§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 9887), and the Third Memorandum by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 53).My speech in opening the debate will probably be the briefest of the day. If it is the wish of the House, I will seek leave later to speak a second time to wind up the debate and endeavour to pick up points which have been raised.
My cardinal reason for wishing to speak at this stage is that I want to be the first to pay tribute to my predecessor, whom I think we are all now at liberty to call our friend Gwilym Lloyd-George. He performed the duties of Minister for Welsh Affairs after he had already made a great personal reputation for himself in the House and outside. He bears a name famous not only in Wales, but throughout the world. In North and South Wales he has countless friends, and I do not believe that those friendships are limited in any way by party considerations. I know that I shall constantly find myself in his debt, and I believe that Wales will, also.
I am here today primarily as a listener. I have been in my present office for only four weeks or so. I am not the kind of person who makes up his mind finally on questions before he has had adequate opportunity to study them. Hon. Members have spoken of my steeping myself in Welsh affairs. My belief is that I can steep myself in Welsh affairs not by sitting in London and reading papers about them, but by moving about in Wales whenever I have the opportunity, meeting people from all walks of life and in all parts of Wales, in order to understand Welsh thoughts, Welsh needs and Welsh hopes. I know that I have much to learn. I believe that I can count on all hon. Memers, without distinction of party, to help me to understand better the problems of Wales.
920 That is my approach. That is what I will endeavour to carry out. I know that I have to admit that I am an Englishman. I can only say that that gives me the advantage of starting with no local prejudice. Indeed, a very distinguished Welshman has been good enough to tell me that if there were a choice of Minister for Welsh Affairs he would rather have an Englishman who has been wise enough to marry a Welsh woman, than a Welshman who has been so unperceptive as to choose an English wife.
§ Mr. Brooke
Without prejudging any of the questions which we are to debate today, I want to express my gratification at the widespread welcome given to the proposition that the Minister for Welsh Affairs should now be the Minister of Housing and Local Government rather than the Home Secretary. I know that much bigger issues than that are raised in one of the Reports before us today. I am convinced, personalities apart, that I start with a certain asset in that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government has a substantial Welsh office established in Cardiff and that the person who is its head commands widespread respect in Wales.
Unlike my predecessors as Minister for Welsh Affairs, there is a substantial amount of administration in Wales where I carry direct power and responsibility. I shall endeavour to use that power as wisely as I can and in the interests of Wales. The Minister for Welsh Affairs can speak for Wales in the Cabinet. He can assure in the Cabinet that a Welsh interest in any question is not overlooked. I certainly can give no undertaking to Parliament or Wales that on every issue I shall always win the day for Wales, but it is most important that it should be guaranteed that decisions which may affect Wales will not be taken without the Welsh interest being properly weighed and regarded.
As I have said, I come here today as a listener. These Reports are of great importance. I know that major as well as minor matters arising out of them will probably be discussed during the debate. I will take account of everything which is said and, as far as I can, I will reply 921 later. If there are matters on which I could not possibly reply at short notice, and which require further investigation, I will endeavour afterwards to write to the hon. Member who has raised the matter.
I do not think that anyone, whether Minister for Welsh Affairs, Secretary of State, or anything else, can stand here at the beginning of his term of office without a feeling of awe at the magnitude of his responsibilities towards the land and its people. I feel slightly as I did nearly thirty years ago when, one foggy winter afternoon, I went from Pontypridd to Abertillery. Suddenly, I was aware of something massive, towering and frightening appearing out of the mists above me. I have since then seen the Crumlin Viaduct against a clear blue sky and my fear of it has disappeared, but my respect for it remains.
I feel like that today. I do not know what is ahead of me. I hope that I may be helped as well as criticised, but just as the Crumlin Viaduct, looming up unknown out of the mist, was a menacing object, so, similarly, I approach my task with some fear and yet with all confidence that, however I do, the House of Commons will wish to assist me in serving Wales to the best of my ability.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The Government were insistent—and I can understand the reasons for it—that today we should discuss the Third Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. When the right hon. Gentleman winds up the debate will he be able to declare the Government's view, or do they want, first, to consider what has been said in the debate? Will he bear in mind my suggestion, that if the Government want first to hear the views of the House, they should provide another day for discussion of the Third Memorandum?
§ Mr. Brooke
I had not proposed to make any announcement at the end of the debate about the Government's conclusions on this important Report. The Government had hoped that in the course of the debate there would be an opportunity for hearing views expressed from both sides of the House.
§ 3.47 p.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
As the hon. Member for the famous Crumlin Viaduct and the first 922 speaker from this side of the House in this debate on Welsh affairs, I feel that I should make a personal reference. I want to say how much we regret, on personal grounds, that the former Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs is not taking charge of the debate for the Government today. I shall always regard Viscount Lloyd-George as an example of what we mean when we use the term "a good House of Commons man". While we congratulate him on his elevation to the peerage—
The Rev. Ll. Williams
—we regret that his translation to the other place, in view of his personal friendliness and approachability, will rob us of a very good comrade here.
I am sure that the present Minister for Welsh Affairs is personally the most estimable of men. We wish him well in his new post, but I should be a hypocrite if I were not to proceed to say that there are certain features about the post as it is now constituted which make it a gratuitous insult to Wales. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman himself. He has been placed in an impossible position by his own Government. As he already knows, he holds one of the most arduous and exacting of all Ministerial appointments.
If I may borrow a Biblical expression, this Daniel has been thrown into a furnace which has been heated seven times more fiercely by the wicked Rent Bill of which he is now in charge.
The Rev. Ll. Williams
To add insult to injury, no provision has been made for the appointment of an Under-Secretary. That is a studied and deliberate insult to Wales. As at present constituted, the post of Minister for Welsh Affairs never had much real significance, but what little significance it had has been taken away by the suggestion that the Minister does not even need to have an Under-Secretary to support him. The Welsh people have already taken note of this rebuff. Of course, this is all of a piece with the shabby treatment meted out to Wales and Welsh affairs in this House by the Conservative Government.
923 Let us take this debate, for example. Here we are, almost in the middle of February, 1957, discussing the Report of Government Action in Wales for the year ended 30th June, 1956. If statistics are to be quoted in this debate, it is little use quoting the figures in the Report. They are out of date. In many cases, they are no longer relevant. Things have considerably worsened in the Principality, as elsewhere, because of Government action. What time has there been at our disposal to garner and collect the latest statistics? This is no way to treat a self-respecting nation and its representatives in this United Kingdom Parliament.
As though that were not sufficient insult, we are asked in this debate, if you please, not only to discuss various aspects of Welsh economy, but also the far-reaching recommendations of the Council for Wales Government Administration Panel for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales, with Cabinet rank; and, concomitantly, of course, the setting up of a Welsh Department to deal with health, education, housing, local government, agriculture and forestry. All this in a six-hour debate. Why not throw in the destiny of the human race as well? It might occupy our minds. The Welsh Labour Members are affronted by the apparent unwillingness of the Leader of the House to provide time for a discussion of this very important document containing recommendations which involve radical and important constitutional changes in the position of Wales.
It is difficult to speak in great detail about recommendations which we have not had the necessary time either fully to study ourselves or to discuss with the representative bodies of Welsh Socialist opinion. I have not the slightest clue about what is in the minds of the Government. There never was a more unforthcoming Government. I have no idea of their attitude to these proposals. But one thing stands out clearly. If this Memorandum, drawn up by a panel of distinguished men, all highly respected leaders in various aspects of Welsh life, is just to be pigeonholed in Whitehall and treated, as have been past submissions to the Government, with neglect and seeming indifference, I cannot see how 924 the Council can possibly continue to function. Surely, their self-respect will make it impossible for the members not to resign as a body.
If the advice tendered by this Council, formulated after long and serious deliberation, is to be spurned time after time, the continuance of the Council becomes farcical. I hope the Minister for Welsh Affairs will be able to announce that time will be found to discuss these proposals in this House. If not, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that all his social visits and attendances at Welsh functions, all the nice remarks about our scenery and love of culture and friendliness of disposition, will be just a waste of time and will earn for him cold derision. The right hon. Gentleman is too good a type to deserve that fate, but he has been warned.
Welsh Labour Members generally accept and welcome the principle of a Secretary of State for Wales, with Cabinet status and rank, and the creation of a Welsh Office with four Departments of State. This is a major constitutional change. It cannot be entered into lightly. That is why we think that we must have more time to study the consequences of this proposal. We deplore the seeming unwillingness of the Government to give the necessary assurance that another day will be set aside for a full debate on these proposals.
Wales is demanding that her nationhood shall be respected. While we realise that our economy is so inextricably bound up with the economy of the rest of Great Britain that the idea of a separate Parliament—be it in the form of Dominion status or a Federal Parliament, as in the case of Northern Ireland—is impracticable, nevertheless we think that such a step as is now contemplated can be justified, and will meet with the approval of the vast majority of our fellow countrymen. It would take us some distance along the path of establishing parity of status with Scotland, and we want that.
There are specific Welsh problems. I submit that the establishment of a Secretary of State would make it possible for us more effectively to deal with them. I wish to refer to some of these problems. Outstanding among them is the problem of transport. Many of us feel that had there been a Secretary of State for Wales, 925 to exert effective pressure on the Government, we should not now be feeling a sense of depression and frustration at the decision to proceed with the Forth Bridge instead of the Severn Bridge. The Severn Bridge was regarded as priority No. 1 as far back as 1947. Yet, largely perhaps because the voice of Wales inside the Government was not clamant enough, or because its possessor could only tender advice to other Ministers, this great project is, apparently, being put on the shelf once again.
Honesty demands it should be admitted that many hon. Members on this side of the House are opposed to the toll system advocated by the Severn Bridge Authority scheme. I am unrepentantly one who has opposed the idea of tolls to finance this scheme, but I am compelled to modify my standpoint in view of the realisation that the Severn Bridge will remain a pipe dream for a very long time unless it can be financed by a toll charge system.
We need this bridge desperately. An urgent and incontrovertible case can be made out for a bridge over the Severn on grounds of industrial efficiency and production. The bridge authority is ready to go into action. The local authorities chiefly concerned have reached agreement. Yet the Government once again dash our hopes to the ground.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman has said about his own change of views on tolls. The matter might be of importance to me. Is the hon. Gentleman speaking for all his colleagues when he says that he accepts tolls?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Do we gather that if this problem of tolls were settled the Minister of Transport could proceed with the Severn Bridge project?
§ Mr. Watkinson
The matter is of great importance, and I am glad that it has been mentioned. There are a number of competing bridge projects where certain problems remain unresolved, as this question of tolls, and they affect the amount of consideration that I can give to them.
§ Mr. Griffiths
There are differing views on this side of the House on the question of tolls. Do we understand that the one unresolved question in connection with the Severn Bridge is that of tolls, there is no other problem, and that, but for that, the bridge project could go on?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am clearly on record as saying that none of these very major bridge projects can be considered in present circumstances unless they are paid for by tolls.
The Rev. Ll. Williams
We do not grudge our Scottish friends any progressive development—after all, we are cousins—but even the most perfervid Scottish Nationalist should admit, on a purely objective appraisal of the two situations, that the Severn Bridge project should have priority over the Forth Bridge.
We feel that our ports are not having fair treatment. During the last war—or was it the last war? I mean the 1939–45 war—our South Wales ports proved that they could handle all sorts of cargo efficiently. The recent war, or "armed conflict", the Suez affair, showed that they could do a grand job of work in preparation for that miserable episode in matters of equipment, storage space and technical skill. Why cannot we use these ports to the same extent in peace time? Why allow them to suffer vis-à-vis other British ports? Why are ships allowed to wait for berths in other ports when South Wales ports are available? Cardiff, Newport, Barry and Swansea can handle incoming and outgoing cargoes as satisfactorily as any other ports.
We ask for a square deal for South Wales ports. They have the facilities and a highly skilled labour force. If South Wales ports were enabled to compete on level terms with other British ports, we could easily win the additional trade which we need. The present situation is absurd and chaotic. I strongly support the recommendation of the Report of the Industrial Panel on the South Wales Ports. It says, in paragraph 84:The Panel recommend, therefore, that the Government should request the British Transport Commission to undertake, after the issue of the new charges scheme, an urgent and exhaustive review of the level and content of rates for port traffics with a view to resolving the anomalous position of the South Wales ports927 I re-echo the Council's further recommendation that… at the same time, a further attempt should be made to resolve the matter of the shipowners' and shippers' responsibilities for dock charges in South Wales, and that the good offices of the Government should be invoked to this end.We have a very active industrial panel in the Welsh Labour Group. We rejoice that a recent Government announcement promises real assistance to the ports of Newport and Barry, but surely Cardiff must not be ignored. I am sure that hon. Members who represent Cardiff will have some blunt things to say later in the debate.
Inevitably linked up with the problem of the ports is the vexatious question of road communications in Wales, particularly from the Midlands into Wales. Really, things cannot be allowed to remain as they are now. For example, the Newport-Chepstow road is an anachronistic as a stagecoach in Piccadilly today. The bottlenecks on these vitally important routes into Wales make our fight for industrial efficiency a travesty. I readily applaud the imaginative approach to and the successful accomplishment further west of the new by-pass road from Briton Ferry to Swansea, the bridge over the River Neath and the new road from Morriston to Llanelly but the level crossing at Port Talbot and the absolutely shocking conditions which obtain in East Monmouthshire, on these vital links with English industrial centres which not only impede resuscitation of the old prosperity in the Newport and Cardiff docks, but have many other very serious consequences for industrial development in South Wales.
Water is very much in the news these days in Wales, because of the very wet weather we have had in these last few weeks. It baffles me why, year after year, flooding is allowed to recur in the same places as the result of heavy rain, with such damage and distress. Surely there should be more preventive work about these recurring floods. Are we so completely in the grip of the wild forces of Nature that we must look on impotently every year while property and lives are endangered?
Water is in the news for another dramatic reason. There is a Private Bill by the Liverpool Corporation to impound 928 the water in the Tryweryn Valley and to construct a huge reservoir there. It is not my purpose to deal at length with these proposals—I should probably be out of order in discussing any of the details of a Private Bill which is to be discussed later—but I want to say something of a general character which is applicable not only to the Liverpool scheme, but to any similar scheme brought forward in the future.
It is highly undesirable that large corporations are able constitutionally to proceed in this way. By introducing a Private Bill, they are able, by and large, to ignore, if they so desire, local feeling and local interests. This is an absurd situation. The whole business is exacerbated when the corporation concerned is in England and not in Wales. No assembly such as the House of Commons should ignore the overwhelming mass of public opinion in Wales, which is opposed to this scheme. Very rarely, in my memory, have so many local authorities, county councils and religious and cultural bodies spoken as with one voice against this treatment.
The reasons for opposition to the scheme varies. I shall not deal with the particular objections to the Tryweryn scheme, but shall confine my remarks to the question of the importance of water as an economic and industrial asset. It is very much an asset now, but it will be increasingly so in the future as our industrial development unfolds. It is an asset exactly like coal or oil. North-West Wales—
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
On the Tryweryn scheme, is the hon. Gentleman speaking on behalf of his colleagues when he says that he is opposed to it?
The Rev. Ll. Williams
The hon. Gentleman must realise that I speak for myself in this debate. I have not yet finished talking about the scheme.
North-West Wales is crying out for new industries. In all conscience depopulation in those areas has gone on long enough. It must stop. Concentrations of industry in three or four centres is against all enlightened social development. Dispersal is needed. The Barlow Commission's Report is accepted by all who have seriously thought about the mistakes of the past and the hopes for the future in British industry. A chemical 929 industry could well be attracted to North-West Wales. I believe that there are very hopeful signs that a substantial undertaking of that type will be set up. Certainly, atomic power stations and atomic research stations need a very great quantity of water. North Wales can look hopefully to the future if it has that precious asset to offer.
I was glad to hear the Minister say, in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), that a nation-wide survey of Welsh water resources is to be made at once by Government engineers and that a committee is to be set up to advise the Minister for Welsh Affairs on the conservation and use of water resources in the Principality. That committee had been suggested by the Council for Wales, which made the further point, to which I have referred, that water undertakers seeking powers should do so by means of Orders, not by Private Bills, and that the Private Bill procedure should be amended so that objectors could be heard locally.
I and my colleagues—here I speak officially—indeed, the whole Labour movement, believe that the only solution to the present unsatisfactory position is to nationalise water supplies. A Welsh water board could then be set up to safeguard Welsh interests in exactly the same way as we have the Welsh Gas Board which, incidentally, in my opinion is one of the most successful of all our nationalized undertakings. There are today more than 1,000 water undertakings in Britain. No wonder the Government recently appealed strongly for considerable measures of grouping. I leave the question of Welsh water by repeating that I am opposed to the Tryweryn scheme and hope that the House will refuse approval for that ill-advised Private Bill to go through.
§ Mr. Speaker
I should point out that the Bill will come before the House in due course, if hon. Members take the proper steps. I do not think that we should anticipate too much a discussion on it today. I think it is now before a Select Committee in another place. No doubt it will be examined there, but I do not think we should discuss it too much today.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Last week. Mr. Speaker, the Minister, in a Written Answer, stated that he is taking steps to 930 have an investigation into the whole problem of water conservation and water supplies in Wales. He promised to consider a suggestion I made some time ago, that the Council for Wales might report on the matter. Would it not be possible for us to discuss this general question without going into the details of the Liverpool Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
So far as they are general questions they can be discussed. I am not anxious to limit the discussion in any way, but I feel that it would be inadvisable for us to canvass the merits of a particular proposition because those are being subjected to another procedure of this House and will come before us in due course.
The Rev. Ll. Williams
I wish to refer to another specific Welsh problem, the question of trained teachers from Welsh colleges having to seek employment outside Wales because of the insufficient number of teachers in many parts of England. Unless there are strong personal or domestic reasons against it, I think it is a good idea for every young teacher to have as wide experience as possible. A few years in England or any other country would be an enriching experience. I am no supporter of the stay-at-home attitude. Young people should move around, but not because they are compelled to do so, as hundreds are compelled today.
I admit that this is a very difficult situation. No Welshman worthy of the name would wish children in Birmingham or any other place not to receive a decent education because there are not sufficient teachers there. But it would be an injustice if trained teachers who, because of the illness of a parent, or for some other domestic or personal reason, wish to teach near their homes, were compelled by the exigencies of the present situation to go to industrial areas in England.
I have had many a touching letter, as I am sure other hon. Members have had, from young teachers who, for good reasons, desire to remain at home but are not allowed to do so. Direction of labour is not a pleasant term, but it exists in the teaching profession, albeit in a refined form. Welsh education authorities are quite concerned about this matter. They are not getting the young people trained in new techniques in their schools in the numbers they would like to have. They have to depend, perhaps more than 931 they would wish, on married teachers and teachers on deferred retirement.
The Minister of Education should start a recruiting campaign for teachers in those areas where, hitherto, children have been attracted to factories and leave school early because of the prospect of immediately good wages. Those areas have not produced their fair quota of trainees for the scholastic profession in the past. That position should be put right.
Time does not permit for more than a cursory reference to some other aspects dealt with in the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire. I do not want to start a controversy, but I think that it is about time we dropped this "Wales and Monmouthshire" business. Apart from a few cranks who search the files of the distant past for some very flimsy tokens of evidence to suggest that Monmouthshire belongs to England, no person acquainted with the county—its history, customs, place names, culture and way of life—would dream of regarding Monmouthshire people as anything but Welsh, no matter where their parents or grandparents came from originally.
I look forward to the day when the first Secretary of State for Wales will he able to announce officially that the custom of adding the name "Monmouthshire" to the term "Wales" will cease and that term automatically w ill include Monmouthshire. This may be a small point, but, as in the case of the belated recognition of Cardiff as the national capital of Wales, this reform is long overdue.
I shall not touch on agriculture, as hon. Friends who are more qualified to do so will deal with that subject. I repeat the plea I made some years ago, that the Forestry Commissioners should proceed more expeditiously with the planting of trees on the bleak and denuded mountainsides of Welsh mining valleys. Unless the vast, complicated problem of common land ownership makes that impossible, I would urge the Commissioners to get on with the job of restoring some beauty and usefulness to vast tracts of bleakness on the upper reaches of our hillsides.
I am old enough to remember the ravages of the "White Scourge of 932 Wales," tuberculosis. How wonderful it is to read in the Report that deaths from tuberculosis in Wales have gone down steadily until now they number less than 600 a year. We note in the Report the work which had been completed and was in hand by the Welsh Regional Hospital Board during 1955–56, particularly in provision of mental hospitals.
Whilst we rejoice in the extensions and developments of existing hospitals proposed for 1956–57 and the commencement of Stage 1 of the building of a new hospital in Swansea in 1957–58, we shall all be very interested to hear of the starting date for the new teaching hospital in Cardiff. The funds available for work in hand and projects for 1956–57 for the Welsh Regional Hospital Board will be £875,750, and for the Board of Governors of the Cardiff United Hospitals, £67,000. Neither is anything like a satisfactory sum for the tremendous work which needs to be done.
I should like, finally, to refer to industry and employment in Wales. Like other parts of the United Kingdom, Wales has to suffer industrially because of the incredible folly of the Suez adventure. In Wales, there are many firms which are subsidiary firms; the parent firms are in the large industrial centres of England. In a period of recession in industry the periphery suffers much more quickly than the centre. Not only must there be no talk of de-scheduling some parts of the Development Areas—the job is yet far from complete—but there must be an extension of the scheduling to include North-West Wales. The Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire calls for more Government contracts and for no slackening in the construction of power services for Wales.
The Welsh economy, compared with the British economy generally, is perhaps still too overweighted in the direction of one or two heavy industries, although the last twelve years have seen a wonderful redressing of the catastrophic industrial lopsidedness of pre-war Wales, which brought in its train such indescribable havoc to our beloved country. We are rightly alarmed at the short-time working and the growing unemployment amongst our people. I will give the latest ascertainable figures for unemployment in Wales. On 10th December, 1956, the figure of wholly unemployed was 20,976; temporarily 933 stopped, 699; total registered as unemployed, 21,675. The figures are mounting, and we are very concerned about this. The closing of some old hand-mill tinplate works in West Wales is rather disturbing, although, in the long term, this development is perhaps inevitable as the old order changeth, yielding place to new.
