HC Deb 02 March 1988 vol 128 cc1008-72

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lightbown.]

5.15 pm
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance for future reference. I am sure that you or the Speaker's Panel could do something about this. When St. David's day falls on a Tuesday and a Welsh day debate is declared for the same week, surely you and others could use your influence on Government sources to ensure that the debate is held on St. David's day. I understand that the Secretary of State could not attend a Welsh day debate yesterday because he was busy launching press statements all over the country. I am sure that most people in Wales view with disquiet the fact that when the whole of Wales was celebrating St. David's day the foreigner—the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker)—who is Secretary of State for Wales could not find time to come to the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

The hon. Gentleman and the whole House will know that that is not a matter for the Chair. However, I am about to call the Secretary of State.

5.16 pm
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Walker)

In response to the point raised by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), I should make it clear that I had nothing whatever to do with the fixing of today's debate. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that in the years since the new arrangements were made in 1979 the debate has never been held on St. David's day, so perhaps his point of order will be considered in the right perspective.

I rejoice at the opportunity of opening the debate and reflecting on the considerable improvements that have taken place in the past year in many aspects of the Welsh economy and Welsh development. One of the first tasks that I undertook when I took on my present duties was to read through the Official Report of similar debates on the Welsh economy that have taken place at this time of the year.

For seven or eight years, those debates were introduced by my predecessor and I begin by paying tribute to him for the considerable work that he did in the interests of the Principality during his period of office. Many of the improving trends that we have witnessed in the past year — in unemployment, take-up of factories, derelict land improvement and many other spheres—have been due to decisions and actions that my predecessor took before giving up the position of Secretary of State.

My predecessor was Secretary of State in a very difficult period. There was a worldwide recession on a considerable scale. Manufacturing industry throughout the Western world declined considerably and employment in those industries decreased considerably throughout Europe. Added to the problems in Wales was the considerable decline in manning in the coal and steel industries. Since 1973 the number of people employed in the coal and steel industries in Wales has fallen by 76,000, creating considerable problems for the Welsh economy.

Unemployment is still much too high and a great deal of progress remains to be made in reducing it. We have inherited, partly from those industries of the past, a considerable volume of bad housing which needs to be tackled, as well as a range of problems connected with health which do not apply to many other regions. There is also a great deal of land dereliction with slag heaps and former premises no longer required. The phasing out of a substantial part of the employment in coal and steel which has taken place over the whole post-war period but on a very substantial scale in the past 15 years has thus created considerable problems.

The good position for Wales now, for the first time in several decades, is that the decline in the number of people employed in those two basic industries has very much come to an end. The steel industry that remains in Wales has enjoyed high levels of investment. It is showing remarkable production figures, and after privatisation it will be in a strong position to compete and to do well throughout the European market.

It is interesting to reflect that over the past few years the number of people employed in the coal industry has declined from 30,000 to 10,000. The pits that remain have substantial reserves and there has been substantial investment in them. It is also interesting to note that when 30,000 people were employed in the Welsh mines, they produced 7.9 million tonnes of coal. However, with two thirds of the work force gone, and with only 10,000 people left, the current production figure is about 7 million tonnes, which shows the strength of those pits and the heavy investment that has taken place in them.

There is one sector in which I should like the coal industry to expand. I should like the Margam project to proceed. Some £90 million worth of investment has been given to that new element of the coal industry, and that pit will provide 800 jobs. I hope that negotiations will be completed quickly so that that important development can take place.

In the context of the considerable problems that remain, we can look upon last year as being one of considerable achievement. Unemployment has fallen by 26,900 on a seasonally adjusted basis and by 28,400 on an actual basis. The number of lettings of the Welsh Development Agency's factories over the past 12 months is an all-time record. The number of WDA factories that are vacant is down to the low figure of 8 per cent. In many areas, there is an urgent demand for more factories to be made available quickly.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

The reported figures show a decline in unemployment. Everyone welcomes a decline in unemployment, but some areas are experiencing considerable difficulty in reducing unemployment and in some places, such as the Dwyfor area, the problem is worsening. The Secretary of State has concentrated his attention on the valleys — we accept that there are problems in the valleys—but will he assure the House that he will bear in mind the very difficult problems in other areas?

Mr. Walker

I shall make some remarks later about the difficulties affecting those areas.

We have announced a substantial factory-building programme. Factory building is going ahead at the highest levels on record. Regional assistance over the past 12 months has provided 27,500 new jobs, compared with 20,000 during the year before. Investment from overseas is at an all-time record, and Wales has achieved a far greater proportion of investment from overseas than any other region of the United Kingdom.

In the past year, we have seen signs of substantial improvement in financial services. Anybody visiting Wales recognises that much activity is taking place in every region. Recently, a leading German banker and myself — I am anxious that his bank, which has considerable influence on German industry, should take an interest in potential development by German manufacturers in Wales — flew over Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and some of the valleys.

Mr. Ray Powell

We read about that yesterday.

Mr. Walker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will rejoice at the fact that that gentleman commented that one cannot see any other place in Europe in which so many factories that have been built over the past five to 10 years are now operating. That was his reaction at what is taking place.

I visited the Heads of the Valleys with the local authority leaders for that area, and they took me to the parts of the valleys that they wished to develop and described the activities that are taking place. Having visited many parts of the valleys, we remarked on the considerable volume of activity in building new factories, opening new workshops, improving high streets, houses and a range of other matters.

Mr. Ray Powell

When the Secretary of State was flying over parts of Wales, I assume that he flew over Maesteg, Ogmore valley and the Garw valley, where in his previous appointment as a Minister he closed every pit in my constituency because of the economic policies that were being pursued by the Government in 1979. That policy led to the closure and bankruptcy of a number of firms in my constituency. Did the right hon. Gentleman draw his visitor's attention to those matters?

Mr. Walker

If I had wanted to, I could have flown over many more pits that were closed by post-war Labour Governments. The hon. Gentleman knows that if we were to have a competition about who closed the most pits, Labour Governments would win hands down. The difference is that when Labour Governments closed pits there was no coal board enterprise company trying to provide other jobs in the areas concerned.

During my recent visits to north Wales, I have seen a great deal of activity, with many new factories opening. A diversity of new firms are moving into areas in which Courtaulds used to be so dominant. In mid-Wales—the area with which the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) is concerned—many rural areas are experiencing particular problems. It is pleasing to note that Mid-Wales Development has, on average over the past 12 months, made a new letting every three days. That shows that a great deal of activity is taking place in the area.

If one wishes to know the updated position, one has only to consider the recent surveys carried out by the CBI and the Cardiff chamber of commerce, which both show a more optimistic position for Wales than at any time since such surveys were made. One should take particular note of the most recent Wales CBI survey, which said: Welsh industry is preparing for a huge injection of investment cash over the next 12 months … A record number of firms are planning to increase investment in plant and machinery with a sizeable proportion aiming to plough money into new buildings. The Welsh investment prediction, which is well ahead of that for the UK as a whole, follows several months of booming order books which have reached record high points in the past three months. Jobs growth during the past four months has also been higher than expected and the upward trend is set to continue well into 1988.… Overall, Welsh manufacturers are in a very confident mood. Eighty-nine per cent. said they were either as optimistic or more optimistic than they were four months ago. This represents a significantly more buoyant mood than is displayed by UK industrialists in general.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

I am pleased that the Secretary of State has referred to that survey, which shows that investment in manufacturing industry is finally reaching the levels of 1979. Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the survey shows that when he, in conjunction with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, scrapped regional development grant, all that he did was to save the Government a great deal of money? Much of that investment would have been eligible for regional development grant, and it might have been redoubled into further investment if regional development grant had been available. By chopping regional development grant he has saved the Government a great deal of money. He has not, as he told the public of Wales and the House, granted Welsh industry a facility. He has taken it away.

Mr. Walker

As always, the hon. Gentleman has got it completely wrong. I am pleased to say that the enormous uplift in regional aid that I have announced will be of considerable further benefit. I shall be delighted to give the hon. Gentleman some figures to show how those changes in regional development grant have resulted in a large additional boost.

The present position is one of considerable buoyancy. The number of vacancies in various parts of Wales has increased considerably. Advertisements in last week's newspapers in the Swansea area show that the number of situations vacant is 51 per cent. higher than at the same period last year. Job vacancies in the major newspaper in north Wales are 106 per cent. up on the level of a year ago. That reflects a considerable improvement.

I am delighted to say that there are signs that regional policy will have a considerable impact over the next three years. I stated emphatically that one of the benefits of not ending regional grant immediately but allowing applications to be submitted before a certain date is that a considerable boost is given to investment decisions, which can be brought forward. That will bring a considerable amount of additional money to Wales. I am delighted to say that, since my announcement, 570 applications have been made in two months. In January and February of last year, which was a good year for regional development grant, there were 303 applications. It is likely that the amount coming from the regional development grant will be substantially larger than the estimates. That will be of great benefit to Wales.

I am pleased to tell the House that, as a result of the additional provision of money, the Welsh Development Agency has now embarked on a three-year factory building programme, with a direct investment of £130 million in new factories, and 4.5 million sq ft of new factory space to be built. Moreover, substantial improvements will take place as a result of our encouragement of private investment in factory building.

The Welsh economy has benefited from other factors that have resulted from the general trend. I am delighted to tell the House that Dow Corning announced today that it is embarking on an investment programme involving a further £20 million in its silicon plant, which will enable the firm to become the key silicon supplier in Europe. That is on top of the £100 million programme that is coming to an end, and it is possible that still larger programmes are being contemplated.

I am also glad to say that a major American electronics firm which has been operating in the United Kingdom for the past 15 years, with a base in Cambridge employing 58 people, has now decided that owing to the nature of the European market it wishes to obtain major provision for supplying that market. It has chosen the Baglan industrial park, and is going in quickly to develop a factory there, which will provide 300 new jobs in the area. That is an example of inward investment decisions that are now taking place on a considerable scale, and will, I believe, continue to do so in the period that lies ahead.

With such economic progress, the economy is also stronger and better able to tackle some of the major social problems in Wales. In spite of the considerable extra provision that has been made in the health services in Wales— per cent. more in real terms, a £500 million capital programme and more nurses and doctors—there is no doubt about the considerable demand and need in Wales. I am reviewing the need element in regard to the distribution of health expenditure in Wales, and examining the various ways in which we can improve the services shill further.

In housing, there was a remarkable achievement over the period of my predecessor, when 142,000 homes in Wales were improved. As every hon. Member knows, that programme completely dwarfed the previous one. I am pleased to say that it is continuing, and we have arranged that the expenditure next year will be some £101 million, an increase of 19 per cent. over that of the past year. The new Housing Corporation that I have announced will, I hope, start operating quickly, and that too will make an important impact.

There are, however, a number of other spheres in which we need to concentrate our activities and policies over the next year or two.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The Minister has drawn attention, quite properly, to the substantial increase in house improvement. Was there any particular reason for his not mentioning new build? Is he not aware that there has been a complete slump in new build in Wales over the years of his Government, at a time when household formation and homelessness are both increasing?

Mr. Walker

The operation in new build of the housing associations has increased massively in recent years. Moreover, figures for new build in the private sector are substantially up. In addition, Wales had a very large stock of housing needing repair — which, alas, was incredibly neglected under the last Labour Government, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I am delighted that my predecessor concentrated on that to the degree that he did.

We should always remind ourselves that the present Government have spent an average of £93 million a year on house improvement, compared with the £29 million spent by the Labour Government. Anyone who is interested in improving housing in Wales should judge the differing records of the two parties.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

We are all very much in favour of the home improvement scheme, and, indeed, want it reinstituted on a larger scale as soon as possible, because the clamour for it is very great. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make an announcement about that.

As the right hon. Gentleman gives figures for home improvements, why does he not give us the figures for new housing that his Government stopped, and for the number of people thrown out of their jobs on that account?

Mr. Walker

I should be only too happy to ask my hon. Friend who is to reply to give the right hon. Gentleman whatever figures he wants on new houses. However, as the right hon. Gentleman knows from his constituency, the all-important need was that of the large number of houses requiring renovation. Perhaps when he speaks he will explain how the number of grants provided went from 7,000 in 1977 to 5,900 in 1978, and to 1,100 in 1979, compared with the 19,000 to 20,000 a year now being provided. Perhaps, as the right hon. Gentleman wants to hear of an even bigger increase, he will explain the decline that occurred when he was a member of the Cabinet.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Gentleman now give us the figures for which we asked? If he came to the House so well equipped on the issue of housing, and so determined to tell us the truth, will he tell us why his Government, while he was a member of it, brought housing in our constituencies to a standstill? We want to see a great expansion of the house improvement scheme and of new housing, and our people getting back to work. That is what the right hon. Gentleman ought to be doing, instead of prating about irrelevant matters.

Mr. Walker

Whenever the right hon. Gentleman explodes like that, we know that he is on a very bad wicket. He now says, "Although you are doing four times as much as I did when I was responsible, we should like you to do still more." I have given him the good news: we are increasing expenditure by a further 19 per cent. in the coming year—increasing a record that is already better than his.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Has my right hon. Friend seen the figures from the National House-Building Council, which show that in Wales last year 8,300 new homes were built—four times the increase in the rest of the United Kingdom? That shows the progress that is being made.

Mr. Walker

There is considerable expansion in private building at present. In view of the housing stock and the requirements of Wales, I feel that it is absolutely right to concentrate on house improvement to the degree that we have.

The Government will be concentrating on a number of matters over the coming 12 months or two years. For instance, we wish to continue the considerable reduction in unemployment that we have achieved, and the considerable injection of investment and activity throughout the Principality. We shall be conducting with WlNvest — which we are providing with greatly enhanced resources — further campaigns on inward investment, on a considerable scale. Ministerial visits will be made to a number of countries where we believe that there is very good scope for improving inward investment, and a specific and detailed programme will be carried out.

First, we are in close competition for inward investment with other regions of the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, but our record over the past couple of years has been better than anywhere else. I am determined to see that that trend continues as a result of the increased resources that I have provided.

Secondly, we wish to organise a far more detailed and active drive to involve the Welsh economy in exports. Wales' export record is not good. A number of Opposition Members have pointed out the failure to take up grants and services available in Wales, compared with other regions. A classic example is that of the export services. Only 2.4 per cent. of applicants for the export intelligence service provided by the Department of Trade and Industry come from Wales. Only 1.76 per cent. of participants in trade fairs come from Wales, and for export representative services the figure is 0.75 per cent. We shall, therefore, conduct firm by firm an active campaign of briefing, taking note of the current information. We shall also endeavour to make Wales far more European market-oriented during the next few years, with a range of campaigns that we intend to conduct with Welsh business men. We are also arranging a number of special export missions from Welsh business.

The third area in which I hope for increased activity is Welsh agriculture, and particularly the food industries. Welsh agriculture, like a great deal of European agriculture, will have its problems and difficulties during this period, but there is no doubt that one of the most important aims in assisting the rural areas and Welsh agriculture is to try to improve marketing and value-added processes to link with Welsh food products.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

Will the Secretary of State consider the urgent business of providing extra funding for the Welsh Agricultural Organisation Society, which has a good record on the marketing of Welsh agricultural products, to enable it to start new initiatives?

Mr. Walker

I have been discussing with the WDA the whole programme of actively supporting the food industries, and, in the important areas of horticulture, cheese, lamb—and others—it is coming forward with imaginative new schemes. Overall, I hope that, in conjunction with the farming communities, the food industries and the retailers, we can have much more concerted activity on getting more value added to Welsh agricultural production.

The fourth area of activity will be the craft industries. I have published the report done by Tony Ball on how we can reorganise them. I await the response to that report; I have asked for it to come in during the next few weeks. Shortly thereafter we shall make a range of decisions to give a new momentum and drive to the craft industries throughout Wales.

The fifth area is tourism. For the next year, we have provided a 9 per cent. increase in financial facilities for the Welsh tourist authority, added to which we shall obtain through negotiation better facilities for overseas marketing. Welsh tourism is an important and expanding industry and a great deal of investment is now being made in it. With the many major urban developments taking place in parts of Wales, the role of the hotel industry will grow. In that context, I appreciate and am grateful for the manner in which the leaders of all the parties that are represented in Wales condemned the actions that took place in Chester last weekend and the damage that they could do. Whether they were the actions of one person, two people or a small group, they do not reflect the attitude of the people of Wales to welcoming visitors from overseas and other places.

Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)

The Welsh tourist industry has a good record in the United Kingdom, but its weakness is that it attracts relatively few people from overseas. That underlines the bad decision not to permit Wales to have its own Welsh tourist board with powers to advertise overseas — such as the Scottish tourist board has. This issue must be pressed. Wales needs that power.

Mr. Walker

I understand, but disagree with my hon. Friend. There will be greater benefit from the new arrangements we have made with the British tourist authority. As a result of the Select Committee's report, we have negotiated new arrangements that will greatly help to attract more visitors from overseas. They will serve greatly to improve the position.

The sixth area in which I want to take action is the continuing programme of removing derelict land. The amount of money allocated to that work by the WDA in 1987–88 was 30 per cent. up on the previous year. We have now decided to allocate a further 18 per cent. for 1988–89. The WDA has now agreed a three-year programme that is 40 per cent. up on the land reclamation programme that was originally planned. It includes land reclamation, urban renewal and environmental improvement. The WDA has decided that, with the extra money made available to it, it will increase those facets of its programme by 40 per cent. for the next three years. The removal of dereliction is taking place on a considerable scale, but there is a vast amount to be done. I think that the whole House will welcome the substantial increase I have announced today for improving the programme.

The seventh area in which we must continue to be active and in which I hope for further successes is that of encouraging the service industries and financial services to come to Wales. It is important that not only the Companies Registration Office but the Patent Office is coming to Wales. The decision by the Chemical Bank to establish its European administrative headquarters in Wales has been a considerable success. This year there was the important decision by the Trustee Savings Bank, and almost every major international firm of accountants and management consultants has, over the past two or three years, decided either to expand greatly or to create an office in Wales. I hope that we can attract one or two overseas banking houses to take an interest in the considerable developments in Wales, and attract many of the service industries in the south-east to profit from the considerable advantages of coming to the Principality.

The eighth area is education and training, and it is linked with some of the things I have already mentioned. I hope that the business school connected with the University of Wales in Cardiff and the new research programmes available to the universities will strengthen the Welsh universities and their connection with industry. I also hope that we can persuade the university system that provision should be made for teaching Japanese, because of our becoming the principal choice in western Europe for Japanese inward investment. I believe that our university system has a good facility for that, and it would be an important aim to achieve. I hope that the provisions in the Education Reform Bill to enable teachers and pupils to have a closer association with industry and commerce will be executed even more successfully in Wales than anywhere else. That will benefit—

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

On the higher education aspect, and the link between higher education research and industry, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the proposals of the DES include the setting up of university research centres? The Secretary of State for Education and Science referred to three such centres earlier this week during the debate on science. None of them is planned for Wales, so will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that one of those centres will be established in the University of Wales?

Mr. Walker

Research is important, and I shall discuss these matters with my right hon. Friend.

There is an important role for the Manpower Services Commission to play in training. I am pleased that it has budgeted to spend £200 million in Wales during the coming year. I hope that when it examines its training programmes it will consider the new and diverse needs of Wales, particularly in some of the service industries, and will train people for them.

