disastrous effect on the agricultural economy in that area. Our ports could be improved if we could persuade more tourists to make use of these facilities.
Successive Governments have sadly neglected a transport policy in rural areas, particularly in Wales. The top priority must be an extensive road building programme with motorways linking North and South Wales and Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, giving easy access to the Midlands. The railroad between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen should be reopened to provide a rail link between North and South Wales. Co-ordinating the traffic flow system in Wales would be one of the most important functions of the Welsh Development Agency. Top priority should be given to improved communications in Wales.
Unless this Government are prepared to take action they should make way for the Liberals, who have more foresight and sympathy with the economic plight 1465 of our nation. Wales is only a small nation in comparison with many others in the world, but it is the Land of my Fathers and it is our duty to look after her interests to the best of our ability. Because of the inept Government policies to deal with the urgent problems facing the Welsh nation, my party will vote for the motion.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
For one moment I thought the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) was going to burst into song. As all but three of the hon. Members in the Chamber at the moment are Welsh we would have felt obliged to join in. Perhaps we could use the services of Max Boyce at Westminster.
It is strange that this debate was immediately preceded by a statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade about the great success in gaining access for Concorde to Washington and New York and cutting the time for very expensive transatlantic travel from eight hours to three hours—which is about the time it takes me to get from Cardiff to Hereford or Llanbedr on a good day. I have taken that long to get across the Island of Anglesey at peak time during the summer.
I have consistently supported the development of financing of Concorde, but I wonder whether we have slightly twisted priorities when we consider that a part of Great Britain with 2½ million people, a pre condition of whose economic survival is an adequate communications network, has been regarded by successive Governments as having less precedence than the dramatic and attractive technological development of cutting the time taken to cross the Atlantic.
Debates like this, if they do nothing else, at least remove us from the cockpit of the pro- or anti-Concorde argument and permit us to reassert the elementary necessity of improving out of all recognition the communications system in Wales and to balance this priority against the priorities that have been adopted in the past.
My historical sense was titillated by the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardigan who spoke of the failure of successive Labour and Conservative Governments to make provision for communications in Wales. I do not remember 1466 it, but we had a Liberal Prime Minister and Government in this country for a fairly considerable time. Their contribution to the task of improving the communications system in Wales was to give highly lucrative licences to private rail company operators some of whom were later rewarded with hereditary peerages—for a price. Whatever contribution the Liberal Party has to make to the general debate, comparisons with the records of past Governments are not the most fruitful line for them to pursue.
Wales does not have an adequate communications network and this is part of the reason for the sensitivity of the Welsh economy to the difficulties of other economies. It appears that, far from an excess of Socialism, as the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) said, causing unemployment, the cause is the almost total absence of Socialism or of a consistent approach to the planning of industrial opportunities and support for industrial development. More specifically, of course, the catastrophic cuts in railway services, the neglect of road-spending programmes and the lack of imagination in trying to improve the existing road network in Wales to meet the increasing demands upon it, whether for industrial, tourist or general purposes of social intercourse have been at the root of the trouble.
Demands are made for a motorway to run from North to South Wales. It would be the safest motorway in the country. It would be the only one in the world on which the children could safely play marbles for most of the year. It would be the most incredible waste of public money. That would not be the axis of industrial development in Wales. I do not think anyone who manifests a particular loyalty to Wales or even understands the Welsh economic problem would advocate such a prospect.
What we need is a major improvement of the road between Hereford and Bangor. If that road were brought up to main trunk road standard within Gwent to Abergavenny and beyond into Herefordshire, that would significantly improve the diagonal, and most important, communications link between North and South Wales. If we were to consider not this glamorous and appealing slash of communication down the centre of Wales, 1467 but, instead, the true needs of Wales, we would be talking, nationalist prejudice aside, of an improvement of all the border routes, road and rail, and of the network of routes coming off them. Essentially we are talking about an improvement of the A49, about a regular North-South passenger rail service to replace the charming safari which is involved in getting from Cardiff to North Wales and, in addition, essentially extending the three routes to provide a good chance of industrial development in North, Mid and South Wales.
That is a logical route plan for Wales. It is not that it just has an appealing logic. For the retention of population and for industrial development this kind of idea should have taken precedence over the galaxy of industrial inducements, bribes and cajolery that has existed in the last 10 or 15 years—
§ Sir A. Meyer
§ Mr. Kinnock
The hon. Gentleman may say "Hear, hear", but his party has a policy of the most general parsimony on public expenditure. It thinks that it sounds virile to be careful with the public purse. However, public expenditure cuts have extended from being its general philosophy to being its only economic policy. It has been the case ever since countrymen of ours destroyed the toll system in Mid and West Wales—heaven bless Rebecca and the ladies—that all road investment in this country has been public investment. We cannot, therefore, on the one hand identify the difficulties of Wales as resulting largely from the inadequacy of the road system and simultaneously advocate even a restraint on public expenditure, far less the kind of cuts the Conservatives would like.
§ Sir A. Meyer
I am sure that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) did not deliberately seek to mislead the House, but he must be aware of the sharp distinction which exists between the large cuts which are possible on current expenditure and transfer payments, and cuts in investment. That is quite a different story and something we have never advocated.
