§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Second Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 8844) and of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to rural Wales as set out in Command Paper No. 9014.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
On a point of order. The White Paper of which we are asked to take note deals specifically with the question of rural Wales. The Amendment put down by the Opposition also deals especially with the subject and the interests of rural Wales. I understand that there is a passing reference to the Severn Bridge in the White Paper in the summary of the Council's activities. May I therefore take it that it would be in order for the question of the Severn Bridge to be discussed this afternoon? May we further take it, in view of the fact that the Minister of Transport said that it would fall to be dealt with by the right hon. and learned Member, that the Minister proposes to tell us what the attitude of the Government is.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not wish to anticipate any decision that may arise in the course of the discussion, but my view is that the construction of a great bridge carrying a highway into Wales might affect rural Wales as well as urban Wales. Without pledging myself to a hypothetical decision, I should think that references to the subject would be in order, because it would certainly affect rural Wales, as I see it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The debate to day will be concerned mainly with the problems of rural Wales, but it is clear, from the terms of the Amendment which has been published on the Order Paper, that the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire deals also with other important matters, on one of which I shall have something to say later in my speech. I should like at once—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with the question which I have raised?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I shall deal with the matter in my own way and in my own time. The hon. Gentleman must not try to control the whole House.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I only want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to redeem the promise that was made.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I was saying that the Report dealt with other important matters on one of which I would have something to say later in my speech.
I should like to begin by once again acknowledging with all sincerity the Government's indebtedness to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire for the very valuable work which they have been doing in so many different fields. I was concerned to see, in a statement issued by the Council after the publication of the Government's White Paper on Rural Wales, that the Council feel that their views on this question have not been given sufficient consideration by the Government. I can entirely understand that the Council feel great disappointment that their proposals for a Development Corporation have not been accepted by the Government, but I hope that they will not regard this as an indication of any lack of appreciation by the Government of the work which they have done or as a mark of discourtesy towards them.
The Report of the Rural Development Panel is a most comprehensive study of a very complex problem. My colleagues and I have found it of greatest value. We have given long and careful study to the Council's proposals, and the fact that it was not possible to discuss with the Council the policy which the Government have announced in the White Paper is due, as the House will realise, only to the responsibilities which the Government have to this House. It would not have been, in my view, proper for the Government to discuss their proposals with the Council before the White Paper had been published.
I received last night from the Chairman of the Council a memorandum setting out the views of the Council on the 1824 Government's White Paper. I have not had time to give it the full and careful consideration which it undoubtedly deserves. I shall take an early opportunity of discussing it with members of the Council, as I may properly do when the House has expressed its views. In the meantime, many of the points raised will no doubt be discussed by hon. Members who speak in this debate, including myself.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised a very important matter. He said that it would have been improper to discuss these questions with the Council prior to the publication of the White Paper, but would there have been anything improper in discussing clarification with the Council? At the beginning of paragraph 17 of the White Paper is this sentence:It is not indeed clear precisely what the Panel had in mind in making their proposal.If it was not clear, surely there was a case for clarification?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. Lady has picked out the one phrase. I have read it carefully, although I have not had time to consider it as carefully as I should have liked. I have read the Chairman's memorandum three times and he makes that point. I shall try to explain it as I go along, but it is very difficult when there is a Report of this kind and the Government have to announce their policy with regard to such a Report, to decide whether that policy should not be announced first in a White Paper before this House. I thought that it was right to deal with it in that way. I could not be more sorry, as I have said many times and repeat today, because I am most gateful for the work of the Council. It may be that the hon. Lady will develop that aspect later on, when I shall be very pleased to consider it.
May I emphasise that there is no difference between the Government and the Council in regard to the importance of the problems of rural Wales, and if we do not agree with all the proposals for dealing with the situation which the Council have made, the difference is more about the means than the end. As stated in paragraph 3, the Government fully accept the general conclusion that action needs to be taken to help the rural areas 1825 of Wales to achieve a more stable economy and greater prosperity.
The Government's proposals are set out in full in the White Paper, and I do not propose to take up the time of the House by reciting them at length. However, it may be of assistance to the House if I make some general remarks about the problem as the Government see it, and the principles on which the Government's policy is based.
I should like to begin by saying a word or two about the historical background. I do not wish to direct the attention of the House too much to the distant past, because it is to the future that we must all look. But it is important that we should bear in mind the historical origins of this problem, which have an important bearing on the policy for the future, and that aspect has been stressed in a number of speeches by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), which I think the whole House has enjoyed.
I am sure that many hon. Members have read the very interesting address on Rural Wales in the 19th Century which was delivered by Professor David Williams to the Agricultural Society of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, on 31st October last year, and which was recently published in the Society's journal.
Professor Williams referred, first—I think this is important in getting the background, and that is why I am venturing to put it to the House—to the very marked growth in the population of rural Wales in the first half of the 19th Century. He estimates that the population increased by about two-thirds during this period, and that the main cause for this was not migration to the area, or, strangely enough, a fall in the death rate, but a rising birth rate, and he gives very interesting reasons for that.
He notes that at that time agriculture in Wales was backward, and a marked characteristic of these years was an excessive number of farm labourers simply because the number of farms was limited and because there was very little alternative occupation, so that, unless they left the countryside, farmers' sons became farm labourers. The pressure on the farms accounted, in his view, for the very high rents at the time, and also for the cultivation of the upland areas. He also notes—and I think we must remember 1826 this point, because I have never heard anyone dispute it—that the standard of living was very low indeed.
We should be misleading ourselves if we were to regard the decline of population in rural Wales during the past 100 years as a decline from a condition of prosperity, or to believe that the type of rural economy which then existed could, at that time, support a much higher population on a decent standard of living, or could do so today. When he comes to deal with the period of decline in population, Professor Williams points to two facts of great significance.
The first is that the decline coincided not with a period of agricultural depression, but, to a large extent, with a period of relative prosperity, when an increasing market for agricultural products was found in the rapidly developing industrial districts in which industry was opened up by the railways. Curiously enough—and I think the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has mentioned this point before, and I hope he will excuse me for mentioning it again—it was the decade of stability, from 1891 to 1901, which saw the largest rate of all in the decline in the number of farm labourers.
The second point to which Professor Williams draws attention is that the decline in the number of farm labourers was far greater than in the number of farmers, and, as it was the younger element which was drained away, there remained a disproportionate number of older people. That tendency gives cause for concern today. Professor Williams makes the same point that the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has so often stressed, that the basic cause of the decline in population was the superior attraction of higher wages in the towns.
It was with some hesitation that I decided to say something on these matters, but I have done so because it seems to me of the greatest importance that we should recognise that if we are to find a means of bringing greater prosperity to rural Wales, we cannot do it by putting the clock back, and that any attempt to do so would, in the long run, be harmful to the best interests of Wales. To quote the final sentence of Professor Williams' address:Nostalgic longings for the old days are of little relevance in facing the problems of contemporary Wales.1827 In contrast to this, it is interesting to note the Panel's own account of recent conditions. In paragraph 240 of the Report of the Council's Rural Development Panel, it is stated:…in consideration of the rural situation during the last 10 years, it must be recognised that the standard of living of those remaining on the land in mid-Wales has been higher during that period than ever before.That, I think, is an important background to the problems which we shall be considering today, and we should remember, too, that agricultural production is higher than it has ever been. The number of cattle and the number of sheep are both the highest ever recorded, and the number of pigs is the highest since June, 1935, and the second highest since 1899.
When one turns to the problems of the present, it is good to note that there is no difference in aims or basic approach. There is certainly no difference in aims. As is said in paragraph 15 of the White Paper,The Government are in full sympathy with the broad aims indicated by the Rural Panel: to establish a stable rural economy; to safeguard the position of the agricultural industry; and, at the same time, to secure the full development of the resources of the rural areas so that more people can attain a reasonable standard of living in them and enjoy a full social life.The Government also agree with the Panel's Approach to the strengthening of the rural economy and the needs of the situation as set out in paragraph 298 of the Panel's Report:The needs…relate especially to the equipment and deployment of the agricultural labour force; the improvement and maintenance of fixed equipment, and the intensification of agricultural production; the accommodation of forestry in partnership with agriculture in suitable areas and the determination of problems of land distribution and of land use planning generally; and the encouragement, in appropriate context and at appropriate stages, of industry ancillary to agriculture or forestry or largely in keeping with an economy deriving from the soil.I stress again, as is stated in the White Paper, that the Government accept the whole of this.
When one turns from the approach to the means, one finds that the Panel's proposal for remedying the drift from the rural areas was that £60 million of Exchequer money should be invested in housing, water, sewers, roads, electricity 1828 and additional subsidies to farmers. This money was to be applied by a Government-sponsored Corporation which, in building houses and providing public services, would undertake some of the responsibilities of the local authorities. The Corporation should work, the Panel suggested, to a 12-year programme; that is, it should invest in these various enterprises at the rate of £5 million a year.
The fact is, as set out in the White Paper, that the total capital investment at present being made in housing and basic services in the rural areas of the 10 Welsh counties with which the Panel was concerned is already in excess of £5 million a year. Five million pounds is being invested in housing, water supply and sewerage; nearly £3 million in the improvement and maintenance of roads; £1½ million by the Forestry Commission in the whole of Wales and Monmouthshire; I am not trying to make any false point, so I draw attention to that—Wales and Monmouthshire.
There are miscellaneous investments. They include investment in electricity which, it is noted in the White Paper—and I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has noted it—has been increased lately in rural areas. Also, production grants and subsidies paid by the Ministry of Agriculture, again in the whole of Wales and Monmouthshire, amounted to £2½ million in 1952. I am not going through these in detail, but it will be seen how much of them are devoted to hill farming and livestock rearing areas. But these are production grants and subsidies. Of course, investment in Welsh agriculture—I hope the House appreciates the difference I am drawing—is a much larger figure.
I think it is important to distinguish between the rate of investment and grants or subsidies. The £5 million per annum now being invested in housing, water and sewerage is financed partly out of rates and partly through rents, though mainly by the Exchequer. The £2½ million agricultural grants are only a contribution, as I have said, to a very much larger investment by the farmers. The Panel's proposals would mean that the ratepayers, the tenants and the farmers would be relieved of part of their share of the burden. The Panel suggested more 1829 subsidies rather than a higher rate of investment. I think that is an important point.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue for a minute, as the point I want to make is rather difficult.
The fact has to be faced that a much higher rate of investment might well be considered impracticable in these sparsely-populated uplands—the rate of investment—where building and civil engineering jobs are hard to man, though the Government do, as the House knows, intend to increase the rate of investment in forestry.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is very difficult to believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Rural Development Panel are speaking about the same subjects. Obviously, if the Rural Development Panel were only asking for a sum to be invested in the area over 12 years which would be equal to what is now being spent on the basic services, no important change would take place in the situation. It must, therefore, surely be speaking of the basic services in the rural areas, not modified by the urban belts. It seems to me that, unless we can get this cleared up, the whole debate is going to break its back from the very beginning. We are not speaking of the same figures at all. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked his advisers to break down this figure so as to show what part of it belongs to urban expenditure and what part to the rural areas, about which we are primarily concerned?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
On the narrow point which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, there is only this amount of substance, as I can see it. I have, of course, considered it carefully. All the figures I have quoted deal with rural districts. One or two of those rural districts which are mentioned in the note from the Chairman of the Council for Wales—a very limited number—are rural districts with some urbanisation in them. But I do not believe—and this is the advice I have had—that that alters the general effect of the figures. I am quite willing to listen to argument on it, but 1830 I have considered it and have come to that conclusion. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point, and I assure him that I have considered it, although I am not suggesting for a moment that I am infallible in my consideration.
The broader point, which seems implicit in his intervention, seems to get to the root of the matter. That is why I rather got down to brass tacks with the House on the difference between investment and grants and subsidies, because it seems to me that the real difference between the Government and the Panel is not so much the rate at which houses can be built, water and electricity provided, and agriculture improved in the Welsh rural areas, as the method of finance.
The Panel contemplated that the Exchequer should meet the whole cost of providing houses and public services and that local authorities were to drop out of the picture, although they would continue to own and manage the houses when they were provided. The Exchequer would also meet a much larger share of the farming costs in Wales. That seemed to me to be the real difference and, of course, I am going to discuss that point; but even here I should like to point out that there is a considerable agreement between the Panel and the Government.
As I understand it, what really moved the Panel was the fear that local authorities, tenants and farmers will no longer be able to go on contributing their share to the cost of the work that needs to be done. The real difference that arises between the Government and the Panel is whether the Government should acquiesce in hopelessness about the economic prospects of the area and subsidise even further the existing economy, or whether they should tackle the trouble at its source and set to work to improve the economic prospects.
Here it is fair to say that the Panel itself bravely recognises—and I think everyone here realises the courage that it takes to recognise a difficulty of this sort—the root of the trouble. It admits, and here again it is very courageous because one knows the intense feeling that lies behind this, that farming needs to be organised and the economy of the area strengthened. But it did not admit 1831 that this could be achieved without further subsidising the existing economy, and that seems to the Government, apart from other objections, to be something which would help to defeat the object. I do want to point out, nevertheless, that where additional Government investment—and again I venture to repeat, "investment"—will help the development and strengthening of the basic economy, the Government are prepared to undertake it.
It seemed to me that it was relevant to this consideration, as well as to paragraphs 21–25 of the Report of the Council—and indeed to the various claims of Government investment in Wales—to remind the House of our last debate on Welsh affairs. I then promised that the Government would consider the problem of the roads in west South Wales, and between west South Wales and the Midlands. They have done so, and at the end of my speech, in order not to spoil the train of it at the moment, I shall deal as shortly as possible with those proposals. But it did seem to me that it is relevant on this point. As I say, we are ready to invest when we consider it necessary to the economy, but we must consider the whole field of the various claims.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Does not the Minister think that the fundamental point in these discussions is the purpose of the recapitalisation which has been suggested by both parties in the rural areas of Wales and whether the purpose should not be, in the first instance, to promote lucrative employment for the people in those areas? Once we have achieved the promotion of lucrative employment for those areas of low production, the larger part of the battle has already been won.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I quite agree. Indeed I think all hon. Members will agree with that. I should remind the right hon. Gentleman of what the Panel themselves say as to the difficulties of introducing new industries into rural areas. They are perfectly frank about it and I think it is fair to say, certainly from my own reading, that the new industries which should be introduced into these areas should be ancillary to agriculture and forestry and should fit in with the rural communities. I will say 1832 a little more about that as I go on, but I am in no doubt at all about the right hon. Gentleman's general thesis; that is what we are all seeking to do.
That is why I have stressed that the fundamental principle on which the Government's proposals, as set out in the White Paper, are based, is that the economy of the areas needs to be strengthened, even if this may mean changes both in agriculture and forestry. This is the principal reason for the difference between the means of the solution of the problem set out in the White Paper and those in the Report of the Rural Development Panel.
As regards agriculture, I do not think the approach is so very different, for, as paragraph 24 of the White Paper points out, the Council in their previous Report recommended that the Welsh Sub-Commission of the Agricultural Land Commission should be asked to carry out surveys of the areas of marginal land which could and should be treated by measures of full-scale planning and reorganisation. Hon. Members may take it that I have in mind what the Council said about that in their reply.
What the Government now propose is that very thing—that the Sub-Commission should carry out a special investigation into the types of farming calculated to make the most efficient use of the resources of the Welsh rural areas. The Council's broad reply to that is, "Look what we have done." As I have said, I could not be more grateful for what they have done and for the information which they have given us, but we have all to make a decision on this very serious matter. Everyone who has walked over the ground and seen what people feel about the holding they have, and which has been in their family, knows the intensity of feeling which can be created. I have seen it myself, especially when walking up the Towy Valley nearly two years ago. We have to remember that.
While, as I say, the Council are to be complimented on the valuable information they assembled on the organisation of holdings, on reflection I believe hon. Members will agree that the data in the memorandum are not a sufficient basis for a well-conceived and acceptable—I repeat "and acceptable"—plan for the areas suffering from uneconomic holdings.
1833 The Sub-Commission is obviously the body to advise on any replanning and equipment which is needed. This investigation will be carried out with all possible urgency, but—and I again appeal to everyone, whatever his views, to face up to and to consider this point—whatever information we get in the end, it will be valuable only in so far as the Welsh people are prepared to co-operate in putting into effect any reorganisation of farm units which may become necessary to strengthen the rural economy. There is no dispute between the Panel and the Government, or with anyone who has considered the matter, that some reorganisation is necessary. It is an immense problem in leadership and co-operation to see that that reorganisation is ultimately brought about.
I do not in any way underestimate the difficulties. A heavy responsibility must rest on individual Welshmen for the success of the measures which are needed to give a permanent basis for a prosperous rural Wales. I hope the House will not mind a foreigner saying this, but I have tried to understand the problem, as hon. Members know, from going to see it for myself; I firmly believe that in a country with so strong a rural tradition and so deep a national pride, it is not too much to expect that the necessary qualities of energy, foresight and co-operation will be forthcoming.
I do not think anyone will quarrel with the view in the White Paper that the five main agricultural problems which emerge from the Report are the type of farming, the layout and employment of holdings, group contracts, the production and utilisation of grass, and access roads. I have already mentioned the first two of these, and they are developed in paragraphs 21 to 26 of the White Paper. I hope that hon. Members will think well of our proposal to invite the Welsh Agricultural Organisation Society to consider the problem of arranging group contracts as a means of getting work done in remote areas and, in particular, the setting up of a Co-operative Society for Farm Improvements.
On the problem of grass, the lime subsidies have been increased since the Panel reported, but I think more could be done to explain to individual farmers, who may well experience great difficulty in understanding all that can be done, what 1834 help is available and what benefits can be expected; and if that is done, they should be able to produce better grass and to use it better, to their own profit as well as to the country's. I am sure that a number of us have examples of various places where that is being done, but I am equally sure that there is a great deal still to be done in explaining the work and helping with it.
I want to take a little more time on the question of access roads. I know that the condition of some of the minor roads in the Welsh uplands is of great concern to the farmers. Various hon. Members have referred to this question in almost every debate on Welsh affairs. Moreover, many examples have been pointed out to me during my visits to the rural areas and I have tried to examine the problem on the ground, I think in practically all the counties concerned.
The proposal of the Panel was for a contribution where the condition of unclassified or Class III or other roads is a major obstacle to general improvement of services and facilities or to some particular development. The Panel suggested that appropriate contributions might be made by the Development Corporation to the expenditure of the highway authority in carrying out the necessary work.
The Government agree that there is a need for special assistance towards the improvement of unclassified and un-adopted roads in livestock-rearing areas where the improvement would materially assist the economy of farms otherwise satisfactory, or in process of any necessary reorganisation, and, as is announced in paragraph 33 of the White Paper, legislation for this purpose will be introduced when opportunity offers.
I ask the House to note one point which I consider of importance. Assistance will be given by the Ministry of Agriculture and not by the Ministry of Transport. The criterion for assistance will be agricultural needs. I think that is tremendously important. I am sure that every hon. Member has in mind, as I have, the picture of some farm cut off from the high road where it is very difficult to use hill farming and livestock-rearing grants. If any hon. Member has special agricultural problems in addition to the five I have mentioned, or any other facet of those five I shall be happy to consider suggestions.
1835 Perhaps the biggest contribution to prosperity in rural Wales can be made through the greater development of forestry in the area. The Government are most anxious that this development should take place without the use of compulsory powers. If this is to work, it will need the co-operation of all. One of the first matters with which I was concerned when I took office as Minister for Welsh Affairs was the proposal for the compulsory purchase of land for forestry in the Towy Valley. As the House knows, that scheme was not proceeded with. I appreciate that to the full. As I told the House, I have traversed the Valley and spoken to many of the people concerned of the difficulties which they have in mind.
I hope that, however little the House thinks of my own performance, hon. Members will consider whether they cannot help in this. I should like again to take the opportunity of making an appeal to the farmers and landowners of Wales to co-operate voluntarily—I repeat voluntarily—with the Forestry Commission in the development of afforestation on suitable land in rural Wales.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan) rose—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If the hon. and learned Member will allow me, I will give way when I have spoken a couple of sentences.