Mr. Anderson

The Secretary of State mentioned the link between schools, business and exports. Will he take a close look at the decline in foreign language teaching in our Welsh schools, in which foreign languages — apart from one—are being phased out? That must surely have an effect on the training of Welsh entrepreneurs.

Mr. Walker

Yes, I shall look into that. Language tuition throughout the United Kingdom is not necessarily linked with the important and expanding languages of the world. The lack of the teaching of Spanish in the United Kingdom — including Wales — despite its growing importance worldwide, shows that.

The ninth area in which I wish to carry out some changes is that of improving the activities of the enterprise agencies, which have been highly successful in Wales. In the past year the WDA has had no fewer than 39,000 inquiries from people wanting to know about starting businesses and the various facilities that are available. That shows the need in every region of Wales for a substantial improvement in the quality of advice and of the enterprise agencies that operate there. We are reviewing the position to see what action can be taken to improve it.

Communications is the tenth area for fundamental improvement. I hope that swift procedures will be followed so that the Severn bridge crossing can be in place in good time for the mid-1990s. The growth in traffic and in the Welsh economy shows how important that will be. In north Wales, we have already completed two thirds of the dual carriageway on the A55 between Chester and Bangor, but the one third that has yet to be finished is important. When it is completed in the early 1990s it will have a considerable impact on business development in north Wales.

Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

Will my right hon. Friend consider the need for access roads to the A55 from industrial and tourists areas? All hon. Members from all parties representing constituencies in north Wales are concerned about that.

Mr. Walker

I recognise that fact. My hon. Friend is aware that the county authorities have responsibility in that respect. However, we will want to have positive discussions with the authorities. At present, £285 million worth of roads are under construction in Wales and they include some important bypass schemes in mid-Wales which will help those areas.

The Welsh economy is progressing at a good pace. Many new enterprises are entering the area from overseas, and new enterprises are starting in Wales. Several major schemes will take place in the years ahead including the Cardiff Bay development, and the development of several other south Wales ports, the garden festival at Ebbw Vale, which will have considerable implications for all the valleys, and the building of the new world trade centre in Cardiff.

We can now take full advantage of the potential of the European market. With the extension and freeing of the market by 1992, we can argue that Wales is in a particularly strong position as it has a unique geographical position in relation to Portugal, Spain and Ireland. That position could be very important.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Before the Secretary of State begins his peroration, I must say that we were expecting him to clarify the position of the valleys initiative. Over the past month or so several programmes have been announced including the reclamation and industrial development programmes. What will the valleys initiative be now? Will more money be available to those areas than has already been announced or half announced?

Mr. Walker

I have made it perfectly clear that I will announce the valleys initiative when I have completed my discussions with the various authorities, local authorities and agencies concerned. I am glad to say that good progress is being made. Of course the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) must be delighted at the considerable factory programmes that have been announced, even before my announcement, and the considerable improvements that have been made. The hon. Gentleman must be very pleased at the progress that is being made around Merthyr Tydfil. I am sure that he will be delighted by the good news that will come soon. I understand his impatience, but I look forward to him cheering loudly when the good news comes.

This has been a year of very good progress. If we apply ourselves positively in the areas that I have suggested today, even better progress will be made in the years ahead.

5.52 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

May I first register the Opposition's objection to the fact that a highly controversial statement was made before the only Welsh debate of the year. It was known that Welsh Members were already angry about the fact that the debate was taking place today—we do not want to enter into that issue again—and it was ridiculous to have a statement that inevitably would take an hour or more to complete in advance of this debate.

This is our first debate on the Floor of the House on the present state of Wales and its future since the Secretary of State took up his post. It gives us an opportunity to check the progress that has been made after six or seven months. The debate also gives us the chance to see whether the reality matches the hype. One thing that we have not been short of in the past few months is hype from the Welsh Office.

Let us first consider the background. Let us establish the wide range of deprivation with which we must contend in Wales and measure that against the rather narrow objectives that the Secretary of State has set himself.

The high level of unemployment—it has doubled in Wales — is a problem in itself, but it tends to divert attention from equally serious problems in Wales. We are, after all, one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. Only one other region has lower average earnings than Wales.

Mr. Morgan

Northern Ireland.

Mr. Williams

Average earnings in the south-east are a full £3,000 a year higher than in Wales. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) said, Northern Ireland is the only area with a lower income per head. Our internal purchasing power and our internal ability to generate demand is the most limited in the United Kingdom. The gap is widening.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Williams

No, I want to make some progress in my speech.

The gap is widening. If the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) cares to consider the figures, he will see that from 1979 to 1987 average full-time earnings increased by 110 per cent. in Wales, but by 135 per cent. in the south-east. Other parts of Britain, which already have a purchasing power advantage over Wales, are seeing a higher rate of increase in purchasing power.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has left out part of the equation whereby one must consider gross disposable income after taxation and after making allowances for mortgages? When we consider the high cost of housing in the south-east and elsewhere in parts of the United Kingdom, we see that the disparity in spending power between Wales and other areas is not as great as the right hon. Gentleman claims.

Mr. Williams

I would be fascinated to hear the hon. Gentleman produce some figures—perhaps in his speech rather than in mine—to demonstrate his point. I have seen no figures to substantiate that view. Indeed, the figures that I have seen for mortgages, which tend to vindicate our fears about income levels in our part of the country, reveal that the repossession rate is at its highest in Wales.

Faced with the problems of poverty and low pay, the Government's answer is to tell the lowest paid, including manual workers in local government and in hospitals, that they should take pay cuts and lose their jobs. The Government have told the impoverished and people on supplementary benefit that from 1 April they will not need to look to the Department of Health and Social Security for grants. If they want help, they will have to accept loans. The lowest income families in Wales are being told that they must live on credit. That is the Government's soulless approach to the problems of low incomes and low pay.

A similar argument can be made about homelessness. I must state right away that I recognise and welcome the achievements that have been made in renovation. I am glad that more renovation work will be carried out. There is no point of difference between us on that. However, homelessness is about roofs over heads. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) tried to make the point that while homelessness has increased by 28 per cent., and while we are confronted with record housing lists in virtually every housing authority in Wales, it is not good enough to look to the council house building programme and discover that it is now one fifth of what it was in 1978. The figure of 744 new council houses built in 1986—the last year for which figures are available—must be seen against the background of the "Welsh Digest of Statistics", which dates back to 1949. In that context, the 1986 figure is the lowest ever for public sector housing. The Government's policies are not meeting the needs of the homeless. Indeed, their policies are not aimed at meeting those needs.

There are also enormous health problems in Wales and we went into these problems in great detail in the Welsh Grand Committee recently. There are shortages of nurses and doctors. There is a shortage of hospital beds, and we now have the smallest number of hospital beds in Wales since the Health Service was established. Not surprisingly, the corollary to all those circumstances is that waiting lists are intractable and defy all the efforts of the Minister to meet his commitment that from 1 April no one would wait more than a year for in-patient treatment. In fact, there are still more than 9,000 people on the lists.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

Will my right hon. Friend cast his mind back to Question Time on Monday, when we tried to get a response from the Minister about the position in Mid-Glamorgan where there have been such drastic cuts to the Health Service that there is a shortage of nurses and in their final hours old people are being left to die literally without nursing care? Does the Secretary of State for Wales not have a responsibility and an obligation to be accountable? It is his Health Service and he is responsible for it now.

Mr. Williams

Exactly. One of our misfortunes is that it is virtually impossible to get answers on anything from the Secretary of State for Wales. Question Time is almost a farce. The Secretary of State even answers questions that have not been asked.

The problems of health, homelessness and low incomes are just a few of the problems that we find in what the Secretary of State likes to describe as booming Wales. Those problems exist in addition to the problems of unemployment. They exist at the present level of spend and that is important for what I want to say.

Mr. Raffan

The right hon. Gentleman was fair in acknowledging the amount that the Government have spent on home improvements. I know that he would not be so churlish as to refuse to concede that vastly increased amounts have been spent on the Health Service in Wales. There has been a 39 per cent. increase. I am sure he will acknowledge that that has been made possible by the strength of the economy within the United Kingdom. How much extra would his Government spend on the Health Service if they were ever returned to office, and what waiting lists would be acceptable to his Government—zero, or a few thousand here and there? Can he give us some answers?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman knows that we went into those matters in detail just the other week and I shall deal with them later. However, as he has asked the question, I shall give him a passing answer. The hon. Gentleman referred to the affluence and strength of the economy, which he said had enabled the Government to increase their annual spending, after deductions for inflation, by 4.1 per cent. That is still below 4.6 per cent., which is the rate at which it increased under the previous Labour Administration. I do not want the Secretary of State to anticipate what is to come, because I am sure that he will be delighted with the comments that I intend to make about his programme. —[Interruption] It is difficult for the Secretary of State when he is trapped on the Floor of the House. He cannot run out and hold one of his press conferences. He has to communicate vicariously through his Parliamentary Private Secretary.

As I have said, the problems I have described exist with the present level of finance. Therefore, they can he solved only if extra finance is devoted to them. I was intrigued to read the article in The Observer, entitled "Brave New Wales." It talked about the funding that the Secretary of State had obtained for Wales. It contained the delightful quotation about when he asked the Cabinet for money. He said: I received every penny I asked for". Many newspapers went overboard when the right hon. Gentleman announced his new programme for spending in Wales for the next year. He talked about an enormous increase of £259 million. It sounds very good. The trouble is that when it is matched against what was being spent this year, and once we deduct 4.5 per cent for inflation, the increase of £259 million becomes a cut of £6 million. That should not have been a surprise to the Secretary of State, because the figures are stated clearly in table 2.2 of the Treasury's White Paper on public expenditure. Therefore, the man who received every penny that he asked for is receiving £6 million less than last year, and £54 million less over the next three years. Perhaps it is not the Secretary of State's fault. Perhaps the crafty Chancellor of the Exchequer did not show him table 2.2 and he was conned in the same way as the press.

The Secretary of State has a bit of a problem. Wales is expecting more because it has been told by the Secretary of State that there is to be more. He has the additional problem of having to spend 2 per cent. more on health just to stand still, and he has to finance the new valleys initiative. All that has to be found from the new sum of money, which is £6 million less than the amount that caused all the problems that I mentioned at the start of my speech.

The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) asked about health, and I am glad that he did. I will tell the hon. Gentleman what has happened. One of the ways in which the Secretary of State will achieve some of the other things that he has announced today is by pruning the pattern of spending on the Health Service. As I pointed out in the Welsh Grand Committee, the right hon. Gentleman boasted that spending under this Administration has increased by 4.5 per cent. a year after allowing for inflation. I pointed out that, because he had left out the first year, the figure was 4.1 per cent.

It is in the Secretary of State's interest to accept my figure rather than his, otherwise what is about to come will make his plans look even worse. His predecessor achieved an increase of 4.1 per cent. but for the next three years the Secretary of State will have a total increase of only 3.3 per cent., or 1 per cent. a year. At a time when the NHS in Wales is near collapse, we have Mr. 1 per cent. in the Welsh Office. If he had sustained his predecessor's level of increase — not even the level that we reached — £30 million more would be spent on health in Wales next year. Think of what could be done with that money in Rhonnda, Mid-Glamorgan and other parts of Wales. It would help deal with the problem of waiting lists and the shortage of nurses. If the right hon. Gentleman had sustained that increase, we would see an extra £190 million spent in Wales over the next three years. That is all happening under the smiling, genial, good-hearted Secretary of State who believes that he has his priorities right.

There is no hope of reducing waiting lists or of eliminating the shortages on the programme that the right hon. Gentleman has proposed. As I said on Monday, I never thought that I would say that we were better off when his predecessor was holding the office of Secretary of State. The achievements are certainly very different from the image the Secretary of State has tried to portray.

Let us look a little more closely at some of the right hon. Gentleman's claims about jobs. I was delighted to hear the announcement of 300 jobs at Baglan. I am pleased about the location of the Patent Office, which will create about 500 local jobs. That will go a small way towards replacing the 8,000 Civil Service jobs that we have lost since the Government took office. At least it marks an about turn on their part. The Government abandoned the dispersal policy which, under my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), brought the DVLC to Swansea. They have now had to say that they got it wrong and that they will start doing it again. Not only does it make regional sense, but, as the Secretary of State had the cheek to say, it makes economic sense because it is cheaper. If that is so, why have they not been doing it for the past eight years? We welcome the Japanese investment. It is a continuation of a programme pursued by successive Governments. Inward investment is welcome in Wales. There is no difference of opinion about that.

A measure of the inadequacy even of those achievements is that in the week of the announcement about the Patent Office we lost 2,000 jobs in the coal industry. We gain on one hand and lose on the other. The latest figures show that since the Government took office there are 170,000 fewer people in employment. We should put that in perspective. I have mentioned the 300 jobs at Baglan. It would need 10 Baglans every week for a year to replace the jobs that have been lost since the Government took office. Understandably, we are delighted about Baglan, but we need one and a half Baglans a day just to get back to where the Government started. In the employment figures published within the last fortnight the Government announced the changes by region from June 1983 to June 1987. Wales was the only region that had a decline in civilian employment — employment plus self-employment — in the past four years.

The unemployment claims of the Secretary of State are also interesting. As we have already said, unemployment in Wales is still double its former level. We obviously welcome any decline, but the Secretary of State is not satisfied to say that there has been a change. Whatever it is, he has to be doing better than someone else. He could not just report the information blandly. He had to say: unemployment … has fallen faster in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom." — [Official Report, Welsh Grand Committee, 2 December 1987; c. 1.] I asked the Department of Employment whether that was true. I thought that that Department should know, because it collects the statistics. In the Welsh Office they cook them; in the Department of Employment they collect them. Yesterday the Department of Employment gave me an answer. Over the past year, from January 1987 to January 1988, Wales was seventh—not first—out of the eleven regions for the rate at which unemployment had declined—56 per cent. behind East Anglia, the best. I thought that it was not fair to judge over just one year and that I should find out the rate over two years as well. I found that, again, sadly we were not first, but fifth—23 per cent. behind East Anglia. Over three years we were fourth — 19 per cent. behind the south-east. Over four years we were fifth — 44 per cent. behind the west midlands. Our relative position is worsening, not improving. We have slipped from being fourth at one time during the four-year period to being seventh over the past 12 months. In fact, in the past 12 months our position has fallen below the United Kingdom average.

Mr. Morgan

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend is being entirely fair to the Secretary of State. Perhaps there was a day or a week in which unemployment in Wales fell faster than in any other region. Has my right hon. Friend considered that?

Mr. Williams

Yes, I have. The trouble with us Welsh is that we are too good natured. I thought that those figures might be unfair to the Secretary of State and that he merited a chance. Why should he be lumbered with what happened over four years? He has been Secretary of State for only six months, so I thought that I should look at the past six months, because perhaps it is true that we have done better over that period. Sadly, the position is even worse — [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We are fourth from the bottom, eighth out of 11 regions and 75 per cent. behind East Anglia, 53 per cent. behind the south-east, 32 per cent. behind the south-west, 23 per cent. behind the west midlands, 21 per cent. behind the east midlands, and so on. This is the Wales that the Secretary of State says is doing better under him than any other part of the United Kingdom and better than most parts of Europe.

Let us look again at the right hon. Gentleman's policies in relation to these basic facts. It is important to get the basic facts on the record. It is only fair to those who write the reports on what is happening in Wales that they should be given an alternative view from another Government Department.

Mr. Ray Powell

If the Secretary of State has been misleading the House and the nation with his replies and statements, he should be called to the Dispatch Box to explain whether his figures are correct, or whether the departmental statistics that my right hon. Friend has announced are correct.

Mr. Williams

On the basis that I never expect a real answer from the Secretary of State, I am sure that we can expect the Minister of State to try to cover it.

Mr. Peter Walker

I shall quote the figures from the Department of Employment. These are the figures published by the Department, in which every month for the past 18 months it has pointed out that the two regions with the biggest drop have been Wales and the west midlands. In the 12 months to January 1988 Wales is placed second, as regions are ranked by falling rate of seasonally adjusted unemployment, at minus 2.3 percentage points. The west midlands pips Wales at the post with 2.4 percentage points. The United Kingdom plus GB is 2 percentage points. When change as a rate of unadjusted unemployment is considered, Wales is first over 12 months, minus 2.8 percentage points, and second over 20 months, minus 2.7 percentage points, compared with the west midlands rate of minus 2.9 percentage points. That is the manner in which the Department of Employment has always published its monthly figures.

Mr. Williams

I invite the right hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter with the Minister who provided the answer and to look at the record during his own period in office.

Mr. Morgan

I think that the Secretary of State will admit that what he has just quoted was not the percentage fall in unemployment. But the difference between percentage unemployment at the beginning of the period and the percentage unemployment at the end date is 2.3 per cent. That is not the fall in unemployment expressed as a percentage of its previous level, which is the true measure of the fall in unemployment.

Mr. Williams

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have to explain himself to the House, and perhaps, on some occasion, he will condescend to talk to us here, instead of going into little private rooms to talk to the press, and we can then examine these matters in greater detail.

Faced with a decline in civilian unemployment—the only decline in all the regions in the United Kingdom—and a slip in the charts of regional unemployment, what does the Secretary of State do? He abandons the regional development grant and then has the effrontery to say, "It shows how right I was to do it, because everyone is scrambling to get the grant before it finishes. It is so good that we are going to get rid of it." That is the most peculiar argument that I have heard in my life—no, I am wrong, it is not. There is another argument—the justification of what is coming instead of regional development grant.

The Secretary of State is getting rid of regional development grant but, glad tidings for the valleys, they are to get his new regional investment grant. Well, that is delightful. What is it all about? The right hon. Gentleman spells it out with pride. The Observer article refers to it glowingly. Under the right hon. Gentleman's new scheme firms will get 15 per cent. of fixed capital costs, up to a ceiling of £15,000, for only 24 jobs. That is an average of £625 a job, which is taxable—so firms even have to pay tax on the assistance that they receive. The Secretary of State says, "That is a good deal, but in exchange you must give up your regional development grant." That also happens to be 15 per cent. of fixed capital. But there is an option: instead, one can go for an untaxable £3,000 a job, not £600 taxable, and up to 200 jobs, not up to 24 jobs. I reckon that when the right hon. Gentleman went to the pantomime with his parents lie was unduly impressed by Abanarzar. Up and down the valleys it is a case of new lamps for old, a £600 grant instead of a £3,000 grant. The Secretary of State thinks that he is doing well by the people of the valleys and that they will swallow the proposal.

The Secretary of State said that there was to be an enormous increase in regional aid. A recent article in The Observer stated: Walker is adamant that the higher budget will be sustained for another two years. What is this enormous increase? The increase in spending on the Welsh Development Agency this year is £3 million. The enormous increase in combined regional development grant and regional selective assistance amounts to £6 million. Will that enormous increase be sustained, as the Secretary of State promised, over the next two years? The figure goes up by £3 million next year, comes down by £4 million the year after and remains at £4 million for the following year. Over the period, therefore, the figure remains virtually the same. So much for enormous sustained growth.