I read in the Press of one other problem which merits serious attention. It is the increasing problem of finding jobs for young adolescents. The number of 15-year-old school leavers is increasing. In 1952, it was 32,000 and in 1962 it will be 45,000. Our chief concern is that these youngsters have to travel ridiculously long distances to work, leaving at absurdly early hours to do so. This feature of industrial life is all too prevalent in the mining valleys for people of all ages. I have seen these youngsters in the buses and trains. They look almost "all in" at the end of their day's work, and I am afraid that the health of many of them must suffer because, being young, they will insist on attending their dances and cinemas in the evenings as well.
In conclusion, I would not wish to paint too grim a picture. By nature I am an incurable optimist. I travel in Wales as much as any hon. Member and it does my heart good to see the tremendous activity in the industrial scene. Our steel industry is doing very well indeed. We make 99 per cent. of the country's tin plate. We are the leading steel-producing area in Great Britain, producing 28½ per cent. of the total United Kingdom output. We are all waiting—East and West Wales in keen rivalry—for the announcement that another huge steels works is to be brought to Wales. Where shall it go—to East or West Wales? I am in a difficult personal position, because my home town, Llanelly, is in West Wales, but for obvious reasons I am pulling for East Wales, for Monmouthshire, the county of my adoption. But as long as the works is brought to Wales we shall all rejoice. The country needs steel, and Wales is helping with the skills of her people and her great background in the history of this industry.
Mining, our greatest industry, is progressing to great achievements. The huge sums invested by the National Coal Board in our collieries are now being vindicated to the hilt. Welsh miners can proudly look back upon the first ten years of 934 nationalisation, despite the carping criticism of people who should know better. I think that our people face the future confidently.
Changes, of course, are taking place all the time and adjustments to some of these changes can sometimes be difficult. But the Welsh-speaking Welshman of Anglesey and Caernarvonshire and the non-Welsh-speaking Welshman of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire are linked by strange ties of kinship. No Government can fully safeguard an indigenous culture. All it can do is to provide a framework, a fabric, within which the spirit of a nation can flourish. That fabric consists of healthy industrialism, a balanced economy, and good social services. No one should jeer at bread-and-butter politics. We have suffered too much in the past as the result of the neglect of bread-and-butter politics. Wales has now a fairly sound economic foundation. Our duty and our privilege is to build the best we can on that foundation.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) on having been chosen by his colleagues to lead for them in this debate. I am sure that he has not disappointed the most partisan of his supporters, but I know that he will not expect me to follow him down all the garden paths up which he has been trying to lead me. Much as I should like to follow him in discussing the South Wales ports, the teaching hospital in Cardiff and many other matters, there are other things to which I must refer today.
First, however, I should like to join with him in the sunshine part of his speech, in which he welcomed my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs on this, his first Welsh day, as well as the tribute which he paid to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, whom we shall miss very much from the House. I thought that the hon. Member was mistaken in referring to the new arrangements for Welsh administration as a gratuitous insult to Wales, as a result of the dropping of the Joint Under-Secretary responsible for Wales. It was a very flattering remark to hear by someone who has been that Joint Under-Secretary, but I should have thought that the significance of the change is that whereas, previously, 935 the Minister for Welsh Affairs had a very limited direct sphere of responsibility, that sphere has now been very considerably enlarged. I would not have thought that that could be regarded as an insult anywhere. Certainly, the Chairman of the Advisory Council for Wales and Monmouthshire has already welcomed it.
This is the first occasion since the Ince Committee published its Report which is suitable for comment upon the Committee's findings. Since I was one of those responsible, I must devote a little time to that.
It is a matter of real sorrow to me that I was misled by what the Committee refers to as appearances of bias, and established as lack of balance—as well as by other evidence which the Committee found outside its terms of reference—into believing that behind the appearance of bias lay bias itself and that behind the fact of unbalance lay intention, rather than incompetence, into basing charges upon these errors.
When it is remembered that in 1950 an internal B.B.C. inquiry investigating charges of bias brought by the Welsh Regional Council of Labour found a similar lack of balance, it is a very serious state of affairs that that unbalance has again been found six years later; an unbalance which, incidentally, worked to the advantage of Plaid Cymru candidates at the General Election of 1955. It is high time that the Broadcasting Council for Wales made known to Welsh listeners its plans for correcting the unbalance and carrying out the Committee's recommendations.
However, since the House has before it matters of great importance, I shall not dwell on this today. I appreciate that the habits of six years and more are hard to break, and I am fortified in my restraint today by the Ince Committee's opinion that the unbalance inflicted on Welsh ears can be ascribed to innocence. I only venture the opinion now that neither this House nor Wales would tolerate a third finding of unbalance by yet another committee. Then, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, heads would have to fall, for there is a limit to the incompetence which the public should be required to endure. But I must repeat, in the light of the Report of the Ince Committee, that no charges of impropriety of 936 any kind should be allowed to stand. These charges I have withdrawn today in this House, as I have already withdrawn them elsewhere; and I repeat my regret that I was misled into making them.
I turn now to the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, and, in particular, to the Report of the Government Administration Panel. It would be ungenerous not to praise the Panel and the Council for setting out in readable form the component parts of the Welsh administrative system. Having said that, I must say, quite frankly, that I consider that the Report has been written backwards. I think that the conclusion is inescapable that, though the Committee's mind was absolutely open. it was particularly open to the proposition of a Secretary of State for Wales. It seems to have approached this problem rather in the manner of a man confronted with an extremely difficult crossword puzzle, who first changes the pattern, then puts in his own words, and finally makes up the clues to justify those words.
The Council has been the victim of its own past. Its long-term proposals, made in 1951, were aimed at achieving parity with Scotland. That is primarily an emotional aim. I have no objection to parity with Scotland if it will benefit Wales but, if it will not benefit Wales, I am against it. I believe that the Panel, while trying to be as impartial as possible, could hardly, without appearing ridiculous, go back on its declared aim to procure a Secretary of State, with a Welsh Office comprising four Departments of State. I do not for one moment question the sincerity of the Council's belief in its own approach to this problem. In Wales, innocence can take many forms.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
And elsewhere, yes.
Secondly, the Council's terms of reference are far too narrow for the recommendations to sustain very much weight. They are merely:To examine the machinery of Government administration in Wales, and to report.Those terms of reference expressly exclude all questions relating to local government administration and to the functioning of nationalised industries. They 937 ignore absolutely all question of cost and, even worse, they do not seem to take account of the impact of their proposals upon the life of the community. It is all too easy to lose sight of those whom the Civil Service exists to serve, in the beauty of administrative patterns with an emotional appeal.
It was on 4th March, 1955, that this House, in its wisdom, rejected, by 48 votes to 14, a Bill for a Parliament for Wales. In that debate I asked for a Royal Commission on Welsh Administration to be set up to examine the working of each Government Department in Wales, with wide powers of recommendation. Broadly speaking, these are the Council's own terms of reference, which it set itself. Later in that debate, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) criticised these terms as being too narrow. I believe that he was perfectly right.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the terms of reference ought to be those which were laid down for the Royal Commission on Scotland, which he then quoted, and of which I shall remind the House. Those terms were:To review with reference to the financial, economic, administrative and other considerations involved, the arrangements for exercising the functions of Your Majesty's Government in relation to Scotland.The right hon. Gentleman said that, substituting "Wales" for "Scotland," he thought "that would do. "I agree. I really am astonished by the credulity of some Welshmen, who, like inverted Jonahs, have swallowed this whale of a Report so readily.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I presume that we shall be coming to that later, but, on the terms of reference, the Government have agreed to the Commission acting on the terms set out in the Report.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am not, of course, responsible for what line the Government may take on that, but I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend will be seized of the point.
I was going on to suggest that such a Royal Commission into Welsh administration would be extremely informative and educational. Just as the Report for Scotland has persuaded the Scottish Council of the Labour Party to reject a Parliament for Scotland, "on compelling 938 economic grounds, "as the Tories have been saying for many years, so it would enable Welshmen to look before we leap into the lap of a Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
My hon. Friend, is of course, aware that the appointment of a Secretary of State for Scotland did not follow a Royal Commission, but was preceded by a meeting in Edinburgh, followed by action after a conference between Mr. Gladstone and leaders of Scottish opinion.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, but I do not think that it gets us very much further forward. I want us to look before we leap. I do not want to have a Secretary of State if we are then to have a Royal Commission to cut his throat.
I suggest, thirdly, that no proposals of this kind should be implemented without reference to the professional interests of civil servants. It is one thing for the Panel to ask heads of Departments about what powers they enjoy or what powers they think they ought to enjoy; it is quite another to consider the professional implications of changing their powers.
Here I am sorry to think that I am likely to disagree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who has been an ally in times of need; I do not needlessly turn him into a foe. I do not agree that there is any wisdom in this proposal for moving the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education from London to Cardiff.
I base my objection to that proposal on the ground that no Minister of Education, whether Labour or Tory—I have in mind such men as the late George Tomlinson and my right hon. Friend who is now the President of the Board of Trade—has thought this move to be of advantage to Welsh education. In my view, it is a good thing to have the Permanent Secretary in the main stream of Whitehall as well as in the waters of Wales.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Would the hon. Gentleman like to bring all the other secretaries who are at present in Cardiff back to London?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Quite frankly, my reply is that I would wish to judge each 939 case on its merits. I have yet to meet a Welshman, or Englishman for that matter, who has been the worse off for some time in the other's country.
I believe that insularity has been the besetting intellectual sin of Wales for far too long for us to jettison any insurance against it. It must be remembered, also, that if civil servants of the highest quality, whether Welshman or Welsh speaking or not, cannot be attracted to Cardiff to the present posts, or the present posts upgraded, then the effect of transferring more control over policy and administration from Whitehall would be to take power from the ablest and transfer it to the less able. That would he no service to Wales.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
Has my hon. Friend any evidence whatsoever that the ablest Scotsmen or Englishmen have refused to go to Edinburgh? There is complete inter-changeability in that sort of service. Why should it not happen in Wales?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
From personal experience of what civil servants have told me, for many reasons, professional and other —for instance, from the point of view of both Welsh and English culture some prefer the life of London to that which Wales is able to provide.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
Does my hon. Friend really want the "playboys" of the West End or civil servants?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I really cannot compete with my hon. Friend in knowledge of the "playboys" of the West End, so I will not try.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
There is some substance in what the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) is saying, and I think it should be considered. What has been the effect of concentrating most of the administrative machinery of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in Newcastle? I imagine that civil servants of very high calibre have to live in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Has he any evidence of this attitude among those people?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I have evidence in this case in the other direction, that civil servants who were then in Cardiff did not wish to go to Newcastle; but that still 940 does not mean that those in London would be ready to go to Cardiff. The fact that there are three hon. Members of this House who have given very interesting and different sidelights on this matter does at any rate indicate—I do not wish to press it further than it will go—that this is a point which should be examined.
§ Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon)
Is it not right that the head of the Department should be with his Department? The Department is not in London or Whitehall, but is in Cardiff.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I believe that it is true that not the whole of the Department is in Cardiff; a certain amount remains in London. The hon. Member has advanced yet another view which underlines the fact that this aspect is important. It is a matter on which five hon. Members are in substantial disagreement, at any rate, and it should be examined; yet the Council does not even pretend to have examined it.
Next, we should consider the burden of responsibility which would rest on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. Quite frankly, even if he had the aid of half a dozen Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, I should not wish to kill my worst enemy with the burden of the responsibilities which it is intended by the Council to put on the Secretary of State's shoulders. In case hon. Members did not reach paragraph 310, I will remind them of what is to happen. The Secretary of State is to be responsible for agriculture, education, fire service, fisheries, forestry, housing, information services, miscellaneous local government services, National Health Service, police, public health, remand homes, approved schools, roads, bridges and ferries, sewerage, tourism, town and country planning, water supply, welfare services, blind, aged, children, etc.
Those responsibilities would be a great burden on one Minister, however many Under-Secretaries he might be given.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland already carries more duties than that?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
If the hon. Member would only sit here and could see the looks on the faces of Scottish Members, he would be able to gauge what satisfaction that arrangement is giving.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but has he ever asked the Scottish members whether they will give up the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West knows that he puts me in a difficulty; he knows that I would not repeat in this House a conversation which I have had with a Scottish Member. I have discussed this matter with Scottish Members and I have discussed it with Scotsmen. I have yet to meet a Scotsman who is enthusiastic for the present arrangements as hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to be this afternoon.
In considering these burdens which it is intended should be placed upon the Secretary of State, hon. Members should, before finally making up their minds, read what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has to say in his book, "Government and Parliament" on the consequences of overworking Ministers and civil servants and on the mistakes and inefficiency which thereby result.
I do not wish to be offensive to the Council, but is the collective experience of the Council or of the Panel sufficient even for the limited inquiry which it made? Putting the question in another way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly, if he had to nominate 13 members for a Royal Commission, would he have been anything like satisfied with the Panel? I am sure he would not.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydfil)
Has the hon. Member considered the composition of the Royal Commission, of which he is apparently so fond? What would be its composition? It would be appointed by the Government and, without any doubt, on the Royal Commission there would be many people who were not Welsh and who would know next to nothing about Wales. Surely, the present Council, being composed of Welsh people of some distinction, is about the best body to judge these matters and do the job.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am sorry that I cannot really agree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, that the Welsh people—proud though I am to be a Welshman—have a monopoly of 942 all wisdom; and I was going on to meet the point which he made if he had been a little patient.
I think it important that several of the members of a Royal Commission should have been members of this House or of another place. Not one of the Panel has been a Minister, not one of them has had experience of a Minister's responsibility, and, although I have not gone into this matter with great care, I do not believe that one of them has been a civil servant in Whitehall. Not one of them has had experience of the Scottish model which some hon. Members seem to be adopting.
I do not want to shock the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) too much, but I think that it was a deficiency that not one of the members of the Panel was an Englishman. I say this bearing in mind our mutual enrichment and common history and destiny. This is a deficiency in a Council whose recommendations affect both countries, and for these reasons—there are more with which I will not tax the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil because he has had a very tiring day already—I am not prepared to give the Government a blank cheque. I ask my right hon. Friend to think again about the wisdom of appointing a Royal Commission, properly equipped and properly constituted, in order to examine this whole question and to give it terms of reference which, broadly speaking, are those which the right hon. Member for Llanelly suggested in 1955.
Of course, it will be said, "Oh, that will lead to delay." It will lead to delay, of course, in the production of the recommendations, but there is no reason why there should be a delay in a number of other Governmental experiments in Wales. There is no reason why there should not be improvements in liaison between the Government Departments in Wales. Some of the lack of liaison has, in my view, been very much exaggerated; but there is no reason why some corrective should not be found on the basis of the Socialist creation of the quarterly meeting of heads of Departments in Wales. There is no reason why groups of these heads of Departments with common interests should not meet regularly. In my view, we should also proceed cautiously while the new experiment in 943 peaceful co-existence between "Housing and Local Government" and "Welsh Affairs" is worked out. I should, however, have thought—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Abertillery—that a Parliamentary Secretary for Welsh Affairs would have been useful in this field.
Finally, I should like to say a word about the future rôle of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to which the hon. Member for Abertillery referred. It is, of course, essentially an undemocratic institution. It would be less so and might spark more public interest if it were chosen, for example, by an electoral college on which the local authorities and other important bodies in Wales were represented; but even that begs the question whether a Council for Wales and Monmouthshire is really necessary.
I cannot help thinking that, rather like the bee's sting, this Report is, in a sense, the Council's death sting in that there is nothing now really left within its competence to investigate. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Llanelly seems to have left the Chamber, because I want to make a point which he referred to at Question Time a few days ago. I do not consider that a non-elected body of this sort is the kind of body to which the Government should, either as a delaying factor or for any other reason, refer such matters as the future of the Tryweryn Valley. The Labour Government, when they were in power, did not refer the scheme of the Towey Valley to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. They did not refer the threat to the Lleyn Peninsula, which the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) will remember well, and, therefore, why should the Government now refer Tryweryn, and if Tryweryn, why not Talsarnau, which I am pleased to know is to be a Welsh Harwell?
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I follow the hon. Member's point quite well. The Government certainly did not refer the Lleyn Peninsula problem to the Council for Wales. I am not aware that they have done that in the case of the Tryweryn scheme. What has happened is that they have waited for the Council's report on water policy before proceeding with a decision.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I had some difficulty in hearing the hon. Member for Caernarvon, but I think the point is this, that the right hon. Member for Llanelly wanted the Tryweryn scheme referred now to the Advisory Council. That was the sense in which I think he was generally understood on both sides of the House. But if the Government of the day, whatever their political complexion may be, whenever they are faced with something awkward, abdicate their responsibility and say, "This is a convenient way of not reaching a conclusion; we will leave it to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire"—
§ Mr. Llewellyn
The hon. Gentleman's intervention is inapplicable because there is plenty that can go on in the meantime and there are many respectable precedents for obtaining the facts first. I ask the House to remember that if every point of difficulty like this is to be referred to a non-elected body, what is this House for? In the end every decision which the Government do not want to take about Wales will go to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.
There is also this point to remember: why refer the matter of Tryweryn to a non-elected body in Wales when we could refer it equally well to the Welsh Parliamentary Party? It is proper that hon. Members of this House should consider who is to speak for Wales in this matter, and in my opinion—I have not been in this House very long—I would say that since the Council came into existence, there has not been proper consultation on every occasion between the Welsh Parliamentary Party and the Ministers of the day.
In no circumstances, as I have said, must the Council be used as an instrument for the abdication of the Government's responsibilities.
Finally, I notice that in paragraph 1 of the Memorandum this rather remarkable sentence by the Council which I think needs a little amplification by those who made it:The Council also wish to record an assurance that they will continue to support and co-operate in regard to Welsh affairs.That is precisely what the Council has been appointed to do. It is not for the 945 Council to come and tell the Government that it is going to co-operate with them. If the Council does not co-operate, the Government of the day should have the moral courage to sack the lot.
I would point out, at the risk of appearing churlish, that at this moment there is urgent need for the existence of this Council to be carefully examined, because there are many people in Wales of all parties who do not think that it has now, even if it had in the past, any further work that it can usefully do. I suggest that that might well be included in the terms of reference to a Royal Commission on Welsh Administration.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) will pardon me if I do not follow the line of his arguments. In any event, there seems to be a great deal of disagreement on the other side of the House and others of my hon. Friends will have an opportunity of commenting upon the points that the hon. Member has made.
I would rather revert to the White Paper and to the practical problems which face the people of Wales. The introduction to the White Paper for 1956 reminds us that this is the eleventh document of its kind to come before the House. When we look back over the past eleven years, remembering the policy of the Labour Government in the early years, the operation of the Distribution of Industry Act and the planning and control adopted in Wales in the time of the Labour Government, we realise, of course, that there has been a great improvement and advance in the industrial and social life of our people.
For the first time in recent years, however, we are now slipping back. Conditions are not as good as they were even last year. Unemployment and short-time working are increasing. As my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) pointed out, the White Paper is quite out of date. We have no up-to-date information. We have to collect much of the information ourselves for this debate, and that is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. Without up-to-date information, we cannot do justice to a debate on Welsh affairs. A similar complaint was made in the last debate 946 on Welsh affairs by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. J. D. Williams).
As we have been reminded, we are debating a White Paper for the year ended June, 1956—that is, eight months ago. The White Paper was published four months ago. I ask the Minister to take note that if this procedure is repeated next time and we have a debate on Welsh affairs on a White Paper published a number of months beforehand, we shall be forced to the conclusion that the Government regard Welsh affairs with indifference and complacency, an attitude which would justify the resentment of the people of Wales. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence to ensure that the next debate is arranged much sooner after the publication of the White Paper.
As the White Paper states, in June, 1956, unemployment in Wales stood at 17,850. Since then, it has risen to 21,675, an increase of nearly 4,000, to 2.3 per cent. of the insured population. There is nothing quite like that in England. I agree that in Scotland the figure is, I believe, as high as 2.5 per cent. We also have short-time working. According to the White Paper, 6,000 people in Wales were on short-time working last June. I am not sure whether that number has increased.
§ Mr. Finch
There is also less overtime working. Whatever we say about overtime, there are many people in Wales on low incomes who work overtime to maintain their standard of living. In quite a number of industries, the standard wage is not sufficient and overtime is worked. Today, however, there is less overtime working.
In considering the position in Wales, therefore, we are bound to confess that the standard of living is declining. There is less purchasing power available and the effect of this is beginning to be felt in business and trade generally. If the credit squeeze continues for any length of time, I fear that by the time of our next debate on Welsh affairs today's unemployment figures will have been exceeded. This is certainly a warning to the Government that the credit squeeze and its continuance for any length of time will have a serious effect upon the Welsh economy and the people of Wales.
947 My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery has referred to juvenile employment and I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the situation. Youth employment offices in Wales are finding it more and more difficult to place young people in employment. There is a nervousness on the part of small industries and business undertakings owing to the credit squeeze. There is a reluctance and a lack of confidence and they are not engaging the young people at the same rate as they did a few years ago. We have already been informed that in 1955. 32,000 children left school in Wales at the age of 15. By 1962, the figure will be 45,000. The problem, therefore, will grow and in the near future we shall be faced with a situation in which the growth in the size of the working population far exceeds the expansion of industry, particularly among the manufacturing undertakings.
In all this, of course, we must turn to the Distribution of Industry Act. Very little money is now being spent under that Act. For all intents and purposes, it is dead. There has not been a single new industry built in the South Wales Development Area under the Distribution of Industry Act for three or four years.
The Act was not designed solely to bring industry to the area, but was intended to improve the amenities of the people and to assist industry generally in the provision of basic services. The job is nothing like half finished, yet we find that the Government are discarding the Act. We hear very little about it. I hope that the Minister will say something of the policy of the Government. Do they intend to exercise their powers in Wales under that Act? What is the future to which Wales can look forward?
Apart from coal and steel, the position is far from satisfactory. This is borne out by the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire—incidentally, not a Labour Party organisation—whose Report points out:It needs to be emphasised that a large proportion of the firms established in development areas during the post-war period are subsidiaries of parent organisations primarily based outside the area and this being so, are the first to be affected by any policy of retrenchment.That was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery and I 948 want to reinforce it for the Minister's consideration. Here is evidence that the work under the Distribution of Industry Act is not finished. We desire to know what the policy of the Government is to be.
