§ Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Sainsbury.]4.18 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)
The annual Welsh day gives right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity to raise a wide range of subjects. As in last year's debate, I do not intend to attempt to cover all of my responsibilities but to concentrate on some key areas of change. I hope that hon. Members will be reasonable about interventions as I intend to cover as much ground as possible.
A central fact that we must face is that technical and therefore industrial development is rapid. Its consequences are substantial and it is likely to accelerate rather than decline. That process of change is one of the major factors that contribute to the high levels of unemployment from which we are suffering. Improved techniques and improved productivity will continue to put some people out of work, even while the economy expands, and firms that are inefficient or fail to adapt will close down, causing social distress in local areas, even when new firms are springing up in the area generally. Even among the new technologies some of the starters will not survive, and only the fittest will grow and expand. One has only to look at the experience of places such as California over the last two or three years to realise that failure and closure go hand in hand with success and growth.
Whether or not we succeed in substantially reducing unemployment in these circumstances will depend to a considerable extent on our ability to adapt to change. It is no accident that, in almost every case, the places in the world where the new technologies and new techniques have been most successfully embraced are the places with the lowest levels of unemployment. In Wales the switch from over-dependence on old industries is still at a relatively early stage, and the very many exciting new projects that have been launched will not realise their full job potential for several years, but there are some encouraging signs.
In Wales, over the past year, unemployment has fallen slightly for the first time in a number of years. The performance of the economy gives grounds for increasing optimism. The combination of 3 per cent. growth and inflation at around the 5 per cent. mark is the best that we have seen since the 1960s.
Interest rates are at their lowest for five and a half years, cost competitiveness in manufacturing has improved by around 20 per cent. since 1981, and output per head in manufacturing is approaching 20 per cent. higher than the end of 1980, and is at record levels. United Kingdom GDP growth in 1983 and 1984 is the highest among the European Community nations. The latest CBI industrial survey for Wales confirms increased business optimism among Welsh manufacturers and increased demand. The London Business School this week forecasts a decline in unemployment in the coming year. Our objective must be to build on and accelerate the changes so clearly recognised by much of industry in Wales to be essential.
§ Mr. Edwards
At this early stage of my speech, I should like to continue.
We must continue to compete effectively for internationally mobile investment. We must stimulate new 153 growth from within, and we must encourage the take-up of new technology by existing industry in the pursuit of competitiveness.
§ Dr. Marek
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. I have a press release of 10 February 1984, "Welsh Civil Engineering Struggles for Survival" from the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors which states:The survey, for the last three months of 1983, points to further deterioration in the level of new work coming onto the market with 27 per cent. of all contractors reporting they had not secured any new civil engineering contracts between October and December, 1983.How does that square with what the Secretary of State has been saying?
§ Mr. Edwards
I think that it squares perfectly well. I have been talking about the general upturn in the economy, and clearly at this stage it is uneven. I shall be talking later in my speech about the very large amount of civil engineering work that is being done for the Government, and financed by the Government.
Important moves over the last 12 months have aimed at doing all the things about which I have been speaking in terms of improving competitiveness, and meeting the needs of change. We established WlNvest, our inward investment unit, last April. It has rapidly developed into a cohesive and effective organisation. Since 1 April last year, no fewer than 18 entirely new overseas projects have been announced, seven from North America, eight from Europe, and three joint ventures. In all, these projects will provide over 2,000 new jobs. In the calendar year 1983, Wales obtained well over 20 per cent. of the new projects known to the Invest in Britain Bureau as having been secured for Britain as a whole. In addition, since 1 April 1983 there have been 10 major expansion projects by existing overseas companies, including schemes by Sony, Matsushita, 3M, Control Data and Aeroquip. Taken together, the new overseas projects and expansion projects add up to a capital investment to the value of nearly £90 million—a very substantial vote of confidence in Wales, and, of course, business for the contractors about which the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) intervened. It does not end there. There are at least a dozen other new overseas projects where an offer of selective financial assistance has been made in a year in which offers of SFA have reached the highest level since 1979, and I have every reason to think that we shall secure major investment for Wales in the coming months. In all, WlNvest has handled 211 visits by overseas companies since 1 April.
In September I visited the United States and met a large number of industrialists. I was much encouraged by the considerable interest being shown in Wales as a location for overseas investment and, indeed, no fewer than six of the companies I met on that visit have since announced investments in Wales: Parrot Corporation, Angus Chemicals, Shape, Tepco, Aeroquip and Saga Systems.
The Welsh Development Agency has continued its substantial capital infrastructure programmes, but is now putting fresh emphasis on encouraging new ventures, especially in the new technologies, and in accelerating the growth of promising small units. The agency will be building Wales's first business centre for advanced technology at Deeside industrial park. The complex is planned to house Newtech, an organisation for technology research, development and innovation formed jointly by Clwyd county council and the North-East Wales institute 154 of higher education. The project is receiving urban programme backing from the Government. In south Wales, a similar business and technology centre is planned for Cleppa park, Newport, and a 20-acre green field site for high technology industry is being provided at Pontypool. The agency is finding that more and more companies are demanding tailor-made premises rather than a standard type, and hon. Members should remember that the factory allocation figures that I give to the House do not include these tailor-made locations, such as the premises for Parrot and AB Electronics; nor do they include the considerable number of private sector factories that are finding new occupants.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
It is clear that the bulk of jobs will arise from these high-technology industries. Is the Secretary of State at all concerned about the failure — and I recognise the difficulties — of attracting such new high-technology firms further west to Wales, to the areas that he and I represent, and dealing with the problem of getting firms away from the Severn bridge area, Pontypool and Cardiff, and further west than, say, Bridgend?
§ Mr. Edwards
The hon. Gentleman will know that there are signs that the high-technology corridor is moving west. Some very promising developments have moved into the Bridgend industrial estate, and I have referred already to the major expansion by 3M at Gorseinon, which is a welcome development of a successful factory.
A striking feature of the past three years has been the accelerating pace of factory allocations by the Government agencies. In the calendar year 1981, there was an allocation of almost 300 units, and 1.6 million sq ft of factory space. In 1982 it was 388 units, with over 1—8 million sq ft, and last year it was 446 units, and over 2 million sq ft, which will provide over 7,500 jobs. For the Welsh Development Agency, 1983 was an all-time record year for the number of units allocated, for floor space and for associated jobs in prospect; and, as a result, the vacancy rate has fallen from a peak in 1983 of 15.5 per cent. to 13 per cent. At Cwmbran, people hardly know what the words "vacancy rate" mean, because there they allocate the factories almost as fast as they are built.
A key to many of the agency's activities now is collaboration with the private sector, principally through the harnessing of private funds. That collaboration between the public and private sectors is a central theme of what I have to say today. Over an increasing range of Government activity we are setting out to use public funds not to finance whole projects but to trigger off shared participation, in many cases on a much larger scale, from the private sector. This is an increasingly important feature of our industrial, urban and housing policies. As time goes by it will make less and less sense simply to look at public sector figures in isolation. What we have to achieve is the maximum potential from the public and private sectors working together. It is with these objectives in mind that the WDA during the past year has introduced it's seed capital fund and variable interest rate loans.
The agency is seeking to obtain maximum private sector participation in its investments; and I was able to announce a notable example earlier in the year when the Parrot Corporation, to which I have already referred, decided to set up on the Llantarnam high technology park at Cwmbran. Hafren Investment Finance Ltd., the 155 agency's venture capital subsidiary, has got off to a promising start. In its first 18 months it attracted over 1,000 inquiries and more than 100 formal applications. It was set up to provide investment funds for small primarily high technology ventures. The agency is now considering that venture capital provision should be made for larger projects in this field; and is also pressing on with the establishment of WINtech as a dynamic, outward-looking point of focus and stimulus for technological development.
I am delighted that my proposal to set up WINtech has been enthusiastically welcomed by Welsh industry and by the university colleges. The object will be as much to raise the level of technology in all industries in Wales as to encourage specifically new advanced technologies to set up. WINtech will develop close operational links with the University of Wales and the other institutions of higher education, and will develop two-way links between the industry and education. It is being launched at a time when I believe that the benefits of university/industry linkage are becoming much better understood and appreciated. The appointment throughout the University of Wales of industrial liaison officers, the development of the Cardiff university industry centre and of Newtech all demonstrate the importance the educational institutions are attaching to this part of their work. I recently visited University college, Swansea, and was glad to see the way in which it is developing initiatives, particularly in the fields of microelectronics and biotechnology and I welcome as well its work in preparing a new science park project, which may have the very results called for by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson).
The task of encouraging change and linkage of this kind is also being followed by the WDA's sister organisation, the Development Board for Rural Wales. I am pleased to be able to announce approval of the board's construction programme for 1984–85 for mid-Wales outside Newtown. Details have been placed in the Library. The board will include in the programme a further 42 new advance factories and workshops, together with a factory extension for an existing tenant, in nine different locations throughout the area. The board also intends to acquire 15 acres of land at three locations for factory development.
I emphasised in my opening remarks the nature of the accelerating process of change and the problems with which it confronts us. In announcing new projects and record factory allocations I am not in any way attempting to run away from the fact that other firms continue to reduce their manpower levels or that major organisations such as Hymac, Mettoy and Rover have been losers in the process of change, and of course those who were employed by them have been the biggest losers of all.
Within the past few days further proposals have come forward that may hold out some prospect of securing the future of both Hymac and Mettoy but there are still dificult problems to overcome and it would be wrong for me to say more about these commercially confidential negotiations, except perhaps that we in the Welsh Office will do everything possible to help them on their way.
None of our long-established industries faces greater difficulties than the coal industry. The south Wales coalfield is still burdened by a few grossly unprofitable pits which no amount of investment can restore to viability. Their disproportionate demands for subsidy starve the rest of the coalfield of much-needed investment capital and 156 raise the cost of coal produced. The manpower in the south Wales coalfield is just over 20,500 and that number will undoubtedly have to fall as the programme of closures continues. There is nothing new about this; indeed, closures have been running at a lower rate under this Government than under previous Labour Administrations. It appears that the CEGB's demand for power station coal is higher than had been anticipated recently and this will help the long-life pits. The major elements of this year's investment programme are £12 million to access new reserves at Bettws; £5 million for a new high technology face at Deep Navigation, and £3 million for development of new reserves at Cwm-coedely. The board is investigating new reserves for anthracite. Because of the board's desire to open up new anthracite reserves in Wales, it is spending about 21 per cent. of its United Kingdom exploration budget in Wales at the present time.
Our other major traditional industry, steel, still needs to improve performance in the face of competition after a period of immense achievement by the Welsh steel industry. I think that what has been done in the Welsh steel plants has enhanced the reputation of Welsh industry generally; and my recent meeting with leaders of the steel unions left me in no doubt that they have a very clear understanding of what is still required of them. As the House will know, work is now well under way on the new £170 million investment in the hot strip mill at Port Talbot, although this work will cause some production problems over the next 18 months. The Government are now waiting to receive the British Steel Corporation's corporate plan and I have been keeping in close touch with both management and unions, so that I am fully informed about all the possible options. I have no doubt that our objective must be to ensure that we take all necessary steps to see that our most competitive and efficient plants can continue to be able to compete with the best in Europe and the rest of the world.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)
What are the prospects for much-needed investment in a Concast plant at Llanwern?
§ Mr. Edwards
As I have said, the BSC is currently considering its options. It has not yet presented them to Government, although I have discussed the possibilities in detail with both management and the unions. I have emphasised the competitive record of the south Wales plants and the need to maintain it. However, I cannot add to what I have said.
A major role in this continuing task of improvement and adaptation of our industrial economy as a whole is being performed by the Manpower Services Commission. As the speed of change develops, so does the need to improve our education and training facilities. The recent White Paper, "Training For Jobs", set out the Government's major objectives. The youth training scheme has made a very good start with some 20,000 entrants in Wales. In effect, all minimum age school leavers last year were given the opportunity to continue in education, enter employment or join YTS. My recent meeting with the Welsh committee and the area boards brought home to me the very considerable efforts that are being made by the staff of the MSC, together with employers, trade union leaders and others to develop and improve the quality of this very important initiative.
Another undoubted success story last year was the launch of the technical and vocational education initiative, 157 which was particularly enthusiastically embraced by the Clwyd county council and has now been taken up by Gwent, Gwynedd, Mid-Glamorgan, Powys and West Glamorgan. This means that six of the eight LEAs in Wales will be participating in the scheme compared with 54 out of the 96 LEAs in England. I know that Dyfed was disappointed that its proposals did not reach the required standard for acceptance, but I hope that it will be able to come forward with a revised scheme that will be acceptable in due course.
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
Will the Secretary of State guarantee that there will be no cuts in the mode B YTS provision until he is satisfied that there are other schemes available under mode A?
§ Mr. Edwards
Decisions about the exact allocations are, of course, for the MSC to make.
It is because the Government attach such importance to improving our vocational education arrangements that we propose to transform the MSC into a full-scale national training authority. All the evidence that we have from other countries with training arrangements more developed than our own suggests that this is the route we should take. We have to ensure that the training being provided is meeting the needs and demands of employers and that the people emerging from our colleges have the skills that will enlarge their employment prospects. The MSC brings together both unions and management and is particularly well placed to represent the needs of employers. By financing an increased share of non-advanced further education, I am confident that they will stimulate the kind of changes that are desirable.
To those who say that decisions on these matters must be left entirely to local education authorities, I have to say that the Government cannot stand aside from this vital task of improving our training and educational arrangements. The effect of this change is that education authorities will have to deal with a customer, an existing customer, but one with a significantly increased volume of business, and they will have to respond accordingly. To put this in perspective, we are proposing that the MSC should command 25 per cent. of the expenditure on work-related non-advanced further education compared with its present expenditures which accounts for about 11 per cent. of the total. The bulk of provision will therefore remain in local authority hands and will provide them with plenty of opportunity to follow their own local initiatives. The responsibilities of local education authorities for the management of further education colleges remain unchanged. Moreover, I know that the MSC, its Welsh committee and area boards will want to work out the best training programmes for particular parts of the country and will be very anxious to co-operate with local education authorities to this end. As I have already announced, the financing arrangement is being ring fenced so that finance will not be lost to Wales.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
Will the Secretary of State not accept that there is great concern among educationists in Wales, who have sought to establish the comprehensive principle of access for all children to forms of further and higher education, that through the MSC training, particularly as it extends to 14-year-olds, there may be a revival of the secondary modern mode of education in that some children will be selected for technical training and others will be allowed 158 to go on to other forms of broader curriculum education? Will he assure the House that the curriculum will be safeguarded from becoming narrow?
§ Mr. Edwards
I understand the concern. There is no desire to narrow the curriculum, but there is a desire to make sure that we can provide the best possible technical education and give people the opportunities that that will open up to them. I do not believe that there is a difference between us. The concern of the education authorities on this matter is misplaced. I very much welcome the enthusiasm with which Welsh local authorities have embraced the technical and vocational education initiative which shows that they can see the benefits to be gained from it.
A point that I have emphasised several times in my speech is our desire to use Government funding as a trigger for participation by others. Pump priming is the basic principle under which the urban programme is administered and the triggering of substantial private investment is the particular function of the recently introduced urban development grant scheme. I announced earlier this month that I was allocating £27.5 million to the urban programme and for urban development grants in Wales in 1984–85. This represents a 30 per cent. increase in the £21 million allocated for 1983–84.
While there have been further increases in the urban programme resources devoted to projects which will lead to economic regeneration and job creation, a substantial social programme has been maintained. For example, the total allocation made to local authorities for the support of Welsh women's aid schemes in 1984–85 is around £236,000. This includes special provision for extended support for projects which have already reached the end of their normal period of support.
§ Mr. Edwards
I can confirm that we have looked again at the Pontypridd project and that has been included in the total that I have just given to the House.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have given way a lot. I shall ask my hon. Friend to deal with the other points when he is winding up because there are other things that I want to say.
Within the total for urban development I have decided that some £17.3 million should be allocated at this stage to the traditional urban programme. Expenditure on urban development grants is being substantially increased for very good reasons. Schemes that I approved last year are already playing a significant part in improving some of our rundown valley areas, while in Swansea we have succeeded in generating an enormous expansion of activity. Work on the Ocean. Properties hotel, which I announced last year, is expected to start shortly. Grants totalling £2.3 million have been approved, which will lead directly to investment of £21 million and are also indirectly helping to trigger other investment to an overall total of about £45 million. I think anyone who has visited this part of Swansea will have been deeply impressed by what is going on there.
This year's urban development grant package includes several schemes which will continue the process of regeneration via private investment. A UDG input of some 159 £4 million will trigger a total investment of about £26 million. The projects include a substantial number of private housing developments at Swansea, Cardiff, Rhymney, Rhondda, Blaina and Skewen. This will lead to the provisions of over 550 housing units, an important contribution to our housing needs. Other projects include industrial schemes at Wrexham, Rhondda, Cardiff and Llanelli, and commercial developments at Newport and Rhondda.
I want to return to the subject of the contribution that UDG can make to housing in a moment, but first I want to report progress on the major initiative to redevelop south Cardiff which I announced in this corresponding debate just over a year ago. The start on the Holiday Inn development at the Hayes has been a little delayed, but the formal signing ceremony took place this morning and work is expected to begin on site in the early summer with the object of opening in the spring of 1986. When I announced the south Cardiff initiative and received such an encouraging welcome from both sides of the House last year, I do not think any of us could have dreamt how much progress we would make in the coming 12 months. There have been problems, but with good will and good sense they have all been overcome.
Tarmac has now been chosen by the local authorities with the full approval of Associated British Ports and the Land Authority for Wales to undertake the project and is finalising its proposals. Present plans indicate a total of investment of at least £50 million and I have set aside sufficient funds in the hope that I will be able to approve the application when it is received in the very near future. A development of this magnitude and of this quality—I emphasise that all of us involved are determined that it should be worthy of the city—would transform the area, provide a large number of jobs and create enormous further opportunities for development right down to the splendid waterfront sites that exist. The two Cardiff projects included in the UDG package already announced will complement this major redevelopment, one of them providing nearly 200 homes and environmental improvements at the south Bute town waterfront.
The recent announcement that a free port is to be established in Cardiff will also add impetus to this whole initiative. I believe that, when we come to look back, the redevelopment of the derelict areas of two of our great cities and the great co-operative effort that has been triggered off will be seen as one of the great tasks and one of the great achievements of this period.
In connection with new hotel developments I want to take this opportunity of firmly scotching suggestions that the future of the Wales tourist board is in doubt. There is no truth in these suggestions. In recent months I have strengthened the tourist board's hand through increasing by fourfold the delegated limit for decisions on tourism grants and settling new arrangements with the British Tourist Authority for marketing Wales more effectively overseas. There are vacancies in the tourist board's staff, but a number of these are due to the creation of new posts which are intended to give more power to the board, and others to changes the board itself thinks necessary. I have recently asked the board to take a more direct interest in the promotion of ancient monuments. There are new tasks ahead for the Wales tourist board. I will be seeking a new chairman to steer the board through the process of change. 160 As with the appointment of chairmen to the WDA and the water authority, we shall be using consultants and advertising the post. In the meantime Lord Parry is working actively to develop changes already started.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)
The Government have deemed it proper to give vastly enhanced powers to Scotland for promoting its tourism. Would not a similar step be advantageous for Wales?
§ Mr. Edwards
We have met the suggestions put to me by the chairman of the Wales tourist board as to what would be sensible working arrangements. Those are the arrangements to which I referred, and I believe that they are what is required.
I drew attention earlier to the large housing content of the urban schemes, which brings out the fact that we are changing the way in which we use resources. It no longer makes much sense to judge the housing programme simply on the basis of the local authority construction programme. The needs have changed, the financing has changed and the participants are changing and will continue to change. Once again partnership offers the way out of the inevitable constraints of public sector financing. Just at the time when over 20 per cent. of local authority tenants have applied to buy their own homes, so an increasing proportion of the housing stock will be provided by private developers, much of it under urban development grant projects such as I have described.
Again in response to changing needs there has been a deliberate switch of public expenditure on housing away from new building by local authorities to the renovation of our older housing stock. We are now being attacked for not carrying forward this drive on the same scale in the future that we have achieved in the past year. I understand perfectly well that there are cases of individual inconvenience and hardship, and I can tell the House that I share the disappointment that we cannot do as much as we should like. However, the criticism does not come well from the Labour party, which inherited an extremely successful improvement scheme from the previous Conservative Government and virtually abandoned it as it hacked back on housing expenditure. It does not come well either from local authorities, whose initial response was sluggish and unenthusiastic so that they failed to spend available housing resources of about £85 million between 1981–83. This year, we allowed the authorities to overspend their initial allocations on housing expenditure and added £50 million to the Wales local authority cash limit. We shall spend about £206 million on housing in Wales in this financial year, compared with £96 million in 1981–82. In the last full year of Labour Government a total of £11 million was spent on improvement grants—this year the figure will be about £100 million. Local authorities are also spending £48 million in repairs to council stock this year compared with £15 million in 1978–79. That is a considerable achievement by this Government, and a major improvement of the housing stock has taken place which will come through in future house condition surveys. It was made perfectly clear when the 90 per cent. scheme was introduced that it was strictly time limited, but housing improvement will continue in the period ahead on a much larger scale than at any time before the current year. In the allocations that I have made to local authorities, there is a great deal of scope for them to deal with hardship and priority cases, and if they accelerate the 161 process of completing council house sales, for which demand continues at a high level, substantial progress can be made on house improvement work.
If I have concentrated so far on the urban scene it is not that I underestimate either the importance of our agricultural industry or the difficulties with which it is confronted. I have spoken with great frankness to the industry about these difficulties. The farmers themselves understand that we cannot continue with a system that throws up huge unwanted surpluses at enormous cost to the taxpayer. We not only have to obtain major reforms in the budget system of the Community, but we have to move away from an agricultural support system in which the price mechanism, instead of encouraging greater consumption, ensures greater and greater output regardless of whether there is a market.
