§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Lord OGMORE rose to call attention to the situation in Wales, with special reference to economic matters; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is some time since we had a debate in this House on matters affecting Wales—in fact, it is a very considerable time—and noble Lords on these Benches thought that this would be an opportune moment at which to have a review of Welsh affairs. I regret that, owing to circumstances which are unavoidable, several noble Lords who had hoped to take part in our discussion to-day will not be here. We who remain will do our best. I suggest that the objects of the debate are to make a broad survey of Wales and Welsh affairs, to consider her problems objectively, to view her affairs impartially, and, finally, to ascertain from the Government what their plans are for the political and economic future of Wales.
§ I should like in the first place to touch very shortly on the political side before dealing in the main with the economic side. It will be helpful to do this, I think, because political decisions will, in fact, govern the economic planning, and the Labour Party has to some extent made a political decision, a decision which is, of course, subject to confirmation at the Annual Conference. The choice before the country and the three Parties is legislative or administrative devolution for Wales. The same problem to some extent faces Scotland. Already there has been legislative devolution with reference to Northern Ireland. In the main, the question is whether we are going to continue to have a unitary Parliament or whether we are going to have a Parliament at Westminster for Imperial affairs—if I may use that adjective, which is not in the best odour at the moment—and separate Parliaments for the various constituent parts of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales, and, presumably, England.
§ As to legislative devolution for Wales, since the reign of Henry VIII—a Member of the Welsh House of Tudor, who presumably had Welsh affairs at heart—there has been legislative union. But to-day there are many people in Wales—and there are some people even in the Par 359 liamentary Labour Party—who urge the creation of a Welsh Parliament on the lines of that of Northern Ireland. The Welsh Nationalist Party also urges a solution of this kind, and there is a movement, headed by Lady Megan Lloyd-George, embracing people of all Parties and of no Party, who also view this proposal with favour. There are others, like the Welsh Republican Party, who would go further. They would go so far as to sever themselves pretty well altogether from their Anglo-Saxon and Scottish fellow-citizens. Of course, the Welsh Republicans are in a minority. We in the Labour Party had a considerable debate on this question, and we decided not to go in for legislative devolution but to continue the process of administrative devolution.
§ There has always been a slight measure of administrative devolution in Wales ever since the reign of the first Henry Tudor. We always had our own courts until the early part of the nineteenth century when, for various reasons—possibly jealousy on the part of the courts at Westminster—that system was closed down. But towards the end of that century and with increasing momentum ever since, administrative devolution has proceeded apace; and now, in education, health, agriculture, national insurance, housing, local government, licensing matters (as any noble Lord who has tried to get an alcoholic drink on Sunday in Wales will know), the B.B.C., church affairs and sport, there is a considerable measure of devolution. In their period of office after the war, the Labour Government added to this devolution by the formation of the Council for Wales, and the present Conservative Government went a stage further when they designated the Home Secretary as Minister for Welsh Affairs, with a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the first in the person of Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, and the second in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who sits opposite. Within the framework of their powers, both Sir David Maxwell Fyfe and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, have done their best, and have done a very good job. There is no doubt about that. They go down on that wretched rail journey to Wales, which has not improved so much as we had hoped, or on that even worse journey by road, very often; and one sees 360 them at all sorts of functions of a non-political nature. For that we must give them due credit.
§ We in the Labour Party decided (this has been confirmed by the National Executive, but has not yet been approved by the National Conference, so that, strictly speaking, it is not yet Party policy) that when we came into office we would have in the Cabinet a Minister for Welsh Affairs, without other duties. So that we are going a little further than the present Government, but on the same road. We are continuing the administrative devolution which, as I have shown, has been growing up for the last sixty years. We also suggest further measures of departmental devolution, such as are practicable, particularly in the Welsh departments of the Ministries of Education and Agriculture. So, slowly and surely, the boat is getting pushed out into the stream. I think that is a good thing. Sudden and harsh measures of devolution, in my view, would be a bad thing. Personally I had hoped that we should have gone a little further but probably my colleagues have been wise in taking it slowly. We in the Labour Party envisage Wales as a constituent part of the United Kingdom, with a considerable measure of administrative autonomy, and with its own special culture, its ancient language and able to make its own contribution as a small country in a world increasingly distracted by the fears and ambitions of the big countries. Within that framework, which I think is also, more or less, the sort of framework envisaged by the Conservative Party (I cannot say the same for the Liberals, because Mr. Clement Davies has indicated that he is in favour of legislative devolution), I think we can now look fairly confidently at the economic picture of Wales.
§ I must start with the rural development of Wales. The problem is basically the same as that in England and Scotland: how, in these days, can we keep people on the land? The last analysis published, that for the year ending in June of last year, shows that 400 fewer land workers were employed in Wales than in the previous year, and it is well known that the number is decreasing. The guaranteed prices and assured markets of the Agriculture Act, 1947, and the help given under the Hill Farming Act, 1946, and the Livestock Rearing Act, 1951, were of great assistance to farmers and 361 farm workers in Wales, as well as in other parts of the country, but, of course, with the policy of this Government that has been thrown into confusion—in other words, withdrawing guaranteed prices and assured markets has not helped matters. As this is not an agricultural debate I will not incur the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, by pursuing that matter any further.
§ The problem in Wales is accentuated by the fact that more land is marginal in proportion to the amount of land than in England, and farms are more isolated. Half of Wales is over 500 feet above sea level, and outside the industrial parts of the country the population is sparse. In Radnorshire, for instance, the population to-day is of about the same density as the average population was in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Perhaps this is not altogether a disadvantage. Last autumn I went for a holiday to Radnor, and after the great crowds in London during the Coronation period it was delightful to see so few houses and so few people. From the visitor's point of view this is very good, but it is not necessarily so good from the point of view of the people who live there.
§ In Wales, farms are small—two-thirds of them are under 50 acres in extent. This is most important from the point of view of the Welsh people. To them, the loss of a farm means not merely losing farmers and farm workers, but losing Welshmen who speak the Welsh language and are of Welsh culture. It is not merely a question of agricultural policy, but a racial and cultural one as well. If we do not grasp that fact, we shall not see the problem through Welsh eyes. But we must be realistic. I put this tentatively because I am no expert. Although I come from hill farming folk for many generations, I myself am not a hill farmer, and in any case I should not like to be dogmatic. But I would say that the solution is the restoration of the Agriculture Act, 1947, to secure larger and more economic holdings and to intensify schemes of afforestation on marginal lands, of which there is a great proportion in Wales, and to provide amenities and public utilities as outlined in the pamphlet before the House—Rural Wales, Cmd. 9014.
§ I am not going to suggest that my views will be popular with Wales: they 362 will not be popular at all. That is why I said that we must be realistic. Probably in the vernacular Press I shall be attacked as a Welsh "Quisling" for putting forward these suggestions, which, of course, will be regarded as a definite attack on Welsh culture. But, as I say, one cannot have culture in a vacuum; and if we have not the people in rural Wales—and they are disappearing at a fast rate—there will be no people there to have Welsh culture at all. It is better to have a few people in good economic standing than hardly any people at all, to preserve the culture of our ancient country.
§ So far as afforestation is concerned, I am going to make another suggestion, which will no doubt be attacked. Some farmers will have to leave their land for afforestation, and owing to the extraordinary world in which we live, if you want farmers in the Black Mountain to leave their land, there must be a housing scheme, say, at Porthcawl, because the farmers have nowhere else to go. Therefore, bound up with afforestation to-day there must be a housing scheme, possibly many miles away. That is why this problem must be tackled on a national basis; it cannot be left to local authorities, or even to an afforestation or agricultural board. We shall be glad to hear from the Minister on this point, because this question of afforestation and land policy is one of national policy. I should like to touch for a moment on the question of fishing. The trawling industry, I understand, is in rather a bad way, and the Milford Haven trawler owners have applied to the Government for an increase in subsidy to cover the increase in coal prices. They have asked me to raise this question in your Lordships' House in order to get from the Government their proposals with regard to the fishing industry of West Wales, and particularly the trawling industry.
§ Dealing with industry generally, before the war one in every four of Welsh workers was unemployed. When the Labour Party left office (I do not know what the figure is now) one in forty was unemployed; and even that one was, generally, a seasonal worker. This is a great improvement. At the risk of a charge of being immodest—which is not a charge usually regarded with any great dislike in politics—I would say that some 363 of this great improvement is undoubtedly due to the nationalisation of coal, to the steel and tinplate developments in Wales—for which we were largely responsible—and the introduction of new industries under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. Since the end of the war, more than 100,000 new jobs have been created by factory-building in Wales—that is another matter on which we can congratulate ourselves. Unfortunately, in Wales, as in Malaya, which we were discussing the other day, our eggs are still in too few baskets, and the industrial part of Wales depends too much on coal and heavy industry. The Industrial Revolution, as your Lordships know, came to Wales much later than it came to England; in fact, it was about fifty years later. By that time, a considerable amount of capital and skill had already arisen in England, and thus, when the Industrial Revolution came to Wales, both skill and capital were imported, generally from England and sometimes from Scotland.
§ At that time there were only 300,000 people in Wales, as compared with 2,500,000 to-day, of whom over 1,600,000 live in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. So Wales was entirely rural—a country of hardy mountain farmers, with poorish land, and with richer land on the lowlands near the sea. Owing to the various factors that I have mentioned—the fact that parts of England had already acquired skill and capital, and had begun to develop the lighter industries—the main industries developed in Wales were the heavy industries: for example, coal and those industries which were dependent on coal, such as iron and steel, which it was cheaper to have near the coal than it was to bring the coal to them. We were never in the position to develop numbers of other industries. Even in the last day or two, I understand, Courtaulds have decided against erecting a factory in South Wales, and have decided to go to the Midlands, or, at any rate, to some part of England.
