§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. William Whiteley.]
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
We who represent Wales and Monmouthshire, are pleased to have another opportunity to discuss our problems, but we do so with considerable disappointment at the slow progress made by the Government to solve them. We have been favoured with another White Paper entitled "Wales and Monmouthshire—Report of Government Action for the Year ended 30th June, 1947." It is important that the White Paper be studied and its value assessed in relation to two other publications. I refer to the Second Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, which was issued during May of last year, dealing with the administration of the distressed and Development Areas. The other, which was issued last month, was "Capital Investment in 1948."
I propose this afternoon to deal with one of the Welsh problems, namely, that of new industries. We are all familiar both in Wales and Monmouthshire with what has been achieved. Today we are concerned with what has not been achieved. The issue is a clear one. It is this: Are the Government's achievements regarding the establishment of new industries in the Development Areas of Wales and Monmouthshire adequate to prevent a return of the conditions experienced during the period between the two wars? I have no hesitation in saying that they are not. It is the delay in implementing the pledges of the Government that is to be deplored, as nothing is more tragic than delay. It creates dissatisfaction, disappointment, despondency and, ultimately, a lack of confidence in the Government. Our people cannot forget the past, and they are, as a consequence, anxious about the future. Neither are they able to derive any comfort from the document, "Capital Investment in 1948," which makes it perfectly clear, in accordance with the policy laid down in that White Paper, that the erection of new factories will be considerably altered. The White Paper points out:All factory building, including extensions, now in progress which has not reached the steel erection stage will be reviewed with the 678 object of postponing at least half. Within the reduced volume of factory building, preferential treatment will continue to be accorded to the Development Areas.Here, let me put a question to which, I submit, an answer should be given by the Minister: What is to be the extent of the proposed cuts in capital expenditure in Wales and Monmouthshire? We agree with the "Economist" that the problem is not merely "how much" but also "where" and "when." If any defence of our criticism is required, I claim that it can be found in the speech delivered by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons on 15th April last year. In the course of his Budget statement he said:My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I have been in consultation on the matter and we both agree that this factory proposal has been marching too slowly. Those responsible are now being prodded by my right hon. and learned Friend, and we hope soon to have a rather quicker rate of advance … We are doing our very best to speed things up, and we are very willing to be stimulated and criticised in this regard"—that is part of my duty this afternoon—as it will only urge us on to do even more than we are seeking to do at the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 43].The only piece of advice left out is what we are to do in the prodding stage to secure new industries in Development Areas. An interesting sidelight was thrown upon this question of delay or slow progress in the construction of factories by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech delivered at Shildon, County Durham, on 30th November, 1947. I quote from "The Times" of 1st December, 1947. It appears that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer was inspecting some new undertakings on a trading estate in that part of the country. This was his observation:You need to take a microscope to discover the bricks that were laid since I was here last.If the ex-Chancellor came to some parts of Wales and Monmouthshire, we could provide him with more evidence of inactivity. In parts of my division where people have been promised two factories in October, 1945, there is not a brick to be seen. In another part of the division, where an industry came without being induced by the Government, they have had to dismiss men because they cannot get the materials. There is nothing to be seen 679 in many divisions of Wales and Monmouthshire but evidence of a pious adherence to a policy of delay, delay and further delay.
I have mentioned the Second Report from the Select Committee on Estimates, which in my submission constitutes an indictment of the Government's policy regarding the erection of new factories, not only in Wales and Monmouthshire but in Great Britain. The Report points out:… progress made in factory construction gives some cause for concern. Whereas the Board of Trade estimate the total potential employment to be provided by the new factories now approved as 149,100, yet on 31st March, 1947, employment for only 3,251 had, in fact, been provided.Those 3,251 persons were employed in 42 factories erected under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, in the whole of Great Britain. In Wales and Monmouthshire we have been favoured with 18, giving employment to 1,332 men and women. These particulars relate, as the Report points out, tonew factories, including advance factories, under construction or approved since the war.The mere recital of the steps that have to be taken before a licence for building is obtained is most depressing as outlined in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the Report. It states that,provided no unforeseen delay occurs, the average time which elapses from the date on which the manufacturer has agreed the details of the project in the Region to the issue of a building licence is stated to be about eight weeks.That is, after the purchase of a site which takes anything from two to six months. Following that observation we are informed that in order to facilitate the progress of building construction, progress officers or chasers are employed by the Board of Trade and the estate companies; and yet theaverage period required for the completion of a building has recently increased to a full 12 months.We are also told:During 1946, the average time taken to meet orders for steel was rather more than three months. This period now, apparently, is likely to be about nine months.So it is clear, according to the evidence to be found in that Report, that slow progress will become much slower.
I feel compelled to say that I like the word "chasers," and suggest that a few more 680 may be appointed to chase the protracted, tortuous, twisted Governmental preliminaries to which I have already referred. The delay caused by such planless, cumbersome machinery is heart-breaking and disappointing. I hope time will not be wasted by informing us that the procedure depends upon whether the new factory is financed by the Government or by a company. Such a reminder is unnecessary, because both relate to the Development Areas. As the whole issue appears to be one of delay, I ask for forbearance of hon. Members while I read this paragraph from the Report:If the site is approved, the Board of Trade proceed to obtain the necessary clearances from the requisite authorities, such as the Ministries of Town and Country Planning, Health, Works, Fuel and Power, Agriculture, and Transport, or in Scotland from the Secretary of State for Scotland. Having obtained these clearances, the Board of Trade instruct the District Valuer to negotiate with the owners for the purchase of the land. It was stated that serious delays had been caused by the shortage of District Valuers. The time now taken to agree upon the purchase of a site ranges from two to six months.We used to hear a tremendous lot about the need for co-ordination. I consider that that kind of procedure is a fine example of co-ordinated unco-ordination. No wonder the ex-Chancellor required a microscope. We want an entirely new set-up in Wales and Monmouthshire regarding the erection of factories. I readily admit my fascination by a sentence on page 16 of the White Paper to which I have already referred. It is this:In the introduction of new industries and the steering of them towards needy areas reliance is placed on inducement, since it would be impracticable to seek to direct industrialists to any particular district.And that is from a Government who have not hesitated to direct labour. That, in my submission, is a remarkable imitation of Tory political hypocrisy.
What has been the result of this policy of inducement and steering? The document supplies the answer, because it states:Certain parts of Wales have proved so attractive that their labour resources, male and female, are likely to be fully used. This is true of Wrexham Development Area, certain of the four towns of South Wales and the Eastern portion of Monmouthshire. No further attempt is being made for the present to induce new industries to settle in these areas, and the effort is now directed to other places where a need for new employment still exists.681 There is only one conclusion to be drawn from that paragraph, and it is that the attractive parts of Wales and Monmouthshire are to have new industries first and the Development Areas are to have what those people no longer require. That is not very reassuring to my people or to those of us who represent unattractive areas. One would have thought that those constituencies made unattractive by a long period of industrial depression would have received first consideration.
Another result of this policy of inducement is the fact, mentioned in the White Paper, that, of 138 schemes privately financed and encouraged by the Government, 26 are located outside the Development Areas. This policy of inducement, steering and encouraging the introduction of new industries, if not a complete failure, is not even a partial success. It is quite an easy matter, it appears, to find material for these new undertakings. However, we note with some dismay that the permission to erect factories in areas other than Development Areas is a feature of the Government's policy not only in Wales and Monmouthshire but in the whole of Great Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) in a recent Debate in this House stated:Between December, 1944, and 30th September, 1947, the Board of Trade approved 3,259 projects for new factories and extensions to existing factories. Of these, 1,076 were in the Development Areas and 2,183 were outside the Development Areas. In other words, only about one-third of the entire factory building programme has been allocated to the Development Areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th December, 1947; Vol. 445, c. 1964.]In the White Paper on Wales and Monmouthshire we are informed that on 30th June of last year only 23 Government financed and 20 privately financed projects had been completed in the Development Areas, a total of 43. If we take the four that were erected the year before, we have the magnificent total of 47 new factories in Wales and Monmouthshire since 1947.
I suppose the defence of the Government would be the shortage of steel and of other building material. I would remind the Minister that, according to a reply given to a Question in this House on 29th July last year by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, the number of new factories and extensions agreed by the regional distribution of industry 682 panel in Greater London, for the period from 1945 to 30th June last year, was 186 extensions and 86 new factories. If steel can be provided to erect factories in that region, it can be found to erect factories in the Development Areas of Wales and Monmouthshire. Those 86 new factories and 186 extensions were erected in an area where the percentage of unemployment is 1½ per cent. whereas in Wales for years, at least since 1945, the percentage of unemployment has never been lower than 5½ per cent.
According to the latest figures, we have no fewer than 39,411 of our people unemployed. The percentage for the whole of Great Britain is 1½. Those factories and extensions have been erected in a region which Members of the present Government argued in 1937 was overcrowded with new undertakings. While we are expected to accept this policy, we are calmly and coolly told that from July, 1946, to June, 1947, there were 3,920 men and women transferred to employment outside Wales under the voluntary temporary transfer scheme, making a total of nearly 5,000 people who had been transferred under that scheme. Who is attracted by the name "voluntary transfer"? These men have been obliged, as a result of no industries being taken to the areas where they were unemployed, to transfer to other parts of the country.
Upon numerous occasions, both at interviews with Ministers and in the House, we have suggested that units of complete production, instead of being concentrated on trading estates, should be established in the Development Areas of Wales and Monmouthshire. What is the result of our agitation? It is this: In a series of articles which appeared in the "Board of Trade Journal" in June, 1947, and written by the editor, we were informed that the number of Government-financednew factories and extensions, which are 100 per cent. complete or so nearly complete that tenants have moved in,was 21. Of those 21 factories, 14 had been erected upon one single estate in Wales.
This question of new industries is of permanent and paramout importance to the people of Wales and Monmouthshire. The mining industry is being reorganised and planned, and that may necessitate the dismissal of a large number of men, who cannot hope for absorption other than 683 in new industries. What about the Grenfell factories? It appears that we are never going to have them. When are we to expect the additional ones that have been promised by the Government?
We are not satisfied with the policy of the Government regarding Wales and Monmouthshire. The people we represent are not satisfied. Knowing the past, we, with them, fear the future. The White Paper is simply a piece of paper. We demand that pledges should be redeemed. We want chive, determination and decision to take the place of delay. We are entitled to ask the Government to assist us in destroying the belief that planners are the only people who have neither policy nor plan.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
On this side of the House we attach the greatest importance to this Debate and I will, as shortly as I can, put forward some of the considerations which we have had in mind on the subject of Wales as a whole. We are aware that Debates in this House fall into two types; one in which the audience is large and very often each individual member of it is only too thankful that he or she is not going to take part in it; and, secondly, Debates such as this, in which almost the entire audience is watching Mr. Speaker with anxiety in order that he or she may have an opportunity to take part in it. I realise that this Debate falls into the latter category and I will therefore be as quick as I can. At the same time, I will not shirk the task which I want to perform for my hon. and right hon. Friends here, of indicating some of the points to which we attach particular importance in regard to Wales.
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) has put forward such a case against the Government as will be very difficult for the Government to answer. When I heard his language about tortuous and twisted policy, about planless and cumbersome machinery and co-ordinated unco-ordination, and when I heard him cry for drive, decision and so forth, I could not help thinking that he would be a very welcome recruit to our ranks.
Mr. Dag gar
I know that I have been somewhat critical of the Government, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman 684 that his own Government was a very great deal worse.
§ Mr. Butler
I could not help thinking also that the President of the Board of Trade, when listening to the hon. Member for Abertillery, might well have been saying to himself, "Is this a dagger which I see behind me?"
My personal interest in the subject of this Debate comes to some extent from the fact that I can boast of being partly Celtic. The importance of this fact came out during the time I was Minister of Education and was able to interest myself in Welsh education. I took a particular initiative in Circular 182 upon the subject of the extension of the teaching of the Welsh language. I took a personal interest in that matter because I had been sorry to see my own native Cornish tongue destroyed and forgotten during the last 100 years. I was deeply impressed with the work done by Mr. A. L. Rowse on this subject, and I was determined to see that the Welsh language did not also disappear from our midst. This may be a slender reason for taking an interest in this subject, but it is a deep and abiding force. It is accompanied by the great personal interest which I was able to cultivate when I was at the Ministry of Labour in many detailed problems affecting Wales.
I do not intend, in opening the argument from this side of the House, to follow exactly the line taken by the hon. Member for Abertillery. I want to start upon the general subject of education. I am glad to note—I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education present—that the teaching of the Welsh language has been encouraged and that it is progressing. The position differs in Carnarvonshire, of course—where it is expected that children at 11-plus or so shall be competent in Welsh—from the position in Radnorshire, Monmouthshire and Newport, where there is no such progress, as indeed I discovered upon my visit to Monmouthshire. Nevertheless, in districts where Welsh speaking can be encouraged, it is being encouraged today.
On the general problem of Welsh education, I have always been impressed with the manner in which, after the intermediate Act passed by the enlightened and wise Administration which cannot be 685 associated with the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Welsh made such very great progress in the secondary field. It was my impression when I was Minister of Education that they were leading the whole country in that field. Anyone who has visited a Welsh secondary school can bear me out. One of the results of the development of this secondary education was precisely the effect which education of that type produces in some countries. It leads to so many good brains being developed that there is not room for them in the country of origin, with the result that, in considering education in Wales, we get a very peculiar situation which is exactly opposite to the economic policy of the President of the Board of Trade. By the time I left the Ministry it had become a great problem because Wales was exporting too much of her real ability. It was not the case of the right hon. Gentleman, that of wishing to expand exports; it was a need to restrict exports of that type.
To sum up the desire and need of Wales, it is that her best people should live, work and prosper in their native country and help that country forward. I shall, therefore, make some suggestions in regard to technical education which I think I can make, having made similar suggestions in the Debate on the Education Estimates of this country. It is my belief that it will be possible to develop technical education in Wales in as remarkable a manner as secondary education was developed as a result of the intermediate Act, and it may be the case that, arising out of the Act of 1944 and the initiative of the two councils which have been set up to encourage technical education in North and South Wales, Wales will be able to give a lead to England as she gave a lead in secondary education by certain developments of which I have already noticed at least one.
The advance in technical education to which I wish to bring the attention of the House is that the two councils to which I have referred have agreed to join with the University and with industry to form the Welsh Academic Board of Technology. That has developed out of the Percy Report. What has particularly interested me is that an amalgamation is now taking place between the University and technical education interests in Wales, and I believe it to be the case 686 in Cardiff that the two sides are getting together in such a way that students will be able to proceed from their technical education to degrees in the University of Wales itself. That is a most estimable development and one which technical colleges and universities in this country would do well to follow.
I have always been more sympathetic to the growth and development of technical colleges than to the undue over-expansion of our university system, and if Wales can give a lead in this respect by bringing the technical college side and the university side closer together, she will be doing a great service to education not only in Wales but throughout these islands. I, therefore, hope that the Government will do all they can to encourage the development of technical education in Wales. I am particularly interested in the colleges necessary for this, and particularly in the need for a technical college in Flintshire.
During the period when I have not been quite so much occupied as I used to be, I have been interesting myself in certain day education experiments in industry in Flintshire which are among the most developed in the country. It is a great pleasure to be able to take an interest in a practical scheme instead of sitting in an office and hearing about it. From what I know about industry in North Wales and Flintshire, the plans for technical education and general education within industry cannot proceed very much further unless there is a technical college in Flintshire. If it were possible to receive any encouragement from the Government today and to hear that such a college is envisaged, we who are interested in these matters would be very grateful. It seems possible that technical education might develop in Wales in the Wrexham area, in Flintshire and perhaps at Bangor. If that were the case, there would be a grid upon which the whole system could be built and with the aid of the initiative of the existing councils, considerable progress would be made.
At this stage I must remind the House that craftmanship has always been one of the great traditions of Wales. Those who know the National Museum of Wales will remember that it is written in the guide for that Museum that:The insistence upon the dignity of craft-manship can be traced in Welsh life throughout 687 the ages … it is not to be wondered at that in the 19th century, human wisdom in the Welsh economy found its deepest roots in the smithy and workshops of the local craftsmen.Today we have a rather larger conception of technical education than that, but it must be remembered that in those days it was from the homes of the peasant craftsmen that the spiritual leadership of the nation came—their poets, their artists, their preachers, their statesmen and their scholars. Do not let us forget the village and local crafts. Let us foster and cherish them, because it is a remarkable fact that the rise and growth of any national spirit very often depend on the extent of true craftsmanship in a country, and let us when developing the technical or higher education of Wales remember to have within it that spirit which made the Welsh craftsmen and brought forward so many of the Welsh leaders in the past.
I want now to consider more particularly the aspect of rural Wales. I want to do that by first mentioning, before I leave education, my regrets at what I hear about the possible closure of many of the village schools in Wales. It was never intended in the 1944 Act that small schools should be closed. In fact, we deliberately withdrew from the provisions of that Act the necessity to have 30 pupils in a school if it was to avoid closure. I have been investigating this difficulty in Wales just as I have been investigating it in England, and I understand—I hope that I am rightly informed—that in the majority of cases these schools are not being closed through prejudice but through economic pressure, such as shortage of teachers, bad buildings and the difficulty of constructing a completely new building where a central building will do. There are reasons for this policy, but it must nevertheless be remembered that if young children are taken away from their own village atmosphere before they are fit to be moved, not only will the children suffer for physical and other reasons, but the village life itself will suffer most.
Knowing the manner in which Welsh history has been built up on the basis of its rural life and village schools, I very much hope that when the development plans come before the Ministry, the Minister will give every sympathetic consideration to keeping alive as many village 688 schools as possible. The position of the religious settlement in Wales is one into which it would be very unwise to enter on this occasion, and I have every reason to believe that, as in England, there is no need to re-open that question. I offer congratulation to all who took part in that settlement in that it has at least formed the basis for future policy.
Rural Wales is not so vociferous as industrial Wales on all occasions, but it has many grievances, to some of which I wish to draw attention. Rural Wales has been unduly forgotten and, indeed, slighted by those who have been responsible for policy and administration. My hon. friends who are interested passed a resolution at our Brighton Conference on this subject, in particular drawing attention to the needs of Wales as a whole. During the last few months we have particularly interested ourselves in this aspect of affairs.
In attempting to study this aspect, I was disappointed in the layout of the White Paper. Almost it seemed to have been designed to prevent comparison with the previous White Paper. I will give two examples. The subject of Fuel and Power is taken out of "Public Utilities," where it was in the last White Paper, and tucked away into basic heavy industries. Food, which appeared under "Other Social Services and Food" in the old White Paper, is now hidden amongst "Other Industries," which is a euphemism at the present moment. The more one examines the two White Papers carefully together, as I have done, the more they seem intended, being as they are without indexes, to make it impossible for hon. Members—with the exception of the hon. Member for Abertillery—to make any damaging comparisons at all. I would appeal to the Government in bringing out these White Papers to make some sort of pattern, so that those of us who are not so versed in the subject as the previous speaker will be able, by paper comparisons, as well as by our own experience, to make some rather more damaging statements than we otherwise might be able to do.
Leaving aside the form of the White Paper, I want to come now to one or two specific and, I think, damaging situations in the rural economy of Wales. Coming first to agriculture, what strikes me at once, looking at the White Paper and having examined the matter locally, 689 is that there does not appear to be any success attending the administration of the hill farming schemes under the Act of 1946. It would appear, if one looks at paragraph 116 of the White Paper, that there has been no increase in the amount of grants up to June, 1947, as compared with 1945. It would appear, in fact, that in respect of hill cattle the amount of grant given after the passage of the Act is actually less than the grants and subsidies made before the Act was passed. If that be the case, and I believe it is so from local inquiry, there is some faulty administration and attention is not being paid to real Welsh conditions on the mountains and hills in the administration of the Hill Farming Act.
To borrow the language of the hon. Member who preceded me, it seems that, as is usual, there is a cumbersome and toilsome administration and that many of these small farmers, many of them family men, are asked to send in schemes, no doubt in triplicate but, at any rate, far too comprehensive for their small local needs. It would seem that if this Act is to be properly administered, and if these men and their families are to get the money that they need, there must be a much simpler approach to the simple folk who want simple help. That seems to me to apply to the whole approach of the Government towards the problems of rural Wales.
Now I come to the question of rural roads. It is a well known fact that much of the concentration in Wales on roads has been on the main roads surrounding the leading cities and towns. There is many a remote centre with as many as 6,000 upland sheep where the roads are in a most disgraceful condition, an almost Middle Ages condition, in the rural and mountainous parts of Wales. What I am saying here illustrates a general point I shall make at the end of my remarks, namely, that there is not a picture of Wales as a whole in the minds of the Government. They are apt to concentrate on the place where most noise is made, and are apt to forget the rural areas where the needs for a reasonably hard surface and hard core for the roads are of vital importance.
