§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
Before that brief interruption, the House had listened to a characteristic, and characteristically over-long, speech by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). He is to the Welsh parliamentary Labour party what the The Sun newspaper is the the rest of Fleet street—without the saving grace of page 3.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) did well to remind us of the international dimension of our Welsh problems. Few Welsh problems can be solved or even alleviated by specifically Welsh measures, and few of Great Britain's problems can be helped much by specifically British measures, The best that Government policies can achieve is to enable Wales and Great Britain to take advantage of the next upturn in the world economy and—much more important, although perhaps less vote-catching —to contribute to that upturn. However, we should never lose sight of that ever-important national dimension.
It is precisely because the policies now being advocated by the Labour party, however open to debate they may be on purely domestic grounds, cannot but contribute towards making the world economic position worse that they cause so much anxiety to many of the more thoughtful Opposition Members and are rejected out of hand by all my right hon. and hon. Friends. None of us on the Conservative Benches are happy—how could we be?—with the present position in Wales, but we are immensely grateful to the Secretary of State for the battles which he has fought and won for Wales in the Cabinet. am particularly grateful to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North-West (Mr. Roberts) for accepting the new clause that I moved to the Conwy Tunnel Bill 1983 to provide for preference to be given to local labour. On that occasion I harvested the seed sown so diligently and nurtured so carefully over many years by my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts). He has toiled ceaselessly for his constituents in that matter and is now perforce reduced to ministerial silence.
We look to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do all he can in his Budget to ease the plight of those worst hit by the recession: those on low incomes and families with small children. Their needs must come before concessions to those people fortunate enough to have jobs. Although I want to see the Chancellor help industry in his Budget by cutting the national insurance surcharge, I have some considerable doubts, as will become apparent, about how far an industrial revival will cure our unemployment problems.
There is not one hon. Member who is not deeply worried by the level of unemployment in the Principality today. How could we be otherwise? It is appalling that so many children leave school with no certainly of a proper job. A man or a woman made redundant at 45 is likely never to work again. It is difficult not to become emotional in the face of such frustrated hopes and ambitions. I sometimes wish that the unemployed themselves would show more anger and less apathy. However, emotion and anger will not help solve the problem. We should do better to face the facts.
The first fact is that much of British manufacturing industry, however hard it may strive to make itself 1205 competitive with industry in the newly developing countries, is bound to succumb in the end unless we are prepared to accept the same living standards and ant-like patterns of work that exist in the countries of East Asia. We can protect ourselves against this competition for somewhat longer as a member of the EC. Unless we cease to be a trading nation—we cannot do that unless we ship half our population to Australia— a policy of protection is more likely to accelerate than postpone the catastrophe.
The second fact is that Wales is more dependent on manufacturing industry than most other parts of Great Britain. It depends particularly upon the heavy industries which are furthest down the slope of irreversible decline. Of course some firms are holding their own. It is possible, with superb management and intelligent, flexible work practices, to hold our own for a long time.
When I visit firms such as Hotpoint Ltd., Pilkington Bros., and Egatube Ltd. in my constituency, or the new firms such as Metro Optics or Chapman Metallurgical, I come away reassured about the vitality of Welsh industry. However, I also come away reflecting that they are employing fewer people now than they did for a smaller output a few years ago. There is still scope in even these most efficient firms for further cuts in manpower. It is still more sobering to know that they could increase output immensely to meet a rise in world demand without taking on an extra man or woman.
It is time to face squarely the fact that, whatever may happen to industrial production, the decline in industrial employment is irreversible. It may even be speeded up if there is a recovery in the world economy. We have not merely to face this inevitable process but to welcome and speed it up. We must stop looking to industry as a provider of jobs. Industry's function is to create wealth with the smallest possible work force. We must find other satisfying things for our people to do. I have believed for a long time that we need a vast expansion and improvement of all our social services, which are now among the most inadequate in Europe. We can do that only if people pay for the social services that they use. However, I shall not develop that theme now.
There is one industry that can provide hundreds of thousands of jobs which does not, and never will, lend itself to automation and robotisation, and which is of far greater value to this country now than it ever has been. I mean, of course, the tourist industry, in which there has been a welcome growth in recent years. I pay tribute to the work of the Wales tourist board, particularly in mid-Wales. Tomorrow the board is holding its meeting in Rhyl—for the first time, I am rather horrified to say. I shall be taking part in that meeting. The feeling in Rhyl is that the board has been hoity-toity towards Rhyl's frankly popular type of tourist trade. I hope that things will mend in that respect after this weekend and that the board will be prepared to concede some recognition and give some encouragement to those who are attempting to raise standards at the bottom end of the holiday price range.
However, all that is tinkering. The time has come to think big. I was absolutely delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about the two big projects for the tourist industry that are now to go ahead with Government help and encouragement, but both, alas, in south Wales. In north Wales, the major success story has been the Rhyl suncentre, a project that owes so much 1206 to the courage and foresight of a handful of local councillors and which owes nothing at all to Opposition Members who were Ministers in the Welsh Office in the Labour Government, who not only did nothing at all to help in that project, but did their damnedest to frighten off the merchant bankers who were backing the scheme.
Now, surely, is the time to start thinking in terms of other projects on that scale. I was delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend said about help under the urban development grants for the Rhyl town centre scheme. Rhyl now desperately needs a proper theatre to be built alongside the suncentre as phase two of the project. Further along the front is room for a properly equipped yacht marina and extensive harbour works. We have been scratching around doing odd jobs with Manpower Services Commission schemes, but the time has come to start thinking big. Such projects could provide employment for thousands during their construction and for hundreds during their operation. They would provide facilities perhaps for millions.
With its all-weather suncentre, its theatre, and its marina, Rhyl could become an all-year-round resort with facilities that few continental resorts could match. The same could be done at traditional resorts all round Wales. If there is to be a major expansion in tourism in Wales, most of it will have to be in the traditional resorts and some of it perhaps even in hitherto industrial areas, which could be developed as tourist attractions. There are strict limits to the extent to which we can further develop the tourist potential of rural Wales without spoiling its character and thus destroying the tourist attractions that take people there at present. We are a long way from reaching those limits. For example, why do we not get on with restoring the entire network of Welsh canals? At this point someone will say to me, "Yes, but where will the money come from?"
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
I am not aware that the castles are losing any of their tourist attraction. I was pleased at the campaign that was launched by the Wales tourist board to make this the year of the Welsh castle.
Someone will say to me, "Where will the money come from?" All that I can say is that we seem to manage to find hundreds of millions of pounds each year to prop up a steel industry that is still, even after all the cuts, larger than can hope to survive world competition. By deciding to keep steel making at Ravenscraig, we have almost certainly ensured that there will be a further cut in due course in steel production in Wales. We manage to find hundreds of millions of pounds to keep men working in coal mines where the seams are too thin or too deep to be mined profitably and further hundreds of millions to keep in business our nationalised car firm making Japanese models under licence and a new British model with a German gear box. What is more, as has been said by hon. Members, the hundreds of millions of pounds that have been poured in provide little in the way of new jobs.
If we gave Lord Parry and his board one tenth of what we are giving the admirable Mr. Ian McGregor or Mr. Siddall, I have no doubt that they could create many more jobs and do a lot more for human happiness than can the coal, steel or even the motor industries.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
Surely the examples that I have given my hon. Friend today of major hotel 1207 development stimulated by urban development grants give him and the inhabitants of Rhyl the lead they need. They must find proper commercial ventures that will be viable in future and bring them forward with the support of local authorities. Then we can consider whether the same stimulus can be given to such projects. It is a job not just for the tourist board and the Government but for the private sector, which should be attracted and which can do the work that my hon. Friend wants done.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
My right hon. Friend has lit the fuse. I hope that he realises the potential for expansion of the tourist industry in Rhyl and the readiness to go ahead with schemes once there is a green light. His speech and intervention will be read avidly in Rhyl. They will have an enormous effect in bolstering people's confidence. I agree that it is no good sitting back and waiting for the tourist board and the Government to do the job for one. Local enterprise and private firms must get on with it. However, they must do so in a climate of encouragement from the Government, to which my right hon. Friend has contributed in his speech.
