HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc600-79

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd]

4.4 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

Perhaps it would be helpful if, at the outset and to avoid too many interventions, I say that I shall speak on a considerable number of topics, including the Severn crossing, the Trafalger House proposal and the Avana project at Merthyr.

The annual Welsh debate held this year on the day after St. David's day is traditionally wide-ranging. It will have the length although not, I fear, quite the epic grandeur of last Saturday's magnificent performance by the Welsh National Opera of "The Trojans." Some may consider it foolish or ambitious to attempt to set our party arguments and our immediate preoccupations against the prospective of history. I do so because I believe that Wales has arrived at one of those turning points of history which, even if not recognised at the time, are later seen to have changed the way in which we think and live.

One such period was the time when people moved from the countryside and, from both inside and outside the Principality, flooded into the industrial valleys, doubling the population of Wales in 50 years. Much more recently, we have seen a similar phenomenon in modern America. In 1920, 40 per cent. of all Americans lived and worked on farms. In 1920, in Wales about 380,000 men worked in mining and the metal-making industries, about 40 per cent. of male employment. By 1960, that figure had reduced to around 200,000, and the decline continued steadily under successive Governments — Labour and Conservative—and had little to do with party policy. By 1976, coal and steel employment had halved again to around 100,000. Today, it is about 36,000, 10 per cent. of the total in 1920 and only 3 per cent. of the total work force.

The historical fact with which we are confronted is that the Welsh dependence on the old basic industries is over and the long-agonised decline from the peak of 1921 with all its painful social consequences is also over. We have entered a new period in which, though coal and steel will continue to play an important role, the Welsh economy will advance and grow on a broad base that will consist of the old industries modernised and brought up to date by modern technology, the new industries and the services needed by the 21st century man. That growth, which is already taking place, will involve a massive rebuilding and refurbishment of our cities and urban communities, a new diversity of employment in the countryside and the removal of the social and environmental evils that have scarred the lives of our people during the years of decline. It is a time for looking forward with confidence, not backwards with pessimism—a change that on its own will do much to transform our prospects.

I say that coal and steel will continue to play an important role. Let me first say a word about each.

The number of mines in Wales has halved and the number of men who work in them has almost halved since the coal strike ended. Although very generous redundancy terms and offers of alternative employment have eased the transition for individuals, the effect on the communities involved has been traumatic. For the core of the industry that we now have, the prospects are better than for many, many years. Productivity has almost doubled and nearly every pit has had recent investment in heavy duty face equipment. The board's announcement last June of the new Carway Fawr drift mine at Cynheidre provided firm evidence of the fact that good results create a climate of confidence in which really major investment can take place. Some £100 million has been committed in the South Wales coalfield over the past two years. More recently the board of British Coal has announced its wish to go ahead with the Margam project to create nearly 800 mining jobs, with 700 jobs during the construction period. It is the most exciting new project in south Wales mining for many years, and I very much hope that the negotiations that are now taking place between British Coal and the unions will allow it to go forward to become a highly productive coal mine. British Coal is exploring various options for the most appropriate financing of the scheme and is seeking support from the European Coal and Steel Community. British Coal has not yet submitted its formal proposal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, but it is discussing the funding with him.

The Welsh steel industry has also received very large scale investment. In the financial year 1985–86, the British Steel Corporation made its first net profit for 11 years. Llanwern and Port Talbot are now acknowledged to be among the most modern and efficient steelworks in Europe. At Port Talbot the £171 million hot strip mill was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales last June, and work on the Concast plant at Llanwern is proceeding well towards commissioning next year. At Shotton I opened the £30 million Galvalume project last summer, and further large investment is now being made. At Trostre tin plate works £50 million is being spent on a second continuous annealing line. All this shows that British Steel is determined to provide the modern technology which, combined with the improvements in performance and productivity, will enable it to maintain its competitive position in the market.

Against a background of unemployment figures that are still very high, I shall explain why I am increasingly confident about the future of the Welsh economy. Despite the loss of some 67,000 jobs in coal and steel since 1975, unemployment in Wales rose less severely in the period up to early 1986 than in the United Kingdom as a whole. Since then it has fallen faster and further than elsewhere. That fact, the new industries and services and the increase in the number of self-employed, together with the very large share of United Kingdom inward investment taken by Wales—consistently around 20 per cent. of the total — have begun to act as an effective cushion to the disproportionate size of our losses in coal and steel.

Those are the statistics. Up and down Wales new industrial estates, new factories, and new firms demonstrate the nature of the change.

Since this debate a year ago the evidence has multiplied and the pace of recovery has accelerated. Unemployment has fallen in Wales for seven months in a row and in nine out of the last 10 months. I am glad to say that there are 13,000 fewer unemployed people in the headline total than there were at this time last year, and that the adjusted figure is over 11,000 below the peak figure recorded in March last year. In last year's debate the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) gave the male unemployment figures for a long list of travel-to-work areas and constituencies. While in all these places the figures are still too high, I am glad to report that in every one they are lower than they were a year ago. The improvement is not confined to particular parts of Wales, but is widespread. There is every reason to think that it will continue.

The British economy is now growing faster than the economies in almost every other developed country, there has been a staggering improvement in production performance, we are no longer dependent on deficit finance and capital goods imports and industrial investment are all rising strongly. The Confederation of British Industry, the chambers of commerce and firms throughout Wales have all expressed confidence about their prospects. A number of independent assessments confirm how widespread is this improvement. The CBI Welsh quarterly trends survey published in January reveals a sharp increase in business optimism.

The volume of orders is the highest for 10 years, the number of firms working below capacity has fallen sharply, and investment in plant and machinery is rising.

