§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.45 p.m.
The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. Griffiths)
Today we are taking part in what is likely to be the last Debate in this Parliament on Welsh affairs.
It is, therefore, appropriate that we should take stock of the position and render an account of the Government's work for Wales, and her people, during the last four and a half years. We have recently published the fourth annual White Paper on Government action in Wales. These four reports form a fairly complete account of what we have done. This afternoon I can deal only with some of the salient features of our work and achievement.
It is only against the background of the past, and in particular of the inter-war years, that a fair assessment can be made both of the magnitude of the task that confronted us in 1945 and of the work we have done in Wales. I often hear from the other side of the House scornful references to planners. The economy of the Wales in which I grew up was not planned. I would not have the heart to accuse anyone of having planned it. It just happened—the product of that uncontrolled private enterprise, whose praises we sometimes hear sung in this House. The result was the most ill-balanced economic structure in any part of Britain, if not of the world.
Three-fifths of our industrial workers were concentrated into three industries, coal, iron and tinplate, and slate, or in occupations ancillary to, and dependent on, these basic industries. The countryside in Wales was drained of its population by the pull of industry, until today nearly three-quarters of the population of the 13 counties of Wales is crowded into the narrow industrial belt that spans three counties from Newport to Carmarthen. The depression that followed the First World War brought that crazy economy tumbling down and the consequence was a generation of disintegration, strife and poverty.
During most of the years in the 'twenties and 'thirties more than a quarter of our insured population was 539 continuously unemployed. Even in 1937, after some hundreds of thousands had been compelled to leave the Valleys, there were still 124,000 unemployed. The war came and its needs and demands found work for most of them. But with the approach of the end of the war our people looked to the future with anxiety and apprehension. They feared a recurrence of what had happened after 1918. That was the background when we took office in 1945.
Four years have gone by, and we can claim with confidence that the story of Wales under the Labour Government since 1945 is in striking contrast to what happened after 1918. We know full well that formidable tasks lie ahead of us and that there is still left much of the legacy of the bad old days, but we can claim that during these four years we have worked hard for the reconstruction of Wales and that the four White Papers to which I have referred are a record of constant endeavour and of considerable definite achievement. I do not want to take up an undue time in opening the Debate and I shall therefore deal briefly with only some aspects of our work. I hope that the House will forgive me if I have to leave the Debate for part of the time in order to attend a committee, but I shall be back as soon as possible.
The two major basic industries in Wales, steel and tinplate, and coal, are in the midst of a great period of technical and mechanical reconstruction. So far as steel and tinplate are concerned, their technical revolution is probably as great as the Industrial Revolution itself. In the not too distant future the new plants being built in West Wales will come into production. I know that there is concern about the redundancy that will follow. The regional office of the Board of Trade, in conjunction with other departments, have recently undertaken a very careful and detailed study of the whole of the steel and tinplate industry of West Wales. That there will eventually be considerable redundancy seems certain, but it is not possible with any degree of accuracy to predict when it will take place.
On the present information available to the Government it is possible to assume that redundancy will take place over a period of five years or more, beginning at the end of 1950. A further 540 study is now being made by the Board of Trade to ascertain the areas most likely to be affected and in which therefore new industrial development must be fostered to meet the resulting employment need. In due course my colleagues who are responsible will be making a statement to the House and to the country on the matter.
I turn to coal. Of all the coalfields in Britain, the South Wales coalfield suffered most grievously in the depression. At the end of the First World War the coalfields in South Wales employed 270,000 workpeople. Today the numbers have declined to only just over 100,000. I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will realise that a decline of that magnitude was bound to leave behind problems, both technical and human, of the gravest character. The National Coal Board has had, still has and will for some time have a formidable task in modernising production methods in the Welsh pits.
Many of my hon. Friends who have had the same experience as I have will know that even more difficult is the problem of removing the bitterness generated in the old days of strife. I think we can claim that a good beginning has been made. Hon. Members will have read in Appendix VII of the National Coal Board's annual report details of the major capital schemes authorised for the North Wales and South Wales coalfields. They represent a capital investment of more than £6 million. After years of neglect and decay it is encouraging to read once more of new development in the Welsh coalfields.
Other developments connected with mechanisation have shown very striking results. In 1945 the percentage of coal mechanically cut in South Wales and Monmouthshire was 32 per cent. as against 72 per cent. in great Britain as a whole, and the percentage of coal mechanically conveyed was 27 per cent. as against 71 per cent. That technical backwardness was part of the price we paid for the inter-war depression. By 1948 those figures had increased to 42 per cent. and 74 per cent. respectively, representing increases of 20 per cent. and 15 per cent. in a single year, and considerable increases over the 1945 level.
That is a considerable achievement for everyone engaged in the industry in South 541 Wales. Production. is increasing, and in the 12 months ended 2nd July, 1949, the output of saleable coal in the Welsh coalfield was 711,000 tons up on the previous year. Hon. Members will have seen a report in the newspapers this week that last week's output in South Wales was 496,666 tons, a record for this year. As ever, the Welsh miners are responding to the nation's call. Exports, which in the past have formed such an important part of the economy of South Wales, are also increasing. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will be replying to the Debate and will have more to say on this matter and upon the position of the ports in Wales.
For many year's past the biggest enemy of the Welsh miner has been pneumoconiosis. How serious a problem it is can be seen by studying the figures in paragraph 36 of the White Paper. The House will see at once that the problem is in the main a Welsh one. There are three aspects of the problem to which I would refer. The first is that from 5th July, 1948, the Industrial Injuries Act, for which as Minister I had responsibility, made important changes in respect of the disease. The Silicosis Medical Board no longer suspend a man with pneumoconiosis unless this disease is accompanied by tuberculosis. Diagnosis of the disability may now be made at a much earlier stage of the disease. The board can, and indeed do, recommend that men can continue in underground employment in approved conditions as to dust, subject to re-examination at intervals of not more than 12 months.
I took responsibility, after full consultation with both sides of the industry and with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power for this arrangement. I believe that hon. Members will agree that the system by which men are examined every 12 months is a vast improvement upon the old system by which they were given a certificate once, after which nobody bothered. Too often it was a certificate of death. It is too early to say whether the new scheme is successful, but it is encouraging, and we shall watch it with very great care.
The second point is that control of pneumoconiosis, as will be seen from paragraph 37 of the White Paper is being undertaken. Steady progress is being 542 made in the application of methods of dust suppression. One of the things that we have to convey to the men affected is that quick results in these efforts cannot be expected. Pneumoconiosis is not a disease that develops in a day or a month. It may take years. We shall see the results of our dust suppression increasing as the months and the years go by.
I want to pay a tribute to the work that has been done by Doctor Fletcher and his team in consultation with the Silicosis Medical Boards and the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit at Llandaff Hospital, Cardiff. They are conducting research into the diagnosis and treatment of the disease and, in particular, into rehabilitation of the victims. Pneumoconiosis is a tough and deadly enemy, but I have always believed, and I still believe, that by our combined efforts we can and shall overcome it. It is certain that the future of the South Wales coalfield depends upon our being able to do so.
The slate quarries have also been plagued with dust diseases. We are very glad indeed to have reports of experiments that have been conducted for some time in certain of the North Wales quarries in the allaying of dust, particularly in the slate and splitting sheds where they show encouraging results. We shall do our best to see that they go on.
With slate, as with the other basic industries, the position in Wales today is very different from what it was in prewar days. Then it was a matter of masses of able-bodied unemployed. Today we find that each of our basic industries—coal, iron and steel, tin plate and slate—report the same facts, that the demand for their products exceeds supply and that there is a shortage of skilled men. This is a feature, and a disturbing feature, of the economic position in Wales today. We have jobs available in all the heavy ' industries and we cannot fill them.
At the same time, we have 36,000 unemployed, and if these people could work in the heavy industries, there need not, and there would not, be one unemployed man in Wales tomorrow; but the fact is that in the main, apart from those who are unemployed for short periods between one spell of work and another, these men are unable to work in the heavy industries because of disability or because they 543 are too old. They present a special problem of a difficult character.