Reference has been made to the hard core of unemployment in North-West Wales. It has grown to 8.5 per cent. of the insured population in Anglesey. Unemployment has existed in North Wales for a number of years, and it has become a hardy annual of debate. I am pleased to note that the Welsh Electricity Board is to extend the scale of employment. We are gratified to know at least that a nationalised industry will give some assistance to help to solve the unemployment problem in North Wales. However, I would ask the Minister to appreciate that though a large number of men will be required for this scheme by the Board they will be employed for only a period. What will be the position afterwards? Shall we not be faced with additional unemployment unless the Government have a scheme to deal with the employment situation in North-West Wales?
I come to the docks problem. I have had an opportunity of going into this problem during the past year as chairman of the industrial panel of our party on this side of the House. I am very disturbed at the situation in the ports in South Wales. One does feel depressed by any visit to Cardiff Docks. Very little trade is going on at the Cardiff Docks, yet Cardiff is the capital of Wales. I am interested to learn that the right hon. Gentleman is to visit Wales, as his predecessor did, as often as he possibly can. It is perfectly true that his predecessor, now in another place, made periodical visits to Wales and, of course, to the City of Cardiff. I was always interested in the speeches which were made by him on those occasions, and by other Ministers, too. They praised the enterprise of the people. They said what wonderful people there were in Cardiff, and they praised the enterprise of industry. Yet there are empty wharves in the docks, and the docks are stagnant, with many dock labourers working short-time; and this has been the situation for a very long time.
I am very pleased to learn that the British Transport Commission is now to improve the facilities of the docks at 949 Cardiff and Barry. That is very desirable. My hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) have been advocating for a very long time that something should be done on those lines. I am also pleased to learn that the Corn-mission, jointly with the industrial organisations of Wales, is to have a representative in the Midlands whose job it will be to see that as much trade is sent to the ports of South Wales as possible. That is very desirable.
However, there is no finality yet of the problem of port charges, a problem of which, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will take particular note. This matter was dealt with several years ago by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. This question of port charges is a serious one. I think it is the most serious factor in the deprivation of the South Wales ports of the trade which they ought to have. Shipowners at English ports do meet the charges. There is a variety of charges, from the point of unloading at the docks to the ship side, and there is a variety of degrees. That policy is not adopted by the shipowners at South Wales ports.
It is a matter primarily for the shipowners, but the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor agreed that he would use all his influence to bring the interested parties together. In a speech he delivered on being granted the freedom of the City of Cardiff he told us that it was hoped that in the very near future that we should be able to get a report from the body considering the matter, but we have not heard anything yet, and there the problem still remains. It calls for the special attention of the right hon. Gentleman. These charges make a difference of from 5s. to £1 a ton on commodities, and it is a very serious matter for the trade in South Wales ports.
Coal and steel remain the dominant industries in South Wales. The mining industry in South Wales is making a valuable contribution to the nation's economy. Output has gone up in the South Wales pits during the last five weeks to the equivalent of 5 per cent. more than what it was in the comparable period of last year. That is a greater increase than in the country generally, where output in the last five weeks has gone up by 1 per cent. That is a great compliment to the initiative and enterprise of the National 950 Coal Board and those working in the industry in the South Wales coalfield. We are now at last geting some return for the capital expenditure upon this industry. It is beginning. The sinkings at Cynheidre and Abernant, on completion, will add to the output of coal in South Wales.
I am optimistic about the coal industry. I believe that it will make a greater contribution to the British economy and will assist the country generally. The Coal Board, by its social and welfare schemes, has improved the conditions and amenities of those working in the industry—by the installation of pithead baths, for instance. The position has been improved to that extent, but the Government have not been of much assistance, either to the Board or the miners themselves.
Mining districts are still grim places in which to live. There are slag heaps dotted all over South Wales, tips in the villages and near the houses. They date back many years. These districts are ugly places in which to live. This is a problem which should now be tackled by the Government, because if we are to attract more and more men to the industry we must consider not only wages and working conditions but living conditions, the environment in which the miners shall live. The time has come when this problem should be tackled in a big way. New tips are now the responsibility of the planning officers and the Coal Board. Thus far the position has been put right, but the old tips, and, indeed, the extensions of tips at present existing, are entirely in the hands of the Coal Board for the time being, and I think that the time has arrived for a conference to be held between the Board and the Minister for Welsh Affairs to see what can be done in a big way about them, to get rid of those unsightly heaps which do so much to mar the scenery in South Wales and do so much to make those places unpleasant to live in and, therefore, unpopular.
There is one other problem to which I would refer. There is considerable resentment felt in South Wales at the Government's economic policy as it affects education. Its effects upon education are receiving a great deal of attention in South Wales. I refer to several of the Minister of Education's circulars, and particularly to the notorious Circular 306, which compelled local educational 951 authorities to postpone their 1956–57 programmes to 1957–58, thus postponing the 1957–58 programmes to some future date.
I understand that the Minister of Education is authorising now about £50 million worth of work for 1957–58, but of that £34 million is work originally projected for 1956–57, so that the additional expenditure on education in the country is approximately only £16 million. We can call it what we will, postponement or deferment, but it is a cut in education, and it is having a disastrous effect in Wales. I should have thought that the Minister would have at least increased that sum beyond £16 million, because the local authorities have many urgent projects in their programme for 1957–58.
The Minister for Welsh Affairs says that he will visit Wales as much as he can. I hope that he will. He will find school children being accommodated in the little chapels and vestries of the mining villages. He will see them also in improvised huts or in a temporary building, perhaps a long way from the main school. The local authorities are doing all they possibly can, but building accommodation in these mining villages is seriously limited. I cannot imagine what the education authorities would have done without the miners' institutes, which were built for the cultural entertainment of miners but are being used in the daytime as school classrooms. In many cases, those huts and buildings are not what they ought to be. It is not the fault of the education authorities, who are doing their best in the circumstances. Indeed, I marvel at the way they go about the job.
The National Coal Board launched a building scheme near Bedwas in my constituency, at Trethomas, to bring miners into the locality and so increase coal output. The population increased, and there was a greater demand on school accommodation. The local education authority realised that it could not meet the situation. As is typical in so many other instances, the authority had to use improvised huts, the miners' institute and similar buildings, and I believe that nine classes are held outside the main building. Is not that an unsatisfactory and intolerable state of affairs?
952 I understand that the Minister of Education said in a broadcast recently that he would do all he possibly could for the people, of Wales. Now is his great opportunity to cancel Circular 306, or at least take into consideration some of the more urgent projects of these Welsh education authorities. I ask him to say that he is prepared to consider the 1957–58 schemes and not abandon them. This is a very serious matter.
I join with other hon. Members in saying that we want more technical education and that we want an institute of technology and want to improve our universities, but who feed the universities? The university students come from the modern secondary schools and the grammar schools. The foundation of our education system is there, and if that goes wrong we shall not have the best boys and girls going to our universities. The Monmouthshire County Council is one of the most progressive in the country and there is no question that it is dilatory in its building programme: it is up to date.
I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education present. I should like to ask him or the Minister to meet education authorities in Wales and go into this problem. The National Coal Board and the miners are doing all they can. The Board has launched into housing schemes at Bedwas and other places to enable the mining industry to be improved and output to be increased, but when the miners go to those districts they find that their children have to be accommodated in chapel vestries and temporary buildings during school hours. The need in Bedwas may not be the most urgent. There are other cases. I put the case of Bedwas to the Parliamentary Secretary only because I think that it is typical of so many. I hope that we shall bear from the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
The Minister for Welsh Affairs has been deprived of the services of a Parliamentary Secretary for Welsh Affairs.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)
I am not, of course, intervening in the debate, but I will bring what the hon. Member has said to the attention of my noble Friend the Minister of Education.
§ Mr. Finch
I want to refer also to the amenities in the mining valleys. I understand that the Minister for Welsh Affairs, in his capacity as Minister of Housing and Local Government, may make some reference to the position of local authorities this week. Those in Wales are badly crippled. They are not in any position to launch schemes to improve amenities. The Exchequer equalisation grant and the way in which it is administered call for special attention. We want more and more houses. A number of married miners live at home with their parents. in crowded houses. We talk about extending the mining industry, but we have not the housing accommodation to meet the situation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give special attention to housing in the valleys of South Wales. Perhaps what we hear from him this week about the reorganisation of local authorities may be of some assistance.
If I were asked what is most prominent in the minds of Welsh people, I should say that it is the fear of unemployment. The degree of unemployment may not be regarded as serious at the moment but there is short-time working, and the number of unemployed is increasing.
The second most prominent subject is housing. I hope that what I have said about that subject will be noted by the right hon. Gentleman. The third is the education of our children. These are all practical points which we must face. I will leave abstract arguments about a Parliament for Wales to other hon. Members. Let us face the issues that I have mentioned and, if we can, improve the standard of living of our people.
Let us further improve the social services. Let us turn to the Government Departments and see what further steps can be taken to improve the standard of living of our people. If the right hon. Gentleman can use his influence to achieve only some of these things, he will be doing a good job of work.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) for approaching so many problems in a thoroughly practical and realistic way. I do not propose to comment on his speech except to underline what he said about Circular 306 and the present attitude of the Government towards new schools.
About a week ago I took a deputation from my local authority to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, who I am pleased to see in his place. It concerned a primary school in a rural area in my constituency in respect of which the Medical Officer of Health for the County of Cardigan has already issued grave warnings. It is not a question of providing educational facilities but of safeguarding the health of the children in that school.
All are agreed that it will have to be supplanted by a new school; the only question is, when? I should have thought, from the point of view of public economy, that from the long-term aspect it would be advisable that this programme should not be held up a moment longer. If my local authority is to safeguard the lives and health of the children using that school it will have to spend substantial sums of money on the existing structure which obviously will be wasted ultimately. It is for that reason I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for stressing this point.
Now I turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), in particular to his reference to the Report of the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire which dealt with the question whether or not Wales should have a Secretary of State. This is a very old problem and I am intrigued by references to the need for greater time to consider it. I hope I am not doing my hon. Friend an injustice in saying that I thought his references to a Royal Commission were made not because he was in any real difficulty as to the soundness or otherwise of the proposal, but simply because he wished to side-step the issue.
I suggest respectfully, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this Government have far greater material than any previous Government have had on this issue, and that they should now apply their minds to the 955 problem and state shortly whether or not they accept the principle that Wales should have a Secretary of State with a seat in the Cabinet. I concede that the exact set-up may be a matter requiring detailed consideration, but there is no reason why we should not have a clear, specific declaration of attitude towards this proposal of the Panel.
Scotland, Sir, as you well know, has had a Secretary since 1885, and the virtues or otherwise of the set-up there were carefully inquired into by a Royal Commission which worked from July, 1952, to July, 1954. This Government, therefore, are in the fortunate position of having a set-up similar to that recommended by the Panel already in existence in Scotland, which has already been the subject matter of the closest possible scrutiny within recent years.
I do not argue that we should have a Secretary of State for Wales because Scotland has one. It is not a question of parity with Scotland. In my view the relevance of the position in Scotland is that Scotland has had a Secretary for over seventy years and a Secretary of State for very many years. It will be remembered that Scotland was first given a Secretary, with the status eventually of Secretary of State, wtih ever-expanding powers and jurisdiction for certain reasons. The reasons which were, and still are, advanced for the set-up in that country all apply with equal force to Wales.
The last Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs gave its blessing to the existing set-up there. Not only did it do so, but the Government associated themselves with its recommendations. I suggest that the quotations I am about to make from the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs are relevant to the position in the Principality. For instance, paragraph 111 states:The Secretary of State as the Scottish spokesman in the Cabinet, with his four principal Scottish Departments, is now an established feature in the life of the country. Many witnesses testified to the advantage which Scotland has derived from the existence of the Secretary of State and his Departments.This is the conclusion of the Royal Commission:We are convinced that the creation of this office has been an invaluable asset to Scotland.956 Then paragraph 13 (i) reads:In the absence of convincing evidence of advantage to the contrary, the machinery of government should be designed to dispose of Scottish business in Scotland.Now comes something which may appeal particularly to our present Minister. In Appendix VII to that Report, which is an extract from a Memorandum issued by the Treasury in June, 1946, the following appears:Departments with a strong regional organisation throughout Great Britain should devolve upon their Scottish representatives sufficient authority to enable Scottish business to be settled on the spot, with the minimum of reference to London, and should ensure that in the settlement of large matters of principle, Scottish aspects are fully considered.The Panel of the Council of Wales endeavoured to carry out the function which was carried out by the Royal Commission in relation to Scotland, except, of course, that the Royal Commission was inquiring into something which was in existence and had been well tried, whereas the Panel was considering the position in relation to what might be in Wales.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North referred to the attitude of Scottish Members. I share with him the experience of discussing their attitude to the present set-up in Scotland. My own experience has been that they have not criticised the existence of the Scottish Office but the limitations upon its powers, especially as regards finance, and I have yet to hear a Scottish Member who would like to see the Scottish Office abolished.
The hon. Member also referred to the terms of reference. I concede at once that the terms of reference of the Panel which inquired into the Welsh situation might have been wider, but it is clear from the Report that whatever were the precise terms of reference, the Panel inquired into this matter thoroughly. What is equally clear is that the Panel had the assistance of Government Departments, to which it has paid a generous tribute, in dealing with this problem. I respectfully suggest that it is high time we had a Secretary of State with a formation not necessarily identical with what has been recommended by the Panel, but on those lines.
I remember going on an all-party delegation from the Welsh Parliamentary Party to see the then Prime Minister in 1946. The Prime Minister was accompanied by the right hon. Member for 957 Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). We reminded the Prime Minister that the right hon. Member for Llanelly had been a strong advocate of a Secretary of State for Wales, and we requested the Labour Government to implement the views of the right hon. Gentleman and to grant Wales a Secretary of State. The request was turned down. Since then we have had the Reports by the Royal Commission for Scotland and the Council for Wales. In the light of that additional material, I hope that the Minister will now give the matter immediate consideration and announce very shortly to the House and to Wales a favourable decision on the principle of having a Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Cove
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to do an injustice to the Labour Government of that time or to the Labour movement, although that is what he seems to be doing. Every Prime Minister who has received a deputation on this subject has turned down the application. It is a common complaint.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am very interested in the hon. and learned Member's point, which is a very fair one. In view of his praise of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs, does he not think that there is now an overwhelming case for having a Royal Commission on Welsh Affairs at once?
§ Mr. Bowen
Perhaps the hon. Member was not present earlier when I made some observations on that point. My view is that all the material required to enable the Government to make up their minds on the point is now in their possession. I cannot see how a Royal Commission can do anything but hold up the matter indefinitely.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North referred to the burden of responsibility. I have not heard any complaint about that from the Scottish Office. The hon. Gentleman made a reference to the position of civil servants. We should remember that Government Departments 958 exist for the purpose of government and not for the purposes of civil servants, and what we have really to consider here is what will be good government for Wales.
It seems to me that the crux of the matter is touched upon in two paragraphs in the Council's Report. Paragraph 16 says:There is no Minister of the Crown with executive responsibility extending over Wales alone.Paragraph 183 says:The greatest single failing in the present organisation is that there is far too little co-ordination is of the activities of the Departments operating in Wales. This is a feature of the problem which has impressed itself upon the Panel time and again during the course of their investigations.On a previous occasion in a Welsh debate I referred to the fact that Wales was now suffering from piecemeal, halfhearted and disjointed devolution. and the Report of the Panel clearly indicates the truth of my assertion. It would appear that there has never been any overall attempt to decide what form of devolution or what extent of devolution was appropriate for Wales. Thus we get a confused and conflicting picture as we go from one Department to another. I commend what the Panel has to say about the present confusion in relation to the types of delegation and the extent of delegation in different Departments.
My main complaint, however, is a different matter. It is one thing to have bad administration, for policy decisions not to be put properly into operation and for Acts of Parliament not to be effectively implemented. That in itself is a matter of concern, and I certainly do not think that the position in Wales is as satisfactory as it should be. However, what concerns me even more than that is that there should be no Minister with an overall responsibility for Wales in relation to executive decisions. However efficient the Civil Service devolution became, it would not do away with that difficulty. After all, the function of the civil servant is not to make decisions but to implement them. I believe that there should be a great improvement in respect of the implementation of decisions, but at the same time I believe that if Welsh interests as a whole are to be considered, and if Wales as a unit is to receive consideration, there should be a Minister with executive powers and the duty to 959 exercise overall supervision over Government activities in the Principality. I hope the Government will apply their minds quickly and sympathetically to the matter.
I wish to associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) about Tryweryn. I believe that what has happened at Tryweryn is the Towy Valley technique exercised by a large corporation instead of a Government Department. Just as the first Minister for Welsh Affairs relieved the anxieties of the people of the Towy Valley in this respect, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take some steps to relieve the anxieties of the people of Tryweryn.
In the Report of Government Action, stress is properly laid upon the action of local authorities, with the assistance of the central authority, in relation to social amenities and the provision of a basic standard of living in their areas. I represent a county which is faced with special difficulties in carrying out its functions in this regard. I share a doubtful distinction in this respect with four or five other hon. Members representing Welsh counties. All local authorities are today faced with great difficulties in relation to the rate position, but four or five counties in Wales are in a position totally different from the other counties, and their difficulties are very much greater, so great that unless something is done the satisfactory carrying out of the vital functions of local government in those spheres will become virtually impossible. The position is as dramatic as that.
To illustrate the point which I am attempting to make, I want to give one or two facts and figures. I do so hoping that they will influence the Minister when, during the course of the week, he makes his statement upon local government finance as a whole. I do not want to deal with the general position of local government finance, or the problems of local government finance throughout the country, but there are three or four Welsh rural counties which are in grave difficulties.
One example is the County of Cardigan. Under the new assessments, Cardiganshire's Exchequer equalisation grant was reduced by over £100,000. The result was that, while there was an increase in county rateable values of 156 960 per cent., the county precept was reduced by only is. 6d. in the £, so that the rate burden upon the community in the county as a whole was increased very considerably. The position has been accentuated by the operation of Section 8 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. 1955, the effect of which was to reduce the Exchequer equalisation grant by £36,888, which in rate poundage amounted to 1s. 7½d.
In one borough in my constituency, the Borough of Aberystwyth, the situation is accentuated still further. It has the honour and the pleasure of being the home of two of our national institutions, our National Library and the University College. The loss in rate income, because of the operation of Section 8 of the 1955 Act, in relation to those two institutions alone is £34,869. The rate poundage loss is 3s. 9d.; that is to say, the rates are 21s. 3d. and, but for this loss, would have been 17s. 6d. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman makes his statement about local government finance he will bear those factors in mind.
Let me give one other illustration of the type of difficulty which occurs. It is the case of New Quay in Cardiganshire. All the difficulties about the county as a whole which I have enumerated apply, of course, to New Quay, but in places of that kind—and it is one of many examples in my constituency—the situation is worse. In New Quay there are 478 rateable premises—both dwelling houses and shops. Of those, 115 are occupied by single persons; that is to say, about one-third of the dwelling houses are occupied by single persons, the overwhelming majority being elderly people not at work and not in receipt of an income other than their pension, or that derived from their life savings. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you can well imagine the hardship which these difficulties impose on people in that category.
There are two other matters to which I want to refer. One arises from paragraph 110 of the Report on Government Action which refers to Welsh Farm Institutes and to the question of providing two-year diploma courses. Apparently the Council received a Report from a Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Professor Seaborne Davies. Paragraph 188 of the Report refers to 961 the Working Party set up to study the problems of rural education in Mid-Wales. I hope that before the end of the day we will hear precisely what has happened about Professor Seaborne Davies's Report and about the Working Party's Report on rural education in Mid-Wales.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I want to follow up what the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) said about one matter, namely, the report at the beginning of the Third Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire proposing the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales and a Welsh Office containing four Departments of State. Before doing so, I should like to follow the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) in the extremely generous way in which he welcomed my right hon. Friend as Minister for Welsh Affairs.
I, too, want to say how pleased I was personally to hear of my right hon. Friend's appointment and to welcome him to a Welsh debate. The office of Minister for Welsh Affairs has been generally accepted in the Principality over the last few years as having been of great value to the people of Wales. Of course, the office itself is nothing; it is the person who fills the office who is of importance. We have been extremely fortunate in having Lord Kilmuir and Viscount Lloyd-George as my right hon. Friend's predecessors in office and I know that we are all satisfied that my right hon. Friend will follow the very high example and regard and sympathy for Wales shown by his predecessors.
I must admit that on one occasion I incurred the wrath of the House for speaking a little too long in a Welsh debate, but I hope that I shall not do so today. I want to speak for a short time on the proposals of the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), I say at once and with great sincerity that I wholeheartedly congratulate the Panel on an excellent Report. I doubt whether the administrative machine has ever received such a detailed and objective scrutiny.
I greatly applaud the complete lack of sentimentality in the Report. In Wales, 962 in matters such as this one so often finds a national emotion, but in this case there is a complete absence of emotion, making the Report even more worthy. The Panel deserves great credit for the way in which it has analysed the position and the meticulous care which it has shown. The conclusions which it has reached are not only well considered, but realistic. I am sure that other hon. Members know a lot about the administrative set-up in Wales, but when I read the Report I realised how little I knew. It assisted me in coming to the conclusion which I have reached. I knew that we had a Welsh Secretary in charge of the Welsh Department of Agriculture in Aberystwyth. In the past I felt that to be a matter about which one could be proud, that it was something which should be talked about. On reading the Report I found that the Welsh Secretary is directly responsible for a staff of 60. That staff exercises but a very limited number of the Ministry's total functions in Wales.
There are, in addition to the staff of 60 in the Secretary's office, 650 Ministry staff in Wales reporting directly, not to the Secretary in Aberystwyth, but to 18 separate departments of the Ministry in London. As we all know, one of the most important things about agriculture in Wales is the work of the county executive committees. According to the Report there are a further 700 staff connected with the executive committees. Admittedly, the committees have a loose link with the Welsh Secretary, but it is clear that the services and the functions for which they are responsible are outside the limits of the Welsh Department.