§ In my view, care must be taken, in fostering this process of diversification of industries, to try to foster in Wales those industries which can use the products of the country, rather than foster branches of English firms which, in the blast of competition, or something of that kind, might be the first to be dropped. It is not 364 merely a question of giving people a big subsidy to put a doll's eye factory, or something of that kind, in Wales; the Government must consider what kind of factories are required, and the goods to be manufactured. A case in point is the B.O.A.C. factory at Treforest. The workers there were the happiest workers of the lot, so far as B.O.A.C. were concerned. They were put at Treforest to maintain and repair all engines; yet when the Hermes goes out of use and the jets come along, that factory is closed down, and the workers are thrown out, without any possibility of other employment: so, as I say, we must be careful which industries we encourage.
§ It is a curious thing that in the last fifty years or so there has been a gradual swing of industry from the east to the west; that is to say, from Cardiff, East Glamorgan, to Swansea. Swansea is becoming one of the great industrial centres of the country, with a considerable diversity of industry. Cardiff is a much greater problem, and I may touch on that a little later. Possibly the result will be that Cardiff will develop as an Edinburgh to Swansea's Glasgow; we may have the culture and university centre at Cardiff, and the big industrial centre at Swansea. I do not think Cardiff people will like my saying that, but I believe that that is probably what will happen.
§ Industrialisation inevitably raises the question of communications, and I come to the matter of roads. Wales is already prejudiced industrially, as I have said, by being "tucked away" in the west of this island. To get anywhere else from Wales by sea means a long voyage right out into the English Channel round the Scilly Isles. To get to Wales by rail also involves a long journey; and, of course, it is a shocking journey by road. We are severely handicapped by the appalling road communications in Wales. If I had to give the dusty palm to the worst county in England and Wales for maintaining trunk roads, I would say that it is Gloucestershire. If the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire were not here, I might say something about the roads of Monmouthshire. They are pretty bad there, but I do not think they are as bad as those in Gloucestershire, because they are not so dangerous—the roads of Gloucestershire are appalling. Yet every person and every ton of traffic, or every ounce of traffic for 365 that matter, that goes to Wales must go through Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire over these shocking roads. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that we need three roads and a bridge. We need a road from the west of South Wales—that is, from Llanelly—to the Midlands; we need a road (and when I say a road, I mean a main modern road; there are packhorse roads now, but I am referring to a real main road) from South Wales to London and to the West of England—to Bristol, across the Severn, and so on; and we need a road from South to North Wales. And what is absolutely vital to the development of South Wales is that we should have a bridge across the Severn.
§ It may be said that the country cannot afford a bridge across the Severn. But in my view it cannot afford not to have one. Before the war Lord Brabazon of Tara sat as chairman of a committee which considered the question of the Severn Bridge. I do not think I am divulging any secrets when I say that that committee was prepared to recommend a Severn Bridge but for one fact: that if a Severn Bridge was erected it would save one million tons of coal a year, and as the saving of coal in those days was something to be deprecated it was decided that we should not have a Severn Bridge. That was the reason. It was nothing to do with anything else. How many millions of tons it would have saved during the war if we had had a bridge, I do not know. I am not blaming the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for this. The noble Lord is well liked by all of us, and he simply found the facts; the decision was the decision of the Government. In these days the saving of coal is not an argument against having a bridge but a strong argument in favour of having one.
§ I have no doubt that the defence of the Government will be: "It is all very well, but we cannot find the money for it." I am going to make a suggestion which will rock the Treasury to its foundations. It is that we do not find the money for the bridge out of taxation at all. I have various figures, but I take it the cost will not be less than £12 million, and it may be more. I suggest that we should not take it out of taxation at all, but finance it as the New Yorkers finance their bridges. As your Lordships know, New York is built on a series of islands, and 366 it has been necessary to connect the islands by bridges or tunnels. Whichever way it is done, the New Yorkers finance it by issuing bonds to cover the cost of the bridge. Year by year those bonds are paid off with the toll which is charged to those who use the bridge, until in the end—and the toll diminishes, I may say, with the paying off—the bridge is free to the community. I remember once going with Mr. Gaitskell, before he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, across the bridge which connects Queens with Manhattan—if those are the right boroughs. I put into his head that it would be a good idea if we financed our bridges in the same way. He was rather non-committal, but if he agreed with me he does not seem to have carried his agreement to the people in the Treasury.
§ I ask the Government not to be orthodox on this matter. It is true that it is nicer to have a bridge without a toll than a bridge with a toll, but if the choice is no bridge at all or a bridge with a toll of a few shillings, I assure your Lordships that the people of South Wales would willingly pay the few shillings, because at the present moment, instead of going across the Severn near Aust—which is presumably where the bridge will be—they have to go round Gloucester on these shocking roads. I will touch for a moment on the question of docks, which is a sad story in South Wales. It is bound up again with industry and roads. Fast roads to the Midlands would make all the difference to the South Wales docks. My father-in-law has been a businessman at Cardiff docks for over sixty years. He often tells me of the time when he was a young man, when a hundred ships would be either alongside or waiting in the Roads—many of them sailing vessels, some of them steam. To-day, in Cardiff, there are two or three ships alongside, and none waiting in the Roads. So far as Cardiff is concerned, It is a difficult problem, and it is one which can never be solved by South Wales or by Cardiff; it will be solved only by better communications between the South Wales docks and other parts of the country, particularly the Midlands. Milford Haven hope to develop new docks and ship-repairing facilities, and they have asked me to ascertain from the Government what their views are.367
§ Finally, on the industrial side, I will mention the question of tourism. In Wales, we have not touched the fringe of this trade. Many visitors come to Britain, but few come to Wales. The chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board, of which I am a member, was reported in the Western Mail yesterday as estimating that 800,000 visitors came to Britain last year—my noble and learned friend Lord Jowitt will be able to correct me if I am wrong, but I think that is about the figure. Of these, the chairman estimates that 256,000, which is over one-quarter never left London. Of the remainder, 30 per cent. went to Edinburgh for the Festival, and 16 per cent. of the remainder—that is 800,000 less 256,000—went to Wales. That is purely an estimate, because no separate statistics are kept, so far as I know, but I do not think the chairman is far wrong—in fact I would have said his figures were rather on the high side. Yet we have everything to offer in Wales—scenery, beauty, history, romance, industry, sport, games, and anything you want. However, for some reason it has not "got over." Only last week I was talking to a Spanish gentleman from Barcelona who seemed to be a man of erudition. He read Earl Russell in German, and many of us find it difficult to read him in English, so he must be a man of considerable erudition. He had never even heard of Wales. It shows that his erudition, his learning, had its empty spaces.
§ The Welsh Tourist Board are very active, and are doing their best, within their means, to encourage people, but their work is bound to be prejudiced owing to the fact that their resources are limited and also that, for some extraordinary reason which I cannot understand, Cardiff is not a member. How Cardiff can be bold enough to try and become the capital of Wales—for which, in my view, it has great qualifications—and at the same time stand out from a national organisation of this kind, I cannot understand. Undoubtedly, this loses a lot of support for Cardiff among various authorities.
§ One of the difficulties anyone who encourages tourism in Wales meets is the quality of the hotels and restaurants. I am not saying that they are any worse than those in England—I do not think they are; I think they are pretty bad all 368 through. With few exceptions, once you get outside London and perhaps Cardiff—one or two in Cardiff are worthy of the name—hotels and restaurants in this country, generally speaking, are bad from a first-class tourist point of view. I am now considering the question from the desires of people who come from abroad—those are the people with whom we are dealing. The landladies in North Wales know perfectly well how to get Lancashire trippers, but we are not dealing with that class of people. They have had them for years and they will continue to do so, and supply them with fish and chips. But we are dealing with the overseas tourist; and the tourist, particularly from the United States, needs first-class accommodation and good food, well and attractively served. What does he get? Very often the food is badly cooked, it is served up in any sort of way, in an environment which is the reverse of pleasant. If he happens to get to a hotel or restaurant after the moment when they think it is proper for them to close, he does not get anything at all, however long his journey may have been, and however ill or however hungry he may be. The hotel managers and staffs have a great deal to do to improve this industry—I am quite sure of that. They must do so, because the hotel industry in this country is an essential industry.
I suggest that the noble Lord should deal at the same time with the difficulty in which the American finds himself when he cannot even get a drink on a Sunday.
§ LORD OGMORE
If the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, will allow me to proceed along the road in my own way, I will even deal with that. Hotels and restaurants, therefore, must be regarded as essential industries; and here is where the Government come in. In my small way, I will do what I can to exhort the Welsh hotel keepers and the Welsh Tourist Board—I am addressing them in about a fortnight's time—but there is something which I cannot do and the Government can do: in fact, there are many things. The first is to remove the fantastic distinction whereby certain industries in the country are regarded as essential and others are not. For instance, under the de-rating proposals and those in Mr. Butler's present Budget, certain industries which are regarded as having an export value are considerably favoured 369 over other industries; and yet, as this is in a sense an export industry—if we get dollars from the American tourist it is just as good as sending motor cars to America—there is no real reason why there should be any distinction between the hotel industry and an industry making dolls' eyes, rayon, motor cars or anything else. They all earn dollars, they all earn foreign exchange.
Secondly, I think the Government must set up some organisation for the provision of finance for hotels. It is almost impossible to-day to get money if one wants to buy or develop a hotel. Ordinary banks and finance houses will not put up money for hotels. Some organisation or system must be improvised for that purpose by the Government, otherwise many hotels will go out of existence and will become offices and the like, as we know some London hotels very nearly have become. Then the Government must amend the licensing laws. Here, I touch on a matter so near to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, who obviously has travelled in Wales on a Sunday. I myself think, quite frankly, that there should be more elasticity in hours of opening: that is to say, I understand that the present position now is that a hotel keeper in Wales can provide a guest staying at an hotel with a glass of beer, but becomes a malefactor if he provides a glass of beer for a guest of the guest, for a visitor who is not himself staying in the hotel. That sort of thing is patently ridiculous. I must make it clear that on this matter I am speaking only for myself. I should not like the Labour Party to lose thousands of votes because of what I say. But I am sure that there must be elasticity. I am sure the morals of the guest of the guest would not necessarily be much harmed by his being able to have a glass of beer if the guest is able to have it. I do not see why one should be so worried about the morals of the guest of the guest if one is not worried about the morals of the guest. I will leave it at that.