Undoubtedly adjustment will be difficult, and for some producers, particularly those with recent investment and heavy borrowing, those difficulties will be severe. I am sure that it is in the overall national interest to fight for these reforms and when farmers urge that there should be time for adjustment I have to say that the difficulties will not get less if we postpone change. However, it must equally be right to fight for solutions that do not discriminate against British farmers. We support the Commission on the need for severe price restraint, particularly on milk. We believe that the best way to tackle the problem of surpluses is through action on prices, but we have also been realistically facing up to the methods that have obtained support in discussions so far —operating a super-levy and a system of quotas. I know that more and more individual union branches believe that a farm quota system will be necessary if individuals are to be protected.
As to beef production, I recognise the importance of the beef premium scheme for Welsh agriculture and do not believe the Commission is justified in proposing to abolish it. The sheepmeat regime has clearly been of immense value to the industry in Wales, and our negotiating position recognises the importance of this regime to the United Kingdom's position as the largest producer and consumer of sheepmeat in the Community. We shall continue to press for agreement on the scheme to assist marginal land farmers.
This is a period when the agricultural industry is being criticised on many sides, but I do not think that I should leave anyone in any doubt about the important contribution that it makes to our economy, and its central importance for a whole range of other industries and businesses, particularly in the rural areas. I am absolutely determined to see that at a time when the industry has to face some difficult changes we do not add to its problems by unnecessarily fiddling around with the long-standing arrangements that have helped to make agriculture one of the most efficient of all British industries.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)
I have listened to the Secretary of State with interest, and I agree with his sentiments, but he must remember that he also represents Welsh agriculture, and that it is his duty, on behalf of the industry, to go to Brussels to fight for the rights of Welsh farmers. It is well known that he has not been to Brussels since he took office.
§ Mr. Edwards
That is not true. I have been to Brussels on a number of occasions. However, I do not believe that 162 the best way to negotiate in the European Community is through a variety of spokesmen. The right way is to put the case together, with the interests of Welsh agriculture taken fully on board, and to negotiate on that basis.
In pursuing the theme of change and of the need to adapt and improve efficiency, I have concentrated on the productive sector, public and private, but these things are equally true of the public services and nowhere more so than in the National Health Service. Unlike agriculture, demand here is almost unlimited, but there is a price discipline, and there is therefore a paramount need for continuing improvement in efficiency. This is demonstrated clearly by the results of our annual reviews of district health authorities' budgets in Wales, which will result in 1984–85 in the re-investment of minimum efficiency savings amounting to no less then £2.75 million on developments in the continuing care of elderly mentally ill and mentally handicapped people.
It is with the same object of getting better use of resources that I have made my proposals for improving management within the Health Service, based on the recommendations of the Griffiths report. I am delighted to report that at the Welsh health forum last Friday, the general principles of Griffiths were warmly welcomed, as was my decision to introduce a Welsh health policy board and a management committee under the direction of a Welsh health director. There was also a welcome for my assurances that the responsibilities of health chairmen and health authorities will in no way be diminished, and that it remains a central objective to ensure that wherever possible decisions are taken at unit and hospital level. Opinions as to the way in which the Griffiths principles might be implemented at district and unit level were divided and I shall be considering further how the chain of effective management can best be introduced.
The improvement of productive efficiency by industry is, of course, the key to providing the additional resources that we shall continually need for the Health Service, however well we succeed in running it. This Government have a good record of providing extra resources to the Health Service in Wales, which have increased by more than 10 per cent. since 1979, even after allowances are made for pay and price rises.
The recent allocations to health authorities mean that the total of hospital and community health revenue provision will be some 2 per cent. more than in 1983–84; and as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary pointed out to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd, Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas), on the basis of the figures used in Professor Maynard's study, it would seem that under this Government Wales has moved from the position where it could be claimed that we were about 7.5 per cent. Under-resourced, compared with England, to a situation where Wales has almost exactly the share suggested by Professor Maynard's calculations, and that was even before the additional revenue allocations to health authorities which I have just announced.
Last year in this debate, I spoke about the major programme of capital projects which we were undertaking. These are continuing, but this year has perhaps beer most notable for the steps we have taken to make major improvements to regional services in Wales.
In the past year, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of heart operations undertaken, which has increased from about 350 a year to about 480, and we are now making funds available in 1984–85 which will enable 163 the South Glamorgan health authority to undertake about 600 operations. For reasons I completely fail to comprehend, people keep talking about cutbacks. By any standards, that is a major increase in service, and on 19 January I announced plans to double the capacity for cardiology and cardiac surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, which will allow for an annual caseload of 1,100 operations per annum by about 1989. Also on 19 January, I announced that I was making funds available to allow for an increase in the number of bone marrow transplant operations, and by 1986–87—that is, two years ahead—we expect to be able to undertake about 20 of those operations a year, which is the anticipated adult caseload from within Wales. The pace of this new development has been dictated not by resource considerations but by the professional medical advice that I have received about the way to proceed.
Last November, I announced that I had ordered an immediate start on the detailed design of a renal dialysis unit to be established at the Morriston district general hospital and was undertaking work which I hoped would enable us to establish a number of subsidiary care subunits throughout the Principality. On 9 February, I announced my decision that the present burns and plastic surgery unit at St. Lawrence hospital, Chepstow, will be re-sited as a 100-bed unit at Morriston district general hospital in Swansea. I have now decided that the renal dialysis unit—which I hope will be in operation by very early next year — will operate for four to five years in a short-life building at Morriston. The permanent building will be integrated with the new burns and plastic surgery unit in the Morriston district general hospital. I have also decided to launch two pilot schemes to test the effectiveness of secondary units, and these will be at Carmarthen and Bangor. The Kidney Research Unit for Wales Foundation and the private sector will be invited to consider submitting tenders alongside proposals for the NHS to operate the units. Both schemes will be evaluated for the Department by Professor William Asscher, professor of renal medicine in the Welsh national school of medicine. All these announcements cover major improvements to patient care in Wales, and are part of the continuing development and adaptation of the National Health Service to current needs.
In this report to the House, I have not attempted to disguise the problems that change creates, or to pretend that the social consequences are not sometimes severe, but I believe that I am entitled to claim that we have made substantial progress on the fundamental tasks of improving our industrial structure, in harnessing resources from both the public and private sectors to improve both the living and working environment, and in extending health care for our people.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
The Secretary of State made a 45-minute speech, in which he certainly attempted to give the House a report. I am sure the House appreciates what he said about Welsh women's aid and his flexibility about National Health Service pilot schemes in Wales. However, we heard nothing about meaningful new jobs. We were given no guarantee on Llanwern, or about the B1 courses on the youth training scheme. I would describe his speech as cleverly constructed and 164 comprehensive and heaped with alibis and let-outs which attempted to be optimistic, notwithstanding the record amount of unemployment in Wales——[Interruption.] I did not intervene in the right hon. Gentleman's lengthy speech, and I hope that he will not intervene in my shorter speech.
The Secretary of State made the speech of a weary, empty-handed, perplexed, lame, worried, second-term Secretary of State. The antidote to some of his optimism is best found in a regional analysis of Welsh unemployment. I remind him that male unemployment in Aberdare stands at 22.9 per cent., in Bargoed 23 per cent., in Caernarfon 19 per cent., in Ebbw Vale 23 per cent., in Holyhead 25.9 per cent., in Milford Haven 22 per cent., in Pembroke Dock 27 per cent., at Shotton 18 per cent., in Swansea 19.9 per cent. and in Wrexham 20.2 per cent. Those figures put the right hon. Gentleman's speech into its true perspective.
As a further antidote, and to help the House to see the speech in its true perspective, I remind the Secretary of State about some of the closures and redundancies that have taken place in Wales while he has been in office: Hoover, Triang Pedigree, Orb Works, GKN, Metal Box, Bernard Wardle, Duport Steel, Aluminium Corporation, Borg Warner, Firestone, Fibreglass, Jaeger, Chance-Pilkington, BP Chemicals, ICI Fibres, BL, Alcan, Alcoa Aluminium, Alphasteel, more at BP Chemicals, Chubb, GEC, Hitachi and British Steel. It is a list of blue chip companies which he inherited, but which have gone to the wall with major job losses. They are the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility. In his speech, however, he gave no hope to those who currently find themselves out of work.
In our tiny nation of Wales, 174,000 citizens are out of work, more than a third of them aged 18 to 24 years. Of our jobless, 64,000 have been out of work for more than a year. I estimate that by the end of this year, half of the people unemployed in Wales will have been out of work for more than 52 weeks. So difficult is it to find jobs for young school leavers that about 16,000 Welsh teenagers are on special programmes. More than 290,000 Welsh people are on supplementary benefit, and another 150,000 are within 10 per cent. of that level — 10 per cent. above and almost as many, arguably, below it. There are approximately 12,000 unemployed 18-year-olds, 9,000 unemployed 17-year-olds, and, of the 17-year-olds, 1,000 have been out of work for more than a year. Of our 18-year-olds, 2,600 have been jobless for a year. In the crucial age band of 19 to 24 years — the years of marriage, parenthood and financial responsibility—over 17,000 have been out of work for more than a year. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that since he took office our great steel industry has lost 30,000 jobs, and there have been 4,000 textile redundancies and 2,400 job losses in the south Wales coalfield.
Since the right hon. Gentleman took office, tens of thousands of redundancies have rained down on the Principality. Those are the statistics. They are the result of a deliberate policy to allow industries to decline and unemployment to soar.
§ Mr. Stefan Terlezki (Cardiff, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the unemployment to which he refers is not just in Wales, but in Great Britain, Europe and all the world's industrial nations, and that it affects everybody?
§ Mr. Jones
The Secretary of State, who is a member of the Cabinet, has been a persistent advocate of the very economic policies that have humiliated and distressed countless thousands of families in Wales. I remind the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) that my point has already been made, at the Tory party conference in 1980, by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), and it was recently reinforced by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) the former Foreign Secretary.
There has been serious deindustrialisation of the Welsh economy. Since the Secretary of State took office, 103,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. It is no exaggeration to say that the Welsh economy has been ravaged, and the debate must be about the prospects and standard of living of unemployed Welsh people.
The White Paper on public expenditure has a wretched message for the steep-sided industrial valleys of the south-east and the windswept quarry towns of the north. The message is brutally forthright: that unemployment in Britain is likely to stay at 3 million, perhaps a little more or less, which is a callous and complacent prediction. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that if those policies continue, we are on a course that could lead to the destination, only too familiar in the United States, of private affluence and public squalor.
§ Mr. Jones
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) will catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I agree with the point that he made in his intervention.
I heavily emphasised teenage unemployment in the statistics that 1 gave to the House. The Secretary of State's policies have borne savagely on the prospects for youth in Wales. In my constituency, 2,500 applications were received for 80 apprenticeships at British Aerospace, Broughton. Apprenticeships in Wales are disappearing like melting snow. There is growing resentment among the youth of Wales that the Government have refused to accept the MSC's advice that the allowance should be upgraded from £25 a week to about £28 a week. Nor is it to the Government's credit that many of the available places in Wales are unfilled. The youth training scheme is running out of steam. More 17-year-olds should be involved, and the training period should be extended to two years at least. There is a distressing development in that the Government are to cut the YTS provision for 16-year-olds who have failed at school and lack basic skills. Youth training schemes are known as mode B1. We say that those youngsters need more, not less, help in order to succeed.
The Government deserve to be censured for introducing a likely recipe for disaster in this area. The schemes tend to divert young people from crime. To cut them would be to budget for more juvenile crime.
166 In terms of crime, the public expenditure White Paper, which covers the immediate future, is bad news for the Principality. The Secretary of State has not defended Wales in the White Paper, because, in cash terms, Wales will receive less than before. Even allowing for inflation stabilised at current levels, it implies a real cut in public expenditure in Wales of about 7 per cent. above the level for 1983–84. An examination of the overall trend in public expenditure in Wales since the Government assumed power in 1979 shows that very little real growth has been achieved. In the current financial year, expenditure in real terms is forecast at approximately 2.75 per cent., which is higher than the 1978–79 level. Next year, however, the cut in public expenditure will take the level about 4.5 per cent. below that of 1978–79. That is the measure of the right hon. Gentleman's failure.
The Secretary of State forgets that Wales is especially vulnerable to the consequences of expenditure cuts, because the Principality has a higher proportion of jobs in public sector and service industries than Scotland or Great Britain. Arguably, 6 per cent. more jobs in Wales depend on public expenditure than jobs in Great Britain as a whole. The Chancellor's plans, which the right hon. Gentleman has failed to prevent, will have a greater negative impact on jobs in Wales than in Scotland or Great Britain. The Secretary of State has failed to secure even a stabilisation of public expenditure levels for our people. Public sector jobs in Wales are under greater pressure because of the right hon. Gentleman's dereliction of duty.
With regard to housing, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's pre-emptive attempts to denigrate the record of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) in the Labour Government, the Secretary of State has a miserable record. In 1983, only 1,865 public sector houses were completed. In 1982, there were only 2,500. That abysmal record is the right hon. Gentleman's banana skin. His record is the more to be deplored because 40 per cent. of the Principality's housing predates 1919. That lack of new housing is the potential subject of a major programme of public works, which would give help and happiness to the thousands of tenants awaiting repairs and to the thousands of homeless. An army of unemployed construction workers is available, desperate for work. More than 3,000 skilled Welsh construction workers are out of work.
The appalling and spectacular misjudgment over home improvement grants is a major stain on the right hon. Gentleman's record. The people of Wales are paying for his misjudgment, and the housing authorities are carrying the blame. Housing prospects have suffered the most savage and wounding blows imaginable in the White Paper. Measured against the current year's allocation, there will be a horrendous cut of 20 per cent. in 1984–85. In the next few years, the total housing budget will be cut by 17 per cent. The Secretary of State for Wales, who has the responsibility for improving some of Britain's worst housing and for solving Britain's most serious housing problem, is expected to cut housing allocations by 31 per cent. in cash terms between 1979 and 1986.
However, it is worse than that. Taking into account inflation and the sale of assets, in the White Paper's terms, that represents a reduction of over 60 per cent., in real terms, from 1979 to 1986. That is the deal that the right hon. Gentleman has made in the White Paper for the people of Wales who need housing.
167 Comparison with other major public expenditure headings shows a more startling difference. For example, defence expenditure will have risen by 95 per cent. and total public expenditure by 72 per cent. On that basis, what the Secretary of State has allowed to happen to Welsh housing is abominable. Here, in sorrowful detail, is the evidence of a fundamental failure of duty by the Welsh Office's ministerial team. I was initially moved to call for the resignation of the Under-Secretary, but why blame the monkey when the organ grinder is at fault? Those figures denote the total failure of the Secretary of State to protect the most vulnerable sector of the Welsh population.
That leads me to Wales as a region. One of the prime reasons for the Government's review of regional aid was to reduce public expenditure. Those charged with the task of regenerating the Welsh economy shiver at the prospect of the review.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells
I am sorry to intervene, but I do not like to hear hon. Members on either side of the House calling Wales a region, when it is a nation.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Gentleman heard me refer to our tiny nation of Wales in terms of the regional policy. When we discuss that policy, the term "region" is generally used. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad that he intervened.
I give the Secretary of State the gravest of warnings. He must fight his corner for Wales without an atom of failure, because the implications for Wales can only be adverse; assuming that its share of this diminishing total stays the same. The impact is likely to be diffuse. It may show up negatively in the slow destruction of jobs in industries that will no longer qualify for automatic grant aid or in the relative disincentive to inward investment from footloose industries that will in future perhaps find more attractive packages elsewhere in Europe. In Wales, we need more, not less, aid.
It has been estimated that we could lose £34 million per year in regional development grants. To lose £170 million over the next five years could be catastrophic for the Principality. Under the Government's philosophy, it is likely that only special development areas will enjoy access to regional development grants. I ask the Under-Secretary to estimate how many existing jobs that likely shift of policy will destroy.
Regional policy and the future of Wales lead me to consider the Welsh Development Agency. The Secretary of State made some hopeful comments about that. The public expenditure White Paper puts the provision for the agency at about £50 million for 1984–85 to 1986–87. The right hon. Gentleman should be more precise than saying "about" £50 million. If that level is maintained, there will be a significant cut in the agency's funding. If we estimate the sum for the current year at £50 million, add the White Paper estimate of £50 million for 1984–85 to 1986–87 and adjust for inflation, that shows how Government funding for the agency has been reduced and will continue to decline. After a high point in the financial year ending March 1982, the agency's Government funding was cut in real terms by 29 per cent. in the next financial year. By 1986 it will be about 40 per cent., in real terms, below the 1982 level. Given the cuts in Government finance to the agency, the right hon. Gentleman should make a statement setting out in precise terms what he envisages to be the 168 future role of the agency or, on those predictions, for how long beyond 1986 the agency will be operating in its present role.
With regard to the hope of retaining employment in Wales, I raise the matter of Sealink and Holyhead and Fishguard employees. There are about 1,500 worried, loyal and efficient employees. The main fear of the workers, arising from the reprehensible denationalisation proposals, is that there will be job losses and a worsening in their conditions of employment. Holyhead and Fishguard employees are worried that, with Sealink in two parts, the new owners will retain harbours but dispose of some routes. Thus, major redundancies are feared. In Holyhead male unemployment is 25.9 per cent. and in Fishguard it is 12.5 per cent. Closure of either port, or of some of the activities in either port, would have devastating consequences upon each community. Neither the Gwynedd county authority nor the Holyhead union leaders know what will happen. Certainly there is a growing feeling of insecurity. The Secretary of State has espoused a privatisation policy that is deeply injurious to prospects in Holyhead and Fishguard against the background of mounting fears of unemployment.
We call for a major investment programme in British Rail as that would give a massive boost to the Welsh economy. The electrification of the Paddington-Cardiff and Crewe-Holyhead lines would pay major dividends. The right hon. Gentleman should know that an electrification programme of the 106-mile Crewe-Holyhead line would cost but £64 million, yet completely transform the economic climate in north Wales.
The Secretary of State has been tardy in his support of the Welsh rail system. The evidence is that since 1979, of 23 schemes worth over £5 million proposed by British Rail, none involved any direct effect on the Welsh railways. The right hon. Gentleman and his Department have stood idly by while unaccountable and runaway British Rail executives surreptitiously plan the single tracking of the rail system in north-east Wales, to the detriment of plans to regenerate the local economies of Wrexham and Deeside.
In the context of employment, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the coal industry, but he has never demonstrated a warm commitment to the south-east Wales coalfield. The Opposition are deeply concerned at the article by the Labour editor of The Observer of 19 February predicting 30 pit closures in the United Kingdom within 12 months.
We are already filled with foreboding about the spineless way in which the Government appear to allow the National Coal Board to put valley communities at risk. The closure of any pit in Wales, certainly in the south-east Wales coalfield, will wipe out the gains of new industry in the south Wales economy. Does not Germany subsidise its coal industry so that home-produced coal can compete with coal imports from outside Europe? EEC countries import 63 million tonnes of coal a year. Therefore, how can the Government enable south Wales miners and the NCB to chase that major market in the knowledge that it appears to the National Union of Mineworkers in south Wales that the Germans can subsidise their coal? What prospects are there of giving help to the south-east Wales coalfield?
I now direct attention to my constituency and the Airbus A320. The Government should tell the House why there has been such a delay in announcing the fate of that superb 169 project. British Aerospace, Broughton, one of the largest employers in Wales, and a highly technical, most productive industrial enterprise, is holding its breath, awaiting a go-ahead with Government financial backing. Nerves are on edge. Should the project eventually get the thumbs up, the Secretary of State must ensure that Broughton has a fair and major share of the work loading. Can he guarantee that my constituents will have that prospect? I remind him of the 8,300 jobless citizens on Deeside and of the 400 job losses earlier this year at Broughton. He may agree that Broughton is the jewel in the crown in north Wales technological activity.
The Secretary of State mentioned agriculture, as I must, during a debate on Welsh affairs. The Opposition protest at the present policy of requiring the Forestry Commission to raise specific sums by selling a proportion of its lands, plantations and holdings. I have received protests from forestry workers, some of them from my own constituency. They are anxious to retain a strong public sector share so that, for example, the new United Paper Pulp Mill at Shotton can have security of timber supplies. The underpinning of the mill's 300 jobs at Shotton and the 1,000 jobs in the rest of the United Kingdom, many of them in the commission's north Wales forests, needs an unfragmented, secure public sector. With the best will in the world, a more fragmented ownership and management cannot guarantee reliable supplies of 500,000 tonnes of wood a year.
The Secretary of State referred to science parks, but the House must agree that he has not yet obtained sufficient numbers of new high technology industries in Wales. He has not yet created a climate for a truly modern economy. Scotland has its silicon glen, but Wales does not yet have an equivalent. Nor do we have the Welsh equivalent of the Thames valley M4 corridor housing sunrise industries.
Well before the end of the century I should like to see a reconstituted economy in Wales. I should like to see Wales regenerate and modernise her industries, diversify her economic base, become successful and banish large-scale unemployment. On that basis, I should like the Secretary of State to tap to an even greater degree the growing link between academic institutions and science parks. It would greatly enhance the future prospects for Wales if he ensured even more science parks. Wales must have a bigger share of the impending economic growth sector—high technology.
Hon. Members will have read the novel "How Green Was My Valley", which is about Wales during a period when at times there was more work than there now is. The Secretary of State must obtain for Wales the silicon valleys about which he attempted to lecture the House earlier.
Basically, Wales must benefit hugely from a concentration of extra Government expenditure on new public capital investments. We have given the Secretary of State some of the items on our shopping list. At the top of it is the need for a second crossing of the Severn. That would be a potential stimullus and of major importance to the whole of the south Wales economy. We want to see the sinking of new pits in south Wales and a coal liquefaction plant operative in Clwyd. We want the Secretary of State to deliver the investment for the Airbus A320. We demand a major expansion of house building throughout the length and breadth of Wales. We want an outright declaration of a firm future for the Llanwern steelworks. We ask the Secretary of State to work for a major investment programme for the railways based on the 170 electrification of major routes. He should aim to obtain a significant boost to co-operative and self-help industrial development throughout the Principality. In the absence of any reference in his speech today to meaningful, new work, he may wish to consider that programme to begin, with.
