§ 2.16 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1961 (Cmnd. 1643); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this United Kingdom Parliament is also, as we know, the Parliament for Wales, and in my view it is meet and proper that occasionally we should discuss the general problems of Wales—and indeed of Scotland and Northern Ireland—so far as they come within our purview. The discussions on Wales in your Lordships' House are not particularly frequent. In fact, the last general debate on Wales was on my Motion on May 5, 1954, so I am sure your Lordships will not think that, after eight years, I am unduly encroaching upon your Lordships' time in putting this Motion before the House this afternoon. It is true that there was a Motion introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, on November 26, 1958, but that was on a more specialised topic, the teaching of Welsh in Wales.1020
§ The main subject of our consideration will be, I am sure, the Government's Report for 1961, Wales and Monmouthshire. I have tried to look at it in a purely objective way, in the way in which I should look at it if I were not personally interested in the country. I have tried to put aside any personal feelings and to treat the Report in the same way as I should treat a Report on one of the Colonies; that is, as I say, from an objective point of view. And I am bound to say that I consider the Report to be "a thing of shreds and patches". There is a great amount of disconnected details, but no overall picture. I am certain that this is not the fault of the various Government Departments who look after the bits and pieces, but is due to the fact that there is no Secretary of State responsible for Wales, no Secretary of State for Wales with a seat in the Cabinet, and no Department for Wales.
§ If the Report had been a comprehensive one, giving an overall picture of Wales, what would have been seen? In my view, it would have picked out two major problems. The first is the problem of mid-Wales. Mid-Wales is geographically, though not in population, the major part of Wales. I do not think that there is any doubt at all that mid-Wales is dying. There is a fair prosperity in the coastal strips, but the major part of country within those strips is dying. Neither the Government nor the Labour Opposition propose remedies, or even, so far as I can see, recognise the disease. It is rather as if a patient dying of consumption were being treated as though he were fit for work, to work until he dropped
§ Your Lordships will want some proof. I know what I say to be so. Among other things, I have spent Easter in mid- Wales, and I have talked with many people who are very much concerned with this problem, as well as speaking at public meetings on it. But I take proof from the 1961 Census, which gives us some remarkable figures. Broadly speaking, Merionethshire and Breconshire are the same size as Glamorgan, in the industrial South. Glamorgan has a population of 1,227,828, while Breconshire has 55,544 and Merionethshire only 39,007. The Census figures showed that Glamorgan had increased in population 1021 by 2.1 per cent. while Breconshire had decreased by 1.7 per cent. and Merionethshire by 5.9 per cent. In two other counties of similar size, the one in the industrial South, Monmouthsthire—whose Lord Lieutenant, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, I see here to-day—has a population of 443,689 and Radnorshire 18,431. Monmouthshire went up in the inter-Census period by 4.4 per cent., and Radnorshire declined by 7.8 per cent.
§ A Blue Book produced by the Government a few years ago gives further interesting figures. Whether you are interested in Wales or not, it is a most remarkable document—I refer to the Mid-Wales Investigation Report of the Welsh Agricultural Land Sub-Commission, which was produced in December. 1955. It shows that in the rather narrower portion, the "waist", of Wales the Sub-Commission counted nearly 800 abandoned homesteads. I am quite sure that most of your Lordships who are used to rural conditions will realise the significance of the figures I have given. In my view, the Government action is actually accelerating the decay I have mentioned, first by a farm prices policy which favours the prosperous farmers on rich land and penalises the smaller farmers and the farmers of marginal land. This point was brought out on April 11 by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. I shall quote his comments on this point with approbation—that he gave the right figures, I mean—but I shall be criticising something he said later.
Secondly, the Government are responsible for, or, at least, are assisting, the decline by removing, or permitting the removal of, the railway services. Your Lordships will, I am sure, be concerned to hear that soon there will be no railways at all in the middle part of Wales; the only railways will be in the coastal stretch in the North and South. If the present policy of Dr. Beeching obtains, that will be the position. Thirdly, there is the Government's failure to attract new light industries to the area. They mention in paragraph 71 of the 1961 Report the fact that they failed even to maintain the ones they had. They say:
The year brought three disappointments, the largest being the decision of Raleigh Industries Limited that in view of trading conditions in the British cycle industry they could no longer operate their component factory at
Newtown. Next in significance was the decision of Carmichael & Sons (Worcester) Limited that trading conditions in their industry too would prevent them going ahead with the new factory at Rhayader announced in last year's Report.
Then there was the closure of two ventures after a few months' existence; that is, an electrical engineering unit in Builth Wells, and the production of dart flights at Llanfair Caereinion. Those come in the area with which I am concerned.
Finally, there is the Government's failure to assist on adequate apprenticeship schemes. This is mentioned in several places, but in particular in paragraphs 27, 28 and 30 of the Report. It says in paragraph 27:
There was still a lack of variety of work in rural Wales where boys and girls had a restricted choice of employment. A third of all the vacancies available were in the county boroughs of Newport. Cardiff and Swansea and these areas offered a much greater variety of opportunity than any others.
The Report further says in paragraph 30:
It is disappointing that public spirited efforts to establish such schemes in Wales have so far met with little success. The only Welsh scheme in being is at Treforest Industrial Estate and even that is not receiving the support it deserves.
I would also say that the Labour Opposition shows a similar lack of appreciation and feeling.
§ I should like to refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, on April 11. I have given the noble Lord notice that I am going to refer to him—not in any sense in a personal criticism, of course, but merely in a criticism of the ideas which he expressed. He is here to-day, but he informs me that owing to an important engagement he will not be able to take part in our proceedings. I should explain that he was not referring specifically to Wales; he was referring to all areas similar to the one to which I am referring here—that is, to rural areas of the type we have in mid-Wales. The same applies, I imagine, to the Highlands of Scotland and to same parts of England, but not many. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, advocated—and I am not using his exact words; I am paraphrasing them—that farmers of marginal land should leave the land and make it available for public parks, recreation, afforestation and other non-food-producing uses. He suggested that small farmers should lose 1023 their milk subsidy and turn their farm houses into boarding houses.
§ We all know that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is a very large farmer himself. In fact, in that debate he called himself a "barley baron ". He is regarded by his Party, and properly so, as one of their foremost agricultural experts. If this is the Labour Party policy—and we are entitled to believe it is, coming from Lord Walston—then it is a policy of cynicism and despair. It would keep the rural Welsh, and the Scottish Highlanders for that matter, like Red Indians on a reservation. We on these Benches, the Liberal Party, believe in Welsh farms and Welsh farmers. It is part of our homeland. To us it is our heart land, and if it dies out then Wales will die out, too.
§ I have been thinking in the last few weeks, particularly after my recent visit to that part, that if only Wales were a Colony, what assistance there would be! It would come from the Colonial Office and, in some cases, from the Commonwealth Relations Office and the new Ministry of Technical Assistance. There would be working parties, blue prints, and plans, financial, technical and managerial assistance; all would be made available. But for Wales, nothing. I am not suggesting that Wales should be a Colony; I do not think that for one moment. I am only comparing what we do, and do rightly, for our dependent territories overseas with what we do for our own people, for the ancient race of which I am a member, and from which so many of your Lordships, I may say, are also descended.
§ The second major problem is that of industrial Wales. That is mainly Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and a small part of Carmarthenshire. So far as I can see—that is my part of the world; I come from there, and I am very closely in touch with people who live and work there—there is complete anarchy and chaos in industrial South Wales. This is another problem which is not, so far as I am aware, recognised by the Government or the Labour Opposition.
§ LORD OGMORE
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, can 1024 speak later. There is plenty of time; we have all the afternoon. If I am wrong, he can get up and prove in what way I am wrong. So far as I am aware, the noble Viscount himself has not paid a visit to Wales to look at the conditions but we shall always be very happy to see him there. Then we shall be able to tell him what we think of the situation and his Party's tackling or not tackling of it.
In my view, capital and labour under the present system is being cannibalised; old industrial areas are being jettisoned or abandoned while new ones are erected at vast expense only a few miles away. For instance, take the new steel works at Llanwern, near Newport. Any of your Lordships who has tried to go through Newport in the last few years by motor car will known of the congestion that has been caused on the roads there. Good agricultural land has been broken up to make room for steel works; new housing estates have had to be prepared; new schools and new churches constructed—all at vast expense. Yet only a few miles away the older industrial areas are dying and being deserted. For instance, in the Rhondda unemployment is 4.4 per cent. Blaenavon, at the head of one of the Monmouthshire valleys, has lost 13.9 per cent. of its population in the last ten years. Ebbw Vale, as its Member for Parliament, Mr. Michael Foot, said in my hearing only a few weeks ago on Welsh Television, which we were on together, faces redundancy and unemployment because of the nationalised steel industry of Richard Thomas & Baldwin, and he feels that industry there will close down because of this nationalised industry which is opening up on good farm land near Newport. This process may be inevitable; I do not know. I should rather have doubted it, but I am not an expert on this subject.
§ LORD OGMORE
It may be obvious, but this House is not a House of experts; it is a House of ordinary people like myself who are entitled to come here and speak for ordinary people. If this House ever becomes a House for experts, like the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, then it will largely fail to meet its requirements and to serve the public.
1025 This process has been accompanied by a complete lack of planning and by a sort of gold-rush mentality; and one of the results is that last year the Coal Board in South Wales lost £l2 million. Some of the officials of the Coal Board say that a great deal of this loss was due to the fact that their best men have been inveigled away from the Coal Board to the new nationalised steel works at Llanwern and other works in the South. So here we have the extraordinary position of the nationalised industry of Richard Thomas & Baldwin stealing the best men from the nationalised industry of the South Wales Coal Board, who, as a result, find themselves without skilled labour and consequently run into this tremendous loss.
Even so, Llanwern can never be completely successful because, as your Lordships will remember—some of us, including myself, protested very strongly about this at the time—one-third of the plant which was to go to Llanwern was instead switched to Scotland, not from any point of view on a steel or economic basis but purely on political grounds. There was a lot of trouble at the time. Mr. James Griffiths protested very strongly about putting the steel works at Llanwern, and others did, too, but the Government went on with it and, therefore, the consequences must be their responsibility: they must accept the consequences which are now happening in South Wales.
I think the difficulties of the situation are accentuated because neither the Government nor the official Opposition, the Labour Party, recognise Wales as a country and the Welsh as a nation entitled and able to run their own affairs in their own way, and what they freely yield to Bechuanaland or Sarawak is denied to Wales. Even in aviation, although Cardiff (Rhoose) Airport, which I started from nothing a few years ago. handled 83,000 passengers last year, many from abroad, when I tackled the noble Lord, Lord Mills, about it he refused to acknowledge it as an international airport. Why? Because it is in Wales, and Wales is not regarded as a nation. There are many more important consequences, legislative and administrative. Your Lordships are entitled to ask, and, judging by the 1026 murmurings and disorder on the Benches to my left, will ask—
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me, but I was just asking whether the situation was better when the noble Lord was a member of the Labour Party.
§ LORD OGMORE
Certainly it was. I am very proud of what the Labour Party did. I never denied the good work done when I was a Minister of a Labour Government. I am only sorry that they have departed from the high standard that they had then. I did not leave the Labour Party to be less radical, but to be more radical, because they were becoming so engrossed with the past.
My Lords, at any rate your Lordships on the Benches opposite will no doubt say that it is all very well to make these criticisms and will ask me what I would do. You are perfectly entitled to ask, otherwise the criticism I am offering is solely destructive and you want constructive criticism. I will give it. This is what I should do. First of all, so far as mid-Wales is concerned, the rural areas of which I have spoken, I would have a full-scale, all-out attack on its problems. I would create a statutory corporation to provide the necessary financial and technical assistance and managerial skills; and I ant not ashamed or afraid to point to a Colonial development corporation, the Uganda Development Corporation, with which I have been connected since it started in 1952, under the inspired leadership of Mr. J. T. Simpson, who has done, and is now doing, for Uganda what I think we require to have done for rural mid-Wales. I am very glad to see that Mr. Simpson has just been made a Minister in Mr. Obote's new Government.
Secondly, I would create a financial climate by which the small farmer and the farmer on marginal land gets a square deal in the Price Review. Thirdly, I would preserve essential rural railways as a social service and make British Railways an allowance for them as a social service; replace railways where they were not essential by adequate road communications and a rural bus service, and ensure that the public were served in the manner they need in these areas—that is to say, by maintaining essential rural railway services and by providing adequate road services where those are 1027 not essential and are removed. Fourthly, I would set up an inquiry into the South Wales industrial and commercial complex to obtain a clear picture upon which a sensible and imaginative economic and social plan could be based. Fifthly, I would suggest a sensible plan of legislative devolution for Wales, through a Secretary of State with a seat in the Cabinet; a Welsh department and secretariat; and an elected Council for Wales to be responsible for the matters peculiar to Wales and for questions appertaining to the region. Subordinate to it would be county councils on the existing basis, with minor adjustments and with streamlining of other local authorities.
Your Lordships may remember that a moment or two ago I instanced the population of Radnorshire, a large county roughly the size of Monmouthshire, with 18,000 people—the size of my little market town in Glamorgan. How on earth can they provide local government services, a county council, urban councils, urban district councils, rural district councils and parish councils out of 18,000 people? They have 22 local authorities in Radnorshire and could have, if they were so minded, 44. Luckily, they are not so minded. Your Lordships can see the situation. There is no other way of dealing with this problem, in my view, than by having an elected council to handle those common services such as the police and the other services which would be put under it.
Then I believe in a proper education plan for Wales, including technical education and education in management, as well as far more higher education. In the United Kingdom as a whole, 9 per cent. of our schoolchildren go to the universities, as compared with 30 per cent. in the United States, and many more than that in Russia. We cannot survive as a leading country unless far more of our children have an opportunity of higher education. I should like to see a great drive in Wales. I have always said that education is the life-blood of Wales and the roads and communications are its arteries; and I am sure that is true.
Then I would have a water policy and a water authority for Wales which would stop the grab and catch-as-catch-can that now applies. At the moment, any 1028 authority in Wales or England can come in and try to push a Bill through Parliament; and, if it succeeds, can take the water. I am not asking for Welsh water for Wales: I am asking that the water supplies of Wales, one of our few remaining national assets which have not been completely tapped, should be organised on a proper basis. I should imagine that even the noble Lords and Ladies on my left would not disagree with that request, even if I have left the Labour Party.
As to tourism, there is not a word in the Report about it. This strikes me as intensely curious. Why, with a big industry like tourism in Wales, should there not be one word in this Report about it? The reason, of course, is that it is not recognised as an industry. Yet I believe that, with the beauty of the country, with the hospitality of its inhabitants, with the many amenities it has to provide for visitors, tourism should flourish. It is a lovely country; every time I go there, to mid-Wales, North Wales and my own South Wales, I am amazed at the beauty of the country. Yet the Report contains not a word about tourism. I should like to see very many people coming from England and Scotland, and from overseas, to Wales. What I would do, if I had the opportunity, is to treat the Welsh Tourist Board as the Irish Republican Government treat their Tourist Board. When I was talking with the Director General of the Irish Tourist Board he told me that he had close on half a million pounds to spend. Last year the income of the Welsh Tourist Board was £24,000. Your Lordships will see that there is a slight difference between those two figures.
I have not dealt with cultural matters this afternoon, because I think that a separate debate is needed for cultural matters and for the preservation of the Welsh language. I would just say, however, that I would urge the local authorities to spend far more of their 6d. rate than they do. The amount of money they spend in Wales, as in England, on arts and amenities is quite inadequate. They have authority to spend up to a 6d. rate, and I think they should do so. Broadly speaking, most of what I have said—not all but the main parts of it—was contained in resolutions of the 1029 Liberal Party of Wales at its recent Easter Conference at Borth or at previous Conferences.
There is just one other point, and that is about the Common Market. I believe that there will be great opportunities for Wales, as indeed for the rest of the United Kingdom, in the Common Market. There is an opportunity, as Lord Robens has already reminded us, for increased coal exports—and certainly we need them; and also for exports of the many light industries which are to be found in South Wales and, to a lesser extent, in North Wales. There is, too, I believe, the chance for Wales, as a Celtic nation, to return to cultural, social and economic association with other European nations from which she has so long been cut off owing to the insularity of this island.
In conclusion, my Lords, I would say this. Those of us who are true Welshmen, to whatever Party we belong, on whichever side of whichever House we sit, or if we belong to no Party at all, know that we come of an ancient race which has preserved its identity in spite of many and grievous trials and tribulations throughout the ages. We see that through neglect, sloth and materialism—the curse of this age—our nation is in grave danger. It should be the resolution of all of us to meet and overcome these perils before it is too late. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.45 p.m.
LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, we have been informed by the noble Lord that he has been looking back to 1954 when we had our last debate. I had a peep at the debate in 1954, and I found some words of the noble Lord which I should like to make known to the House at the beginning of my remarks. He said: [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 187, col. 360]: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 farm workers in Wales, as well as in other parts of the country, hut, of course, with the policy of this Government that has been thrown into confusion.Here is another sentence [col. 362]:I would say that some of this great improvement is undoubtedly due to the nationalisation of coal, to the steel and tin- 1030 plate developments in Wales—for which we …" we ", do not forget ……were largely responsible—and the introduction of new industries under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945.I do not know whether the noble Lord would be prepared to repeat those words to-day or whether he would refuse.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I see nothing at all which cannot be reconciled in every way with what I have said. I was not talking about the question of nationalisation; it never entered into it. As to the farming, in certain parts of Wales those particular Acts have done good work, but there are other areas, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, himself pointed out on April 11, where, as administered by this Government, they have not had the effect they should have had.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I take it from that reply that the noble Lord goes back on what he said in 1954 and does not believe that these Acts passed by the Labour Government have benefited Wales. From my own point of view, I am rather amazed that the noble Lord should have what is, in my view, the impudence to make this speech to-day in the way he has done, solely because there is a by-election in Montgomery. We have had these sentiments expressed by the noble Lord in Montgomery.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I think I should explain that this debate was put down and the general basis agreed long before I knew there was going to be a by-election in Montgomery at all.
