§ 4.39 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1961 (Command Paper No. 1643).It is my task this afternoon to present to the House on behalf of the Government the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1961. As the House will agree, the Report is very comprehensive and covers the affairs of many Departments. I shall concentrate primarily upon economic and industrial matters, as becomes a Board of Trade Minister, although in so doing I shall inevitably trespass on the responsibilities of other Departments. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs will be winding up and will, in the course of his speech, refer to the wider implications of some of these matters.
In addressing the House from the Dispatch Box for the first time, it is a comfort to me to know that my right hon. Friend will be here to reply to the debate, and doubtless this will be a comfort to some hon. Members who may not find my speech very satisfactory. It is also a comfort to see so many Welsh faces round me. Welsh Members have the reputation of exceptional courtesy and good manners in debate. I assure the House that as an apprentice Minister I need all the courtesy and good manners which the House may in its generosity be prepared to extend to me. My anxieties in making my maiden speech from this Box are increased by the knowledge that I bear the common name of Price, and that I am to be followed by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen, who bears the noble name of Lloyd George. However, I also bear the name of the Patron Saint of Wales.
I want to try to describe to the House the general economic situation in Wales as I see it, coming with a fresh mind, and yet, I hope, not an entirely uninformed one. I believe that we have a good story to tell. The developments in Wales over the last twenty years have 815 been impressive. Of course, there are still some areas with local unemployment problems, to which I shall refer during the course of my speech, but since 1948 Welsh manufacturing industry has been expanding at about double the rate of British manufacturing industry taken as a whole.
Let us look at current performance. I should like, first, to give some figures of employment. I know that statistics do not tell the whole story. Persistent unemployment anywhere is a human tragedy. It is no consolation to a man discharged at 50, or to a school leaver who cannot find a job, to be told that things might be worse, or that far fewer people are unemployed today than in the 1930s.
But figures do help to put things into perspective. In 1932, the unemployment rate in the area which became the South Wales and Monmouthshire Development Area was 41 per cent.—200,000 people. In 1937, it was 21 per cent.—over 100,000 people. Today, on the June figures, there are about 24,000 unemployed in the whole of Wales, and under 8,000 in the current development districts. Only a small part of the old South Wales Development Area is now a development district, so that exact comparison with pre-war figures is not easy, but the unemployment rate of about 2½ per cent. for the whole of Wales is a measure of the progress made since the 1930s.
The changes that have taken place in South Wales in the last twenty years is an achievement by any standards, and I am not making a party point here for Wales has trodden a fairly steady path towards prosperity ever since the war. Moreover, it is an achievement not equalled, unfortunately, by either of the two other development areas of the 1930s—Scotland and the North-East Coast.
Hon. Members will no doubt have seen the second leader in today's issue of The Times. I should like to quote one sentence from it:The industrial strength and prosperity of Wales has never been higher.The importance of Wales to the British economy, can, I think, best be illustrated from the iron and steel industry. Although Wales comprises only 5 per cent. of the population of the United 816 Kingdom, she produces about one-third of the country's output of crude steel and about one-quarter of the pig iron. In addition, the whole of the United Kingdom production of continuous mill sheet and virtually all the production of tinplate comes at the moment from Welsh mills. It is true that this position will alter when Colvilles strip mill in Scotland becomes operational, but even then by far the largest proportion of the output of these two products will be produced in Wales.
Coal mining is the traditional industry of South Wales. The South Wales coalfield, with an annual saleable output of about 17½ million tons, accounts for about 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom deep-mined production. Although geological conditions are difficult in many areas of the South Wales coalfield, particularly in the anthracite field, pit mechanisation, reconstructions, and new colliery developments in South Wales have raised the output per manshift figure to 22 cwt. in the first six months of the current year. A measure of the current increase in productivity is that despite a reduction in manpower of over 1,000, output in South Wales in these six months was nearly 3 par cent.—in fact, 2.8 per cent.—more than in the same period last year.
The reconstruction of the existing capacity and the opening up of new reserves is taking place side by side with the closure of capacity which can no longer make a contribution to the well-being of the mining industry. Over the last ten years collieries with a capacity of 2.4 million tons have been closed. There have been some local redundancy problems, but I am glad to say that they have been few, and as a whole the South Wales coalfield needs more men. The National Coal Board is pressing ahead with its capital investment programme and 18 schemes have been completed. Work on another 29 is still in progress. With these developments the Coal Board does not expect the closures which will be necessary over the next few years to cause any general problem.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that even with the coming of Richard Thomas and Baldwins, at Llanwern, into production there is no danger of underproduction or under-employment at Port Talbot?
§ Mr. Price
As the hon. Gentleman knows, this will depend on the total demand for steel. If we have a period of expansion, we Shall need all the investment we have, but if we have a period of downward economic activity then, inevitably, some works will feel it. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the steel industry is operating below capacity.
I should like to concentrate on the period since the Local Employment Act came into force on 1st April, 1960. During the last two years we in the Board of Trade have approved new factories and extensions in Wales of over 7½ million sq. ft. providing 19,000 new jobs. Some of these have already accrued, and some have not, but I say with respect to hon. Gentlemen that this is not "pie-in-the-sky". It represents buildings which are up or going up. During this period other jobs have been lost, but it is not possible to put a precise figure on the numbers, though I have a fairly good idea what they are. Murphy, B.S.A., I.C.I. and some of the older steelworks have all recently announced closures.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Murphy Radio Factory, at Hirwain, is closing down between September and December of this year and will make 600 people redundant? Has he any proposals to deal with this situation?
§ Mr. Price
I think that we are all aware of that. As I stall endeavour to show, we are doing our best to steer new industry to all these areas which are either development districts, or are nearly classified as such. These announcements of closures have hit the headlines, though the number of men discharged is only a fraction of those taken on by expanding firms, often within travel-to-work distance of the closures. It is also true that other firms are not recruiting as rapidly as we and they had expected.
I recognise that it is the net accretion of jobs which counts, and there has been a net accretion of jobs in Wales. We also have to recognise that these new jobs in new industries should be more secure and more productive than the jobs which have been lost. It is significant, too, that the additional jobs arising from 818 the industrial development certificates issued for these new buildings represent an increase of 6 per cent. in the number employed in manufacturing industry. This is the highest increase anywhere in Great Britain. In London, the South-East and the Midlands, the increase has been below 1½ per cent.
What is more significant is the number of expansions which have taken place by firms already established in Wales. When a firm in London or the Midlands sets up a branch in a development district there is sometimes a fear that if, fox any reason, the parent company runs short of orders, the branch is the first to pack up. In the past this has sometimes happened. But when the unit of a firm in Wales has grown to a point where it is a vital part of the whole organisation we may look with confidence to its stability in Wales, and to the prospect of further expansion taking place there and not in other parts of the country.
Such has been the progress of Welsh industry that we can expect it increasingly to engender its own expansion. The expansions of firms already established in Wales are many and varied. I need mention only a few. There is Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, of Cardiff; Royal Worcester, at Tonyrafail; South Wales Swfitchgear, at Blackwood; Chance, Pilkington, at St. Asaph; Radio and Allied Industries, at Aberdare, and Greengate and Irwell, at Llanberis. Those are a few examples taken from different industries which are expanding in different parts of Wales. There are many others within the knowledge of hon. Members. These are the silent, undramatic expansions, which augur well for Wales's continued prosperity.
But we all have great sympathy with the natural anxieties of any community —especially an old and proud one— which fears the prospect of the closure of any important source of employment within its district. Equally, I am sure that we all accept that most of the closures which have taken place in Wales in recent years are a necessary consequence of industrial change—larger units, higher capitalisation per worker, and new methods—change which is aimed at strengthening the British economy and which, if successfully carried out over a wide enough range 819 of industry, will lead us to that ordered growth which we all desire.
In a rapidly changing and competitive world industrial change is a necessary prescription for survival. Productive efficiency is hardly a popular slogan, but if we claim to care about the welfare of people we must convince them that productivity is the key to plenty. At the same time, we are all deeply conscious that industry is as much about people as is it about things, and, therefore, we do our best to encourage new plants to open up as old ones close down.
In our ordinary workaday world, as distinct from an ideal world, it is difficult to avoid transitional periods and problems between the old closing down and the new starting up. The Board of Trade—as I hope hon. Members know —is always ready to assist in situations where transition brings unemployment in its train. Where it is likely to be high and persistent we take steps at once to make the place a development district, where the full range of assistance under the Local Employment Act is available, whether in Wales, Scotland or the North-East.
Our duty to give priority to the development districts is laid down by Act of Parliament, and rightly so, because we must concentrate our efforts on the places where the need is greatest. But even in places where we do not foresee unemployment that is likely to be high and persistent, if the right sort of firm is anxious to come in—right in terms of the needs of the district—we welcome it and facilitate its arrival by the granting of an industrial development certificate. In deciding whether to put a district on the "active" development district list the Board of Trade has to consider whether unemployment is high and is likely to be persistent. If we were not guided by those considerations we would not be able to concentrate Government assistance upon the areas where the need is greatest.
As the House knows, we review the list from time to time, taking off and adding districts as local circumstances warrant. Districts which are not on our list but which have a problem of local unemployment must not feel that, thereby, their problems are ignored by 820 the Board of Trade. I know that there are places like Merthyr Tydfil and Pontadawe, which would like to be restored to the list of development districts eligible for financial assistance. I can assure the House that whether or not Merthyr Tydfil and Pontadawe are restored to the list we shall do our best to steer industry there.
There are still pockets of unemployment in Wales. First, there is Llanelly and its hinterland of unemployment at Ammanford and Garnant. As a result of the closing down or contraction of some of the steel works and the closing of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey, we have restored Llanelly to the list of development districts, and are now able to assist any firm that wants to go there or expand there. Our treatment of Llanelly is a good example of the flexibility of the present system. We were able to assist the big British Motor Corporation developments there, and a good many others. Then, when it seemed likely that the recruitment by these firms would eventaully absorb most of the unemployed in the area we put Llaneflly on the "stop" list, and later removed it from the list. That enabled us to steer firms to places which had less good prospects. It would have been contrary to our policy and our duty to the people in the other development districts to have oversold Llanelly at that time.
Unfortunately, things now look less bright for Llanelly, and so, once more, we are offering our full range of assistance. As for Ammanford and Garnant, I know that the best anthracite in the world is produced there, and I understand that the Coal Board will be recruiting more labour, so the future seems hopeful. But the present rate of unemployment, especially among women, is high, and we shall try to steer suitable industry there.
Further west there is Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven. Pembroke Dock's prospects have brightened in recent months with the arrival of the Regent Refining Company, and with the letting of the advance factory which the Board of Trade constructed there. The first step that the tenant of that factory wanted us to take was to double the size of the factory. On the other side of the water, Milford Haven is less happily placed. With the ending of the 821 constructional work for Esso, unemployment has risen, and there was natural disappointment when Fisons decided not to set up there. But I am hopeful that the Esso refinery will attract satellite industry around it—as the Esso refinery has done at Fawley, near my own constituency—and thus become the nucleus round which an expanding economic community will develop. Viewed in these terms, the eventual prospects for Milford Haven must be good.
I move on to North Wales. In Anglesey, which one might have expected to be one of the more difficult places to which to attract industry, we have had a substantial measure of success. The advance factory which the Board of Trade built there was quickly disposed of. Other firms have gone to the area. The new Wylfa Nuclear Power Station will be providing work for many years to come. Caernarvon has the new Ferodo works, which were opened recently by Princess Margaret, and for which recruiting proceeds rapidly. As my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade told the House last week, we are proposing to put an advance factory in North-West Wales. We have no reason to suppose that we shall not find an early tenant for this factory.
There are other places in Wales where there is a difficult unemployment problem, notably the Rhondda, where there are so many disabled workers who cannot be expected to travel far from their homes to find other employment. If I do not list them all it is not because I am unaware of them or their problems.
Obviously, an important consideration in all these matters is the question whether there are employment opportunities, or prospective employment opportunities, within a reasonable "travel to work" area. I am well aware of the problem in the valleys. People cannot cross mountains daily to go to work. I believe that the new Heads of the Valleys Road will make the higher reaches of the valleys much more attractive to industry than they have been in the past. Good communications are essential to industrial development. I think, therefore, that the House will expect me to say something about the plans of the Government to improve the road system of Wales.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
How did the hon. Gentleman get to North Wales without going through Mid-Wales? Does he propose to leave this subject without saying something about Mid-Wales?
§ Mr. Price
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was a gunner in the war. A gunner does what is called bracketing. One round is put in front of the target and one short of it and the third rounds hits the target. Mid-Wales will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend. I should be quite happy to deal with Mid-Wales, but the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was complaining earlier that we had not enough time and I do not wish to detain the House because I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak.
In the past the communications of South Wales were centred on the coal trade, down the valleys to the ports and back again. Nowadays the most important lines of communication are the routes to the London area and the Midlands and it is our policy to improve these routes as rapidly as possible. The two most serious hold-ups on the route to London are the Severn estuary and the congestion at Newport. The Government's answer is a motorway from to South Wales, terminating in a by-pass at Newport and including a new bridge over the Severn.
Work on the Severn Bridge started last year and the contract for the superstructure was let this year. The total cost of the Severn crossing, including the bridges over the Severn and the Wye and the approach roads, will be about £16 million. The Severn Bridge will have the sixth longest span in the world. It is due to be opened in 1965 or 1966.
At Newport, two very important projects are in hand to relieve congestion in that busy industrial town. The first is a motorway by-pass. A contract has just been let for the bridge and tunnel works with the object of completing these more complicated sections at the same time as the main road works. The second is that work started recently on the new bridge over the River Usk, at George Street, in the centre of the town. This new crossing of the river is a classified road scheme earning a 75 per cent. grant from Government funds and 823 should be of particular value to the Spencer steelworks, which will generate a heavy volume of industrial traffic.
The other main route essential for industry is between the Midlands and South Wales. The new motorway from near Birmingham and Tewkesbury, which was opened by Lord Chesham last month, provides, with the Ross Spur motorway, access as far as Ross. From Ross to Newport the road is earmarked for comprehensive improvement to dual carriageways. Work is already under way on the northern section of this route.
The Heads of the Valleys Road joins this road at Raglan and provides the most direct route between the Midlands and the west of South Wales. About 24 miles of this road are being comprehensively improved from Abergavenny to Hirwain at a cost of well over £7 million. When it is completed it will be of great value to industrial traffic to and from the valleys, and Swansea, and it will be a most impressive piece of road construction through difficult country. The first short section of about three miles, forming a southern by-pass of Abergavenny is due to be opened to traffic tomorrow. Hon. members on their way home will have the advantage of it.
In North Wales, our principal scheme is the improvement of the coast road to provide dual carriageways as far as Conway. This road will be linked with the Birmingham-Lancashire motorway. The new route will provide much better communications for both industrial and holiday traffic. The new Queensferry Bridge and by-pass was opened this year, other schemes are under way and many more are planned, some for the immediate future.
Very relevant to the future of industry in Wales is education as a whole. However—
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of communications, surely he proposes to say something on a subject which has been plugged for a long time by many of my hon. Friends. What is the attitude of the Government towards rail communications and the closing down of railways, and the complete failure of the Government to accept the Jack Report and to implement other 824 bus services to take the place of railways?
§ Mr. Price
As the hon. Member will know, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport gave a fairly long answer to that question yesterday.
On the question of the Jack Report, he went into considerable detail during the debate on the railways a few weeks ago, in which I took part in a slightly different capacity from my present capacity. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs will deal more with the railways side and the rural districts. As I said at the beginning of my speech I do not wish to detain the House. That is not because of any lack of interest. I could take up the whole time of the debate because there is enough "meat" in this Report on each subject.
I was about to turn to education, which we all—
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I should like to make sure that the Minister for Welsh Affairs or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power, or someone, will say something about the proposal to build an oil-fired power station in South Wales and begin "carrying coals to Newcastle".
§ Mr. Price
My right hon. Friend, through me, assures the House that he will.
I will now deal with education and I wish to refer to technical education. The Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education for Wales, published last year, and entitled "Technical Education in Wales", had much to say about the training of apprentices and the provision made in the Welsh technical colleges for technical education generally. It was, in a sense, gratifying to read in the Report that Wales has enough facilities for her existing needs in technical and higher education. In addition to the College of Advanced Technology in 825 Cardiff, there is the Regional College at Treforest, Glamorgan, and there are other smaller colleges and institutes well placed to serve the needs of the community.
The difficulty, paradoxically, has been the supply of students rather than the provision of premises and teachers. I should like to remind the House of what the Report says:The facilities for training are available but industry, generally, although ready to grant its employees one day a week release to attend courses, seems reluctant to offer them the opportunity to attend advanced sandwich courses… the solution to the problem of providing industry with the increasing number of highly qualified people that it needs, lies to a large extent in industry's own hands.It is good to be able to report that since this passage was written an improvement has taken place notably in the number of students attending advanced courses.
Thus, in the session 1958–59 there were 116 students in sandwich courses at the Cardiff College of Advanced Technology for the Diploma in Technology and for Higher National Diplomas. The number today is 148 Dip-Tech, students and 336 Higher National Diploma students—
§ Mr. Price
The number of students taking commerce courses in the colleges has also shown an encouraging increase in the current session. Even so a greater measure of support from employers would enable the College of Advanced Technology and the other colleges to establish themselves firmly as part of the national scene. Firms which are thinking of "setting up house" in Wales can be confident that they will have at their disposal—I trust that they will use them—technical education and training facilities as good as they will find anywhere—were I Welsh I should say "better". The colleges would be very willing to help in providing courses, where these do not already exist, in response to an established demand.
For myself, I cannot impress upon employers too strongly the need for them to take advantage of the educational and training facilities becoming increasingly available. We must maximise any potential talent in our young people. Even in terms of hard cash technical 826 education and training is good business. Industrial success in the modern world is not just a matter of muscle power, it is a matter of brain power. Higher productivity in modern industry does not arise so much from sweating harder, but from organising work more intelligently, so we must encourage technical education and training which can turn potential brains and potential skills into effective brains and effective skills.
I wish now to say a word about the slate industry because otherwise I am sure someone will feel that I have omitted it.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to technical education in South Wales and the regional college at Treforest, and so on, but he has made no reference to North Wales. Is it part of the policy of the Government to have a regional college for North Wales? That was recommended some years ago and it also recommended by the Advisory Committee last year.
§ Mr. Price
My right hon. Friend will give a direct answer on that point when he replies to the debate.
Employment in the old-established slate industry in Wales has long been declining as a result of the development of other materials, and we must recognise that this trend is likely in the long run to continue, but the industry remains an important one in North Wales and roofing slates will be important for a long time to come. Hon. Members may have seen in The Times of 31st July that Welsh slates are being used for the roofing of Nos. 10, 11, and 12, Downing Street. I am glad to hear that a major firm in the industry is introducing new methods which should result in higher productivity and lower costs at the new quarry to be opened towards the end of this year at Marchlyn.
The House will not expect me to embark on the complex subject of agriculture in Wales, although no doubt in the course of the debate some hon. Members may do so.
The industrial changes which have taken place in Wales over the last fifteen to twenty years have revitalised the industrial Me of Wales. I believe that the prospects are good. All the same, we have to recognise that the fortunes of 827 Wales and of Welsh industry cannot be separated from the fortunes of the British economy as a whole. I am confident that Welsh industry is well placed to take advantage of the vigorous expansion of British industry for which we are all looking so eagerly—[Laughter.]—wait for it—and about which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in the debate last Thursday.
May I give a word of advice to industrialists? With expansion round the corner—[An HON. MEMBER: "Round the bend."] I repeat, with expansion round the corner, now is the time for the far-sighted industrialist to start investing again and building for his expansion so that he will be in a position to take advantage of the future forward surge in the economy when it comes. If he lingers too long he will miss his opportunities. It is cheaper and more efficient to create new capital assets at the trough of an investment cycle than at its crest. So I say to industrialists, "Think of your future investment plans and come and discuss them with us at the Board of Trade". I can assure hon. Members who represent constituencies within development districts that if industrialists will follow my counsel we shall have the conditions under which we can steer new projects to their constituencies. Wales has much to offer the prospective developer. I am hoping to take an early opportunity to visit Wales and see the prospects on the ground for myself.
