§ Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[Dr. Miller.]
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I wish to call attention to the expenditure that, it has been announced, is to be incurred in connection with the investiture of the Prince of Wales in July next year.
I shall probably say something controversial, but there is one thing which is not controversial: that we are in a grave and serious financial position and that we have been urged by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Governor of the Bank of England that we must be careful in our public spending.
There was one common factor in the previous debate between the concluding speech and that from the Opposition Front Bench, which drew a gloomy picture of our economic position and said, "We are in the red". Now we pass from the red to the red, white and blue, in which the attitude of the Opposition is very different. I understand that the Opposition are solidly, unanimously and enthusiastically behind the Government in their intention to spend £200,000 at Caernarvon next year. I would rather add, the minimum.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. George Thomas)
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman says the maximum. I shall be asking some rather pertinent questions before I sit down. We have here a coalition. We have heard a lot about coalitions this week. We are told that coalition is the way to get out of the national difficulty. Here we reject that, and I reject that because I am suspicious of coalitions. Here we find the Opposition and the Government united in coalition 731 to spend money which we cannot afford to spend in this manner in a financial crisis. The excuse given is that this is an ancient tradition, an ancient something which has gone on through the ages and that one has to continue it. It is sheer historical hocus-pocus.
In Caernarvon there is a castle which has been in existence for nearly 600 years and during that 600 years there have been 20 Princes of Wales. During all this long period, with the Edwards, the Henries and Charlies, there has been only one investiture and that was in 1911, of the unfortunate then Prince of Wales, who afterwards became Duke of Windsor.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
Does the hon. Member include Owain Glyndwr who was proclaimed Prince of Wales, deo gratia, in 1404?
§ Mr. Hughes
No. I did not include him. I included in the list of 20 those who appear in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The hon. Gentleman can work that out from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Of all those Princes, the only one who was invested was the one who abdicated.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—This may be an unfortunate precedent, I think not. We know that the last Prince of Wales has written his side of the story in his memoirs. He explained that the whole thing was a publicity stunt that came from the fertile imagination of David Lloyd George who wished to ingratiate himself with George V with whom he had certain differences about the House of Lords. It was a very good constituency stunt, because he was the Constable of Caernarvon Castle, which was in his constituency. I can understand what Lloyd George was up to, but I cannot understand why, in 1968, a Labour Government should want a repeat performance. That, to me, is a complete mystery, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will elucidate the matter.
All this can be found in the memoirs of the Duke of Windsor. He had a very hard time as a young man. He did not want to go to the investiture. When he was to be measured for the suit of clothes that he was to wear, he objected, saying," I cannot go in this rig-out and be photographed before my old friends." Now there are new terrors. My right hon. 732 Friend has told us that this time it will be on television, so 400 million people will watch the Prince of Wales go through it. No wonder he objected.
In his memoirs, the Duke of Windsor said that there was a big row in the Royal Family. I am a man of peace. The last thing that I want is a row in the Royal Family. If, after reading the memoirs of the Duke of Windsor—and I hope that the Minister will present this to the Royal Family—the Prince of Wales decides to go on strike, I shall support him. Far from having any quarrel with the Prince of Wales, I have every sympathy with him. I do not see why he should be dragged to Caernarvon. If a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to the Prince of Wales is formed. I will immediately send a subscription.
There is no need to drag the unfortunate Prince of Wales through what his predecessor had to undergo. Having seen the photographs in the Manchester Guardian I am more convinced than ever. The then Prince of Wales had to appear in a uniform with swaddling-clothes. In one hand he held a wand, in the other a sword, and he had on something that looked a cross between a duffle coat and a mini skirt. It is sheer cruelty to have the Prince of Wales taken to Caernarvon and televised before 400 million people. I ask the Minister to support me in preventing it.
What is the excuse for all this? A mercenary one. The only argument that has been advanced so far is the good that it will do the Welsh tourist trade. Of the 400 million people who will see this ceremony on television, some may decide to visit North Wales in the hope of seeing the Prince of Wales—they may be disappointed, because he may not be there—and tens of thousands will probably go to Caernarvon, resulting in a tremendous boost for the tourist trade of North Wales.