LORD MACDONALD or GWAENYSGOR
That may well be. But that does not prevent the noble Lord from using it for by-election purposes. He referred to "shreds and patches" and "bits and pieces" of the Report. If there were more shreds and patches and bits and pieces than there were in his speech, quite frankly the Report is not much good to us. I have read this Report from beginning to end—every word, and that wants a bit of doing. There are 666 paragraphs. If one spent one minute on each, we should be here until 2 o'clock tomorrow 1031 morning. I do not want noble Lords to get worried; I have no intention of referring to all 666. I may refer to six, but not to 666.
I am sure that the House will not be surprised if in pride of place I put coal. Coal has meant much to Wales for years gone by. Coal is a diminishing asset. That is not always appreciated. In the lunch hour I calculated the amount of coal that has been extracted from the earth of Great Britain since I entered the mines in 1901, 61 years ago. On an average of one million tons a day 200 days a year, 200 million tons every year multiplied by 60 comes to 12,000 million tons of coal already extracted. There is not that amount in the earth now. There is less than that amount in the earth now. Therefore we have to keep in mind this diminishing asset, and we have to give some consideration to those employed in it.
The Report makes one or two references, mainly to manpower—to the fall in manpower and to its being not possible to get miners. How many sons of noble Lords opposite have entered the mining industry? Why have they kept all their sons out of the industry? Why should a certain section be expected to provide miners all the time? I have two sons. I never intended that they should enter the mines, no matter what it cost me, and they have not done so. Why do the wives of miners prevent their sons from entering the mines? I will tell your Lordships why. It is because of the dangers and perils of the mines in South Wales referred to in this Report. When an explosion takes away 39 miners one would think that would be a lesson. Not very long ago nine more miners were taken away by explosion. You would not expect an industry liable to explosions to that extent, one each year, to attract young men.
No, the miners of this country know what mining is, and they are reluctant to send their boys down the mines. We must make mining most attractive. The only industry in this country in which there is a shortage of workers is the coal industry. That fact speaks for itself. I do not see much in this Report as regards the method of avoiding that. On Monday the president of the Miners' Federation of South Wales outlined the 1032 position. The possibility of explosions was emphasised; but he also emphasised the closing of mines.
It is all very well for us in this House to talk about the closing of mines as an economic necessity, but what does this mean to a miner's family? What are the possibilities of closing? It may be that your mine has not been closed, but that the one down the street has been closed and you know that the days are numbered for your own mine. Do you expect young men to join an industry which cannot guarantee them work for the whole of their working lives? The coal industry will attract labour when you reduce the causes of accidents and when, at the same time, you give some guarantee that that labour will continue in the mine, if they so desire, for the whole of their working, lives.
But manpower is not referred to in this Report only in relation to the coal industry. Agriculture is referred to, but I am rather given the impression that the manpower shortage is not too severe there. I agree that it is not so severe as in the coal industry; nevertheless, the problem is very much there. What is happening? The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, talks about visiting Wales. I live there. I spend all my time there when I am not in this House. This year I have been in North Wales, mid-Wales and South Wales, meeting those engaged in different industries. What do they say about the farming industry? Other big industries and concerns are set up which pay much bigger wages than can the farmer. Farm labourers are attracted to these industries. Many of these people are skilled or semi-skilled. Not only are the farmers short of workers, but they are short of the right type of workers.
The noble Lord referred to the position regarding milk prices. I was speaking to a farmer who farms on not too big a scale. He assured me that things were not too good regarding farm labourers because the small farmer was unable to pay adequate wages. He said that variation in prices will not prevent the surtax payer from paying surtax provided the level is not increased, but that the variation in price of milk will prevent many small farmers from reaching the income tax level. He himself had a couple of 1033 farms of a decent size and was not worrying with regard to his own plight, but he was quite worried, in regard to some parts of Wales especially, about thousands of small farmers who are unable to make their farms pay—not for lack of work, not for lack of knowledge or experience, but simply because prices prevent them.
Other questions were also referred to by the noble Lord. As he said, there is no need for those matters to be repeated to-day, but I want to mention one or two which, though small, are irritating to those people who live in these regions. I do not know how many of your Lordships have been to South Wales recently and have gone down in the small valleys, into a sheep rearing area. Talk about 99 were in the fold and one was astray! In South Wales there is one in the fold and 99 astray on the roads. Little has been done by this Government to solve that problem. It needs to be solved; it is a serious problem to the people concerned. It is all very well for those who never see a sheep except in the form in which it is eaten, but, especially to the people in the villages, hundreds of sheep moving hither and thither present a grave difficulty. There is not much about that in this Report except a reference to there being 21 grids. We need nearer 2,000 grids to deal with this situation in South Wales. That is an indication of what is being done with regard to the movement of sheep. Another matter which I ought to mention and which has been brought to my notice by the people concerned, is afforestation. In afforestation we are supposed to have pest inspectors. But they are young boys. There is not one experienced, trained man for the purpose. That is just playing with the question of pests on farm land.
As to the Report in its entirety, it is a detailed account of what has been done. One could not expect more in a Report covering a certain period except a detailed account of what has been done. I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that not enough, by any means, is being done, and that more could and ought to have been done. If this debate results in more being done in the year to come than is disclosed in this Report, then the debate will have served a useful purpose.
1034 But there are varying opinions regarding this Report. I have had one or two cuttings sent to me, which show the views that have been expressed by various individuals on the Report. One cutting sent to me—from whom I do not know—contains a piece of correspondence from a man who says that he read the Report on "All Fools' Day", April 1. I will read the portion of his letter Which is relevant to this debate:Sir, Appropriately enough, I finished reading the Annual Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales on April Fools' Day!The Report contains the same old mixture of effusion, reticence and downright dishonesty. For example, we are told how many people visited Craig y Ciliau Caves in Breconshire during the year and that 12,000 items posted in Wales each week for all parts of the United Kingdom reached their destination at least one post earlier than they would have done in the previous year.But the fact that passenger rail services in Monmouthshire are to be withdrawn almost completely gets a very slight mention and no reasons are given.Then the letter goes on:The main findings of the Welsh Advisory Water Committee are summarised, but no mention at all is made of one of the chief recommendations of that body, namely, that areas from which water is abstracted should receive material benefit from these natural resources.The writer concludes with this sentence:Half the developments listed in the Report were not due to Government action at all. Altogether the report is just a useless bit of Government propaganda, and anyone taken in by it would he a real April fool.That is his view, which we may not share. But there is another view expressed in the same paper, the Western Mail, in an article by a well-known journalist in South Wales. David G. Rosser. I quote one sentence, to show the variation in view:Although the White Paper presents no sensational features"—it certainly does not, my Lords!—its optimistic outlook over a wide range of Welsh activities has been welcomed by Welsh Members on all sides.What is the purpose of all these activities in Wales?—to develop the resources of Wales. And Wales certainly has resources—resources of a material kind, of an intellectual kind, and also of a moral kind. All the activities in Wales should go towards helping to develop all these resources— 1035 physical, intellectual and moral. These very important activities ought to be helped by this Government. Reference has been made to water. Wales was never more united than when discussing Tryweryn. The only other occasion she came near being united to the same extent was when we were discussing drink. That is Wales for you—water and drink rouses the whole country! England can have her full share of the resources we can afford to give—all of them. What we ask is that we should he allowed to retain sufficient resources to enable every man, woman and child in Wales to develop to the fullest capacity, physically, intellectually and morally. The Government are not pursuing a policy to give us that. I am sorry that they have not been able to produce a Report showing more work being done, and more in anticipation. But I hope that this debate will cause them to be more enthusiastic in regard to Wales in the future than they have been in the past.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, I think we should be grateful to the noble Lord. Lord Ogmore, for putting down this Motion for discussion to-day, but I am just wondering how grateful Wales will be to the noble Lord who has just sat down for the gloomy picture he has painted of Wales. I would rather this afternoon endeavour to put to your Lordships a different picture—not entirely one of Government action, but one of self-help. I disagree with the view that the Government must do everything for Wales. I think that individuals should go out and help themselves, with the Government perhaps holding the ring and making the conditions possible. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will forgive me when I say that I think one should regret the sort of interview that he gave to the local Press on March 26. The South Wales Evening Post had a banner headline right across its columns saying," ' The Principality is Dying ', says Peer "—the Peer being the noble Lord opposite. What encouragement is that to outside manufacturers to come in and start fresh works in the country, when the picture being painted all the time by the two Parties on the other side of the House is one of despair and denigration?
§ LORD OGMORE
On a question of fact, my Lords, I did not give any interview to the Press: I made that statement in a series of public meetings in the area concerned, at two of which some hundreds of people were present.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
I apologise to the noble Lord for saying that this was an interview rather than a report of a speech. But the effect on the outside world would be much the same.
Before I go any further, I should like to pay a tribute to the work done by my right honourable friend, Mr. Henry Brooke, when he was Minister for Welsh Affairs. I believe that in retrospect it will be found that his tenure of that office was honest, dispassionate and of great benefit to the Principality. I believe that the development of Wales as a whole is a question of a combination of the rural areas and industry. Those people who are interested would do wall to read a very remarkable book, which has been published in the last few weeks, by Professor Brinley Thomas, of University College, Cardiff, called, The Welsh Economy with the rather startling subtitle of, "Studies in Expansion". This, I believe, is the theme that all of us who have an interest in Wales have at heart, whether we are Members of this House or of another place; that is the theme we should be repeating—" Studies in Expansion ".
One of the difficulties in making this sort of speech is to get at the true statistics. Here I would join with the noble Lord opposite in agreeing that very often statistics are" lumped in "with England. There are certain admirable exceptions in the Ministry of Agriculture, but on the whole it is difficult, without a good deal of work, to disentangle the separate statistics of Wales on whatever the subject matter may be. But I believe that in the last ten years the country has in fact made very remarkable progress in regard to steel, oil-refining, coal (about which the noble Lord opposite spoke) and engineering. All of these have expanded enormously in the industrial area of Wales.
The rural areas, which have been touched on considerably to-day, embrace sheep, forestry and rural industries. In this connection I should like to mention paragraph 159 of the Report, which 1037 I think is worth quoting when we hear about the decline of Welsh agriculture. Paragraph 159 says that the Census in June, 1961, showed cattle, at 1,170,000, to be slightly up compared with June, 1960. Sheep increased by 3.7 per cent. to 5½ million, and the number of pigs rose by 9.7 per cent. That does not seem to me to be altogether a dying industry. The part of the country which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was talking about, central Wales, is of course, by the very nature of the country, rather difficult to compare with the industrial area. It is the mountainous centre of Wales sand you cannot possibly expect to have such a density of population up there. But paragraph 222 of this very Report states that the continuing prosperity of hill sheep farming goes on. It does not look like reverting to desert.
Modern methods are taking the place of the old. The Landrover is now beginning to take the place of the pony on the high hills. Of course, a Landrover cannot be used in a bog, and may not be able to go up some narrow paths, but the more modern progressive farmers are taking to the Landrover and that means they do not have to live so hard. It .is not now necessary to live in the high hill farmhouses; one can travel quite quickly by motor car. I would also say that one of the factors that militate against residing in these remote areas, Whether we like it or not, is the modern system of education. Nobody wishes to Change it, but the system of shutting the village schools and taking the children by bus to the larger centres brings about a dissatisfaction with the undoubtedly rougher conditions of living in the mountainous areas. Let us accept that, and let us accept that modern transport helps.
However, my Lords, I reckon that the prosperity of a country as a whole is what matters. The richer a country, the less the proportion of its population who live by agriculture. The agricultural output becomes higher by the use of modern methods. I suppose that the great examples of that in the world to-day are the industrialisation of Russia and of China. They wish to become richer countries and they turn themselves into industrial nations. Nearer at home there is Ireland, an entirely agricultural country except for 1038 the small industrial belt on the North-East coast. Between 1845 and 1945 the population of Ireland fell from 8 million to 4 million because it is entirely an agricultural country. No, my Lords, people do not leave rural Wales because of misery or poverty; they go because they can get higher wages somewhere else. Just lately I heard of a big farmer in Merioneth, most of whose men had recently left him to go to the nuclear power station being built at Trawsfynydd. In fact, the last to go was an old man of 70, who left to get £12 10s. a week for making tea. Only this morning the agricultural workers' union was asking for only £10 for the agricultural worker. I personally very much hope that they may get it and that the industry can afford to pay it. In fact, the prosperity of Wales as a whole, the rapid development of the coalfields in the fifty years before 1914, gave the Welsh language a great fillip, and Welsh nonconformity a new lease of life.
May I epitomise the remarks I have just been making by quoting two paragraphs from Professor Brinley Thomas's book, to which I have referred? He says this:Instead of bemoaning the rural exodus the Welsh Patriot should sing the praises of the industrial development. In that tremendous half-century before the first world war, economic growth in Wales was so vigorous that her net loss of people by emigration was a mere 4 per cent. of her bountiful natural increase over the period. Few countries in Europe came anywhere near to that. The unrighteous Mammon in opening up the coalfields at such a pace unwittingly gave the Welsh language a new lease of life, and Welsh nonconformity a glorious high noon.The last paragraph in the last chapter of the book is as follows:The problems of agriculture and the depopulation of the countryside are frequently misunderstood. This book has tried to interpret them in terms of the process of economic growth. An individual does not bemoan the fact that as he gets richer he spends a smaller fraction of his family budget on bread and potatoes. As the standard of living of a community rises we must expect the proportion who earn their living on the land to decline. Welsh farmers have not been backward in applying mechanised methods. They had one tractor for every 20 acres of arable area, as against one for every 33 in England. They have also found that agricultural co-operation pays. Wales has one-fifth of the membership of the Agricultural Co-operative Societies in the United Kingdom. The rise in farming 1039 productivity per head and the progress of the industrial sector entail an exodus from the land".He then goes on to say that, where the small farmers have been encouraged to stay on the land, there is no reason why the Government should not give them reasonable assistance.
I am bound to say, my Lords, that when I visit farms in Wales I notice no lack of radio, television and motor cars. In 1961 Welsh agriculture received £14 million in agricultural subsidies. It is quite true that the new Price Review will hit the small man to some extent, but with £370 million of subsidies given to farming by the, Government last year, a total cut of £11 million ought really to be within the capacity of the industry to bear. Things must devolve, farms must go into larger units and so on; nothing must stand still.
Now listen to this, my Lords, about the rural areas. In May, 1959, there were 85 firms in rural Wales that were not there before 1945, and these firms employed 7,717 workers of whom 39 per cent. were women. I do not mean to imply that they are all in the rural centre of Wales which is, perhaps, what is particularly under discussion. But genuine achievement is not really as simple as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, suggested when he said, "It is quite easy; you must bring real industry". It must not go bankrupt; it has to have raw materials and a supply of labour. These things are not really quite so simple as they sometimes appear.
Forestry in the rural areas is sometimes held out as a remedy for arresting rural depopulation, but I do not think that when we study the figures we find that that is indeed the case. Paragraphs 234, 235 and 239, of this Report make particular reference to the subject of forestry, and there does appear to be a certain difficulty in getting hold of the true figures. The Forestry Commission's Annual Report showed that in 1956 there were 3,290 workers employed, and in 1961 only 2,982; whereas this Report says that 3,500 were employed in 1961. There is some discrepancy, which no doubt can be accounted for. This is perhaps a case of figures being able to mean almost anything. I just wanted to make clear the point that paragraph 239 states 1040 that, of 18 graduates—if I may so call them—who graduated from the Forestry Commission, only 3 were Welsh. It is a known fact in mid-Wales that the young Welshmen are not taking up that industry which is available to them.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the populations of the different counties, and my last word on this is to see whether the position is so tremendously serious, given the background I have tried to outline, as we may have been led to believe. The population of Cardiganshire went up between 1951 and 1961 by 286 persons. That of Carmarthenshire—which is half industrial—went down in ten years by 4,298; Merioneth went down by 2,400, in round figures; Montgomery went down by 1,760; and Radnorshire went down by 1,500 in that same period of ten years. It is true that they are slowly going down, but I have endeavoured to give your Lordships the kind of general background of the prosperity of Wales which may account in some degree for these figures.
As regards transport, I have a great deal of sympathy with the complaint that Dr. Beeching is to close some railways—in four counties in South West Wales virtually all except for the main lines to Fishguard and Milford Haven. In South Wales the other day I was talking to a signalman whom I know very well, and I am bound to say that I was considerably "cut down to size". I told him (paraphrasing the conversation) that he might soon be out of a job if Dr. Beeching continued on this policy. His reply was "I cannot understand the man at all. I cannot understand what he is doing. Anybody can take a pencil and draw it through this railway line or that railway line and say that he has saved money. Any fool could do that. Why! Even you could do it!" I tried not to have a flicker, and remembered that I was addressing your Lordships the following week.