In the case of housing we have, of course, in Wales a much stronger case for pressing on the Government the need for rural reconditioning because the local 690 labour and material is often more plenteous than it is in parts of England. I would appeal strongly to the Government to press ahead with the reconditioning of cottages as well as with the building of new houses in Wales. I could detain the House indefinitely by giving statistics of the disappointing number of houses built, of the shortages that are being attempted to be met by private enterprise, only to be choked by the control of the Government. I appeal for a real drive for rural housing in Wales, the condition of which is really disgraceful at present.
One word on afforestation. There is a good deal of antipathy to the broadminded afforestation schemes which are in mind. There is antipathy because blocks of land appear to have been sterilised by purchase ahead, and to have been taken away from production; there is antipathy because of the effect of afforestation upon the reduction of the rural population, and for a variety of other reasons. I realise that afforestation is vital to Wales, and I realise the scope of the programme, but something is necessary to put this programme across, to have it understood by the local population so that they sympathise with it and do not curse the vermin and foxes which emerge from the trees that are but newly planted.
Before concluding, I wish to touch upon one or two industrial matters, as I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman will be disappointed if I do not do so. First, however, I want to mention the Rees Report on the quarrying industry. There is a strong feeling that the Welsh quarrying slate industry is being less well treated than the Scottish slate industry, which is less advanced and, in the view of Wales—indeed I would gladly subscribe my view—yields a much inferior product. What does the President of the Board of Trade propose to do about the findings of the Rees Report which I have here in my hand? In it there are a variety of recommendations, both on marketing and on other subjects, and I would be obliged if some indication could be given of what policy is to emerge as a result of this report. There has been too much delay already, and we on this side of the House have received numerous requests from the Welsh slate industry for a statement of policy.
691 Then I want to put forward a human consideration on behalf of the men in these quarries. They cannot understand why they do not get advantages equivalent to the miners, since their work is in many respects the same. Yet they are not treated the same in rations, and in many other ways. In the Blaenau district the work of quarrying is underground. One last appeal for the quarrying industry is that the enterprise of that industry has a great desire to press ahead if it be encouraged. There seems to be a total lack of planning and foresight in regard to the industry. Owners are not being encouraged to make plans or to go forward, and I have evidence that there would be an opportunity for great progress being made if the Government were to give the right lead and the right encouragement at the present time.
In regard to the minor industries, I would only mention the special needs of the Welsh textile and woollen trade. I do not sympathise entirely with the speech made by the hon. Member for Abertillery. I think the work has to be divided between the Development Areas and the small industries, and I would refer particularly to the needs of the Pembroke Dock area. Also there is a need for encouraging the tourist industry in Wales. In regard to the major industries, namely steel and coal, I do not think I can add much that is original to the discussion. I have tried to confine my speech to those parts in which my hon. and right hon. Friends and I are personally interested but it must be remembered that if I do not stress the need for the expansion of the coal industry, it is not because I do not care, but because I wish to give other hon. Members an opportunity to speak.
It is perfectly clear to all that unless we can maintain the improvement which has taken place lately we cannot hope for prosperity in Wales. As it is, when one compares the 1939 output of coal of 37,364,400 tons with the figure for 1946 of 22,393,200 tons, one sees what an immense amount of leeway there is to make up, and one legitimately asks why so much of the Government propaganda tries to make out that in the bad old days so little coal was produced. It is necessary for them sometimes to remember that, taking into account the changes in the working population in the mines, things 692 were not quite so bad as they have sometimes made out in regard to production in the old days. The same can be said of the export figures. I am glad to see the recent improvement, but when we register these things we ought at the same time to look up a series of statistics of what used to be done, and what I think can be done in the future.
I will permit myself one political observation, which is that if one wishes to see figures of real drive and energy in an industry which is not nationalised, and in which I believe the relations between management and men are some of the best in this country, we must look at the steel industry in South Wales. There, under private enterprise, there have been the most remarkable statistical results in almost every branch of the industry.
§ Mr.Cove (Aberavon)
Might I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the location of that industry in South Wales was due to the activities of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Butler
All credit where credit is due, but what I am making out is that under private enterprise, under which the industry is operating, there has been a very remarkable development in almost every particular. If I were to detain the House, I could give figures in comparison with those I have given for coal in almost every branch of production. What I wish to stress in regard to steel is that a great deal has been done by the proper spirit between management and men. Some of the most interesting experiments in this direction have not only been backed by Ministers opposite, but by some others who have taken a personal interest in the matter.
It is quite clear to us, because the wheel will turn, that an abrupt end will come to the Government's general nationalisation schemes, no doubt through the early demise of the Administration. But, whether it comes in that way or not, in England we are going to have a very large proportion—in fact the vast majority of undertakings—run on the basis of a proper relationship between capital and labour. We welcome what we have seen in South Wales in this connection in the steel industry and any attempts from any quarter of the House, or any section of opinion in the country, which improves relations within industry and introduces a 693 proper feeling of management and a proper return on work and service by those who devote their lives to working in industry of any type.
There is only one other subject on which I wish to touch, and that is the very vexed question of how the administration of Wales is to be conducted. I will not disappoint the right hon. Gentleman by not mentioning the Secretary of State for Wales. It seems to me that a request for this comes partly from national pride, partly from a desire that Welsh needs shall not be overlooked, and partly from a feeling that Wales is being treated rather badly in comparison with Scotland. To dismiss this last comparison, it is obvious to everyone that the historical background and circumstances of Scotland and Wales are not identical; in fact, it would be very damaging to Wales to say that it was identical with any other section of the world. Wales is something particular, and I believe some particular arrangement is necessary for Wales. What is wanted is not a muddling of the administration. I sympathise absolutely with what the present Chancellor said in the last Debate on this subject.
I agree absolutely with the Minister of Health that we do not want a Minister with over-riding powers. That, I believe, would lead to muddle. We do not want a messenger boy, to use one of the felicitous phrases of the Minister of Health. What we want is a watchdog, a Minister in the Government who can be, so to speak, an Ambassador for Wales who can, at the same time, watch and see that Wales is getting its fair share, and that the hon. Member for Abertillery supports his own Government once in a while. That, at any rate, would be an achievement of any Minister who was interested. I suggest, not that we should have a Secretary of State in exactly the same way as we have a Secretary of State for Scotland—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Young)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would be right in continuing with that argument, as any argument in reply would be out of Order.
Hon. Members have been led to understand, rightly or wrongly, that some latitude would be given today when representatives of Welsh constituencies got up to speak. We have a wide White Paper 694 under consideration, and it seems impossible to criticise it as we wish without impinging upon the Ruling you Mr. Deputy-Speaker have just given. I hope very much that some latitude will be allowed to hon. Members in this respect.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I understand that the Debate is in relation to the administration of various things in Wales, and not on anything which might create the necessity of passing some sort of Bill for the introduction of a new Minister.
§ Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)
We had a discussion on this White Paper 15 months ago, when practically every speaker referred to the need for a Secretary of State, or Minister, and both the reply and the main speech from the Government referred to it at great length. I suggest that we should be able to discuss the matter.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
Last year discussions took place, and it was made quite clear that we could make reference to the subject of a Secretary of State for Wales. This year I am quite sure my hon. Friends have not been lacking, and it would be most unfortunate if Welsh Members discussing the affairs of the Principality, were unable to suggest what they regard as a necessary major reform.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)
It is true that the Debate last year was on a Resolution, and that this Debate is on the Adjournment, which rules out new legislation. But, so far as the Government are concerned, we would have no objection if you Mr. Deputy-Speaker were able to put as liberal an interpretation as you thought fit on the Rules of Procedure, in order that the Debate could go as wide as convenient to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Our hands are tied by the fact that on the Adjournment matters which need legislation cannot be raised. The only reason I interrupted the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) was to prevent the necessity of calling other hon. Members to Order on that point. To say we want a Secretary of State for Wales is one thing, but to argue it is another.
§ Mr. Butler
I have kept silent because the beauty of my proposal is that it does not involve legislation. I was about 695 to say that what I think absolutely necessary is a Minister who will watch the priorities and have some sort of vision in regard to Wales, whether by area, or as a whole, or North, or South, who will be forever present in the Cabinet as a watchdog for Wales, able to interest himself in the work of this committee of officials which has met in Cardiff, and watch the co-ordination of the work done by the committee to which reference is made in the White Paper, and who has a special assignment to look after the case of Wales, and interest himself in it. I believe that that would be a most valuable addition to any Government. I do not absolutely insist that the person who holds it must be Welsh, but it would be a great advantage, whether he be Welsh or not, if he were full of that spirit which we always associate with that great country. I put forward that suggestion—
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Would the right hon. Gentleman's watchdog have anything other than a bark? Are we to understand that the watchdog would have no Ministerial standing and no teeth, but merely a bark? I am sorry to say that Wales cannot appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, if the construction which I have placed upon it is anything like correct.
§ Mr. Butler
No, the hon. Member is putting his own construction on it. The dog I suggest would be complete in every respect. There will be other speakers on this side of the House, and I feel sure that they will develop further not only the point I have made, but also many other aspects of the life of rural Wales, to which I have referred.
I am convinced, after my close examination of this subject, that it is impossible to sunder the administration of Wales from that of England in major matters; secondly, that there is at present a great gap in policy as applied to Wales as a whole; thirdly, that there is not a proper vision in the manner in which the benefits of policy are applied to the parts of Wales. The first step has been taken by this co-ordinating committee of officials. A further step ought now to be taken by someone of Ministerial status being put above that co-ordinating committee of officials. I believe that a 696 scheme could be worked out which would be of great benefit to Wales and of advantage to both countries. I was reading the remarks of Mr. Cowper Powys on Wales in "The Welsh Review." He gives me great hope, because he refers to Wales asthe most conservative, the most introverted, the most mysterious nation that has ever existed on the earth.…It is because we are devoted to this nation and to her needs that I have taken up the time of the House this afternoon, and that right hon. and hon. Friends of mine wish also to take part and show their interest in this great subject.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
As one of the people of "the most introverted, most mysterious nation," I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I was interested when he pointed out the difficulty of comparing this White Paper with its predecessor of last year. His next observation was that he did not intend to deal further with the form of the White Paper, and I wondered why. I kept on wondering as his speech went on. It was not until he reached the end of his speech that I found the answer. He had some watchdog, which was to be perfect in every way, to look after the interests of Wales. Even that would be better than this White Paper.
If we examine the White Paper we find that it is, in form, of wider concern than to Wales alone. It is of concern not only to the 36 Members of Parliament for Wales. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, who is an English Member, has taken part in this Debate because the form of this White Paper is of concern to the Constitution of this country. Just look at it. By whom is it presented? There is only one name on the front of the Paper. It is presented by the Prime Minister, who is not on the Treasury Bench. I am making no complaint about his absence—far from it. There is a row of hon. and right hon. Members—and I am very glad to see them—sitting on the Treasury Bench, but not one of them has anything to do with this White Paper, as presented to the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "They had to draw it up."] I shall deal with that point. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out a difference between Wales and Scotland. In a Scottish Debate there is someone on the 697 Government Front Bench who is responsible for Scottish affairs. There is no one here responsible in any way—
§ Mr. Morris
At all events, he is there. There is no representative here today to represent the Government or to defend the White Paper. I very much doubt whether the Prime Minister—and again I am not criticising him—has read one line of this White Paper. If I were asked to detect whose hand is behind it and whose views it represents, I would say that I do not believe it represents the views of a single Minister now sitting on the Government Front Bench. It represents the views of the Lord President of the Council.
What does the White Paper do? It tells us. It has an Introduction—it has many other odd things—which says, describing a conference that was responsible for drawing up the Paper:The Conference has met in Cardiff at quarterly intervals and this Paper is its report for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1947.It does not pretend, on the face of it, to be a report of the Government, or to be presented by the Government. It is a report made by the heads of the Civil Service in Cardiff.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is not the hon. and learned Member aware that it is a report of all the Government Departments concerned in the administration of Wales—something for which we have asked for a long time—together with the views of the Government?
§ Mr. Morris
I would point out to the hon. Member, and I hope he will realise the importance of it, that I am not complaining about the civil servants making reports. I shall not utter one word of criticism of civil servants. Which of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench is presenting the White Paper? That is what I want to know. Not one of them will be answering for it. Why should civil servants be mentioned 698 in this document, which should be presented to this House on the Government's responsibility? Why need a quarterly conference at Cardiff be mentioned?
§ Mr. Morris
The people responsible for telling us what is happening in Wales are the Members of the Government. It would be quite wrong for me to attack a civil servant in Cardiff. The person I want to attack is either the Minister of Labour, or, in particular, the Minister of Fuel and Power, who is not here, or, more than him, the Secretary of State for War, who also is not here. The fact is that there is nobody here to answer. The position which has been developed in Wales is completely unconstitutional. Civil servants have been brought into the arena of political discussion.
More than that, there is another thing for which the Lord President of the Council has been responsible, and it is possible that he committed himself to it at an earlier period. I saw a report in one of the Welsh newspapers a fortnight ago of a Press conference given in Carnarvon by the head of one of the Departments in Wales, on the policy which was condemned today with great force by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar). If the hon. Member had made a speech—and I fully agree with him—condemning that civil servant, he would have been out of Order. Why is a civil servant allowed to give a Press conference, which only a Parliamentary Secretary or the Ministerial head of a Department should hold? This is the new mode of Government. This is the new form of popularising the Government. Look at the popularisation of the Government in this White Paper—"publicity and information." That is curious wording in a White Paper, presented solemnly to this House. No doubt it is a valuable document to be sent to the proper Department, but could anything be more ridiculous than to present it solemnly to this House? Is this the way in which we are to treat a House engaged in solid political affairs?
I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden when he says that something should be done. I am not in full agreement with the production of a White Paper of this sort while 699 the political constitution remains as it is. I am in agreement with the present Minister of Health who, when he spoke from the Opposition Benches, pointed out that it would be far better for Wales to raise specific issues on specific points, than to have this general report, for which no one is responsible, and which cannot be debated without attacking the civil servants concerned. I looked at the education report. That report says:At this juncture let us pay tribute to the pioneers of the past.Imagine that in a document presented to this House! It may be very proper, or it may be improper. I have seen it better expressed in the Apocrypha—"Let us now praise famous men." The people responsible are the Government.
We are told in another section of the White Paper that the Ministry of Fuel and Power presented its report, having agreed it with the Coal Board. Who cares? I dare say it is a matter of importance for the Minister to defend what he puts forward, but it is not for us to argue whether there has been agreement between the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Coal Board. The right hon. Gentleman says that Wales is a nation. He says that Wales is entitled to be treated as a whole. He claims that the union of rural and industrial Wales is to be treated as a whole, and he passes by the real constitutional form of this White Paper. Does he wonder—does anybody on the Front Bench wonder—that Wales is being driven progressively into the nationalist camp? The implication of this document is that there must be political control somewhere to answer for it. There is none anywhere. The right hon. Gentleman says it is the lawyers. I do not admit that, but, after all, the liberties of the country owe a good deal, from time to time, to lawyers.
I was glad to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Abertillery. It affects my Division. In a planned State the individual does not count. In a planned State small numbers do not count—only big numbers. Small pockets of unemployed people do not count if large numbers can be settled elsewhere. Men do not matter in a planned State.
§ Mr. Morris
There is a better chance for them in an unplanned State. The trouble about Wales between the wars was that it was too much planned; but the planning is very much greater today.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Callaghan)
The hon. and learned Gentleman could have met 50,000 of them before the war.
§ Mr. Morris
I am not talking about numbers. What are those 500 saying? They were unemployed because of the figures that appear in this very White Paper—I am not stopping to analyse them. Those miners said: "We shall not only be silicotic, but neurotic." Something has been done to meet them. There was a factory put up at Port Henry. At some time, another must be put somewhere else. But they said to me: "The wiring here has been done by one electrician; it will take him, working by himself, four months to complete the work." Is that a serious attempt to deal with unemployment? Does the Board of Trade know whether there is anybody to take on that factory, or is it merely that the factory goes up in the hope that somebody will take it?
I want to draw attention to the Ministry of Fuel and Power. The Minister is not here, but he is responsible, and I make my attack, constitutionally, upon him. I make him responsible for letters which maybe he has not seen personally. In connection with petrol rationing, letters were sent out by the Department saying: "I cannot permit you to have petrol for such-and-such an occasion." I emphasise the words, "I cannot permit you." After all, we are still governed, I hope, by the law of the land, and not by the law of any Minister, however august. Three individuals in my Division applied for permission to use petrol to go to chapel on Sundays. They live in rural areas. One was told that he could not have a permit, although he is an elder of his church; he must go to a chapel which is nearer. I never knew that the petrol control was to be a way of determining religious attendance.
§ Mr. Morris
I hope that would be playing with dynamite anywhere. Constitutional language ought really to be taught in the various Departments, and the Ministers should learn it, to start with.
I come now to the most serious thing which affects Wales today and stirs Wales more than anything else, and that is the land taken over, or proposed to be taken over, by the War Office. I have looked through this White Paper from beginning to end and I cannot find a word about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is on the last page."] It is very obscure. It is so obscure that the Secretary of State for War has not bothered to be here. Let me for a moment deal with Wales as a "mysterious land," as the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden called it.
I did not have the privilege of being present at the conference at Shrewsbury, when the Secretary of State for War met representatives of the local authorities. I am told that he made reference to the proposed taking over of the land at Tregaron, and said that all there was at Tregaron was a statue, or a monument. I am not going to trespass upon the territory of one of my hon. Friend's, but once I had the honour to represent Cardigan. This small village of Tregaron, where that monument stands, is in that constituency. It is a monument to Henry Richards who devoted his life to building up international peace. In the last 25 years, and even earlier, there have been great demonstrations on that square where have stood Bishop Owen, the former Lord Bishop of St. Davids, and Lord Davies, again a man who devoted his life to setting up international peace. Masses of people, thousands of them, not from that village but from all over the country, have visited the place.
This is a place which, above every other place in Wales, stands in the minds of the people as being associated with the promotion of international peace. It is "only a monument." One has not to be at all mysterious to realise that a monument stands for something besides stone. Thousands of people from all parts of Wales are not drawn together merely to see a monument. Would the right hon. Gentleman convert a temple of peace in Cardiff because it happened to be a con- 702 venient building for the headquarters of the Welsh Division?
Is this purely trivial? I would not make so much complaint if the Minister were not taking twice the amount of land—and more—that he is taking in England. [Interruption.] The Minister is not taking anything of Scotland—
§ Mr. Morris
Less than 1 per cent. We are suffering four times that amount of loss, and yet the Minister responsible is absent from this Debate. I do not propose to take up any more time. My main complaint is that this White Paper is completely unconstitutional and that some political step should be taken to put it in proper form.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)
As the House knows, this Debate has been taking place around the second White Paper on Governmental action in Wales and Monmouthshire. There were a number of complaints about the form and layout of the first White Paper which was debated here on 28th October, 1946. Today we have heard one or two more complaints about the form of the second White Paper. I hope very much that hon. Members in all parts of the House will say what they think about the layout and form of this White Paper. We are only too anxious to learn in what form it would be most convenient to them to have the information which one would like them to have in preparation for the next Debate. The three speeches which we have heard so far covered a very wide range of subjects. When my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) spoke, I felt very much tempted to ask him whether the burden of what he was saying was that he would rather have the Tories back in power than the Government which he was attacking for the greater part of his speech. However, I think his intervention, when the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) began his speech, gave me a sufficient answer to that question. I hope to take up most of the points dealt with by my hon. Friend later in my remarks.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden gave us a speech which I am bound to say we on this side of the House 703 found very disappointing. We had hoped that he would take a few tufts of the cotton wool that make up the Tory industrial charter and, from them, produce something of a Tory industrial policy for Wales. I am afraid that we did not get that. To use his own quotation, at the end, the Conservative policy for Wales still remains as introvert and as mysterious as it was when he rose. He made a number of interesting, and helpful and constructive remarks about education and agriculture. My right hon. Friend who is to reply to the Debate will be dealing with those points later.
§ Mr. Wilson
The answer is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will deal with a wide range of questions already raised.
§ Mr. Wilson
He will be dealing with education, agriculture and many other questions, as did the Minister of Health when he wound up the Debate last year.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The Minister had the courtesy to refer to my few halting remarks. I took care when I was speaking to point out that I was deliberately concentrating on agriculture and education because I did not wish to detain other hon. Members who wished to speak.
§ Mr. Wilson
I noted that. I said that those remarks were, in our view, constructive and helpful. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not regard it as dis- 704 courteous that I do not take them up in detail. My right hon. Friend will deal with them. I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would have dealt, to some extent, with the Tory policy on industrial questions in Wales. I hope that if any of his hon. Friends intend to speak they will say something about their policy for industry. One thing, at least, he spared us. That was that—as has often happened in speeches from the other side of the House on this matter—he did not attempt to say that during Tory rule in Wales the position was gradually improving all the time, and that in another 20 years all would have been well. I think that some hon. Members opposite say that so often that in the end they will persuade themselves that it is true.