There are encouraging signs of a tendency in this direction. I am informed that the Forestry Commission has been able in recent months to acquire some farms in the neighbourhood of the Towy Valley quite voluntarily.
§ Mr. Bowen
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if we are to get that co-operation, the best chance is if the Forestry Commission will indicate quite clearly that it is not going to employ compulsory powers? If it is still to have that power in its hands, co-operation will be made extremely difficult.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I appreciate the point and I do not think anyone could have gone further than I have gone today in indicating the intention. I should like to consider the question and discuss it 1836 with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission, but I wish to make quite clear the approach I have in mind. If the House will allow me to express my personal view, I believe we can get all the land needed and deal with the scheme I have in mind, of at least 100,000 acres and probably more, voluntarily. I want to approach the matter in that spirit.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
While I agree that it is an excellent idea to appeal to farmers to sell on a voluntary basis, would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman also appeal to the Forestry Commission to be sensible about the type of land for which it asks? At the moment it is asking for the best agricultural land, and that is upsetting farmers everywhere in Wales.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am glad that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) has raised that point. As the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) will remember, when I was going round his constituency and especially looking at Glanllyn and work being done there, I laid down as a general principle that before any afforestation is done, or land taken for afforestation, one should consider not only the forestry needs, but the possibilities of food production on that land. I laid that down two years ago and I do not think it was far off the target. I would also call the attention of the hon. Member to paragraph 38 of the White Paper which says on this point:An expanding programme must entail the acquisition of land for planting, and the Government, not wishing to contemplate the use of compulsory power, are most anxious that all sections of the industry should co-operate so that rough grazings which can be surrendered without significant loss to food production are willingly sold for planting.That seems the proper approach. I do hope the House will not misunderstand me. It is not because I understand it as a popular approach that I am putting it to the House, but because I consider that it is the approach which will appeal to the people concerned. That is a different method from seeking popularity, as I think the House will appreciate. Secondly, I believe the land can be obtained by voluntary purchase.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
It is said that the Forestry Commission is not keen to take land which was under 1837 timber in the recent war and under timber in the First World War. The Commission does not regard that as economic and has not been anxious to acquire those lots. What it has been anxious to acquire is big areas, and those areas could again be used to raise food, as they have been used in the past.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Naturally, without a map, we cannot deal with individual questions. I am not really equipped to deal with the individual examples mentioned, but I have tried to show the general principle and to indicate that we do want to see a move forward in this matter. I have indicated my view on one or two points, and I think there are quite a number of cases where it would be a definite advantage to agriculture and to food production to have afforestation.
I only call the attention of the House to this matter because I know hon. Members are interested in what I might call the next stage. In paragraph 36 we have tried to show, as an example, the effect of planting 100,000 acres in 20 years and the results in employment, first directly—I think this meets the point put by the right hon. Member the Father of the House—and, indirectly, through ancillary industries such as sawmills and industries using timber for turnery and many other purposes.
We have also tried to show that the creation of the amenities necessary, housing and the village communities, would not present practical difficulties. An increase of afforestation of this size—100,000 acres—would not involve the use of any but the poorer and less productive of the plant able hill grazings or reduce their potential stock-carrying capacity as a whole. I hope that everyone who feels keenly on the matter will help in this aspect of forestry. I know the difficulty and how much help is required from everyone concerned.
I come to the point of difference. The Report of the Rural Development Panel lays great stress on the importance of basic services and proposes the establishment for this purpose of a Development Corporation, which has been aptly described as a Welsh Tennessee Valley Authority. I hope I am not introducing another complication by mentioning that name. However, the Government have 1838 not felt able to accept this proposal for two reasons.
The first is that we do not consider that it would be right to supersede the functions of the elected representatives of the Welsh people in this way. As there has been considerable written discussion on this point, I hope the House will forgive me if I read the two paragraphs of the Memorandum that seem to me most important in regard to it. Paragraph 297 says:This cannot be done without additional financial help, and the analysis of deficiencies in the Survey Area gives a measure of the financial requirements of the task. Nor can it be done without special arrangements for making the assistance effective. The main feature of these arrangements must be a special agency whose principal function would be to carry out in conjunction with the local authorities the installation of the necessary services in accordance with a carefully planned and fully co-ordinated scheme of operations.Then in paragraph 303 the Panel says:The main purpose of the Corporation would be to take over on this basis of a12-year programme the task of providing or improving the services of housing, water supply and sewerage, the schemes being handed over to the local authorities for operation and maintenance in due course. The further object would be to assist by financial contributions or arrangements or in other ways the improvement and development of other public services and the prosecution of such schemes and activities as are briefly indicated in the preceding part of this report. These examples of the assistance, financial and other, that the Corporation should, in the Panel's view, be enabled to provide may now be reviewed in more specific terms.And then they are.
It seemed to me, whether we use the words "take over" or, as I have done, the word "supersede," it was supplanting the local authorities in a very important part of their work, and I have not found—it will be very interesting to hear what is said in this debate—but I have not found anything in the record of progress made by Welsh local authorities in recent years in the provision of basic services which would justify an action with such grave constitutional implications.
The second reason is that it would weaken Parliamentary control over the development of these services in rural Wales.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
This has exercised the mind of every hon. Member from Wales, but is not the 1839 right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in Wales, and in other parts of these islands, development corporations have been known and have functioned since the end of the last war without in any way usurping the rights and functions of local authorities? Perhaps I may remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of what we have known in South Wales, and, I think, in other areas, as the Special Areas Reconstruction Association. That was a development corporation, and it may perhaps interest the right hon. and learned Gentleman to know that even in such places as Merthyr Tydvil, almost from one end of the valley to the other, main roads have been ripped up, sewers have been laid down, out of funds directly supplied by the Government under the Distribution of Industry Act. So there is nothing strange in this idea of a development corporation. Far from it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has put, naturally, an important point, but I still think there is a very great difference between applying assistance under these Acts in the industrial areas and what is stated in the Memorandum,…to take over on this basis of a 12-year programme the task of providing or improving the services of housing, water supply and sewerage…which are now done by local authorities. I do not think that we could do that without cutting most seriously into the functions of local authorities, and I must express my opinion—it is a matter on which everyone is entitled to have his view—that it would be a bad thing to do.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is the point I was just going to develop. That is, of course, a fair point, and one that must be faced. In showing the difference between the two points of view, I tried really to put fairly that that is an argument for this view.
I should like to take just one or two examples. The first that I take is housing. In regard to housing, it will be noted from paragraph 43 of the White Paper that the Panel, reviewing housing progress in the survey area up to the end of 1951 said— 1840 I am not blaming the Panel for limiting it there: that was the time that was convenient for its report—that 3,000 new houses were needed for decent maintenance of the existing (population (paragraph 244). Two hundred and fifty houses were built in 1952 and 188 in the first nine months of 1953 in the survey area.
So I say at once that the point that the right hon. Gentleman made has a certain, though not a great, significance; but I admit it at once because it comes into the argument. If this rate is kept up, the 3,000 houses will be built within the 12-year period. That is stated in the White Paper, in the same paragraph. It must be remembered that in the whole of Wales the number of houses built has increased from 9,617 in 1951, which was the Panel's last year, to 12,049 in 1952 and 10,956 in the first nine months of 1953; that is, at a rate of 14,600 a year. So I do not think that there the difficulty will fall.
The second point is the White Paper shows, as I have indicated, that the Government already contribute very heavily to the present high rate of investment in the various services in the rural areas in the 10 counties. It also shows, in paragraph 54, how heavily the Exchequer contributes to local authorities. In the middle column there is shown the contribution made by the equalisation grant to Welsh authorities in the 10 counties in 1951 to 1952, and that shows that the contribution to expenditure which would otherwise fall on the rate goes as high as 66 per cent., in Cardigan. I mention that because I am going to deal specifically with a point put to me when I visited Cardigan a month or two ago. The other column shows that an assessment of all Exchequer grants as a percentage of total expenditure goes up to 83 per cent. Moreover, the percentage of the equalisation grant that goes to Wales is no less than 16 per cent.
The essential difference between the proposals of the Panel and the Government is this, that the local authorities and occupiers must be expected to make their contribution towards the cost of these services—that they cannot be relieved of any obligation to help themselves. I should like to draw the attention of the House, and in particular that of the hon. and 1841 learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan, to paragraph 55 of the Report, which I hope will allay some of the fears expressed to me, particularly in Cardigan during my visit, about the equalisation grant.
The other point which I am sure is in the minds of hon. Members is: "Well, if you have rejected the Development Corporation as a means of action, what are you going to substitute for it?" I am sorry to seem immodest, but I think it is important to note that it will be my task, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, not only to keep a close watch on the progress being made to carry out the Government's proposals, but to ensure that the work of the various authorities and organisations is properly co-ordinated. That this task is laid upon me is made quite clear by paragraph 58 of the White Paper.
I would point out that this marks a high responsibility for the Minister for Welsh Affairs whoever he may be. He now has the responsibility of seeing that the work is co-ordinated. As far as I am concerned, I shall discharge that duty to the best of my ability, as I have tried to do in other matters where the general interest of Wales is affected, and it will also be my duty to see that no time is wasted, because I believe that a solution of the problem will not wait.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I accept that it will be the right hon. and learned Gentleman's responsibility to see that schemes are co-ordinated, but as I understand that he has no executive authority how will he exercise that responsibility on Departments which are reluctant to do as he wants them to do?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If Departments are reluctant to agree there is a procedure provided by Cabinet government for dealing with that point. The point that I want to stress, because it is a real point, is that it is an important task that is laid on the Minister for Welsh Affairs to co-ordinate all the work, and all I can say is that I shall do my utmost to carry out the task laid upon me.
§ Mr. Bevan
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that point, I should like to know how we are to bring it home to him, because whenever a local authority deals with these matters it deals 1842 with Departmental Ministers. Departmental Ministers reach a decision, and then if we do not agree with it we approach the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Almost invariably he says, "I cannot interfere with the decisions of other Departmental Ministers," and then we get stuck. We do not know what acrimonious conversation may have taken place secretly between the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Departmental Minister. All we know is a barren result.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view and I am not taking offence at it in any way, but I am constantly approached by hon. Members and by various bodies in Wales. I have always expressed the view that if a matter is of importance to Wales as a whole—I have said this on more than one occasion—then everyone is entitled to come to me and I will take the matter up. In some cases the results have not been so barren as the right hon. Gentleman says.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am always glad to hear the voice of the hon. Member. May I remind him of a character in Dickens known as Mr. Dick, whose conduct with regard to King Charles's head is highly reminiscent of the hon. Gentleman today. I was going on to that matter when the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) asked me about another point.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport announced earlier this afternoon the Government's decision to authorise a programme of major road improvements and construction of new roads. In this programme there will be included a number of large and important schemes for the improvement of road communications within west South Wales and between the area and the Midlands and London. The House will recollect that in the debate on Welsh Affairs in January of this year I announced that urgent consideration would be given to improvements which could be shown to be economic and essential to the industrial modernisation of the area, and that the Government proposed to appoint a committee, under the chairmanship of my noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, to consider this question and other matters affecting the industrial 1843 modernisation of west South Wales. The programme of works which it is proposed to authorise in Wales is the result.
The programme can be conveniently divided into two parts—road works within west South Wales itself and improvements in the communications with England. Under the first head it is proposed to authorise the following schemes: improved access to Swansea Docks from the western end of the River Neath Bridge; a new road leading from the western end of the bridge over the Neath River to the Llanelly Road, which will provide a means of communication between Margam and Port Talbot and the new tinplate works at Trostre and Velindre without having to go through Neath; and the construction of a bypass at Port Talbot, which will relieve the obstruction of traffic caused by the level crossing in the town and the narrow streets.
These three schemes, together with the improvements to the Neath-Llanelly Road which I announced in January, will make very great improvements in the communications within the area and the Government hope that this, together with the other proposed improvements to communications with England, will afford a considerable inducement to industrialists to develop new industries in west South Wales. In order to provide better communications with England it is proposed to authorise substantial improvements to the Heads of the Valleys Road between Hirwaun and Abergavenny. Traffic from Abergavenny to the Midlands now uses roads via either Hereford or Ross which are not satisfactory and could not economically be made fit for heavy traffic.
It has, therefore, been decided that the right solution is to construct a bypass to Ross and a new Ross Spur road which will avoid the Malvern Hills and will link up with A.38 and, eventually, with the proposed motorway to the Midlands. The general objective is to concentrate on schemes which will build up the north east route out of Wales to the Midlands, also providing better facilities for traffic branching to London at Ross, where an additional link road from the Ross bypass is proposed to connect with the road to Gloucester.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It has been decided to construct a bypass to Ross and a new Ross Spur road which will avoid the Malvern Hills and link up with A.38. As I have said, there is also to be an additional road from the Ross bypass to connect with the road A.40 to Gloucester.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Certainly, I will do that with pleasure.
I want to say, in answer to the repeated invitation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East, that I believe that these roads will bring considerable benefits to the area and that they are very important from the point of view of modernisation. The trouble about his suggestion—naturally, this is a matter we are considering—is that if we base the programme on the Severn Bridge scheme, with the expensive new roads which are indispensable to it, it would cost about £40 million and the scheme would take many years before it could fulfil its purpose, whereas the present programme will bring benefits as each scheme gets done. Therefore, all I can say is that we must, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said, regard the Severn Bridge project as lying a long way ahead. It would not be honest of me to say anything more.
§ Mr. P. Morris
We are very glad to hear the announcement which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made, but can he say, in view of the fact that the plans and everything are ready for the communications between Swansea and the Neath River Bridge and on the Llanelly side to Port Talbot, when work will start?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If the Amendment is moved I shall have a chance of a further word, and in any case the House often allows me, in these debates, to speak again. I should like to look into that point and I will do so.
§ Mr. Callaghan
While looking into it, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also look into the special significance of the word he has used all the time about "authorising" these schemes? The word "authorise" has a special technical meaning as, also, has the word "commit," and neither may mean that there is going to be any work started. We should like to have from the right hon. and learned Gentleman an indication of what schemes out of those which he read out are actually to be started during the next 12 months.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Either now or later, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks again, will he let us know something more about the Conway Bridge? We gathered from the Minister of Transport, earlier this afternoon, that that work will be put in hand next year. His reference was very brief and we are not very much the wiser.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I will look into these questions of times. A former Queen said that when she died Calais would be forever written on her heart. I have so many names to be written on mine that I doubt if it would hold them all. I should like to have an opportunity to look into that point and I will give as definite an answer as I can. I can say this. It is intended that in the first three years of the programme constructional work should be begun on all the schemes within west South Wales and preparatory work, including the preparation of constructional plans and the acquisition of land, for the other schemes. I will see whether I can give any further information.
There is one word I should like to say—and I am very sorry for keeping the House so long, but this is rather an important matter—because a number of hon. Members have written to me about this, and the House may wish to know how far these proposals are based on the advice given to the Government by the Committee under the chairmanship of my noble Friend the Joint Under-Secretary. I have already said that the Government do not propose to publish the Committee's advice. But it will be evident that the programme which I have just announced is a coherent and carefully worked out 1846 plan which could not have been drawn up without long and careful study. We have been greatly assisted by the advice tendered by the Committee, and I think that both the Government and the people of Wales owe a debt to the Committee, on which a number of gentlemen of various occupations and experience sat, for the energetic and thorough way in which they have tackled this part of their task.
I have tried to give a broad summary of the problems raised in the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouth shire and to indicate what the Government's proposals are for dealing with these-problems and why, in some respects, our proposals differ from those put forward by the Council. I should like, in conclusion, to express again the gratitude of the Government for the very valuable work the Council have done here as in so many different fields. They have been good enough, in their Report, to say that in the general aim and method of their work they have been guided by the principles which I suggested to them, that their projects should be worthy and should appeal to the minds and hearts of the people of Wales and that they should guard against a frequent failing of advisory bodies, that what emerged from their deliberations was a general statement instead of a concrete proposal.
I am sorry that I have had to disagree on one concrete proposal and at the length of my speech, for which I have apologised. As I have said, I want the House to realise that I have considered it and to state my reasons. I am confident—and I am sure that I take the whole House with me in this—that if the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire go on with that plan and with that approach, then they will not only have done worthy work, but they will have greatly benefited the people of Wales.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:regrets that the statement of policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to rural Wales, as set out in Command Paper No. 9014, while rejecting the proposals of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire does not put forward an alternative plan for immediate implementation that will prove adequate to the urgent need of rehabilitating the Welsh rural counties and diversifying their economy.1847 This is the first time that an Amendment has appeared on the Order Paper in connection with our Welsh debates. I do not know whether to claim it as an honour to be moving the Amendment. I leave it to hon. Members to judge after they have heard me speak.
I want, first, to express our appreciation of the charm and kindness of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in what he had to say about the White Paper. We also welcome the announcements which have been made about road schemes, but I wonder whether those statements have been made deliberately so that the Press tomorrow will have its attention taken from the subject of rural Wales. That is a point which one has to make when moving such an Amendment.
I am sure that all hon. Members thank the members of the Council for Wales, and the Rural Development Panel, particularly Mr. Huw Edwards and Sir William Jones, for the excellent work which they have put into their memoranda. I have been very interested, and so has the Welsh nation, in the proposal to spend £60 million on the B.B.C. Welsh programme. I wonder what will be said after this debate when it is realised that the £60 million is not to be spent.
The Welsh nation greatly appreciates the Report dealing with rural depopulation. We all awaited the Government's reaction to the White Paper. The Minister came to the Welsh counties and explored a number of avenues. I have been somewhat disappointed at the net results of his visit with regard to rural depopulation. I am sure that during his visit he found no real objections to the Report. The era of window dressing in Wales has finished. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, we now come down to brass tacks.
Our first reaction was to the long time taken to publish the Report, from February to July. Some of us tried to obtain promises of a debate at an early stage. The debate was deferred. After the Recess there was an announcement about the White Paper. I welcome the White Paper, because I know exactly what the Minister has had in mind and have not needed to take notes while he has been speaking. I listened diligently to what he had to say, and I shall speak about some of the items later.
1848 The White Paper has 13 pages. That is very unlucky to begin with, but I take it that it is one page for each of the Welsh counties. However, I believe that the Report could have been broken down a great deal more if it had contained fewer quotations. What we want is real decision. We have had much decision in a rather vague way. Removing the verbiage, the Report is nothing but a Molotov "No." As one hon. Lady has described it, the Report is "price 6d." outside and "price 2½d." inside. At all events, we shall find out whether that is true or not. One Welsh newspaper said that there was an anger and disappointment because of the Report and that the Government could not have given the subject very serious Study.
If any discourtesy has been shown to the Council in its not having been consulted, we regret it. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) raised the point, and a reply was given to her. I always understood, when I raised awkward questions about the Council of Wales, that there was a two-way traffic, and, if the Council of Wales survives all this, I hope that a two-way traffic will continue.
The fundamental issue in the debate is the drift from the countryside. The first Report that we had from the Council for Wales was very valuable and gave us a great deal of information. Let us look at one or two of the points and bring them up to date. I am sorry that there is no up-to-date Professor Williams comment on this, but we can find the figures in the White Paper. Between 1891 and 1948 the population of Wales increased by 41.92 per cent. The important thing to us today is that the population in rural Wales declined by 8.23 per cent. According to the 1951 census, of the nine counties in England and Wales which showed a decrease in the rural population compared with 1931, eight were Welsh and three of those were in the survey area examined by the Rural Development Panel.
To look at neighbouring counties, in Shropshire itself there was an increase of 18.7 per cent. and the rural districts had an increase of 22.7. In Hereford, the increase was 13.7, and half of that was in the rural districts. To bring it down to my constituency, in the Builth Wells 1849 rural district there are only 22 persons to the square mile. But in Rhymney and Tredegar my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has 2,460 persons to the square mile. It is wrong that I should have only 22 persons per square mile while my right hon. Friend has 2,460.