Now the cutting of the services makes one reflect upon the value of nationalisation. I had always understood that the value of nationalisation was that the good would carry the bad, and so provide a national service all over the country. I suppose it is a little difficult if there is not much good; but that 1041 was always the theory of nationalisation. A good example of nationalisation is, of course, the Post Office. It has been calculated that in the mountains in the north-east part of my county, Carmarthenshire, it costs 2s. to deliver a letter to the remote farmhouses and to provide the service—which, in this case, means that the postman calls twice a week in case there are any letters for the post. But your Lordships may despatch a letter to there from your Lordships' House for 3d.—no more than if you posted one to the other place along the corridor. That is a supreme example of the good carrying the bad. I only wish that it could be applied to some extent to the transport facilities of Wales, although I am afraid it is only too true to say that very few people use the railways today.
The last point that I should like to make is not particular to Wales; it is of general application. I come to sea transport, and I move down to Pembrokeshire, where the great oil port of Milford Haven is being developed. What I am about to say is no particular criticism of Her Majesty's Government, and I believe that it is probably the price of democracy. We have to try to preserve the amenities of our small island, and we all accept planning as an essential part of life to-day; but this planning has now got to such a pitch that it may surprise your Lordships to know what obstacles have to be surmounted. In fact, it is probably only the biggest developer, when he gets down to brass tacks, who can face the formidable list with which he is confronted—although I am happy to say that the Regent Oil Company have surmounted these obstacles and are proceeding with their new refinery. But it may be that, as the Common Market comes into being, there will be manufacturers who may look around for places to develop in this country.
Here is the list of obstacles that has to be overcome by a would-be developer. It is not sufficient just to get the consent of the planning authority and the harbour authority; that is only the very beginning. First of all, he requires planning permission, under the General Development Order, 1950, and the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. Under that procedure, any 1042 aggrieved person or body can force a public inquiry, at which the developer can be cross-examined about his affairs; and that may easily set him back nine months. If the development is in a national park, as is happening, there must be special arrangements for the proposed development to be considered by the National Parks Committee. If the development includes an area with an ancient monument, the developer must give the requisite three months' notice and consult with the Minister of Works to obtain his approval under the Ancient Monuments Act, 1931. If the development includes a building scheduled under Section 29 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, then he must give the necessary three months' notice and obtain the approval of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
I will not weary your Lordships any further, but there are other obstacles to be surmounted, especially in dealing with the Crown Commissioners, who, of course, own the foreshore, and are apparently expected by law to extort the highest possible rent that the project will bear. I should like your Lordships to remember that if the development is a jetty, the developer rents only the part of the seabed on which the pile actually stands: the sea in between is not part of the let. I do not know whether it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to consider some form of central clearing house, by means of which foreign developers need not be intimidated (if they so are) by the very formidable list which I have sketched very lightly—and I have left out the very small details, with which I do not wish to weary your Lordships. I am given to understand that in the Port of Rotterdam, only one certificate of permission is needed.
As regards education, I have no time now (because I do not want to speak too long) to say very much. But I would just say, as President of the University College of South Wales, that our problems are no less pressing than those of any other university. While one sympathises with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the endless demands for more money coupled with a demand for Government economy, we can but hope that he will get his priorities right for whatever money is available. Before 1043 I sit down, I should like to welcome my noble friend Lord Leighton of St. Melions, who I understand is to follow me in this debate. As a result of his adornment of South Wales, Her Majesty's Government have advised Her Majesty to bring him into our deliberations, and I should like to offer him a very warm welcome here this afternoon.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ LORD LEIGHTON OF ST. MELLONS
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships' House for the first time, and I would crave that indulgence which your Lordships are always so ready and willing to give to one who is faced with this ordeal. Many of your Lordships—indeed, all the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate so far: the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, and the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor—have, I know, made maiden speeches in the past, not only in this House but in another place also. Although my father was a Member of another place, I never had that privilege, so this must be, in the truest sense, my maiden speech.
Having lived in Wales and Monmouthshire all my life, it is perhaps for me to declare at the outset that I have a very real and live interest in the affairs of the Principality, and in the well-being and welfare of the people of Monmouthshire and of South Wales in particular. I would pay my tribute to Dr. Charles Hill, the Minister for Welsh Affairs in another place, for his untiring labours on behalf of the Welsh people. I would pay my tribute, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, for his unceasing endeavours and his constant efforts on behalf of the interests of the people of his native land.
Having spent many years in association with the shipping. industry, I have possibly acquired some knowledge that enables me to speak from experience regarding the usefulness and the importance of the ports of South Wales. In paragraph 610 of this Report there is the factual statement that:During the year the number of vessels arriving at the ports decreased by 625 … and the net register tonnage decreased by 1,259,311 tons …But, my Lords, this is a continuing tendency. During the last four years 1044 the decrease each year has averaged 500 ships; and the loss of over 2,000 ships arriving at these ports has had a very adverse effect upon the local economy. It must be remembered that each ship employs agents, pilots, boatmen, dockers and riggers. Many of these ships would have used the dry docks, the ship-repairing facilities and the other auxiliary services.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, made a very moving reference to the mining industry, and to the diminishing supply of coal, particularly for export. Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor will recollect when Cardiff was the greatest coal exporting port in the world. In the year 1913 these South Wales ports exported over 30 million tons of Welsh coal. Last year it was but a trickle—5 per cent. of that quantity, or 1.5 million tons. To-day there are quays which are derelict, the hoists, the coal tips, are being dismantled and removed, and other appliances are lying idle. If these ports are to remain under the ownership and control of the British Transport Commission, the nationalised authority, with group management centred at Cardiff, then I would suggest to the Minister that consideration should be given to the desirability of setting up regional port boards, on the lines of the Port of London Authority, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and the recently established Milford Haven Conservancy Board in West Wales, over which the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, who has just sat down, so ably presides. I personally believe that if these port boards were appointed by the Minister of Transport, considerable benefits would accrue. These ports are at the stage when they either grow, develop and expand, or they shrink, decline and die.
My Lords, I am an optimist. I believe that we are on the eve of great opportunities. But with these opportunities, new and serious problems will arise. They will arise from the construction of that vast, gigantic steelworks which is being erected, at a cost of over £100 million, adjacent to Newport, and from the Rover motor car works which is being constructed at Cardiff. Problems will arise from the developments which will accrue, and must ultimately accrue, when the Severn Bridge has been 1045 completed. I believe that it is the shipowners, the shippers, the men engaged in commerce and industry in the areas, who are best able to assess the future prospects of these individual ports and to advise and recommend on the reconstruction, and reconditioning and the modernisation which is required to meet present-day and future local and national needs.
The Rochdale Committee, which Her Majesty's Government set up to examine all the ports of the country, will no doubt, in due time, examine some such proposal. But this Rochdale Committee was appointed in March, 1961, and ever since its appointment there has been a lack of confidence, an uncertainty and an anxiety in these South Wales ports as to the future. That has retarded and frustrated, and indeed stifled, many capital developments. I hope that when the Minister comes to wind up this debate, he will be able to indicate when the Rochdale Committee will complete its labours and when its Report will be made public.
I should not wish to presume upon your Lordships' patience by discussing the very comprehensive contents of this Report, but I would offer some observations on paragraphs 432, 437, and 441, although not necessarily in that order. All these paragraphs appertain to the operation of the National Health Service in Wales and Monmouthshire. These paragraphs have impressed me very much indeed. They are, as it were, extracts from a book of revelations, revelations to me of a very extraordinary character. I have always been convinced that Welsh people were a healthy people; that Wales was a healthy nation. I have memories of the vigour and vitality of the farming communities of North Wales, mid-Wales and West Wales. I know from personal knowledge of the health and strength of the workers in Monmouthshire and the valleys of South Wales—the miners, the colliers, the steel-workers, the boilermakers, the men who work at the pits and at the ports. Their womenfolk are cheerful, and have evidence of physical wellbeing and stamina; and the children are of the kind which makes the future bright with hope.
I think also of those Welsh regiments—the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Welch Regiment, and the South Wales 1046 Borderers. I think, too, of the fine rugby players which Wales has produced, and remember that the Welsh defeated France at Cardiff Arms Park recently, while England failed in Paris. I am sure that noble Lords who are familiar with the Welsh people would share my conviction about their health. But that is why I am so concerned and why these paragraphs in the Report are to me so disturbing, even alarming. The impression they leave upon one's mind is that Wales is not a healthy nation; it is a sick nation. And the "Land of My Fathers" has truly become a land of hypochondriacs.
The total population of Wales, as disclosed in the 1961 Census, is 2,640,362: that is, a little over 2½ million people. Paragraph 437 of the Report states that there are 1,296 doctors resident in Wales, having on an average 2,032 patients each. Then we come to the statistical table in paragraph 443, which shows that in the course of the year all these doctors issue between them no fewer than 13,904,846 prescriptions, nearly six for every man, woman and child in the country. On an average, every doctor in one year writes out 14.000 prescriptions; 280 a week; 40 for every day of a seven day week. Your Lordships may have noticed that this shows a substantial improvement on the previous year, in which the doctors wrote out nearly 15 million prescriptions.
Between the two years the individual cost of prescriptions to patients went from 1s. to 2s. The full cost of prescriptions went from 7s. 7d. to just over 8s. 8d. But, with fewer than 1,300 doctors writing out in two years 29 million prescriptions, one would not be surprised if some doctors developed writer's cramp, and whatever the conclusions may be about the health of the Welsh people, the doctors must be a very hardy and healthy body of men and women. The total cost of all these 29 million prescriptions to the National Health Service was in the order of £10 million, after giving credit for what the patients paid themselves.
But your Lordships may think the really alarming figures are those in the Report that refer to the ambulance service. I draw your Lordship's attention to paragraph 432, which shows that in 1047 1961, at a cost of more than £830,000, no fewer than 997,665 patients were conveyed by ambulance over a distance of 7,621,531 miles. Each of these patients travels on an average 7½ miles at a cost of 2s. 2d. a mile. For 1960, the previous year, the figures reveal that, at a cost of £799,899, a total of 955,688 patients were conveyed by ambulance over 7,342,327 miles. These ambulance journeys work out at 11½ miles each at a cost of 2s. a mile. Over the two consecutive years, 2 million patients were conveyed over 15 million miles at a cost of £1,600,000. Even allowing for the rural character of much of Wales, I think that these distances are rather surprising, and so is the cost involved. One is tempted to suggest that this is a matter that might be inquired into, to see whether some equally comfortable and equally efficient mode of transport could not be made available at a cheaper cost. Even minicabs have their uses.
The figure that is really staggering refers to the total number of patients. It really does stagger me, and I am not without some experience of these hospital statistics, for I was chairman of the governing body of a hospital for 25 years. The evidence before your Lordships' House is that over a brief period of two years, out of a total population of 2½ million, nearly 2 million patients were conveyed to hospital by ambulance. It is true that on the roads and rivers, in the mines and factories, the people of Wales are no more immune from accidents than any others. There may be patients who have to have several treatments. There may be a percentage of chronic sick, who have to return to hospital repeatedly. But, allowing for all these, for visitors who become ill and every conceivable circumstance, I find it difficult to reconcile my mind to the fact that, out of a population of 2½ million people, four-fifths of the total population should require conveyance by ambulance. We must accept the facts, but to me they are truly staggering.
If the health of the Welsh people is such as these various statistical tables suggest, it is reasonable to suppose that the teeth of the whole nation are in a deplorable state, for poor health and bad teeth so often go together. And paragraph 441 makes the statement that Wales has one dentist for every 6,353 1048 people. The inference is that dentists in Wales are very much overworked. Of course, statistics are not always a reliable guide; they do not tell the whole of the story. On occasion they are cited to support preconceived ideas, but I am not seeking to prove anything to-day. I am simply expressing my astonishment and my concern about what, on the surface, seems to be a most extraordinary situation. But perhaps there is some reasonable explanation that the Report itself does not disclose.
Finally, having referred to some of the matters in the Report, may I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that there is nothing in this Report about the presence of Borstal institutions and approved schools in Wales and Monmouthshire? Unhappily, Wales is no exception: there is no slump in crime. I feel that if the conditions existing in some of our prisons were more widely known, they would call for comment, for criticism and for action. The prison in Cardiff was built over 100 years ago. It has a normal capacity for 250 inmates. The average daily population last year exceeded 400. To-day it is 450. It means that in 150 cells there is one occupant in each, but in the other 100 there are three prisoners in each. I think that is a deplorable situation. Another disturbing factor to me is that from the prison to which I have referred there were discharged last year 900 civil prisoners. Those, too, experienced the same measure of hospitality, in many cases three in a cell. Many of them were debtor prisoners there on short sentences, many of them because their wives had committed them to hire purchase agreements which they found it quite impossible to fulfil, and many of them having themselves irresponsibly entered into contracts for the purchase of goods which they could never possibly afford.
I am not stressing that Wales is different from any other country in this matter, or in regard to the pressure on the prisons, but I would ask the Minister to consult with the Home Secretary in another place, particularly regarding this prison in the capital city, Cardiff. It stands there, almost in the centre of the city, occupying acres of valuable land. It is land of increasing value, and if this prison were demolished and the land sold for development for the benefit of the community, the proceeds 1049 would go a long way towards the cost of another modern, up-to-date establishment, out in the country and away from the city, adequate to the needs of our time. I have no intention of pursuing this matter further to-day, but I hope that, if other Reports of this nature are to be submitted to your Lordships' House, they will contain some reference to prisons, borstal institutions and approved schools, with some statistical data regarding crime and juvenile delinquency, about which we are deeply concerned. It only remains for me to express my gratitude to your Lordships for the kind and courteous way in which you have heard what I have had to say.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, may I comfort the noble Lord before he sits down? I do not think his analysis of these figures, that four-fifths of the people of Wales go to hospital, is quite correct. He will find that the total mileage covers the carriage of the same person a number of times, and does not refer to new patients.
§ LORD LEIGHTON OF ST. MELLONS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lady whether she is making reference to the fact that the same patient makes several journeys?
§ LORD LEIGHTON OF ST. MELLONS
I made reference to the fact that it includes the chronic sick, who may make repeated visits to hospital. I have no wish to confuse your Lordships. It is not four-fifths of the population who go; it is only a total number equal to four-fifths of the population. It is not necessarily 2 million of the population of Wales who have gone by ambulance to hospital; the number of journeys comes to 2 million, although some patients may have gone several times.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I know it will be your Lordships' unanimous wish that I should congratulate my noble friend Lord Leighton of St. Mellons on his maiden speech, which was both eloquent and informative. He spoke to us from considerable experience of the shipping industry, and revealed himself as a very expert statis- 1050 tician. I am sure your Lordships hope that he will return often to this House to give us the benefit of his wise words. I have the privilege of wishing him well because, unfortunately, the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has not been able to speak at this point in the debate. As the noble Viscount is a good friend of mine, and we both come from the same town of Mountain Ash, I should like to say how sorry I am he is not here, and hope that we shall see him again very soon in his place in this House.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as other noble Lords have done, for initiating this debate. I must say that I could not agree with him in almost anything he said, but particularly in his opening remark that he was going to be objective in considering this Report. Objectively, I find it a most comprehensive Report. He tended, to my mind, to single out certain very difficult problems of which the Government, I know, are fully aware, but he gave no credit for the achievements that have been recorded in this Report. He spoke, for example, of the problem of Central Wales, and he quoted paragraph 71 of the Report, but he did not go on and quote paragraphs 72 or 73. It hardly seems to me to be objective to quote the one paragraph which admits three disappointments and not to quote the two following paragraphs which give some good news and some reason for satisfaction.
I would refer, first of all, to the opening paragraph of the chapter on "Employment and Industrial Development", which states:Taken as a whole the year 1961 presents a picture of more jobs, increased demand for labour and fewer people out of work.I feel sure that every Welshman, to whatever Party he may belong, cannot help but welcome that statement, especially in view of the past history of Welsh employment. An equally satisfactory statement follows, to the effect that almost all the young people entering the employment field were absorbed, even though in that particular year, 1961, there was a substantial increase in the number of young people leaving school. This satisfactory position in the employment field stems, it seems to me, from the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and I cannot agree at all with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who 1051 seemed to disparage the efforts of the Government to attract new industry to Wales. For example, he was critical of the land development, which I should have thought was an outstanding contribution to Welsh economic development.
It seems clear to me also that the Local Employment Act has been a success in Wales. New industry has continued to be attracted, and it is satisfactory that some of it has gone to areas of North and Central Wales rather than all of it to the highly industrialised South. It is indicative of the success of the Act that already it has been possible to remove certain districts from the list of development districts. When my noble friend Lord Brecon recently visited Aberdare, he was able to state that since the war some 400 new firms have settled in Wales, and that the number of people engaged in manufacturing industry there is more than double the pre-war figure. It seems to me that Wales, from being a predominantly coalmining area, has now become an industrial centre, and I think a real tribute is due to the Minister for Welsh Affairs who was responsible for most of the period covered by this Report, my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke, and my noble friend Lord Brecon, for their efforts. They have stood out sturdily to support Welsh interests and they have, in my opinion, shown great courage on many occasions in taking decisions which were often not popular even in Wales but which have all, or the majority of them, in my opinion, proved wise.
In this what I consider generally satisfactory picture of industrial development I should like to make just one plea to my noble friend, although I know he already has it in mind: it is a plea for a diversification of industry in the Welsh mining valleys, which are still very heavily dependent upon the coal industry. There have grown up in these valleys over many years small communities who are proud of their local traditions and who foster a true community spirit among their members. As many of your Lordships know, life is not always pleasant in a mining valley. It is often remote, often there are scars left by the industry on once beautiful natural scenery, and, if I may offer one instance from my own valley, we have to 1052 put up with a factory belonging to the National Coal Board which makes "Phurnacite". It is a plant providing some of the best smokeless fuel in the country and if you ask anybody locally they will tell you the reason for its being such a fine smokeless fuel; it is because it pumps out all its smelly and vile fumes in our valley.