This brings me to what has been one of the main objectives of Government policy, and that is to seek to build a new diversified industrial structure for Wales. As is shown in paragraph 74 of the White Paper, well over 600 new industrial projects have been established in Wales since 1945, a record of which the Government has every right to be proud. Of this total, 408 of the projects are by new firms, of whom 275 have come from outside Wales, and the remaining 133 are new firms arising in Wales itself. In spite of great handicaps, very good progress has been made with the factory building programme, and as the White Paper points out, the number of new factories and extensions completed in the year under review was 201, being almost double the number completed during the previous year. Since the war work has been provided in these new industries in Wales for over 45,000 workers—28,000 men and 17,000 women.
Here I might mention something of importance to everybody in Wales and of particular importance to hon. Members from North Wales and from Caernarvonshire in particular, and that is the Nantlle and Blaenau Ffestiniog proposal. The Treasury have approved loans from the Development Fund of £50,000 to the Gwyrfai Rural District Council and the Ffestiniog Urban District Council for the construction in each area of 10,000 square feet of factory space to meet their special employment needs. The terms of the loan are on a favourable basis, and I am able to announce that the local authorities may now proceed with the practical steps to have the factories built.
The result of all these developments has been that once again the number of insured workers in Wales is on the increase. For over a quarter of a century each year saw a decline, often a steep decline, in the number. We have stopped the rot and we are now building up again. In July, 1948, the number of insured workers in Wales and Monmouthshire was 736,000, 48,000 more in work than in July, 1939. Unemployment is still at a high figure and is a problem which leaves no room for complacency, and the Government will not be complacent about it.
544 Last month the unemployment figure was 36,223, including 10,044 women. Serious as this is, it is less than one-third of the number of unemployed in 1939 and less than one-sixth of the number unemployed in 1932. As I have already indicated, the most serious aspect of the problem is the large proportion of unemployed disabled men. From the last count it appears that there are in Wales 12,000 registered disabled persons who are unemployed, and of these 4,224 were men disabled by pneumoconiosis. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who has done much pioneering work in many other fields, will perhaps join me in saying that, judging by his experience which is longer than mine, if half the time and money spent on fightting about pneumoconiosis cases in the courts had been spent on preventing it and rehabilitating the sufferers, we should be in a happier position today. One thing of which I am glad is that the Industrial Injuries Act has put an end to the sorry chapter of wasting money in that way.
Some time ago my hon. Friend the Member for Gower presided over a committee which examined the matter and recommended to the Government that a number of special factories should be built which will for ever bear his name. One of the disappointments we have had is that getting these factories occupied or developed as quickly as we would like, has been and still is a very difficult problem. Ten of the factories have been constructed, as was recommended by the committee. Five are now occupied and by September provided employment for 160 people, and they continue to develop. However, five of the factories are still unoccupied and so far all efforts to secure suitable tenants for them have failed. In addition, there are five Advance factories which remain idle so far. The Government are giving urgent attention to this problem and we are now considering how work can be brought to these idle factories.
Hon. Members will expect me to say something, for I know they are concerned about the position, of the possible effect of the economies in capital investment on the position in Wales. In present circumstances further Advance factory construction cannot be undertaken, but new projects are exempted from the building 545 restrictions if they satisfy the tests imposed by the capital investment programme, that is, if they will result in increased exports, or import savings, or satisfy an essential home need. Since October, 1947, 45 building projects totalling 950,000 square feet of Government-financed premises in South Wales have thus been exempted, including 39 new factories and factory extensions and three adaptations. These figures compare very favourably with other Development Areas.
Leaving industry and turning to agriculture and the countryside, since the war the House has passed three great Measures designed to put rural life and agriculture on a proper and prosperous basis. They are the Forestry Act, 1945, the Hill Farming Act, 1946, and the Agriculture Act, 1947. Perhaps it is not always appreciated that special machinery was established under each of these Acts to look after Welsh interests. They were the Welsh National Committee of the Forestry Commission, the Advisory Sub-Committee for Wales under the Hill Farming Act, and the Welsh Land Sub-Commission set up under the Agriculture Act. With the county agricultural executive committees, and assisted by the Ministry's officers in Wales, these bodies play an extremely important part in the rural life of the Principality. Rural Wales is making good progress towards achieving its share of the expansion programme, which aims to increase production by 1952 to 50 per cent. above the pre-war level. I know that it is finding the guaranteed markets and prices provided by the 1947 Act of real help in its work.
My hon. Friend, in his reply this evening, will give more details of the agricultural position and will in particular deal with the problem which I know is of very great interest to many hon. Members, the improvement of amenities of all kinds and the development of the public services in the countryside of Wales. I confine myself to saying with confidence that these are better days for Welsh farmers and farmworkers than they have known for many a long year. As one of them said to me in the Towy Valley the other day, "This is the best Government and the best Minister of Agriculture farmers have ever had."
If I turn to education for a moment it is because this is a subject upon which 546 many of my hon. Friends would like me to touch and some will, I know, devote the main part of their speeches to it. In the year which we are reviewing the most notable step taken in Welsh education has been the setting up in July, 1948, of the Welsh Joint Education Committee. I used to hear talk of this as a boy. Other parties promised to do it, but it is Labour that gets things done, and we had to wait for a Labour Government to get the Joint Committee to which we have been looking forward for 50 years. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that July, 1948, is of some significance to me as a Minister and I think it is assured of a place in British as well as in Welsh history.
Among the important duties which the joint committee has assumed are those formerly undertaken by the advisory councils for technical education in North and South Wales. Now the joint committee will undertake the further development of technical education which is an urgent and vital necessity in Wales, made all the more vital and all the more urgent because of the modernisation of the old and the establishment of new industries. Hon. Members who have experience of the Welsh universities and grammar schools will perhaps permit me as a layman to say one or two words about education. In past years, for reasons we all understood, education was regarded in Wales as an avenue through which to escape from industry. Now it has become essential, at least in part, as an avenue for training young people for the new opportunities that await them, and will await them in ever greater numbers in the new Wales we are building.
I would also draw attention to another development that has taken place, and which was due so much to the encouragement of my good friend the Minister of Education and to the hard work of the Parliamentary Secretary in all these fields. I refer to the encouragement given to the new development of special Welsh schools where tuition is in our mother tongue. I hope my hon. Friends from Wales will not consider me immodest if I remind them that the first of these schools was set up at Llanelly by a Labour authority. We do not boast of our nationalism at Llanelly. For us, in this best of all Welsh towns, nationalism 547 is, in the words of the popular song, "Just doing what comes naturally." We Welsh people are at our best when our nationalism is natural and at our worst when it is a cheap imitation of Hitler or Mussolini.
It is, by the date, exactly a year today since we had a Debate in which the main theme was the decision of the Government, then announced by my right hon. Friend the Lord President, to set up a Council for Wales. The Council was inaugurated in May last and is now settling down to its work. Whatever doubts there may have been about the wisdom of setting it up or, indeed, as to what place it should occupy in Welsh life or what service it could render, I hope that all those have been set at rest by the announcement, noted in the White Paper, that the Council has decided to concentrate on three important problems and has set up special sub-committees, which will be adequately serviced to study these three problems.
The first problem is the causes of the migration from the Welsh countryside, the practical measures to be taken for improving living conditions in rural Wales consistent with its traditions and culture, the revival of rural industries of appropriate kinds and, generally, the steps necessary to rehabilitate the rural areas of Wales as a whole. I think we all realise how essential it is to stress in these days that what has caused the depopulation of rural Wales is poverty. It is easy to seek an escape by calling it something else but my hon. Friends know it is still a poverty stricken life.