I can assure the House that the Government will press on with its policy of assisting areas with high and persistent unemployment. As evidence of our sincerity, I point to the Government's record. In little more than two years, under the Local Employment Act we have given assistance of about £7,800,000 to 46 projects providing 9,000 jobs. At present, we have 360 tenants in our factories in Wales, factories administered by the Industrial Estate Management Corporation for Wales. Those factories give employment to 63,000 people. That is no small contribution to Wales and it certainly is not the end of what the Government are prepared to do.
I see Wales as a land of opportunity whose greatest asset is the character of its people—skilled and industrious, 828 passionately keen on education, dedicated to music and, above all, proud of being Welsh. I am confident that under the leadership of my night hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs and my noble Friend the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs the energies and genius of the Welsh people will, in the language of Dylan Thomas:advance for as long as forever is".
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
I begin by congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade on his promotion from the back bench to the Front Bench. We have always listened to his contributions to debates with interest because he has been extremely well-informed and has advanced original ideas. I hope that he will not lose his originality now that he has come to the Front Bench. I also congratulate the new Minister for Welsh Affairs. I hope that he will survive the course. I hope that he will not be compelled to walk the plank in mid-ocean as his predecessor was. I am sure that all of us, in all parts of the House, wish him well. He has a real job of work to do in Wales and I for one hope that he will do it.
I wish at the outset to make two protests. The first is that once again Welsh day is relegated to the fag-end of the Session, indeed this year it is almost beyond the fringe. That means that today, as on all previous occasions, we have had before the start of the debate a series of statements ranging far and wide. We have had a statement about the claims of British citizens in Egypt. We are perfectly prepared to listen to the claims of British citizens in any part of the world, but today happens to be the day, and the only day, when the claims of the Welsh citizens should attract the attention of the House of Commons. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said it is an insult to Wales that we should be treated in this way and that our time should be consumed in discussion of matters which have no possible connection with the Principality. It is a contemptuous way of treating our country which has grave economic and social problems.
I want to make another protest. We are today for the first time discussing 829 on the Floor of the House a Report on Government activity in Wales which is seven months old. I ask the Minister to consider a different arrangement, by which we could have a kind of Second Reading discussion at an early stage after the publication of the Report. That would be followed by debates in the Welsh Grand Committee, a Committee stage of the various aspects of the Report, and finally, a Third Reading debate on the Report as a whole. This would mean two days' discussion on Welsh affairs on the Floor of the House. But considering the amount of time that Scottish Members have, that would not be unreasonable. I make no complaint about the amount of time which Scottish Members have; indeed, I should not dare to do so with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) present. I am glad that the Celtic front is still united but Scottish Members have a great deal more time than we have, and therefore I do not think that this proposal would be unreasonable.
This is one in a long succession of debates in which successive Ministers have told us how well we are doing in Wales, that a good time is coming, that expansion is round the corner and that boom conditions will arise at any moment in Wales.
The Parliamentary Secretary quoted the leader in The Times this morning which said that the industrial strength and prosperity of Wales has never been higher, but we have to look into the past before we can judge the present. We have a great deal of leeway to make up. For a long time Wales has been under the shadow of unemployment and depression, and the danger is that in judging the present position in Wales we set our sights far too low.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about unemployment. It is true that the latest figures show that there has been an improvement. We are, of course, in the summer peak months When the tourist industry is taking up a great deal of the slack. He did not quote the figures for the monthly average for the first quarter of 1962, which show an increase of 4,000 in unemployment over the corresponding figures of 1961. He did not say that average unemployment for 1960-61 was 32 per cent. compared 830 with 2 per cent, for Great Britain as a Whole. In addition, there are high percentages of unemployment in various areas. In Anglesey it is 7.3 per cent. and in Llanelly and area 5 per cent. The position has deteriorated in Llanelly; only a very few months ago it was taken off the list of development districts. Now it has had to be re-scheduled because of the increased unemployment. At Milford Haven and Pembroke Docks the rate is 9.8 per cent.
As the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, it is misleading to judge merely on the figures. The register is not a true reflection of the situation. There arc other factors to be taken into account. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed to the school leavers. This is a very serious matter, because when large numbers of young people leave the country it shows that there is a lack of confidence in the future of the country. In many parts, immediately the school leavers leave schools, they also leave Wales. We must deplore this but we cannot blame them. In many parts of Wales the opportunity is simply not there—in what the Parliamentary Secretary called the land of opportunity.
This does not apply only to school leavers. It applies also to older workers. Their names are not on the register of the unemployed. When pit closures took place a few years ago, miners left Wales. When the older mills in Llanelly and the area closed down, steel workers left Wales. Their names are not on the register of the unemployed.
We must also take into account that there are areas of temporary boom where important constructional works are taking place, which are at the moment employing many thousands of workers but which will shortly come to an end. There is the example of Festiniog—my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) will have something to say about that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker—where the pump storage scheme finishes this week. The Trawsfynydd nuclear power station employs many thousands of people drawn from a wide area but this number, too, will be considerably reduced by the end of the year. The R.O.F. at Pembrey is slowly running down. It has been given a short reprieve, but its ultimate fate is not 831 uncertain. I am afraid it has already been decided. All these are factors which have to be taken into account in drawing a realistic picture of the position in Wales.
Will the Minister tell us, when he replies, what plans the Government have to absorb these workers? If there are no prospects they, too, will leave the country and go to the overcrowded labour markets of the South, of London and Birmingham. No doubt we shall then be told that the unemployment figures are not too bad and that Wales is prosperous. Of course, there has been expansion in certain parts of Wales, such as Monmouth and Glamorgan; we have the great steel mill at Llanwern, the Rover Motor Company in Cardiff, the B.M.C. in Llanelly, the development in Milford Haven, as well as new projects in Cynheidre and Abernant.
I am glad that the Minister is to make some comments on the proposal to establish an oil-fired power station in Milford, because it seems to me that at a time when competition between oil and coal is at its fiercest, for the Central Electricity Board to establish an oil-fired station near the heart of the Welsh coalfield is an incredible measure to take. We are all delighted that any new development should take place in Pembrokeshire where the unemployment figures are so high, but it is little wonder that the miners are up in arms at the prospect of this kind of development, right on their doorstep because the mining industry is still the economic backbone of Wales, with its weekly payroll of well over £1 million.
We all welcome the expansion which is taking place in various parts of the country, but the Government must not again try to run away from these hard facts. There are, as they well know, other areas which are virtually untouched, as the unemployment figures, the low employment figures and the depopulation figures show, particularly in the valleys of South Wales and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) said, in Mid-Wales, which is the heart of Wales.
I want to say this to the Minister: let us face it, there can be no prospect of getting industry into these areas unless the policy of distribution of in- 832 dustry changes. This is the crux and the heart of the matter. The trouble is —do not let us run away from it—that in 1950 the Government stopped using the Distribution of Industry Act which had been used to such great effect by the Labour Government and which had transformed the face of Wales.
What has happened since? It is important for us to keep on rubbing these figures in. In a twenty to thirty mile belt round London the population has been increasing at five times and employment at about four times the national rate. Between 1952 and 1956 the population in the London region increased by 626,000. It is still increasing, though not at the same rate. This is in spite of the power which the Board of Trade has to refuse I.D.C.s. If this increase goes on at the present rate, it will lead to an increase in population in the London area of over 2 million by 1980. Between 1952 and 1959 there were 460,000 new jobs in the London region. The London region with only 27 per cent. of the population gained 45 per cent. of the new jobs available in that period. This is London alone, without taking any account of Birmingham and the other cities of the Midlands, to which I have no doubt that almost comparable figures apply.
This is not healthy development by any standards, whether they be social or economic, because housing, education and transport problems of immense magnitude are being created. What plans have the Government to arrest this concentration? What plans have they to readjust the balance so that in the national interest as well as in the Welsh interest, which is to us the national interest, there is a far fairer distribution?
The Parliamentary Secretary did not say anything about rail closures. He said that the Minister would deal with them later. If the Minister is to reply to all the questions which will be raised, he will be still here tomorrow morning. The proposed closures of branch lines will certainly not improve the prospects of bringing new industry into Wales. That is putting it mildly. Let us make no mistake about it that the possibility of these closures has introduced a very serious new factor which will weigh heavily against these areas. Hon. Members on both sides of the House know 833 that many industrialists have already been discouraged from coming to certain parts of Wales because the rail facilities are inadequate. In many places they will not be inadequate but non-existent. No one objects to a process of speeding up on some of these railway lines, possibly closing halts and stations. I remember once making a journey from Llanelly to Criccieth, two vital points judged by any standards, a distance of about 140 miles. The journey took eight and three-quarter hours, and there were fifty stops. No one would defend a system of that sort. We are not suggesting that there should not be speeding up and modernisation of all kinds.
When this subject was raised in the Welsh Grand Committee the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said that everybody is taking to the roads anyway and all those who had not already done so had better do so as soon as possible. Do the Government contemplate passengers and freight taking to the roads? The Minister of Transport is already getting cold feet about heavy freight on the roads. We were told yesterday that a considerable amount of heavy freight would have to find alternative transport. I do not know what other alternative transport it can find except on the railways. One cannot go to the Midlands by sea. Already this fear is growing.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about new roads which have been built or are projected in Wales. We welcome such developments but will they solve the problem? A survey was conducted by industrialists in Wales, the results of which were published a few months ago by the Industrial Association of Wales. These industrialists were assisted by local authorities and experts from the Ministry. Sixty-four industrial firms took part in a study of traffic generated by industry. The survey covered seven counties in South Wales, 450 miles of trunk roads and 600 miles of Class I roads. The report revealed that, based on present-day standards of traffic capacity, 47 per cent. or nearly one-half of the total mileage of rural trunk roads in South Wales was overloaded. It concluded that if the traffic growth continued at 5 per cent.—after all, that is a conservative estimate—the overloading percentage would itself go up by half as much again during the next ten years.
834 The report was drawn up long before the Beeching proposals in regard to rail closures. The congestion which will arise as a result of railway closures will be on top of the estimate of congestion made by the industrialists themselves, the very people who will use the roads, the people who will be deterred from coming to Wales because of the lack of transport facilities.
Are the Government prepared to tell us tonight that, if railway closures on a substantial scale take place in Wales, the Government will consider sanctioning increased expenditure on roads, otherwise the idea of producing an adequate traffic system in Wales is absolute nonsense. After all, the test should be not whether this or that railway pays be': whether this ox that railway is an essential part of an economic and efficient system of transport—that is, an integrated system of road and rail. Until and unless the Government have control over long-distance haulage they cannot produce an efficient transport system.
It is very difficult to find out from the Prime Minister's speech last week or from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether we are to pursue a policy of continued restriction or expansion. If the Government are going to pursue a policy of continued restriction, we know what to expect. Wales has always been among the first to feel the pinch, the chilly blast of any recession. If it is to be a policy of expansion, however limited, we want to know whether we shall have our fair and due share of that expansion, because we have not by any means had it in the past. Is Wales going to be equipped to take her full share in such an expansion?
I finish as I began, by saying that we must not set our sights too low. Let us set them high for Wales. We must not be content with just keeping our heads above the water or breaking even or saying, "We are very near the national average in unemployment. Is it not wonderful?" Do not let us be satisfied with that. Do not let us be satisfied with a standard of living lower than that enjoyed in England. Why should we be? Do not let us be satisfied with sub-standard housing, and lack of modern amenities in the towns and in 835 the country. In many respects, Wales is an underdeveloped territory in regard to bath human and material resources.
We want to build a new prosperity in Wales to match a new age. It should be the resolve and purpose of all Welshmen in all parties that our people may find work, opportunity and the full life in their own native land.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
If I may say so with respect, this debate has been initiated with two very fine speeches but, listening to them, one would really wander whether the two speakers were talking about the same country.
Listening to the noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), one would really think that the problems and difficulties now confronting Wales outweigh the manifest achievements of the Principality. On the other hand, my hon. Friend, in initiating the debate, gave the impression of an industrial Wales which was not merely on the verge of great things but had already achieved a very great measure towards their accomplishment.
Opening a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee some two years ago, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said:… while we warmly welcome the improvement that has taken place … we are still not yet out of the wood, and our main preoccupation is the livelihood of our people, and the prosperity of our communities."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Welsh Grand Committee, 11th May, 1960; c. 5.]Nobody felt able to take exception to those words at that time and it is just as hard to object to them today because, as the right hon. Gentleman then pointed out, there has been an improvement. I should describe it as a remarkable, a spectacular, improvement in the whole basis of the industrial economy of the Principality.
That improvement still continues. I submit to the noble Lady and to her hon. Friends that it is not incorrect for us to refer to a Welsh economic miracle in the post-war years. I do not believe that we should tire of emphasizing its size and its extent. What is particularly significant—and I say this in response to 836 one point made by the noble Lady—is that the tendency towards industrial consolidation and expansion in Wales has continued even during the last eighteen months of some economic difficulty in the Western world.
That is borne out by the unemployment figures quoted by my hon. Friend, and by the figures published by the Ministry of Labour—only a week ago— on 26th July. They show a total number of unemployed of 26,542 in the whole of Wales—2.7 per cent. It is true that that is .9 per cent. more than the United Kingdom average but, much more significantly, it is nearly 6,000 less than the 32,367 shown as unemployed in June of 1959. Such a reduction at a time of some economic difficulty is some evidence of the continuation of what I describe as the economic miracle of industrial Wales.
I recognise, of course—and the noble Lady was quite right to refer to it—that there are still parts of Wales with their special problems and that, in those parts, the proportion of unemployed is higher than the Welsh average, though I would emphasise that the numbers involved are not always as high as the proportions would signify. I hope that, fortified by the knowledge that in the largest part of industrial Wales there is now a high level of employment, my right hon. Friend will be able to give special attention to those problem areas to which reference has been made. He may also be encouraged by the fact that in several Welsh towns there are now many unfilled vacancies.
As I have said, in his speech two years ago to the Welsh Grand Committee the right hon. Member for Llanelly observed that we were not then out of the wood. That is still true today. Perhaps, in some degree, it will always be true— we will always have problems—but already there are signs that the problems will probably be those of an ever-changing society and of a dynamic, changing economy. We must certainly persuade our industrialists, executives, trade unions and workers that change is their ally as well as ours. On balance, it may fairly be claimed that in recent years industrial Wales has undergone the biggest transformation since the first Industrial Revolution.
837 Above all, we are no longer wholly dependent on the old major basic industries of agriculture, coal mining, iron and steel and tinplate—and, of course, in North Wales, the slate quarries. Even some of these basic industries have been transformed and modernised. It is a matter of satisfaction to us all that South Wales and North-East Wales now produce such an enormous proportion of the strip mill sheet steel mentioned by my hon. Friend, and nearly all the tin-plate produced in the United Kingdom. Likewise, we must be encouraged to read in paragraph 45 of the Report that last year there were 120 cases of industrial growth as compared with 24 closures—a net gain of about 100.
Some of the matters causing anxiety, with which my hon. Friend is familiar, have already been referred to. There are particular difficulties in Pembrokeshire, Llanelly and parts of North-West Wales—and, indeed, in the Rhondda— [Interruption.] In this debate we are dealing predominantly with the industrial Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] We have had special debates devoted to rural Wales, and I was advised that the Opposition wished today to concentrate on industrial Wales, and the employment problems of industry.
There is the undoubted fact that opportunities for would-be apprentices are fewer in Wales than in most comparable areas in the United Kingdom, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give special attention to that. Does he not think that it might be desirable to extend Government-sponsored apprenticeship schemes for, at any rate, a limited time, until our new industries begin to create new opportunities of this kind? Although a good deal of anxiety has been expressed about the opportunities available for school leavers, I feel that some of these fears may have been exaggerated. Hon. Members will have been gratified by an Answer given to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) by the Minister of Labour this week in which my night hon. Friend said that out of 303 pupils who left school in the Port Talbot area last Easter only six were unemployed in mid-July Last.
§ Mr. Morris
Is not the hon. Member aware of the anxiety now being 838 expressed because of the coming bulge in school leavers?
§ Mr. Gower
I was saying that it must be encouraging to people who have expressed anxiety on this score to know that out of 303 pupils who left school last Easter only six were unemployed in the middle of last month. Evidently the economy of that part of Glamorgan has a remarkable power to absorb young people. Likewise, in the Cardiff area on 12th June this year, out of 1,852 unemployed, only 33 were described as boys and only 30 as girls. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I am referring to the classifications which are given in the official figures under certain headings. On the same date, according to the Ministry of Labour returns, there were about 2,000 unfilled vacancies in the Cardiff and district area.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Is the hon. Member aware that total unemployment in Cardiff on that date a year ago was about 1,800 but that it is now 2,500?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) seems to be giving the impression that there is no real problem and that all our fears are being exaggerated.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member said that the problem was being exaggerated. I would refer him to yesterday's issue of the South Wales Echo in which it is stated that—and this is reported as a result of a statement made by the Youth Employment Officer for South-East Glamorgan, Mr. Hubert Simlett—there is "hardly anything at all to be offered" in Barry.
§ Mr. Gower
I can assure the House that I was not in any way suggesting that the problem was being exaggerated. I was saying only that some of the fears could have been exaggerated, which is rather a different matter. I am producing figures to show that, certainly in West Glamorgan, school leavers were absorbed into jobs quickly.
When one considers the total number of unemployed in Barry, one must realise that out of a total population of 45,000 people there are a few hundred unemployed, while the number of unfilled vacancies is as great or even greater than the number of unemployed. That shows th extent of the problem in Barry. The number of unfilled vacancies in Cardiff is almost equal to the total number out of work
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) really is exaggerating this. He is making too much of a partisan case. If the number of unemployed in Cardiff is one-third higher than a year ago and if the number of unfilled vacancies is halved, is the hon. Member for Barry surprised that people should express concern about the future? He knows that there are only half as many unfilled vacancies in Cardiff today compared with twelve months ago.
§ Mr. Gower
The fact remains that although certain fears were expressed last Easter, in two parts of the country those anxieties have been proved to be, to some degree at least, unfounded. It must also be remembered that an industrial undertaking in Cardiff, the great new Rover works, will add considerably to the number of jobs to be filled.
Paragraph 36 of the Report emphasises the high proportion of registered disabled persons in Wales; 11 per cent. compared with 7 per cent. for the rest of Britain. This is one of the more difficult problems which my right hon. Friend must tackle. There is another danger which continues to exist. Some areas are still too dependent on one or two industries. Driving through Merthyr Tydfil recently, I admired again the wonderful undertaking of Hoover Limited, but I could not help reflecting how much stronger the economy and industrial basis of Merthyr Tydfil could be made by the addition of a few more manufacturing industries, varying in character.
840 In this respect the town of Caerphilly may well have provided a notable example to other parts of Wales. The Caephilly Council has prepared an industrial estate of its own, with essential services, and already this initiative has been rewarded by the creation in that area of new employing agencies. I am glad to see that a similar development is contemplated by the Barry Council, in my constituency. I should like to know what advice and encouragement my right hon. Friend may give to councils which embark on this sort of self-help because I feel that it should be greatly encouraged.
While the hon. Member for Carmarthen was quite right in calling attention to the very real problems which exist, I believe that those problems are outweighed by the magnitude of our achievements and the immensity of our opportunities. Wales, is, in many ways, a cause of envy among people resident in the North-East, in Scotland and in Ulster. They cannot understand why we have done so remarkably well in the years since the war. This has been a continuing process under successive Governments for which all hon. Members are entitled to a great deal of credit. However, I believe that all of this can be consolidated and extended. It would do us an ill-service to look only on the bleak side. Rather we should publicise these enormous achievements, not only in this country but overseas as well.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I wish, first, warmly to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary who made his debut so effectively on the Government Front Bench, but I warn him that now that he has discharged himself of that initial responsibility all privileges will henceforth be withheld from him. I wish, secondly, to welcome back among us my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), a constituent of mine, who made such an excellent speech. We are indeed proud of her and the high tradition which she wonderfully maintains in the House and in Wales.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) described what has taken place in Wales as an "economic miracle". I must confess that as a Welsh Presbyterian my own standards of 841 the miraculous might be a bit higher. If the fact that there has been a decline in unemployment between 1959 and 1962 in Wales is an economic miracle, I wonder how the hon. Member for Barry would describe the increase of 6,000 in the number of Welsh unemployed since last year? I do not wish to lead the House into a divintarian argument, so perhaps the hon. Member for Barry will puzzle that one out himself.