Those who live in these valleys are hardworking people, proud of their local traditions and proud of their local countryside, such as remains of it, and they show a truly democratic spirit in their own efforts at local self-government. It would be a tragedy if these areas were to become merely pools of employment to be drawn off to major factories in South Wales. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government have the problem in mind and will do all that they can to encourage other light industries to settle in the Welsh mining valleys. My noble friend will no doubt agree with me that those firms which are already settled in the valleys have never regretted it.
Having said those few words about what I might call the top of the Report, I should like to say a few words on the tail of the Report, which deals with cultural activities. This part does not seem to me to be logical, for, in my opinion, cultural activities should move hand in hand and develop alongside increasing industrialisation. I think it most important that Wales, besides developing as an industrial nation, should not neglect her cultural heritage. Wales has always been renowned for singing, poetry, music and the dramatic arts, and all over the country to this day there are the activities of amateur dramatic societies, choral societies and male voice choirs, all culminating in the annual National Eisteddfod.
But although there is no lack of amateur talent, Wales has hitherto neglected her professional artists, actors, poets sand musicians. Increased travel and, particularly, the coming of television have brought about increased interest in professional performance, and, if anything, a decrease in the activities of amateur societies. It is important that steps should be taken at once to establish Welsh professional institutions in the main branches of the arts. 1053 Something has already been done in this field. I need instance only the Welsh National Opera Company, which, against great odds, has overcome a critical period and now has a season at Sadler's Wells, and which plans a school of opera in Cardiff. However, even the Welsh National Opera Company would not have been able to continue in existence without the aid of the Arts Council, and it is satisfactory to know that the Arts Council grant for Wales has increased from just under £44,000 in 1959–60 to over £78,000 in 1961–62.
However, there are still major gaps in the field of the arts in Wales, such as the absence of a Welsh national orchestra, a concert hall and a Welsh national theatre. If I may declare an interest at this point, I would inform your Lordships that I am chairman of the St. David's Theatre Trust Company and we are endeavouring to provide Wales with a Welsh national theatre. We have so far enjoyed the great support of the Cardiff City Council. I hope that we may also look for support to Her Majesty's Government and that all Welshmen everywhere will support us when we come to try to raise funds for this enterprise. I believe that we can succeed in giving Wales a theatre worthy of her position in the forefront of modern industrial progress built on ancient cultural traditions.
§ 4.6 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating my noble friend and Vice-Lieutenant on an excellent maiden speech. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, afforded me same surprise when he said he had found the industry of South Wales in a state of chaos. Monmouthshire is not technically part of South Wales and I have never visited any factory in South Wales, but I have had occasion in the course of my duties to visit most of the leading factories in Monmouthshire and I certainly have observed no signs of chaos. The older factories such as Girling's, at Cwmbran, and the great nylon factory at Pontypool continue to flourish; the magnificent new aluminium works at Rogerstone is going Strong and there is no sign of chaos there. Also I should like just to mention the steel works at Llanwern, which I had the privilege of inspecting a fortnight ago and which 1054 really is a staggering sight. Maybe it is two-thirds smaller than it might heave been but it is still 3½ miles long. Clearly it is a most magnificent example of enterprise. It is the largest and most up-to-date strip mill in the world and if it only goes on as it is now starting it will reflect very great credit on all who have anything to do with its development.
The noble Lord also mentioned Blaenavon, which I had occasion to visit quite recently. It is not as derelict as the noble Lord suggested. Two flourishing factories have recently been erected there by the Doncaster firm, which I have had the privilege of inspecting. It is true there is a large derelict area of what used to be the works of the Blaenavon Company, but it has been derelict for over 40 years and no blame can be attached to anyone now living because it has remained derelict, but it is hoped very much that somebody else will start sufficient factories in that area.
So far as our railways are concerned, the Government have shut them down, but in my view they were perfectly justified in doing so. There were few people travelling by them and quite adequate bus services are replacing them. As regards roads, we are going to do very well. The Severn Bridge is well started and when it is completed it will be of very great benefit to Monmouthshire, linking it more closely with England. There is also the northern road, which has hardly reached into Monmouthshire yet, but work will start there very soon and it will be of enormous advantage in the way of communications. There is very little unemployment in Monmouthshire and I think I can say on behalf of the people there that they are, or ought to be, very grateful for all that is being done, and has been done, in recent years.
I also listened with some surprise to what the noble Lord had to say. So far as I can make out, he thinks that Wales should be maintained as a kind of museum piece by the English taxpayer; it should he preserved as an area of rustic Celticism. Why should the English taxpayer do that? It is obvious the noble Lord thinks it has got to be done by the English taxpayer; he realises the Welsh taxpayer cannot afford to do it. Why should it be done 1055 at all? Why should the English taxpayer preserve the Welsh small farmer? No small farmers are worth preserving. Small farming is dead, or ought to be dead; at any rate it is dying. The proper way to farm is with tractors. People who cannot afford to farm with tractors should not farm at all, and verysoon they will not be farming, at all. The noble Lord speaks of derelict farmhouses. I have got rid of a derelict farmhouse. It was a miserable substandard house; when the man got out of it—of his own accord; he obtained a better place—I let it go. That is what people are doing all over Wales, quite rightly. Places become unfit for habitation, if not on the grounds of the houses themselves, then on the grounds of being quite inaccessible to civilisation.
I am not going to say any more than that, but there is one other subject to which the noble Lord briefly alluded. It is not in the Report but I trust I shall not be too far out of order in referring to it. That is the question of county boundaries. The Commission have not yet made their final report, so this is perhaps one of the few occasions when something that one says might influence the final decision. When things go into a Bill and are Government policy, we may stand up and talk and express disapproval but we know very well that nothing more than minor amendments will go through. This is a case which has not yet come before Parliament and I hope that before it does the Government will think very hard.
As has been said in this debate, there is a large area of central Wales, three or four thousand square miles, extremely mountainous, of which the population is about 65 to the square mile. The Commission in their findings have devoted their attention almost entirely to the wellbeing of this area or to what they think should be the wellbeing of this area. What they are proposing to do is to take the thirteen counties of Wales and Monmouthshire and unite them into five. So far as Monmouthshire is concerned, they propose to add Radnorshire and Breconshire and to make them one administrative county. I do not think they really appreciate the complexity of modern local government. I have here the county diary, from which I see that the Monmouthshire County
1056 Council now has 47 committees; not only that, but it has 81 other bodies of which a varying number of the county council form part.
The Commission say, and no doubt it is true, that the committee structure might be rationalised. I dare say it might be rationalised to some extent; probably some of these committees could be done away with and perhaps some could have fewer members. But the whole system of local government in this country is government by committee. There have to be large numbers of committees, even if not so many. If there are large numbers of committees, that means members of county councils must pay frequent visits to the county hall. I have had time to look at a map and I have found that the greatest distance that any county councillor now has to go to reach his county hall is that in North Devon, Lynton and such places, where he may live 55 miles from the county hall. I cannot think how they get anybody to serve on the county council. I was a county councillor for a great many years, and if anybody had suggested that I should go 55 miles to the meetings I should not have stood for election. That is nothing, however, to what these people are now proposing. The North of Radnorshire is 80 miles from Newport. The journey is through a series of winding roads. They have another method of approach; the railway from Newport to Hereford is still running and in order to attend meetings they could conceivably motor 40 miles to Hereford and then go 40 miles by train to Newport. I think it is very unlikely they would do that. It seems to me quite absurd to expect them to travel so far.
Of course what applies to the county council applies equally to the county officials the other way round. The Monmouthshire county officials have plenty of work to do and if this so-called improvement comes into being they will either have to neglect their duties in Monmouthshire or appoint deputies for Breconshire and Radnorshire. If they appoint deputies things will be no different. If they do not, they will have to spend half their time wandering about the mountains in Breconshire and Radnorshire or give a report and advice to the committee on matters of which 1057 they know nothing. What do the Commission say to that? They say that the county councils should be sited at suitable administrative centres. In other words, what they suggest, I gather, is that the capitals of the counties should be moved from the populous parts of North Wales and South Wales in which they are now situated, to the central wilderness.
Surely they must realise that those councils not only themselves have a very complex existence with a great many buildings, vast quantities of archives and offices of all kinds, but employ a great many people, and it would be quite impossible to rehouse those people in the wilds of central Wales. It is extraordinary to me that they should have any such idea.
Their ideas about roads seem to me a bit odd. They say that each county—that is to say, each of these composite counties—would be able to have a range of modern road-building equipment. What they apparently seem to suppose is that in some central spot in each of these four vast counties there would be a set of road-making equipment, which would be able to be transported 50 or 60 miles at short notice to wherever it was wanted. They do not seem to realise that this road-making equipment has technical people to operate it and they would have to be transported 40 or 50 miles daily to their work. The whole idea that you can save money in this way seems to me to be quite absurd.
These areas of central Wales must be extremely expensive to administer whatever system of administration is adopted; that cannot be avoided. As the noble Lord said with regard to the Post Office, that applies to everything else; it must apply to everything else. The people who live in these areas are entitled to proper administration and if they cannot pay for it themselves somebody else must pay it for them, and that person should be the British taxpayer as a whole. There is no reason why the ratepayers in Monmouthshire should pay for Radnorshire. The whole idea that you can cheapen administration and the cost of roads by juggling with county boundaries, seems to me to be totally unfounded.
§ 4.20 p.m
§ LORD SWANSEA
My Lords, we have had quite a good debate this afternoon and I do not intend to prolong it unduly. I am a resident of that wilderness in mid-Wales to which my noble friend Lord Raglan has just referred, North Brecon. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if my remarks tend to deal more particularly with that part of Wales, which I have known and loved all my life. I think it is fairly representative of rural Wales.
I must support my noble friend Lord Raglan in what he has said about the proposals of the Local Government Commission, particularly as I am a member of a local authority in a county which, if the proposals of this Commission are implemented, will become absorbed by my noble friend's county. I say "absorbed" advisedly, because the bulk of the representation on the council of that super county, if I may call it such, is bound to come from Monmouthshire, from the more populated areas, while the representation from Breconshire and Radnorshire is surely going to be greatly outnumbered, and, in consequence, the interests of the rural areas will be bound to suffer. The representatives from these rural areas will have to travel extremely long distances. I think my noble friend made a slight slip when he said that from the north of Breconshire to Newport is 80 miles.
§ LORD SWANSEA
I took it that that is what my noble friend meant. But 80 miles is a long way to go for a county council meeting. One can see that it will place an extremely heavy burden on those representatives who go into local government of their own accord, of their own free will, on a voluntary basis. They are worked pretty hard as it is, even if they have to travel only twenty miles or so to the local seat of government. If they have to go 80 miles each way a heavy burden is placed upon them. Travelling will involve a considerable waste of time, which could be better spent either at the local seat of government or in their own occupations. Centralisation of administration can be carried too far, to the extent when it will defeat its own ends, and 1059 I think we must retain the measure of de-centralisation which we have at present.
Some of the existing councils are admittedly small in terms of population. They could be said to be uneconomic units, but they have an intense local pride in and loyalty to their own area, combined with an intimate knowledge of each other, of their officers and of the local conditions, which would be entirely lost if that county were amalgamated with a larger one. The longer the range from which government is carried on, the more impersonal it must become. If the proposals are carried out they may well create major difficulties in the organisation of local government which may result in the creation of extremely large district and parish council areas. Most district council areas are fairly compact and efficient units. I think that if the administration of two or three counties were amalgamated, inevitably the same thing would happen with the district councils, which I think would be a bad thing. I think they ought to stay on their present basis.
Then there is the question of finance. I will give your Lordships an example, which has been agreed to by the respective county treasurers of Breconshire, Radnorshire and Monmouthshire, of what the rate poundage would be, based on the estimates of the amount spent in 1961–62. The result would be an increase in the rate poundage for all three counties, ranging from 8d. in Monmouthshire, to 1s. 1d. in Breconshire, and an increase of 4s. 8d. in Radnorshire. This would be due mainly to the loss of over £400,000 in general and rate deficiency grants which would be incurred by the proposed new super county.
The proposed changes to the southern boundary of Breconshire—it is proposed to transfer certain areas to Glamorgan—would result in Breconshire itself being broken up, dismembered, to such an extent as to have the gravest effects on the voluntary organisations which are at present based on existing county council areas. A very good working partnership exists at present between the local authorities and all the voluntary organisations. That partnership is of great benefit to the local authorities and 1060 to the voluntary organisations themselves. Many of these voluntary organisations depend on the intimate personal contact that they have with the officers of the local authorities, which would be lost to them if they were part of an enlarged administrative area.
The regulations under which the Local Government Commission were set up include certain factors which should be taken into account. They are given in these regulations in alphabetical order. I am just wondering whether it is only a coincidence that the last one on the list happens to relate to the wishes of the inhabitants. Your Lordships may no doubt know that some of the other factors are community of interest, economic and other characteristics, financial resources, physical features, the size and distribution of the population and the record of administration of the local authorities concerned. I defy anybody to prove that the existing county councils and district councils have in any way failed in their duty to the inhabitants of their areas. I think every county council in Wales can be proud of its record of administration. With my noble friend Lord Raglan, I sincerely hope that, as the deliberations of the Local Government Commission are still continuing, any representations which may be made during that time will be considered and noted when the Commission present their final Report.
The other subject that I wish to mention is the proposed closure of certain railway facilities in mid-Wales. The British Transport Commission have proposed to withdraw entirely the passenger facilities, and certain freight facilities, from the whole of mid-Wales, from Brecon up to Montgomeryshire, leaving, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore said, only the railways in the coastal strip. The immediate proposals are for the closure of the line serving Brecon from all directions, including the Brecon-Newport, Brecon-Neath and Brecon-Hereford lines. Proposals for the future, I understand, include closing the line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth. Another line which is also under review is that from Swansea to Shrewsbury—which one can hardly call a branch line. These closure proposals in regard to these branch lines have caused considerable concern in mid-Wales; and 1061 the opinion of most, if not all, of the local authorities, including the one of which I am a member, is that to withdraw the passenger facilities from these lines without ensuring adequate alternative means of transport could be a major disaster to the area.
I do not intend to give the impression that these lines are used by many passengers; because they are not. The figures are there for all to see; the number of passengers is admittedly small, but the demand is there. These people travel by railway either because they have no transport of their own (and, my Lords, in spite of this affluent society, there are still such people in this country) or because in nearly every case the bus services are totally inadequate, and in some cases non-existent, perhaps running on one or two days of the week. What is going to happen to these people who are in the habit of travelling by train? Because it is clear that the bus services will not take them—they are completely inadequate. The withdrawal of these rail services is bound to inflict considerable hardship on the local residents, particularly the elderly people who have to make regular visits down from the villages in order to visit a doctor, or for any other reason.
The branch lines should be regarded not as an isolated part of the railway system, but as tributaries of the main line. My noble friend Lord Dynevor mentioned a very good parallel, the Post Office. The postal charges are the same in all parts of the country, whether in the towns or in the country areas, and there is no question of withdrawing postal services in rural areas simply because they are not an economic proposition. They are a public service, and I would submit that the railways, too, are a public service, and should be retained as such. Closing the branch lines may well affect traffic on the main lines, and any saving that might be effected through the closure of the branch lines would be largely offset by a loss of revenue that might be suffered by the main lines.
Industrial development in mid-Wales is vital to the prosperity of the region, and the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, in conjunction with the local authorities, is endeavouring to attract industries to mid-Wales. That 1062 is a very praiseworthy object, and will do much to increase the prosperity of those areas and to stop the drift of population into the larger towns. But there is a great danger that all these efforts may be fruitless if the closure of these lines (I am referring now not only to passenger services but also to freight services) is brought about; for the industrialists are hardly likely to be attracted to an area which has no railway facilities. The roads in mid-Wales are barely adequate for the amount of traffic they have to carry, certainly in the holiday season, and, if large amounts of heavy industrial traffic were suddenly to appear on the roads, I think the situation would be chaotic. There is no proposal, so far as I know, for trunk roads or motorways in mid-Wales. They are coming along very nicely in South Wales, where they are needed most, but the roads in mid-Wales will have to wait a long time, and at present, as I say, they are quite inadequate for any large increase in the volume of traffic.
I am sure your Lordships will agree that it would be a tragedy of the first magnitude if, in order to effect a trifling economy in a public service, a crippling blow were dealt to the prosperity of mid-Wales. The savings effected by these closures would be negligible in comparison with the saving which could be effected in other regions. In particular they would be a drop in the ocean compared to the British Transport Commission's colossal deficit; they would make hardly any difference to it. The railways are a public service and should be treated as a whole. Small losses on these branch lines should be accepted. As I say, it is a small loss by comparison with the overall losses of the Commission. Closing these lines and cutting the losses would only transfer those losses to private industry, which would be far less able to bear them.
Instead of closing these lines, considerable economies could be made by replacing the present steam trains by small one-car or two-car diesel units, which would be much more economical to run. Further economies could be brought about by issuing tickets on the trains, thus reducing station staff. Above all, I think that rail transport is the safest means of transport in the country, much safer than road transport and much safer than air transport. A regular 1063 service of rail buses, shall we say—I can think of no better term for them—would keep these lines open. It would relieve the pressure of traffic on the roads and provide an efficient means of transport in the greatest possible safety.