The evidence that Wales is entering a period of industrial expansion is reinforced by the remarkable statistics for the allocation of factories by Government agencies. In 1984 the figure was 1.8 million sq ft, in 1985 it was just over 2 million sq ft and in 1986 it was over 2.5 million sq ft. As a result of the high level of demand, the vacanacy rate for the Welsh Development Agency's estate has dipped to around 9 per cent. The highest figure for factory allocations under Labour was 1.125 million sq ft—well under half this year's total. In order to build on this success, I have told the WDA to plan on the basis of having £93 million available for its factory building programme over the next three years. The agency's chairman launched the programme formally earlier today. When the new programme is taken into account, the WDA will provide about 1 million sq ft of factory space a year in each of the next three years. This will virtually double the rate of completions delivered in any year since 1976 — apart from those affected by the special measures taken in the early 1980s to mitigate the steel closures.

The year 1986–87 was also a record year for factory building by Mid Wales Development. A major initiative was the completion of the Laura Ashley factory at Newtown. With that project behind it and with more receipts, the board will have additional resources and flexibility to carry forward its factory programme and its other activities.

Clwyd is a part of Wales that offers striking evidence of the transformation that is taking place and, within it, Delyn is a particularly good example of what can be achieved if Government, local authorities and the public sector co-operate effectively together. Since May 1979, Welsh Office support through job-related regional assistance in Clwyd involved projects with investment costs of over £670 million, with the promise of around 17,000 new jobs and the safeguarding of over 4,500 others. We have specially directed urban programme resources towards economic regeneration of the area.

Some £5 million has been directed to developing the Delyn enterprise zone. Already some 85 firms have located in the zone, of which 62 have moved in since designation in July 1983. Over half the jobs now being provided are new, and 86 per cent. of them are in manufacturing. Remarkable progress has been made in replacing the jobs lost through the closure of the Courtaulds plants at Greenfields and Wrexham.

We have also directed resources to the improvement of the Wrexham industrial estate and for infrastructure development at the Wrexham technology park and the Redwither industrial estate.

All this work is bringing new industry in substantial quantities, and this is in addition to major enterprises which are well established and growing. A number of recent announcements show that the transformation of the industrial base is gathering pace. The announcements were : Christie-Tyler 160 new jobs: Warwick International at Mostyn over 250 new jobs; Fibre Flame up to 300 new jobs; and Hurrall 60 jobs. Today, CP Pharmaceuticals announced a £4 million expansion which is expected to create more than 100 extra jobs.

It is not just Clwyd. Between 1979–80 and 1987–88 urban programme resources amounting to some £34 million were allocated to the counties of Gwynedd and Clwyd together. That is about 25 per cent. of the total for the whole of Wales.

All this is evidence that there is no north-south divide in Wales, either in terms of what can be achieved or in terms of the Government's commitment. The capital programme that I have described is only part of what is being done to improve the economic infrastructure of north Wales. A road programme larger than ever before is improving the access to the English motorway system, the routes north and south and, above all, westwards along the A55 where the new dual carriageway between Chester and Bangor is now two thirds completed and journey times have been dramatically reduced in the last year. Work has started on the Conwy crossing and the Penmaenbach tunnel. This new A55 dual carriageway will bring the whole north Wales coastal strip, Gwynedd and Anglesey, within easy driving distance of Manchester airport and the heart of industrial Britain.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no north-south divide in Wales. Does he not agree that Wales is clearly a victim of the same factors that divide the north of England from the south? Will he confirm that, in terms of gross domestic product per head, Wales still lags behind almost every other region of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Edwards

In exactly those terms the growth in Wales in gross domestic product per head during the time of this Government has been faster than in any part of the United Kingdom except East Anglia. The change is taking place and is dramatic. I have been talking about the north.

Similarly in the south we are beginning to see the development pulled westwards. Road projects that are under way will remove the last serious obstacles on the route from west Wales to London. We have invested over £8 million in the Milford Haven enterprise zone; and a major deep water facility there should be available for shipping in the coming year. In Swansea the enterprise zone has attracted 2,300 jobs. This month, Swansea Computer Harnesses has announced that it will create 260 additional jobs in Swansea and that the parent company, Swansea Industrial Components, will create 120 jobs at Burryport. I hope we will see a start this spring on the long-awaited international hotel which will reinforce the great progress that has been made in the maritime zone of Swansea, while the WDA factory building programme at Baglan and a high-tech park to be developed at Bridgend are other developments designed to ensure that the economic recovery spreads westwards. I greatly welcome BP's initiative in setting up D'Arcy Development and in providing land, buildings and resources at Llandarcy and at Angle Bay in order to assist job creation in both places. At Kenfig the Japanese company Orion, which began manufacturing only last summer, expects to be employing 250 within the next few months and is planning a further large project.

As I told the House earlier this afternoon, Sony has announced that it is embarking on a major expansion at its Bridgend site. The project, costing over £30 million, involves a substantial increase in the manufacture of colour TV sets, tubes and components and will create an additional 332 jobs, bringing the employment at the plant to nearly 1,600.

The successful development of the enterprise zones and the tranformation of Maritime Swansea are examples of what can be achieved if local authorities take full advantage of the inititatives taken by this Government. They show that, whatever differences emerge in this debate, there is a great deal of common ground. There are shared objectives, a point that emerged very clearly during a visit I paid last summer to the Rhondda. That council has been energetically and imaginatively using this Government's urban development grant scheme to bring forward urban renewal projects and also making use of a variety of schemes that we have introduced for improving the housing stock. There is a "priority estates" project at Penrhys, enveloping schemes at Cwm Park and Blaenau Cwm, and in the same district, at Clydach Vale, private sector housing development by Barratts and factory development is following on the completion of one of the largest derelict land schemes undertaken in Britain. In last month's debate in the Welsh Grand Committee I announced that we were providing additional resources for the derelict land programme.