The right hon. Gentleman's record in this new Parliament is not good. He has failed to exempt Wales from the obnoxious Rates Bill, although it implies constitutional change and ruthlessly downgrades our local democracies. He has lost the confidence of local government leadership, both elected and professional, which has turned against him since he introduced that Bill and failed to exempt Wales from it. In housing he has callously abandoned the interests of tens of thousands of underprivileged Welsh people who seek new arid modernised homes. His housing record and his future intentions are a disgrace and a nightmare. He has persisted in supporting in Cabinet economic policies which guarantee even more severe unemployment. His stewardship has seen unemployment in Wales double. He has collaborated in a Cabinet review of regional policy which promises a Welsh regional policy that will be hurtful to the Welsh economy.
The right hon. Gentleman's record in public expenditure can only be summarised as supine and indifferent. He has been trounced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Welsh people now wait apprehensively to pay a heavy social price. He is rapidly running out of alibis. The Treasury appears to have wrested control of his Department from his faltering grasp. His track record is arguably the worst of all of our Secretaries of State and Wales has paid a heavy price for his failure. Wales has a contracting industrial base arid a welfare state that is at risk. It cannot afford a two-term incumbency of the right hon. Gentleman. He is a compliant apologist for his Prime Minister's hated policies, the unwanted representative of a harsh regime, and he has no mandate to inflict those policies on the Welsh people.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the first Back-Bench Member, the House will wish to know that at least 15 hon. Members hope to speak. Therefore, short speeches will be in everyone's interests.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)
I do riot complain and I am sure that my hon. Friends will riot complain that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) focused the impact of his attack on unemployment. I haste to assure him that Conservative Members share his intense anxiety that unemployment should be reduced as soon and as substantially as possible. We must devote every energy to that task.
I make some complaint, however, about the hon. Gentleman's seeking to attribute all blame for this unfortunate ill and disease to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Government. The hon. Gentleman seemed to see Wales as an oasis in the middle of a world that does not exist. He made no mention of the world recession, the difficulty of maintaining exports to countries which themselves have been terribly affected by the recession and the problems of a contracting export market in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. He left 171 us with the weird idea that if a Labour Government had been elected they could have solved all the problems and reduced unemployment through measures which not so many years ago brought the country to such a pass that it had to beg from the International Monetary Fund.
The hon. Gentleman did not mention the real problem of inflation, which has not been defeated but has been only contained, and we should like it to be still lower. I respectfully suggest that with the same level of unemployment, or perhaps even slightly less, but with the inflation that his policies would surely produce and if we had not undertaken the recent very difficult transition we should be in a weaker position to fight unemployment than we now are, although I appreciate that the task is none the less enormous. The hon. Gentleman also made no reference to the international monetary problems which have greatly affected exporting countries such as the United Kingdom.
I shall heed your injunction not to take too long, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I wish to deal briefly with one or two other points. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside scarcely mentioned the great dependence on the old basic industries that has caused so much difficulty for Wales in recent years. Most of the coal closures occurred in the 1960s under Labour Governments, although to hear the hon. Gentleman one would imagine that most of them took place under Conservative Governments.
Steel closures, I admit, have been considerable and I believe that we have had as many as—or more than—we can bear. We must make the strongest possible case against any further closures of steel plants in Wales. Their performance has shown that they are now economically comparable with any plants in the United Kingdom and I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must ensure that that position is sustained.
It may fairly be claimed that some of our problems arose not because we became associated with Europe but because we did so too late. We should have entered the EEC sooner and been a founder member of the Community. Nevertheless, since we joined, our agriculture has been reasonably prosperous, although my right hon. Friend will be aware of the present anxieties hinted at by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells). I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be attentive to the special needs of our agriculture in the months and years ahead.
In industry, the changes that have occurred — the difficulties, the technological innovations and the problems of the decline of great industries—would have occurred whether we were in Europe or not. Indeed, some of the harshest effects have been ameliorated by grants and loans from European sources. It is a matter of history that the basic industries were bound to contract in the post-war era and much of the contraction took place in the 1960s, although in iron and steel and tinplate the contraction came later. Such was the scale of employment in those huge industries that it was inconceivable that the new, highly technical industries could take up all the lost employment. I share the wish of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside that we should move to more modern, highly technical industries and indeed we have not been unsuccessful in bringing important new industries to the Principality. We all wish that there were more, but there are hopeful signs. 172 It is encouraging that so many foreign firms from North America, Japan and elsewhere have come to the Principality.
The Welsh Grand Committee has already debated communications and roads, so I shall not dwell on that aspect, save to emphasise the hon. Gentleman's comments about the importance of the Severn crossing. I should add to that the importance of improving the main route along the north Wales coast. It is vital that both projects should be completed. Following the recent debate on communications, Ministers must attend to the necessary improvements of access roads to industrial areas and valleys as the present roads are a disincentive to the investment needed. We must also persevere with a second Severn crossing and wth repairs to the existing bridge.
In our efforts to bring in new industries to replace the old nothing has been more impressive than the success of the Welsh Development Agency, in co-operation with the Welsh Office. It has provided a wonderful array of new, purpose-built factories, advance factories, and so on. In the context of world recession, the allocation of millions of square feet of factory space to new firms has been astonishing. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, it is truly impressive that of the new factories authorised and completed by the WDA only 13 per cent. are still vacant. Almost as important has been the part played by the WDA in co-operation with local authorites in clearing derelict sites and removing some of the worst scars of earlier industrialisation.
My one major criticism of the WDA, and perhaps by implicaton of the Welsh Office, concerns the comparative lack of success in helping existng firms to stay in business as compared with its success in establishing new ones. I hope that that aspect will be re-examined as I believe that some of the companies which failed might have been saved with very modest assistance. It is always more difficult to provide a replacement for a lost company.
I share some of the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside about the future of regional aid. I recognise that in recent years problems have arisen in areas such as the west midlands and even Greater London which had no previous experience of such difficulties, leading them to complain about the aid given to the traditional areas. I must emphasise, however, that without substantial regional aid Wales would be hard pressed to continue to attract the industry that it needs. Despite the arrival of many new firms, I must emphasise, as the hon. Gentleman emphasised, that unemployment in Wales is unacceptably high and that our industrial base is still perilously small.
I remind my right hon. Friend that few parts of Wales have had to bear such huge losses as the areas of employment in the steel industry. I hope, therefore, that he will assert the strong claim of the Principality for special consideration if there are any new arrangements for regional aid. Nor must we overlook the fact that the grants and loans available from EEC funds are directed to the special regions and, should those be changed to any substantial degree, some of the areas would be ineligible for EEC assistance.
The industrial base of Wales is too narrow. That is very much the case in South Glamorgan and the Vale of Glamorgan, which I represent. The town and district of Barry and the adjacent Vale of Glamorgan have lost much of the employment formerly provided by the docks. The jobs provided by BP Chemicals have steadily declined in number; we have lost some employment in the Dow group 173 of companies; we have lost Turner's Asbestos at Rhoose and the regular shipments by Geest Ltd. to Barry docks, although we have been encouraged to see some emergency shipments there in recent weeks.
Ours is an area with particularly good workpeople and a long record of excellent labour relations. It is an area where local authorities, managements and trade unions have worked in greater harmony than in most other parts of the United Kingdom. We need and deserve, therefore, maximum encouragement and help from Government agencies and departments and from such organisations as Associated British Ports. If a decision is made to withdraw or curtail any regional aid that the Vale of Glamorgan now enjoys, any prospect of industrial growth there will be sadly affected.
I share the desire of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside to see our economy expand, though not so as to bring back the evils of inflation, or to place an undue strain on our delicately balanced economy, but at least to ensure that we shall be in a position to attract those new industries to which he referred. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that concern about present difficulties is not limited to the Opposition Benches. It is shared by all parties and by all Members representing Welsh constituencies.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
I and most of my hon. Friends on the Opposition side of the House regret the fact that this debate is taking place on a day when the trade union movement is once more under bitter attack from the Government — one of many attacks which have been more vicious than we envisaged even from the anti-trade union Government elected in 1979. The Government have attacked the trade union movement more often than has been the case since before the days of the Tolpuddle martyrs. The Government are led by the most ruthless, scurrilous, slippery professor of chicanery that this country has ever known, ably assisted—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) wish to say a few words? He sits there as a lapdog and is always interfering. Does he want to intervene on this occasion?
§ Mr. Powell
I want to refer briefly to the one who assists this professor of chicanery—the most inefficient, inept, botcher, bungler, greenhorn and novice of a Secretary of State who could ever be inflicted on the Principality. The right hon. Gentleman has become more difficult to describe as the years go by, and he still sits there with the complacency and indifference that we would expect of a dead toad. We have had to endure a boring and lacklustre 45-minute speech. He usually displays a certain amount of enthusiasm for the Ayatollah herself, although I noticed that over the last few months this has been sadly lacking. Could he be one of the dissidents who are seen drinking coffee or tea in the Tea Room when the Cabinet is meeting? Has be become bored with his job? Or are all the decisions taken by her ladyship, even those affecting the Principality of Wales?
It has been said by some that when one stoops to personal attack one loses the argument. But if the personal attack is truthful, reasoned and without malice, as were my earlier remarks, then one will undoubtedly win the argument. I do not wish to be unkind to the right hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) because I realise 174 that his job as errand-boy or lackey for the grocer's daughter must be a terrible burden and must place him under great strain; but, as a Lloyd's man, he must appreciate that if he were running a business in Wales as he is running the economy in Wales he would have been bankrupt time and again in the four years of his administration. Some may say that this is a wild statement. They may ask if it is justified, and they may ask for the facts to be checked.
We have checked the facts because the Secretary of State will not give us them. He deliberately skated round the facts in his 45-minute speech. Let us go back to May 1979 when he was elevated from relative obscurity to the position of Secretary of State for Wales on firm election manifesto commitments that we are still waiting to see materialise.
Unemployment in the Principality then stood at 77,177. After four years of his stewardship and guidance, it now stands at the staggering figure of 175,000, after the figures have been doctored or manipulated throughout the country. There are now 100,000 more people out of work. That is fact. Some 16.6 per cent. of the working population of Wales are without work. School leavers out of work number 6,533. There are 20,000 youngsters on training schemes in Wales and 34,226 unemployed in Mid-Glamorgan alone. The total number of under-25s out of work is 73,000. In Ogmore there are 8,000 out of work with fewer than 100 jobs at the jobcentre.
The hon Member for Bridgend (Mr. Hubbard-Miles) can look through his glasses at the ceiling but he will see no jobs up there. We are looking for jobs in Ogmore and the borough of Ogwr, and the hon. Gentleman represents half the constituency now. Yet, in 1979, Ogmore had 3.7 per cent. unemployment. Jobs were plentiful and businesses were booming. Not only in Wales but all over the country the picture was the same. When this Government took office the United Kingdom average unemployment figure was 5 per cent. It has now rocketed to 16 per cent.—one in eight on the dole. In London it was only 3.4 per cent., as in Bridgend. Now in London it is 10 per cent. — the highest figure since records began 30 years ago. There are 400,000 out of work in London, even with the doctored figures.
The real total of unemployed is over 4 million—one third more than official statistics reveal. That was reported by Professor Adrian Sinfield of the unemployment unit, who claimed that 356,000, who do not or cannot claim benefit, had been removed from the list since October 1982.
I do not know what the hon. Member for Ynys Mon is laughing about. Does he laugh because people are out of work? He has a job. I do not want to be nasty to him, because if I do he forgets things. Therefore, let me wipe the smile off his face before I get personal.
Professor Adrian Sinfield claimed thatthe extent of misery and hardship caused by unemployment and the Government's failure to remedy the situation are being disguised by statistical manipulation".
As a trading nation, how have we fared? In 1983 the decline in the United Kingdom's trade in manufactured goods created a deficit of over £5 billion—the first such deficit in 200 years. That was one of the results of the Government's economic policies, which are a significant part of the reason for massive unemployment, the like of which we have not seen for 200 years or more.
175 I note that the Secretary of State has left his place. As a devout reader of the Official Report, I read that a previous Secretary of State for Wales — the former Speaker of the House—commented that the right hon. Gentleman usually left the Chamber when he was speaking. The former Speaker commented on the slime that the right hon. Gentleman left behind him. That was the substance of a Hansard report.
When the Prime Minister visited H.H. Electronics in Cambridge in 1979, there was a 350-strong work force. The Prime Minister singled it out for a special visit. She is reported as having said:It is no use politicians sitting on their backsides in London just reading bits of paper—they should get out and see what is going on. Cambridge is a goldmine.The right hon. Lady described HH Electronics, which made audio equipment, as a wonderful success that ought to be repeated.
The rot set in one year later, when the work force slumped to 200. Is the right hon. Lady aware that the directors have called in the receivers? That is the result of the Government's monetarist policy. Thousands of firms are in a similar predicament and the result is a massive number of redundancies and escalating unemployment. Why cannot the Government understand that the situation is becoming worse? Many of the firms that are suffering are in Wales. Many of them have left the Bridgend trading estate and gone bust. This has helped to swell the number of unemployed to four million.
When the Prime Minister displays her true "com-passionate" nature and offers the four million unemployed advice, she states unreservedlythat unemployed families should adjust their diets to fit their dole money.She says that if they want jobs, they should move to where jobs are to be found. The difficulty is that wherever the four million go—they can get on their bikes and travel away from their home areas—they will be unable to find any work.
At the new £60 million airport terminal at Birmingham, for example, 12,500 applicants are chasing 60 vacancies. In Sudbury, 500 women are seeking 50 part-time jobs in a market. The jobs are to last for three weeks and the pay will be £50 a week. The CBI claims that only 7,000 jobs a month will be lost in the coming quarter compared with 11,000 a year ago, and 50,000 two years ago. The patient is sinking more slowly, but he is not getting better. That is the reflection of the nation's health.
There is a more fundamental and sombre feature of the plight of those who are without work. The Sunday Mirror of 29 January carried an editorial about a young man from Liverpool, 23-year-old Gary Keeley, who killed himself because he could not find a job. He left a note to his mother which read:Forgive me for the selfish thing that I am about to do. It is a cruel thing to do to somebody who as been the best mother anybody could wish for. I'm sorry that I haven't the guts to do anything else but I have lost all my fight to live. What little pride I had in myself has been slowly eroded over the past two years.The coroner asked:What future could the poor lad see for himself?That is a sad and sickening indictment of all those who pursue policies that create a society that allows such attitudes to develop among the young, the middle aged, and the elderly who are thrown out of work through no 176 fault of their own. It is a further indictment of those who are responsible for creating the great divide between the haves and the have nots.
What sort of society do we live in when the Prime Minster's son can fail his accountancy examinations, go to Oman and clinch a deal for £300 million with the help of mum, make a commission of 1 per cent. and bring in £300,000——
§ Mr. Powell
—which was just enough to purchase the Chiswick home of the Secretary of State for Wales at a knock-down price of £335,000? How can any person with wealth like that appreciate, understand or comprehend the degradation and overwhelming feeling of desperation that is experienced by those who are out of work?
On 21 February the Western Mail reported the golden handshakes amounting to £438,000 that had been enjoyed by four directors of the Rank Organisation. One of the directors, who had less than two years' service, received £200,000. We hear from Conservative Members about miners' redundancy payments. What sort of society have we created over the past four years? The great divide is widening and discontent is growing. Last week the chairman of the National Coal Board fell over, which caused us as much concern as Mr. McGregor has shown for out-of-work steelmen and miners.
The industrial future of the mining industry in Wales is a crucial issue. In March 1979, 26,400 men were employed in the industry in south Wales. In February 1984, the number had been reduced to 20,400 — a reduction in less than five years of 6,000 and a decrease of 23 per cent. in mining jobs. In March 1979 there were 36 pits in Wales. We now have only 28—a reduction of 22 per cent. Two of them, the Caerau and the Coegnant collieries, are in Maesteg in my constituency.
Before Christmas, with the hon. Member for Bridgend, I attended a conference in the Berwen theatre at Nant-moel, where we talked to the miners. We went on television. We wanted to ensure that the Wyndham/Western colliery would be retained. I do not say that the hon. Gentleman supported the ideas of the miners, although they were his constituents. Indeed, that was one of the reasons for his presence. Our purpose was to ensure that the colliery, with 550 jobs and an abundance of coal, was retained for the Ogmore valley. It was one of the few collieries left in the valley, and we knew that it would hold 550 jobs within it. However, the colliery was closed at Christmas. On 7 January that colliery was capped, the last in the Ogmore valley. In the Welsh coalfield production fell by 2.5 per cent. from March 1979 to February 1984.
§ Mr. Powell
I shall not give way, because many of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate.
Productivity increased overall by 12 per cent. and output per man shift overall increased by 12 per cent. In 1979 output was 1.40 tonnes per man; and in 1984 it was 1.57 tonnes. Between 1979 and 1984 the south Wales mines produced 7.1 per cent. of all the NCB's deep-mined coal. In the same period south Wales received only 2.7 per cent. of the NCB's capital investment in major capital projects. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Wales will take 177 up this matter with the NCB through Philip Weekes and demand more investment in the south Wales mining industry compared with other parts of the country.
I am perturbed by the suggestion that the St. John's colliery in Maesteg—the last colliery left in Ogmore—is being further examined. Normally, one starts by saying that there are geological difficulties. Shortly afterwards, the colliery experiences capping. The St. John's colliery employs 884 men. If those men were thrown out of work, the percentage of people out of work in Maesteg would escalate from 24 per cent. to about 40 per cent. I hope that every effort will be made to ensure that the St. John's colliery is kept alive.
We need a greater crusade of public works and massive investment similar to that initiated in the 1930s by President Roosevelt. We have an abundance of bricks—the brickworks are closing—cement and steel. My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) mentioned the number of construction workers out of work. There are 400,000 registered construction workers out of work — bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, electricians, architects, surveyors and every other tradesman one could mention. We need hospitals, houses, sheltered accommodation for the elderly, roads, electrified railways, new sewers and bridges. Each week—only a week ago we debated this subject in the Welsh Grand Committee—we hear of the number of patients dying because of lack of funds. There is an abundance of doctors and nurses, yet hospitals are closing.
Mass unemployment will not wither away. It must be approached in the same way as it was created. Unless and until the Government reverse their present plans on more cuts in local government finance, which will mean thousands more out of work, the Gary Keeleys of this society will multiply. The blame will rest entirely on the Government. The Government already stand condemned. If they will not listen to the justification of the arguments and act accordingly, their day of judgment will eventually arrive, by democratic or other means.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I say to the House that I know that Welsh days are relatively rare. There are 15 hon. Members from Welsh constituencies who would like to take part in the debate. I would like to feel that, by the end of the evening, all of them will have been able to speak in the debate. I ask for briefer contributions.
§ Mr. Tom Hooson (Brecon and Radnor)
One way in which we can tackle the severe unemployment problem is to ensure that public expenditure is controlled. The burden of taxes and rates on industry is one of the most obvious ways by which jobs can be destroyed.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) has been reading the White Paper on public expenditure for the coming three years. I, too, have been reading that document, but with considerably more satisfaction than the hon. Gentleman. For the first time, the Government, who have now been in office for five years, are reaching the point where they can contemplate the stabilisation of public expenditure in real terms in Great Britain and Wales. It is remarkable that it has taken only five years to reach that point. To keep real expenditure level in the coming years will be a notable achievement.
178 I am not saying that public expenditure is intrinsically bad. On the contrary, many functions are clearly needed, and later I shall refer particularly to local government functions. There is a need for school teachers, librarians, swimming pool attendants and so forth. I hope that the expanding economy, which both sides of the House want, will have the funds to pay for an increasing number of such jobs in the public sector. We should not begin from the point of view that there is something intrinsically bad in the public sector.
We must ask whether the ratio of total GDP which goes in taxation is reasonable. This is the area in which we must rein in expenditure for some years. We still cannot afford the administrative structure in Wales. Overall, there has been a fall in the number of civil servants in Wales. Since my right hon. Friend became the Secretary of State in 1979, their numbers have been reduced by about 300 or 400. The slimming process within Welsh local government has been relatively disappointing. There has been a reduction of about 11 per cent. in the staffing of the Welsh Office, but, by comparison, the reduction in the manpower of Welsh local authorities has been about 3.5 per cent., which is rather disappointing.
The White Paper envisages in the next three years a reduction of about 16,000 civil servants in the whole of Britain. I mildly reproach my right hon. Friend for the fact that in the next few years the manpower prospects in the Welsh Office are 2,206, 2,206, and 2,206. I am not sure of the magic of that figure. We must pay tribute to the 11 per cent. staffing reduction achieved by my right hon. Friend so far. Manpower costs are about two thirds of the costs of administration in central or local government. We must look closely at the head count.
The struggle to obtain control of public expenditure will be an especially slow battle when dealing with dozens of local authorities. So far the Government have always lost that battle. It is remarkable that as long ago as 1975 the late Anthony Crosland, when Secretary of State for the Environment, said that the party was over. The party is still not over. Local authorities are still a relatively uncontrollable factor in public expenditure. They account for a quarter of all public expenditure.
My right hon. Friend can at least be grateful that in Wales he does not deal with anyone like Mr. Ken Livingstone, who scatters public money on dozens of organisations such as Babies against the Bomb and the Marx memorial library. Nevertheless, even in Wales, there is an annual ritual of screams when my right hon. Friend announces his proposed settlements for the year. I suspect that the higher the noise level, the closer we may be getting to some of the areas of unnecessary expenditure. We may have to go through a ritual of a great deal of excessive excitement, because that is the only way we can draw the attention of the councils to the fact that the Government mean business in reining in public expenditure. The degree to which——
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall not give way, because I am trying to respect Mr. Speaker's injunction to be brief. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to speak if I am brief.
The degree to which people have been confused into believing that each council will be squeezed—in fact, only about a dozen English authorities are affected by the Rates Bill — is reflected in the fact that a distressed 179 community council got in touch with me. It was worried about the future of its £625 budget, which, to its credit, it had kept stable for two years.