There is a good reason for the drift from the countryside to the more populated areas. Periods of depression in agriculture resulted in low incomes all round. There is one factor which I do not think is realised even on these benches. During the pre-war depression an unemployed man living in the countryside in and around Brecon had his benefit reduced by 8 per cent. because he lived in a rural area. That was called rural differentiation, and it was wrong. The unemployed man had to go to South Wales to get more unemployment benefit. That caused a great drift from the countryside.
The figures for regular agricultural workers show a decline. I am sure the House will be astonished to know that the drift still continues. The Council for Wales wanted to stop it. But there is not a paragraph in the White Paper which suggests that a halt be made to the drift from the countryside. I want that to be done now, and I particularly want to see a check to the flow of young people from the countryside. In the first Report, in four of the counties mentioned 62.4 per cent. of people between the ages of 15 and 34 left Wales altogether. That is a matter of grave concern. The country people were going to the industrial areas, and then there was a march out of Wales altogether. We should try to stop that.
Coming to the question of agriculture, what do the rural people want? What do the people in underdeveloped countries and in our Colonies want? They want the accepted standards and conditions of a civilised life and the security of living with full employment for everyone. The Report lays emphasis on the necessity for a stable agricultural economy. The National Farmers' Union Welsh Committee goes further and says that the fortunes of a great part of the Welsh rural areas depend upon the fortunes of agriculture.
I wonder whether the Government believe that their recent decisions are encouraging to the rural parts of Wales. 1850 I suggest that these decisions do not go down very well in Wales. For one thing, in my constituency the Conservative candidate resigned on this issue. While I welcomed the visit by the Minister for Welsh Affairs to Brecon, I felt sorry for him last Friday when he came to the annual rally. According to the local Press reports, he spent half an hour giving reasons why it was wrong for this gentleman to resign. He devoted the other part of his speech—it was really quite good of him—to the White Paper. Those who were at that great meeting naturally had to applaud a Cabinet Minister, but let me tell him that the people there were not satisfied with his explanation.
The stability of agriculture in the rural parts of Wales is still in question. The Labour Party have a very proud record with regard to legislation and what was actually done for agriculture. The name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) is very popular in Wales, particularly when compared with what is happening under this Government—and not just because his name is Williams. I should have thought that in this debate there would have been an intervention by the Minister of Agriculture on this subject. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is here, so perhaps he will say something.
In paragraph 59 (1) of the White Paper sympathy is expressed with the Panel and there is an expression of hope that the economy of rural Wales will become self-supporting. I think that is a very good aim in all countries, but how is it going to be done? Apparently not by getting down to real action, but by having another committee. Those of us on local authorities know that if we have to deal with a controversial subject we do not say, "Let us form another committee." But here are the terms of reference of the Welsh Sub-Commission—to investigate the types of farming, the pattern of ownership and occupation, and so forth, and when it has reported, the county agricultural executive committees are to assist help forward the reorganisation of farm units.
If such a proposal had been made by a Labour Government hon. Members opposite would have been saying all over the country, "This is interference by the State in farming." I do not know what the 1851 Government have in mind in submitting this matter to this Sub-Commission. The Minister of Agriculture has all this information now. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us this: How do the Ministry now grade farms into three categories A, B and C? They must have this information.
Cultivation orders were issued during the war. Surely, before a cultivation order was issued all the information about the farms was brought to the notice of the Ministry's officers in the respective counties. Has the Minister for Welsh Affairs ever looked at the farm survey published in 1946? There is a special paragraph in that report dealing with farm units. All the information is there. For once, the figures for England and Wales are shown separately. There is also a Report on Hill Sheep Farming in England and Wales, Cmd. 6498, which was published in 1944. There is a special reference in that Report to this question.
As the Minister said, there is also the Memorandum on Marginal Land. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that his Department is hoping to get good results from the farm surveys which are going on in various districts at the moment. Section 87 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, states that the Minister has the right to consider schemes prepared by the Commission relating to farm boundaries. The Minister nods. I am sure he knows that one nod means one scheme. We have only had one scheme from the very beginning, and that scheme was turned down by the Minister himself. This Sub-Commission said there would have to be a change in the drafting of the Act. Therefore, it is no use sending this Commission to Wales, because the Commission thinks that the Act ought to be changed. How ridiculous the whole thing is. Insufficient thought has been given to these proposals.
Are we to understand that the Government are not satisfied with Welsh production figures, and are going to upset the programme altogether? The Minister, of course, does not agree, and he has paid tribute to the Welsh production figures, which are very good. I can only speak for my own constituency, but I have with me particulars of production on difficult land at very high altitudes, the land about which the Minister is concerned.
1852 There is a farm in Breconshire at an altitude between 700 and 1,250 feet, where the number of cattle and calves has risen from 35 to 43 and of sheep from 293 to 913, and there are possibilities of even greater production on that farm because the farmer has taken advantage of the schemes which are already in operation. There are also improvements in farm houses and buildings on this farm, besides a road to the farm, a water supply, electricity, a sheep dipper, fencing, reclamation, drainage and reseeding. It is most interesting to those who know about Welsh farming, as I do, that they are now able to sell their fat stock lambs in August as fat stock or semi-fat stock, instead of selling them as stores in August or early September.
In Radnorshire there is the same picture. I have about 12 such cases, but I shall give only one from each county. At Llanbister, which is 1,150 feet above sea level, sheep have increased from 606 to 830 and cattle from 69 to 93, while lambs now weigh from20 to 30 1bs. more in live weight. The total area reclaimed is 45½ acres and another 56 are contemplated, but if they feel that there is no certainty of guaranteed prices they will not proceed with the scheme.
Reference is made in the same summary to the activities of the National Agricultural Advisory Service. It would appear from that paragraph that the N.A.A.S. are not giving that service to upland farmers at present, but I know that they are still giving it. There is nothing new in that paragraph, because all that it says is that another investigation will mean further delay.
An important point which has not been dealt with sufficiently is our approach to industry. There are three groups in the rural areas. In the first group there are the people who depend directly on the land for a livelihood. In the second group are the craftsmen who serve the first group. In the third group are the people engaged in rural crafts and industries. Farming itself is not sufficient to attract people back to the countryside and we must face that. What are we going to do to get some other form of employment to attract and retain people?
The Report emphasises the problem of the school-leavers in mid-Wales. The number of boys leaving grammar schools and secondary modern schools and taking 1853 up dead-end jobs is surprising, although a fair proportion goes to agriculture. It is difficult for young persons who want to get married and to set up in business on their own to do so. We are afraid that, when they leave the rural parts of Wales, they will take their capital with them and never come back. Perhaps I should explain here that our farmers, indeed, Welsh people generally, always give their children some capital when they are married, whatever may be the circumstances of marriage—good, bad or indifferent. That capital will go out of the area altogether. It may be that they set up milk rounds in London; but that does not make any difference, the capital goes there.
We must examine what jobs are available for those who remain. In this connection, I want to pay a tribute to the National Council of Social Service for Wales, to which the Government give a grant. They are doing good work for our rural industries, but the figures for craftsmen and apprentices are bad. In the five mid-Wales counties there are 415 establishments and one would have thought that there would be many apprentices, but there are only 39. In the county of Cardigan there are no apprentices to those establishments at present. The Joint Education Committee for Wales ought to examine that problem to see what can be done.
Now I come to the question of the introduction of industries into the rural towns. I make no apology for saying that the Welsh Office of the Board of Trade are not helping Wales in that direction and I would describe it as shocking. I tried to do something in Presteigne where there is some kind of industry, but it does not seem to be getting any orders or assistance from the Board of Trade. Again, buildings have been available in Rhayader for a long time, but there have been no applications. As far as I know there has not been a new building erected in the rural areas and it is rare for any kind of industry to come there.
Both the White Paper and the Report of the Council pay a great deal of attention to forestry. I have been studying the question of research into forest products and it has been interesting to discover what can be done with the left-overs of timber. Recently there has been a 1854 move by the Welsh Agricultural Organisations Society to develop woodland societies in Wales. Only one society has had a grant so far from the Forestry Commission. Here is an opportunity for the Government to get more of these woodland societies to help not only in regard to planting, but in developing an industry which might provide alternative employment for between 25 and 50 people in the rural towns and districts.
Why have we not got a wood pulp mill in central Wales? If we are to have a forestry programme surely that should be looked into? I know that afforestation will be quoted by the Minister to show the effect this would have on farm labour, and I am somewhat guarded about that myself. However, when a new industry is introduced into a rural area, it often attracts other people, and who knows but that some of that labour could be utilised on the farms? Then, again, women were found very valuable in agriculture during wartime although they tend to be forgotten in peacetime. Some of their labour could be utilised in parts of the rural areas, but to do that a new approach would be needed by the education authorities and also by the Minister of Education towards technical education. We find that when we try to get more school building and more technical education, the first people to suffer are those in the rural counties under the county building programme. Therefore, it is essential to look into this question and I hope that, if this is done, we shall get more students at the forestry school in North Wales.
Like all hon. Members I support the proposed marriage between forestry and agriculture. The more we can get done as Members of Parliament for afforestation, the better. I have myself been a critic of the methods employed by the Forestry Commission, but it ill becomes the Minister for Welsh Affairs to say so much about it, because the Government of that day took credit for stopping the Towy Valley Scheme. It is true that I helped them, but they should not make a political point of it when they come forward in a Welsh debate and ask for more afforestation. It is all very well for the Minister to object to the banns being read in Llandovery and now to sponsor the bridewith more money for investment and a hope for a growing family, with no aim or target what to do, how and where.1855 I should like to ask the Minister of Agriculture what is happening to the present afforestation surveys. There is a better approach to afforestation nowadays on the part of the general agricultural population, except in some areas where there could be better public relations work done than is done at present. I hope that we shall go on with a great deal of afforestation. But I should like to emphasise what I emphasised with regard to the Towy Valley scheme and ask why the Forestry Commission or the Ministry do not see that private woodland owners replant their woodlands first as an example to the small fanners. The rate of planting is not as good as I should like it to be and one great landowner may have greater influence on a Government like the present Government than small farmers. I should like to know, therefore, what powers the Government propose to use.
During the Recess I went with some of my hon. Friends on a tour of Welsh forests. It struck me that in some cases the Commission was taking land which was good for sheep farming though, on the whole, it was doing a good job. There was, however, a great deal of land which was of no use to sheep and was not being used for afforestation. That land is the common land of Wales. Will the Commission suggest how it will overcome the present difficulty with regard to common land? When this land was pointed out to one of the officers of the Commission by my hon. Friends and myself he said that he could not touch it because it was common land. I do not want to upset the economy of Wales in that direction, but I submit that common land could be used to a greater extent than it is being used at present.
I come now to the important question of basic services in Wales. As a Member of Parliament I called to a conference all the local authorities of the rural parts of my constituency to discuss the White Paper on Rural Wales. It was the most representative conference both in attendance and opinion that had been held in central Wales for a long time. There was not a single dissentient voice about the need to do something in relation to basic services. I should like to know whether there is any difference between what is given to local authorities in Wales in the way of basic services and 1856 that given to Scotland. My information is that Scotland receives a larger slice of the cake both in basic services and in grants than we do in Wales.
Before we come to any question of a Government tackling basic services in Wales we should look at the legacy which has been left to us from previous years. We find that only 23 per cent. of farm houses in Wales are linked with a piped water supply as compared with 39 per cent. in England. Only 32 per cent. of farm buildings in Wales are connected to the water supply, compared with 50 per cent. in England—and this in counties where a great amount of water is exported every year to other authorities. Thirty-one authorities derive their water supply from my county and yet many parts of that county are without a water supply.
It is suggested in the White Paper that the Government cannot overcome the difficulty caused by the fact that local authorities do not take joint action. I know that I make a political point here, but I suggest that the only way to get rid of that difficulty is to nationalise the water supply. Surely the Government cannot object to that, since water supplies do not produce a profit. Only one-half of the properties in the survey area mentioned in the White Paper have a water supply and three-quarters of the population of that area depend on earth and pail closets, which is disgusting in these modern days. Two rural districts in the survey area have no public sewers.
I wonder what is to happen to these authorities when the Minister tries to justify the capital expenditure so far incurred and will not accept the suggestion made by the Rural Development Panel that there should be a total capital investment of £60 million in the Welsh rural areas. It is true that some local authorities may not have the initiative, but the real answer to these problems is that they have not the finances to carry out the necessary improvements. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will tell us what exceptional assistance will be given to these authorities.
I hope that some of my hon. Friends will have something to say about electricity supplies. I note that in the farm survey area only 11 per cent. of the farm houses had an electricity supply, compared with 35 per cent. in England. The 1857 figure for Montgomery in 1946 was 5 per cent., for Cardiganshire 4 per cent. and for Radnorshire 1 per cent. The Minister has suggested that greater capital will be allocated to rural electrification. I should like to know the exact figure and what increase over last year's figure is to be allowed to the two boards which serve Wales.
The Minister has referred to the other basic service of housing. He gave some very interesting figures which on the face of them destroy the argument put forward by the Panel for Wales. But the information made available is very ingeniously put and very difficult to analyse in the case of completed houses, because the figures given for rural districts include figures covering rural districts which contain urban areas. The figure for Llanelly Rural District Council is 1,109 and for Wrexham Rural District Council 1,771. In the three rural districts in the mining areas of my constituency 937 houses were completed up to 30th September, 1953, whereas in the other three rural districts in my constituency only 198 were completed. The confusion of rural and urban figures in the White Paper only help the Government in their contention that these rural areas state that they do not want greater assistance.
I have analysed up to 30th September, 1953, the record of local authorities in rural areas, both urban and rural, because the urban authority in the rural area covers a rural district. The people in these urban districts are really agricultural people and rural dwellers. There are 44 local authorities in Wales who have not built 10 houses per annum since 1945. There are 20 who have not built five houses per annum since 1945. That is the housing situation which causes us concern in rural Wales. Although I do not blame the Minister, because, no doubt, he was advised to make it, his statement on housing is misleading and we want to know what will be done about this situation.
Ystradgynlais Rural District Council, with a penny rate product of £179, has built 447 houses since 1945. Rhayader with more than double that product of a penny rate in the rural district has only built 52 houses. That is not very comforting to those of us who try to improve amenities for the benefit of the tourist trade in Wales.
1858 Now I come to the question of roads. The right hon. and learned Gentleman emphasised that the Minister of Agriculture is to make grants. I asked for that to be done when we last debated the question of rural depopulation, and I am very glad to see it. But the important thing is, as the White Paper says, that the Government make proposals to Parliament when opportunity offers. That may be in two years' or 20 years' time. I should like to know what is meant by that. I also want to know why the mileage of unclassified roads cannot be increased. Can the Minister increase the mileage of Class III roads? Only about 20 miles of these roads have been added since 1946. Why cannot he increase the grants to local authorities and give them more work? There are 8,419 miles of unclassified roads in Wales—not unadopted roads, but unclassified roads. A 50per cent. grant would be of great assistance and would certainly encourage hill farming schemes.
Why should the Minister not ask the county councils for their proposals with regard to unadopted roads? That can be done now, administratively. If he says, tonight, that my suggestion is a good one and that he will see that instructions go out towards the end of the week I shall be very satisfied. His argument about the proposed Development Corporation cannot be dismissed lightly in view of what I have said. The Minister, or, at least, the Government, go outside the local authorities when they consider the question of the reorganisation of farm units. They go to the county agriculture executive committees. Are they not similar to the Corporation, in one way? At least they are outside bodies.
The road grants are going to the county agriculture executive committees instead of to the local authorities. Is the same standard of road making to be carried out by these committees as it would be by local authorities? Unless it is, the local authorities, quite rightly, will say, "Make that road up to our standards or we shall not take it over," as they do in the case of private dwellers. Those are important points which need elucidation. I know that the Welsh Agricultural Organisations Society has group contracts and co-operative schemes, but that is also a private body. Where do the local authorities come in? Do they not 1859 meet with difficulties in connection with tenders and contracts? What I have said destroys some part of the case against the Development Corporation.
This Amendment regrets the statement of policy contained in the White Paper on Rural Wales. It does so because no alternative plan is put forward for implementing the urgent need to rehabilitate rural Wales. As one of my hon. Friends said, there is no real kick in the White Paper in that respect. I have tried to show how essential it is to take urgent action to deal with the problem of depopulation. I am not asking the Government to do a great deal when I say they should do more in that direction. I have expressed concern about the fortunes of agriculture. I am disappointed at the drift which is still going on from rural Wales. I am anxious to see a more varied economy in some of the rural areas.
It is not too late for the Government to say, "We have listened to all the arguments in the Welsh debate, and we shall take an experimental area, as suggested in the First Memorandum." I should have no quarrel with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) if part of Montgomery and part of Radnorshire were used for an experimental scheme, and if Government assistance were given, either through local authorities or otherwise, to get more production from the good soil in an area where there are no social services and where nothing can be lost by an experiment of this kind. Such an experiment might bring back the people to the countryside.
Why not consider the Town Development Act? There are overspill towns in the Midlands. Why not divert them to some part of mid-Wales, together with the grants that would be available? That point is not mentioned by the Panel and is not dealt with in the White Paper. If Welsh economy is wrong, its spirit is still determined that things should not be left as they are. There will still be agitation in all parts of Wales for something to be done to preserve the rural communities. We want to preserve them because they consist of a good group of people, who are interested in Welsh life. There have been many onslaughts upon that type of rural life.
1860 I have spent a great deal of time—perhaps to the annoyance of the Minister—in trying to combat those onslaughts, and I may have become unpopular all round, but I am trying to protect Welsh culture and language by keeping the people in the rural communities. Two hundred years ago Oliver Goldsmith wrote "The Deserted Village." I am not going to quote it all—I am a very fair-minded person—but in that poem he said, referring to the peasantry:When once destroyed, can never be supplied.All I want the Government to do is to agree that it isBetter to light a candle than complain of the darkness.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) on his most lucid and comprehensive speech. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House enjoyed it. He covered the ground very thoroughly and demonstrated forcibly the weakness of the Government's case. When the Minister for Welsh Affairs opened this debate he made a careful and, I thought, an appeasing speech, but he did not get to real grips with the problem. He paddled in the shallows very nicely, but that was about all.
I join with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and my hon. Friend in thanking the Council for Wales and Monmouth for their Second Memorandum. They have devoted time and patience to the production of this document, which I regard as one of the most important documents that have been published in Wales in the last quarter of a century. This document has stirred the imagination of the population of rural Wales, but the people of Wales are disappointed with this White Paper.
The late Labour Government and the present Administration regard the subject of the rural depopulation of Wales and the general condition of the Welsh countryside as one of prime importance. When the Council set out to tackle this difficult and most complex task, it did so with the blessing of all political parties.
From time to time the Council has been criticised in several quarters but, in the 1861 two Memoranda they have to their credit to date, I think they have completely redeemed themselves and more than justified their existence. I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor that there should not have been such a very long delay in the publication of the present Memorandum. As my hon. Friend said, the document was in the Minister's hands in February. It was not published until July, and it is now being debated in December. Surely it could have received more expeditious treatment. Why was there all this unnecessary delay? The Government have had ample time, in my submission, to formulate their proposals, which we only received a few days ago.
It is extremely difficult to understand why the Government did not consult the Council for Wales since they have had these 10 months in which to do so. In the White Paper they state that they are not clear what the Council had in mind in making their proposals. In paragraph 322 of the Memorandum the Minister's advice to the Council is quoted. The Memorandum which is addressed to the Minister states:You went on to say that when a good idea was put forward in a concrete form there was still the danger that the matter might end in delay, and you added that you would examine sympathetically what the Council put before you and do your best to ensure that there was no delay in dealing with their submission.The fact remains that there has been considerable delay and this paragraph makes strange reading today. I only hope that the Council will not feel discouraged or disillusioned by the salutory treatment it has received from the Minister in this matter.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
While there may be certain substance in what the hon. Member is saying, may I ask if he will agree that it is unusual for an advisory body to circulate Members of Parliament in this way?
§ Mr. Hughes
It is not an advisory body. The Council for Wales has a perfect right to circulate Members of Parliament.
We have today to consider and to read the Memorandum and the White Paper side by side. This House must decide whether the Government, having had all the evidence before them, have made fair and adequate recommendations. We have to judge, as Members of Parlia- 1862 ment, whether the Council has proved its case Is the area in mid-Wales covered by the survey—is rural Wales as a whole—a special case, requiring extraordinary treatment? That is the question which the House has to answer today.