The Rhondda is also one of the authorities that has responded enthusiastically to the valleys initiative that I launched in this debate last year. I announced on 10 September that we had selected the seven towns of Aberdare, Ebbw Vale, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil, Pontardawe, Pontypool and Tonypandy to receive support over a three-year period. We made available £3 million of special capital allocations in the current year and I have announced a further £7 million for 1987–88. This expenditure is additional to the considerable sums of public money already available to the valleys for housing and derelict land clearance and urban improvement.

Another boost will come from the garden festival to be held in 1992 in Ebbw Vale. The site chosen is exciting and challenging. The local authority is responding to the challenge with energy and has rightly recognised that the success of the festival will to a great extent depend upon private sector participation, leadership and involvement. Although the festival is not to take place until 1992, the work is starting at once and there is much to be done. I am sure that the festival will give a massive boost to the regeneration of the whole area, particularly along the heads of the valleys where there have recently been a number of encouraging industrial developments. I particularly welcome the move of Hoover's headquarters to Merthyr.

In that connection I must refer to the announcement this morning of a package of support for a major development planned by Avana in the Dragon Park building originally constructed for Hoover, which is expected to create 800 jobs withing three years. This application for financial assistance was lodged and much of the property negotiation completed before the bid by Rank Hovis McDougall. We have processed that application under the normal procedures without regard to the bid.

I hope that, whatever the outcome of the bid, this very important and carefully prepared project will go ahead. Both companies have a high reputation; both provide significant employment in Wales; and Rank Hovis McDougall is at the present time carrying out a capital project in Barry. Avana has an outstanding record of growth, investment and job creation in Wales and elsewhere.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

This announcement is very welcome. The development will widen the range of job opportunities in the communities that I represent. May I take it that this project is guaranteed to go ahead, irrespective of what happens about the bid?

Mr. Edwards

An offer has been made to Avana. The rules mean that if the offer were successful and Rank Hovis McDougall succeeded, it would have to resubmit an application for the project against the background of the financial structure of that company. I do not know what the outcome of the bid will be. The chairman of Rank Hovis McDougall has informed me that his company would regard a number of the Avana operations as among the lead operations for the proposed merger. If Avana maintained its very strong performance record, the project would go ahead, but the exact future will depend on the decision that is made about the bid.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

The right hon. Gentleman knows that great apprehension is felt among employees in Cardiff about this takeover bid. Avana has been a very prosperous Welsh company, as he pointed out. In his conversations with Rank Hovis McDougall, has the right hon. Gentleman received any undertakings about future employment if the takeover bid succeeds, because that is what is worrying my constituents and many others?

Mr. Edwards

Even before this project came forward, the chairman assured me that he believed that a takeover would not have adverse job consequences for Wales. He has told my Department that four or five of the Avana operations would be regarded as flagship operations in the new group. Since the right hon. Gentleman has pressed me on the matter, I must say, as a regional Minister, that I believe that there is particular value in companies like Avana, with outstanding management and good performance, having their headquarters in the regions. Therefore, I do not mind saying that I hope that Avana will maintain its position, but it will be for the market to decide. In fairness to Rank Hovis McDougall, it is also investing quite heavily in Wales and has given the kind of assurances that I have explained to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Callaghan

What the right hon. Gentleman has said will be welcomed, because the general view is that if this company, Avana, can maintain its advanced position and the quality of the goods and services that it is now providing, it is far better that it should be managed in Wales, even if Rank Hovis McDougall has good reasons for thinking that it should be managed outside Wales.

Mr. Edwards

I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman.

I have already announced three new industrial projects this afternoon : CP Pharmaceuticals with more than 100 additional jobs, Sony with more than 330, Avana with 800, the overwhelming majority of the jobs being entirely new. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) shouts from a sedentary position that there is a general election coming. These decisions were taken by individual manufacturing companies that have confidence in Wales, which apparently the hon. Gentleman does not have.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we were well aware of all these announcements when we came into the Chamber today? There were press releases in Cardiff before any announcement was made to Parliament. Only two minutes ago the Welsh Development Agency's property developments programme was put on the notice board. It is disgusting that only two minutes ago we saw this Welsh Development Agency document.

Mr. Edwards

If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House at the start of the debate, he would have heard me refer to the announcement and to the press conference that was held by the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency, but, as usual, he is out of touch and out of place.

I can also tell the House that Motil Plastics, which already employs 460 at Aberbargoed, today announced an expansion project providing 130 additional jobs by the end of next year; and I am also delighted that Penney and Giles Conduction Plastics Ltd. intends to create 100 extra jobs in a proposed expansion at Blackwood and Magnapower Transformers Ltd. 150 on the Treforest trading estate—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ogmore seems to regard all that as bad news. However, the people of Wales will regard it as good news and it shows the scale of the economic expansion now under way in Wales.

In this debate last year I told the House of my plans for the further redevelopment of south Cardiff, building on the tremendous progress that has been made in recent years. Those plans received a warm welcome on all sides. Since then we have carried forward our studies, consulting very widely and, with the united support of the local authorities directly involved, I announced on 5 December our intention to set up a Cardiff bay development corporation to bring forward this huge regeneration project which is attracting national and international interest. I have been grateful for the warm support of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) and greatly encouraged by the positive reaction of many experienced and successful people in the property world, the leisure industries and the financial markets. There is every indication that the commitments that the Government and the local authorities are making to infrastructure improvement will trigger private investment around Cardiff bay on a very large scale.