Today's debate is one of a series which has taken place in the House in the past few weeks in which hon. Members representing constituencies in Scotland, North-East England, Northern Ireland and, now Wales, have taken part. All have deployed a common theme; the serious unbalance in the location of industry and population in Britain as a whole.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said, quite rightly, that Welsh industrial problems cannnot be solved apart from those of Britain. This is precisely what we are saying, that until the imbalance of industry and population in Britain as a whole is solved by following a vigorous and consistent policy of distributing industry, Wales must be, as one of the traditionally depressed areas of the perimeter, one of the first to suffer.
The picture in Britain as a whole is that some areas are congested and others are being depopulated. Some areas have more industry than they can cope with —London and the South-East Region— and others are under-employed. Nearly one-quarter of the population of these islands now tries to live and work in London and the Home Counties, and the number is growing. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and his hon. Friends who represent London constituencies the other night kept up a gallant criticism of this Government on the subject of the tragic housing situation in London, with thousands of homeless, overcrowded schools and an intolerable traffic and transport situation.
This is happening at the time when, in Wales, Scotland and the North-east of England unemployment is twice or three times the national average. In part of my constituency it is about four or five times the national average, and that despite the fact that every year hundreds of our youngest and most virile workers 842 have to go to London, Birmingham, Slough and Rugby to find work.
This imbalance and the evils which result from it arise from the Government's refusal to plan the distribution of industry. They either do not believe or are unwilling to admit that unless the country plans its industry, industry will plan the country. I travel between my constituency in Caernarvon and London twice a week. Almost every week, simply by looking through the train window, one can see evidence of the decline in Worth-West Wales and the increasing congestion of industry and traffic in the Home Counties. I sometimes feel that in a measurable time a vast conurbation extending from Daventry to Dover will have been created, leaving areas like North-West Wales and parts of Scotland as rural retreats for tired Manchester stockbrokers.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) gave some very interesting and disturbing figures to the House the other day on the subject of the imbalance of industry. Referring to the traditionally depressed areas of pre-war days, of which Wales was a melancholy example, he said that before 1939 these areas had been getting barely 5 per cent. of the total new factory space. He added that through the whole of the six-year period from 1945 to 1951 they got 30 per cent. I need not tell the House who was in power during the period 1945–51. London and the South-East Regions, which got about 50 per cent. of the factory space before 1939, had its proportion cut to 123 per cent. in those years after the war, and that turned the tide.
But what has been happening since 1951 when the party opposite came to power? The tide has turned back again and the share of the new factory space going to Wales and similar areas has dropped from the 30 per cent. which the Labour Government had secured for them to 18.6 per cent. in 1958, and the share of the new building in London and the South-Eastern Region, which had gone down to 12.3 per cent. under the Labour Government has now gone up to 21 per cent. So the tide is going the other way. In fact, the process is being intensified. These great office buildings continue to go up in London, accentuating the flow of labour and skill from 843 Wales and the provinces; and we must remember 'that today office employment is numerically as important as factory employment in this country.
We want to know what objection there is to ceasing to allow these repellent egg-crate buildings to be put up in Kensington and Central London, and positively directing office employment to Wales on the analogy of the direction of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to Newcastle and the Posit Office Savings Bank to another part of the country. Why should not that be done on an increasing scale so as to reduce the congestion and the difficulties which are already far too great in London?
Furthermore, all this vast office building is subject only to what one must regard as cursory planning control and is not governed by industrial development certificates. We suggest that, as a first step, office building should be brought within the I.D.C. system as factory building already is. Office building is just as much an industrial matter as factory building and ought to be subject to industrial development certificates.
It is not as if the Government lack the powers too check this Metropolitan expansion and the consequent denuding of the provinces and the countries of Wales and Scotland. There are considerable powers under the Local Employment Act, 1960. The trouble is that the Government are not using those powers. How has this Act worked in Wales? The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to the fact that 19,000 new jobs have bean created in Wales since this Act came into Operation. Why is it that during that period unemployment has increased in Wales? It has certainly increased since last year. The fact that the Act has not been applied with the requisite vigour and will leads us to believe that all it is doing is to conceal what is happening, namely an increase in unemployment, rather than to provide an aggregate increase in employment. But for this Act, there would be a greater increase in unemployment in Wales. That is about all we can say.
This 'brings me to the first of a number of suggestions that I should like to make. Let the Government apply with 844 genuine vigour the provisions of the 1960 Act to the development districts which it is deemed to serve, and add to the schedule other districts in Wales where unemployment is a pressing problem. Let them also review the administration of the Act, simplify the process of application and cut out the repetitious and prevaricating techniques which the Board of Tirade too often uses in dealing with applications from small firms. Let them be a little more resilient and a little more generous in dealing with applications from small promising firms. One comes across examples of small firms which have been engaged for months in submitting facts and figures, often repeatedly, to the Board of Trade only to be told finally that nothing can be done, with no reason given. We think that there is a case for dealing with small promising firms rather less rigidly than the section of the Board of Trade responsible has so far done.
Secondly, in dealing with development districts like South Caernarvonshire, let the Government go ahead with a bold plan for advance factories. We have repeatedly urged the Government to use this technique in the kind of development districts we have in North and West Wales. It is peculiarly suited to those districts. The first six advance factories which were sanctioned, two of them in Wales, have according to the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor in office, proved completely successful. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey tells me that the advance factory set up in Holyhead was snapped up by an industrialist almost before the foundations were laid and it is today making a signal contribution to solving the unemployment problem of Holyhead and district.
I understand from the statement by the President of the Board of Trade last week that one more advance factory is to be sanctioned for North-West Wales. I take that to mean that the serious position in the area bounded by Pwllheli to the North and Ffestiniog to the South is engaging the Department's attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) and I welcome this announcement, but we say— I know that my hon. Friend will say it in his inimitable way if he is called— that the problem here is not only one 845 of a high and persistent level of unemployment but also one of scattered unemployment and difficulty of travel so that one advance factory in that rather elongated area may not have the impact which the Minister and the rest of us would like. We ask him seriously to consider sanctioning two advance factories for the area. I am sure that my hon. Friend will deploy the arguments in support of that.
The reference to travel difficulties brings me to support what has been said about railway closures. Of course, these methods of coming to the rescue of the traditionally depressed areas will be nullified if our railway system is abolished. At present, that is the threat. Practically every day we read about the intention almost to wipe out what railway system we have in North Wales. I very strongly support what my hon. Friend said about that. We understand that the Government propose to intervene in Scotland to stay Dr. Beeching's hand. If so, there is an equal case for their intervening in Wales to save the Welsh railway system, and not only to save it but to modernise and improve it so that it increasingly serves industry, both present and prospective, agriculture and our growing tourist industry.
It is said that the saving from all the ruthless railway closures in Wales will amount to about £1 million per annum. If these closures were avoided and a little more capital were spent on modernising and improving our railways, that £1 million would be more than made up by the gain in tourist traffic and, particularly, the gain in foreign currency which would accrue from a better railway system in the Principality.
I join in the plea made for not only retaining bus services in the rural areas but improving them and keeping fares down. Rural bus fares are climbing so rapidly and so high that they are becoming a charge on the worker and on industry. Constituents tell me that they now have to find up to £1 a week to travel from the villages where they live to their work in the nearest town four or five miles away. I urge that the Jack Report and other suggestions about maintaining the rural bus system and keeping fares down should be considered by the Minister.
846 My concluding words I address to the new Minister for Welsh Affairs. We congratulate him on his appointment. We wish him well. We promise to cooperate with him in the interests of Wales. He has qualities which the Welsh, perhaps more than any other people, respect—a combination of integrity and intellect. I believe that he is prepared to listen. I hope that he is prepared to act. If he does, he will find that no people are more generous than the Welsh. If he does not, he will find that no people can be more implacable.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Morgan (Denbigh)
My first duty is a most pleasant one, to extend my warmest congratulations to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade on his promotion and on his admirable maiden speech from the Dispatch Box. I also extend my congratulations to the new Minister for Welsh Affairs. He, of course, is no stranger to us Welshmen in the House because, not very long ago, he was Parliamentary Secretary to his present Ministry. We are very glad to welcome him back in his higher status, and we have every confidence in him.
It was with some diffidence that I decided to take part in this debate because I had understood that it was to be devoted mainly, if not entirely, to industry in Wales. Since the constituency which I represent cannot, according to the usual meaning of the term, be described as industrial, I felt that I could not make any very effective contribution to our discussion today. However, I understand that the debate is rather more broadly based than I was led to believe at first, extending over the whole of the Government's Report. Indeed, we have been specifically invited to deal with one subject in particular, namely, agriculture.
At one stage, I feared that, by veering on to the subject of agriculture, I might be guilty of turning this Welsh day into a Welsh "saturnalia", as the late Professor W. J. Griffith characterised the Welsh day in the House because there was a tendency at one time to veer from one subject to another, leaving a rather formless impression at the end. I think it would be quite monstrous if this debate took place without any reference to that great industry, and also to 847 the tourist industry as well. These are both industries of exceptional importance to Wales, and of paramount importance to my own constituency.
I do not propose to say anything with regard to the heavy industries of the south. I can leave that to the much more competent attention of my colleagues on this side of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] No doubt, their presence will be felt later when they will come back. No doubt, that matter will be dealt with very adequately by hon. Members opposite as well.
Before I go on to details, I want to make a few general observations, and, first, to associate myself very warmly with the cri de coeur of the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George). I entirely agree with her, that it is most unfortunate that, on this one day in the year when we have the House of Commons to ourselves, our time should be truncated as it has been. This was no doubt unavoidable, and I shall therefore, try to apply to myself that self-denying ordinance that we are asked to observe from time to time in the Welsh Grand Committee. I shall be as brief as possible, in order to allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part in the debate.
Turning to the few general observations I want to make, first, I am very glad to read in the Report on Government Action which we are discussing that there are more jobs in Wales, that there is an increased demand for labour, and indeed, that, over the years, there has been a marked decrease in unemployment. However, I do not think that give us any grounds for being complacent, because there was plenty of room for improvement. Indeed, as the Report points out, one-third of those unemployed in Wales at the present time live in development districts, and the unemployment figures range from the modest percentage of 1.2 in Blaenau Festiniog, to the quite fearful percentage of 10.0 in other parts of North and South Wales. It appears that the comparatively low figure in Blaenau Festiniog is due largely to temporary works in the area. That is the impression I get from the Report, but perhaps the Minister could enlighten me in regard to this matter when he concludes the debate.
848 I agree with the hon. Lady that because we have suffered such a high percentage of unemployment in the past, we are inclined to become unduly excited if our percentage of unemployment is only slightly more than the national average. We should be very excited indeed if the percentage came down to that level. I think that is an entirely wrong way in which to approach the problem. I do not think that we should down-grade ourselves, but that we should aim at beating the national average for employment.
I am particularly concerned with industrial developments in North Wales, which have already been dealt with to some extent by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts). I notice with interest that paragraph 44 of the Report contains two interesting but rather cryptic observations, on which I should like to hear more from my right hon. Friend. I would like to draw attention to them. The first reads as follows:Interest in the less industrialised areas of north and central Wales as a factory location was greater than at any previous time.The second refers to—renewed interest in the industrial potentialities of the Principality.I should like to know, in the course of my right hon. Friend's final speech in this debate, what the practical effect of this encouraging trend has been. I should be very grateful if he would enlarge on the Report in regard to that.
I am naturally very glad as a Member from North Wales to hear of the prospective developments there. No doubt, many would say that the achievements so far have not been other than modest. It is very easy to blame the Government for this, but I think there are two important matters which we should bear in mind, apart from the unavoidable misfortunes in regard to individual factories which are referred to in paragraphs 71 and 77 of the Report.
First, we must be absolutely frank and recognise that there is no easy solution to the problem of rural depopulation. Various panaceas have been put forward, particularly in Mid-Wales, such as new towns and that sort of thing. Personally, I think that the only way in which the problem can be tackled is by bringing small industries 849 would could and would form the backbone of a rural community. I am thinking in terms of small industries employing not more than a score of workers, which could very well become the mainstay of a village community. Broadly speaking, it is much easier to introduce large industries into populous areas than it is to introduce small industries into thinly populated areas.
There is another point that I want to make in fairness to the Government, who have been subject to a good deal of unfair criticism in regard to this problem. It appears from such inquiries as I have been able to make that more use could be made of the Development Commission. The Government, I understand, are most anxious to help, but at times it is very difficult to find persons with initiative to introduce new industries, or, in some cases, to keep alive such industries as there already are in particular locations.
In this connection, there is one matter which I should mention, which was raised during the course of the Committee Stage on the Finance Bill by two hon. Members opposite—the hon. Member for Caernarvon and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes)— and that is the question of investment allowances to attract industry into development areas. This was a matter most properly raised by them, and I was interested to see that my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Educacation, then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, expressed a certain sympathy with this idea. As I understood his argument, he turned it down for two main reasons.
The first was that it was unsuitable for new firms, because the essence of such allowances is that one must have income against which to set them off. He also said that, from the Revenue's point of view, they would be extremely difficulty to administer, especially when a place or an area was taken off the list. Dealing with these two points, I should have thought myself that such an allowance would be extremely attractive to a number of firms, anyway. Also I would not think it beyond the ingenuity of the Inland Revenue to devise a scheme whereby these allowances could be fairly administered. I am sorry to have to bring this matter up again, but 850 in as much as sympathy was impliedly expressed by my right hon. Friend at the time, I am wondering whether this matter should not be considered again. It is a matter that should be looked into further, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to persuade the new Ministers at the Treasury to reconsider it.
One last general observation, relating particularly to the industrial areas bordering on my constituency, and, to some slight extent, affecting my own constituency as well. It is an unfortunate fact, and we accept it, because the Local Employment Act, 1960 has to be rigidly administered, that the county of Denbigh has not benefited from it at all. The only area which, I suppose, could have hoped to do so was the Wrexham area, which, if I may quote an expression of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), in the Welsh Grand Committee two years ago, failed by a decimal point to qualify.
It was suggested at that meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee, which, if I remember correctly, was the very first time the Committee met, that things were going to be all right an way, because there were to be developments on Merseyside which would deal with any unemployment problem in the area. I do not think that that, in itself, would be a very satisfactory solution, for the Wrexham area is a well-balanced industrial area at the present time; indeed, better than it has ever been in the past. It is not a good thing from the Welsh point of view, that there should be any planned migration from the area, which would certainly come about if, in fact, workers from that area were drawn to Merseyside. Let us not forget that for generations North Wales has been losing many of her best sons to the Merseyside area and that Central Wales and South Wales lost a very large part of its population in the same way during the years of depression before the war. This is something which we do not wish to see renewed. Indeed, I am sure that it is a trend that most of us would wish to see reversed.
I said earlier that I would say something about agriculture. I appreciate that we had a most interesting and instructive debate upstairs on this subject not long ago, and I do not propose to go over the ground which was covered 851 then, but I think that I should make a few observations about this matter and stress a few important points.
I do not think that anyone could say the recent Price Review was well received in Wales or in the country generally. As I sought to say in the Welsh Grand Committee, in many ways it is defensible and in many ways has been unfairly criticised. It is certainly not open to the criticism to which the 1960 Price Review was. I myself felt very critical of that one. I am dealing with certain points of general application but of particular importance to Wales, a country of small farmers. What has caused a grievous upset is the reduction in the guaranteed prices of milk and eggs.
I quite agree—and this should be said in fairness to the Government—that we should not regard this Price Review on its own but should look at it in the context of previous Price Reviews. I cannot see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had any course open to him other than to reduce the guaranteed price of milk in the recent Price Review. He made it clear that when a quite substantial increase in the guaranteed price was introduced in 1961 it was conditional on a scheme being devised and operated by the industry to avoid overproduction. Inasmuch as that scheme was not achieved, my night hon. Friend had no option but to reduce the guaranteed price.
There was a difficulty about eggs, because there had been a 5 per cent. increase in production in 1961, and a further 5 per cent. increase is expected this year. Thus, there was a grave danger of over-production of eggs as well.
One point on which my hon. Friend can perhaps help me is this. This is something which troubles the farmers in my constituency with whom I had an interview shortly after the Price Review at which certain criticisms were expressed. Although we are told about the dreadful consequences likely to follow from the over-production of eggs, there was a substantial importation of foreign eggs last year. What my farmers fail to understand—and I am bound to say that I fail to understand it myself— is this. If we are faced with a danger 852 of over-production, why was there this quite substantial importation? If a satisfactory answer can be given to that question, it will be well received by the farmers in my constituency.
Another matter which will have been brought forcibly to the notice of the Government by a pronouncement of the National Farmers' Union on the recent Price Review is this. The Union published a booklet on the subject and made the point that the increased cost of Exchequer support to agriculture in 1961–62 was largely due to heavier imports, and it stressed that the events of the past year underlined the need for changes in the Government's import policy and the need for speedier recourse to the anti-dumping legislation which exists. I agree with that criticism and I hope that note will be taken of it.
It is, however, fair to make this observation. The Price Review is not wholly open to criticism. A great deal has been said about the reduction in the guaranteed price of milk and eggs, but it should not be overlooked that there has been in this Price Review an appreciable extension of the Small Farmer Scheme which has been of immense benefit to small farmers in Wales and elsewhere. The upper limit of the scheme has been extended to 500 man days, which, I understand, will mean that, whereas at the moment 6,200 farm businesses in Wales are helped under the Scheme, about 2,000 more will now come within its scope. That is a matter on which the Government should be congratulated.
Having joined in a criticism of the Government by the National Farmers' Union, may I say this in defence of the Government against the Union? I think that the Government were right to reject the request of the National Farmers' Union that the Small Farmer Scheme should be extended in another way, namely, by extending the acreage from 15 to 150 acres compared with the present 20 to 100 acres. If the upper limit is extended to 150, that is getting outside the scope of what is understood by a small farm. If the lower limit is decreased to 15, we are reaching the stage at which an agricultural unit is not viable.
A matter which I should like to bring as strongly as I can to the notice of my 853 right hon. Friend is one that was raised at a recent meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee when my right hon. Friend was not Minister for Welsh Affairs. It is the question of an agricultural college for Wales. It is fair to say that the door was left ajar on that occasion by the then Parliamentary Secretary. This is something which should have fairly high priority. It is not a question of students not being able to find places in English agricultural colleges. The danger is that if they go to English agricultural colleges they tend to take jobs in England and they cannot be spared. That is a strong argument in favour of a Welsh agricultural college.
I appreciate that my time is limited, but I should like to say a few words about the tourist industry. This is one of our most important industries and one of our largest employers of labour. I was rather disappointed to see that there was not a special section in the Report dealing with this subject. The only thing I saw which excited me for a moment was a heading "Visitors to Wales", and I thought that this might be it, but it was not. This passage in the Report referred only to visits in connection with scientific and research establishments.
It would be impertinent of me to make detailed suggestions with regard to the tourist industry, because it is not one of which I have personal experience, but I think that I can usefully put forward two general suggestions.
The most important thing is that we should create a stronger image of Wales as a holiday centre. Holiday traffic in Wales is already substantial, but it is very small in relation to the country's potential. We are very short of the full development of our holiday potential. After all, we have a very much better chance than Scotland to attract tourists because we are situated much closer to the centres of population.
The second requirement is the need for good-class hotel accommodation throughout Wales. There has been some improvement over the last few years, but good-class holiday accommodation is concentrated round the coast, in some of the inland resorts and in a few scattered villages and towns in the hinterland of North Wales. If we tackle these two problems, it will be a good 854 start in helping this most important industry.
I hope that I have not taken up an undue amount of time in making these few observations. I am sure that this will be a very useful debate. Indeed, all our debates, both in the House and in the Welsh Grand Committee, are useful. The criticisms raised are constructive and, on the whole, remarkably free from partisan bitterness. I hope that the new Minister will take note of the points put forward today as a means of maintaining and increasing our standard of prosperity.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) opened his speech with the observation that Wales was a land of miracles. This is great news to me. The only miraculous thing about Wales is that Barry is represented in Parliament by a Tory. A Tory M.P. is a curiosity in Wales. Whenever I hear of anyone in Wales organising a bazaar, I advise the organiser to get a Tory Member of Parliament to open it to ensure attracting a crowd out of curiosity.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to take part in the debate, because it gives me an opportunity to bring to the notice of the House, and in particular the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, a serious industrial outlook which is arising in my constituency. I apologise for the fact that on this occasion I am confining my remarks to my constituency, but I am prompted and encouraged to do so by the announcement made last week and repeated this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that it is the intention of the Government to provide an advance factory in North-West Wales. He added that the exact location of such a factory would depend upon the availability of suitable land.