Perhaps that is unfair. Perhaps the enormous increase is occurring elsewhere. Regional grants go up from £98 million this year to £104 million next year, an increase of £6 million. Next year, they come down to £87 million—£11 million below what they are now. The following year they come down to £80 million — £18 million below what they are now. Instead of enormous sustained growth, there is a cut of £21 million over the next three years. In each of those years the amount of regional assistance is over £100 million less than when the Labour Government were in office. The cumulative loss to Wales from the time when the Government came to office to the end of the Secretary of State's planning period is almost £1 billion.

We are to be fobbed off with the valleys initiative. It might compensate the valleys for being robbed of their development area status, regional development grant and rate support grant. The Secretary of State has said that the funds must come from within the existing budget. The valleys initiative will be paid for by other parts of Wales. Those other parts of Wales do not begrudge the valleys having extra money, but it should be just that — extra money for Wales. It is not good enough for the Secretary of State, in a week or two, to go on television and claim the credit for that extra money for the valleys, while his officials are scurrying around other parts of the country picking the pockets of local authorities to make up the cash needed.

The Secretary of State referred to the improvement in derelict land. We welcome that and are glad that the WDA will use some of its money for that purpose. However, I am fascinated by the Secretary of State's claim in respect of an earlier valleys initiative. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) will be particularly interested in the article in The Observer of 21 February. In that article the Secretary of State stated: When I was Secretary of State for the Environment in 1970, we launched the first derelict valleys clearance. I toured the valleys—some of the places I saw were horrific. Now they're attractive again. When I was a Minister at the Department of Economic Affairs in the 1960s, I remember dealing with derelict land clearance in England. I wondered what the Secretary of State for the Environment was doing in the Welsh valleys, given that his remit does not extend there, so I took the trouble to telephone Lord Cledwyn. We eventually unpinned him from the ceiling and got him to the telephone. He was incredulous, because he, as Secretary of State for Wales, set up the derelict land programme after the Aberfan disaster.

I thought that perhaps Lord Cledwyn and I had got it wrong, so we telephoned the official in charge of the derelict land clearance unit under Lord Cledwyn and under the Conservative Administration.

Mr. Rowlands

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Williams

Do not spoil it, Ted. It is good at the moment.

I did not even have to ask the official. As soon as he was told who was on the telephone, he said, "Do not worry. I know what you want to talk about. I have written a letter because I am so annoyed about it." He went on to say, "The Secretary of State did not even visit Wales." Then he qualified that statement by saying, "I have got it wrong. He came to Wales later, when he was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I met him in Cardiff and took him to Ebbw Vale. He said that he was rather nervous because they had been throwing tomatoes at him in Cardiff and, as he was going to Ebbw Vale to announce the closure of part of a steelworks, he was not eager to do so." The official assured him that the people in Ebbw Vale were very genteel, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent will confirm, and the Secretary of State was treated with courtesy during his visit.

The Secretary of State is claiming responsibility for the land clearance initiative in the valleys, but that started years before he came to office. It was the responsibility of another Department and he had no hand in it whatsoever, yet he expects credibility in Wales. They will call him "Shoni Walker" in the valleys.

Mr. Rowlands

My right hon. Friend is right. I cannot improve upon his devastation of the Secretary of State. I was the Minister responsible for the derelict land unit in 1969–70. My predecessor was Mr. Ifor Davies and the unit was established by Lord Cledwyn. I cannot recall the Secretary of State being involved in any such initiative. The Welsh Office led that initiative as a result of the terrible tragedy at Aberfan. [Interruption.]

Mr. Williams

We are only too happy to look at the record. Perhaps the Secretary of State would care to send it to us. I see that he is staying firmly in his place at the moment.

Wales has been bled by the Government. It is not just a question of £1 billion of regional assistance. We have lost £750 million in rate support grant to our local authorities. We have lost spending power through the increase in unemployment. That is why Wales does not have the capacity within itself. It is so financially weakened that it can solve its problems only with more public expenditure.

The resources are not available within Wales itself, yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has £6 billion to £9 billion at his disposal in the Budget. No Government in our history have ever had such freedom to solve problems in this country, if only they chose to do so. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State thinks it funny that we shall have long waiting lists and shortages of nurses and operations, yet he received every penny that he wanted. Although there is £6,000 million, he settled for peanuts. Indeed, he went further. He threw some of our money into the kitty and said, "Give that in tax handouts, too. It will help the people in the south-east. They need it." The Prime Minister and 68 per cent. of her Tory Members of Parliament want tax cuts. They want to pretend that the poor, the homeless and the cash-starved schools and hospitals do not exist. To them the dogma of a tax cut is more important than dealing with needs.

Mr. Peter Walker

Go back to the IMF.

Mr. Williams

Good Lord. Is that the level of contribution that we can expect from the Secretary of State? There is £6,000 million — every penny that the right hon. Gentleman could want. Everyone who is on a waiting list in Wales should receive a note saying, "You are waiting because the Secretary of State could have had every penny he wanted, but he did not choose to ask for money to help you."

As Welshmen, we want the resources to be used for our people. We want to return to a prosperous Wales, but we also want to retrain our values to be those of a caring society. Neither is possible under the policies of this Government.

6.30 pm
Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) had a good deal of pleasure in making his speech. He seemed to enjoy himself hugely, but some of his comparisons were extremely far fetched. I cannot understand why he should have compared the standard of living in Wales with that of the south-east of England. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The south-east contains a capital city, London, with about 6 million people whereas only 2.25 million people live in the whole of Wales. To compare the two is absurd and the right hon. Gentleman must realise that.

It cannot be gainsaid that for the past two years there has been a steady and sustained improvement in, and better news of, the Welsh economy. There is every reason to hope that that will continue for a good time to come. For 20 successive months unemployment has decreased. I do not know whether Labour Members when listening to the figures were reflecting shock or dismay — [HON. MEMBERS: "Dismay."] It was probably dismay. I do not think that they want good news about the Welsh economy. They seem to glory in any misfortune that afflicts it and anything that is an improvement seems to be a matter for regret. What is more, the improvements have been fairly well spread over the whole Principality. I know that some areas have not done as well as others, but the improvement in the unemployment figures has been spread over most of Wales and that is encouraging.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the decline of our basic industries which is a most painful process. I tend to agree with him that the worst may now be behind us, but occasionally another coal mine is closed. Coal mining is labour-intensive. [Interruption.] Recently we had one— [HON. MEMBERS: "Two."] Two, then. One recent closure undoubtedly created more unemployed people than closures in smaller industries which we have as substitutes in an effort to replace basic industries. It is against that background that we must consider that we will probably still have troubles in these industries, but the worst is behind us.

There have been great improvements in our older industries and my right hon. Friend referred to some of them. There has been a good deal of investment. I have noted the £171 million invested in the strip mill in Port Talbot—that is not a negligible sum—the £30 million invested in the new project at Shotton in north Wales and the £50 million invested in the Trostre tin-plate works. Those are large sums and we now have a smaller, slimmer industry which is successful and highly competitive.

I wish that I could comment in the same way on the coal industry. It is sad that we still do not have the development at Margam which could be so advantageous to south Wales. British Coal cannot achieve an agreement for six-day working which is necessitated by the large investment involved. What a prize that would be for south Wales, if only the agreement could be reached. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail and that all those concerned will reach agreement and enable the project to be launched because the sooner the better. I understand that if it is deferred unduly some grants from Europe could be prejudiced. I may be wrong, but that is my information.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Does my hon. Friend agree that if we could get the enthusiasm and support of the Labour party and it had a word with its paymasters in the NUM to support the six-day working week, we could go ahead with this £90 million scheme which would provide 800 mining jobs?

Sir Raymond Gower

I was about to comment on the number of jobs. There will probably be 500 or 600 during construction, so the scheme would be beneficial to industry in south-west Wales.

The omens for the development of Welsh industry are decidedly good. Whatever the Labour party may feel, I am sustained by the views of the CBI. Its latest reports have in every case been optimistic. In Wales we command about 20 per cent. of all inward investment. That is a remarkable proportion, especially when one reflects that geographi-cally Wales is only a small portion of the United Kingdom and has only about 5 per cent. of the United Kingdom population. I am delighted that part of that is to come to my constituency at Dow Corning in Barry. Such investment does not usually create a lot of jobs, but it makes existing jobs far safer and shows that the American company has great confidence in the future of its industry in my constituency. We should all be pleased about that.

The extent of inward investment in Wales is reflected by the fact that more than 250 of our undertakings are in overseas ownership. That is a high number. I understand that more than 50,000 people are employed in those industries which are the result of inward investment. In other words, one in five of all employed people in Wales is now working for companies from abroad, so that shows the importance of this type of investment.

Despite many of the doubts expressed by some of the prophets of doom on the Labour Benches, Welsh industry will continue to expand. Support for industry increased by £54 million over the past year to £194 million in 1988. I imagine that the figures given by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West, which bore little resemblance to those quoted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, will also have to be looked at carefully.

Although the right hon. Gentleman has doubted it on a number of occasions, it is advantageous that my right hon. Friend has arranged that the benefit of much of this money will be in the hands of the Welsh Development Agency. It is well equipped to help the Welsh Office in preparing packages that can be attractive to investors either from overseas or from other parts of the United Kingdom. Also impressive is the huge factory building programme, to which the right hon. Gentleman made little reference, which the WDA has promised for 1988–89. That will cost £130 million, and it is likely to create 1.5 million sq ft of factory space and provide employment for more than 4,000 people. This is a formidable factory building programme which must be of benefit for south Wales.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

The hon. Gentleman has been telling us about the factory building programme, and foreign investment, both of which are good to see. However, does he not realise that there about are 140,000 fewer people in full-time employment in Wales today than there were in 1979? On the basis of the good news that he is bringing us, when will unemployment be less than it was when his Government came into office?

Sir Raymond Gower

Making statements of that kind is useless. Such forecasts are usually most inaccurate and liable to disappointments or to overstatement. One thing is certain. It is not easy to replace by these methods the large number of jobs lost from the old basic industries. It is a difficult task, but considerable progress has been achieved. We have reason to be optimistic about our chances of improving on what has already been achieved.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West spoke as if one can diagnose the effect of moneys voted by Parliament for particular purposes without any reference to the interchange between those moneys, the activities of companies and the provision of private capital. It is a combined process. Economics and industrial science are not exact sciences and it is far too difficult to make prognostications in that way.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should be impressed with the needs of the industrial valleys. He should not deprecate that. This is analogous to the position in other parts of the United Kingdom. We do not have the inner city problems but we have industrial valleys, which are similar. In due course, much will he done, but this is a continuous process.

Even with all the difficulties facing us, the progress of the Welsh economy is such that we can have optimism about the years ahead. We cannot forecast events overseas. We may have problems similar to that caused by the Arab increase in the price of oil in the 1970s, or difficulties with the American economy. Such factors will have an effect on us, but the Welsh economy is leaner, more efficient and more able to meet these unforeseen difficulties than it ever was before. It is more varied. It is not on a narrow base and it is not in the precarious position that it was in when we took office. We have a much stronger economy to face the challenges of a new world. In that spirit, I hope that we will wish Wales good luck.

6.45 pm
Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

Many people think that the greatest disadvantage of the Secretary of State is that he is not a Welshman. That is a convincing argument, but there is an equally convincing argument for another disadvantage. It is that he was the lead Minister in the local government reform of 1972, which split Glamorgan into three, and created Mid Glamorgan, an area in which I was born, in which I live and part of which I have the honour to represent. In doing so, he created, in material terms, a poor county with a disproportionate number of problems in health, employment, housing and poverty. It is so impoverished that it has never had enough central Government money to reverse the legacy that he bequeathed to it. I make no apology for reminding the Secretary of State that his parentage of this county imposes on him obligations to rectify the situation; I shall take the opportunity to remind him of this on every possible occasion.

I said that it is an impoverished county and the economic trends for January 1988 show that Mid Glamorgan is Britain's poorest county, with a gross domestic product per head of £3,248, which is less than half that of Greater London. I know that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) thinks that we should not aspire to the standards of Greater London, which are far beyond us, but we cannot generate our own resources with such a low GDP.

Spelt out, as I spelt it out to the Welsh Grand Committee, in health terms, that means a lower standard mortality rate, longer stays in hospital, higher rates of permanent sickness, more visits to general practitioners and the highest number of prescriptions. We need more public money and we need it redistributed, as the Secretary of State half said that we should, to take account of those problems.

Health problems also have a local government dimension. Therefore, I shall remind the Secretary of State of those problems, because many of the permanently sick are in the community, where we want them to remain, if only because it is more expensive to have them in hospital. However, if they are to stay in the community, they need to be provided with invalid aids and adaptations. The provision of these facilities does not cost the same in every part of the country. Mid Glamorgan is probably the most expensive county in the whole of Britain for those requiring such aids and adaptations. The nature of the terrain, with steep hills, narrow valleys and steps to houses, is just one factor.

Mr. Win Griffiths

My hon. Friend referred to the need to keep our sick in the community wherever possible. Is he aware that in Mid Glamorgan, for example in the Ogwr district, we are about 31 per cent. short of community nursing, based on the Telford scale which itself is not over-generous?

Mr. John

I was going to refer to that. As I live in Mid Glamorgan, I am aware of what my hon. Friend has said. However, the cost is greater and the demand, for obvious reasons, is greater. Because we are such a poor country, the generation of self-help is less easy to achieve. Therefore, one places a greater reliance on statutory services.

Let me tell the Secretary of State about the situation in Mid Glamorgan. I believe that what hon. Members can bring to this debate is an extrapolation of local conditions, based on their knowledge of their own areas, to illustrate problems all over Wales. Demand is expanding very rapidly for telephones, under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, for invalid aids and for house adaptations. Next year, just to keep the present level of provision, Mid Glamorgan county council needs to spend £500,000 more than it is spending this year.

At the moment, it has had to suspend its issue of telephones under the Act, in order to review the number being issued and what is happening to the applications—because they are dealt with on fairly harsh criteria, so great is the demand. The demand for aids and adaptations has created such a backlog that our people wait many months for a visit from the technical officer. The position has now been reached where Mid Glamorgan has had to say that no new cases will be processed until it has cleared the backlog. No new chronically sick people will have any adaptations to their homes or any aids to mobility until the backlog is cleared.

Mid Glamorgan county council may not technically be fulfilling its statutory duty, but, even if it is barely doing so, it is as conscious as we are that it is not meeting the need, coping with the demand or alleviating the discomfort, pain and anxiety felt by these invalids who try to live in the community but who find it increasingly beyond them.

This is what the Secretary of State calls a rich, booming country. Can he and his Government tolerate this situation in Mid Glamorgan under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act? Are the Government concerned about invalids in the community in Mid Glamorgan? If so, what do they propose to do about them?

Turning to coal mine closures. I will ignore the rather bizarre contribution of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan on that issue. We have had three colliery closures and one coke oven closure in my area in the past two years: Lady Windsor, technically in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clywd) but on the borders, Cwm and Nantgarw collieries and Nantgarw coke oven—with the loss of 3,000 jobs.

It is characteristic of the extractive industries that they impose a tremendous amount of environmental damage on the localities in which they are situated. I have been upset by the uncaring attitude of British Coal towards its responsibilities when it closed these industries. It lacks a sense of obligation to put right past damage. Not merely does it spend no money — perhaps that would be too much to expect—but it does not care what industries take over the sites it leaves.

At Cwm colliery, for example, there is a proposal to set up, as part of a larger company, a zinc and copper smelting process. That is unacceptable to people who have put up with years of obtrusion by the coal mining industry. It is unacceptable that this should be the new standard. The local authority and the local inhabitants demand that henceforth industry should chime with residential needs and not the other way about—which is why in south Wales we got into our present environmental mess: residential development was supposed to chime with whatever industry saw fit to set itself up in a particular area.

When the Minister replies to the debate, he will tell us that there is a planning appeal on this matter. He must assure the House that this appeal will be held in public and not be done by an exchange of documents. Both he and his inspector must take into account the inherited disadvantage which people are simply not prepared to put up with for an industry which shows every sign of being the fly-by-night type.

I appeal to the Welsh Office to take the closest possible interest in the redevelopment of the Nantgarw colliery and coke oven site. Two main obligations must be met before we think about future use. The first is to provide play areas for the use of the children of the Rhydyrhelyg and Oxford street area, who have lived cheek by jowl with this most noxious coke oven industry for many years and who have inadequate facilities. That should be a charge on British Coal, but it is a charge on the Government rather than on the local authority.

Secondly, we have an obligation to open to the public the site of the old Nantgarw china works, one of the two most famous porcelain works in Wales, which I believe deserves a much wider exposure to the public gaze.

This is a prime site. It is within a quarter of a mile of the dual-carriageway A470 and less than three miles from the Coryton interchange. We must reserve this site for a major employer and not allow it to be dissipated in a number of small units. We need a major concern that will enhance the reputation and stature of south Wales. This is almost a test case on how we should be able to do it and, I hope, a model of how it will be done.

I hope that the Welsh Office will take that into account. It is as responsible as the Welsh Development Agency and local government for ensuring that this is done. We do not want this site frittered away; we want it used for a prestigious major development.

I want to make two other constituency points which highlight general points that could be made about Wales. I am glad that the Secretary of State flew with the German banker over the areas to which he referred, because if he came down on the ground he would see traffic congestion much at variance with the idyllic picture from 3,000 ft up. He would see the position on the A473 between Tonteg and Talbot Green, serving not only a number of industrial sites but the potential site of a new district hospital and many shopping facilities. He would see the utter congestion which has brought the traffic at the roundabout in Talbot Green to a complete standstill; it was caused by a particularly foolish planning decision of an inspector from his office, which sited a market there. It has reduced the whole area to chaos.

What we want there, and what I hope the Welsh Office will take an interest in, is not merely, before the end of the decade, a start on the Talbot Green end of the bypass but a complete bypass of Tonteg and Talbot Green, so that industrial sites can be properly serviced and our industrial future assured.

My last point is one that I am very diffident about making. I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise that I do not delight in rumour-mongering, but from several people whom I believe to be trustworthy and who are certainly not themselves rumour-mongers I have heard disturbing reports about the future of the Mint, that it is not to remain in south Wales and that the site is to be turned into an open prison. That may be a sick joke in the area, because the architect of the Royal Mint made it fit to be an open prison without any adaptation at all. The Secretary of State will readily accept that if this was true it would be a devastating blow to our whole region, and would do away with the very enlightened work of the Labour Government in bringing the Royal Mint to my constituency.

I do not believe the rumour myself, and I have said as much. I hope that it can be firmly and categorically denied when the Minister replies, thus putting an end to anxiety in the area.

The Secretary of State must face the fact that, while we are glad of every amelioration of the situation in south Wales, if we are faced, as we may be in the Budget, with a situation of public squalor versus private affluence, we in Mid Glamorgan will react very angrily. We are already a poor county, but in so far as we are rich it is in our people and in our public provision.

I expect the Secretary of State to fight with his customary vigour — perhaps with more than his customary vigour, in view of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) has said — to secure from the Chancellor a commitment to public investment in Mid Glamorgan, so that its people enjoy in the future the decent conditions which many private industrialists have denied them in the past.