I emerge from the debate more hopeful than when I went in. The Government are turning in a direction that will bring new hope to Wales. Their imaginative schemes are completely radical. I wish my right hon. Friend, if it be his wish, many more years in his present office in the next, the next, and the next Conservative Government.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
I do not know for how much longer the Secretary of State for Wales can bear the turmoils and burdens of his present office. If there is no drastic change in the course that Wales is taking, I think that he will be glad of any excuse to move on to greener pasture. I do not mean that in any harsh personal sense.
I appreciate the work of the Welsh Office with regard to the announcement of the vanguard areas. I am glad that Wales is ahead of England in the thinking on provision for the mentally handicapped and in moving towards their integration into the community. I hope that these schemes will be successful.
It is not because I underrate the other issues that have been mentioned by various speakers, but because of the overwhelming importance of unemployment to all our communities in Wales, that I wish to concentrate almost exclusively on this subject. I listened to the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) with interest, when he said that young people should raise their voices more. Given the desperate plight that faces them in Wales and elsewhere, it is surprising that they are not doing so. It is worrying that an element of hopelessness is creeping in. One thinks of the words of Dylan Thomas:Do not go gentle into that good night.There is a danger that people are accepting an inevitability that will break their souls and make it difficult for them to come out of this period with a base on which to build their lives and communities. More than 37,000 young people under 20 in Wales are now unemployed. That puts the matter into perspective. About 700 in the Dwyfor and Arfon area in my constituency are unemployed in this age range. From experience in my surgery I know the hopelessness with which many young people face the future.
I do not believe that unemployment is inevitable. But if there is any inevitability about the depression, we must 1208 find a better way of spreading the burden throughout the community, rather than loading it on to the 20 per cent. at the bottom of the job market, and on to young people who have had no experience of life and no basis on which to withstand the pressures of today.
I do not accept that unemployment is inevitable. There is a worldwide depression, but other small countries, some the same size as Wales, have succeeded in riding out the storm better than we have. The unemployment rate is 2.3 per cent. in Norway, 3 per cent. in Sweden, 0.5 per cent. in Switzerland, 4.4 per cent. in Austria and 2 per cent. in Greece. It is not a coincidence that the figures are low. Those countries have special policies. I was in Sweden before Christmas. When unemployment rose to over 4 per cent. there, the Government regarded that as unacceptable and introduced specific schemes to bring down unemployment. They were not willing to tolerate the social consequences that would arise from it.
In Wales there is 17 per cent. Unemployment—180,000 people are registered unemployed and 50,000 oil top of that are hidden unemployed because of the reduction in the activity rate. Thousands are on artificial jobs, which are not rewarding or enriching and which do not give much in terms of training. That is the contrast—our 17 per cent. against the 3 and 4 per cent. of some small countries which have set about tackling the problem.
The hon. Member for Flint, West said that we should not look to manufacturing industry for future employment. Perhaps it is inevitable that there will be fewer jobs for a given level of output from manufacturing industry, but I refuse to accept that unemployment is inevitable. All around us we see work to be done. I have said this before, and I shall say it again. Perhaps we should raise our voices even louder on this subject. We see houses that need to be repaired and built. We see the unfit housing conditions in which 10 per cent. and more of our people are living. We have heard about the old people in Dyfed and Powys, and it is true in my area. There is certainly a need for better housing stock.
There are certainly roads in Wales that need to be improved. All constituencies have road schemes that could go forward. There is a need for day clinics for the handicapped and the elderly. We know that there is a need for home helps, so that people can continue to live in their own homes, instead of being put into permanent homes at local authority expense—or even into hospitals.
We know that more nurses are needed in hospitals. I have seen in recent months the burden that many hospital nurses are carrying. We know that environmental schemes are necessary in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, and in rural areas. Work needs to be done to tidy up the environment. All around us we see work that needs to be done, and all around us there are people who are capable of doing that work, but we do not have a Government who are capable of bringing the two together.
Various figures have been quoted in recent years of the cost of unemployment. A few years ago the Manpower Services Commission gave the figure of £6,000 a year for a man, with two children, on the average industrial wage, that being the difference to the Treasury in terms of what had to be paid out in supplementary and unemployment benefits, on the one hand, and the loss of taxation on the other. Subsequently, lower figures have been given, but the cost of unemployment has been admitted to be about 1209 £15,000 million, and that is to pay people for doing nothing, when we could be paying perhaps a little more for people to do the work that needs to be done.
§ Mr. Michael Roberts
When the hon. Gentleman says that he looks around Wales and sees things that need to be done and people there to do them, does he accept that the community programme helps to meet that need?
§ Mr. Wigley
The community programme is starting to dabble around the edges of the problem, but it is not a coherent long-term programme. People are often taken on for a few months' work and put back on the scrapheap. The hon. Gentleman knows that, and so do I, from the young people who come to our surgeries. Often there is not adequate training, and as a result the people involved are unsuitable for long-term work afterwards. That, together with the reduction in apprenticeships, causes problems for the future in terms of skills within the community.
Instead of putting the burden of unemployment on the 20 per cent. who are out of work, is it not more morally acceptable to share the burden throughout the community? Instead of spending £5,000, on average, to keep people out of work, we should pay £6,000 or £7,000 for people to do this work, and if this means higher taxation, so be it. We should accept higher taxation to ensure that the people who are out of work get work. The burden of the depression should be shouldered by all the people in the community and not put on the shoulders of those who are least capable of bearing it, particularly the young. Here is a challenge for both this and future Governments. It is not good enough to say that unemployment is inevitable, that there is a worldwide recession, that we have to live with it and allow a whole generation to be blighted.
I therefore make a plea for a change in policy, even at the price of higher taxation, if we are to obtain a more acceptable solution to the problem. Although jobs are being lost in manufacturing industry, wealth is still being created. We must ask how that wealth is to be recycled throughout the community. Jobs will be available in building robots, microprocessors and all the capital equipment that is needed for the technological revolution that is taking place. That, too, is a challenge, and we must ensure that we in Wales have our share of the investment that is taking place and the jobs that will result.
When the industrial revolution took place a couple of hundred years ago and there was a move from agriculture to industry, there were, of course, people who suffered in the interim, but in the end it did not mean that everyone was out of work. The same is true now. Certainly there may be arguments for a lower retiring age, and there may be arguments in some industries, for example, mining, for bringing it down to 55, but there is no argument for saying that young people between the ages of 16 and 20 should carry the burden that we, as a community, should face.
There are specific matters to which we in Wales should apply ourselves to overcome the unemployment problems. First—and this is something that I mentioned on Monday at Question Time—the Welsh Development Agency needs a sharp shake-up. I do not say that as a critic of the concept of the Welsh Development Agency. I have pressed for it over the past 10 to 15 years. Nevertheless, its performance has not been adequate. The report from which I quoted 1210 briefly on Monday is fairly devastating. It is the Larsen Sweeney report—a consultants' report—and it was quoted in the magazine Atlantic of November 1982. It said:Of the various development organisations in the United Kingdom the Scottish Development Agency was regarded as being the most capable, followed by the Northern Ireland agency. The English agencies were generally regarded as being incompetent and the Welsh Development Agency was the subject of the most anecdotal amusement".That is not good enough. The Secretary of State denied the reports in the Western Mail, but whatever he denies in this Chamber, I hope that a shake-up is taking place so that the agency will have a more interventionist and positive role.
The WDA has three functions. Two of them any fool can get on with. Given an adequate budget, any fool can build empty factories. Equally, it is straightforward to clear up environmental mess and improve the landscape. Those are simple functions as long as one has the money. If one bungles that, one really should get the sack. The vital function of creating economic and employment regeneration is where the challenge lies, and that is where so far the WDA has failed. We need to look at the guidelines of the WDA, and its plan and strategy, and build on them. I do not say that as a criticism, but when words such as the ones that I quoted appear in magazines around the world it is time to put our house in order and start building the economy in Wales.
I want to refer to a couple of specific matters. The first involves the Government's attitude to European grants. I have mentioned before additionality, the fact that grants from the European regional development fund are being subsumed in London into a total pool and are not specifically additional to be earmarked for specific projects in Wales and elsewhere. In fact, only for housing projects in Northern Ireland have these funds been used in an additional way. This is fundamental if we are to get any benefit from the EC structures that we have. The money is meant to go to the areas that most need it, and it is meant to go in addition to whatever central Governments contribute.
Secondly, there is room for concern in Wales at the reports that came out just before Christmas that the inner city areas of England will take money from the RDF. I do not decry the needs of inner city areas in London, Birmingham or elsewhere in England, but if the limited pool of money that is available is to be spread through the inner city areas as well, to meet the problems of the inner city areas, there will be a drastic reduction of the money that is available for the development areas of Wales and elsewhere. That will be a cause of considerable concern.