What is to happen to the railway workers on these lines when they are closed? They will, presumably, become redundant or be moved to other regions. Many of them are at present housed by the Transport Commission. If they are transferred to other areas, many of them may have to face down-grading. I hope that the departments of the Commission concerned are bearing that point in mind. When these freight services are reduced and in some cases withdrawn, it is proposed to convey freight from a convenient railhead by road transport, although the railhead may be some considerable distance away. I know that local traders in many towns are very apprehensive about the kind of service they are likely to get from such an arrangement, particularly as regards bulky and heavy goods such as fertilisers and coal.
Then there is the question of the Royal Welsh Show which from next year will have a permanent site at Builth Wells, only 200 yards from Builth Wells station which is due to be closed. The Show authority would then have to rely for their rail services on Llandrindod Wells, which is a round trip of 15 miles. Many of the things in the Royal Welsh Show must go by rail, and I know that the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society are very concerned about this position. There is also the timber trade to be considered. Forestry is one of the major industries of mid-Wales, and is growing year by year. In a few years the area around North Breconshire and Radnorshire should be able to produce large quantities of timber for conversion and drying; and at Builth Wells there is a large goods yard with plenty of room for such a plant and very good sidings and loading, facilities. A serious blow might be dealt to the forestry industry if these railway facilities were curtailed or withdrawn.
Finally, my Lords, one cannot exclude the possibility at some time of a national emergency of some sort or another. In such an eventuality it is conceivable that 1064 central Wales will be considered a safe area, so to speak, for the purpose of evacuation. If we were to pull up all our railway lines in mid-Wales now, I tremble to think what might happen on the roads. That is all I have to say, my Lords, and I thank you for your attention.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD BOSTON
My Lords, so often do we consider matters connected with Scotland that it is frequently forgotten that the people of Wales have equal feelings of loyalty to their country. We have already heard a good deal about that to-day, but I still have a few points to bring forward which have not so far been touched on. However, I will not go at any length into the question of railways and so on, about which we have already heard sufficient. I must confess at the start that I am not a Welshman nor do I speak their ancient language, but my family have owned land there since 1750. I think I can safely say that I am to-day the only speaker from North Wales, so I hope that your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes in order that I can say something about that part. Other speakers have included true Welshmen, who speak far more eloquently than I, but it is sometimes helpful if the impressions of an observer who lives in Wales are stated openly, even if they may appear to border on the controversial, and even if they appear to depart from the subject of the Motion. I would ask for the indulgence of the House and I can promise brevity.
Now, my Lords, who are the Welsh people? Their history is full of incident, colour, courage and renown. Dramatic events influenced down the ages by staunch determination to hold the frontiers of their land of mountains and valleys, reveal deep attachment to an ancient heritage that it is still their privilege to enjoy and to guard. Tribally sub-divided from the dawn of history, the diversities in their national life were perpetuated by topographical and other considerations, so that the Welsh were only at one when their heritage was threatened. Recognition as a national entity under the Tudor dynasty ushered in more settled conditions, but it has never brought acknowledgement of nationhood from across the border.
1065 Unfortunately, rival claims for recognition and forms of assistance desired between North, South and mid-Wales still exist, and although the present Government have done much to encourage unity in recent years and have appointed a Minister for Welsh Affairs with a seat in the Cabinet, and a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs who is a Member of your Lordships' House and will be replying for the Government on this Motion, disunity still appears to me to exist. May I take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the work done for Wales by this team, and for the full-time work of the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, in his relentless efforts to encourage progress and unity in the Principality. My only comment is on our failure in not requiring his presence here more often to listen and reply to our criticisms, suggestions or praise.
In order that Members of another place can spend more time over problems peculiar to Wales, a Welsh Grand Committee have been appointed and, as can he seen in the Report under review, they have discussed health, education, Welsh water resources and Welsh radio and television. That, at least, reduces the length of debates in the other place and will, one hopes, quite often enable the united result of their deliberations to be placed before the House. The Committee have not been in existence long enough to prove their value in the production of positive results.
In addition, the Government have set up the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire which met five times in Wales in 1961. They investigated matters such as the tourist industry, the state of rural communications and the situation regarding the Welsh language, and also specific matters in the agricultural sphere. My personal opinion, based, I admit, solely on brief Press reports, is that their deliberations appear to have been devoted too much to matters of a nation which they would like to create rather than to the pressing, needs of a Principality which actually exists. Too many members appear to resign when they cannot persuade the majority of the Council to adopt their views; and some of their objectives, although applicable to Wales, appear to be equally pressing in Scotland and other hilly and sparsely-populated areas of the United Kingdom.
1066 The Report also deals with numerous other Councils and Committees for Wales. There is no need for me to draw your Lordships' attention to them, but I should like to make a brief reference to the Local Government Commission for Wales, about which we have heard from the last two speakers. To my mind, this is a bold and controversial attempt to reorganise local government which can be attempted only by a Government which has confidence in its necessity, whether the plan will be popular or not. The suggestion for re-grouping into five regions (I think that is the right word) instead of the present thirteen counties is, to my mind, interesting, and would at least be an economic improvement in the case of small counties who try, to use a popular phrase, to "keep up with the Joneses" by spending more than they can afford. This is a cry from my own heart, since the rates of my own county have increased 5s. in the pound this year and 2s. 6d. in the pound last year, making a total, with the district and parish rate, of 30s. 1d. in the pound.
Under the present system, high rates appear inevitable in agricultural counties which have little industry to pay the increased requirement, but re-grouping should help to effect a reduction. I would remind your Lordships that in South Wales industry can pay something towards rates, but in the north we are only just beginning to get it. It is only natural that the re-grouping will be strongly opposed by existing councils, who object to loss of independence and possible redundancy of staff. However, this is not the time or place to develop this theme further. I merely felt it fair to remind your Lordships of these points before passing on to what the Welsh people want and what the Government have contributed towards their needs and wishes.
It may be news to some of your Lordships that at the 1959 General Election 77,500 electors cast their votes on behalf of twenty candidates who represented the Welsh National Party—an increase of 32,500 on the previous Election—and I fully expect that figure to increase again next time. It is difficult to say exactly what they want, but only the extremists appear to want independent home rule for Wales; the majority would probably be satisfied with the pre- 1067 servation of their culture and way of life, and with more responsibility for local affairs, especially education and agriculture. They are unanimous over the necessity to preserve the Welsh language, but I would rather deal with that problem separately in a moment.
Next, I will deal briefly with what has been done in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire to reduce unemployment in those two counties, which I know best. The noble Lord, in his reply, will, I am sure, give your Lordships further details covering the whole Principality. In the past, both counties were predominently agricultural, and a considerable number of men depended upon the slate quarries. But private enterprise, with Government support and initiative, has gone far to introduce industry which will assist greatly the rates, as well as reduce the number of unemployed. They even went so far as to build an advance factory in Holyhead costing £94,000 before finding a firm to occupy it. This bold experiment was a success, as a firm manufacturing light circuit switchgear soon took it over, and they hope to employ 300 to 350 people within three or four years. The reason it will take that time is, of course, the need to build up a trained labour force from scratch.
Other new industry in Anglesey includes Octel anti-knock compounds for aero and motor fuels, which, strange to say, depend entirely on a vast amount of clean sea water from which to extract bromine. Other industries include the production of overalls, which requires mainly female labour; engraving of printed cylinders for textile industries; manufacture of pressure gauges and other light engineering. Altogether, these factories will, it is hoped, provide about 800 jobs where previously industry was almost unknown. In Caernarvonshire, by far the greatest "catch" has been the new factory, just outside the town of Caernarvon, for Messrs. Ferrodo, Limited, who hope to employ about 500 people in the near future, rising to about 1,000 in time. Altogether, in Caernarvonshire it is hoped that the total number of jobs available will be increased by 2,500. Slate quarrying has been through a difficult time, but private enterprise is developing a new and up-to-date quarry to supplement the vast excava- 1068 tions which are becoming difficult to work.
What is described as the tourist industry continues to be a great stand-by, but the season is all too short, though, from a climatic point of view, it could easily be extended. The only suggestion that I have to make is the need to encourage more attraction for those who want outdoor activity during their holiday, and those who come most weekends as well. I have in mind the local council who at first refused to allow a yacht club building because they suspected that the word "club" was the same as "pub" and would lead to drinking on Sundays. It took some months to persuade them that the last thing the club wanted was a licence, owing to the number of young members; but in the end all was well, and the club now attracts many members every weekend, from Easter to the end of September, who we hope spend money in the district, even if they occupy only caravans.
With regard to the establishment of new industries to provide work where the numbers of unemployed are above the national average, I suggest that wishful thinking serves no useful purpose and that what is needed is practical suggestions from the local councils and Press. It has always been a mystery to me to know who is primarily responsible—the local councils, with the aid of the Minister, or the Minister, with the aid of the councils, the chambers of commerce, and so on. Perhaps the noble Lord wil enlighten me in his reply. The easy answer is co-operation, but the position is that when the Minister brings off a success, even on a small scale, all is jubilation; but when he is unable to bring full-time work to some isolated or unsuitable area the Government are held entirely responsible, and Opposition Members of the other place take full advantage of the Chance to call attention to the alleged shortcomings of the Government.
I have in mind one instance, not long ago, in which the Press stated in high jubilation that a firm was about to open a new branch in Wales. When it appeared that this was entirely wishful thinking, the Government were blamed. The firm then wrote to the Press stating that they had never taken a final decision to open a factory, as it appeared unlikely 1069 that sufficient suitable labour would be forthcoming, and that they had only been encouraged by the Minister to consider the site. In spite of this denial, the Press went down fighting and still saying that the Government were to blame for the cancellation. I halve read that one of the solutions offered by the Leader of the Opposition Party, if and when they were returned to power, would be to open Government-operated industry in these black spots. My Lords, I do not think I need develop that point. I do not think that such schemes would work economically.
Attention has been drawn to the lack of What is called "Welsh enterprise" and money to start industry in fresh areas. The Minister himself has, I believe, referred to it from time to time. From a proud race who rightly pride themselves on their independence from the foreign English, it seems a pity that nearly all new enterprises appear to originate from across the border. Apart from a few Welsh woollen factories which offer for sale goods of a quality equal to, if not better than, those from Scotland, there appear to be few, if any, rural industries except those producing small articles of little value for the tourist trade. Even in the woollen mills I understand that there are few young recruits learning the craft.
One word about rural depopulation. Let me say quite briefly that, whilst one is naturally sympathetic, it would be far more practical and helpful if the education authorities, together with the Press and television, did more to draw attention to the advantages and possibilities of emigration in these days of work for the United Nations, et cetera, and in the under-developed areas for those who are prepared to take on the work, rather than dead-end jobs in a small factory near home, or temporary road work for the local council. With all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, I suggest that there are times in certain areas when he could to advantage harden his heart, and encourage this emigration from areas where there is no real hope of progress for the younger generation.
One last mild criticism. Paragraph 291 of the Government Report records that:Significant progress was made during the year in regard to the provision of additional 1070 facilities for youth activities resulting from the issue in 1960 of the Albemarle Report.Perhaps it is too soon to expect universal support or result, but I find the following letter dated April 27, 1962, from the Provincial Youth Council of the Church in Wales to be disappointing, to say the least. Perhaps I may be permitted to read an extract from the letter. It is as follows:We have had excellent co-operation from the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education, and they have given us every help since the Albemarle Report. This is also true of some of the local education authorities. Our criticism is of those authorities who, as I said yesterday, have been ' slow off the mark '. One hesitates to use the term ' delaying action ', but continued refusal of our applications for grant aid for leadership training courses, projects, and local development, means they are delaying the implementation of the Albemarle Report.In the case of one county, we sent in an application following the acceptance in principle of the Report by the Minister of Education two years ago, and it has been deferred and we still await a reply. Another example is a county borough which has indicated that this year it will not give grant-aid to voluntary organisations. One of our groups in another county planned an imaginative project—an expedition with a purpose. A matter of days before they were due to leave, a letter arrived from the authority to the effect that it could not give a definite answer, and would consider it some time in the future. If it was decided to help, it would be made retrospective. This was useless and almost wrecked the whole scheme. It was saved by the fact that the whole community rallied around so that the young people should not be disappointed (they could not have gone without help) and made a collection. Otherwise, it would have been a tremendous setback to voluntary youth work in that district.I do not think that is altogether satisfactory, my Lords. One can appreciate the need to economise and the difficulty of giving support to all voluntary organisations; but, in view of the great importance attached to personal training and leadership above all other forms of teaching, I can only hope that those local authorities who have not done so will do their best in the near future, or at least give a convincing reply for not being able to give financial help for the time being.
I cannot refrain from mentioning in brief the problem of the Welsh language, as, to my mind, that is the main problem with which Wales is faced, and it is one which is liable to delay progress as well as the unity of all people living in Wales. I know that I 1071 am on dangerous ground, but the matter is referred to in paragraphs 297 to 300 of the Report, so I am not departing altogether from the subject of the Motion. Of course the Welsh language must be preserved; no one will dispute that. But it has been allowed to merge far too much with political issues. If only the Welsh Nationalists would confine their activities to the support of their ancient heritage, rather than unrealistic aims which they are never likely to achieve, how much easier it would be to present a far stronger united front in protection of their other ideals than they can possibly hope for under their present organization! How much easier it would be to develop their agriculture under one Farmers' Union and industry! How much easier it would be for the Ministers concerned! Cut out the political aims, and they would, I believe, get the support of all Welsh men and women, and of the English people who have made their home in Wales. This may be asking a lot of them, but as an Englishman I cannot support Welsh politics as they stand at present; but I can, and I do, support their cultural ideals, with certain reservations over the Welsh language.
Welsh literature goes back to the 8th, if not the 6th, century. And it is not only a language of literature; it has an oral tradition which goes back to the days long before men ever learned to write. Even to-day the Welsh language can be understood by the inhabitants of Brittany, proving a common origin. But it is time that the Welsh people considered seriously whether it should be preserved in its original form, or modernised by the adoption and invention of new words required for these days of progress. Is it any good to force a child whose parents are only in Wales by reason of employment to learn Welsh? Is it an attraction or a deterrent to a firm which is thinking of starting a branch? How will key workers who are needed to instruct recruits to industry react to their children being forced to learn and to pass exams in the Welsh language? Even if a Welsh speaking instructor can be found, does the language lend itself to modern phrases?
1072 Those are questions which the Welsh people must decide for themselves; and I would add there that that difficulty would be far more prevalent in North Wales, which is still the home of the Welsh language, than it would in the South. Whether a child attending Yr Ysgol Cymraeg(the all-Welsh school) can also pick up sufficient English, or other language, if he or she wishes to enter a profession, such as the law, medicine, or nursing, is, to my mind, doubtful in every case. If one is brought up to think in one language, it is very difficult to express oneself equally well in another. To some this accomplishment is a gift, but it is hard to acquire. A Welsh lay reader speaking in Welsh does so eloquently and fluently; but speaking in English he becomes disjointed and difficult to follow. It is only natural, because he has to translate what is in his mind from a language which has changed little during the centuries and which has no literal translation, into modern English. I am the vicar's warden in my parish, but the proceedings are recorded and carried on in Welsh. Only a brief summary is from time to time translated for my benefit.
My last point on this problem is the use of the Welsh language in local government, official tribunals, et cetera. In North Wales all parish councils and most district councils conduct their affairs in Welsh, making it almost impossible for an Englishman to seek election. In one case an Englishman was elected to a rural district council but the other councillors refused to translate for his benefit. He attended for about two years, and then resigned and left the district. It would be interesting to know the legal position. My Lords, I have been wandering too far from the original Motion, but I hope that the future preservation of this language will not become a political issue at the expense of the younger generation, who may be called upon to travel abroad more and more if and when entry into the Common Market becomes a reality.
In conclusion, although some of my remarks may have appeared over-critical or uncalled for from an Englishman, may I say that I hold the greatest respect for the people of Wales and 1073 their loyalty, and should like to quote the saying of an aged Welshman of Carmarthen who, when he was brought before King Henry II in the 12th century, told the King:No other nation than this Wales, or any other language, whatever hereafter may come to pass, shall, in the Day of Judgment before the Supreme Judge, answer for this corner of the earth".That is still the spirit of many people in Wales to-day, and it should be respected as far as possible.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I just say to the noble Lord that I have no doubt at all that when I read his speech to-morrow I shall find it most interesting and covering a great variety of Welsh subjects, but it has been quite impossible, at the speed at which he read his speech, for us to be able to absorb the very important propositions which he has made to your Lordships' House. I hope he does not mind my mentioning that. Perhaps he had better look up the Standing Order which governs practice in that matter. But I will look at his speech, because obviously he was enthused with his subject.
May I next say that I regret that I have to appear before your Lordships to-day as something of a stop-gap? The noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, both regretted the absence of my noble friend Lord Hall. I want to apologise that I am a stop-gap to-day for Viscount Hall, who is unable, because of very severe broncial trouble this week, to be here, because I am quite sure that he would have dealt, if not more kindly, at least more thoroughly, with the propositions which were made by Lord Ogmore as a sort of basis of attack against both the Conservative Government and the Labour Opposition at the same time.
As he went on, he seemed to emphasise what a terrible mistake he had made when he left the Labour Party in 1959. It was an extraordinary event to me at the time. He had supported my Party at the polls right through the General Election campaign in 1959. He had had my trust and confidence in doing so. He had been nominated by me to important posts—in the Colonial Development Corporation, a post which, by the way, he still holds—and to represent our 1074 point of view at N.A.T.O. and on other bodies, where he could be active in really representing a large body of political opinion and representation in this country. Two days after the Election, the votes not having gone so much in the Labour direction as he had hoped during the Election, he left the Party.