Some of the expenditure to which I object is interesting. There is £137,000 for temporary buildings to be put up and pulled down shortly after the ceremony is over—probably the following week.
I think that it would be better for the people of Wales if the £200,000 were invested in advance factories which would give permanent employment. Wales needs not a temporary pantomime, but a programme of work. What are the other items of expenditure? It will cost £12,000 733 to bring the Household Cavalry from London. That works out at £70 per horse. If an old-age pensioner happens to take his glasses off for a moment to wipe them, the horses will gallop by, and he will see nothing at all of them.
I see that £36,000 are to be spent on providing public conveniences, because Caernarvon is short of them. I suggest that the plumbers, joiners, and the builders are wasting their time, and that the Minister who is defending the spending of this sum of money ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
What about the tourist business? People will be attracted to North Wales, but we in Scotland will be called on to subsidise them to the extent of £200,000. The people of South Wales will get nothing at all. The money is to be used to attract people to North Wales which, of all the places in this country, is well advertised already.
We have been given a flimsy excuse for this ceremony, but who is to get the benefit of it? I have here an advertisement which appeared in The Times on 11th September. It was in the personal column at the back of the paper, and it said:N. Wales, July, 1969, Investiture week, Caernarvon 10 m1s.: 2 adjacent cotts., mod cons., fully equipped; both sleep 6; rent £100 each.I understand that Pwllheli is only 12 miles away. I do not think the Prince of Wales will be able to say that one very easily. The owners will be delighted. They will have a picture of King Charles III on one side, and one of King George VII on the other. The more rooms a person has, the more he will benefit from the subsidy. What the people who have only one room will get, I do not know.
Those who live in other parts of the country should not be expected to subsidise North Wales. I ask the Minister to make this a purely North Wales affair, and to say to the people in those counties," Are you, in this hour of national emergency, prepared to put this on the rates ". If the people there are to benefit, they should pay for this. That is the old spirit of independence. If the Minister puts that to the people of North Wales, I am sure that within 48 hours the Mayor of Caernarvon will be here saying: "Take this to Blackpool, or to the Isle of Man".
734 This is not dedication. This is not an ancient ceremony. This is a racket, a property owners' racket. And who will benefit from it? I ask the Minister what steps he was taking to prevent the charging of excessively high prices in Caernarvon, and the reply I received—I have almost decided to take it home and frame it—was:It is for those concerned to act responsibly in fixing their prices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November 1968; Vol. 774 c. 108.]How does the Welsh Tourist Board view this? I understand from an article in the Guardian that the local town council has had a dispute with the Board. This is because tickets were bought for £3 each and are selling for £5, with the result that £40,000 will be got out of this expenditure. The Minister really must look into this.
There is an extreme lack of enthusiasm for all this. That was revealed in a recent Gallup Poll of public opinion which The Times published under the heading," Split in Wales ". There is undoubtedly enthusiasm in some quarters, but not in those which usually vote Labour. In any event, such enthusiasm as exists has been exaggerated.
I urge the Minister to think the matter over during Christmas and reflect on the points I have made. Let him reply to me tonight," I will consider it over Christmas, and make a statement when we return". If he will do that I will withdraw any criticisms I have made of him. I have called him the Prodigal Son of the Labour Government. I am not sure that I was fair to him, since the Prodigal Son repented. So I say to the Minister," Repent, and if you repent I will come again and say to you, 'Lord, he has repented, bring out the fatted calf'".
§ 11.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. George Thomas)
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has been in the House a long time. He has been out of Wales a longer time. I believe that he left Wales 40 years ago, or it may have been 50.
§ Mr. Thomas
I always enjoy listening to him when he is in a bantering mood, and he has been in one tonight. He has 735 left us in no doubt for a long time that he does not like the investiture. He did not like the coronation either. He does not like anything associated with royalty. I do not do him an injustice in saying that.
§ Mr. Thomas
I know my hon. Friend too well. He is following his pet hobby of chasing anything with which royalty is associated. But with due regard to him, that is not the view of the majority of people in Great Britain. The people of Wales, including supporters of the party opposite—the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) is on record as having said," We are not opposed to the investiture "—want it and are preparing for the investiture.