When I introduced the Insurance Act, some hon. Members who represent rural areas were frightened that the new social security scheme might be abortive in the rural areas because the farmers and their sons and daughters who work so hard might not be able to afford the contributions. Indeed, some of them told me that occupier-farmers in Wales at the end of a week were in many cases much worse off than if they had been farmworkers enjoying the new wage levels established under this Labour Government. Therefore, we wish the council well in studying this problem, and they might begin where the right hon. and 548 learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) started in his valuable report of 10 or 11 years ago.
The second problem to which they will give their attention is that of unemployment, with special reference to the high proportion of disabled persons. This is a problem to which I have already made some reference. The third problem is closely associated with the first one of rural depopulation and is that of marginal land. These seem to us to be problems of the first importance and we all wish the council well in their consideration of them. In their task they will have the fullest help that the Civil Service can give, and I can assure them that just as the Labour Government of 1945 established the council, so the Labour Government of 1950 will give full consideration to the advice they give us on these important problems.
There are many other aspects with which I should like to deal, but I propose now to conclude because I know that hon. Members will be anxious to take part in the Debate. Let me say in conclusion that in these past four and a half years there have been many changes in Welsh life. The old industries are being reconstructed, are being revivified, are beginning a new chapter which we all hope and believe will be a happier chapter, particularly in coal which is the industry in which I have spent much of my life. We are diversifying the industry and building a new industrial structure. There is a revival in agriculture. The basic services are being improved in both urban and rural areas, particularly the latter, as my hon. Friend will show.
The most important and significant change is in the outlook of the Welsh people. There has been a revolution in Welsh social conditions. Those who knew Wales between the wars will have vivid recollections of the atmosphere of helplessness and hopelessness that prevailed. Now the awful sense of stagnation—the feeling that life had come to an end in both the industrial and the rural areas has been changed. Today there is a new buoyancy in the outlook of all our people and faith in the future.
The day will come in the not too distant future—a day we await with complete confidence—when the Labour Government and the Labour Party will seek a renewal of its mandate. The 549 Welsh people will then have an opportunity, as will the British people, of passing judgment on our work. Just as I am confident about the verdict of the British people, I am supremely confident about the verdict of the Welsh people. I am certain that they will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant; carry on and finish the job you have so well begun."
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
When I spoke in the last Welsh Debate I prophesied that that would be my last appearance upon that stage, but unfortunately our respected and beloved chairman the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) is ill and I am here today not by virtue of myself but as his deputy. I am sure that all the House will join with me in wishing him a very quick recovery. We all miss his engaging personality and particularly his brand of mordancy of wit.
It is impossible for me to cover all the points of interest in the White paper. Other hon. Members will undoubtedly address themselves to its various sections. I shall not try to make a party speech, but at the same time I am speaking as an Opposition Member. I reconcile those two statements by suggesting that on this Welsh day all Welsh Members, whether Labour, Liberal or Conservative, are in opposition -except, of course, those in office. In general, I find the White Paper very incoherent. It has the deceptive appearance of a complete report, but so many relevant details are omitted or, at least, hidden and obscured that one seems to know less about Wales after reading it than before doing so.
Let me give two examples. My first is from the section on education, because my ignorance on that subject is less profound than it is on some of the others. Paragraph 223 mentions teachers who work full-time in the schools, and the ratio is given of 23 children to one teacher. At first sight that is not bad—I dare say a good many people in England would be very glad to think that their ratio was as low as that—but after a little thought one realises that secondary and primary teachers are all jumbled together here and that no separate figures are given for each of these 550 branches, as we certainly have the right to expect in a report of this kind.
Furthermore, in the figure of 23 to 1 there are included a vast number of small rural schools where the ratio of teachers to pupils is necessarily abnormally high. In other words, the figure of 23 to one means nothing whatsoever. It has no significance and does not help us in any way to make up our minds about the state of Welsh education. It gives no light at all on the large classes in urban areas and, in particular, on the shortage of qualified science teachers for the grammar schools in all areas. These two matters are passed over in complete silence.
In this same education section the only help we get to estimate the number of teachers being now trained must depend on the obscure indications of a paragraph dealing with the school leaving age. It is absolutely staggering to gather from that paragraph that only 72 men—52 entrants this year, and 20 last year—are at present being trained in Welsh training colleges. That is not, of course, the whole picture, but there is nothing whatsoever in the White Paper to help us to correct this impression. I have been unable to find one word in the whole of the Paper about the teachers who are being trained, for instance, in the university training department. What is the reason for this omission? Why have we to get what knowledge we have—and that, at best, an entirely incomplete knowledge—of the teachers being trained in Wales from the totally irrelevant paragraph dealing with the school leaving age of all things?
My second example is taken from pages 20 and 22 of the White Paper and relates to agriculture. The total tillage in Wales, apparently, has dropped from 657,000 acres to 632,000 acres; yet the ploughing grants for the same period are up from £200,000 to £602,000, I suppose there is a very simple explanation of this. I know it is partly because the amount of the grant has gone up, but that alone certainly will not cover all of the enormous difference between £200,000 and £602,000. If there is an explanation, surely the White Paper, had it been properly drawn up, ought to supply the means of discovering what it is.
While I am dealing with the agricultural section of the White Paper, I hope 551 that the House will note the alarming fall in the numbers of agricultural buildings. These figures hide a very tragic truth, and this is part of it. In North Wales at any rate, and, I believe, in some parts of South Wales also, when a farmhouse which has been associated with the life of the community for centuries, and which may have become famous in the history of Wales, becomes uninhabitable, the landlord generally makes no attempt to repair or to rebuild it, he merely scraps the farm as a separate farming unit; and that farm, with its history and, very often, its lovely name, no longer figures in the complex life of the countryside. Its area is added to the acreage of the neighbouring farms and another important episode in the life of Wales has closed.
From the point of view of agricultural economy this may be a reasonable policy—I do not know; but it is ruinously fatal to the communal life of the countryside and is another factor in the depletion of rural Wales. But, of course, it is no concern of the Olympians at Whitehall that in Wales another farming family has become extinct.
I turn now to a great Welsh mystery, the Council for Wales. I expected that the White Paper, in spite of the august silence which surrounds the council and its doings, if any, would say something to allay the general apprehension regarding the council; something that would be at least a partial justification for its existence. But I was disappointed, and I am quite sure that all hon. Members who have read the White Paper have been equally disappointed. Apart from a repetition of the official description of the council, which we have already had, we have five lines and one footnote, from which it appears that the council has met three times.
§ Professor Gruffydd
From my reading of the White Paper my mathematics can extract only three meetings. That is all we hear about the council in the White Paper. We know nothing of what they did, or the means by which they propose to deal with the three very important problems that are mentioned in the footnote. Of course, I am using the wrong 552 words when I say "deal with." They cannot deal with anything, but can only talk about it. Theirs is not to do or die, theirs is just to reason why. In short, the White Paper just marks another stage in our progressive disappointment and frustration, and I am more than ever convinced that there is no remedy, or even alleviation, except to gives Wales the management of her own concerns. Those who prepare these yearly reports would be doing something worth while if they were to give us the facts of the economic condition of Wales. I will explain what I mean by that; this White Paper certainly does not do so; neither have previous White Papers done so. In addition to the very scrappy statistics before us, we should be given some financial figures to help us to see what sort of balance sheet Wales can produce, what part, for instance, of the national revenue is derived from Wales and what part of the national revenue goes back to Wales.'
What is the contribution of Wales to the whole economy of Britain? We have seen today what happens in Wales. The Nationalist Party are getting very fashionable. The people who threw down those leaflets from the gallery this afternoon were republicans and not members of the Nationalist Party. One of its main arguments is that Britain as a whole takes more out of Wales than it puts into Wales. Is this correct, or, on the other hand, is it wrong? Are the Government afraid of publishing separate figures for Wales, or is Wales so submerged under the machinery of English administration that it is impossible to arrive at those figures?