6.59 pm
Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) in what seemed to me a model constituency speech, although at times he sounded as if he were demanding from the Welsh Office 365 days of sunshine for his constituency.

It may be hard for hon Members who entered this House since 1979 to believe that, when the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), who is no longer in the Chamber, was in the Department of Trade and Industry, he was one of the most effective members of a Labour Government who were not notable for the effectiveness of their Ministers. It is sad for those of us who retain some affection for him to see how cheaply he has descended into vindictiveness and vituperation to make his points, thereby destroying his reputation and damaging the cause of Wales.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he had been in contact with Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. He should find half an hour to pop along the corridor to another place and have a word with Lord Cledwyn to find out how one can be the Leader of an Opposition, make points effectively and validly and still retain the respect of the other side of the House and enhance the reputation of one's own party.

The debate must start from, and keep coming back to, the inescapable fact that Government policy has put Wales firmly back on the road to recovery after what inevitably has been a very painful transitional period when we have moved away from over-dependence on industries which were doomed to obsolescence. The evidence, from British and foreign experience, is that the policies which were pursued by the Labour party when it was in power, and which it still advocates in opposition, would have perpetuated and intensified the process of seemingly inexorable decline by steady loss of competitiveness. I set any criticisms of Government policies against that background.

My criticisms derive from analysis and deduction; the prosperity is there for all to see. Certainly, the Government are not to be faulted on the road programme. Work on the vital A55 expressway is proceeding at a fine pace. I want particularly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his wise second thoughts about the junction to be built at the bottom of the Rhuallt hill improvement scheme. Now the traffic really will be able to flow westward without interruption. And there's the rub. That will mean real trouble for Rhyl and Prestatyn, unless we get a proper link road very soon to bypass the notorious Rhuddlan bottleneck and connect with the coast road.

That is supposed to be a matter for Clwyd county council, which is showing no sense of urgency whatever in bringing forward the planning and construction of a link road which is vital to the very survival of Rhyl and Prestatyn as tourist destinations—as my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) pointed out in an intervention.

Can my hon. Friend impart some sense of urgency to Clwyd county council? Is there any chance that the Welsh Office might take over that road as a trunk road and get on with building it? Can the Minister get Clwyd county council to start acting in the spirit of the Government's directives on the proper signposting of tourist facilities? There is still no proper signposting of Rhyl, still less of its tourist attractions along the A55 expressway.

On the subject of roads, may I give a public airing to a minor but annoying matter on which I have already written to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. It seems absurd to build a spanking new dual carriageway and then, a few months after it is completed, to dig up one lane and cone it off to lay the approach roads to service stations which were planned when the expressway itself was planned. It is really not good enough to say that private contractors are responsible for building access roads to service stations: it is plain bad planning. It costs a lot of money and causes a great deal of annoyance to motorists. There must be a better way of doing those things.

I do not propose to come back to the subject of the poll tax, beyond saying that the more I listen to the arguments on both sides, the fewer advantages and the more defects I see in the whole measure. Nor do I want to go on about the Health Service, which we debated in the Welsh Grand Committee. The Government's record is good, but they will have to find some way in which to ensure that increases in the pay of Health Service workers are not paid for by cuts in Health Service facilities. I know that the Budget is not concerned with those matters, but if it introduces tax cuts without any clear sign that something will be done to fund NHS pay increases, the Government will face considerable difficulties with their own supporters in the House and outside.

I am a good deal more enthusiastic about the great Education Reform Bill. That seems to me to be about 85 per cent. good, which is as much as anyone could reasonably expect from a Government measure. The one aspect that seems to worry my constituents, or fill my mailbag—which is not quite the same—is the allegedly damaging effect on religious education of being excluded from the core curriculum. I believe those fears to be utterly groundless, but I hope that the Minister will be able to offer further reassurance.

The part of the Bill that worries me is the opt-out provision. I do not believe that that will do any serious damage to my part of Wales, or perhaps to anywhere in Wales, but we are putting just a little too much emphasis on the concept of parent power. Parents are concerned with schools only while their children are there. It cannot be right to give them a preponderant voice in the future of a school for many years after their children have left.

A particular problem arises for denominational schools. Catholic schools take in many non-Catholic children. Under the open enrolment system, they could be obliged by an unsympathetic local authority to take in very large numbers of non-Catholic children. As a result, under opt-out, the very character of a school could be brought into question. Once again, I welcome any reassurance from the Minister. In general, I welcome the Bill. I do not believe that it will ever acquire the magisterial status of the 1944 Act, but it is a useful step in the right direction for education.

The success of the Government's policies has been due to the stern, indeed harsh, stand which they took against inflation in the early years, and the new spirit of competition fuelled largely by the privatisation programme. The ultimate nonsense of nationalisation was Austin Rover, whose fruits are still sour.

The headlong retreat from nationalisation has brought some errors, but more benefits. It is generally admitted that the privatisation of gas and the telephones has been less than fully satisfactory, because in neither case did privatisation bring any real competition. That criticism is valid. There seems to be little advantage in replacing a public monopoly with a private monopoly. However, I am not sure that that it necessarily follows that it will always be right to break up major public utilities. In the case of British Steel, the Government seen to have chosen to keep the present structure largely intact, and to rely for the spur of competition on foreign imports. I am sure that they are right.

However, for electricity the Government have adopted a different and, I believe, a wrong approach. I do not propose to discuss the merits and demerits of the White Paper as they affect the electricity industry. The new structure might, at any rate in the short run, bring down electricity tariffs. I am concerned with the effect on the coal industry, in the context of Wales.

I can understand, and indeed I support, the Government's aim of reducing the nation's dependence for its power supplies on the coal industry, given the repeated attempts of Mr. Arthur Scargill to impose his will on the elected Government. However, it is one thing to reduce dependency on coal; it is another, dangerous, thing to unleash forces which could destroy the coal mining industry for ever and make us totally dependent on imported coal. The world market in coal is highly artificial. The total amount of coal traded in the world is only twice the annual consumption of the CEGB alone. If we close pits, we close them for ever. The pits flood, and new miners will not reopen them later on.

If, as proposed by the Secretary of State for Energy, we are to have two competing groups in energy generation, they will be under irresistible pressure to find the cheapest source of energy in the short term. That means a rush for the limited amounts of imported coal available. Had there been such a set-up from the start, would we ever have had the huge investment at Dinorwic, which plays so vital but so intermittent a role in keeping the lights burning and the wheels turning? Will we get from such an outfit the development of the Margam coalfield which is so essential to Wales?

Mr. Scargill will indeed have piled even heavier clods on the grave of his reputation if, by making difficulties for the profitable operation of Margam, he has tilted the balance of the argument in favour of a scheme of electricity privatisation which now gravely threatens the prospects of Margam. Opposition Members can do something really useful for Wales by throwing all their influence, publicly and privately, on the side of those elements in the National Union of Mineworkers who want to negotiate seriously with the coal board over working conditions there. Here at last is something which the right hon. Member for Swansea, West could do to help.

7.10 pm
Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

I suppose that we would have needed cloth ears if we had not expected to hear in the debate the rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) and other Government Members. We have become accustomed to hearing that Wales is on the upturn. True, there have been occasions when we have seen advances, and these we welcome; but let me remind the hon. Gentleman that people are still becoming unemployed in Wales today and that all the jobs on Baglan moor will not be sufficient to make up for the shortfall.

The hon. Gentleman will know that recently I had an Adjournment debate in which I raised the closure of Abernant colliery, announced by British Coal. I am aware of the decision of the work force to accept the closure, but it would be wrong for any of us to believe that this will be the end of the matter. The pit will close after only about 30 years' life. It is not an ancient pit. When it closes, problems will arise and we shall see the effects of the blow on the community which surrounds the colliery. With the closure of Wernos washery, which was announced at the same time as the closure of Abernant, some 800 men will be out of work and 800 job opportunities will be lost to an area which already has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the United Kingdom.

The people who live in that part of Wales want to hear from the Secretary of State that he and his Department are actively and purposefully pursuing a solution to the unemployment problem which will have such a serious effect. The product of Abernant is the highest quality anthracite in the world. Abernant is running into geological difficulty, but that is the nature of mining. Once that difficult period was past, if the pit were persisted with, there would be extensive, rich reserves of the best anthracite. That is what the area offers. It has always been claimed that there is a shortage of anthracite and it comes rather strangely that Abernant is to be closed when such reserves could be won if only British Coal had the will to do so.

Of course, we know that it is hoped to make up the shortfall of anthracite by importing anthracite at dumped prices from China and from opencast sites. It should be made clear to Ministers that neither of these means is acceptable. The dumping of Chinese coal will only destroy the Welsh anthracite industry. Also, Ministers should remember that there is great and growing hostility towards the extension of opencast sites. It is no good Ministers thinking that the hostility can be contained. It is growing, especially in my area, since the announcement of the closure of Abernant.

We look to the Secretary of State to make it clear to British Coal that it has lost the right to deferential treatment over applications for the extension of opencast activities. We look to the right hon. Gentleman to protect the lives and the environment of people who have had to suffer from opencast mining for more than 40 years. They deserve as much consideration as others have received in other places.

Another matter which we should ventilate in the debate was dealt with in Monday's edition of the Western Mail under the headline: Shelter condemn Welsh bedsit 'scandal'". The report said: Almost half the bedsit homes in Wales lack proper fire escapes … nearly 6,000 homes in Wales used for bedsits do not have the proper fire escape facilities … despite Welsh Office calls for registration schemes, there is growing evidence that most of the 37 councils in Wales"— thankfully, this does not apply to the local authority in my constituency— have no idea how many bedsit homes they have in their areas. According to the report, there is growing evidence that local authorities are ignoring fire precautions.

I urge the Welsh Office to take a stronger line. We have had evidence of late of a spate of fires. Before the debate started, a ten-minute Bill was introduced which drew attention to the danger from materials which are used in furniture. We are well aware that lives have been lost because of dangerous material. Much of that material can be found in bedsits and in flats. It is vital that a satisfactory means of escape should be available from flats. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House what he proposes to do about the introduction of effective registration of properties which are in multiple occupation, so that they may be identified and we may ensure that adequate fire precautions are installed. Those are the positive steps that the Welsh Office can take I urge it to take the initiative and ensure that those people's lives are protected.

No one can be unhappy to hear of improvements in the economy of Wales, but we are not satisfied with the pace at which those improvements are being made. We look to the Welsh Office to ensure that identifiable economic improvements are made to allow our people in Wales to live the kind of lives that we all believe they have a right to enjoy.

7.20 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

It is 800 years since Geraldus Cambrensis — Gerald of Wales—commenced his tour of Wales in my constituency. It is 400 years since Bishop Morgan translated the Welsh Bible, which was a significant event. In two years, it will be 100 years since our great parliamentary predecessor, Lloyd George, entered the House. We should remember, too, that he disestablished the Church in Wales. We have wonderful traditions in Wales. We have a language that has survived against all the odds, although it has taken an almighty battering in the process. We are a nation of survivors.

It is a miracle that we have come thus far. Will we continue to survive? Without a shadow of a doubt, one of our greatest assets is our people. How will the Government treat our people in the future and how do we wish them to be treated? Wales can be said to be both a land of problems and a land of opportunities. There is truth in both statements.

At the heart of Wales lie its rural and industrial areas, and I want to address myself to both. We are beset by unemployment and low pay in some of those areas. For example, mid-Wales is the poorest region in Great Britain.

The level 2 region containing mid-Wales is the poorest in Wales. Mid-Wales has a population density one sixth of the European Community average. In mid-Wales, one job in four depends on agriculture. Mid-Wales is the most remote rural area of England and Wales. Those of us who represent the area must constantly remind the Secretary of State and his Ministers of those facts.

Agriculture is our staple industry and family farms are very much part of the fabric of our countryside. However, on many of those farms the management and investment income is about £6,000 — according to the farm management survey—and that sum has to be lived on as well as showing a return on capital investment. The bedrock of many family farms is the sheepmeat regime, and we believe that the present regime should be kept intact. We realise that the Secretary of State was one of the architects of the sheepmeat regime. We ask him to go to Brussels with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to help sort out the mess created by the stabilisers that have been put on the sheepmeat regime.

There is a crisis in Welsh agriculture. In one west Wales estate agents' office, 576 farms are up for sale. Clearly, that signifies great problems in the rural communities. Their culture and language, which are very fragile, are affected. Transport and education cost more and housing often costs more. We have witnessed the creamery closures at Felinfach and Llangefni and much of the rural economy is fading.

Efforts are being made through Mid-Wales Development and the Welsh Development Agency to put things right. Undoubtedly, some good things have been done but more must be done to bolster our rural economy. We have hidden unemployment and youth depopulation, and our population is being replaced with older people who put a strain on social services, general practitioner services and so on. We need a vigorous rural economy, not one which is fading away.

I was brought up in a Welsh village, and I can remember my mother telling me when I was about 20, "There is nothing here for you, my boy. You will have to go away to earn your living." I am sad to say that in many places that is still the case. The picture is uneven. Some areas — mainly those in the east of Wales—are doing reasonably well, whereas areas in the north and west are down on their uppers. If we are to develop our rural economy, we must do so evenly throughout Wales and not in a patchy fashion. There are National Health Service ancillary workers in my constituency on £50 a week, yet the European poverty level is £135 a week. The other day, I heard that one worker in my constituency earns £1.66 an hour. That is not good enough.

We need development in rural areas, and housing problems must be tackled. Like many hon. Members, I condemn the arson attacks on housing in Wales but hon. Members should realise that they are symptomatic of the problems in rural Wales, where local youngsters cannot afford to buy houses and there is no housing to rent. People feel very bitter. The Government should be prepared to listen to those with whom they get on well, such as the Country Landowners Association, which proposes a scheme whereby farmers sell land for housing for local people and whereby local people have priority for housing to rent as well. We welcome the new Welsh Housing Corporation and ask it to address the problems of housing not only in industrial but also in rural areas.

This afternoon, Sir Geraint Evans visited the House as part of a campaign to save Craig y Nos castle in my constituency for use as a Welsh music school and a centre of cultural excellence to which the public have access, and where they can listen to good music. It would also be used to train those with musical talent. We had a very successful meeting attended by Members of this House and of another place. It was decided to ask the Secretary of State whether we could meet him in the next 24 hours to discuss urgently the future of Craig y Nos castle. I should be grateful if the Minister would pass the message on to his right hon. Friend.

The sparsity factor in rural areas must also be addressed. I ask Ministers to let us know when the results of the integrated operations initiative in Brussels between Dyfed, Gwynedd and Powys will be announced. We urgently need assistance with our infrastructure.

In industrial Wales, we have watched the decline of the coal industry. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) mentioned the closure of Abernant. Miners in my constituency work at Abernant. The pit has plenty of reserves of coal if only the necessary investment had been made in it. We fear that at some time in the future it may be used for opencast mining. We will have none of that blight in the south Wales coalfield. We have suffered enough already. Having been raped in the 19th century, we do not want to be raped again by opencast mining in the 20th century.

Electricity privatisation is a body blow for the south Wales coalfield. British Coal has been responsible for the butchery of jobs and electricity privatisation could be our death knell. It is an extremely unwise move, as the dependence on imported coal will undermine our industry.

There are not enough real jobs in Wales. There are 211,000 people in part-time jobs, 50,000 on part-time training schemes and 145,000 out of work. We need real jobs, especially for males, who have lost so many jobs in heavy industry. [Interruption.] I should make it clear to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) that I know that female employment is also extremely important, but we must provide balanced employment.

The valleys initiative is clearly to be welcomed. I ask the Secretary of State to extend it into the Swansea valley and especially to Ystradgynlais in my constituency which, although in Powys, is still an old mining community with miners living in it and opencast mining around it. It is very much part of the south Wales valleys, so I particularly request that that be done.

The future of Wales must lie with our young people, but do they have a future in Wales? Clearly, we welcome inward investment, but what is the Secretary of State doing to produce new Welsh entrepreneurs in Wales and employment in Wales for Welsh people? What is he doing about the teaching of management and the backing of indigenous business? It is often easier for people from outside Wales to obtain grants to come in than for those working there to obtain assistance to expand or set up businesses. We urge the provision of indigenous cash to provide jobs for Welsh people.

We must also produce more housing, which is a major problem, especially housing for rent, and we must bring back rural development grants, but enough has already been said about that.

Finally, the basis for the future must be new industry, new jobs, education and research. We must give confidence to a new generation of Welsh people. Let them be employed, let them earn a decent income, let them be housed properly and let them reach their own potential in their own country. Let them all feel as I do and be proud to be Welsh men and women.

7.33 pm
Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

In the Western Mail yesterday, a report of Welsh Question Time by Mr. Jon Hibbs contained an allusion to St. Peter in Wales—perhaps a somewhat premature canonisation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sure that there will be plenty of religious foundation for tomorrow's report. The Opposition speeches have shown that the darkest forces of Welsh non-conformity are alive and well and living in the Labour party. The prophets of doom, continually peddling gloom and despondency, are happy only when preaching despair.

For a moment the speech of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) was enlivened as he put on a little pantomime, playing to his own Benches—"Oh yes he did, children. And what did he do then, children? Oh, no, he didn't." It was wonderful stuff for the Opposition children. For Conservative Members it would have been funny if it had not been so sad.

This is our St. David's day debate. It began at 5.15 pm when it might reasonably have been expected to begin at 3.40 pm. As a result, we have a much shortened debate. The point of order raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) plainly showed that Welsh Members on both sides were getting fed up with the points of order that were delaying the start of our debate. I, too, am sorry that the debate is not taking place on St. David's day itself. There are many good traditions in this place and I should like that one to be much more firmly maintained, although I disassociate myself from the spurious point of order raised by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell).

Yesterday, on St. David's day, the Post Office produced new stamps rightly commemorating the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into Welsh, and Cardiff's official bid for the 1994 Commonwealth games was launched in London. Cardiff has made a magnificent stand and its bid was the first in the field. It is an immaculate application and deserves to be accepted throughout the Commonwealth. I am sick and tired of the stories dredged up by the British press to try to damn Cardiff's case, apparently fed by elements elsewhere in the Commonweath or its organisation. In this context, I applaud Mr. Hanif Bhamjee, secretary of the Welsh anti-apartheid movement, who came to London to take part in the launch of the official bid and to rubbish allegations that arguments about apartheid could be used in any way against the Cardiff bid. My neighbour the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) nods. All those who have been involved in the bid and all who support it are united in going forward on that front. We hope that by the time the Seoul Olympics take place the Cardiff application will have succeeded.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments about the anti-apartheid movement in Wales. One of the greatest problems seems to be that journalists in London have not yet realised that Wales is completely separate from England in the context of the Commonwealth games. The great confusion in the press yesterday seems to have been generated by failure to appreciate that one little fact. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be beneficial if there were greater knowledge about the aspects that he has mentioned and about the separate Welsh tradition in sport?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman has a point, although I believe that the matter goes deeper than that and is a more general issue. Welsh Members of Parliament often have to work hard to correct various erroneous perceptions that are peddled about Wales. I noticed that our national newspaper took the opportunity to send a copy of its St. David's day edition to every Member of Parliament. It should be read by all Members at least on St. David's day, if not more often. The only good thing about having our St. David's day debate on 2 March is that we have all had time to read the St. David's day edition of our national paper.