That is the degree to which all the information is used to give the impression that chaos is being let loose in Welsh local government.
Welsh local authorities now employ 80 per cent. more people than they did 10 years ago, but no one in Wales would believe that the quality of services that they provide is 80 per cent. better than it was 10 years ago.
Welsh local authorities are spending 9 per cent. more than the Government projected in 1980. Clearly some control is needed to rein in that expenditure. The rate-capping Bill relates only to English authorities, but in view of some of the outrageous figures that have been proposed by Clwyd county council I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the possibility of introducing rate-capping in Wales. It is essential that he should provide such a defence for the Welsh ratepayer.
The problem that the Government face is one of convincing the local authorities that they mean business and that the party is over. Every time there is an effort to control expenditure, we are given to understand that we are about to see the end of civilisation as we know it. The Powys branch of the National Union of Teachers invited me to oppose rate capping. I report with some pride that it has described my views as those which could have beenproudly owned by any of the medieval marcher lords.I am a mild and reasonable man, and when I can be suspected of wishing to drag the Welsh border country back into medieval times, what rhetoric remains to be applied to my right hon. Friend? Before the debate is over we shall no doubt have heard him promoted to Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun. Local government expenditure is at an all-time high. In education, which, after all, accounts for half the budget of each county council, the teacher-pupil ratio is at a record level. The spending per pupil is at an all-time high. I should have thought that with years ahead in which the school leaving group will be relatively smaller that it was a number of years ago we should be looking for substantial economies in the education budget. That does not however, mean a return to the dark ages.
My right hon. Friend must continue to disregard the amount of screaming and take as a sign of satisfaction the fact that those screams mean that we are beginning to deal with some of the waste.
We have heard references to interference with local democracy. I suggest that we must clarify the role of local councils under the British constitution. Power in this country resides in the two Houses of Parliament. It is for this House to decide what powers should be given to other bodies. In 1888, the House decided in the case of Wales to give certain powers to county councils. The House perhaps made some unwise decisions on restructuring 10 years ago, but these are always matters for the House to decide.
The House votes well over half of the expenditure that goes through Welsh local authorities. It is only reasonable that this should be the place where budgets are set. The Welsh Office, therefore, has a responsibility to influence the level of expenditure.
I should have thought also that those of us who know Welsh local government might be a little sceptical about the claim that local government is the fountain head of 180 local government. We know perfectly well that for the most part the results in local elections are not determined by local issues but tend to go with the national political trends. In parts of Wales, such as Powys, most councillors are not elected on a party basis. More members of Powys county council and the two district councils in my constituency were elected unopposed because of apathy not because of satisfaction. Sometimes it is necessary to search to find someone to fill a seat for which no one has applied. That is the reality of the apathy in local authorities. It should be taken into account when we talk about the mystique that is built around local government.
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall not give way, for the reason that I have given.
We must sort out the semantics of this alleged attack on local democracy. We must ask whether local government is local when so many of the associations negotiate nationally. Salary and wage levels are negotiated nationally. National standards are imposed by different Ministries in a number of matters. Furthermore, most of the functions of local government are administrative. Local government administers Acts of Parliament. Therefore, one must ask whether that is government or administration.
In future it will be necessary to devise techniques, which are still experimental, for seeking to control local government expenditure. I am sure that the first thing to be done is to get across the message that the party is over. I hope that the Audit Commission will compare the costs of all kinds of council services. Each council should study why there are such huge variations in costs. By studying the example of more successful and efficient councils, it should be possible to find ways of achieving greater efficiency without damaging the services provided to the local people.
In education, which takes a large proportion of a council's budget, I am worried that the school inspectorate has never had any responsibility for reviewing the economic efficiency of the inputs into education. As it studies the effectiveness of the schools as educational institutions——
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall not give way. As the inspectorate inspects schools for their educational achievement, it would seem reasonable that it should also consider whether there is an optimum result from the expenditure of educational funds.
Are there not many opportunities to bring in competitive private services in local government? We should look increasingly to private enterprise for a number of the contracted-in services. It is one thing for a council to be responsible for ensuring that there is a garbage removal service—it has to supervise such a service—but it does not necessarily follow that it has to provide the service.
I cannot help wondering whether we should study rather more carefully the system of town or city managers that is used in a number of American cities. Somebody is appointed as the competent executive, and he might eventually find that his progress in his career as town or borough manager would reflect his efficiency in the use of resources in the local authority.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)
I am glad to be speaking in this debate because to me and to a few other hon. Members it is a historic occasion. Ten years ago, many of us were trying to persuade our constituents to vote for us. Some of us were successful and some were not. Ten years have passed, and we are discussing matters relevant to Wales.
This is the 10th anniversary of my election to this House. It is appropriate that we should be debating Welsh affairs, and that I should remember some of the subjects that I mentioned during my maiden speech a short time after my election here. It is even more appropriate that I should ask what has been achieved for Wales and the Welsh people in the past 10 years. What have successive Governments done in that time to improve the quality of life?
As is the custom in the House, I referred in my maiden speech to matters of direct interest to my constituents. At that time there was much unemployment in Ceredigion. There were very few opportunities for youth employment and I feared that the lack of new industry or of expanding businesses would result in the draining away of young people. Today the picture is even more bleak. In some parts of my constituency, unemployment has risen to 25 per cent. and more. Young people are leaving school from colleges with good qualifications and are unable to find not only jobs suitable for their talents but any jobs at all. Opportunities are fewer than ever, despite the efforts made by the Development Board for Rural Wales to bring industry to the area. We owe a great deal to those in charge of the board. They have tried to stem the flow of population from our part of Wales. All hon. Members who represent areas covered by the board appreciate the work that it has done during the past few years.
I also drew attention in my maiden speech to some of the institutions in Ceredigion of which we are proud. Among other educational institutions there are the two university colleges at Aberystwyth and Lampeter. There is a college of librarianship, an agricultural college and further education colleges, and they all provide excellent teaching and first-class facilities. However, sadly, these institutions are now having to struggle for adequate funding. They are being forced to make cuts that could damage their academic standards and injure their reputation. Schools are being attacked in the same way. For the present Government, education is no longer a priority.
I mentioned, too, the plant breeding station at Ceredigion—an outstanding research establishment. The reputation of that institution has spread well beyond our shores, and it is carrying out valuable research that is of great benefit to agriculture in Wales.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the plant breeding station is a national institution, and that the cuts to be made are very short-sighted?
§ Mr. Howells
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that comment. I hope that he will attempt to persuade the Secretary of State to convince others to change their minds about the station. The decisions of the Agriculture and Food Research Council mean that there are to be drastic cuts in the operation of the station. That has caused a great outcry throughout Wales, but the Government are still 182 allowing it to happen. The Secretary of State is to visit the plant breeding station this week. I hope that after seeing it he will change his mind.
A national conference is to be held at Aberystwyth on 6 April. I hope that representatives of all political parties will attend and will show that they are willing to support our cause and to make sure that the Welsh plant breeding station remains one of the most outstanding stations in the world.
During my time in the House I have regularly asked successive Secretaries of State to give the go-ahead to the second phase of Bronglais hospital. Bronglais hospital is an excellent institution which serves the vast area of mid-Wales. There is a plaque at the hospital recording the fact that it was opened by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). I am told that he made an excellent speech in Welsh on that occasion. I hope that the Minister can assure the people of mid-Wales and the Aberystwyth area that he will persuade the local authority to start the second phase of the hospital. Its catchment area is Meirionnydd, Montgomery, Radnor and other parts of mid-Wales. Not only has no date been given for the further development but the resources of the hospital have been limited, as have those of other NHS establishments.
That is a reflection of the state of the NHS, and it causes great concern in our area, where there is an aging population which depends heavily on the health arid other social services. The recession and successive Governments' inept policies have left Wales in a sorry plight. The Government seem to be intent on leaving the area to suffer from the lack of jobs, a rundown of health services, declining education and stagnant industries.
We need a fresh approach—an approach that is not tied to dogma but which accepts that a great dead of investment is needed to improve the infrastructure, increase job opportunities, improve the social services and restore some confidence to this land of ours.
Some hon. Members on both sides may not be aware—or perhaps they do not want to refer to the fact—that proposals were made by the Labour Government for a Welsh Assembly and were turned down. We were heavily defeated. But I believe that the principle of devolving power is still viable. That is the only way in which we could satisfactorily deal with our problems. The Welsh nation is crying out for a Welsh Assembly.
It has been said during the debate, and it is well known, that the Tory Government introduced the Select Committee system and established the Select Committee for Welsh Affairs. I sat on the Committee for four years. It discussed vital subjects and many important recommendations were made by both successive Chairmen, but — with a few notable exemptions — the Government chose to ignore them all.
After 10 years, I see no advancement for Wales. We deserve something better. We deserve an Assembly for the people of Wales, run by the people of Wales.
I said earlier that the Secretary of State had not been to Brussels to defend the rights of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman intervened to say that he had been to Brussels. I do not dispute that he has been to Brussels. My point was that, during the negotiations of the past six years, he has not represented the industry. It is a great pity that the Welsh industry is not represented in Brussels, as are the agriculture industries of other countries within the Community. I hope that, in his wisdom, the Secretary of State will do everything that he can to preserve the 183 smallholding system that we have in Wales. It is unfortunate that in many parts of Britain, local authorities are selling their smallholdings. We learnt last week of counties in the south of England selling their assets. I am proud that Dyfed county council has retained all of its smallholdings. I hope that the Secretary of State will do everything in his power to persuade other local authorities to hold on to theirs. There are more than 8,000 smallholdings in Britain, and a large proportion of them are in Wales. There are many small family farms in Wales and 41 per cent. of all farms in the United Kingdom are less than 50 acres in size. More than 70 per cent. of farms in Wales do not employ outside labour. It is the Secretary of State's duty to go to Brussels to help them.
The Secretary of State said very little about farming in his speech. He said that the only alternative to increased production is to introduce a quota system. I do not favour the principle of such a system. We have been told by the Secretary of State and other Ministers in the past 10 years to produce more from the land. Agriculture has responded and produced even more. I blame the people who are responsible for the marketing and disposal of our surpluses in Europe. The only alternative now is temporarily to introduce quotas until we can put to rights our marketing division in the EEC so that we may sell our produce to other countries, whether inside or outside the EEC. It is possible to lower the guaranteed price to producers by 20 per cent. if that is desired by the Government. However, I believe that agriculture would produce even more if it was paid less for what it produces, unless the aim is to bankrupt it.
The sheepmeat regime should not be intefered with. I hope that the Secretary of State agrees that we should retain it intact within the framework of the EEC. As he said, we should retain the variable beef premium also. I hope that he will put up a good fight to help beef producers. I am a little worried about pig producers, who are having a lean time. It is a pity that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that it would be impossible to introduce deficiency payment schemes for pigs. I disagree. The sheepmeat regime has helped producers immensely in the past few years. I am convinced that we could have a similar system for pig producers. Where there is a will there is a way. The EEC has conceded on lambs and I am sure that it will concede if the Secretary of State presses the case for pig producers.
Monetary compensatory amounts and the green pound are important. I hope that the Secretary of State will do everything in his power to ensure that there is not a revaluation of the green pound. That is essential if we are to keep our people on the land. I have also noticed that the European Parliament working document on young farmers points out that the United Kingdom is almost alone in the EEC in not having any scheme of aid for young farmers. The schemes that exist have not been taken up. The Government should adopt whatever measures are included for young farmers in the new structures directive. That is the view of the Farmers Union of Wales. I hope that the Secretary of State will take heed of its advice.
If the Secretary of State wants to help the young farmers of Wales he should press for a land bank, which members of all political parties in Wales believe that we should have, to support them. I am aware that Conservative Members will say that we have a capital grant scheme that 184 is operating well. That might be so, but I believe that our young farmers should be able to choose to go for free credit facilities or for the capital grant scheme. I am sure that a land bank would be operated successfully within the framework of the EEC.
Let us hope that those who govern the country for the next few years will try to look after the interests of the Welsh nation and the Welsh people a little better in the future than they have in the past six years.
§ Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)
I hope that the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument. I know that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), who is unfortunately not present at the moment, would be most offended if I did not allude to his speech. It might have been subtitled "Barry in Wonderland" such was the galaxy of synonyms that he plucked from Roget's Thesaurus, most of which bore little relationship to events past or present.
In castigating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside said that nowhere in his speech did we hear of meaningful jobs and that the Secretary of State gave no hope to those who are currently out of work. That was much more a comment on his own speech, as nowhere in it did we hear any detail of Labour's famed and fabled alternative economic strategy which is currently being whitewashed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am not altogether surprised that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside should be reluctant to digress on Labour's economic policy, following the quite stupendous press that it received last week. On Friday The Economist wrote:How in 1984 can a Shadow Chancellor expect to be credible and yet argue simultaneously for higher state borrowing and lower interest rates? … Along such paths of economic illiteracy lies an endless vista of Tories winning the argument by default.This Sunday The Sunday Times wrote:Except for the economic dinosaurs of Labour's front bench, the country now realises that simply spending our way out of recession no longer reduces unemployment.I do not want the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside to get ideas above his station. I would not dream of elevating him to the status of economic dinosaur. In economics he is at the level of a fossilised amoeba.
Earlier this afternoon I went to the opening of the exhibition on enterprise zones at the Royal Lancaster hotel. It was an impressive exhibition that was opened by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I should like to pay tribute to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and his colleagues at the Welsh Office have done to help set up the Delyn enterprise zone at Flint in my constituency, on the concentration of over £8.2 million on land reclamation. They are doing their utmost to try to bring industry and jobs to Delyn. Indeed, the latest urban programme grant of more than £1,006,000 was much more than the local borough expected. It will greatly help to hasten the development of the zone.
I should also like to pay tribute to the borough's management of that zone. It has all-party support. Today I had lunch at the House with the Labour mayor of Delyn and the chief executive who joined me before the opening 185 of the exhibition. We are all working together to make the zone a success—Labour, Independents, Liberals and Conservatives.
§ Mr. Raffan
The last time the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) interrupted my speech he got things utterly wrong. I should like to save him any further embarrassment.
The attitude of Labour councillors in my constituency is in sharp contrast to that of Opposition Members. When the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) had responsibility for enterprise zones, he said that the Opposition would have no more of them, and he launched continuous scathing attacks on them. If Opposition Members are opposed to enterprise zones, what will they put in their place, what policy will they implement, and how will they finance that policy? The country and the House deserve answers to those questions.
I wish to take up a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) when he intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside. There are many factors causing unemployment. It did not suddenly start on a major scale in the country when the Prime Minister crossed the threshold of 10 Downing street. Unemployment in Alyn and Deeside has been chronic and endemic for 12 years or more. In Shotton, the first major redundancies took place in 1975, 1,744. The most major—not just the first—redundancies at Courtaulds took place in 1976, 440, and in 1977, 1,553. It is no good Opposition Members being attacked by this extraordinary amnesia which seems to affect hon. Members in Wales by which they forget their own total inaction as these events unfolded. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside was at the Welsh Office at the time. It is no use him wringing his hands now, and blaming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
In his speeches it is not enough for the hon. Gentleman to try to dispose—he always fails feebly, but he tries—of the policies and arguments of my right hon. Friend without saying what he would propose to do if he were in my right hon. Friend's place. He never does that, and he failed lamentably yet again today.
There is valid criticism to be made of enterprise zones, of course. There are problems related to enterprise zones, as with all such new ventures, which take time to smooth out. There is the problem that the districts are the planning authorities for the zones, yet it is the counties, as in the case of Clwyd, that have the industrial development departments, the powers and the finance in terms of marketing and promoting those zones. The distinction in responsibilities between the district authorities and county authorities in Wales, and, indeed in England, is not so clear-cut as it is in Scotland. There is also the problem that all the inducements for industries to come into the zone are geared to saving on capital and land costs, and they do nothing specifically to encourage the employment of labour. Therefore, there is a chance. Welcome though those inducements are, there is the chance, and indeed the probability, that capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive industries and companies will be attracted to the zones.
That was well put in the two reports monitoring the zones by Roger Tym and Partners. They referred to the worrying point about the number of firms which had 186 simply transferred into the zones without creating new jobs. I am glad that Delyn is leading the way in this regard, learning from some of the mistakes of the early zones by controlling development through buying up the land, which is an effective policy to ensure that genuinely new jobs are created in the area.
The criticism that is levelled at enterprise zones can be levelled at regional policy generally. This was recognized by the Government in their White Paper on regional industrial development on page 4, paragraph 19:The present scheme of regional development grants is heavily biased towards capital—intensive projects. Some of these receive very large amounts of grant, although they might well have gone ahead anyway in the same location without assistance. Nor are the grants linked in any way to the creation of jobs … the incentives must be made much more cost-effective than at present, with greater emphasis on job creation and selectivity, and less discrimination against service industries.There is a "crazy imbalance", as it was referred to in the press recently, between Government subsidies to capital and taxes on labour. It is absurd that regional aid is geared so strongly to capital investment, and not labour, when the main problem is high unemployment.
Present policies — the Government are right to pinpoint this—are wasteful. Millions of pounds are paid to companies for capital-intensive projects which create only a few jobs, and would have come to the same areas in any event. There is a need for a cost-per-job ceiling on the regional development grants. In terms of tax on jobs — I hope that the message will somehow reach the Chancellor—there is a need for the final abolition of the national insurance surcharge.
I have spoken about the assisted areas map on other occasions. I do not wish to digress on the subject at great length, as I am sure the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) will be relieved to hear. The map is instrumental in deciding the effectiveness of Government regional policy. The revision of coverage of the map and the categories of assisted area status are both important. The map is out of date, as the Government have rightly said, and badly needs revision. A more selective, tightly drawn map concentrating on the areas of greatest need, would produce a more effective regional policy. The hon. Member for Caenarfon (Mr. Wigley), who is not in the Chamber, has disagreed with me strongly on this matter. This does not mean that I should like less money or less regional aid to come to Wales. However, I should Like to see it being more cost-effective to help the areas that have suffered most through the decline in manufacturing industry.
It would be more effective to have as the criterion for the map, not the relative rates of unemployment, but the rates of long-term unemployment. It would alter dramatically the appearance of the map, although I am glad to say that it would leave my constituency with special development area status. It would also simplify regional identity and concentrate aid if the number of tiers were reduced from three to two.
I have dealt with the policies the Government are pursuing to aid job creation. Now let me deal with what others can do, particularly local government. I believe that the Government are doing what they can, and they are being effective in my area which has never seen such a concentration of aid under any Government. There is a contrast between what the Government are doing and what local authorities are doing. Here I refer particularly, and topically at present, to the Clwyd county council. There 187 is no point in Clwyd county council, or indeed its chief executive, sending deputations to visit my right hon. Friend at the Welsh Office to tell him what he already knows about unemployment, and to do so at the ratepayers' expense, when the county council's own policies are undermining job creation in the county.
As this debate started, Clwyd county council ended a five-hour debate on its proposed rate rise, a debate which was followed by five votes. It has now reduced the proposed 24p rate rise to 14p. I do not welcome that as much as my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson) does. It is undoubtedly better than the 24p. However, it must be realised that the 14p is an illusion because of the use of £4.5 million from reserves. In effect, it is a 38p. rise. I go back to the county treasurer for Clwyd, whom the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside in the rate support grant debate rightly described as a man of "sober professionalism, rectitude and responsibility." I only wish that more people would listen to the county treasurer. The county treasurer said that the existing spending of Clwyd, and consequential increases in the rate, will lead to the most horrendous rise next year. A rate rise of 14p, as opposed to 24p, means simply that the increase will be not to 210p, but to 200p. That is devastating for industry and jobs in my constituency, and, indeed, in the entire county. It represents a massive rise way beyond any increase that hon. Members might suggest is due to the reduction in rate support grant.
The stark fact is that, 13 years ago, John Summers employed 15,000 people, and Flintshire county council 2,000 people. Those statistics are now devastatingly reversed. Shotton today employs 2,500 people, and Clwyd county council employs 15,000 people. In the last quarter there has been a staff increase at Clwyd county council of 413. Those 413 wealth-devouring jobs have been provided at the cost of wealth-creating jobs in the manufacturing sector. Opposition Members are loth to admit that, yet they know that it is true. There is no need for cuts in the vital services. The cuts should be made in unnecessary administrative staff, starting with Clwyd's chief executive's own office of 34.
§ Mr. Raffan
I shall do so. I was just about to do so anyway.
Local authorities must subject themselves to the same restraints to which private industry is, by force, having to subject itself. If they do not do so, private industry will have to bear the burden and cut back. Even with the 14p rise, Courtaulds at Greenfield will have to shed five or six men to pay for a £30,000 rate increase. Shotton might still have to shed upwards of 20 men to pay its increased rate bill.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside adds to the economic illiteracy of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook in claiming that it is possible to have higher rates and more jobs by accepting—as he was willing to do-the proposed 24p rate rise in Clwyd. The solutions for Clwyd are simple. I have already mentioned the cutting of unnecessary staff. However, we must also get management consultants into an authority that is obviously and clearly mismanaged. Each departmental budget should be examined at base to distinguish between what is essential and what is desirable.
188 The work of the industrial development department, which overlaps so much with the work of the district authorities, enterprise zones, enterprise agencies, the WDA and the Welsh Office, must be closely looked at. The buying of Bodelwyddan castle for £500,000 and the £2 million projected expenditure on the laying out of gardens and a nine-hole golf course there, must surely be a target for cuts. If Bodelwyddan has such great potential for tourism, it can be developed by private enterprise. There is no need for the council.
There is a need to reappraise completely local authority spending in Clwyd. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside misled the House during the recent debate on the rate support grant. I have the figures with me. It is no use him saying that Clwyd is not controlled by Labour. Labour councillors recommended the 24p rise and voted for it, down the line, this afternoon. They wanted it. They ignored the county treasurers and his wise advice. They ignored what he said about the consequential rate rise next year.