That is just one of the departments for Wales. We have separate Welsh offices for education, health, housing and local government—I mention the most important. All these enjoy a certain measure of autonomy. The Report makes clear, however, that there are two main drawbacks to the existing set-up. The first is that there is a genuine lack of coordination in the activities of these departments. The second is that the heads of these departments, most of whom are not of very senior rank, do not carry sufficient weight in discussions on policy matters when they go to the headquarters in London.
The reason given for this lack of coordination and the failure of the heads of 963 departments to carry authority at headquarters, is that there is no Minister with specific executive responsibility in regard to Welsh affairs. That is the recommendation put forward by the Panel.
Of course, if these proposals were carried into effect, they would involve a major constitutional change which would be an administrative upheaval. It is clear that such proposals must receive the closest investigation and thought. It is quite understandable that my right hon. Friend is not today in a position to give any firm decision on behalf of the Government, and I think it right not to expect the Government to reach a decision so quickly.
I consider, however, that most of the investigations must inevitably be of matters of detail, and that the principle reached by this Panel—namely, that a Minister with executive powers should be appointed and a Welsh Office with Departments of State created—is inescapable. Therefore, I support the principle reached by the Panel. I do so for two reasons. First, for some time now Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have given official recognition to the fact that Wales is a separate nation with a distinct way of life. One of the ways in which that was recognised was by the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs in 1951. It was officially recognised that there are differences in opinion, outlook, history and culture which merit special attention.
In the past the Minister for Welsh Affairs has found that there are many problems in Wales which are not United Kingdom problems, not regional problems, but indigenous Welsh problems. Therefore, a policy has emerged and it is the policy which has been carried out, certainly by the Conservative Government since 1951, and indeed by their predecessors. It is a policy of administrative devolution. It is a policy which was put into the Election manifestos. It was the policy of the Conservative Government at the last General Election that a steady process of administrative devolution should continue and, if necessary, go further.
In the same way hon. Members opposite have also talked about administrative devolution. If it be considered necessary that there should be adminis- 964 trative devolution, consideration must be given to what is the logical conclusion of administrative devolution; and what is it? It cannot just mean more separate regional departments with some added measure of autonomy, remote from the London headquarters. In my view, it must mean the eventual co-ordination of those departments under the executive control of a Minister. That is what the Panel proposes. The only criticism which has been made has come from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North. I would say that any criticism must be in regard to detail, which can be gone into in the investigation which will naturally follow.
The proposals in the Panel's Report are not the proposals of separatists. They are not the proposals of Welsh Nationalists. In fact, those who are sometimes called Welsh Nationalists are the main critics in Wales of these proposals. Such people delude themselves that they are the sole guardians of Welsh interests, and in these proposals they see a threat to that self-imposed guardianship. My right hon. Friend knows Wales, and he will know that we cannot find greater loyalty in a people than among the majority of the people of Wales. The majority of them do not wish to be divorced from England. They are proud of the partnership which has existed for many centuries and which is growing stronger every day.
They are nationalistic in that they are proud of the fact that Wales is a nation, and they would like the partnership to be on equal terms. In my view the majority of people in Wales are wholeheartedly in favour of the proposals put forward by the Council for Wales, and think that they will be not only beneficial to themselves, but to the cause of administration generally. I commend them to my right hon. Friend and to the Government. I ask them to examine these proposals with the utmost sympathy.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
I hope that from this moment onward there will be a speeding up in the rota of hon. Members who have the privilege of addressing the House.
I am glad of today's opportunity for a debate on Welsh affairs and that it has 965 been fitted into the Parliamentary timetable, much belated it is true; but the Government have been going through very rough political seas. One result is that we have a new Minister for Welsh Affairs facing us. The big question is whether he will be more successful than his predecessors. On this question the majority of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have something in common; they will judge by results. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should be warned, so that he might be forearmed, that there are choppy waters ahead.
Despite our awareness of the imperfections of today's debate arrangements, arising from the Government's insistence upon covering on one day the range of two major Reports, we prize the opportunity of having the Floor of the House to ourselves. We have been able to read and study Command Paper 9887, which is the eleventh to date. Here the facts of the Principality's progress are set out and our various achievements are displayed. Much hard and unremitting effort has proceeded, which plainly strengthens the existing chain of industrial and social activity.
That gives nothing away to the Government. It is staring us in the face that the previous Labour Administration had much to do with that change. The Government's record is not unblemished, as many opportunities have been missed, yet we may, in a big way, let the credit and the praise for what is beneficial go to all those who have helped in giving many parts of Wales firmer stability.
In going through any Government report I always have a suspicion about the dressing up of the contents. The Government's best clothes are always put on for the occasion. A little story in "Two Edwardian families", given over the radio the other week, is not out of place here, as it comes to my mind. It relates to Uncle Ben, who could be merry and jocose—not Uncle Ben Thomas, just Uncle Ben—but whose mood was usually severe. He was a justice of the peace and people came to him to ask him about the law. He smoked cigars which he kept in a roll-top desk.
He had four sons and he was severe with them, too. If they did not get up early enough in the morning—they seldom did—Uncle Ben would roar at them from the bottom of the attic stairs. The 966 young men kept a pair of boots handy to make a noise on the floor as though they were dressed, and this trick often worked. I wonder whether the Government keep a few boots handy to make a noise on the floor as if they were up and doing, like Ben's four sons, when Her Majesty's Opposition are shouting at them from the bottom of the attic stairs to awaken?
I feel that a live Administration, sure of themselves, would have pushed forward with energy with many of the projects pertaining to Wales. The Severn Bridge project has been mentioned; it could have been tackled. There is the water problem, as enlivened by the Tryweryn scheme. It could have been grappled with by the establishment of a Water Commission for the whole of Wales, as part of the planning for Great Britain in this important respect, which we have treated too lightly in the past. Water is important not only for human beings to quench their thirst, but for industries to use in many ways.
Decisions would have been forthcoming long ago to wipe away the inequitable handicaps in the operation of dock traffic with idle capital and men, at Cardiff docks in particular, staring us in the face. We have had to wait too long for a decision. There have been conferences, speeches and Questions in this House, but still no decision. The rotting away of the central rural areas of Wales would have been halted long ago if there had been a live Administration. The gross inefficiency whereby miners and their families in the vital industry of coal mining have to rest and sleep in crowded apartments would have been remedied.
Roads in urban districts are narrow and inadequate, and rural roads are left to be an unjust burden on the depopullated country districts. In North Wales the pockets of unemployment are not dealt with in an earnest and imaginative way. These are things that a live Administration should and could tackle.
I want to see the average proportion of good jobs in Wales increased in relation to jobs in Britain. There is a deficiency in opportunities for good-type jobs, which suggests to me that the basis on which new products, new processes and new businesses might arise is to some extent missing. That important feature 967 should be attended to. The Government's intentions about these matters are unconvincing and lack awareness of the pressure of future trends and needs in Wales.
The Council for Wales has called for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales with a Welsh Office of, say, four departments. This has caught the eye of the public. The case for this constitutional change has been made out. With due deference to the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), I believe that the number of departments and the details are for the Government to submit later for the consideration of the House, if the Cabinet concludes that this step is for the lasting good of the Principality.
All have seen the remarkable development which has occurred in the British Commonwealth over the past decade. Constitutional developments have gone on apace to give local populations a greater share in the government of their own country. There has been an acceleration of the process of enabling matters to be settled on the spot. The moment has come when Wales should be given this process of evolution in constitutional advance, as suggested by the Council for Wales. I am convinced that there would be lasting benefits as the same model has shown benefits for Scotland.
I refrain from speaking in greater detail upon this important recommendation as I think it warrants a further day's debate, when one could go into it in detail. Nevertheless, Government administration touches the population more closely today than ever before. Consequently, Whitehall administration is remote and needs to be adapted to local conditions if it is to be a success. That would best be attained by accepting the recommendations for a Secretary of State for Wales and a reasonable departmental structure to go with that appointment.
I trust that these proposals, which have been gone into carefully by the Council for Wales, will have due consideration and that the Government will give Wales its Secretary of State, and a suitable structure of departmental offices, so that Wales can get the share which has long been due to it in the affairs of the United Kingdom.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I think that the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) was probably right when he said that a case has been made for the constitutional change we have under examination.
Before I refer to that, however, I should like to welcome, as other hon. Members have welcomed, my right hon. Friend to his new post. I am sure that he recognises that in taking over, in addition to his duties as Minister of Housing and Local Government, the duties of Minister for Welsh Affairs he is not taking a position which can be called a sinecure, but is taking up duties which, by their very nature, are, perhaps, more difficult than the executive duties of a definite post. Usually, the duties of a definite department are confined to a comparatively narrow field, but, if my right hon. Friend had not realised it before, the progress of this debate so far will have shown him clearly that his field is now almost universal.
Merely by listening to the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams)—who travelled from Tryweryn to Swansea Hospital and necessarily included in his survey problems of unemployment, industrial development and water supplies—he will have realised what is the nature of our problem. It is not just a problem of today but has been a problem for a long time that, whereas it would be far more instructive for us to have a debate on a given subject—perhaps education in Wales—we have to dispose our energies over such a wide field. I thought, therefore, that perhaps that is a criticism which ill becomes any of us to make, seeing that it is a fault which has existed under many Governments and is one of the things which may have to be remedied side by side with the constitutional advance we are contemplating.
When the hon. Member for Abertillery—I am sorry that he is not present now—referred to the legitimate criticism that there is no longer an Under-Secretary to help to look after Welsh affairs I thought that perhaps he did not fully take into account the legal position. As I understand, the enabling Act, which was passed just after my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) formed his Government in 1951, authorised an additional Under-Secretary at the 969 Home Office. That Act did not authorise an additional Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Obviously, before such a Minister could be appointed I imagine—though I am open to correction—additional legislation would be needed.
When we consider the Report of the Council for Wales I agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) and hon. Members opposite who have spoken than with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). I could not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North about the Council for Wales. When that body was set up by the party opposite I was doubtful about its usefulness. I was critical of the first proposals as to its composition and procedure, but I must say that I have been quite convinced by the succession of Reports we have had in recent years that it has done excellent work. I should say that the results it has achieved have exceeded the expectations of many people, including many hon. Members on both sides of the House. Not the least of the jobs it has done for which we all can be grateful is that of presenting the Report now More us, including some further reports on ancillary subjects.
In reference to the recommendations for constitutional changes, we can agree that the evidence before the Government is incomparably greater than the evidence which was before the Government of 1885, when they were induced to appoint a Secretary of State for Scotland. I invite my right hon. Friend to read the full debates in both Houses of Parliament at that time, when spokesmen of the Government gave the reasons which induced the Government of that day to appoint a Secretary of State for Scotland.
Those reasons were that there had been signs that large numbers of people in Scotland favoured such a change. One of the most convincing reasons quoted by the Secretary for Scotland, as he then was, was a great meeting in Edinburgh, representative of Scottish life, which called for the changes. Following that meeting a delegation composed of representative persons from Scotland waited upon Mr. Gladstone, who gave certain assurances. That was not a formidable weight of evidence; it was evidence, possibly, of some feeling in certain circles 970 in Scotland, but now my right hon. Friend and the Government have much more evidence on which to base their judgment of the present position.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Conway said, they have the history of recent years, a history of progressive devolution, a history of recognition by successive Governments that Wales is not to be considered just as a region of the United Kingdom, but that Wales is definitely a distinctive country, united largely economically with the rest of the United Kingdom, but having its own special problems. Ample recognition of that has been given, by the party opposite when it set up the Council for Wales, by the party on this side of the House when it instituted a Minister for Welsh Affairs, by both sides of the House and by Governments who, years ago, set up particular Welsh departments of various Ministries. All that has been ample evidence that Governments of all parties have recognised these differences.
Now, with that evidence, we have these proposals. Anyone who reads them must feel that the Council for Wales—a body which is representative of some of the best elements in Welsh life—has given careful and extensive attention, with the most valuable aid and the most adequate information from various Government Departments to assist it, to this question. Having made that careful consideration, it has made these reasoned and, I suggest, reasonable recommendations. It is for the Government and my right hon. Friend to consider the recommendations.
I would be the last to suggest, even diffidently, that these are things on which they can rush forward with resolutions and decisions. It is not even necessary for them to implement the recommendations exactly in the manner in which they appear, but I hope that, as the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) suggested, in the near future their decision may be announced on this subject.
I hope that the Government will not accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North that a Royal Commission should be set up. Like the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan, I feel that would be shelving the matter and stalling on it. I do not think the evidence a Royal Commission 971 could find would add to our knowledge on this subject. I hope that when a decision is announced it will be a decision to appoint in the near future a Secretary of State for Wales. I hope, too, that it will be found necessary in their view to give him an adequate secretariat and an Under-Secretary.
I respectfully submit to my right hon. Friend that, if necessary, this can be done in stages. Of course, I recognise that the institution of an appropriate secretariat may take some time; it may be suitable and appropriate that in the first place only one or two Departments should come under his executive authority. It may be that it will be deemed appropriate to put health and possibly housing and local government under his executive authority in the first place and then, in due course, some of the other Ministries included in the Council's recommendations can be added.
Let us not forget that only recently, when the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs studied the problem, despite the great weight of the burden which the Secretary of State for Scotland has to bear, it did not recommend that any function should be taken away from him but it recommended that certain aspects of transport should be added to his responsibilities.
Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I do not wish to usurp too much time tonight, but I want to say something about industry in Wales. It is a fact that, despite the criticisms which have been made by one or two hon. Members, the progress which has been a feature in Wales since 1938 has continued. Despite the stringency caused by difficulties which have affected other parts of the United Kingdom, the position in employment and in the variety of employment has been remarkably well held. While, it is true, not so many new factories have been provided, hon. Members will be aware that in some part of Wales there have been valuable additions to existing factories, such as those which have taken place recently and are taking place in my constituency.
In my view the Government's responsibility is to create conditions in which industry can thrive. One of the best things they can do to enable industry to thrive is to increase and improve communications 972 between Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom. I invite my right hon. Friend, as one of his first ordeals, to drive from Gloucester to South Wales. He can do it in either direction, but I hope he will do it after the petrol shortage has ended.
§ Mr. Gower
I hope that my right hon. Friend will do it, too, as an experiment, at a time, perhaps on a Monday morning, when industrial transport is taking the roads. I hope that when he approaches the bridge at Chepstow he will feel that it is time there was a new bridge at Chepstow; that when he approaches the outskirts of Newport he will feel that it is time there were better transport arrangements through Newport; and that as he approaches Cardiff, he will feel that there is a case for proceeding with the Eastern Avenue.
I agree that all these things cannot be done at once, but some of them should rank very high in the priorities in future road improvements. I support a remark made by the hon. Member for Abertillery: it is a fact that some years ago the Severn Bridge had priority over the Forth Bridge. I do not know why that order of priority was changed. It appeared from some interventions today that one of the chief reasons was that Scottish hon. Members and Scottish interests were prepared to contemplate the introduction of tolls while Welsh interests and West of England interests rejected that idea.
I have no evidence that the Scots are wholeheartedly in favour of tolls. Indeed, I feel that there may have been other reasons that the Forth Bridge was given this priority. One of the chief reasons may have been the existence of a Secretary of State for Scotland and the non-existence of a Secretary of State for Wales.
Some of us who represent the South Wales ports are grateful that, thanks to the visit paid by my right hon. Friend's predecessor and the head of the British Transport Commission, and to greater consideration given to the difficulties of our ports, certain expenditure is to be carried out in Barry, Newport and Swansea. Like the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who will probably speak on this subject, I have many constituents who work in Cardiff Docks. I believe that every attention 973 should be given to the future of a port which was one of the greatest ports, and certainly the greatest coal port, apart from Barry, of the whole world, and I hope that in judging some of the many issues which he will have to study in the next year or two, my right hon. Friend will not fail to note the particular need of the South Wales ports.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have already given a welcome to the right hon. Gentleman in his new post as Minister for Welsh Affairs and have paid tribute to his predecessor. These few weeks are the first weeks for over fifty years in which the House has had no Lloyd-George amongst its Members. Perhaps I could, therefore, cheer up hon. Members by saying that my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself hope to repair that omission in the very near future—
§ Mr. Griffiths
—and hope that we shall renew the Lloyd-George tradition and connection with the House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That may be so. I see that the hon. Member is already getting very anxious about the result. I can understand that.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
On a point of order. Is it in order to do electioneering in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Griffiths
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So have I.
May I also say that we welcome for the first time to a Welsh debate my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice).
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and to make their contributions to the debate. I therefore propose to put in tabloid form, if I may, five major impressions which remained on my mind from a reading of the Report of Government Action in Wales in 1956. They seem to me to be the five major problems 974 which emerge from a study of this Report on the economic and social scene in Wales in the year ended June, 1956.
First, there is the position of our ports. There is a graphic appendix—Appendix 4—of the Report which I am sure the Minister will have studied and which, I hope, hon. Members will study. It is a very graphic description of the changes in the trade and traffic of the South Wales ports from 1939 to 1955. There is the disturbing fact that the overall trade for all the ports in 1955 was 5 million tons less than that in 1939.
Within that there are extraordinarily interesting changes in the character of the trade. There is the enormous decline in the export of coal from the South Wales ports. Let us admit at once that, in the circumstances, there is no hope of adding substantially to the amount of coal which we can export from the United Kingdom. Indeed, something appears in this Report which reminds me of an old proverb. We used to speak of carrying coals to Newcastle. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who has associations with the North-East, the position is now worse, for we are carrying coals to Cardiff.
But there is a good side to it; there is an enormous increase in the import and export of oil and spirit, which arises from the fact that we have a refinery in South Wales, but the whole position is very disturbing, particularly in the ports of Cardiff and Barry. Apart from some of the smaller ports, the remainder seem partly to have made up for the loss of coal exports by increases in other trades, such as the import of oil, iron ore and other commodities, but these remain great problems.
The one big chance of increasing the trade of Cardiff, Barry, of all the Welsh ports, would be to link them with the huge body of industrial activity in the Midlands and the West of England. That, of course, brings me immediately to the subject of a bridge over the Severn, and in this debate I do not think that we can leave this subject where we left it before. I understand that at present the Government cannot consider proceeding with the Severn Bridge unless there is an acceptance of tolls. I do not like the idea of holding a pistol at people's heads. If such a bridge is essential to Wales—and I believe that it is essential to the whole 975 of the United Kingdom—I do not think that the Government should decide whether or not to proceed with it by making bargains.
The other day we had an announcement, which all of us welcomed, that the Government had decided to proceed with the Forth Bridge. I will quote the terms on which it will be built, and then I shall ask whether those terms will be available for us for a bridge over the Severn. The Secretary of State for Scotland said:As announced earlier, the local authorities and the Government will contribute £500,000 and £4,650,000 respectively. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1957; Vol. 563, c. 850.]Can the Minister for Welsh Affairs tell us whether the contribution to be made by the Government and by local authorities in respect of a Severn Bridge would be of like proportions? If so, will such an offer be made by the Government, either now or at some other time? All those who are interested—and the whole of Wales is interested in this project—are entitled to a plain statement of the Government's proposals. The Government have made a proposal for the Forth Bridge: what is their proposal for the Severn Bridge? That bridge would be a major contribution to improving the position of the Welsh docks. There are other contributions, but I will leave it there for the moment.
A second problem emerges very clearly, and on it I have no doubt that those of my hon. Friends who are more familiar with the area will also wish to speak. As far as I can see, the blackest spot in Wales is now Gwynedd, in the North-West. Here, we are confronted with a not unfamiliar problem. As in South Wales during the depression years, we found our industries declining, so here is an industry, which has played a very honourable part in our economic history, also declining. Incidentally, it has a particularly close connection with the work of the right hon. Gentleman in his other work as Minister of Housing and Local Government. We owe a lot to the slates of Wales. The slate industry is now declining, and, so far, very little effort has been made to provide other industries in North-West Wales to take its place. One or two attempts have been made, it is true, but they have not been very successful.
976 This is a major problem. I think that I shall carry with me hon. Members on both sides when I recall the contribution which Wales has made to singing, peasant culture and the like. In particular, I shall always retain bright memories of the high level of culture in Blaenau Ffestiniog—yet that place is dying on its feet, like the mid-Rhondda in the 'thirties. I beg the Minister to realise that there is a deep feeling of anxiety. We must do something of a major character to rescue Gwynedd from its present plight.
Another problem concerns rural Wales. From the Council for Wales we have had a very valuable Report containing, whether or not we agree with it, a very imaginative plan involving a major operation. I do not call it "Operation Rescue", because that has such a fatal association with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It was a bold and imaginative plan to set up a corporation, and to provide it with the necessary money to rescue the heart of Wales from the decline which has beset it. Quite rightly, the Government decided that they should have the advice of a technical committee. This is basically an agriculture area, and we could not spend money on social services and the like unless it was known that there was a sound economic foundation. That foundation depends on a sound reconstruction of the agriculture of the whole of rural Wales.
The Government have had that technical committee's report, and we have discussed these matters before. Can we have a progress report? What has happened? The drift still continues. The young men are leaving; the old men stay behind. No young man sees a future for himself in this area. I think of the kind of cottages, the kind of villages, the hard life. I know that it is all very sentimental, and that we all sing about it—but who wants to live in a little cottage and all that? Very soon, on St. David's Day, we shall all be very sentimental, but the fact remains that a vital part of Wales is in serious decline.
Furthermore, I believe—and I think that it is common ground in this Chamber—that this area cannot rescue itself. It cannot lift itself up. It has not the resources. The problem cannot be left to private ownership of farming. In fact, I doubt very much whether what we want to do can be 977 done unless a good deal of this land is made public property and taken over as part of a great scheme for rehabilitation. The Government now have all the evidence they want on the social, the local government and technical aspects of this subject. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to give us today something in the nature of a progress report on the rehabilitation of rural Wales and, in particular, of that part across the middle of Wales which is its very heart.
Our two basic industries are in the midst of a great technical revolution. One of them is coal mining. As an old coal miner I recall that it was our unkind fate to spend half of our adult life in South Wales hearing only that another pit had closed, another community was doomed, another valley drained of life. Around us then there was nothing but decline, poverty and hopelessness.
What joy it is for me, as an old collier—and, in particular, to the father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who is the oldest collier of all of us here—now to see, under public ownership, new pits being sunk. If hon. Members want to see the revolution which we have brought about in South Wales they should go to the Mardy. I hope that the Minister will go, and that he will take with him a picture of the Mardy as it was before.