Our studies so far have shown that the proposed barrage is feasible and indicate that it is the key to unlocking a major development opportunity. One of the first tasks of the corporation will be to carry forward these financial appraisals and technical and ecological studies with a view, if they prove favourable, to enabling legislation being introduced by South Glamorgan county council this autumn.

An order setting up the corporation is currently before Parliament and a single petition by one company is due to be considered by a Select Committee in another place on 17 March. I hope that Parliament will give its consent and enable us to proceed very soon. In the meantime, the chairman-designate, Mr. Inkin, is working with the local authorities, my Department and others on the preparatory work.

The Cardiff bay development has potential, not simply to make Cardiff one of the most splendid cities in Europe and greatly to improve the conditions in which some of its poorest citizens live — a broad mix of housing right across the market range will be one of the major elements —but hugely to strengthen the economy of the whole of south Wales and particularly the industrial valleys that are so closely linked to it.

All those developments and, indeed, the whole economy of the area are dependent upon the security and adequacy of the Severn crossing. May I make it absolutely clear and put it beyond doubt that the Government are determined to secure both requirements. I can tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport expects to award the main contract for the strengthening works on the existing bridge before Easter.

Since my announcement last year of the Government's decision to provide a second Severn crossing, we have been pressing ahead with the enormous task of planning this major and difficult project. We have protected the route for the new crossing—for planning purposes—on both sides of the estuary. We are drawing up a wide-ranging technical brief for consultants to undertake the next phase of physical planning and consultation. The brief is highly complex, but it will be complete before Easter. Soon afterwards we shall take the necessary steps to appoint consultants. We are working to a timetable that will meet our firm intention to be in a position to provide the second crossing by the mid-1990s.

The House will be aware of a proposal by Trafalgar House to provide a second crossing with private sector finance close to the existing bridge. The chairman has discussed these proposals with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and myself. While we welcome the evidence that a private sector solution might be feasible, a possibility which I referred to in my statement last July, I told Sir Nigel Broackes that this proposal does not meet the requirements for a new crossing which remain as I described them last July. The Trafalgar House proposal is inadequate; it is in the wrong place; it does not provide the road links to the M5 that we want; and the legislative timetable proposed is unrealistic. In any case there could be no question of a contract being awarded before competitive tenders had been sought. If private financing is to be entertained, we would invite bids at the right time on the basis of Government guidelines.

Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)

As my right hon. Friend has rightly said, he is aware that that crossing is a sort of lifeline for Welsh industry. In those circumstances, is it a fact, from what he has said, that the horrendous forecast, made by the Member of the European Parliament for Wales, South, of private contractors taking over the contract and charging greatly enhanced tolls was completely without foundation? Can he confirm that?

Mr. Edwards

In my statement last July I said that we would consider the possibility of private sector funding but it will be on terms that fall within the Government guidelines of what is required, which is an absolutely satisfactory crossing for Wales, with a sensible financial base and without the sort of horrendous toll regime that my hon. Friend suggests. Any such proposal would simply not be acceptable to the Government. Already the Trafalgar House proposal includes, among other things, the cost of refurbishing and repairing the existing bridge, which is the subject of an entirely different tender and is being dealt with separately by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

Does the Secretary of State recall that in the Welsh Grand Committee on 26 November last I suggested that Trafalgar House was intent on making a bid for the second Severn crossing with an arrangement similar to the contract obtained under questionable circumstances to build the proposed new Dartford bridge? Will the Secretary of State also appreciate that on that occasion he gave every indication that he was concealing something and not being frank with the Committee? Would he agree with me now that the idea of Trafalgar House having control of the main access point in and out of Wales would be simply preposterous? Is there not an urgent need to get on with the construction of the new bridge, to make it a publicly owned one and to make it toll-free?

Mr. Edwards

As I said last July, I welcome the possibility of private sector finance on the lines of the Dartford precedent. I was entirely open and advanced the reasons for doing so. I welcome the interest of Trafalgar House. On the suggestion that I have something to conceal, the first I heard of the proposal was when Sir Nigel Broackes came to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport the week before last, and myself last week. I was given the detailed information about it on exactly the same day as it was given to the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes). So much for private information and consultation with Government. That proposition has been put forward by Trafalgar House for its own reasons without any discussion with Government. It will have to stand the test —[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newport, East has said that he does not believe me. I give my word to the House that that is so and I hope that he will accept that.

If private financing is to be entertained, we would invite bids at the right time on the basis of Government guidelines. We will not be dictated to by any company. However, we hope that it will make a bid at the appropriate time.

Mr. Roy Hughes


Mr. Edwards


Mr. Hughes

I am not going to withdraw anything.

When I put the point of view in the Welsh Grand Committee last November that Trafalgar House was fully intent on putting in a bid for this project with an arrangement similar to that obtained in questionable circumstances for the Dartford bridge, is the Secretary of State telling me that he knew nothing about it? Does no one tell him anything?

Mr. Edwards

What I am saying is perfectly clear. I hope that Trafalgar House and other consortia will come forward with tenders at the appropriate time. I did not have the smallest knowledge, and neither did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, of any approach by Trafalgar House with any proposal of the sort put forward last week until that proposal was put, as I have said, to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport just prior to the weekend before last. That is the fact. I very much regret that the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept my word.

Mr. Stefan Terlezki (Cardiff, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has explained himself thoroughly and positively, should not the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) withdraw his allegation, which has no foundation?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I have heard nothing out of order.

Mr. Edwards

I bow to that ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we shall move on. I hope that the hon. Member for Newport, East is not questioning my word.

So far, I have concentrated primarily on what is happening in urban and industrial Wales. In rural Wales, we face a period of profound change. It is unavoidable; nobody seriously imagines that we can go on producing agricultural surpluses at huge cost. The level of support for farming is still very large. The question is not whether we should support agriculture, but whether it makes sense to support it in such a way that we produce surpluses that nobody wants.