In Clwyd, the hon. Gentleman is behaving a bit like King John — I almost said King Kong — in weakly submitting to the Labour barons on the county council, even at the cost of contradicting himself. The hon. Gentleman called again today for £400 million in launch aid for British Aerospace for the A320. I support him in that, but there is no point in calling for that money and then sitting back and accepting the imposition of a £30,000 rate rise on British Aerospace at Broughton. That is totally contradictory.
The hon. Gentleman, in his speeches uses the method of attack in order to distract attention from the Labour party's internal disarray. That disarray was exemplified last night on the Chesterfield ice rink by "Tony Torvill" and "Denis Dean", gripping each other warmly. In reality, they were gripping each other warmly by the throat. That is how much they love each other, and that is what we shall see after the by-election. We know that party's real feelings and the disarray within it as will be seen in the forthcoming round of re-selections.
§ Mr. Raffan
I shall not give way as I am about to finish my speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye later.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) is clearly not giving way.
§ Mr. Raffan
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside uses the method of attack in order to disguise the shambles and "economic illiteracy"—as The Sunday Times called it — of his party's alternative economic strategy. That strategy will not stand up to exposure in the House, and so his method is the age-old one of distracting attention from it, from the internal disarray and shambles, by attacking an external enemy. We see that, and the country sees it. Opposition Members will have to do a lot better than they are now if they are to convince Conservative Members or, indeed, the country.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)
I am not as hostile as some of my hon. Friends towards the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) when he speaks, because an outsider 189 can sometimes look at a nation such as ours and see it more clearly than those who have spent their lives there. However, he unfortunately brought to the debate all the panache and charm of a boa constrictor. His arguments were not only pre-monetarist but mercantilist. He said that there was somehow a division between those who created wealth and the rest of society. I thought that such ideas had gone out with the demise of that doctrine, but obviously that is as far as he went in his school certificate economics course.
The hon. Gentleman said that unemployment had risen under several Governments. It is no secret that unemployment was unacceptably high under the Labour Government, and, indeed, rose. However, scream and bludgeon as he may, the hon. Gentleman cannot get away from the fact that when the Conservative party took office in 1979 unemployment in Wales stood at 78,000, whereas it now stands at 175,000. Therefore, although unemployment may not be solely this Government's fault, they have played an immense part in creating a pool of human misery that has not been seen in Wales since the 1930s.
The hon. Gentleman cannot wish it away with dreamy talk of creating more unemployment so that somehow budding entrepreneurs can build golf courses in Bodelwyddan. There are no such jobs. If only the hon. Gentleman had been fortunate enough to have an O-level textbook dealing with this century rather than last, he would have known all the evidence is that investment is not made in direct relationship to tax concessions.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson) described public expenditure in glowing terms. He said that it was not evil. However, 25 per cent. of Government expenditure in the coming year is to go on the social security budget. Most of that money will be spent in paying for the long-term unemployed through unemployment and social security benefits, and so for the very consequences of their unemployment. It is not a matter of being horrified at the idea of spending one's way out of recession. We cannot afford to waste money keeping people idle when they could be creating wealth, earning, and contributing to the betterment of all.
I am aware that a debate on Welsh affairs can range widely, but I shall try to confine my remarks to housing for those in special need. I welcome the decision made about Pontypridd women's aid. It has done much good work for very distressed families during the past year and its reprieve will give great relief to the community. However, in the past few years people have been preoccupied with the mode of ownership. Tory Members have concentrated on whether people should own their council houses. Two thirds of the Pontypridd constituency is owner-occupied, and we can well understand anyone's desire to own his own home. However, the volume of housing available for occupation is a vital point that has not yet been mentioned. Indeed, the Secretary of State did not mention it in his brief discursion earlier on housing. There will always be young couples on low incomes with children, who are unable to purchase their own homes now. They naturally want houses to be available to rent. Such couples, particularly the low paid, appear regularly at constituency surgeries, as I am sure they do with every other hon. Member here. They stretch the waiting lists and add greatly to overcrowding in council houses because many of them are the sons and daughters of the original tenants.
190 When dealing with housing, the Secretary of State omitted the most important point: that in the last five years housing completions in Wales have fallen by 42 per cent., 29 per cent. of which has been in the much vaunted private sector where the Government have heaped encouragement upon private contractors. Public sector completions are down by 59 per cent. These figures have a real bearing on special needs housing.
Being elderly is not a disease and being disabled is not a crime. Our primary task should be to enable the elderly and disabled to live with dignity within the community for as long as possible, but they need assistance to do so. That is immediately apparent in my part of Wales. In the south Wales valleys the houses are perched in long terraces on the sides of the hills. It is a very lucky person who has not to climb many steps to get to the front door or to the back garden or even, in the conditions in pre-1919 houses, to the lavatory which is outside.
Where there is a concentration of pre-first world war housing the basic amenities of bathroom, indoor toilet and running water are often completely or partly absent. That is why their comparative cheapness makes them so attractive to young couples who can put in the basic amenities. While there may be a rosy picture of young couples refurbishing whole areas, as happily they are doing, a disproportionate number of elderly people occupy unfit housing and housing that lacks one or more of the basic amenities.
The number of pensioner households lacking one or more of the basic amenities is about three times as great as the number of non-pensioner households in the same type of housing. The figures are similar for the permanently sick and disabled. About twice as large a percentage of sick and disabled live in unfit housing and about two and a half times as many sick and disabled live in houses lacking basic amenities.
Although we all agree that people should be encouraged to live in terraced housing and to stay in their neighbourhoods for as long as possible, the elderly and the disabled are at a disadvantage because of a lack of amenities. The Government may argue that that is what the improvement grant is meant to rectify. Let me put to them a point that they have not taken into account. Research has shown that the elderly, the sick and the disabled were unable to find even 10 per cent. of the expenditure to finance improvement grants. How much more will that be the case when the grant goes down to 75 per cent. and the people have to finance a quarter of the work? There will be a greater problem then.
Let me tell the Secretary of State, who appeared not to know it today, that in the area of my authority and in others of which I have knowledge, housing improvement grants have been stopped for some months by Welsh Office circular. There is absolutely no movement. Therefore, there is a huge log-jam of applications rather like the cement ships that once occupied Lagos Harbour. Nothing is moving and no grants are being given.
We must consider the housing problem afresh. Disability presupposes a lack of mobility, and age sometimes brings the same problem. It certainly weakens vigour and resolve. Figures for the Mountain Ash area suggest that 10.2 per cent. of the houses occupied by the elderly and disabled lack hot water, 19.7 per cent. lack a bath or a shower and 30 per cent. lack an inside toilet. Help must be given to improve these houses to enable people to stay in the area. The steps clown which a young woman 191 could manoeuvre a pram when she was 30 may become as effective as prison bars when she is 70. I have seen this in the street where I was born and in many of the streets in that area. As people become older they become prisoners of their own houses.
To encourage people to stay within the community a range of public accommodation should be available, but it is not being built. As they get older many people do not want to live in as big houses as they did when they had a young family. In those houses many of the rooms are like museums, only dusted and rarely visited. The people want to move into smaller accommodation. More Government money should be given for local authority building. Facilities should be provided to make existing houses comfortable rather than places of oppression for the householder.
With these criteria in mind, let us examine the Government's record. Within the overall decrease in house completions there is a 52 per cent. decrease in housing association building. Housing associations have played a pioneering role in the provision of accommodation for the elderly and disabled. There has been a decrease of 63 per cent. in local authority accommodation. Those are the two main areas where the elderly, the sick and the disabled look for alternative accommodation.
In regard to the Government's record on the provision of services which make life tolerable for the sick, the disabled and the elderly, spending on aids has decreased in real terms by 5 per cent. since 1979. I accept that more cases have been dealt with, as is obvious from the answers given to me yesterday by the Minister of State. Although more aids have been provided, the fact that they are cheaper means that there has been a decrease in spending since 1979. Spending on adaptations to property, to make houses fit for the disabled to live in, has decreased in real terms by 20 per cent. since 1979.
We all agree that meals on wheels are an essential life support for the elderly; the number of meals provided has fallen by 2 per cent. since 1979, but because of the rise in the over-65 population that means a 7 per cent. decrease in real terms. One would think that telephone installations and aid with rentals provided an essential lifeline to the outside world, but both have decreased by 15 per cent. since 1979. In every area, certainly in the urban areas of south Wales, the waiting lists for pensioners' fiats and sheltered accommodation have steadily lengthened as councils have found themselves unable through lack of money, to build accommodation.
As we move towards the end of the century, the problem will become more grim. We have to acknowledge that we have failed to cope with the justified demands of the sick, the disabled and the elderly, and the Government should attend to that failure. One of the great failings of democratic Governments is that they are always looking towards the next five-year term rather than to the next 50 years. All Governments should be looking towards the end of the century. If they did so they would, on the figures that I shall give, adopt a different attitude to housing needs.
In 1981 there were in Wales 167,300 people over the age of 75 and 29,100 over the age of 85. By 1996, there will be 211,100 people over the age of 75, an increase of 192 over 26 per cent., and the numbers of those over 85 will rise by over 76 per cent. Five years later, the over-75 population will have gone up by another 9,000.
We are facing a massive explosion in the number of people in Wales who live to an advanced age. We have a choice. We can put them expensively in the geriatric barns that we used to call hospitals, hidden away from their communities and from all social contact. I agree with the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) who is shaking his head at that proposition, but that is one possibility. The alternative is an imaginative programme of local adaptation, local aid and local help in housing to enable them to continue to live within their communities. I suspect, although I hope that I do not do him an injustice, that the hon. Member for Ynys Môn is nodding because he thinks that that is a cheaper alternative. It is not, and the Government must face up to it and must provide and plan for it.
Unless we plan for this explosion of people of an advanced age, we are risking, for nearly 250,000 of our people towards the end of the century, an unhappy life dominated by the prisons of old houses on steep hillsides, or the fear of going into hospital. If he is serious in wanting to combat this, how can the Secretary of State explain the decreases of the past five years? It is inconceivable that a Government who seriously want to tackle the problem, as I hope we all do, should have permitted those cuts to happen. I hope that the Government can be prodded by the agreement on both sides of the House this evening as to the sort of Wales that we want in the future. Having willed the ends, we must will the means to follow
§ Mr. Peter Hubbard-Miles (Bridgend)
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this, my first Welsh day debate.
I make my contribution on a subject about which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke in his opening remarks, but mention of which was noticeably absent from the speech of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones). Perhaps the notable omission was due to the headlines in the Western Mail recently. The message had obviously got over to the Welsh newspapers, although it seems that they were not too enthusiastic about passing it on, as they have used banner headlines for the alleged health cuts in recent years but have found only a small area for the headline, "Health spending soars as staff levels rise."
There are one or two things to be said about the health cuts. Having spent the past 10 years as a member of the largest health authority in Wales, and having been conscious of the increase in the service of that health authority over the past five years, I do not find it difficult to refute the allegations. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) would choose to be a little more informed and a little less verbose, he would accept the facts as they are set out.
Spending on the National Health Service and local authority social services in Wales has grown by more than 94 per cent. in the five years up to 1981–82. In every sector of the Health Service there have been increases in staff levels, such as an increase of 15 per cent. in the number of doctors and nurses, professional and technical staffs. Over the same period, the number of general practitioners has increased by 11—4 per cent. and the number of family 193 dentists has increased by 13.4 per cent. The overall increase in staffing in Welsh health authorities has increased by 10.1 per cent. since 1978.
These increases, together with the recent announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, give the lie to the accusations made by Labour Members of cuts in Health Service standards. The major new hospitals in Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Morriston and Swansea, together with the new development in my constituency of Bridgend, show that the Government are committed to a strong Health Service in Wales.
Within the overall budget for Wales there are anomalies. I shall argue, perhaps on another day and in another place, that my own authority of Mid-Glamorgan has done badly in the share of the budget. I mention this only to point out that, as Mid-Glamorgan is one of the less well treated health authorities in Wales, it might be forgiven if it had difficulty in maintaining its standards of service. The allegations of Labour Members had any validity, one could easily assume that the worst effects of any cuts would be found in Mid-Glamorgan.
However the truth is that the only cuts in services that I have experienced in Mid-Glamorgan health authority were those brought about by the disgraceful and unjustified industrial action ordered by union leaders. Had it not been for that action, waiting lists today would have been at the lowest level since 1974, when the Mid-Glamorgan health authority came into being.
One could be forgiven for saying that the effects of any cuts would be felt most severely in Mid-Glamorgan. As a member of that authority over the past five years, I have watched carefully the budgets that were presented each year. What has happened throughout Wales has happened in Mid-Glamorgan, but perhaps to a lesser extent. Each time we examined the resources that were made available, we found that a certain amount was necessary to maintain the existing service but that there was a balance left, which was used to improve and develop the service. In each of those years, balances were made available for major new developments, not from capital resources but from revenue resources, and increasing revenue resources were made available each year. If the hon. Member for Caerphilly is interested in becoming more informed about what is happening in the Health Service, I shall be happy to send him the lists of new developments in the Health Service in Mid-Glamorgan during the past five years.
§ Mr. Hubbard-Miles
I shall not give way, because I am sure that the hon. Member will do his best to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I shall give the figures. After allowing for the existing service in 1979–80, £1.4 million was available for new development and growth. In 1980–81, £828,000 was available for new proposed developments in the Health Service in Mid-Glamorgan. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Caerphilly would like to identify the cuts, I might be able to comment on them, but the fact remains that nowhere in the financial reports to the Health Authority was there any suggestion of cuts. Indeed, invariably a paper is attached to the financial report setting out the proposed developments to the Health Service in Mid-Glamorgan.
I come back to what I was saying. In 1981–82, the balance available for developments for health services in 194 Mid-Glamorgan was £864,000. In 1982—83, we had £1.168 million for the cost of proposed developments. In 1983–84, even after allowing for £1.548 million for new developments in those Health Services, a further sum of £964,000 was available for further developments as required.
All the evidence that I have from 10 years experience as a member of Mid-Glamorgan health authority shows that this Government are totally committed to a strong Health Service in Wales. The politically motivated, scaremongering allegations made by the Opposition are not only nonsense but disgraceful. Opposition Members should be ashamed. Indeed, the greatest threat to the Health Service is that, at some distant date, if may be subjected to the ravages of the inflation that has been induced repeatedly by Socialist Governments and their irresponsible policies, and it is in those circumstances that the people who depend on the Health Service are bound to suffer.
§ Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)
I start with a subject that will perhaps unite the whole House. This House has weighty matters on its agenda, and we concentrate our attention on those matters. Because of that, perhaps unintentionally, we often allow those who served in the House to pass out of our memory. So at the outset of my remarks on this Welsh day. I suggest that it would not come amiss if we were to remember three of our former colleagues who spoke in our proceedings this time last year—Michael Roberts, Alec Jones and loan Evans. They were sons of Wales who, according to their lights, did their very best for Wales, and I believe that it is right for us to remember them and their families today. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I shall raise three matters. One concerns local authorities, the next concerns my constituency, and the third concerns my industry, the steel industry. We recently debated the Welsh rate support grant settlement for 1984–85. I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments of that debate today, save to say that although the Government won the vote in the Division Lobbies that evening, the problems of the Government's impositions upon local authorities and their likely effects on our constituents, through the reduction of services, will be with our constituents for a long time to come.
I suppose that the worst: affected service will be education. Last Thursday evening, an HTV television programme, in which the Secretary of State appeared, showed the serious effects that the Government's rating and rate support policies are having and will have on education in Dyfed—a county which has always been regarded as one of the good boys of local government when it came to obeying "their master's voice"—the voice of the Secretary of State.
We were told in the programme of a large comprehensive school, serving the Amman valley, which had only seven computers for its computer studies. We were told in the course of the programme that the pupils there could expect to have only about seven periods in the whole of their school careers when they would have the use of a computer. What chance do those pupils have of mastering the techniques of computer studies? The Prime Minister likes to give the impression that hers is a 195 Government who are pushing our children into the computer age, but the provision in that Amman valley school gives the lie to that claim.
West Glamorgan is not rated as highly as Dyfed in the Secretary of State's eyes, and it, too, will have to face sharp reductions in its education spending. We are faced with cuts of some £2 million in the education budget, and that is bound to have serious effects on our children and young people. West Glamorgan's problem lies in its underfunding, and the Government's policies in the rate support grant settlements will not correct that problem. They will cause it only to continue and worsen as time passes.
Our problems in west Glamorgan arising from the Secretary of State's unfair treatment of us on local government finance will be compounded by difficulties over the provision of health care in the county. I shall devote this part of my speech to some of the difficulties that will concern us. When a Tory Government did Wales the disservice of re-organising its local government, health services and water industry, they left west Glamorgan's health services underfunded. The same complaint has been made by the county council. Other hon. Members who represent west Glamorgan and I have pressed successive Governments about that matter, without success. We may do better in mentioning it this time, although I suspect that, with their monetarist motivation, the Government will be deaf to our pleas. Nevertheless, I put it down as a marker for my hon. Friends to pick up when they have Government responsibilities.
The upshot of the underfunding is that west Glamorgan has always had to struggle to maintain its services. Some welcome improvements, such as the development of the burns unit and of Maudsley hospital, and new additions to Neath general hospital, would be savoured more sweetly if we were not afraid that, because of the problems of underfunding that afflict us in west Glamorgan, cuts were in the offing.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
It would be right for the hon. Gentleman to acknowledge that the problem of relative underfunding goes back a long way. The Government have tackled it by introducing an arrangement over a three-year period.
§ Mr. Coleman
The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that, in my earlier remarks, I acknowledged the problem of underfunding and the difficulties that we have experienced under successive Governments, but the problem affects us now.
Recently, the west Glamorgan health authority published its strategic plan for 1984 to 1993. The consultation document is a comprehensive tome, covering many aspects of health care in the county. Inevitably, such a document, while advocating improvements in services, calls for cuts, which are often argued for very reasonably.
West Glamorgan has, like many other parts of Britain, a number of small hospital establishments. What worries me is that those hospitals seem to catch the eye of those searching for ways of saving money, as they put it. The document published by the health authority seems to have the same bad habit throughout.
I am particularly concerned at the ideas floated in respect of some of the smaller units in my constituency. I give notice tonight of my hostility to such ideas. The 196 Neath hospital annexe is proposed for closure in the strategic plan. The annexe is in the town centre, and is very handy for visitors. That is an important matter, to which I shall return later. The building that houses the annexe is leased from the West Glamorgan education authority, and was originally a school. The lease expires in 1987, and the plan envisages closure by then. If the health authority goes ahead with its plan, I foresee problems for the county council. I wonder what it will do with the building, as it is not likely to be required for its original purpose.
The health authority's report says that the building does not easily discharge its health care functions, despite adaptation. I have never heard such rubbish. What does the authority think has been done in the building all these years? Many of the patients accommodated in the annexe have been in the hospital for years. I know them as friends, as I see them frequently throughout the year, especially at Christmas. They look forward to visits from their relatives and friends, and they could testify to the fact that the health care that they receive at the annexe could not be bettered anywhere. They would say that they have received love and care for many years, and are sure that they would not get the same care and attention in a modern health factory, where efficiency is the hallmark.
The report says that Neath hospital annexe does not have a future role. Let me assure the House that the people of Neath do not agree, and oppose the plan. I support them because I know from personal observation that the care at the annexe would not be provided elsewhere. The proposal is callous, and will be opposed strongly by all sections of our community.
I spent many years working in the steel industry. I declare an interest as an hon. Member sponsored by the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. It has just appointed a Welshman, Mr. Roy Evans, as its general secretary designate.
The steel industry in Wales has suffered many blows since the return of the Tories in 1979. The labour force is a shadow of what it was when Labour left office. I want to put on the record the fact that, although cuts in the labour force have been savage, those who have remained have shown responsibility and determination, resulting in great achievements for the industry and its production levels.
The efforts of the workforce have kept the Welsh steel industry in being, but the workers have not been helped by Ministers, who have raised little or no objection to the continuing demands of the European Commission. The Secretary of State and his Ministers have a duty and responsibility to speak up loudly and publicly in support of the steel plants of Wales, such as Llanwern. It has achieved its second best operational year, by achieving a liquid steel output of 2.032 million tonnes, with 2 million tonnes of hot-rolled coil. In addition, the plant made a profit of £4 million, after payment of head office charges, in the first nine months of 1983. The record also shows, for the three months, October, November and December 1983, evidence of high productivity levels in each department of the works, with a volume of throughput in the coke ovens of 230,631 tonnes, of 377,076 tonnes in the iron works, of 68,235 tonnes in the steel plant, of 426,345 tonnes at the slab mill, of 408,896 tonnes at the hot strip mill, of 178,302 tonnes on the pickle lines, and of 144,276 tonnes at four stands.
197 Such a record of achievement entitles those who have achieved it to the support and confidence of the House, and to a commitment from the Secretary of State and his Ministers that they will fight tooth and nail to protect a plant with such a fine record of proven achievement.
It is pertinent to ask the Secretary of State to make it clear that there is no risk that the plant will be closed in a further round of demands made upon Britain's steel industry by the European Commission. Port Talbot, too, although the plant has received heavy investment, needs the same sort of assurance from the Secretary of State. Unless they are given confidence, those engaged in the steel industry, no matter how successful the plant where they work, will always be afraid that they might fall victim to closure programmes planned from elsewhere.
I hope that in this debate we shall hear from the Ministers that, with regard to the Port Talbot and Llanwern plants, the long night in which closures were made and cuts applied is over, and that now the steelworkers of Wales can look forward to a future of making steel for the prosperity of Britain.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I should say that nine or 10 hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, and we have about 80 minutes of debating time left. The arithmetic will be obvious to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Stefan Terlezki (Cardiff, West)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to participate in this important Welsh debate.
Listening to the speeches of Opposition Members, I was saddened because so far nothing constructive has been contributed by them. Scaremongering will help nobody, least of all potential investors in the Principality, and, indeed, the economy of Wales as a whole. It is all very well to use rhetoric and slogans and to play to the Press Gallery. However, it is different when one has the responsibility to ensure that the Welsh economy prospers as much as the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole and of industrial nations of the world, so that unemployment in Wales, like everywhere else, is reduced considerably.