Great technical changes are also taking place in the iron and steel industry, and here I want to mention only one point. It is recognised by the Government, by ourselves, by everyone, that a change of the immensity which we see taking place in the tinplate industry of West Wales cannot be carried through without leaving in its trail problems of redundancy. Indeed, the Government themselves acknowledge the importance of this problem, because they set up, I think about three years ago, a committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Lloyd, to examine this problem, to report to the Government and to make recommendations.
The committee met in private, and it made its report to the Government. The report has never been published. I do not complain about that, but what I do say is this. That report—indeed, probably more than one—from the Lloyd committee is available to the Government, and, I am sure, it urges them to 978 take steps to deal with the problems of redundancy which are bound to arise because of the tremendous change in the tinplate industry. What is happening about it?
We were able to build a new economy in Wales by reconstructing old industries, both of them under public ownership. This is a fact we should remember. We used methods of control which we inherited, and we used the Distribution of Industry Act, until, by building industry anew, we changed the scene completely. I am disturbed at what we find today. Since the days of "Setting the people free", go where one likes in Wales, the scene has changed again enormously.
I have here a table of figures showing the relative decline in industrial building in Wales compared with the rest of Great Britain. They were given to me by a friend and, as far as I know, they are correct. For new industrial building, the total for Wales shown as a percentage of new industrial building in the whole of Great Britain, the figures are as follows:
The percentage of new building going to Wales, as a proportion of the total, is declining.
- 1946, 14 per cent.; 1947, 22 per cent.;
- 1948, 5.5 per cent.; 1949, 6.7 per cent.;
- 1950, 6.2 per cent.; 1951, 5.9 per cent.;
- 1952, 2.7 per cent.; 1953, 7.7 per cent.;
- 1954, 6.5 per cent.; 1955, 2 per cent.;
- 1956, first half, 2.5 per cent.
We know what that means. My hon. Friends have called attention to the thousands of extra young men who are going. In five or ten years' time, there will be another drift away. I share the same feelings as other hon. Members, of course. I should like to see young Welshmen and young Welshwomen all over the world, if they feel the call to go. But we should not compel them to go, whether they want to go or not. This is a very important matter, and I hope close attention will be given to it.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I do not want to interrupt my Friend, but do those figures show that, in the circumstances, a larger proportion of Welshmen get work than English people?
§ Mr. Griffiths
All these figures show is that we are, each year, getting a smaller proportion of the new industrial building compared with the rest of the country; and I regard that as a very serious matter for Wales.
979 There is one matter on which we have all felt very strongly in recent years, and my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) referred to it a little while ago. We welcome the new industries and factories which have come, but, inevitably perhaps, at this stage, a percentage of them—I would not care to say exactly what the figure is—are subsidiary factories of parent plants elsewhere. What we have found is that, in a recession, for whatever cause, the subsidiary plants close down first. We have had examples of that in the motor car trade and in the furniture trade. Many people are deeply anxious about this, and I hope that the Government are paying real attention to the problem which has emerged from our experience in recent years.
It remains for me to say a word about the Third Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. I return to what I said last Thursday to the Leader of the House, and I say it to the Minister today: we are entitled to a definite undertaking from the Government that there will be another day to give a full opportunity to discuss this Memorandum. We do not wish to delay the Minister or the Government in making up their minds, but there ought to be a reasonably early opportunity. We should have a full day to discuss this before the Government make up their mind about the matters we have discussed today.
What we have been seeking to do in the past is to work in the ways available to us, as we do in constitutional matters in this country because we have no clear-cut constitution, working by trial and error, to reach a really satisfactory and worthwhile arrangement. We are in many ways fortunate that we have no written constitution. It was my privilege, as Secretary of State for the Colonies, to have to discuss drafts of constitutions many times, and I believe that we are lucky in having a constitution which we can modify and improve as we go along, according to experience.
May I explain how I see matters developing? We have a Welsh day today. This is new. When I first came to the House, there was no such thing as a Welsh day. When I look around the Chamber now, I remember some of those who were concerned in our debates on this very matter some years ago. My 980 right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) played a part in it when he was Home Secretary. He agreed that there should be a day set apart every year for a debate on Welsh affairs. There is another name which comes to my mind, that of the late Bob Richards, as we used to call him, a man we revered greatly. It was suggested that, in addition to the day snatched out of a crowded time-table for the discussion of Welsh affairs, there might be something to be said for establishing a Grand Committee to deal with the reports of Government committees on Welsh affairs. There is nothing to prevent our changing the machinery and arrangements of the House in order to provide better opportunities to conduct our business.
We have had the Report; that is new. We have had administrative devolution, in which all of us on both sides of the House have had our part to play. I had a small part as Minister of National Insurance, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) took a step towards Welsh devolution, against the advice of many experts, and made Wales and Monmouthshire a region for the purposes of the National Health Service Act; previously, the Welsh Health Services were linked with Liverpool and not with Cardiff. We all played our part in administrative devolution.
We are all committed to the view—at least, I hope we are—that there ought to be a Minister for Welsh Affairs, he not being the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs, or Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs. I believe that hon. Members opposite feel that, too.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Am I right in believing that he is still advocating a Minister for Welsh Affairs without any Departmental responsibilities whatsoever?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member is anticipating; perhaps he will allow me to develop the point. What we are considering is whether the Council for Wales has made out a case for a Minister for Welsh Affairs, to be made a Secretary of State, with jurisdiction over a limited number of Departments. That is the next point.
981 My hon. Friends will know that I have, from the beginning, had very great doubts about the efficacy of a Minister without a Department. In paying a tribute to the Council and the Panel, may I say that at one time I wanted a Royal Commission. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) said he supported me in that. Unfortunately, his Government did not.
§ Mr. Griffiths
But the Government allowed the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to consider it. Quite frankly, I do not think that there could usefully be a Royal Commission now, following this Report. What is a Royal Commission to investigate?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
The right hon. Gentleman asks what a Royal Commission would investigate. It would investigate the financial and economic effects of the proposals which the Panel has put forward without examining the economic and financial effects.
§ Mr. Griffiths
We have had the Report in our hands only a very short time—which is why we ought to have another debate; it deserves the fullest study. So far as I have read and understood it, it seems to me that the Panel has been very careful in its recommendations to make sure that the constitutional and administrative changes which it proposes do not sever or impair the economic links between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.
My view is that the economy of this country has grown over the last two centuries as a unified economy. To break that up, to cut or to sever it, would be a bad thing for the whole of the country and for the Welsh people. I have argued that both in this House and outside. One of the things that the Panel itself recognised was that any proposal which it put forward now for changes in the Constitution and in administrative devolution must not sever that close economic link.
As to whether the detailed proposals put forward by the Panel would have that effect is a matter which we can discuss. My impression from a first reading of the Report is that the Panel has made a fairly reasonable job of developing a scheme under which there can be a Secretary of State for Wales, with a Welsh Department, with functions so limited that they 982 do not in any way impair or cut across the close economic unity which must prevail between the whole of the United Kingdom and Wales as part of the United Kingdom.
That is why the Panel's proposals deserve to be fully considered. In principle, I welcome them. I should not like to commit myself to all the details that are put forward—they want to be closely examined; but, speaking for my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side, we already have in our party a number of what we call panels—for example, the Industrial Panel, the Educational Panel and the Local Government Panel, groups of Members from our 27, soon to be 28, Labour Members from South Wales who have a special experience in these affairs and are giving careful consideration to them; we began our consideration of the Report as soon as it was available and when we have concluded it we shall be very glad to convey our views to the Government and give them the benefit of our advice. The Government will appreciate that in this matter, with all due deference to hon. Members opposite, there are 27 Labour Members out of 36 Members from South Wales and, therefore, we have something to contribute in this way.
We cannot decide this matter entirely on the basis of whether the proposals represent a good piece of machinery. There are intangibles and imponderables. I am Welsh—we all are—proud of my country, proud of its language. I want to sustain it. One of the imponderables—the Minister will understand this too—is the fear that in this modern age of television and radio, mass newspapers and all the rest, the language will die. I do not want it to die.
To hon. Members opposite I say that I hope that they, who voted for commercial television, will not meet themselves coming back when commercial television starts in Wales. It has little commercial value, perhaps, judged by strict commercial terms in £ s. d. Now, commercial television is to come into our homes in November. What steps have the Minister and members of the Government, and those who have spoken for Wales today, taken to ensure that commercial television at least gives equal place to the Welsh language as the much maligned B.B.C. does?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
That is a fair point. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether we on this side are to accept that, in the event of a Labour Government being returned to power, there will be no commercial television for Wales?
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Member is interested in commercial television, unless he pays some attention to the Welsh language he will not be on the Government side in the next Parliament.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was mentioning my anxiety and referred to commercial television only in passing.
As I have said, there are imponderables. There is a desire for recognition. I get anxious—sometimes, perhaps, frightened—that Welsh nationalism can be directed to channels in which it will spend itself futilely in bitternesses, being anti-English and anti-this and that, and I deplore it. The best answer and the best way to avoid that is to find other ways in which national sentiment can find expression and recognition.
I hope, therefore, that when all of us, in every party, come to decide this matter, what we have to decide is not merely whether there shall be a Secretary of State with a Department, however limited, but something else, too. This is already emerging very clearly from Welsh opinion in the short time that has elapsed since the publication of the Report. People have seized hold of it because they think it will be something that recognises the desire for recognition of the fact that Wales is a nation, with its language and with its culture, and that the overwhelming mass of people do not desire to be severed or broken away. They desire to live on terms of equality and respect.
Speaking for all parties, I believe that here is a chance of satisfying national sentiment in the right way. I hope that when we further consider it, differing as we may about the details of whatever changes we make, we shall find that this change which has been recommended by the Council for Wales is one that will commend itself to the whole House.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
I am sure that the Members of this House who represent truly Welsh constituencies will not mind a political exile talking for a few moments on Welsh affairs. Perhaps I ought to explain why I call myself a political exile. I was born in Pembrokeshire and even fought the last Election but one in Pembroke, in which I had the great honour of being aided by my right hon. Friend the Minister who is now responsible for Welsh affairs.
In congratulating my right hon. Friend, and wishing him well, I should like it to be known by all the Welsh Members that my right hon. Friend's knowledge of the Principality is very considerable indeed. There is. however, an old saying, not only in Wales but everywhere, that a prophet is seldom recognised in his own country. Fortunately for this House of Commons, the people of Watford were far more farseeing than the people of Pembroke; and that is why I am here.
It is very pleasant to follow the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and to have been in almost total agreement, for the first time since I came into this House, with almost everything that he said, except that I strongly deprecated the fact that from the Dispatch Box he has been trying to win the Carmarthen by-election.
I approach the two Reports that are before us, and the problems that we are considering today, by considering what good Wales can do for the benefit of the whole community of these islands and what good it will be in a position to do in ten, fifteen and twenty-five years' time. All of us who have the interests of the Principality at heart have to recognise one thing, the paramount thing, that Wales as a country has never been more prosperous than it is in this year 1957. It is in the next few years we have in Wales to prepare for times that will not be as good as they are now. That is why I am so gravely disturbed, after reading these two Reports, to find that there is literally no long-term policy for rebuilding or creating the necessary facilities at the Welsh ports.
I hope that my right hon. Friend, in his summing up of the debate tonight, will tell us how the Government will create a different atmosphere in those ports. Up to 1939 all the equipment of those 985 ports was used for the export trade, but for as long as anyone who is a Member of this House is alive Wales will have to import coal in ever-increasing quantities, and the facilities which have been provided at those ports must be altered in the reverse direction.
I was greatly interested by what the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) said, that the white scourge—consumption—has disappeared from Wales; but in these Reports there is no reference to the question whether an even worse scourge is taking its place, and that is the disease of cancer. If Welsh Members will take the trouble to look at the increase in the figures for cancer in Wales they will be appalled, and yet at the moment there are no Welsh hospitals, in Cardiff or anywhere else, with adequate facilities, or with research departments, to deal with this dread disease. That is a problem which as Welshmen we have to tackle. This is a disease which is feared, and about which people are inclined to be secret, so nobody bothers to do anything about it.
I come to a matter which was touched on by the right hon. Member for Llanelly, and that is the question of what happens to industry in bad times. Only recently I was in the port of Rotterdam. All of us who remember what the ports of Swansea, Barry and Cardiff were doing before the war will remember the atmosphere there in those days—the feeling that there was hardly any time left. That has disappeared from South Wales. It has gone to Holland, and it has gone to Holland for only one reason. Anyone emptying any ship in Rotterdam has facilities provided so that he can do it in at least one-third of the time it takes to do it in a Welsh port. The British Transport Commission has got to be instructed to do something like that in Wales.
I am appalled, also, by the fact that in these documents there is not, as there has not been in the speech of any Welsh Member today, any reference to the industrial revolution of the next twenty-five to fifty years. If we are to bring properity, not only to Wales, but to the whole of the United Kingdom, we have to meet the atomic age and use the results of nuclear fission. One of the things which disturbs me to the very roots is the fact that at present there is not, in the whole of the Principality a factory, 986 or any design to establish anything, connected with nuclear fission. We can ignore that only at our peril.
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry to have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he did not say that there was no desire, because Wales feels very keenly that she has been neglected when schemes have been considered for the establishment of atomic energy stations.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones
I hasten to make clear that I used the word "design".
Scotland is already allotted, in my opinion, an undue proportion of such developments. I say to the Welsh Members on both sides of the House that we ought to take a leaf out of the Scottish Members' book and work much more closely together in this House. Scottish Members on both sides, however much they disagree with one another on political matters, always make sure that Scotland gets a very large slice of any cake that is going, and we Welsh Members must do something of that kind for our country.
Industries or parts of industries are disappearing from South Wales, and parts of Wales have no industry. I am sure that the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) will forgive me for saying that industry should be sent to Anglesey and to mid-Wales urgently, as was done after the last war. A big consideration is this, that in nuclear development as yet there are no vested interests. It is still new. There ought to be a Minister for Welsh Affairs with full power to see that nuclear developments are established somewhere in the Principality. That is why I personally, even though I represent Watford, am 100 per cent. behind the Minister for Welsh Affairs now having full Cabinet rank. I believe that such a step is long overdue.
The Lord Privy Seal, in reply to a question last week, referred to the Welsh as having very great perception. That is true. If we analyse the contribution of Welsh industry to the general prosperity of this island we find that the amount the Principality has contributed is totally out of proportion to the proportion of the 987 United Kingdom's population in Wales, for there are only 2¾ million living in Wales. We are an ancient people. We are the descendants of the original inhabitants of this island. We have our own language. We have our own culture.
The motto of my school was Nid da lle gellir gwell. For the benefit of the English Members I would explain that that means that nothing is good if it can be improved. My right hon. Friend is a very wonderful Minister for Welsh Affairs, but I am sure that even his work could be improved if he were in the Cabinet with absolute power as Minister for Wales.
On what I am now going to say I took the precaution of obtaining advice from the Chair. The people of the Principality are a deeply sensitive, cultured people. Everywhere in Wales, in the North and in the South, their imagination has been fired by the ideal of having their own Minister, but in addition to that, for many years now Welsh people in all parts of the world have looked forward to one moment, that at which they receive their own Prince of Wales in the new capital of Cardiff.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
The traditional ceremonial will certainly have to be conducted in Caernarvon Castle.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I do not really care where it is held so long as it is held and as long as the imagination of the Welsh people can be fired.
All of us in this House are keenly aware that good times, like bad times, do not last for ever. We have very little time to put our house in order. I do not believe that we can ever put it in order unless we have a man whose sole responsibility is the new industrial revolution in Wales.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
As time is passing and many of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate and we are under a great disability owing to the Government's decision to telescope the discussion of two very substantial Reports into one day's debate, I will be brief. I should like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) for putting, in his inimitably eloquent manner, the case for new 988 industries for North-West Wales, but before I deal with that point in more detail I should like to refer to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) that if Welsh Members were to work more closely together we should get further.
I am sure that I voice the views of all Welsh Members when I say that we work pretty well together. As a Welshman, the hon. Member must know that political differences in Wales are pretty acute, and it is a surprise to me that we manage to work together so well. That, of course, does not mean that we cannot work even more closely, particularly on the constitutional question which has been mentioned in the debate.
I regret that we have had to deal with that vast question on a day when we ought to be concentrating on the annual Report of Government Action in Wales. I do not propose to follow up the constitutional question in any detail, but I should like to make an appeal, particularly to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). There is a feeling in Wales that we need recognition of our national entity and identity. There is a ripe readiness now to co-operate in making this constitutional step a workable one. Wales is looking to its Members in the House and to the Government to give a lead. I hope that from all quarters the Minister will receive the firm impression that we are all in favour of the Report of the Council for Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly very properly said, discussion of the detail must await further opportunity in the House. We have a right to a separate day to consider the Report, and we expect the Government to grant it.
I pass at once to the annual report on Government Action. I propose to confine myself to one aspect of the Government's action or rather inaction in Wales, and that is the complete neglect of the growing problem of unemployment in the North-West Wales counties of Anglesey, Caernarvon and Merioneth. The Government have been aware for years of the fact that the average unemployment in these three counties is the highest in Great Britain. In my own county of Caernarvon over 6 per cent. of the insured population is at present 989 out of work. That is five to six times more than the average for the rest of the country, and that is not the whole story.
But for the fact that there is massive emigration from Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth of the youngest and best of our workers, and hence of their families, that 6 per cent. could easily he 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. In the past few years, in spite of everything that has been said on the Floor of the House and the procession of deputations from local authorities, trade unions and hon. Members to Whitehall, absolutely nothing has been done to alleviate that position.
I protest against this continued indifference to what is happening in the most distinctively Welsh province of Wales. The Minister is young in his office and I do not expect him to be au fait with the whole problem in North Wales, but I shall make one or two immediately practicable suggestions to him, because the position is becoming disastrous. The very social and cultural fabric of the population of these three counties is deteriorating at a rate which is alarming to all friends of the Welsh people.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly referred to the decline of the slate industry, and quite rightly he compared it in character, and in significance to North Wales, with the coal industry. He is quite right in saying that over the past 30 or 40 years the number of slate quarrymen has declined from 15,000 to a little over 3,000, and we need new industry to come to the rescue of the old traditional industry. There is a strong case for more Government assistance for the slate industry.
My first suggestion therefore is that at an early date the Minister should meet both sides of that traditional and completely Welsh industry and discuss with them ways and means whereby they can be assisted to strengthen and broaden their operations. I am not merely referring to the marketing of roofing materials. I believe that there is a vast field of by-product activity possible for that industry if only more Government interest is shown in it and more practical assistance given Departmentally.
The second point is allied to that first point. Another old, traditional, and indeed indigenous industry in Caernarvonshire is granite quarrying. Over generations, that industry, too, has sustained 990 some remarkable communities, not better than communities in other parts, but distinctive and different, with their own contribution to make in cultural and social values.
The granite-quarring industry is facing an acute crisis at present. In the village of Trevor, where about 700 men used to be employed on granite quarrying the number today is 150. Every Monday morning as I travel on the train from my home to London I meet those men, fathers of families, men of the chapel, men with their roots deep in the Welsh life of these Caernarvonshire villages, looking hunted and lost and anxious, travelling to Birmingham, Coventry and London and sometimes on to Essex, looking for work. I wish that the Minister of Agriculture were here, because the second practical suggestion that I want to make affects him. We can rescue the Welsh granite-quarrying industry both in Trevor and in Penmaenmawr if we will only implement what is already on the Statute Book—the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955.
Some hon. Members will remember that two years ago we all co-operated wholeheartedly in putting through Standing Committee and on to the Statute Book that Measure, which provided £4 million for the repair of access farm-roads throughout Great Britain, £2 million of which was deemed to be set aside for Welsh roads. The Act is on the Statute Book, but it is a dead letter. The Treasury has forbidden any money being spent in its implementation.
This is certainly a Welsh affair. It concerns not only the agricultural communities, which on the hills of Wales are struggling so hard to gain a precarious and very slim living against unimaginable difficulties, one of them being the difficulty of transport, especially in winter, but also those hundreds of unemployed granite-quarrying men, because if some proportion of that £2 million were made available fairly soon for the repair of those country roads I believe that it would literally save a number of villages in North-West Wales. I press upon the right hon. Gentleman, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, to put that point to his right hon. Friends at the Treasury.
I come to my third point. The hon. Member for Watford mentioned the possibilities of atomic power in the 991 future. We are very conscious of those possibilities in Wales, particularly in the Gwynedd province. Without in any way seeking to interfere with the duties of the Central Electricity Authority, which I believe is doing its utmost to see that at least one station shall be located in North Wales, I make this appeal to the Minister. We know that the sites must be of the right kind—there must be plenty of water, etc.—but, other things being equal, does he not agree that there is an overwhelming case for siting not one, but half-a-dozen atomic power stations in North-West Wales?
There is plenty of idle labour which could be taken up in that new industry. The question of the transport of raw materials and their freight cost does not arise, and the supply of energy back to the industrial areas from North-West Wales is only a question of fifty or sixty miles to Merseyside and Manchester. I hope that the Minister will look at the question of building atomic power stations in North-West Wales, and perhaps bring to bear upon it his Ministerial influence in the light of what I have said. We have a right to ask him to do that.
Fourthly and finally, as I promised to be brief, I give this invitation to the Minister. He has already visited Cardiff, and quite rightly, for we all accept it as our capital city. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman did not get as far as Swansea on that time, although on a previous occasion in his young days he visited Swansea, with great romantic advantage to himself. Will the Minister visit Caernarvon soon? I ask that, not merely because it is in my constituency, but because Caernarvon is probably the capital of the Welsh idea. It is also the centre of the area the economic difficulties of which I have tried to describe.
Will the Minister come there and meet the men and examine the problems on the spot; meet the people of Penygroes, 270 of whom are unemployed, probably 20 per cent. of the insured population in that valley; meet the people of Trevor and perhaps visit the Valley of the Tryweryn as well? He will be given a princely welcome in Caernarvon, because we are long accustomed to welcoming princes.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
My reason for taking part in this debate is, first, because I live in Wales and always have lived there and, secondly, because for a long time now I have served upon a Welsh local authority, and of these facts I am very proud. It would be surprising, therefore, if I did not try to catch your eye, Sir, and to speak for a short time in this debate.