Progress was made in the December negotiations. For the first time, we have a realistic mechanism for dealing with the problem of milk surpluses and we have laid the foundations for a much more sensible support arrangement for beef. It was a major negotiating success that we succeeded in removing the uncertainty that had attached to the continuation of the beef premium scheme and it must make sense to reduce the dependence on intervention.

In the negotiations that begin in Brussels this week, we have to make progress in reducing overproduction of other commodities, in amending the Commission's proposals so that they do not discriminate against British agriculture, and in reforming the highly unsatisfactory agromonetary arrangements which produce enormous green currency discrepancies.

Later this month, the Government will be publishing a comprehensive set of papers that will set out our proposals for assisting farming and the rural economy to adapt to the new situation. We have to find a new balance of policies, which will involve less support for expanding production, more attention to the demands of the market, more encouragement for alternative uses of land, more diversity on farms, and a better structure for the rural economy as a whole.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)


Mr. Edwards

I have already given way a number of times and I fear that I may be criticised for going on too long.

We have to balance farming interests, the economic and social needs of rural areas, with conservation of the countryside and its enjoyment by the public.

A great deal of nonsense has been talked about the possible effects of our proposals for revising the guidance to local planning authorities. In future, rather less weight will be attached to retaining all our agricultural land in production and more weight will be given to environmental and other factors, such as the need to encourage employment. Of course, the need to protect the countryside from uncontrolled development remains as strong as ever and it is perfectly possible to provide the necessary protection while permitting an increasing diversification of economic activity in villages and on farms.

I must make it perfectly clear that in Wales, as elsewhere, the special protection afforded to national parks, areas of outstanding beauty and nature and scientific reserves will remain, and the heritage coast and other areas of good countryside will continue to be conserved and protected.

We already have in Wales some effective instruments for encouraging the sorts of diversification that we need in rural Wales. I have already referred to the activities of Mid Wales Development, and the Welsh Development Agency has been strengthening its rural organisation. The range of measures available in support of investment and enterprise in rural Wales is extensive and we shall give a full account of them in a new publication, "Action for Rural Enterprise in Wales", which will be included in the package to which I referred.

I launched my rural enterprise initiative a year ago and introduced a new grant scheme called DRIVE. That scheme is already producing results. For example, it has enabled the Pringle company to develop a new outlet in the railway station at Llanfair PG, creating more than 100 jobs in rural Anglesey.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Edwards

No. I did not give way to an Opposition Member, so I must not give way to my hon. Friend.

The resources available for the rural enterprise initiative will be substantially greater in the coming financial year than they are this year.

Just before our debate began, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science announced our intentions for handling teachers' pay. What he had to say applies as much in Wales as in England and I hope that we shall shortly see the end of the long dispute and shall be able to concentrate again on the important task of raising education standards.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who is to reply to the debate will have more to say about education and training. I dealt at length with our training measures in the November debate in the Welsh Grand Committee. Our planned education expenditure in 1987–88 of £846 million shows an increase of 16 per cent. over this year's planned level, and further increases are proposed for the later years of the survey.

When the planned expenditure is looked at in the context of continuing falling rolls in the secondary sector, it becomes clear that local education authorities have been provided with the means to make substantial advances in the quality of the services that they provide, particularly if they address themselves urgently to the problem of removing nearly 150,000 surplus places.

In the Welsh Grand Committee debate on 4 February, I reported on the other increases that we are making in public spending and public services in Wales. National Health Service expenditure in Wales has risen significantly faster under this Government than it did under our Labour predecessors. Hospital and community health service provision in 1987–88 will be increased by almost 8 per cent. Discretionary capital allocations to authorities are up by, on average, 14 per cent. in cash terms over 1986–87 and that follows a period of the biggest health building programme in Welsh history.

I have been able to increase the gross provision for housing capital expenditure by Welsh local authorities. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have welcomed the increase in net provision for the Housing Corporation by £10 million to £54.7 million. I do not underestimate the scale of the problem that we face in improving the quality of housing in a part of the country where so much of it is old and run-down. The Select Committee on Welsh Affairs is now examining that matter. While I am entitled to point out that we have spent much more on housing renovations than did our Labour predecessors, I have no illusions about the need to find new ways of overcoming the problem.

During my speech, I have referred to other areas of public expenditure—the funding of the agencies the road programme and the urban programme. All those are expanding and all are being used with increasing effectiveness.

Huge tasks remain, but, sustained by an expanding economy which is enjoying its sixth year of growth, public services are being improved and enlarged in Wales, private investment is growing strongly, unemployment is falling and great projects of urban renewal have been set in hand. The long decline is over. If we in Wales press forward with a new confidence, there is every prospect of an improving future for our people.

4.47 pm
Mr. Barry Jonesa (Alyn and Deeside)

The Secretary of State started by giving us a history lecture which was no more than a debating smokescreen. If Wales has arrived, it has arrived after needless agonies since 1979, and the Opposition have not seen the arrival.

If massive building is needed, why has the Secretary of State savagely cut the rate support grant in successive years since 1979? He says that we have had a large share of the available inward investment, but we have certainly had an ever-larger share of redundancies year after year. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was made in anticipation of a general election and was drafted to attempt to defend vulnerable seats, including those of his ministerial colleagues.

The right hon. Gentleman gave us no genuine strategy in response to the massive unemployment problems of Wales. Problems have piled up while he and the Government have been in office. We were not taken in by his sweet words about the jobless totals. The Wales TUC has made a frank allegation that the Government are manipulating the unemployment figures. The general secretary says that, far from falling by 8,000, as the Government claim, unemployment increased in 1986 by nearly 7,000.