I know I should be out of Order if I were today to advocate a Welsh Parliament, because that would require legislation, but I think I shall be in Order if I try to point out some of the results of leaving an adult and mature nation without effective control over her own affairs. Those who know what Wales has done by purely voluntary effort, with no help whatever from governments, those who know, for instance, of the creation of that magnificent achievement, the National Eisteddfod of Wales, must admit that if ever there was a nation of common people in the world able to look after their own affairs, it is the Welsh nation. One result of denying Wales a really responsible part in its own affairs 553 is that it has sickened under a thick pestilential rash of consultative councils; bodies which, for all practical purposes, are deaf and dumb and, for the most part, pathetically useless. Wales has become, and is regarded by these councils, as a stamping ground for local councillors and aldermen.
We Welshmen of the 19th Century, I need not remind my colleagues, used to be very complacent about ourselves—much more complacent than we are today. We used to call ourselves "Gwlad y Gdn," the Land of Song, "Gwlad y Menyg Gwynion," Land of the White Gloves, and other congratulatory epithets. Those epithets may be still true, but they do not describe Wales today. Wales had much better begin to call itself the Land of Consultative Aldermen. This suits very well all the political parties, not only the Labour Party, but the Conservatives and Liberals equally, because it is these irresponsible aldermen who are in charge of the party machines in the constituencies and they are the people who have to be kept in power since they are important when the choice comes of the next Parliamentary candidates.
Meanwhile, there is no national guidance, and the old Wales we knew, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening speech, is fast disappearing, especially in its rural parts. Everything is conspiring to destroy it. That "everything" includes a good deal of the activities of Government and when I say Government I do not mean the Labour Government; I mean the Government of Westminster. It includes, for instance, the War Office and the Air Ministry, who have taken such a slice of rural Wales as they would not dare to take from England. Yes, even a beneficent activity like forestry has earned the enmity of my countrymen, as anyone can realise who knows what is now going on in the Upper Towy Valley. This is because policies for Wales are formulated in England which knows almost as little about Wales as they know about the Colonies.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Assuming that all this is correct, all the continual neglect of Wales by this Government, will the hon. Member explain whv successive Liberal Governments—and I presume he is speaking as a mem- 554 ber of the Liberal Party—did not do what the hon. Member complains this Government should do?
§ Professor Gruffydd
The answer is very simple. I cannot begin to talk about it now; I should be out of Order if I began speaking about Welsh Disestablishment, the Sunday Closing Act and so on. all of which were passed by Liberal Governments. I am not speaking as a Liberal on this occasion, but as a member of the Welsh opposition to Governments of all parties.
The White Paper makes a great point about the factories which the Government are building, or intend to build, in Wales. We are expected to regard the construction of these factories as a favour and I am sorry to hear a Welshman speaking of them very much in the same way as Herr Adenauer would speak of concessions from the occupying powers. But the construction of these factories should be an inevitable part and an inevitable development of a free Welsh economic life, as it would be if Wales had charge of her own affairs.
I should like to mention one activity in which Wales leads the whole of Britain—I am in Order in doing so because it is mentioned in the White Paper—and to invite the House to consider the difference between the treatment of this Welsh activity and something similar in England. I refer to St. Fagans Folk Museum of Wales. The additional grant made to the National Museum of Wales to meet the cost of St. Fagans is precisely £1,000. The heavy cost of this magnificent institution has had to be covered by subscriptions from the poor and middle classes of Wales.
May I ask what happens in similar circumstances in England? At present the money pressure in that great institution at St. Fagans is due to the purchase of furniture which has been manufactured for use in Wales and which has been used in Welsh homes during the centuries. When it was decided that the furniture of Ham House in England should be acquired for the nation were the common people of England invited to contribute to its cost? Did anyone outside Government circles have to put their hands in their pockets to secure it? Oh no, the Treasury, without a murmur, forked out £100,000 for the purpose—and the National 555 Museum of Wales has £1,000 for something much bigger.
I revert for a moment to the problem of rural areas, which are the very metropolis of our Welsh national life. It will be noticed that unemployment in those areas is serious, but the White Paper successfully masks its tragic extent because it gives no figures which I can discover of the emigration from the rural areas not merely to other parts of Wales but to England and other parts of the world. We can obtain no idea of the condition of rural Wales and the depletion which it suffers unless we know the figures of that emigration.
We are duly thankful for all favours; we are glad to have factories and new industries to help to keep the integration of Welsh life, but our national monuments are not stone and mortar, they cannot very well be included in the White Paper, and I will say that as some excuse for the Government in that respect; they are our traditions, our cultural and historical association. I know that these traditions and these associations can only be preserved by the integrated activities of a nation which knows and is allowed to control its own destiny, and which can choose and regulate the means of achieving it. Wales has no hope whatever of doing that unless it is allowed to govern itself in its own Parliament.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Price-White (Caernarvon Boroughs)
The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) spoke on behalf of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, and it would therefore not be germane for me, as a member of that party, to follow him in his observations. I would say, however, that he revealed that independence and mild rebelliousness which is one of the more likeable features of his most popular make-up.
The House will understand that it is not general on this side of the House to ascribe to political opponents certain parasitical classifications such as unfortunately emanate from certain right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who are not present today. I will therefore say at the outset that we all welcome the action of the Government in asking the Minister of National Insurance to open this Debate. However one may disagree with him in politics, 556 one regards him as possessing all the fervour and all the spirit, with a heart in the right place, of all good Welshmen. I will go so far as to say that it is only when the right hon. Gentleman enters the sphere of political polemics that I suspect mental derangement on his part. We welcomed his opening the Debate, but his claims of what he sincerely believed to be the achievements of the Government in Wales portrayed, I thought, a tendency towards complacency which, if continued, might prove a great danger to the future of Wales. I hope to touch on one or two aspects in which I thought he displayed that complacency.
Let us examine the very purpose of this Debate and its history. It is to examine the record and the proposals of the Government White Paper on Wales. Almost two years ago, on the occasion of the last Welsh Debate but one, the present President of the Board of Trade, having been subjected to considerable criticism in that Debate by his friends on the other side of the House, said rather plaintively:We are only too anxious to learn in what form it would be most convenient to them"—the Welsh Members—to have the information which one would like them to have in preparation for the next Debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1948; Vol. 446, c. 702.]It is still true of the Welsh White Paper, as it was at that time, that rather misleading information has been issued. That has been the case for the last two years. Two years ago the White Paper was issued two months before it was debated; 12 months ago it was issued one month before it was debated; this year it was issued about a week ago. I assume that if next year the same Government are in power, which I doubt, we shall be debating the White Paper before it is issued. Welsh Members of Parliament can reasonably ask the Government to produce their record of achievement in time to give Members a little more time than a week to appreciate the reactions of those most vitally affected by it.
I cannot deal with the White Paper without criticising it as tending to be a collection of bits and pieces. It is almost as though the Government has been a wandering minstrel wandering up and down Wales and that these are the "shreds and patches" of which the minstrel sings, although there is no 557 soporific as in the case of the music of Sullivan.
One has only to consider some of the points which are hopelessly out of date. We are told for example that it is hoped to complete the operation of lifting the "Pluto" pipeline "this summer "—which is last summer, and we are informed about it this summer. We are informed that two years ago an attempt was made to establish a herring industry at Holyhead—that must have been very pleasant reading for the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) for we know that she is fond of Holyhead, and I am credibly informed that she is fond of herring—but that that attempt failed. That is not the sort of up-to-date information which one would expect in a book of this kind. We were told in one sentence that the time-Fable of the Welsh air service was—in a perfectly priceless piece of English:initially, not wholly attractive to passengers from North Wales….That is one of the most wonderful bits of planning of which I have heard. But the White Paper entirely forgets to tell us that the air service has proved, as was inevitable, a "flop" and has now finished. That sort of thing does not make this a completely helpful White Paper.
I deplore most of all about this White Paper the fact that there appears to be no consecutive planning for the future; there is no objective in policy for the future explained in general or detail. Therefore, we on these benches, with all due modesty, beg to differ from the Government. We have at least produced the first cohesive detailed policy for Wales which any party has produced in the past years, a policy with which I shall deal later, and which in due course it will be our pleasant duty to implement.