I support the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) that the Parliamentary Secretary should go one step further and establish two advance factories. I am sure that it is his intention eventually to establish two or, possibly, three or four in Wales. If this is done now, I assure him that he will be worried no more concerning Caernarvonshire and 855 Merionethshire. By deciding on one place in particular, however, for the advance factory which he promised, the Minister will split the local authorities of North Wales.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that Blaenau Festiniog is the only town in Mid-Wales which was designated under the Local Employment Act, 1960. Because of this, representation has been made by various authorities to establish an advance factory at Blaenau Festiniog. It was supported by the county council, the urban district council of the area, the Blaenau Festiniog Industrial Development Council and the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association. That association was informed by the President of the Board of Trade on 14th February this year that the Government had no plans for providing advance factories. In that reply, however, the President of the Board of Trade stated that if the Government changed their minds and built advance factories, Blaenau Festiniog would most certainly be borne in mind. I am glad of the opportunity to remind the Parliamentary Secretary of that promise, because I sincerely believe that the President of the Board of Trade intends to fulfil it.
It would be natural for the local authorities and people to make a request, but I remind the Minister that even that large organisation, representing four counties, is equally enthusiastic to have this advance factory established at Blaenau Festiniog because of what we anticipate at the end of this year and next year due to the completion of two schemes.
This is what the chairman of that organisation wrote to the President of the Board of Trade on 17th March:I think you will agree that action is necessary at Blaenau Festiniog to meet the threat of unemployment following the completion of capital works schemes there in two years' time, but perhaps we have not made it sufficiently clear that in our view immediate and decisive action is necessary if this future problem is to be met and overcome. So far, all the agencies concerned have not succeeded in attracting industry to the Festiniog area and we feel that greater inducements will be necessary to stimulate the development which is so urgently required. We are not unaware of the difficulties but feel that your support of an advance factory project will be necessary if they are to be overcome.856 I am glad to have bean able to quote the chairman's letter to the President of the Board of Trade to have it on record.
I wish to deal with the facilities of Blaenau Festiniog. Let me point out first, however, particularly to the Minister for Welsh Affairs, that a desperate effort is made nowadays to preserve the Welsh language within the Principality and also to preserve the Welsh way of life. I know that colleagues of mine on these benches will argue that there is no such thing as a Welsh way of life, or an English or a German way of life, but I would ask them to go to Blaenau Festiniog. There, they will see that the difference between Blaenau Festiniog and, say, Manchester is infinitely greater than the difference between Manchester and Shanghai. Indeed, the Minister would have to take an interpreter with him. Welsh is the language which is spoken in every home. Welsh is heard on the street, in the church, in the chapel and in the schools —everywhere—and good Welsh it is, too, real Welsh. The Minister would find there the real Welsh way of life.
We want to preserve that community, and the only way to do so is to provide the people with employment.
§ The Minister for Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Jones
I am glad that the Minister concurs. That is the only way. Otherwise as my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon said, the people will go to Slough or to Luton—where I was speaking the other day, and speaking in Welsh. I made a prophecy, too, and I will repeat it. I asked who was the people's representative in Parliament, and they told me. I remarked, "I have heard of a faith that can remove mountains, but I have never heard of a faith that cannot remove a Hill." In a fortnight, he was removed. I assure hon. Members, however, that the Prime Minister never consulted me.
Let me point out to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that we have the land—12 acres—in Blaenau Festiniog. The land-owner is prepared to sell it tomorrow on condition that it is used for industrial purposes. Just 857 where the land is situated, we have all the main services, including, of course, water. Whoever has heard of Blaenau Festiniog will not be surprised to know that water is there. There is a plentiful supply for all the demands of any factory. Right along that area we have main sewers within 50 yards of the site, and an 11,000 volt electricity line is within 150 yards. So there is every inducement to any industrialist to come to this part of Snowdonia National Park.
I am making my appeal in dead earnest this afternoon to the Minister seriously to consider an advance factory so that there will be no break up of that community, which was saved only three or four years ago because its people were generous enough to help the Government at that time to establish a pump storage scheme, even flooding some of their houses in order to provide electrical power to serve the nation. Now they are deserving of the best the Government can do, and whereas I am putting this from a constituency point of view I would ask the Minister to consider also the suggestion made by my colleague as well, that two factories be provided. If they are, I think he will have a report next year which will be worth reading.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)
It is always a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). I shall not compete with him in his claims for his constituency, but I shall be making some reference to mine later.
There is a popular theme that the problems of Wales industrially have beer solved, and especially in South Wales, but I want to deal with problems still with us. I want particularly to deal with Chapter II of the Report, the chapter dealing with employment and industrial development.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the "good story" he had to tell. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) in congratulating him on his appointment. We have had experience of the Board of Trade, and sometimes we have the image that it is the Goliath of resistance to our claims. Now that we have a David there I hope he will help us to cope 858 with Goliath. As I said, the Parliamentary Secretary told us he had a good story to tell, but there is another story, and it is that other story to which I want to draw the attention of the House. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) said that there was a miracle of a story. There is a miracle of a story of neglect to be told, too.
I draw attention especially to the problems of closures affecting our development districts. I have heard it said in the Lobbies that perhaps we were unwise to have chosen this subject for debate, because things have gone so well, but I want to draw attention to problems which I consider the Government have been far too complacent about. Indeed, in the speeches we have heard from the other side of the House so far in this debate, and in the speech of the Minister, too, there has been far too much complacency about the problems.
We have heard about the new jobs which have been created. Of course, there have been new jobs, but it is no use talking about new jobs unless we relate them to the jobs which have disappeared. Since figures have been mentioned I draw attention to the fact that since the war, in the last fifteen years, we have lost 100,000 jobs in the traditional industries in South Wales alone, so that the new jobs created have been offset by the jobs which have disappeared, a point brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George).
This is revealed by the unemployment figures themselves. I do not propose to go into an argument on the unemployment figures. The statistics will speak for themselves. Paragraph 21 of the Report exactly states the fact that the unemployment figure for 1961 was lower than that for 1960. But what are the figures now? The figure for July—and it is official—is 26,000, which the hon. Member for Barry correctly quoted, and that figure has to be compared with the figure for this time last year, 24,000. Ten years ago it was also 26,000. It is 26,000 today. The grave consequences of the situation is brought home to us particularly in paragraph 22 of the Report and in a comment made by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan). It is that nearly one-third of the unemployed in Wales live in the development districts. That is the issue confronting 859 us. Whereas the unemployment figure for Great Britain today is 1.8 per cent. in the development districts it varies from 9 per cent. to 4 per cent. With the greatest respect to our Scottish friends—there was one here earlier, and I see another coming in, and I am glad to welcome him—the situation in some of our development distracts is quite as bad as that in Scotland, Indeed, with the continual closures of some of our older industries the position is even worse.
The Government are entitled to argue that they have made an effort by the introduction of the Local Employment Act. It was meant to deal with those areas, and it is relevant to this debate to remind the House of the main purposes of the Act. Here they are. First, to have regardto the proper diversification of industry".That was the first, and the second wasfor the purpose of providing employment … appropriate … to the needs of the district.I emphasise those wards, "appropriate to the needs of the district."
In the light of those noble purposes one would have thought that the Government, knowing that redundancies were to occur in the development districts, would have taken positive action. But what has happened in practice? The Minister mentioned a township in my constituency. He will forgive me for making a constituency point. The Government, since he referred to it in paragraph 55 of their Report, refer to the situation at Pontardawe and say:In view of the likely eventual closure of the steel works in this town …So the Government knew of the likely closure. What did the Government do? That likely closure is now announced as a fact, and this township will lose the last of its great industry, an industry which has made a tremendous contribution to the traditional steel history of this country. That industry will close at the end of this month—it will be a very sad day. There are delicate negotiations proceeding. I hope they will be successful. But the present situation is that that industry will close, and that will affect 400 men, but the point is that the Government knew it was likely to close. What did they do? Did they have due regard to 860 the situation and did they have due regard to the unemployment which would arise? They took the wrong action, to my great regret. They took the area off the priority list. The attitude of Richard Thomas and Baldwins, which is involved in this matter, was very different. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the company, Which has often been criticised in the House, for the humane way in which it has dealt with the situation. After the appeals last year, it continued the industry not only for a few months but, in face of great difficulties, for twelve months. I pay tribute to the managing director, Mr. Henry Spencer, for the very humane way in which he has co-operated and for the understanding that he has shown. No words of mine can praise his attitude too highly. I find a very great contrast between his attitude and the Richard Thomas and Baldwins board and the attitude of the Government in taking away the last kind of incentive to a possible incoming industrialist.
We sometimes belittle the opportunities given to areas through being on the list, but whatever we may argue about the value or otherwise of being on the list, I am certain that being on it is a factor which may weigh in the balance to an industrialist thinking of coming to an area. So I plead with the Minister to reconsider the present position in Pontardawe. The area is facing great difficulties, and I plead that it should be given this opportunity to encourage industries to go there. It ought at least to have the help of the Government in being put back on the list.
I turn to the development districts themselves, one of the great issues of this debate. The present serious situation calls for drastic action by the Government. Incidentally, I welcome the initiative taken by the chairman of the Welsh Board of Industry, Captain Davies, a constituent of mine, and the concern that he has shown about the seriousness of the matter through his act, according to a Press report, in approaching the chairmen of other boards over this matter over encouraging alternative industries to Wales.
But the Government, and especially the Board of Trade, must take more positive action themselves. Alternative jobs must be found for the redundant workers. This cannot be done as a last-minute effort, and we have a feeling that 861 that is what is happening. We need to estimate the loss of jobs likely to occur, and plan accordingly, and such plans can be implemented only by a far more vigorous policy to provide inducement to firms to go to the Welsh valleys. The Government must put their words into action. They must have regard to the diversification of industry and the provision of employment in the development districts. The important words are:… the provision of employment appropriate to the areas".Those are significant words, and they are the Government's words.
I have heard it said in many quarters by those who are themselves secure that people must be prepared to uproot themselves and go elsewhere. But many of the people concerned are middle-aged and many are owner-occupiers. Why should they be expected to up-root themselves? Why should the valleys of Wales, rich in culture, be destroyed? What right have the Government to stand aside and say, as some industrialists say, that those people should go to other areas? What the Government ought to do is to be extremely tough—I emphasise that word—in refusing to allow firms to set up establishments in London, the South and the Midlands. That would be extremely helpful.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have not intervened before, and I do not do so now for any negative purpose. But hon. Gentlemen must recognise that the President of the Board of Trade is being extremely tough. If it were as easy as just being tougher, there would not be a problem. I hope that in their speeches hon. Gentlemen will take account of the real difficulty. I assure the hon. Gentlemen that we are being very tough.
§ Mr. Davies
—but the facts and the statistics are before us and there are many areas where industrialists have not gone. The Board of Trade has power in its hands through the industrial development certificate procedure, and it must use its power more vigorously.
I very much welcome the fact that the Government have conceded the case 862 for advance factories. I am very glad that Scotland is to have six. The South-East is to have two, but Wales is to have only one. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) has made a claim for another, and I now put it on the record that I claim another.
The Toothill Report on the Scottish Economy has made an excellent case on the need for advance factories. What it says is very applicable to Wales. Paragraph 20 says:The customary arguments against the building of advance factories are that whatever size or type of factory is built, or wherever it is built, it is unlikely to match the particular needs of the particular industrialists who wish to expand at the time it is available, and that industrialists generally prefer a factory tailor-made to their requirements.Its answer is that these are considerations, but:It is, however possible to design factories with sufficient constructional flexibility to be readily adaptable to a wide variety of use in terms of design and space, and we are satisfied that in many cases the availability of such a. unit can be a deciding factor in an industrialist's choice of location.That case is equally applicable to Wales. Consequently, I repeat the claim for more advance factories in Wales.
There is another aspect of our unemployment problem and the situation referred to in the Report which we cannot ignore, and that is the almost forgotten army of disabled persons, about whom far too little is said. I invite the House to consider how serious the position is. Paragraph 36 of the Report confirms that the proportion of registered disabled persons who are unemployed in Wales is 11 per cent. compared with 7 per cent. in Great Britain. What is not sufficiently known is that there are two categories of disabled persons. The chairman of Remploy has asked for greater publicity to be given to this point. Section 1 consists of disabled people who can find employment in ordinary industry, but Section 2 consists of the severely disabled, the forgotten army, who cannot find employment except in special conditions. The latest figures show that 14 per cent. of the disabled unemployed in Wales are severely disabled. What real effort is being made to help them?
863 I pay tribute to the disablement rehabilitation officers and the Ministry of Labour officials which do a great deal of work in this connection. I speak with experience as an ex-member of the Disablement Advisory Committee. But the fact is that there is only one organisation for employing severely disabled people—Remploy. There are only 13 Remploy factories in the whole of Wales. Between them they employ 1,000 people, and we still have 663 looking for work. At present they have no hope. What about the "miracle of recovery"? What about all this "boasting"? When we have 663 men with no hope of employment unless something is done about Remploy.
This is not criticism of Remploy. Remploy factories are a great success, and far too little is known about them. May I remind the House that last year Remploy sales reached the record figure of £5,557,000, am increase—and a challenge to other sections of industry—of 24 per cent. in two years. Equally significant is the increase of 27 per cent. in the net output per man from £328 to £448. Surely these remarkable figures justify more Remploy factories.
I should like to answer some criticisms made against Remploy in many influential quarters—criticism of its excess of expenditure over income. Severely disabled persons cannot be expected to equal the output of able-bodied persons, yet the products of Remploy have to be sold at commercially competitive prices. In monetary terms Remploy can never make a profit, but in terms of human happiness, it can never make a loss either, far its purpose is not profits but to give new life and new hope to those people. I ask the Government and the Minister to give new hope to these 663 severely disabled persons.
My last comment on the Report is that I share the concern expressed today and in the Report about the problem of youth employment and the provision of apprenticeships. Wales lags behind the rest of the United Kingdom. The average for the country is 38 per cent. but the percentage of Welsh boys securing apprenticeships is 28 per cent. We still have this low percentage despite the very excellent efforts of some of the larger firms, Richard Thomas and 864 Baldwins, S.W. Switchgear and nationalised industries. I pay tribute to the National Coal Board in particular, which has an excellent record, and to the electricity and gas industries. But what about the smaller firms?
The chairman of the Welsh Board for Industry said at a meeting in Cardiff last week:… the larger firms were doing more than their share in taking on apprentices, but the smaller firms 'have not yet awakened to their responsibilities'".We tend to forget the important part played by small firms in this matter. The fact is that 96 per cent. of the industrial firms of this country employ fewer than 500 people. Who will wake them up? Whose responsibility is it? Whose job is it to do this? The Government continually say that it is a job for industry. I say today that industry has fallen down on the job. The evidence points to the fact that industrialists have failed in the task and I hold the view that it is time that the Government intervened— I am not asking them to control, if they do not like the word—in order that we may have that new approach which I feel is necessary. I ask the Government to seriously consider the recommendations of its own Committee, the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales). It states on page 51:Since the future prosperity of the country depends on, among other things, an adequate supply of competent craftsmen, the Council regards the responsibility of recruiting and training craft apprentices as a national one. The postion in Wales differs in many respects from that in many parts of England and in the opinion of the Council the only satisfactory solution would be the establishment of a national craft apprenticeship system.That is a recommendation which I ask the Minister to consider.
This is not a matter which needs long consideration. I put it to the Minister that it is urgent. We are holding this debate at the very moment when school-leavers are at their highest peak. We have reached the high-water mark. The bulge today according to estimates is 36,000 boys and girls, an increase of 33¼ per cent. over two years ago. The transition from school to work, apart from the 11 plus examination, is the most important moment in the life of a young person. From the point of view of the individual, finding the right job and being properly trained is most important 865 to a boy or girl's future happiness, but from the point of view of the community the training of our youth is paramount if we are to use our human resources to the full. I say to the Government that there is no time to lose for industrial training lies at the heart of industrial efficiency and competitive power. The school bulge is a great challenge and it is also a great opportunity to secure the potential skill which we must have to safeguard our greatness as a manufacturing nation. I ask the Government to take note of this serious matter and to take action.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) referred to the tourist industry in Wales. During the earlier part of the debate today those courageous English and Scottish Members who ventured into the Chamber may have been put off by the very dismal and depressing picture of Wales which has been portrayed by hon. Members opposite. I would advise those who may have planned to spend their Recess or part of it in Wales not to go out hastily and cancel their bookings because I can assure them that that picture is altogether too depressing.
The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) referred to Remploy. I am sure that is a department of employment with which we are all sincerely sympathetic. We recognise that Remploy gives disabled people an opportunity to play a full part in the economy of Wales. We welcome any help that can be given to them in the furtherance of their occupations.
I join in the general welcome to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I was particularly interested in my hon. Friend's observations during his opening speech when he told us that no fewer than 19,000 new jobs had been created in Wales since the advent of the Local Employment Act. I particularly remember this Act because one of the first debates to which I listened was that on the Second Reading of the Local Employment Bill, in November, 1959. I doubt whether at that time I realised the full importance or the true significance of that proposed legislation to the 866 unemployment situation in Wales; but I do now.
I now realise that the Local Employment Act has done much to resolve some of the knotty unemployment problems in certain difficult parts of Wales, and where it has not solved those problems it has provided the basis for a solution. It has done more perhaps in that direction than any other legislation this century, with the possible exception of the Special Areas Act, 1934, and the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. I do not wish to be disparaging in any way about any one of those three pieces of legislation when I say that they can be likened to the cars of their day: the 1934 model, sometimes cumbersome, now considered almost vintage, but particularly appropriate to the time; the 1945 model that was definitely a utility job but which, none the less, was a courageous attempt to deal with the post-war unemployment problem of Wales; and now the 1960 model, the more up-to-date version, streamlined, with better acceleration and certainly a little more flexible on the steering. It is reasonable that we should consider the relationship of the 1960 model to Wales, to ascertain whether it is working satisfactorily and whether any modifications or improvements are required.
To say that the Act has been an outstanding success would be far too sweeping a statement, for that would mean that the pockets of chronic unemployment which unfortunately still exist had been eliminated, and that is not so. However, I think that the Act has gone a long way towards helping to resolve the unemployment problems in the more difficult parts of Wales.
We must remember that the redistribution of industry under the Act is a matter of friendly persuasion rather than out and out direction. While the president of the Board of Trade cannot compel an industrialist to go to an area of high unemployment, he can, by the deft use of what I call his two persuaders —industrial development certificates and financial and factory inducements—give industrialists a firm but none the less gentle shove in the right direction. In other words, by refusing to grant a certificate in an already congested area, or by offering financial or factory inducements 867 in areas where employment is urgently required, he can assert the powers given by Parliament in 1960.
It is fair to say that we in Wales would not be enjoying the employment opportunities that have been given or are to be given by such firms as B.M.C. at Llanelly, Pressed Steel at Swansea, and the Rover Works at Cardiff, had it not been for the workings of the Board of Trade in conjunction with this legislation.
I know that some hon. Members opposite would like to go much further and compel industrialists to go to areas of high unemployment. I think that it is fair to say that in the past some of them have flirted with the idea of the direction of industry. So far as I am aware, during their period of Government, however, they never took power to do so, but I see from their more recent policy statement that they have the intention, if re-elected, to direct industry to high unemployment areas.
§ Mr. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
Will the hon. Gentleman remember that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in the Scottish debate recently, disavowed completely the idea of directing industry?
§ Mr. Box
That is an extraordinary statement by the hon. Gentleman. In page 13, Signpost for the Sixties, the most recently published document of the Socialist party saidIn consultation with the Government Department concerned it would direct industrial expansion to areas where labour is available and where new work is needed.The word "direct" is used there.
§ Mr. Box
The hon. Member has a morbid preoccupation with direction. I prefer persuasion.
In using his persuasive powers, the President of the Board of Trade has to weigh up a number of matters in any situation. If he is putting up an expensive factory—and unfortunately today all of them are expensive —he has to make sure that not only will it be put to full and effective use but that its occupation will be as permanent as possible.
868 I can conceive nothing worse than a series of Board of Trade factories, built at vast expense with the taxpayers money, standing empty and idle in various parts of Wales. It may sometimes happen that a manufacturer tries to develop a new industry or to extend an existing industry from one of these Board of Trade factories, but that owing to conditions which may be entirely out of his control, he fails and has to vacate the premises. Somehow or other, the Board of Trade has to have second-sight or a crystal ball, and be able to cope with this situation in advance.