May I echo the words of several other right hon. and hon. Members who have congratulated my right hon. Friend on his appointment as Minister for Welsh Affairs? I join them in wishing him luck. May I say, also, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), that I share his hope that the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955, will be implemented at the first possible opportunity so that his area of Wales, and other areas, too, may benefit from it?
Today, we are discussing two Reports. First, there is the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for the year ended 30th June, 1956. We would have discussed this Report earlier had it not been for the protracted foreign affairs debates which took place before Christmas. It is a report of the progress in the social and industrial life of the Welsh people and we look forward to the next one. When that comes, I am sure that all hon. Members will join in urging the Government to take an early opportunity to debate it.
As has been shown already, the main interest of today's debate lies in the recommendations in the Third Memorandum of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made it clear to us that we would be in order in discussing both Reports this afternoon. The Council for Wales has often been referred to as the advisory council, and, indeed, as the national council and it is in this Report that its members give advice to the Government on matters which they consider to be of great national importance for Wales.
The Council recommends the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales of full Cabinet rank, responsible only for Welsh affairs, together with two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and Deputy Under-Secretaries and Secretaries and 993 Assistant-Secretaries, four main departments to be in Cardiff, but leaving agriculture at Aberystwyth. That would be almost a model of the Scottish Office, although differing in certain details. I do not believe that this should be taken as a good reason for having a Secretary of State in Cardiff. I say this in deference to the feelings of many other hon. Members who have put forward different views this afternoon. I have never been convinced myself that Scotland has been well served by or really benefits from the current system. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland has to go to the Treasury here for his money Vote, and there are many occasions when the Scottish Office acts as a bottle-neck and slows down administration.
I believe that that would happen in Wales. It seems to me that the Council based its argument on two general assertions: that Welsh problems are different from those of England and that the heads of offices in Wales do not carry sufficient weight in discussions in London on policy matters. To quote paragraph 326:Many of the problems of Wales are markedly different from those of England.Is this correct? It occurs in various forms throughout the Report and the Council considers that this provides the most cogent reason for these constitutional changes—
§ Mr. Gower
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, who is putting a very reasonable case, but there is one question I want to ask him. If what he says is correct about the Scottish Office, is it not remarkable that when the Royal Commission examined the position in Scotland, after seventy years' experience, it came out in favour of extending the system—
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
We have already heard that argument once, and it is purely a matter of opinion. What I greatly fear, and what in my own small experience I have seen in Scotland, is that there is a danger of a bottleneck and of slowing down administration. To illustrate the point, a letter sent to Whitehall from some parts of Wales gets back more quickly than one sent through Cardiff.
Let us admit that in some parts of Wales, and much more in parts other 994 than that in which I live, the language difference is great. The Welsh people have their own culture and their own character. But, having said that, are we right in thinking that there are any greater differences between the problems which we in Wales have to cope with than there are between the problems of Cumberland and Kent and those of Huntingdonshire and Hereford?
I do not think that the Report makes absolutely clear what those problems are. Rural depopulation presents an abiding problem in Wales, but so it does in parts of England. Communications by air, rail and road are poor in many parts of Wales. So they are in England. The decline in the ports is not confined to ports in Wales. The reason that unemployment hit our valleys in South Wales before the war was, among other things, the high percentage of heavy industry there; and today, as a result of action taken by various Governments, there is a better balanced industrial framework on which to rely.
Rural electrification is being brought to parts of Wales certainly faster than to some areas in my constituency in England. I am glad to see that, according to the Report, over 3,000 farms were connected in the 12 months ended June, 1956. Welsh agriculture shows an advance in production and in T.B. eradication that leads the country. Welsh education leads today, as it has always led. Some authorities have made spectacular advances in their school building programme, and I am glad to see that the average number of pupils in the classes of primary and secondary schools is four less than in English schools.
Exchequer grants also come to the local authorities in as fair a stream for Wales as they do to England. Thus, although problems exist in Wales, as nobody knows more than I do, they are not markedly different from what they are in other regions of England, once one has admitted the difference in culture, in character and in language. All over Britain we have a variety of problems to deal with.
In paragraph 187, in page 50 of the Report, the Panel complains that the heads of offices in Wales do not carry enough weight in discussions on policy matters in London. Perhaps the heads 995 of English regions feel the same. I have never known Welshmen to be backward in putting their case or without the ability to do so. That has been very ably borne out by listening to right hon. Members and hon. Members on both sides of the House this afternoon. Nor do I think that the heads of offices in Wales should necessarily carry more weight than those in England. We should be wrong to require that.
Wales, through its history, enjoys, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, the same legal, judicial and administrative systems as England. She deserves as fair a share of authority in counsels and of collected national wealth as do all the other parts of Britain.
I am not saying that there cannot be any change in the administration of Wales. There have been various improvements before and since the war. But I do not believe that the position warrants the setting up of this large, perhaps unwieldy, organisation at Cardiff, with all its geographical disadvantages which, as I have said, might well prove to be a brake on efficient administration.
Among other changes since the war we have seen the creation of a Minister for Welsh Affairs of Cabinet rank, a post which, for two tenures of office, has been coupled with the Home Office. The post has been variously described as a "watchdog for Wales", someone who would watch over Welsh interests and would bark in the Cabinet when Welsh needs required voicing.
Now that the post has passed to a different Ministry, I hope that I shall not be out of order in referring to the post as a "house dog for Wales"; and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I compare him with a Corgi—Corgis are very fashionable and very well liked by the ladies—because in its metamorphosis from the Home Office to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government the dog has left its tail behind—a noble tail, too.
The post of Joint Under-Secretary has been filled by men in this House and in another place, and the work done by them in personal liaison in Wales and as chairmen of conferences of the heads of departments in Wales has proved most valuable and has been appreciated in Wales. Why have the Government discarded the Joint 996 Under-Secretary of State? When the combination was working so well, why did they disrupt it? I would say to them that the Minister for Welsh Affairs, together with his Joint Under-Secretary of State, can at least provide this: continuous understanding of Welsh affairs at the highest place and a voice in the Cabinet. They can continue to be of great service to the Welsh people.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
I should like to endorse what the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), said about the Prime Minister's decision to remove from the present Minister for Welsh Affairs the services of an Undersecretary of State. This is a constitutional matter, because when a Minister for Welsh Affairs was originally appointed a Joint Under-Secretary of State was appointed specifically to be in charge of Welsh Affairs. There can be no doubt about that.
When the Gracious Speech was debated in the House in 1951 the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), intimated that he proposed to bring forward legislation for the appointment of an additional Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office specifically charged with the responsibilities of Welsh Affairs. In the debate on 6th November, 1951, it was stated that when that Bill was brought forward the case would be presented on the issue that it would be for or against the appointment of a new Joint Under-Secretary of State charged with responsibility for Welsh Affairs.
There can be no doubt whatever that the House and Parliament conceded the right of the appointment of the new Joint Under-Secretary of State to the Home Office because it was represented to the House that he would be specially charged with the responsibility for Welsh affairs. It was confirmed only a week after that debate by the right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister, when he stated, in dealing with the powers that the Minister for Welsh Affairs would exercise:He will be assisted by a Welsh UnderSecretary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 815.]When the Ministers of the Crown (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Bill 997 was debated on Second Reading on 29th November, 1951, the then Home Secreetary, now the Lord Chancellor, said that the object of the Measure was to have someone to deal with Welsh affairs. There was no doubt that the appointment of the new Under-Secretary for the Home Office was to assist the Home Secretary as Minister for Welsh Affairs and not in his duties as Home Secretary. Indeed, the Home Secretary at that time, referring to the duties of the new Under-Secretary, said that anything else he might do while sitting in the Home Office… would be purely ancillary and incidental to the geographical position in which he sits in Whitehall."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 1765.]Welsh affairs would be not only his main, but his dominant subject. That was what he and his right hon. Friends had in mind when the new Under-Secretary was appointed, and his right hon. Friends included the present Prime Minister. It was on that representation that the House gave a Second Reading to the Measure.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), who had the privilege of being the Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs until he resigned on grounds of ill health—which we all regretted—was much concerned about what the future of that office would be when there was a change of Home Secretary. He raised the matter in an Adjournment debate on 8th November, 1954. He inquired what would be the future of the office, and was assured by the then Home Secretary that Lord Mancroft had been appointed to fulfil the functions of the Under-Secretary to look after Welsh affairs.
The decision of the present Prime Minister to remove from the service of the Minister for Welsh Affairs the Under-Secretary of State shows scant courtesy to Wales. This is an issue of some importance. At present two Under-Secretaries are still residing in the Home Office. One was specifically appointed for Welsh affairs, but he is no longer exercising those functions. What has happened is that although the representation was made to the House that an Under-Secretary of State would be appointed to serve the interests of Wales, what has transpired is that there is an additional Under-Secretary at the Home Office, but he is now no longer concerned with the affairs of Wales.
998 I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not feel that I am speaking disparagingly of his office, but one has to consider why the right hon. Member for Woodford, when he was Prime Minister, appointed the Home Secretary to be Minister for Welsh Affairs. He said that he appointed the Home Secretary because he was the senior Secretary of State and he desired to give pleasure to the people of Wales. However, the present Prime Minister has taken from the senior Secretary of State the functions and duties of Minister for Welsh Affairs and has entrusted them to the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Does the right hon. Gentleman think, and do hon. Members think that that is treating Wales with the consideration which the right hon. Member for Woodford gave it?
We must remember that the present Minister for Welsh Affairs deals not only with the affairs of the Principality, but has greater powers and duties in respect of the smallest English parish council. Is it really the Prime Minister's conception of the duties of the Minister for Welsh Affairs that they are no greater than those which he exercises in respect of the smallest English parish council?
When hon. Members are discussing the Report of the Council for Wales and putting forward arguments why a Secretary of State for Wales should be appointed, as recommended by the Council, do they really believe that the Prime Minister will for one moment consider the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales, with two additional Under-Secretaries to serve him, when in point of fact what he has done is take the responsibility for Welsh affairs from the senior Secretary of State and deprive the Minister for Welsh Affairs of the services of one Under-Secretary? Do they imagine for one moment that the present Prime Minister is likely to accept the Council's recommendations on this matter?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I thank the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) for his very kind observations about me earlier. He is making the point that the Government are guilty of some discourtesy to Wales. The Labour Party proposal, on which it fought the last Welsh Election, was that the Minister for Welsh Affairs should have no Departmental responsibility and presumably there- 999 fore no Under-Secretary of State with Departmental responsibility. How is our action discourteous and the right hon. Gentleman's party's proposal courteous to the Welsh people?
§ Mr. West
I do not quite follow what the hon. Member for Cardiff. North wants me to answer. I am now discussing the conduct of the Prime Minister regarding the affairs of Wales. I am not called upon to explain what someone else does. I am speaking about the attitude taken by the Prime Minister towards the administration of the affairs of Wales. I say that it is discourteous to Wales to have done what he has done, to have removed from the Minister for Welsh Affairs the assistance of the Under-Secretary, a post which the hon. Member filled with much distinction.
We have had a succession of Under-Secretaries who have served Wales and assisted the Home Secretary in the discharge of his functions. I am certain that Wales will resent what the Prime Minister has done. The only way in which the Prime Minister can redress this grievance is by accepting the recommendation for the appointment of a Secretary of State to serve Welsh interests.
I want to turn to the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire, which is the prime subject matter of the debate. I can well understand why hon. Members opposite who have taken part in the debate have been more concerned with the constitutional issue of the Council's Report than with Wales and Monmouthshire and the Report of Government Action for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1956. Why have they not seen fit to discuss the content of the Report? It is because they know full well that Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire during the year ended June, 1956, has been almost negligible. Indeed, the trends indicated in the Report are now increasing.
Let us consider the population position. In 1951, there were 459,000 males and 467,000 females in the age group 20 to 44. In 1955, in that age group, males numbered 438,000 and women 441,000, a total of 879,000. That represents a reduction of 47,000 during that period. In the ages 45 to 85 and over the population has increased by 40,000 over the same period.
1000 My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to the migration of the young working population because of the failure of the Government to bring new industry to South Wales. It is an alarming fact that not one new firm moved into South Wales to build a new factory during the year under review. Indeed during that year there was an increase in unemployment and short-time working. Today the position is far worse. In my own constituency only last week 20 per cent. of those employed in one factory were declared redundant. Other industries in my constituency are woring a four-day week. That trend is spreading throughout South Wales.
What have the Government done about housing? The Report states thatthe rate of house-building by local authorities is decreasing … the increases in interest rates and the decrease in subsidies for some purposes have caused some local authorities to review their plans for the future very carefully.… Five per cent. of the houses in Wales are unfit.In the rural areas the figure is 7 per cent. There are 40,000 houses in Wales which are estimated to be unfit. The Minister for Welsh Affairs is Minister of Housing and Local Government, and he is responsible for bringing in the Rent Bill, which will serve to increase the rents of the people in Wales as well as in England.
I have repeatedly raised in the House the question of Blaenavon in my constituency, and the Conservative Government have failed to serve its need. There are 88,000 sq. ft. of modern buildings, with several miles of railway sidings, all of which is available at a fraction of its real worth to anyone whom the Government can induce to go there. The local authority has made representations to the Government time and again to see what they can do to bring economic rehabilitation to that town, and they have done nothing. I say to hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as to the two hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on the Government back benches, that this Report is a condemnation of the Government's policy and action over Wales.
There is nothing in the Report of which the Government may be proud. There is an increase in unemployment and short-time working, with consequent reduction in wages. There is an increase in the cost of living and of transport, and rents will be increased as a result of the 1001 policy of the right hon. Gentleman. That is the sum total of the action of the Government with regard to Wales and Monmouthshire. I cannot congratulate them on their action in the last twelve months. They stand condemned for their inaction and the suffering which they are bringing to the people of Wales.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
We have all enjoyed the forceful contribution of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West), but I, for one, cannot agree with it. I think that the activities of the Government in Wales during the past few years are commendable, and not to be dismissed in such discourteous terms.
May I add my word of welcome to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government as Minister responsible for Welsh Affairs? We welcome him as a person, because we know that he is one of the most courteous men who ever walked into this House; and if there is one quality which Welsh people appreciate it is the quality of courtesy. We welcome him also for his political experience not only in his present post, but also at the Treasury. More than anything else, Wales needs money from the Government. My right hon. Friend has had experience at the Treasury of preventing other Departments from getting money. Now that he is the Minister responsible for Welsh Affairs I hope that he will reverse that policy.
I was disappointed when I heard that the office had been attached to another Ministry, especially one so overburdened as the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is at present. With the Rent Bill, the rate problems and the reorganisation of local finance to contend with, I could not see how the present Minister, without the assistance of a Parliamentary Secretary, could carry out these duties. But, on second thoughts, I decided that there might be great advantages in this appointment. Many of the problems which face us in Wales today require the executive action of my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and other hon. Members have spoken about housing conditions and here is the Minister responsible for Welsh affairs with direct executive responsibility for housing in the rural areas and in the mining valleys. I hope that our new 1002 Minister will encourage local authorities to implement Section 5 of the Housing Subsidies Act.
I wish to protest about the form that this debate has taken and the fact that we have had to wait all these months to be able to have a debate on this Report. In the Welsh language there is an old expression about last winter's snow. The agricultural section of this Report does not deal with last winter's snow, but the snow of the winter before last. It is 1955 stuff and completely out of date. In addition to discussing this very detailed Report, we are expected, in the course of six hours, to discuss the reports contained in this Memorandum. It is not just one Report, there are eight really important reports.
The report on Government administration in Wales is, I suppose, the most popular, but there are others which need detailed examination. For the life of me, I cannot see that the business of this House will ever allow sufficient time for a full discussion of these vital Welsh affairs. I ask the Minister once again to consider the possibility of setting up a Welsh Standing Committee, so that responsible Ministers could be present to discuss these problems in detail with the hon. Members concerned.
A great deal has been said about the proposals of the Council for Wales and the reorganisation of Government Departments in the Principality. I hope that most of what has been said has been noticed as being in favour of the appointment of a Secretary of State in the Cabinet as head of the Welsh Department. I shall not labour the point, but I am certain that the vast majority of people in my constituency look forward to the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales.
Another point in the Report was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), the extension of administrative devolution. My hon. Friend said that it came as a surprise to him to know that, although certain steps had been taken in the direction of administrative devolution, yet in the case of the Ministry of Agriculture only 60 people out of a staff of 1,500 in the Department at Aberystwyth were responsible to the Permanent Under-Secretary at Aberystwyth and that the remainder, 1003 including the advisory services and the people concerned with such things as drainage and other subjects of vital importance to the people in Wales, were responsible to the Ministry in London.
Whatever action is to be recommended to the Government about devolution, in the form of a Secretary of State, I hope that we shall have the immediate implementation of the Report in regard to agriculture and that nearly all of the civil servants brought in shall be in the Welsh Department of Agriculture. My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) said only a few minutes ago that there were no special Welsh problems in agriculture. The problem of depopulation in Wales is the same as in Hereford or anywhere else, but my hon. Friend does not seem to realise that depopulation in some of the rural areas of England means only a regional change while depopulation in Welsh rural areas means the killing of our Welsh way of life and culture. I hope that we shall now establish a Welsh Department of Agriculture which can tackle Welsh problems on the spot.
There are big problems. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to some of the excellent Reports which we have had, such as the Report dealing with rural depopulation, in the survey area. It was followed by another excellent, detailed Report which I call the Wynne Finch Report, on the rehabilitation of agriculture in the Welsh countryside. The right hon. Member for Llanelly seemed to suggest that nothing had been done about these Reports, and 18 months ago I might have agreed with him, when agriculture was rather frustrated and despondent throughout the Principality. There was a great sense of insecurity among farmers, especially the smaller farmers, who had seen that developments were taking place in agriculture in other parts of the country yet had not the capital resources to carry out improvements to get greater efficiency.
The last Government White Paper on Agriculture has been welcomed by every farmer in Wales. We were asking for greater stability and for a long-term policy so that we might plan ahead. Well, the major recommendation of that White Paper has been a programme of long-term guarantees which was most welcome. 1004 The egg marketing scheme is now going through, and I know that it has been overwhelmingly supported in the Principality. It is another element to bring us greater sense of security.
There is still one point at which there is an element of uncertainty and that is the future of milk production. If there is any tinkering whatsoever with the milk cheque which goes to the small farmer in Wales it will be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. It is essential that the Government should make a statement here and now, or at a very early, date, that even if the point of milk overproduction is reached, then, by preferential treatment and preferential prices, security will be left with the small farmer rather than with the big farmer, who can "chance his arm" and go over to the production of beef. I beg the Government to make this statement very early.
The Wynne Finch Report made magnificent suggestions on the subject of capital investment. It is really a grand, detailed Report of the area which it surveyed. The Report shows that if we are to have a prosperous agriculture and thereby a prosperous countryside it is necessary to re-equip our farms with new buildings, better roads, more electricity, better water supplies and the like. Hon. Members on all sides of the House will welcome the new White Paper which suggests that the Government are now to provide 33⅓ per cent. of the capital investment in this sphere.
Here, again, there is a danger. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford is back with us. We shall get the grant of 33⅓ per cent. from the Government only if the improvements are made on what are known as "economically viable units". Unless the farmer can show that his farm will be economically viable as the result of the improvements and he will be, able to make a profit out of it, he will not qualify for grant. There is a lot to be said for that stipulation, and a lot to be said also for the extension of amalgamation of farms. This matter must be seen through Welsh eyes. I am glad that the Report of the Council of Wales and Monmouthshire, stresses this point. What is an economically viable unit in Wales may be just a poor farm or a comparatively small farm in Hereford.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
My right hon. Friend must not be allowed to run away with the idea that all farms in Hereford are low-lying arable farms of the first quality. In the areas near the Black Mountains near the Principality there are many marginal farms that are similar to those in Wales.
§ Mr. Garner Evans
I will change my bearings and go a little further, into Shropshire.
I am asking that we should have Welsh civil servants who will apply the new legislation when it comes into force, and who will not insist upon such a high standard in some parts of rural Wales as they would in the more prosperous lowland farms. The Wynne Finch Report supports the suggestion that a farm will only be economically viable if it can carry 500 head of sheep, but we know that there are many farms in the remote areas of Wales which maintain families and a reasonable standard of life and which would not comply with this requirement. That is why I am asking for very sympathetic treatment from the Ministry of Agriculture when it deals with this point.
I must refer to the other important industry in my division which is giving a great deal of anxiety in North Wales, the tourist industry. It is capable of very great extension indeed, because of holidays with pay, higher standards of life, and more and more people able to take holidays in the delightful parts of the Principality, yet today it is a declining industry. We see that from the figures in the Digest of Statistics. Great burdens have been thrust upon it and the recent revaluation of proposed reassessments for rating purposes is a burden which will really cripple the industry.
When he makes his calculations of the local government finance and the rerating of industry, I beg the Minister to give hotels and boarding houses at least the same degree of consideration as he gives to ordinary industry.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I wish first to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) and to say how glad I am that he has seen fit to withdraw unreservedly the charges of corruption he made twelve months ago in the debate on Welsh affairs against the B.B.C. in Wales. 1006 In the light of the findings of the distinguished Committee of inquiry, I think it was proper that he should do so.
I should like briefly to refer to one important matter which emerges from the Report, that the news editor, Mr. Richards, who is a first-rate news editor and a man of the highest professional standards, is short of staff and of money. With the development of television, which offers national and international news, the new task of sound radio is clearly to extend its regional and local news services, which for many years can never be completely televised, but the B.B.C. is not doing that. It is maintaining a large and expensive national radio news service in London and—as usual—is starving the regions, which include the Principality.
To meet the criticisms which have been levelled against its Welsh news service, the B.B.C. proposes to add further staff to its central organisation and offers that as a cure for its regional defects. In page 20, paragraph 47, of the Ince Report the B.B.C. is reported as saying that it will appoint a central news specialist to oversee—to supervise—the work of the regional news agency. I ask hon. Members from ale Principality to reject that proposal. Already the B.B.C. central news organisation is chock full of supervisors. It has as many bosses as workers. Whenever it has to make changes in administration it appoints a supervisor to supervise the change and then appoints super-supervisors to supervise the supervisors. There are so many supervisors that they kill initiative and enterprise and produce the flat, dull news bulletin with which we are so familiar.