What were we given in Wales last year as the means of our salvation? The Council for Wales, which was very ill received and greatly handicapped from its inception. I am in no sense criticising the members of that Council individually, for we all know them to be a body of very public-spirited men and women. But it does not look as if the Council, judging by its first operations, will prove the answer to the need for producing in Wales all that is best for Wales. It was only natural that the Council should 558 have been so criticised. It was hurriedly conceived, hastily born and is now suckling in secret while its foster mother, the Lord President of the Council, is busily making a play-pen in Battersea Park. The Council, from its inception, has not been able to appreciate what we are seeking for Wales.
We on the Conservative benches propose a Minister in the Cabinet with direct and special responsibility for Wales, with that responsibility clearly marked and recognised. We feel that under him the Council would become more effective and properly effective. As it is constituted, and in its present form, we feel that it will prove to be somewhat innocuous. We do not dismiss it or condemn it because of its name and constitution. We propose—and feel that the Government should follow our proposal—that the Council should be directly connected with a real executive and effective power within the Cabinet, and no lower than that.
In opening the Debate the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly pointed out that in the great coal industry of Wales there are still many grave problems to be faced and overcome. In that I am certain we all agree. I may, quite rightly, be considered in some respects presumptuous in referring to coalmines, but on reading the White Paper I found one or two disturbing features, which the right hon. Gentleman and those of his colleagues more familiar with coalmining will appreciate better than I do. The production of saleable coal from the North Wales coalfield is decreasing, although the tonnage coming up is greater. I submit that that presents a problem which has to be watched with care. If the progression of mechanical cutting is not followed by an equal progression in mechanical washing, we shall have an increased tonnage but less saleable coal, with dire results to Welsh industries as a whole. That suggestion is put forward, not so much as a criticism, but as an indication that the White Paper presents as yet a by no means perfect picture of the coal industry.
Another disturbing feature, which may indicate that things are not so rosy in the industry under nationalisation as was indicated by the right hon. Gentleman, is the increase in absenteeism at the coalface. The White Paper tells us 559 that, from the beginning of the third quarter of 1947 to the end of the second quarter of 1948 inclusive, absenteeism amounted to 11.50 per cent. From the end of the third quarter of 1948 to the second quarter of 1949, it was 13.92 per cent. That represents an increase of 19 per cent. as opposed to the figure for the rest of the United Kingdom of 10 per cent. That is something which we have to examine, and which entitles one to doubt whether the state of affairs among the Welsh coalminers under nationalisation is all that we are told it is.
Another feature is that the increase in accidents due to falls is directly attributed to an increased disregard of the regulations. Luckily the fatalities from these accidents show a decline in the past year. But if this increase is the result of a disregard of regulations, the right hon. Gentleman may be accused of complacency in what he told us earlier about that industry.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the allocation of the new tinplate mines. I was glad to know that he, and I assume the Government, appreciate the danger of pockets of unemployment when these great new centres are opened and in operation. It is a problem which may suddenly appear in South Wales. I trust that the Government will have the good sense to plan for it now, and not wait until the problem turns up and then endeavour to deal with it ineffectively.
I wish to deal briefly with certain proposals in the White Paper referring to hydro-electrical development; a matter which is causing contention in North Wales, having regard to the provisions of what is certainly a vast scheme by the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board. We must be prepared to develop our potentialities in Wales, hydro-electrical or otherwise, to the full. We must also, after having regard to our own demands, be prepared to share our production fairly and equally with others. But there is grave concern, and properly so, amongst local authorities' associations and individuals in North Wales as to the vastness of this proposal for Snowdonia.
It is to the credit of the Board that they made known the tremendous scope of this proposal as soon as possible, because it 560 would be a very dangerous thing if, as so often happens, something were proposed, signed sealed and delivered before the persons most affected knew of its very existence. I hope that some form of sensible compromise may be brought about whereby we produce such hydro-electricity in North Wales as we can, without spoiling one of the most beautiful bits of scenery in the world. As at present constituted, the plan proposes a power station, of all things, slap in the middle of Aberglaslyn Pass. Surely that can be avoided. I trust that all interested parties will be fully apprised of this scheme and will have an opportunity to express their opinions, and that, where a sensible compromise is possible, the protection of the North Wales scenery will be achieved.
It has not yet been proved that the vast amounts proposed to be spent on this hydro-electrical scheme are justified, having regard to the amount of electricity to be produced. We do not mind producing electricity, provided we can be assured that we shall have first priority for the service in our rural areas, for the electrification of farms and businesses. But the spoliation of the countryside to provide a few extra million kilowatts for Stoke-on-Trent is something to which we would, quite properly, never agree. If these schemes are proposed, there will have to be some protection of the countryside and no exploitation of our resources for the sake of the general grid.
The right hon. Gentleman touched briefly on the Welsh ports. We are glad to know that they are working under better conditions than was the case a few months ago. A return to the artificial prosperity of the war years is impossible, and I trust that the reason for that artificial prosperity may never come back. At the same time, I enjoin on hon. Members opposite, and hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House, not to laugh at what is proposed in the Conservative policy, but to study it. It may well be something which they will have to fight harder than they expect at the next Election, because they have nothing similar to hold up against it. I ask the Government, and especially the Minister of Transport, who is so vitally affected, to pay due regard, in spite of necessary economy cuts, to the opening up of the Welsh ports by new roads to 561 the Midland regions and elsewhere. A real revival can never come until these communications are vastly improved.
I trust that the Government will carefully watch the diversification of industry. The light industries, of which so many appeared in Wales during the war, and since, are apt to prove themselves a mixed blessing. I trust that they will not distract attention from the really important heavy and medium industries. When one reads the White Paper, one appreciates that there is a danger that something of that sort might happen. We have already six million square feet of factory space built under the programme, and another 13 million square feet are envisaged. Yet, at the same time our labour force is limited. The demand for fit males for the heavy industries is acute.
From the White Paper it would appear that factory development has gone ahead without due consideration of the labour available for staffing the factories when they achieve production. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have lost sight of that point. It is a matter which we on these benches must keep under the most minute and detailed examination if the whole idea of the redevelopment of factories is not to lose its effectiveness because of a disregard of the labour available.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government should stop the building of factories because of the shortage of labour, or that labour should be brought to the factories from outside?
§ Mr. Price-White
I suggest that the Government, as they proceed from factory to factory, should plan according to the available labour in the various localities and elsewhere. I need only instance the fact that there are six factories which have tenants. We are not told how many are in production. There are four other factories, and we are told that one or two tenants are being considered. Why in these days should we go charging on with the erection of factories unless we are satisfied that the troops will be there to man them?
On the question of agriculture, the acreage under tillage in Wales fell by 25,000 acres last year. That decrease does not apply to Wales alone I am afraid that it is general throughout the 562 country. The Minister of Agriculture must be concerned as to whether the targets for 1950 and 1951 will be achieved. To a great extent the trouble is that the farmer has been asked to advance on three fronts at the same time. He is asked to produce feedingstuffs, food for human consumption and crops all at the same time.
Again, the trouble is the absence of an adequate labour force. I think that the farming community were prepared to accept the gradual reduction and eventual disappearance of the male agricultural labour pool which was announced recently by the Government. A matter for deep concern was the announcement a few days ago of the decision to disband completely the Women's Land Army. A labour force of 15,000 women for the farms will disappear by a stroke of a ministerial pen. Can we achieve our agricultural targets if something is not done to remedy the situation? I trust that the disbanding of the Women's Land Army will be delayed until the labour position improves.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the disbanding of the force as a force because of its administrative costs in relation to its numbers, does not mean the disappearance of the women from the industry. There is nothing to stop farmers employing and paying the women directly and treating them as ordinary workers in the industry. Indeed, one hopes that everything will be done to encourage the farmers to do that, and I am sure that they will.
§ Mr. Price-White
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that interjection which will certainly allay great fears which have arisen in the minds of many farmers in Wales. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) will know that the National Farmers' Union of that county were so concerned at the labour position that they passed a resolution which will reach the Minister in due course. That resolution doubts whether the farmers of that county will be able to achieve their targets unless the labour position changes for the better.