The whole emphasis, therefore, must be on flexibility, for just as the Treasury and successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have indicated in the past that they intend to use the Bank Rate as a more flexible instrument in dealing with financial problems, so the President of the Board of Trade has power, under the Act to include an area where unemployment is high, to exclude it if the position subsequently improves, and then include it again if the position deteriorates.
Several hon. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned examples of this in South Wales at the present time. Llanelly was originally on the list, was subsequently, because new jobs were found, excluded, and now, as the result of the closure of some of the more outdated steel mills, is to be included again. That is what I mean by flexibility. Although I do not in any way intend to underestimate the hardship or the difficulties the area is going through, I do not think that, as a matter of policy, we should be too alarmed at the prospects of an area being put back on the list, provided always that to do so solves, or tends to solve, its unemployment problem.
§ Mr. G. Elfed Davies
We in the Rhondda are not so much concerned with what is going on and off the list. We are concerned with having been on the list throughout the period of the Act so far. We are worse off even than when it started.
§ Mr. Box
The Rhondda has always presented special problems. I am certain that the fact that it is on the list means that representatives of the Board of Trade do their utmost to provide new factories and new jobs for the people 869 there. The main difficulty seems to me that, with the maximum amount of foresight and the best will in the world, the Board of Trade simply cannot conjure new industries out of thin air and at short notice.
For example, as we have heard, the total unemployment figure for Wales at present is in the region of 26 or 2.7 per cent. But at the same time the number of jobs unfilled and in prospect—by that I mean as a result of projects which have had governmental approval—more than equal the number of wholly unemployed in Wales.
§ Mr. Box
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be patient.
Unfortunately, as we all know, jobs and unemployment rarely pop up in the same place at the same time. There is considerable need for greater mobility of labour, particularly amongst the younger people. While some advance has been made in this direction, there is obviously still tremendous scope for further improvement. It will always be easier to get workers to jobs rather than jobs to workers, though we must always be trying to reverse the process.
Whatever the causes of unemployment in certain difficult areas, I am sure that the best way to aggravate the problem is to present a picture of gloom and despondency when referring to these less fortunate areas. We have heard, I regret to say, examples of this from hon. Members opposite today, but that is nothing compared with the sour and cynical remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when speaking on this subject in another place a short while ago. Apparently expressing the Liberal views of Wales, he said that the principality was dying and that there was complete anarchy and chaos in South Wales. What a complete travesty of the truth that is. During the rest of his speech he had not a single kind or encouraging word to say about Wales or the Welsh people. He paid no tribute to their courage, their integrity, their ability, their loyality, their versatility their tenacity and their pluck—just a final sneer at what he called their… neglect, sloth and materialism.
§ Mr. LI. Williams
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to 870 quote verbatim from a speech made in another place?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to quote and criticise speeches made in another place in the same Session? If it is, I should be pleased to have a chance to do so.
§ Mr. Speaker
I said that within limits we usually allow it now, but obviously to quote great tedious portions of speeches in debates in another place would be out of order.
§ Mr. Box
I should draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that they did not escape. This is what the noble Lord also said:I am very proud of what the Labour Party did. I never denied that when I was a Minister of a Labour Government I am only sorry that they have departed from the high standard that they had then. I did not leave the Labour Party to be less radical, but to be more radical, because they were becoming so engrossed with the past."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd May, 1962; Vol. 239, c. 1026–29.]The most charitable thing one can say about his efforts to decry Wales in this way is that the sooner he returns to live in Wales the sooner he will appreciate how inaccurate, mischievous and unjust his allegations were. I hope that hon. Members who represent Liberal interests will refute these statements when they have an opportunity to speak.
During the difficult transitional, and admittedly sometimes painful, stage of reorganising the rail, coal and to a lesser extent the steel industry, we recognise that there is bound to be some hard-ship and some redundancy. For this reason I welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister, made only last week, that legislation is in hand to provide contracts of service for workers in future. I should like to think that the nationalised industries and many big industrialists are already honouring this 871 idea by negotiating redundancy payments where appropriate. When a nation is cutting its losses as we are cutting our losses in the coal and rail industries and those losses amount to many millions of pounds a year, it is surely worth negotiating a lump sum, perhaps in conjunction with and to be distributed in co-operation with the union concerned, in order to settle the matter once and for all without the acrimony, the bitterness and sense of injustice that invariably has prevailed in the past. I think that we are losing something like £12 million on the nationalised coal industry in Wales but if it were to cost £100,000, £200,000 or even £500,000 surely it would be worth while if we could settle the matter fairly and once and for all.
In spite of these upheavals, anyone who has lived in South Wales in recent times cannot help but marvel at the transformation which has taken place in conditions in recent years. Despite this, I believe that we are only on the threshold, only at the beginning of the real growth potential of Wales for the benefits from the industrial revolution which undoubtedly is taking place in South Wales at present must be to the ultimate benefit of Wales as a whole. I believe that there is an avalanche of investment money waiting to pour into suitable investment opportunities in Wales at this time. I hope that, as time goes on, more and more industrialists will endeavour to get their capital from these private sources rather than from the Board of Trade. This would not only encourage more private capital investment in Wales, but at the same time it would free the resources of the Board of Trade for the areas where those resources are most urgently required.
Whether this finance is provided from private or public sources, there is no doubt that industrialists who are expanding their businesses in Wales would be well advised to consult the Board of Trade earlier in their plans rather than later. They should take the Board's advice as to suitable location for industry in Wales at the beginning of their plans and not leave it to what I would call the industrial development certificate stage. With their specialised knowledge of the area, with their know- 872 ledge of employment conditions and trends for the future the Board of Trade is in a special position to show the advantages and disadvantages of any particular area.
I believe that the advantages are likely to become more apparent as the tremendous road improvements to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred, which are now well under way, are completed in the next year or two. As traffic speeds from the Midlands by motorway through South Wales to the West in a couple of hours or so and London to Cardiff becomes a three-hour journey by road via the M.4 and the Severn Bridge, so the lure of the West will prove irresistible to the great industrial giants of Great Britain. This trend will become more pronounced if Britain is successful in negotiating entry to the Common Market, for not only shall we then be able to offer these industrialists good sites, skilled labour and pleasant surroundings in which to live, but also we shall be able to offer them nearby port facilities from which to supply the Common Market.
It will then be possible to ship Welsh coal, slate, chemicals, cables, cars, cement, washing machines, refrigerators, aluminium, nylon and textiles—to mention only a few items—to Europe from any one of four or five South Wales ports within a radius of twenty miles or so, and in many oases very much nearer to the industrial centre. With the main European ports only a day and a half sailing away, this could open up a whole new era for South Wales ports provided they are prepared to forget past glories and get up to date and modern in their approach to the new situation.
A great deal of course depends on the reactions to the Rochdale Committee's Report, which is expected very shortly, on port facilities generally and, in our case, on port facilities in South Wales in particular. It depends on the reactions to that Report of the docks interests, the Transport Commission and the local authorities. In this respect some local authorities have been especially enterprising. I saw the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) present a little time ago. The local authority of Newport has been especially enterprising in attracting new trades to its port. I was equally glad 873 to see the new ring road from Newport to the docks of Cardiff well under way last week.
The Rochdale Committee's Report may contain many unpalatable recommendations, but those must be examined in the light of the evidence of competition which we in Wales will experience and which we are likely to face both at home and abroad in future. I think we shall face that competition whether we are in or out of the Common Market. For this reason, we must modernise and improve our factories and equipment wherever possible. There are still some industrialists who stubbornly refuse to recognise the need for model factories and up-to-date equipment if they are to get the maximum production at really competitive prices. We must increase training facilities and make sure that we are able to make the maximum use of the natural skills of the Welsh working people.
In this regard, I welcome the establishment of a new training centre in Cardiff. I also see that a large training centre is being set up by the Steel Company of Wales at Margam. These are a start, but there is room for many more to follow this fine example.
We must encourage the establishment of more research laboratories in our industrial areas, for there are still far too many large companies which, while they have their production units in Wales, establish their research departments elsewhere, and that means that many of our best technicians, many of our best technological brains, have to leave Wales to find suitable employment elsewhere.
Lastly, we must attract back those Welsh men and women who left our country in the past because of lack of opportunity. We have to prove to them that great opportunities exist there for the future. I urge them not to be discouraged by the out-dated and old-fashioned Socialist and Liberal philosophies expressed on the benches opposite but to re-visit Wales and to see for themselves the far-reaching improvements which have taken place. If they do so, I know that they are bound to agree that Wales stands out as a land of expansion, progress and opportunity.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Pearson (Pontypridd)
We are today rounding off the screening of Government action in Wales after full debates in Grand Committee on very important subjects. Those Grand Committee debates left Ministers bruised and battered. After that battering the former Minister of Housing and Local Government and the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture were removed from their offices.
I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who so ably opened our debate today. Tone and matter were excellent. We need to remember that she had to shoulder this responsibility of opening the debate after a recent illness.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) referred to the depressing picture painted of things in Wales by hon. Members on this side of the House. I do not think that the picture has been over-coloured. The speeches of my hon. Friends have been most temperate and constructive. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North talked about not being able to conjure new industries out of thin air. With that approach I am afraid that nothing would have been achieved in the past. It is not fair to try to convey to the House that what has been achieved in Wales in industrial development has been achieved in the last four or five years. The hon. Member for Carmarthen paid the usual courtesies to the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, but the figures which he gave of unemployment in 1937 show that it has taken 25 or 30 years to bring about what we see today in Wales.
It is recognised on these benches, in considering industrial development in Wales, that certain areas have a wide range of diverse, lively and promising industries. That is undeniable. Government pressure and public finance, channelled through various agencies, have brought good results. Excellent supporting action came from local authorities and from voluntary organisations.
I have been impressed by the executives of these new industries, whose high quality, enthusiasm and enterprise are doubly welcome. They will, I feel sure, considerably influence our industrial 875 growth in future years; together with the fine body of men and women in the factories whom they lead, they are at last giving reality to the slogan that Wales is a land of opportunity.
It is true that from time to time some of the industries are under a cloud and that a few have closed down, but the consequent difficult and daunting troubles fasten our eyes on the misfortune of lessened employment. This House cannot face these happenings with indifference. Unemployment, even in small pockets, brings a loss of dignity and suffering to the whole family. It is the stain which so often discolours the record. To those who suffer in this way, every sympathy is extended. I want the talents and the skills of the people now unused to be fully engaged, if possible within the localities in which they live. We must remember that the capital expended in those localities, in houses, in schools, in public health, in roadways, and in the relations which have been built up in those constituencies, is substantial. The labour is there and if possible it should be used on the spot, thus avoiding exhausting and expensive daily travelling to and from work. Whatever development agency may be brought to bear to bring effective help to those areas with heavy unemployment, let it have the concentration and urgency which the problem demands.
The point reached in our industrial development should engender a resolve to hold on to what we have and from there to thrust ahead. No one will say that this is an easy path, for it involves the hazards of the future. It calls for wise steps to be taken now so as to entrench the gains and to win new ones. Let us remember that a boy entering industry in 1962 will probably still be in industry in the year 2000. There is need to equip him adequately so that he can take his place in the pattern of the future. Present trends indicate that he should be guided, if he has the talents, towards the need for scientists, technologists and technicians.
Matching our wants in those directions is of the utmost importance. Hence I feel the need to bring into review Chapter V of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales in regard to the problem of research. 876 We know that this is essential to modern development.
Is the promotion of research a tide flowing strongly enough? What percentage of qualified scientific staff does Welsh industry employ? The hon. Member for Cardiff, North said that many research departments for industries in Wales are situated outside Wales. He may have some instances in mind, but I remind the House that British Nylon Spinners has over 100 graduates in its research department alone and possibly more than that in other departments of its great undertaking. The Distillers Co. has 150. It costs these firms a goodly sum for each of these graduate personnel. A graduate in a research department possibly costs any industry £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 per annum.
A sign of the times is that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has had a branch in Cardiff for upwards of eight years specifically to promote and push forward the application of research to trade and industry. Is it being nourished sufficiently? During its short period in Cardiff the pitifully small number of qualified staff in this Department have most usefully given their energies towards helpful forms of activity.
Paragraph 318 of the Report states:In addition to the normal activities of the office which include dealing with technical inquiries, visits to industry, collaboration with research organisations … the office was responsible for the conception and organisation of a two-day major national conference and exhibition held at Swansea …".on the subject of "Science and industry —the problem of communication". This is an immensely important problem. The proceedings have been printed. Within its pages there is very good material germane to this debate on industrial development in Wales.
The question of industrial development has many facets. Before dealing with some aspects of the.Swansea Conference, I want to mention alleged weaknesses of many firms in Wales. In paragraphs 337, 338 and 339 of the 1961 Report reference is made to the Production Engineering Research Association set up in 1946 to help major firms to cut production costs and increase their output. There are four headings—(1) developing new and improved production techniques by practical research;877(2) assisting members with specific production problems as they arise in their workshops;(3) supplying members with information about the latest developments in production techniques throughout the world; and(4) securing the most rapid and effective application of better production methods by visits to members' works, special training courses, practical demonstrations, etc.These aims are very worthy. If they are ignored, we will not have the degree of development which Wales requires. Yet the Report states:Although P.E.R.A. has provided several firms in Wales with considerable assistance in raising productivity, only a very small number of Welsh firms are in membership.Paragraph 339 contains this information:In one company, improved metal forming techniques have saved £100,000 in the production of one part alone. The turnover of another firm has increased by 300 per cent. …as a result of an intensive investigation into methods, equipment, factory layout, work handling and labour utilisation.I want to spotlight this comment in the Report:Many other savings of this magnitude have been made over a wide field of manufacture and it is regrettable, therefore, that so few firms in Wales are taking advantage of the opportunities which exist for improving their competitive position;No satisfactory industrial development will take place unless the new concepts of production efficiency are applied as the result of the P.E.R.A's research into production techniques and equipment. For instance, the Welsh woollen industry is too slow in making use of research, asout of about 50 woollen mills in Wales only some half dozen are members",of their Research Association. Paragraph 324 says:An offer by the D.S.I.R. Industrial Operations Unit to give a number of special appreciation courses in North Wales on the subject of methods study for the slate industry was turned down by the North Wales Slate Quarries Association.We must find some way of ridding industries in Wales of this type of attitude of mind or it will develop into a disease and sterilise development.
I want to go back to the subject of the Swansea Conference on "Science and Industry—the problem of communication", where it was stressed that there was need for increased personal contact and liason work. I am sure that it would be a substantial gain for us in 878 sending the roots of development down if, through the strengthened liaison efforts of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, by personal contact, by conferences and by contact on the shop floor, we could sufficiently nourish and fertilise, which is so very important, those elements of development in industry which rest upon the judgment that specific products will be really important in the years ahead, not necessarily now. On that judgment, through research and development, will depend largely the real successful development of industries in Wales.
There is need to be ever inquisitive as to whether there is adequate vocational training facilities for scientists, technologists, managers, technicians and craftsmen. It gladdened me when I read in the Western Mail only this week that for the first time in South Wales the Institution of Works Managers, in conjunction with chosen technical colleges, is to start training courses for works management. Wherever possible firms should, singly or in group schemes, take their share in the training of such vital personnel for the future. The risk, as I have heard in conference, of being parasitic on the training schemes of other firms is very great. There is room for more thought to be given to the identification, training and development of talents, so as to strengthen their technical skills by co-operation with research institutes, technical colleges and universities. In the advance of modern technology, the human being—the scientist, the engineer, the technician of every grade—is becoming more important than new plant.
The kind of industrial development that we seek for Wales requires the discovery of the fertiliser, or the compound fertiliser, that will encourage the degree of growth in the techniques of all types of firms. We must be prepared to identify our weaknesses and to do something about them—that is the big thing. The firm that is wholly parochial and self-complacent—yes, and very often traditional—is not likely to hold its place in the future.
The victory goes to the factory that carries on development on things that are thought will be really important in ten years' time. One day, perhaps, we 879 will have a Government sponsored cooperative development company in Wales, charged with the management as well as with the finance of the process of development. I hope that industry will initiate research likely to lead to new inventions, and be supplemented by a development avenue for bodies that cannot achieve fully adequate development from their own resources.
I have dealt with certain facets of development in industry that, I believe, underlie the future needs of Wales. The least I expect is that one result of today's debate will be the stimulation of cooperation between all types of organisations touching on industrial development, so that Wales may reap the greatest possible benefit. That will be there to be harvested only if the Government encourage the zest and enthusiasm for achievement there is among our new generation of industrial executives, scientists, technologists, technicians— Welsh boys and Welsh girls—craftsmen and colleges. I hope that, with that, we will see a degree of co-operation in all those fine and lively industries in Wales that will bring us to a triumphant future.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I welcome the opportunity to debate the economic situation in Wales. Wales has many economic problems, and some of them are very serious, indeed. Some of them have been with us for a long time, some of them are comparatively new. All of them are causing profound concern throughout Wales, and I want to refer to some as the most important of them.
It is impossible to discuss Welsh economic problems without some reference to coal. South Wales has literally been built on coal. For over a century, coal miming has been by far our largest industry and by far our largest single employer of labour. For a century and more, the whole economic life of South Wales has been based on the coal industry.
Forty years ago, more than a quarter of a million people in South Wales— over 50 per cent. of the insured population—were employed in coal mining. In the last few years the industry has gone through a very difficult period. It has had its share of crises, slumps, 880 recessions and depressions—it has probably suffered more from those than has any other industry. South Wales has certainly had its full share of them, and all of them have left deep scars on our mining communities.
The latest crisis in the industry was no exception. In 1957 there was a sudden slump in demand. Almost overnight, we discovered that there was too much coal, that there were too many pits and, most ominous of all, that there were too many miners. The industry had to adjust itself to an entirely new post-war situation, and the Coal Board had to perform on it a very drastic surgical operation. Pits had to be closed, miners became redundant, and that created very serious difficulties both inside and outside the industry. I want to deal with some of the external effects of these developments.
One result has been a severe contraction of the industry in South Wales. Pits have been closed down all over the coalfield, and there has been a steep fall in the manpower employed. Since 1957, manpower has fallen by 27 per cent.; from 106,700 to 77,500—the lowest employment figure in South Wales mines since 1875. This contraction has had far-reaching social consequences for our mining communities, and it is too early yet to assess their true significance.
We cannot yet see the whole thing in perspective, yet two trends are already abundantly clear. The first is that in every mining community in South Wales the proportion of miners to total population has fallen rapidly, and the second and more important tendency is for the number of young miners—boys and youths—to decrease even more rapidly. In one village in South Wales a few years ago there were 200 miners —men and boys; now, there are fewer than twenty, and not one of them is under 21 years of age. At one time, in a certain mining village there were fifty miners in one street; there is not one now. This is not a static or an isolated situation, but a general trend that operates throughout all our South Wales mining communities, and it is bound to cause very serious problems for the National Coal Board in the immediate future.
There is another serious consequence of this contraction. In many cases, 881 whole communities depended on the pits that have been closed down. Those communities were built on coal, were dependent on it, and lived on it. Now that there are no alternative means of providing employment there they are naturally asking what they will live on now. The problem is causing widespread concern in Wales. It is causing anxiety to local authorities, worry to the elderly people, and worry to middle-aged miners. Young people leave the industry and leave the community. Quite recently, my hon. Friends the Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) attended a conference of local authorities in South Wales to deal with precisely this problem. Everyone there expressed profound concern about the present situation and grave anxieties about the future prospects.
The latest example of what can happen when pits close down is in Gwauncaegur-wen. This is a mining village in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower. I was born there. I worked in East Pit and was a union official there for many years. Gwauncaegurwen is the heart and centre of the anthracite coalfields. It produced the finest anthracite in the world. It is a very old mining community. Coal was worked here in the seventeenth century. Deep mining was done in the early part of the nineteenth century when the first shaft was sunk in 1807 to a depth of 40 yards. It was, at that time, the wonder of the mining world.
From then on a succession of pits were sunk. Recently two of them have been closed down, Maerdy and Steer. East Pit is the last survivor, but it is to close next month and 450 men will be affected. Not only that; the closing of East Pit will mean that for the first time in 150 years this mining community will be without a colliery. For this long-established mining community the closure of East Pit means not only the end of a chapter. It is the end of the last chapter and the end of the book.
In my constituency I have a special problem, in the Dulais Valley. This, also, is an old anthracite mining area. There is no alternative industry. The Dulais Valley is the only mining valley in the whole of South Wales which has not had a new industry brought to it 882 since the war. Recently a number of pits have been closed down and at the beginning of this year four pits were placed on trial for a certain period. There is better news now for the prospects of these pits, for we learn that they are not in immediate danger. Had they closed it would have been a major disaster for the valley.