A few weeks ago we had the Serpell report. That worries us in Gwynedd. I am sure that the hon. Member for Conway is anxious that the implications of the report should not come to pass. It is not just a matter of cutting out option A, which the Government have announced they are willing to do. Option B and two parts of option C are equally unacceptable. Indeed, five of the six maps are unacceptable to me. They close down the only railway in my constituency—the Cambrian coast line. Three of the six maps close down the line from Crewe to Holyhead which would be an economic devastation for Gwynedd. If the Government do not intend to do that, let them announce now that all the options that have such unacceptable elements in them are out of court so that this uncertainty can be ended, because uncertainty is one of the devastating factors that holds back economic regeneration in my area. The percentage of the GDP going towards the 1211 railways in the United Kingdom compared with other countries shows that we are putting less money than we should into this vital function.
We have seen a reduction in the areas that receive regional development aid and within those areas a reduction of the percentage of aid available. I do not want to make too much of that. There are elements more important than the percentage investment grant. Nevertheless, the Government trend has been away from regional policy and they have not replaced that with any other policy.
The result of Government policy in my area over the past three years has been the almost complete elimination of the manufacturing base. We have lost the SCM typewriter factory at Porthmaogd; the Alphacast aluminium factory at Penygroes; the Bernard Wardle factory in Caernarfon; the ARO engineering factory; Caernarfon: the ADG Fibres factory; and the Compact factory in Caernarfon. This week has seen a question mark hanging over Ferodo which has been the bright jewel in the crown of regional development for the last 20 years. If Ferodo were to go I should have virtually no manufacturing industry left in my constituency.
It is no use the Secretary of State coming to the Dispatch Box and saying that the Government have built so many factories under the WDA programme. The reality is that male unemployment in my area stands at 24 per cent. Factories are closing and they are not being replaced to absorb the youth unemployment to which I have referred.
We have known that 2,000 jobs in the CEGB scheme at Dinorwig have been running down, yet we have not had the wit to ensure that the equivalent number of jobs will be provided, when that was within the Government's planning capability. The Conwy tunnel is going ahead and I accept that there is a clause that will lead to the maximisation of local jobs. I welcome that. I would only say, perhaps teasingly, to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts), that when we discussed such a contract in relation to the Bangor bypass the Welsh Office was not quite so keen on having such conditions then. I say to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North-West (Mr. Roberts) that it is no use having such clauses in Bills unless they are carried through in practice. At Dinorwig the scheme manager Iorwerth Ellis was determined to make this work in practice. It lies in the Government's hands when putting contracts out for road schemes to make sure that that works in practice.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that I gave full support to his predecessor, the late Lord Goronwy Roberts, to put the clause into the Dinorwig Bill which provided that the CEGB would use its best endeavours to employ local labour on the scheme. It is our experience, as my hon. Friend will, I am sure, confirm when he replies to the debate, that most road works employ between 75 and 80 per cent. of local labour and we have no reason to think that that is not the case for the Bangor bypass.
§ Mr. Wigley
The hon. Gentleman might have reason to think that but the Transport and General Workers Union has reason to think otherwise and that argument is better understood by the TGWU than by the hon. Gentleman in relation to the Bangor bypass.
1212 The one growth sector in Gwynedd over the past year or so has been related to the advent of the S4C television channel, where we have seen about 200 jobs, either directly or indirectly arising from as many as 30 companies which produce programmes for the Welsh television channel. That has been a great success, not only as a channel, but in creating work. It is a limited success but it shows that in an area such as Gwynedd—and this is true for other parts of Wales as well—we need not necessarily look to manufacturing or tourist industries to solve our problems. One has only to imagine how many television channels there are operating at this moment all around the world to see that programmes need to be generated at an equal pace. Wales has the scenery, the mountains, the climate and the sea. Moreover Wales has a tradition in the verbal arts which goes well with radio and television broadcasting. Not only could we produce television programmes for S4C but we could build on that basis to produce television programmes and films for channels all around the world. That would ideally suit an area such as mine.
We are putting millions of pounds into petrol refineries and so on and a fraction of that money would be a pump-priming exercise of tremendous benefit to areas such as mine. There is a challenge here which the Government have not met. They are willing to live with the excuse that unemployment is inevitable. We in Plaid Cymru are not. We are determined that something should be done about it.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)
I listened with close attention and much interest to the Secretary of State presenting his list of activities, projects and works of various kinds which seem to be springing up across the whole length and breadth of Wales. While I would not be quite so frank as the right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) in accusing the Secretary of State of simply dressing the shop window preparatory to a general election, I must say that I found the list distinctly odd. As I listened to him spell out the list a conundrum began to form in my mind which I am afraid to say I have been unable to resolve, and I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to do so. That conundrum concerns an apparent paradox in the Government's policy. I want to spend two or three minutes trying to explain that paradox.
I start by quoting from a statement issued last week by the chairman of the Clwyd county council finance committee drawing attention to unemployment in Clwyd. I should say that county councillors in Clwyd are for the most part sensible, reasonable and moderate men. I would go far as to say that they are wise men. They are not like Ken Livingstone. We do not have such councillors in my county, I am happy to say. I know the chairman of the finance committee and I have a considerable regard for him. He is a sensible fellow. When he makes such statements it causes one to wonder a little about the position we are getting into. He talks about the unemployment figures and says that they are shocking and have reached an all-time record for the county. Then he goes on to say:Taking into account the number of people on temporary unemployment relief schemes, we can now say that one in four of the County's workforce are without permanent jobs.1213 If the rest of Wales is like Clwyd we are more or less approaching the position of the great depression in the late-1920s and early-1930s. That is a serious position. In trying to explain that grave position some hon. Members have referred to the international situation, saying that it is an international economic problem. I am the first to accept that the rest of the world must have an important bearing on a country such as Britain, which has for long been a trading nation.
Given any set of international circumstances, Governments can try either to alleviate the position or to compound it. This Government are compounding the already grave international position. Not only are there no signs from the Government that they are trying to do anything about that international state of affairs, but there is evidence that they are pouring cold water on any attempt to do anything.
To discuss this compounding by the Government of an already grave position, I shall quote the last sentence in the leading article of The Times of Tuesday about economic policy. I do not wish to misrepresent the article but, in a sense, it juxtaposes decreasing inflation on the one hand with decreasing unemployment on the other. Perhaps I have over simplified it. I shall give the flavour of the article by quoting the last sentence. Before I read the quotation I must tell the House that I have been an avid reader of The Times for many years. I have always regarded it as a good newspaper but in recent year—certainly under the new proprietorship and the new editorship —it seems as if it is adopting the role it had in the 1930s as an unofficial voice of the Conservative Government of the day. With that as a preface, I shall read the sentence:In the long run, emphasis on full employment as the Government's major economic objective is misplaced; in the short run, it would undermine the climate of responsible collective bargaining on which simultaneous progress towards higher employment and lower inflation can be based.That is a remarkable sentence. It gives rise to many matters, not only economic, but social and political.
The article refers to a "natural" level of employment. It quotes Professor Friedman referring to this "natural" level which is necessary in order adequately and efficiently to regulate wage and incomes demands. One must ask "What is the 'natural' level?" Is it 3 million; 3 s½ million; or 4 million? It appears that we have not yet reached the "natural" level, but perhaps we can take a stab in the dark and say that 4 million will be the "natural" level for this country.
This is where the paradox to which I referred comes in. The Government, open advocates of monetarism and Professor Friedman's policies, are aiming for a "natural" level of 4 million or whatever, while at the same time we have the Secretary of State for Wales trotting out a list of things that he will do in Wales to secure exactly the opposite. That is the paradox that I cannot resolve and which I hope the Under-Secretary, when he replies to the debate, will try to explain.
If that is the policy — there is overwhelming evidence that it is the policy—the economic defeatism is breathtaking. The problems that follow and arise from it in the late 20th century are enormous. In a speech last week, the leader of the Liberal party referred to the unemployment rates in the constituencies. Apparently, the Library has worked out the unemployment rate for each 1214 constituency in the country. It is a remarkable fact that of the 100 worst hit constituencies, only four have Conservative Members. Of the 100 best constituencies, only one has a Labour Member.