There is nothing new in this principle because the industrial areas which were hard hit before the war have and are continuing to receive special treatment. The evidence in the Memorandum only reinforces with facts and figures what we have known for a long time—since the Report published by the committee presided over by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). On the evidence, I do not think any one would deny that the Council has made an overwhelming case in support of the fact that the rural areas of Wales are special areas deserving of special treatment.
Of course this is accepted by the Government, as is indicated in the White Paper. They agree with the conclusions of the Council almost in their entirety. They go on to reject the Council's recommendations in their entirety and to substitute their own recommendations which are mean, unimaginative, and inadequate. I am not for one moment suggesting that this or any Government should have adopted the proposals of the Council lock, stock and barrel and without any question at all. No Government could be expected to do that, and I do not think the members of the Council for Wales would have expected the Government to do so. But the Government know perfectly well that a serious disease is eating into the heart of rural Wales. They know a major operation is necessary. They have had the diagnosis and accepted it. But they go on prescribing a mild and inexpensive sedative hoping that we shall sleep on content for a few years more. But if we do sleep on it will be the sleep of death.
The problem confronting the House has two main facets, employment and amenities. I agree with the Government when they say in the White Paper:…the economy of the survey area and of similar parts of rural Wales can be assisted to become more self supporting…This merely endorses what is said in the Memorandum. We know that a thriving agriculture is a basic need, for the good 1863 of the area and for the good of the nation as a whole. We know that it is no use giving a village good housing, adequate sanitation, a piped water supply, electricity—all the modern amenities—unless at the same time we can provide the people who live there with constant employment.
Both the Memorandum and the White Paper lay emphasis on the need for a stable economy. But the Government completely fail to tackle the problem. For example, in paragraph 15 of the White Paper they agree that industries ancillary to agriculture or forestry should be encouraged to establish themselves in the rural areas. But they have no recommendations or proposals as to how this may be carried out.
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor that the Board of Trade has no appropriate policy towards the rural areas. We in North-West Wales, in Anglesey, Carnarvon and Merioneth, are concerned by the rising tide of unemployment in that area. In Anglesey 8.2 per cent. of the insured population are unemployed compared with 2.7 per cent. for the whole of Wales, and 1.6 per cent. for the United Kingdom as a whole. The White Paper gives no hope at all that the Government have a solution for the problem, and unemployment is going up week by week.
My hon. Friend dealt with agriculture in some detail and I shall only attempt to underline what he has said. We know that farming in a large part of Wales is an arduous and exacting occupation and that the farmers deserve every possible encouragement. There has been much discussion about the pattern of farming in the area and what I think important is the question of amalgaming and creating larger farm units. Most hon. Members would agree that in favourable circumstances this might be desirable. But I think we shall also have to be extremely careful about the way we do it.
For example, in the Sixth Report of the Agricultural Land Commission we find these words:Opinions differ about the relative importance of small and large farms in the farming structure. Amalgamation of small areas is often essential to secure compact economic 1864 units but experience over the last five years has shown the many practical difficulties in securing the ideal unit for economic farming without also affecting the way of life of the countryside…The problems of marginal farms in Wales are not only economic but also sociological….Even expert opinion does not always agree about the relative importance of small and large farms. The Report also says:Wales is traditionally a country of small farms and the family farm has always been the typical institution of the Welsh country side.I think we must tread warily in this matter and I feel that the Council for Wales appreciates that fully. One thing I know, and that is that the farmers on the so-called family farms work very hard indeed. Their productive effort is at least comparable with that of the larger units.
In agriculture, three improvements are necessary. First, there should be better credit facilities and a lower rate of interest on loans. Under the Labour Government farmers were able to borrow at 3 per cent. Today they have to pay 4½ to 5 per cent., if they can get it. That saps the confidence especially of the small farmers. They cannot plan for the future. They are afraid of borrowing and taking the risk because they are afraid that they will not be able to repay.
Also, we need a better national agricultural policy. There is greater uncertainty and insecurity in the minds of farmers today than there has been since 1938. I say that from my experience in talking to farmers in the rural part of my constituency. Thirdly, the country side needs the amenities which the urban dweller enjoys. It is not good enough merely to talk about amenities. The country dweller must see with his own eyes that there is a concerted and determined effort to bring houses, electricity and piped water to the rural areas. Up to now the people have seen no such effort.
Let us face this clearly. For a variety of reasons, the existing agencies have failed to do their job properly. This is no time to discuss the structure of local government in rural Wales, although that is relevant; but if they have the best will in the world the councils just cannot do their job. They cannot cope with the huge tasks which confront them.
1865 My hon. Friend mentioned their failure to deal with the housing position. In the White Paper the Government have not squared up honestly to that problem. Their inclusion of highly industrialised rural districts completely changed the complexion of the position to suit the Government's case. Without the net figures of the purely rural districts we cannot see the tragic picture as it really is. We know that rural slums still exist and that they are as much of a disgrace as the urban slums. They certainly exist in my constituency where they are a constant source of worry. Rural councils are unable to supply piped water. The schemes are far too expensive.
The House need only study the Memorandum to see that. How can the Tregaron rural district with a 1d. rate which produces £34, and the Machynlleth rural district with a product of a 1d. rate of £26, launch any kind of ambitious scheme? It is impossible. A big grant from the Government would still leave them with a crippling burden to carry on top of a heavy general rate. The same is true of sewerage schemes and roads. Any adequate sewerage scheme for the county of Montgomery would add 4s: to the general rate. That is the reality of the situation when we talk about the rural districts introducing amenities into their areas.
Here I would draw attention to paragraph 32 of the White Paper which, speaking about roads, says:The Government recognise that the conditions of some minor roads in the Welsh uplands is poor and may constitute an obstacle to particular development schemes and general improvement of services. They consider, however, that the highway authorities can be expected to undertake any necessary improvements to classified roads, with the financial assistance available.That is the most consummate rubbish. This is not a question merely of the uplands. My own constituency of Anglesey is described in the geography books as "an undulating plain," but the roads there are as bad as they are in any of the more mountainous counties of Wales. The resources of local highway authorities in Wales are not sufficient to enable them, for example, to bring Class III roads anything like up to scratch. Class HI roads have only been in existence for a few years—since 1946–47—and they are still almost in the same poor 1866 condition as unclassified roads. It is wrong to say that the local authorities can repair and maintain classified roads properly. They cannot do the work on the present grant system.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman dealt in some detail with the idea of a Development Corporation. He brushed, it to one side. I see much to commend the idea. Such an organisation would co-ordinate the activities of local authorities without superseding them in any way. It would inject new confidence into them. The Memorandum says that the Corporation would work in conjunction with local authorities and hand houses etc. back to them.
This is the question that the House must consider. If it is agreed that there are special problems and that existing agencies—the rural district councils—have failed to solve those problems, what valid argument can be advanced to show that no special measures should be introduced? The Corporation need not be accepted just as it is proposed, but I see merits in the idea of a unified co-ordinating body with certain well defined powers to do certain essential work for a specified number of years.
The recommendations of the Government are contained in five paragraphs of a White Paper of 59 paragraphs. They involve more investigations and many pious hopes. They give vague undertakings and, of course, they do not want to see any money spent at all. The questions for us to consider are: is there anything in the White Paper which leads us to hope that rural Wales will be better off after the recommendations of the Government have been implemented? Will agriculture prosper? Will there be ancillary industries? Will the amenities come any quicker? Will the drift from the countryside stop? Will there be more confidence in the rural areas?
Can we honestly answer, "Yes," to any of those questions? Of course, the answer is, "No." That is why everyone who has the interests of rural Wales at heart—including, I hope, hon. Members opposite—will vote for the Amendment. We are dealing with a comparatively small area of the earth's surface, but for centuries the pulse of a sturdy and independent people has been beating steadily there. If, through neglect, the countryside is allowed to decline, this island will be very 1867 much the poorer and the Government which is responsible for it will never be forgiven.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
The hon. Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) have flown such a large number of red kites that I am afraid I cannot possibly follow all their flights. I noticed the pleasure with which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has watched the scene.
The House has listened in vain for the immediate plan for implementation referred to in the Amendment. We have heard from the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor what we want but very little about how we are to get it. We have heard from him that the Government White Paper has no "kick" in it. That seemed to be strange criticism from a temperance reformer. It was not the view which the Advisory Council for Wales and Monmouthshire took of the same document.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor said that window dressing had ceased and it was time to get down to brass tacks. When it came to dressing his own window, the "old Adam" of the nationalisation of water supplies crept in, but I noted with interest and pleasure that neither the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor nor the hon. Member for Anglesey had a word to say about the nationalisation of the land, which I had always thought was one of the pillars upon which Socialism rested.
I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in his place. We have heard from him and also from my right hon. and learned Friend welcome news about the improvement of communications between West South Wales and the Midlands and also the welcome news about Conway Bridge. Many in South Wales will regret the omission at this stage of plans to build the Sever Bridge, but we are very thankful for the mercies which we have received. I would enlarge on that theme at much greater length but for the fact that I do not feel justified on this occasion in speaking too long on matters which have no direct relationship to rural depopulation.
1868 I speak on these matters entirely as a back bencher, but, having been Under-secretary to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs, some of what I have to say is not very easy for me. The whole of Wales and hon. Members in all part of the House are greatly in the Council's debt for the immense labours which it has undertaken in the preparation of its Reports. Therefore, all the more do I regret the Press references which have been made to members of the Council feeling the need to reconsider their position because the White Papers says that the Government are:…not…clear precisely what the Panel had in mind.…That is very regrettable. It may well be that the Government could have sought clarification on some points, but an Advisory Council which conceals its deliberations ought not to parade its hurt feelings.
I imagine that every hon. Member will this morning have received a document direct from the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. Paragraph 6 shows that the Council is completely aware of its terms of reference, that it is its duty to secure that the Government—not the Opposition—is adequately informed of the impact of Government activities on the general life of the people of Wales and Monmouthshire. I have not been in the House very long, but surely circulation to the whole House, the Opposition included, of a document by an Advisory Council on the very day of the debate is without precedent.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman now reverting to the attitude which he held before he accepted office in the Government with regard to the Council for Wales, for which he never had a very high regard?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I can only say that, as may well happen to the hon. Gentleman one day, working with members of councils of that kind increases one's admiration for their personal qualities, and perhaps that justifies me all the more in saying something about their performance on this occasion. I rather regret that my right hon. and learned Friend, whose courtesy is well known in the House and outside it, should have been publicly accused of discourtesy. I invite the House 1869 to consider whether any previous Government has ever been so obliging as to circulate to its opponents what are virtually notes for Opposition speakers prepared by the Advisory Council as the present Government has done in the teeth of threats from the Council that it is reconsidering its position. What that reconsideration involves, or where it will end, I have no idea, but what has happened will not increase the confidence of the House or of Wales in the Council. In view of the very considerable work done by the Council for Wales, that is very regrettable.
The proposals in the White Paper are generally welcomed on this side of the House, but there are three points to which I wish to refer. First, there is reference to loans to Welsh upland farmers under the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts. The Panel very reasonably suggested that the rate of interest for loans might well be 1 per cent. There is obviously no magic in the figure of 1 per cent. The Government state their disagreement on the grounds that it would involve preferential treatment compared with farmers on similar land elsewhere. That reason seems to beg the question whether those farmers ought not also to have a higher rate of subsidy.
Secondly, there are references in paragraphs 22 and 23 of the White Paper to the new duties of the Welsh Sub-Commission. It is to be asked to carry out the investigation to which the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor referred. The investigation is to include what pattern of ownership and occupation is best suited to the types of farming. The House would welcome much fuller information about the nature of the inquiry. Is it intended that the Sub-Commission shall conduct a full survey of rural Wales or merely lay down general principles of land use. If it is the former, how long will it take? If it is the latter, I agree with the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor that the Welsh Department of Agriculture ought to be able to give the answer tomorrow. It is absolutely essential that a full survey of rural Wales should be made available. I do not know to what extent it exists, and have had great difficulty in finding out, but it seems to me that land cannot be used intelligently by planners who do not know what land there is to use.
1870 Paragraph 4 of the Summary of the White Paper adds that the Government will look to the agricultural executive committees to secure co-operation of farmers in the carrying out of any changes recommended by the Sub-Commission. Here, I feel that, whatever appeals are made for goodwill, and, of course, they are desirable whenever they are made, by hon. Members in all parts of the House, it is asking a bit too much to try to get farmers who have farmed land for generations—very often, whose families have farmed the same land for generations—to be merged into another farm or dispossessed for any reason, however good it may appear on paper, and I do not think we could ever achieve that without either paying them uneconomic compensation or using compulsion. The latter, from our experience in the Towy Valley, would be intolerable. Of course, the experience of the Towy Valley scheme is present in the mind of my right hon. and learned Friend, and it is not merely a quip when I say that forestry has been shown to be far too serious a matter to leave to the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture.
I fear that large-scale, carte blanche afforestation might well have serious consequences. Firstly, it might drive the Welsh farmers out. Secondly, it might also drive their sons out. Thirdly, it will bring in to Wales foresters from many parts of the Kingdom with a hotch-potch of culture, and the effect will be to replace the Welsh culture with another series of cultures, and to do that is bound to destroy the traditional features of Welsh life based on the farmhouse. There are those who say that we have already gone so far that there is no going back. That may be so; I do not know, but I believe it is so in some counties. Before embracing widespread afforestation on the Towy Valley scale, we should remember the sort of society that is to grow up beneath the trees.
Last week, in search of inspiration for this debate, I was listening at home to the Light Programme. [Laughter.] If my own hon. Member were here, he would be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that we cannot get the Third Programme very well in Wales, and that, if we could, one cannot get inspiration from the Third Programme.
1871 On that particular occasion, Wilfred Pickles was speaking in one of his inquiries in Kent, and he interviewed a Welshman, a miner, who, with his seven children had torn himself and his family up by the roots because of the uncertainty of the future in Wales, and had gone to live in Kent. So that no one may be tempted to think that these things only happen under wicked Tory misrule—I think that is the conventional phrase—Iam bound to point out that it happened in 1948, and, when this Welshman was asked about his views and his knowledge on various matters, it was revealed that he had absolutely no idea of what happened at the Battle of Bosworth, but could tell the name of every Derby winner since 1921. What was significant about him was that he had no desire whatever to return home, and I believe that there are many Welshmen who are settled quite happily in England who will not return to Wales, no matter what is done for them in Wales.
In paragraph 195 of the Memorandum, the Panel reveal the state of the private woodlands in Wales, and here I find myself in a great deal of agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, except that I think he spoilt his case by raising the spectre of the large landlord, who is not really representative of the farming community of Wales, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The Report does reveal that a really sorry state exists in the private woodlands in the survey areas. The figures show that 52 per cent. represents felled, derelict and scrub woodlands, while 38 per cent. includes much that is of poor quality.
When we consider this issue of compulsion—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor—it seems to me to be absolutely wrong to compel a farmer to leave his land, and, at the same time, to allow the derelict state of the woodlands of Wales to continue. I think it is quite time that it was made crystal clear to the woodlands owners and to the Forestry Commission—because, in my opinion, the Forestry Commission, if I may use the term, are "sold" on large schemes; they like them and they think that they are easier to tackle than the enormous number of small woodlands and replanting them—that their acreage is so large that there is 1872 an adequate answer to the problem. They might well find in the end that they do not have to dispossess any hill farmers.
There are two final points. It is a fact that the depopulation of good agricultural land is going on at the same time as we are calling for a halt elsewhere. There were two cases in South Wales recently. There was a case in Aberdare of a farmer who had sunk all his capital and most of his profits over the years in his farm finding himself dispossessed, and his good farm went, admittedly, for a good purpose—for the provision of housing. Perhaps the House will forgive me, as a son of Aberdare myself, saying how much Welsh hon. Members in all parts of the House are missing the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas) from our counsels, and that we sincerely pray for his quick recovery.
The second case concerned The Leys. Here, the British Electricity Authority has been planning to settle on 350 acres of land in East Glamorgan though not particularly good land, a scheme which will employ at least 1,000 men for a large number of years. It is bound to turn agricultural labour away from the fertile vale of Glamorgan. In my view, the sort of planning, whether public or private, which ignores every sociological and economic factor in pursuit of its own selfish needs, aggravates the problem of depopulation throughout Wales.
Secondly, I suggest that there is a case for varying the liability of agricultural land to Death Duties. I think it was the late Sir Stafford Cripps who decided that 45 per cent. of agricultural land should be free of Death Duties on the death of the estate owner, and I suggest that it might be a useful device to attract capital to marginal land and the depopulated areas if the rates could be varied in their favour.
Finally, I am aware that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been in this House a great deal longer than I have, but I would ask them to reflect before dividing the House on a Welsh day, although they have a perfect democratic right to do so. It seems to destroy, or threaten to destroy, an invaluable convention that Welshman of all views can debate Welsh affairs in this House without feeling the party urge to express their differences, still less to exaggerate them, in the Lobby.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The Home Secretary has presented the White Paper with his usual courtesy and charm so that, as usual, I have nothing but admiration for his advocacy; but I am sorry that I have not the same admiration for his methods of administration.
Let us consider the position. It is not, as an hon. Member has suggested, that there may be a difference between us on party grounds. What has happened? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had advice tendered to him by a Council of his own choice. I agree that he succeeded to it, but since he has been in office and responsible for Welsh Affairs it has been his own Council. He asked it to report upon these matters, and it has done so, and so far as the facts are concerned the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, "I accept them. They are right. I do not quarrel with anything that is said. Wales has not only special difficulties but special problems, and I am very glad," says the right hon. and learned Gentleman, "that this Council has gone into this matter so very fully. I am deeply grateful to them." Having accepted all that it has found, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, "I cannot possibly accept its proposals for remedying all these difficulties and for dealing with these problems."
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quarrelling with his own Council, and it is not for the hon. Gentleman to ask that we should not take the line that we are taking in this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is in an impossible position. He is the holder of the oldest, the senior, office. The Home Secretary is the senior Secretary of State. It has been recognised ever since Fox's day, over 150 years ago, as one of the most onerous as well as the most important posts in the Government, and a full-time job. The right hon. Gentleman is nevertheless asked to spare a little time to look after Welsh Affairs.
We wonder how he does it. He is always prepared to meet us, to come down and listen, and to treat us with the greatest courtesy; but how can he possibly get down to the fundamental matters which concern us, in view of all his other responsibilities? Considering all our long 1874 history, our different culture and the fact that about 100 million of us speak a language which was spoken in this country before the language which I am using in this House now, how is it possible for anyone like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, outside his main preoccupations of being Home Secretary, to be able to deal with all those great matters?
Compare the position of Wales with that of Scotland. Scotland has a Secretary of State who is concerned with nothing but Scotland and not as a part-time job, and he is assisted by four Joint Under-Secretaries of State. Having heard the speech which was just made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), I think it was a real loss to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that that hon. Member found himself unfortunately unable to continue. At any right, the hon. Gentleman does understand a number of our problems.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows my views on the Council proposal I have never liked it because I think it was the wrong way to deal with the matter. The Welsh people are the most democratic people in these islands, but they have to have a Council nominated for advising the Minister, and he will be consulting them and receiving their advice before consulting and receiving the advice of the elected representatives of the Welsh people. I have never liked that idea.
The men and women on the Council are all first-class, people of very wide experience and very highly respected. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the chairman of this Panel, Sir William Jones. He has had a full experience as clerk to the Denbighshire County Council, and to councils of rural and urban areas. During the war he held a very important position in the coal areas of South Wales. Undoubtedly he has worked hard and assiduously in finding out all the facts relating to rural work, and particularly with regard to the selected area.
Why has it chosen that area? I do not know. It could have had practically the same kind of facts if it had taken either of the counties of the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, Brecon and Radnor, or Anglesey or Montgomery. The first two are complete units of rural character. There is no industry in them 1875 except agriculture. There are one or two small industries in two of my towns, but that fact does not affect the larger question. I make no apology in referring to these things. I have had the honour of representing my county for nearly 25 years. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and I were elected on the same day in 1929. Year after year I have deplored what I have described as the "tragedy" of Wales, and that is the exodus of our young people.