Reference has been made to employment and, inevitably, to unemployment in Wales. I join my right lion. Friend the Secretary of State and other hon. Friends in referring to the proposed new development at Margam. We should all wish to see that development come about, and it would be a tragedy if the enemies of the coal industry succeeded in thwarting that investment. That is not what south Wales and its miners want to see. There was no mention of that important proposal by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West or, so far as I recall, by any other Opposition Member. It is such an important project that I can find no explanation for that omission, unless it be the perpetual comparison which can so fairly be made between the positive Conservative approach and the continually negative Labour approach.

I know that we had a debate about health recently in the Welsh Grand Committee, but this is our only assured opportunity of a debate on Welsh affairs on the Floor of the House, so I want to emphasise the importance of health in the Principality. My constituency has a great interest in health as it has probably more health provision than any other constituency, with the University hospital of Wales, the dental school, the radiotherapy hospital, Whitchurch hospital, which is one of the largest mental hospitals in the country, and the new BUPA hospital. They provide services not only to my constituency but over a much wider area.

The presence of so much health provision in my constituency provokes a good natured rivalry over who is the biggest employer in Cardiff, North. I fancy that it is the Health Service, but civil servants, particularly those at the Inland Revenue office at Llanishen, will not agree. I have the privilege to represent the Inland Revenue department that deals with the tax affairs of every hon. Member.

Health is of great importance. We can all make comments about wanting more money spent on the Health Service. That is a simple prescription, but it is far from being a complete answer. The answer is not simply to throw more money at the Health Service, though I want more money to be spent on the Health Service and I am pleased to see that more money is being spent. There has been a more than worthwhile increase in real terms in spending on the Health Service—39 per cent. — under this Government.

I hope that there will be appropriate references to the Health Service in the Budget on 15 March. I wonder whether this might not be the time to move to an innovation in funding for the Health Service by introducing a health stamp or health tax. It might be imagined that health and social security spending is derived from the national insurance stamp. However, spending on those matters is far greater than the revenue obtained from the national insurance stamp.

A health stamp or tax would achieve a better flow of funds as revenue from a percentage-based stamp or tax that increased over the years. There would be more certainty of cash flow for the Health Service. As tax raising proceeded, there would be an opportunity to decide by how much it should be raised by a health stamp or tax, allowing for expansion beyond natural growth. Further, it would be better appreciated how much is being spent on the Health Service. That would be no bad thing. The approach at present seems to be that the Government can spend more money on the Health Service and that they conjure money out of the air. There is no such thing as Government money; it comes from the pockets of taxpayers.

Mr. Raffan

My hon. Friend is putting forward some interesting ideas about possible ways of funding the Health Service. Did he notice that there was nothing in the speech of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) about the Labour party's policy for the National Health Service? He did not say how much more it would spend or where it would get the money from. Does my hon. Friend recollect the Labour party's appalling record on the Health Service when it was last in power, when it made 30 per cent. capital cuts in Wales?

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend is right to remind me of those matters and he makes his points very well. I recollect that he intervened in the speech of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West and asked what level of waiting lists would be acceptable to the Labour party. The right hon. Gentleman fobbed him off and said that answers would come later. As so often with the right hon. Gentleman, no answers were forthcoming.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the review of the Health Service. In that regard, my right hon. Friend has opportunities that are particular to Wales. In Wales we have no regional health authorities but regional services. In some ways, the Welsh Office could best be regarded as the regional health authority.

My right hon. Friend has talked about the Welsh Office's relationship with the health authorities in Wales. He said that that relationship was close, and that the Welsh Office was aware of the best and the not so good, the efficient and the not so efficient in the Health Service in Wales. I know that my right hon. Friend intends to present the Welsh point of view during the Cabinet's debate on the Health Service so that the Cabinet is fully acquainted with what is happening in Wales. We in Wales will learn and benefit from what happens at that Cabinet review.

The review will present unique and particular opportunities for my right hon. Friend. What is happening in the Health Service in Wales should not mirror what is happening in the Health Service in England. There are opportunities for different applications, and I should like to offer some suggestions.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend has seen early-day motion 690 tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), which has been signed by 88 hon. Members. It calls for the restoration of the post of matron. That is an eminently worthy suggestion. It is not nostalgic harking back to when the matron was the natural head of each hospital. The motion rightly refers to a person who could deal with consultants and who would understand the needs of nurses and patients. In the past, the matron was vital to the best running of the hospital.

It has been claimed many times that aspects of health funding are decided on the basis of who shouts loudest, without consideration being given to whether there is enough money to pay the maintenance contract on the latest and largest super-duper piece of equipment that has been purchased. In that regard, the role of matron could be significant.

General managers in hospitals should be promoted to the position of matron or, where appropriate, new appointments for matrons should be advertised. Despite what has been done to reinforce the management structure of the Health Service, it is not succeeding. I remember that about 18 months ago I had to make some urgent approaches on behalf of my constituents at the weekend. I tried to get in touch with the general manager of one of the largest hospitals in south Wales. The health authority did not answer its telephone because it was closed for the weekend. I rang the hospital and asked to speak to the general manager or whether there was any way that I could be put through to him. The response that I received was "None of the administrators work at the weekend." I said,"I want to speak to the general manager. He is supposed to be in charge of the hospital." The response was the same, "None of the administrators work at the weekend." The membership of health authorities, general managers and the Welsh Office are involved in a three-way tug. The Welsh Office issues circulars laying down objectives to be achieved. General managers try to devise policies to achieve those objectives. In the middle there is a lay and part-professional health authority, which adjudicates and forms the third part of those pulls.

The reason for health authority memberships is that there should be democratic input into the Health Service. However, we already have the community health councils. What is their purpose if not to provide democratic input into the Health Service? I am coming to the conclusion that health authority memberships are superfluous to the achievement of the best priorities in the Health Service. They are frustrating the work of general managers. I shall give a recent example of that in Cardiff. I was horrified by the reactions that greeted the proposals from the health authority management for achieving more heart surgery in Cardiff. The Welsh Office has set South Glamorgan a target, in providing regional services of cardiac surgery, of doubling the number of operations. There is now an opportunity for BUPA and other similar hospitals to carry out those extra operations. I am horrified at the political opposition to that proposal. I cannot see a logical or soundly based reason for it.

I have heard health authority members utter such phrases as, "We are not recruiting sergeants for BUPA." To go to a BUPA or similar hospital is to achieve extra facilities for the benefit of patients on NHS waiting lists. Those facilities are surely not standing idle, and we need them for temporary periods if we are to achieve the necessary improvements. Those who oppose such moves are politically motivated. I cannot believe that they are speaking with any concern for the patients on waiting lists who would benefit from the extra operations. They are speaking for the most crude political reasons.

The same applies to the lack of progress in tendering in the Health Service in Wales. In England, £100 million has been saved in tendering—money that is then used to achieve extra patient care. The same motivation underlies the reasons why Wales is not achieving anything like the savings achieved in England.

Mr. Win Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting statement. He said that, through services being put out to tender in England, a great deal of money had been saved, and had then been spent on providing better services. Can he give us any specific examples of a better service being provided?

Mr. Jones

I do not have every fact at my fingertips, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman about the miserable progress that has been made in Welsh health authorities. So far, the West Glamorgan health authority leads the list, having achieved savings of £378,000. The Pembroke authority has saved £340,000, and the Powys authority £207,000. Considering their relative sizes, representing more sparse rural areas, Pembroke and Powys perhaps ought to be most congratulated on what they are doing to achieve further improvements.

South and south-east Wales, where the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) and I have our constituencies, are doing the worst. The nearest to an achievement is the Gwent health authority, which has managed the magnificent extra efficiency saving of £5,000. No such saving has been made in South Glamorgan, East Dyfed or Clwyd. The Gwent figure may, perhaps, fairly be compared with the English achievement of £100 million.

Let me make another suggestion to my right hon. Friend. Developers are interested in building new hospitals at their own expense, and leasing them to the health authorities. I suggest that the Welsh Office has the opportunity to take that a stage further: indeed, I tried to make the suggestion in Welsh questions on Monday. I was both heartened and disappointed by the reply that I received from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. He said that he would be very interested in such a proposal, but that he and his colleagues would need to consider it very carefully. I cannot quarrel with the words that he used, which were absolutely correct. That is the only way in which a Ministry could consider such a proposal. But, going beyond the words, I invite the Welsh Office to seize on the concept, and to promote it enthusiastically.

In south Glamorgan's draft proposals for a new health plan, there is the possibility of a new hospital on the waterfront in Cardiff. I should like that hospital to be called the Cardiff Free hospital, and for it to be provided in the same way as the new kidney dialysis units in Wales, which have been set up, equipped and run by specialist companies. By running them at cost to the Welsh service, those companies are providing a far better and more efficient service for kidney patients. That precedent has been achieved with the new units at Bangor and Carmarthen, and the same could be achieved at the new Cardiff Free hospital, or anywhere else in Wales.

So marked, indeed, has been the achievement of the new kidney dialysis units in Wales that in October 1986 my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) moved a 10-minute Bill, which received an unopposed First Reading. He suggested that if the bold new initiatives taken by the Welsh Office to improve kidney dialysis treatment were followed throughout England and Wales, all the shortfall in kidney dialysis treatment could be eliminated without any more equipment, and probably without any more staffing.

I note that we now have the best record in the whole United Kingdom for kidney dialysis treatment. We needed to attain that record, because in 1979 we had the worst record. I know that the Welsh Office is considering proposals for new units at Cardiff and Merthyr. I urge that that consideration should be completed as quickly as possible, so that we can look forward to the establishment of the two new units.

In the Welsh Grand Committee, the right hon. Member for Swansea, West produced some form of scare about kidney dialysis treatment. He referred to an article by Mr. Roger Dobson in the Western Mail, warning that kidney dialysis treatment at the University hospital in Wales could be in danger of being rationed. I am also a student of what Mr. Dobson writes in the Western Mail, and I was pleased to see his article after the visit of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to Cardiff to see the dialysis facilities on 19 February. My hon. Friend sought to rule out any possibility of rationing of dialysis treatment. He said—and I am disturbed about this — that proposals are awaited regarding the demands for dialysis treatment in Cardiff. My hon. Friend stressed his sympathy, and said that he was concerned that the proposals had not been forthcoming before. It was not for the want of asking, he said.

I should also like to mention required request treatment in connection with transplants. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend will be involved in consultations with the Department of Health and Social Security on implementing recommendations of the Hoffenberg report. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security was able to tell me on Friday that a draft circular was under consideration, and the Welsh Office will be involved in that consideration.

I urge the earliest possible action for Welsh hospitals on the recommendation that hospitals should be reimbursed for the cost of organ removal operations, and that an audit should be set up of brain stern deaths, transplants and the shortfall in transplants. Audits are already in place in some English hospitals. I suggest that the Welsh Office takes the opportunity to make early progress with the audit for Welsh hospitals.

Above all, I stress the need for training for doctors and nurses in that most difficult area of approaching relatives about their wishes regarding transplantation—

Mr. Ray Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that the debate started late, and an appeal was made by the previous occupant of the Chair for hon. Members to cut their speeches down, so that all hon. Members would have the opportunity to speak. I know your views on debates of this character. Indeed, I know your view that speeches should on occasion be limited to 10 minutes. Would you do your best, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ensure that hon. Members—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I was very much aware of what he wanted to say before he rose.

The Chair has no power to curb the length of hon. Members' speeches—regrettably, I must say—but I hope that hon. Members will have regard to the fact that a number of hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. I am afraid that, unless the 'speeches are briefer, some of them will be disappointed.

Mr. Jones

I wish to be as brief as possible in moving to a conclusion. I regret the interruption, which served to waste time, as did the bogus point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman earlier.

The review of the Health Service has opportunities peculiar to my right hon. Friend — opportunities to bring back matrons in hospitals, to end health authority membership, to improve management and priorities within the Health Service, to build on the success of the kidney dialysis unit, and to move forward on the Hoffenberg report. We can take satisfaction from what has already been achieved in the Health Service in Wales, but that does not mean that we are entirely satisfied and do not want more progress. I should have thought that every hon. Member would join me in wanting even better health provision in Wales — in wanting a happier healthier Wales.

8 pm

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

I shall abide by what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and be as brief as I can. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not in the Chamber now, but I am sure that the Under-Secretary will fully brief him on the subject to which I want to draw the House's attention.

I shall confine myself to one important topic —enterprise zones and the Government's view that they are an important part of their economic policy. I refer to a judgment in the House of Lords, and I want the Minister to decide what the Welsh Office will do about that judgment, because it affects people in my constituency and in the constituencies of hon. Members in whose areas enterprise zones are to be found, and because it has national implications for the United Kingdom.

I refer to the judgment of 11 February 1988 in the House of Lords by Lord Keith of Kinkel, in which a number of noble Lords concurred, in the case of Clement, who is the valuation officer and the respondent in the case —he is the district valuer in the Swansea area—versus Addis Ltd, the appellant. This is an important matter and urgency of response is crucial. Addis, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), is just under a mile south of Swansea enterprise zone.

Both parties in the appeal agreed that the appropriate rateable value of the appellant ratepayer's factory is £36,500 if the consequences of the enterprise zone are taken into account, and £45,000 if they are not. The House of Lords held that the consequences of the enterprise zone should be taken into account. It also held that, although the Lower Swansea Valley Enterprise Zone Designation Order 1981 did not come into effect until 11 June 1981, Addis was entitled to a reduction in rateable value backdated to 18 March 1981 —before the enterprise zone even existed. It was only a dream in a planner's eye then, yet its rateable value has been reduced in such a way that it will have a saving of £9,000 of its rateable value, multiplied by the rate in the pound, multiplied by the number of years backdated—currently seven. Roughly speaking and taking the rate in the pound as an average of about £2, Addis will save about £126,000 as a consequence of the decision.

The case grew out of a local valuation court decision on 2 March 1982, held at Penllergaer in my constituency. Four occupiers of premises on the Garngoch industrial estate were involved. The case proceeded to the Lands Tribunal in 1984, and to the Court of Appeal on 18 December 1986. Addis was the only company to appeal to the House of Lords against the decision of the Court of Appeal.

I shall briefly examine some of the implications of the decision, which will be horrendous unless the Government respond quickly to allay the fears of people facing it. The Minister will have to respond to my points, so that people's fears will be allayed. First, the successful appeal by the company opens the door to any commercial occupier outside an enterprise zone applying to the district valuer for a reduction in its rateable value. The Garngoch industrial estate lies about seven miles from the enterprise zone. Is the whole of Wales and of the United Kingdom outside enterprise zones now eligible for a reduction in rateable value? In the area that I represent, companies are now approaching me asking me whether it is worth their while to apply. I am sure that hon. Members' postbags will fill up with such queries and district valuers' offices throughout the country will be inundated with work as a result.

Secondly, there is an immediate and traumatic effect on local authorities in West Glamorgan. In his letter of 19 February 1988 to the permanent secretary at the Welsh Office, the chief executive of Swansea city council estimated that the decision of the House of Lords is likely to mean that his council will have to find about £275,000, and the county council about £1.4 million, in respect of the previous years that will not be compensated for under the block grant arrangements. I hope the Minister will give some specific answers on the immediate problems facing local authorities in whose areas the Addis operation is sited, and on the obvious knock-on effects throughout a much wider geographical area.

The Secretary of State should give this matter priority; it is a potential cause of tremendous hardship for the ratepayers of West Glamorgan, and could be one to the ratepayers of many other areas. The Government have made great play of enterprise zones being an important part of their policy. I am sure that they have some advantages, but other important implications must be borne in mind.

Mr. Anderson

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a matter not only of priority but of urgency? As the Minister will know, Swansea, in common with other authorities, is now setting its rate. That rate has already been increased, largely as a result of Government action on housing benefit and because of preparing for the poll tax. So here is another impost that was unforeseen and unforeseeable. Surely it is reasonable for the Welsh Office to respond immediately to ensure that the ratepayers of Swansea are not clobbered — as they will be unless something is done now as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Wardell

I welcome my hon. Friend's comments, and I am sure the Minister will take them on board.

The Lands Tribunal decision on this matter in 1984 clearly upheld the view of the four operators on the Garngoch industrial estate that their rates should be reduced because of the presence of the enterprise zone. That opinion was overturned only on appeal to the Court of Appeal, and thereafter only Addis pursued the case to the House of Lords.

The Lands Tribunal decision spelt out exactly what an enterprise zone is. I do not propose to read the entire summary—it was a good one—of that decision, but I shall read the opening sentence: The Government's purpose in setting up Enterprise Zones is to encourage industrial and commercial activity in run-down areas by the removal of certain tax burdens and by the relaxation or speeding up of the application of certain statutory and administrative controls. As the implications of that for firms outside enterprise zones are now coming to fruition, I hope that the Government will not abandon such firms, saying that it is hard luck on the local authorities, which will be dramatically affected, because those firms can get their rateable value reductions. I hope that the Government will not duck that issue and simply say that it is a matter for the local authorities to sort out. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) has said, the judgment was unforeseen and unforeseeable. I hope that the Government will respond to the judgment, consider it and hopefully bring forward legislation in the near future to sort out the problem.

8.9 pm

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I shall not follow the detailed arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell). Traditionally, this debate moves between constituency concerns and more general discussion about the "future of Wales" — a phrase used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) when he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. We inevitably consider these matters in what is always a broad-ranging annual event. We must consider the changing economic realities of life in Wales. We must also consider the way in which they are perceived, the way in which we perceive ourselves in Wales and the way in which we are perceived from the outside. I suppose one must add, these days, the perception from Clun and Worcester.

There are images of Wales that have often done us a disservice in the past. Of course, some current images do us a disservice, and hon. Members have referred to the appalling events in Chester at the weekend. The more I find out about the details of those events, the more appalled I am at the potential serious loss of life that may have occurred in the city which historically and traditionally has so much in common with the part of north Wales in which I live and work.

We must be concerned about our image in Wales. It is important for incoming investment. It is also important for the way in which we see ourselves and think of our future. Part of the disagreement and different emphasis in the debate stems from different images of Wales. Some of my colleagues hark back to a form of Welsh community life that no longer exists. Some people still believe that they live in a Nonconformist Wales. The Wales of today is very secular and very different from the Wales of St. David's time. If St. David were to come back and visit us he would probably recognise that his Celtic or Catholic church had reinvigorated itself and become rather more Welsh in many senses in recent years. However, he would recognise very little in the life of contemporary Wales. The St. David that we think of is really a 19th century creation. We have re-invented St. David, in the same way as we have reinvented Owain Glyndwr and other traditions. Such re-invention has happened in many nations and is not exclusive to the Welsh.

We are in the process of inventing a new Welsh tradition of a high-tech, booming Welsh society—or at least in parts of the Welsh society. I am not critical of that, as it is an attempt to modernise Wales. The reason why we have survived for so long is that we have modernised and adapted our traditions. We have changed our attitudes, but have maintained certain aspects of our identity, and, perhaps most important, a sense of community which has managed to survive the various changes of community life.

We can clearly see how important and crucial those issues are to an understanding of the social and economic life of Wales today from a publication that has appeared since we last debated these matters. I congratulate the board of Celtic studies of the University of Wales for at last joining the 20th century. I say that because my first real job was with the board as a researcher. I lasted only three weeks. I do not know whether it was me or the board, but we were incompatible.