I would like to make it clear, in case any one has not studied the figures recently, that unemployment in Wales was higher in 1938 than it was in 1930. Therefore, any pretence that Tory policy, when they were in full power in this House, was curing or solving the problems of Wales should be disregarded.
§ Mr. Wilson
Whichever party it was, it was the party which seemed to carry the general confidence of a considerable number of Members on the Conservative side of the House.
I am afraid that I must say that most of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) seemed to be a long piece of constitutional pedantry which we on the Front Bench found it very difficult to understand. In the first place, he wanted to know how this Report came to be presented, why it was not presented by someone from the Government and why there was no one to take responsibility for it. If he will look at the document, he will see that it was presented to the House by the Prime Minister. Also he will see that the policy and action described in it are being defended and spoken to by Members of the Government. We take full responsibility for everything in that document. He referred 705 to what seemed to him the surprising fact that officials take Press conferences. Officials have been taking Press conferences for a very long time under Governments of various political complexions. He really should not find anything extraordinary about that.
The Government take full responsibility for everything contained in this publication. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think that no Member of the Government had seen the document before it was issued. All the Ministers concerned saw this Report in draft before it was published or issued, and they will be prepared to deal with any of the points which he or any other hon. Member in any part of the House chooses to raise in this Debate. He said that he had turned his eye over various parts of the Report, and it seemed to me to have been a very jaundiced eye, from what he described in it. I ask him, when he reads the third Report, when I think he will find the confirmation for which he is looking, to concentrate a little more on what is recorded in the Report and a little less on what seemed to me the somewhat bogus constitutional points which he was raising.
The objective of Government action in Wales has been and still is, I think, well known to hon. Members on all sides of the House. It is to guarantee to the people of Wales that the conditions under which they lived and suffered in the 20 years before 1939 shall never return, and that, as we go forward from the shortages and economic dislocation resulting from the war, Wales will share in the general prosperity of the rest of Britain, in the rising standard of living and be provided with abundant opportunities to develop a fuller, happier and healthier life, with, especially, every facility for developing the fullest use of leisure and the flowering of those forms of culture for which Wales and the Welsh people are famous in every part of the world. That was never possible between 1920 and 1939.
The postwar promises so eloquently stated immediately after the last war ended foundered on the rocks of Tory economic policy and a policy based on the systematic, and one might almost say, deliberate neglect of a whole people. During those long dark years, that was the fate of thousands of our people in the depressed areas of Wales, whether they were the valleys of the South or the rural areas of North and Central Wales, but 706 the coming of a Socialist Government brought new hope to Wales, and it is that fact which played a large part in bringing the Labour Government to power.
The major objective of the Government in Wales is to see that they are never let down. It is a tragedy that our great programme for the reconstruction and economic rehabilitation of Wales should be set against a background of national and world shortages of goods, and especially of steel, which we need for that great programme, especially as we remember how much easier our task would have been if we had been called to power ten years earlier, when steel was not an acute scarcity but was in a condition of embarrassing surplus, and steel workers, engineers and builders, whom we need today in Wales on the factories provided there, were standing in idleness year after year.
The policy we are following—and I hope to give some results before I conclude—is, of course, part of our general industrial development policy, and it is dependent on the control of industrial development in other parts of Britain. It is only because we are, by and large, preventing the uncontrolled development of industry round the London areas, in the Midlands and in other more prosperous areas, that industrialists have been, not induced or bribed, but driven to find factory sites in Wales and other Development Areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery referred to the difficulties presented in attempting to set up factories in Wales or in any other Development Area, and the large number of hoops through which they have to go before building can start, difficulties in every case due to the shortage of building material and to the fact that we require to be satisfied that any firm setting up in South Wales is one of substance and likely to last and play an important part in the economic development of Wales.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Will my right hon. Friend answer this Question? Why has his Department resolved to close down several excellent factories in South Wales in process of construction, when it is known to his own Department that the necessary steel and other materials for such factories can be found now unused in South Wales?
§ Mr. Wilson
That point will be dealt with a little later on. I am now referring 707 to the point made by the hon. Member for Abertillery about the difficulty of getting buildings started at all and the difficulties of getting settlements in South Wales. I want to say, with regard to the difficulties he mentioned, that the difficulties some firms would have to experience in order to get established outside South Wales would be very much greater, because we do deliberately make it more difficult, if not impossible, to set up in areas other than Development Areas, except for firms which are absolutely vital in these more prosperous areas. Factories and factory extensions, unless needed for export or other essential purposes, have to be located in the areas where these factories are now being built. I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that thousands of firms have tried to build in other areas, but have not been allowed to do so because we do not want to see the over-development of those areas, and, therefore, they had to go to the Development Areas or they would not have been allowed to build at all.
The post-war problem which we have got in Wales was well stated by my predecessor in this House in the last Debate. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I make a quotation:This problem of dealing with long-term unemployment which existed before the war is not, of course, peculiar to Wales. It is the problem of all the Development Areas and its solution must come from the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing native industries, coupled with the introduction into these areas of new industries, or services initiated in most cases from outside the areas themselves. It is not by administrative isolation of these Development Areas that we can best help them, but rather by bringing them right into the main current of the industrial life of the country. In the past they have been too isolated and specialised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1946; Vol. 428, c. 298.]That is the policy we have been following—rehabilitation of the basic industries and providing a diversification of industry by the introduction of other industrial projects.
Like the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, I do not propose to say very much about the basic industries. Coal has been fully Debated in this House, but I ought to mention that the South Wales and Monmouthshire coalfields have fully played the part which might be expected of them in regard to the coal target in the last few months, and, in achieving 708 that output, have not only helped the national recovery and the revival of the coal export trade on which the old-time prosperity of South Wales was so largely built before 1914, but, to a remarkable degree in the rebuilding of South Wales itself.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the big fall in output in South Wales. I would remind him of the fact that a considerable part of the fall in output has been in the anthracite areas of South Wales, and also that a considerable part of that fall in output is due to the fact that there are fewer men in the mines. That is largely caused by the fact that, in the last year or two of the Coalition Government and in the first two years of the present Government, there has been a far more systematic medical examination of the men who have been continuing to work in the mines. Too many of them have gone on working in the mines, and many have now been withdrawn, many of them being sent to new employment in the factories which will, I hope, bear for all time the name of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell).
From coal, I pass on to the ports. That problem is a very special one. The ports of South Wales were very largely built for the purpose of carrying exports, but my right hon. Friend said when the subject was last debated that export trade had substantially disappeared. That statement was made in October, 1946. A year ago, when the fuel crisis swept the nation, that fuel crisis caused special problems for Wales and set back the Welsh factory building programme. The port facilities which had been provided for the carrying of coal exports as my right hon. and learned Friend told the House when he addressed himself to this subject, had been diverted from their true purpose and used for the import of coal.
This week we can see in South Wales ports the loading of the first post-war cargoes for South America, and Welsh coal is already moving to Sweden, Eire, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland. South Wales can now expect to look forward to making a real and substantial contribution to an expanding programme of coal exports. I can certainly testify to the great value of Welsh coal in trade negotiations. In fact, there are many negotiations in which the availability of a supply of Welsh coal 709 has already tipped the balance in our favour, and I hope that, in the trade negotiations still going on, we shall find that the fact that we have some Welsh coal available will make a big difference to what we can import to this country for the maintenance of our basic rations.
I would like to give one or two figures for the principal South Wales ports for 1947. To take the total of in and out trade, there was a reduction in the total volume: 10,240,000 tons as against 11,090,000 tons in 1946, a fall of 850,000 tons. The import side was 610,000 tons up on 1946, chiefly due to the increase in timber, both softwood building timber and also pitwood and mining timber. It will be recalled that my right hon. and learned Friend said that the timber control of the Board of Trade were aiming to do as much as possible to bring shipments through South Wales ports. The export side in 1947 was down by nearly 1,500,000 tons, chiefly due to the big drop in the exports of coal, coke and manufactured fuel early in 1947. But the prospects of increased coal movements from South Wales ports makes the 1948 position very much better.
With regard to iron, steel and tinplate, hon. Members are, of course, fully familiar with the position. It was dealt with briefly in the White Paper, and has been the subject of statements in this House by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply. As the House knows, the Government have decided to accept the advice of the Iron and Steel Board about the construction of a new cold reduction mill for the production of steel sheet. It is to be situated alongside the strip mill at Llangyfelach, and will replace the old mill at Newport.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Is my right hon. Friend right in saying that the Government have accepted the advice of the Steel Board? Is it the Steel Board who have advised them to move their plant?
§ Mr. Grenfell
Did the Steel Board advise the Government to move the plant from Llangyfelach to Trostre?
§ Mr. Wilson
My hon. Friend is referring to a different case, which was dealt with on different grounds.
§ Mr. Wilson
This was definitely on the advice of the Steel Board, and, if my hon. Friend wants fuller details, I can certainly send them to him.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I have been trying to get the details for six months, and I now ask for the fullest investigation of the subject.
§ Mr. Peter Freeman (Newport)
Cannot the Minister give us the reason for changing the plant from Newport to Margam?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Two hon. Members must not be on their feet at the same time. Hon. Members must learn that.
§ Mr. Wilson
The Government are very much aware of the apprehensions regarding the unemployment position at Newport. They feel that the ultimate repercussion of unemployment on this matter will be small, and that the men who are displaced at Margam will be found jobs in the Newport district. If my hon. Friend wants this matter further developed, I am sure my right hon. Friend will have something to say about it
With regard to agriculture, I do not think there is anything to add to what has been said in the White Paper. Wales certainly shared in the severe weather last year, and, indeed, had more than her fair share of it. But Wales shares equally in the benefits which agriculture is getting from the national agricultural policy, which has been debated on a number of occasions.
I would now like to come to the factory programme and the general economic situation, which were the chief subjects of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery Considerable progress has been made since the last Debate, a progress sufficient to give good ground for satisfaction, but not ground for complacency. At the time of the last Debate, there were widespread fears in all parts of the House that unemployment, which had risen from the end of the war, was going to rise still, further, and that we 711 were going to see the development of an unemployment problem which might even equal that of before the war. That matter was referred to at the time by my right hon. and learned Friend, who said that there was a swelling volume of unemployment which had persisted for well over 12 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower made a reference to it, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery, who referred to the ever-increasing number of unemployed in Wales and Monmouthshire. At least, that danger of increasing unemployment has gone since that time.
I would like to give the House a few figures on unemployment which they may not have at their disposal. As is well known, the unemployment figure averaged 167,000 in the last 15 years before the war, that is, 25.7 per cent. of the insured population, and still amounted to 160,000, that is, 25 per cent., even as late as 1938. After almost entirely disappearing during the war, it rose again to a postwar peak of 70,000 in March, 1946. I am excluding the short period of the fuel crisis in these figures. It was still only just under 60,000 at the time of the last Debate, and it is therefore understandable that my hon. Friend should be concerned about that figure. The average for the last four months of 1947 was just over 38,000, that is, 5½ per cent., and represents the lowest peacetime figure for Wales since comprehensive unemployment statistics were first collected over a quarter of a century ago.
I think hon. Members will get a more realistic idea of the situation if they take the figure of unemployed males only, because, even though our main problem today is of finding employment for men rather than for women, it is true that there are more women in industry, and, therefore, far more unemployment than before the war. Let us take the figures for the last 15 years before 1939. The figure for men and boys was 154,000, and, in this connection, we observe the comment of the hon. Gentleman opposite who said that men did not matter in a planned State. There were 154,000 who did not matter just before 1938. The postwar peak, if we again except the fuel crisis period, was 43,000 in June, 1946, and was still nearly 40,000 at the time of the last Debate. The average figure for the last four months was 26,000, that is, about 4¾ per cent. of the male insured population. That 712 is easily the lowest recorded peacetime figure of all time. In fact, it is only two-thirds of the figure recorded for 1923 when, for a short time, Wales was enjoying an artificial prosperity due to the ending of the occupation of the Ruhr. These figures—26,000 men and boys, and 40,000 altogether—are occurring at a time when many men are wanted for coalmining, building, stone quarrying, tinplate works, engineering and brick works.
To get a proper picture of this, we must go away from the national figure for Wales as a whole, and turn our attention to one or two black spot areas, which were very much the subject and concern of hon. Members in this House before the war. It is when we think of those black areas that we can understand the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had in preparing his speech, and in wondering whether to bring in this subject or to concentrate on agriculture, education and other subjects.
I will take six of these areas, and if my pronunciation of them offends hon. Members, I hope they will see them correctly recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Taking first of all Blaina, there were 2,070 unemployed before the war—95 per cent. of the insured population. The figure in December, 1947, was 351, or 23 per cent. of the insured population—a figure which is still far too high, and I can well understand my hon. Friend's concern about it. In Taffs Well the figure was 1,435, or 90 per cent. of those available for and seeking work. The figure is now down to 50 unemployed, or 3.6 per cent. of the insured population.
I want to make it clear that I have not selected those areas which show the biggest improvement. I chose the six which showed the worst record before the war, in order that hon. Members might see what we have done since. In Brymbo there were 2,160 unemployed, or 88 per cent. of the population; the figure is now down to 53, or 2.4 per cent. of the population. In Ogmore Vale there were 2,575 unemployed, or 84 per cent. of the population, and that is now down to 271 or 9.7 per cent. of the population. At Ferndale there were 6,110 unemployed, or 80.5 per cent. of those available for work before the war, and there are now 710 unemployed, or 16.2 per cent. Finally, at Maesteg 5,500 were unemployed before the war—77.8 per cent. of the population—and there are 713 now 365, or 6.7 per cent. I hope those figures will put the problem rather more into its perspective than did the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery.
Mr. Dag gar
It is quite true that there is now a considerably lower percentage of unemployed in the Blaena area than there used to be, but that reduction has not been caused by the introduction of new industries. It has been due to the compulsory transfer of the men. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will also deal with this question at the same time. Is it right that in an area where the percentage of unemployment is only one and a half per cent., there should be 86 new industries, whereas in another area where the unemployment is 5½ per cent, there should be only 43 new industries?
§ Mr. Wilson
I have already dealt with my hon. Friend's point concerning the new industries. If he wishes me to develop it further I can do so, and I shall certainly deal with his figure of 43 in a few moments. With regard to his first point, I have already said that we are not satisfied with the present figure of 23 per cent. unemployment in the area to which he has referred. We want to see that figure considerably reduced. I would remind my hon. Friend that although we do not regard the transfer of workers as the right solution to our problem, although before the war there was not even anywhere to which they could be transferred.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Has my right hon. Friend overlooked the fact that in the inter-war period, Wales lost nearly half a million of its population, that the transfer is still going on, and that that cannot be reflected in any figures which he places before the House?
§ Mr. Wilson
I am fully aware of that fact. There is reference to it in the White Paper. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will have something particular to say about it this evening, and he will also deal with the prospect of getting back many of those who have been transferred since the war.
Perhaps I may now deal with the employed. Employment in the mining and metal manufacturing groups had risen somewhat higher by mid-1947 than it was in mid-1946, and there was, of course, a substantial increase in the building and 714 civil engineering industries. The total number of workers actually at work in all post-war factory projects—that is, Government factories turned over to peace-time production, Royal Ordnance factories converted, new factories and extensions completed—now amount to about 25,000 men and 15,000 women. As more new factories are completed and as those turned over to peace-time production get into their stride, we should see this figure rising considerably in the next year or two. If one takes the purely manufacturing industries at the present time, there are about 17,000 more people in employment in South Wales than a year ago, and 75,000 more than there were in 1939. I hope my hon. Friends will take some comfort in seeing that improvement.
The paragraphs of the White Paper dealing with industrial development refer to three main aims in our employment policy: to encourage the provision of sufficient new industries to ensure that jobs are available within daily travelling distance of the workers' homes; to get a proper distribution of new jobs between sexes and types of workers; and, to ensure that employment is found for disabled persons. These three aims are general in our employment policy in all development areas, but the last two—the distribution as between sexes and types of workers, and the provision of employment for disabled persons—apply particularly to Wales because of the very special problems there and the number of persons suffering disablement through industrial causes, especially pneumoconiosis, who have a special claim upon the community—a claim which was entirely disregarded for so many years before the war. When the present factory building programme is completed—and I have to admit that completion is taking longer than we hoped—these aims will be substantially achieved, although there will still be pockets of unemployment to mop up, not only in the development areas but in other parts of Wales. One thinks particularly of the Nantlee Valley and other parts of North Wales in that connection.
At the time of the last Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery commented that only six factories had been completed, and I think he said that it would take five years at least to finish the job. Although progress since then has not been as fast as we should have liked, or 715 as fast as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer then hoped, very considerable progress has been made. As my hon. Friend said in his opening speech, on 30th June last there were 23 Government financed and 20 privately financed factories in Development Areas completed and occupied, against only four schemes a year earlier. Since then, the Government programme of completed factories has practically doubled. There were, as I have said, on 30th June last 23 Government financed factories completed. Since then, 19 more Government financed factories have been completed and occupied, making 42 tenanted factories altogether. Three more are ready for occupation. Another 15 are now nearing completion, making 60 which are either occupied or completed and waiting for the tenants to move in, or are very near completion. These 60 are on Government account alone.
Some account of the diversification of industries, as opposed to only one or two basic industries, can be seen from the new factories which have been established since last June. At Treforest the new factories cover the manufacture of chemicals, gelatine, paints, enzymes, varnishes and leather goods, and two factories at Swansea are engaged in tailoring and the manufacture of metal toys. A factory at Cefn Coed is producing thermostatic controls—a very important development. It has a peak employment of 600; it is the only firm making thermostatic controls of this type for refrigerators, and it is of enormous potential importance to the export programme as well as to the home market. The two factories at Caerphilly are for clothing, and metal pressings and plastic mouldings. At Treorchy there is a new factory dealing with furniture; at Rhymney a large factory employing 900 making clothing; at Cardiff a factory making electric fires and cookers, and at Newport a factory for making men's ready wear; at Pentre Bach, a factory for domestic washing machines; at Dowlais, another for producing buttons and fancy goods. Later this month we are looking forward to the Grenfell factory at Llwynypia producing springs for bedding and motorcar upholstery.
In terms of factory space the 23 Government factories completed at 30th June last represented nearly 600,000 sq. ft., the 716 19 factories tenanted since that date 658,000 sq. ft. On the whole they are large factories and we have, therefore, in terms of floor space more than doubled the total factory programme since the end of June; the three ready for occupation 100,000 sq. ft., and the 15 factories approaching completion 450,000, a total of 1,800,000 sq. ft.
§ Mr. Wilson
I have not those figures. If some of them show small figures now, they will increase as they build up the full employment.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
Is the time taken to be five years, as suggested in the last Debate by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) or the lesser period suggested by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Wilson
Certainly nothing like five years, though I have already said that the period suggested by the Chancellor has already been exceeded; but it will certainly be nothing like five years. I think that when my hon. Friend has had time to study the figures I have just given he will feel a little more optimistic. The total building programme has increased over a year from 90 factories to 136, and another 11 factories having been started since June last year, the date to which the White Paper refers. Then, taking privately financed factories, against the 20 which were given in the White Paper as having been completed, the figure is now 37. So the real increase for factories completed which my hon. Friend quoted from the White Paper as being 43 is now 82.
I am sure hon. Members will have realised that the factory programme, Government and private, has been proceeding in the face of almost overpowering difficulty, especially in the matter of supplies of steel. I can tell my Friend that one of the difficulties to which he referred, the great length of time required for getting steel, has now been considerably reduced. Although the steel situation nationally is still extremely serious, so that we have had to make severe cuts in the building programme throughout the country, I can certainly tell him that the steel required for the Development Area factories has been coming along at a much more satisfactory rate than it was at the 717 time of the last Debate and in the period since. Then too, we have had difficulties, of course, with cement and glass. It is still true, I am afraid, that we shall run into some delays in the completion of factories, on the premises, in the provision of boilers and heating and lighting equipment, due to the very heavy order books and to the necessary cuts in the supply of sheet steel to the manufacturers of those items.
Reference has been made to the provision of employment for ex-miners suffering from silicosis and pneumoconiosis. The construction of 10 factories with a total area of 250,000 square feet in the areas where these diseases are most prevalent is being pressed ahead as fast as it can be. These are called the Grenfell factories in honour of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who will have the pleasure of opening the first of them at Llwynypia. Three more should be ready by the spring, a further three in the summer, and two at Ferndale and Aberdare later in the year. Inquiries for the allocation of four of these factories have come in and are under consideration.
I should like to turn for a moment to the allocation of Government owned premises. Since 30th June, 1947, four more Government owned premises have been allocated to private firms, compared with 48 allocated up to that time. I could give the details of the particular firms, but I am sure that hon. Members, if they want that information, will put Questions down. In addition, another million square feet of requisitioned space has been made available for industrial purposes, making 8,400,000 square feet in all.
