HC Deb 15 December 1980 vol 996 cc5-7
5. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the Government's observations upon the first report from the Committee on Welsh Affairs on "The Role of the Welsh Office and Associated Bodies in Developing Employment Opportunities in Wales"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have seen and heard a variety of comment but have received no formal representations.

Mr. Evans

Does the Minister realise that the bodies that have submitted evidence—the Wales TUC, the Wales CBI, the Council for the Principality and the Welsh Counties Committee—will be disappointed at the negative response to the positive suggestions made in the Select Committee report? Will he accept that it is the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales who are selling Wales short by such a poor response to a good document and not the people who demonstrate when the Prime Minister comes to Wales protected by 1,000 policemen, but who are accused of doing so?

Mr. Edwards

I can understand that the hon. Gentleman is not pleased with the response. We shall have the opportunity to debate it.

Mr. Anderson


Mr. Edwards

After Christmas. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Select Committee demanded substantial additional sums of public expenditure without attempting to cost them in any way. Nor did it fully work out the implications of the programme for the rest of the United Kingdom. The Government of the day are bound to take those considerations into account.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not Rent-a-mob in Cardiff but the steel workers of Wales who can give effect to one of the most important recommendations in the Select Committee's report—namely, that steel making should remain in Wales—and that they can do so by proving their record within the next six months?

Mr. Edwards

An important lesson was learnt at the end of last week. Only a handful of people turned out to scream in the streets of Cardiff. At the same time, the chairman of the British Steel Corporation has made it clear that he wishes to preserve Llanwern and Port Talbot because of the effectiveness of running slim line at those two plants. That is the way forward, not the screaming hooliganism of 500 or 600 people in the streets of Cardiff.

Mr. Abse

Is the Secretary of State suggesting that more people must come out on to the streets? Is that his proposition? As he has turned down the Select Committee's criticism on the failure to have any contingency plan when the 11,000 redundancies were declared, what contingency plan has he now got to meet the possibility that MacGregor has indicated that Llanwern and Port Talbot could be at risk in six months? Does he intend to sit like a hypnotised rabbit, as he did before, waiting for these dangers, or has he any plan except the passive attitude that he and the Prime Minister have continually adopted towards Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I note that the hon. Gentleman is doing everything that he can to incite disruption in the steelworks in Wales. I also noted with a good deal of interest the remarks by Mr. MacGregor on television on Friday that the one thing that would finally ensure the closure of any individual plant would be if industrial disruption occurred and wrecked its performance. I can think of no worse service to the steel workers or the people of Wales than the kind of incitement to which the hon. Gentleman has given cause.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does not the Secretary of State realise that an important opportunity has been missed? Is he not aware that the frustration that was generated in Wales by his contemptuous dismissal of the first report makes more difficult the work of those of us who are genuinely trying to keep protest on a constitutional basis in Wales? It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that it is incitement if we alert him to the danger that exists. Does not his entirely negative response confirm that the Committee was, as we feared, set up as a sop to the people of Wales and was not intended to be a real challenge to the Welsh Office? When may we have a debate as a matter of urgency, not at some general time "after Christmas"?

Mr. Edwards

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that we contemptuously dismissed the report. We agreed with about one-third of the conclusions in the report, or they have already been implemented or overtaken by events. Undoubtedly, the members of the Committee seemed to visualise a rainbow with a crock of gold at the end, presumably from England, because there is nowhere else from which the resources could come. There must be a limit to the resources that the Government can inject into any part of the United Kingdom. The Government, in their first two years, are spending over £300 million on job creation schemes of one kind or another in Wales.