To-day, When dealing with this vastly important question of the state of Wales, he sees fit to attack both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. More than once during his speech he said that neither had any interest in Wales. Is that the view of Wales? He knows that it is not. There are 36 Members of Parliament for Wales and 27 of them are Labour Members, as much Welsh as he is and rather more so. There are as many Labour Members of Parliament to-day as there were in our great majority of 1945.
What is wrong with our interest in Wales? Does the noble Lord remember the proposals he made to me, as Leader of the Opposition in this House, about what we should do about Wales? We had no quarrel about these. The noble Lord was never against the policy which we were supporting. But now he gets hold of the policy of planning and is willing to prosecute it to the furthest. I suppose that he had never heard of planning in the Labour Party up to the time he left it! If the noble Lord knows anything about planning to-day, he learned it from the Labour Party. I wish that we did not approach these matters with quite so much political humbug. It is a great pity, because Wales is an important question.
I listened with great interest to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Leighton of St. Mellons. It brought back memories of the great family of shipbuilders to which he belongs. It made me think of what the nation as a whole owed to the Welsh shipbuilders and Welsh repairers, especially at the yard at Newport, during the war. Does the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, think that any West Countryman like myself has any doubt about what he thinks about Welshmen and Wales? During my boyhood days in Bristol I can remember our Welsh miners, during the time of "prosperity" under Liberal control, coming up to the town of Bristol with drum and 1075 cornet to collect for the unemployed. Does the noble Lord think that we never had any interest in them? Ernest Bevin used to live in Bristol then with me, and he used to go to South Wales regularly to organise Labour to turn out the fatuous representatives of so-called liberalism—and did it very successfully, indeed. Now there are 36 Members in the House of Commons, with one Liberal. And there is one vacancy. And the noble Lord, who saw fit to leave the Labour Party, thinks he can go down to Wales and save one of those twin lambs of Liberalism by making speeches of the kind he has made here to-day, which is largely a repetition of the speeches he made down in Wales!
I want to say this to him. The more I listened to him, as he attacked us stage by stage, and then in his summary of what he would like to see done in Wales, the more I saw that what he had learned about the kind of political action required in Wales was learned from his association with the Labour Party, and from no other source. If the noble Lord does not believe that, then he should go back to this document—the Labour Party Programme for Wales, published in 1959. It was for this programme that he pursued his campaign during the election. The majority of the main proposals the noble Lord has put up to-day are in this book of Labour's policy. It is complete humbug for him to come to your Lordships' House and make the sort of speech he has made here to-day. I am bound to say that I felt very concerned at having to talk like this, but the facts had to be put on record, and that has been done.
Wales is a great country. Her people are small in number but they are a fine independent people, skilled in the arts and naturally fond of music. No one could have listened last Sunday, at twenty past six, to that magnificent choral singing an television from Port Talbot, from the Welsh Presbyterian Church at Cwmafan, without realising the Welsh people's love of music. I remember, too, the time when, at the request of David Lloyd George, I preached on a sunny Sunday morning at the Baptist Chapel at Criccieth and met the people there, teeming with enthusiasm for their Liberal Leader but also with enthusiasm for justice and righteousness, which the 1076 working people of this country never obtained from the organised Liberal Party. They had to go and fight for these themselves.
When the 1914 war came, who will ever forget the service of the Royal Welch Fusiliers? I remember, as a youngish man, waiting for the county council to release me to serve. The Fusiliers were at Weston-super-Mare for training: they were magnificent material, and the records they made afterwards supported the impression one got at that time. In the Second World War, Wales again had a magnificent record. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, seems to think that I do not know much about conditions in Wales. I was in Wales a great deal during the last war. I remember visiting the Royal Marines Brigade in training down in West Wales. The noble Lord, as an old lieutenant-colonel, wanted to see what can be done by Welshmen. He should have been there. I saw them climbing the cliffs at Tenby; but what I enjoyed most of all was to see them, with their rubber ground sheets wrapped around their shoulders, marching on the Welsh hillsides on a wet night with the accuracy and skill of a battalion of Guards on parade.
I know Wales. I knew every shipyard in Wales. I also knew what we needed in the way of supplies. We had Ordnance factories there. I visited them. When Labour came into office in 1945, they speedily turned those factories over to light industries. I have had experience of Wales in education. I spent 20 years in educational administration with the Somerset County Council. We frequently interchanged with them. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that a great deal more could be done by way of education, and particularly technical education, for Wales than has been done. But that is all in the programme of the Labour Party which he supported in 1959—what had been done, and what was hoped to be done.
I know perfectly well that there is no body or section of the British community more capable of absorbing and using the results of a modern education than the Welsh people. You only need to see their native talent developed in the Eisteddfods to prove that to be the case. Do you think that we in the 1077 Labour Party are not concerned with them? When the noble Lord said to me in the House to-day that the Labour Party are not concerned with what he referred to as the chaos in the industrial section of Wales, I think he is stretching himself a bit too far. What are the facts about that? There is not a single industrial constituency in Wales held in Parliament to-day except by Labour—or possibly there may be one. There are 2 Liberal, 5 Tory and 27 Labour constituencies. And yet this was the Election in which the noble Lord says we did not do as well as we should have done in 1959. What are the real conditions the noble Lord has been talking about? They are the heritage left by Liberal and Tory in South Wales—the sort of spirit of administration about which the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, said, in his Report on Reconstruction, that we had the means but not the will to do what was required.
Then we had the coal industry; and year after year 35 million tons of Welsh coal a year being exported. The noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, was quite just in his remarks about the early build-up. He said this afternoon that there were some good results of that which redounded to this or that section, but that the working class of Wales did not get much share of it. The men were working at the coal face in those days for 15s. to 26s. 6d. a week. Not much margin there to cover up the risks—and even greater than they run to-day because of the lack of proper safety precautions at that time. There were 35 million tons of coal exported, and that shows that they took the best coal first. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, were here, because I would have had another word with him about pipe-lines. What a difference there might have been if we had had national ownership of coal then, in the days of its prosperity, instead of, as you are going to do again in the case of pipe-lines, taking the cream off the milk before starting a new vastly important branch of transportation system in this country.
Take what happened after the First War. What a dreadful state Wales was in then! When we came into office, still in a minority, in 1929, I remember with great clearness that one night the Prince of Wales (as he then was) asked me to dine with him at York House. 1078 After dinner, at which there were several other guests, he took me in front of the fire at the other end of the room and talked to me about South Wales and what could be done. I could see his heart bled for them. What were the Tories and the Liberals doing about it then? They seemed to have no idea at all what could be done; and the thought of the misery, the poverty and the anxiety must have been building up in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and perhaps, later on, was part of the urge which made him join the Labour Party. Certainly, nothing was being done for them from any other source.
Now we have a different story. If we wish, we can have a debate every year on the annual Report on Wales which is produced. How did that come to be produced? Was it because of a request of Lord Ogmore? Was it because of a piece of new genius by the Conservative Party in office? Not at all. This Report is being produced because it was requested by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, set up by a Labour Government. That is why it is being produced. Nobody ever thought of it before. That only goes to strengthen my view that as soon as possible we should expand the usefulness of the Council of Wales by giving it more electoral representation. To listen to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, this afternoon, anybody would think that he thought out the idea for the Labour Party that what Wales wants is a Secretary of State for Wales. He got it out of this document.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I do not object to the noble Viscount's enjoying himself. My experience is that if you "give it out" you must expect to get it back. I am enjoying it. But this is a question of fact. The Western Mail and I were the only people for years to advocate a Secretary of State for Wales, and it was only just before the 1959 Election that I got the Labour Party to put that in their Electoral propaganda. The noble Viscount cannot deny that.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
That seems to me to suggest that the noble Lord was one of the contributors. Hallelujah! There you are. That means that all I have been slaying was completely justified and why 1079 it is such humbug for the noble Lord to put all this up, as he has done to-day, as something in which Labour is not interested. He said that neither the Conservative Government nor the Labour Opposition were interested in developments such as tourism. It is here in this Programme. Is he suggesting that he was the only one who thought about that?
Or can we take some of the other passages in this Programme? The noble Lord says we were not interested in the industrial position of Wales—I will give way in a moment. He was a Member of the Government, but not of the Cabinet, as I was, from 1945 to 1950, until the first Election after the War. What do we find? What we find is that one of the great monuments to the memory of Hugh Dalton was his devising and his complete support of development areas under the Redistribution of Industry Act. Here he can see—if the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will look at the document which he says he helped to draw up—a record of what was accomplished by that Act and by that Administration: 25 million square feet of new factory space, tens of thousands of new jobs created by this wicked Labour Government that was not interested in the industry of Wales.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, so that we can get the debate back on to what I actually said, it was that I considered that neither the Government nor the Labour Opposition recognised the problem of rural mid-Wales. I also said that I did not consider that either the Government or the Labour Opposition really recognised the industrial anarchy in South Wales. I did not refer to all the things in that document, many of which are perfectly sound, and I say I believe I had some effect in getting those put into it. That might be denied, of course. With regard to tourism, I said it was not dealt with in the Report but it should have been.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords. I will read the report of the noble Lord's speech very carefully, but I should think I could hardly be severely blamed if tourism was not mentioned in his particular condemnation of the Labour Party; nearly everything else was. I will have a look at it in the morning.
1080 With regard to agriculture, does the noble Lord think that, right the way through, the Labour Party has not been concerned about the depopulation of central Wales? It has been concerned the whole time. Can the noble Lord find me anything else in the administration in the last quarter of a century which contributed so much to preventing its depopulation as the Hill Farms Act, 1946, the Forestry Act, 1947, or the Agriculture Act, 1947? Can he tell us—I expect he can—about the forestry experiments at Llangollen? Anybody who is interested in the agriculture of central Wales would have to admit that the afforestation carried out there under different Governments is one of the principal reasons why the depopulation has not been more rapid than it has. Any reports will show him what has been provided in the way of work for the agricultural population.
What a case we have listened to this afternoon! If I had the time at my disposal—and, of course, I am measuring the time only by your Lordships' convenience—I could go on for a long time. I could go through every item which I took down here. I say, without a shadow of doubt, that the noble Lord's speech was to-day made in the terms he used simply to bolster by every possible means the fate of the Liberal Party in the Montgomeryshire by-election. That is what it is for; and perhaps in that way something may be accomplished for the Liberal Party. But, really, with all the experience in Labour administration and history that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has, he ought to be going down there and asking what good has Liberal representation in Montgomeryshire done for us over 40 years? That is what he ought to be asking. He ought to he saying to them that every vote which is given to a Tory or a Liberal will be wasted in respect of achieving all the things that he has been advocating this afternoon. The noble Lord might think that one out.
May I just say a word for my noble friend Lord Walston, whom the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, included in his comments? The noble Lord, Lord Walston, is giving me and the Party here very great assistance in agriculture. He is a very experienced agriculturist, but he was very careful to say in February, when he was going to make a particular 1081 comment, Which he repeated on April 11—the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, can look both these speeches up—that he was speaking entirely for himself and not for his Party. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, overlooked it and, if so, we will call it "quits". But I wanted to be fair to my noble friend.
May I just say a word of congratulation to the noble Lord who made his maiden speech? I have already referred to it, but I should like to say a word of congratulation to him and especially to congratulate him on that section of his speech on which he dealt with the need for the improvement of port facilities. It always does me a lot of good when a Conservative businessman gets up and frankly says that what he wants is something from the Government. I like to hear that. I hear so much of the idea that only private enterprise can do anything that it is quite refreshing to hear somebody admit the sort of thing that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, no doubt had in mind. I agreed with him on that occasion when he talked about the switching of steel support to Scotland when it was perhaps more needed in South Wales, and which he admitted that Mr. James Griffiths opposed at the time. Then we had Colville's receiving £50 million of Government money at the cheapest possible borrowing rates, which I do not think did Wales any good, either. Perhaps we are agreed on that. It is a little way back for him, but he can always come back on that way if he likes. The noble Lord can look at the Benches behind him and he will find that the words "nationalisation" and "national ownership" are dirty words. Let us have these things straight, anyway.
Let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Leighton of St. Mellons, that in this document of 1959 there is a special paragraph about the urgent need for improving port facilities in Wales, and I can support that this is necessary. I remember one great job done by Bailey's yard in Newport. How they managed it I do not know. It was an 18,000-ton tanker, which was bombed or mined (I forget which) and broken completely in two halves. If they had wanted to take that tanker into that yard in one piece I do not think they would have been able to do so, but they hauled it miles 1082 and miles in two separate halves and got it into port. They did all the work with one piece of the tanker sticking out from the other end of the yard. They joined the two parts together and it sailed for all the rest of the war. It was a wonderful job. But the port facilities should be improved and I hope that they will be so improved.
May I say to the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, Lord Brecon, that from the reports I hear he is exceedingly popular? He is well known as a good, loyal Welshman. I have a housekeeper who comes from Brecon and—this may surprise the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—I sometimes visit Brecon with my wife. We have been right up through Radnorshire, where I asked many questions. I go to church where Mr. Richards preaches in Brecon on a Sunday—and I ask many questions. I have been right up through Radnorshire into Montgomeryshire and I would not mind undergoing a little cross-questioning on Montgomeryshire after a very little time to "rub it up" with my knowledge of Newtown. I might recall to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that in Newtown was born Robert Owen, who was father not only of British Socialism but also of British Cooperatives. Yes, the noble Lord will be a good Welshman one of these days. I enjoy hearing what the people say about Lord Brecon because obviously he is paying great attention to his job, but he is handicapped and limited by the background policy of his Government. That is what is the matter with him.
I have been reading very carefully the report of the Welsh Committee in another place. They have been sitting time after time, and one of my great stand-bys for finding out what is being thought about Wales, and especially Central Wales, is the speeches of Mr. Tudor Watkins. I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that I think Mr. Tudor Watkins, the honourable Member for Brecon, knows even more about Montgomeryshire than the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, himself. When I see his pleas they are really worth pursuing. Have a look at his speeches this last year in Committee on the water resources of Wales. Here there is, I suppose, for its area and square mileage, the best watershed in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the water is being tapped, 1083 taken away and used for industry as well as ordinary requirements in the rest of England, often without real provision being made for those resources to be used for Wales. We believe—I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, would believe—that what is required is a national water board for the whole country to organise the product of the watersheds of the whole nation, because with our growth of population and growth of industry we shall certainly need to have that organisation unless our resources are to be run to waste.
Then, too, we should have another look at the educational system. I do not know what you are going to do with your children on the present standards required, not only for great human reasons of education but for the future prosperity of the nation, if you continue to be faced with the shortage of teachers that you have to-day—teachers in the ordinary schools, teachers in the secondary modern schools and in the grammar schools, and masters in the technical colleges. Reading the Report, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, himself would be quite satisfied with what has been achieved so far. And so I might go on through the Report. I obviously have not had the time some noble Lords have had to read the Report. I have scanned it. I think there are reports of progress being made here and there, and nobody is going to grumble about that; the only thing we grumble about is that it is not more intensive and rapid. Therefore, having made my position with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pretty clear, and having said a proper word for Wales, for its industry, for its agriculture and for its general life, I think we can say "Thank you" to the noble Lord for the presentation to the House of the Report which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has now brought to our attention. But we hope Her Majesty's Government will put in far more intensive and rapid work than they have done yet for the good of the people of Wales.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR WELSH AFFAIRS (LORD BRECON)
My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate, and I should like, in spite of all 1084 that has been said, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for having brought this Report to our notice and given us this opportunity of having the debate this afternoon. At one time I thought perhaps we might have sent for Mr. Woodrow Wyatt; I thought he might have enjoyed it. I should like to say "Thank you" for the interest that the House has taken in this Welsh debate and also to the many noble Lords who have paid tribute to Welshmen and to Wales altogether; we appreciate it when at times outside the Principality people say rather kind things about us. May I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Leighton of St. Mellons, on his maiden speech, which was extremely good in every way. I am sure he brought to our attention most important matters that will take some time, perhaps, to look at again. I know that the noble Lord will seek the opportunity whenever it occurs to speak in this House on behalf of Wales, and I will certainly welcome that on every occasion. I am very sorry indeed that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, is not here, because for a long time he was connected with Wales, like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in the Mountain Ash Valley. I am sorry he is not here, because he had a good deal to do with that part of Wales and has done a considerable amount for it.
I took the trouble to look at the last Welsh debate we had in the House, which was in 1954, and I found it very interesting. At that time the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, had to reply for the Government. I found that generally the questions that were being discussed at the time were very much what they are to-day; this is almost a repetition. I was going to say that I enjoyed what the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said: that it is true that things have never been so good in Wales as they are to-day. I did not know he had said that first, but I was very glad to see he said Wales had "never had it so good". We are delighted to say that perhaps things are better to-day than they were in 1954.
I was also delighted to hear the references to the former Minister, my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke, who was Minister for nearly five years. I can say this: that the people of Wales 1085 of all Parties recognise his real, sincere and keen interest in Wales, and I can assure your Lordships that he would surprise many Welshmen even to-day with his knowledge of Wales. We know how much he did for us during those years. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said something about the date of to-day's debate. I think I had something to do with that, but I was a little surprised when the Western Mail carried a heading yesterday which said, "Lords' debate on Welsh affairs a lucky break for Liberals". I thought that as I had something to do with the debate it would have been much better if they had said, "Lords' debate on Welsh affairs is a lucky break for Conservatives", because we, too, have a very good candidate in Montgomeryshire.