I have been asked to say what would be the effects of the capital investment policy—the cuts in capital investment—on the factories already being built. In the White Paper the Government said that we decided that even in the reduced development of factory space preferential treatment will continue to be afforded to the Development Areas. I am sorry I am not yet in a position to give any complete announcement of the effect of the cuts on the Welsh Development Areas or on individual cases. Every case is being reviewed. Cases where the steel is on the site or fabricated are, of course, receiving special priority, and also, of 718 course, cases which are going to make an important contribution to our export programme.
I can certainly say that those which will be cut and held back will be the absolute minimum which we can ensure, and I am not at all sure that the postponement of some will not enable the construction of other factories to go on more quickly. But certainly I can promise that there is the most sympathetic consideration of every case that is being looked at at the moment, and I hope that in those cases where it is necessary to hold back, it will be only a postponement and not a cancellation.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
Did my right hon. Friend say he could not give the figures for the whole of Wales at the moment?
§ Mr. Wilson
Yes, there will be in the case of a number of factories which have been scheduled for starting, including some of the Government ones, and some of those will be held back, but I should find it difficult to give a complete picture for the Development Areas as a whole.
I should like to say a word or two about the Estates Company, because I know it is a matter which has been causing concern, at least to some of my hon. Friends. A number of them came to see me not very long ago about the Wales and Monmouthshire Industrial Trading Estates Company. The criticisms I have heard, I think, have been three. The first is that the company is unduly preoccupied with Treforest and not with Wales as a whole; perhaps, that criticism is derived from the fact that it was founded on the basis of the old Treforest Company; and that in the early months after the end of the war—in fact, right up to the last three or four months—most of the factories were being concentrated too closely, which naturally gave my hon. Friends cause for concern, because they wanted to see factories spread more evenly, as we all do, over the employment areas generally in South Wales. I think they are being more evenly spread, and more particularly the factories approaching completion, and that will remove this source of criticism.
719 The second line of criticism that one hears is that this company ought to be dealing with much wider functions, including the general problems of industrial location and development. I cannot agree with that criticism. The responsibility for industrial location must rest with the Government, and it is no effective line for the Board of Trade to shuffle off that responsibility on to an Estates Company. I think it would produce a very unsatisfactory position, and I am certain that the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) would find great constitutional difficulties if we were to put our responsibility into the hands of a trading company of this kind. The Estates Company are, in fact, agents of the Board of Trade in the development of industry, and are our agents both in respect of it and in estate management.
The third line of complaint has been about the method of payment and the personnel of the board. It has been suggested to me that this board ought to consist of the nominees of particular interests, so many representing employers, so many representing trade unions, and so on. I cannot accept the view that this company should consist of the nominees of particular interests thrown together in some way, as is suggested. Recently, I have had under consideration the question of the appointment and, if necessary, the removal of members of this company.
The House will remember that the Select Committee on Estimates made a report on this subject some few months ago, dealing in particular with three things: first, the suggestion that members of this company should be appointed and removable by the President of the Board of Trade; secondly, that they should be granted more autonomy in their operation; and thirdly, that they should have a block grant. To go into the question of more autonomy and the possibility of a block grant would raise questions on development area policy generally, and I am sure it would be wrong for me to go into that this evening. In any case, I could not myself take any decisions or give any consideration to the proposals for greater autonomy, much less proposals for financial assistance until I had dealt with the first of the three recommendations of the Select Committee, namely, 720 the appointment and removal of members by the Government.
I recently met the chairmen of the estates companies and said that, as these companies were now exercising such important functions covering, not only trading estates but a whole Development Area, the Government felt that both the appointment and removal should be undertaken, not by the company itself under its articles of association, but by the President of the Board of Trade. Therefore, I asked if they would amend their articles of association to make that possible. I am glad to say the Wales and Monmouthshire Industrial Trading Estates Company acted on my request promptly, and with very good grace. In fact, it asked for a Cromwellian self-denying ordinance and all the members resigned their membership as from the end of 1947, leaving me a perfectly free hand to appoint a new board. The company is now in course of remodelling. It will be a smaller body—and I think most hon. Members will agree that is right—although not as small as I might consider suggesting for certain other areas of the country, because of the need for representation of North Wales with its special and no less urgent problems. Of the 12 members, of which the board will ultimately consist, four will be from North Wales. I hope to announce the names shortly. The board will have a new chairman, and a new vice-chairman will be apopinted from among the North Wales members on the board.
I want to assure my hon. Friends—because this point has been raised with me—that in the constitution of the new board I intend to get the fullest possible representation of all sections of the community, not there as delegates to put the point of view of their section of the community, but there to do a job for the whole community. When my hon. Friends see the constitution of the new board I hope they will be satisfied that I have met in full both the letter and the spirit of their recommendations in terms of representation of the different sections of the community. That particular subject is a very important one, because I am sure that no matter what subjects may be raised tonight the one that is uppermost in the minds of hon. Members in all parts of the House is the future economic development of Wales, and the steps which 721 we are taking to ensure that Wales shall not return to the tragedy of the interwar years.
I hope I have given hon. Members some grounds for feeling that, although the problem is not yet solved, and although there is as yet no ground for complacency or self-satisfaction, we have made considerable progress, not only since the time of the last Debate but more particularly since the date to which the White Paper report refers. The last six months have seen a quickening in our achievements, and it is what we had always hoped would occur when we got a large number of factories in the course of construction; and although the results at first, in terms of finished factories, may be relatively poor, sooner or later one tends to get large finished factories, and this is now happening. I hope that, by the time this House next debates the economic situation in Wales and in Monmouthshire, all my hon. Friends, including even the hon. Member for Abertillery, will be able to feel, not only that substantial progress has been made, but that the problem has been solved, and that the people of Wales can look forward to an economic future very different from the one to which they could look forward before the war.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)
The President of the Board of Trade in his opening remarks said he was disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) had not been more specific about industrial policy. I shall hope to say a few things about industrial policy during my short remarks, but I should like to start by saying that I was a little disappointed with the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, which appeared to me to be little more than a number of courteous amendments to the White Paper in order to bring it up to date. I am afraid that he did not tell us very much that we did not know before about what was happening or likely to happen. He did, of course, do the routine business about unemployment before the war.
I wish to refer to one sentence in the White Paper, namely:Disregarding the war years, the live register of unemployed persons has not been so low since 1924.722 As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the significance of that was that in 1924 the Ruhr got going again; and that knocked the coal export trade on the head. It is easy enough to have high employment in a post-war boom. After the last war, unemployment did not get bad in Wales until after a much longer period than we have yet experienced. I think hon. Members opposite are sometimes a little cock-a-hoop about high employment in a post-war boom, and I beg them to believe that our real troubles are to come. I, myself, feel gravely anxious about what will happen, particularly if we run out of dollars to such a degree that we cannot get our raw materials. It would be wise not to celebrate too soon, because we have not yet met our main troubles.
If some of the content of the Minister's speech was disappointing, he was particularly disappointing on the political side, because on that he said very little. If he is not better than that at persuading people, I am surprised he got anything out of Stalin. Perhaps we shall see the true reason when we learn the price he paid for his coarse grains. I shall come later to the economic matters but the first topic I wish to raise is a political one, namely, the boundaries of Wales. A very alarming thing happened last year, because the Local Government Boundary Commission issued a report in which they said:It is also clear that our investigations cannot be confined to the Welsh counties alone, but must embrace the boundaries between them and their English neighbours.That is a polite way of inviting people to slice bits off Wales. In Flintshire, we have not made any claims on England because we consider it to be a national boundary. However, Cheshire has not been so considerate—
§ Mr. Birch
The hon. Member says it was agreed at Potsdam, but that is a very sinister thing to say, and I hope that my hon. Friends in the Welsh Parliamentary Party will notice that comment. What has happened since that report is that, the ambitious citizens of Chester have claimed a slice of Flintshire, with a certain amount of industrial area in it. One of the councils in the Wirral has made a modest little claim which would cut off the Hawarden 723 Bridge Ironworks, which is by far the largest industrial venture in the whole of North Wales. They would cut it off and put it into Cheshire. This claim involves an area which has been Flintshire since the time of Henry VIII. There are also claims which would result in detaching part of the hundred of Maelor which has been in Flint-shire since the time of Edward I.
All parties on the county council have protested about this, and so have the Welsh Parliamentary Party. I ask my colleagues of the Welsh Parliamentary Party to reflect on what would happen if England made a similar claim on Scotland. It would not be politically possible, and yet here are proposals quite calmly being made for cutting a slice out of the body of Wales. I think that this results from the attitude so prevalent among Members of the Government Front Bench, which was illustrated very well by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said in the last Welsh Debate:On the other hand, we do, of course, recognise that there is, as I have said, a closeness of kinship between the different parts of Wales and Monmouth, which gives them many Common interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1946; Vol. 428, C. 316.]That was all he was prepared to say about national feeling in Wales, and this sort of thing happens as a result. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer has many virtues, including all the deadly ones, but I gravely doubt whether he understands this matter. We are not asking for very much. All we are asking is that people should not be allowed to come along and make claims on the territory of Wales. It is a small thing to ask, and I earnestly hope that we shall have a firm assurance from the Government that Cheshire and the various councils in Cheshire are wasting their time in building up their case for this aggression, and that it is to stop.
Secondly, I wish to make a few observations on the Government's economic policy. Basically, what is going on is the continuation of the old Special Area Acts and the Development of Industry Act, in circumstances which are very favourable to forcing, as the President of the Board of Trade said, people to take factory space where you want. The question is how well this policy is going? From the speech of the Government spokesman in the last Debate, I gather it was expected that by 724 the end of last year there would have been 125 new factories completed, whereas it is now shown that only 42 have been completed, or, in other words, about one-third of the planned programme has been completed.
As the President of the Board of Trade said, steel is the vital factor in this matter, but there has been a remarkable over-optimism on the part of the Government in regard to steel, which is responsible for a great deal of the muddle which is now going on. On the last occasion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in regard to steel:That shortage, as the House knows, is very serious at the present time, and it looks as if it may be another 12 months before the position the improves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October 1946; Vol. 428, c. 304–5.]A good deal more than 12 months have now elapsed, and the position has got worse, in spite of the fact that the target for the steel industry has not only been reached but has been exceeded. A bad miscalculation has been made, which has caused a great deal of this trouble. It is typical Socialist arithmetic to say that two and two comes not to 4 but to 5.9—and afterwards we see the consequences.
The point is that if more factories are started than there are materials for them, we get few completed factories but a large number of factories half-finished; we do not get factories to employ people, and frustration results. The next result of trying to do more than we can is the unhappy effect this has on areas outside the Development Areas. We find that steel allocations to industries outside the Development Areas are being very seriously cut, with the result that, to take an example from my constituency, Rustproof Metal Windows, Ltd., will very likely have to dismiss two-thirds of their staff because they cannot get enough steel. Pools of unemployment are being created. It is extremely wasteful to immobilise what steel we have in new factories, when existing factory space is not being used. There is a classic case in the large Government shadow factory at Broughton, now employed on making aluminium houses, whose contract is coming to an end probably next month, with the result that 3,200 people will be thrown out of work. That is in precisely the same area where these other men are being thrown out of work because there is no steel.
725 The Board of Trade have been foolish about this matter. In this case, the Government are ordering the aluminium houses, and it is their own factory. They knew that the contract was to come to an end, and yet nothing was done about it. Almost exactly two years ago, I received a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary, in which he said that he knew there was a certain amount of local apprehension. But, he added:The fact is, however, that this is one of about a dozen factories retained by the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production for the production of aluminium houses, and the present intention is to continue this until late 1947 at the earliest. But, well before production comes to an end steps will be taken to decide the future use of these factories, and we shall naturally not lose any opportunity to secure the best possible use of good production space and available labour.Nothing has been done. This is the result at the end of two years "jogging." What has happened is due to bad planning in the allocations of steel supplies generally, and the failure to regard Wales as a whole. By the time all this muddle is sorted out, I am not at all sure that we shall not have a great deal of unemployment in my constituency. Troubles do not only occur in Development Areas.
My last point is on the question of administration. There has been joint abuse of the White Paper, which has not been altogether unjustified. It has taken a long time to produce, and in various respects it is misleading. On reading it, one would imagine that the Severn Bridge scheme was still going forward, whereas it was cancelled at the beginning of last August. My main criticism of the White Paper is that no clear objectives are laid down. There is a good deal of dispute between parties on what are the precise limits of judicious State interference. Hon. Members opposite consider the limits more advanced than we do, but where there can be no disagreement is that where the Government accept responsibility for doing something, they must do it efficiently and vigorously, and be clear in their own minds what they are trying to do.
I would mention housing in particular. No targets are given in this connection, although there is a very long and eloquent passage about rural housing. As everyone knows, rural housing is in a bad way throughout Wales, and what I should like to know is how many houses it is contemplated will be built for rural workers 726 during the next year or two. What worries me is not whether we shall return to the bad old days before the war, but whether we shall do anything like as well as far as rural housing is concerned. We are a long way off from doing that at the present moment. It is no good putting a passage of a page or two in the White Paper expressing the greatest regret about all these matters unless we are given some idea of what the Government intend to do. The President asked for a few suggestions for his next White Paper. I hope that it will be not quite so long, that it will be a good deal clearer, and that it will tell us what are the objectives.
One last administrative point, and that is the effect which nationalisation is having on North Wales. There is not a big coalfield there, but not only is it ultimately to be managed from London but it is to be managed directly from Manchester. The officials drive to Wales in large motor cars from Manchester every day, and there has been a considerable amount of resentment—even a threatened strike—in the mines there because they do not wish Manchester managers to be in control. It seems to me that it is most dangerous. A situation will arise where the whole of the industrial life of North Wales will be controlled by people living outside that area, and who do not understand the people or the local problems. The same thing will happen over electricity. In North Wales we are to go into the Merseyside area, and Liverpool men will run the whole thing, so that the same thing will happen as is happening over coal.
§ Mr. Wilson
Could the hon. Gentleman say how many privately owned coalmines in North Wales were controlled by men who lived outside that area before nationalisation? Would he not recall the historic case which his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) knows all about, where there was serious trouble, far worse than a threatened strike, arising out of just that fact?
§ Mr. Birch
A number of coalowners lived in that part of the world. I was saying that precisely the same thing will happen in regard to electricity. There are various companies and municipally owned undertakings in North Wales, and there is a great deal of local influence in the development of electricity supply. 727 Now the main load is to be in the Liverpool area, which will mean that the influence will be there and that the local people will be pushed out. I suppose the same thing will happen over gas. There is to be a Welsh Gas Corporation, but all the weight will be in London and in Cardiff, and local people will not have the same chance to develop the gas industry as they have had in the past. I believe that lack of local influence will be most damaging to our development.
I have mentioned problems which are political, economic, and administrative. I believe that the solution to these problems would be assisted by the kind of structure outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden. Supposing there was a member of the Cabinet who had been charged with looking after Welsh questions, a senior Minister called, let us say, Lord Privy Seal and Minister of State for Wales. How would he have dealt with the problems I have mentioned? First, I think he would have told people to "lay off" the territory of Wales. Second, I think he might well have insisted that there should be planning for Wales as a whole and not planning, as my right hon. Friend said, in bits by different Ministries. He would have looked at Wales as a whole when going through the plans prepared by the Ministries to see that the lopsided development now taking place was discontinued. Third, administratively, it would have been his job to present this White Paper, and I cannot think of any senior member of the Government, with responsibility, who would have presented a White Paper so bad, so feeble, and so lacking in objectives as this. I think such a Minister might well say that under nationalisation there is to be proper representation for the people in North Wales, and that they must not be left out in the cold, to be managed by Manchester and Liverpool. All these things could be done by a man of power and influence in the Cabinet without the setting up of a great office. I commend that solution to the Government.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)
With some of the observations of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) I am in complete agreement and I propose, in my brief speech, to follow him 728 in certain directions. I should, however, feel that I was being less than fair if I did not preface my remarks with a few words of praise for the Government. They have accomplished a great deal for Wales in a very difficult period. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has abundantly shown that the economic position of Wales in the past two years can be favourably compared with its condition at any time between the two wars. On the cultural side, there is the Government's decision to create a Joint Education Committee for the Principality, thus realising a long-cherished dream of the Welsh people to control their own culture and way of life, in so far as that is appropriate. I do not propose to deal with that point extensively, as I very much hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), who has had much to do with this matter, will be able to speak later in the Debate.
On the economic side, we have heard, and read in the White Paper, that for the first time in a quarter of a century the decline in the population of the Principality seems to have been arrested. The level of unemployment today in Wales, although still too high, does not bear comparison with the atrocious figures which persisted chronically between the two wars. I think it is especially true to say, if my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) will bear with me for a moment, that the foundations of economic security are being laid in South Wales, and that new life is being breathed into the heavy industries of Wales—coal, tin, and steel. More than that, very wide diversification of industry is taking place. One has only to take a bus ride up the valleys of Glamorgan and Monmouth to see that that is so. As has already been said today, credit should be given where credit is due.
But in North Wales the picture is not so promising. While the North does not suffer from the extensive unemployment of the South, it does contain a good many comparatively small—although some are not so small—pockets of chronic unemployment. The decline of the traditional heavy industry, slate quarrying, has led to serious economic depression over a period of many years, with consequent threats to some of our most characteristically Welsh communities. The plight of areas like the Nantlle Valley 729 is truly desperate. They may be small in extent, but this is not a matter of statistics only. While there is a plan for South Wales based on the Distribution of Industries Act, there is no plan for the rural, central and northern parts of Wales. The Distribution of Industries Act cannot be applied to places like Nantlle, Port Madoc and Festiniog. This is where Government policy in Wales is lacking. They are not looking at the Principality as a whole or as a nation. In regard to cultural affairs, they have a comprehensive view of the needs and resources of the Welsh people as a nation. I grant them that, but economically and politically they have a patchy view. It is the object of this Debate, I hope—and I am glad that it is taking the course that it is—to prod them to take this new look at Wales. They have been far too shortsighted in this matter.
Let me give an example of how, while there is a plan for the major industrial areas of the South, there is no plan for the smaller, and quite as urgent, unemployment areas of the North. I make no apology for referring to the Nantlle Valley, which is in my constituency. Here we have a Rhondda in miniature. With the decline of slate, the valley has become almost hopeless, and, for the last two years, there have been county meetings, Board of Trade meetings, interviews, consultations with architects and examination of estimates, until today we are told that there is little hope of anything being done for this valley. The fact of the matter is that the Government have no plan or powers to deal with that particular type of problem. If Nantlle were as big as the Rhondda, it could be scheduled. I suggest that it is time that we had some organisation in Wales which could tackle that type of unemployment area, because it is in such areas that the fate of the Welsh language, and what we know as Welsh culture, will be sealed.
I will make two brief suggestions. Hon. Members on both sides of the House know that I hold certain views with regard to federation and devolution, but I am not going to ride that horse tonight. I propose to make two short-term suggestions as to the political and economic future of the Principality. In recent years, most Government Departments have decanted their powers, so far as Wales is concerned, to appropriate Welsh offices, mostly in 730 Cardiff. There is also an attempt to secure co-ordination of the activities of these Departments through periodic conferences of the heads of these Welsh offices. That is good, so far as it goes. Bureaucratically, a good start has been made in the direction of political devolution, but the weakness is that there is absolutely no democratic political supervision; and the result is muddle, uncertainty and a good deal of frustration.
I suggest that a Council of Wales should be set up. It would not need legislation, or much finance, or much Departmental rearrangement. Let us set up a democratically-elected council, with the following duties: first, to supervise the working of the Government Departments in Wales—a merely supervisory function; secondly, to advise the Government on measures in their bearing on Wales—
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the hon. Member suggesting that this national council should consist of Members of this House, or people who are not responsible to this House?
§ Mr. Roberts
I do not want to go into detail on the composition of such a council, but I hope that hon. Members will allow me to make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend and to the House that there should be some democratic body that would have political oversight of the action of bureaucracy in Wales. I should be glad to discuss with my hon. Friend in some detail how we should select that council, and what powers it should be given. The second duty I would give to this body would be to advise the Government on the bearing of certain measures and decisions on the life of Wales as a whole.
A very good example of such measures would be the acquisition of land in Wales for military training. All this bother and all this feeling of national degradation which is growing up in Wales owing to the stupidity of the War Office would have been avoided if there had been some national body with whom the War Department, like any other Government Department, could have discussed in their infancy the measures needed to be taken in Wales. Such advice might include advice on the question of internal transport in Wales and possibly on such very special problems as those appertaining to Welsh agriculture. Thirdly, under the wing of this Council of Wales, I would create a Welsh Development Commission.