It may be that because of that I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of Health, Sir Kingsley Wood, to inquire into a matter concerning Wales. What was it? Wales at that time had a problem which undoubtedly affects every other country throughout these islands, the incidence of tuberculosis. In particular, Wales had its own problem over and above those of other people. That was why I was then asked to make this inquiry, which took a long time, well over 12 months. I handed in my Report in 1938, and I am afraid that it was not published until March, 1939. What did I then find were the causes of tuberculosis? Bad housing, bad schools, bad conditions, bad water, bad sanitation and bad food. All those matters have got to be put right.
In the same way, one now inquires into the causes underlying this exodus, and tries to find out why our young people leave us. We have a lovely country, second to none in its beauty. There is an intense love of its country among the Welsh people. It is always with heartburning that we leave our native land. These people did not leave it willingly. They went because the living which they could get in the agricultural areas in those days was too low. The return for the tremendous amount of hard work which they were putting into their job was not sufficient, so they were tempted to go elsewhere. In particular, they went to South Wales and to the Midlands.
Those were the days before Workmen's Compensation had been heard of, and when men went down into the pits to work and came home to die of pneumoconiosis, a disease which we did not then recognise. They left their counties because they could get a better return for their work elsewhere. That trend has con- 1876 tinued until quite recently. Since 1939. conditions have changed. Agricultural prices have risen and the farmer is getting a far better return for his produce, which, in turn, means that at long last the agricultural worker is also getting a far better return for his work. Therefore, one can say that that cause is no longer there.
But what about the other causes—bad houses, bad schools, bad water and bad sanitation? Those things still continue. This Panel has taken a section of the county of Cardigan, of the county of Radnor and of my own county of Montgomery. It has included within it two towns, or, counting Machynlleth, three towns, but, otherwise, it is a purely rural area.
In their Report, which they presented to the right hon. and learned Gentleman early this year, they refer to exactly the same kind of conditions as I found when I made a tooth-comb search of Wales in 1937 and 1938. They say that the councils have done what they can. They are very highly rated, a matter to which I shall come in a moment or two. They have had these grants to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred and which are set out in the White Paper. But so have all other local authorities. The Panel say that conditions in Wales still present a special problem which is not to be found in England, and they ask how the situation is to be dealt with.
The Panel then make the proposal that the problem can be dealt with only by spending the sum of £60 million spread over a period of 12 years. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the first sentence in paragraph 51 of the White Paper which, I agree, refers only to water, really describes the answer which the Government are giving with regard to houses, roads, water, sewerage and everything else. The sentence reads:In general, assistance on this scale should suffice.There is a difference between the right hon. and learned Gentleman's advisers on the White Paper and his advisers from Wales. These latter advisers are Welsh people who were appointed to go into this matter because of their experience. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says, "I prefer the advice of those who have now had a look at the situation, who say that these conditions are still in existence 1877 and that they make Wales a case for special treatment, but the assistance such as we have given, and which we give to everybody else, will suffice."
Is that really the way to meet this situation? I have told the House how I went through all the parishes of Wales. I examined something like 180 documents relating to the health of the children, and so on. I found bad conditions in every urban area—in some of them shocking conditions—which I had to describe. It is no pleasure to describe such things, but one has to do so in the interest of the people concerned. I found that conditions in the countryside, especially in one part of Caernarvonshire, were worse than anything I had seen in the towns.
These are the people who suffer in silence. They are only seen in the holiday season by visitors who go to those parts in the fine weather and who say to them, "Don't you live in a lovely place." But let those same people make their visits in November, December and January and see how the inhabitants live, and how the children have to find their way to school.
It is interesting to look at the reference in the Report to an area in Cardiganshire and to an area in my county of Montgomeryshire. It says that 70 per cent. of the farm houses in Tregaron, in Cardiganshire, and 65 per cent. of those in Newtown, in Montgomeryshire, were either bad or only fair. Just think of that. These farm houses have been left unrepaired for years and years, with no water laid on or any suggestion of sewerage, or anything like that. There may be a small, tumble down building outside the farm house, but that is all there is for these decent people with their brave history and their wonderful literature. It is appalling that they should be compelled to live in such conditions. Is it any wonder, therefore, that there has been a steady drift away from these areas over the last 150 years?
I do not know who put Professor Williams's lecture into the hands of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We are all very familiar with it, but while we respect Professor Williams, we neither accept his deductions nor his conclusions. Some of us have long memories. I can remember my grandfather, who was born 1878 in 1809, describing to me the conditions in Montgomeryshire in those days.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) has given the figures, but the most outstanding example of all is the county of Montgomery, the finest agricultural county of the lot. It has a higher animal population by far than any of the other counties. We in that county are noted as farmers, and yet ours is the only county in England and Wales which has a smaller population today than it had in 1801, when the population of England and Wales was 9 million and not 45 million as it is today.
I repeat, why have these people left their county? It is because the conditions which I have described have compelled them to leave. I remember the large families which are referred to. I do not think that the standard of life was low; the standard of life was simple, which is a very different thing. Those families were very happy, but the houses were such that they could not contain them. What is to happen? Are we to build houses? We have done our best and the record is quite amazing, considering our difficulties.
I turn to the question of 'the rates, and for this purpose I take my own county again. Apart from the county council, there are six little boroughs, and four rural district councils, which have to provide for themselves over and above the county precept, but the county precept itself is 17s. 6d. in the £. That is in a rural area. And the total general rate came to the extraordinary figure of 61s. 11d. in the £, but, because of the equalisation grant, for which we have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bbbw Vale—apparently that has been threatened now, and I should like a further answer from the right hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of the suffering people as to what is to happen to the equalisation grant—because of the equalisation grant and revenue from local taxation licences, that has been reduced to 21s. 8d. But this year we took 4s. 2d. from the balances so as to reduce the 21s. 8d. to 17s. 6d.
§ Mr. Davies
I had these figures given to me by the clerk to the county council. I got on the telephone to ask him specifically for them.
That is just the county. Let me refer to the little town in which I had the honour to be born, where I was brought up and educated and knew, and still know, everyone. It is a very old town. We had our charter from Llewellyn the Great, and I am very proud of being an honoury freeman of my town. There are only 1,000 inhabitants, but we have a mayor, aldermen, councillors—a full corporation. We are in an unenviable position. If one listens in when these figures are given—and the B.B.C. make a very great effort to pronounce Llanfyllin properly—it is announced that the most highly rated town in the whole of the British Isles is the town of Llanfyllin, with a rate of 31s. 8d.
That is a purely rural little town, entirely dependent upon the custom of the farmers around it; just a few shops and a few houses. We are, therefore, asked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to provide all the sewerage and so on with the ordinary grants that are made to others. How can we possibly do it? As a matter of fact we did do it, and that is the reason why we have this appalling, back-breaking rate of 31s. 8d. That was because it was done during the war, and the Ministry of Health at that time refused to give them the full grant. That is why they are suffering now
Let me refer to water. The county of Montgomery has a first-class council, which has been very anxious about getting better water for the people. Amongst other things, it employed engineers to draw the plan to supply the whole of the county with piped water. That plan has been drawn up, but, unfortunately, it cannot be carried out because the cost is too great and it has had to be put to one side. From the county of Montgomery we supply water to Liverpool; from that county the thousands in Liverpool get their piped water, and the thousands in Birmingham get it from Radnor—but Radnor and Montgomery have to go without.
A particular instance is the Forden rural area, where Welshpool happens to be the main town. There are 12 parishes 1880 in Forden, and it takes in some of the finest land in the kingdom along the banks of the Severn. The population is only 5,000, and even then it was 11 per cent. less in 1951 than in 1921—on that excellent land. A penny rate there produces only £68 13s. 6d. The land and the agriculture is so good in this area that it has been marked by the Ministry of Agriculture as an area which can now be declared free of bovine T.B. Unfortunately, throughout the whole of the area they are short of water, especially in the dry season.
The Forden Rural District Council, therefore, knowing that the great county scheme could not come into being, inquired about a local scheme. It employed first-class engineers who know the whole of that area better than anyone. They thought of all kinds of schemes, and the cheapest would cost £417,000. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me how Forden Rural District Council is going to get that water scheme through, with a penny rate producing £68 a year? How can it possibly do so?
May I now come to roads? As we know, these are divided into Class I, with a grant of 75 per cent., Class II, 60 per cent., Class III, 50 per cent., and unclassified, nothing. The Minister of Transport told us today that further money will be given for roads, which is necessary, especially for these main roads which are now becoming so cluttered up with traffic. It is very right that he should do so, but, all along, my own view has been that far and away more of these roads should be taken over as national roads, because, after all, they are used as such.
But what concerns us more than great national roads, or Class I or Class II roads, or even the Class III—for which we are, again, grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman because he created that Class—are the unclassified roads. They are the important roads to us. They are vital to the country, because down those very roads come the milk, timber and agricultural products to feed the urban areas. Yet there is not a day that goes by, certainly not a week, that people do not write to me, "You know my father; you know the road, please can you do something with regard to getting the council to repair it?"
1881 If I may be forgiven I will read one which came this morning from Penycoed, Maesgwyn, Giulsfield, Welshpool. I know this farm well. This letter says:As our M.P. for Montgomeryshire could you do something about repairing the road which is in a shocking state leading to two council holdings known as Penycoed and Maesgwyn ucha Guilsfield. We have been trying to have something done to it for over 12 months and it seems to be getting worse. We can't have a bit of feeding stuff delivered only so far, then it's dumped on the side of the road to be fetched when we find out that it's there, and coal the same. What do we pay rates for, as we pay £12 for the two holdings yearly and it's only one house roughly divided into two with 108 acres of ground. We pay yearly rent of £169. We can't run a car because of the conditions of the road. I attend clinic every month, and have to hire a car to fetch me, after I have walked so far or if I am unable to walk my husband has to bring me down with the horse and cart. Doctor Jones…said that it is the worse road in the county.Well, it is not. I know some worse ones.
It is not fair as we work hard and rearing children, and to think that they have to walk through all the dirt to get a car to take them to school. In the winter we can't even take the milk to the stand as the road is one streak of ice.I read that letter because that is the kind of letter that one gets continually. I cannot blame the county council. They are doing their utmost, and they have first-class officials.
May I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the figures? The cost of roads in the county of Middlesex is 9d. in the £; in the county of Hertford it is 1s. 7d. in the £; in the county of Kent 1s. in the £; in the county of Montgomeryshire 19s. 3½d. in the £, and in the county of Cardigan 18s. 9d. in the £. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says, "The grants we are making ought to suffice." How can we possibly carry on like that? I am not going on with all these details. I have surely said enough to show that these are special matters with which we cannot cope.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North referred to our love of the land. I myself believe in smallholdings. There is a demand not only for housing in rural Wales but for land. For what else are these people brought up? The moment a smallholding becomes vacant there are 50 young couples begging for it. There again is a special problem. 1882 What can we do to help the county councils in meeting these problems?
As for the amenities in our villages, prior to 1947 there was the Carnegie Trust which was very generous and helped the parish councils in erecting parish halls. That came to an end, and in 1948 the late Government brought in an equally generous scheme. At once 20 of my parishioners rushed in and prepared schemes for new halls, but before they could get the schemes through there was a cut in 1949, and only two of the schemes got through because of the cut. In 1951 the grant was partially restored, but unfortunately the Ministry of Education imposed three conditions which the rural people find impossible to observe. Where are these young people to go? Why cannot we make conditions in the country areas at attractive for them as in the towns? If we did, I think we would stop this exodus.
I find it difficult to speak in this House about these matters. Tonight I am surrounded by my own colleagues from Wales who understand these problems, but if I wanted to carry the House with me I should have to explain to the English and Scottish Members, who do not really understand the problems. My objection to this Council is that it is a nominated council. These are special Welsh problems which we. the Welsh people, know and understand. Therefore, the only place where I could get them dealt with would be in an elected chamber of Welsh people because they are aware of the problems and are anxious to deal with them. That is the only way.
We have an intense love of our country, and rightly so. We have fought for our position against every invader for 2,000 years. We are proud of our language and of our position. We love our land and we do not want to be uprooted. We do not want to have our mode of life changed. Looking at this White Paper and having listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I can find nothing which has been offered us except what has been offered generally and the statement, "That is enough for you, that should suffice." I therefore say that although the right hon. and learned Gentleman is courteous and helpful, he has not understood our problems and has made no contribution towards solving them.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
This is the second occasion on which I have had the honour of following the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). On the other occasion I found it a hard task, and I do so again today. The other occasion was exactly two years ago, when I made my maiden speech. I listened at that time not with quite the same attention with which I have listened to him today, because I was even more nervous than I am today about what was going to follow. I did, however, read with great care the speech he made in the Welsh debate two years ago, and I have listened with great care to him today. Apart from one or two minor matters, mainly of a constitutional nature, I agree wholeheartedly with what he has said, and I should like to express my deep appreciation of the way in which he has stated this very acute problem to the House today.
In many ways I have, possibly, the same background as the right hon. and learned Gentleman, except that I come from the northern part of Wales which, in my humble opinion, has a lot to commend itself, despite the fact that it may not be quite as rural as the right hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency. I myself have had personal experience of smallholdings, having, as a child, spent a large amount of time on smallholdings farmed by relatives of mine, and I know exactly what problems existed then and exist today.
This Report which the Panel of the Council for Wales has brought out is most useful and comprehensive, and we should all be most grateful to that Panel for the work it has done in bringing these matters to our notice in this most excellent fashion. Having listened to the debate, I feel that there is a great measure of agreement in this House today. There must be very few people—in fact, I doubt whether there is one present—who would disagree that migration from the country side in Wales is a serious matter.
I do not think that anybody would disagree with the conclusions that were reached by the Rural Development Panel as to the action needed to help prevent this migration. In effect, the conclusion reached by the Panel was a simple one. It was that greater additional aid must be given to the basic services, particu- 1884 larly housing, water supplies and roads. It says that if something can be done to assist these basic services it will make the life of a person living in the rural areas a better one and assist agriculture, which is the main industry of the rural areas. Then it might be possible to put a stop to this migration from the country side.
The problem of rural depopulation is not peculiarly a Welsh problem. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) would admit—as he did in his last speech on the subject—that it is a universal and world-wide problem. As far as England and Wales is concerned, a much higher percentage of the population of Wales live in the rural areas. Also, any depopulation of the rural areas is a depopulation of a part of Wales which is essentially Welsh, and the effect is felt more in Wales than in England, where it can be absorbed without the same importance being given to it.
There is no difference between the Government, the Council for Wales and, as far as I can see, hon. Members opposite, as to the aims and the basic approach with regard to this problem. The great issue is, who is to be responsible for the additional money which has to be spent on these basic services? Where does this responsibility lie? The Council for Wales has made a proposal but, as the Government have said in the White Paper, that proposal is not clear.
This statement appears to have offended the members of the Council for Wales, who expressed themselves in no uncertain terms on the subject. But the proposal, as set out in the Second Memorandum, is still not clear. Despite the fact that the Council has said that the Government could have had full information if they had consulted the Council and made inquiries, we have still not had full information as to what this proposal means.
For instance, in paragraph 297 of the Second Memorandum it says that a special agency will carry out this function in conjunction with the local authorities. That is a matter of great importance. But paragraph 303 defines the objects of the Development Corporation, and says:The main purpose of the Corporation would be to take over on this basis of a 12-year programme the task of providing or improving the services of housing, water supply 1885 and sewerage, the schemes being handed over to the local authorities for operation and maintenance in due course.The powers are again referred to in paragraph 313, which says:The Corporation should, in the Panel's view, be authorised to accept, hold and dispose of money, to enter into contracts or agreements in furtherance of its objects and to hold inquiries; to purchase, take on lease or otherwise acquire lands, to hold such lands and to sell, grant, lease or otherwise dispose of such lands; to undertake any building development or contribute towards or otherwise assist such development; to construct or contribute towards or otherwise assist the construction of water and electricity supply works and sewerage and sewage disposal works and other public utility works and of roads, ways and other means of passage; and to contribute towards or otherwise assist any provision, scheme or project it might deem to be directly or indirectly conducive to the general aim of a rehabilitated countryside.It is suggested that this Rural Development Corporation should have the most extraordinary powers, covering a tremendously wide area, going right into the province of the local authorities into the area of public corporations or nationalised industries, such as the British Electricity Authority.
In paragraph 316, the finance of the Corporation is suggested in these words:The provision of housing, water supply and sewerage would be carried out…on the basis of 100 per cent, disbursement by the Corporation, and the arrangements would thus replace, for the purposes of the development scheme, the existing arrangements of grants and subsidies in respect of these services.If that is so, how can it possibly be said that the local authorities would not be superseded? If the Rural Development Corporation is to look after the provision of housing, water supply and sewerage on a basis of 100 per cent. dispersement by the Corporation and then hand over the houses at the end to the local authorities and, to use its own words,replace, for the purposes of the development scheme, the existing arrangements of grants and subsidies in respect of these servicesit is quite obvious that in respect of those three social services they are taking over the functions of the local authorities. On that point alone I would say that the Rural Development Corporation would have very little to commend itself to Wales.
But there is another matter. This Second Memorandum asks for £60 million to cover not just those services, 1886 but many others. It suggests that £40 million of that £60 million should be used for houses, water supply and sewerage. Forty million pounds, over a period of 12 years, will amount to about £3⅓ million per year. As I read paragraph 316 of the Memorandum, it would spend that amount on the basis of 100 per cent. disbursements on houses and water.
We heard my right hon. and learned Friend mention what is shown in the White Paper regarding what has happened in respect of these services in Wales over the last year. In 1952, the Government invested £5 million in the 10 rural counties. I know it is admitted in the White Paper that these 10 rural counties are rather more than those rural areas which it is suggested merit special attention; and in fact the Council for Wales this morning sent round a memorandum mentioning that in those 10 rural counties there is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has described as an urban belt, in the rural districts of Wrexham and Llanelly and, with rural district of South Brecon.
That is so. We have been given figures by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) of the number of houses that have been built since 1945 in those areas. The figures, I think, were, for those three urban belts, about 3,700 houses since 1945. That means that since 1945, which is approximately eight years ago, there were about 400 houses a year for the whole of those belts. We have heard that the Government have spent in one year £5 million on these 10 areas.
Nobody can suggest that the 400 or 500 houses which may have been built in one year in these urban belts would absorb a great deal of that £5 million, but even if they absorbed £1 million, it would still leave a larger amount than that asked for by the Rural Development Panel which was going to tackle this service by taking it over on a 100 per cent. basis from the local authorities. The sum of £3⅓ million a year for houses when already in Wales is being spent much more than that in the rural areas, according to the figures which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman and the figures given by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor. If that is so, and the money had gone to the Rural Development Corporation, it would have been unable to do in housing what is being done 1887 at the moment, and it would have to go round in no time to ask for more money.
Hon. Members have seen in the White Paper, in answer to the Rural Development Panel, that in farming grants and subsidies, and investment by the Government in houses, roads, water and electricity, admittedly over the 10 counties and admittedly bringing into account these urban fringes which have been mentioned, in a period of 12 years if the present rate of investment continues, the Government will have invested a matter of about £150 million, not £60 million which was suggested by the Panel. This is a lot of money, of course; £150 million is a great deal of money; but, in my view, it is not enough. I am quite sure, having heard the arguments that have been put forward by hon. Members, having read as carefully as I could the Report of the Rural Development Panel, and having thought about the matter myself, that more than what is being spent at the moment will have to be spent by this Government, and I am convinced that more will be.
The terms of reference of the Rural Development Panel are given at the beginning of the Memorandum, and it was askedTo consider 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 the approprate kind and generally the steps necessary to rehabilitate the rural areas of Wales as a whole.It has done that. It has gone even farther. It has examined this problem very carefully. It has brought out, I think, an excellent Report, and it has set out what, in its view, are the necessary steps to rehabilitate the rural areas of Wales as a whole, and those steps set out are the steps of giving additional assistance to the basic services it mentions, with particular reference to forestry and agriculture. I do not think it was necessary, according to its terms of reference, for it to have gone any further than that. It would have been an excellent Report on that. However, it went further and mentioned, I am sure most sincerely and properly, the Rural Development Corporation.