Furthermore, that enables me to state the case for the Government, which has been one of very solid achievement over the last ten years, particularly in mid-Wales. However much our two friends on the other side disagree, we have been getting on with the job. I think it is for me to say what we have been doing with particular reference to mid-Wales, and also on technical training, during the last ten years. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, brought up a plan that he had for administration in Wales. I have seen this before and I do not think there is very much new in it. Noble Lords may disagree as to who thought of it first, but if there is to be a new Council for Wales and it is to be an elected one I think we ought to know how it is to be elected, on a population basis or a geographical basis, because I think Wales would be much concerned about that.
Another point that was raised was with regard to television and broadcasting. I am sure we must wait for the Pilkington Committee to produce their Report, which will come shortly, and perhaps some of the questions will he answered and some will be solved by that time. Another point that has been raised—I saw it in my Western Mail—by Lord Ogmore and the Liberals is that something should be done for the printing of Welsh books. I should like to remind your Lordships that as long ago as 1952, when the noble and learned Viscount was then the first Minister for Welsh Affairs, the Government accepted 1086 the recommendations of the Ready Committee on Welsh books, and thereafter instituted a scheme for the provision of Welsh books for schools. This has proceeded satisfactorily and a further scheme for providing books for adults is now under way; in fact the latter started off with a £1,000-a-year basis in 1956, and in 1960 was increased to £3,500, and will increase again to £5,000 by 1964. This is something that the Government have already done.
The noble Lord talked about the Economic Development Corporation. So far as mid-Wales is concerned, does it mean that he is going to get rid of the county councils and all other local authorities and tell them that they have absolutely failed in their job of looking after this part of Wales? I think that you do not find local government existing in Uganda.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, the noble Lord will excuse my interrupting, but a high standard of local government exists in Uganda. The noble Lord will find that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has just been in close communication with a number of distinguished representatives, all of whom came over here on this question of State rights and local government rights. I can assure him that Uganda is by no means backward; it is a most progressive State.
§ LORD BRECON
I accept what the noble Lord says. Unfortunately, I have not been able to travel to Uganda. I find at present that my travelling is limited to going as far as Anglesey, but it is most enjoyable. But we still should like to know whether it is the intention to get rid of local authorities and to hand over to this Economic Development Corporation which has been suggested.
I should like quickly, as time is getting on, to speak on mid-Wales, in regard to which we have come in for a fair amount of attack in one way or another. I think it only right and proper that I should state on behalf of the Government what has been done, and certainly with what results, in the last ten years. The Government have been accused of showing scant interest in that area—this is quite untrue—and of making no attempt to frame or express their policy towards 1087 this area. The Government have done this. As long ago as June, 1951, the Minister for Welsh Affairs, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, asked the Council for Wales to make a special study of this part of rural Wales in order to assist the Government in their policy deliberations, and the Council for Wales presented in its second memorandum its own assessment of the situation at that time. In the result, in 1953, the Government published a White Paper on Rural Wales, in which it accepted and endorsed the broad aims set forth by the Council for Wales. These were to establish a stable rural economy, to safeguard the position of agriculture and to encourage the full development of local resources so as to ensure a reasonable standard of life there.
As a final consequence the Welsh Sub-Commission of the Agricultural Land Commission was asked to make a full investigation into the agricultural economy of this area, and its Report to the Government was published in 1955. Following that Report, the Government White Paper on the Mid-Wales Investigation Report was published in 1956. The Government generally agreed with the recommendations of the Report, and accepted that prosperity and stable employment in rural Wales could best be promoted by the development of agriculture on an economic basis, together with an expansion of forestry. They indicated at the same time an improvement of basic services in the area; that these should be encouraged, and that the Minister for Welsh Affairs would continue to keep a close watch on all aspects of Government policy affecting this area.
I have mentioned these documents and their contents at some length in order to illustrate the Government's profound and continuing concern for the welfare of mid-Wales and its inhabitants. The Government have all along taken the view that due regard should be had to the strengthening of the economy by various means and the improvement of basic services, so that the people of mid-Wales might enjoy better prospects of stable employment and a higher standard of living. I should like in a little more detail to say what the Government have done to help mid- 1088 Wales in recent years. We all know that a high percentage of the farms in Wales as a whole are small farms. I was rather sorry to hear people say to-day that the small farms should go. I think that to a certain extent we should retain all we can, although those that are completely uneconomic may have to go. I should not like to see them go. Under the Small Farmer Scheme which was introduced in April, 1959, the Government have deliberately set out to give help to these units to become more efficient. Over 6,000 small farms in Wales have been approved, and of these nearly 1,500 are in the mid-Wales area; and as the upper labour limit is to be increased to 500 man-days, many more small Welsh farms will be eligible for assistance.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask how many of the farms mentioned by the noble Lord include dairying in their operations?
§ LORD BRECON
My Lords, I could not immediately give the answer to that, but if the noble Viscount would care to have it I will obtain it for him. I think that quite a number of them do; they probably have sheep and undertake some dairying. But with this increase to 500 man-days—it was raised I think from 450 man-days—2,000 more small farms will come within the scheme and will be eligible for assistance. So far over £500,000 has been provided under this scheme for mid-Wales alone, and under the Farm Improvements Scheme, which was introduced in 1957 to enable farmers to modernise, 3,400 applications have been approved in mid-Wales at an estimated expenditure of £1,800,000, for the improvement and making up to date of farm buildings, and grants of £400,000 have already been paid on them. The Livestock Rearing and Improvement Schemes, which began as long ago as 1946 to help hill farmers to improve production, clearly become of special importance for mid-Wales, and so far nearly 3,000 schemes have been approved in the five counties at an estimated cost of almost £10 million.
I do not wish to trouble noble Lords with further statistics, but I feel it is absolutely necessary to point out that many other Government schemes for 1089 agricultural support continue to have a specially beneficial effect in this area. They include the fertiliser subsidy, the lime subsidy, the hill sheep and the hill cow subsidies. They are all of great benefit in every way. The effect of this Government help is reflected particularly in the White Paper under discussion, because Welsh agriculture has been very prosperous, showing record livestock production, a high rate of investment in modern equipment and an increasing expenditure by the farmers themselves on advanced techniques and low cost production.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, may I ask one question concerning roads? I overheard that in Anglesey a number of roads are excluded. Would the noble Lord care to comment on that?
§ LORD BRECON
Yes, I will refer to roads. There was, I think, a special reason why Anglesey did not come under the scheme for agricultural roads. I think it was because they have no hill farms in Anglesey.
§ LORD BRECON
That will be for my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to say in another place on another occasion. But with the increase in production that we have had since 1951, the regular whole-time labour force in mid-Wales agriculture has decreased from 10,000 to 7,000—a reduction of 3,000 farm workers—yet the milk output has increased from 36 million gallons to 56 million gallons. Cattle have gone up in numbers by 25 per cent.; sheep have gone up by 37 per cent., and wheat and barley by over 60 per cent.
It is also interesting to note, when we talk of mid-Wales—I am speaking of the five counties of Brecon, leaving out the industrial part, Radnor, Montgomery, Merioneth and Cardigan—that while we have had a decline of 3,000 farm workers since 1957, the insured population in that same area has gone up by about 4,750. I think that these are facts which are not generally appreciated, and I cannot accept the noble Lord's assertion that the place is dying and derelict; it is far from it.
1090 This provides real evidence of what is going on at the present moment. The appropriate development of forestry in mid-Wales (I think we must recognise that it must be carried out hand in hand with agriculture; and it is working extremely well to the ultimate benefit of both) is continuing steadily. At present, over 1,000 people are employed by the Commission in that area. The output of timber has increased from over 26,000 tons in 1951 to 78,000 tons in 1961. During that period, also, 500 miles of metal roads were completed by the Forestry Commission alone—roads which had nothing at all to do with agriculture. The Commission have thus provided and improved means of communication between and into the forests; and, of course, the local farmers also have the benefit of this. These indications which I have given as to the state of agriculture and forestry demonstrate conclusively, in the Government's view, how much has been done to strengthen and stabilise the basic economy in mid-Wales.
May I now say something about the basic services? I think these are very important, and a great deal has been done in this connection. Capital expenditure on water schemes in the rural areas of mid-Wales since 1945 has amounted to £4,750,000. The percentage of houses without piped water supply has been reduced from 47.5 in 1951 to 21.5 in 1961. I am absolutely certain that in due time, as the scheme develops, all the people who can possibly get it will have piped water, and we shall have sufficient—
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am very glad to know about that percentage reduction, but my recollection of the documents is that there are one or two places where the percentage of houses which remain without piped water is very high. I think that in Montgomeryshire the figure is 48 or 49 per cent. Therefore, I hope that the Government will not rest upon their laurels on this matter.
§ LORD BRECON
The point made by the noble Viscount is quite true: improvements have not gone ahead at the same speed in every place. There has been a joining up of various water 1091 undertakings, and in fact Montgomeryshire now has one Water Board, instead of six or seven councils looking after small, separate supplies. Once the thing becomes a comprehensive scheme run by the Montgomeryshire Water Board, I think we shall see those figures drop very quickly in every way. Most of these schemes have been grant-aided by the Government, and the grant payments have been higher, in proportion, than the corresponding figures for England, amounting to more than half the total figure I have already given. In the matter of sewerage and sewage disposal, work to the value of nearly £1½ million has been carried out, with Government aid amounting to almost 50 per cent. of the total expenditure. And, after all, although one lives in the country one still requires piped water, sanitation and electricity.
I should like now to come to housing, which is of course, a very important matter in the rural areas. It gives me much satisfaction to inform the House that over 10,000 new houses have been actually completed in the mid-Wales area since 1945, a large proportion by local authorities—and this despite the great difficulties over contracting which inevitably arise in rural areas. In fact, the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire in 1952, in their second Memorandum, said that 3,000 houses were needed for the decent maintenance of the existing population. The number of new houses built since 1945, is, as I have said, 10,000, most of which have been built since 1951. There are several hundred other houses under construction, and a further number which have been approved but not yet started by local authorities.
So far as the slum clearance programme is concerned, this has been embarked upon by local authorities, and this, together with the use of housing improvement grants, has done much to accelerate the provision of acceptable houses. The discretionary grant and the standard grant which the Government have introduced have made a great difference to rural housing, particularly in this area. The figures that I have at the present moment for the five Counties show that 3,753 have had the discretionary grant—that means that the local authority has made a contribution 1092 to this, and the owner of the house has had to do likewise—and 722 have received the standard grant. I think the standard grant schemes cost, on average, about £150 and the discretionary grant schemes about £220. So I think that if you go to these areas, or live in mid-Wales, as I do, and travel about and see what has been done you just cannot say that the place is falling apart, or dying, or anything of the kind.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? I recognise what the noble Lord says about rural housing, but I had made a special note to raise with him to-day a question on leasehold properties. This matter was raised in a very strong debate at the Co-operative Party Conference at Clacton at Easter, and I saw reports of mass meetings that were held. Most extraordinary charges are being made on quite small leasehold houses for the renewal of leases for short periods. If the noble Lord has been dealing with some of these cases, he might tell us what the position is.
§ LORD BRECON
I am really dealing with mid-Wales, where the leasehold problem does not arise. I must leave the question of leasehold to my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is at present looking at this matter very carefully; and I think he hopes to make a statement later. He is receiving reports from people who are very much concerned with this whole question.
As I have said, these standard grants and discretionary grants have made a tremendous difference to housing in the local areas. When I have gone round these areas I do not think I have ever seen so much work being done on cottages and houses there as I have seen in the last twelve months. This is an absolutely first-class thing, and is to the advantage of the people who live there. Furthermore, the new subsidies introduced in the Housing Act of 1961 will be of special benefit to mid-Wales, because almost all the authorities there will qualify for the £24 subsidy, and a substantial number will qualify for the £29, or even the £34, subsidy. Taken together with the adoption of, say, an up-to-date rental policy by the various 1093 authorities, this means that we can look forward to an even more creditable record of housing in the immediate future. Against the whole background the question of housing in mid-Wales has improved enormously in these last years.
With regard to local government income, the Government freely acknowledge that in preparing and carrying out this scheme for the improvement of these basic services the responsibility in the first place must be borne by local authorities. It has been suggested from time to time that the local authorities in mid-Wales are receiving in all this very important work less than their due share of Government help. I would therefore make it absolutely clear that in my experience the Government officials in London, as well as those in Cardiff, are at all times ready to give to their colleagues in local government whatever assistance and guidance they can.
Apart from this, the five Welsh counties draw a higher proportion of Government grant overall than authorities elsewhere in the country as a whole. In the financial year 1959–60 the percentage of the income of the administrative county of Montgomeryshire made up from Government sources was 68.9 in other words, the Government provided nearly 70 per cent. of the county's income. The average for all five counties in the same period was 63.9 per cent. I think that we in Wales should do well to remember that for Cornwall or Westmorland, say, the Government are providing only 50 per cent. if the income of the local government. These figures are an indication of the earnestness of the Government's approach to the basic services.
My Lords, let me go on to one other important thing in the countryside, and that is the essential element of electricity. The use of electricity in agriculture has increased, and efficient management means the provision of electricity as well. I think noble Lords should know what progress has been made on this in recent years. In 1951 only 6.3 per cent. of the farms in mid-Wales had been connected to a supply. But by 1961 almost 9,000 farms, that is 62.7 per cent., were supplied by the mains. This is a tremendous achievement and I should like to offer my congratulations to both Electricity Boards upon the work they have done in this 1094 regard. These things, my Lords, are part of the amenities of life to which we feel the rural dwellers are entitled, just as they are entitled to a reasonable network of roads to enable them to get about for purposes of business and recreation.
Noble Lords may recall that in this connection the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955, was passed with the special needs of this part of the country in mind and as a direct result of the recommendation made by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. It was designed to improve unclassified and unadopted roads in livestock-rearing areas, as a means of promoting efficiency of agriculture and forestry. I think it is relevant for me to remind the House that, out of the maximum amount of gram of £4 million authorised under the Act for Great Britain as a whole, £2 million was specially earmarked for Wales. So far, over 600 separate schemes have been approved in mid-Wales under the Act, and they are relating to between 500 and 600 miles of roads at an estimated cost of £1,400,000. These schemes have a direct effect on the basic industries of the area—namely, agriculture and forestry—and are also incidentally beneficial to the ordinary members of the public. I should have thought that, in many cases, when a man has a car an improvement of the road leading to the farm is almost more important than the improvement of other new roads in mid-Wales at the present time.
Despite what the Government have done for mid-Wales, and the very substantial Government assistance which has been poured into the area, one often hears criticism of Government policy and suggestions about what might be done. I am often told that more industry should be brought into this area. But noble Lords should recognise that it has been the Government's policy to introduce appropriate industry into the area with the help of the Development Fund and, indeed, within the last five years six projects have been approved for assistance, providing in all about 600 jobs. Here I should like to pay warm tribute to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, which the five county councils have themselves set up. They get funds from local rates and a contribution from the Development 1095 Fund as well. They have been very assiduous in presenting mid-Wales to the industries of the Midlands, and I think elsewhere, but it would be fair to say that they have found it just as difficult as the Government to induce people to go away from an industrial area into a rural area.
There is absolutely no point in inducing a firm to settle in mid-Wales if it cannot find labour, and I know of at least two firms which have withdrawn largely because they could not find sufficient local labour. This question of which comes first, the population or the industry, is a very difficult one and they have to be correlated. If we could build up the towns and bring in the industry at the same time, it would be very much better. I am sure that the Government would welcome an increase in the size of certain of these mid-Wales towns, coupled with any new industry that we can attract from the Midlands or anywhere else. We do not mind where it comes from. But here again we must remember that any large movement of population would have to be accompanied by industrial movement, and I think those of us who are familiar with them would rather see the building up of the small towns.
I hope I have said enough to indicate that the Government are deeply concerned about the future of the mid-Wales area, but I should not like the impression to go out from the House that the Government regard mid-Wales as a dying and neglected region. It is clearly not neglected, and it is receiving closer attention than ever before. All the evidence which can be brought to bear indicates that the economy and the basic amenities of life have been steadily improved to a high standard. But we all accept that the area is losing population and this is not a recent phenomenon. The population figures since the 1880's show a slow and steady decline, and it is this factor which often leads to exaggerated complaints of neglect. What we need most of all, however, is a little further knowledge. We need to know what this decline in population has meant, and will mean, for the individual inhabitants of mid-Wales. Many of us have theories and many of us, perhaps, have prejudices as well on this, but we 1096 must have an impartial and perhaps a scientific assessment of the whole situation.
Of course, it was with this in mind that the former Minister for Welsh Affairs, my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke, indicated in March, 1961, that he was, with the help of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, instituting a joint economic survey of mid-Wales. That survey is very well advanced, and I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Professor Beacham at the University College of Aberystwyth, who has done so much to assist its progress. Out of this cooperative venture, in which the area itself is making a contribution, it is hoped that the Government will have an unbiased and thorough-going assessment to help in shaping their future policies and to bring even greater benefit and stability to the whole of mid-Wales. In the last ten years mid-Wales has lost about 5,500 population, but in the same period the number of insured workers has risen by 4,770 to 47,770. Surely it must be a sign of stability when more people can find jobs in that area.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask how many of those are due to purely temporary employment in places like the atomic factory at Trawsfynydd?