The board has produced an excellent publication, called "Contemporary Wales." It is a well-designed and well set out document. In the editorial, which leads into the discussion, the joint editors—Graham Day and Gareth Rees — consider the whole issue of the changing and different images of Wales. They stress that there is a danger of stereotyping. We can stereotype in terms of our traditional mining industry, in terms of the new Japanese factory and in terms of the protests surrounding the restoration and maintenance of language and culture. There is also official stereotyping by the Welsh Office, the Welsh Development Agency, WINvest and others. There is another image of Wales produced by HTV, BBC Wales, Radio Wales and by Sianel Pedwar, the Welsh fourth channel. All those different images are in conflict with one another. Clearly, we need far more understanding, in cultural and economic terms, of the real changes that are taking place in Welsh life, and that is what "Contemporary Wales" offers us.

I shall pick one statistic to illustrate my point about the changes in Wales. I want to consider the broad occupational distribution of those employed in Wales in a 40-year span. In 1948 —two years after I was born, not that that has any significance, but it gives me a nice time span — the number of people employed in agriculture and foresty was a little more than 4 per cent. of the total. That figure is now down to just over 2 per cent. in 1948, 16 per cent. of those in work were employed in mining, and that figure has been reduced to less than 4 per cent. In 1948, 28 per cent. of people were involved in manufacturing. That figure grew to 35 per cent. in the 1971 census, but has flattened back to about 23 per cent. In 1948, 19 per cent. of people worked in transport and construction, and that figure had been reduced to just over 10 per cent. in 1986.

The major growth has occurred in services. In 1948 only 32 per cent. were employed in services, yet that figure had risen to nearly 65 per cent. in 1986. That is the major change in the structure of the Welsh economy, and that is why we can say that tourism now accounts for four times the number of jobs in the traditional industries of coal, steel and agriculture. That is a very important change with which we have had to cope in cultural terms and in the way in which we think of and understand life in Wales.

Although services contribute 65 per cent. of total employment and 55 per cent. of GDP, there is still in Wales a low share of key professional, commercial, financial and entrepreneurial services, which are the leading edge of modern economies. I notice that my comrade from the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), is nodding in agreement with me. No doubt he will want to develop this analysis later. Of course, I was joking when I referred to the hon. Gentleman as a comrade.

Levels of research and development expenditure are extremely low in Wales in both the private and public sectors. There is a shortage of highly skilled technical employment. That is reflected in the fact that, although much reference has been made today to overseas investment, the result of that is not a high-tech Wales, but an intermediate-tech Wales. Production involves a predominantly low-paid female work force. There is clearly a gender division as well as a division of skill in technology.

This is not the brave new Wales that we heard about in the propaganda. Rather, capitalism has been restructured in the way in which it operates on Wales. The form of investment often involves the replacement of the heavy end of the old industry with the intermediate to low-tech end of the modernised industries. The full story must be told. That is why we need to emphasise the need for research and development as a key growth area in the Welsh economy. I notice that the Minister is agreeing with me.

Mr. Raffan

Before the hon. Gentleman moves away from research and development, I want to remind him of the importance of financial and professional services in the Principality. He has covered that point before, and I have intervened on it before. However, it is important to emphasise the great drawback to Wales in that it does not have a financial centre like the Scottish centre in Edinburgh. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not simply pass over that point about research and development. I hope that he will make that point forcefully, because it needs to be made.

Dr. Thomas

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that most helpful intervention. I agree entirely with him. I hope that there will be an initiative involving the Welsh Development Agency. I know that the WDA is giving priority to venture capital as a key area of improvement. It has produced a detailed report, which we have debated. I hope that the Welsh Office and the WDA will give that development a key role and that there will be an effective partnership between the capitalist sector and the public sector in Wales in this as in all areas.

Research and development are good examples of collaboration. I should like to draw the Secretary of State's attention to the science debate on Monday, obviously to my own intervention, at columns 722–23, and to the statement of the Secretary of State for Education and Science at columns 725–26. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the report of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, in which university research centres are put forward as an example of inter-disciplinary work and as a way of forging links between higher education research and industry. As far as I am aware, four centres have been announced by the Science and Engineering Research Council, none of them in Wales. I believe that 18 centres are planned, none of them in Wales.

It is important that the University of Wales, the polytechnics, colleges of higher education, industry and the Welsh Office should get together to ensure that we have at least one of those university research centres. The Welsh Office should use its role in higher education in Wales to bring those elements together and to bring the University of Wales into the 21st century, where it should be.

I shall make one other point before sitting down and allowing my colleague the hon. Member for Delyn to make his speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is a matter for the Chair, rather than for the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Thomas

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not wish to usurp the difficult job of the Chair in this debate. That is why I shall be brief, unlike some Conservative Members. I accept your strictures.

Wales is changing economically, culturally and politically. I hope that it is also changing its own image of itself. I find it most distressing that there are still defensive images. I can understand why people feel defensive about their Welsh culture, language and tradition, because they have felt for a long time that the traditions are under attack. I now find that the Conservative party has decided to take over, lock, stock and barrel the Welsh traditions. The right hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) made an important speech in his capacity as chairman of the Conservative party. I shall quote from an article in the Western Mail. It was written by Jon Hibbs, so it must be accurate. It said: The Tory party chairman … last night sought to portray the Government's achievements in the Principality as stemming from the roots of Welsh history, culture and tradition. The article went on to say that the right hon. Gentleman told party workers they should draw strength from the Welsh political tradition that was now reflected in the Government's own radical reforms in education, housing and local government finance. I have news for the Tory party. It may decide that it wants to relate itself to Welsh traditions, but I should tell Conservative Members that we have all sorts of Welsh traditions, which are always changing. I do not think that the notions of independence, self-respect and pride in the community, which are apparently the new qualities that the Government are advocating, have anything to do with Thatcherism. They are to do with the positive aspects of one of the Welsh traditions — the emphasis on the relationship between the community and the individual, not on the division between the two, which unfortunately seems to be the attitude of the Government.

The community in Wales has always changed and adapted. Old traditions have changed and we are now creating new traditions for ourselves. The most important tradition will be that in which Wales sees itself playing a much more active role in the international community. I agree with the views expressed about the Commonwealth games. In the Commonwealth games Wales is a separate nation.

As an autonomist, I would say that it is important to make the point that we have direct representation at international level. When we apply, as we are now doing, for the Commonwealth games to be held in Cardiff, we are doing that as the Welsh nation. It has nothing to do with the Government or the Prime Minister. It has nothing to do with the Foreign Secretary or Southern Africa. The Welsh nation, with its own Prime Minister in the role of the Secretary of State, is applying for the Commonwealth games to be held in Cardiff. It should be seen as that by people outside.

Increasingly Wales sees itself, not as part of a declining British state, but as part of a Western European integrated market. We look to 1992 and the growth of that integrated market. Our surrogate Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales, said earlier that there was a great opportunity for Wales within the integrated market. We can take advantage of that only if we have effective representation within the Community in our own right. I look forward to the day when the Welsh nation, as a historic European nation, has its role as a member of the European Community.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I repeat the earlier appeal from the Chair for brief speeches.

8.25 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan

The first half of the speech made by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) was remarkably redolent of the speech of my right hon. Friend Lord Crickhowell to the Cardiff chamber of commerce. I believe that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy once described it as one of the noble Lord's better speeches.

I am a little shocked that the hon. Gentleman is surprised by the point made by my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, who is chairman of the Conservative party. The party has made a distinctive contribution to Wales, of which I know the hon. Gentleman is aware. It was a Conservative Government in 1951 who set up a separate Ministry within the Home Office to deal with Welsh affairs. It was a Conservative Government in 1957 who created the position of Minister of State, Welsh Office. It was a Conservative Government in 1960 who set up the Welsh Grand Committee and it was a Conservative Government in 1979 who set up the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs.

Mr. Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)


Mr. Raffan

I am anxious to get on, but I am glad to give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to contribute, however briefly.

Mr. Howells

I am listening with interest to the hon. Gentleman telling us what the Conservative party has given to Wales. After saying all that, is he in favour of giving us our own Parliament?

Mr. Raffan

The sort of devolution we have given in an administrative governmental sense is quite sufficient. The Welsh people made clear their verdict on parliamentary devolution in 1979. I know that the memory of the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) goes back that far, so I will not press that home too hard.

As the hon. Member for Meirionnyd Nant Conwy said, the Welsh debate is traditionally wide ranging. It is a mixture of what might be called "micro" and "macro" politics. Some hon. Members concentrate on constituency matters while others paint on a broader all-Wales canvas. I hope to do both.

Debates on Welsh affairs on the Floor of the House are rare. They are rarer than debates on Scotland or Northern Ireland because of Scotland's separate legal system and because of the tragic troubles that affect Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is all the more important that effective use be made of every opportunity—and any forum—to discuss and debate Government policy, administration and expenditure in relation to Wales.

In the Welsh Grand Committee there is a tendency to go round the same old tired circuit of subjects; variations on the same old themes. In fact, at times one might say that it is Enigma Variations in Welsh. I support the sensible suggestion made by the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman), the Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee. I am sorry that he is not in his place as I would like him to hear this. I believe that he would nod vigorously in support, but he might be a little surprised. In a recent television interview he suggested that the Welsh Grand Committee should debate the reports of the Select Committee. That happened on only one occasion during the last Parliament when we debated the Select Committee report from the previous Parliament on "Water in Wales". Two Select Committee reports and Government responses from the last Parliament are, so to speak, in the queue and I believe that they are worthy of debate.

There is the major report on "Tourism in Wales" and the more recent report on "The Condition and Repair of Privately Owned Housing in Wales." I believe that the suggestion originally made by the hon. Member for Neath, which I support strongly, could bring about much improved co-ordination between, and greater integration of, the work of the Welsh Select and Welsh Grand Committees. I hope that it will have all-party support. It would be a way of making Welsh affairs more prominent in the House and, if I can be a little mischievous—I am sure that Opposition Members would agree—it would improve the Welsh Office's accountability.

I shall deal now with "micro" politics. A striking transformation is taking place within the Welsh economy and it is no more striking than in my constituency of Delyn. In the year to January the number of those out of work dropped by 25 per cent. In the two years to January the number dropped by one third and since the designation of the enterprise zone in 1983, unemployment has decreased by 42 per cent. In last year's debate on Welsh affairs my right hon. Friend Lord Crickhowell said: Delyn is a particularly good example of what can be achieved if Government, local authorities and the public sector co-operate effectively together." —[Official Report, 2 March 1987; Vo1. 111, c. 602.] The Delyn enterprise zone, which the Government designated in the teeth of opposition from the Labour party, has played a significant part in bringing about that dramatic fall in unemployment. It has shown how effective an intensive, localised approach to unemployment can be.

As "An Evaluation of the Enterprise Zone Experiment", a study commissioned by the Department of the Environment from PA Cambridge Economic Consultants, stated: The overall conclusion of the analysis is that real benefits are being provided to designated zones and their surrounding local economies. Nowhere are those real benefits clearer than in Delyn: 1,267 new jobs in the zone, 91.4 per cent. of them full time and 86.4 per cent of them in manufacturing—which I know will be welcomed by the Labour party and which compares favourably with the average of 56 per cent. in all zones throughout the United Kingdom.

I have said before and I shall say again that more could have been achieved and more could still be achieved but for the tight physical constraints on the zone, its small size preventing it from realising its full contribution to the economic regeneration of north-east Wales.

I am aware that it is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider proposals for new zones or extensions to existing ones in Wales. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has decided not to extend the enterprise zone experiment in England, but he has recognised that there may be exceptional circumstances when the creation of a new zone or the extension of an existing one might still be the best way of tackling a particular and localised problem.

In a written answer recently my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment revealed that this would depend on three factors. It would depend, first, on the nature and severity of the problem. In Delyn unemployment has been severe and highly localised. During the eight years from 1977 to 1985, a total of 6,700 jobs were lost in my constituency in the textile and steel industry, centring largely on the towns of Flint and Holywell.

The second factor is the likely cost-effectiveness of an enterprise zone in contributing to the solution of the unemployment problem. In Delyn, Government investment of £6.6 million has assisted in the creation of 1,267 jobs, which is a relatively good cost-per-job ratio.

The third criterion is the extent to which the authorities and agencies concerned can ensure that the zone is a success. Delyn borough council and the other agencies involved with it have already demonstrated that they can manage the zone successfully. Their achievement has been recognised in the accolade they received from the previous Secretary of State. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State will also be much impressed when he visits Delyn later this month. I hope that we can count on his support for Delyn's forthcoming application for the extension of its enterprise zone. I know that he will do battle with the Treasury on Delyn's behalf as effectively as he has already on Wales' behalf.

I should now like to paint on a broader all-Wales canvas. As the liaison Member of Parliament between the Wales Craft Council and Conservative Members I take a great interest in the craft industry. I welcome the "Welsh Craft Industry Study" commissioned from Mr. Tony Ball by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and mentioned by him in his opening speech. I accept and agree with its recommendations that the funding for the craft industry should be channelled through the Welsh Development Agency and Mid-Wales Development through a joint craft industry development service, while encouraging the WCC to operate as a trade association.

One section of the report particularly interested and excited me—"The Marketing Need for the Welsh Craft Industry—and for Wales". It made a powerful case for the co-ordination of the marketing approach of various agencies in Wales—the Welsh Development Agency, Mid-Wales Development, the Wales Craft Council and the Wales tourist board. I might also add the British Tourist Authority because of its role in promoting Wales abroad. At the moment all are involved separately and independently in marketing Wales and Welsh products within the United Kingdom and overseas.

There is no co-ordinated all-Wales marketing effort. What is the result? Across the whole spectrum, as the report demonstrated, there is inconsistency of approach, confusion of images and fragmentation of impact. In short, the total marketing potential of Wales and of the different agencies within it is undermined. Collectively, the agencies which I have mentioned in direct and indirect marketing have budgets of over £6 million. That money is currently spent individually and in a fragmented way on promoting Wales, its tourist attractions, business opportunities, culture, craft and other products.

There is an obvious and urgent need for a co-ordinated, integrated approach. Working together in promoting Wales and its tremendous potential in industry and in tourism could be to the great advantage of each agency without undermining the agencies' independence. The report puts forward imaginative proposals on how such a strong, integrated, corporate, national identity for marketing Wales could be created, at minimal cost but with enormous potential benefit.

Those recommendations make sound common sense. The members of the Select Committee involved in the inquiry into "Tourism in Wales" will recall one of the predominant themes — that Wales, unlike Scotland, lacked a clearly defined, "hard" image abroad. We recommended then that the Welsh Office should coordinate the relationships between, and the objectives of, the various bodies involved in tourism and issue policy guidelines on marketing.

We discovered, too, during that inquiry the consider-able amounts of unco-ordinated promotional literature at local level, with inevitable duplication, and recommended that the WTB develop further joint marketing schemes to co-ordinate those local marketing efforts.

What is sensible for Welsh tourism is surely sensible for Wales as a whole. The Western Mail—the newspaper beloved of the Labour party — made that point succinctly and with great effect in yesterday's editorial. I shall quote from it only briefly because I know how it tends to raise Labour Members' blood pressure. They are all nice and quiet at the moment and I do not want to disturb them. The Western Mail said: Where Wales has failed in the past—from the earliest centuries of its history right up to our own—it has usually been because the common need has been sacrificed to local sectional rivalry. A co-ordinated marketing effort would allow each agency to be promoted "as strongly and as independently as at present" but each could derive immeasurable benefit from being part of a stronger, corporate, national identity. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Welsh Office would obviously have to be the catalyst in bringing that about, but I hope that the various agencies will also consider it seriously. If it is to be achieved, they need to give the necessary commitment and co-operation. I believe that promoting Wales in all its aspects in a co-ordinated way could result in "a powerful and sustained marketing initiative", as the report said, and help to accelerate our economic recovery.

Now surely is the time to carry out such an initiative, when a transformation is being wrought in the Principality. Like the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), I read The Observer a week ago on Sunday, although not perhaps the same article. The right hon. Gentleman was selective in his quotes. I shall be equally selective in mine. Under the heading "Brave New Wales" there is an article entitled, "Where there's a welcome for the World". It put Wales' dramatic economic success in a United Kingdom context. The article said: In 1987 Wales attracted more inward investment projects than any other region of Britain. Only 5 per cent. of the British populace lives in the Principality, yet it won 21 per cent. of overseas investment in Britain—3 per cent. more than the south of England's share and more than double the Scottish total. If the Labour party does not want to take The Observer, although Labour Members have obviously been reading it quite a lot lately, let them take the Financial Times last Saturday which included a feature entitled "The Dragon Stirs". That highly objective article said: Wales is, in fact, undergoing enormous social and economic change … Unemployment has been falling faster than in the rest of Britain, investment rising faster, new work practices adopted … These developments and these changes have given Wales a vitality that it has not had for decades. If Labour Members do not like the Financial Times, perhaps they could take The Independent, which they may think closer to them, and read yesterday's St. David's Day feature: After years of recession the Principality is taking off … the activity is welcomed by Mr. David Jenkins, General Secretary of the Wales TUC. Another union pragmatist, the controversial, yet respected Wyn Bevan of the electricians' union, says that a measure of the success of the Welsh economy"— another trade unionist speaking about the success of the Welsh economy— is the increasing acute shortage of skilled labour". If Labour Members do not like The Observer, the Financial Times or The Independent, they could have gone along, although it would have been an unusual environment for them, to the conference last week of the Institute of Directors and heard the Japanese ambassador speak glowingly about the economic success of Wales.

The article in The Independent I quoted went on to refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It said: It is clearly to the Principality's advantage to have a cabinet Minister with clout … He has been so successful that a number of Welsh Labour Members—albeit privately —acknowledge that he is doing the best job of any Welsh Secretary, of any party, for many years. It is not only Welsh Labour Members who acknowledge the excellent job that my right hon. Friend is doing. It is also Scottish Labour Members. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, with that perspicacity which is his trade mark, toddled along to the Library and asked for an independent analysis of public expenditure figures for Wales and Scotland. What did that analysis show? Up to the next general election, Wales will enjoy a 36.7 per cent. Increase, compared with a 23.3 per cent. increase in Scotland.

We are reliably told that the hon. Member for Garscadden has been using that information as a stick with which to beat the Secretary of State for Scotland for failing to fight his corner in Cabinet as well as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. We are also told that that tactic is causing great embarrassment to Labour Members in Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Raffan

I shall not give way in view of the right hon. Gentleman's "vindictive and vituperative speech," as my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) rightly described it.

We heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman about what Labour would do for Wales. At least one member of the Labour party has made a realistic and revealing appraisal of the party's current position. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), an amiable fellow who is always frank, recently wrote of the Labour party, saying: We are relegated to the peripheries of British life. We represent a world that is going. Our structure, attitudes and policies are products of the past. Today they fit uneasily into a new world in which we are half strangers. They fit no more uneasily than into the new world which is Wales.

8.42 pm
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

On this, my first contribution to an annual debate on Welsh affairs, I have chosen a semi-nationalist topic — the Welsh language and the effects of some Government policies in the past few years on the language, particularly in my constituency.