I myself have no doubt at all that this Rural Development Corporation is 1888 something which will not be acceptable to Wales, and the fact that the Government have reached that conclusion should not be a matter of concern for the Council for Wales or the Rural Development Panel. They can be assured that their job was well done, and they can be assured that because the Government have merely failed to agree with them on this one matter their function has been most usefully carried out and that they have contributed something to Wales that will be of inestimable value.
I have been most interested to observe that nobody has attempted in this debate so far to support to any great extent this scheme for a Rural Development Corporation, apart from the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). He supported it in a manner, but did not go into great detail. He just said that he thought it had much to commend it, and he said that he thought the Rural Development Corporation would strengthen and encourage local authorities. One thing is quite clear, that the local authorities of Wales do not think that themselves.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor mentioned a gathering of his local authorities after this Report had come out, and by his very silence as to the result of their division it is quite clear that they did not like the Rural Development Corporation. I noticed in the papers the other day that after the Government had issued their White Paper on this matter the rural district of Dolgelley which, after all, is at the very heart of this problem, right in the heart of the constituency for the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), the rural district which should be most concerned about whether or not the Rural Development Corporation is appropriate or not, was unequivocal in its view.
A unanimous resolution was passed a week last Saturday congratulating the Government on the decision contained in the White Paper. The resolution was proposed by Councillor E. Humphrey Parry, who said:What would have happened if the proposed Corporation were established? Presumably, such a corporation would undertake the work of the three mentioned services, and would hand them over to the local authorities who would have to hold the baby. Thank 1889 goodness the Government have shown such foresight in rejecting it. I am convinced that the trust which the Government place in the Welsh local authorities will not be found wanting.There has been very little enthusiasm from either side of the House for this Rural Development Corporation. In Wales, there has always been a great distrust of any Government body with any thing like the powers which have been asked for by this Corporation to control the lives of the people of Wales, and I can understand why there is little enthusiasm for it on either side of the House. I shall listen very attentively, as the debate continues, to hear what support is given for it.
The matter at issue in this debate is the Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, and seconded by the hon. Member for Anglesey. As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor is back in his place again, may I say how much I enjoyed his speech. It gave us all great pleasure to hear him in full spate, and I can well understand how the reporters stated in one paper that he brought cheer after cheer from the assembly at Tony-pandy.
As I say, the issue before the House is the Amendment, which voices regret at the Government's rejection of the Rural Development Corporation. There is no comment as to whether they would have adopted that idea or not. Why have theynot put forward an alternative plan for immediate implementation that will prove adequate to the urgent need of rehabilitating the Welsh rural counties and diversifying their economy.Those are strong words, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should back them up by some practical suggestions. Neither of the two hon. Members who have spoken so far have done so.
We know that this problem exists in Wales. No one knows it better than I do, but the only suggestion from the Opposition is what is in the Amendment. After all, hon. Members opposite belong to a party which is in Opposition which may, for all we know, in 10 or 20 years' time be the Government. Therefore, they must be prepared to take over the reins of office and account to the country for these matters.
1890 They regret that the Government faced with this acute problem, havenot put forward an alternative plan for immediate implementation that will prove adequate to the urgent need of rehabilitating the Welsh rural counties and diversifying their economy.What is the plan which hon. Gentlemen opposite think should be put forward? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery has been very honest with the House and has told us what his plan is. He said, "I do not think we can ever get this matter adequately dealt with until it is dealt with by an elected, representative body in Wales." What do hon. Members think? What is their alternative plan? If they do not support this Rural Development Corporation what do they think the Government should have donefor immediate implementation that will prove adequate to the urgent need of rehabilitating the Welsh rural counties and diversifying their economy"?That is a matter which I think we are entitled to know about when we are attacked for our proposals.
The White Paper sets out the Government's view. The proposals which have been put forward are, in my opinion, constructive. There is one matter which I should like to mention and which I welcome. That is the proposed investigation by the Welsh Sub-Commission of the Agriculture Land Commission, as is set out in paragraph 23. There, it says:The Government propose to ask the Sub-Commission to include in their investigation the questions what pattern of ownership and occupation is best suited to the types of farming advocated"—
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Is it in order, during a debate, when a great many hon. Members with vital rural points which they wish to make, for an hon. Member to make a contribution of this kind, with lengthy quotations from published papers, which are available to everybody?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
It is in order to read quotations. It is not for me to talk about the nature of the speech.
§ Mr. Thomas
I was referring to paragraph 23 of the White Paper which mentions the fact that the Welsh Sub-Commission of the Agriculture Land Commission is to be invited to investigate the 1891 pattern of ownership and occupation in the rural areas generally, and there is one matter which I should like to mention about this. It may be that farm units will require to be replanned as a result of these investigations, and it is suggested in the White Paper that the best machinery to use to gain the co-operation of the farmers, should replanning be considered, is the county agricultural executive committees.
I do not think that those bodies are solely the best vehicle for getting co-operation with the farmers. In all these matters, especially when a farm is to be replanned or the suggestion is made that it should be replanned, while the C.A.E.C. is obviously the machinery to be used, it is important that farming interests, such as the National Farmers' Union, should be brought in for consultation, and it is through that medium that the Government would get the best co-operation.
Roads are of the utmost importance. In my constituency I am continually getting complaints about their state, especially occupational roads. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport make the statement he did today, in which he promised that much more money would be spent on the roads. I think we can welcome the proposal, set out in the White Paper, that the Government will make proposals to Parliament when opportunity offers for enabling the Minister of Agriculture to contribute towards the cost of improving some of the unclassified roads in Wales which are in great need of improvement.
The main matter in the White Paper are the proposals regarding policy. I can see that hon. Members opposite are wanting to speak and I am sorry to keep them so long.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
On a point of order. Is the hon. Member aware that hon. Members on this side of the House rather resent his taking such a long time to say nothing in defence of the Government's handling of this situation?
§ Mr. Thomas
So far as the plans for forestry are concerned, it is quite clear that a great deal more could and should 1892 be done in afforestation in Wales. If that is done, and while it is done, I am sure that it will be of assistance to the rural areas, but I also share with hon. Members on both sides of the House the worry that farms and land may be compulsorily purchased, and I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider cutting down on the compulsory acquisition of land.
I think that it is essential that the hill farming interests should not be sacrificed to afforestation. I am glad that in the White Paper it is clearly laid down that it is the intention that forestry interests should run parallel with the agricultural pattern instead of there being a conflict of interests, as so often happened in the past. I hope that if any scheme is thought of in regard to forestry there will be close consultation with the National Farmers' Union. I am also glad that the Government have said in the White Paper that they do not intend to set a target, but they intend to depend largely on co-operation with the agricultural industry.
I think that the main cause of the exodus from rural areas has been in the past due to a lack of faith in the agricultural industry. In the last two years the Government have underlined their faith in the industry by extending the various production grants to farmers of poorer land and smaller farms. I know that in my constituency fertiliser grants, ploughing-up grants, the subsidy for calves and the additional assistance given in marginal production schemes have been of great assistance to the smaller farmers on the hills. I believe that if the Government continue to play their part so far as these grants are concerned—and there is a special need in the hill farms for additional grants if the confidence which is so necessary for farmers is to be built up—and have confidence in agriculture half the trouble of rural depopulation will be cured.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
We have today been debating the problem of rural depopulation in Wales, and it is clear from the speeches we have had from both sides of the House that this is a very serious problem indeed. Rural depopulation, however, is not a peculiarly Welsh problem. It is not a Welsh national problem. It is a problem of rural 1893 economy. People do not leave the land because they are Welsh. They do not leave the land because it is in Wales. They leave the land because it is unable to afford them an adequate and satisfactory standard of living. If this problem is more acute in Wales than anywhere else it is because, first, that relatively so much of the area of Wales is rural in character. Secondly, it is because of the traditional lack of balance between industry and agriculture in Wales and, thirdly—and this is a very serious matter—it is because of the general backwardness and primitiveness of so much of the agricultural economy of Wales.
This has been a live issue in Wales for quite a long time and most people, I think, were expecting a debate on this matter several months ago. We all hoped that if the Government were unable to accept the recommendations of the Council for Wales they would have produced alternative proposals of their own. But the debate was repeatedly postponed and even now, after several months of delay, the Government still have no practical proposals to put forward. I must say that the Government's handling of this situation has been inept, tortuous and evasive.
The Council submitted its report to the Government last February. Then followed months of prolonged and profound silence on the part of the Government. There were repeated Questions in the House, asking when the Report would be published, but the answers were always evasive and non-committal. The Report was not published until the end of July, and the date was significant. The Report came out within a few days of the end of the Parliamentary Session when, because of the accumulation of Parliamentary business at that time of the year, it was impossible to find an opportunity to debate this vital matter.
It is evident that the Council's Report has been a serious embarrassment to the Government from the beginning. It has been clear for months now that the Government's aim was to kill the Report by silence and, secondly, to stall, manoeuvre and delay until public interest in the subject was completely exhausted and people did not want to hear any more about it. After stalling on the Report for 10 months, the Government issued a White Paper. This was available in the Vote 1894 Office 10 days ago. Immediately the White Paper was issued, this debate was arranged, and this unseemly haste to force the debate through has deprived hon. Members from sounding opinions in their respective constituencies and testing the reactions in the vast rural hinterland of Wales.
We now have a statement from the Council for Wales expressing the strongest possible resentment at the Government's handling of the situation. The Council says that it has not been consulted since the Report was submitted last February. It did not even know that the Government were issuing a White Paper, and it was not informed of the contents of the White Paper. Whatever the merits or demerits of the Council's recommendations—and I have some strong reservations about them—we have to admit that the Council has made a valuable survey. It devoted two years to the problem, and its Report gives a vivid and graphic picture of the situation in rural Wales. I do not agree with the recommendations of the Council, but it seems to me that the Council has every ground for complaining about the treatment it has received from the Government.
For the last two years the Government have been trying to create the impression that they are tremendously interested in Wales and the problem of Wales. Indeed, the Government needed to create that impression, because in no part of the country have the Tory Government less popular support. In no part of Britain has their policy had such disastrous results on the economy and the people. In Wales, under the Tories, our basic industries collapsed, our agriculture declined and decayed; and hundreds of thousands of our people were driven out by starvation and mass unemployment.
Since they have been in power during the last two years, the Tories have been trying to live down that squalid record, not by doing something practical and tangible for Wales, but by setting up a series of decorative facades. They have appointed a Minister for Welsh Affairs who, with due respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, comes to Wales to make very fine speeches. Indeed, if Ministerial speeches could produce prosperity, Wales would today be the most prosperous part of Britain. In his speeches, the right hon. and learned 1895 Gentleman repeatedly refers to the new economy in Wales. That new economy, however, was created by the Labour Government; the Tory Government made no contribution towards it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is claiming the maximum credit for the minimum of achievement.
Now we have the White Paper on Rural Wales, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman commends to the House. In it, the Government reject the recommendations of the Council, but they offer nothing in place of those recommendations. They agree that action should be taken, but they do not propose to take any action. They will consider, they will consult and they will investigate, but they will not take any action—they do not propose to take action—to prevent the migration of the people from rural Wales.
The basic problem in rural Wales is economic. The White Paper recognises this fact, but the Government recoil from the logic of their own analysis. That leads me to make one general comment on the recommendations of the Council. I think that in the recommendations, the Council for Wales approached the problem from the wrong end. The real problem in these areas is the existence of a backward, primitive, poverty-stricken economy. It seems to me that the Council for Wales is trying to meet this problem by the provision of social amenities and social services. It is trying to build a new roof without making sure that the foundations are sound. If the economy of these areas cannot provide the people with an adequate and satisfactory living, the best social services in the world will not keep them there and will not keep these areas alive.
The Government have thrown the Council's Report into the wastepaper basket. The White Paper, for all its practical value, can be consigned to the same place. All that remains now is for the Government to dissolve the Council for Wales—if, indeed, the Council has not dissolved itself already. The Government have not only killed the Report, but they have signed the death warrant of the Council; and the White Paper on rural Wales is not a declaration of Government policy, but is the obituary notice of the Council for Wales.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) made a remarkable ending to his speech in suggesting that because the Government do not accept every recommendation of the Report of the Council of Wales, the value of the Report is thereby made null and nugatory. I refer the hon. Member to page 9 of the Report, where that same Council recommends that there should be a Secretary of State for Wales. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Neath would say that the Government should immediately implement that proposal merely because the Council recommends it.
§ Mr. Gower
In studying the report of a council or organisation such as the Council for Wales, the Government are entitled to decide, in the implementation of their policy for the whole of the British Isles, which of the findings of the Council can be implemented within the means at the disposal of the Government, who, after all, are the only body who have the complete picture. The Government are the only body to have a picture of the whole national economic position and finances. That, of course, lends some strength to the arguments of those who, like the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), would insist, rightly or wrongly, that these matters can only be properly solved by having a Parliament or a separate body solely responsible electorally to the Welsh people.
I am not prepared to say that what has been done has been without value. On balance, we can see many evidences of positive gain, not only from the Report, but from the White Paper. From the combination of the two, we have had a valuable gain today in so far as we have had an extra day on which to debate Welsh affairs. Secondly, we can view as a positive gain the attention which has been directed to the problem of rural Wales by the findings of the Council. Thirdly, we might mention the Government's acceptance of most of the findings of the Council and particularly the report about conditions in the rural counties, whose position, I think, is now more firmly established in our minds and in the minds of the Government than ever before.
1897 The Government's decision to expand the work of the Forestry Commission in Wales, together with the capital expenditure on housing in particular which will follow from the extension of forestry in the Welsh counties, must be accounted as an indication of the value of the Report. In addition, we might cite the Government's acknowledgment that the equalisation grants are of supreme and peculiar importance in the Welsh rural counties, and the promise of my right hon. and learned Friend in the White Paper to give specific attention to Wales when considering the findings of the Committee set up by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. That again is something resulting from the findings of the council and it constitutes a new proposal by the Government.
Another new proposal is their promise in paragraph 51 of the White Paper to consider with special sympathy applications for grants for water and sewerage where those cannot be borne by the local rates.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that this is the first time the Government have considered such applications with sympathy?
§ Mr. Gower
I am suggesting that the fact that the Government recognise there is a peculiar case in connection with the Welsh counties, and a peculiar case with reference to equalisation, and their statement in this White Paper that they will consider with special sympathy—I underline the word "special"—applications from Welsh rural counties for water development and sewerage, is a positive gain resulting from the findings of the Council and from the considerations of those findings by the Government.
We can say that there is yet another positive gain in the decision to launch a special inquiry into the type of farming most suitable for the areas. Those are all reasons for saying that this White Paper has certainly not been thrown into the wastepaper basket, as the hon. Member for Neath suggested.
I submit to my right hon. and learned Friend that there is a possible danger that we may overlook the really desperate plight of some of these Welsh areas as revealed in the Report. I need hardly remind him that the figures in some parts 1898 of it reveal a state of affairs far worse than exists in any of the comparable English counties. A comparison between the counties of mid-Wales and Cumberland, for example, shows that the position in Wales is unique and one which merits special attention.
In that connection I was interested in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) that some limited experiment should be carried out. While it may not be possible immediately to follow blindly the recommendation of the Council that we spend £60 million over a great area, I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend if it is possible to examine with sympathy the suggestion, which I think was the basis of the speech of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, that there might be such a limited experiment with possibly limited expenditure.
I would also ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether it is not the case that in the past we have, perhaps wrongly, restricted our understanding of the term "special areas" to apply only to industrial areas. Might it not be appropriate to extend that meaning to agricultural areas which may need special attention just as much as those industrial areas which have obtained special assistance for many years?
§ Mr. Gower
I do not think I need reply to that interjection—which should have been made in a different manner—except to say that there are such areas all over the British Isles.
I have abridged my speech considerably in order to allow other hon. Members on both sides of the House to take part in this debate. But I must add that my position in this matter is somewhere between the two sides of the House. I should be sitting on one of the cross-benches, but, unfortunately, we have no cross-benches here as there are in another place.
I feel that the Council for Wales has adopted a too parochial view in studying this problem and in asking for some special assistance irrespective of the general economic picture. They are wrong in specifying one remedy and in voicing their dissatisfaction if that one remedy cannot be implemented. On the other hand, I feel there is a danger that 1899 Ministers may still not be fully aware of the unique quality of this question, and the need to view the problems of these rural counties in Wales as something fundamentally different from those of the poorest English counties. I hope that the outcome of this Report, this White Paper and our debate today may be a prospect of greater assistance for these Welsh counties in the future.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
When the Report of the Council of Wales was first published six months ago, it aroused mixed feelings in the Principality. Very naturally, a feeling of dismay and despondency was to be found in Wales when the plight of the rural areas was made generally known. Nevertheless, there was also a feeling of great expectancy. The people of Wales comforted themselves with the thought that, after all, the Government now in power had been elected "to set the people free." That was one of their solemn pledges and here was a glorious opportunity to set free those people, burdened by their rates, which we heard about from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies).
In addition, the Government had actually designated one of its Ministers as the Minister of Welsh affairs. The people of Wales considered that if that meant anything at all, it must mean he was the Minister to deal with the specific problems of Wales, one—and probably the worst—being the de-population of the rural areas. What was more important was the fact that the previous Government had expressly requested the Council of Wales to undertake intensive inquiries into the plight of the rural areas and to submit constructive proposals. The Report is the outcome, and a very excellent Report it is. Indeed, the Government admit that it is an excellent Report. On page 1 appear their words of commendation and appreciation.
But a week last Friday the hopes of the people of Wales were dashed mercilessly to the ground. The Government's White Paper was published on that day and it became another black Friday so far as Wales was concerned. It is true that the White Paper is redolent with good will. It agrees with almost everything 1900 said by the Council's special Panel. But it does not accept a single proposal—agreeing with all and accepting none. I congratulate the Government on a marvellous achievement. I have never seen anything quite so ingenious in all my life. The White Paper promises nothing—just nothing—yet the Government have taken 13 pages to tell us how they intend to implement that promise. I have heard nothing tonight to show that it is suggested that anything should be done.
I have read the White Paper 10 times, in bed. I had a chill the first time I read it, and I have been in bed since then; but I admit that probably on first reading the unwary would be caught. I might have been caught on first reading and I might have come to the conclusion that the Government promised something. The White Paper has been written in that way for that purpose.
For example, let us consider what they say about electricity. The Government recognise the need, and who doubts it, for electricity in rural Wales. Then they say:In June, 1953, the Minister of Fuel and Power announced that the capital investment permitted to the Electricity Boards would be increased by £1½ million over the succeeding 18 months so that the Boards might accelerate their progress with rural development schemes throughout the country, and rural Wales will benefit proportionately from the increase.What is the point of all that? When we analyse that paragraph we find that all it says is that Wales will have its proportionate share of the £1½ million which is to be spread over the whole country. Whoever doubted that? What is novel in that? What is there of special interest to Wales in that? Of course, we shall have a portion of that money, but I assure the Government that it will not carry us very far, especially in the areas covered by the White Paper.
I promised to cut out much of what I wanted to say so that several of my hon. Friends could have a chance to speak after listening for three-quarters of an hour to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) trying to tell us something. What he said I do not know, and I look forward to reading his speech in the Official Report tomorrow.
The Government fail to appreciate that they are challenged to rehabilitate not a region but a country. I emphasise that. 1901 They were challenged to set a nation on its feet—a nation which has suffered more than any other nation in Europe from economic distress. Anyone who knows the past of South Wales will agree that the Government were challenged to put on its feet a whole nation and to cast away the gloom and despair which has overtaken the country and which is still overtaking that part mentioned in the White Paper.
The Government insist on dealing with Wales merely as a province, as an appendage of England. They have not taken into account the fact that we are a different people with different problems which demand a different kind of solution. What makes the position extremely tragic is that we are not asking the Government to develop something new; we are asking them to resuscitate and to restore what was there years ago.