§ Mr. Roberts
That is utterly irrelevant to the argument I am putting forward, because we are dealing today with a Wales which has found it possible to unite in the creation of a Joint Education Committee, and I think it reasonable to assume that a well thought out scheme on these lines might receive a fairly general welcome and agreement in the Principality. The third task of this council would be to create a development commission, with finance and powers enough to tackle the smaller areas of unemployment for which there is no statutory instrument of resuscitation at present—something on the lines of the existing development commission now operating in Britain, but charged specifically with the solution of the problems of places like Nantlle. This is not an ambitious or complicated plan. It could, I believe, be implemented without legislation. It would need no great finance, no great powers, but it would certainly give to our ancient people a new sense of recognition, and an opportunity to express themselves as a member nation of the British union of peoples.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)
I want to be as brief as I possibly can because a great many of my hon. Friends want to speak. I will not pursue the very interesting point made by the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts), except to say that perhaps under existing legislation it is possible to extend the field to cover small areas of unemployment. I believe that is in the Act, but I am not quite sure because it is some time since I have seen it.
About 15 months ago when we had a previous discussion, it is no exaggeration to say that the hon. Members from Wales were very dissatisfied with the attitude of the Government towards our problems. I would not say that they were satisfied today. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) did not give a meed of praise to the Government when he spoke. Indeed, the only person who has uttered 732 a word of praise is the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire, but I noticed that his praise did not extend to cover his own constituency, which I am sure he knows better than any other area of Wales.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
On the contrary, in regard to my constituency I am glad to say that the figures of unemployment for Caernarvonshire in 1938 were 6,100; today they are a little over 1,400.
§ Major Lloyd George
I do not think I was greatly mistaken, for I was merely repeating what the hon. Gentleman had said. It is no part of my business to know the details of the hon. Gentleman's constituency any more than it is his business to know the details of mine. I stated that the only place about which he criticised the Government was his own constituency which he knows best.
It is no exaggeration, I believe, to say that most people are dissatisfied with the Government's conduct of Welsh affairs. I, at any rate, am dissatisfied not so much with what is contained in the Report or in regard to the Government's activity, but because there has been no attempt during the last year to go a little way to meet the real demand of the Welsh. Today we are not allowed to discuss the question of a Minister of State. The hon. Member for Caernarvonshire referred to another method last year, which was elective devolution. We all want to do something to get better representation of Welsh affairs in this House. We were told last year that many suggestions put forward would not lead to greater efficiency. All we were offered was a meeting once a quarter in Cardiff of the various Welsh Departments and Welsh officers. That has been done this year and is a good thing so far as it goes, because, at least, it makes it unnecessary for us to come to London. The other good thing is that the President of the Board of Trade is, I understand, able to pronounce the names of places in Wales with a greater degree of accuracy, which I put down to a long and cordial co-operation with me during the war. He certainly need not apologise for the way he pronounces the names of some of the places in the Principality.
Quite seriously, our point was not met in any way at all. It has always been assumed—and this was our point last year, and it is still our point this year—that for the purposes of legislation Wales 733 is part of England. Indeed, as somebody said last year, it might be treated as an English county. The only thing that mattered really was how an Act was to be administered in Wales, and, therefore, the only difference between us was the method of approach to the particular problem. I suggested last year that that difference was fundamental, because conditions in the Principality are in many respects totally different from what they are in England. That was the case we made last year.
I say conditions are different, industrially and agriculturally. The White Paper which we are discussing today confirms in a most remarkable way our contention that industrial and agricultural conditions are totally different. Paragraphs 9 and 10 on page 3, dealing with the coalfield, state:The development of the coalfield was influenced very largely by its physical features, in particular by the valleys already mentioned … This disposition favoured the exporting of coal rather than the development of new subsidiary industries … Such a structure is peculiarly vulnerable and what happened in South Wales in the inter-war years as the result of the recession of world trade and the contraction of the coal industry needs no retelling. The situation was common to all areas dependent upon a small group of heavy industries, but South Wales, being the extreme example of such dependence, was more completely at the mercy of those events than any other industrial region.The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when President of the Board of Trade said last year that there was really no more specialised view of Welsh economy than there was in the cases of Durham or the North-East Coast. Again, the Government White Paper refutes that, because it states further down on this page:Between 1921 and 1937 the population of the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth decreased from 1,729,000 to 1,568,000, a loss of 161,000 or 9 per cent., representing a much greater volume of actual migration and comparing with the 1 per cent. loss of population of Northumberland and Durham, the only other industrial region to show a decrease.So the White Paper does prove conclusively that there is a special problem industrially as far as South Wales in concerned.
Let us come now to agriculture. We have always maintained that agricultural conditions in Wales are quite different 734 from those in England. Again, the Report confirms that contention. It says in paragraph 14 that much of the land of Wales is bleak and infertile highland, and it adds:the sale of livestock and livestock products is the mainstay of Welsh agriculture.I referred to this last year, and I make no apology for mentioning it again today, that though livestock and livestock products are so important to Welsh agriculture when the Livestock Commission was set up no representative from the Principality was appointed to it. That is another instance of how essentially Welsh things are dealt with. However good a Report such as this is, it is irrefutable that things vital to the welfare of Wales are ignored by Whitehall.
Again in paragraph 19 we are told about the rural conditions of Wales which are terribly important. It says:The rural counties of Wales were among those most deficient in piped supplies of water to farmhouses.I will return to this paragraph later, but in paragraph 21 there is a reference to the income rates in the rural areas of Wales as compared to England. Taking 59 rural areas the Report says that in 37 per cent. of them a penny rate brought in below £100, and the similar figure in England was 9 per cent. It is not surprising that there is a slowness in getting piped water supplies in the rural areas. Then we come to electricity. According to paragraph 19 of the Report, only 11 per cent. of holdings in Wales had electricity, compared with 30 per cent. in England. In other words, electricity in rural areas in Wales is only one-third of that in rural areas of England.
§ Major Lloyd George
I hope we are not going to live with things as they were. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will not suggest that that has been my ambition because it certainly has not. We should not be talking so much of how things used to be, but rather we should be looking to the future. It is no good writing books at election times entitled "Let Us Face the Future" if we are going to look the other way. I hope we can forget that, and get on with the job.
735 I am pointing out the comparison with England, which, after all, has had the same Government as Wales. The development there is three times as great. Wales is a sparsely populated area. We now have an electricity authority responsible for electrical development in Wales. Nobody can pretend that for many years to come electricity development in rural areas will be an economic proposition, but I would ask the Government to give special attention to the problem, as it relates to sparsely populated areas of Wales, as has been done in the Highlands of Scotland. That is an example of the advantage of having a Minister who can speak for a particular area. The predecessor of the Secretary of State for Scotland saw to it that there was a development of the Scottish Hydro-Electric Board in respect of sparsely populated areas. I would like to know whether the Government are prepared to make any statement about the giving of instructions for a similar development in Wales.
There is a reference in this White Paper to sea defences. It was announced last January that the subject of coast erosion was to be dealt with in legislation. The Report says:Pending legislation … the authority of Parliament would be sought for the payment of grants out of voted moneys, and county councils would be expected to make appropriate contributions.Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what basis that contribution is likely to be? In some areas, where damage is heavy, resources are exceedingly small. It would encourage people in such areas if they got some idea of what the basis will probably be. I apologise for referring now to one case from my own constituency, but it happens to affect during the winter months one particular part of the area by way of constant flooding of two important roads. The week before last, during two periods of the day, it was impossible for children or motorcars to pass along those roads, and the ordinary business of people, including milk deliveries, was interrupted. This is an annual event whenever we have wet weather, of which, as the House is aware, we get quite a lot. It has been going on for years.
The real remedy is, I gather, a drainage scheme. It is possible to make a temporary remedy by raising the level of 736 the road, but that is not the right way to approach the matter. A drainage scheme is essential from every point of view, but it would be a heavy burden upon an area which, like so many other Welsh areas, cannot levy enough money to pay for it. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks it possible to give special consideration to cases of this sort. I would close, as I opened, by saying that the Report is ample evidence that there is a strong case for having someone within the Government to be specially responsible for Welsh affairs—someone who understands Welsh affairs and whom we can approach when we have a case to put forward.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I will try to be brief because I know many others wish to speak. The Debate has been interesting if for no other reason than the emergence in the Tory Party of an interest in nationalism in Wales. It was surprising to me that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) opened this Debate on the Opposition side. I wondered where the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) was. Apparently he has not the full confidence of the Tory Party, or else the Tory Party are making quite sure that they are going to take advantage of the rising nationalism in Wales, as they are doing in Scotland.
I must confess that I have a great deal of sympathy with one of the main points made by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris). He referred to devolution, as it has taken place in Wales. The President of the Board of Trade did not seem to realise that what has taken place in Wales has been a devolution of administration, controlled naturally and inevitably by civil servants. I have been in this House for more than 20 years and I have been accustomed to civil servants in London, but there is a very different atmosphere outside. In London, the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary are nearby, but in places like Cardiff the civil servants are completely divorced from popular control.
I cannot now discuss the right way to get out of that difficulty, but the Government must believe me when I tell them that they must try to find a solution to this problem in Wales. I have become very keen about the matter. I have 737 changed my opinion since last year because of experiences in my Division, particularly in regard to housing. Great steel works are going up in that area. In spite of all statistics, I say that there is more emphasis upon the economic development of Wales now than there has ever been in that country's existence. I went through the Rhondda Valley last Friday and Saturday, and I was absolutely staggered at the factories that are going up.
I say in parenthesis that this is a great contribution to the employment of men, and a magnificent contribution so far as the women of Wales are concerned. A great problem in the mining areas has always been that miners' daughters have had nowhere to go, and it has resulted in the scandal of our girls going up to London and being bought and sold, as it were. The Government have made a deep, powerful and effective contribution to the solving of that moral problem. We should be grateful to them, not only in respect of my own constituency, but of the whole of South Wales.
In my Division, we had a housing problem, and we went to Cardiff about it. Who is the boss among the civil servants? What Department has the deciding voice? Is it the Ministry of Town and Country Planning? That Department contains a lot of academic people who seem to be experts in obstruction. Or is it the Ministry of Fuel, or Agriculture, or Works, or Health? We wanted houses and the local authority had decided on the sites, but between all those Departments all the sites were turned down, one by one Department and another by another Department. There was confusion for a very long time, and there was no decision. From that experience I say that the Government must provide some ministerial power to give a decision on such issues. There was delay for month after month simply because of the machinery. The Government must find some way out.
I see no advantage in having a Secretary of State for Wales comparable to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I say that without any equivocation. I cannot see how the economy of Wales can be divorced from the economy of England. They are a complete whole. There are, however, spheres in which there can be autonomy for Wales, such as the broad cultural and social service spheres. Education was mentioned by the right hon. 738 Member for Saffron Walden. Is there anyone on the Government Front Bench who can reply on that subject? The Parliamentary Secretary has taken a great deal of interest in Wales and has shown sympathy, activity and competence so far as Wales is concerned, but is he qualified to reply? We want someone on the Government Front Bench with power to speak in regard to the social services and the cultural life of Wales.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education will not be too much diverted towards the erection of technical schools and colleges in Wales. That is not the culture of Wales. Speaking historically, however, there are two main aspects about the grammar schools in Wales. The grammar schools have represented the cultural life of Wales. The fact that culture and the arts have been over-emphasised is due mainly to the fact that in Wales there have not been the outlets to enable the technically equipped men and women to find work. Historically, Wales has lacked a variety of industry and this has had repercussions on education. Now these diversified industries are coming to Wales there may be a place in those industries for the technically qualified young people of Wales.
When I was a young man, there was a terrific emphasis on technical education for mining. The young people attended schools in the villages and went to the Treforest School of Mining and became qualified under-managers and managers; and in the end we had 20 mining engineers for each job of that sort available in the pits. I do not want that sort of thing to happen again. What we want in the educational field is a balance, not a segregation of the technical from the other fields of education. The liberal education must serve the technical and the technical must serve the liberal. The thing must be a complete whole, and in Wales that can only be found—I shall not have the Ministry with me on this—in the multilateral schools. That is a policy which has been adopted by one Labour Party Conference after another. We want integration and not segregation.
I say to all my Welsh Nationalist friends, including, if I dare, those at the Ministry of Education, in the field of broadcasting and at Broadcasting House, that they should not have too narrow a conception of what a Welshman is. Some of us who cannot speak the language are 739 better Welshmen than those who can. I am more typically Welsh than a good many Welsh people I know. In any case, I am profoundly convinced that in order to develop the best culture in our schools, we must have someone responsible for it on the Government Front Bench. Nothing can prevent the movement which must lead to the cultural and spiritual revival of Welsh life in Wales.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
I associate myself with those hon. Members who have condemned the White Paper insofar as it has been drawn up by civil servants. Yet one hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) suggested some body or authority for Wales not only to advise the Government, but to carry out policy. That would mean an avoidance of Parliament's responsibility. There are present here tonight 29 hon. Members from Wales out of a membership of 36, which is not a bad record, and yet we have an hon. Member actually proposing another body to supererogate all our functions and to have responsibility to nobody but itself.
I agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) that one cannot divorce the economy of Wales from England. We have to face that fact. However, in regard to two subjects—one industrial and the other cultural—one can divorce them. I refer to agriculture and to education. It seems to me that, so far as this Report is concerned, the Government are not leaving to Wales the development of agriculture on the lines on which it was intended it should be developed. Wales has never been, never will be a cereal growing country. It has not yet been established that any of the cereals it grows can compare with the quality of cereals grown in the Eastern counties of England, because its soil is not adapted for it. Our's is a land of animal husbandry, of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and milk. Milk is our great production. I was interested to see the other day that the production of milk in Wales has increased from between 45 and 48 million gallons in the last year before the war to 100 million gallons in 1946 which is more than double. I believe that Wales could almost double that again if we were given the proper facilities for development along our own line in the agricultural field.
740 However, before that can be done we must have considerable modifications of agricultural policy by this Government. There have been serious depredations of the hill sheep farms in North Wales. We lost half a million ewes last winter on the hill lands and over a million lambs, and yet at the present time the Forestry Commission in Wales are giving notice to many hill sheep farmers that they are taking over their land for forestry. I realise that we want timber. We have a quarter of a million acres of woodlands in Wales, though some of it is not very good, and I can quite understand that there is room for development since we must have timber for pit props and housing. However, I do say that, at this time when the development of food production is the most vital consideration, to denude the Welsh farming industry of acreages used for the production of sheep is not a wise policy.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) referred to the appalling state of the electrical production industry for the North Wales rural areas. It is scandalous. The North Wales Power Company say they are doing all they can but are unable to get the equipment to develop electricity for the farms in the rural areas of my constituency. Yet until that is done, and rural housing is improved considerably, we cannot expect a great development of the production side in the Welsh rural areas.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) speaking in this Debate. In the past the Conservative Party has not given the attention it should to Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] I agree. I do not think anyone can object to my right hon. Friend on the Front Opposition Bench taking part in a Welsh Debate, and I am glad he did so, if only to say that, as an ex-Minister of Education, he wanted to dissociate himself completely from any idea that there is anything in the Education Act of 1944 which means the closing of rural schools. That is a point which affects my own constituency. There is no greater agitation on any cultural question in my constituency at the moment than the threat under the Education Act of closing these rural schools. There is no need for me to enlarge on the immense disadvantages to the children—
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Did any of those schools come under the heading of those condemned as centres for tuberculosis in the report which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) issued?
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
But the suggested condemnation of these school buildings and the transfer of children under 11 years of age to other schools two or three miles away cannot be defended on the grounds of health or education or transport. There is no defence whatsoever, and I hope the Minister, whom I am glad to see on the Front Bench, will take notice of these protests and will be prepared to institute a local inquiry in many cases in order that the parents of the children can give their point of view, because the Act states in Section 76 as a general principle, that the children should have the education which their parents desire for them. It is not according to the wishes of parents in the rural villages of Wales—the fountains of Welsh culture—that their children should leave these villages, already denuded enough, for semi-urban areas, often English in environment, along bad roads, and often in inclement weather. We must preserve these rural schools for the younger children in their impressionable years.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Mort (Swansea, East)
I have listened with great interest to the speeches delivered in this Debate, and my conclusion is that the Government have little to fear from the criticisms already offered, even including the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar). Knowing the hon. Member as I do, he reminds me of a remark made by the lady whose husband beat her regularly. When an observation about it was made by a neighbour, she said, "Oh it is true he beats me, but that is how he shows his love." So I was not very disturbed about some of his hard words, but I was interested in the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris). I was rather disturbed too, because his criticism was on the legal 742 aspect like the person who complains about how a meal is served and does not mind what kind of a meal it is.
I will not say that I agree absolutely with, or feel greatly enthusiastic about the White Paper, but I want to speak conscientiously about it. We in Wales should be proud of it. It is not all we desire, but it gives us a yearly assessment of the problems and the progress being made towards solving them. Is not that something valuable? I think it is. It gives an opportunity to assist in solving them. As the queue for going into the talking shop is very long, I shall be brief—and I really mean to be brief, not like previous hon. Members who have said they would be brief, but have not been brief. I have a general interest in all the proposals, but, to make an effective contribution, I must take my corner. There are too many corners, and I cannot be in all of them. The corner I will pick is that of the basic industries. The White Paper says that to reconstruct the basic industries is one of the main interests of the Government.
I wish to refer to the metal and tinplate industries. By profession I am a steel worker, but some accident must have happened and I find myself in this House. With two colleagues, I represent the area of Swansea, which was the birthplace of the metallurgical industry of this country. Some very remarkable things are done there now, and Swansea is the only place where some metals are refined. The problem is not absolutely immediate, but my concern is to find out how the Government are thinking of dealing with it eventually. The object was to retain the natural skill that has been built up over generations in this area. In the tinplate trade the hot strip mill in Llangafelach is a very great venture, and there is every credit to the Government for supporting and assisting those who initiated it. I hope the hon. Member who is taking notes for the reply will take special note of this matter. The original idea was that the hot strip mill was to displace any output of the other mills, and there are two cold reducing plants, which I think is necessary, one at Llangafelach, and another at Trostra. The site in Llangafelach is still empty, and I am concerned that it might be allotted in small parcels.
I am of the opinion that the decision of the Government to have one cold 743 reducing plant would be a definite mistake. I will give figures to prove that I have some grounds for this concern. The prewar demand for tinplate in this country was 21 million boxes. We can definitely anticipate that there will be an increase on that, because of the uses which are being made of tinplate, and the necessity for canning and preserving foods in the future. The first estimate of the two plants was 14 million boxes, Trostra seven million, and Ebbw Vale five million, but there is a deficit of nine million boxes. I want the Government to be sure before they allow the site at Llangafelach to be used for any other purpose to make another investigation. The 14 million boxes of tinplate can never be produced in the Trostra cold reducing plant, and if they could there would be congestion of traffic.
When this plant is in full operation in a few years' time some 13 steel works in South Wales, which are now taken for the tinplate trade, will become redundant. No doubt many will fill the gap in ingot production for Margam. But we have 13 steel works with all the natural skill of those men becoming redundant and idle. The Government should make another investigation before they allow that site, which they admit is the best, to be parcelled out, because in my opinion they will need another cold reducing plant there.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I do not wish to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort), except to say that I think he did less than justice to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) when he said my hon. and learned Friend criticised the White Paper partly on legal form. In fact, my hon. and learned Friend raised a question—whether the hon. Member for East Swansea agrees with it or not—of considerable constitutional importance, with which I will deal in a moment.
If the White Paper told us very little, I think the President of the Board of Trade told us very little more, and I begin to suspect it is because there is very little more to tell. The right hon. Gentleman said he hoped very much that before we had another Debate on Welsh 744 affairs in this House, our problems would be very substantially solved. I can tell him that it will not be on the basis of the White Paper, and not on the basis of the policy in the White Paper. We must have something far more vigorous than that. We have immense and formidable problems to face in postwar Wales. We have to re-equip our old industries, establish new industries in the Principality, bring good living conditions to the people of Wales, in rural and urban areas, and bring modern amenities to them, which they have not had in most of the urban areas, and certainly not in the rural areas.
In the White Paper there is a sort of progress report of the action taken by the Government up to June, 1947. It is not a very impressive record, even for the days before the dollar crisis broke, when there were far more substantial supplies available for reconstruction purposes. But, today we have been discussing a White Paper which is six months out of date and which, in point of fact, bears very little relation to the problems with which we are faced at the moment. In the Principality, as in other parts of Great Britain, the brake has had to be put on, and in some instances we have almost had to close down work of reconstruction. So the White Paper has practically no relevance to circumstances in Wales today.
There are one or two items in the White Paper which, unfortunately, are not very much out of date. One of them is the high level of unemployment compared with unemployment in other parts of the country. The fact is that there are still 38,000 people out of work in Wales compared with 293,000 for the whole of Great Britain. As the President of the Board of Trade said, that is a percentage of five and a half as against a percentage of one and a half for the rest of the country. It is far too high. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) asked some forceful questions. He asked what was to happen to that surplus labour, not only in his own constituency but in other parts of Wales. He has had no answer. I hope that we may have an answer later in the evening when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour replies.