There is no doubt that the Government have been massaging the unemployment figures downwards over successive months.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is it not significant that not only have there been reduced unemployment figures in the past few months, but there has been an increase in the number of notified vacancies, which cannot be misinterpreted or disguised in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Jones

The Wales TUC calculations also include the fact that the unemployment figure could truly he described as over 200,000. The Opposition do not accept the attempt by the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) to excuse the blatant massaging of the unemployment figures.

I commend the decision to invest in the Margam new mine and I am content that the final negotiations on the project lie in the safe hands of the president of the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers and his members. The Secretary of State made some important remarks about Avana. That company deserves credit for its consistent investment in research and development. It now appears that the Department and the agency are attempting to rescue Avana from the unwelcome predatory Rank Hovis McDougall bid. Few people in Wales would welcome that bid. The Opposition want Avana to survive and win. However, after eight years in office, the Government must face up to their responsibilities for engendering a climate in which slick bids are made by City-based opportunists.

With regard to the Severn bridge, it is clear that Trafalgar House has put the right hon. Gentleman into an embarrassing position. He attempted to respond frankly today to that development. I am glad that he will not dally with a scheme which could lead to the principal industrial artery in south Wales being in the sole control of a company merely out for profits. Clearly, Trafalgar House proposes a monopoly for itself. The right hon. Gentleman must know that public opinion in Wales would never wear that. The current bridge is not only the main link to the principal English markets, but a bridge to Europe.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the development agency. I want to draw his attention to an article in the Financial Times on 19 February. Under the headline Tighter rein on Welsh agency a report by Anthony Moreton states: There is, however, no question of the Scots having to produce monthly figures for the Scottish Office as though it was the subsidiary of a large Public Corporation. Will the right hon. Gentleman knock on the head the inference that the economic flagship of Wales is to be reduced to behaving like the subsidiary of a large company?

I am unconvinced by the right hon. Gentleman's posture as the guardian of the Welsh countryside. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's plans and statements will be disastrous for Welsh farmers, damaging to the Welsh tourist industry, worthless as a contribution to the Welsh housing crisis and environmentally dangerous.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to tell us whether the BBC governor for Wales will leave the corporation? There have been comprehensive but perplexing reports in the media about that over the past few weeks. If the Minister catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he may respond to that.

I did not hear in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks how he proposes to help the survival of the Sherman theatre. We read daily of the events at the University college of Cardiff about that troubled seat of learning. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take up an initiative in that respect?

Mr. Terlezki

I very much appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way. Does he agree that it would be most helpful if the South Glamorgan county council would contribute infinitely more to the Sherman theatre, because the Cardiff city council already contributes a great deal towards that theatre as well as to the new theatre in Cardiff? I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would agree that South Glamorgan county council should contribute infinitely more than it does now.

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman forgets that he has made consistent attacks on South Glamorgan county council for its expenditure policies. He has supported the strict controls that his right hon. Gentleman has placed upon that excellent local authority.

The Secretary of State said on 23 May 1979: There is a clear and paramount need for more jobs. Indeed there is. The then new Secretary of State in his speech said that unemployment would temporarily remain on the increase. He added: It will take longer than a few months for the measures which we shall introduce to produce an improvement. Some eight years later, unemployment in Wales stands officially in excess of 176,000. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke in the House in 1979, it stood at 83,000, having been reduced under the previous Labour Government over the previous year by 19,000, or 19 per cent. Having endured eight years of the Secretary of State's measures to produce an improvement, unemployment has risen by about 125 per cent. In the constituencies of some of my hon. Friends, unemployment still stands at 25 per cent. among males. The Government have introduced measures that alter the number of people classified as unemployed. Perhaps that manipulation of the unemployment figures is the sort of measure that the Secretary of State had in mind.

In his famous speech on 23 May 1979, the right hon. Gentleman said : I believe that there has been too much interference by the Welsh Office with the day-to-day management of local authorities and indeed with other bodies that have been given responsibility for executive action, such as area health authorities. I have already given instructions that will very substantially reduce the … part played by Welsh Office Ministers. However, the Government's stranglehold on local authorities has tightened each year since 1979 and the Association of District Councils for Wales and the county councils argue that they are now less free from interference than has ever been the case. Our chief council officers plead with the Welsh Office for the freedoms that they enjoyed under the previous Labour Administration.

Again in 1979 the right hon. Gentleman said: we recognise that there will be a continuing need for an effective regional policy to reduce the disparity between the richer and less prosperous regions of the United Kingdom." —[Official Report, 23 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 1130–37.] The gulf between Wales and affluent south-east has grown wider each year. Indeed, it is now a chasm and chronic unemployment has been largely to blame.

Since 1979 we have seen the wasted years, the years of Cabinet complacency. I call in aid to my assertion the reasonably independent document, the publication of the 1984 census of employment. It states that between June 1979 and June 1986 Wales lost a greater proportion of its employment than any other region in Great Britain, a total of 175,000 jobs. Between June 1979 and June 1986 Wales lost a greater proportion of its manufacturing employment than any other region — about 112,000 jobs. Wales suffered a 3 per cent. drop—or 20,000 jobs—in service employment. Even in service employment there was a loss —between 1979 and 1986, according to that census.

Unpublished Department of Employment statistics, which were reported in the Financial Times of 19 January, show that between September 1983 and September 1986 employment in Wales increased by a smaller proportion —0.2 per cent.—than in any other region. In the southeast, the figure was 5.6 per cent. and in East Anglia it was 13 per cent. So much for the glossy, superficial approach adopted by the Secretary of State in his speech. The people of Wales are worried most of all about unemployment.