§ Mr. Kinnock
If we could count on those whose business confidence we are told is so vital to our economic survival 1468 adopting, the hon. Gentleman's understanding attitude towards cuts in public expenditure we could get away with what he is advocating. We could get away simultaneously with increasing investment while trimming transfer payments and current expenditure. Unfortunately, these matters are not seen that way. If we were to increase expenditure on the scale which would be demanded by an improvement of the Welsh communication system, whatever long-term benefit it might bring to industry, tourism, commerce or domestic life, it would still be seen as an increase in public expenditure. I support it just the same. The difficulty is that there appears to be on the Conservative Benches no advocate who could explain it to those whose confidence is said to be so necessary.
Perhaps I could make a relevant projection about the changes that are taking place in our way of life in Wales. I have in recent memory—for some of us it is an unforgettable memory—the proposition for major devolution of powers to a Welsh Assembly. The devolution debate has taken place, and it would not only be boring and repetitively odious to rehearse the arguments again, it would be out of order. It is fair, however, in considering a motion about the future of the infrastructure in Wales, and specifically about the communications infrastructure, for us to consider all the possibilities which exist for drawing up a systematic and coherent communications policy in the event that the devolution propositions should come to fruition.
Under the proposals either there would not be a single farthing more for investment in communications or, whatever the arguments advanced in the Assembly or here, those in Cardiff would not enjoy an atom of extra discretion in seeking to improve the roads in Wales. Under those arrangements we should not be justified in seeking a debate like this because these matters would already have been thoroughly and comprehensively covered in an alternative semi-legislature. If we ever came to the situation which Plaid Cymru envisages tonight, of having to vote on the matter, the strange fact is that no Welsh or Scottish Member could justify himself, in democratic terms, casting the determining vote about communications, because it would not be Parliament's business.
1469 Debates such as this offer us a practical opportunity to discuss openly what all of us would like to see in Wales, and not simply to make parochial complaints but to bring what, we hope, is collective wisdom to bear on these problems, and to try to set our demands against the realities of the time and the calculable changes of the future. It appears to me that in the proposals for devolution there is one calculable change of the future which would be detrimental in respect of attaining the ideal that we all want—a useful economic and fully developed public transport and communications system in Wales.
Finally, I return to a point made by the hon. Member for Conway. He seeks to prove—I can understand why—that our difficulties in Wales at present in communications and other matters, most specifically, unemployment, are the consequence of Socialism. I think that it was Lenin who said that Socialism was Marx plus electricity. In the case of the problems of Wales, Socialism would mean a Labour Government plus the willingness to undertake a vast extension in public investment. It would mean the kind of reflation for which we have called previously, and not simply money going in the form of tax rebate into private pockets to be spent—as President Ford has tried to do it or as others have advocated—but in the form of directed public investment, nowhere better than in communications, which would remain under the control of and directly responsive to the public will through publicly elected representatives.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
I shall try to be brief. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) displayed once again his passionate love for Wales. We acknowledge that feeling. However, I hope that he will acknowledge that there are others in other parties—all of us, probably—who share his love of the Principality but who nevertheless have different ideas about how we can best ensure the prosperity and future well-being of Wales. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that proposition. Indeed, some of us fear the very dangerous effects, as we see them, of the possible break-up of the United Kingdom and the consequences which could arise therefrom for the economy of Wales.
1470 The hon. Gentleman and his party have put down this motion which deplores the lack or inadequacy of the infrastructure, and they mention especially transportation by air, rail and road. We cannot quarrel with that. Obviously, all of us can say that the infrastructure and transport could be better. It would be foolish to deny that. However, this is a very difficult time for making a case that this is the appropriate moment in history to embark on a major programme of improving that infrastructure.
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the economy is in a particularly delicate state of balance at present. I should have thought that what we can do to improve the infrastructure in the next year or so must be of a particularly selective nature. Some of the sort of expenditure involved would of necessity be rather large. It would not necessarily be labour intensive. It would certainly not necessarily provide a remedy for unemployment in certain areas. Expenditure on improvement of the infrastructure would have to be particularly carefully designed and, at the same time, very selective.
I share the views that have been expressed about the need to improve the roads of Wales. However, I say to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) that I do not think that it is possible to improve the roads without incurring consequences for other forms of transportation. The hon. Gentleman implied that we could improve all these things at the same time. I apprehend that the improvement of the M4 has meant a considerable loss of business for British Rail. I hope that hon. Members appreciate that this is one of the difficulties. Similarly—to take an English example—the improvement of the rail service between Manchester and London has meant serious losses for British Airways. We cannot look at these matters in isolation. We must look at them all.
I see a need for improving the motorway and extending it to the west, for industrial reasons as well as reasons of personal transport. I share the anxieties which have been expressed about the failure—I acknowledge the failure—of past Governments to do more for airway development in Wales. That is 1471 one of my hobby horses, naturally, because Rhoose Airport is in the constituency which I have had the honour to represent for some years. I sincerely hope that the Government will look at this matter again.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen gave some of the figures for relative expenditure on civil aviation in different parts of the United Kingdom. I do not see how any Government can get away from the fact that the amount of expenditure by Government—I use the word "Government" in general terms—on civil aviation in Wales has been negligible, while in other parts of the United Kingdom it has sometimes been on quite a substantial scale. Therefore, in all fairness, I believe that there is a case for some help to the very hard pressed consortium of local authorities which is now bearing the cost of the upkeep of the airport at Rhoose.