With regard to licensing there is a more important point even than the hours of opening, and it concerns seasonal hotels. I am speaking now of the seasonal hotels in this country as well, for much of what I am saying applies to England as well as to Wales. By "seasonal hotel,'' I mean the hotel 370 at the seaside, at the inland watering place, in the New Forest and so on. One can pick any number of them up now for a song, because they cannot maintain their clientele in the "off" season. They can exist for five months in a year but they cannot exist for the rest of the year, owing to the rating system, the tax system, the licensing system and all other systems in this country, which are so often like barnacles on progress. They have to pay full rates for the whole year and Schedule A tax for the whole year, and they have to keep open or they lose their licence. Thus, the business becomes burdensome and in the end the hotel closes down and is converted into offices. We are trying to encourage the tourist trade, but there may be no hotels there for tourists to come to. I suggest that it should be possible to have a five-monthly or a six-monthly licence instead of an annual licence, to enable the seasonal hotels, if they so desire, to close down during the winter months. If that is not done, we shall lose a large number of these essential hotels.
Those are all the points I wish to raise. I think they are important, and points upon which the people of Wales will be anxious to hear the views of the Government. My noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor will no doubt raise matters other than those I have mentioned, and particularly on the industrial side, of which he has a long and great experience. I have tried to give a broad survey. I sincerely hope that from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, we shall have a reply of the same nature. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.26 p.m.
My Lords, I find little with which to disagree in what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, but I should like to enlarge on one or two of the points he has made. I do not think it is necessary for me to discuss a Parliament for Wales. It seems that he is against it, and so am I. We can leave it at that. So far as administration is concerned, of course Monmouthshire is not, strictly speaking, part of Wales, although I think that, in general, the people of Monmouthshire are quite happy to be associated with Wales. It is for the general convenience that the administration of Monmouthshire should go with the administration of Wales, with one proviso: Monmouthshire is a purely 371 English-speaking county. About half the counties of Wales are almost purely English-speaking. Your Lordships are perhaps aware that, according to the last census figures, in the twenty years preceding the census the Welsh-speaking population of Wales had declined from one-third to one-quarter of the total. What we are protesting against in Monmouthshire is the efforts of the Welsh-speaking members of the Civil Service in Cardiff to compel all persons employed by that Service to speak the Welsh language. For example, in Monmouthshire, inspectors of schools who have to inspect schools in which no Welsh is spoken and no Welsh is taught, and where none of the people speaks Welsh, have to speak Welsh; they are compelled to do so by the Welsh Board of Education. The people of Monmouthshire regard that as a great imposition. If this bogy of the Welsh language were removed from them, if this Sword of Damocles were removed from hanging over the heads of the people of Monmouthshire, all objections to full co-operation between Wales and Monmouthshire would, I think, disappear.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke about roads. So far as the roads in my own county are concerned, I can only say that if the noble Lord will be good enough to communicate with me and tell me where there is urgent need of repair, I will see that it is given the attention of the proper authority. So far as the Severn Bridge is concerned, of course I entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said—with this reservation: that it is quite useless to build a bridge over the Severn unless a bridge is first built over the Wye. For the town of Chepstow is a phenomenon, in that it is a bottle which has not one neck but three necks. As you approach Chepstow from Gloucestershire, you first get to a bridge which is a one-way traffic bridge. You then go up a very steep and curling street which is only about thirteen feet wide. When you get to the top of that street, you find yourself at the ancient, historic town gate. That gateway is eleven feet wide and ten feet six inches high. Through that gate so far as it can go, the entire traffic, from England, or at any rate from the South of England, has to go in order to get into Wales. This is not only inconvenient but dangerous. It is one of the worst danger spots in Monmouthshire. 372 The proportion of accidents there is very large indeed. So I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that, as a first step towards making the Severn Bridge, they should make this Wye Bridge to bypass this bottleneck. If they do not, the Severn Bridge approach will be quite useless, for people who come off it at one end will have greater difficulty than they have now in getting into Wales.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke about hotels. I hope he was speaking about Welsh hotels, because on the whole I think that we in Monmouthshire have a decent lot of hotels. But I am rather surprised that the noble Lord, in the difficulties which he outlined which have overtaken hotel-keepers, did not mention the Catering Wages Act. Not only has that Act made things very difficult for hotel keepers in general, but it is especially difficult for people running seasonal hotels. I think some amendment of the Catering Wages Act would do more than any of the proposals suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to put the hotel industry on its feet.
I am not an industrialist, I am a backwoodsman; but from time to time I have occasion to go into the industrial areas, and I must say that under the auspices of the present Government, at any rate so far as Monmouthshire is concerned, we have many things going on. In Ebbw Vale the great steel works of Richard Thomas and Baldwins Limited are being extended; at Pontypool the big nylon factory is being extended. At the Usk mouth the power station has been half completed at a cost of £20 million, and the building of the other half is now in progress. At Cwmbran, our new town, which at first had its teething troubles, is now on its way. I had the honour the other day of opening its first shopping centre, and it seemed to me to be very successful. There is also a large foundry which is to be opened in a few days' time. So far as Monmouthshire is concerned, I feel that the Government are to be congratulated on the state of industrial affairs in that county. I should like to conclude by echoing what the noble Lord opposite has said in thanking the Home Secretary and my noble friend Lord Lloyd for their continued interest in the affairs of the Principality and of the attached county of Monmouth.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, if I were to deal with all the questions and suggestions that I have received since it was known that this debate was to take place, I should certainly prolong this debate for several hours. I do not think there is one question affecting Wales which has not been called to my notice. Every question mentioned by my noble friend Lord Ogmore has been brought to my attention: roads, bridges, afforestation, the tourist industry, technical education, housing, hospitals—every phase of the Welfare State. I have been asked to bring them all to the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. It is not my intention to do so this afternoon. I may from time to time, in private conversation, and so on, bring many of them to his notice, but quite a number have already been raised by my noble friend, and I shall refer to some later on.
But I was asked one question which I found rather difficult to answer—it is not a question for the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. A good friend of mine who takes a fully active part in Welsh affairs, said to me, "Why in the world are you having a debate on Welsh affairs in the House of Lords? What purpose is that supposed to serve? What good will it do? There are very few in the House of Lords who know anything about Wales, and there are still fewer with any interest in Wales. Why waste the time of the country in discussing Welsh affairs in the House of Lords?" That question caused me to think: Will a debate in the House of Lords serve any useful purpose? Will Wales be any better off as a result of a debate here on Welsh affairs? Would it not be just as well if the House of Lords were adjourned for the day and left Wales alone?
Last Wednesday the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made a reference which I thought might help me in my reply to this series of questions put to me by my friend. The noble Viscount said, in opening his debate on world population and resources (I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 187, No. 63, col. 108)—The atmosphere of your Lordships' House is one of leisure compared with that of the other Chamber, where events of the day always seem to be treading on the heels of yesterday. We are able to make from time to time a 374 somewhat more philosophical survey of long-range problems, examine present trends and try to provide for future developments.I think those words are just as applicable to this debate as they were to the debate last Wednesday. I believe that your Lordships' House is a proper place to discuss Wales and Welsh affairs. I would say that your Lordships' House is as interested in Welsh affairs as it is in the affairs of any other part of the United Kingdom, and I think your Lordships are as interested in Welsh affairs as anybody outside this House. It is hardly right for fervent Welshmen to claim too much regarding their interest in Wales and to suggest that other people, just because they do not happen to live in Wales and do not happen to be Welshmen, have no interest in Welsh affairs.
My noble friend, Lord Ogmore, has dealt with a number of questions. Quite naturally, because he knows South Wales better than North Wales, he was rather inclined to stress the needs of South Wales. After all, the population is there. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, is quite right in what he said about Monmouthshire. I know Monmouthshire quite well, and I know that it is very much an English county; but in different parts of Monmouthshire I have come across a great deal of the Welsh spirit, though not always the Welsh language. I would say that, so far as spirit is concerned, Monmouth is as Welsh as any other part of Wales. However, I want to refer to one or two matters that affect North Wales, and I am going to put to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, one or two easy questions regarding North Wales—I should not dare to put difficult questions to him.
To the people of North Wales the Conway Bridge is a very important bridge. In centuries gone by, the English people made roads from east to west into Wales, but they did not seem to trouble about roads from north to south. They thought that if they kept contact between the English and the Welsh everything would be all right, but that it might be a bit risky to keep up contact between the Welsh and the Welsh. Quite possibly it might have been risky centuries ago, and perhaps it was just as well to keep the Welsh separate, so far as possible. So they made the roads horizontally and did not bother 375 about them vertically, in order to enable the English to pay visits and also to make sure of a pretty quick way back. But they did not do much to keep contact inside Wales from north to south. I want to deal with the Conway Bridge as an inlet and outlet in regard to North Wales. I am glad to know that it has been decided to build a new bridge—not before its time. Sometimes I have been kept an hour waiting to cross the bridge. Businessmen in North Wales may be held up for an hour going in, and possibly for an hour coming back, owing to the state of the bridge. Now this problem is being tackled. I should like to know what is the latest information about it. When is work going to commence? Can the noble Lord give us an approximate idea when we shall be able to use this new bridge in North Wales.
As regards the Severn Bridge, I think sufficient has already been said of the trouble. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, in his wise remarks, drew attention to the fact that the Severn Bridge is only part of the problem. There is a real danger in over-emphasising the view that merely by putting a bridge there all will be well. All would not be well if a bridge were built there. If that was all that was done, there would immediately be serious transport problems in and out of South Wales. There are other considerations, with regard to the toll suggested and the method of financing this new bridge. My noble friend has put forward a suggestion. I do not find it easy to agree with him in his method of financing the building of the bridge; it would be a difficult choice for me to make. But if there is no alternative, I am not sure that he would not be right.