The Dulais Valley has an overwhelming case for a new industry to be brought in to provide alternative employment, to save people from travelling long distances to work, as so many of them are now doing, and to provide the valley with a healthy and balanced economy.
In Hirwaun, another part of my constituency—as I informed the Parliamentary Secretary earlier today—the Murphy Radio Factory employing 600 people is to close down from September to the end of the year. This has caused a profound shock to hundreds of people in the area and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour will give urgent attention to this serious problem. I hope that something can be done to save this factory and to save the jobs of these 600 people. If the factory does close down these men will have to go on the dole and their prospects of obtaining alternative employment in the area are very grim indeed.
Wales has been very badly affected by the general stagnation of the British economy. This indeed is the root cause of most of our troubles. I have heard it said today that we should issue more industrial development certificates. What is the use of industrial development certificate when there is no industrial development? Wales has felt the full impact of the Government's deflationary policy. The country has been sadly affected by the credit squeeze, higher Bank Rate, cuts in capital investment and the pay pause. All these things have aggravated the situation in Wales.
In 1961, for example, the amount of new factory building approved was lower than at any time since 1952. This year the level of unemployment is much higher than it was last year. In July, this year unemployment in Wales increased by 44 per cent. compared with July of last year. In the same period industrial vacancies fell by 43 per cent. 883 These are the statistics of economic stagnation.
This is clearly seen by the situation in the steel industry, which is traditionally an accurate barometer of the state of the economy. The steel industry is now working at about 70 per cent. of capacity. That means that production is being concentrated on the most modern and efficient units while the older and less efficient units are closed down. We have a few of these older units in Wales and this has created a serious problem of redundancy in many parts of West Wales.
The very policy which throws people out of work—the policy of stagnation —is the same policy which prevents new industries from coming to these areas. What Wales needs now, and this is my last word, is a dynamic policy of expansion for the British economy and a positive policy for bringing new industries to the places which need them. This is the only way to solve the economic problems which now face Wales.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I can assure my hon. Friends, who I know are anxious to speak, that I shall intervene for only a short while. I begin, therefore, by telling the Parliamentary Secretary —and I have informed the Minister of this privately—that I hope that we shall be able to meet to discuss the future arrangements for Welsh debates.
I again claim what I have claimed before—that next Session we should have six sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee and that we should have more than one day on the Floor of the House. It appears that every time we are given a day someone takes at least half of it away from us. In support of the claims I am making I put forward the problems affecting Wales which are likely to emerge and which will need our active consideration in the three months of the Recess and certainly before the end of the year.
Presumably before the end of the year the final proposals of the Local Government Boundary Commission will be placed before the Minister. If they arc anything like the first proposals and are of such a radical character we shall certainly need to discuss them in the House.
884 I have been told that discussions are taking place in academic circles in Wales about the future structure of the University of Wales. Wales is unique in that we have one university but four constituent colleges. We have heard that there are proposals afoot to change this and to transform each of the colleges into a university of its own. I now notify the Government that we would regard such proposals as being rather more than a question of academic administration. A matter of real national importance and pride would be raised. We remember the history of the University of Wales. If any proposals of this kind are to be considered I urge the Government to remember that we want to hear about them long before any conclusions are reached.
I gather from the Report under discussion that at some time—and I should like to know when—we are likely to hear from the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. It is certainly a long time since we heard from that body. I gather that the Council has been engaged in examining certain problems and is preparing a report. Will that report be published? I am a little concerned about the Council of Wales being transformed into a council to advise the Government privately. It was never intended for that purpose. It was intended to examine problems and to report to the country as a whole. I am told that the Council is now examining the tourist industry, the state of rural communications—
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will take note of that remark by my hon. Friend. All that the Report says is that the Council is examining it. If the Council has reported to the Minister, perhaps we could see the report? This matter of rural communications is of vital importance. My hon. Friend appears to have information which has not been made available to me. Presumably he has got some other grapevine.
The third problem is that of the Welsh language, and fourthly agricultural matters. All these are subjects of great importance. There are, in addition, all kinds of other matters to be considered which affect our country. Therefore, I 885 am staking a claim and saying that we must have adequate time next Session to discuss Welsh affairs; we want at least six sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee and more than one day on the Floor of the House of Commons.
I have the misfortune to represent in South Wales a constituency with the highest percentage of unemployment. May I say to the Minister, whom I believe I shall have an opportunity of welcoming to the Royal Welsh National Eistedfodd on Monday, that it is twenty-six years since I made my maiden speech in this House, and that was on the subject of closures. Twenty-six years later I am still talking about closures. As a member of a former Government, I played a part in the transformation that has taken place in Wales, and particularly in South Wales. But I do not want anybody to be complacent. What we have been doing over the past forty years in Wales has been to try to build a new economy to replace the old one that disintegrated.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) always brings nationalisation into these discussions, but it was not nationalisation that destroyed Wales in the 1920s, nor was it public ownership, nor the Socialist Government. At the end of the First World War, in the early 1920s, three out of every five persons in Wales were either employed directly or were indirectly associated with three great industries—coal mining, steel and tinplate in the south, and the slate industry in the north. We have witnessed a disintegration of those industries.
It has taken far too long to replace the economy which has broken down. We still have not caught up with the position where we began the downward trend in 1921. The position of Wales in the United Kingdom has shrunk. From 1921 to 1961 the population of England increased by 5 million, but the population in Wales has gone down. There are now 27,000 fewer people living in Wales than there were in 1921. In nine of the administrative counties in Wales and in one of the four county boroughs the population is less than it was in 1921. Speaking for myself, and I hope for hon. Members in all parts of the House, I believe that we have not only to deal with the problems of 886 unemployment as they arise but we have to try to rebuild our nation and to secure for our country a fair share in the industrial and economic life of this country. We are far from doing that.
We are discussing in particular the economic and industrial situation, and I should like to say a few words about the Government's chosen policy for dealing with the problem in the Local Employment Act. When that Measure came before the House I had very grave doubts about it, and my doubts have no yet been stilled. I believe that the concept that was embodied in Hugh Dalton's Act, the Distribution of Industry Act, with the scheduling of areas for development, was a much better concept and was much more suited to modern industrial development and to the rebuilding of an economy than this pre-sent Act. I regret the departure from the old concept, because that was an Act not only to develop areas but laid down as a basic principle that the distribution of industry and population in this country ought not to be left to chance, but should be guided and planned.
I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), my next-door neighbour, in the Chamber this evening. I congratulate her on speaking with so much vigour. This is the fifth debate that we have had, in which the discussion has centred around this one common theme. We have had debates on Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North-East and on Wales—four areas which had made an immense contribution to the industrial development of this country, four areas which in the nineteenth century helped to make Britain the workshop of the world. More than half the unemployed in this country live in those four areas, and each one has been struggling with this problem of how to build a new economy to replace the old which was shattered, for many reasons including economic and technological reasons.
During Monday night and Tuesday morning we were dealing with the appalling problem of housing in London. Those who listened to the debate cannot but feel shame about the situation. That problem cannot be solved except as part of a sensible planning and distribution of industry and population. This is a small crowded island of 50 million 887 people. To crowd so many people into this small area is not planning of any kind. It is madness.
I should like to make one quotation. The Minister will recognise it. I invite hon. Members to listen to this as a problem for the next twenty years. The Town and Country Planning Association sent a memorandum to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs in December, 1960. It dealt with the problem of overspill. "Overspill" is a nice word to cover the lack of planning in the distribution of industry.
The Association stated:Earlier overspill estimates are now known to be gross under-estimates. By 1980, over one million dwellings must be built beyond the green belts, around the great urban centres for over three million people.The Association sums up its advice to the Minister in one sentence which I am glad to repeat. I agree with the Association when it says:A massive expansion of planned dispersal is urgently needed.This is the problem. Much as we welcome the improvements which have taken place, much as we look forward to more new industries coming in—and no one needs them more than we need them in my town of Llanelly—I urge the Minister to look at the machinery again.
Paragraphs 51 and 52 of the Report— I hope I paraphrase them not unfairly —suggest that the Board of Trade and its advisers have come to the conclusion that everything is now all right in Llanelly. This Report, of course, is for 1961. It was published in March, 1962. five months ago. Everything is all right, they suggest. Yet, before the ink was dry on this book, the Royal Ordnance factory which, only a few months ago, was employing 1,250 workmen, was under threat of closure. It is on the way out, and the present plan is that it shall be completely shut down by the end of next year. The Bynea steel works, with 750 men, is out.
Here, we see the Local Employment Act in operation. I use what has happened in Llanelly as an example because I know it so well. Unemployment becomes high. Then it goes down. After it goes down, the place is taken off the 888 list. Shortly afterwards, the level of unemployment rises again. What is the machinery for assessing trends and prospects? Did the Board of Trade know, when it took Llanelly off the list, that the Royal Ordnance Factory was due to close? It is owned by the Government. Was there close association and liaison between the War Office and the Board of Trade? Was there close association and liaison between the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and the Steel Board? Did they know that, first, Bynea and afterward, Pontardarwe were to close?
We welcome the new technological changes. None of us can go past the new Llanwern Works without a feeling of pride and thrill and—I say this to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North— all the greater thrill because it was built under public ownership. Long may it remain. But there is a question which worries us a good deal. Perhaps we do not talk about it much, but, if we do mention these problems, it should not be said that we are denigrating our country. When Llanwern comes into full production, what effect will it have upon the other units in the steel industry? That is the problem.
The conviction has grown upon me what we urgently need is some authoritative body which will bring together all the Government Departments concerned, perhaps bringing people in from outside, which will assess trends, keep in close touch with changes in industry and be able to obtain advance information as to what industries are likely to be affected by redundancies and what areas are likely to be affected, so as to take action before the closures actually come, not afterwards.
What happens now? Closures have come in my own town. How long will it be before all the machinery for bringing new industry reaches the stage of providing new work? This is what planning should do. Planning should anticipate. We need a policy for all these areas which prepares for eventualities instead of trying to tackle them after they have arrived.
We have had references to the disabled already today. I agree with all that has been said about them, but I must say a word about another group, and I ask the Minister to speak to the 889 industrialists, as I have spoken to them, on their behalf. I take the Bynea steel works just as an example. Forty-five per cent. of the men who have lost their jobs are over 45 years of age. This is a problem of change, the most human problem of them all. At 45 years of age, these men lose more than their jobs. They have been engaged in the steel industry, working in the old-fashioned way, to call it that, highly-skilled, first-class craftsmen, first-class citizens and first-class men. Their works are closed because the industry has been transformed technologically and their craft and skill is no longer of use.
Are these men to be allowed to spend the rest of their lives without hope? The Parliamentary Secretary told us of the amount of public money being spent on inducing new industries to come to Wales. We are glad of what has been done and we want more, but, as one who has had a good deal of experience in industry, I do not accept the idea that a man of 45 cannot adapt himself to a new process. Is such a man a risk in employment? I should have thought that the finest thing for an industrialist is to have a balanced labour force from the point of view of age. These men of 45 and 50 still have a great deal to give to industry and the nation and they deserve of our best.
For forty years, our job has been to try to repair the damage done in the unplanned 'twenties and the unplanned and cruel 'thirties. We have achieved a great deal of success. There is a lot still to do to make our country again occupy its true place and take its rightful share in the life and work of our community. It has given a great deal. It has a great deal to give. We are not supplicants. What we want for our people is the opportunity to play, as they surely can, their full part in the future of our society.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Elfed Davies (Rhondda, East)
I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his first excursion at the Dispatch Box, and I add my congratulations to my noble Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) on the admirable way in which she opened the debate from this side.
Wales is going through the second industrial revolution. The scars and results 890 of the first Industrial Revolution are still to be seen in the industrial valleys of South Wales. There is no excuse for the same mistakes to be repeated in this age of supposed enlightenment.
During the past four or five years, it has become increasingly clear that the pattern of industry in South Wales has, intentionally or by accident, undergone a remarkable change. The miming valleys are being displaced as the hub of industrial activity as industry is more and more being sited on or near the coastal areas. With the continued decline in manpower in the coal mining industry, this is having a serious effect upon employment in our valleys.
No one in South Wales or in Wales in general will be other than pleased at the large and important developments taking place in the coastal areas. They are long overdue. Projects such as the new steel works at Llanwern, the Rover works at Cardiff and others in the Swansea district are all of great benefit, but the Government must realise that the establishment of these works offers no solution to the unemployment problems of the valleys such as Rhondda, Aberdare, Merthyr and others in Monmouthshire and West Wales.
If this situation is allowed to continue, without due regard being paid to the consequences which will inevitably follow, it will not be in the interests of the people of Wales or of the British nation. Over the years, these valleys have been the areas where Welsh culture has been found in abundance. Every village had its choirs—male voice choirs, children's choirs and mixed choral societies—its brass and silver bands, and its dramatic society. All this is threatened when unemployment raises its ugly head, and the responsibility for ensuring that these industrial communities are not allowed to wither and die is one that this or any other Government must accept.
I am not satisfied that the record of the Board of Trade in regard to its responsibilities under the Local Employment Act, 1960, is one of which this Government can be proud. The main purpose of this Measure was to promote employment in localities in England, Scotland and Wales where high and persistent unemployment exists or is threatened. 891 During the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill on the 9th and 10th November, 1959, the then President of the Board of Trade, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, extolled at some length the advantages of this Bill over the provisions contained in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1959 to 1958. Here, in essence, he said, were the tools to do the job which had been denied to the Government up to that time
But the fact, indeed, was that the Government had never attempted to operate the Distribution of Industry Acts, 1945 to 1958. Up to that date, they had made no real effort to induce firms to set up in areas where they were most needed, but had allowed them almost complete freedom to go where they liked. There was no plan in existence to deal with this problem.
During that debate, on the first occasion on which I addressed this House, I stated that whatever may be the improvements in that Bill over the provisions of previous Acts, its passing would be in vain unless there was a strong, determined and purposeful effort by the Government to implement its provisions. The President of the Board of Trade and his predecessor have both failed to generate the vigour and the purpose to make a success of the challenge made to them by present-day conditions.
Let me quote some figures which I am satisfied will substantiate the charge that the Ministers of this Government have failed miserably in their task to meet the needs of the people of Wales in general and of the Rhondda, my own constituency, in particular. Let me confess to the House that I do not like dealing much with figures, because, having been a day wage miner for so long when low wages did not give me much practice in dealing with high figures I very often make mistakes.
In June, 1960, unemployment in Wales was 21,653; in June, 1962, it was 25,402, which was an increase of 3,749 after two years of operation of the Local Employment Act. Indeed, the figure has increased from June, 1962, to July, 1962—one month—by a further 1,140. In June, 1960, unemployment in the Rhondda was 1,346; in June, 1962, it was 1,384, an increase of 38 after two years' operation of the Local Employment Act.
892 In June, 1962, the percentage rate of unemployment in Great Britain was 1.8, in Wales 2.6, and in the Rhondda 4.9, so that the Rhondda figure is nearly three times the national figure and nearly twice the figure for the whole of Wales. It must be remembered by this House that the Rhondda is one of the Development Districts scheduled under the Act. It makes one wonder whether it is not better not to be so designated.
The latest figures for unemployment among youths in the Rhondda are very disturbing. The divisional youth employment officer, in a recent report, states:The high level of registered unemployed in the Youth Employment Service in Rhondda, which began immediately after Christmas, continued up to the end of May.In May, 1961 there were 28 boys and 17 girls unemployed, making a total of 45. In May, 1962, the figures were 90 boys and 38 girls, nearly three times the figure of a year ago. This is indeed a source of great concern and should be an impetus for the Minister for Welsh Affairs to take immediate steps to rectify it.
One of the most distressing features of unemployment in Wales and in the Rhondda in particular is the large number of disabled people who seemed destined, at the rate at which work is being provided for them, to spend the rest of their days on the industrial scrap-heap. These people, many of whom are disabled as the result of employment in the mining industry, while others are disabled as a result of war service, are entirely without hope. The figures are very revealing.
In June, 1961, the figure for Section 1, that is for those suitable for ordinary employment, was 368, and for Section 2, for those suitable for employment under special conditions, it was 59, making a total of 427. In 1962, there were 339 in Section 1, and 81 in Section 2, making a total of 420, so that in one year seven people have been provided with employment out of this group. These high figures, which show very little reduction in a whole year, are despite the fact that firms with more than 20 persons employed catered for a higher percentage of disabled people in Wales than in the rest of Britain; namely, 36 per cent. in Wales, against 3 per cent. for 893 Britain as a whole. It must be remembered that there are many more people in our industrial valleys who are in this category but who have not registered because they see no hope of employment in this category.
What is the main hope we are given by the Ministry of solving this social problem? It is contained in paragraph 35 of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire, which reads:
In Great Britain as a whole fewer people were registered as disabled under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts than in the previous year. In Wales the fall was from 42,979 to 41,667.This is the significant sentence:The decline is likely to continue as more ex-Service disabled people reach retiring age.What a hope for people who look on their position with despair. They can look forward under this Government to becoming 65 and then will go off the list! What a way to treat people who have served this nation so hard and so well. If this is the only way that the Government can deal with these victims of industry and war, they had better let someone else with a greater sense of responsibility get on with the job.
If these people are to be re-established in industry, a number of things need to be done. First, it must be understood that, while, to some degree, work outside an area entailing a little travel can be undertaken by fit people, disabled men and women are unable to travel long distances to work. If factories are brought into areas such as the Rhondda, some of these people will be able to have the lighter jobs which arise. What is happening now is that, when our people leave the valleys to work outside, the lighter jobs are being filled by people who live in those areas and our disabled people are left on the scrap heap in our industrial valleys.
I ask the Minister to urge on his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour the need for the extension of the principle of Remploy factories. Why not have another Remploy factory in the Rhondda? We have been appealing to the Minister for some time for one and we believe that this is one of the solutions to the problem of our disabled people in the mining valleys. Cannot the Grenfell factories in the Rhondda, 894 for instance, take on a greater number in an effort to assist? I am not satisfied that they are employing as many people as they can. I ask the Ministry to examine this matter to see whether it can do something about it.
The situation in the Rhondda which I have tried to outline is, I am sure, true of many other districts in South Wales. I emphasise, however, that the situation in the Rhondda would be very much worse were it not for the fact that a large number of workers are conveyed outside the Rhondda to work each day. The Rhondda Transport Company states that it alone conveys approximately 3,050 people per day, while British Railways estimate that their load per day is 1,427, making a total of 4,447, apart from the many hundreds who travel by private bus and private car.
The situation has not been improved by recent increases in bus fares and the recent closures of certain branch lines. This is why greater efforts should be made to bring work to districts of high and persistent unemployment. After the figures that I have quoted, no one can deny that the Rhondda is an example of this or that the Minister has a duty to perform now. No one can deny that there is high unemployment nor that it is persistent and has been persistent for at least the past two years.
The recent news that the factory which my horn. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Wiliams) mentioned, namely, the Murphy television factory at Hirwaun is closing, putting another 600 workers out of work in an area where jobs are already scarce, is a disquieting feature, not only to Aberdare but also to the Rhondda where a number of the employees live. It has been announced that early next year the I.C.I. plant at Dowlais is to close, causing another 500 workers to become redundant; and the B.S.A. guns factory in nearby Merthyr is also to close shortly.
This is the bleak future which faces the workers in and around the constituency which I have the honour to represent. It is not much use the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) saying that we on this side are painting a bleak picture. We paint the picture as we see it, and it is indeed bleak and grim for my people in the Rhondda.
895 My fervent hope is that the new Minister for Welsh Affairs, whom I welcome to his new office, will bring his undoubted talents to bear on the tremendous tasks which face him now and which will face him in the days to come. I warn him, however, as I warned his predecessors, that whatever talents he possesses will not solve these problems unless he is determined to use them relentlessly and with the utmost vigour so that these long-standing injustices may be removed. Only by so doing will the people living in the development districts of Wales be afforded the common right which is so much treasured by decent people—the right to work.
Finally, I should like to say a few words in relation to another Section of the Local Employment Act, 1960, to which great importance is attached by hon. Members on this side. I refer to Section 5, which deals with derelict land. That Section provides that where land in a development district appears to the Board of Trade to be derelict, neglected or unsightly and is likely to remain so for a considerable period, the Board can take steps to bring it back into use or to use it for improving the amenities of the neighbourhood. The land can be acquired by agreement or compulsorily where so authorised and the Minister of Housing and Local Government can assist local authorities by the provision of grants for this purpose. In Rhondda there is a crying need for action to be taken by both Ministers to give effect to Section 5.