I found the recent report of the committee that has been studying the regional airports in the West of the United Kingdom somewhat unrealistic. It talked about the ideal airport which could be created at Bristol. It gave as an alternative a combination of the airport at Rhoose and the airport at Exeter. But it ignored the fact that the airport at Rhoose exists, while a suitable airport at Bristol certainly does not exist. That, too, is an additional reason for help to the consortium of county councillors. That help is very much needed. We can argue the merits of the expenditure on which they embarked, but the fact is that this has been done. The runways have been extended and the facilities have been created. It would be very wrong if those admirable facilities were now not to be fully used.
I tend to share the views expressed about the railway network in Wales now being of such a nature that any further cuts would perhaps cause fatal injury. The problem is related to road traffic problems in the more thickly populated parts of South Wales, and possibly in North-East Wales and certainly in the Glamorgans and in Gwent. One cannot look at the railway situation in and around Cardiff and Swansea without considering the effect of the railway system being reduced. There is certainly a large amount of commuter traffic by rail in 1472 and out of Cardiff, and it is tending to increase in some ways. This is an encouraging factor. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary, who will be replying to the debate, will emphasise this factor. I am referring now not to the general picture but to the particular nature of the commuter traffic in and out of the larger regions—and particularly Cardiff, in South Wales. It is relieving the very heavy road traffic, which had almost come to a standstill.
This evening I make this special plea on behalf of civil aviation and on behalf of one aspect of the railway traffic. That is as much as I can and should attempt to do in the short time available. I have abbreviated my speech in the interest of other members.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
It so happens that there are two debates in the House today—one on Wales and one on Scotland. Perhaps this is the forerunner of what is to happen in Cardiff on Saturday. I feel quite convinced that on Saturday evening I shall be singing Mae hen wlad fy nhadau—and hymns and arias as well, but one plea I make is that on Saturday we shall not find that we have a Glasgow referee.
On a more serious note, there has been another link between Scotland and Wales this week—the announcement of the dispersal of Ministry of Defence personnel. I say quite clearly and categorically this evening that this is a disgraceful decision announced by the Ministry of Defence. I know what is behind it. I also know who is behind it. I give the Government fair warning this evening that in the weeks and months ahead I intend to see to it that they will hear much more about this question.
When we examine the problems facing Wales at the present time, it is necessary to bear in mind, first, that 80 per cent. of the people of the Principality live in the two counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. We know that the economies of those two counties were originally largely based on the coal industry.
Coal is mined where it is found. The coal industry of South Wales employed many thousands of men and was essentially a sort of male-dominated community. With the closure and the run-down of the mining industry in the 1473 last 15 years, considerable diversification has had to be brought about in relation to the employment of people who formerly found their work in the mining industry.
A few days ago the Gwent County Council brought out a very important report. One of the principal aspects of the report was to draw attention to the huge acreage of land available in the south of the county of Gwent. It is flat land—not very good agricultural land—and would be ideal for industrial development purposes.
Such a development would have considerable virtue, for, in the first instance, the land adjoins the great Llanwern works—now the cornerstone of the whole economy of Gwent, employing nearly 10,000 work people.
One of the linking aspects of such development in this area would be port development. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) has already briefly referred to this matter.
One of the great disappointments concerning the Llanwern project has been that it has not had its own iron ore terminal. Some development of this kind in the south of Monmouthshire would be of considerable assistance in making this a fully integrated works, and in boosting the morale of the work people.
The British Transport Docks Board, in the course of this Session of Parliament, will be introducing a Private Bill to extend its option for development. It has a port project in this area which could take in also the Uskmouth terminal, and would serve the Llanwern works. I have always been convinced of the merit of such a scheme, and I hope that eventually the Government will give it the go-ahead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East has, as I have said, referred to the South Wales ports. They are going through a difficult time at the moment. The prospects do not look good, because of the West Dock scheme at Bristol. But the interesting point is that, whereas the West Dock scheme has been highly speculative in character—in other words, it involves the building of a port without any trade—the Uskmouth project, which I have repeatedly advocated, has a guaranteed in-built trade 1474 with the great Llanwern steelworks and the supplying of its iron ore.
Concerning general development in the south of Monmouthshire, the people at the heads of the valley have nothing to fear at all. The more major projects that are sited there, the more the smaller types of projects will flow quite naturally up the valleys to places like Abertillery and Ebbw Vale.
We need better communications to our valleys. Certainly we need much better roads. It was a regrettable step when the railway communications to those valleys were closed some years ago.
There is a need in this period of economic depression to concentrate on the infrastructure of Wales. In this sense the Keynesian remedy is still highly relevant. It was relevant before the war, when we should have improved our infrastructure. Now that there are thousands of construction workers, among others, drawing unemployment benefit, when they should be employed on these vitally necessary projects for the future wellbeing of the people of Wales, it is equally relevant.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Geraint Morgan (Denbigh)
I shall be brief and confine myself to certain specific queries relating to communications in Wales.
My first general question concerns us very much in North Wales. Why are there no proposals for a motorway route in North Wales when the traffic volume would clearly justify its provision? It is true that some progress has been made with the A55. Many years have elapsed since a former distinguished Member of this House was driven to hitch a lift as a pillion passenger on a motor cycle to attend a function on the Welsh side of the Dee. The Government have now given priority, very rightly, to the A55.
I have a specific query to put in relation to this. In view of that priority, why is it that the proposed extension east of Abergele is not being allowed to proceed immediately? The fact that an inquiry about the North Wales Expressway is going on in Colwyn Bay is not material, because whatever route is ultimately approved there is no reason why this scheme should not proceed.