The Welsh language has been in decline throughout the century. Scarcely 20 per cent. of the people of Wales are Welsh-speaking, but in Carmarthen and in Dyfed and Gwynedd that proportion is about 60 per cent. Nevertheless, the language is in decline and facing a battle for survival.

I have in mind one of my predecessors who was the first Nationalist Member of Parliament, Mr. Gwynfor Evans, who, 20 years ago, won Carmarthen in that famous by-election. Although those were my formative years politically, I have never been attracted to the cause of nationalism, despite feeling very strongly for the language. By definition, nationalism is about eventual separation. It is divisive. [Interruption.] I am sorry that the president of Plaid Cymru finds that hard to stomach.

Dr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman does not understand that the programme of national parties from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is not separatist. It is a programme for recognition of our nations in the European Community.

Mr. Williams

There is a great deal of revisionism in the nationalist movement. The message from Nationalist parties is strong and clear. Their activities are divisive, poisonous and obnoxious and I want no part of them.

In Wales, there are forces of division within the Nationalist movement and in the Welsh Language Society, which carries out many illegal activities, which do no good for the language cause and alienate public sympathy. I am glad that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) joined in the condemnation of last weekend's events, which have damaged the image of Wales in the rest of the country.

The Welsh language is extremely important. Both sides of the House should address the cause seriously. I wish to address three aspects of the prejudicial influence of Government policies on the future of the Welsh language — education, agriculture and unemployment. The Education Reform Bill is before the House and we are not clear what place the Welsh language will have in the schools curriculum in Wales.

I am clear in my mind that the place for language should not be dictated from London or from the Welsh Office. It should be dictated by local education authorities. Every county in Wales is very different in terms of its linguistic mix. Indeed, every town, and even village, is different. The ultimate decision about the right balance and how Welsh should be taught should begin at that level. Those decisions will mean that there is maximum devolution right down to individual schools and head teachers. I abhor the idea of centralisation or trying to move decisions away from local schools.

My constituents and I are concerned about the pressures caused by the closure of small rural schools. I should like to quote one sentence from the Government's White Paper on public expenditure on education in Wales. According to that document: the plans assume that local authorities will accelerate the removal of surplus school stock over the period and make further improvement in efficiency, including those recommended by the Audit Commission. That will mean the closure of dozens of rural primary schools throughout my constituency and in Dyfed and Gwynedd.

A few weeks ago, the Audit Commission brought out a report on education in Dyfed, particularly primary education. It stated that our authority was spending £5.8 million more than comparable local authorities. The report made no mention of the linguistic implications in my area. It suggested that if the authority abandoned the policy of allowing the under-fives to go to school, it would save £3 million — and another £2.8 million through a more stringent programme involving the closure of rural primary schools.

The demography of rural Wales is such that the smaller the primary school or village, the higher the proportion of Welsh speakers. So closing or amalgamating small schools puts pressure on the language. One recent example is Llanddeusant primary school which has 13 Welsh-speaking children and one teacher. A few months ago it was reprieved, but I do not know for how long. It is proposed that it should become part of Llangadog primary school which is five miles away. In other words, it will be amalgamated with a primary school where about one quarter of the children are not Welsh speaking, so the language of the school playground will be English. That is the insidious way in which the policy affects the Welsh language.

I am pleased that in 1979 the Government did their W-turn and eventually decided on a Welsh language television channel. It costs about £30 million a year. A further several million pounds is to be put into various projects, such as the Eisteddfod, literary periodicals and various projects to do with the language. They are all important and helpful to the language, but £2.8 million spent on rural primary schools is much better value for money than anything else that the Government can do to help the language survive. Children learn and will sustain their Welsh, and the ages of three, five, seven, nine and 11 are the make or break years for the Welsh language. Therefore, the policy on rural school closures carries with it all sorts of threats.

I grew up in rural Carmarthenshire and for 40 years I have lived with the pressures of the small farmer. They lead to rural depopulation. The main causes of the destruction of the language in my constituency since the war have been rural depopulation, and the amalgamation of small farms. When will that stop?

When we joined the Common Market one of the main features of the common agricultural policy was supposed to be the protection of small farms. Yet in the nine founding countries of the EC the number of people employed in agriculture has decreased from 17 million to 7 million since 1960. The loss of people from agriculture in Wales means the loss of Welsh speakers.

The pressures on small farmers despite the CAP are just as great as they have always been. In 1983 when milk quotas were introduced they were applied across the board. Large farms and rich farmers could diversify and take the blow, but small farmers with relatively much higher overheads are continually driven to the wall. We must remember small farmers in the reform of the CAP. It is vital that we defend them.

We have a problem in rural areas with creameries. In the past few months we have seen two further creamery closures in Llangefni and in Felinfach. Last year we lost 300 jobs in Carmarthen when the creamery closed and in 1983, when a creamery in Newcastle Emlyn closed, a further 250 jobs were lost. By definition, creameries are sited in rural areas and a large proportion of their work force is Welsh speaking. They live in areas where there is no alternative employment. Felinfach is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells), but it also affects my constituency. The unemployment rate in the Lampeter travel-to-work area is 18.1 per cent. and in the Cardigan travel-to-work area it is 24.3 per cent. These closures are taking place when the unemployment rate is already 20 per cent.

There is no question in my mind but that the biggest threat to the Welsh language in 1988 is mass unemployment. The Teifi valley has 20 per cent. unemployment and the worse black spot in my constituency is the upper Amman valley—Brynamman, Glanamman and Garnant. A recent report gives the unemployment rate there as 30 per cent. and youth unemployment is 36 per cent. A month ago that area received a crunching blow with the announcement of the closure of Abernant colliery and the Wernos washery. Some 800 jobs were lost. The colliery is in the Neath constituency, but 300 of the job losses are in my constituency.

The Amman valley, the Gwendraeth valley and the Tawe valley are strong Welsh-speaking communities; more than half the people speak Welsh. Of all the colliery closures in south Wales—unfortunately we have had to learn to live with them in the past three years—this will have the most devastating effect on the language. Moreover, it is in an area where unemployment is already 30 per cent.

There is no economic justification for the closure of Abernant. It has massive anthracite reserves, it is a modern pit, being only 30 years old, its losses are marginal and it has been reaching about 90 per cent. of its targets. If that pit were in France, Germany or anywhere else in mainland Europe there would be no question of its closure. When one considers the devastating social consequences of closure in an area of high unmployment, it is appalling that the Government are sitting on their hands and allowing it to happen. That will severely affect the prospects of young people and the language. The average age of the work force in Abernant is 32 and the closure will affect those workers and their families.

I understand that the valleys initiative is being developed actively. Will the Secretary of State make sure that the Amman valley as well as the Tawe and Gwendraeth valleys are included in that initiative? With the knock that is coming their way, they badly need any extra help that is going.

I regret that the Secretary of State is not here, because he has been a member of a Government who have savaged the Welsh economy. We hear a lot now about the few jobs being created by inward investment. We welcome them, but they must be set against the 100,000 job losses that have occurred while the right hon. Gentleman has been a member of this Government. His debt to Wales is great, partly as a result of his record as Secretary of State for Energy. Since the end of the coal strike, 18 pits have closed, and 12,000 jobs have been destroyed. If we add the knock-on effect, we are talking about the loss of between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs. The Secretary of State has done an enormous amount of damage to Wales. It is his job to put some of that damage to rights.

8.59 pm
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

I hope that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams), who is my next door neighbour, will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said. As this is also my first opportunity to speak in a St. David's day debate, I shall concentrate on constituency issues. I am especially glad to speak in this debate because St. David was born in Pembrokeshire, and the smallest city in the United Kingdom, St. David's, is in my constituency.

Unemployment in Wales, as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, has fallen for 20 consecutive months, and that is good news for all of us. It has been falling in my constituency as well. In January 1987 there were 7,381 people out of work, and in January this year that had gone down to 6,232, a fall of 1,149. It is still a matter of grave concern to me that my constituency has the largest number of people out of work of any constituency in Wales and that the South Pembrokeshire travel-to-work area has the largest proportion of unemployed at 25.1 per cent. It is still obstinately high.

There are a number of reasons why that should be the case. In Pembrokeshire we have the oil industry, and in recent years a number of refineries have closed as the industry has contracted. Secondly, we have the problem of milk quotas in the dairy industry, which especially affects my constituency, which is the premier farming constituency in west Wales. Thirdly—and this is a problem shared with the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) and constituencies in Powys and Gwynedd — we are geographically fairly remote from the major centres of population, and that creates problems. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister will take account of the special problems faced by west Wales.

A number of things can be done to help my constituency. First, to deal with unemployment, I welcome the training programmes that the Government have brought forward and the schemes that have been advanced to help in particular the long-term unemployed. I would ask that there be a change in the rules to allow the unemployed who are not on supplementary benefit to take part in the community programme. Many of my constituents find it puzzling that they are excluded because they do not receive supplementary benefit.

Secondly, we should continue to provide more small business units. This is the sector in which new jobs will be created in my constituency, because we do not have the large manufacturing industry that other parts of Wales have.

Thirdly, we must continue with the improvement in the road programme. It is a tribute to my predecessor as Member of Parliament, my noble Friend Lord Crickhowell, that the A40 and the M4 are known as the Edwards motorway and main road, because the improvements in the road system in west Wales meant that he was able to get to his constituency considerably faster at the end of his term of office than he was when he was first elected. Until fairly recently it took seven hours to get from Pembrokeshire to London, and one can now do it in four hours. One can do it even quicker if one is prepared to go with Mark Phillips in the driving seat.

Fourthly, we need far more inward investment in this part of Wales. I told my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the Welsh Grand Committee last week that Gwynedd, Powys and Dyfed together had less inward investment in terms of money and jobs than any other Welsh county. Therefore, we must take special note of the problems in west Wales. We must follow up the initiative of Dyfed county council and local businesses, local newspapers and district councils, which visited Spain and Portugal some two years ago, because we see that as a growth area with which we can improve trade links. In the first instance it would be in the packaging, processing and distribution sectors, but there is a potential growth in trade between that part of the EC and west Wales.

It would be helpful if the Government could ensure that when they are considering the transfer of Government offices they do not leave out west Wales. One can see from the beneficial effects of the transfer of the Driver Vehicle Licensing Centre to Swansea some 20 years ago what having a large Government Ministry or office can do to help an area with high unemployment.

With new technology, there is no reason why we continue to have so many offices based in the London region. The transfer of the Patent Office to Newport is especially welcome as a sign that the Government listen to what is being said. We should continue to disperse the Civil Service and other Government agencies round the country. I only hope that public utilities and those that are about to be denationalised will listen too. There is a worrying concentration of the public utilities in Dyfed, in the town of Carmarthen, rather than in other parts of the county.

As one can see from the unemployment figures for Carmarthen, the hon. Member for Carmarthen is fortunate that unemployment in the Carmarthen travel-to-work area is the lowest, at 9.4 per cent., of any in Wales, yet in my own constituency just down the road we have 25.1 per cent. in south Pembrokeshire and 17 per cent. in Preseli. It is important for the public utilities to be aware of their social duty not to concentrate all their offices in one place. The same goes for the county council, which in recent years has tended to concentrate its offices in Carmarthen.

The point that perhaps most irks my constituents is that this concentration of public offices in Carmarthen has been at the expense of jobs in Pembrokeshire. It is especially irksome when one looks at the breakdown of rate income to the county council from the three former Welsh counties that make up Dyfed. Pembrokeshire contributes 45 per cent., Carmarthen 33 per cent. and the old Cardiganshire 22 per cent. There is concern that although we pay the most in rate income, the offices and jobs have been moved out of the county. That is one reason why the vast majority of people feel that the area was better off under the old Pembrokeshire county council and support the Pembrokeshire campaign to re-establish an authority with control over local government activities in Pembrokeshire. I believe that we can do that by uniting the two district councils into one unitary authority.

My constituency is also largely rural in nature. On Monday of this week, during Welsh questions, I put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State our concern about the present disparity in the green pound. I hope that the Government will take great care in the next price review to ensure that the present disparities in the different sectors, which run from 9 to 17 per cent., are, as far as possible, eliminated, so that farmers get a real return on the work that they do and are compensated for the bad fall in farm incomes in Wales in the past few years.

I am conscious that other hon. Members want to speak, so I have no time to mention every area of life in my constituency, but I would like to mention tourism and the town of Milford Haven as two special areas on which we need to concentrate.

In tourism, I am glad to see that there are new attitudes to the way in which we market Wales and its different areas. In my constituency there has been a welcome change of attitude in the past few years as we face the competition from countries such as Spain and Portugal for holidays. I was especially delighted when recently the Oakwood adventure park in Pembrokeshire was presented with the Red Dragon award for one of the most exciting tourism projects. That is the way that we must go if we are to ensure that tourism, which is now, I believe, the number one industry in Wales, attracts people to the Principality for their holidays, rather than their wanting always to go abroad.

The town of Milford Haven is a microcosm of some of the more intractable social and economic problems in my constituency and those of my colleagues who represent other parts of west Wales. I start by making the point that I made to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in a recent question. It is important that we remember that the problems of inner-city areas are also to be found in rural towns throughout Wales. I have the same social and economic problems in parts of Milford Haven as are experienced in the inner-city areas of London, Manchester and Glasgow. I hope that the solutions found to inner-city problems there will be used in the other areas.

In Milford Haven there is considerable concern that the royal naval armaments depot, which employs 300 people and is now being reviewed, will be closed, together with the Trecwn depot in the constituency of Ceredigion and Pembroke, North, many of whose 500 employees live in my constituency. There is grave concern about the future of both these depots.

I recognise that any decision must be made on defence grounds, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that the Ministry of Defence is made aware of the importance of the jobs and the income that they generate to the economy of Milford Haven and Pembrokeshire. Before any decision is taken, it is vital that the Welsh Office is involved in the review, and any action that needs to be taken in the light of the review should be taken on a co-ordinated basis.

Milford docks have been a great, under-used—some would say misused—asset in the last few years. I and the people of Pembrokeshire will be watching with close interest to ensure that the promises made by Seacon Ltd., which took over control of the docks last July, are carried out.

Finally, there are two other decisions that the Government could take that would benefit the town. The first is to end the tolls on the Cladeau bridge, as they are a barrier to trade between the two parts of Pembrokeshire. I know that I have support from the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), who takes the same attitude towards the Severn bridge. Secondly, assisted area status should be given to Milford Haven. The enterprise zone in Pembroke docks has created 420 jobs, but it does not extend into Milford Haven. It is essential, given the high level of unemployment, that assisted area status for which the district council has asked should be granted.

I conclude by pointing out in the last minute of my speech the assets of Pembrokeshire, which I hope business men throughout the United Kingdom and abroad will look to when they wish to site new industries in our county. We are only 250 miles from London—the same distance as Blackpool or Teesside. We have a good labour force, low wage costs, low rentals and land costs, low house prices, a beautiful countryside and a deep water port at Milford Haven. There are good road connections and three railway lines, and I hope that we can develop the Withybush airfield to encourage far more business to come to my constituency.

9.11 pm
Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

I should like briefly to draw the House's attention to the picture that the Secretary of State has drawn this evening, and in his interview in the Western Mail which has been much mentioned in the debate, about his proposals for the valleys of south Wales. I should like briefly to quote two points from his interview in the Western Mail. He said that the valleys are now facing a future of "a fabulous 12 years" and that the scene in Wales will be transformed. He went on to say that that transformation will be so great that newspaper readers throughout Wales will be asked for their views as to what should happen to the people in the valleys of south Wales and how their lives could be improved.

The right hon. Gentleman need not do that. He need only to listen to the hon. Members who represent the valleys of south Wales. Perhaps the Secretary of State should go there more often and talk to the local authorities. He would realise that of course we welcome the initiatives in the valleys, in Ebbw Vale and elsewhere. It is our duty, as we represent constituencies in those south Wales valleys, to expose the fraud that the Secretary of State is perpetrating in interviews and elsewhere, in daring to suggest that the future is bright and rosy, and telling us to rejoice when the Health Service in our valleys is such as we have never seen before, and giving us a litany of figures from the Welsh Office.

It is nonsense for the Secretary of State to employ a host of historians to tell us about the previous Labour Governments. He should come to the valleys of south Wales and listen to the people, see the waiting lists getting longer, the beds being closed down and expenditure being removed from the hospitals. He would then see the reality in the valleys of south Wales. He would also see that all the nonsense about improving housing in Wales is a complete fraud for those who have to live in publicly owned housing. In future, house building in Wales, which has come to a virtual standstill, will be cut, as will the capital repairs of all those older, badly repaired houses in the valleys of south Wales.

The Secretary of State did not tell the House and the people of Wales in the interview in the Western Mail about the impact of the poll tax in our valleys. By 1990, when people begin to realise the impact, they will see that the gearing effect of the revenue support grant and the unified business rate in Wales will mean that for every 1 per cent. increase in expenditure which Welsh councils will rightly have to levy there will be a 7 per cent. increase in the poll tax in the valleys of south Wales. In the Rhondda, in Merthyr, in Cynon valley and in my own valley, many households will find that their local taxation has doubled overnight because of this unfair and unequal tax.

That has to be set beside the changes in social security and income support which will be imposed on the people in only four weeks. With the revolutionary change to the poll tax and the cuts in health and housing services, who dare tell us in the valleys of south Wales that we have a future to rejoice in? It is nonsense and a fraud, and the people of Wales will recognise it as such.

9.15 pm
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

My hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), with his customary generosity, has been particularly brief, although I know that he had much more to say. In the same way, I shall be brief, although there is a great deal that I could say.

I represent an area with one of the greatest problems of deprivation not just in Wales but in the whole of Britain. We have the worst housing, the highest male unemployment in Wales and some of the worst health problems. The Secretary of State has not flown over my constituency, but he has been through it on foot. He has seen for himself the problems in some of the villages like Penrhiwceibr where the pit was shut while he was Secretary of State for Energy. He has seen people living in the basements of three-storey dwellings where the toilet is at the bottom of the garden. He has been down streets where people have no indoor toilets, no bathrooms and no running water. That was in 1987. The council has carried out a survey in my constituency and has discovered that almost half the private houses are unfit for human habitation and that, unless resources are increased, it will take 50 years to modernise those houses.

It is an area of high unemployment, which has been exacerbated by the closure of two collieries in the Cynon valley, the Lady Windsor and Ynysybwl. That has pushed unemployment up to 34 per cent., with the spin-off effect of the loss of those jobs leading to the loss of an additional 1,000 jobs in the area.

It appears that there is no solution, because the resources and the attention of the Government have been focused on the inner cities. Of course, there are cynical reasons for the Government focusing attention on the inner cities. One is that they hope to change the political complexion of the inner cities by devoting resources to them. They have no such hopes in the valleys of south Wales. That is one reason why we have blueprint after blueprint, yet there is no cash to carry out the ideas which are always talked about in these master plans for the valleys of south Wales.

The gratuitous suggestion of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) is that the answer to the problems of the NHS is not money but more hospital matrons. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should look to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because I believe that she shows some of the tendencies which were so prevalent in the older matrons in the hospital service.