If the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, sees fit to make any reference to the Severn Bridge, I hope that he will keep in mind the words that were used by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, a few weeks ago—I think they are particularly appropriate to this particular issue. Lord Brabazon of Tara, in his introductory speech in a debate on the state of the roads, referred to the position of the new industries in South Wales. These industries employ large numbers of people—my noble friend Lord Ogmore has suggested that they employ 100,000. But, I 376 ask, what is the use of having new industries in South Wales producing materials if the market is in the Midlands and there is no connection between them? Here are the words used by Lord Brabazon of Tara on March 3 (OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 186 (No. 42), col. 62):Successive Governments have, rightly, developed industry in South Wales. A fine effort it has been, and the people in that area have reacted in a wonderful way. But they are not joined to the Midlands in any way. … If we are to make that venture a success and link it with the industrial Midlands a big road is wanted urgently from Birmingham to South Wales.If the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, is in a position to make any statement on that matter I shall be very pleased to hear it.
While dealing with the roads, may I draw attention to some information relating to this matter which I came across in the House of Commons Hansard. To me it is a rather interesting statement. It contains statistics for the whole of the United Kingdom, including the cost of maintenance of roads and estimates of grants to be made for major improvements and new construction to authorities in the whole of the country. The compilers of the statement tell us that they are sorry that they are unable to give the cost of major improvements and developments but only the cost of maintenance and of minor improvements. I have gone into the figures for the year 1953–54 and the estimates for 1954–55 relating to Wales, and I have tried to do a little arithmetic. I think the percentage differences between 1953–54 and 1954–55 do justice, on the whole, to Wales. The question I want to put to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, is: How much was spent in 1953–54? If figures for that year are not available, perhaps he can give us figures for the year 1952–53. I should further like to ask him: how much is it proposed to spend during the present year, 1954–55? It is encouraging to learn of the grants which are made, and one wants to know what is happening. A further question in this connection which I should like to ask is: what period of years are these grants expected to cover? They are clearly not annual grants, as such. Another matter, and one which the noble Lord may find it rather difficult to deal with, though I shall be pleased if he can reply affirmatively, is this. Can he make any statement regarding road construction in 377 Wales generally, not confined to any one county? As regards communication between North and South Wales, I agree with Lord Ogmore that such communication is not too good.
I should like, however, to direct attention particularly to rail communication. I live in Wales, and I have to travel a great deal, by rail, between North and South. The rail arrangements for travelling between North and South are disgusting. If I have to attend a meeting of, say, two or three hours duration in Cardiff, the time taken travelling there and back is such that the best part of three days of my time is occupied. It is only a matter of some 200 miles from Prestatyn, where I live, to Cardiff; but, as I say, because of the existing rail facilities, in order to attend a meeting of only a few hours' duration I have to give up the best part of three days. That, I suggest, is a matter which needs attention. Representations have been made by local authorities, I understand, and I can assure Lord Lloyd that if he will be good enough to use his best offices to help us we shall be most grateful.
As regards the general situation in Wales, I was pleased to note that the Motion refers to the economic position. I wish to speak briefly of such matters as afforestation and poor land. I agree with what was not so much a definite statement but rather a hint given by my noble friend Lord Ogmore, to the effect that farms in Wales tend to be on the small side. In a great number of cases they are family farms. They are places which have been held by the fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on of the present occupants. In fact, they have been occupied by the same families for generations. People who live in such places naturally cling to them. It may be that, in order to carry out a really effective agricultural policy, including afforestation, some of these farms must be interfered with. But I know the Government will be considerate.
I am anxious that agriculture shall have a fair chance in Wales. The complaint I get regarding agriculture and afforestation is that legislation passed in Westminster affecting this matter is so often designed principally to overcome particular problems as they affect England. This is said to be true of legislation concerning not only agriculture but such matters as afforestation 378 and tourists. Whatever the subject may be, it is said that all too often the English aspect of the problem determines the nature of the legislation; and then Wales is tucked in, almost as an afterthought. If that is true, it is certainly very unfair to Wales. There are aspects of the problems of afforestation, agriculture, tourists, and the rest which are peculiar to Wales. And Wales is entitled to consideration when legislation upon such matters affecting her is passed here. There are complaints that Wales is left out in the cold and that she comes in only as a sort of addendum. That is a matter about which I hope the noble Lord will be able to say some reassuring words.
I was rather surprised to have noted something that was said by one who is by no means a politician but an industrialist—indeed he is one of the greatest industrialists in Wales, Mr. R. G. M. Street. He was President of the Industrial Association of Wales, when he used these words, which are much stronger words than I should use.Personally I cannot fathom what it is that causes normal consideration to be given to English history, special consideration to be yielded to the Scots, who, out of the Transport Bill, are even to have a Transport Council of their own, and yet when it comes to Wales, sheer blatant obvious injustice is allowed to remain untouched, whilst prodigious efforts are made merely to go through the motions of a pretence of acknowledging the claims of Wales by speeches on platforms and in Parliament. One of these days one of us is going to open the cage door and let the Welsh Dragon defend itself!I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will be able to show to the House and to the country that Wales is not merely brought in as an afterthought when legislation affecting Wales is under consideration, but that Wales does receive special attention. If the noble Lord can do that, if he can give us satisfaction, then we shall be able to pass on that satisfaction to our friends. I am certainly hoping that in the noble Lord's reply to the debate there will be reference to the agricultural problem.
I agree with Lord Ogmore that at the moment we have two good Ministers for Wales. I am not going to go through the list of essentials of a good Minister, but, as we all know, there are certain essentials. I think your Lordships will agree that one essential for a good Minister is that he should familiarise himself with the problems which he has to handle. If ever 379 Ministers did that the two present Ministers for Wales, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, have most certainly done it. They have done as much in that direction as any Minister of whom I have had knowledge. Perhaps I might, in this connection, mention also the present Colonial Secretary. Few men have done more than he has done to familiarise himself with the difficult problems which come under his Department. I was very sorry to hear that he had recently been the victim of a slight accident. I trust that it is very slight, and that he will be able to return to his duty in the near future. As I have said, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe and Lord Lloyd, have done their utmost to familiarise themselves with the problems with which they are concerned. There is an old saying that "familiarity breeds contempt." That is, perhaps, rather excessively strong language, but familiarity may cause you to be too free in what you say and in what you suggest. Lord Lloyd, I am sure, will be very careful. There was another Parliamentarian bearing his name, David Lloyd, though he had a George added on to it—I mean of course the late Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor.
I notice that once or twice lately the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has been rather bold in telling the Welsh people that they must do a little more than they are doing. Recently he said:There is an unmistakable liveliness and vigour in Welsh thought and Welsh life, but one always gets the impression on any particular issue that the Welsh nation is, in the old phrase, galloping off rapidly in all directions. May I make a plea here for more concentrated and co-ordinated effort? In helping the Government to help you, you will be helping yourselves really.I know there are differences in Wales. One would expect them. One would expect people in North Wales and in South Wales to differ. A good friend of mine who was an eminent minister in South Wales once referred to this difference in rather an effective way. He had preached in both North and South over a number of years and he was asked his opinion on the difference between the North Walian and the South Walian. He said: "To be in the company of a South Walian is like sleeping between blankets, whereas to be in the company of a North Walian is like sleeping between sheets." His questioner asked him, "What does 380 that mean? You might elucidate." My friend replied, "If you sleep between blankets, you get warm immediately but you do not seem to remain warm long. If you sleep between sheets, it takes a time to get warm but when you do get warm you remain warm for quite a while."
I happen to be chairman of the Broadcasting Council for Wales. The number of contradictory complaints I receive is amazing. People, who I expect are friends of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, write and say that there is too much Welsh in the programmes. Then some of my friends say that there is too much English in the programme. Somebody else writes, "Why do you bother with the music of the Middle Ages when there are so many male voice choirs in Wales?" Somebody else asks why we use so many string quartets when there are such good brass bands in Wales, I agree that there are differences in Wales, but I would warn the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, not to make too much of them. The variance in views and the divergences we find expressed here and there are not on the important things. If Wales is united at all, and she is, it is on the important things. She is united on what she wants—there is no doubt about that—although she is not so united on how to get it. That is where she fails. If the noble Lord asks what Wales wants, I shall tell him that what is wanted by the Welsh people is a comprehensive plan dealing with Wales as Wales, dealing with her natural resources and having regard to Welsh culture, Welsh language and Welsh literature. If Wales can get that comprehensive plan, she will be well satisfied. We shall still have our differences. I myself would differ from my noble friend Lord Ogmore on the question of licensing, for instance. When I remember the fight put up in the 'seventies and 'eighties for the Sunday Closing Bill for Wales and how it was won, I am not prepared to see that piece of legislation interfered with; and I am quite sure that Wales is not prepared to see that either.
Wales wants this comprehensive plan, but we differ about how to get it. What are the differences? There are those in Wales who believe that this Parliament in Westminster is unable to produce such a plan, is not interested in producing such a plan. "Therefore," they say, "since such a plan is essential for Wales 381 and since Westminster is not interested in producing it, we will have it produced in Wales. We will have a Parliament for Wales." As my noble friend said, we have a big campaign going on to-day, in deadly earnest, the leaders of which are very fine Welshmen and Welshwomen, to try to persuade Wales that she will not get a comprehensive plan for the development of Wales from Westminster and therefore efforts must be concentrated on getting a Parliament for Wales. I believe that they are in the minority, but that is no reason why we should belittle their ideas. Others believe that we do not want a Parliament for Wales; we do not want to be like Northern Ireland, but like Scotland. There are others who say that we want neither what Northern Ireland has nor what Scotland has; we want a Minister for Welsh Affairs who, in the words of the noble Lord, in virtue of being a Minister for Welsh Affairs is a member of the Cabinet. To-day we have a good man looking after Welsh Affairs in the Cabinet, but he is in the Cabinet because he is Home Secretary. That is not what we want. We want a Minister in the Cabinet wholly because he is Minister for Welsh Affairs. I think that would help.