The A5, as the Minister may be aware, is also a trunk road, even though it does not now carry anything like the weight 1475 of traffic that the A55 does. It is regrettable that there is no major works programme for the A5. I understand that there is no development in respect of the Corwen Bypass, and there has, on the other hand, been a considerable waste of time and money over the proposed bypass for Llangollen. As I have advised the Welsh Office over and over again, there is universal opposition locally to this project. It is unlikely that this line will be developed anyway and if one is adopted it is likely to impede development for many years to come. That has been the unhappy history of Llanrwst, another town in my constituency, where a line was adopted as far back as 1958 but no bypass has been built. The existence of this line has been responsible for at least one firm leaving the town.
I have some sympathy with what has been said by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) about the north-south trunk road. I shall not be tempted into any remarks about devolution in this context, but, whatever our views about that cr about a proposed Welsh Assembly, we must all agree that Wales is an administrative unit and that lack of such a major highway is serious.
I dismiss immediately, as most of us would, the unrealistic suggestion of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) of a motorway from north to south, but there is a very good case for the completion of the spine road or trunk road, whatever one calls it, to join North and South. The former Socialist Government were quite right to give priority in 1965 to east-west communications, but the time has now come to give priority to this route.
Have the Government ever considered reintroducing a statute similar to the old Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act of 1955, a little known but very useful measure introduced by a Conservative Government—and regrettably allowed to lapse by a later Conservative Government in 1962—which was of great benefit to Wales in regard to the improvement of rural roads? Half of the money provided under that statute was spent in the Principality and was of considerable benefit there.
I am one of those unfortunate Members of Parliament—there are many of
1476 us—whose constituencies were virtually denuded of railways under the Beeching axe more than a decade ago. That makes us all the more jealous to preserve such remnants of the former rural railway system as still exist. I should like a firm undertaking that the Vale of Conwy branch line will not be closed. This is a matter of considerable local concern.
I hope that my queries will be dealt with. I do not expect the Minister to answer them off the cuff, but perhaps he will deal in correspondence with what he cannot answer in the debate.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Carmarthen)
In bringing to a conclusion the remarks from this Bench, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the half Supply Day that we have been accorded and express thanks to those who made it available—even though we should always be grateful for more.
This has been a wide-ranging debate, possibly too wide-ranging for the time available. That is something that we shall bear in mind for our next opportunity. It is odd, when everyone agrees on the importance of infrastructure for the economy of Wales and other places, that we are unsuccessful in getting the necessary action on the things which need to be done.
This is essentially an economic debate, but like so many other matters the social and cultural aspects depend so much on the economic aspect. It is absolutely essential for a country like Wales, which suffered so much depopulation and unemployment, to get the economic base right if we are to overcome our other problems.
Economic development depends on two broad considerations. The first is the market forces in general, which depend largely on demand management. This is an international aspect. As the Prime Minister said recently, that may be well outside the control of the United Kingdom. The second consideration is supply management, involving locational determinants for industry. This debate concerns mainly that subject.
Our objective should be to stimulate self-regenerative economic growth. That has been the subject of many studies in many countries, and many different 1477 solutions have been put forward. Four categories of thought apply to this general area of consideration. The first is the use of the carrot to induce industrial and economic development. The analysis here is divided between those who believe in making an area attractive for industry and those who want to compensate industry for the basic weaknesses of any area. The second category is the whip, in which area also there are two sub-divisions—the philosophy of those who want to use prohibitive measures like industrial development certificate and that of those who want to use positive measures such as, possibly, the direction of industry. There is a fundamental debate there.
The third category to be considered is the dispute between planned and sporadic development. Wales has suffered more than most places from too much sporadic development and too little planned development. But if we are to have planned development the argument must turn on whether we will do this in terms of concentrated growth centres or in a diffused manner. There are countries which have succeeded in both methods. I prefer the growth centre technique, but I should have liked to hear much more discussion today of points like this, because they are important for developing a communication network.
The fourth group of considerations centre on the question whether the industrial development should be mainly companies which are locally rooted—in other words, organic growth, an aspect much favoured in the more rural areas, where they want many small companies to grow—or whether there should be transplanted economic growth, under which large supranational or international companies are induced to enter an area.
All those four categories must be considered. I suspect that Wales has tended to miss out on all four. The use of the carrot of compensation has been unfortunate. We should have done much more to overcome the basic weaknesses in our economy—in other words, we should have provided better roads and a better communications network generally rather than compensated companies for having to suffer the present network.
I want to take up next—I accept that Conservative Members will disagree with 1478 this—the refusal of successive Governments to direct industry. There may be difficulties in doing this in the private sector, but in the public sector—more and more of the economy has come into that sector—there is considerable scope for additional direction of industry to areas of severe unemployment. We have suffered sporadic development here, too, with virtually no pattern of economic planning.
One of the problems with the transplanted companies that we have had is that often, at times of economic recession, they have closed down branch factories and moved out of Wales again. If it is possible to root industrial development in an area, that is much better for the area.
These considerations are the bases of this debate. It is important to create the right positive attractions for industry and to do so on a planned basis. We may ask what the locational determinants are for an industry going to an area. I acknowledge the 1972 Industry Act as a step in the right direction. It has not done everything, but it has probably taken as far as it can be taken the use of incentives as pure bait. To talk of taking it much further is to become unrealistic.
But although that approach went far along the road towards giving as much bait as possible, it has proved unsuccessful. We need to develop the positive attractions of Wales as a location for industry. That means an economic plan, a subject to which I have referred in the past; I will not go over old ground again. One of the things that it means in an economic plan based on growth centres is that we need a better transport system.