When one considers Wales and looks at the facts, one sees that there are definite indicators of an economic recovery, reflected in the perceptible downward trend in unemployment, the increased number of factory allocations and company expansions. One cannot deny those facts. Industrial production in Wales for the third quarter of 1983 showed an encouraging improvement in output over the level of both preceding quarters in the same year. Compared with the results for the same quarter of 1982, the output of the construction industries rose by 1.2 per cent. and manufacturing showed a marked increase of 6 per cent. Paper, printing and publishing increased their activities by 29 per cent., timber by 13.7 per cent., metal goods by 12.5 per cent., electrical engineering by 12 per cent., metal manufacturers by 9.9 per cent. and mineral products by 9.5 per cent. The industries that lost ground included auto manufacturing, chemicals and mechanical and transport engineering. In the third quarter of 1983 there was a 1.1 per cent. improvement in construction 198 output compared with the same quarter in 1982. However, compared with the previous quarter in 1983, there was a more marked improvement at 8 per cent.
During 1982, the Welsh Development Agency completed 2,480,000 sq ft of advance factory space and allocated about 1,370,000 sq ft to new tenants. A total of 5,100 new jobs was forecast by new tenants. In addition, 142,000 sq ft of purpose-built factory space was completed by the agency. At the end of March 1983, the agency had a total factory stock of 19,700,000 sq ft, of which 2.88 million sq ft was vacant. This year the WDA will build 28 more factories totalling 130,000 sq ft, with the potential for 400 new jobs. The number of new factory allocations and known company expansion plans has been running at a high level, and they are expected to provide as many as 9,000 job opportunities over the next three years. That is a great achievement by the WDA.
The winvest initiative, established on 1 April 1983, has already achieved a number of notable successes in its task of attracting overseas companies to set up bases in Wales. Since its establishment, the agency has conducted 186 company visits and secured 16 new overseas projects.
Among the more recent decisions to invest in Wales have been pledged from Comdial to set up a factory in Cardiff, Parrot Corporation at Llantarnam, Acrian and Align-Rite at Bridgend, and Angus Chemicals on Deeside. Other overseas-based firms in Wales are expanding operations, among them Control Data, which is investing £14 million to provide an additional 100 jobs at Brynmawr. All those are facts, and we should encourage more investment.
§ Mr. Terlezki
I shall not give way. I am sorry, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to participate later.
It is important that Wales, as part of the United Kingdom, is also a member of the European Community. We have received most encouraging grants and loans from the EC. In January 1984 the European regional development fund quota was £210.6 million and the ERDF non-quota was £10.8 million. The amount from the EC coal and steel fund was £369.3 million, from the European Investment Bank £391 million, from the European social fund £51.3 million and from the European agricultural guidance and volunteer fund £135.7 million.
§ Mr. Terlezki
Why does not the hon. Gentleman do something about it? He is in the European Community.
I am proud to be associated with tourism in Wales, which has contributed about £475 million in one year, and employs approximately 9,000 people. I refer specifically to Cardiff, for the simple reason that we are all proud of our capital city. Cardiff city council is now very much involved in many projects that are being established, such as the Cardiff docks redevelopment, costing about £250 million. We are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for helping to designate the capital city of the Principality as a freeport. We also heard about the new hotel project in the capital city, which will cost approximately £10 million. All those things are bound to increase employment in south Wales and, I sincerely hope, in Cardiff in particular.
199 I was a member of Cardiff city council for approximately 16 years, so I have a vested interest in the city. Tourism in the capital city is important and plays its part in the economic strategy for the 1980s. The city council tries to encourage the maximum number of visitors to the city. We have wonderful attractions in and around Cardiff, such as Cardiff castle — Castell Coch — St. Fagan's folk museum and one of the worlds finest civic centres. The city offers much to the casual and long-stay visitor.
The Wales Tourist Board has assisted 17 projects in Cardiff with grants totalling £811,000 and created 187 jobs in the process. Tourism and business from conferences can generate considerable prosperity in Cardiff. A recent survey showed that conference visitors spend on average £80 per visitor in the city. That business requires a great deal of infrastructure and other investment, which the private sector cannot profitably undertake.
The St. David's Hall project required funding from the city council, the Welsh Office and the European regional development fund. It has led to a highly significant tourist and conference facility. I could quote a number of other examples of the value of financial assistance. St. David's Hall was constructed as a major concert hall and conference facility and attracted a European regional development fund grant of almost £1 million. The development of the bus station and railway system were similarly grant aided. An urban development grant of £2 million was made available to the Holiday Inn for its proposed major hotel development in the city centre.
We should consolidate our admiration for investors who are already in Wales. We should also consolidate our efforts to encourage local authorities and everyone in Wales rather than to allow scaremongering, which may discourage some industrialists who are already in Wales and others who may wish to come to Wales and to invest their capital.
It is important for Welsh people to keep up with the fast rising tide of technological change by means of education and to compete in the new areas of industry against the best in the world. We must not forget that technological education is vital for the up-and-coming generation.
Unless we consolidate our efforts and speak with one voice, unemployment, which we wish to reduce in Wales, may rise, and that would be regrettable.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnyd Nant Conwy)
As this debate takes place on a day of industrial action, it is only right that we in Plaid Cymru should declare our support for civil servants in the Welsh Office and for other trade unionists who exercise their right to demonstrate and defend their basic freedom to combine in trade unions. Many trade unionists at all levels of the Civil Service are deeply worried about the Government's handling of the GCHQ issue and see the civil servants at Cheltenham as being in the front line. Other Ministry of Defence employees, such as those in my constituency, may be the next to have their trade union rights threatened.
One can imagine the same treatment being given to recalcitrant local authorities — recalcitrant from the Secretary of State's point of view—and Health Service workers. The entire Civil Service in Wales may have its trade union rights circumscribed by the Secretary of State. 200 It is right, therefore, to declare our support for all trade unionists in Wales who wish to defend their democratic rights to combine.
I do not apologise for raising the issue of housing. I welcome the Secretary of State's statement about the funding of Welsh Women's Aid, in view of the questions and correspondence we have had on that subject. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State in his reply will make it clear that the funding extended applies to all projects that were discussed under the tapering arrangements between Welsh Women's Aid and his Department and that, therefore, all the projects that were to come to an end at the end of the current financial year and for the following financial year will be maintained. This is not a plea for one project alone.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
I confirm that the Pontypridd scheme will go ahead but not the Swansea one. The position was made clear last year.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am grateful to the Secretary of State. His Department should reconsider the major contribution made by the voluntary sector in housing at a difficult time when many domestic relationships are breaking down, partly as a result of economic pressures. I ask his Department to reconsider the major contribution made by Welsh Women's Aid in that matter, and to have discussions about the future of other projects where local authorities may not be using the funding.
As the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) said, this is a specialised area of housing need which is being met by the voluntary sector. We need to look for greater voluntary initiative in other areas. I am surprised that the Secretary of State has allowed cuts in real terms in housing budget funding for the Welsh housing associations. In arguing for a reduction in overall public sector housing and for an increase in private housing — that has not happened, according to the figures in the White Paper—he should at least concede the logic of his own position and accept that the housing association represents a way of making rented property available for those sectors, groups and classes in the community that require rented property and are less able or do not wish to fund their own mortgages. In that area there is voluntary action by communities and, according to the Government's philosophy as professed by the Under-Secretary of State, it should receive support. The Welsh housing associations should receive more funding in view of the present state of Welsh housing stock and the continuing critical state of housing provision.
I shall give the House the figures quoted in the Welsh house condition survey. Four out of every 10 houses were built before 1919. Of the 414,700 pre-1919 dwellings, 30 per cent. were either unfit or deemed fit but needing repair. An additional 16,000, or 5 per cent., lacked at least one basic amenity. The survey showed that 90,800, or 9 per cent., of the stock was unfit with a further 47,700, or 5 per cent., in need of repair. It is depressing to compare the 1981 survey with the 1976 survey and to find that little progress in tackling unfitness has been made since the term of office of the Labour Government. Of the unfit stock, 93 per cent. was built before 1919. A serious dimension to the problem is that only 46 per cent. of those unfit dwellings were in potential clearance areas.
There are two distinct problems—that of dealing with high concentrations of unfit housing in the industrial 201 community, the valleys and the urban centres in industrial south Wales, and the equally serious but different problem of dealing with widespread isolated unfit housing in rural areas. Those two problems must be tackled through the agency of local authorities combined with the activities of the housing associations. Most of the unfitness is concentrated in the owner-occupied sector. Of all unfitness, 62 per cent. falls within that sector, 34 per cent. in the private rented sector and a "scandalous" 5 per cent. in the public rented sector.
A consideration of the position in detail showed that in terms of the proportion of households lacking amenities Mid-Glamorgan still has one of the worst housing conditions in Wales. It follows from that that it is one of the worst in Britain and in western Europe.
When one considers the social characteristics of persons living in dwellings which lack basic amenities, one finds that 14 per cent. of the members of the household are of pensionable age. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd said, in houses lacking an inside toilet, 58 per cent. of householders are pensioners. My hon. Friend graphically described the position of the elderly who are condemned to unfit terraced valley housing, having to go into old people's homes or institutions too early before they are assessed as potential users of social services or unable to be discharged from hospital due to the lack of adequate housing provision. The Welsh Office must tackle that. The position of women is similar and 14 per cent. of unfit dwellings are occupied by women aged 60 and over.
There is thus a class dimension to the problem of unfit housing. Two thirds of those living in unfit housing are not economically active. They suffer not only economic poverty but attendant housing poverty. Substantial resources must therefore be made available. I shall not quote all the figures in the public expenditure White Paper as time is short and the House will be familiar with them. The Secretary of State should certainly have them on his conscience. Table 2.16 shows the percentage of Welsh housing expenditure on housing as a percentage of the English figure. The figure for 1977–78 is 4.7 per cent. The projected figure for 1985 is 4.8 per cent. The figures show an initially static and subsequently declining housing expenditure in real terms. The explanation that the Secretary of State sought to give in the White Paper and in his speech today seemed to suggest that there was a major switch of resources and that urban development money would be available for private housing development. But that does not tackle the problems of the people whom I have described who live in unfit accommodation but are not economically active and thus cannot take up the improvement grants offered, let alone take on a mortgage.
Table 2.16.4 shows a decline in housing starts in Wales from 1,285 in 1977, the highest point under the Labour Government, to a provisional 275 for 1983. The decline in the local authority sector is from 3,606 in 1977, which is well below the highest figure of nearly 5,000 to a projected 1,931 for 1983. There is, of course, a similar decline in the number of completions.
The Secretary of State and the Department must consider again what they think they are doing in housing policy and especially what needs to be done in the housing association sector to ensure that the section of the community in greatest poverty in terms of lack of economic activity and income as well as housing can be assisted by housing association provision. As locally based 202 voluntary movements, the housing associations throughout Wales are in an especially strong position to tackle the specialist needs described by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd and the general needs of the poorest members of the community who suffer not only from low income due to lack of economic activity but also from poor housing conditions.
As we move towards the year 2000, there is no excuse for leaving so many of our elderly to live in double poverty in unfit accommodation and on low incomes. While he is slashing the Welsh housing budget the Secretary of State should consider the effect on those sections of the community. For those people, one cannot have a market determined policy or one that uses urban development grant for private accommodation. For those people. there must be public intervention and the provision of social care in housing which the Government apparently seek to destroy.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)
Despite the recession, there is a great deal of activity in my area and speculation seems to be endless. Llanwern is invariably in the news, but I shall not deal with it today as my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) has already dwelt on that topic. I merely add that the perfonnance of that works has been magnificent and the need for new investment there is overwhelming.
Much has been said about the need for a second Severn bridge and the case has been made for a second crossing and the abolition of tolls.
There is also speculation about the proposed Nissan plant. I would welcome that plant in Newport. It would have an excellent geographical location and a good site is available with a skilled, well-disciplined labour force. I believe that those are formidable factors in deciding where a works should be located.
I wish to deal with two main issues. On 10 November 1983 the Minister for Housing and Construction made a statement about defective housing with reference to prefabricated reinforced houses built before 1960. The Building Research Establishment had found that there was corrosion of the steel reinforcements and that concrete components were deteriorating due to carbonation of the concrete. Corrosion is setting in and cracks are appearing in the concrete. Although in some cases it is a slow process, the Building Research Establishment believes that all such properties will eventually be affected. Of those houses, 170,000 were built by public bodies and the problem is complicated by the fact that about 16,500 of them have been sold to sitting tenants. The Minister's statement frankly admitted that private owners would be in a difficult position due to the effect of the findings on the value of their homes.
I believe that action should now be taken by the Government with a scheme at least as generous as that applying to Airey houses. Local authorities must have more freedom to take them back into ownership with full reimbursement by central Government. The problem is especially prevalent in the Caldicot area of my constituency. Indeed, by a coincidence, there is a public meeting there this evening about the problem. There are several streets of so-called Unity houses. Building societies now apparently refuse to give mortgages on such 203 properties, causing consternation among owners. I have written to the Minister and put down parliamentary questions about these matters.
In addition to the building society problem, residents and owners are concerned about the fact that up to £1,000 may have to be spent on surveying each property. Financial assistance is certainly required there. The council should be given the authority and the means to buy back the properties at the defect-free value. Caldicot has been severely affected by redundancies in the steel industry so there is considerable mobility as people get on their bikes, as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry once advised, to look for work elsewhere. Sympathetic action is needed from the Government. and I hope that it will be forthcoming.
The second principal issue that I want to raise tonight is that of the reorganisation of the Welsh Water Authority and the proposed amalgamation of the Usk, Wye and Taff divisions, together with the proposed closure of the Newport and Caerleon offices and the establishment of a new divisional headquarters in Nelson, Mid-Glamorgan. I find this a preposterous suggestion. We already have enough controversy in Newport about the fact that some of its local government functions are now controlled up the road in Cwmbran, but to administer water services for Newport and indeed the whole of Gwent from Nelson is a little beyond belief.
We are talking about service to people. I live in Chepstow. A few years ago, when I had a small problem with the water supply to my house, I tried to get in touch with the water authority and was told that I had to ring Hereford, yet there is a little water authority office actually in Chepstow. Organisation of our public services in this way can never be right.
The proposed reorganisation based on Nelson comes in to the category of the absurd. Consider the cost. It seems that a new building would be required for about 300 staff. Canteen and car parking facilities would be needed. This sort of reorganisation would apparently cost over £3 million. Ultimately it is the poor old consumer who will have to pay.
What about the existing staff? After all, Nelson is a bit at the back of beyond. They would have to travel there and car allowances would have to be increased. There would be many other financial considerations besides, all additional expense which would eventually have to be borne by the consumer.
Centralisation has been the vogue for a long time. I had hoped that at last it was passing. Invariably it has cost the earth and, of course, in the process people are forgotten. Gwent is an entity, one of the most heavily populated counties of Wales, with one of the highest population densities per square mile. Surely there could be a central point in the county for the administration of the water service?
I intend to convey these sentiments of the chairman of the Welsh Water Authority and I hope that the Minister will take note of what I have said.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being brief. The House will wish to know that the winding-up speeches are expected 204 to begin at about 9.20. Seven hon. Members still hope to speak. If they are brief, it will be possible to call all of them.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)
I feel bound to point out that there is not much incentive for hon. Members to be brief if those of us who habitually limit our remarks normally have to wait until the end of the debate and those such as the hon. Members for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and for Pontypridd (Mr. John), who usually go on at interminable length, can actually count on being called fairly early in the proceedings.
Since some of my remarks tonight may be treated by the ill-intentioned as being critical of Ministers and the Government, I want to make it plain that I strongly support the Government's economic policies and that I feel that they are now beginning to bring benefits to Britain as a whole and to Wales in particular. I accept that their policies necessarily involve the containment of public expenditure so as to leave room for industry to grow and that the containment of public expenditure necessarily means that many who directly benefit from it will undergo, at best, a lowering of their expectations and very probably an actual reduction of income. I pay tribute to the toughness with which the Secretary of State, by his persistence in Cabinet, has managed to shield Wales from many of the more disagreeable consequences of this containment of public expenditure. In other words, thanks to him, Wales is getting more than its fair share of the British taxpayers' money.
If, however, I approve the Government's broad economic policies, I cannot say as much for the Secretary of State for the Environment's handling of local government matters, which the Secretary of State for Wales is loyally bound to support. I certainly share the Government's wish to see local authorities observe proper financial prudence. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), I deplore the proposals put forward by Clywd's finance committee for a huge leap in the rate precept, and I share his qualified relief that the proposal has been rejected by the full council, although, since no cuts in expenditure seem to be in prospect, the problem will come back to haunt the ratepayer in future years.
Economies can and should be made by Clywd county council. Since the particular institution to which my hon. Friend referred, Bodelwyddan castle, is in my constituency rather than his, I want to make sure that every one understands that I fully support his view that there is room for economies in what seems to me an extremely extravagant enterprise.
However, the Government have chosen what I consider to be a palliative to the problem of local government extravagance, a palliative that I believe will make the problem more difficult to resolve, not less. In particular, they have failed to provide a real incentive for local authorities to cut down on their current expenditure. Nor has there been any incentive to make better provision for the future by way of capital expenditure. I doubt that there is a council in Wales which could not find further economies without cutting essential services. Yet those which do make a real effort to achieve economies in running costs — and Colwyn borough, since its inception, has certainly been one—find their efforts all too often rewarded by having their grant allocations cut 205 still further because the reduced expenditure is taken as an indication not of their increased efforts but of their reduced need.
What is more, Colwyn seems to be exceptionally unlucky in its applications under the urban aid programme. It submitted four applications for capital and revenue projects for 1984—85. All were turned down. At the same time, the council was getting a thumbs-down from the Manpower Services Commission for its application to stretch the 12-month limitation so as to enable the extremely valuable housing and social survey carried out as an MSC scheme to be completed.
At much the same time, I was having to convey disappointing news to the council which was seeking support from the Welsh Office for the provision of a picnic area at the point where the expressway passes under Penmaenhead. That would have made a superb use of an expressway site for tourist purposes, a point that I have been urging elsewhere.
I cannot see that just a little more encouragement for Colwyn in matters such as these would in any way have diminished the very proper pressures on it to be constantly seeking new ways of cutting current costs. I certainly do not think that the Government's current rate-cutting exercise will constitute any such pressure, which, if it is to be permanently effective, must be exercised from below by the voters in local elections. The Government have done nothing to increase either the power or the sense of responsibility of voters in local elections.
Equally discouraging has been the Government's attitude towards any efforts by Colwyn council to plan for the future. I remember all too well the active discouragement—indeed, worse, the outright obstruction—that the Labour Government of 1974 offered to Rhudllan borough council's efforts to arrest the seemingly inexorable decline of Rhyl as a tourist resort by building the all-weather Sun Centre which is now a money-spinner and the top tourist attraction in Wales. The present Government's attitude towards Colwyn's efforts to ensure that its town centre, after the passing of the expressway hurricane, is developed in such a way as to make people want to come to Colwyn Bay and to stay there is all too reminiscent of Pontius Pilate.
The attitude of the Welsh Office seems to be that such of the land as is in its possession must be sold to the highest bidder, to do what he likes with, and no encouragement is given to the council to adopt a firm attitude towards the National Freight Company, which has the key piece of land in the town centre and which, like the Welsh Office, may be under pressure to develop it in the way that would be most immediately profitable.
I am not suggesting that the ratepayer or the taxpayer should be called upon to finance grandiose schemes of landscaping such as are in progress temporarily in Liverpool. I am suggesting that the planning powers that are available to local authorities are inadequate to steer development in a direction which might yield less short-term profit for the developer, but which would better safeguard the future of Colwyn bay as a tourist resort and residential area. The temptation to mortgage the future in pursuit of short-term profit will have been intensified by the laissez-faire attitude which seems to be becoming more prevalent in the Welsh Office, just as a little more pragmatism seems to be creeping into other areas of Government policy.
206 The case in Colwyn bay would be met by an integrated development on the lines of the imaginative scheme that the Secretary of State has launched for south Cardiff, but on a much smaller scale. I am sure that there is a readiness on the part of the local authority and local commerce to back such a scheme if only the Welsh Office would give some sign of encouragement, if not a lead.
Those whom I meet at my regular advice bureaux or those who write to me at the House seem to be full of worries and moans, but when I go out and about in my constituency and visit schools, factories, hospitals or other places of work, or call on people in their own homes, I find them cheerful, resolute and getting on with the job in hand. I sometimes wonder when listening to Labour Members whether they ever get out and about in their own constituencies.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
I agree very much with the robust views of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), save for those few ritual sentences of support for his Front Bench. Perhaps he has as close a link with his Front Bench as Torvill with Dean, as we have heard in other contexts.
I shall try to take up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas) on what I think most hon. Members, when they consider the subject dispassionately, will consider to be the Cinderella of services in Wales—the housing sector. Those who are seeking accommodation, including young families and the homeless generally, are unconcerned about sterile debates on whether provision should be within the public or private sectors. They are concerned essentially that they should have a roof over their heads.
Are we meeting the needs now and the needs that are perceived in Wales over the next 10 or 20 years in housing provision? What yardstick should we use in seeking to assess the likely demand for housing in Wales in future? Those are questions which I hope to discuss in my contribution to the debate.
I shall adopt the yardstick which the hon. Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts), the Under-Secretary of State, employed when he addressed the all-Wales housing conference on 24 September 1982. The hon. Gentleman said:We have estimated that to eliminate overcrowding, undesired sharing of accommodation and unfit dwellings over a period of 20 years, as well as keeping pace with new household formation, we should need about 20,000 new dwellings a year.He rejected the possibility of large-scale clearance and continued:The alternative is to balance a realistic level of new with an extensive programme of rehabilitation of existing dwellings.I am rather surprised that he then allowed himself to say:Our conservative estimate indicates a need for about 12,000 new dwellings together with the rehabilitation of at least 6,500 unfit dwellings each year.Thus in 1982, one of the Welsh Office junior Ministers said that on a conservative estimate there should be at least 12,000 new dwellings every year over the next 20 years merely to keep pace with demand. That is the Government's yardstick.