I hope hon. Members will reject the offer of the B.B.C., and will insist that the staff of Mr. Richards shall be strengthened by giving him more reporters, sub-editors, and more money to spend on local correspondents, and for more time on the air, so that more adequate, lively and unbiassed news programmes can be given in Wales. That is the only practical and honest approach to this problem. I ask my hon. Friends not to let the Report go without question but to press for more staff and more money for news services in Wales and elsewhere.
I wish to reinforce the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for 1007 Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) in connection with the unemployment position in the three North-West Wales counties. As the House is aware, it is not a new problem. It existed between the two wars. There was chronic unemployment in Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire then. The average unemployment in that area between the two wars was higher than the average in the Development Areas. The situation was more serious than it was in those areas which were scheduled under the Distribution of Industry Act. Because of the scattered rural nature of the terrain, successive Governments have refused to give the benefit of that Act to the area and unemployment has continued on a high level.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon mentioned 6 per cent. unemployment in Caernarvonshire. In Anglesey it is more than 8 per cent, of the insured population. What a picture that conjures up. As is well known, it does not include those who emigrate. There are 400 to 500 school leavers in Anglesey every year, and the cream of the youth of the county leaves the district to find work elsewhere. Since 1945 local initiative has done everything possible to solve the problem. The county councils of Caernarvonshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey, with the other local authorities, have done all that they could do in an effort to solve it. They are striving hard to induce industrialists to come to the area, but so far, in spite of their efforts, the problem remains. Now we are asking the Government to do something constructive and positive to assist that area, which is such an important part of the life of the Principality.
We have asked for the extension of the Distribution of Industry Act. About twelve months ago the Select Committee on Estimates issued a report on the Development Areas. In that Report it recommended that certain areas in which high unemployment exists should be added to the Schedule. The then Minister for Welsh Affairs, Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, said that he would refer the matter to the President of the Board of Trade to see whether or not the Distribution of Industry Act might be extended to cover the three counties concerned. I 1008 should like to know from the Minister, when he replies to the debate, what reply the President of the Board of Trade has made. Has he considered the matter? Will the Minister say this evening whether or not the Act, in whole or in part, might be extended to cover the area?
The House is aware of what is being done today in Northern Ireland. Tremendous inducements are being offered to industrialists to establish themselves there. Advertisements appear in the Financial Times and other newspapers offering factory space in Northern Ireland at prices as low as 9d. per square foot per annum to industrialists, if they will go there. If we could offer in our part of North Wales only a quarter of the inducements which are being offered in Ulster, the district would be humming with prosperity.
Our complaint is that although Government Departments, probably quite genuinely, tell us that they want to do everything they can to help us, nothing positive is being done. A little effort and a little imagination by the Government and the whole problem would be solved once and for all.
The problem of the rural areas has also been mentioned. The second Memorandum of the Council for Wales in 1953 and the Mid-Wales Investigation Report of December, 1955, have been quoted. Indeed, the gravity of the situation in the rural areas of Wales has been recognised by the Government for a long time. Depopulation, the lack of amenities and the loss of farming land—all these things have been admitted. But the net result of ail these laborious inquiries so far has been the setting up of a three-man Committee.
I have the greatest respect for the three civil servants in Wales who will form that Committee, and I think they will do good work, but they cannot solve the problem. Something in the nature of the recommendations of the Council for Wales in 1953 must be brought into operation before it can ever be completely solved. We need electricity, piped water, sewerage, drainage, roads and houses. At the moment the areas concerned are too poor to afford these amenities, and an overall scheme along the lines suggested by the Council for Wales is needed if new life is to brought into those areas.
1009 The Government appear to be mesmerised by the notion that if they set up a committee everybody in Wales will be satisfied. The truth is that we have far too many committees in Wales. There have been far too many reports and discussions and too little action. What we need is constructive action by the Government, and we hope that they will look again at these problems to see whether we cannot stop this sad depopulation of rural Wales.
I realise that other hon. Members with to speak, and I will therefore conclude. I support in principle the Third Memorandum of the Council for Wales—an excellent document—which recommends appointing a Secretary of State for Wales. We realise how many benefits accrue to Scotland because it has in the Cabinet a Minister whose sole responsibility is to put the Scottish viewpoint and to do battle for Scotland. The Minister for Welsh Affairs, no matter how sincere he may be in his efforts, is primarily the Minister for Housing and Local Government. If he is to fight in the Cabinet and to try to squeeze more money out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will do it for his Department and not for Wales.
Scotland enjoys many advantages. The crofting counties receive great benefits from legislation. The tourist industry in Scotland receives far more support than does the tourist industry in Wales. The Forth Bridge has been given priority over the Severn Bridge. Nuclear generating stations are to be established in Scotland. There is a Minister with executive power in the Cabinet whose duty it is to fight for Scotland. We need a similar set-up for Wales.
I hope that following this debate we shall have a further opportunity to debate the Third Memorandum in detail. I feel strongly that this high office of State which is proposed is needed for Wales. It is a practical and logical step forward, and it would also meet the sincere demand of the great majority of the Welsh people.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I feel that I should, at the outset, join my hon. Friends in congratulating the Minister upon his new appointment. Unlike his predecessor, he is not one of us, but I am 1010 glad to learn that he has had the good sense and the great wisdom to come to Wales for a wife. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he went to Nantgaredig for his honeymoon. What a delightful name and what a delightful honeymoon resort. He is married now to Wales, and I hope that he will come to many of the resorts which we have ready for him.
When the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs was instituted we had high hopes that the Principality would benefit greatly by it. Many of us, indeed most of us, were naïve enough to believe that a new era had opened in the history of Wales. After five or six years' experience we are sadly disappointed, and I must warn the Minister that if he follows the pattern that has already been set we shall be disappointed in him during his tenure of office, a tenure which, I hope, will not last for long.
Apart from granting to Wales a capital which we already had—since Cardiff was always unofficially recognised as our capital—I cannot think of a single benefit that has accrued to Wales as the result of the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs. No special legislation has been brought forward peculiar to Wales and exclusive of England and Scotland. That is because the Minister has to serve two Ministries at the same time. It was the greatest of teachers who taught us that no man can serve two masters. The Minister has not even the necessary staff. Indeed, the present Minister has not a Parliamentary Secretary to assist him. His predecessor had an Under-Secretary but, because he was in another place, those of us who are not interested in the other place never saw him or heard him, and did not even know him. My suspicion that the Minister has not the necessary staff grew on me last year as a result of an experience I had with Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, to whom I had written complaining of the action of another Ministry concerning my constituency.
In three or four days I had a letter from the Minister's private secretary telling me that the matter I had raised was not one for the Home Office, and that my letter had been forwarded to the appropriate Ministry. Of course, I had not written to him in his capacity as Home Secretary, but it had not crossed the mind 1011 of anyone in the Home Office that I was writing to him in his other capacity as Minister for Welsh Affairs. I hope that it will not be necessary, when writing to the present Minister, to begin by telling him that it is to him as Minister for Welsh Affairs, and not as Minister for Housing and Local Government that we are addressing ourselves.
I am persuaded that a Minister in dead ernest about the problems of Wales, one who will regard the people of Wales as belonging to a nation and who will put the welfare of the Principality above all else, can endear himself to the Welsh people. Before I sit down, I hope to be able to suggest how the right hon. Gentleman can do that next week by taking certain action. Wales today is in a state of fear of, and of fervent opposition to, a project which is about to be begun in Wales, and in my constituency in particular. The Minister has it in his power to allay that fear, and I hope that tonight we shall hear that he is prepared to take certain action.
Because of my views on the present office of Minister for Welsh Affairs, I naturally welcome the recommendations of the Council for Wales on the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales, with two Parliamentary Secretaries to assist him. The very creation of such an office would in itself be a symbol of our nationhood. There are many problems affecting Wales which are special to Wales. They call for action along Welsh lines. If they are to be handled effectively these problems must be dealt with by people who know and understand Wales.
I have said that there are problems which affect Wales, and which are of special interest to the Principality, which can be dealt with effectively only by, say, a Grand Committee for Wales. The setting up of a Grand Committee would dispense with debates in the House such as the one today, which do not answer a great purpose. Indeed, I do not think that it would be too fantastic to suggest that such a Grand Committee could meet, during the Recesses, for instance, even in the capital of Wales. That is not a new principle. The Select Committee on Estimates can meet anywhere at any time, and I suggest that it would be for the good of the Principality, and for the 1012 good of this Parliament, if a Grand Committee—if ever one were set up because of the establishment of this new office—could occasionally meet in the Principality itself.
I said that we have a problem in Wales which is agitating the mind of the public very much. I am referring to the proposal to flood the Tryweryn Valley, in Merionethshire. Not since the controversial days of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales has public conscience been stirred as it is today. The Minister will be failing miserably in his duties if he fails to heed the mood of Wales on this subject. The nation's feeling has been roused to white-hot indignation by the threat to drown the valley without regard to the history of the area, its social conditions, its traditions and the value of a community such as the one at Tryweryn to the national and cultural life of the people.
Greater schemes in England have been rejected by the Government because of the presence of ruins of antiquarian value, or of swans, geese or ducks and because wild life had to be protected. I want to protect the human beings who live in the valley where their ancestors have lived.Y ma mae beddrodau'n tadau—the Father of the House will appreciate this—Y ma mae ein plant yn byw.Looking at the matter again from another point of view, that of the proper use of Welsh natural wealth, we must realise that, with the growth of atomic power and the development of industry, water is the major form of wealth and resources in Wales. A just and equitable view of our problems would make it clear that the people of Wales should themselves have the benefit of this source of wealth.
Water supplies are essential to industry and will become even more essential as the years go by. The Minister knows that, and he has been reminded today by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) of the condition of things in Gwynedd—Merioneth, Caernarvon and Anglesey. We are trying to induce new industries to come forward, but our inducement will not be effective unless we can prove that we have sufficient water supplies. We have them now, 1013 but we will not have them if the scheme proposed by the Liverpool Corporation is put into effect, because the water that could be used for our own purposes in Gwynedd will be taken across the border though, if they have a drop or two to offer, we shall be able, if you please, to buy it back.
I hope that the Minister will appreciate that there is here a problem in which he must be directly and enthusiastically interested. I remind him again that the mood of Wales today is something the like of which we have not experienced on an objection such as this for very many years.
I had thought of turning to consider the subject of afforestation, but my time is up, as a result of something of which I must complain, namely, far too long speeches today. Indeed, at this rate we shall need half a dozen Welsh days. I am sure that there is no need for every speech to last 30 minutes. If the Minister would only note what I have tried to say in 10 minutes, and put it into effect, he will have done enough to justify his position for the next 12 months.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
My arguments, also, will have to be limited, for the same reason as my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) had to limit his speech.
A schoolmaster, at the end of term, usually collects all the reports together and then, having read the observations, he makes his own final comment, such as, "Progress" or, "Progress fairly satisfactory; should concentrate more on such and such a subject." Very often, when a child comes back to school, the headmaster will ask him, "Have you brought your report with you?" I feel that our position tonight is something like that. The one responsible for this Report has left his place and he is like a child who has left school. The present Minister, whom we are very happy to congratulate upon his appointment, is not responsible for the merits or demerits of this Report.
There are some very promising features in the Report, and there is one which has not yet been mentioned to which I wish to make special reference, namely, the education of handicapped children. I raised the matter a year ago because I 1014 was never happy about the treatment meted out to these unfortunate children in the Principality. Hon. Members will readily imagine how proud I was to understand that a new school had been opened in Cardiganshire, that two schools in Montgomery, one for boys and one for girls, are to be enlarged, that one special school for handicapped children is to be opened in Wrexham, and another in Swansea.
This news makes very happy reading in the Report. We have no real complaint about our secondary education, especially when we remember the neglectful attitude which was at one time taken towards handicapped children. Some achievement has been made in the course of the past 12 months. The problems have not been solved, but, none the less, the principle of devoting attention to these unfortunate children has been accepted and on this safe foundation we can hope for further good in the future.
I was very happy to read in the Report that new geological survey maps are to be issued for the South Wales coalfield, the Llanwrst area and some parts of Anglesey. I must, however, confess that I have a feeling that all this is merely a scratching of the surface. I cannot be persuaded that in the Principality of Wales, especially the North-West of Wales, there are no metals and precious minerals in the rock formation. It seems to me to be quite out of character with Cambrian and pre-Cambrian rocks not to have these precious metals.
I should like to know when we are to have a geophysical survey in the Principality. We cannot afford to walk on treasure hidden underground. The time has come for us to do what the man related in Holy Scripture did when he sold all that he had to purchase a pearl of great price. I am satisfied that there must be real treasure in the rock formation of North Wales, and particularly in the North-West. We should without delay have a thorough investigation, so that the treasure may be revealed and laid at our disposal.
Great attention has been given tonight to the question of a Secretary of State for Wales and I am pleased to give the proposal my support. I am happy to feel that Wales and England can teach the world one thing at least. What is the great contribution which Wales has 1015 given to the world? It is not its language, for the world does not read or understand the Welsh language, nor has the great contribution of Wales been made in its literature or culture. The great contribution that Wales has made to the world is that it has shown that two nations, differing entirely in language, in culture, in tradition and in customs, have for four hundred years lived together in peace, in coexistence and tranquility.
The reason for that is that between these two distinct and distinctive nations the principle of real equality has been established. That is the fundamental principle of the constitutional relationship between Wales and England. Consequently, it has worked very well for four hundred years. Had the rest of the world turned to Wales and to England, it would have been to the great benefit of mankind, because the world has lost a great deal of blood and treasure by not following the path taken by Wales and England. It has lost those advantages enjoyed by these two distinct nations who have lived together in equality, peace and tranquility.
That does not mean that the existing Constitution cannot be developed. That is why I support the recommendation of the Council for Wales which has been advocated by so many tonight. The time has come to develop the present constitutional relationship and establish the office of a Secretary of State for Wales who can ensure that that segment of Welsh life and nationality which is distinct from England will have a fair chance to grow and to flourish. It is along these lines that we can have true constitutional development for the Principality of Wales.
I should like in the few moments remaining to me to mention the rural question, to which many earlier references have been made. According to the Report, farming in Wales has never been more prosperous than during the last decade. The overall picture is one of prosperity, but we find that as farming becomes more prosperous the rural areas develop pockets of unemployment and that rural depopulation follows. That poses for us a very important question. For argument's sake, I cite Anglesey as an example. It is an ample one. Milk 1016 production there has gone up in the last decade nine, ten, elevenfold. In most parts of Wales agriculture has never been more prosperous, and yet we find this problem of rural depopulation and the problem of unemployment.
There can be only one conclusion. At least, this is the conclusion that I have come to from the facts. It seems to me that even a prosperous agriculture will not solve the unemployment problem in agricultural areas, and, indeed, that as agriculture becomes more prosperous unemployment and rural depopulation at the same time increase. What is the solution? To me it is simply this. We must take into the rural areas rural industries. In other words, we must have for our rural communities what we call a balanced economy.
It is against that background that, I think, we can look forward to afforestation. There is no sense in carrying away from Wales loads of timber to pulping mills at Ellesmere Port. I know that is necessary today because we have no pulping mills in Wales, but what is of great concern to me, what, indeed, grieves me, is that while we are growing trees in Wales and while there are successful afforestation schemes in Wales, afforestation from which the countryside becomes more and more beautiful year by year, at the same time there is no evidence whatsoever that the Government have any plan at all to bring industries to the valleys to make industrial use of the forestry resources of our country.
The fact is as simple as that, and it is serious. The raw material is there, the labour power is there. The only thing that is missing is plant, and that is exactly what the Government can plan to introduce. Something along those lines must be introduced into rural Wales because nothing else will or can solve the problems of rural depopulation and unemployment in the rural parts of the Principality.
I had other things to say, but I have not time now to say them, but I am very thankful for the few moments I have had to make these few remarks. I ask the Minister for Welsh Affairs to consider these observations very seriously, because we can see the death of a community in Wales at the present time. We can give this guarantee, that if the Minister does his share we on these benches will do all we can to give him support.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
The range of today's debate shows the wisdom displayed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) last Thursday when he pressed upon the Leader of the House the desirability of a separate debate on the Report of the Government Administration Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire on the question of a Secretary of State for Wales. It is really quite impossible to discuss the wide range of topics covered by the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire and inject into that debate all the intricate questions affecting the relative merits of Government machinery. I press upon the Minister for Welsh Affairs to make serious representations to the Leader of the House to ensure that Welsh Members have a more adequate opportunity to explore the Report on the Machinery of Government.
At the outset, I assure the Minister that we on this side of the House do not share the smug complacency of the Report on Government Action. We believe that in great measure the Report seeks credit for the Tory Government for actions taken by the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951. Three or four of the concluding speeches in the debate have underlined the economic problems of North-West Wales, where the unemployment figures are still very high. Why is it that despite debate after debate and plea after plea, results do not accrue from statements made from the Treasury Bench? It is simply that the Tory Government have dismantled much of the machinery of control which the Labour Governments used to rescue South Wales. If the Labour Government in 1945 had adopted the same attitude towards South Wales as the Tory Government adopt towards North-West Wales there would not be reasonable prosperity in South Wales today.
I emphasise what my right hon. Friend for Llanelly said—that South Wales was rescued from its terrible plight by the rejuvenation of basic industries under public ownership and by the use of public planning controls to steer new industry into South Wales. The result has been a more balanced industrial structure and a reasonable degree of prosperity. In fact, when the Government seek credit for 1018 that prosperity they are reaping the fruit which Labour Governments sowed.
If the problems of North-West Wales are to be solved, there will have to be large-scale State planning. Proper industrial development will take place only if that area is scheduled as a Development Area and if the powers which Labour used successfully in South Wales are applied. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said, it is very doubtful whether the rural life of Wales can be rejuvenated without some changes in the system of land tenure and some substantial measure of public ownership, particularly of marginal land, and consequent capital investment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) and one or two other subsequent speakers expressed some concern about the employment position in the South Wales Development Area. I want the Minister to understand that we are not scaremongers. We do not believe that Britain is on the brink of the mass unemployment of the 1930s. What we realise, however, is that the structure of industry in South Wales is such that even a moderate recession in Britain as a whole, producing an unemployment rate of even 3 per cent. or 4 per cent., would be likely to produce an unemployment rate of 10 per cent. or more in South Wales.
The Report itself refers to some growth in unemployment even in 1955 and 1956 as a result of the credit-squeeze policy, but it is complacent in that it says that last winter, for the first time, unemployment figures in Wales were below 20,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams), when he opened this debate, pointed out that even in December, which is not normally the high point, unemployment figures have gone up well past the 20,000 mark. In my own constituency, the closing of Government establishments is giving rise to further anxiety. Following on the closure of a Ministry of Supply establishment, the R.A.F. maintenance unit at Llandow is to be closed, and a naval establishment is threatened with closure in about two years' time.
What makes my constituents anxious is not a desire to work on defence projects, but their realisation that in so far as the Government have abolished a principal physical control in the shape of building 1019 licences, in so far as they have not used the industrial development certificate procedure effectively, and in so far as they have thrown away some of the financial inducements to firms to go to those areas, there is doubt whether that decline in employment in Government defence establishments will be replaced by other forms of employment.
Therefore I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should take heed of the figures quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly on the percentage of factory building in the years from 1945 to the present date. The footnote I would add to the figures given by my right hon. Friend is that when factory building for Wales falls below just over 5 per cent., then on a population basis Wales is getting less than its fair share. My right hon. Friend showed that for the last twelve months the figure was about 2 per cent.
There is the further point that so many of the firms established in the South Wales Development Area—and in the North Wales Development Area as well—are branches of firms with headquarters in England, and that increases the vulnerability of the industrial structure which has grown up in the post-war period.
Lest hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that I tend to emphasise public initiative, public ownership and public finance unduly, let me point out that the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, which is not normally addicted to Socialistic theories, has this to say about recent Government policy on factory provision:There is some concern, particularly among the more firmly established and progressive firms in the Development Areas, that in consequence of the credit squeeze it is no longer possible to obtain any extension to Government-owned factories with public funds. Whilst it is recognised that firms in Government-owned factories are free, subject to approval of plans by the Estate Company, to build extensions at their own expense, this solution is not always acceptable for a number of reasons—administrative and otherwise.A real problem obviously exists here concerning the private provision of extensions to State-owned factories.
The provision of water has been mentioned during the debate. I think that the upshot of the discussion is that in the 1020 recent controversy the issue is not the alleged wickedness of the Liverpool Corporation or the alleged awkwardness of the Merioneth County Council. The real issue is that the Private Bill procedure as a method of promoting large water undertakings is an anachronistic absurdity.
I welcome, as do my hon. Friends, the limited move which the Minister has already made—the attempt to get advice on the supplies of water throughout Wales; but we must go much further than that. Again, if anyone suspects me of a dogmatic belief in nationalisation, I would point out that even the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, representing hard-headed businessmen, in the Memorandum from which I have already quoted recognises the need for large-scale planning of water development schemes and the conservation of supplies. We therefore come to the need for reform through a form of public ownership, which permits national planning.
§ Mr. Bowen
The hon. Member rightly points out the difficulties of the rural areas but does he not realise that one of the basic difficulties of establishing industries in the rural areas in the past has arisen from Development Area policy? If anyone wanted to establish a factory in a rural area he was deliberately tempted to go to a Development Area by Development Area policy.
§ Mr. Padley
A reference to the statistics of factory building in the period of control under the Labour Government and since would certainly not support the hon. and learned Member's conclusion.
I was referring to water supplies. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W, Jones), as always the bold and faithful champion of the interests of his constituency, demonstrated the need for large-scale public initiative in the County of Merioneth. The provision of an atomic plant and the possible provision of a paper mill in the Corwen area would require large supplies of water. That is not to say that Liverpool and other large cities have not also 1021 an urgent need. The crucial issue is the need for national planning, and I believe that in this regard it should be national planning on a United Kingdom scale, with Welsh national interests effectively integrated in the United Kingdom plan.