Those statistics, shocking as they are, only add to recent figures that have shown the Welsh economy to be under performing in several key areas. In 1985, gross domestic product per head in Wales was the lowest of all the regions, measuring 88.9 on the scale which takes the United Kingdom average as 100. My source for that figure is Economic Trends. That shows the right hon. Gentleman's stewardship. That is the truth, not the glossy veneer of his speech today. The Employment Gazette shows that, in 1985, redundancies in Wales increased from 4.7 per cent. to 6.4 per cent. of the Great Britain total.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has quoted the GDP figures at me. Will he also confirm that GDP at constant prices has risen by 16 per cent. since 1979, faster than any part of the United Kingdom except for East Anglia?

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to get off the hook. I shall return to that point later. I was about to tell him that a report from the independent Low Pay Unit in December 1986 revealed that take-home pay in Wales is considerably below the United Kingdom average and that one third of Welsh workers receive a wage that is below the official EEC poverty level. That is a chronicle of wasted years.

The Government's approach is piecemeal. They lack a strategy and their approach is reactive, fitful and tactical. The main thrust of their policy should take into account the massive trade deficit in manufactured goods. The Government try to emphasise the productivity figures. They are up, but they have increased on a falling level of production. I remind the House that manufacturing output is still below its 1979 level.

To advance beyond even a marginal resurgence in manufacturing capability, the Government must comprehend the need for widespread investment in British industry, or more investment in research and development and for more investment in education and training. We should aim to have the best-educated work force in Europe. In that way, Wales will restore its fortunes, because in the future the major economies will compete entirely on the basis of skill and training.

I give two examples of the investment required. The Secretary of State mentioned coal, and I wish to put a plan to him. We want investment in the construction of new washeries and coal preparation plants. They are a great priority in the coal field. We want improved coal haulage and conveying systems underground. We want improved shaft facilities, because the shafts are literally the lifelines of all pits. There must be more surface exploration in the south Wales coal field. There should be an increase in development below ground. We want projects to replace existing face capacity. The Secretary of State mentioned the new mine at Margam. I have outlined a six-point plan which could be implemented over several years. I give credit to the Government for starting the new mine at Margam.

A second area where investment would be highly desirable is aerospace. We must invest in Britian's civil airframe industry and in the new Airbus family. If the Government do not invest in the new Airbus, Britain can say goodbye to its powerful presence in Europe's burgeoning civil aerospace industry. Other nations are queuing up to take our place. Recently, we have heard expressions of unease from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Airbus needs launch aid of £750 million spread over six years. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the A320 Airbus which was launched at Toulouse in southern France is a riproaring commercial success. Boeing is running scared.

The Secretary of State may know that 4,000 of my constituents at Broughton, Clwyd works have made Airbus a success, and I demand that he fights his corner in Cabinet, because a thumbs-up to Airbus will help to underpin the economy of north-east Wales. The right hon. Gentleman should act now; to help him, I should say that the aerospace industry's contribution to the nation's balance of trade in 1986 was a massive £1.9 billion—the best ever recorded. By backing the new Airbus family, the right hon. Gentleman would shore up many jobs in Wales and would ensure the future of an important industry for the next century—to the massive benefit of our balance of trade.

The Secretary of State mentioned the Health Service. I must tell him about the problem of waiting lists, with 120,000 people awaiting treatment at Welsh hospitals, of whom 9,500 have been waiting for more than a year. That has happened despite the Government's special fund of £1 million. Progress is too slow. Why have 2,997 people in mid-Glamorgan waited for more than a year for hospital beds? In Clwyd, the in-patient waiting list is 4,689, while there are 9,000 out-patients in the queue. In Gwent, 11,000 out-patients await appointments. In Gwynedd, 1,900 people are awaiting admission to hospital, and there are 4,000 out-patients in the queue. In the Secretary of State's constituency in Pembroke, 2,400 in-patients are waiting. That is not good enough, and the £1 million is miserly when one considers the size of the problem.

The Secretary of State must spend more to tackle one of the most urgent problems for ordinary people in the Principality. One of the best cases that he could make in the Cabinet is to remind his colleagues that they spent tens of millions of pounds floating off British Gas. If they can spend that sort of money on such a project, why cannot our sick and elderly citizens in Wales have a better deal in terms of the waiting list?

Mr. Best

The hon. Gentleman tries to convince the House that he knows his subject. Will he tell the House of the increase in the number of in-patient and out-patient cases since 1979?

Mr. Jones

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that his health authority is screaming at the Government for more money. Instead of asking obscure questions, he should be fighting for more money to attack the problem of waiting lists. Male unemployment in Holyhead is more than 25 per cent. The Government should be doing something about that urgently, but I heard nothing from the Secretary of State that would help the hon. Member for Ynys MÔn (Mr. Best).

As ever, the Secretary of State responded to the housing problem by trying to put up a smokescreen on funding. In 1979–80, about £330 million was spent on housing. For 1986–87, only £154 million is under consideration, and the White Paper on public expenditure gives a figure for 1989–90 of only £132 million. Clearly that is not good enough. Against the background of claims for outstanding renovation grants totalling £55,000, it is disgraceful. Lately, figures were published showing that 66,000 homes in Wales are totally unfit for human habitation. Fifty five thousand homes lack a bath, shower or an inside lavatory. Over 150,000 are in serious disrepair. In fact, the summation must be that nearly 30 per cent. of private homes in Wales are inadequate for 20th century living. These figures and opinions stem from a politically impartial body, the environmental health officers in Wales. Private housing in Wales is in an appalling state. I heard the right hon. Gentleman say nothing today about how the Government will tackle the growing housing crisis.