Administrative devolution has taken place during this century. I do not think that even the Conservatives would disagree with my noble friend when he said that our prosperity in Wales is consequent on the legislation passed by the Labour Government, because it takes a year or two for legislation to fructify. I think it would be conceded that much of the prosperity now being enjoyed in Wales is the result of legislation passed by the Labour Government, supplemented and supported by the present Government. But what must be realised is that at the present time Wales is dissatisfied. It is true that things have never been so good in Wales as they are to-day. But there are pockets of unemployment, which I am unable to understand. I was looking at the figures for Anglesey and I was amazed to find something approaching 9 per cent. of unemployment. I do not want to trouble the noble Lord and I do not know whether it is possible for him to make any reference to this matter to-day, but if it is, I shall be very pleased, especially if he can suggest some method of handling the problem.
382 I am interested to see that the official publications regarding Wales now carry on the cover a heraldic device with the word, Y Ddraig, Goch Ddyry Cychwyn. I would not dare ask the noble Lord to translate that for me; I am going to translate it for him. It is rather strange that authorities on the Welsh language are unable to agree on the exact translation, but here is my free translation: "The Red Dragon will give an impetus." That is on every official publication which has to do with Welsh affairs. I am glad it is. Some would say that that is a substantial concession. I would not call it substantial, but I would call it a concession. To see the Welsh Dragon looking as fierce as he is and probably feeling more fierce than he looks, is interesting. As I have said, a rough translation is, "The Red Dragon will give an impetus." That is what I hope this debate will do.
The people in Wales are not difficult people. They have rendered very good service to the United Kingdom, and they were not far behind in the great tests we have gone through during this century. Undoubtedly, Wales has played a gallant part in the history of the United Kingdom. She feels that she could do much more than she is doing; but she feels, too, that in order to do more, somebody must adumbrate a plan that has regard to her resources and to their development, not only in the interests of Wales. There are not many narrow-minded people in Wales—I expect the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has met a few. There are not many who have no time for the English, although there are some. There are a few, but a very few, whose attitude is: "Nothing English can be any good." The bulk of the Welsh people realise that they and the English must live together; and they have lived together, to the extent that, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has said, to-day three out of four people in Wales cannot speak Welsh. But the Welsh language is very near and dear to the Welsh. It is a good language, and I have spoken it all through my life. I have had forty-one years of married life, and I have never spoken a word of English to my wife. It is a great language, and we know its value. It is not a technical language, and that is one reason why technical matters have been neglected in Wales.
383 I might mention, in passing, that it is highly important that we should have more technical colleges in Wales. Wales is becoming more technical, and we shall need more technically-minded people in future. I hope that the Minister of Education is keeping an eye on this matter, and will see that there is an ample supply of technical people in Wales for future purposes. This debate can be of great value to Wales, provided that it gives the Welsh outlook. Welsh literature is worth preserving, and the Welsh people will do all they can to preserve it; and they will do their best to preserve the language. What they ask of the Government to-day is to help them to preserve Welsh culture, the Welsh language and Welsh literature.
§ 4.3 p.m.
My Lords, I feel peculiar in rising this afternoon, after the languages I have heard spoken. We have had two Welshmen, and one Englishman whose county answers in the name of England and responds to the laws of Wales. I am English, with a bit of American in my blood. It was not until the closing words of the last speaker that the reason for my getting up was mentioned: it is to point out that Wales is a vital part of the United Kingdom, and that the communications between Wales and England are an essential part of our trade, and particularly our export trade. The Midlands are dependent for a large part of their raw materials on Wales. When the material is manufactured, or even, in many cases, partially manufactured, it goes back to Wales again before it is exported. That means that the roads between the Midlands and Wales are of the utmost importance, not only to Welsh economy, but to the whole of British economy. That is a point that I feel should be well borne in mind.
I have one distinction in my life, in that my motor car was the first motor car that was ever carried across the Severn on the ferry just north of Gloucester. It was a funny little ferry in those days, and it was a funny little motor car. In 1921 I crossed that ferry on a motorcycle and sidecar, and there were two other motorcycles and sidecars there at the same time. In 1923 I wanted to cross again—I was going from Cornwall to Wales, and 384 did not want to go to Gloucester—and I thought, as I had only an Austin "Seven," that if that little boat could carry three motorcycles with sidecars it would carry one Austin "Seven." So, on the end of a one pole derrick, I was hoisted on board, with everybody cheering like mad, because they had never had a motor car before; and so I went across. It is not much better to-day, although, of course, one can get a full-sized car across. But the need for communications to-day is infinitely greater than it was even thirty years ago; and the need for a bridge across the Severn, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan said, across the Wye—because one without the other is no good at all—is paramount.
One cannot get over the fact that Wales is dependent on communications with the Midlands and also with the rest of England. Even if we do not get a motor road from the Severn Bridge up to Birmingham, but only motor roads in Wales, they will still make a tremendous difference. However, we do need to have the complete plan carried out. I should not like your Lordships to think that the idea of a bridge across the Severn is anything new. In case any noble Lord does not know, I may say that the idea originated in 1845. I know we are a slow-thinking nation and that we have always been accused of "muddling along"; but 110 years is quite long enough to muddle along, and after such a period I feel that we should settle down and do something. The total cost of a bridge over the Severn, a bridge over the Wye, and motor roads on the Welsh side of the border down to Cardiff, would be something in the neighbourhood of £20 million.
I wonder whether it is realised in this country that in America the Federal budget for roads this year amounts to 800 million dollars. Putting that against the sum of £20 million, even allowing for the difference between the size and the population of the two countries, I think it fair to suggest that this country, in its own vital interests, might spend that £20 million. The point that we must remember is that every year the question of export prices is becoming more and more vital to this country. We have got to rely on our exports, because we cannot obtain the food we eat without them. If we are priced out of the export market, 385 we shall be priced out of living; our standard of living will go down and down. It is better that our standard of transport should go up and up and our standard of living at least remain the same. That is what transport to South Wales means. It is the difference to this country and to Wales between maintaining our standard of living and losing it.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I had not intended to participate in this debate, but after listening to the last two or three speeches I feel bound to do so for a few minutes. I say at once that I most warmly endorse everything that has fallen from the mouths of my noble friend Lord Sandhurst and my noble friend and neighbour Lord Raglan. Apart from the fact that I am married to a Welsh wife, who, so far as I know, has nothing but Welsh blood in her veins, I live on the borders of what is industrially and, I hesitate to say, geographically the County of Monmouth, which is to all intents and purposes Wales. Incidentally, I live nearer to the proposed abutments of the new Severn road bridge than any other noble Lord in this House. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, appeal strongly, as did the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, in favour of immediate attention to the initiation of the construction of the Severn road bridge. I want to add my appeal very strongly.
Living in the Forest of Dean, I am the senior verderer of the Forest of Dean and President and an active member of the Development Association of the Forest of Dean. That Association has for some years past taken immense pains to bring new industries into that area to replace the gradually disappearing colliery industry, which has provided the chief employment for that area for at least the last 100 years. We have brought a considerable number of new industries into the Forest of Dean area, and most of them are prosperous or potentially prosperous industries. As other noble Lords have pointed out, the consumption of the products of those industries is not in the immediate locality; it is largely in the Midlands, and even, to a large extent, in London. We are afraid that, having established these industries, and employing workers in the Forest of Dean area, unless this road bridge is carried out at no distant date there will, almost inevit 386 ably, loom over those new industries an outlook of depression.
At the annual meeting of the Forest of Dean Development Association only a fortnight ago, attended by representatives from all the local authorities and all the leading industries in the area, a resolution was unanimously passed urging the Government to do all in their power for the initiation of the Severn Bridge scheme at the earliest possible moment. In spite of a somewhat opposing view on the part of the Member of Parliament for the City of Gloucester, a similar unanimous resolution was recently passed by the Gloucestershire County Council. I intervened only to say those few words, because in the interests of the population of my own neighbourhood I cannot imagine anything that is more urgently needed than the Severn road bridge as a short cut, not only to and from South Wales but to and from the increasingly important industrial area of the Forest of Dean. The scheme should be put in hand at once.
§ 4.16 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (LORD LLOYD)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, started his speech by saying that he had been discussing with a friend of his why on earth we should be wasting our time in the House of Lords discussing Welsh affairs. He gave what I thought was a good answer. I should like to start what I have to say by endorsing that answer. I think the noble Lord was entirely right, because we have the leisure and, perhaps, the facilities here to discuss the thing in a proper manner, without so many of the inevitable constituency points which arise in another place. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for putting down this Motion, and to all noble Lords for the manner in which they have dealt with this matter, which has made it possible for me to give a rather broader general survey and not get tangled up the whole time in small detail.
Reference has been made to Monmouthshire. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said that it was entirely English-speaking. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said that that might be so, but that it was Welsh in 387 spirit. Then the noble Lord did my homework for me in translating the motto on the outside of the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. I must put myself in the same position as Monmouthshire. I am afraid that I am entirely an English-speaking Lord, but I hope that I am Welsh in spirit; it is in that spirit, at any rate, that I approach my task this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, in particular, and I think all noble Lords—certainly both noble Lords opposite—made reference to something which I think has been forgotten in England. After all, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, Wales has been administered jointly with England since the time of Henry Tudor. Perhaps until recently people in England were apt to forget the great individuality of Wales as a nation: the traditions, culture, language and all that we understand as the essence of Wales were forgotten in England. Only recently have people realised the rapidly increasing national consciousness that is rising in Wales to-day. The noble Lord admitted that successive Governments have more and more come to recognise the special position of Wales and her special problems, and are trying to treat Wales as an entity. The last Government took the first steps in this direction—in, for example, appointing the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. We on this side of the House have gone a little further, and I think the fact that I stand here to-day as a Minister specially charged with a concern for Welsh affairs is an indication that we have recognised that Wales has special needs of her own.