A paper produced by the Wales TUC on this matter of transport in Wales said:Transport in Wales in the post-war period has been characterised by a combination of cutbacks, under-investment and official procrastination … The Wales TUC feel that the decimation of the transport system in Wales has gone on unchecked for too long.Those are important words, and we should take note of them.
I believe also that a valid comment has been made in this context by the 1479 Welsh County Committee in a memorandum which it submitted to the Secretary of State in 1972. Referring to the road network, it said:Thus England's road programme has the two basic ingredients lacking in the Welsh strategy. Namely, the urgent improvement, to dual carriageway standard, of a selected number of routes which will give good interurban links and secondly, the completion of this route network within a specified time period.There is no reason why this could not be done for Wales.The specified time period is important bearing in mind that the promises made by successive Governments have not come to fruition.
This is a point which has been made by the Development Corporation for Wales. It produced a report on road communications in North Wales. It said that a road network would be necessary to take up the traffic projected for 1981 which included dual carriageway for the A55 and the A5 and a link road between the A55 and the A5 in the Wrexham area. That was regarded as a necessary development to cope with projected traffic needs but, unfortunately, it has not taken place.
May I, Mr. Speaker, congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair and say how pleased I am to be making this my first speech with you in charge of our proceedings.
We need a co-ordinated transport system. In fact, we need more than just that. We need co-ordination between the road and rail network, and this is an interesting point which has been made strongly by the Wales TUC. It said in the paper to which I referred earlier:We need an urgent and fundamental reappraisal of the total transportation system of Wales. This should be urgently instituted. Moreover we feel that radical changes should be made in the planning and decision-making framework so that future transport policy will be more sensitive, responsive and accountable to the opinion of the people of Wales. Our principal aim should be the creation of an integrated network of road, rail, sea and air transport systems.That is something for which I press strongly.
Reference has been made to the investment programme of British Railways over the next few years. If the investment programme is retained at £238 million per 1480 annum, which the Minister for Transport referred to at Question Time yesterday and said he could see that that did not necessarily mean there would be a reduction of services in the long term, I must inform the House that that is not the opinion of many people involved in the railways in Wales and elsewhere. I appeal to the Government to reconsider their investment programme if the £238 million is intended for more than one year.
In the context of integrating services in Wales, we need the development of a passenger transport authority and an authority for freight. Under the 1968 Act it is possible for the Secretary of State to bring about a Welsh passenger transport authority by means of a Statutory Instrument. This is a possibility which has been developed in the larger metropolitan-dominated areas. If that Act is not used for the circumstances in Wales, people are bound to fear that it was not designed for Welsh needs.
In a letter dated 21st July 1972, the Welsh Office acknowledged that circumstances change from time to time and said that it would reconsider the possibility of a Welsh passenger transport authority as circumstances changed. I appeal to the Under-Secretary to give further thought to that now in view of the possible cutbacks in Wales in terms of a railway transport system.
We need air links. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) refer to the possibility of an aerodrome in every backyard. We do not regard Valley, Aberystwyth or Swansea as backyards. It is essential to have air transport facilities if those places are to develop as possible centres for economic growth. That is essential, as is the need to link them to an airport of international magnitude as we would wish to see at Rhoose.
The situation with regard to the ports is that we have a huge boundary along the South Wales coast consisting of deep water facilities but these have not been developed to the fullest extent possible. There is a project at Port Talbot which could bring about 1,000 jobs in ship repairing but this has been turned down because one public corporation passes the buck to another. This has gone on for more than a year. There is a possibility of 1,000 jobs being provided at a time when they are needed, and I 1481 urge the Minister to consider again the possibility of ship repairing in the Port Talbot area. I press, too, the needs of Holyhead and the future of this port because it is essential to the whole of the industrial base of Gwynedd.
The Welsh Development Agency has started work, and we wish it well. One job that it will need to do is to develop industrial parks. We recognise the importance of improving the infrastructure, and we need industrial plants. We need centres with facilities for industrial development. We need gas supplies. We fail to get industrial development in some parts because there is no gas supply there. Wales Gas has been unable to do anything about that. We need industrial parks with full electricity facilities. We need industrial parks with common services such as transport, administrative and even canteen facilities, because that can help small companies to set up in those areas.
It is important, in a way that transcends party divisions, to get the right incentive to develop jobs in Wales. We need much more emphasis on business and technical education. We should bring the University of Wales into the work of the Welsh Development Agency. Work is going on at Bangor in the Industrial Development Unit. Ideas put forward there have been developed elsewhere, but they should be used to benefit the local economy. I hope that the Under-Secretary will pass that message on to the Welsh Development Agency.
We want to encourage entrepreneurs as well as development in the public sector. All these aspects underline the need to develop the infrastructure of Wales. We have an opportunity, if we put our minds to it, to overcome the problems that have bogged Wales down for decades. We have lost people because we have not had the jobs for them. If there were a co-ordinated approach and an economic plan with the right investment, we should be able to overcome our problems. I hope that the Government will accept what we say. I suspect that they will not, and if they do not the people of Wales will have to pay the price.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Barry Jones)
May I too, Mr. Speaker, congratulate you on your election to the Chair. I am glad to catch your 1482 eye in this the first Welsh debate over which you are presiding. Perhaps it is not inappropriate that I catch your eye, because at one time I was your PPS when we were in Opposition.