The mining valleys of South Wales have too many scars resulting from past exploitation of coal seams beneath the surface. In Rhondda, many of these old collieries which are now closed have been left derelict, unsightly and, in some cases, dangerous. What, if anything, has been done in the past year, to effectively use the powers provided by the Act?
Many of these old derelict sites could, and should, be cleared to provide sites for buildings and to provide recreation grounds for adults and playingfields for younger children, both of which are sadly and badly needed in my constituency. I sincerely hope that the Minister will do something quickly in this respect and that when we next debate this matter. 896 some at least of the complaints which have been brought before him today will have been rectified.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I desire to associate myself with the salutations and good wishes which have been extended to the two Ministers who speak from the Dispatch Box during this debate. To deal adequately with the topic which I intend to raise, new ideas and a new approach will be required. Therefore, I hope that these new Ministers will provide us with that new approach and new zest to deal with the problem which I should like to raise.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to the uneven-ness of industrial distribution and the social evils and problems resulting from it. I wish to refer to an area which illustrates in a particularly acute form the point made by the right hon. Gentleman The area which I select is Mid-Wales.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) seemed to think that it was irrelevant to discuss the position of Mid-Wales in this debate—
§ Mr. Bowen
—as it concerned industrial development I should have thought that we are concerned with the presence or the absence of industrial development, and I am deeply concerned at the virtual total absence of industrial development in the Mid-Wales area.
I re-read this morning the reports of the Development Commissioners, particularly because the Government continually stress that if areas such as Mid-Wales are to receive assistance, they must look to the Development Fund and to nowhere else. There can be no doubt that the Commissioners are aware of the problem. They refer, for eample, to the needto arrest the social and economic decline which has affected this part of the Principalityand they go on to refer to the need to build factoriesto counter depopulation rather than unemployment.I have the greatest possible sympathy for those areas which have acute unemployment problems, but my plea 897 tonight very briefly is that areas of acute depopulation should receive something like the same consideration and the same assistance which should be extended under the present powers to areas of high unemployment. The need to tackle this problem is conceded, I think; and indeed, there is general agreement as to the solution. The right hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), when he was Minister, told us in the Grand Committee last May:Agriculture is employing fewer men. I believe that the solution is to be found in the bringing of small units of industry into Wales … this is something to which we are devoting a great deal of attention."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Welsh Grand Committee, 30th May, 1962; c. 116.]I want in a few moments to touch upon what action has been taken as the result of the attention which has been given to this problem.
The position in Mid-Wales is this. Between 1901 and 1961 Mid-Wales has lost 17 per cent. of her population, and that at a time when the population of England and Wales has gone up by 40 per cent. Mid-Wales is losing year by year—this is the latest figure I have been able to get hold of—560 every year of her population, and the sources of employment are dwindling. One I have already referred to, namely, agriculture. The more efficient our agriculture becomes the fewer the industry is going to employ. That is inevitable. We have got to face it.
We are told that forestry is going to come to the rescue. I do not want to disparage in any way the efforts of the Forestry Commission in the Mid-Wales area, but let us have a sense of proportion in the matter. The most optimistic figures given by the Commission in relation to its projects are that they will give employment during the next 10 years to 50 a year. These are the most optimistic figures I have seen—50 a year between five counties. So the contribution which the Forestry Commission will make to the solution of the problem of the depopulation of those areas is to employ another 10 men a year. It is quite clear that while we welcome the employment of an additional 10 men it really bears virtually no relationship to the problem as a whole.
What has been done up to date? As I say, from the point of view of Govern- 898 ment assistance this area can only look to the Development Fund. If one reads the Report of the Development Commissioners published last year up to March, 1961, covering the period of 13 years, and if one then includes this year, to make the picture as complete as possible, making the period 14 years, one sees that the total amount spent by the Development Commission on industrial development in this area is some £270,000, that is to say, an average of under £20,000 a year between the five counties. That is what I have calculated. It is quite clear that an approach on these dimensions is certainly not going to provide any solution to this problem. To take my own country as an example, until last year we had had no industrial development assistance whatsoever from the Development Commission.
The problem is accentuated by the fact that areas of depopulation have to compete on unequal terms with other areas. They have to compete on unequal terms in the ordinary way, but particularly so with areas which are now in the development district list. What conceivable prospect have areas of depopulation in competing for industry with areas on the development district list? One difficulty is that the assistance which can be given by the Development Commissioners to Mid-Wales and comparable areas is far less effective than that which can be given to development districts under the Local Employment Act, 1960.
To give some illustrations, under the 1960 Act assistance can be given to industrialists to acquire their factories. But the Development Commissioners have no such powers; all they can do is build a factory and let it. Under the Act industrialists can be given assistance to train their workers. The Development Commissioners have no such powers. Under the Act industrialists can be given assistance to move their plant and machinery. The Development Commissioners have no such powers. This applies not only in relation to the powers of the Development Commissioners in dealing with industrialists. It applies equally to the powers of the Government in relation to local authorities. The 1960 Act clearly lays down that local authorities which are on the development district list can be assisted in the clearing and preparation of sites 899 for industrial development. That power is not possessed by the Development Commissioners. I ask that the powers provided under the 1960 Act in respect of development districts should equally be available to the Development Commissioners who have to deal with areas of severe depopulation.
We have heard a great deal today about miracles. What the Mid-Wales area is asking for is something very modest. One of the difficulties at the moment is that the Development Commissioners do not come into the picture unless an approach is made by an industrialist, and experience in recent years shows that there is then a time-lag of about two and a half years before something effective happens, and by that time many industrialists have lost their enthusiasm for and interest in the project which they had in mind.
I understand that the Development Commissioners could provide funds for advance factories. We are not asking for large industrial developments. What would suit Mid-Wales better than anything else would be factories of about 5,000 sq. ft. costing about £25,000. If three or four of these could be established every year in Mid-Wales I am certain there would be a demand for them and they would steadily make an inroad into the difficulties which we face. I ask that a modest but effective start should be made in this direction. For example, I am certain that if an advance factory were established at Aberystwyth there would be no real difficulty about interesting an industrialist and getting a worthwhile project going.
The over-all problem will probably need something of a more ambitious character. I should like to see the Development Commissioners establish a development corporation for this area. But while more ambitious plans of that kind are being worked out, let something be done to give the Development Commissioners similar powers to deal with depopulation as the powers that exist to deal with unemployment. Let a realistic start be made in relation to the depopulation in these areas by carrying out a far more ambitious programme of advance factories.
The plain fact is that all the tinkering which has gone on during the last four- 900 teen or fifteen years has made no impression whatever upon this problem. Unless we have a much more radical approach to it, the whole situation in Mid-Wales will get steadily worse. The Minister should be interested not only from his position as Minister for Welsh Affairs but from the point of view of local government as a whole.
In this area, local government services are costing steadily more in proportion to the number of people which they have to serve, and they have to be supplemented by grants in some form or another. It would help in that solution and also in relation to the great human problems if the powers that I have suggested were made available to Development Commissioners to assist areas of this kind.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I intervene in the debate with some diffidence because this is the first time in the twelve years that I have been a Member of the House that I have spoken in a Welsh debate, and to that extent I am much in the same position as the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I should like to take this opportunity of warmly congratulating him. Politics apart, I count him as a personal friend and I hope that his speech from the Dispatch Box was one of many that will be a preliminary for even greater distinction in our public life. I hope, because we are friends, that he will not take it amiss if I point out that I think that his tenure in his present office is likely to be brief, and, therefore, I hope that he will have a long holiday and put to good use the experience that he has gained even in this short period. The same applies to the Minister for Welsh Affairs and I also offer him my congratulations.
There is a brief point which I should like to make. I would not have done so but for the almost admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George). I was very glad to see her back, looking miraculously even younger than she has done before. I say that her speech was almost admirable, with the exception of one charming preposterous statement about the would-be power station in my 901 constituency; and I also heard the muttering of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). Both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen will appreciate it when I say to them that my constituents and I are all deeply indebted to them for things in the past and especially to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llandly who has done more for my constituency than almost any other single person in Wales. Nevertheless, this does not inhibit me, nor would he expect it to, from defending the position of my constituents which it is my duty to do.
What are the real facts concerning this proposed power station? The first thing to be said is that this is entirely an exploratory survey. Secondly, the Central Electricity Generating Board estimates that by 1969–70 the output of electricity in South Wales will be 2,300 megawatts, including the new Uskmouth Power Station. Thirdly, there is the proposed Aberthaw power station to add a further 1,500 megawatts to the output of electricity in the area.
The Board, in consultation with the National Coal Board, has said in a public statement that this new power station, which is not yet built, will take up all the available, suitable coal in South Wales in the foreseeable future, for many years.
I can well understand the feelings of the coal industry in South Wales. In Chat part of Britain, a community has been crucified in a fashion that is without parallel in the recorded social history of our country. The marks of the crucifixion and the nails which are still on the hands of the Welsh body politic are likely to remain there for many a long day. That is why although they will have a friendly welcome, members of the party opposite will get little in terms of votes in Wales, so long as the marks remain.
I recognise the feelings of the coal industry towards competition from oil and other sources of energy. But power stations are almost the one thing in which the coal industry need not fear competition from oil. In 1961, the Central Electricity Generating Board purchased almost 30 per cent. of the total output of the British coal industry. By 1970 it will be purchasing about 40 per cent. At the present time, it is pur- 902 chasing 59 million tons of coal, some 8 million tons of coal equivalent in oil, some 2 million tons of coal equivalent in hydro-electric power, and some 2 million tons of coal equivalent in nuclear power. By 1970, the figures will be more likely 77 million tons of coal, 10 million equivalent tons of oil, 3 million equivalent tons of hydro-electric power, and 14 to 15 million equivalent tons of nuclear power.
So the real threat to the supremacy of coal in our power stations, as economics alter with the reduce rate of capital cost of atomic energy power stations, is much more likely to come from atomic energy than it is from oil.
§ Mr. Finch
I must question that statement immediately. I do not accept it. My horn. Friend quotes information that the threat to the British coal industry will be from atomic energy. The threat, however, is coming from the greater and greater demand for oil. The power station at Pembroke, using oil to generate electricity, will put many men out of work in the South Wales coalfield. I want a great deal more information before I accept that these power stations will be run much more on coal than they are on oil.
§ Mr. Donnelly
My hon. Friend is not following my figures. There will be an increase in the consumption of coal in the generation of electricity from 59 million tons now to 77 million tons in 1970. The proportion of oil is very small indeed, and is actually falling, according to unanimous estimates. Of course, there is a threat to oil in other ways, such as in industrial and home heating and in fuel for transport.
Nevertheless, my hon. Friend is being unnecessarily defensive. Coal has supremacy in the generation of electricity. The Aberthaw power station is to take all the available suitable coal in South Wales in the foreseeable future. If my hon. Friend thinks that expansion of South Wales industry must go on, he must also consider where the electric power is to come from. I am sure that he would not wish to limit the expansion of South Wales industry through lack of electric power.
The Central Electricity Generating Board has three choices. First, it could build a coal-fired power station in some 903 other area where coal is available, perhaps in the Midlands, but that would pose problems of the feeding of electricity to South Wales and the loss of power on the way. Secondly, it could build a nuclear power station which possibly economically is one of the better bets, but, in view of the two oil refineries, this is the logical thing to do in Milford Haven. It would turn no one out of work in South Wales. If my horn. Friend feels like that he should have been attacking the nuclear projects and should have clamoured for Sir John Cockcroft, Lord Rutherford, and the others to have their ideas strangled at birth.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I do not know who informed my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), but do I take it that he is saying that the Aberthaw station will absorb all the coal available in South Wales? That means that all the other stations will be oil-fired.
§ Mr. Donnelly
All the available suitable coal. This is in the public statement of the Central Electricity Generating Board made in relation to the publication of the plans for the Aberthaw power station.
I see that the time is late. I undertook to sit down at nine o'clock. I am grateful for the opportunity of dealing briefly with this particular subject.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
It would be idle to pretend that there have not been some very disappointing features about this debate. We started off on the wrong foot because we lost in terms of time the equivalent of four speeches, which I am sure would have been very important. We were spending that time in discussing crooks and thugs, spies and Arabs and goodness knows what. That left a rather bad taste in the mouth of every hon. Member who represents a Welsh constituency, because it is natural for us on this one day of the year to feel entitled to portray the picture of contemporary Wales as we find it. I genuinely—and I emphasise that word—sympathise with my hon. Friends who had very important speeches to deliver and have not been able to deliver them because of the 904 exigencies of time. This is about the only occasion on which my hon. Friends wish that they were Tory Members. Then, of course, they would have ample opportunities of deliver speeches.
We have not had a very packed House, but I am sure that all hon. Members appreciated the very charming and capable way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) opened the debate from this side of the House. It was a real source of gladness to all of us to see her back among us speaking with that verve and capacity we always associate with her.
As one who is deputed to wind up for the Opposition, I offer my very sincere congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade on his opening the debate so cordially for the Government. I sincerely wish to give him a very warm-hearted welcome to the Minister for Welsh Affairs. He started his duties most felicitously by appearing among us in the Welsh sports last Saturday. We were all very glad to see him. Next Monday he is going to the festival town of all the world, the town so wonderfully represented by my right toon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It happens to be my home town. The right hon. Gentleman can be sure that he will be received very warmly there. To complete his education he must be in Cardiff Arms Park next January to see Wales beat England. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly comments, he will then be fully qualified to undertake the very important and onerous duties which will fall upon him.
I do not think that there are any new points which I can raise, and I shall mainly be dotting the i's crossing the t's and underlining here and there. First I wish to show my accord with the point made so pertinently by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) when he said that the gloom in the picture which has been revealed in the speeches tonight is due almost wholly to the catastrophic economic policy pursued by the Government during the last year or two. It is the same story as usual; the periphery suffers much more than does the centre. May I give the figures for unemployment: London 1.1 per cent. and the Midlands 1.4 per cent. 905 The further we move away from these centres, the higher are the unemployment percentages: North-West England 2.3 per cent., Wales 2.7 per cent., the North East 3.2 per cent., and poor old Scotland worst of all 3.3 per cent.—although I believe the figure for Ireland is about 7 per cent. This must offer a challenge to all sober-minded people and certainly to all of us who try to arrange our affairs so that the interests of our people are properly safeguarded. The fact that the periphery suffers so much more in any time of depression vis-à-vis the centre is a vary important point.
My hon. Friend referred to the fact that there had been this restrictionist and deflationary policy which had had a regrettable impact on our economy generally. The saddest part of the whole economic story is that our investment rate is at such a low level. I understand that it is declining. The investment industries will suffer inevitably. I understand that the immediate outlook for the steal industry, which is surely the linchpin of the whole industrial fabric of our country, is not propitious. I am quoting Mr. Rees Mogg, financial editor of the Sunday Times, who wrote in an economic review published by the Western Mail the other day that in the long-term we expect great things from the steel industry but that for the present and for the foreseeable and immediate future things are not so happy. This fills us with some foreboding.
I believe that there is an increase in production, and we are grateful for it. I believe that our export industry is improving and that our balance of payments is improving even though we are paying back substantial sums to the International Monetary Fund. I wan: to put these things to the Government's credit, at the same time reminding them forcibly of those things which fill us with foreboding.
An hon. Member such as myself is always concerned about the right approach to a debate of this character. In which spirit should one describe the contemporary industrial scene in Wales? It would, I think, be a disservice—I am speaking honestly and fearlessly—to Wales to indulge in one long moan and whine and to paint a picture in dark forbidding colours. I certainly do not intend to do that.
906 I feel like one of the persons described in this very eloquent story. Two men —Mr. Jones and Mr. Williams—who were next-door neighbours went to the same church in South Wales one Sunday morning. They returned. Mrs. Jones asked Mr. Jones, "Well, John, were there many in church this morning?" He was a pessimist. He said, "It was half empty". Mrs. Williams asked Mr. Williams, "Were there many in church this morning, Bob?" He said, "It was half full". The same number had been in church, but it depends on how these things are viewed.
I shall not pull my punches when I think that punches should be delivered, but I do not know that I help my people and I do not think that I am helping to project the right—I use now the word which is so fashionable; it is used in the House every day—image, for "image" is the operative word; of Wales if I describe it as a nation just about to file a petition for bankruptcy. The industrial scene has materially improved and certainly should have improved in view of the shocking conditions with which some of us were so poignantly familiar in bygone days.
Take the unemployment situation. Let me start with this foundation. We have heard the figures, and I do not intend to weary the House with any more figures. In all conscience we have had enough figures today to drive the most ardent mathematician almost climbing up the wall. I shall not add considerably to the figures which have been adduced. I have them here, because I have worked on my speech. I am not delivering the speech I prepared! Nevertheless, I hope it will be a better speech. We have heard about the unemployment figures. We know that they arose between July 1961 and July 1962. Despite what the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) said, the number of unfilled vacancies has gone down. When the number of unemployed rises and the number of unfilled vacancies goes down the picture is not as happy as he suggested.
§ Mr. Williams
I should like not to be interrupted because I am going to keep my word to the Minister to the split second. He will rise dead on 9.30. I 907 give freedom to my hon. Friends sitting behind me to pull me down by the coat tails if I have not sat by then.
When we on this side talk about unemployment, when we reveal a concern about it, it is not because we claim to have any superior virtues over hon. Members opposite. We have not got more of the milk of human kindness than hon. Members opposite. In the moral sense we start from scratch: there is no superiority. There is an evocative connotation to the word "unemployment" which has a grip on the majority of hon. Members on this side—perhaps it would not be true of hon. Members on this side who are under forty, but for those who are more than forty, the connotation of the word is a haunting one. To the end of my days I shall never, never be rid of it. I know that there are some hon. Members opposite with deep, personal memories. I have read the debates on the situation in Scotland and in the North-East. The hon. Members for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery), Glasgow, Pollock (Mr. George) and Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot) have referred to the way in which they saw unemployment at first hand. For us on this side it is an indelible memory. At that time 400,000 of our fellow SouthWalesians had to leave. In the strict, legalistic sense there was no direction of labour but, metaphorically, they were driven by the scourge of economic circumstances to seek their livelihood away from their own homeland.
Being an odd creature, I sometimes like to look at these things in a homely context. My mind goes back to my boyhood, when three of us were pals, all of exactly the same age, and brought up in the same street on the fringe of the town of Llanelly. Fortuitously, I passed the scholarship, and my future was more or less determined by that. My two friends—and we were inseparable pals—well, one went to Enfield and the other to Watford. The one, I do not think I have seen since; the other I have seen about once since those boyhood days. They departed from their own home town, not because they wanted to—they were as affectionately involved in the wonderful community life of Llanelly as I was—but because they bad absolutely no choice.
908 The inevitable thing happened—they married English women. Of course, there is nothing basically wrong in marrying an English woman. I confess that I myself married a Lancashire lass, and my night hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly went to Hampshire for his wife—
§ Mr. L1. Williams
And a very good one, as he says—and a great inspiration to him throughout his life. Modesty and propriety prevent me referring to my spouse, but I am thinking as he has been saying.
But when this is multiplied, as inevitably it was in those years—and, indeed, is today by the migration from Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire, Radnorshire, Anglesey, and even some parts of South Wales—the indigenous cultural communal life of Wales must suffer to some degree. That is why when we find that the unemployment percentage has gone from 1.9 to 2.7 some hon. Members opposite may ask, "What are they making such a song and dance about over such a small percentage increase as that?" But we on this side see those percentages in human terms and in human losses. They are very sobering considerations.
I was so glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) referred to the disabled workers. I shall not dwell on that at length because he dealt with it so admirably, but I want to re-emphasise his point about the Remploy factories. Has there ever been anything more imaginative in post-war legislation than this conception of rehabilitating people who felt that they were on the scrap-heap? There is a Remploy factory in my constituency. It is the brightest thing in the whole of the valley; the pride those men have, with all their disabilities, that they can go day after day to their Remploy factory to do something and, on Friday night, to go home to the "missus" with a pay packet.