We are becoming two nations geographically and territorially in a way Disraeli would never have dreamt of. There are all manner of problems if that is the policy. My clear inference from what the Secretary of State said is that it is a matter of cosmetics. I know that we have had cosmetics on regional policy for a long time but never as blatantly as today. That is not to say that I do not welcome these schemes. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred to the importance of the scheme in south Cardiff and Swansea. The schemes are important, but in comparison with the position in Wales, they are a nonsense. I like a bit of scent and a bit of rouge but I would not rely on scent and rouge for the rest of my life.
I shall make one further philosophic point before I get down to brass tacks—sometimes I am accused of trotting out a homespun philosophy. That policy will not work and nor, for that matter, will the ramshackle contrivance of the Labour party which, even if it starts, will end up with a command economy as in the Eastern bloc. Neither will work because in Britain today we no longer have a self-confident ruling class certain of its own mores and able to impose its authority on a docile proletariat. Nor do we have a popular leadership basing its authority on a consensus and mass following that it has inspired. That is the basic reason why both policies will not work. I shall not go further in spelling out the policy that I think would work because that is another theme.
I shall now come down to earth having given, as I see it, a broad vision of the Government's position. I shall quote from my county two specific examples to try to illustrate what is happening at the receiving end, as a consequence of the Government's policy compounding even greater problems beyond our shores. One is a well-known example about bus fares which has had a great deal of publicity. The second example has not yet had the publicity it deserves and concerns the proportion of children who leave school at the age of 16.
Because essentially of Government policy, responsible councillors in Clwyd were obliged to withdraw subsidies to bus fares. Parents were having to pay for their children to travel distances of two and a half miles along main roads without pavements. We had a debate in the House on the matter. The amount involved is about £5 a week—98p a day return fare from one village. One single-parent family with three children going to school has a total income of £74 a week and was obliged to spend £15 to send its children to school. No parent with children at Eton college spends a greater proportion of his or her income than that single-parent family spends to send the children to school in Wrexham.
Since then we have had minor concessions from the county council. Another bus arrangement has come along and fares are lower, but the county council is intending to prosecute 18 parents who, because they feel so deeply aggrieved, refuse to send their children to school. We have had universal free education since 1870. The county council is now in an impossible position. I do not blame the county council; it is at its wits' end. While I welcome the fact that we are to have marinas and hotels, they are not much use right across the whole of Wales.
1215 My second example concerns children leaving school. Some concern is felt among councillors in Clwyd that children at the age of 16 ordinarily would have gone on to further education to take A-levels and then to go on to college. For financial reasons, just as we experienced in the 1920s and 1930s, they are obliged to leave school and claim supplementary benefit. Unfortunately, there are no official statistics and perhaps it would be difficult to obtain statistics, but the county's considered assessment is about eight to 12 pupils per secondary school. There are 34 secondary schools in the county. Therefore, we are talking about 300 to 400 children per annum who leave school simply because of the financial situation facing their families. As far as I know, the same is true elsewhere, and if the figure is multiplied for the whole of Wales, it shows that the Government have led us to yet another disaster.
However, I welcome what I take to be an increasing emphasis on the part of the development agency towards developing a greater entrepreneurial role. Last Monday, the Secretary of State answered one of my questions. I was dismayed to find that the proportion of the agency's total investment in purchasing holdings was on average, over the past three years, 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. in manufacturing industry and about 0.3 per cent. or 0.5 per cent. in the service industries. Now that the Secretary of State has started a new policy, or is reconsidering the policy, I take it that there will be a substantial improvement. For historical reasons there is no, or very little, indigenous capital in Wales. That is one of the big differences between England and Wales. Because of that lack of indigenous capital, it is vital that the agency should undertake a role that would not be quite so crucial if it were the agency for England.
I hope I am wrong to say that the Secretary of State is merely dressing the shop window. I hope that he has the position in Wales much closer to his heart than that. However, with the two examples that I have given—and there are many more that I could give—I have demonstrated to the House the seriousness of the situation that Wales finds itself in in 1983.
§ Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, North)
No doubt other hon. Members know, but I wonder why we are holding a debate on Wales today and not nearer St. David's day. I am probably the only hon. Member not to have spotted the reason. However, as Welsh debates often are, the debate has been interesting, if a little repetitive, as we have learnt each other's styles. Indeed, the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) gave us a typical turn out this evening. Parts of his speech sounded like the first draft for the European Federalist, or some other such publication.
Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman made a thoughtful speech, which is much more than can be said for the speech of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). It was arrogant, ignorant, shallow and unpleasant. It was shallow, in particular, because it made that very dangerous claim that any action was better than the present action, and whether it succeeded or failed seemed to be immaterial. He will remember the radical proposals and policies put into force by President Mitterrand in France—a man of considerable intellect—which he had to reverse fairly sharply when he found that the laws of mathematics worked in France just as anywhere else.
The hon. Gentleman made a dangerous sort of speech and claimed—as do other Opposition Members—that only 1216 he cared about the disadvantaged, the unemployed and the disabled, and that only he was concerned about the cause of peace and the maintenance of world peace. That is an objectionable attitude, which we utterly reject. For that reason his speech was a disservice to the people of Wales. It painted pictures and smeared smears that do nothing for the people of Wales other than to raise their expectations, only to dash them.
The right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) was clearly a little winded by the Secretary of State's opening speech, but he recovered in good style and showed himself to be grudging of the service industries. He showed that he still gave a knee-jerk approval to the manufacturing as opposed to the service industries. He made a snide comment about the growth of imports from other EC countries without, of course, spelling out his party's policy that Britain should leave the Community. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower), he implied that he did not understand that modern technology could provide people with telephones in slightly out-of-the-way places, just as they have been provided in the United States of America, Canada and other large countries.
The right hon. Gentleman is obviously worried, like other Opposition Members, about plans for privatising the non-medical aspects of the National Health Service. That plan is supported almost universally by Conservative Members because it would give a better service to patients, break the power of certain trade unions and provide a better return for the taxpayer. That is a considerable benefit all round. One need only consider the strikes that the right hon. Gentleman had to put up with when he was in office, when laundry workers and others did not service the hospitals, to realise the damage that can be done.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made an absolutely smashing speech. As a Member of Parliament for part of Cardiff, how could I say other than that? The granting of the urban development grant for the hotel is a shot in the arm, along with the work that will be carried on towards the south of the city and in Bute town. Although the hotel will be in my constituency, there will obviously be a major effect towards the port side of the city. The hotel will have about 200 beds and will provide work for about 175 full-time staff and many more part-time staff. It will take 18 months to two years to build. It is reckoned that there will be a spin-off of about £1.5 million over and above the direct value of the hotel and the business that it will bring in. It begins to make the St. David's centre a realistic conference venue.
At present we have only about 1,000 hotel beds in Cardiff. We have a 2,000-seat convention centre. We need that hotel to make Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, a true international centre. We are now on course for that. With the recent hotels that have been built and this hotel—as well as the new hotels that we hope for—with our communications, fine roads, railways and the airport, we are now on track. In addition, new industries have been brought in. Further, the Secretary of State mentioned our facilities such as our fine theatres, our opera company, the art galleries and all the other amenities. Cardiff is a fine place to go to and to work in, as well as to attend for conferences.
The spin-off from this development will have a major effect in south Wales. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) will know that, as it is only about 15 minutes 1217 away from Cardiff, the spin-off for Newport will be substantial and its satellite position in relation to Cardiff will begin to work to its benefit.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, our two university colleges, university hospital and polytechnic of Wales, as well as the major institute of higher education and its various colleges in Cardiff, provide a cultural, scientific and technical basis of which we ought to take considerable advantage.
I should be grateful if my hon. Friend in summing up the debate could say something about the ship simulator run by UWIST and the South Glamorgan institute of higher education—a putative bid to become the focus of what one might call a United Nations university of the sea. He may or may not be aware of this particular matter. If he is, I should be interested to hear of it this evening.
We have a third enterprise zone under consideration. I know that the Cardiff council is not particularly keen on this enterprise zone, for reasons which I can only too easily guess. I myself believe that an enterprise zone centred between Cardiff and Newport or in that area would again have an effect in attracting industry and encouraging along that M4 corridor the sort of new firms which we so badly need and which my right hon. Friend has been bringing into Wales with such success.