I gave one little picture, again from Montgomeryshire. In one parish in Montgomery there are 80 farm houses and cottages, 10 agricultural workers' houses, four rural craftsmen's houses and 12 other houses which have become derelict within the memory of the present inhabitants. That is the tragedy of the whole business. We ask the Government to restore the position.
We have been told that Wales was conquered in 1282. Do not believe it. Wales was conquered in the 30's when the Tories were last in power and when 500,000 of our young men and women were compelled to leave the country, never to return. That was the year of the conquest of Wales, if it has been conquered at all.
The last sentence of the White Paper says that the Minister of Welsh Affairs:…will also consider with his colleagues how any obstacles to progress may be overcome.If the White Paper is the best that the Government can produce, then I suggest that the greatest obstacles to Welsh progress are the Government themselves. I do not know what the Council will do as a result of what has happened. I think that they will resign. I am tempted to say that I hope they will, and, if they do, my advice to the Government is:Go, and do thou likewise.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
I am sure that we have all enjoyed the flight of oratory of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). One of the main reasons for the rural depopulation of the hon. Member's constituency is not so much the poverty of Merioneth or the lack of amenities init; it is because 69 per cent. of the children in the county go to grammar schools. Economic conditions alone do not explain rural depopulation. Such considerations as the educational system have to be borne in mind, and if the educational system is such that 69 per cent. of the children are in grammar schools it is not surprising that those children find outlets outside the rural areas.
If we are to prevent any further rural depopulation, we must take steps to maintain our population in the countryside, and it is essential for us to have a prosperous and secure agricultural industry. As the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) said, it is no use having new sewers, water supplies and roads if there is no strong basic industry.
In that respect I recommend my Welsh colleagues to take note of a sentence in the Programme of Highland Development, which says:Fundamentally the Highland problem is to encourage people to live in the Highlands by making it possible to secure there, in return for reasonable efforts, proper standards of life and the means of paying for them.I am very sorry that the excellent Report which we have had from the Council for Wales has not placed sufficient emphasis on the provision of means for paying for extra amenities in Wales
There has been talk of mass migration, and the hon. Member for Neath called it "a continuing mass migration." That is not true. As a result of increased prosperity in agriculture, we have now turned our backs on the bad old days. Anyone who represents an agricultural constituency, especially one concerned chiefly with upland farming, will know of the revolution which has taken place within the last 20 years. The old lands have been ploughed up and the bracken and the heather have been driven back.
§ Mr. Evans
I am glad to be able to inform the right hon. Gentleman that this year I have walked more than 500 miles in my constituency. On the upland farms there, hundreds of acres of land have been brought back into cultivation. It is essential to keep those acres in cultivation, and that will require further ploughing up grants, at least every five years. New acres have been seeded and they are now carrying stock. Unless we employ the methods of old Adam, the bracken, heather and the like will come back. I hope the Government will have a long-term policy for the constant re-seeding of these acres.
More important than that, I should say that the main contribution which the Government can make to the prosperity and security of the agricultural industry in Wales will be by means of a marketing policy. I do not want to develop that now, but I hope that we shall give every encouragement to the farmers to develop a meat marketing board. When they get that security, we shall have more healthy farming in Wales, and we shall get more towards store cattle and sheep and away from milk production, which, I believe, is the way in which future prosperity lies.
There are many suggestions about agriculture in the White Paper which, I think, are valuable. First of all, with regard to the reorganisation of farms, at first I did not at all like the idea of handing this job over to the Welsh Sub-Commission. I thought the job was far too big for a body which consists only of four gentlemen, and the idea that four gentlemen could do the job was, to me, absurd. I have now realised, of course, that they have an advisory service provided by people who can assist them in this job, and, in any attempt to do this job in Wales, the advisory services should be brought in to help the Welsh Depart- 1904 ment of Agriculture at Aberystwyth. I think it will enable them to do the job very much better.
We all welcome the fact that regard will be paid to the improvement of rural roads, which is most necessary, but I am not altogether happy about the idea that these new grants shall come from the Ministry of Agriculture. Personally, I should prefer that they remained under the Ministry of Transport. The conception at the moment is that we shall never get these grants for unclassified roads if they are to help the economy of particular farmers, and I think that is rather unimaginative, because I believe that a great deal can be done for the Welsh tourist industry. In fact, by the development of these rural roads, we shall also be able to bring joy to thousands and millions into the pockets of Welshman. We have plenty of schemes which could be adopted.
I should like to see a road, which I am sure would pay for itself immediately, from Lake Vyrnwy to Bala. I went over a new road the other day. Fortunately, the Forestry Commission made it, and it passes the house of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. F. N. Bennett) and I suggest that there are others, and that, if these grants are made not only for the purpose of farm roads but also for the development of the tourist industry, we shall gain considerably.
There are two points on forestry that are very important. We all want to see the march of forestry and agriculture, and want to see further afforestation in Wales, because there is great value in it, but I do not believe that we are going to get much further unless we tackle the other problem of common land. In reply to a Question which I put down last week, the Minister of Agriculture said that there were somewhere about half a million of acres of common land in Wales, and we all know that, under the present system of ownership and grazing, they are not producing anywhere near as much as they could be made to produce. This is a thorny problem, but I hope that the Government will have the courage to introduce legislation to deal with the problem of common land.
Secondly, I want to urge on the Government, or at least on the Forestry Commission, the need for bringing more Welsh boys into forestry. The appeal to 1905 Welsh boys is still not being put across properly. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and I went on a trip round the Welsh forests during last summer, and we met some very intelligent people, but, in the executive grades of the people working in the forests, I found only one fellow who was a Welsh-speaking Welshman. We have a school at Capel Curig where there are 49 students at the moment. Out of that 49, only 14 were born in Wales, and I do not know how many of them are Welsh-speaking. I hope that the Forestry Commission will recruit more Welshmen.
I would say a word on the subject of the special agency or Rural Development Corporation which has been suggested. I am not in favour of the idea, because it cuts across not only the functions of local authorities but the functions of many other bodies. The Electricity Authority has been mentioned. It would cut across the functions of the Forestry Commission and of the county agricultural executive committees. It would be rather a mischievous set up. On the other hand, we cannot stay just where we are. There must be some way whereby the special needs of Wales can be met.
I know that the Home Secretary has done a magnificent job in Wales as Minister for Welsh Affairs and that it is appreciated all over the Principality. He is quite the best Minister for Welsh Affairs we have ever had, and the best Minister for Welsh Affairs that we are ever likely to get, no matter which Government are in power, but we must consider again the possibility of establishing a Welsh Office on a par with the Scottish Office. I believe that that is necessary. I am glad to see that the Welsh Advisory Committee has made that recommendation once again.
We were told today that Scotland has not only a Secretary of State but four Joint Under-Secretaries, but that is not quite right. It has three Joint Undersecretaries, and also a Minister of State. Among the duties of the Minister of State for Scotland—most of us remember the noble Lord when he was a Member of this House, and we miss him very much—is to look after Highland problems. At St. Andrew's House a whole Department, completely staffed, looks after Highland affairs. We want a similar set-up in Wales.
1906 The Secretary of State for Scotland is advised by the Highland Advisory Panel, again a most excellent body. The thing which attracts me about it first and foremost is that there are six Members of Parliament on it. Most of us do not hold any brief for Members of Parliament, but at least we have to appear before the public to expose the sins of the Opposition and to excuse the sins of our own Government, and from time to time we have to appear as responsible people in our own constituencies. The Highland Panel has, in addition, eight representatives of local authorities, four members nominated I believe by the Secretary of State, and two representatives of Scottish industry. That is a really useful body.
Persuasive as my right hon. and learned Friend may be, and in fact is, he is nowhere near as persuasive as this Highland Panel. Only last summer the Panel was able to persuade the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, in turn, was able to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to give the Highland Panel £1 million for roads. That is just one item, and the rural roads in the Highlands are already in infinitely better condition than are the rural roads in Wales. I suggest that this idea of a Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs and of a Welsh Department is one which should be considered once again because, with such an arrangement, we could get a move on to bring about that prosperity in Wales which is so much desired and which would keep our people in the countryside.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
We have heard a good deal today about the poverty of the rural areas of Wales, but what has been most apparent to me while I have sat here listening to the speeches and watching the clock is the poverty of the Conservative Party, particularly in regard to Welsh problems.
I want to protest against the fact that because there are so few Conservative spokesmen from Wales, those who do get here are put up to speak and to waste time, thus preventing representatives from this side of the House from putting vital rural points to the House. I want to back that up by appealing once more to the Minister for Welsh Affairs and to my right hon. Friends on this side of the 1907 House to consider once again the entire arrangement for the consideration of Welsh questions both inside and outside this House.
It is really futile that we should consider a vital matter of this kind under conditions of this sort. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), who probably knows more than any of us about certain aspects of this rural problem, had to curtail his remarks to such an extent that one felt that the whole purpose of this debate was in jeopardy.
I make that protest and once more that appeal. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) suggested that the creation of a Secretariat of State for Wales on the lines of the Scottish Ministry might possibly be a step forward. I am not quarrelling with that suggestion for one moment, but I incline more and more to the principle of devolving detailed examination of Welsh matters to Welshmen in Wales within the framework of the Constitution of the United Kingdom, and my experience in debates of this kind reinforces that conviction.
I shall leave that point there and hurry on to one or two suggestions which I am most anxious to make to the Minister and to commend to the attention of my own Front Bench. What the Government's White Paper does is not so much to turn down the proposals of the Council for Wales as to refute its central contention, which is that the rural areas of Wales, their condition and prospects, constitute a special problem which must be tackled by special means. That is what the Report of the Council set out to prove, and what the Government have turned down.
The question which we have to answer is whether a case has been made out for special attention in rural Wales. I say that, measured by any yardstick one can use, such a case is proven up to the hilt. Our rate of depopulation is getting higher. We have heard about the classic example of that lovely shire, Montgomery, whose population today is 2,000 fewer than it was in 1801. We all know that the movement from country to town is happening throughout the world. I am told that in the central areas of the United States it is a major 1908 problem. But, when it happens in a small country like Wales, and to a small nation, the immensity of the impact of the movement is of particular danger and significance.
Our local finances, as we have heard, are weakened. I was shocked to read in the Report of the Council of Wales this fact. I knew fairly generally that this was the position, but the figures are absolutely alarming. Of the 400 odd English rural districts only some 7 per cent. have a peony rate producing less than £100, but, of the Welsh rural districts, 27 per cent. are in that category. Is there a special case? Of course there is, on the aspect of local government finance alone.
Our employment structure is vastly more sensitive and insecure than that of any other part of the United Kingdom—I might also say of Europe. The thing that masks bur most insecure economic position in rural Wales is migration. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has repeatedly told us—and I believe he understands this problem probably as well as any other Member of this House, and that is putting it pretty low—apart from the migration, the depopulation, the steady attrition, the bleeding to death of our rural areas, our unemployment problem would be such that no Government could stand before it. What saves Wales, in a manner of speaking, is the fact that most of its young men and women leave the rural areas as soon as they are old enough to do so.
That is an economy and a society that is limping, and I say that, on economic grounds, there is a special case. What is the use of talking about utilising existing legislation, and administrative this and that, and that it will suffice to carry on the life of rural Wales? This is a special case, every bit as special and alarming as the case of South Wales, except that it is possibly, from the point of view of mathematics, in a smaller compass—that is all. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gower informs me that the position in South Wales, one of the richest regions in Western Europe miner logically and in the quality of its labour, was such that, by the end of the 30's, it cost £1,000 million to capitalise.
§ Mr. Roberts
And it is going on now—I take the figure my right hon. Friend mentioned to me the other day—at a rate of £100 million per annum. Why are we quibbling about £5 million a year for 12 years to set on its feet a rural region which, to Wales, in every sense, is vital to its survival?
I have no more time to develop this point, but my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) said that we are examining proposals to resuscitate, not a county but a country. I will put it this way. We are not examining the decline of our rural areas in Wales; we are presiding over the slow death of an ancient and honourable nation. I want to appeal to my countrymen of every party in this House tonight to make that gesture to the Government which will tell them that we, in Wales, expect them to regard the plight of our rural areas. They are the reservoir of the national language which has withstood the pressures and stresses, and the prohibitions, of 2,000 years; the reservoir of a sweet and democratic way of life, where the collier and the quarryman of South and North Wales both share a fine and wonderful attitude to society and to life. I want us, as Welshmen, to join together tonight and to say to the Government, "We expect you to regard our rural areas in their plight as a special case and to come forward to their aid with special means."
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I should like, first of all, to thank the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) for his most moving observations and also for uttering them within such a compass as to enable me to speak.
While I do not share the cynicism of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) about the visits to Wales, and speeches, of the Minister for Welsh Affairs, I must say that I felt a sense of disappointment and some measure of alarm when I read the Government White Paper. This disappointment arose from the fact that, with one or two relatively minor exceptions, it did not contain any specific provisions for meeting a problem which it conceded exists. Secondly, my alarm arose, in particular, from the emphasis in that White Paper on afforestation as a sovereign remedy for the ills of the hill farming country.
1910 As I see it, the problems which we are trying to face today, whether we are discussing the matter on the basis of the Report or the White Paper, fall into two categories. There is the problem of providing basic social services in these areas, and there is the problem of strengthening the economy of these areas.
As to the first problem, I believe that quite apart from any question of economics and apart from any question of preventing further rural depopulation, the peoples who live in these areas, forming part of this country, are entitled to basic social services from the Government who rule over them. I am not for a moment suggesting that those services can be provided by that neighbourhood itself, on economic grounds, but if one forms part of a community or a society, as these rural areas do, that part of society is entitled to demand from society as a whole the provision of normal decent basic services, from whatever source they have to come.
The Government concede, by the acceptance of the premises laid down in the Report of the Panel, that at present those basic services do not exist and that there is no reasonable prospect of them being provided in the near future If it were not for quite abnormal and exceptional financial assistance from the Government, local government as a whole would break down.
In my own county 84 per cent. of the expenditure of the county council comes directly from the Government. The state of affairs there is completely anomalous. Despite the extent of the present direct assistance by the central Government to local authorities, the fact remains that the ordinary, decent basic services of sewerage, water supplies, housing and electricity are at present either non-existent or at a standard well below what is regarded as a minimum in a decent community.
If that state of affairs exists—as the Government do not deny—can it be said that the White Paper contains any provisions to bring about a change in those conditions within a reasonable time? I am not particularly attracted by the remedy suggested by the Council of Wales. What concerns me is that the White Paper contains no positive proposals to remedy that situation. I do not 1911 believe that even the Council of Wales is necessarily wedded to any particular instrument or mode of solving this problem. What concerns it—what concerns Wales as a whole—is that the existence of this special problem should be recognised, and that something quite apart from the ordinary exercise of local government should be evolved to meet it.
Let it be done, if it is thought desirable, through the medium of local authorities. The fact remains that every local authority in this area is continuingly finding itself in the position of having a scheme, the desirability of implementing which is beyond question, and being immediately faced with the question whether a grant will be received in respect of it. If a grant is not made the scheme has to be shelved, even in most instances, of the grant is less than 100 per cent.
If the Government seriously believe that all the services may be provided by present local government machinery, I am going to tell the local authorities that all these schemes with regard to sewerage, water supplies and the rest—which have been turned down by the Ministry—should now be resubmitted, because the Government are conceding that, taken generally, they should be accepted and should attract a grant sufficient to enable them to be implemented by the local authorities concerned. If that happens I have no complaint, but I shall be gravely surprised if it does. The fact is that all these services will be held up until some special provision is made to meet an acute and peculiar situation.
The hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) talked about education. It is true that the interest of the rural areas in education, particularly higher education, necessarily tends to increase the problem of depopulation. My county has an educational system which provides for grammar school education for 52 per cent. of the school children, and provides for university education on a higher scale than any other county of England and Wales, and this tends to aggravate the problem, because we are educating for export.
I certainly do not quarrel with that, within limitations. What I complain about is that when these areas try to place 1912 a truly rural bias upon their educational system, and try to equip technically those whom they have reasonable hopes of retaining in agriculture, they are met by one rebuff after another from the Ministry of Education. We in my own county have put up a number of schemes to provide for smallholdings in relation to our educational system and further technical instruction in matters relating to agriculture, and so far we have had nothing like the co-operation from the Minister of Education we were entitled to expect.
Most of the White Paper has to do with agriculture, and I am very surprised that neither the Minister of Agriculture nor the Parliamentary Secretary has thought fit to be present. Reading the White Paper one would be in danger of coming to the conclusion that the greater part of rural Wales was hill country. In fact, of course, that is far from the truth. From the point of view of population, from the point of view of the social services, the hill farming area forms certainly an important but a relatively small part of this problem. Let us disillusion ourselves immediately if we think that planting trees in Wales will provide any substantial contribution to the solution of these problems. This question of afforestation, unless the Government make their position perfectly clear, will create unrest in agricultural circles in Wales.
The White Paper uses the phrase "a greater sense of security" in this connection, but nothing could be more harmful to the hill farmers of Wales and to the marginal farmers of Wales than the prospect that their land will be taken compulsorily for afforestation. Nothing could be worse for the whole basis of the Hill Farming Act and the Livestock Rearing Act than that the farmers who may well take advantage of those Acts should think that at some future date their farms are going to be taken over for afforestation. I think there is a great danger of underestimating the contribution that those hill areas can make to the national economy. The products with which they are concerned, meat and wool, are both in short supply in this country and in the world as a whole. It is conceded that the livestock which could be borne by those areas could be increased very substantially indeed.
1913 I do not object at all to afforestation within reason. All I would say is that if we are to have the happy valleys of afforestation and agriculture, as I hope we shall, we shall get it only by co-operation and consultation between all the interests concerned. If that is to be achieved it is going to be achieved only by its being made perfectly clear from the outset that compulsory powers will not be used, because there can be no co-operation when one side to the discussions always has behind him a weapon he is going to be tempted to use at any time when the discussions do not go in his own favour. That applies not only to afforestation. It applies equally to the readjustment of farming units. None of these efforts, laudable though they may be within certain limits, will be of any use at all unless it is based on the co-operation and good will of all concerned.
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is to speak now, so, in conclusion, I would say that unless the local authorities, or some other instrument, I care not which, are given greater facilities for meeting the social problem of providing the basic amenities not only are we going to have further rural depopulation but we are going to find decent people contributing to the national economy as a whole living in conditions which are unfair according to our present standards of society.
Unless the problem of the implementation of the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts, the fusion of the interests of forestry and agriculture and the redistribution of farming units are handled with extreme care by the Government and entirely on the basis of co-operation, there will be created a sense of insecurity and fear in the fanning industry which is going to do harm outside those areas in which hill farming alone is concerned. I urge the Government, before they implement this White Paper, to see that they consider this aspect of the question with real understanding.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I have not sought to catch your eye earlier, Mr. Speaker, because I desired to give as many hon. Members as could be got into the debate an opportunity of speaking. But one or two Members have 1914 abused the opportunity given to them today. I hope when we have another Welsh day that the natural fluency of my fellow countrymen will be subjected to the discipline of courtesy.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary will not be too pleased with the debate which has taken, place. He has not had very much support. In fact, the speakers have been almost universally critical. I think at the outset I ought, with great sincerity, to pay a compliment to my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who moved the Amendment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) who seconded the Amendment. In fact, they have almost made it unnecessary for me to say anything at all. The case has been deployed with such detail and with such force that there remains little more to be said.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been told that the honeymoon is over. He was made Minister for Welsh Affairs, but I have never been able to understand the animal at all. It was a constitutional device which sought to create between the Government and the natural indignation of the Welsh people a sort of constitutional shock absorber. I admit at once that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely perfect in the rôle.
I have envied him on more than one occasion. In fact, I have envied men who can get up and speak in a low voice, taking plenty of time and excluding from their demean our any sense of humour with which they might have been born, thereby acquiring a reputation for weight and sagacity. Unfortunately, the Welsh have usually got a high lilting voice, and we have to overcome this natural disadvantage.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been perfect in the rôle. He has made himself quite popular in Wales up until now. I have not been able to understand the credulity of my fellow countrymen, nor do I understand now the astonishment with which they have witnessed the result of his labours. I think they have been extremely naive. I have never expected anything but this, because I knew that he was appointed to his office to be another decoy, if I may change the metaphor.