§ Mr. Speaker
In that case, perhaps the hon. Member will bear the Scots in mind as well.
§ Mr. Jones
I take that broad hint.
I anticipated this debate with a high degree of optimism. The experts who seem consistently to deplore the failure of successive Governments in whatever field one cares to name were going to show us how to create an industrial infrastructure which would make possible the development of a balanced Welsh economy, an infrastructure which included a road, rail and air communications system, no less—though I presumed from the terms of the motion that the well-known insularity of Plaid Cymru Members precluded the use of the sea.
I regret that my optimism was ill founded. From the Opposition Benches I have heard much that would provide the motive power for that well-known means of transport the hot air balloon but little to suggest that the supporters of the motion, and particularly the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), have developed their planning one millimetre beyond the realms of fancy. The hon. Member for Carmarthen made an extraordinary speech, consisting of a number of rhetorical questions and even hyperbole. There was stale prophecy, and it seemed altogether a Cassandra-like speech. It contrasted strangely with the speech of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley).
I find it strange to hear the exponents of a balanced economy talking as though there were a bottomless pit full of gold upon which the Government could call to provide an endless pattern of rail, road and air communications, and suggesting that if such a system were produced all the problems of the world's economies would be solved. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) made that point effectively, although the rest of his speech was a smooth apologia.
Good communications are a vital part of an infrastructure within which an industrial economy can develop, but they are not the total infrastructure. There 1483 are choices that have to be made, and they have to be made within the financial constraints that we face. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has carefully chosen policies that will help to develop a better system of communications and a better industrial infrastructure in Wales while concentrating on the immediate target, which must be the attack against inflation.
The Welsh Office seeks to view transport as a whole. My right hon. and learned Friend has therefore in part reorganised the Department. He has just formed a new Transport Policy Division. It will advise Ministers upon the whole of the transportation system in Wales and its part in the total system of the United Kingdom.
Hon. Members know that the recently allocated transport supplementary grants were extremely favourable overall to the Welsh counties. Hon. Members know also, I am sure, that the Welsh counties have considerable freedom to decide their own roads priorities. It is for them to decide how to spend the allocation. The allocation of the transport supplementary grant in Wales has been particularly favourable to the sparsely-populated areas. Gwynedd and Powys benefited most of all from the new formula which indirectly helps, in these areas, to maintain the jobs of those employed in transport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) fought very hard to get an allocation which would safeguard the jobs of his constituents. I know that he welcomes the allocation to Powys.
§ Mr. Jeffrey Thomas (Abertillery)
I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the transport supplementary grant. On behalf of the people of North Gwent I should like to say how grateful we are for the help we have had from the Welsh Office over the A467 from Crumlin to north of Aberbeeg, locally known as the "Khyber Pass". As a result of the grant it is hoped that we can start on the road either this year or next.
§ Mr. Jones
I can confirm that that is the situation so far as the Gwent Transport Committee is concerned. I 1484 know the situation better since I took a journey along the "Khyber Pass" and saw the horrific dangers. I pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Thomas) for the conscientious and diligent campaign he has conducted. I hope he can now say that he has realised his objective.
It is folly to presume that the road building programme can escape the need to contain public expenditure. But top priority has been given to the M4. This will be followed by the dualling of the A55 from Chester to Bangor and the improvement of the A48 to Carmarthen and the A40 beyond.
§ Sir A. Meyer
Can the Minister insert a date into that sentence?
§ Mr. Jones
I wish that I had not given way to the hon. Gentleman, not because I cannot give him a date but because I hope later to give dates for some areas in which he is interested.
There are some 30 miles of the M4 currently under construction in Wales at an overall cost of about £100 million. We are determined to follow an east-west road strategy. The M4 will make a dramatic contribution to the economy of all of South Wales. When it is completed, priority will be given to improving the A48 and A40 across Dyfed. This will include bypasses of St. Clears and Carmarthen on which work should start in 1978 or 1979, subject to the satisfactory completion of all the usual statutory procedures. The schemes which I have just mentioned should cost a total of about £9 million.
In order to make sure that funds are used to the best effect, my right hon. and learned Friend has recently carried out a detailed review of the relative priorities to be accorded to schemes under preparation so that resources are concentrated on those which are needed first. He has taken the opportunity to consider whether changing circumstances have shifted the balance in favour of deferring some schemes so that others, for which there is a greater need and a greater likely cost benefit, can be included. In all, 17 schemes worth an estimated £128 million have been added to the preparation pool and further preparation work on nine schemes worth about £14 million in total has been deferred. This does not involve an increase 1485 in planned public expenditure since we are talking of preparation, and expenditure at this stage is low for some years.
This redirection reflects our determination to improve the system in North Wales. For example, the Queensferry Flyover has been added to the firm programme and, subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary statutory procedures, I hope that we shall be able to start work on this important and urgent scheme costing £2½ million before the end of the 1977–78 financial year. The hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) presented a list of queries, and I must write to him about them.
The complicated and long public inquiry into the proposals for the Colcon scheme is now virtually over, and I hope that it will be possible to find a satisfactory solution to the very difficult problems involved so that work can start on the first stage in 1978–79. I also hope that we shall be able to start other major schemes on the A55 in the St. Asaph-Bodelwyddan-Abergele area costing nearly £5 million at about the same time, together with the Caernarfon inner relief road at a cost of £5½ million.