All this means that we ought to have confidence in what is being done, that at least in Cardiff, in south Wales, along the coastal belt, we ought to be able to say we have a winner, we have growth points, we have the brains, we have the capacity and the facilities. This is an area which we can go out and sell. That is the message we ought to be sending from Wales again and again.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) mentioned that the S4C and its technical spin-offs were beginning to bring work into his constituency. That is precisely what modern technology can do. That is what freeing British Telecom and all the rest of it is, in the long term, about: it is about providing modern industry in this country rather than buying it in from other countries. We have not just a Welsh gift, but a native British creative impulse in writing, in films, in television and in the creative arts and we ought to be taking advantage of all that. If we could make the electronic goods and then write them, film them and sell them round the world, we would have an integrated unit of which in Wales we would certainly be well placed to take advantage.
Some aspects of publicity we could well do without. I refer to this ridiculous nuclear-free zone programme which the county councils are putting about. My own in south Glamorgan, I regret to say, is spending several thousands of pounds promoting the concept and, in particular, distributing a simply dreadful little leaflet on "South Glamorgan and Nuclear Weapons", a combination I had not readily considered. It saysWhy I should read this leaflet",and tells me thatI will learn what is at stake.That is one thing that I will not learn if I read it because it makes no mention of the reasons why we must have a defence policy in this country, a policy which has been followed since the war by all parties.
The leaflet refers to the effect of a nuclear weapon being exploded over Cardiff. It does not indicate whose weapon it might be or what the threat is. It gives the 1218 impression that the greatest danger comes from American nuclear weapons, but we all know that that is not really so. Nevertheless, that is the tone of this pamphlet. It asks what its readers can do. It says they can take part in demonstrations. I am sure that the police and the ratepayers who pay for the police will be pleased to hear that the county council is encouraging us to take part in demonstrations and marches.
Nuclear weapons, the pamphlet says, must be dismantled. Is it the business of a county council to interfere in matters which are more properly taken care of by Parliament at national level rather than at local, county level? What business is it of a county council to tell me to contact the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, Women for Life On Earth, whoever they are, and similar bodies? County councils have no business to meddle in matters such as these which they clearly either do not understand or wilfully choose to misrepresent to the public. Their role is to sell the very real advantages of their areas of Wales to the outside world. If they assist in doing that, we will bring in work, we will make our universities places that people want to attend and we will begin to acquire for south Wales the reputation of being a cultural, scientific and technical growth area.
South Wales has factories and ports—ports, incidentally, with shareholder workers enjoying the benefits of denationalisation. I should like to know whether the Labour party intends to take those shares away from the workers. This is where the jobs will be provided. Once we are able to convince people—I suggest that we start with our colleagues in the House—that Wales is not a whingeing country that is always wanting and demanding, but one with something to sell, people will look back at the end of the century and regard these as the last of the bad days in Wales.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
Even longer than 10 years ago, but more particularly in the 1975 Common Market referendum campaign the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) and others were painting a vision of the Common Market in which hundreds of thousands of new jobs would be created—a bonanza in which Wales would be joining. Instead, we have suffered an avalanche of manufactured imported goods. The floodgates have been opened. We are paying for many of those goods with North sea oil revenues. In the process, our own people are being put on the dole. The Common Market itself, as a trading entity, now has an unemployment level of 12 million.
All that the House heard today from the hon. Member for Flint, West was gloom and doom. His remarks show how the hon. Gentleman and many of his colleagues misled the British people. Wales is suffering from unemployment worse than that of the 1930s. At that time its people could move to places like Birmingham. To paraphrase the Secretary of State for Employment, who is well known for his literacy, people could get on their bikes. Now, however, the midlands is becoming an industrial wasteland. Unemployment is engulfing most of the country. Even the south-east of England has an unemployment level of about 10 per cent.
The Government have the levers of power in their hands but prefer to do nothing. The United Kingdom is a wealthy country. It has enormous North sea revenues that no 1219 previous Government in our history have enjoyed. However, to listen to the Prime Minister one would think that the situation was everyone's fault but hers. One day, it is the world crisis. The next, it is the American economy. It can be the trade unions. It can be OPEC. It is never the Iron Lady. After all, she is only the Prime Minister.
The Government fiddle around when the whole economy has almost gone up in flames. They make Nero look like a second-rate performer. As usual, poor little Wales is suffering more than most. We have a dreadful January 1983 unemployment figure of 180,664, an increase of 103,487 since May 1979 and the fateful general election when the Government took over. All the predictions and all the commentators are saying that this figure will go higher, certainly over the 200,000 mark.
If we were to face the tragedy of this Government being re-elected, what would happen to the Welsh coal industry, the steel industry, and, with the Serpell report on the national rail structure, what would happen to the Welsh railways? As I said earlier from a sedentary position, we would be left with our castles—at least they will be a good tourist attraction.
On Monday, during Welsh questions, much of the time was, quite rightly, devoted to the terrible problem of unemployment. I asked about male unemployment in the Newport travel-to-work area and I was told that it was 18.8 per cent., a terrible figure for Newport. I know too, that more job losses are in the pipeline as the steel redundancies, for instance, announced a few months ago, start to take effect. This is happening in Newport, which is virtually the industrial capital of Wales, with such a favourable geographical location on the eastern seaboard, motorway links to the midlands and the south of England, railway networks, an efficient port and a major centre for the steel industry and for a host of leading multinational companies. Yet the Government have brought us to the point where 18.8 per cent. of the male population are unemployed, with more unemployment to come.
I was particularly concerned about my question on the 18.8 per cent. unemployment in the Newport travel-to-work area because the following morning, as I was escorting a party around the House, I was handed a note that told me that the Rogerstone aluminium works was to make a further 350 men redundant. This works employs men only on the shop floor. Surely the Secretary of State must have known beforehand about this development, when answering questions on the previous afternoon.
If the Secretary of State did know about those job losses, why was he not frank with the House? He would have been better thought of if he had been so. In my infancy, I was taught, as many hon. Members must have been, that it is better to speak the truth and shame the devil. What is more, this is not the first time that this has happened. Some months ago we had a similar incident over the redundancies in the steel industry.
If the Secretary of State is claiming that no one had told him beforehand about the redundancies at Alcan, that is incompetence on a fairly monumental scale. He is, after all, the Minister in the Cabinet responsible for Welsh affairs. Surely he is told well in advance about such developments, particularly when 350 jobs are to go in such a vital industry as aluminium. One can conclude that the Secretary of State is displaying either a lack of integrity in failing to be frank with the House, or incompetence in failing to keep himself abreast of what is happening to the 1220 industries of Wales. Either way, the indictment is formidable. On Monday, I called for the resignation of the Secretary of State for Wales. I repeat that request this evening.
The Secretary of State is misleading the people about job creation. The information I give the House was given to me by the leader and chief officers of Newport council. They are all people of the highest possible integrity. They point out that, following the slimline operation at Llanwern, £48 million was allocated by the Welsh Office for the creation of 4,000 new jobs. Currently 210 jobs have been created. I understand that we shall be lucky if 1,000 jobs are created by the end of the year. What a puny contribution that is bearing in mind the fact that Newport has lost about 10,000 jobs. Large sums of money are needed from the Welsh Development Agency and from the Government if our people are to have any chance of working. Massive expansion is needed, commencing in the public sector.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) said that much needs to be done, be it in housing, hospitals or roads. Llanwern is crying out for investment in Concast. Why not revive the idea of an oil terminal for Llanwern? Now is the time to carry out such projects in a Period of depression when labour is available. Some Conservative Members will say, "How are we going to pay for all this?" When a Labour Government are elected, they will borrow, as does every sensible private enterprise.
According to the Government, the country can afford approximately £10 billion for Trident, a worthless investment if ever there was one. Under Labour's plan, as the economy expands and unemployment falls, spending on benefits will fall and our tax revenues will rise. This in turn will cut borrowing. What has been borrowed will be paid back by the extra wealth produced. That surely must be a better way than paying out £15 billion annually on dole payments. Our principal objective should be that it is better to pay people to do something than to pay them to do nothing.
§ Dr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)
Although he AS not in the Chamber, I shall follow some of the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis). We have heard many disquieting reports about the ability and performance of Welsh 16-year-olds during the past few years. Most countries with which we are and will be in competition when the recession ends are putting far greater effort into planned training and education for that group, and continental countries are far more industry-conscious and industry-based than we are in Wales. The skills and competences learnt at school are not all that easily translated into the work context. Initial work experience must be far better planned and structured in Wales. Demand for engineers and scientific technologists will increase as the demand for semi-skilled and unskilled workers will fall. One asks oneself: is Wales prepared for such changes? Even during a deep depression, jobs are being created, but they are increasingly specialised jobs and the broader the base of the skills and adaptability of young people, so they will be better equipped to keep afloat in a world of immense change.