1915 I said earlier that he was a shock absorber. A shock absorber is a very useful piece of mechanism, but it is no good by itself. There has got to be an engine as well, and the trouble is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been eloquently stationary for two years. The fact is that he has had conversations with the Departmental heads, his colleagues in the Government; he has obviously had conversations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I am quite certain that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have preferred to have been entrusted with a more attractive task.
If he had been able to tell us this evening that many of the recommendations of the Council had been accepted, or that he was able to make practical and concrete progress towards the achievement of the common aim, he would have been delighted because, of course, his task would have been so much easier. But the fact is that this problem of rural Wales grew to alarming proportions before the war, was arrested for a period during the war, and in the immediate post-war years had some of the worst features taken away by the assistance we Were able to give. Had it not been for the quite extraordinary efforts made by the Labour Government immediately after the war, local government and a great deal of other civic government would have been broken down in rural life long before this.
We have only to consider the Table on page 12 of the White Paper—and if I read the percentages it is not to take time but to have them on record in Hansard—to show the extent to which it has been necessary for the central Government to come to the help of our local government administration. These are the figures: Cardigan, 83 per cent. Government grant; Montgomery. 83 per cent.; Merioneth, 83 per cent.; Pembroke, 79 per cent.; Carmarthen, 78 per cent.; Anglesey, 74 per cent.; Brecon, 73 per cent.; Denbigh, 68 per cent.; Caernarvon, 65 per cent.; and Radnor, 63 per cent.
What do these figures show? They show that the areas concerned are not able by normal local sources of taxation to provide the expenditures necessary to give to their people the local services to which they are entitled. It shows even more than that. It reveals today that 1916 those populations are not able to enjoy the same standards of social service as people in other parts of the country. In other words, we have only been able to salvage them; we have not been able to rehabilitate them. We have only been able to keep them "ticking over," as it were; we have not been able to provide any radical solution.
There is the fact that there is between us and the Government a radical difference of philosophy about these matters. Indeed, I think that perhaps it would be right to say that we are discussing this evening a problem much wider than rural Wales itself. We are discussing a problem which has become endemic in modern civilisation, and that is: how are we going to create and preserve the sort of society that thinking people regard as wholesome? In other words, ordinary economic laws such as we have known them, higgling of the market, the laws of supply and demand, the incalculable migration of population obeying all kinds of impulses, do not, when left to themselves, provide the sort of society that civilised people regard as endurable. That is what is happening in Britain. It is what is happening in the Soviet Union. It is what is happening in Eastern Europe. In fact, modern man has not yet found a wholesome balance between urban and rural activities.
We are witnessing the fact that if urban civilisation is not corrected by artificial methods, rural life is destroyed and we get a dangerous unbalance in the community. Consequently, artificial means have to be adopted, special legislative action has to be taken, in order to prevent urban development sucking all the vitality out of the rural community. That—I am trying to state it shortly and abstractly—is the problem with which we are faced.
There are people who write—there are economists who say—that this is an idealistic and nonsensical attitude; that if certain parts of the countryside can produce products at a price which makes them economically viable, they should grow to production while they are able to do so. We have witnessed the operation of that sort of reasoning in country after country. That sort of reasoning was applied to ancient civilisation and was largely responsible for its destruc- 1917 tion. And so we have to make up our minds that it is desirable to keep these communities in existence, and the problem is, What price are we to pay?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was not part of the Government's policy to allow these communities to die. He stated that he was at one with the Advisory Council for Wales that these communities ought to be kept alive; and obviously, if they are to be kept alive, they can only be kept alive on conditions that compare with those of the rest of the population. So there is common ground there.
The Council for Wales produced an unconventional suggestion, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given a conventional reply. That is the difference of philosophy between us. For example—I had a great deal of experience of this for six years—the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it is very difficult to get the local authorities to agree about common action over water supplies. Of course it is. There is no more fierce patriotism in the world than rural patriotism. I have known local authorities who were prepared to die over water frontiers and, as for riparian rights, they create pressure at once.
But we cannot afford to allow rural Wales to die because rural councils cannot agree; that is not the solution for the difficulty. As my hon. Friend the Member for, I think, Brecon and Radnor said, it is rather hard to see water gushing from Wales into England and Wales being left dry. Therefore, it seems to us that if it is a fact that we cannot have adequate water supplies because local councils cannot agree, in the interests of the whole population we should set those local councils aside.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Colegate
Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that there are no real differences between the rural population, and their elected representatives, the rural district councils.
§ Mr. Bevan
Is there not indeed? In fact, we on this side long ago came to the conclusion that the only effective way of providing adequate water supplies for the population as a whole was for the urban populations to come to the rescue of the sparse rural population and have national water supplies. That immediately makes a specific concrete contribution to the solution of the rural problems of Wales.
The same thing would be true of some of the trunk roads. What is the good of telling councils in Wales that they ought to be satisfied with the generous grants of 75 per cent. for Class 1 roads and other grants for other roads? Look how the rates have jumped. Since the rate equalisation fund was created rates in Wales have jumped again. They are jumping all over the country, but they are jumping alarmingly in rural Wales. In 1948–49 the rate in Anglesey was 19s. 9d. in the £. Now it is 25s. 10d. In Brecon it was 22s. 7d., now it is 26s. 7d. I could go through the whole lot. They have all jumped up, very largely as a consequence of the operation of the Education Acts, and the increased cost of those social services are too burdensome for local authorities to carry. Therefore it seems to me quite foolish to expect that we can get services for those areas merely by the normal operation of local government administration.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman had a windfall today. He was able to garnish and embroider his speech by references to road schemes. But we had only just had an announcement from the Minister of Transport about road schemes for the country as a whole, and it would have been quite surprising if Wales had been left out entirely. This is not a special contribution which he has made to Wales. But, so far as I can see, even that contribution will not be made by his Government. It will be made by ours. I wonder if that is applicable to the whole of the announcement we had today, because when the Minister was pressed to say when these schemes would start he said it would be within three years. He will be out of office by that time, and so as far as I can see he is drawing up a Bill which we have to foot. And, so far as I can see, even these road schemes did not apply specially to rural Wales.
Then the right hon. Gentleman—and I must not be too long because I want 1919 to give him enough time to reply—said, "Ah, but we are prepared to do one thing. We are prepared to take a special reckless, adventurous and unconventional action about roads not yet made up. We are prepared for the Minister of Agriculture to make them up and then to hand them over to the local authorities"—a gracious contribution—"and to that end, when time favours, legislation will be produced." Why this suggestion? I will tell the House why. Because, by handing it over to the Minister of Agriculture he needs a Bill. If he left it to the Minister of Transport he could do it next week. So this is a subtly disguised delaying operation.
Why the Minister of Agriculture? He could easily take the advice of the Minister of Agriculture about any particular scheme. That is easy to do. But the Minister of Transport could do it straight away through the local authorities with sufficient grants. And then, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out, the local authorities would also have the guarantee that when the road was handed over to them it would be at standard maintenance. So why this circumlocution? Why this crossing the river to fill the pail? Why this obscure piece of gerrymandering, if the whole purpose of it is not to have more and more delay?
There will be Questions on the Order Paper about when the Bill is coming forward, and the right hon. Gentleman will tell us privately, "I am pressing my colleagues but, you know, the Parliamentary time-table is so full, but I hope it will be before very long." Then, at last, we shall have a Bill and we shall discuss it. In the meantime, all the Welsh will be thinking that they are having something. All they are having is being had. They are being had all the time. The fact is that the House will have to think again about this matter before very long. This is more serious than many hon. Members think.
I may not have the same justification for speaking as some of my hon. Friends who represent rural constituencies in Wales; but I was born and lived most of my life in the foothills of the Black Mountains. I know the area very well indeed—[An Hon. Member: "The right hon. Gentleman has left now."]—and I 1920 have not left there. My home is still there. I know the area very well.
Although those of us who have been brought up in Monmouthshire and in Glamorganshire are not Welsh-speaking, Welsh-writing, Welshmen, nevertheless we are all aware of the fact that there exists in Wales, and especially in the rural areas and in North Wales, a culture which is unique in the world. It is a special quality of mind, a special attitude towards mental things which one does not find anywhere else. We are not prepared to see it die.
Therefore, I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is time that he looked upon himself not as an elaborate excuse for delay, not as an attractive facade behind which to conceal the failure of the Government to have any direct policy, but as one who must justify himself to the people of Wales and insist that his colleagues permit him to take action before the Government are made to take it.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Did time permit I should have liked to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) into his first excursions into the effect of the vocal chords on argument and discussion. But at 22 minutes to 10 o'clock I must content myself with the simple statement that I do not think that a generalization has any more weight if it is spoken in a loud voice or that an evasion of an argument is any more skilled if it is done with the most wonderful lilt.
I have been waiting for the right hon. Gentleman to develop, with that incisive force which we know that he certainly did possess—and he may still possess it for all I know—the argument in favour of a Development Corporation. I have been waiting for his view of how it would fit in with his experience, which is now in the past—and, of course, I cordially hope that it will not be repeated—of central Government and contact with local affairs.
The whole essence of the deployment of the case was exemplified by the charming speech of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), who said that I disagree with the Report and suggestions of the Council, or with a great many of them, and that all I will say is that the Government, like myself, disagree with certain parts of the Report 1921 and have exemplified and particularised them. The hon. Member said that the Government had not developed a positive policy and, therefore, he would not deal with it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry; I cannot give way. Time is very short.
That is the position. We have not had the suggested experiment and method of approach developed by anyone in a way that shows how it will overcome the obvious difficulties presented by our form of government and administration.
There is a more fundamental point than that. The right hon. Gentleman was correct in saying that there is a difference of philosophy. It is contrary to everything I believe to produce a false dichotomy between the social services and the health of the economy. In a good community, social services must be based on a healthy economy. Again, I pay no more attention to pessimism, because it is spoken loudly or with a lilt. My challenge to the House, which I repeat, is this. There is the course, which the right hon. Gentleman has so eloquently expressed, of increasing subsidies into a form of economy which has obvious faults, and there is the other, which I suggested to the House, of trying to get down to the difficulties of the economy and putting them right. That is the conflict of philosophy upon which I challenge the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had a very good go today. This is his second go. The argument which I put was very simple, that we must never expect, and cannot expect, the periphery to make the same economic contribution as the centre. That is the purpose of the hill farming subsidy.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
As Clough put it:Juxtaposition, in short; and what is juxtaposition?In the case of the right hon. Gentleman, it is "What is the periphery?" To the right hon. Gentleman's fundamentally urban approach, agricultural areas are the periphery. To us they represent not only an industry but a way of life which must be preserved. It was that peripheral approach which was the completely superficial and fallacious foundation on 1922 which the right hon. Gentleman built a very amusing personal attack on me.
However, that is completely unimportant, and I want now to consider some of the much more serious matters which really concern us today. I want to say a few words about specific questions which have been put to me, and I shall attempt to keep my remarks as short as I can. Should my answers appear not to be complete, if hon. Members will see me later I will add to them.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) asked me to give the route of the Hirwaun-Abergavenny Road. It is Hirwaun-Merthyr Tydvil-Brynmawr-Abergavenny.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asked me to state the order of the schemes. The first is the approved access to the Swansea Docks, the second the new road from Neath Bridge to the Llanelly Road, and the third the Port Talbot bypass. I cannot give him the actual starting dates, but I told him that the west South Wales schemes would be commenced in the first three years, and they will commence in that order.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Ross road, which will provide a means of communication between the Midlands and west South Wales without having to pass through Gloucester. It will 'be a bypass road which will enable traffic from London via Gloucester to avoid going through the town. No major works are proposed on the road between Gloucester and Ross.
I should like to deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who also made an amusing reference to the meeting which I had the honour of addressing in Brecon. I can only say that it was unique in my political history in that three times an appeal was made for questions, but not one of the 1,400 or 1,500 people there had a question to ask. Whether they were terrified that I would speak again at the same length, I do not know, but it was unique in a somewhat chequered political career, and I thought I was entitled to make that point.
The most serious point which the hon. Gentleman made was his reference to the Welsh Sub-Commission, and I think he 1923 had in mind a reference to Section 84 of the Agriculture Act. Actually, this would be a reference under Section 68, under which the Commission can advise the Minister, who will then take action in co-operation with the county agricultural executive committee. I have tried to give my reasons—and there is some support in the Council's previous suggestion regarding marginal land—why this is the body that should be consulted, but I ask hon. Gentlemen to consider, because this is a most important point, whether, on reflection, they do not agree that more information is necessary.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) gave a most serious warning to the Government in connection with the organisation of farm units, and I myself made an appeal for co-operation on that point. Nobody underestimates the difficulty, and I am sure that he will agree that, until we have the best advice and the fullest knowledge, it would be a very difficult matter to bring into effect. This is not only a Government problem, but a problem which, as has been indicated by the Council most bravely in its Report, is one that must be dealt with if the best is to be obtained from Welsh agriculture. It cannot be said that I am inventing a problem in order to waste time by seeking another solution. There is the problem, and we must have the fullest knowledge about it.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor rightly said, as I have said, that the figures of Welsh agricultural production are good, but one has to take account of the problem as expressed by the Council in its Report. Paragraph 241 says:…a great deal of leeway has to be made up if facilities for living and working on the farms are to be brought and kept up to modern standards and that the agricultural consequences of lack of amenities must be counteracted.Remember that in paragraph 266 it says that 10 per cent. of the houses, and 20 per cent. of the buildings, were assessed as bad. We have to see whether the existing machinery is working on the right lines.
It is relevant to that point that the grant aid for farm water supplies has been £500,000 in the last 12 years, that 1924 the grants for farm drainage have a high figure and that the amount of expenditure approved under the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts to date is £972,500 for farm houses and cottages and £1,097,000 for farm buildings. I believe that we are on the right lines with them. I gather that although we do not approach the matter in the same way even the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who has just spoken, thinks that we are on the right lines. That is important.
The figures that I have with regard to the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts show that whereas the English figure was £757,000, the Welsh figure was £511,000 of amounts actually paid and that more schemes have actually been approved for Wales, namely, 2,710, than have been approved for England, which were 2,350. The importance of that is that this is obviously a method for dealing with special Welsh problems and is especially used in Wales. We must bear in mind that we have proceeded on the right lines and that the grants are directed to the proper ends.
It is, of course, fair to minimise and to denigrate the suggestions that have been made, but, on agriculture, I have put my view—I do not want to say it again—as to the need for inquiry. In regard to roads, in every place that I have been to the subject of unclassified and non-adopted roads was put to me as the most important part of the problem that was in everyone's mind. It seemed to me right—and this is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman—that that should be considered from the agricultural point of view, and that is why this subject has been taken tonight.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I must try to reply to the points that have been made. The right hon. Gentleman only left me 22 minutes in which to do so.
The next point I want to deal with relates to forestry and I would like hon. Members to look at the figures given in paragraph 35. At the moment, there are only 152,000 acres planted, and 43,500 1925 acres in reserve in the whole of Wales, which shows that we have a long way to go before forestry becomes an overwhelming part of the economy.
I have tried to deal most fully and most clearly with the objection of the Government to using compulsion, and their desire to use a voluntary method. On this, I ask the House to consider the figures which are given in paragraph 36 of the White Paper about the direct and indirect employment which will be provided.
One or two hon. Members said that they were not satisfied about the question of industries, because I said that the industries which I thought would be most helpful were those which were ancillary to forestry or agriculture. I want the House to realise that this is not my point, but the point urged by the Panel itself. In paragraph 284 it says:A policy of diversification by factory industry on any fairly liberal scale, even though employing only a minor proportion of male labour, would be hazardous economically, especially in relation to the problem of the continuing decline of the regular labour force in agriculture.And in paragraph 285 it says that the hopeful industries are those connected with forestry or agriculture, or those which are especially the foundation of a rural life.
I think that one hon. Member raised the question of housing in relation to the number of houses in what one might call the urban rural areas. I obtained the
§ figures which have, unfortunately, escaped me for the moment, but, no doubt, with a little jugglery, they will turn up. The position is that having made the deductions from the figures which were given in the White Paper for the urban rural areas—at the top of page 11—the figure that is left is still above that which the Panel say is necessary. I want the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor to know that I had gone into that point and that I was satisfied on it. I have now found the figures. They show that the 2,103 is reduced to 1,490, and that the figure for the nine months of 1946 is reduced to 1,229, an annual figure of 1,650,and that that is above the 1,350 which would be the Panel's figure.
§ In reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), I would point out that paragraph 54 says that a grant can be claimed up to a total of 100 per cent., and it is on that basis that the words which he used are based. I say that from the point of view of forestry, of agriculture, of improvement of roads, and of the production of the industries which the Panel suggests, we have laid the basis: I believe that with co-operation we can restore health to this economy, and I refuse to accept the pessimistic view.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 240; Noes, 222.1929
|Division No. 13.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Amory, Julian (Preston, N.)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcote (Tiverton)||Bullard, D. G.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Burden, F. F. A.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Assheton, Rt. Han. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Campbell, Sir David||Erroll, F. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Cary, Sir Robert||Fell, A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Channon, H.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Banks, Col. C.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Baxter, A. B.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Cole, Norman||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Colegate, W. A.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Gammans, L. D.|
|Birch, Nigel||Crouch, R. F.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Black, C. W.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Glover, D.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Godber, J. B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Davidson, Viscountess||Gower, H. R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Deedes, W. F.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||McCallum, Major D.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Han, Hon. J. H.||McKibbin, A. J.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Shepherd, William|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Heath, Edward||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maude, Angus||Speir, R. M.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Maudling, R.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mellor, Sir John||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, A. H. E.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hollis, M. C.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Storey, S.|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hope, Lord John||Neave, Airey||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Summers, G. S.|
|Hornby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Tooling, W.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hertford)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Oakshott, H. D.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hutchison, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Jennings, R.||Page, R. G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Johnson, Eric (B1ackley)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Kaberry, D.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pitman, I. J.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Powell, J. Enoch||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wellwood, W.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Profumo, J. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Raynor, Brig. R.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Redmayne, M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wills, G.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Han. Selwyn (Wirral)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Robertson, Sir David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. Vosper.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Adams, Richard||Burke, W. A.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Albu, A. H.||Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Callaghan, L. J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Carmichael, J.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Champion, A. J.||Finch, H. J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Chapman, W. D.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Chetwynd, G. R.||Foot, M. M.|
|Balfour, A.||Coldrick, W.||Forman, J. C.|
|Bartley, P.||Collick, P. H.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Benson, G.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Beswick, F.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Grey, C. F.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Bowden, H. W.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Grimond, J.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Deer, G.||Hale, Leslie|
|Bowles, F. G.||Delargy, H. J.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dodds, N. N.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Brookway, A. F.||Donnelly, D. L.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hannan, W.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Messer, Sir F.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Mikardo, Ian||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Hastings, S.||Mitchison, G. R.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Monslow, W.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds S.E.)||Moody, A. S.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Herbison, Mils M.||Morley, R.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Snow, J. W.|
|Holman, P.||Mort, D. L.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Moyle, A.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Mulley, F. W.||Steele, T.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Nally, W.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Orbach, M.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oswald, T.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Hynd, J. B, (Attercliffe)||Padley, W. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Janner, B.||Pannell, Charles||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Pargiter, G. A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Parker, J.||Thornton, E.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Parkin, B. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Paton, J.||Wade, D. W.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Peart, T. F.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Watkins, T. E.|
|Keenan, W.||Popplewell, E.||Weitzman, D.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Porter, G.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Kinley, J.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||West, D. G.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Proctor, W. T.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Pryde, D. J.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Logan, D. G.||Rankin, John||Wigg, George|
|MacColl, J. E.||Reeves, J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Willey, F. T.|
|McGovern, J.||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|McInnes, J.||Richards, R.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|McLeavy, F.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ross, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Royle, C.||Yates, V. F.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Mason, Roy||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Short, E. W.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Second Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 8844) and of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to rural Wales as set out in Command Paper No. 9014.