Perhaps I can next dispose of some remarks which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, on the question of devolution and the administration of Welsh affairs. There is perhaps one thing in this country in which we are superior to other people, and that is that we do not do things in too much of a hurry. We do not have revolutions: we do not revolve, we evolve. We are, I think, evolving in this question of Welsh affairs. We now have a Minister, my right honourable friend, who has responsibility for Welsh affairs and is in the Cabinet. That is an advance, but I do not think we have ever regarded that step as necessarily final. The noble Lord, 388 Lord Ogmore, speaking for his Party, says that they would go what they consider a step further: they would have in the Cabinet a Minister for Welsh Affairs without any other departmental responsibility. That, I understand, is the proposal. I do not want to spend much time this afternoon discussing whether or not that is the best way of achieving what we all want. I will state what we all want to achieve and I hope for agreement on that.
There are three points. The first is that we want to ensure that the Welsh point of view is appropriately represented in the counsels of the Government at Westminster. That is essential Secondly, we want to see that the efforts of the various Government Departments can be co-ordinated in matters of special Welsh interest. The third point is that we want to secure a sufficient measure of administrative devolution to enable Welsh local authorities and others to deal with departments in Wales on matters of day-to-day administration. Those are the three objects that I would set up as the goals that we wish to attain. How to do so is a matter of opinion; some may consider that it is better done in one way than in another. About the proposal to appoint a Minister in the Cabinet without departmental responsibility, I would say only that I am not convinced that that would necessarily be an advantage over the present arrangement. After all—I put this to the noble Lord—it is arguable that a senior Cabinet Minister with the wide responsibilities which my right honourable friend has in other fields may be in a better position, in some ways, to bring to the notice of his colleagues the special needs and interests of Wales than a Minister whose sole responsibility lay in the field of Welsh affairs.
Moreover, the very fact that my right honourable friend has wide responsibilities in other fields brings him into contact with Welsh local authorities in their day-to-day work in other ways, and it gives him additional opportunities of meeting people and studying Welsh problems at first hand. Another point is that there are, of course, many matters of special Welsh interest where it is necessary that the activities of a number of Government Departments should be aligned. One obvious example is the 389 problem of rural Wales. That is the task of my right honourable friend—he is the man who has to get that done. I think the fact that he has behind him a large Department, with wide contacts with other Departments of the Government, may actually be a help, rather than a hindrance, to him in carrying out that kind of responsibility. I do not want to dogmatise on this, but I put this point to the noble Lord because I feel that the question of what is the best course is open to discussion; but certainly we are agreed on this: that we have evolution, and that evolution is not necessarily final. What form it should finally take I think we ought to see from experience, by means of the empirical approach, until we arrive at the final arrangement which we consider to be the best of all.
Having dealt with that particular point, I should like to go on to deal with the economic questions raised by various noble Lords—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has phrased his Motion with special reference to economic matters. I know only too well from my contacts with Welsh people how deeply sensitive they are about the way in which the Welsh economy has suffered, both in the countryside and in the towns, in recent decades. I need not remind your Lordships that South Wales as a whole was one of the areas worst affected by the depression of the years between the two wars. The noble Lord knows it only too well. South Wales, as your Lordships will remember, was one of the first areas to be appointed a special area, and is still a development area to-day. Again, in the rural areas, which make up the greater part of the Principality, there has existed throughout the same period an equally severe problem of rural depopulation which causes us all the greatest possible concern at the present time.
I want to suggest to your Lordships, however, that we have not been entirely inactive in considering both the industrial and the agricultural aspects of the economic problems of the Principality. I should like to say a little more in detail later on about what we have done in these spheres, but the underlying motives and considerations of the Government in both spheres must be the same. I suggest that past history has shown us that, in the economic structure of Wales, both industrial and agricultural, there have 390 been severe weaknesses. In the industrial areas, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said perfectly truly, the trouble has been that the whole of South Wales has been dependent largely on two main industries; coal and steel. If anything has gone wrong with those industries, the results in South Wales have been appalling. Equally, in the rural areas I think it is not unfair to say that the economy has shown itself in some ways ill-adapted to withstand serious setbacks. What we feel is that in both spheres there has been a lack of a really sound basis for economic prosperity and for the feeling of confidence and security which must have such a basis, and without which the energies and skills of a community cannot be effectively applied. The noble Lord said that he wanted a comprehensive plan for Wales. I hope that he will agree with me that the first thing one needs in a comprehensive plan for Wales is a proper economic foundation. Unless we get that right, we cannot get anything right. In both spheres that is what we have to aim at, even if it entails changes.
There is one thing that I should like to say at this juncture, and it is this. In my brief experience (and in the presence of the two noble Lords opposite who know so much more about it than I do—I am a "new boy" in this matter—I speak with some diffidence about Welsh people), I have been deeply impressed by the terrific spirit of tradition in Wales. It is stronger there than in any other part of the United Kingdom; it goes right back. Sitting on these Benches, I think we can say that we know tradition; we like tradition. The whole basis of the Conservative Party, as I see it, is that we have always tried to weld the best of the new on to the best of the old. I myself am a great believer in tradition, but there is a weakness in tradition, and it is that, if it is so ingrained that you begin to think that tradition matters more than anything else, then there is a great danger that you become allergic to all change. I give that as my humble opinion.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said that I should not have said that Wales was "galloping off in all directions." I want to assure the noble Lord that I said it in connection with the tourist industry; I said that it was 391 a great pity that we could not have unity on Wales on the Tourist Board. I think it is a pity to "gallop off in all directions," because unity is important. I am still unrepentant. In anything we intend to do, if we are to get the economic foundation, some change is inevitable. Some people may feel it is quite wrong that we should change anything. I hope they will not feel that, because I believe that we have to move with the times, and therefore some changes may be inevitable. One would hope to get those changes accepted rather than resisted solely because people were against tradition. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me fundamentally on that issue. We must get the right economic foundation. I think that is the central thesis that we have to keep in mind in considering the particular problems of the Principality's economy at the present moment, if we are to discuss it with a proper sense of perspective.
Now let me turn to rural Wales, where we have tried to apply that particular approach to the problem. Our attitude to the problems of rural Wales was set out fully in the White Paper and I am not going into it in great detail, except to say that we did take into account that local authority expenditure was already heavily subsidised by the Exchequer—actually in some cases to the extent of 83 per cent.—and that we did not feel that a lasting solution to the rural problems of Wales could be achieved merely by subsidising the economy still further. We felt that a more positive approach was needed.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned one or two matters which I will deal with separately later, but I should like to say now that we accept the general conclusion of the Council for Wales that action should be taken to help the rural areas of Wales to achieve greater stability. As noble Lords know, we are already giving considerable assistance to Welsh agriculture. I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said that we have thrown overboard the 1947 Act. I am not going to get involved with him in an agricultural debate within this debate on that particular point, except to say that I rebut that charge completely. We are not throwing overboard the 1947 Act.
§ LORD OGMORE
I said that the Government were throwing overboard the marketing provisions and security of the Act, not the whole Act. There are certain features of the Act which, admittedly, the Government have not altered.
I am afraid that I cannot accept even that. I do not accept that we are throwing over the marketing arrangements. We have had a debate on this subject, and on this particular issue I do not wish to get involved with the noble Lord. At any rate, I think he must agree with me that, even so, Welsh farmers have had a substantial measure of assistance. I will not go again into the details, all of which are available in the Annual Report on Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire.
But, quite apart from the production grants, there have been bonus payments under the tuberculosis attested herd scheme, and various subsidies to make up the difference between the price which the farmer receives for his produce and the price which the wholesaler pays for it. I should like particularly to mention the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts, which enable farmers to improve their lands and fixed equipment. Successive Governments have given Welsh farmers this help, and I think that it is only fair to pay tribute the other way. I should like to say, therefore, that in my view, Welsh farmers have made good use of these grants. They are producing more meat and milk to-day than ever before. Last year's figures for cattle and calves and for milk sales are the highest on record—and the livestock records go back as far as 1867. I think we should pay them a tribute, because that is something about which we can all be most satisfied.
Now I should like to deal with the question of rural depopulation. In a way, we are inclined to get this matter out of proportion, because, of course, it is not an evil which affects only Wales, it is a general problem; but I agree that it is far worse in Wales than in most other parts of the United Kingdom. We need a stable economy. That is the only way to keep people on the land. In order to get that, we shall have to investigate the use of land and try to make a plan; we must take one area, and ascertain as best we can the most economical use which can be made of the land in that area: how much of it, if any, is good 393 for afforestation, and how much of it should continue to be utilised in one way or another, and so try to arrive at a plan which will give us a guide for the whole of the depopulated areas. Obviously, one has got to take one area to begin with; one could not plan on that scale for the whole of North and mid-Wales.
I should like to remind noble Lords, therefore, of the investigation which the Government have asked the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission to carry out in an area of some 300,000 acres of land in mid-Wales. This was proposed in the White Paper; it seemed to us to be the first step that we ought to take. The noble Lord said that there was a feeling in Wales that these policies were always dictated from Westminster. He knows the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission as well as I do, and he knows that they are people who have a great reputation in Wales. They are Welshmen, and they know the problems there, not merely of farming and agriculture, but also of the Welsh way of life. I think that, if anybody had to be entrusted with an investigation of this kind, one could not think of a better body to do it. As I have said, the object of their investigation will be to advise the Government on the best use of the land in this typical mid-Wales area and on the measures necessary to attain this, and they will cover all the points which the noble Lord has raised this afternoon.
The noble Lord mentioned some specific points. He mentioned the need for larger holdings. That was a matter which was, in fact, raised by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. In their Report they drew attention to the problems caused by the existence of small farms on poor-quality land, and they advised that if no concerted effort were made to deal with these under-sized farms, inevitably there would be further deterioration. They considered that there was a case for replanning certain farmland and rough grazings and for reorganising holdings. But this is not a simple matter, and, as the noble Lord is probably aware, the Welsh Committee of the National Farmers' Union have expressed a contrary view. They have taken the line that any widespread amalgamation of farms would be detrimental to the best interests of Welsh agricultural development, as well as 394 deeply inimical to the regeneration of Welsh rural society, which is based on the family farm of moderate size. The Committee point out that the small farm in Wales has been the avenue along which scores of young farmers have commenced their farm careers, and that some of the most progressive Welsh farmers look back with pride on the tuition which they received whilst experiencing the rigours of a small farm.