Thereby hangs a great question over the style and success of present methods. However, we cannot dissociate the education of children aged between 1l and 16 from the education of those aged between 16 and 19.
1221 The Manpower Services Commission has helped to impress upon the powers that be the long-term traumatic effects of youth unemployment, and we have had figures today of the number of people aged below 19 who are unemployed in Wales.
To leave formal education at 16 and to drift aimlessly, as many people in Wales do, is depressing because there is no alternative. It is a cynical, cruel and, for many people, a calamitous age. They must be encouraged to stay on in education and must be offered a blend and combination of skills and interests for a wide range of employment. We have not concentrated enough upon those aspects in Wales, because far too many parents believe that preparation for employment is no education at all. Our traditions die hard, but in that slow death our whole economic outlook is suffering. The present recession has shown a lack of vocational guidance in its stark reality. It is now obvious that increasing youth employment is a major promoter of educational innovation.
In a recently published review of education in Wales, the secretary of the Welsh joint education council commented both widely and wisely. He emphasised the dire needs not so much of the children who need remedial education as of those not considered worthy to sit CSE examinations. That group is disenchanted with school and practically everything related to education and learning. For those children schools have failed to design a relevant curriculum, and they are being unloaded on to the hard and competitive world of work, or, as is more usual these days, the world of no work. They have nothing to show for having gone through the motions of attending school between the ages of 5 and 16. We have heard many times in the House, in another context, of the 13 wasted years. Thousands of boys and girls throughout Wales have experienced 11 wasted years.
The supply of detailed information about schools to parents will not solve the problem for those forgotten regions on whom the minimum of money is spent and who have suffered from the cuts most severely of all. With declining resources in schools, we are in a catch-22 position. We are still suffering from the merger of the grammar schools with the secondary moderns to form comprehensives. Oil and water when shaken forcibly appear to mix, only to separate again when allowed to settle. We know which section floats to the top in all cases, and we know which section the Government encourage to float to the top, possibly with many of them waving their education vouchers.
Despite the Secretary of State's effort to divert our attention to unemployment in West Germany, that country had a long way to go to catch up with Britain, because we had two years' start on the unemployment ladder. Our unemployment rate, whichever figures are used—sets of figures appear to be concocted every other month—has grown at twice the pace of that of the OECD as a whole. Manufacturing output is now fully 20 per cent. below that of 1979 and the slump has left much viable capacity destroyed beyond recovery. Obstructing our rate and capacity of recovery will be skill shortages. Apprenticeships in our industries are fully 40 per cent. below their level at the beginning of the slump. No economic prediction can be found that heralds other than 1222 continuing escalation of those out of work. The predictions only emphasise the persistent obstinacy that refuses to help British industry break loose from the monetarist shackles.
When the recovery comes, our lack of preparation will see us flounder. The West Germans, for example, have had a shorter and less penetrating recession than ours and they will have a platform from which they can again leave us at the starting gate. Our participation in recovery, signs of which are visible in such places as Detroit, will be so slight and ineffective that there will be no cut in those out of work. They are the ones who have suffered above all in the diminution of living standards.
The Government will not accept that those in poverty must be given priority. It is that for which they are crying out. In a Welsh Grand Committee debate exactly two years before the 1979 general election the present Secretary of State stated that small businesses formed a dominant part of the Welsh economy.
That discussion took place against a background of continuing high unemployment, which the right hon. Gentleman said could get worse. One never thought that his powers of foresight and prognostication had reached such a height of accuracy and perception, for matters have most certainly become worse. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the number of small firms in Wales that have gone to the wall. He described the then Labour Government's economic record over three years as "sombre". Finding an adjective to describe how much blacker and more dejected the present Government's three and a half years' handling of the economy is well nigh impossible.
The right hon. Gentleman described the unemployment figures in his constituency in 1977 as "horrific". They are even more horrific now. For nearly two thirds of the time since 1977 he has been in charge of the Welsh economy. He concentrated upon the construction industry in Wales, which at that time had one sixth of the total work force of 80,000 out of work. In that industry upwards of half the labour force has now been out of work for very lengthy periods. In the 1977 debate the right hon. Gentleman said:there are still too many advance factories standing empty around Wales of the wrong size, built in the wrong place. They are monuments to the failures of the Government's economic policies.So the right hon. Gentleman summed up his criticism of the Labour Government's handling of the economy in the spring of 1977. He prophesied his Government's inept attitudes towards Wales with remarkable accuracy. Today Wales suffers in a way that has not been experienced since the 1930s.
I complete my speech by reminding the right hon. Gentleman again of what he said in the 1977 debate. It is relevant that six years later we should be going through a more critical period. He said:We hold this debate against a background of continuing high unemployment … Our debates on economic affairs during the Government's period in office have provided a sombre story. The picture that we are considering is one of a great sector of the Welsh economy labouring under huge difficulties … Many of those difficulties are due to recession and the general mismanagement of the economy".— [Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee; 25 May 1977, c. 12–19.]The right hon. Gentleman had that to say about the Labour Government in 1977. That could hardly be improved as an epitaph on the Secretary of State's own stewardship of Wales between May 1979 and February this year.
§ Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)
A large and increasing number of my constituents in Gower are experiencing a dramatic fall in living standards as a result of involuntary unemployment. A satisfactory measure of that decline was given to me on 25 January by the Minister for Social Security. He said that the unemployment benefit for a single person at the standard rate introduced in November 1982 represented only 17.6 per cent. of the average earnings in Wales. In the same reply, he said that the unemployment benefit for a married couple was only 28.5 per cent. of average earnings in Wales. That is its lowest level since 1951.
During the Government's term of office, unemployment has not simply risen at an unhealthy rate, it has become a chronic disease that has debilitated the morale of working men and women. It has brought a feeling of despair to those people who, through no fault of their own, face the endless misery of life on the dole.
The Secretary of State for Wales has provided me with the most up-to-date figures of long-term unemployment in the Principality. In Wales, 68,364 people have been unemployed for more than one year. That represents a staggering rise of 200 per cent. since October 1979. The number of people in Wales who have not had jobs for more than two years has increased at a rate of 165 per cent. to 30,325.
My constituency lies in the county of west Glamorgan. That county has suffered a faster rise in long-term unemployment than any other county in Wales. Of the age groups for which the Secretary of State provided me with figures, that of people between 25 and 45 is the worst affected. While 1,709 of that age group were classified as long-term unemployed in October 1979, the latest figure stands at 6,364. After two years on the dole, harsh discriminatory treatment awaits them, as only to the long-term unemployed is accorded the unenviable stigma of ineligibility for the higher long-term rate of supplementary benefit.
I shall resist the temptation to analyse the theoretical aridity of pursuing national economic policies that depend on the unstable relationship between the quantity theory of money that has been resurrected since the days of Irving Fisher in the early 1920s, the abolition of exchange control and unfair foreign competition. Instead, I shall use two practical examples from my own constituency to highlight where the Secretary of State for Wales must defend his corner and that of Welsh interests in the Cabinet.
The first example is that of Teddington Bellows of Pontarddulais. Eighteen months ago, that company was vying with Paul Wurth of Luxembourg for a replacement order for tuyere stocks for the blast furnaces at the British Steel Corporation plant at Scunthorpe. Paul Wurth won the order because it was cheaper, but whereas Teddington Bellows would have used British steel, Paul Wurth used French steel. As a result, potential and hoped-for expansion was stifled at Teddington Bellows, followed by redundancies and a four-day week.
My second example is even more immediate. On Friday last week, redundancies were announced at IMI Titanium, including its Waunarlwydd plant. Although the plant is just inside the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), many of my constituents work in it. The CEGB has inflicted a terrible blow on the morale of my constituency. It has placed a 1224 very significant order for 120 tons of titanium condenser welded tube for the Dungeness nuclear power station with an American competitor. IMI Titanium was given no opportunity to requote.