There is no describing the psychological value of such an enterprise, but what is so disheartening and so saddening is the knowledge that that enterprise has been almost sterilised. I remember taking part about ten years ago in a debate on the Remploy factories in 909 Britain, yet, since then, there has been no change worth talking about in the influx of disabled workers into Remploy. I have the figures for Wales. We are employing six more now than we did last year. Only six. Is that really satisfactory? It is a pathetic story, and I urge the Minister to see if he can put some impetus into the system so that Remploy can be the great, noble and imaginative scheme intended by the late George Tomlinson and the late Ernest Bevin.
I refer with a great sense of joy, because I was privileged to serve on the Standing Committee which considered the Mental Health Bill, to the steps forward which have been taken in this connection. I am proud to think that this House saw these problems in a new light, and fully appreciated the stresses and strains of modern society in relation to the suffering of those with whom we were concerned. I was glad to read that a hundred of these people, long-stay patients in psychiatric hospitals, have now been satisfactorily employed.
That gave me a feeling that politics can, at its best, be a very noble pursuit and a wonderful opportunity, and I hope that the Minister, if he gets a chance, will strengthen this new orientation. After all, community care is the important thing for the mentally ill. Shutting them away in isolation in mental hospitals is not the answer. They must be brought back into the community, and the best way to do that is to follow the example set by the resettlement officers, of whose work any Ministry could be proud.
I wish to speak briefly about young people. This is the crucial, the bulge year, and I believe that after the Christmas and Easter terms these youngsters—who, by and large, we have been able satisfactorily to employ in our industrial set-up in Wales—will be leaving school in greater numbers. I am proud to relate that more and more of our youngsters are staying at school longer. If we cannot have a statutory increase in the school-leaving age we can be proud that parents, with the cooperation of their children, are urging youngsters to stay at school longer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Neath referred to the difficulties of the mining areas of South Wales in a graphic way. 910 It is certainly true that things have changed. The industrial pattern of Wales is altogether different from not so long ago and I read an interesting article by Professor Brinley Thomas in The Times Supplement on Wales in which he told how the industrial pattern of our country is changing. He referred, for instance, to the employment of women and pointed out that while 94.000 women were employed in Wales in 1939, by 1960 the figure had reached 281,000, or 30 per cent. of the insured employees.
There are many arguments one could advance about women going out to work but, on balance, it is a fairly healthy sign because a woman has a full role to satisfy, not only in the home but in the world outside. In 1939 one out of every four persons employed in Wales was in coal mining. One out of every ten worked in general manufacturing concerns. Today it is virtually the other way round with 24 per cent. employed in general manufacturing and only 11 per cent. in mining. What we must aim for in Wales is a balanced industrial economy, with heavy, medium and light industries, extractive and manufacturing industries, producing consumer goods and export goods. I believe that we are moving in that direction because we now have a fairly diversified pattern, and it is only right that we should testify to that fact.
How did it come about? Some hon. Members may say that I am partisan, and perhaps I am. In pre-war years, very belatedly in 1930, the Government started the Treforest trading estate. That was the beginning of a diversification in the industrial pattern in South Wales which before then was completely dependent on coal and steel. During 'the war, because of evacuation from areas likely to be bombed—I do not know that there was any virtue in this; it may have been a necessity—we had the new estates in Hirwaun and Bridgend. From 1945 to 1951, armed with the powers of the Distribution of Industry Act, the massive contribution was made by the Labour Government. It was a transformation which was revolutionary in character.
Since then we have had the Conservative Government for eleven years. I do not want to take from them the credit 911 for any achievements which they may claim, but I do not know that they implemented too well the Local Employment Act. I should like to refer to the Government White Paper which deals with the applications for assistance under Section 4 of the Act in respect of developments in Wales. There were 74 such applications of which 18 had been recommended by the advisory committee and 45 rejected, leaving 11 still under consideration. I do not know that that mounts up to a very good story.
My speech is necessarily disjointed because I want to keep my word to the Minister and allow him sufficient time in which to speak. Where gratitude is called for, I hope that we shall not be found wanting in that human virtue. There are many people to whom praise is due for the changed picture in Wales. Our trade union advisory committees have done very well, guided by people like Ron Mathias in the south and Tom Jones in the north. The Development Corporation of Wales has done a first-class job of work and it will be well worth reading their third annual report in which some very fine things are said. There is a very telling quotation from an English industrialist who came to Caernarvon and is now appealing to other industrialists to do likewise because of the satisfactory results which followed from his venture into Caernarvonshire.
I thank the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation. I should also like to thank the local authorities and the local employment committees. Personally I should like to thank the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs who, in a personal sense, has never spared himself in trying to link up industrialists with the possibilities inherent in the Welsh situation.
I think that it would be churlish and mean of me or anybody to deny the Government their entitlement to their achievements. But we honestly and truthfully believe that we could do better. We would tackle these problems with a greater urgency. We feel that we are closer to the people. If at the General Election the Scots and the English only do what we have consistently done since 1922 we shall have a Labour Government which will start with the tremendous sense of mission 912 which actuated the Labour Government of 1945–51 to perform the miracles which happened in Wales.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I am most grateful for the kind welcome which hon. Members on both sides have been good enough to extend to me. As I expected, the speeches today have been fervent, forceful, and, towards me, conditionally friendly. I am grateful for the forbearance which has been shown. I am most grateful also for the presence beside me this evening of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who is showing once again further evidence of his deep personal devotion to Welsh interests.
For me, and, I am sure, fox my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, whom I, too, congratulate on his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box, this has been a very educational debate. It has been our first on the Welsh economy. I hope that it will not be my last. I promise that, whenever I discuss things Welsh, while I shall not minimise what is good, I shall not seek to palliate what is not so good. I hope to fallow the excellent example of the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. L1. Williams) who gave us a most balanced and sensitive speech of strong feeling. I hope that I can live up to that standard.
It seems to be commonly agreed today on both sides that Wales has reached a state of industrial maturity and diversity. I add to that—this has not been said today—that Wales has, through a strange mixture of good and bad fortune, had the good luck to achieve most of its industry in the electronic age, so that the vintage of Welsh industry is more modern than the vintage of either English or Scottish industry. To pick out one example of successful adaptation from many, I choose the coal industry, which, while it has been increasing the individual productivity of the miner, has succeeded, by careful and considerate management, in avoiding any large-scale redundancies. I adopt the theme which the noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) so excellently put when she said, "Whatever is good, let us set our sights higher". That, I think, 913 is an objective which both sides can adopt.
However, it may be true that Wales has reached industrial maturity and diversity, but it is only too clear that there are places Where new jobs in prospect have by no means synchronised with jobs which have gone, and this despite the efforts of the Government and, in particular—I am grateful to the hon. Member for Abertillery for mentioning this—the constant and unceasing efforts of my noble friend the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. Although unemployment is at an average of 2.7 per cent., there are areas where the figure is very much higher, and there is a good deal of uneasiness.
It seems commonly agreed, also, that there are several other matters which are not so good. We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour who has been assiduous in his attendance today and has listened carefully to all that has been said. I pick out three particular subjects which we can all acknowledge need more attention, possibly from the Government, certainly from some of those interested.
The first is apprenticeships. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) and several other hon. Members pointed out that Wales falls slightly behind the national average for apprenticeships. We all know that there are good reasons for this. The coal mining industry, the steel industry and some of the other older-established industries have methods of training which are not the same as in others. I am not yet sufficiently master of my subject—I have been in office for only two weeks—but I believe that there are explanations for the short-fall in apprenticeships. However, this should not stop us trying to raise the level. I believe that there is more which can be done. The Government are giving a lead. There is the apprentice training school at Cardiff. Together with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, we shall see whether more can be done.
I very much agree with the hon. Member for Gower, the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) and the right hon. Member for 914 Abertillery that we ought to look more closely at the state of the disabled. I am grateful to those hon. Members who have paid tribute to the work of Remploy. Of course, we would like there to be more disabled in work, but there are more Remploy factories in Wales per head of the population than there are in any other part of the United Kingdom. It is very hard to find employment for the severely disabled, and, despite my interest and my desire to help, and despite the efforts going on all the while by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, I cannot promise results. But I will certainly study it and see whether anything more can be done.
The third subject on which I think we all agree that there is need for more attention, and on which I confess I have no idea how to help at the moment, is the plight which often befalls men over 45 or 50 when a change of employment is forced upon their area, and they have not the skill or energy to move to retrain. I do not know the answer to this; I do not know whether anybody knows the answer, and I do not know any country which has yet discovered the answer in a free society. But I do promise to study the problem.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have a lot of ground to cover, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind. In all these matters, politicians can initiate action, but we depend upon public servants and the goodwill of the public to help us to achieve our purpose.
The main theme of this debate has been the changing pattern of industry, agriculture and commerce in a modern society, and the implications of this changing pattern for the citizens. We have to accept that if we are to seek an improvement in our standard of living we must pursue change, because it is only by constantly changing our work and our products that we can keep pace with the demands of the world's markets on which, ultimately, we depend.
We have to produce what the world needs and we have to produce it competitively, but the changes that were spread over centuries in England have occurred later and faster in Wales, and 915 that means that the pressures and strains caused by change are somewhat more severe in Wales than at the moment in some parts of England. These changes have other aspects. On the one hand, they offer an easement of life and a variety of choice, but, on the other hand, they can be a threat to a culture that has thrived in sterner times. I shall often have to speak of economics when I am speaking about Wales, but I hope never to forget the riches of character and of community which, despite the changes, we must try to preserve.
At the heart of Government action in coping with this changing pattern is the distribution of industry policy, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House have been quite riglht to identify this as the nub of the problem. I must confess at once that it is very much easier for the Government to mobilise industrial forces where they are most needed when industry is on the move— that is, in times of expansion. That is a platitude to anybody who has studied the subject. It is easy to say "Let the Government be tough," but when industry is not moving there is nothing to be tough about— in a free society. [An HON. MEMBER: "We want an expanding economy."] Certainly, we want an expanding economy, and over the years we have had it. But in an international trading community like ours, there must be fluctuations in the rate of expansion, and no matter how brilliant the Government or how well served by computers, fluctuation is unavoidable and inevitable.
The Government have many areas of human need to serve, and they must mobilise industrial forces not just in one area, like Wales, but between all the areas where there is unemployment. After a great surge— I think this point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry— such as we have seen in industrial investment, and a great expansion in the steel and motor car industries, for instance, we must expect that there will be a pause of consolidation, so that demand shall catch up with the new potential of supply that has been created. This expanding productive capacity means that we have created a base for further expansion without inflation.
916 A number of speeches have been made on individual constituency needs. I do not for a moment underestimate the poignancy and immediacy of these needs, but I do not think that it would be helpful to devote all my speech in reply to the debate to making comments on the needs expressed. Broadly, I agree with what hon. Members have said about the needs of their constituencies. I shall study them with my hon. Friends concerned, and we shall do all we can to mitigate them. I recognise that, although we deal in averages, 2.7 per cent. unemployment covers a very great variety of need and, I hope hon. and right hon. Members recognise, a very great variety of prospects, because in some areas there are enough jobs in prospect— I agree that they have not yet all materialised— to make the future not at all uneasy for particular localities.
I turn now to individual questions. I cannot possibly deal with all of them and I wish to reserve some time for returning to a particular subject which I hope it will be seen is of importance. A number of hon. Members have particularly challenged the Government about the problems of Mid-Wales. I hope that I shall not be accused of being evasive if I pick on this subject above all others because it comprises a number of constituencies. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) and the hon. Members for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) and Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) dealt at length with Mid-Wales. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan put his finger on the point when he said that agricultural work is now much more productive than it used to be. We must welcome this, but, of course, it is at the heart of depopulation. Fewer people are doing more work, and the other people who live in the area have to seek work elsewhere.
I could mention forestry as a hope for the future; that is not an immediate hope. I could say that in those more properous towns serving a more prosperous agricultural region the service trades tend to flourish. I think that there is hope there. I could adopt the hope of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) and say that Wales has a much larger tourist potential than it is at present exploiting. I intend to do all that I can to help in developing 917 this potential. Tourism brings some of what is called off-farm income to people who live in farming areas. But I recognise that, when all is said and done, these areas are left with an unbalanced age structure and that the young people tend to move.
Those who stay are, however, better off. Do not let us be too romantic about the glorious life on the farm in the old days. Many people did the work which few people do now. I recognise that there was a fine community culture, and I mourn that if it has passed, but do not let us be too romantic about the material blessings of those days. In Radnorshire, there are more motor licences per 1,000 of the population than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. But of course that means that it is tough on those who stay but who do not have a motor car.
I shall return to the Jack Report later and say what I think the next stage in the process of serving those left without much transport should be, but I stress that the depopulation is not caused by a lack of transport. When transport is little used because of depopulation, it falls as a heavy burden on the taxpayer, and the Government have to act as they have recently begun to act. The rail closures to which many hon. Members have referred are only the result of too little use being made of individual railway lines. Before there are any more closures, I assure hon. Members that there will be public announcements and a full procedure of consultation through the consultative committee, and the approval of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will be required. My right hon. Friend has the power in his hands to require additional bus or railway services if he judges them necessary for social reasons.
That brings me back to the Jack Report on rural transport. The House will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport yesterday made a statement that he would see to it that surveys were made in one or two rural areas to try to ascertain exactly the need and how best to tackle it. No decision has been made by the Government about which areas are to be surveyed. Only a few are to be done, I undertake, however, to press my right hon. Friend to see that one of the areas 918 shall be in Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mid-Wales?"] I should not like to commit myself, but if that is where the need is greatest, there I hope it will be.
I apologise for being absent when the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) was speaking. He asked about the Report on transport by the Council for Wales. It should be published in the autumn, and we expect to get reports on tourism and the Welsh language nearer the end of the year. We have not yet received the Report of the Local Government Commission, but we expect it in the autumn. There can be no publication of it, probably, before the New Year. The right hon. Gentleman made a number of bold suggestions about debates on Welsh affairs which I shall certainly discuss with my right hon. Friends concerned.
I now turn to what I thought, with respect to all other hon. Members, was the most notable speech of the debate. The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. A. Pearson) put his finger on the things that, I consider— I say it with all humility after only two and a half weeks— are really what matter for the future of Wales. The hon. Members speech seemed to me to go to the heart of the Welsh problem.
Communities do not flourish or fade because of character of virtue or even because of brains, although all these factors help. They flourish because, broadly, they produce what the market needs and they produce it competitively. Who is the key to this successful service to the market, the market of their own fellow citizens, the market of all the citizens in their country and the world market? It is, it seems to me, the entrepreneur, the manager— I am talking of public as well as private enterprise— the technician, the scientist, the engineer, the inventor and the market research man. These are the alchemists of the twentieth century, the people who take a community and make it wealthy.
A debate about economics, industrial affairs and the future that does not spend most of its time discussing those people and linear work and the framework within which they operate does not get to the heart of the problem. The Government can do a certain amount about these things. They are open to suggestion and have their own ideas. 919 Only one of these was brought out, again, by the hon. Member for Pontypridd, when he mentioned the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and its office in Wales. I know that the D.S.I.R. has in Wales only a very small staff— a staff, I am told, of high quality. I am further told that that very small staff is not kept busy, because Welsh firms and enterprises do not seem avid enough for the fruits of research. It is not necessary to have a great research laboratory to get the fruits of research. There are many libraries and technical services that feed from one industry to another, for a fee or not for a fee, the benefits of other people's work.
This is a subject which, with my right hon. Friends concerned, I shall examine as much as I can. I hope that as a result of all our efforts, we can bring home to Welsh enterprise, both public and private— and there are splendid examples, such as British Nylon Spinners, which was mentioned, and many others, particularly in steel, chemicals, the motor car industry and coal, which are attentive to research— and to Wales as a whole, that the fruits of the future can only be harvested by research, by development and by keeping up with the market.
That is a factor however one's economy is organised. It is a factor that is beyond and above parties. We may differ about how to achieve it. We on this side believe that the profit motive is a necessary stimulus to it. Hon. Members opposite do not regard the profit motive as being as important as we do. We all agree, however, that research and development are vital, and I think we all agree that there is not enough of these in Wales today.
I have been only two and a half weeks as Minister, but I asked early on, when discussing a programme of visits to Wales, that I should see Welsh businessmen, since it seemed to me that it would be Welsh businessmen— and again I am speaking of both public and private enterprise— from whom I should learn most about how to help Wales to get improved production, and that in this they would be of more assistance to me than others would be. I was told that I should meet many fine people, sensitive, cultured Welsh people, artists, teachers, doctors, traders, men and 920 women of faith, men and women of vision, but that I should not meet many Welsh business men, I should not meet many Welsh managers, and I should not meet many Welsh engineers. If this is true, it is a shame. These Welsh talents should be canalised in many channels, and it is in these channels that the Welsh can flower, too—
§ Sir K. Joseph
If I am wrong, I must plead that the fault is my own, and I shall learn better. I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me to be a great shame that Wales should have to look across to England for innovators, industrial initiators, even managers. Wales should surely generate more of its own employment—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The right hon. Gentleman heard me pay a tribute to Welsh teachers, and teaching is the finest of the professions, but it only creates wealth indirectly and not directly. The direct creation of wealth is by the perception of need and the satisfaction of it. The right hon. Gentleman is falling below the level of this debate if he thinks that what are meant to be constructive suggestions I have made are a subject of quarrel. I meant no injury to any other profession when I said that Wales would benefit by those others as well.
However, as I see that the whole subject is not as widely acceptable as I thought it would be I will leave it and return to the safe refuge of the winder-up and deal with points raised in the debate till I come to my conclusion.
Hon. Gentlemen tested me, as a notorious townsman, on my knowledge of agriculture, and I should like to show off the very little I know of the subject, which I must study a great deal more and which I shall hope to study in Wales a great deal more now that I have some responsibilty for Welsh affairs. Since it is absurd to try to pretend otherwise I do not deny that I am a townsman and that I shall have to lean about this subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) spoke with some 921 grief of the price of eggs last year. This is a subject with which I had something to do when I was at the Board of Trade. Of course, the great cry was, "It is eggs from abroad which are driving the market down at home". It is my belief that m fact it was the rise in the production of eggs at home which caused the fall in the price. The import; of eggs from abroad was really very small indeed in comparison with home production. I can assure my horn. Friend that the anti-dumping powers are vigorously used by and available at all times to my night horn. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
Into the dispute about the exact fuel which will fire the future power stations of Wales I would not venture to enter, but I can remind the House that there are many power stations which are fired by coal and several more planned which will be coal fired, and indeed the demand for coal from the Central Electricity Generating Board in Wales is expected to increase substantiality. The Milford project is only at this stage a paper — a study— project, and any proposals would have to be put to my night hon. Friend the Minister of Power, and there would be ample chance to object, but it does not seem wholly absurd that a power station based at or near a port Where oil is pouring in should be considered for oil firing— though I repeat that a decision has not been made at this stage.
Finally, I will try to resume what I hope is common ground to both sides of the House. Wades now has a mature industrial economy, but as such it must accept the inevitable, the unavoidable, small fluctuations inseparable from change and inseparable, therefore, from progress. These fluctuations seem small enough from afar, but close to they loom— I do not deny it— monstrous large.
There are areas where new jobs— the new jobs that have come or the new jobs that will come— just do not coincide with the loss of work. I repeat that I shall study all that has been said. I shall do all I can to steer new industry to Wales. But we deceive ourselves and we deceive our respective constituents if 922 we think that there can be a great surge of new employment at all times evenly. There was a great surge of new employment to Wales over the last two or three years. It has abated— I do not deny it — but it will return again.
As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, there are to offset the closures that hit the headlines a continuous— not dramatic— score every few months of expansions of existing firms which add employment prospects to all parts of Wales. We cannot rely upon stable expansion, but we can rely on expansion and we can rely on a share of that expansion going to Wales. I repeat the hope that the Welsh will try to see the purpose of trying to generate some of their own new employment.
For me this is not the end of a debate. It is the start of a job of work. This job cannot be done by magic or by conjuring. It can be done only by persuasion, by co-operation and by reinforcing success. I shall have in this Che co-operation of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, and in particular the wholehearted efforts of my noble Friend the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. We must between us seek out industrialists and persuade them of the virtues of Wales and the Welsh. We shall easily be able to give them references and suggest that they speak to their competitors, colleagues and friends who are already sucessfully working in Wales with the Welsh for the benefit of the Welsh economy.
I believe that this is a job which is infinitely worth doing and that it can be done, but I ask the House candidly to accept my conviction that it cannot be done overnight, cannot be done dramatically, cannot be done at a stable rate of growth; but it will be done— of that I am sure. There is very much success in Wales today, and a sound basis on which we can all try to build for an even more successful future.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1961 (Command Paper No. 1643).