§ LORD BRECON
It is true, my Lords, that some of them will be these, but they are not so temporary when they are there for five years. If most factories had orders for five years and did not have to worry about them, I think that would be a good thing. I can let the noble Lord have the figures, but I should not like to quote them off hand as I do not want to give him inaccurate figures. The fact is that the number of agricultural workers has gone down by 3,000 and there is an increase of 4,000 here, that really means there are almost 7,000 employed on new jobs of some form or another which have come to the area. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that, so far as the Government are concerned, they have a first-class record in what they have done for mid-Wales during the last ten years. Some of it was, perhaps, started in Agricultural Acts, to which the noble Viscount referred, but we have pressed on with this rather harder and we want to see 1097 these people with the facilities which other people in the rest of the country have.
May I refer to the other point which I think was mentioned particularly, the question of apprentices in Wales? Because in the past we have had the basic industries of steel, coal, iron and things like that, the opportunities for apprenticeships in Wales have never been as great as they have in places like Birmingham or London, where there is a vast amount of engineering works and other schemes. Furthermore, we do not produce a lot of capital goods, which is always another good reason for having apprentices. But during the last few years apprenticeships have been the leading topic in all discussions about youth employment in Wales. The Welsh Grand Committee in another place gave prominence to it in a debate which they had on further education in May of last year.
During the last year youth employment committees, the Welsh Advisory Committee for Youth Employment, the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire and, more recently, the Wales Committee of the Industrial Training Council all helped to concentrate attention on the need for expanding industrial training. There was the Commonwealth Technical Training Week, with a visit from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and a march past, and a great deal of intensive work has been done to bring the attention of industrialists, the boys themselves and parents to this need.
Furthermore, I think one must remember that we are having to accept into industry at the moment the "bulge" which is coming from the schools, and our numbers in Wales have gone up quite considerably. I think that this year we are going up from something like 29,000 to 36,000, and many more jobs have to be found for these young people. But the facts are that, even with the "bulge" that we have had so far, whereas in 1958 there were 1,500 boys and 1,600 girls unemployed, in April 1962, the numbers were only 800 boys and 1,000 girls.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the training scheme, it has been suggested to me that some 1098 industrialists are rather reluctant to give any help. Could the noble Lord make any statement on that?
§ LORD BRECON
If I may, I will come to that in a moment, my Lords. All I am saying at the moment, on this question of training, is that we have to take a large number of young people into industry and it is very satisfactory to note that, out of 8,600 school-leavers last Christmas, 98.5 per cent. had got jobs by April. I think that is most encouraging—that, on leaving school, so many of these young people have found jobs. Of course, with 7,500 leaving school at Easter, and another 20,000 at the end of the summer, our task will be more difficult. Going back to the apprentices, we have had a striking increase in the number of boys entering apprenticeships. In 1958 the figure was 2,700; in 1959 it was 3,300; in 1960 it was 3,400; and in 1961 it was 4,200. So the proportionate increase is at the moment rather greater than the increase in the "bulge"; and this, to us, is most encouraging in every way.
A great deal has been said about the difficulties in Wales as to these apprenticeships, but there are no two regions in Great Britain which are alike, and in the matter of apprenticeships some are more favourable places than others. Traditionally, Wales, as has been said, is a country of heavy industry employing skills normally not suitable to present-day industry. New methods, however, have found Welsh labour very acceptable, very adaptable and quick to learn these new skills. I think that the modernisation and expansion of existing industries, together with the introduction of new industries, is changing the picture and is increasing the demand for skilled labour. For example, more craftsmen are required for these modern methods of coalmining. The noble Lord spoke about coalminers. I imagine that he, like myself, will be pleased to think that there are fewer men employed in the mines to-day than ever before, and that mechanisation is going on in South Wales. Lord Robens told me the other day that they were going on with their mechanisation, and the numbers will continue to decline. I think that if coal can be got out by machines it is rather better than getting it out by men.
Because of this mechanisation, more 1099 craftsmen are required; and the new methods of processing steel and the new light manufacturing industries all require engineering craftsmen. Even in the development districts, where there is a surplus of labour at the moment, skilled labour is difficult to obtain. In Wales taken as a whole, some of the new projects which we have started in recent years have already begun their own training schools. So long as everyone concerned—the employers, the trade unionists, the parents and the young people themselves—recognises the need for a thorough training to take advantage of the opportunities that industry will now provide, the boys and girls in Wales can look forward to the future with great confidence in every way.
My Lords, I should like just to mention one or two things that noble Lords have raised in the debate. I have referred to North Wales, and also to the apprenticeship schemes. I am sorry that the suggestion was made by the noble Lord that there seems to be anarchy in our industry in South Wales. In fact, it is just the reverse. We have never had, perhaps, better or newer industries, or more efficient industries, than we have at the present moment. Most of our works in Wales have been erected since the war. Some of the old ones have modernised themselves, and some of the old processes used in the tin-plate works have gone out. In Llanwern, which I think everyone was a little worried about at one time, because it was thought to be too large—not too small, but too large—we felt that it would upset things; but, my Lords, it has been digested (if I may so put it) quite easily, and South Wales is at the moment capable of taking more industry and giving further employment.
I can assure your Lordships that there has been no lack of planning. I hope that people will not go round saying that the Ebbw Vale Iron and Steel Works are going to close. Nothing could be more depressing to people in that area than to give them the idea that there is no future there. I think it is this sort of talk, of depression, of a black future, that does more harm to Wales, and has done more harm to Wales in past years, than anything else. We are trying hard at the moment to tell 1100 people that it is the place of opportunity and the place of progress, where they can come and prosper, and can enjoy themselves, too, by being able to leave their industry and, within half an hour, be away in the country or at the seaside. And where else can one do that at the present moment?
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, referred to agriculture. He said that we were short of perhaps the right type of workers. This is a rather difficult matter, because it depends, as your Lordships know, on the size of the farm whether you have a full-time man or not, and in these days farmers do use an increasing amount of temporary, part-time labour which they get from the Forestry Commission and from other occupations in the countryside. But at the moment I think that, broadly, they are getting the labour they want.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I have heard that they are losing skilled labour; that it is being replaced by rather older labour and unskilled labour. That is where the handicap lies.
§ LORD BRECON
This comes back to the old point: that if a man can get a better job and a better place, should he not do so? Is it to be said that he must stay where he is, on his present rate of pay, and not be able to change? I think that if one is going to have freedom in this way, then one must accept the difficulties that anybody else has to accept. If somebody puts up a new works alongside you, and pays twice as much in wages, all your workers will go. But those are the problems of the day.
So far as water is concerned, which the noble Lord mentioned, I think I am right in saying that there is shortly to be a debate in this House on this question of water, on the White Paper which the Government have published. The noble Lord read a rather nice letter from the man who read the Report—I believe he said, on April Fool's Day. He should not have done such a thing. We published the Report we are debating on March 1, on St. David's Day, and that would have been a far better day. However, I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, speak, and wipe away some of the gloomy pictures that have been painted about Wales, because 1101 this is the one thing that we must not allow to go by. I will never let it be said that Wales is in any sort of depression at the moment. It is not: it is far from it. We have problems, and we have not got everything right; but we are keeping going. Then the noble Lord mentioned sheep going up—
§ LORD BRECON
Sheep straying; I am sorry. I know that my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke had great trouble with this problem in the Rhondda, and in Merthyr, too. Cattle grids are no good except on roads. The noble Lord said there were only 28, or something like that, at that time. If the common land runs right down to your back garden—and I can assure the noble Lord that the sheep in Wales jump remarkably well—great difficulty may arise. I often return home from Cardiff via Merthyr, and besides seeing sheep on the roads I see Welsh mountain ponies as well; but they are rather easier to see when driving at night.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, the point we made was that it now requires Government action and is not to be left to local authorities.
§ LORD BRECON
This, of course, brings up many problems for the farmer. I suppose he is expected to fence his own animals in, but it is very difficult for him. But I think that one local authority has quite successfully appointed a man who looks after the pound. He collects the sheep every morning and puts them in the pound, and when the farmer wants them back he has to pay 10s. a time. The farmer looks after them a little more carefully after he has paid once or twice for them.
I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, paint a rather better picture of how things are in Wales at the present time. Factories have gone up in the area, and I was certainly interested to hear his figure of 85 firms in the rural areas now employing 7,000 workers. It is true, as Lord Dynevor said, that Welsh boys are not taking to forestry, and we should welcome a greater interest by the boys of Wales in forestry. There is a school near Llan- 1102 gollen where they could take examinations and obtain qualifications.
So far as the railways are concerned, I think that problem is the result of changing social habits, and, what is more, the improved prosperity and use of private transport—now something that is increasing every day. I am delighted to see that in Radnorshire, about which many people have talked to-day, there are 226 cars per thousand of population. This is higher than in any county in the rest of the country as a whole. I am also glad to see that in Montgomeryshire there are 209 cars per thousand, and that shows a sign of prosperity in these counties. Only Dorset comes second, with 211 per thousand. But I think people are jumping to a great number of conclusions about the closure of the railways. I think some statements here to-day are not entirely accurate; but we must wait for the meetings of the Transport Users' Consultative Council to consider these railways, particularly the ones in mid-Wales. I would much rather wait to hear their conclusions and find out what they say, first of all, than jump to conclusions. I think I am right in saying that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has not rejected the Jack Report on rural buses, and that is also being considered at the moment. But I would agree with my noble friend Lord Swansea that the Royal Welsh Show, having bought a piece of ground at Builth Wells, will perhaps find it rather difficult if there is no railway there. It will be difficult for them.
The noble Lord, Lord Leighton of St. Mellons, asked me a question about the Rochdale Committee, and I understand that their Report is to be published some time during the summer. With regard to the ports, I must be quite frank in that we do not build ships there. We do some ship-repairing, but we do not build ships. We have built a few in South Wales, but not many. The ports were designed, of course, to export coal; they were not designed to export anything else. But I hope that in time, when we have the Severn Bridge and the dual carriageway from the Midlands right down to South Wales, a greater quantity of traffic will come that way, sufficient to fill the boats which will call there. The noble Lord, Lord Leighton 1103 of St. Mellons, also referred to the journeys of the ambulances, and so on, and perhaps the Ministry of Health will have a look at that.
I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was here to-day, because, after all, he is the Chairman of the St. David's Theatre Trust, which we are watching very closely. He has taken on a very great responsibility. I think that is something that Wales would like to have and would enjoy. My feeling, as with so many of these things, is that I hope it will get the wholehearted support which it deserves from all the people and from the local authorities. As the noble Lord has already said, local authorities can spend up to 6d. in the pound, on anything of a cultural nature in that way.
The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, is, of course, from Monmouthshire. We are always glad to see him and know exactly his views upon the state of Monmouthshire. I was delighted to hear him say that there was no chaos there, except at Newport Bridge, I suppose, at some times. But I must inform him that the Heads of the Valleys Road starts in Monmouthshire, and that part of it is nearly complete at the present moment. He said something about other people paying for the Welshman's requirements of culture and things like that. I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, that, of course, the Welshman pays taxes too. I think we all pay into the pool; it all depends on how much we get out of it. We may complain about that, but we do not actually pay for somebody else's interests. The noble Lord talked about the Boundary Commission. I am sorry, I can say nothing about that. The matters referred to are before the Commission at the moment, and in due time they will report.
The noble Lord, Lord Swansea, raised a number of matters, mostly about the Boundary Commission, and also about transport. He said that the roads were not adequate in his area. He does not live very far from me, and I can leave my house in the morning and drive north through Builth Wells, and perhaps during nine months of the year I do not pass 50 cars. If only the people in the rest of the country knew where 1104 to live, life would be much more tolerable in every way.
§ LORD SWANSEA
My Lords, will the noble Lord excuse my butting in? He may have misunderstood me. What I meant to say was that the roads are inadequate for the large increase in industrial traffic which the roads would have to carry if the rail service were curtailed or withdrawn.
§ LORD BRECON
My Lords, I think the point is that if the whole of the traffic on the railway which runs up there were to go by road it would make no practical difference at all. The farmer is hauling his hay, his milk and his fertiliser by road at the present moment, and the majority of farmers go by road. So far as the railways are concerned in mid-Wales, over the whole area, they exist but they are not being used. I have no evidence at all that that has stopped depopulation, and I have no evidence at all that it has brought in any industry, either. If anyone can correct me on that, I shall be very glad indeed. I think that so far as the railway workers mentioned by the noble Lord are concerned, they will be taken care of, and that the Transport Commission have already given undertakings to the trade unions on this point. It is hoped that perhaps some of them will not have to leave the area in which they live.
It was interesting to hear Lord Boston speak. The noble Lord comes from Anglesey, which I suppose is a county without any hill farming schemes and therefore cannot get this grant. But it was nice to have a tribute about that from an English Peer living in Wales. He is so right when he talks about local enterprise. If we Welsh have one fault it is that we do not enter manufacturing industries. If only the Welshman could generate some more industry of his own, and would take the risks taken by the man in Birmingham or the Londoner or the man from anywhere else, we should be very much happier altogether. I think that as we are getting these new industries, younger people will look at them in future; they will not take a job which gives purely a service, but will think of the manufacturing industries, where they can do well and also get very good jobs.
1105 The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, had a most enjoyable debate with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and I do not think it calls for a very great deal from me in reply, but I too enjoyed it as Lord Ogmore did. With regard to technical education, we have provision in South Wales for that. In fact, we are well provided for in one form or another at the moment. As I said earlier, I should like to see some more firms, more trade unionists, more pits and more boys and girls taking advantage of those facilities that exist at the present moment in the technical education field. While the noble Viscount claims for his Party all Members of Parliament from industrial areas, he will give us Swansea West, will he not, as one? Perhaps he will not count Cardiff North, but maybe we shall have a few more next time. The noble Viscount referred to the old days. Until four years ago I had worked in Merthyr all my life. I started in Merthyr in 1922, and therefore I know a fair amount about the valleys in that part. But I should like to say that any suggestion that the valleys of South Wales are going to die will do us a great disservice. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep industries in the valleys and to bring further industries into them to take the place of any collieries that may close dawn, because there is a community life and culture, and in some places a language of their own in these valleys, and it is the Government's policy to try to do this. In fact, in 1961 we carried out rather more schemes in the valleys. The noble Viscount talked about a National Water Board. I think that that was in their policy of 1945, but I will look it up. Perhaps it is one of the things that ought to have been done.
§ LORD BRECON
I would charge it only with not doing the right ones. This has been a most interesting debate. Perhaps we should have talked more about the White Paper, but I suppose we cannot expect Welshmen to keep to the narrow track of one White Paper, and they wandered freely from it. I have found the debate most helpful and I hope that noble Lords, too, have found it interesting. The Welsh are a happy 1106 and joyful people. So long as we have plenty of work to do, we have time to sing as well.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, when one rises to withdraw a Motion, I do not think that it is an appropriate time to go into controversial speeches made by other noble Lords. I think that that is very tiresome, and when one has another speech to make it is even more tiresome. I would merely say that I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I have enjoyed it very much. It has been stimulating, and I am pleased indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, also found it stimulating.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leighton of St. Melons, on his able and informed maiden speech. I am sure that with his experience of the docks in Cardiff and elsewhere in South Wales he will be a valuable acquisition to your Lordships' House. I knew his father and mother and was a friend of his brother, who unfortunately died a few years ago. I have known the whole family and my wife has been friendly with them for many years. If his father, Sir William Seager, had been able to be here to-day he would have been very proud of his son. Unfortunately, the noble Lord has had to leave to go back to Wales, and he asked me to convey his apologies to your Lordships.
I am very sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, was not able to be with us. I spoke to him earlier and I had hoped he would be speaking tonight. He told me that if he were well enough he would be speaking, and I am sorry he has not been able to be here. I hope that his indisposition will be a temporary one and that he will soon be with us again. I have a great admiration for the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, with whom I have been friends for many years. He certainly bears a high reputation in South Wales.
May I just say that I have no complaint about the attack made upon me, personally or otherwise, by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough? I have known him for many years and have always liked his style of speaking. I quite enjoy it, and when I know that he is to speak I try to be in 1107 the House because I like his good, old-fashioned "bang" at his opponents. That is what debate is for. I do not like this mealy-mouthed stuff. The noble Viscount had his birthday yesterday and I hope that he will be many years with us, to have a good whack at those with whom he disagrees, whether they are former Members of his Party or not.
There is only one other point that I should like to mention. The noble Lord, Lord Brecon, does his best in Wales and I should like to pay tribute to him personally. What success there has been in South Wales—as I have said, there has not been much in mid-Wales—owes a considerable amount to him. As he knows well, my criticism is not of him, but of the system he has to work in. I think that there is a great call for a Secretary of State and secretariat for Wales. I hope that he does not think that any criticisms I made are any reflection on him personally.
Only one more word, about the Montgomeryshire by-election, which was trailed through the House by so many speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Brecon, and other noble Lords know perfectly well that when I put down this Motion months ago, the late Mr. Clement Davies was still with us and there was no question of a by-election, I did not fix the date of this debate. It was fixed by the noble Earl, Lord St.Aldwyn. The idea that there has been some Machiavellian plot on my part to intervene in the Montgomeryshire by-election is ridiculous. It was two or three months ago, long before the by-election, that I told the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, the subject on which I was going to speak to-day. I said that I wanted to concentrate on mid-Wales, in respect of which I had grave doubts and feelings of concern. I also wrote to other noble Lords, at least a month ago and even earlier, asking them if they would care to speak and mentioning the subject.
That is all I have to say. I am sure that the people of Wales will read in the Western Mail, the Daily Post and other Welsh papers, and hear on broadcasting and television—some may read Hansard—what has been said here to-day. They are the people who are going to judge. They are the people who ought to judge, and we can safely leave it to them. I 1108 beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.