207 How has the Government's performance measured up to their own yardstick? In 1980, total completions in Wales in both the public and private sectors were 7,858. In 1981 there were 6,066 dwellings, both public and private. In 1982, total completions were 8,108. We have a considerable shortfall from the "conservative estimate" of 12,000 new dwellings a year, which the Government have set for themselves. It is a shortfall which year on year and cumulatively will make the problem very much worse over the next 20 years.
The failure to meet that target, which they have set for themselves, means increasing misery, homelessness and searching by the young and the old in our community for roofs that are just not available. I shall not rehearse the statistics on the poor quality of housing in the Principality. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy took us through the Welsh housing statistics. We know that 43 per cent. of our housing is pre-1919 and that on any of the unfitness indices we are on a level with the worst areas in the UK. Spending on housing in Wales is £52 per head compared with £70 in England. Our homeless figures are growing alarmingly. The last figures which I have, the 1982 statistics, show that slightly more than 9,000 are classified as homeless. In 1981, 5,400 were in that category. There has been a 40 to 50 per cent. increase over the 1981 figures, and Swansea, which I represent, has the worst homelessness figures in the Principality.
Far from allowing the voluntary sector, which Conservative Members praise, often with such justification, to assist in the task of housing the homeless, it has been hit hard by the Government's pressure on local authorities. First, local authorities have to carry out their statutory duties, and after that they may turn to give aid to the voluntary sector, which can help so much in alleviating homelessness.
In spite of the demand for housing as perceived in the Welsh Office and in spite of the clear message of the housing condition survey which revealed the comparatively poor quality of the housing stock in Wales, housing has taken the brunt of the Government's cuts in public expenditure. In paragraph 2.16 on page 112 of "The Government's Expenditure Plans 1984–85 to 1986–87" we are told that the expenditure on housing was £208 million in 1980–81 and £176 million in 1983–84, and that it will be reduced in 1984–85 to £118 million. It must be borne in mind that expenditure over the past years has been aided or swollen by capital receipts from council house sales.
This is a major social problem, yet the Government seem to be proceeding in the wrong direction if they are to meet it. In England and Wales we can almost see the end of the new build for general family need rather than for specialist need, whether it be that of the elderly or the handicapped, in the public sector. One of the sad features of our debates and of Welsh Question Time is that when Conservative Members bother to ask questions on housing those questions are directed to the number of houses that have been sold in the public sector rather than homelessness, the quality of the housing stock or new build. That appears to be the totality of the concern of Conservative Members.
There has been a major difference between the sales of council houses and the starts in the public sector. In 1981, 8,501 council houses were sold and just 1,600-odd were started. In 1982, the difference was even more alarming, 208 with about 15,000 council houses sold and just 2,647 starts in the public sector. That amounts to substantial under-provision for those who have no prospect of purchasing houses either because of their age or their economic position, whether they are young, old, unemployed or in fear of redundancy.
There is a limit to the proportion of the total council housing stock that can be sold. The treasurer of Swansea city council estimated that roughly two thirds of our council house tenants are in receipt of housing benefit. One can assume that by definition very few, if any, of those on housing benefit are likely to be able to enter into the financial commitment of purchasing their council home. It is estimated that the capital receipts from council house sales are likely to peak in 1984–85; therefore, even less money will come from that source to local authorities for their housing expenditure.
The council houses sold are in no way being replaced. It is the economics of the madhouse when,' on the latest figure, the cost of replacing a dwelling sold in the public sector is about £24,000 and the average receipt by a local authority for the sale of a dwelling is about £8,000. That vast difference makes no sense economically. Whatever sense Conservative Members think it makes socially is overwhelmed by the lack of housing provision and the great discrepancy, according to the Government's figures, between perceived need and actual provision.
The Government's housing priorities are startling. The average mortgage tax relief in the current year in the United Kingdom as a whole is estimated by the Treasury at £400 per mortgagor. When that figure was given in answer to a parliamentary question last November, capriciously the Government were stating that they would reduce housing benefit by £230 million. That shows a total lack of social insight. While increasing mortgage relief by 20 per cent. between 1982–83 and 1983–84, the Government were increasing the burden by reducing the housing benefit of the poorest in our society. The renewal of our housing stock is a necessity, not a luxury.
I have used the figures the Under-Secretary of State gave to the housing conference. I shall leave aside the chaos in the house improvement sector, which is the result of the Government's policy, and look at new building. The Under-Secretary of State has said that in the next 20 years, on a conservative estimate, we shall need at least 12,000 new public and private houses in Wales. We are miles from that. What will the Under-Secretary of State do about it?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
How does the hon. Gentleman explain the failure of Welsh local authorities to spend about £85 million on housing over two years when that money was available to them?
§ Mr. Anderson
That is total scapegoatism. Whenever the Government cannot answer the problem they simply point the finger at local authorities and their alleged failings. Unless the figure of 12,000 new houses is reached there will be an accelerated decline in housing provision in Wales. Wales already has the worst position in the country. It is indeed the Cinderella sector. Unless the Government take steps to arrest that decline, they will show only indifference to the scale of the problem and to the plight of the homeless and a refusal to improve even that poor housing stock now in the Principality.
§ Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, Central)
It is an extraordinary use of scapegoatism to claim that the Under-Secretary of State is wriggling out of a charge by pointing out that the local authorities did not spend £85 million in two years. Nevertheless, I agree with some of the statements of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). My constituency, in which fewer than 10 per cent. of households are in local authority housing and nearly a quarter in private rented accommodation, presents a profile slightly different from the average.
But for this debate today I would have been in Cardiff celebrating the signing of the contract for the Holiday Inn, for which urban development grant support was announced this time last year. The hon. Member for Swansea, East referred to that rather sad debate. The Holiday Inn is a big bonus, not just for the 200 jobs that will be provided when the hotel is built but because it is an internationally linked hotel which will spread the name of Cardiff wherever Holiday Inn hotels are sited. Each Holiday Inn in the world will have Cardiff on its list, and the Cardiff Holiday Inn will be bookable from anywhere in the world. That is a major bonus. We have quite a number of new hotels, but this is the big one, which will do more than anything else to help us fill St. David's hall for conference business. We must now pursue that business. The great St. David's hall is a marvellous centre for culture, for, as my sons would say, darts and rock music, and for, as I would say, orchestral music. The conference trade will bring in many millions of pounds to our capital city.
The freeport is another bonus. For many years, we have lacked that facility, unlike our competitors on the mainland of Europe. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales for his actions in convincing the Government that we should have a freeport in my city.
Last year in this debate, the rebuilding of south Cardiff was announced involving not just one sector but several grants for elements of rebuilding which, with the Holiday Inn in the southern half of the city, will completely transform Cardiff and give it back some of the glory of its old days. When Cardiff is clean and has new buildings, it will be a finer city than it has ever been.
I pay tribute to the Cardiff and Vale enterprise agency, just under a year old, which has put together the various agencies, grants and what-not for incoming firms wishing to expand in our area. The agency makes a conservative estimate that in its first 10 months it will have created 700 new jobs in Cardiff in those firms to which the agency has given significant support. I welcome the agency's support for the Livewire competition which it will launch in May for those under 25 who have bright ideas and wish to strike out on their own. We want to support those youngsters and to bring new industry, inventiveness, hope and enterprise to Cardiff. We should all welcome the agency's enthusiasm.
The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) knows that each day many of his constituents travel to work in the city. It is a centre with universities, further education facilities, great shopping centres, theatres, museums, sports facilities, including the National Sports Centre and parks—all those facilities which combined make up one of the great cities of our country and a city we should never undersell.
210 Cardiff is home to people from many parts of the world, including east of the iron curtain. They have brought a new vigour and new interest into a cosmopolitan city and they are extremely welcome.
In the South Wales Echo on 16 February the county council is reported as saying:In the past few weeks, the county council has received four times as many enquiries"—that is industrial inquiries—as in the whole of the previous 12 months. 'It is excellent news' said the council leader the Reverend Bob Morgan.It has had 170 inquiries so far this year compared with 40 last year. It is a small sign perhaps of the return of and increase in our country's economic activity.
There are worries. In the small shopping areas in my constituency, I am alarmed by the rental levels which are being reached and which will be more damaging than the city and county rates, which this year, thank heaven, are fairly restrained. Rents which have been catching up with inflation are, in some instances, going beyond the capacity of small shopkeepers to sustain. Some of our residential areas are in danger of losing those small shops.
Like many hon. Members, I worry about the old and the young and their housing requirements. As I said, nearly a quarter of my households are in private rented accommodation. Much of it is extremely old and downright rotten. The young and the old have great difficulties in those conditions. I support, as I have with the early-day motion that has been tabled, housing associations which provide a flexibility for those sectors which I do not believe local authorities or other agencies can provide.
I want to see a continued commitment to the Severn crossing. I know that my right hon. Friend is committed to it, and I want to see a crossing as soon as we can have it. I hope that the Department of Transport's feasibility study will not knock out the idea of the mini-barrage.
I raised the subject of a ship simulator in Cardiff in this debate last year. I wanted my right hon. Friend to take an interest in it, but it is now under some threat. It is a unique installation in Cardiff, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to receive a delegation from the county council which is seeking to see him to discuss that issue.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has been introducing changes in education. There is improved status for the training of teachers, and he has mooted alterations in the position of head teachers. He suggested a day or two ago that head teachers should be on some form of probation for a couple of years. I would rather that they were employed on the continental basis of contract perhaps for five years. A bad head teacher who is almost unsackable can wreck a school once he is in place. There should be a means of dropping head teachers who do not measure up to the job.
Teacher expectation is referred to in "Planning for Progress", the Welsh Office HMI occasional paper. It talks of:Teacher expectation, vitally associated with the achievement of pupils at every level".Teacher expectation is a problem in the state sector. In the private sector, teacher and parent expectation run hand in hand and are one explanation of the extremely high examination successes in that sector. My own children are in the state sector, and I think that the teacher expectation there is too often too low. That is reflected in the survey of foreign languages in secondary schools which has just come from the Welsh HMI. It is a damning report on the 211 teaching of languages in Welsh secondary schools. It states that pupils cannot speak the tongues which are taught. Twenty-five per cent. of the schools have too few language lessons, or put another way, an average third-year pupil in Wales expects to get one minute a week of individual linguistic attention. Only 20 per cent. of language departments are operating effectively.
For many of us—the hon. Member for Swansea, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) having been through the Foreign Office had to go through a certain amount of language training—our time in school learning languages was, I am afraid, none too effective. That is to Britain's loss. The British Overseas Trade Board in 1979 produced a report on foreign languages for overseas trade. It is important in the context of trying to gain exports for Welsh firms and businesses, and the report stated:Yes. Many of Britain's major customers in non-English speaking markets, especially in Western Europe, (which now takes over 50 per cent. of United Kingdom exports) give preference to firms who take the trouble to approach them in their own language. They are widely critical of the apparent inability of many British firms to do so, and are likely to react unfavourably to an approach made in English.The report further states:Many of Britain's major competitors regard knowledge of the language and culture of their customers as fundamental to their exporting success, in contrast to the British attitude that language ability is merely a bonus.That report is a sad reflection on the teaching of language in Wales. It is a necessity in the modern world and with our membership of the EEC. Unless we can get that type of education right, just as much as the computer side about which we hear so much today, I think that we shall be failing. The future otherwise holds out great hope for Cardiff, Wales as a whole and our people.
§ Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)
We have heard fine words from the Conservative Benches about how many factories and initiatives have been started. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Grist) has told us about the developments of the freeport and the Holiday Inn hotel in his area. I suspect that the Holiday Inn will charge so much per night that few Welsh people will be able to afford to stay there. Indeed, once the fair wages resolutions have been abolished, the Holiday Inn will be able to pay Welsh people poverty wages. That is the truth of the Government's economic policy.
Over and above all that is a serious fact which cannot be denied even by the Conservative party. It is that in Wales unemployment has more than doubled. It has risen from about 78,000 to over 175,000. Wales has done worse than any other region or nation within the United Kingdom. It has had an appalling loss of employment.
It is all very well for the hon. Member for Cardiff, North to say that the Government's policies are working and the economy is picking up. It is not picking up. The level of manufacturing now is 20 per cent. less that it was in 1979, and the level of the economy in general is only just what it was in 1979. That is the Government's record. There has been no action on the economy, and manufacturing has suffered a catastrophic decline. That has been especially important in Wales, because the Welsh economy has depended more heavily on manufacturing than the economy in other regions.
212 The problems of housing have already been mentioned. The Under-Secretary has said that local authorities have not spent enough on housing. If he gave an extra 1 million in housing allocation to Wrexham-Maelor borough council, I am sure that the council would spend it. When the hon. Gentleman replies to the debate, why should he not announce that he will do so? I am sure that my hon. Friends whose constituencies cover other local authorities agree with me. If the Minister gave an extra allocation with no strings attached, the local authorities would build the houses that are desperately needed.
In far too many households in my constituency, the mother and father live upstairs — perhaps sharing a bedroom with a young child—while the married grownup children and their small babies live in the living room with the television because they have no home of their own. There are hundreds of such families in my constituency. The Conservative party pays no attention to that problem. I do not believe that Conservative Members care about it. If they cared, the Minister would give us the extra capital allocations this evening, with no strings attached.
It is no reflection on you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say that all the Conservative Members who wished to speak have done so, while three of my hon. Friends still hope to speak during the next twenty minutes. The procedures for dealing with Welsh affairs, and certainly Scottish affairs, need to be changed. The Government do not represent the people of Wales or Scotland. It is the Labour party which represents Wales and Scotland. There are 20 Labour Members for Wales, and only 14 Conservative Members. There is therefore a difficulty, and normal procedures should not be applied.
I had intended to speak for half an hour about the railway infrastructure in north Wales. I have only five minutes, so I shall have to condense my remarks. I give notice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I intend to speak for half an hour on this topic at some suitable time.
There is electrification throughout the south-east of England. The east coast main line and various branches to places such as Grimsby, Teesside and Tyneside, have 125 HSTs. That also applies to the west coast; there are electrified inter-city services all the way up the west coast. Even the line to Chesterfield, which we will hear more about on Thursday, has HST 125 trains; so has the south Wales line.
The situation in north Wales is very different. The service between Chester and Holyhead is not purely an inter-city service—it is only a partial inter-city service. There is one inter-city train from Euston to Chester via Wrexham. It exists only because Clwyd county council spent £50,000 on that service in order to attract industrial development. There is no other inter-city service in north Wales, although there are lines from Shrewsbury to Llanelli, from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and from Shrewsbury to Machynlleth and Pwllheli.
Last Friday I travelled on the Settle to Carlisle line. The trip was most instructive. I was surprised to find that the two-car diesel multiple unit set got up and down the gradients very quickly, but I was accompanied by some of my hon. Friends, who told me that that two-car set had engines in both cars. They told me that, in Wales, we have a one-car set with a trailer. That explains why, very often, trains from Aberystwyth fail to make the Talerddig 213 gradient, and have to fall back and have another run at it. In north Wales we do not even get the best of the worst rolling stock.
The service is absymal and the time-keeping is exceedingly bad. The inter-city service provided by Clwyd county council at a cost of over £50,000 so that British Rail could run one train from Euston to Shrewsbury, Wrexham and Chester is, on average, 20 minutes late on one trip in three.
If British Rail is given an incentive by local authorities providing ratepayers' money and still cannot keep its trains on time so that business men feel confident of taking trains, what hope is there for our rail service in north and mid-Wales? I do not think that there is much hope. A correspondent tells me that on Friday, 17 February the 17.40 inter-city service was already one hour and 10 minutes late by the time it reached Shrewsbury. What hope is there of providing a decent service when that train must continue into Clwyd? On Monday, 20 February, that train was one hour late on arrival in Shrewsbury. What hope is there for improving services?
Another example occurred last Thursday, 23 February when the 17.10 from Bangor to Scarborough was 38 minutes late at Chester. In the normal run of events north Wales Members would not find that surprising, but the result of that delay was that the 19.00 train from Chester to Aberystwyth had to be held back because it had to make connections. The train finally left Chester at 19.30. On that train were passengers to Cardiff. The result was that the Crewe to Cardiff train had to be held at Shrewsbury. Moreover, the 19.30 train from Wrexham to Bidston had to be delayed 25 minutes simply because the crew had to change at Wrexham to go onto the other train so that it could go to Bidston. Meanwhile, the 18.38 train from Bidston could not get past the single track at Wrexham General and therefore had to be delayed for half an hour.
That is a typical catalogue of the chaos that can be caused throughout north-east Wales when one train is 38 minutes late. That is not a surprising event, as such delays happen somewhere along the system almost every day. What does British Rail propose to do? Does it propose that there should be modern rolling stock, modern track and signalling? Not at all. It proposes that instead of double-line track there should be single line track. That is a disgrace. Moreover, there is to be a single line not just between Wrexham and Chester but between Shrewsbury and Chester as well.
It does not end there. We are to have a single line between Hawarden and Bidston and some sections of single line between Shrewsbury and Newport. Nor does it end there. British Rail intends to take away the slow line from Prestatyn to Rhyl. Correspondents tell me that on the main line from Chester to Holyhead the track is being upgraded. I am told that it is always being upgraded on one track or the other but never on both at the same time. I wonder what the reason for that is. I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, far from trying to electrify the line from Chester to Holyhead, British Rail will propose to make it a single line. We must do something about that.
My seven minutes are up. I welcome the Welsh Office's statement that there will be a consultation paper on transport and railway infrastructure. I hope that we can have a debate on the matter. I also hope that no irrevocable decisions will be made before we have such a debate. I 214 hope that local authorities will be brought in as they have a part to play. We face a serious problem which will go by default unless we turn our minds to it.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)
The subject that undoubtedly continues to create the greatest unease, insecurity and outright hostility to the Conservative Government is unemployment. I know that the Secretary of State strives to emphasise the positive side of new Welsh industry and job creation. They are welcome and encouraging but, thus far, their effect on the Welsh economy has not been visibly great. We cannot emphasise too often the crying need for more initiatives.
Since 1980, each year has been a record year for the number of firms becoming bankrupt. Each year has been a record year for jobs lost and job opportunities reduced.
One of the consequences can be seen in a recent paper produced by the building societies, showing that the number of repossession orders against people who cannot pay their mortgages doubled between 1981 and 1983. The number of people having serious trouble paying their mortgages has trebled since 1979. Not all these defaulters are council tenants, wooed by the Right to take on burdens that they can barely afford. A great many will be middle managers whose prospects of promotion have been blighted by cuts in public spending, causing negative income feedback effects on the private sector.
A slow time-bomb is meanwhile ticking away in the housing market. As district councils stop building council houses, and housing associations in Wales face a shortfall of £17 million in the next financial year, the largest housing association in Swansea has already closed its waiting list at 400 people. Only 41 new houses and flats will be built by Gwalia next year in the Swansea area, which will be particularly difficult for the housing needs of young people. Of all those who have been robbed and starved of opportunity, it is the young who have suffered most.
During the election, we were promised that all youngsters under the age of 17 who had not been found work would be offered an MSC YTS place by Christmas. In a classic example of 1984 double-speak, the Government claim that this promise has been substantially met. The claim means that the promise has not been met.
In Wales in January 1984, 2,489 youngsters under the age of 17 were on the dole. In the 22 to 24-year-old age group, between January 1980 and January 1984, unemployment has doubled from 18,172 to 37,355. Of this age group, 15.32 per cent. had been unemployed for more than one year in January 1980. By January 1984, it was a massive 36.2 per cent. In January 1980, one in 20 of them had been on the dole for more than two years. By January 1984, one in five of them fell into that category.
When we are faced with figures like that, which depict the future human capital, the seed corn of Wales, we must examine carefully the organisation which has been specifically established to deal with the problem, the Manpower Services Commission. That organisation last year underspent by £200 million. In January, the Government announced that the MSC would receive an extra £15 million for the community programme which is geared to the young and long-term unemployed. When the Secretary of State for Wales announced this, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on 23 January, he failed to point out that, of 215 this £15 million extra money, Wales will receive not one single penny. Not only will Wales receive none of that money, but it will lose 1,310 community programme places next year. I hope that the Secretary of State is straining his every nerve and his every sinew to remedy that situation.
If one examines the Manpower Services Commission's youth training scheme, one finds that, in January 1984, 310,900 youngsters were on YTS placement, that is, almost a quarter below the MSC's target. Although exact figures are not available, the great majority of YTS trainees are unemployed school-leavers. The MSC's own monitoring has revealed that approximately one third of the schemes visited do not meet the current minimum quality training requirements. It is expected that as many as half of this year's YTS trainees will become unemployed after leaving the scheme. Although YTS, like its predecessor, the youth opportunities programme, may be socially desirable in order to give youngsters a glimpse of life at work, it is basically, like the YOP, a scheme to keep unemployed school leavers off the dole. It has a long way to go before it can be—as it is claimed to be—an employment-based training programme to form a bridge between education and work.
Given the MSC's limited success in tackling the problems, the Government's reasoning was that if there was a failure, they would have to look for a scapegoat. This year, as I have said before in the House, local authorities are the gremlins in the Government's works. So the Government have produced—like a rabbit from a conjuror's hat — a White Paper entitled "Training for Jobs". At a time when local authorities are being forced to cut existing courses at colleges of further education, and the MSC has so much money that it cannot spend its £200 million, the Government propose to give a quarter of the further education funding to local authorities to the MSC. There was no consultation with the local authorities, preparation of the ground or attempt to establish links between local authorities and the MSC, so that each could plainly see how best to work together in close co-operation. Yet throughout the White Paper the Government recognised the need for co-operation between the MSC and local authorities. Indeed, they repeatedly pay tribute to the success of local authorities in responding to training needs, and working with local employers and the MSC.
The MSC cannot make use of the money that has been allocated to it. It lacks the expertise, facilities and basic groundwork. It needs time to consolidate what it has, and to see how best to progress in the interests of its trainees in a static labour market.