§ LORD OGMORE
Is it not true to say that the very small farm has been the avenue through which people have become milkmen and drapers in London, rather than Farmers in Wales?
I was reiterating the view of the National Farmers' Union. I am not saying that that was necessarily my view, or the view of the Government. We have felt that we could not do better than get the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission to advise on the best use of these farms. Then, when we get their Report, we can consider the whole matter. I think they are well qualified to do the job.
One matter which nearly every noble Lord has mentioned is the question of forestry in rural Wales. I was particularly interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had to say on that subject, because obviously it is a matter which is very much in the minds of all who have a concern for the problems of rural Wales. The Council for Wales and Monmouthshire—and we agree with them on this—are of the opinion that in many parts of Wales afforestation could, and should, play a much greater part than it does at present. But, equally, we do not overlook the anxiety of farmers that afforestation should not be developed at the expense of agriculture. That point was made in the Memorandum of the Welsh Committee of the National Farmers' Union which commented on the Government's White Paper. We are quite clear that agriculture, which has always been the predominant industry in rural Wales, has got to maintain that position. The last thing we want to do is to remove agriculture and substitute forestry—that is not our purpose at all. We feel that these two could and should be developed in partnership. Certainly we do not want to take good arable and grazing land and plant it with trees; but we do wish to see some 395 better use made of the poorer land which is not an economic proposition for agriculture at the present time.
The other thing I wish to say about the whole of this problem and about the plan we hope to work out, first of all for this area and later for wider areas, is that we want if possible to do it through co-operation and not through compulsion. I think that that is extremely important. We want to persuade the people in rural Wales that what we are trying to do is for their benefit and for the benefit of Wales, and not merely a tyrannical attempt to expropriate them from their land without any good reason. We want to get the co-operation of all sections of the community. I am convinced that without that no policy in rural Wales can succeed. My right honourable friend has stated his views on that particular point in no uncertain terms on a number of occasions recently. As I say, we hope that from this investigation we shall get a clear pattern of the best type of land use for the area. We hope that we shall be able to see how agriculture and forestry can fit in, what regrouping of agricultural units will be necessary, and what else will be needed. We hope to be able to get on this basis a positive and progressive plan for the whole area.
I should like to deal now with the noble Lord's point about the provision of new houses for farmers who move in the course of the reorganisation of agricultural units. Obviously, if there is to be an effective policy in rural Wales a certain amount of reorganisation of farming units is inevitable, and some farmers will perhaps have to move. It is clearly, important that they should have houses to go to. But I do not think that we should override the local authorities. Ultimately they are the people who are responsible for housing, and their record since the war has been good. I feel fairly confident that they will be able to meet this problem. It may be necessary in certain instances to draw their attention to the problem that is going to arise, so that they can prepare to deal with it. I do not know whether the noble Lord was suggesting that there should be some supra-local authority organisation to take over this business. I think that that would be inappropriate, and we should not be in favour of it.
§ LORD OGMORE
I was suggesting that in all probability, if you are going to move farmers—as you will have to do in carrying out this policy—from remote regions in the mountains and hill areas, they will in all probability want to go down to the plains and near to the sea. The local authorities for the areas to which they will probably go will not, of course, have them on their housing lists. That is clearly so, because these people have not lived in their areas. They will not come under any points system. The local authorities will, of course, be responsible for making the necessary housing provisions, and it may be necessary for the Government to draw their attention to this problem and give them help which they may need in solving it.
I think, broadly speaking, that we are agreed on the methods that should be pursued in that particular case.
I should like now to speak about the industrial aspect, which is one that I have been particularly concerned with over the last year. I think it is fair to say that the general picture has been one of steady improvement and that it is reasonable to show a measure of cautious optimism. Certainly the basic industries in South Wales are healthy, and the steel industry in particular has recently been equipped with a number of huge new works which are among the most modern in the world. During the last year, work has begun on the construction of a second tinplate strip mill at Velindre to complete the modernisation of the tinplate industry. Here again, I hope the noble Lord will agree that a change has had to come. It had to come in the tinplate industry and I think we are going to have it up to a point in rural Wales. We have to keep abreast of the times. It is no good trying to bolster up the existing economy if it is not going to see Wales through in the future. What the late Government started in the way of developments in tinplate, and so on, we have carried on, and I am sure that in that matter we are working on sound lines.
In connection with this question of new industries there is—let me be frank about this—a difficulty and a problem. Many new manufacturing industries have been established in Wales since the war, and, 397 in general, these have recovered to a considerable degree from the setbacks experienced in 1952. Wales has shared fully in the general improvement in unemployment figures shown over the whole of the country since January, 1953. I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked what the situation with regard to unemployment was at the present time. In 1951, he said, the figure for unemployment was one in 40. On a comparable basis I understand that to-day it is approximately one in 38, which is slightly better. As I said earlier, the redundancies in the tinplate areas have been absorbed. Generally speaking, at the moment the situation looks fairly healthy. But we must not forget that the real problem is not going to arise in west South Wales.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I interrupt to correct the noble Lord on one point? An unemployment figure of one in 38 is not better than one in 40—it is worse.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon, he is quite right; it is slightly worse.
As I was saying, the real problem is not going to arise until Velindre comes into operation. Then we shall have the problem of the old strip mills on our hands. The noble Lord spoke of the question of the diversification of industries. I agree with him that it is fair to say, on the one hand, that troubles in the past have been due to the fact that there was no diversification of industry in the South Wales area. On the other hand, whether one likes it or not, we have to face up to one fundamental fact from the start. Whatever one many think is the ideal for South Wales, whether it be diversification or whether it be extension of the existing pattern of industry in the area, if we are going to be realistic we have to acknowledge that it is difficult, always has been difficult, and will be difficult in the future, to attract new industries to South Wales. To a certain extent, therefore, we are bound to accept such industry as we can get, provided it is good industry, industry with a future, industry with stability. I think the noble Lord will agree that that overrides everything else.
On the general question of diversification, my own view and the view of those with whom I have been working is entirely in agreement with that of the noble Lord. There was mention of a 398 dolls'-eyes factory. That is not diversification in the sense of what we want. What we want is new industries with a future. I would give as an example some new branch of the chemical industries which are already established in South Wales, industries which I believe are capable in many directions of great extension and have a great future. That is the kind of new industry one wishes to see established, rather than subsidiary firms or some other not very suitable establishments which may collapse after a few years. I am bound to agree with the noble Lord that probably the most fruitful line to pursue in many cases will be to bring in the sort of industry related to that which already exists, because it is more likely to come there and is easier to get. Our main efforts at the moment are directed to getting industries there at all costs in order to keep employment going, and to pick the best industries we can get for the purpose. As the noble Lord said, we and the last Government have provided nearly 120,000 new jobs. There is one other factor which he will recognise: that is, that as South Wales has both steel and coal it is likely to be attractive to a great many types of industry, because many do, in fact, use these two basic materials.
The noble Lord spoke about the South Wales ports in general, and I must confess that here again we have a very difficult problem. The basic trouble at Milford Haven is that the hake fishing has been over-fished and the trawlers are not producing anything like the volume of fish they were producing a few years ago. If the noble Lord would like further details about this matter, I will give them to him privately, as I do not want to detain the House. I do not think the rail charges for Milford Haven have an appreciable effect on the industry. That is a very complicated matter, into which I would go with the noble Lord if he would like me to do so.
I agree that the position of Cardiff docks gives great cause for concern. There is no easy solution, though we are doing all we can to see whether we can find one. The situation is that, while Cardiff and Newport have lost trade compared with that in pre-war times, Swansea has gained, but only because of the great oil refinery at Llandarcy. The truth of the whole matter is that the coal export trade has gone and shows no immediate 399 prospect of coming back, and as the cargo trade has been established in other ports for so long, it is difficult to establish a general cargo trade in Cardiff and Barry. It is a vicious circle. Ships do not call at Cardiff because there are no cargoes, and cargoes do not go there because there are no ships calling. Somehow we have to break that circle. That is what we are endeavouring to do, but it is not easy. I am glad to say that several shipping companies have increased their liner calls to Cardiff, and it is hoped that general trade will increase as restrictions on imports are lifted.
I will turn to the question of communications, to which every noble Lord made some reference. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, stated that he wanted to see three great trunk roads: one to the north, one to the north-west and Birmingham, and one over a Severn Bridge to the south. As general aims, I think the noble Lord's objectives are unexceptionable, but, of course, a great deal depends first on finance, and secondly, on the priority which we wish to accord to them. The noble Lord will remember that my right honourable friend announced in another place last December an extensive programme of road works for the Principality. This programme was based on the advice which the Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman had tendered to the Government. The problem of roads had appeared to us to be a particularly urgent one in relation to the development of South Wales, and it was therefore one which received our earliest attention. The programme is designed to improve communications from Llanelly to the Midlands, by the Heads of the Valleys road to Ross and by the Ross spur on to the Midlands.
We may possibly be criticised because we did not consider the Severn Bridge, but from the purely industrial point of view I still feel that communications with the Midlands are the most important for the steel industry in Wales. I am not repentant that we decided on that programme with which to begin. What is more, although I agree that this road programme is designed to benefit in the first place west South Wales, I think it will also benefit the whole of the South Wales development area. Inevitably, of course, the programme will take some years to complete, but some of the work 400 has already started and much of the preliminary work which is necessary in the way of land acquisition has already begun for the other schemes.
In addition to this large programme of work in South Wales, it is proposed to carry out a number of road improvement schemes in the rest of Wales, among which will be included the reconstruction of the Conway Bridge, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor. The noble Lord asked me for the latest details about this project and I can give him the following information. We hope to start this scheme this year, and it will cost some £440,000. But at the present time I cannot tell him when it will be completed. If I am able to get that information, I will tell him. In addition to the Conway Bridge scheme, we hope to authorise other trunk road schemes totalling some £350,000 and some 25 road schemes which will cost the Road Fund some £184,000. So I do not think Wales is receiving an ungenerous proportion of the total sums available for road works. As the noble Lord knows, the total amount available for work of this kind is limited. We have had debates on whether it is right that it should be so limited, but all I would say is that when the Government of the noble Lords opposite were in power they limited it as much as we have done.