Whatever may be the disadvantages of the right hon. Member the Minister for Housing and Local Government being appointed Minister for Welsh Affairs, there is one advantage; at long last we confront in this Welsh debate the Minister who is responsible for the Department which has effectively sabotaged the Distribution of Industry Act in regard to social reconstruction. It was the Prime Minister who, when he held the right hon. Gentleman's present position, sent out Circular 54/52 which effectively abolished grants under the Distribution of Industry Act for the provision of basic services, such as sewerage and water.
I want to make an emphatic protest against this bogus table which appears as Appendix 12 in the Report of Government Action. Appendix 12 deals with water and sewerage schemes. As is usual, under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, we get "nil" in each column showing the number, cost and grants for sewerage and water schemes last year, but in the adjoining columns we have some impressive statistics showing that 62 water schemes and 115 sewerage schemes were approved up to June, 1956. Next year the right hon. Gentleman and the Government should be honest. At the head of that column should appear the words "Schemes approved by the Labour Government." The Tory Government had been in office only seven or eight months before the implementation of the infamous circular which has sabotaged social reconstruction in South Wales and in other parts of Wales.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate that social reconstruction in Welsh Development Areas is a serious matter. Twenty years of stagnation and decay have left their mark on the entire social life of these communities. The Distribution of Industry Act envisaged, first, the priming of the economic pump to provide employment, wages and economic prosperity, but it also envisaged not only the provision of basic services, such as sewerage and water, which had been neglected in the days of stagnation 1022 and decay, but amenities such as recreation grounds.
I will give an example from my own constituency. The 1954 Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire referred to a large-scale reorganisation scheme at the Ffaldau Colliery in the Garw Valley which raised output per man-shift from 12 cwts. to 30 cwts. That was very good, but very close to the Ffaldau Colliery is the Waunbant recreation scheme, a scheme for the provision of playing fields. It was hoped that under the Distribution of Industry Act, side by side with economic reconstruction, would be the long overdue provision of playing fields in that narrow and precipitous valley.
In the days of the Labour Government we were able to establish our case in the nearby Ogmore Valley, but the Waunbant scheme remains very much a paper scheme. I put the point to the right hon. Gentleman that, given the importance of coal and of reviving the mining communities and attracting manpower to the pits, it is of vital importance that social reconstruction and the provision of amenities should accompany economic construction.
Housing is also important, and again we are fortunate that for the first time the Minister for Welsh Affairs is also directly responsible for housing. The Government Report recognises the serious impact of Government policy on local authority schemes, and in page 30 it is stated:New housing by local authorities is exempted from the present restrictions on capital expenditure, but the increases in interest rates and the decrease in the subsidies for some purposes have caused some local authorities to review their plans for the future very carefully.Yet the need for council houses is greater in the Welsh valleys than in Britain generally. My constituency includes the three mining valleys of Maesteg, Garw and Ogmore. In the whole of the inter-war period council houses were built in those three valleys at but one-quarter of the United Kingdom rate, calculated on a population basis—again a by-product of economic stagnation and decay.
The Government policy of increasing interest rates and abolishing subsidies on housing for general need is therefore an 1023 especially serious matter for the mining valleys in the South Wales Development Area. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have that point in mind when he contemplates further attacks on the public provision of houses.
May I say a word on the question of a Secretary of State for Wales? I speak with some trepidation on this matter for reasons which will be apparent to most hon. Members. Certainly we need to devise the most effective and practical methods of devolution. Certainly there is a strong case for having in the Cabinet a Welsh Minister in charge of a Department. But I think that we need more time and discussion before we accept the blueprint which has been put up by the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. I may be wrong, but I have the impression that unless the Secretary of State for Scotland is a superman, administration suffers. Even if the principle is established, that it is well to have a Welsh Minister with a Department as a member of the Cabinet, I am not sure that his Department should be on the scale envisaged.
Some very flimsy arguments have been advanced. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—I was about to say "my hon. Friend", as he once fought me in Ogmore and is therefore in a real sense an old friend—suggested that Scotland got the Forth Bridge and Wales did not get the Severn Bridge largely because Scotland has a Secretary of State. I can think of a lot of arguments to put against that one. The Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for housing in Scotland, and it is probably true that Scottish housing is not only the worst in the United Kingdom, but may well be the worst in Western Europe.
§ Mr. Padley
My hon. Friend, in a Scottish accent, reminds me that unemployment in Scotland is not only worse than in England, but worse than in Wales.
The other point I wish to put, and again I speak with trepidation because my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) is present, is that I see Wales not only as a distinctive country but also as the most Socialist 1024 country in the world. I am concerned that Wales politically should make the maximum impact on United Kingdom politics. It is possible—I will put it no higher—that if functions as extensive as those envisaged by the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire should be taken away from central Government Departments and put into a separate Welsh Department, the impact of Wales and the Welsh people on the general policy of the United Kingdom would diminish. That would be a mistake.
I think that there is more Socialist driving force coming from Wales than from other parts of the United Kingdom. Again I may be wrong, but it seems to me that, certainly in the post-war period. Wales has made more impact on the basic social policies of the United Kingdom than has Scotland. So, in respect of this proposal, there is a case for weighing the evidence and reaching a balanced conclusion. We need more thought and more discussion and a full day's debate in this House.
I conclude with a personal note to the Minister. There is no doubt that he recognises from the way I speak that, like him, I am not a Welshman. I am an adopted Welshman. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in Wales he will find no prejudice on personal grounds; still less any prejudice on racial grounds. The prejudice which he will have to confront is purely political. He represents the Tory Party, which has been rejected overwhelmingly by the Welsh people.
A moment ago I said that Wales was the most Socialist country in the world, because it has 27 Members in this House out of a possible 36. I also mentioned earlier that the number might become 28 in a few days' time. The popular vote in favour of Socialist policies is 2 to 1. Therefore I tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he really wishes to serve the Welsh people and to be the voice of the Welsh people, let him go to the Cabinet and advise the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament, go to the country in a General Election and give the Scots and the British the opportunity to be as wise as the Welsh.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
Speaking again by leave of the House, I would begin by saying that I am grateful for the personal 1025 expressions of good will which I have received during the past few hours from all sides of the House. I will do my best to justify them.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) certainly did his best, as a member of the Labour Party, to inject political venom into the closing speech from the Opposition benches. I, for my part, shall do my best to save Wales from any handicaps it might otherwise incur from being, as indeed it is, the most Socialist country in the world.
The hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. L1. Williams) opened the debate from the other side of the House in a very interesting speech to which I listened very carefully. The hon. Member has explained that he cannot be here now, because he has received a call to Carmarthen. He thought that the new Ministerial changes were a gratuitous insult to Wales. Well, we shall see. I would prefer to rely on the wise words spoken by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson), that Wales would judge by results.
When the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) made a speech opposing any transfer of responsibility for Welsh affairs away from the Home Office to my Department I could not help noticing how sharply he disagreed on that point from the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. It is true that the Prime Minister has made no provision for a Parliamentary Secretary to assist me. That, obviously, is not a matter solely in my hands, but, whether there were a Parliamentary Secretary or not, I would not be willing to transfer my direct responsibility on to other shoulders. I should not be prepared to be Minister by proxy.
I will now take up as many as possible of the points raised in the debate. Where I find that I have missed a substantial point I should like to write to the hon. Member concerned about it.
A number of hon. Members have referred to water policy. The House knows that I have had a letter written from my Department in the last few days to the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire stating that I think it right that an advisory committee should be set up to advise me on matters connected with the conservation and use of water resources in Wales. It is essential 1026 to set in train a technical appraisal of the water resources of the Principality, and I am arranging for my engineers to begin an investigation at once. I do not propose to wait until that investigation is completed before setting up an advisory committee. I hope that I carry the House with me on that decision. I have not been wholly idle and I hope that I shall be able to prove that I am neither idle, smug nor complacent.
Reference has been made to Tryweryn. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that we must not go into details on that matter. A Bill of the Liverpool Corporation, concerned with Tryweryn, is, I understand, likely to come up for Second Reading in another place during this month. It seems much better to me that we should allow ordinary Parliamentary procedure to take its course rather than I should be led to make any prior statement of Government intention.
I want to devote the greater part of my speech to the question of employment and unemployment in Wales, because the prosperity of any country underlies so much—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Minister will recall that I made a suggestion to him that, without prejudice to the Bill, the Council for Wales might make a report on what it thinks will be the possible effects of the scheme on the whole area of North Wales.
§ Mr. Brooke
I have considered that and I doubt whether it is a function which the Council for Wales could helpfully perform. It seems to me that I have taken the right step in setting on foot the technical investigation and also calling together an advisory committee. I am sure, having done that, it is right now for Parliament to proceed to consider any Bill which is brought before it.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is setting in train a technical investigation. Will the first results of that investigation be to hand by the time this House considers the Private Bill?
§ Mr. Brooke
I could not say because I have no control over the Parliamentary time-table and still less over what happens in another place.
§ Mr. Roberts
May I put this second point to the right hon. Gentleman? The 1027 Tryweryn scheme is of such magnitude that probably it is the one which needs to be measured in its effects most against the results of the technical investigation.
§ Mr. Brooke
I must point out with respect to the hon. Member that there is the normal Parliamentary procedure for examining all Private Bill questions. If I say nothing today that does not mean that I am withdrawing in any way Parliamentary control over the passage of Private Bills.
§ Mr. Grenfell
Could we be reassured now that, having expressed that general view, the Minister will see that this matter is properly examined by competent people and then brought back to the House?
§ Mr. Brooke
I must not interfere with Parliamentary procedure on these matters. The Bill is coming up in another place later this month.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I think that on reflection a number of us will find disquieting what the right hon. Gentleman has said on this subject. We had hoped, until he spoke a moment ago, that the technical investigation and the Bill would march hand in hand, so that we might have the results of the technical investigation when considering the Bill because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) has said, the Liverpool scheme is perhaps the scheme of biggest single importance. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman undertake to speed up the technical investigation so that the Bill does not get ahead of its results?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am anxious to get ahead as rapidly as possible with the technical appraisal, but it does not lie in the hands of the Government to control the pace at which Private Bills pass through either House.
I want to speak at some length about the employment situation and prospects in Wales.
The present figure of unemployment for Wales is 2.3 per cent. against 1.4 per cent. in the whole of Great Britain. Although the hon. Member for Ogmore has tempted me, I shall forbear to quote what the percentage of unemployment was in 1028 Wales under the Labour Government in 1930–31, but it would be very different from the 2.3 per cent. of the present day. The percentage in the South Wales Development Area at present is actually 2.1 per cent., that is, lower than the average for the country.
I was asked about Development Area policy. In last year's debate a good deal of attention was paid to the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on the future of the Development Areas. The Select Committee had recommended a review of Development Areas with a view to de-scheduling any area or part of an area, and some anxiety was expressed about that. That Report has been under consideration by the Government. I do not think the Select Committee on Estimates has yet published the Departmental reply to its Report, but I can say, on behalf of the Government, that we agree that suitable areas should be added to the schedule of Development Areas when the Government are satisfied that this would be appropriate, and that before any area which is now scheduled is de-scheduled there should be consultation with the local authorities concerned.
Up to now the effect of Middle East events on industry and employment in Wales has been slight, and though some hon. Members expressed apprehension that we might be in for a grave slump in Welsh economic activity, I see no sign of that. There are signs of weakness here and there, and I am watching them, as are my right hon. Friends, but there is no evidence of any material recession at the present time in the Welsh economy.
Taking the country generally, there is a high level of employment—although I know there are pockets of unemployment—and in some areas there is a shortage of skilled labour. The outlook for employment in coal and steel remains satisfactory and good. I do not deny that at present there is some redundancy and short-time working in Wales, but not more than in other parts of the United Kingdom, and I am not gravely apprehensive on that account. But I certainly regard it as part of my duty as Minister for Welsh Affairs to watch these matters and to draw the attention of my right hon. Friends to them if factors seem to be emerging which show danger signs.
§ Mr. Finch
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the position under the Distribution of Industry Act? Are the Government to make grants under that Act? What is their future policy?
§ Mr. Brooke
The Select Committee on Estimates presented a Report to the House and I understand that before long the Committee will publish the Government's reply. I do not think that I ought to anticipate that reply, and I have already made a statement in broad terms today.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) spoke about the unemployment situation in North-West Wales generally and I certainly do not wish to minimise its seriousness. The numbers involved are not large; it is the percentages which create apprehension. The numbers of unemployed at the latest date were about 1,050 in Anglesey, 2,650 in Caernarvon and 400 in Merioneth, but, nevertheless, in relation to the total number of unemployed they were substantial.
I can tell the hon. Member that I hope this spring to respond to his invitation, to visit Caernarvon and to meet those concerned with the slate industry and others who are active in the economic and social life of that area, and to inform myself at first hand. I believe that to be my duty.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones
May I remind the Minister that the numbers of unemployed are not large, but that that is because of emigration? Month by month the population has been reduced. That is why the numbers are not large, in spite of the fact that the percentages are the highest in the country. Emigration is a far more tragic thing.
§ Mr. Brooke
I was only trying to put this into its right perspective, and was not for one moment seeking to run away from the situation. Indeed, I have just said that I want to acquaint myself with it at first hand. Nevertheless, my understanding is that in the slate industry there is a continued shortage of skilled rock men, which is restricting the employment of many additional unskilled workers.
I am anxious about the economic prospects of what, in the Reports, is known as West South Wales. The hand tinplate industry has a doubtful future. We have to see what we can do to attract and develop industry in that area in order to 1030 take up the slack which will be created as modern tinplate methods render the hand industry obsolete. Unemployment has not developed on a serious scale there as yet, and I want to assure the House now that I have my eyes fixed on that, and that I am not unaware of the dangers.
Before I leave the unemployment question, I should like to turn again to Caernarvonshire. Mention has been made of the possibility of some industrial chemical development. My understanding is that the Ashburton Chemical Works has definitely decided to set up a plant at Glynllifon Park. That plant will employ some hundreds of people, and should make a very substantial difference to employment in the Caernarvon-Bangor area.
I must not jump about so much geographically, but, clearly, there are developments of the first importance in prospect at Milford Haven. We know a certain amount about what is planned. We have had a situation of anxiety at Milford because of the decline of the fishing industry. It is dealt with in the Report of the Industrial Panel of the Council for Wales. Many of the Panel's recommendations call for action by the various branches of the industry, and I am sure that they are now being considered by those in the industry. The Panel's suggestion that grants should be made available for the converting of trawlers from coal-burning to oil-firing has, of course, already been accepted by the Government.
The prospective industrial developments in Milford Haven are on a massive scale. The Esso Petroleum Company has been given an industrial development certificate for a refinery with a designated annual capacity of 5 million tons of crude oil. Land has been acquired west of Milford for this scheme, which is estimated to cost at least £20 million. It will take about 2½ years to complete; I am informed that about 5,000 men will be required on construction work, and that the permanent strength will be about 2,000 when the plant is fully operating.
In addition, the British Petroleum group has announced its intention to build a tanker terminal, and that will provide permanent employment for a number of men. The Steel Company of Wales, and Guest Keen have acquired a 1031 site at Angle Point, where they may be intending development. If those schemes, or the greater part of them, go forward, the economy of the whole area will be completely transformed. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has recently held a conference of interested parties which has led to the setting up of an interim committee to deal with immediate problems. He has also stated his intentions to seek powers to set up a conservancy authority for Milford Haven.
Many references have been made to the position of the South Wales ports. I think that this was the first of the five points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). We know that the British Transport Commission is carrying out a £700,000 improvement scheme at Swansea. At Newport, plans have been announced by the Commission for an expenditure of £1,100,000 on improving facilities for handling general cargo, and at Barry a new berth, costing about £265,000, is to be provided to improve facilities for handling bulk cargo.
Reference has been made to the omission of Cardiff from these plans. I know that the Commission has no present intention of spending money at Cardiff. That, of course, does not say that there will never be any further work done there. I know that the Commission has not, so to speak, put Cardiff wholly out of its mind.
Several hon. Members referred to the division of dock charges at the ports. The negotiations between the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire and the representatives of the shipowners have been proceeding. I very much hope that, though there have been disappointments, there will be in due course some practical outcome of those discussions. As to rail charges, the new railway charges scheme, which comes into effect on 1st July, will give the Commission greater freedom in fixing railway rates. The Commission has stated that it does not intend to give particular ports preferential treatment but, nevertheless, the new scheme should be the means of removing existing anomalies which discriminate against the South Wales ports.
A number of hon. Members spoke about road communications generally and 1032 the Severn Bridge in particular. I think that the right hon. Gentleman's second point was a demand for the improvement of road communications with the Midlands and England generally. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is going ahead with major schemes for improving those road communications. He has announced the Ross spur project which is directly planned to improve communications from the South Wales cities to the industrial Midlands of England. This is a new motor road from Ross to Tewkesbury.
Similarly, my right hon. Friend has announced major improvements on what is known as the head of the valleys road, the road from Hirwaun to Abergavenny. The Ross spur is estimated to cost about £6 million. A great deal of preparatory work has already been done, and my right hon. Friend hopes to announce a starting date for the work before the end of this year.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have asked what was happening about the Severn Bridge. The Forth Bridge made them jealous, just as it makes me jealous; but I think that we should all be on guard against establishing too direct comparisons with Scotland. The Scots might rebut us by pointing out that their population is double ours, and they might claim two major bridges for every one of ours. The point about the Severn Bridge is that it is an extremely costly project. It would cost at least £30 million, with all the works involved, and it would take a considerable number of years to complete. It would eat up a large part of the share of the expenditure which might be allotted to Wales.
My right hon. Friend is, therefore, going ahead with his other plans which will bring a more direct and more speedy benefit to Wales, whereas, if he committed himself here and now to the Severn Bridge project, there might be a very long period before Wales got the benefit of any road improvements whatever.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Minister will remember, of course, that the Severn Bridge is not merely a Welsh project, but it is also intended to help England. If the scheme is not on the list for the near future, what was the purpose of the Minister of Transport's intervention on the question of tolls?
§ Mr. Brooke
The Severn Bridge is included in his future programme, and I understand that he has agreed with the local authorities that it should be on a toll basis.
I now turn to atomic energy. The Atomic Energy Authority has certainly not overlooked the claims of Wales and it will continue to bear them in mind. The principal factor which took the Authority to Winfrith Heath rather than to Wales for their Research Establishment was the need for it to be within reasonably close distance of Harwell.
The question of nuclear power stations, is a matter for the Central Electricity Authority, and my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General has given an assurance that the Authority will give every consideration to possible sites for nuclear stations in Wales. There are certain practical criteria which a suitable site must fulfil, and the Authority is examining various sites throughout the country and will reach its decisions in due course.
It will be my duty and my pleasure to make sure that the Authority is constantly reminded of the claims of Wales and the opportunities which Wales offers. I agree very strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) that we must not just keep harking back to the past and reviving old industries. We must keep our eyes constantly on the industrial developments of the next twenty-five or fifty years.
I have very little time left to speak about rural Wales. The new Standing Committee, the Rural Wales Committee, was set up last autumn by my predecessor to carry on certain functions arising out of the Mid-Wales investigation. The Committee is already at work and it intends to consult very widely with interested organisations and individuals. It will report regularly to Ministers. We agree with the finding of the Sub-Commission that the balance of economic argument lay in favour of increasing the size of many upland holdings. Whatever has been said about depopulation, I think that everybody is agreed that we must find a sound economic basis for the rural life of Mid-Wales.
Of course, the measures which the Government have taken in a wider context, the 33⅓ per cent. capital grants for improvement of rural equipment, and 1034 so forth, will all be of assistance to Wales. It is proposed to offer these 33⅓ per cent. grants towards the legal and other costs of transactions leading to amalgamation.
As regards hill farming and livestock rearing improvement schemes, I should like to tell the House that, up to 30th September, 1956, the grants paid on schemes of that character in Wales amounted to £1,814,000, whereas for the whole of the rest of the United Kingdom the grants amounted to £4,360,000; so Wales had its full share and more.
A number of points were raised concerning education in Wales and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education undertook to bring them to the notice of his noble Friend. I should particularly like to refer to the new college of advanced technology. It has now been agreed that this should be called the Welsh College of Advanced Technology. It is a major achievement in Welsh education. Its development will provide a range of opportunities of the first importance for young men and women to equip themselves for the highest posts in industry and commerce. I venture to claim that this college will mark the culmination of a period of remarkable development in technical education in Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) spoke of the recent inquiry into Welsh broadcasting and I was grateful for what he said. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how much we appreciate the work that was done by the members of the Committee of Inquiry into Welsh Broadcasting. I can tell the House that certain recommendations made by the Committee about the handling of the news services are being put in hand by the B.B.C. I do not think that the House would wish me to pursue the matter further now.
When a relation of mine who lives in Wales heard of my appointment on the eight o'clock news, she was good enough to send me a telegram, but on the way to the post office she saw a poster which announced, "Government changes. Shock for Wales". I am glad to say that she sent me the telegram nevertheless, but I am well aware that my appointment and the circumstances of it have come at a time when many people are thinking 1035 deeply about the bigger questions ventilated in this important Report from the Council for Wales.
I should like to express my appreciation to the chairman and members of the Council for Wales and particularly to its Government Administration Panel for the many hours of devoted work that they have put into the preparation of the Report. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Of deliberate intent, I shall say nothing about its findings and recommendations. It has unquestionably given us all a most valuable conspectus of the present machinery of Government administration in Wales. In fact, the Panel took the best part of two years to carry out its study and prepare its Report. That alone is sufficient reason for the Government not rushing into a conclusion on their own. To the hon. Member for Abertillery and any others who suggested that the Report would be merely pigeon-holed, I can say that that is far from the fact. The Report requires most careful examination from the Government in the light of all the opinions expressed in this debate from both sides.
The House will recognise, in any case, that this is manifestly not a question for me alone. It is one for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he has received all the advice which he requires. I think it was the right hon. Member for Llanelly who begged that this should not be treated simply as a dry question of administration machinery. He said that there were "intangibles" and "imponderables" and that none of us who care for Wales should forget them. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. There is here much more than a matter of mere machinery. At the same time, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we ought not to adopt any recommendation simply because somebody has advocated it or somebody else has opposed it. We should apply only one test, and that test is what will be best for Wales.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 9887), and the Third Memorandum by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire (Command Paper No. 53).