What is to happen to that surplus labour? We are told in the White Paper 745 that the number of factories financed by the Government in their present proposals will provide something like 163,000 jobs above the 1937 level when they are completed. So far only 23 out of the 166 building schemes have been completed, providing very little employment. What has happened? The brake has been put on. Very few of these schemes will be proceeded with.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I was not talking about general schemes of private enterprise but Government - financed schemes. I was speaking about direct Government action in the Principality.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I think the number is 19. What is likely to happen to these people for whom these factories were envisaged in the White Paper, the people who were to go into these new industries? Is it again to be a question of voluntary transference for them? Is it to be direction? After all, in the interwar years we lost, in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire alone, 160,000 young men and women, who left the country, a greater number by far than in any other industrial area in Britain. Is that same tragic migration to take place again? Are they to be directed? I earnestly beg the Government not to allow them to be directed outside the boundaries of Wales. We cannot afford to lose these young men and women from our national life.
I ask the Government what is to be done about the pockets of unemployment outside the Development Areas to which reference has been made by the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts). There are many of these pockets of unemployment in various parts of Wales, more particularly in North Wales. I am glad to see that a factory has at last been landed in Holyhead which will provide for considerable employment for men in that area. There are, however, large areas which are still completely unprovided for—Nantlle, Festiniog and smaller places like Amlwch and Llangefni. They are to be found in many of the Northern counties. I hope that the Government will see that even though these places are not included in Development Areas, they are put high in the priority list for materials, that the 746 Government will do their utmost to see that industries are induced—I think that is the word—to go to these places.
Wales has an important part to play in the present crisis, both as a great coal-producing area and as an important producer of the largest single item of the dollar bill—food. The agriculturists of the Principality did most admirable and remarkable work during the war. The production of food, of feedingstuffs, of milk, rose, as did the cattle population, very swiftly and substantially, and is still up. I am certain that the farmers and the workers will be anxious to do their best in this new national emergency. They cannot do it, however, unless they are given the equipment, unless they are given the tools to finish the job. They want tractors and other machinery. Above all, they want an adequate water supply. That is one of the first essentials. What is the position today? About a third of rural properties in Wales are without a piped water supply. All that the White Paper tells us is that schemes have been sanctioned which will bring supplies to 26,000 properties. The number of agricultural holdings which are to have water supplies brought is 7,600. That will not take us very far.
Last spring we were told that agriculture was to have priority for steel and other materials. Last August we were told that the Government meant what they said in the spring. Now, months afterwards, we are told that the new allocation is actually to come into force on 1st April. Then, we are told that on top of that there are arrears to be made up, and there is a long queue waiting for these supplies at the moment. I beg the Government to do what they can to expedite these matters; otherwise, agriculturists will not be able to carry out in Wales the policy by which the Government themselves so rightly set great store.
I turn to housing. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) referred to this question early in the Debate. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was an Anglo-Saxon cuckoo in our nest today. When he made reference to a Minister in charge of Welsh affairs and said that possibly he need not be a Welshman, I thought that the only reason he could have spoken in the Debate today was that he was staking out a claim for himself at some future and very distant date. There is certainly an urgent 747 demand for the provision of houses for agricultural workers. That brings us back again to the question of the provision of water. The fact is that there is now an edict—no water, no sewerage, no new houses. That means that some of the poorest areas, where the need is greatest, are not to be provided with new houses. That is an additional reason for speeding up this matter. I would like to take up the point made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). I hope that greater assistance in the provision of water supply will be given to the poorer areas which cannot afford schemes, and cannot be expected to.
In rural areas in Wales the reinstatement and the putting of agriculture on to a permanent basis of prosperity are vital, but we need also to revive rural industries if we are to have prosperous communities in the countryside. When we approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer some time ago about this, he said that our best hope lay in the Development Commission, who might be able to assist in improving and starting rural industries. That Commission, a statutory body, was set up under an Act passed in 1909, a very rich and rare vintage year. I would like to know from the Government whether anything has been done under that Act, whether in a single instance any assistance has been given in the Principality? I hope we may have more information on that point because this is to be, we are told, the salvation of the rural areas and of the rural industries.
The White Paper has given us an account of a diversity of unco-ordinated activities. We are peculiarly cognisant of the fact, having read the White Paper, that there are multitudinous departmental committees, inter-departmental committees, regional committees and regional officers, all surging through the Principality. And advisory bodies—do not let us forget the advisory bodies, There is also in this White Paper ample evidence that Wales is still suffering from lack of representation at Ministerial level. We not only want a watchdog—we want that, it is perfectly true—but we want somebody to think out the problems of Wales, to plan for Wales. A council such as was suggested by one hon. Member is really no good. We want, in addition, an exe- 748 cutive head, who can take decisions, and has authority to take decisions, and is responsible to this House.
There are instances lately where this lack has shown itself in Wales. We have constantly to remind the Government that Wales is a national entity. Bodies are set up without representation from the Principality. Consider what is happening in the nationalised industries. Wales is thrown in with Lancashire and the West Country, and though I am quite sure Wales could not be thrown in with anybody better, we wish to remain a national entity. What I have described is happening with regard to coal, electricity, and now railways. There is also a lack of understanding. Consider the failure to publish the Highway Code in Welsh. That is an outstanding example. It is also an outstanding example of official pigheadedness—there is no other word for it.
We have made proposals to the Government. We have made a proposal for a Secretary of State, and it has been turned down. Is that to be the end? Is this labyrinth of committees the only answer we are to have from the Government? If they do not like our proposals, have they any alternatives? I am quite sure that Wales and the Welsh Parliamentary Party would be very glad to consider any alternative proposals the Government may have to make, but we have had none. Scotland, we are told, is to have some concession in this matter of devolution. Is Wales to have none? I ask the Government whether they will not be prepared to reconsider this matter. I believe it is not only vitally important to Wales but to Parliament.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
In the Debate today we have heard from this side of the House far more criticism than we have heard from the other side. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar) is a man who speaks with emphasis. In ordinary conversation he is given to emphasis, but today he certainly did not spare his adjectives. Indeed, he seemed at times to be praying the people of the marginal areas to get rid of their Labour representatives as quickly as they could. Nothing could be worse. So far as the City of Cardiff and the Rhondda Valley are concerned, there is, indeed, a proud story to tell. The 749 hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) will speak for himself—
§ Mr. Thomas
It would be very difficult to stop the hon. Member speaking—and at his customary length. I want to refer to some of the things that have been said by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and later by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones). Both of these hon. Members succeeded in stirring themselves up into a passion about village schools that may be closed. If the leader of the Liberal Party who happens to be a Welshman, were here tonight, and I am sorry he is unable to be with us—
§ Mr. Thomas
I am sorry; I have been here since 2.30 and I have not noticed. The leader of the Liberal Party produced a report about the cases of rheumatism and tuberculosis in Wales, and a more scathing indictment of the village schools in the Principality was never uttered than the right hon and learned Gentleman put into his report. These schools have neither sanitation nor protection from the rain. Children have been going to these schools and there getting the seeds of disease. We have been racked with T.B. because the law insisted that our children should sit for five hours a day in these hovels. I rejoice if they are to be closed down. In the name of humanity and decency—never mind Welshmen alone—they ought to have been closed 50 years ago. All I hope is that we shall find the Minister of Education giving the necessary drive to the local authorities in Wales to provide adequate centres to which the children may be conveyed in order that their education may be carried on.
During the past year the Working Party for Education in the Principality has submitted a report to the Minister of Education. This Working Party's report has received considerable publicity in the Principality itself. The Welsh Press have, somehow or other, been able to make some guesses at what is included in it.
This is not surprising. This sort of leakage occurs in Scotland. It occurs, indeed, in England—as well we know. Every education authority in Wales has 750 had an opportunity to give evidence before this Working Party, and I believe that there is now available for the Principality something that has been dreamed for a very long time.
There is the opportunity, at last, for Wales really to control her own culture. The turbulent story of the island nation to which we belong is a story of races and different peoples learning to live together. I believe the rich culture we enjoy today is the richer because we share the unique contributions of the Scots, the Irish, the English, and the Welsh. Our culture in this island is a synthesis of the finest culture. How true it is that if our culture is to remain at that high standard, we must take great care to see that nothing is lost from the Principality, from Scotland, from Ireland or from England. Each of us has a right to autonomy in the matter of our own culture.
With due respect I would say that we can see how far the Englishman can fail to interpret Welsh sentiment when we find in this Report, under the heading of "Education," the fact that the Arts Council of Great Britain, as a contribution to the culture of the Principality, announces that:In the early summer of 1947, the Bristol Old Vic Company took their repertory of 'An Inspector Calls,' 'The Apple Cart' and 'Much Ado About Nothing' to Butlin's Camp, Pwllheli.Whoever submitted that to be included in this document describing what has been done in the educational and cultural life of Wales, surely can never have passed through the Severn Tunnel. The Welsh people have often been described as a quaint people. Undoubtedly, in some ways that is true. We have our own love of music, choral and orchestral. We have our own deep interest in drama. We have our own literature, and we have our own language. The Joint Education Committee for the whole of Wales will give the opportunity for each of these special sides of our life to be developed.
The dream of a national council for education in Wales is nothing new. For a long time when my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) first came to this House, it was a topic in the Principality. But what stood in our way before? It was parish pump plotting and the jealousy of North versus South. I earnestly hope and trust that every educa- 751 tion authority in Wales will see that today they readjust their sights to the wider horizon which has been revealed. The opportunity for Wales to have a great degree of autonomy in her culture has been given to us by this Government and, in particular, by the Minister of Education and his Parliamentary Secretary. It was a touch of genius which made the Minister give us an Irishman to be chairman of our committee, for the Welsh and the Irish have much in common—particularly when they are talking about the English.
All Wales is grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education for the drive, the initiative and vision which he has brought to this Working Party. Today Wales has the opportunity to manage her own affairs in the realm of education. It will be our own fault if we throw that opportunity away. Despite the bleatings and the moanings from those hon. Members who represent the Liberal Party, let me remind them of the fact that in 1906 that they had the power to do what they wanted for the education of Wales and the culture of our people.
§ Mr. Thomas
Butlin's Camp was not there then.
I conclude by saying that whatever has been left undone before, Wales has the opportunity to seize, with a spirit of unity, this chance given her by the Government. Nothing so big has come our way since the establishment of the Central Welsh Board. We must not miss this opportunity. May all educationists, in the North, South and in the centre, realise that this is their opportunity to give to the next generation something which is badly needed in the Principality.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Price-White (Caernarvon boroughs)
I intend to disappoint the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), I trust, by neither bleating nor moaning. I do not intend to follow him in the realm of education, in which subject he is an expert. It is a subject 752 which I have sought to evade for most of my life. I want to accept the very fair invitation of the President of the Board of Trade who said that the Government expected criticisms of this White Paper. Much criticism has been made, some of which has been fair and some, in my view, a little exaggerated. This Debate bears out what I feel, and what I know is felt by many of my fellow countrymen, that not yet by any means have we arrived at that true appreciation of Wales and its people which will enable us to make the greatest contribution to the four peoples of these Islands. Unless and until that understanding can be brought about, Wales will not be able to play that fuller part of which she is capable.
I confess that it would be easy on an occasion like this to make an impassioned public oration demanding the rights of Wales as a nation, going even further than the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), and getting into what we know as a hwyl. I am glad to have used the first Welsh word in this Debate. I doubt very much whether that type of speech would have any practical effect or value. When I first opened this White Paper, I was amazed at the style of its prose. The second paragraph of the general survey informs us:Wales is a land of some 2,500,000 people, and rather more than 5 million acres …I like the phrase "rather more." Then we find this masterpiece of lyrical prose:The greater part lies between 500 and 1,500 feet contours and much of this area is difficult and infertile country though broken by valleys of richer and gentler land.When one reads that in a Government document, one feels, "Ah, here is a new, refreshing approach. Something is really going to happen to Wales." One reads further and comes down from the 1,500 contour with a bump into typical "suburbanese." This White Paper is a conglomeration of facts and figures. It is difficult to compare it in a progressive way with the similar document which we had 12 months ago. Above all, it fails entirely to set out any plan in these great days of planning. There is no objectivity, no real plan for the whole programme.
If the Government really wish to convince the Welsh people that they are out to do their best, let them say, in a White Paper or in some other form, what are their plans and objects. Unless that is done, they will repeat what so many 753 Governments in the past have done—and I do not absolve my own party from this—and show that they have failed to take Wales seriously. There has been a tendency, as in this case, to say "Give the Welsh a White Paper; they will enjoy reading it. Give them a debate; they will come and shout their heads off, and then they will lie down where we want them to lie down." That is the wrong attitude; it is the attitude of the past. I would remind the hon. Member for Central Cardiff that, in the educational sphere, the Welsh Intermediate Act was a child of a Conservative Government, which, in one step, put Wales right at the head of educational advancement in this country.
I would like to endorse what has been said about the agricultural industry. I do not intend to deal with the industrial side, as I generally find that our friends from the South are well able to look after their affairs without northern interference. I feel, however, that in central and North Wales our problems are two-fold. Today, the great expression in North Wales is "new light industries," and they are, apparently, supposed to be produced by the average Member of Parliament, and particularly by Ministers, who are believed to carry somewhere on their person a wand which they can wave to produce all that is required.
Our future prosperity must inevitably depend on the basic industries of the country. It is true that agriculture is an important one, and some criticism has been made of the absence of rural housing. Unless and until the Government restore the provisions of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, there will always be a great handicap to our Welsh agricultural community and industry. The situation which was referred to by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), in regard to water, constitutes another serious handicap. I believe the real difficulty there is the refusal of the Ministry of Health to accept what are apparently local schemes of small import in the national set-up, which are postponed until some vast county or bi-county scheme is produced, instead of giving agriculture the foremost priority and putting in a local water scheme to supply the agricultural community immediately, and then, at a later date, working that small scheme into the larger organism which 754 is now in its blueprint stage. That, I am satisfied, is in many cases one of the main handicaps to our agricultural industry in the North.
The provisions of the Hill Farming Act are not working very well in Wales. There seems to be no real appreciation of the problems of the small hill farmer, and the authorities seem to require a tremendous scheme before they are willing to make a grant. Our agriculture is also suffering from problems of afforestation, and there seems to be no co-ordination between the Commissioners on the forestry side and the Ministry on the agricultural side. Unless that handicap is removed, we shall never get full service from agriculture in North Wales.
The hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) brought up the question of pockets of unemployment in North Wales, a subject that was also mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade. It is true that we have had experience of local miserable pockets of depression in North Wales, at Nantlle Valley, Holyhead and Blaenau Festiniog. I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey will not misunderstand me when I say that she alone has been able to derive some satisfaction as far as Holyhead is concerned, but, concerning Nantlle Valley, I well remember that two and a half years ago, when this Parliament commenced, the first deputation which came to London was very sympathetically received by the then President of the Board of Trade, but nothing has been done since. I enjoin on the Government that, if they want to satisfy North Wales of their good intentions, they should do something about Nantlle Valley. We have had many committees—and nobody loves a committee more than a Welshman—until Wales is completely populated with committees. If some of them would do something, it would be a different matter. I implore the President to finish with the deputations and the committees, and to get something done. There is at present a sore in the side of North Wales, and it might be a mortal one.
Workers in industry are bemused by the fact that, though they work as hard as men who work underground, they are denied the extra rations. Over the whole range of slate industries, there are problems on which the Rees Committee made a Report in September, 1946, which 755 was not published for six months. It has been said this afternoon that this Committee made 10 major recommendations for the improvement and modernisation of the whole of the slate industry. It made five recommendations on finance and five on marketing, but nothing has been done since. The whole slate industry in North Wales is in a very dangerous situation, due very largely to capricious interference in the whole building materials industry. The industry is ready and willing to proceed with modern mechanisation which is so necessary if it is to hold its place against its competitors, but no guidance has been received following the Rees Report, which recommended mechanisation. Until that is brought about, it will be impossible to get the full output from the workers in that industry, and the industry itself will not be able to seize the greatest chance it has ever had for development. I ask the Government to give up reading reports such as this Report, and to get something done about the industry, instead of allowing such reports to lie on the table as, apparently, is the danger in the case of the Rees Report.
I feel that too much can be said about the big industries. It is all very well to shout about one particular industry, but the salvation of North Wales lies rather more in the establishment of several smaller industries allied to the major basic industries. I wish to commend in this connection the efforts of the borough of Caernarvon. They had one big factory which was about to close down, and they have, by their own local efforts and the spirit of their public men, obtained seven or eight smaller industries, each of which employs about 50 people. I hope that the solution for areas such as North Wales will be found on those lines. I ask the Government to bear in mind the value of these small industries and to pay attention to the fact that we cannot overnight transfer people out of the bowels of the earth into a new industry.
There are several small points which have pricked Welsh sentiment bitterly. I need only to refer to the question of the printing of the Highway Code in Welsh. I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport here tonight, because this is an important point. In many parts of North Wales, 756 when an official publication is issued in English, it is ignored. If it were printed in Welsh, the response would be quite different. If the Highway Code is produced in Welsh, we shall have better roads and better driving, that is, if we have anything to drive with. I ask the Minister to remember that point.
Finally, the Secretary of State for War, who is not here, has heard a great deal of the agitation in regard to training areas. We, in Wales, have a fair case. I do not say that we should not take our fair share in training our Forces, but the space occupied in Wales is out of all proportion to that occupied for these purposes in the rest of the country. The matter was so badly managed by the War Department that they have only themselves to blame for the troubles they have run into. I ask them to remember that, although they informed us of their good intentions and reduced their demands, when they take the military off the land—as in Penmaenmawr, off the Menai Strait—for nearly a full 12 months not a single officer, N.C.O., or man appears to remove the dangerous missiles which make it impossible for the farmers and the community generally to use the land. That is nothing but inefficiency in some command headquarters. I ask the Government to inquire into the matter, and to remove a serious and quite needless agitation which has been brought about by the inefficiency of certain officers or officials, as the case may be.
I also ask the President of the Board of Trade to have regard to another quarrying industry in Wales—the grey granite industry Hard by my constituency at Trevor there is [...] grey granite quarry which gives full employment to a great many people in that district. Before the war the trade in grey granite for the Aberdeen market was only small, but now, I believe, it runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds. We recently concluded an agreement with Sweden who required us, on our request for timber, to allow them to export certain coloured granites to this country. Coloured granites do not worry our quarries because we do not produce them in this country; but there is a Swedish trade name which covers grey granite as a coloured granite, and if that comes to Aberdeen, as it can, at 3s. 6d. per block cheaper than ours—and the Aberdonians, 757 being what they are, will probably take the cheaper—it will mean the end of a very thriving quarry industry in Caernarvonshire. Therefore, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to invite his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to see that the terms of the Swedish agreement will not allow unfair competition with an industry which means so much to Wales.
Much that is helpful, I feel, has been said in this Debate, not only to the Government—and, inevitably, to any future Government—but to Wales itself. I am glad to see my fellow countrymen on the Front Bench opposite, and I would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance of something which I know he has in his mind and heart—not to forget that the efficacy of the National Insurance scheme in Wales will depend on knowledgeable and Welsh-speaking officials. I know the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that fact.
With regard to the Welsh constitutional problem, I feel that there is still a lack of appreciation of the Welsh background and spirit, a lack of integration of the various Departments, which could be so much improved. I am convinced that the only answer to this problem lies in having a Minister with legislative authority to decide, a man who has a knowledge of Wales and its people, and who will have the ability to decide on priorities in Wales and to get the wheels working more smoothly and with a greater understanding of the problem than there appears to be in these two White Papers.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. West (Pontypool)
I hope that the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the many points with which he has dealt. I desire to content myself with a few observations upon the industrial situation in Wales and Monmouthshire. In the Debate today, criticisms have been levelled against the Government with regard to their policy of providing full employment for Wales and Monmouthshire. Not the least severe of those criticisms came from this side of the House. Far be it from me to say that no criticisms were justified, but I do say that it should not go out from this House that we on this side are not in entire agreement 758 with the Government's policy in endeavouring to find full employment for Wales, Monmouthshire, and the other Development Areas.
Let it be understood that, although in Wales and Monmouthshire there is to be a greater realisation of security than they have ever had before, there are, nevertheless, many pockets where there is some apprehension as to their industrial future. Therefore, I would like the Minister who is to reply to tell us what is the Government's policy with regard to the financiers and debenture holders who are closing down industries in Development Areas. What policy are the Government intending to pursue with regard to those people? It is all very well to criticise the Government because they have not put industries in every place we would desire, but what about the industries which are greatly contributing to our national economy and which are being closed down by the debenture holders?