If we accept the fact that the money available is limited, it must be the concern of the Government to spread out what is available to the greatest possible purpose, and it is for that reason that we have not yet been able to include the Severn Bridge in the list of schemes already authorised. Let us face the fact that the Severn Bridge, which I know is very near the hearts of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, is a very expensive project. My Committee felt that it was better to devote our resources to schemes which would have greater benefit to Wales as a whole than to put everything into this one scheme.
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord's Committee considered the question of building a Severn Bridge out of bonds, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, suggested, and not out of current expenditure?
I am coming to that point in a moment. Those were our reasons, and the noble Lord must appreciate that it is not merely a matter of building the Severn Bridge. There is also the cost of the approach roads and all the other expenditure involved, the total of which I am informed will be in the neighbourhood of £30 million or more. I was very interested in the suggestion that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about a financial project on American lines. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has already expressed his own interest in an idea of that kind. He said that he would like to see enterprising people put up a project of that kind for the Government to consider. Obviously, that is the way it would have to come about. May I remind the noble Lord that my noble friend Lord Selkirk referred to this issue in a recent debate in your Lordships' House. Noble Lords may not consider this a very great comfort, but I can give them this assurance: that we are prepared to listen with interest to ideas of this kind. But it is no good not facing up to the full consequences of the Severn Bridge project. One must bear in mind that the returns from the toll would, presumably, have to cover the cost of the approach and connecting roads as well; and those approach and connecting roads would, as I have said, account for a large amount of the cost of the whole scheme. Therefore it is possible that the levying of the toll would be a rather complicated matter, and I am bound to say that I feel that the tolls themselves would have to be extremely high if they were to pay off the whole cost of necessary works in any reasonably acceptable period.
§ LORD OGMORE
I have been through the toll in New York many times, and I think 25 cents was the amount I paid. If the cost is spread over a number of years, the toll is not a high one. In view of the cost of labour in the United States, I imagine that the cost of building one of the huge bridges in New York would be at least as great as building one over the Severn—I am not an engineer, but I think that is the case. The Government ought to consider this point, even if they eventually find reasons against it, because it is one way of getting a bridge other than through ordinary taxation.
As I said, we are prepared to listen to any scheme of this kind. I will see what I can find out about the details of the finance of the American scheme, and see how it operates in comparison with this one. But we must face up to the difficulties, and we must remember that the American system involves higher payment in the earlier years. This puts up the toll much higher in the earlier years of the scheme, and it might be a disincentive.
The noble Lord spoke about a north—south road through Wales—and perhaps I may link this with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, about the rail communications from north to south. It is my misfortune to have to travel a number of times from North to South Wales and vice versa, and I fully share the views of the noble Lord as to the discomfort, the difficulties and the delays involved in that journey by rail. I have myself raised this matter with the railway authorities, and they are at the moment examining the whole position to see whether any improvement can be made. However, I must be frank with your Lordships, and say that the main trouble between north and south is that there is not the traffic to justify through trains. Unfortunately, what the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor said is perfectly true: that Wales has developed laterally with England, and the traffic goes from east to west rather than from north to south. Unless we can alter that, it seems that, so far as the railways or even aviation are concerned, it will be a long time before we can envisage good north and south communications in Wales.
As regards roads, a north-south road plan has been accepted and the route agreed with the local authorities concerned. The route has been made a trunk road. It comprises mainly existing roads, but a new length of road, about three miles long, will be constructed near Trawsfynydd. A suitable line for this section has been located, and the necessary order under the Trunk Roads Act, 1946, will be made as soon as possible. However, I cannot tell your Lordships when the constructional work will be commenced.
I am afraid that I have already delayed your Lordships, but there are still one 403 or two things that I am bound to say. I turn now to the question of the tourist industry. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that hitherto the potentialities of the tourist industry in Wales have hardly been touched. As I have said before, I believe that one of the first things to do is to get a Tourist Board that is fully representative of the whole of Wales, and I hope devoutly that that may come about. I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord the assurances he would like on some of the questions he has raised. There is a limit to the help which the Government can give. First of all, as regards giving actual grants to the Tourist Board, the Government have always limited their concern to the economic development of tourism as an invisible export, which is a point made by the noble Lord—that is to say, the actual business of getting foreign visitors to this country. Once the foreign visitors have been attracted to this country, it is then up to the local authorities to try to get their share of the "loot," so to speak. We have never subsidised (I do not think any Government have) local authorities in the attraction of foreign visitors to any one part of the British Isles as a whole.
As the noble Lord said, there is no doubt that one of the main troubles in Wales—and this was revealed by a recent survey carried out by the British Travel and Hotels Association—is that, while Wales has undoubted tourist attractions, it is lamentably short of hotel accommodation. This is undoubtedly a serious problem in Wales, where hotels of tourist class are generally booked up for the holiday season by British holiday-makers. The noble Lord said, again with great truth, that the difficulty is financing new hotels; and he suggested that this was an appropriate activity for the Government. As he probably knows, it is a matter in which I have always taken a keen personal interest, and I will certainly look into what he has said with regard to Wales. However, I do not wish to mislead him by saying that I think it is likely that any Government would be prepared to finance the hotel industry directly in any way.
§ LORD OGMORE
I do not think it is the function of the Government to finance the hotel industry at all; I think it is the function of private enterprise. 404 But the point is that private enterprise is not doing it, and it is becoming almost impossible to do it. If the Government want to keep these hotels, and especially the seasonal hotels, then they will be obliged to make some contribution, as they have done in regard to other industries. That is the situation we have to face.
I do not wish to give the noble Lord too much encouragement, because there are great difficulties. However, I appreciate his point, and I feel that there is something in it. I will look into the matter, and perhaps we can discuss it together at some time. The noble Lord raised a particular point, apart from the question of financing hotels, as to licensing, rates and Schedule A tax. So far as rates and Schedule A tax are concerned, I cannot give him much comfort at the moment. It would be difficult to excuse any particular organisation from paying rates or Schedule A tax for a period of the year; once you started that, it might lead to an avalanche of claims from other people who thought that they had an equally good case. However, once again I will try to find out what are the possibilities in that direction. It is something that could not be confined to Wales; if it were done for one area, it would have to be done all over the country—it is a national rather than a Welsh problem.
On the question of licensing—the noble Lord was good enough to give me private notice of this point as of many other points—I have made inquiries, and I understand that the main answer to his suggestion that there should be a new licensing system to enable seasonal hotels to close in the winter without losing their licences is that in fact the present licensing law does not require licensed premises to keep open during permitted hours throughout the year. This is a matter of practice, rather than of law, and the difficulty that may face the keeper of a seasonal hotel is that, if he does not make full use of his licence throughout the year, the licensing justices may infer that the licence is not needed and may refuse to renew it. I think that is the noble Lord's point. It is not a question of law, but of the practice of the local licensing justices. There is no need for them to do it, and I think it might be helpful if the point that the noble Lord 405 has raised were put to the licensing justices. I will see that this is considered.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I say, to emphasise the point, that I heard of an actual case of a hotel—in the Highlands of Scotland—where the owner did close, having no guests at all for some weeks. He was reported by an official of one of the Ministries to the justices for so doing, and nearly lost his licence. Therefore, I think some spur from the Government is needed.
We cannot exactly "spur" the licensing justices, but we could perhaps draw their attention to it in some way or another. I will have that matter looked into, because I think the noble Lord has a perfectly fair point there.
I have spoken at length, but there was a good deal to cover in a debate of this kind. I should like to conclude by saying this. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, asked us for a policy which would take into account the particular needs of Wales. I hope that in broad general outline I have persuaded him of two things. The first is that we are trying to get a policy which is based on economic realities for Wales to create the prosperity, both agricultural and industrial, which is essential if Wales is to survive as the great nation that she is. I do not believe, as the noble Lord says, that it is any good having a Welsh way of life if there are no Welsh people to live it. The first thing we have to do, therefore, is to ensure economic and agricultural prosperity. As regard devolution, I am not prepared to say that what the present Government have done in the matter represents the last word. But we have at any rate my right honourable friend who, I think it would be generally admitted in your Lordships' House, has shown great zeal and great enthusiasm in his task, and there is no danger that the Welsh point of view will not be fully represented in the councils of the present Administration nor, I gather from what the noble Lord has said, in any future Administration.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate to-day. We 406 have had a good spread of speakers: one from North Wales, one from South Wales, and the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, from Monmouthshire—we are never quite sure whether that is in Wales or England. We were pleased to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, from Gloucestershire. I think it has been a good debate, and I hope the Welsh people will think so, too. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who has obviously taken great trouble to answer the points brought forward. As several speakers have said, we are pleased in Wales with the way in which he and the Minister are performing their duties, within the boundaries set down for them by the administrative structure, and we feel that in both of them we have a friend at court—and we badly need them.
Many of the things the noble Lord has told us to-day have been rather surprising. I have now reached the stage in my Parliamentary career when I do not expect to hear anything at all from a Government spokesman, whatever Government are in power. But to-day we have had a number of interesting points raised. The noble Lord has welcomed the question of the Severn Bridge. May I say that that was my own personal suggestion, and not my Party's? They have not, so far as I know, committed themselves in any way on that matter. I think it is a great step forward that the noble Lord has commended that suggestion for consideration by those interested, and for a proposal to be put forward. I am also glad to hear these offers that he has made of following up my suggestions with regard to the hotel industry. I feel, therefore, that we have had a useful debate, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and to other noble Lords who have spoken. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, asked me to apologise for his absence from the final part of the Minister's speech. He had to go away to catch his train to North Wales, but he asked to join me in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. Nothing now remains for me but to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.