The Hill Farming Act, which affects us very much in North Wales, has not had a very happy result. Almost four seasons 563 have passed since it became law, and only 74 schemes have been approved in detail out of 1,391 which have been submitted. Apart from certain minor routine works, no evidence of one single comprehensive scheme being approved has yet been seen. The hill farming community are beginning to form the impression that the whole business is a bit of political window-dressing and nothing more. The sooner something is done to ensure that the Hill Farming Act receives a far more practical implementation, the better it will be. We on this side of the House submit that something in the nature of a Hill Farming Act is necessary to deal with marginal land in Wales.
In the White Paper, as the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) will have noted, slate quarrying enjoys three short paragraphs. One deals with the subject mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, which we all welcome, I refer to the progress achieved in the allaying of dust in the quarries. I hope that that work continues. People in the quarrying industry wonder where the Rees Report has been pigeon-holed. It was published in 1946, but since then nothing has been done. We as the official Opposition, press that the Rees Report should be brought out, the dust shaken off it, and its recommendations put speedily into operation.
The quarrying industry of North Wales has an opportunity such as it has never had before to enter markets everywhere, but in certain respects it is handicapped by controls. I note that the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is present. I do not know whether it was during the time that he has held office that this trouble occurred, but the Board of Trade sanctioned the export to Eire of 40 tons of good Welsh slate. The Ministry of Works said that the slate had to measure 12 inches by 12 inches. The Irishman said that he did not like that and if he could not have slate measuring 12 inches by 18 inches he would not take delivery of the 40 tons. It took about one month of negotiation to get that 40 tons of slate into the new market. That is the sort of thing that happens, and it irritates the people in industry.
As in other industries, the quarrying industry has a labour problem largely 564 brought about by the lack of skilled rockmen and other workers. Part of our Conservative policy for Wales is an increase as soon as possible in the number of technical schools so that we can provide for our slate quarries young trained rockmen. We want to provide attractions in the slate-quarrying industry in order to build up the labour force and give the industry a chance which, if something is not done quickly, it will lose.
By the end of this Debate the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues may be forgiven for saying, "Well, what do you Welsh people want?" There will be demands made from all parts of the House, and I would not blame any Member of the Government who scratched his head and asked, "What do you want?" This afternoon we have had an example from the Public Gallery of what I am glad to say only a very small proportion of Welsh people want. The great cry is for a Welsh Parliament within five years. We had a broad hint from the hon. Member for the University of Wales. I am not prepared to say that a Welsh Parliament—
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr, Bowles)
That would require legislation, and therefore it is out of Order to discuss it on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Price-White
I overlooked that, and I apologise. Perhaps we shall find out the real answer through the Minister and the Council which the Conservatives will be setting up some time in the middle of next summer.
We are told in certain quarters of certain injustices which we are enduring at the hands, not of the wicked Tories, for a change, but of the wicked English. Quite frankly, that is a state of affairs which I have not noticed particularly, and which I will not accept. At the same time, one must make the reservation that there is very much to be done before we receive full recognition of our national entity and background and the potentialities of our race. The question is how and when that objective may be achieved. But of one thing I am certain, and that is that this White Paper gives us no great encouragement that that goal is immediately to hand.
There is one tendency which, in all sincerity, I deplore. It is the tendency in certain quarters of Wales to moan 565 about our alleged injustices and about our lack of opportunities. Why cannot we Welsh take a greater pride in our race, our history and our potentialities? Let us hear a little less about wasting time and opportunities, and less denigration of the people of our country.
Whether the White Paper is the answer, or whether it will produce the answer, I very much doubt. The Welsh people have a very great individuality, and the whole system of Socialism seeks to mould them in one class. The system of Socialism is not compatible with the characteristics of the Welsh people, nor will it be accepted by them as a whole. Many hon. Members will know the story of the reason why Socialism cannot work—because it is not needed in heaven and is already possessed in hell. It will not work in Wales; nor does the White Paper give any real guide to us that it ever will.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Mort (Swansea, East)
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White), and particularly to his comments relating to the appeal of Socialism to the Welsh people. I would urge him not to get too despondent about it, for he knows the Welsh people as well as I do. I can assure both the House and the hon. Gentleman that, judging by past tendencies, the Welsh people are showing the characteristics of their race in every respect, and, of course, the greatest example of it is found in the number of hon. Members they return continuously to this side of the House.
Personally, I am very pleased with the White Paper presented by the Government. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) has said that we are all in an opposition party now, and possibly there is an element of truth in that. I am not going to say that the White Paper is the last word, or the very zenith of the heights we have been striving to reach. I criticise the White Paper more for what is left out of it than for what is put into it. I believe there are serious omissions from it, with which I am personally concerned, and it is a particular aspect of that case that I wish to present to the House.
At last, this Government have gone in for the provision of much needed facilities in a big way by the development of the steel plant at Margam. We look to the 566 Government to give us the picture, whether dark or bright, of the position in Wales, whereby we can assess correctly the difficulties we have to meet. Now, at least, there has been a diagnosis. Possibly, the patient is not making very good progress, and so we look round to see if we can be satisfied that the diagnosis is correct and also to formulate ideas with which to tackle the particular problem, though I do not suppose many people in Wales will consider that one day per year is an adequate time in which to discuss Welsh affairs. But at least, today we can discuss the problems that face our country.
I wish to raise one particular problem which I have raised before, and I make no apology for doing so. My right hon. Friend referred to it in his opening speech. It is the problem of the redundancy that must occur in the steel and tinplate trade of South Wales. My right hon. Friend said that there "might be" redundancy, but there is no doubt about it. Considering the size of the problem which has to be faced, and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred to it, I am personally astonished at the easy pace—it is almost no pace at all—at which the Government are concerning themselves with this problem which must arise.
We have at Margam a great monument of engineering skill, and, when complete, it will be one of the finest plants in Wales if not in the whole world. It is a marvellous piece of work, and I feel proud that we as a nation have been able to create it. Some people thought that we were backward, yet we have been able to build this marvellous plant to supply the needs of this country. I should like to relate what one old tinplater told me; he was a worker-philosopher. I said to him, "What do you think about it?" and he replied, "It is wonderful, but it is no consolation if your scaffold is made of gold, when it is going to cut off your head." That is the attitude of the people there, and I want the House to believe that not a week that passes when I do not receive representations from people who live in areas which will become derelict when the Margam works become fully operative.
What is the fear in the hearts of these men? They have experienced this trouble 567 before, and they can visualise a time when they will be walking the streets, possibly dependent on the earnings of their sons or daughters. There are men who have taken a pride in contributing to the brightest spot in British industry—the steel and tinplate workers. They are now looking to the Government to give them some hope that this problem is being dealt with.
I know that it is not going to be sudden, and that it will not just drop from the heavens. There will be a process of time during which the smaller works will go on supplying the demand, but we know (that it is inevitable that, when the Margam works get into full development, there may be as many as 10,000 unemployed. That is what some people say, and, quite possibly, it will be so, because the Margam plant cannot absorb the labour that will be displaced, and that is the problem which I want this House to understand. The labour that will be employed in Margam is more mechanical; it is not like that operating in the tinplate trade, the cannibal side of the steel industry.
We have a right to make this request to the Government. What was the argument put forward when the coal redemption plant was moved from Swansea to Llanelly? There was no financial argument, because it cost more. There was no equipment argument, because there was better equipment and a better site in Swansea. The arguments then used by the Government to the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. P. Morris), the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and myself were based on the sociological aspect. The Government were then prepared to brush aside the advice of the engineers. They said that we must concentrate on the sociological side. I want the Government to implement that policy and to apply it in this direction as well. The men who are making this contribution are entitled to some consideration, and I appeal to the Government tonight to open the iron curtain and to allow at least a chink of hope to come through so that the men who are making this wonderful contribution, economically and industrially, may have the hope that when the occasion arises, the Government will see that they get a fair and square deal.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I am not going to attempt to cover the wide area traversed by the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White), and perhaps I might say in that connection how glad we all are to see the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) attending our Debate. This is the first time in my memory, that we have had such a very distinguished representative of the Conservative Party on the Opposition Front Bench in a Debate on Welsh affairs. I hope it may be some evidence of a new interest in Wales and its affairs.