That is a classic example of a high technology British industry, a leader in its field and able to compete with any titanium producer in the world, being forced into a desperate struggle for survival due to unfair competition. Our American friends impose a 17 per cent. ad valorem tariff on British titanium products entering the United States and an absolute ban on the use of British titanium for United States defence contracts. If the United States operates such blatantly unfair trading practices, why should a British company he dealt such a hammer blow by a publicly owned British industry? Why do the Government stand idly by? Is the price saving to the CEGB greater than the cost of keeping 400 men and their families on the dole?
I hope that the Secretary of State has learnt from the experience of Teddington Bellows. The people of Gower now expect action from him to avoid unnecessary loss of employment opportunities at IMI Titanium.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell), who is making a very favourable impression in the House and is working extremely hard on behalf of his constituents.
The Secretary of State for Wales is considered in the Cabinet as the Cinderella, the Prime Minister's lackey, the Shonny Bo Ochr at the Welsh Office. What is his excuse for the massive unemployment in Wales? What Jo all his fine words about caring and sharing and concern for the workless really mean? Does he propose any cure for this cancer? Has he any immediate suggestions, if not to cure, at least to curtail, the rising number of closures, redundancies and bankruptcies, of which there are so many in my constituency and throughout Wales? Nowadays we are told not weekly but daily of further redundancies and closures.
During an intervention I referred to the closure of a factory known as Brush Power at Bridgend, where 300 people will be made redundant. It is part of the Hawker Siddeley group. What efforts has the Secretary of State made to save that factory?
The right hon. Gentleman's speech was insulting, to say the least, to the people of Wales and to those who have been thrown out of work by this heartless, helpless and hopeless bunch of hypocrites. High unemployment has been deliberately contrived by the most provocative performer of personal pomposity in history—the grocer's daughter herself. That woman is determined to crush the trade union movement and workers of this country; to subject them to such degradation and defeat that they will be for ever subservient to her and the state.
On Monday, during Welsh Questions, the Secretary of State was accused by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) of misleading the House. In his customary curt way the Secretary of State told my right hon. Friend to read the Official Report, where he would see that he had not misled the House. I read and re-read the Official Report and the Secretary of State did mislead the House. He used the words 1225just as employment deteriorated during the period of office of the Labour Government."—[Official Report, 7 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 618.]The matter must be put straight and the Secretary of State must apologise. The number of people employed increased under the Labour Government from 1974 to 1979. How can he say that employment deteriorated? Will he retract that and apologise for misleading the House?
For far too long we have had this indifference from this Shonny. For far too long he has treated the House with contempt. It worries me a little that the Secretary of State was once a Lloyd's man, with all the wealth that that implies behind him. He is contemptuously indifferent to those for whom he is primarily responsible. He has deliberately thrown thousands of our people out of work. He talks hypocritically about his concern for them. The only concern he feels is that there are not enough of them. His task is to please the headmistress and put more people on the dole, whether in his constituency or in mine.
We have reached breaking point. Workers in the water industry, with a strike-free record for 50 years, have felt compelled to take action to protect themselves from this bunch of hooligans, these muggers, these contemptible, hypocritical, class-conscious louts. The gas and electricity workers are raising their heads in indignation. We shall see whether they will be given the same treatment as was forcibly thrust down the throats of the Health Service workers. The pollsters should canvass them for a better and more factual picture.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
We shall not be replying to the hon. Gentleman's points in detail because they are totally worthless and not worth replying to.
§ Mr. Powell
I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman. He does not listen to reason.
It is time that the pollsters asked the 4 million people who are out of work where their crosses will go when the Prime Minister runs to the country before time. They should ask the trade union movement, the Health Service workers, the thousands of ASLEF and other railway workers, the thousands of ambulance men, the fire brigade workers, the workers in the shipyards, the steel industry workers, the miners, the hundreds and thousands of people in local government whom the Prime Minister has put out of work, the civil servants and the Inland Revenue staffs where their crosses will go.
Ask the old-age pensioners about their clawback in November. How will they vote at the next election? Ask the sick, the disabled and the socially deprived. Ask the 6½ million people who are living below the poverty line. Ask the hundreds of thousands of homeless and those who have lost their businesses or jobs because of the Government. Do this lot really believe that the polls are true? Of course they do not. However, they like to see them in the press.
At 3.19 am on Tuesday morning I initiated a debate on the effects of Government policy on the nationalised industries in Wales. I referred to the consequences of the demanning in the steel industry and the inevitable rundown 1226 of coal and other supporting industries, which resulted in the tremendous problem of unemployment. However, it was not only the Government's action that was the cause. It resulted also from the doubling of VAT, the increased bank rate and the slaughter of local government services with the consequential repercussions of higher mortgages, taxes, interest rates, rents and rates and fewer services for the old, sick and disabled. We know the extent of the monetarist policies. We know the unemployment figures. However, do we understand the suffering, indignity, frustration and impoverishment that unemployment creates? We bandy the figures about week after week and month after month. Why is it not possible to help those people? Why cannot we give them hope today? What had the Secretary of State to offer them in his speech?
I say to the House and the nation that whether it be in the Principality of Wales, the highlands or lowlands of Scotland, or in the rest of the United Kingdom, my party, ably led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), assisted by men of proven ability, will take us out of this abyss and give back the hopes and aspirations of the people. The degradation, demoralisation and total despair, coupled with human misery and suffering, will soon be abolished when a Labour Government are elected after the next election. We are pledged to bring back jobs, stop the decay and poverty creeping back into our towns and cities, and give back hope to the young who are sickened with life on the dole. We shall win because the nation is waning under this merciless mob and crying out for a change to a caring, sharing society. That is what we shall give the people.
§ Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)
The Secretary of State began the debate with a remarkable speech, in unusual form for him. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) in his professional capacity would have diagnosed for us the presence in the Chamber of the bacillus which is the cause of election fever. We had a remarkable catalogue from the Secretary of State. Of course, we can join him in saying that there is a need to clear away the dereliction of the past and to create the means of increasing economic activity in Wales.
We are glad that on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman paid compliments to others who have held his high office. We are glad that he did not try this afternoon to claim all the credit for himself for the various programmes—roads, health, housing and factory building. We are glad that he acknowledged the activities of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) in the building of advance factories. We were glad to hear this catalogue from him. We were pleased, too, to hear his announcement about hotel developments in Swansea and Cardiff. I agree with him and others who have spoken about the importance of the development of tourism in Wales as a means of providing employment. Listening to what he said about those two cities, I thought that we were hearing a modern version of "A Tale of Two Cities".
This debate has followed the usual pattern of Welsh debates on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, in that we have ranged widely. That is not a bad thing, because it has given us the opportunity to raise a variety of matters, some local and some national, which are the concern of the people of Wales.
1227 However, the topic that has undoubtedly dominated the debate has been the massive unemployment that is being experienced in Wales. It has featured in almost all the speeches that have been made, particularly from these Benches. Last month, with a figure of 180,664 people unemployed—a percentage of 17.5 per cent. —in Wales, according to last Friday's report in The Daily Telegraph —a paper not unknown for its support for the Tory party—was the 38th successive month in which there was an increase in the number of people becoming unemployed in the United Kingdom.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot escape from the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) at Question Time on Monday, which showed that when he assumed his responsibilities in May 1979, the number of unemployed claimants—a new Tory parlance to describe people thrown out of work—was 77,177 people, or 7 per cent. of the working population of Wales. The latest figures are a tragic underlining of the failure of the Conservative party and the policies that it pursues. Until that party is removed from power and its policies thrown out, this tragic upward trend will continue.
The report in Monday's Western Mail, under the headlineBleak Outlook Forecast On Welsh Jobless",supports this contention, when it says that unemployment in Wales could hit the 200,000 mark by the end of this year—a situation that several experts have predicted. One of the predictions, that of Data Resources International, says that there could be 3,500,000 adults in the United Kingdom unemployed by the end of 1983. Taking the Welsh experience, that could mean about 215,000 unemployed in Wales. The best prediction of the experts, Simon and Coates Stockbrokers, is that there will be 187,000 people unemployed in Wales by the end of the year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) referred to the election address of the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) in which he said:Every Conservative Government since the war has left office with more people at work than when it started.When the Government depart from office at the next election that situation will not obtain.
However one looks at the unemployment figures, either as an optimist or as a pessimist, they mean hardship in Wales, at a level for which in the fulness of time the Minister and his party will be answerable to the Welsh electorate. The inescapable fact of unemployment in Wales is that 36 unemployed people are chasing every job. For our young people the prospect of a proper job grows dimmer as each succeeding month's unemployment figures are published.