I know of one industry engaged upon important work which is exporting no less than £300,000 of materials to hard and soft currency areas—exports which are vital to our country and to the locality—and which is now in danger of being closed down by the debenture holders and the financiers. If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, where will it end? I hope that when the Minister replies, he will give some guidance in the matter, because it is one which will affect the whole of South Wales and Monmouthshire.
§ Mr. West
It is the Blaenavon undertaking, which is a wheel and axle plant. It has been engaged on producing for export and for the home market railway wheels and axles essential for our rolling stock, and, by its exports, has provided valuable dollar earnings. I consider it a matter of grave import, and I would like to know what the Government propose to do in cases of that sort.
There is another matter with which I am concerned. I know that the Government have endeavoured to attract many industries into the Development Areas, but I would like hon. Members to remember that many of the industries being so attracted are industries which, in the 759 artificial situation of the present time, have no roots. I want to know what steps the Government propose to take to see that, in future, the industries being attracted to these former depressed areas are industries which will continue to play their part in the life of the people of the district.
There is one further question I would like to put to the Government. It is with regard to the great steel reorganisation scheme. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort) intimated, there will be a number of undertakings which will, of necessity, close down when the great scheme is put into operation. We know that when the nationalisation scheme is brought into being, compensation will be paid to the owners of undertakings; but those people who have devoted their life's savings to providing their homes in the areas which will become derelict when the industries are closed, will be without any compensation whatsoever.
I want to know what steps the Government are taking to provide the alternative forms of employment which will become urgently necessary when the other undertakings close down as a result of the reorganisation of the steel industry. These matters are causing grave disquiet in the minds of many of our people, although, at the same time, we realise that His Majesty's Government, during the time they have been in office, have brought opportunities into these districts, artificial though they may be at the moment, and have brought into the lives of those people some measure of full employment and decent standards of living, notwithstanding all the restrictions and difficulties in the food situation. I congratulate the Government on the job they have done so far. I do not think they have done enough, and I hope they will do more, but I should not like it to be said that the consensus of opinion on this side of the House was not one of extreme gratitude for the great work which the Government have done.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I feel I ought almost to ask the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, because this is the first time that I have ventured to intervene in a Debate on Welsh affairs. It may not, however, be the last.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Being the first time, I think I will deliver it in English. I also ask the indulgence of the House for another reason, namely, that I spent last night flying the Atlantic, and my speech may be a little jaded in consequence.
I wish to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). I did my best to see that he should not be the Member for Pontypool, but my efforts were quite unavailing. He referred to the reorganisation of the steel industry, and I understand some possibility of nationalisation. He pointed out, what is absolutely true, that the men who are affected get no compensation whatsoever. It is on that subject that I want to say a few words. Other hon. Members have criticised the Government for sins of omission. I want to criticise them for a sin, as I think it, of commission. There is a proposal to close down the cold steel reduction mill of Lysaghts in Newport and to substitute for it a new reduction mill at Margam. I should like some information from the Government about that matter. The Lysaght mill at present is producing 1,000 tons a week, and it is capable of being built up to an output of 300,000 tons a year. The proposal is to close down that mill and, at vast cost, to establish a new mill somewhere else. The reasons for this decision are not known.
What we want first from the Government are the reasons why that decision has been taken. Whether an industry is nationalised or not, when a government takes a large measure of responsibility for the conduct of a great industry, it is only right that some account should be given of the decisions which are taken, in order that not only the owners but the men who are affected should know what it is about. We have had no such account so far. I observe that the original proposal was put forward some time ago, when the Government were engaging in a large number of schemes of large-scale capital construction or reconstruction, many of which have since been abandoned on the ground that everybody was trying to do too many things at once. I believe this scheme falls into that category, and I want to know whether there has been any change of heart in that matter.
761 People talk of cutting down capital construction. If it can be shown that a new project of capital construction will be of immediate benefit, say as a dollar earner, there may be something for it, but this scheme is not a dollar earner but a dollar spender. The proposal which I understand the Government are supporting will cost between £5 million and £7 million. A large proportion of that is to be spent in dollars in importing equipment from the United States of America. Is it really the intention of the Government to continue with a proposition of that kind? Incidentally, having just returned from America, I might say that I think there is some feeling in the United States that a country's capital construction ought really to be provided for out of its own savings, and that if we require new steel equipment we ought to use our own steel for the purpose, rather than ask the Americans to go short of houses which they want in order to export the steel to us.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
What does the hon. Gentleman propose American money should be spent on, in that case?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
At this moment I have not the slightest doubt that we need money to spend on food. If we could show a need for an automatic loom in a mill which would provide an immediate dollar earner, there might be a case to be made out for spending money on it, but I have not yet heard anything which could lead me to suppose that this proposal will become an immediate dollar earner. In the immediate future it will be a very heavy dollar expense.
What I want to know is whether this is a long-term project. Will it be of benefit in the distant future? If so, there does not seem to be much of a case for trying to do it now, in view of the nature of our present economy. On the other hand, is it a short-term project? If so, I would point out that the closing down of the cold steel reduction mill of Lysaghts in Newport will cause a very considerable dislocation in the steel industry. It is a self-contained unit. If it is shut down, about 1,000 men will immediately be thrown out of work. What will happen to those men? 762 They are entitled to an answer, and they should have that answer in this Debate. In the more distant future, far more than 1,000 men will be out of work. What will happen to that large number? I suppose the men will be directed or transferred from Newport to Margam. If not, what will happen to them? If they are to be transferred, how will they be accommodated?
This is a considerable human point, but I do not put it forward merely upon sentimental grounds. It is astonishing and fantastic to suggest that at this moment we can start rehousing in Margam 5,000 workers who previously lived in Newport. Heaven knows, there are few enough houses in Wales now. There are few in the industrial areas, and there are precious few in the agricultural areas in Wales. How will this enormous transfer arrangement affect the housing proposals for those men who are already clamouring for houses all over my constituency?
Up to now the Government have made no case—nor, indeed, have they attempted to make any case—for this proposal. It may be that they have got a case, but they have not tried to make it. The result is that there are hundreds—indeed, thousands—of families in Newport and in my division whose future is utterly uncertain, who do not know the reasons for this proposal, and do not know, if the proposal goes through, what is to be done for them by this Socialist Government. I hope that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Freeman) will have an opportunity of reinforcing what I am saying on this point.
So I ask the Government in this Debate—and I think that this is a specific and practical matter—to state why these reasons have not been given before. I ask for this information, too. Has an order been placed with the United States for the American equipment required for this scheme? Have the United States agreed to give it if Marshall aid is given or if Marshall aid is not given? These are the things the people want to know in Newport. What is the proposed output of the new organisation scheme, and how soon will it be achieved? Is this some distant dream which is quite out of place in our present difficulties, or is it something which is to be done in the immediate future? Last, but by no means least, I do ask for a very clear statement from the 763 Government as to what is to happen to these hundreds—indeed, thousands—of men who are vitally affected in their own lives by this decision?
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
The Debate today has covered a very wide field. Every Welsh Member is proud of the fact that we have been given an opportunity of reviewing the condition of things in Wales generally on the basis of the White Paper. I cannot, however, say that I am as delighted as I might be with the White Paper I thought at one time, when the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) was speaking, that the White Paper had been blown sky high; and I think a great deal of his criticism is still valid.
Here is a White Paper which is a collection of scraps from various Departments, each Department painting the picture as clearly, I hope, and, at any rate, as favourably as it possibly can. I rather suspect that the reports of some of the Departments are already quite antiquated, as was pointed out by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George). I wonder to what extent these reports reflect the consensus of opinion of the Departments concerned. I rather suspect—and this suggestion has been made again and again in the Debate—that a civil servant, perhaps from near the top or, perhaps, from near the bottom, was delegated to produce this report for this Debate. There has been no attempt to unify the report and bring it to a focus. It is just a disjointed statement from all the various Departments in regard to Wales.
I was much impressed, as, I have no doubt, other hon. Members were, by the very thoughtful speech made by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I think—and I am not quite Conservative yet—that he showed a truer appreciation of the position and of the things that we have in mind than the Government have done. I am sorry to say this, but I feel it. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out, for example, that Wales is very conscious of its unity, of its identity, and of its ideals, and that there is growing up in Wales a very serious demand for a large measure of autonomy. It is not a question merely of being governed. The White Paper shows a 764 considerable activity on the part of Government Departments, but that does not really satisfy any of us. What we want to feel is that we ourselves, in Wales, have the major responsibility for the life of the people in Wales. The Government have brought themselves to an impasse. This naturally leads to the demand for some control over the activities of various Departments as outlined in the report. They are left, so to speak, in the air; there is no one to impress upon the civil servants that in this, that, or the other case something must be done, and done in the interests of Wales itself.
I was very much struck, too, by another aspect mentioned by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, who has had a long administrative experience in dealing with education in Wales, and that was that in Wales they are not merely concerned with economic problems, although economic problems are very important, and we have heard a great deal about them today. As the right hon. Member pointed out, agriculture, for example, is carried on in Wales in small units under very difficult conditions. Every day I marvel at the way these small farmers carry on under very considerable difficulties. But a thriving agriculture is important for Wales, not merely from the economic point of view of the output from the land, but because it is one of the seats of Welsh culture. We cannot expect the great industrial centres to support a culture which has its roots in rural areas. Consequently, we are concerned about agriculture, not merely from the economic point of view, but more especially because of its bearing on the preservation of Welsh culture which is associated, and has always been associated, with that way of life.
In North Wales there is another small community to which Welsh culture is tremendously indebted, namely, the quarrying industry. References have been made to the very valuable report drawn up by Principal Rees some years ago; but has anything been done to try to stabilise the industry and to get it going? Now, of all times, is the period when it ought to be proceeding; but I do not know that anything substantial has been done In the White Paper report I see a reference to a quarry which I know very well and to which apparently a visit was paid. Some years ago I made a successful endeavour to get that quarry going, and it employed 765 about 30 men. It was vital to the life of that particular village, as the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden knows. Quarrymen come of a very intelligent race; they are interested in poetry, theology, religion and in singing. The loss of that community from this small village cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence, for it has undermined the life of the whole area.
I am very anxious that the Government should look again at the report made by Principal Rees on the quarrying industry to see if they cannot do something. A report is very well as far as it goes, but it does not result in a quarry being opened, or anything of that kind. Although I, personally, have tried again and again to get that little quarry going, I have failed to move the Government into taking any steps to further that industry.
The agriculturists in North Wales are very concerned about afforestation. I cannot deny that to a very large extent the farmers are against afforestation. When I was at the Ministry of Agriculture the other day, I attempted to point out the kind of difficulty that the farmers experience. The Minister told me very kindly that they only wanted a strip of land midway between the mountain heights and the lowlands, but I pointed out that this would destroy the economic basis of the small farm. The small farm depends to a certain extent on the low-land area for growing grass and other crops, and the central part of land between the heights above and the lowlands below is vital to the farmer for his sheep. If he has a few hundred sheep, which is usually the case, he turns the sheep on to the uplands in the summer and brings them down to the lowlands again in the winter, but ewes cannot be brought straight down to the lowlands or taken straight up to the heights. It has to be done in easy stages, and this central portion of land, which the Forestry Commissioners wish to take over in various parts of Wales, is vital and essential to the life of the agricultural community.
I do not see anything in the White Paper about afforestation, although we hear a good deal about it in North Wales. I am not objecting to afforestation, because I think that in certain conditions it can be very valuable from the point of view of the employment it gives. It 766 seems to me, from those areas I know, that the forestry people do not integrate into the community among whom they are living. This is very largely due to the fact that the people in authority are English and not Welsh. This is a case where we want a Minister, or watchdog, to insist that we must have Welsh people to do this job, if they can do it as well as, or even better perhaps than, the English. I conclude by saying that I think this Debate has been a glorious opportunity for us to air our "grouses" concerning Wales. I am particularly glad that there are some Members even on the other side, who appreciate the value of the small communities on the valley sides of Wales.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)
I share the disappointment of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) about this White Paper, and the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. I was, however, a little astonished to hear the hon. Member criticise this Report on the ground that it was of antiquarian interest, because I should have thought that that was probably the one feature which would appeal to him as an antiquarian of real authority.
My first criticism of the White Paper and the speech of the President is that there has been no mention of the constitutional issue. What has given rise to the agitation for a Welsh day in the House was not only the economic problems of Wales, but the fact that there has been, for some considerable time, a strong feeling in our country that Welsh matters and problems have not been adequately considered at the proper level and that new machinery was necessary if that fault was to be remedied. There is no mention in the Report of the question of devolution, or that any question of giving further measures of domestic autonomy to Wales has been considered. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up will say something on this subject, because if this Debate is concluded without a statement from the Government on that aspect of this problem, this very important function of the day will not have been fulfilled.
The right hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch)—I beg his pardon, I mean hon. Member; I was a little premature—has 767 complained that Flint is linked with Manchester in the matter of coal control, that it will be linked with Liverpool for electricity and with Cardiff for gas. Compared with my county, he has little to complain of because there are two adjoining villages there, one of which is linked with Liverpool for electricity, and the other with Cardiff for electricity. There has been no indication that the Government consider Wales as a unit, as something more than a mere geographical expression. I do not want to follow those Members from Development Areas who have dealt with industrial questions; I do not think it would be fair for me to do so, but I would like to say a few words about rural problems.
The President of the Board of Trade referred to this Report as a record of achievements, and it was described, by another Member, as a "yearly assessment"; but I find no record of the actual achievements of the Government in solving the problems in rural areas during the last 12 months. There are references to major problems, with which I do not quarrel, but in most instances there are only references to plans received and plans considered. What is lacking, both from the Report and from the speech of the Minister, is any concrete evidence of what has been achieved in those spheres during the last year. While, of course, we are all interested in what will happen in the future, we are entitled to know what has been done during the last 12 months. The report refers, for example, to problems of rural housing. Incidentally, it is interesting to make a comparison of the proportion of houses completed by private enterprise and the proportion completed through the medium of local authorities.
The question I ask myself, and which my constituents ask me, is: How many agricultural workers have been housed during the last 12 months? That is a very relevant question. It is not answered in this Report, has not been answered by the President of the Board of Trade, and I am doubtful whether the Parliamentary Secretary will answer it. How many agricultural workers have been put into new houses during the last 12 months? I am far more interested in that than I am about the Butlin camp in August of last 768 year. Reference is made in the Report to the deplorable conditions in Wales resulting from the lack of electricity in the agricultural areas. How many farms have been given the benefit of electricity during the last 12 months? Reference is made to the telephone service. How many farmers have applied for telephones during that period and how many have been provided with them?
The Report also refers to the seriousness of coast erosion; but there is no reference to when we are to have legislation to make coast erosion a national charge. How many schemes for coast defence work have been approved? Throughout the Report, there are vague references to the future, but no specific details are given for a solution of these problems. We have heard today about education and the closing of schools in rural areas. How many new schools have been built in Wales during the last year? Has a single school been built? How many schools have been closed down; how many have been condemned? My constituents want answers to those questions.
There is one point on which I feel very strongly. That is the demand made upon Wales by the Service Departments. We had a number of discussions on this matter with the Secretary of State for War at Shoeburyness on Thursday. He is not here today. He gave us no satisfaction at that conference. According to the latest figures, the contribution which Wales is expected to make is 2.08 of the total of her land; England 1.58 and Scotland 43. That is to say that, at the moment, the Service Departments are demanding from Wales for the purpose of training areas, four times the amount of land that they are demanding from Scotland.
The question which we Welsh people and particularly the people from my constituency, are asking is, "Is that fair, reasonable or right?" What explanation is there for this quite unjustifiable and inequitable demand which is being made upon the Welsh people? It is not a question of not wishing to see proper facilities being provided for the Services. The Service Departments and the training of the Forces all make demands upon the nation. All we ask is that there should be equality of sacrifice, and that when this question is being considered, Wales should not be asked to make a contribution altogether out of proportion to that 769 which is demanded from England and Scotland.
So far we have had no satisfaction in the matter. Take, for example, my own area of Cardiganshire. The War Office are making substantial demands on us, and they are establishing a specialist training area at Tregaron. To that area will come Service personnel from all over England, Wales and Scotland. At Shrewsbury I asked the Secretary of State for War—and to this I got no answer—whether it was seriously suggested that a comparable area did not exist in Scotland where such a training camp could be established, and if the camp were transferred to Scotland would that not be a contribution towards an equitable distribution of the burden? I think we are entitled to know tonight, and I hope the Government will have something to say on the subject, because this is a matter on which Wales as a whole feels very strongly, and, certainly, the people in my constituency are gravely concerned about it. The explanation given by the Secretary of State for War at Shrewsbury included references to the question of travelling facilities and to the weather, all of which to my mind were frivolous explanations of the discrepancy in the demands made upon Wales.
There is one other aspect. It is not only the question of taking land. Incidentally, the sacrifice called for from the agricultural communities of these countries should be on an equitable basis. Why should the Welsh farmer be asked to give up four times as much as the Scottish farmer? Apart from that, these training areas will be in a part of the country to which reference is made in this Report. It describes those areas as those which are most characteristic of Welsh life. In the Tregaron area the land to be taken is most characteristic of Welsh life, and the people there have no delusions about it, because if the War Office scheme in this respect goes through that area will no longer be characteristic of Welsh life. All that is best from the Welsh point of view in that area will be destroyed.
The people of Cardiganshire and the people of Wales generally are not going to be satisfied until there is a more equitable distribution of the demands of the Service Departments. In my own constituency the people are certainly going to demand some such action. No doubt the Service Departments will go to a great deal of 770 trouble in the matter. They will have local inquiries and there will be every constitutional method possible for opposing these proposals, but for all the trouble involved the Service Departments have only themselves to blame. If this problem had been approached with the paramount idea of seeing that Wales was given a fair deal, these difficulties would not have arisen. They arise because of inordinate demands which have been made on Wales, and because no adequate explanation has been given and no attempt has been made to adjust conditions.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Thomas (Aberdare)
Previous Welsh speakers in the Debate have touched upon the major problems contained in the White Paper and have emphasised those which particularly trouble their constituencies. I come from a mining valley which has contributed much to the prosperity of this country as other South Wales valleys have done. Tributes have been paid to the coalminer by hon. Members on every side of the House—indeed, those tributes have come from all parts of the country—for the magnificent effort the miners have made in providing the coal which is so necessary in these very serious times.
There is, however, a side of the picture which we tend to forget. I refer to the casualties in the coal industry, as a result of which men suffer from accidents and from industrial diseases. In the Aberdare Valley—I believe that the President of the Board of Trade overlooked this matter—within a distance of three and a half miles there are 1,500 men disabled mostly as the result of work in the coalmines. Those men ask: "What is to become of us? Are we to be left upon the scrap heap for all time?" I have a letter here on that subject, but I will not detain the House by reading it. It means this: "It takes very little time for hon. Members and Ministers of the Crown to decide upon remuneration for themselves, but we are forgotten." Those men ask me, as they ask other hon. Members: "How would you like to live upon a measly allowance of 24s. per week, if you were a single man, or £2, if you were married?"
I appreciate that the Government have done much since the termination of the war to provide work for disabled miners and ex-miners, but much has yet to be 771 done. I do not think I can be too critical on this point. Much has been said in recent months about eels and butterflies, but these men are not in those categories. They stand idly by at the employment exchanges, waiting for someone to hire them. We have heard a good deal about the Grenfell factories. Probably they have had their name as a result of the good work which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has put in, but if we are to wait very much longer the name of Grenfell will not be held in such high esteem as it enjoys now—due to no fault, of course, of my hon. Friend. We have been told that 10 factories are being, or will be, erected. We were told that in 1945. We are now in 1948. I know that one factory is being erected in Aberdare, but I heard this afternoon that it will not be completed until the end of this year.
I hope the Ministers responsible will speed up the erection of those factories so that some of these men can obtain a decent livelihood. The Grenfell factories are not touching the fringe of the problem. It is not 10 Grenfell factories that are wanted in the coalfields but more like 50 of the size at which they are being built. Owing to the economic crisis no more factories are to be commenced. Are there no other avenues by which employment can be found for these men? Reference was made in the White Paper to afforestation. Have the mining valleys been forgotten? They were at one time beautiful valleys, and if those responsible for afforestation reply that the ground is unsuitable, I would say that single trees are growing here and there which proves beyond doubt that the soil is suitable for afforestation. Let us have small forests in the mining valleys and let us again beautify those drab places.
What about the clearing of our rivers? The River Cynon overflows it banks if we have three days of continuous rain. The week before last I visited a street of houses a day or so after the floods had subsided, and found that water had come in to a depth of three feet on the ground floor. This was partly owing to the sheer neglect of the colliery owners in allowing the dirt to come from their washeries and partly to sediment washed down from the hillside. When those poor people ask whether the river can be 772 cleared, whether the council, the railway company or the colliery owners will do something, they are told that it is an act of God. That term is a blasphemy. If the Thames overflowed its banks tonight, a three or four foot wall would soon be erected. Is not that possible in a mining town where the rates are as high as 29s. 6d. in the £? I hope the Minister responsible will cause an inquiry to be made. The Minister of Transport should look into this matter because it relates to the Mountain Ash stations which were flooded out for a whole day. Railway traffic from Swansea to Pontypool was at a standstill. The loss entailed does not compare with the value of the wall which could quite easily be erected to prevent a recurrence of that trouble which those people suffer twice or three times a year. I sincerely hope that that will be rectified, and it can only be rectified for the Aberdare valley, as in the case of other Welsh valleys, by the rivers being properly dredged.