I was a member of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service. We studied the service in depth for three years. We did not sit with our friends in the Carlton club and cobble up a blueprint for the National Health Service based on prejudice rather than fact. We called together a committee of experts and came up with proper recommendations on the Health Service.

If the Goverment had not been so partisan, they would have implemented our recommendations, because they made sense. Most important of all, our recommendations said that money for the Health Service should come from central taxation. We examined all the other silly ideas that the Government are considering at the moment and rejected every one of them. We reiterated—we shall do so again — that the only proper way to fund the National Health Service is from central taxation; no other source will do. Like my hon. Friends who represent other valley areas, I want the National Health Service to be properly funded because those in Cynon Valley depend heavily upon it. We need proper resources, and not just one more blueprint from the Government.

9.20 pm
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

We all realise that this debate should have been held yesterday— the day when we honour our patron saint Dewi Sant. As in so many other ways, the Government missed the bus,.

Mr. Peter Walker

As the hon. Gentleman has made that accusation—

Mr. Hughes

The Secretary of State is getting too excitable. I have not started. yet. I shall have a few more remarks to make and he will be able to make a comprehensive reply.

Many hon. Members have illustrated the fact that unemployment remains their biggest worry. We are experiencing the worst crisis for 50 years and the Secretary of State is posing as a latter-day Merlin who can wish it all away. I thought that his thin veneer was thoroughly demolished by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams).

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman started his speech with an accusation about the date of this debate. As I obviously cannot divulge what happened through the usual channels, I hope that he will be willing to divulge the representations made by his usual channels about the date of the debate.

Mr. Hughes

I understand from my Welsh Whip that the strongest possible representations were made.

We want to be fair to the Secretary of State. There have been improvements recently and we say "Croeso" to that. But one or two swallows do not make a summer—even the TSB does not. To make major inroads into our unemployment problem in Wales, we could do with one TSB a week for the next 12 months.

As I have said many times before, we have watched the doctrine of statistics in action. I noted that in yesterday's edition of The Times, the columnist Craig Brown, reporting on Monday's Welsh questions, said that the word "statistics" sounded like the word "sadistics". The lad is on to something, because sadism is about cruelty, and unemployment is cruel. People are rotting their lives away instead of doing something in and for their community.

The Secretary of State seems to believe that, if he blows the trumpet loud enough, unemployment will simply go away, but that is not so. According to Department of Employment statistics, 148,477 people are now registered as unemployed in Wales. That figure includes 3,749 school leavers under the age of 18; what a start in life this enterprise Government are giving our youngsters.

Even if we accept that the jobless trend is downwards, when not seasonally adjusted, the unemployment rates are up. The number out of work has increased in every Welsh county. Gwynedd has the highest rate, and Mid Glamorgan the largest number. In Clwyd, unemployment rose by 237 to 19,354 or 14.1 per cent. In Dyfed, it rose by 235 to 17,813 or 16.3 per cent. In Gwynedd it rose by 114 to 13,647 or 17.7 per cent. And so it goes on. The number out of work in our capital city of Cardiff increased by 403 to 23,844 or 12.2 per cent. In Swansea, our second largest city, it rose by 241 to 14,388 or 15.1 per cent. In Newport, it rose by 232 to 10,435 or 13 per cent.

Are those the kind of unemployment statistics of which the Secretary of State and the Government can be proud? There are now six travel-to-work areas in which more than one in five people are out of work. In south Pembrokeshire, unemployment is 25.1 per cent.; in Cardigan, it is 24.3 per cent.; in Pwllheli 24.2 per cent.; in Holyhead 21.7 per cent.; in Aberdare 21.2 per cent.; and in Fishguard 20.7 per cent.

The Secretary of State boasted about vacancies, but in the past three months the number of vacancies, seasonally adjusted, has fallen by an average of 400 per month. Those are the real unemployment figures. That is the true situation that Wales faces. Those figures cannot be glossed over. What an indictment they are of the Government's nine years in office. It is not as though Welsh workers are overpaid — we are just about bottom of the earnings league.

We are told to concentrate on bringing in new enterprises, perhaps from overseas. There is nothing wrong with that, but at the same time the Government are dealing sledgehammer blows to traditional industries such as steel and coal. Last week we had the Second Reading of the British Steel Bill to prepare that vital, basic industry for privatisation. Public money brought about the rescue operation, but the City hopes to reap the profits. Prospective new managers are already showing their patriotism by saying that they intend to cut exports when they get that industry back into the private sector. The steel industry is being dragged back into the uncertainties and inefficiencies of the past and the steel communities will suffer again—mark my words.

Last week, too, there was the announcement about privatisation of the electricity supply industry, splitting Central Electricity Generating Board operations into three parts. Allied with this, there is to be certain preferential treatment for the nuclear industry. Those proposals will deal a devastating blow to the British coal industry and may well bring about the closure of the south Wales coalfield. Last Sunday, in the Sunday Telegraph, the Secretary of State was quoted as being opposed to the proposals. The headline read, Walker puts his job on the line. He has been very coy about that ever since. There must now be a big question mark about the future of the mining industry in south Wales.

Another crisis sector is that of housing.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett


Mr. Hughes

Wales has a higher proportion of older housing than any other part of the United Kingdom. The difficulty is that the Government are not building the houses that people need. Their record on the building of new houses is the worst for 40 years, and a massive housing crisis is developing in Wales.

In Newport, homelessness is rife. The South Wales Argus recently spotlighted the problems in Newport. There have been widespread reports of abuses in the so-called bedsitter land. Threats of violence and intimidation are commonplace. There have been rip-offs with rents, and death-trap accommodation is the norm. The Government's policies are bringing about the return of Rachmanism, with all its attendant evils [Interruption.] It is not amusing for the people who have to live in such accommodation.

It has been said that the future is with the young. We all have a vested interest in the education of our children. The Government's proposals in the Education Reform Bill are ridden with dogma and controversy. The teachers' unions are up in arms about their negotiating rights being taken away, and they lobbied us about that yesterday. Every day there are reports of neglect in our schools, of an inadequate supply of books and equipment and of neglected buildings with leaking roofs and peeling paint. The Government's proposals for schools to be able to opt out are causing concern. They could lead to central Government closing a school at the stroke of a pen, from which communities would suffer.

Church authorities are concerned about the future of their schools. They could lose control of the unique education that they provide. The strongest possible representations have been made to me in Newport about the matter, particularly by the Catholic authorities.

Perhaps the greatest scandal of all is the rundown of the National Health Service. I certainly go along with the contention that the health of the people is the highest law. Within the service, there have been protests all over the country about surgery waiting lists, ward closures, staff shortages and so on. Nurses, ancillary workers and the major trade unions, such as the National Union of Public Employees and the Confederation of Health Service Employees, are protesting. The three presidents of the royal medical colleges told us quite clearly that, despite the efforts of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, patient care is deteriorating and acute hospital services have reached breakdown. What is the Government's answer to those three eminent gentlemen? As yet, we have not had a satisfactory answer.

It is the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches. The attitude of the general public is most significant. Every survey has shown the public to be fully in support of a properly funded National Health Service in preference to tax cuts. The public do not believe in cuts and charges for the National Health Service. For me, their attitude is typified by a letter that I have received in the last few days from a young girl in Gibbs road, Newport, who wrote: I ask that the Government think again about limiting the freely available eye examination, because of the health care dangers of deterring people from a regular eye check on cost grounds. She has asked me, as her Member of Parliament, to make a representation to the Government on her behalf, and this I readily do.

I have also received a huge petition from Miss Sue Brookes, honorary secretary of the local branch of the Royal College of Midwives. The members of the college are calling for positive action to ensure safe standards of care for mothers and babies. They call on the Government to face the facts, and to provide increased public funding for their vital services.

I fully support early-day motion 762, headed by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond), and I am glad to be one of its sponsors.

In recent weeks, we have heard harrowing tales of young children dying because of delays in hospital services that they needed urgently. On Monday of this week, the Government gave their answer to all those protests: they announced an increase in prescription and dental charges. It was as if they were holding up two fingers to the nation.

As late as this afternoon, the position was crystallised by none other than Lord Young, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Apparently, he clearly stated that the welfare state had made people soft. The noble Lord, I feel, should be sentenced to a five-year stint in one of our low faces in the south Wales mines. He might not last five years, of course, but I should like to see him sentenced nevertheless.

In line with Lord Young's thinking, there is to be a further erosion of the welfare state. The Social Services Act 1986 comes into force next month. Among other things, weekly additions for heating and special diets will be abolished. Single payments for clothing and cookers will be replaced by the social fund—a sort of modern-day workhouse system. Housing benefit has been cut yet again, and pensioners and others with savings of over £6,000 will no longer be eligible at all.

Wales has heavy unemployment, inadequate housing and a high incidence of ill health, partly owing to its historic industrial structure. It will certainly fare badly under the new social security regulations. Where was our Secretary of State, the knight in shining armour in the Cabinet, when the proposals were mooted? Did he go to sleep? He knows the position in Wales, or at least he should.

There have been persistent leaks from the Chancellor's Office that the Treasury is awash with money. It has had the benefit of North sea oil, large revenues from privatisation, and selling off the family silver, as the late Lord Stockton described it. But, in the process, Wales has been robbed of nearly £1,000 million in regional aid and £750 million in rate support grant.

Mr. Michael

And worse is to come.

Mr. Hughes

Indeed it is.

The Chancellor's surplus funds are a direct result of the neglect of our basic public services—health, education, housing and so on. The people of Wales are thoroughly dissatisfied with these policies. They said so clearly at the last general election, when we won four seats and the majority of almost every sitting hon. Member increased. I suggest that the same will be said again whenever the opportunity arises.

9.40 pm
The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have expressed a wide variety of concerns and reflected the great diversity of Wales. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) referred to Wales as a land of problems. I remember an old friend of mine countering that with the question, "Where would Wales be without its problems?" The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) added to our problems today by trying to distribute narcissi instead of daffodils among Opposition Members. I am glad to say that they had the wisdom to reject them.

In spite of everything and anything that the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) may say, any fair and impartial survey of Wales today would show that we are making rapid progress and are on course to achieve greater and better things. Wales is in an upbeat mood, as my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) illustrated by reference to his constituency. The lamentations of the Jeremiahs on the Opposition Benches—hyping up poverty and deprivation—are out of tune with the feelings of most people in Wales. More than that, they do enormous harm to Wales.

Critical as the Opposition may be, no Opposition Member has claimed that they could have done better than the Government. Indeed, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) urged the Government to speed up progress. He should be grateful that the Opposition are not in office, because not a single positive or constructive suggestion has emerged from them today.

I thought that the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he tried to belittle the reduction in unemployment. It is a fact that unemployment in Wales has fallen for 20 successive months — with the largest percentage fall of any region of the United Kingdom. We normally deal with seasonally adjusted figures and they show that for the past 20 months Wales has been top of the league, with the west midlands, with a reduction of 2.9 percentage points—

Mr. Morgan


Mr. Roberts

There is no quibbling about these figures. There is occasional quibbling when Opposition Members do not want to deal with seasonally adjusted figures and prefer to deal with unadjusted figures. Very well. On the unadjusted figures for the past 12 months, Wales again comes out on top with a reduction of 2.8 percentage points. Over a period of 20 months, Wales comes second on the unadjusted figures—

Mr. Morgan


Mr. Roberts

In the House and in Committee we do not deal with figures that are neither seasonally adjusted nor unadjusted.

It is a fact that the WDA has let a record 2.5 million sq ft of factory space in 1987–88. It is a fact that Wales continues to attract inward investment and there are 250 foreign firms—

Mr. Morgan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is unseemly to gesticulate.

Mr. Roberts

Wales continues to attract inward investment and 250 foreign firms now provide more than 46,000 jobs in Wales. I am delighted to say that the Dow Corning and ECCO developments announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State were welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. Ray Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You were not in the Chair at the start of the debate when my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) illustrated graphically and conclusively to the House certain facts about the figures to which the Minister has just referred. My point of order is a matter for the Chair. It is a fact that some of the figures that have been mentioned from the Government Benches have been opposed by the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not see how I can possibly adjudicate on figures.

Mr. Roberts

The Welsh economy is more diversified than it was 10 years ago and better placed to compete in world markets. With the Government's firm commitment to an effective and vigorous regional policy and the additional resources that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has secured to pursue such a policy, we can justify our confidence and be optimistic about our prospects.

The remedy prescribed by the Opposition for all our problems is more public expenditure. They do not seem to realise that we are increasing public expenditure every year. If the White Paper shows anything, it shows that. I recommend that right hon. and hon. Members look at page 17 of the White Paper. We can increase expenditure because of our prudent management of the economy. I do not propose to itemise our spending by comparison with that of the previous Labour Government, but it is worth noting that our actual spend on housing renovation has been three times as high as it was under the previous Labour Government and that spending on the NHS in Wales has risen by only 0.5 per cent. short of twice as much a year, on average, under this Government as it did under our Labour predecessors.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Rogers

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

It is not a point of order for me, if the Minister will not give way. There must be something for me to answer.

Mr. Rogers

This is a point of order addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. As long as I have been a Member of the House, the convention has been that an hon. Member can rise and ask another hon. Member to give way. I am quite prepared to accept the Minister saying that he will not give way. However, I do not believe that it is your function as Speaker to prevent me from rising to ask the Minister to give way.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that we cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time. If the Minister will not give way, the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Rogers

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) slightly barracked the Minister a few moments ago. The Secretary of State for Wales has been sitting on the Government Front Bench barracking continually from a sedentary position. You did not admonish the Secretary of State. As soon as my hon. Friend barracked, he was admonished. As soon as I stood up, you told me to sit down. I honestly do not believe that you are being fair in this debate.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must abide by the rules of the House. He is a Front-Bench spokesman. He must be aware that he would be in the same position if he was speaking from the Front Bench. If an hon. Member does not give way, the hon. Member seeking to interrupt him must resume his seat.

Mr. Morgan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a new Member, am I right in thinking that it is the convention of the House that hon. Members are allowed to intervene to ask Ministers questions? Surely it is the convention of the House that Ministers from time to time, at least once during a speech, consent to an intervention.

Mr. Speaker

There is no convention that Ministers must give way at least once. A Minister gives way if he so wishes. Many Ministers do; some Ministers do not.

Mr. Roberts

Many hon. Members have referred to the National Health Service.

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Roberts

I am trying to answer the many hon. Members who referred to the Health Service. They included the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones). This year's spending on the NHS in Wales will be £1,103 million, compared with £398 million in 1978–79. That was the winter of discontent when waiting lists were driven up higher than they have ever been. Our recently announced plans—

Mr. Alan Williams


Mr. Roberts

I do not have the time to answer more than a handful of the points that have been raised during the debate.

Our recently announced plans for further increases in expenditure next year will take NHS spending in Wales to £1,173 million. That represents an increase of nearly 39 per cent. since 1978–79, after allowing for general inflation.

The cash increases that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced for health authority spending next year, together with the resources available to authorities from cost improvements and income generation, should be sufficient to meet the current forecast of pay and price inflation next year and provide for further service development. There have been substantial improvements in services during our time in office.

Mr. Rowlands

The Minister is saying that all the money is available. Is he able to tell me that we will be able to reopen St. Tydfil's dependency unit, which was closed only a few weeks ago? It was opened only six months previously by the Queen Mother. Can the Minister give me that assurance?

Mr. Roberts

I can tell the hon. Gentleman only what he knows already. All authorities have considerable scope for generating cost improvements and additional income. The matter that the hon. Gentleman raised is for the health authority to decide.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to recent pit closures. We all know from experience that maintaining uneconomic operations is no answer to the long-term future of the south Wales coalfield. British Coal has acknowledged its responsibility towards mining communities by the setting up of British Coal Enterprise, which to date has offered assistance totalling almost £10 million to small business projects in Wales. Those projects are expected to result in the creation or safeguarding of almost 6,500 jobs.

I should tell the hon. Member for Neath that the future of the coalfield as a whole continues to depend on its commercial viability. That is the end which must be pursued. Coal will continue to be a source of fuel for electricity generation for many years to come. After the privatisation of electricity, contractual arrangements will continue to be a matter for the two industries.

British Coal made it clear from the start that the Margam project would not proceed without flexible six-day production, and that remains the case. What we should like to know from Opposition Members is whether they would support flexible working to allow the Margam project to go ahead. I shall give way to any Opposition Front Bench spokesman who is prepared to answer that question. It appears that no one is prepared to give an answer, and we note that fact.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd raised the spectre of the move of the Royal Mint. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no truth in that rumour.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman has not been here throughout the debate. I am trying to answer hon. Members who have been here and have spoken.

The valleys initiative has intrigued many Opposition Members. Indeed, they have been sniffing at it rather like mice sniffing at cheese in a trap. The programme will involve new and expanded initiatives specifically directed at the valleys, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, all this is for later. It is not a matter for today, but I have noted the many appeals from Opposition Members for the inclusion of their particular areas in the valleys initiative. We are aware of the difficulties in other parts of Wales. The Welsh Office and the various agencies will continue to give the needs of those areas full consideration in the allocation of resources.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) referred to education. I can reassure him that the place of religious education in schools is not changed under the Education Reform Bill. It is, of course, provided for in the Education Act 1944. The only change that the Bill makes is to give schools more flexibility in the timing of the act of worship. I can assure my hon. Friend that a school that opts out and becomes grant maintained cannot change its character without reference to my right hon. Friend, and that point is amply covered by the Bill.

I assure the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) that the Welsh language has a secure place in the curriculum in Wales under the Education Reform Bill and that the views of local authorities, school governors and teaching staff will be as important as ever. Since 1979 the Government have supported the Welsh language to the tune of almost £20 million. In addition, we have supported Welsh language broadcasting, in particular, the Welsh fourth channel.

The people of Wales are enjoying a new-found confidence, which the Government share. We base it on what we have achieved in the past and on our plans and prospects for the future. We have successfully tackled the massive hidden unemployment that we inherited from the Labour party in 1979. The memory of it still haunts me — all that massive unemployment in the steel and coal industries. Yes, we remember the loss-making pits and the heavily subsidised overmanned steel industry in those days. What a betrayal they represented of the trust that the people had placed in that Labour Government to safeguard their best interests. I do not think that the people of Wales have ever understood the enormity of that betrayal and I doubt whether they ever will, especially now that Labour Members are busy rewriting the history of that period.

We had to reduce the work forces in the coal and steel industries to secure their viability and to safeguard the jobs that remained. It had to be done against short-sighted trade union and Labour party opposition, but it was the right thing to do by the people of south Wales.

We have achieved a great deal more than that. We have provided thousands of new jobs, and there are more in the pipeline, by reaching out for inward investment on a scale never previously seen in Wales and by pushing ahead with the development of existing industries, large and small. The political philosophy in Wales is changing fast, too, and that is why the Opposition are worried. That is why their faces fall every time a new fall in unemployment is announced.

We know that very shortly we shall be facing the problems of success—skill shortages and so on. That is why there is a new emphasis on education and training at all levels. We must have the adaptable skilled work force that we need to meet future demands.

I agree with the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) that to secure the future of our highly diversified economy in Wales we must have more research and development taking place locally. I agree with the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor that we are working hard in this area, too.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.