Neither am I going to follow the hon. Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort) in the very important point which he has raised. I shall only refer to two matters, the first of which is the hydroelectric scheme for Wales. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House representing Welsh constituencies fully realise how vital it is that we should have an adequate supply of electricity for industrial and agricultural development in Wales, and for the provision of light in the villages where the need is so great.
For instance, in my own constituency of Anglesey, the great majority of the people are without light. I say that, of course, only in the material sense and not in the political sense. They need no further enlightenment on that score. Electricity schemes are proceeding in that county and in others, but only very slowly indeed. In this twentieth century it is really quite indefensible that great areas of our country should be without power and light, particularly when we compare our position with other countries quite as small as Wales. Therefore, it seems to me that it is our duty to consider with the utmost care, and without prejudice, the proposals of the British Electricity Authority.
At the same time, I am sure, hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree equally that it is our duty to see that our priceless heritage of natural beauty is not impaired. Judging the question from purely material considerations, our scenery is an economic asset from the point of view of the tourist industry. Without it, we should not attract the great numbers of people that we do to 569 enjoy the amenities of our countryside. Heaven knows, we have allowed lovely stretches of our countryside and of our sea coast to be defaced in our day, and that without protest. We have too often been silent witnesses, to our eternal shame, of vandalism in Wales. This, I believe, is because in the past we have been too ready to think that all development is good. That is a mistake, and certain areas of South Wales, unfortunately, bear the most hideous testimony to hasty, ill-considered and gready development. I fear that we shall never be able to repair those ravages. Let us see that that sort of thing is not perpetrated on in other parts of the Principality. We ought to proceed in this matter with a deep sense of our responsibilities, not only to the present, but to the future.
I understand that six proposals have been made by the British Electricity Authority. The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs referred to the proposal to erect a power station right in the middle of the Pass of Aberglaslyn. That proposal, I understand, also involves the diverting and the drying up of the river bed near that Pass. It is one of the loveliest bits of country, not only in all Wales, but in all Britain. I do not think the earth can show anything more fair. I should have thought that any Welshman or Welshwoman worth their salt would have revolted at a piece of sacrilege of that kind, and I hope that, whatever happens, that proposal will not be implemented.
I was very glad to hear the Minister of Fuel and Power say some time ago in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) that the Mersey Electricity Authority could not proceed without statutory powers, and that all local authorities would be fully consulted in due course. I am also glad to know that arrangements are to be made for representatives of Welsh constituencies in this House to meet the Minister himself to discuss the whole situation, so that we may be in full possession of the relative facts. We need a very great deal more information than we have today. There are the wildest rumours going round Wales at the present time.
We are told, for instance, that there are going to be conrete-lined canals 570 large enough to take a barge, that these will encircle the mountains, and that we are going to have power houses six feet to the eaves, surrounded by storage gear and transformers, and that staff bungalows will spring up like mushroom towns in these lovely valleys. None of us knows whether these rumours are unfounded or not, but it is our business to find out.
I wish to pursue another point made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs. Who is going to benefit from these works? Are they being undertaken merely to give a supply of electricity to North Wales'? We do not want to be selfish, but, quite honestly, North Wales has provided water supplies for a great many English cities. Are we now to provide power as well for English cities? I think we should know. We have been told that these schemes will save coal—that if we harness the waters of North Wales we shall save about 374,000 tons of coal a year, which is rather less than half a day's output from our mines.
It will be some years before these schemes are put into operation; we do not know how long. Some people say 20 years, but, at any rate, it will be a good many years. Shall we then be so anxious to save coal as we are today because by then other sources will have come back into full play again. We may also have other sources of new power by that time. All these are perfectly reasonable considerations which, I submit, must be taken into very serious consideration before we embark on this great new scheme. After all, we in our generation are the trustees of our national heritage and we must see that we do not betray that trust.
I have one other matter to raise, and that concerns that august body, the Council of Wales. The Minister of National Insurance mentioned in his speech this afternoon a great many of the problems with which we in the Principality are faced. He spoke of the decline in unemployment. We rejoice in that decline, but we must remember that the rate of unemployment in Wales is still higher than it is in the rest of Great Britain. There are still pockets of unemployment. I have one or two black areas in my constituency, principally in Amlwch and Llangefni. In that connection I should like to ask how many workers—and this is important if we are discussing 571 unemployment in Wales—have left Wales in the last four years, and how many foreign workers, including Irish workers, "have been brought into Wales not only in the last four years but what the influx has been in recent months? I hope very much that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will give us some information on this point when he comes to reply.
All these are problems which, if the Council of Wales is worth having at all, should be considered by it. We should like to know what it is doing. We had a sketchy reference to its activities by the Minister of National Insurance. This body was formed, I think, 10 months ago. Many of us criticised the set-up in the Debate last year. We criticised it because we said it was not only inadequate but totally irrelevant to the problems of Wales. I do not criticise its personnel. I have the greatest respect and admiration for many of the members of that council. Tt is not their fault, but it is the responsibility of the Government. I very much wonder what the Lord President, who was instrumental in setting up this body, would have said if a spineless body of this kind had been offered for the government of London. Would not his Cockney spirit have revolted? I think well enough of his metropolitan patriotism to feel that it would have done.
An appeal was made to us in that Debate to treat the council gently and to give it a chance to show what it could do. As I say, it has been there for 10 months; it was set up in the New Year. It started off in a blaze of glory, if I may so describe the Lord President's meteoric visit to Wales on that occasion. It has met, I think, not three times as my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) said earlier in the Debate, but four times; that includes, which perhaps he did not do, the inaugural meeting which quite rightly—I do not complain about that—consisted mostly of a fanfare of trumpets. But what has it accomplished? We do not expect it to achieve miracles, but we do expect it to have done something in 10 months.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the council has set up some sub-committees It has set up a sub-committee to consider 572 the repopulation of the rural areas—a vital problem. In Anglesey the death rate exceeds the birth rate. That is a very serious problem which needs a great deal of consideration. There is going to be a sub-committee on unemployment and economic problems; a third is to consider marginal land. All are absolutely vital problems which cannot be considered adequately in a few occasional meetings with inadequate staffs.
I should like to ask how often these sub-committees are to meet. I should like to know what staff they have at their disposal. The Minister of National Insurance told us this afternoon that they could make the fullest use of the Civil Service, But this is a whole-time job, if these sub-committees are going to do any good at all. It is not just going to be something which the Civil Service, however devoted they may be, can do in a few hours or in a little leisure time left over from the very hard work that they have to do already.
This is not an ordinary council, it is not just another committee, so the Government tell us. This is the Government's answer to the demand in Wales for a greater measure of autonomy. May we know a little more of its activities? My hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales expressed his dissatisfaction with the White Paper. If the White Paper is a measure of the effect that the council has had on Welsh problems, then it has not caused a ripple on the waters. The Lord President said in the Debate last year that it was going to do a good job for Wales. I hope that we shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary two or three things, or one thing if he likes, in which the Council has really done a good job of work for Wales.