One of my major problems—no, not "major" but certainly a problem—
§ Mr. Thomas
—is the number of local authorities in Wales which are pressing for the Prince of Wales to visit their localities during the investiture. Every day I receive requests from local authorities asking that they be included because their people want to share in the investiture.
Such is the feeling in the Principality that a great many people are giving their services voluntarily towards the investiture. A number of internationally famous Welsh singers are taking part in the programme of music and are waiving their normally substantial fees. Distinguished Welsh composers are writing new music but are claiming no fee. The B.B.C. Welsh Orchestra is giving its services free of charge. Every community in Wales is contributing in one way or another to the investiture.
I therefore reject the argument that the investiture is unpopular in Wales. There is a noisy minority, to the fringe of which my hon. Friend would belong if he were still in Wales, who are opposed, but they have had publicity out of all proportion to their numbers. Sometimes I wonder about people in charge of the Press and what sense of values they have for the space they have given to the fanatics who advance arguments which would not last for two minutes in this House.
736 My hon. Friend also ought to know that there was a national opinion poll taken in Wales on this question and three out of four people registered an opinion in favour of the investiture. My hon. Friend quoted something from The Times. Like everyone else, I read The Times, of course from time to time, but if he had read the Daily Mail, or the Western Mail—
§ Mr. Thomas
The Western Mail national opinion poll showed 70 per cent. in favour of the investiture. Other hon. Members present can correct me if I am wrong in saying that the proportion was three out of four in favour. I happened to be in Cardiff Arms Park in 1958 at the Commonwealth Games when the lord mayor of the day. Alderman A. J. Williams, announced that he had received a message from the Queen that Charles was to be known as the Prince of Wales. A great cheer went up and the crowd sang:Mae hen wlâd fy nhadauWales knows that a tiny majority are trying to create ill feeling on this question.
I was a little surprised that my hon. Friend, representing a Scottish constituency is so uninterested in the economic reward which will come to the Welsh people. The whole country benefits when tourism increases. Last year £80 million was earned from tourism in the Principality of Wales. Mark well my words: those figures will move upwards. From all over the world people will be coming, not for the investiture, but having seen through the medium of world television something of the glories of North Wales. We shall be having visitors from all over the world. Many a country would like to have this investiture. Scotland is one.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prince of Wales was Lord of the Isles?
§ Mr. Thomas
We are quite willing to share with anyone. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her contribution.
My hon. Friend has had a great deal of fun on this question. He referred to the troops. One fifth of the number of troops will be there this time. They will be largely engaged on control of the thousands who will be coming to see the investiture, helping the police to line the route. These boys in uniform will be from Welsh regiments. They are entitled to play their proper part in the investiture of the Prince of Wales.
I hope my hon. Friend will not mind my saying to him that I always find it hard when after General Election after General Election I watch him early in the queue to take the oath of loyalty to the Queen, with his hand on his heart, saying… to her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.He is not bound to take the oath.
§ Mr. Thomas
But it is the same thing—my hon. Friend is affirming loyalty. Since I have been in the House I have known an hon. Member who refused to take his seat because he would not take the oath of loyalty, but when one has taken it surely it means something? The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. 738 (Gwynfor Evans) was not content to take it once; he took it twice to make sure, once in English and once in Welsh.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans
I should have been glad to take it twice if I had been allowed by the House to do so. I wanted to take it a second time in the Welsh language, but the House denied me that right.
§ Mr. Thomas
I understood that the hon. Gentleman repeated it in the Welsh language. At any rate, he wanted to.
My hon. Friend has not been slow to pour his amusing scorn on those of us who defend the investiture. He must not mind if in return we remind him of his weak spots, and that is one. To talk like a republican, one should behave like a republican, and my hon. Friend is in no position to cast scorn on any other Member, certainly not on me, on this question.
I believe that when the investiture takes place the Welsh people will prove in their tens of thousands that they welcome it, that we shall see celebrations in North Wales, Mid-Wales and South Wales, and that the event will justify itself.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes past Eleven o'clock.