The Secretary of State seeks comfort in the programme of special measures but they do not provide proper jobs and he should not try to represent them as such when he is called to account for unemployment in Wales.
I want to dwell for a moment on one of the special measures which impressed me greatly when I had the opportunity to see the scheme in operation for myself. It is a scheme which is being run jointly by the Ford Motor Company and the Manpower Services Commission at the Ford works in my constituency. I commend those hon. Members who wish to see the worthwhile functioning of one of those schemes to pay a visit to that scheme in the Ford works.
1228 I was greatly impressed with the quality of the training being given and the response of the young people to the opportunity. It is a credit to the Ford Motor Company and to the MSC. It is not just a scheme which pays lip service to the training of young people—as, I regret, some have done in the past. Neither is it a means whereby a company such as Fords can get work done on the cheap. Any work done is done at proper commercial rates which are properly costed as part of the training which is being given.
The young people are responding well to the scheme but I could not help feeling the regret of all those involved in the scheme that it could provide work for only 12 months in their lives. After that they were back to the uncertainty of life in the shadows of Britain's massive dole queue.
During questions on Welsh affairs on Monday my right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda drew attention, as he did again today, to the discrepancies between the figures for job creation given by the Welsh Development Agency and those given on the recent HTV programme. He also drew attention to the regrettable refusal of the Welsh Development Agency to take part in that programme.
On Monday my right hon. Friend called for the publication of a leaflet giving the facts so that we can judge the matter. I noted the reply of the Secretary of State on Monday and the exchanges today, but I raise it again in this debate because I believe that, on both sides of the House, we would wish to ensure that confusion does not arise which is not in the best interests of those who suffer unemployment or who are to embark upon what we hope will be their working lives.
One of the brighter aspects of job creation in Wales has been the success of Japanese investment. During our recent visit to Japan my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) and I lost no opportunity to emphasise the success of these ventures both to Wales and the Japanese investors. We pointed to the excellent industrial relations obtaining in these factories, using this as evidence to counter the belief in Japan that most of our workers are out on strike most of the time.
We would welcome greater Japanese investment in Britain, especially in Wales, and from our experience in Wales we can express confidence that it will prosper and succeed. Bearing in mind what I have said about the sensitivity of the Japanese about industrial relations, I urge the Secretary of State and Conservative Members to curb the union bashing of the Secretary of State for Industry, whose uncouth utterances on this subject seriously put at risk possible inward investment from Japan which others are striving to achieve. I hope that they will take this on board because it is being said over and over again. When the Secretary of State for Industry gives credence to it, it is all the more difficult to destroy.
I now turn to a matter which, if implemented in any form, would have serious consequences for Wales—the Serpell report, to which reference has been made during the debate. In the debate on the report last week, the Secretary of State for Transport said that the extreme option was a non-runner. But it is not only option A, which would remove a railway system entirely from Wales, that is objectionable to us. Other options put forward in the report would leave Wales in a disadvantaged position and that makes us suspicious about the Government's mind on the future of the railways in Wales.
1229 I have seen the Serpell report described as a Government-inspired hatchet job, which must be taken seriously, as it provides the basis for a post-election attack on public transport, should the British people make such a grievous mistake as inflicting upon themselves a further dose of Thatcherism after the next election. The Government are killing the railways slowly but surely, by starving them of the investment which is so badly needed for track renewal, new rolling stock and electrification. That is seen no more clearly than in Wales. Unless this trend is halted, the Government will be well on the way to implementing the Serpell report.
The Serpell report at best calls for £220 million of cuts. Wales is bound to come badly out of such a programme, for not only would there be cuts in passenger traffic, but freight services would be cut in a way which would make Wales unattractive to new industrial development and would seriously hamper existing industrial activity—for instance, the movement of coal and steel and the removal of dangerous substances whose transfer by road would place the public in danger and cause unacceptable environmental pollution.
Labour party policy would be one of expansion of the railway service because we would mainly implement, "Rail Policy", which calls for an annual investment of £567 million. We would press ahead with main line electrification, with the provision of new rolling stock, and with providing light-weight trains for rural services. Under our plans, there would be an expansion of freight services, track renewal and new signalling. Those plans would include Wales and create in Wales the opposite of the transport desert that would result from the implementation of any part of the Serpell report, which would be the worst disaster for the railways in this country since Beeching, which was also commissioned by a Conservative Government.
The coal industry will always be vital to Wales. My right hon. and hon. Friends have made sure that the industry has not been neglected in our considerations today. No one in the industry—neither the National Coal Board nor the National Union of Mineworkers—denies that the industry has problems. There is a resolve among those involved to ensure that the problems are overcome to the benefit of the industry, those who gain their livelihood from it and the communities that are dependent upon it. They could do with a bit more help from the Government in their efforts to overcome the problems.
Over the years, co-operation between the NCB and the union has re-shaped the industry and that co-operation will bring about the future prosperity of the industry and the successful operation of the coalfields. It is that which will bring prosperity and not the threat of bringing in people to play the role of hatchet men, who will apply closures and cuts to achieve financial viability. Coal plays, and will continue to play, a vital role in our energy sources. The south Wales coalfield, with its fine quality coals, has an important part to play.
In a short time the supplies of natural gas upon which we now rely will run out. We shall have to resort, once again, to coal as a source of gas. The Margam project must be considered at this point. The location is adjacent to the gas council's site at Jersey Marine, where a gasification plant is most likely to be established, as it is already connected to the gas grid. If the Government are serious 1230 about the provision of Britain's future energy resources, they should now be entering into consultations with the NCB to bring the Margam development onstream when the gas industry will require its products. They have no right to leave that to those who will come after them.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) about the importance of agriculture in Wales. We in the Labour party, with our record on agriculture, accept—as we have proved in the past—that a prosperous agriculture is vital for Britain and for Wales. While farmers will concede that 1982 was a better year for them than 1981, they remain plagued by the heavy bank borrowings that they have incurred in the past three years. They are anxious to know when the problems of marginal land will be recognised and when the hill livestock sector is to obtain its fair reward. They are concerned that the co-responsibility payments will discriminate against them, to the benefit of the small continental producers. I support the welcome that they give to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food taking steps against the import of UHT milk, and in any further steps he takes to preserve our door-to-door milk deliveries.
What I cannot understand, however, is how it is perfectly proper to introduce import controls on milk while opposing them on other agricultural products such as steel.
It gives Opposition Members no pleasure to record that Wales has been particularly hard hit by the policies pursued by the Conservative Government since 1979. The Wales we see today is not the one forecast for us in the blue booklet containing the Tory manifesto for Wales in 1979. Unemployment has not been halted in line with the impression given in that document. It was 7 per cent. then; it is now 17.5 per cent. The steel industry in Wales is a shadow of what it was in that year. Not only do small businesses, which featured so much in that manifesto, not prosper as a forecast: many no longer exist. When the next edition of that glossy blue publication appears, it will make more promises, as we have heard today, to the Welsh people but, like the current set of policies, they will not be met.
Wales has never been the home of Toryism. In 1979 some people thought that their programme showed a movement away from their old habits but experience is more valuable than thought when coming to a judgment. The experience of Wales since 1979 will bring about a judgment which will reject the Tory Party, not only at the next election but for a very long time to come.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Michael Roberts)
The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) and the right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) both referred to the television programme which suggested that 40 per cent. of WDA factory space was vacant. I hope that I can shed some light on this matter if they will bear with me while I explain the correct figures.
The WDA now has about 3 million sq ft of factory space available for letting. This does not, of course, include factories which are empty but which have already been leased or which have been reserved for new tenants.
The figure represents the space which the WDA is now able to offer for occupation by prospective new tenants. Hon. Members will agree that this is reasonable; the 3 million sq ft of space has to be measured against the total WDA factory stock of about 20 million sq ft, or 15 per cent. —the percentage which my right hon. Friend 1231 mentioned in the House on Monday. My right hon. Friend also mentioned the amount of factory space built by the WDA since it came into being—the very commendable figure of 8 million sq ft.
The hon. Member for Neath referred to his desire to see Japanese industry coining into Wales in particular. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) will explain how much of that industry he expects to see coming into Wales with all the inducements that he and some of his hon. Friends might offer if Britain, including Wales, is outside the Common Market. If he does not wish to give that explanation, perhaps the hon. Gentleman—
§ Sitting suspended.9.57 pm
§ On resuming—