A great Welshman and Liberal, Tom Ellis, said many years ago:We demand for Wales the power of initiative and decision in our own affairs.This council which has been set up by the Government provide neither the power of initiative nor of decision. I believe that the only thing that the Government have achieved in setting up this council is to drive a great many people to the conviction that there can be no half-way house for Wales and that we must have the management of our own affairs in our own hands.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I have considered very carefully this White Paper and, having considered it, I must say that the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) has tried successfully to side-track the Debate. Anyone Who goes through this White Paper impartially and objectively, cannot but be impressed by the fact that here is a record of the rejuvenation of Wales. Every item—the production of coal and steel, agriculture, transport and docks—tells an objective story of progress in every industry in South Wales. Those industries were decaying—if I may be pardoned for saying so—during past Liberal and Conservative Governments—
§ Mr. Cove
They were decaying not because there had been an invasion of the beauty spots but because there was the corroding influence of mass unemployment amongst our people. I am, therefore, proud, in what will perhaps be the last Debate on Wales in this House to pay my tribute to the Government for what they have achieved in the realm of economics in Wales. It is all very well, if I may say so with respect, to talk about the cultural life of Wales. What Welshman or even half-Welshman would deny that the cultural life should be developed and nurtured? But one cannot build a cultural Wales on the quicksands of unemployment.
I am impressed by what the Government have achieved in having resuscitated and revived the old, major industries of Wales, in having provided a great diversity of industries in Wales—for the social consequences of the revival of the old industries and of the growth of the diversified industries are absolutely tremendous. The whole social, family and cultural life of Wales depended upon that. I ask the noble Lady to cast her mind back to the days of the white slave traffic of the young women of Wales. They were brought to London. They were brought away from the villages of Wales. Why? Because they could not find work in Wales.
Today we have in this White Paper a record of employment in Wales which has rehabilitated the family. It has found 574 work for thousands and tens of thousands of young women whose moral life must be degraded in a period of unemployment; I say, therefore, that from the social, moral and family point of view in Wales this Government, by what it has achieved in the realm of employment, has rehabilitated the whole cultural and national life of the Principality. In the past 20 years I have not been afraid to walk into the Lobby against Governments time after time, but I cannot oppose this Government when I have a picture in my mind of the former conditions in my constituency, in Merthyr in the Rhondda Valley, when shops were closed in street after street, with cobwebs hanging from the windows. What is more dreary in an urban area than unoccupied shops?
I remember women and children without shoes on their feet; I remember in my constituency—and this is a literal fact—women and children keeping themselves warm in bed with newspapers. They did not have enough capital left out of the unemployment benefit of 22s. for a man and his wife, with 2s. for the child, to buy a frying pan when it needed renewal, and much less did they have clothes to keep themselves warm. The women in my constituency now show signs of health and vigour and—I hope I shall not be misunderstood—proud respectability; and I say, therefore, that the Government have every reason to be proud and satisfied with the achievements of today.
One of my hon. Friends said he would like to know the figures of the numbers who had gone out of Wales in the inter-war period. He can get them here in this book. It is half a million—half a million decanted into England, not because an English Government was repressing Wales, but because of the corroding influence of unemployment. I have here the figures of the effect on the child population pf Wales—the children who were inevitably to be the future fathers and mothers of a virile Welsh race. I have the figures for the primary schools of Wales. What happened between 1919 and 1938? There was a drop of over 105,000 in the school pupils of Wales. They had gone to areas like Slough, Welwyn Garden City, Birmingham—I hope, from a political point of view, to civilise the English. Anyhow, they had gone out of Wales—gone, 575 as I keep emphasising, because of unemployment.
My hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) talked about the ratio of teachers to the size of classes. He said that, according to the White Paper, the ratio was one teacher to every 23 children. In spite of the difficulties, there is no other country, not even Scotland and certainly not Northern Ireland, with such a good record. Northern Ireland was mentioned, but if we are to become like Northern Ireland we shall get many classes of 70. Under this Government, in the field of education we have in Britain and the British Isles the lowest number of pupils per teacher. We have more graduates in the elementary, primary and secondary schools than other countries. That shows to me quite clearly that in the field of education the Government have done well.
I should like to interpolate that I agree with what has been said about the emphasis on technical education. Why have we suffered from a lack of technical education in Wales? Why has there been an emphasis on the training of preachers and teachers? Not because there was a predisposition on the part of students to become teachers and preachers, but because there was no outlet in the hinterland of Welsh industry for the technically-trained person. I hope I have made this point clear, for I think it is of tremendous economic and social importance. With the extension of diversified industries in Wales, and with these diversified industries demanding more technical knowledge, there will come a new emphasis in the educational world on technical education.
Perhaps I may put it this way: the schools and colleges of Wales will respond to the Government's emphasis on the erection of diversified industries in Wales. I am glad to see the record in the White Paper of the proposals to increase the number of technical colleges and technical schools in Wales, and particularly in North Wales. In this respect North Wales has been very bad indeed. There is very much more I could say, but I see my hon. Friends looking at me.
The noble Lady has poured flowery scorn on the Welsh National Council. She said it was quite irrelevant to the problems of Wales. I completely and entirely 576 deny it. I challenge the Leader of the Liberal Party to get up and say that it is irrelevant.
§ Mr. Cove
It is relevant in one respect. I have some recent figures relating to the poverty of Wales. The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself has pointed out before now, the poverty of the rate resources in Wales. If hon. Members will look at the Ministry of Education Report for 1948—and I hope hon. Members have noticed these figures—they will see in Table 84 some very important figures. I am going to give only two. A penny rate for the whole of England would bring in £1,324,648, and the rate per £ is 58.9d. The product of 1d. rate in Wales—for the whole of Wales, mark you—is £49,641. These are official figures. The poundage rate is 85.6d.
It seems to me cruel, misleading, politically hypocritical to give to the Welsh people the idea that some alternative body can be formed in Wales, apart from the National Council, based on a rateable income that is there depicted in the official figures. It cannot be done. We have not the figures for Wales of Exchequer receipts, but we have got them for England, Wales and Scotland. Scotland pays into the national Exchequer—and Scotland has a population of about 5,000,000, and we have half of that—£182 million. The Scotsmen are robbing the English—getting more, I am afraid, out of the national Exchequer than they are putting in. Good luck to them.
The truth is that, having regard to the leaner financial resources in rates and taxes in Wales, this body is the only body that can consider all these factors directly related to Wales, having, as it has, the full apparatus—and if I am wrong the Government can correct me—of the Civil Service.
§ Mr. Cove
My hon. Friend says "No." I prefer to call her my hon. Friend than the hon. Lady. I have given a lot of attention to the proposal, and I repeat that, with the full Civil Service apparatus, the Council can consider all these major issues. I say quite definitely that when we go to the Election in Wales the record of the Government will be such that we 577 shall triumph as a Labour Party overwhelmingly.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)
I am sorry the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Price-White) is not here, because one thing he said aroused my Celtic spirit. He complained that the Government were late in producing this document. I want to tell him that we are still waiting for his party's White Paper on Wales. I want to congratulate the Government on the production of this document. There is a good deal of sterile malice in some quarters about everything and anything the Government do, and it is time that the Welsh people were told the full story of the achievements of social democracy in Wales for the Welsh people.
It is a valuable document giving the facts and figures which enable us to frame an overall picture of the state of the nation. Of course, it can be improved as a document, but it is the first document of the sort any Government has brought forward. Anything like an annual statement on the state of the Welsh nation no other Government have tried to produce. Probably having regard to their record in Wales they never dared to. It is a usual criticism—and I may indulge in it later myself—that the White Paper leaves out this or that particular. So far as I am concerned, the main deficiency of the White Paper is that it does not give the comparative figures for the pre-war years in Wales, when Wales was at the mercy of the parties opposite. What a contrast that would reveal.
Let us take employment. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was quite right in saying that it is useless to expect a national cultural and social life in Wales without a foundation of economic security. We have today some 36,000 people unemployed—that is 36,000 too many—but the average of unemployment in Wales during the 15 years preceding the war was 167,000; and at its peak, in August, 1932, it reached the almost incredible figure of 244,000—a quarter of a million unemployed in a nation of 2,500,000.
Now it is perfectly clear to some of us that if those pre-war policies had been allowed to continue, they would have sealed the fate of the Welsh nation as such, and we should have been left with 578 nothing to preserve except our scenery. It is too often assumed that those vast armies of unemployed were to be found only in the industrial south. The truth is—
§ 6.0 p.m.