Apart from the schemes which I have mentioned, work is proceeding on the preparation of proposals for completing dual carriageways for the whole of the A55 from Chester to the Britannia Bridge. We hope to start work on this bridge costing a total of about £10½ million in 1978, provided that the financial situation does not deteriorate further. Work is also virtually completed on the dualling of the road from Drome Corner to Cheshire at a cost of £2 million. The road, which should be open on 1st March, will considerably improve access to the Shotton steelworks and the newly-designated industrial estate at Sealand. I am sure that there is no need for me to remind the House of the severe financial constraints under which we are working and that these forecasts of starting dates depend upon there being no further worsening of this situation.
Many hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) and Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) and the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), raised questions concerning the railways.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells rose1486
§ Mr. Jones
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman but he should know, as Mr. Speaker has warned me, that another tribe and another race have the next debate and if I give way I shall take time from that debate.
§ Mr. Howells
In his summing up the Minister made no mention of Mid-Wales. Does he have any plans to improve the roads system in Mid-Wales?
§ Mr. Jones
I shall write to the hon. Gentleman telling him the plans for roads in Mid-Wales.
As far as railways are concerned, a great deal of discussion recently, both within this Chamber and elsewhere, has centred on rumours of cuts in the network. I can only repeat that the Welsh Office takes the keenest interest in the functioning of the railway in Wales, that we regard it as vital and that we are not aware of any proposals to close lines in Wales. The House will know that a consultative document will be published. The hon. Member for Conway did not press his luck too far in this regard because he knows that round his side's neck is the great albatross of the railway closures which were scheduled under the now famous Dr. Beeching reports. We shall always have those in mind when he makes his speeches on railways in the months ahead.
I shall deal now with South Wales generally. We are concentrating on the M4 and the A48, which already include good road links with the Midlands and the rest of England, as well as a much improved A470 serving as a route to North Wales—not that we have any intention of dualling from Cardiff to Wrexham as the hon. Member for Carmarthen said. The mind boggles at the consequences of that and I am sure that on reflection he would not wish to drive a dual carriageway right through the Brecon Beacons. He would know the hornets' nest that he would stir up if he thought of doing that through that beautiful park.
A major development on the railways has been a substantial investment of some planned £40 million, which must be shared with Bristol as well as with South Wales, on the development of the high-speed passenger train which will come into service between South Wales and London later this year. There will be a 1487 full service, I am told, in May 1977, cutting the fastest journey time by half an hour. The line to Paddington will be the first to enjoy the considerable benefits from this exciting advance in railway technology.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East certainly knows his railway industry and, I dare say, his timetables. It is clear that he had the details of the railway industry in his mind from the shrewd remarks that he delivered to us.
I shall deal briefly with West Wales. It has suffered from relative remoteness. This must decline as the M4 is completed, as the high-speed train reaches Swansea and as the Carmarthen bypass and improvements in the St. Clears area materialise. There has been an encouraging development in the establishment of a licensed aerodrome at Withybush near Haverfordwest. This was licensed in February 1974 and is making a useful contribution to communications in that area. There has been an encouraging growth in traffic and there are grounds for hope that before long there might be regular third-level services between Withybush and Rhoose Airports as well as other parts of Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member for Cardigan mentioned Mid-Wales. I well understand the transport problems of ordinary people in sparsely populated rural areas and recognise the importance of the railways in providing the main public transport links with other parts of the country. In addition, the Government are taking a lead in experimentation with less conventional systems in order to find a cheaper and more effective means of satisfying the needs of the more remote communities. Special projects are being set up—one will be in Wales—to test various possibilities on the ground, and the Government will bring forward a Bill to test under controlled conditions modest relaxations of the bus licensing code in the selected areas, one of which will be in Wales. I know that this will be of interest to the hon. Members for Cardigan and Caernarvon.
I turn briefly to North Wales. I am very pleased to see in today's Liverpool Daily Post that Clwyd County Council feels it can look forward to an increased 1488 road-building programme because of the approach that the Welsh Office has taken on transport supplementary grant. It seems that a start can be made on the Holt-Farnden bypass in 1978–79 and that the Ffynnongroew bypass and Bangor-on-Dee bridge, costing about £1½ million each, can be started in the coming year. I think that this go-ahead council is to be congratulated on the way it gets on with the job of solving its transport problems. Industrialists in that area will, I know, welcome the attention being paid to improving access to the M6.
In North Wales, too, the port of Holyhead clearly has an assured future, although we were all disappointed by the decline in the container traffic and the troubles to do with Ireland. However, British Rail has already undertaken major investments in the port and is building a new multi-purpose ship to come into operation next year which will help to make a better and more efficient use of the facilities at Holyhead. I know that that would be of interest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), who has over the years fought like a lion for that port. I understand that a private group is negotiating with British Rail with the objective of reopening the cattle traffic at the port. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey supports efforts in that direction.
In that part of the world—in Gwynedd—in civil aviation and with the permission of the commanding officer a good deal of use is made of RAF Valley aerodrome for special charter and business executive flights. The recent establishment of an air taxi firm will do much to encourage a better use of the facilities available in the area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) has for a long time made his position clear on Newport Docks. I can well understand the natural concern of hon. Members who represent South Wales constituencies about the decline in trade at Newport, which largely reflects the general recession. The British Transport Docks Board is confident that new traffic will be attracted to the area and that the group as a whole will quickly recover its prosperity and continue to serve not only its immediate hinterland 1489 but a much wider area as efficiently as it has done in the past.