The further education sector has long been underfunded. Indeed, I was amazed to read in one of those ambiguous, waffly HMI reports on the effects of cuts in 1983 thatIn both non-advanced and advanced further education, students are having to be turned away because colleges have neither the staffing, accommodation nor new equipment to cope with demand".The report concludes:For a Government that is alleged to be committed to the improvement of standards and the development of education and training relevant to the needs of modern industry, this is a dismal picture.216 It is no wonder that local authorities throughout Wales are so concerned about the implications of the White Paper and the pending loss of one quarter of their budget.
I think that I have said sufficient to show quite clearly that the exercise is purely cosmetic. The only reason that I can see for it is that the Prime Minister wants to give more clout to Mr. Young, and at the same time emasculate further local authorities — this year's nasties — and deprive them of their ability to structure local courses that are geared to the needs of local employers and industries. To quote a former Minister for Transport referring to another White Paper, I suggest that the Secretary of State for Wales should give this White Paper back to his Government and pulp it.
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you look at the order in which hon. Members have been called to speak tonight, the ratio of Opposition Members to Conservative Members, and the amount of time that has been allocated in the debate to Front Benchers? As you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, there are Back Benchers who have been waiting but who have been unable to make their speeches. I, for one, have a matter of very pressing concern in my constituency, which I wanted to raise tonight. I have been unable to do so and I wish to notify you, Sir, that I want to raise it on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I made two appeals for brevity during the debate. I see that Mr. Deputy Speaker made a further two appeals. There have been some long speeches. I am sorry for the hon. Gentleman. I said at the beginning that I hoped that it would be possible to call every hon. Member who wished to speak. I am sorry that that has not been possible.
§ Dr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)
We have had a fair, wide-ranging and good-tempered debate except for one speech.
Britain has an economically dominant core and the Government have encouraged it to an unyielding degree so that we have had to become more emphatically the champions of the periphery and of the localities within that periphery. Wales is still lacking and lagging behind in administrative, professional and technical skills. Few companies have their headquarters and fewer still their research and development departments sited in or remotely near Wales. Ownership and control lie outside the area. Most of the jobs created in Wales are in branch establishments, difficult to set up when the going is reasonable but so easy to find excuses to close when companies have to draw in their interests.
Future employment in Wales will depend upon the expansion and innovation of indigenous industries. Tourism will have to capture a greater share of the home and the foreign tourist market. Overall population statistics can give a false impression because of the number of retired people who settle in Wales, later to draw on a limited social service budget. People with talents and training are often forced to leave Wales, much against their natural instinct and desire because they would like their children to grow up in Wales.
Rural Wales is still failing to hold its young people. Industrial apprenticeships have all but halved in the past 217 five years. This has been a major factor in the quadrupling of those under 25 who are without work. The take-up of training schemes for teenagers is often disappointing in those areas where unemployment is at its highest and most resistant. Predominantly male employing industries are still the hardest hit and female part-time work, with its persistent low wage rates, is least badly affected. The MSC report says that economic recovery will hardly dent unemployment in Wales. Market forces are infinitely more likely to aggravate regional work prospects than help in eradicating the disparity.
The young out of work in Wales must be prepared to move beyond the magic line from the Severn to the Wash. There was a reluctance of fresh and satellite enterprises to come west of the Severn estuary well before doubts about the safety and durability of that high bridge. Hammered by a catalogue of blows to its staple industrial employment, as the young people leave, Wales will have an older and less adaptable work force.
In regard to a matter in which the Government have pride, "Care in the Community", Labour authorities are on the rack, yet their burdens and commitments increase constantly. "Care in the Community" outlined what was needed but subsequent action by the Government has fallen lamentably short of acceptable targets.
§ Dr. Thomas
It was a good speech, but it was a bad-tempered speech, and bad temper is not something of which the House can be proud.
§ Dr. Thomas
Without community care, it is impossible to have effective, comprehensive, expanding and fair personal social services. Social consciousness, social responsibility and social concern are far too readily given only lip service by the Government. To respond to these rising demands, local and health authorities are expected to work near miracles. The Government are not short of new ideas, but are far more reluctant to back these often desirable and exemplary schemes with money and resources. Local authorities are apparently allowed to settle their own priorities, but such an exercise amounts to having to make terrible choices, to which the Government chip in, like a Greek chorus, that all will be well if there is elimination of wasteful and unnecessary expenditure. In such circumstances, how on earth can local authorities stay within set limits without being penalised?
Without enough money, it is pie in the sky to expect positive constructive results from the co-operation between health and local authorities and voluntary organisations. The former director of social services questions whether health authorities with ever-decreasing health budgets can maintain hospital services and at the same time develop community care services. He felt that joint finance gave local authorities insufficient incentive to develop so many schemes. The poor and most 218 vulnerable in our society are caught in the crossfire of the Government's squeeze on local authorities and this year, again, spending will be cut in real terms.
The Association of Directors of Social Services said that at least 4 per cent. real growth was needed to prevent the standard of community provision from falling. A dogmatic Government approach to joint finance schemes in Wales will deny thousands of elderly, disabled and chronically ill people the care to which they are entitled, and which they deserve. Unless action is taken, the crisis will engulf us all, so devastating will be its proportions and dimensions.
The Rates Bill deliberately sets out to coerce local authorities and it applies to Wales. Community services will be devastatingly and detrimentally affected. One would have thought it to be common sense that there is no one better than local members to decide what their peoples' needs are, when those people need protection — there is an overwhelming case for that—and what services can be managed to produce the least disruption and mismanagement of the suffering within society.
§ Mr. Ray Powell
Will my hon. Friend repeat the fact, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson), that the Rates Bill applies to Wales?
§ Dr. Thomas
My hon. Friend has done that quite emphatically, and there can be no doubt about it.
Like many hon. Members here today, I am prepared to turn to rather more parochial matters, affecting the geographically largest county of Wales. I have been closely associated with Dyfed county council for the past eight years, since it came into being. It has always been an independent authority and to some of us it has not acted in an independent manner on many issues. It has always been most attentive and has complied with central Government. Its moderation has been to the forefront arid its officers have not been ones to encourage and entice any other stance.
This year has seen the cavalier manner in which the Secretary of State has been treating local authorities, to such an extent that even Dyfed county council has had to bare its teeth and emphasise that it is a body of people who know and care for the problems of those who elected its members. Last Friday, on independent television in Wales, the weekly current affairs programme was devoted to the immediate and past effects of this Administration's stringency on education of children and young people in the county of Dyfed. The cameras visited the comprehensive school in Ammanford, which children from part of my constituency attend, and a primary school that is in the area of the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells). The cameras ranged over classrooms in which essential text books were shared by three or four pupils, in which essential resources arid materials either were not available or were at an absolute premium, and in which the classroom furniture was such a disgrace, so tattered and fragmented in appearance, that it was positively dangerous to the children.
The school wants as many as possible of its 1,500 pupils to keep up with our technological age. [AN HON. MEMBER: "To keep up with the town hall."] The town hall in Ammanford is a very modest one, certainly compared with Little Washington.
The school has only seven computers, and in this respect many children are being denied the absolute 219 requisites for educational attainment. It is the breeding ground for the underattainment that is the norm in far too many parts of the Principality.
Dyfed county council has tried hard to tread the narrow path that was designed for it by central Government diktat. It has cut certain sectors, knowing full well that in doing so it was fostering the educational conditions that I have briefly outlined. It has dug into its reserves. It has tried not to push up the rates more than modestly. In fact, the phrase so commonly used is that it has fiscally "behaved itself".
This year, however, the council has had to increase the rate precept by 12p in the pound—a rise of over 9 per cent. At last it has been bold enough, not to eat its words as in the past, or just to mouth protestations, but unequivocally to blame central Government. The Government have cut the grants and penalised Dyfed for exceeding its low target. Sixpence of the 12p rate is directly due to loss of grant, and 6p is to meet central Government's punitive treatment of an authority that, up to now—heaven forbid—has not had the reputation of an overspending authority.
No longer could Dyfed go along, as it had done year after year, with an expenditure target that had been set lower and lower as a direct result of it being seen as an understanding authority. What has happened in Dyfed is part of that determined attempt to demote and relegate the voice and the importance of local government, and of councillors who have been democratically elected and who, by any sense of civility and justice, should maintain that right to decide the local community provision expenditure for which they are legally responsible. Nevertheless, one questions sadly how far that will be allowed to continue, and not systematically truncated to the point of futile subservience.
The Secretary of State has set expenditure targets at such an ineffective level as to disregard both pay settlements and price increases on services which the public expect and — perhaps more important — which councils such as Dyfed are statutorily obliged to provide. The probable pay and price increases will be 1 or 2 per cent. above the Government's forecasts.
There is a direct relationship between the Government's determination to reduce local authority spending and the increase in the authority's demand upon ratepayers—something for which the Government are totally responsible. One has to ask: what is the motive behind this attempt to alientate local government from the people who elected it and whom it seeks to serve?
Educational underattainment comes at a time when the schools inspectorate in Wales keeps producing reports that emphasise the difficulties that face education in Wales.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) mentioned a report published two weeks ago on the highly unsatisfactory position in almost every school with regard to teaching of foreign languages, especially French and German. The report highlights the grave disadvantages suffered by our children in forming links with the continent of Europe and possibly in getting jobs there. Poor provision for language teaching affects those who wish to advance in many scientific and educational fields. Welsh graduates need crash courses in foreign languages before proceeding to higher education, because the learning and conversational teaching techniques are not available to them, except in a handful of comprehensive schools.
220 Having referred to foreign languages, I cannot leave the debate without imploring the Secretary of State to set up a Welsh language advisory body. A great diversity of provision causes discord and antagonism. I am happy that Welsh language education will be increased in secondary schools not designated bilingual and attended by many Welsh speakers of all accents from up and down the land.
The provision of bilingual education, in whatever proportion, consumes money and resources. It is wishful thinking that education authorities in the areas where many still speak Welsh will benefit from the overall falling school rolls. To believe that they will use the money saved to provide Welsh language education is to live in a fool's paradise. Welsh language education needs additional financial help to increase the stature and provision of the Welsh language.
According to the remarkably astute modern Welsh historian, Mr. David Smith, the legendary Welsh separatist Saunders Lewis said that in order to recapture the south-east valleys of Wales culturally, they would have to be de-industrialised.
The Government, after just four and a half years, are well on the way to bringing the dream of Saunders Lewis to fruition. The Welsh economy is lying in a tray labelled, "Later—when time allows." The Government should wake up and realise that the economy of Wales should be in the tray marked, "For immediate action."
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)
A dark and gloomy Wales, heavily overcast by black economic clouds blown there by Government policy—a picture so beloved of the Opposition—is not the Wales known to me, to the Secretary of State, or to Conservative Members.
Neither, fortunately, is that the Wales we present to visiting potential investors. When the Nissan representatives came to Deeside, they were told that the county could give them the lowest overall transport costs, the highest financial incentives, the lowest operating costs and the best work force of any area. I am sure that Nissan is being presented with similarly glowing prospects of success on visits to other possible sites in Wales, before going on to English sites. Nissan would not be misled by the Opposition's dismal view of Wales. We in the Government try to present a balanced picture, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did in opening the debate.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am not giving way.
Of course, it is always very easy for the Opposition to carp and criticise, but we remember the shambles that the Labour Government left behind them in 1979 after the winter of discontent. We possess written statements of their policies for the 1979 and 1983 elections, we can speculate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) did, about what might now be the situation in Wales and the United Kingdom had the nation unwisely decided to follow the Socialist banner.
§ Mr. Roberts
We know that the Labour Government wanted to spend at least an extra £30 billion and intended to borrow that money. What we do not know is where they would have borrowed the money from, or what interest 221 rate they would have had to pay to raise such massive sums. That the total effect would have been inflationary is beyond doubt. Theirs was exactly the sort of programme that brought the United Kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy and to the door of the International Monetary Fund during their period of office.
Had Labour been elected last June, we would now have the prospect of banana republic interest rates and collapsing economic confidence. As my right hon. Friend mentioned in opening today's debate, we are seeing in Wales increased business optimism among Welsh manufacturers, increases in demand——
§ Mr. Roberts
There are increases in the volume of output and the number of manufacturers working at full capacity.
§ Mr. Roberts
The picture that I have just presented is not a credible scenario under a Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am not giving way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), in his brilliant speech, commented on the so-called strategy of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
By now, that incoming Socialist Administration would have turned their hand to re-nationalising all the public assets that the Conservative Government have liberated into private hands. To take a specifically Welsh example, I doubt that many employees of Amersham International would share the enthusiasm of the Labour party for re-nationalisation.
If a Labour Government had got in, they would have removed the council tenants' right to buy their homes and so deprived thousands of people of the opportunity of owning their own homes in Wales. Had Labour won, we would now be taking unilateral steps to disarm our nuclear defences. We would be wide open to nuclear blackmail. Even the French Government, salted as they are with Communist Ministers, do not begin to consider dismantling their own nuclear defence.
We would also be in the process of withdrawing from the European Community. On the way out would be the special benefits that Wales derives from the European regional development fund or from the funds to restructure the coal and steel industries. On the way out would be any hope of attracting the mobile international industry that we have attracted over recent years. Do Labour Members really imagine that companies such as 3M, Comdial, or Yuasa Battery would have invested here, had there not been access to the European market?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) knows very well what I am talking about. Indeed, in January 1982 he himself was calling for Labour speedily toDump daft draft policy proposals".
The fact of the matter is—I am sorry to rub salt into the hon. Gentleman's wounds—that the Labour party 222 did not dump those daft draft policy proposals. It carried them forward into the election and, if some Labour Members have now dropped them, we may be sure that their candidate at Chesterfield has not, nor have his friends in the House. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside is one of them, but he sounded like them in his speech, as did the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), who cryptically referred to the removal of the Government by "democratic or other means", in a squalid, offensive and nasty speech.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside referred to a silicon glen in Scotland, and I reaffirm our success in Wales in that area. The so-called western corridor along the M4 from Heathrow to south Wales has proved a growth area for high technology development. Some people have called them knowledge-based industries. South Wales has proved to be an attractive location for such developments, and in recent years companies such as Mitel at Caldicot, Inmos in Newport, Ferranti and Parrot in Cwmbran, Comdial and Amersham International in Cardiff have established themselves close to the M4. Their success demonstrates clearly that Wales has the support facilities, especially the availability of highly qualified and skilled personnel, to sustain such industries and to attract companies considering locations for new projects. I confidently predict that others will follow those who have established themselves successfully in Wales. The companies I mentioned have offered the prospect of nearly 4,000 new jobs.
§ Mr. Roberts
It is nonsense to suggest that we are insensitive to the needs of the young unemployed.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that the Minister is not giving way, and I order him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Roberts
I tell the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) that he is wrong about the Christmas guarantee to minimum age schoolleavers. It was met, except for 170 of them, and even for them there were 140 places in the pipeline. Next year alone the Government plan to spend over £800 million on the youth training scheme, which has been by any measure a great success this year.
The YTS is not a temporary employment scheme, but a permanent training measure. Its permanence is twofold. First, the Government's commitment to it is long term. Secondly, those youngsters who participate will receive training which will be of permanent value. In making those youngsters better equipped and motivated and more adaptable the scheme will be of lasting benefit not just to them but to the economy as a whole. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) clearly appreciated that.
One would hardly expect a scheme of this size to be launched without criticism, but I wish Opposition Members would not indulge in that well-known British habit of knocking something that is good and in which we can claim to lead the field. Perhaps they should speak more 223 to the youngsters receiving the benefits of a year-long foundation training, which will stand them in good stead all their working lives. In particular, they could talk to those trainees in the Welsh ITECs, who are not only benefiting generally from the scheme but receiving training in specialised schemes for the future.
Naturally many hon. Members referred to the review of regional policy. I welcome the balanced view that my hon. Friends the Members for Vale of Glamorgan and for Delyn have taken. They recognised the need for a review, especially the need to relate grants more closely to jobs created, and the need to review the map. The White Paper invites views on a number of issues. It is too soon to speculate on such issues as grant rates or the coverage of the map and much remains to be decided. That is why we are having a period of consultation which will last until the end of May. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already heard the views of a number of deputations.
In view of the concern expressed, I emphasise that the White Paper reaffirms the Government's commitment to an effective regional policy focusing on the creation of long-term jobs. It is our policy to obtain savings from the money now paid in regional development grants, but that does not mean a less effective policy. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, made clear in the debate on the Co-operative Development Agency and Industrial Development Bill on 7 February, significant savings can be made by taking more account of jobs created and less of capital intensive industry and by discounting replacement investment. As he pointed out,the £150 million … in the explanatory memorandum will come entirely from savings brought about by the cost per job limit and by taking out replacement investment from eligibility for RDG. That figure assumes the same map and the same rates of grant."—[Official Report, 7 February 1984; Vol. 53, c. 784.]The fact is that decisions have yet to be taken and, whatever they turn out to be, there will still be an effective regional policy which will benefit Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson) was absolutely right to draw attention to the effect of rates on business and employment and to the proportion of local authority expenditure taken up by wages and salaries. My hon. Friend the Member for Delyn was also well aware of this and I endorse what he said about rates in general and Clwyd in particular. For our part, we have consistently called for the utmost vigilance by local authorities in considering their manpower levels. It is a matter of concern that in the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available local authority manpower in Wales has increased by about 1,000 full-time equivalents. That trend must be reversed if authorities are to secure the necessary constraint in expenditure. It is also essential that wage settlements in the local authority sector be kept as low as possible. Authorities will have to concentrate on that aspect as well as securing improved efficiency if expenditure targets are to be met. As my hon. Friend said, the Audit Commission handbook on efficiency, economy and effectiveness amply demonstrates the scope for reducing costs without affecting the quality of services provided.
I appreciate the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan about the Barry area and I recognise the need to help that area. Every effort is being made to attract and safeguard employment throughout the 224 area through selective financial assistance and the work of the Welsh Development Agency. As for further factory building, the WDA keeps the situation under constant review and when a need for new factory space arises it is well placed to respond quickly. Communications to and from Barry are being helped by the new Barry docks link road and will be further improved by the Culverhouse Cross-Capel Llanilltern M4 link which should be completed by the end of the year.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) made a sad 10th anniversary speech, proving yet again that the Liberal party is the party of lost causes when he expressed his continued belief in devolution. He obviously did not recognise the elephant on his doorstep. He has clearly failed to notice the Government's intense interest in improving education and the fact that we now have the best pupil-teacher ratio record ever. He also failed to absorb the fact that we have reiterated ad infinitum that revenue allocations to health authorities in Wales have been increased by 10 per cent. since 1979 and that Dyfed has benefited particularly.
§ Mr. Roberts
It is for the East Dyfed health authority to decide the priority that it gives to the development of Bronglais.
§ Mr. Roberts
No one listening to the debate would believe that revenue provision for the personal social services rose between 1978–79 and the current financial year by some 8 per cent. more than would have been needed to keep pace with inflation and has reached £110.1 million and that cash provision for social services in the next financial year has been increased to £116.4 million. No one listening to the speeches of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches would believe that social services provision by county councils for the special needs of mentally ill and mentally handicapped people has increased by 20 per cent. since 1978–79. I seize this opportunity to congratulate the counties on their achievement which, incidentally, is not in spite of the Government but rather because of our constant exhortation to local authorities to protect services for those in greatest need.
I should like to assure the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), who made an interesting speech, that we at the Welsh Office are considering the effects of the demographic changes that he mentioned and that my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State has established a special study group to look at the implications. I must say, however, that the hon. Member was very selective in his use of the answers that I gave him yesterday. He will know — but he never acknowledged — that the number of whole-time equivalent home helps in Wales at 30 September each year for the last five years has actually increased and that the number of cases in Wales in which home helps were provided in the last five years ending 31 March has increased from 42,000 in 1979 to 52,000 in 1983.
Who would believe that the number of specially designed wheelchair dwellings completed in 1978 was a miserable 10 compared with 109 in 1983? Who would believe that the number of disabled cases provided with 225 aids at home was 18,031 in 1983 compared with 12,772 in 1980 or that the number of people helped with holidays in 1983 was more than twice as many as those helped in 1979? The hon. Member for Pontypridd knows that no one has done more to improve our aging housing stock than the present Government. It is time that some hon. Members on the Opposition side underwent a polygraph test at home when rehearsing their speeches because, frankly, they do not come out with the truth.
Seriously, I think that it is reasonable for us to look at the prospects of a child born in May 1979 with the advent of the Conservative Government. In 1978 the hon. Member castigated those whom he described as "dismal Johnnies", who believed that the National Health Service was "collapsing about our ears". In contrast, the child born in 1979 would now be making use of an improved and better funded National Health Service in Wales.
Should the child have been born with a mental handicap, he will not face the position identified by the hon. Gentleman in 1976 when he made it plain that it was unrealistic to expect health authorities to improve services to the mentally handicapped. In contrast, we are building up expenditure over a 10-year period to £26 million of recurring annual amounts to enable the mentally handicapped in Wales to lead independent lives in normal sorroundings as part of their local community.
A child born in 1979 is, of course, more likely to grow up in a home where his parents are owner-occupiers, perhaps having benefited, as have so many Welsh people, from our right-to-buy provisions.
226 Like the Prime Minister, I would answer the question of how I visualise society in the 1980s asOne … in which we can make substantially better provision for the elderly, the sick, the disabled …and that is precisely what we are doing in Wales.
The essential difference between the Government and the Opposition is that our soundly based economic policies offer the only hope of generating an increase in the national wealth out of which to finance these improved benefits. That is why not only must we roll back the frontiers of Socialism but must expand the role and flexibility of the wealth-creating private sector. This Government alone hold out the hope of progressive change. The people of Wales realise it and that is why they returned a record number of Conservative Members at the last election. We shall keep that hope alive by our solid achievements in office during the life of this Parliament. We look to the future. The Opposition still look to the past. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This has been a good-natured debate so far, but the Minister must be allowed to finish his speech. Half a minute remains for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for the half minute. I shall reiterate precisely the issues that were raised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State——
§ It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.