There is still lurking in the minds of those in our factories that when the sellers' market becomes saturated with pots and pans, radio sets, electric irons and electric fires, they will again become unemployed, and I support the appeal which has already been made that the Government should look into this subject in order to bring some other industries into the depressed areas so that a measure of comfort can be brought to those people. There is another point which is very important to us as Welsh people. Objection has been raised by this Minister and that Minister to printing journals in the Welsh language. There are scores of places in Wales where the people can only converse in, and read Welsh. Therefore, we as a Welsh race are entitled to get these booklets, issued from time to time by the various Departments, and particularly the Highway Code, printed in our own language.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
May I say at the outset, without any disrespect—and I hope it will be accepted by my right hon. Friend who will be answering tonight—that I must, as a Welshman and, for the time being, as the Chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, express my regret at the absence of both the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the 773 Council from what we regard as the most important day of the year for the Welsh people. I say, without any ill-feeling, that we are disappointed.
Hours have been spent dealing with the White Paper, but I shall deal only with one profound and disastrous implication in this White Paper from beginning to end. This is no Government White Paper; that is, no White Paper in which Parliament has had the least hand. It shows a great deal of hard work during the past 12 months, and great anxiety on the part not so much of Parliament or Government but of the civil servants we employ. What is the implication which runs through this White Paper? To me, as the representative of a Welsh constituency, it reveals amongst other things how Wales is being governed today. It records in 92 pages the activities of 19 Government Offices, mostly situated in Cardiff. Wales is seen in this White Paper to be governed not by Parliament but by civil servants. There is nothing derogatory or contemptuous about the expression "civil servants." I want that to be accepted without any question, and the employees in the Government offices at Cardiff know I mean that.
The liaison between the civil servants connected with the numerous Government Departments is effected as frequently, or as infrequently, as four times in the year by means of conferences held by regional heads of the different Government Departments. This is the set-up which is governing my country. Let there be no illusion about that. We are governed, probably in a very fine spirit, through the Civil Service of this country. The Minister and Parliament are purely incidental. The whole of the active life of Wales has been initiated, urged, directed, organised, controlled, decided, administratively and executively, by the Civil Service and not by Parliament. I wonder what answer I will get to that. That is the fantastic situation.
Let us realise that in this island, with the longest history of political democracy and political equality, we have drifted, almost sunk, there today. Every year this is going on increasingly. Regional offices are set up in increasing numbers and are governed, not by elected representatives, but unelected and unrepresentative individuals. That is how Wales 774 is being governed today. This voluminous, well prepared, and very well written White Paper makes that abundantly clear. The dissatisfaction that permeates the life of the Welsh people today emerges from a fact to which this White Paper, naturally, does not give the remotest recognition. Wales is a nation with its own traditions, its own language, and, I say with considerable pride, with a great mass of literature which is purely Welsh. That country is now governed by unrepresentative and unelected individuals, but it is as conscious today as ever it was of its unity as a nation. I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that we naturally resent this form of government, which is in use at the expense of our country.
In passing, I can quote a recent example. Without consultation with Welsh Members of Parliament, who are the real representatives of the people, the War Ministry ran completely amok in our country. There were no consultations with the elected representatives of the people, and the War Ministry wanted no less than one-tenth of the country. They went around ignoring local and national sentiment completely and started parcelling out a tenth of the area of the country. Nor did they show any regard for cultural or economic considerations in these matters. The anger of the Welsh people is deepening. We Welsh Members of Parliament might as well realise that we are reduced to mere ciphers whatever sense of self-importance we might perhaps apply to ourselves. The elected representatives in local government are going the same way. They find their powers being filched away and vested, as I must repeat, in un-elected and unrepresentative individuals. I do not know what comfort my hon. Friends who, like myself, represent a Welsh constituency derive from the fact that one or two Welshmen hold responsible posts in this Government. I must say that the more Acts of Parliament for which they are theoretically expected to be answerable, the more, as I shall show in a few minutes, they find themselves, even Ministers, hamstrung, inhibited and helpless in the tasks which they would like to take up.
I do not know what answer the Government will give to the representations which we are making today, but it must be clearly understood that the people of 775 Wales will not be satisfied until far greater powers are given to us as a nation to direct our own affairs. This demand implies, among other things, that greater scope and freedom must be given to elected representatives in carrying out the behests of their own people. In passing, we must admit that other Members of Parliament suffer largely from the same disabilities as we do, but we are representatives of our own country, which is Wales. I wonder whether, during today, the House has not realised that our people must see the pathetic plight to which we as private Members have been reduced.
What, in fact, is left to us to do, we, the representatives of the people? I must put this because I have emphasised the drift into the hands of unelected people of the governing of our people. Private Members have largely been reduced almost to ciphers. All that is left to us is merely to place questions on the Order Paper, where the chances are now about fifty-fifty as to whether we receive an oral answer or a vague written reply from a harassed Minister. I should in fairness admit that Members are expected to respond—automatically of course—to the crack of the whip, and to find their way to the appropriate Division Lobby, and when they have performed these onerous duties, the Executive, or the Leaders of the Opposition, as the case may be, are fully satisfied with their docile and very well behaved crowd.
Gone are the rights of the private Member, and, as a consequence, the individual and collective rights of the people of this country. A plethora of rules, orders and regulations, many of which are vitally important to our people, almost completely emasculate Parliamentary representation. The legislative machinery, which was brought into being centuries ago, has become so overworked and clogged that Parliamentary representation has been reduced almost to a cipher, unless of course an hon. Member is first ambitious, and, secondly, a representative of his constituency.
No country in the world—I say this deliberately—has made a greater contribution than Wales to Parliamentary democracy; but this White Paper shows clearly to what we have been reduced. Welsh Members have held what ought to 776 be extremely important posts in any Government. Where do they stand today, with this vast hierarchy of delegated powers away from this House, and beyond the control of a Member of Parliament? They are rapidly being reduced to something very little more substantial than ghosts in this business. A Member of Parliament is often precluded from putting questions about some of the most important Acts that have gone through this Parliament. This is illustrated to the full in the nationalisation Acts relating to coalmines and railways, where great industries and great services are handled completely outside Parliamentary control.
§ Mr. Davies
Almost, I may say, as they were before. May I make one thing perfectly clear? The people of Wales are certainly and overwhelmingly in support of the public ownership of the major industries and services in this country, but they insist that public ownership must carry with it public control, and that through their elected representatives. I should like to know what my friends, particularly my Welsh friends, who do hold important positions in this Parliament, think about the situation in these matters just now. As I have said, we, as back benchers, are merely names on the Division lists, and the Ministers are fading away more and more into their Departments.
Running through this White Paper there is something profoundly and terribly disturbing. We are faced today with nothing less than a constitutional crisis. The sovereignty of Parliament is being abrogated. If any student of our Parliamentary machine in this country denies that I must ask him to read the White Paper on Wales, to see how Wales is being governed today. Will it be the answer of the Government that much of their Parliamentary responsibility must be devolved on unelected civil servants, that this sprawling mass, as it has been described, of Departmental powers must go on? We Welsh representatives demand, in the interests of freedom and democracy, that such responsibility must devolve upon the elected representatives of the people, and that the right to govern shall be returned to the people.
I say that the first step that should, and must, be taken is to grant to Wales 777 the right to manage and control its own domestic affairs. We are painfully concerned at the way in which our destinies are determined these days by alien and unrepresentative people, alien both by tradition and by the fact that they represent no one. We are—and I do not apologise for it—a proud people. What is equally important, we are a nation of workers. Our whole history shows a high degree of political consciousness. We know our country and we love it. We have no alternative than to demand the largest measure of self-government. This would obviously relieve the appalling congestion of work in this House. It would give to the people of Wales the recognition they have long fought for, that Wales is a country, its people a nation, and that they have the right to demand that their people, through their elected, chosen representatives, should contribute directly in large measure to the government of our country.
This farce of political democracy, rule by outsiders, rule by the unelected, rule by the unrepresentative, should be brought to an end. I know that those are strong words and that they are unpalatable. I will listen with interest to anything that might be said to prove that the whole structure of his White Paper, the manner in which it came into being, does not in every way underline, emphasise and prove that, as I have said, it is the work of outsiders uncontrolled by Parliament. Parliament is not consulted. The nearest approach to consultation is the remote figurehead of a Minister who knows no more about the White Paper, until he reads it, like any back bencher, and finds out what has been done in that remote, disturbing, and possibly not very much liked country which is the country of my birth, the country for which I am proud to be a Member.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
As the Debate commenced so it ended, on the same tone and with the same lack of reality, the same lack of proportion. Indeed, after hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies), I feel like saying that even Wales has its Orpington. I was rather alarmed at the tone taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Dag gar). I was born in that constituency 778 and I certainly know what is taking place there. I thought he was using the dagger much too pointedly and digging it into the wrong back. Before this Government came into power, I heard him indulging in these attacks upon those who now sit opposite. After the change that has taken place in his own constituency during the lifetime of this Government, I did not expect so little appreciation in the speech he made this afternoon. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend asks, "What has taken place?" I will tell him. I went back to Abertillery in 1921, and was unemployed for two years; and I worked for six months and was unemployed for another three years. Hundreds of thousands of men in that coalfield were kept idle and rotting at the street corners. Now, even in Abertillery, three-quarters of the problem has been solved, because only one-quarter of the number unemployed in the days when I was there is unemployed at this time.
Mr. Dag gar
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will let me make one or two corrections? The cause of the enormous unemployment in 1921 was the closing of seven pits. These men went elsewhere to secure employment, not under a Labour Government, but under a Coalition or Tory Government. What I am saying is that this Government have done nothing to meet that position by the provision of new factories.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am afraid my hon. Friend is wrong, because a much larger proportion of people in his constituency are employed today than has been the case for 20 years. That is the answer to him. Because of the configuration of that valley, where the only flat places are used for playing football, it is obvious that factories cannot be sited there.
Mr. Dag gar
This Government did nothing to reduce the army of unemployed, and, whatever credit is due for absorbing the unemployed elsewhere, that credit must go to a Government other than this Government, because this Government has not established a single industry.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Let us examine that. The factory now being constructed at Newbridge is being constructed under the auspices of this Government, and the factories built at Rhymney have been 779 started during the lifetime of this Government.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The factories developed on the other side of the mountain are all factories started under the auspices of this Government, and give substantial employment to men and women in that valley. That is the answer. My hon. Friend goes up to the North of England and uses a microscope on the North-East coast. He does not need to use a microscope in South Wales. He can see in every valley new factories going up and new employment being provided. The position in Abertillery, when all the shops closed on Friday because the money that had been doled out had been spent, should be compared with the position there today. I shall come back to this point later on. I should like now to deal with the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), who opened the Debate for the Conservative Party. I thought it was rather strange that, in a Welsh Debate, the Conservative Party had to choose an Englishman. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about the President of the Board of Trade?"] I have not time to answer all interruptions.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman might have left his Conservative friends to defend themselves.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It was surprising that the main speech from the other side was made by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, and I must say that I do not complain either of the substance or the tone of that speech. I thought the right hon. Gentleman skirted round the part of the subject on which the Conservative Party were deeply guilty. There was no reference to what they had done. All the references were to the trimmings, to the cultural side, but the right of the people of Wales to live was left completely alone. I compliment the right hon. Gentleman on his judgment 780 and discretion in the matter. I pay tribute to him for the work he did in connection with the new Education Act, and the way in which he started it on the right road in Wales. I quite agree with him that it is in the schools that we shall preserve the language. Unless we preserve it there, it will be lost altogether. The right has now been given to Welsh education authorities, under this new Welsh Council, to determine the destiny of Wales in that connection. Education, which is the basis of culture, is now in the hands of this National Council, and, in that sense, the future of Welsh culture is in the hands of the Welsh people and their representatives on this Council.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
No, not civil servants, but Welshmen in Wales. I hope that will not lead as far as Merthyr Tydfil.
With regard to technical education, I quite agree that has been the great lack in Wales. We are now having diversified industry, and what we find is that we are unable, from our present educational institutions, to staff the new industries with technicians of our own nationality, and that more and more we have to bring in technicians who are not Welshmen in order to man these industries. I hope the new Council will take that into account, and that we shall get integrated technical education which will enable our boys to take their degrees in Wales. I know this from personal experience. My own boy is going to a technical college inside Wales, but he will have to take a London degree because there is not a Welsh one. I do not think that is good for Welsh culture.
I was asked about the position of the technical college in Flint. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is highly important, in connection with that new industry, that we should develop technical educational opportunities in Flintshire. A conference is taking place today at which we hope that the difficulties will be resolved, and the way opened for the establishment of this technical college. The Minister of Education is in conference with the authorities today, and we are very hopeful that the matter will be settled to the advantage, not only of Flint, but of Wales.
781 Much could be said with regard to the closure of village schools. In Wales, we have schools which are a disgrace and a scandal. The closing down of many of those schools is, I think, essential to the health of the children of our nation. That is not being done because there is a bias against rural schools. As far as possible, the Ministry of Education will try to keep children from rural schools in better schools in the rural areas, rather than drive them from those areas into the towns. That effort is going to be made so that we may preserve in the lives of the children that which is typical of rural Wales. On top of that, I think one ought to say that it is not a good thing for a village child, up to the age of eight, to be driven out to a town. We want to try to keep the village atmosphere, and to develop the village spirit and contacts which will always remain a very good background for such a child during its growing stages.
I now come to the complaint about the pattern of the White Paper. It is agreed that the pattern of the White Paper has changed. It was thought that this would present a better picture of the activities of Government Departments in Wales. If it is felt that this is not the right form—this is a period of experimentation—we should be only too pleased to have representations from hon. Members on both sides of the House as to the form in which the information should be presented. What is desired is not that we should keep back that which is taking place, but that we should make available for the use of the House all the information it is possible to provide. That only is the intention in changing the form of setting out some of the matters in the White Paper.
With regard to the complaint about rural roads and housing in rural areas, rural roads are bad and have been bad for generations, not only in Wales but in all parts of the country, and it will take a long time before we are able to afford the labour and materials to put them right. I agree that we have got to push on with them. What I am concerned about is that Wales shall have its fair proportion of what is going in the restoration of roads. I was also pleased to note the reference to the industrial relations experiment that is being conducted by Richard Thomas. It is a very interesting development, and I hope other firms will 782 copy that method of production committees within their units of production, and enable the workmen to play a fuller part inside industry than they have played in the past.
Let me come to the question of the slate quarries. Reference has been made to the slate quarries and the Rees Report. I am sorry to have to race along at this pace through the various points, but I want to answer as many questions as I possibly can. I am authorised to say that Dr. Hibberd, a technician, was appointed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to make an examination, from the technical point of view, of the recommendations of the Rees Report in relation to the reorganisation and the re-equipment of the slate industry of North Wales. Dr. Hibberd, who is the Principal of the Royal Technical College at Glasgow, has been asked for his report, and as soon as his report as to capital costs and things of that sort is available my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works assures me that he will take what action he may be advised in the circumstances.
As is known, the slate quarrying industry in North Wales is an extremely difficult proposition to reorganise. It will require a considerable amount of machinery and the removal of a considerable amount of overlap or over-burdening which has been allowed to remain there and in areas where it has been worked most uneconomically. It will also require a considerable amount of money. I do not wish to be too optimistic about the matter, but we are extremely anxious that the slate quarrying industry of North Wales shall make the biggest possible contribution to the availability of materials for our housing programme.
I now come to one or two other points, and I will take the question of the political structure separately. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) referred to the issue of a printed form by a petroleum officer in his constituency.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
I wish to make no kind of criticism of the petroleum officer. I think I made that clear. I place the responsibility on the Minister.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I have consulted the Minister responsible, and he says that 783 he has had his records checked. There is no authority for the issue of a form such as the hon. and learned Member has described, and he has provided me with the form which is authorised, which certainly does not read as the hon. and learned Gentleman has suggested.
§ Mr. Morris
It may be that a new form has been authorised, but I was quoting forms that had been actually issued.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am very much obliged. I hope the Department will give attention to it, because it does not sound right to me. I think it rather offensive, and I should like the thing investigated.
I come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). I thought he opened it with a typically Tory phrase. He said, "I thought we should have this routine business of before the war"—referring to all the poverty and hardship of unemployment that existed in South Wales as the "routine business of before the war."
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It cannot be dismissed from the minds of the people of Wales in that way. It is something very deeply rooted, and they do not regard their experience of the past as a matter of the "routine business of before the war." I can give the hon. Member some information on one or two matters that he raised. First, with regard to the factories producing aluminium houses. As he probably knows, the aluminium houses will continue to be produced for some time. Negotiations are taking place with a view to putting in new employers when the production comes to an end. The hon. Member went on to talk about the right of Wales to home rule—or the right of Wales to control its own affairs, shall I say? I rather thought that in his disquisition he was concerned with home rule for North Wales, South Wales to take its chance.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Member was very anxious that the people in North Wales should rule themselves; and it did not matter to him very much about the others. Consider the mining industry. The mining industry, obviously, in that section has more connections, surely, with the mining industry of Cheshire and Lancashire than it has with South Wales. It is contiguous. I believe that this was the set-up provided for many years ago. It was felt it was the only practical way of administrating the North Wales industry. To suggest that North Wales should be linked up with South Wales for the purposes of administrating the mining industry is flying in the face of technical requirements. That has been the view of the last two or three Governments. It is the view of this Government, and it is the view of those engaged in the industry, and of the miners engaged in the industry, that that is the correct set-up to protect the interests of the men engaged in the industry, on the one hand, and to get the best possible results in the industry on the other.
I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts). I was pleased that he was the first speaker in the Debate to compliment the Government on what they have done.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am corning to that. The hon. Gentleman will please take his place in the queue, if he does not mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvonshire said the future of Welsh culture is now safely in the hands of the new Education Council for Wales, and he thinks—I am prepared to accept his view—that in that sense the culture of the nation is safe and autonomy has been given to Wales in that regard. With regard to the economic side, he said, and said quite correctly, that the Government have arrested the decline in the population of Wales and turned the trend the other way. That will be gathered from the White Paper. Throughout the Development Areas we are providing a diversified industry, which is giving a surer and better economic basis for the life of the people in that part of Wales.
The hon. Member also mentioned the plight of the people in the Nantlle Valley, with which I have very great sympathy. I agree that so far the Government have 785 not succeeded in achieving anything with regard to the provision of new employment in the Nantlle Valley. I have not time now to outline what the Government have done, although they have not produced the desired result, despite the effort they have put in. I have had a discussion with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade; we shall look at it again and examine the possibilities of one suggestion which has been made whereby we might be able to transfer some industry to the Nantlle Valley to give better hope and security to as fine a body of people as exists anywhere in this country?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am trying to get through as quickly as I possibly can. I now come to the reorganisation of the five small schools that were mentioned by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones). I understand that these five wretched schools have been condemned. The idea is to put the students into two larger rural schools, and to give them better opportunities and vastly improved conditions in which to pursue their studies.
The next matter with which I wish to deal—especially as our evacuee, the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) raised it—is the question of Newport. I give the hon. Member an assurance that, as far as potential employment in Newport is concerned, Newport has been oversold; and even with the removal of the Lysaght works to Margam, and with the creation of, I think, something like 700 to 800 men surplus, there will be opportunities for them in new employment in Newport itself. On this subject the Ministry of Labour have no apprehensions. There is no intention to direct anyone away from there. For the information of the House, I would mention that in December, the last month for which we have had figures, not a single direction was issued to anybody in the Welsh region under the new regulations brought before this House. I see I have but a few minutes left—
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I really have not time to go through all the matters raised. I shall write to hon. Members and endeavour to give them information. Questions asked from all quarters of the House have gone unanswered simply because I have not the time.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
In view of the fact that my hon. Friend has not sufficient time in which to answer the many questions asked, will he suggest to the Government that obviously one day is not sufficient to deal with Welsh affairs.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I will certainly bear that in mind. I hope that next time somebody else will be replying to the Debate. The Government have nothing to apologise for in respect of their activities in Wales over the last twelve months. We have achieved a tremendous difference in the life of the common people. Compared with 1938, we have cut down unemployment by three-quarters. Employment in Wales is now higher than it ever has been in peacetime. We have 635,000 people employed, the highest insured population ever achieved in Wales in peacetime. The Government can go to the people of Wales and say, "We have done a grand job. There is plenty more yet to be done, and we ask for your approval of what we have done."
It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.