A few words are required from me about the important matter of Rhoose Airport. I am well aware of the keen interest of all hon. Members representing constituencies in South Wales, the local authorities and many others in the future of this airport. I recollect the remarks of hon. Members for Barry (Sir R. Gower) and Carmarthen, and my hon. Friends the Members for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and Swansea, East. Strong arguments are being advanced in support of the consortium's application for Government financial assistance. However, the case did not meet the strict criteria applied to such cases.
The grant decision does not in any way prejudice the claims of Rhoose in the Government's present consideration of future civil airport strategy, because its capacity and considerable potential to handle modern aircraft and a much greater volume of traffic, both passenger and freight, are well known and will be taken fully into account. A consultative document will shortly be issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.
The motion is somewhat melodramatic and, in the true sense of the word, irresponsible. The National Party will not have to grapple with the difficult problems inherent in government in these times. The record of the Government and previous Labour Administrations in 1964 and 1966 is very creditable. Indeed, the hon. Member for Carmarthen could not speed his way along the St. Asaph Bypass, the Abergele Bypass and the Mold Bypass had it not been for the decisions made by the then Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey. Nor could we have seen the great industrial estate of Wrexham which was planned and started under the previous Labour Administration in the late 1960s.
§ Again, a Labour Government initiated work on the M4 and the Severn Bridge which led to untold advantages. One inference that could be drawn from what was said by the hon. Member for Carmarthen was that he did not want the Severn Bridge but would have preferred the reincarnation of the old Mumbles tram service. That is a wretched order of priority for Wales. The hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of his speech. It was silly and totally inappropriate for what Wales requires in the decades ahead. When he reads his Cassandra-like speech tomorrow he will flush with shame. All Wales will heave a great sigh that a leader such as he should be leading the National Party and not controlling the fortunes of our country.
To sum up, I shall set out our priorities. The first must be, at a time of economic crisis, to use all moneys most effectively. We shall continue to pursue an east-west strategy in North and South Wales, while not neglecting the north-south links We appreciate the importance of our existing rail network and we shall greatly benefit from the service of the high-speed train. Because of the importance we attach to transport, and because we know that communications are vital to safeguard and create jobs, we have set up a new Transport Policy Division in the Welsh Office.
No real grounds have been advanced to persuade us to accept the terms of the motion, and I hope that the House will utterly reject it.
That this House deplores the failure of successive Governments in not creating an industrial infrastructure for Wales which includes a road, rail and air communications system and which would make possible the development of a balanced Welsh economy:—
The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 242.
|Division No. 54.]||AYES||[7.02 p.m.|
|Crawford, Douglas||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||MacCormick, Iain||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Penhaligon, David||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Farr, John||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Freud, Clement||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Thompson, George||Mrs. Margaret Bain and|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)||Mr. Douglas Henderson|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Watt, Hamish|
|Abse, Leo||George, Bruce||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Allaun, Frank||Gilbert, Dr John||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Anderson, Donald||Ginsburg, David||Ovenden, John|
|Archer, Peter||Golding, John||Padley, Walter|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gould, Bryan||Palmer, Arthur|
|Ashton, Joe||Gourlay, Harry||Park, George|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Graham, Ted||Parry, Robert|
|Atkinson, Norman||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Grocott, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Hardy, Peter||Perry, Ernest|
|Bates, Alf||Harper, Joseph||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Bean, R. E.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Radice, Giles|
|Bishop, E. S.||Heffer, Eric S.||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hooley, Frank||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Boardman, H.||Horam, John||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Booth, Albert||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Huckfield, Les||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bradley, Tom||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hunter, Adam||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Buchan, Norman||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Selby, Harry|
|Buchanan, Richard||Janner, Greville||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Jegar, Mrs Lena||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Campbell, Ian||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Short, Mrs Renee (Wolv NE)|
|Canavan, Dennis||John, Brynmor||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Sillars, James|
|Cartwright, John||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Silverman, Julius|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Small, William|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Kelley, Richard||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kerr, Russell||Snape, Peter|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kinnock, Neil||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lambie, David||Stallard, A. W.|
|Corbett, Robin||Lamborn, Harry||Stoddart, David|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lamond, James||Stonehouse, Rt Hon John|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Leadbitter, Ted||Stott, Roger|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Litterick, Tom||Strang, Gavin|
|Cronin, John||Luard, Evan||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Cryer, Bob||McCartney, Hugh||Swain, Thomas|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||McElhone, Frank||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Davidson, Arthur||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hack[...]ey C)||Mackintosh, John P.||Tierney, Sydney|
|Deakins, Eric||Maclennan, Robert||Tinn, James|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Tomney, Frank|
|Delargy, Hugh||McNamara, Kevin||Torney, Tom|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Madden, Max||Tuck, Raphael|
|Dempsey, James||Magee, Bryan||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Doig, Peter||Mahon, Simon||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marks, Kenneth||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Marquand, David||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Dufty, A. E. P.||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Ward, Michael|
|Dunn, James A.||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Watkins, David|
|Eadie, Alex||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Watkinson, John|
|Edge, Geoff||Maynard, Miss Joan||Weetch, Ken|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Meacher, Michael||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||White, James (Pollok)|
|Ennals, David||Mendelson, John||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mikardo, Ian||Whitlock, William|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Millan, Bruce||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Farr, John||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Flannery, Martin||Molloy, William||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Moonman, Eric||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Woof, Robert|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Newens, Stanley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Freeson, Reginald||Ogden, Eric||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||O'Halloran, Michael||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.