A gloss was put on education again today, but the Government's successive cuts in the rate support grant have struck heavy blows to the school service in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The cuts in the rate support grant have not done what the hon. Gentleman said. Expenditure on the education service in Wales has been higher in real terms in every year under the present Government than 1979, in spite of falling school rolls. Expenditure in real terms today is 2.5 per cent. higher than it was when the hon. Gentleman's party lost office, although there are 10 per cent. fewer children in schools.

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Gentleman has not read the reports by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. Since 1979, its reports have successively pointed to a serious state of affairs. Her Majesty's Inspectorate is not politically inspired. Its reports point to a disgraceful situation that has developed during the right hon. Gentleman's term of office. The right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of his education record. [Interruption.] No number of sedentary interruptions will in any way deflect the truth.

Mr. Terlezki

The hon. Gentleman mentioned housing repairs and habitation. How many thousands of houses were made habitable and were repaired before 1979?

Mr. Jones

I have been talking about education for the past five minutes. The hon. Gentleman should have woken up earlier. We have moved on since 1979.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) of the article that appeared in the Western Mail under the heading, Thousands of homes are unfit to live in"?

Mr. Jones

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. I am sure that his voice carried across the Chamber.

The Secretary of State did not refer to the important report by the Welsh Development Agency. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the valleys initiative. The biggest boost that he can give the valleys is more housing investment. I note the letter sent by Mr. Waterstone to all hon. Members, which accompanied the new programme for 1987–92. In that letter, a rather plaintive sentence refers to property throughout most parts of Wales. It states: We have therefore had to make some difficult decisions about the allocation of resources in the new programme.

Why is that so? In the current financial year, the Welsh Development Agency has been selling assets of £15 million. In my own constituency a project has been lost because the agency could not provide a bespoke factory. Why is the agency short of factory buildings? It is a serious problem. We are losing out to neighbouring regions. To the credit of the agency, it has the vacancy rate down to 9 per cent. and under. If we are to use more venture capital, we must provide better salaries for investment staff. We cannot attract sufficient staff to use any increased venture capital.

I note that, in the right hon. Gentleman's review, he stated that the need for public intervention in Wales is well attested. I note, too, that the review was not independent. It was conducted by Welsh Office and Treasury officials. Clearly, it is flawed by its acceptance of the Government's philosophy of private sector solutions to economic problems. That leads its authors to spend considerably more time devising ways in which the private sector can be persuaded to participate in Welsh Development Agency activities than proposing how to expand its activities and make them more responsive to community needs.

Mid Wales Development finds it difficult to attract private sector capital to the area because it still does not guarantee a sufficient return on capital. There is clearly a continuing need for public subventions through regional policy. It was a grave Government error to remove assisted area status from that part of Wales. I advise the right hon. Gentleman—I attempted to do so during Question Time —to put it to the Cabinet that the Budget will have a crucial bearing on the quality and standard of life of many of our underprivileged and unemployed Welsh citizens. I wish to see a determined ministerially led attack on the grave housing situation. I wish to see a well-funded approach to the decay in our schools that is disturbingly portrayed in the impartial reports of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. There is a need for a coherent and effective plan to reduce the waiting list problem in the Health Service.

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State should know that, in Wales, there is a consensus for greater investment in the social infrastructure. I particularly have in mind teachers, day nurseries, day care, the elderly, leisure facilities, home helps, meals on wheels and environmental improvements.

Last week, the Prime Minister told the Institute of Directors that it was immoral for the state to take money from the citizen by way of tax revenue. Why have Her Majesty's Government raised the tax burden for most ordinary families? Indeed, why is it more moral to encourage personal consumption to rise while, for example, in Wales public services are allowed to decay? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer has £4 billion extra revenue to spend, how can the Government afford major tax giveaways but not adequately fund programmes for housing, education, health and for the Welsh Development Agency and Mid Wales Development —indeed, for a balanced regional policy?

Increases in VAT and cuts in other taxes will not help the principal Welsh victims of Thatcherism. By ignoring the need for humane policies based on sensible increases in public expenditure, the Government are courting electoral disaster. I have no doubt that a Labour Government will tackle Wales's problems to the satisfaction of the people.

5.19 pm
Sir Raymond Gower (Vale of Glamorgan)

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) has painted a rather dismal picture, which is somewhat at variance with that delineated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman referred to the unemployment figures at some length. He said that they had been manipulated and argued that that was the sole reason for the apparent decline in unemployment.

Mr. Barry Jones

I did not.

Sir Raymond Gower

The hon. Gentleman said that it was one of the chief reasons for the apparent decline. His assertion was answered during Question Time earlier today, when the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts), explained that 58 per cent. of those who had attended training schemes had taken permanent jobs afterwards. That is not manipulation, but a step forward into a job.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside was at pains to point out that the decline in the unemployment figures had not affected Wales. He quoted figures which, he claimed, demonstrated that Wales was the worst hit part of the United Kingdom. He must realise that many people were employed in coal mining 20 years ago and that the proportion of people employed in the coal and steel industries was far higher even nine years ago than in comparable areas in other parts of the United Kingdom. As a result, the effect on Wales of the difficulties encountered by those industries both here and overseas was all the greater. The steel industries of most countries had vast overproduction and it was essential to reduce capacity and modernise so that production could be more efficient. That has now happened. The same is true of coal mining. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State produced figures to illustrate that.

When the Government took office in 1979, we did not pretend that everything was difficult or wrong, but we faced many serious problems because of the nature of our economy. The great shake-out in the coal and steel industries had still to take place, many other industries were heavily overmanned and Britain had borrowed heavily, notably from the International Monetary Fund, so the task facing the Government was not easy. We experienced the difficult years of the early 1980s, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is entitled to be a little more optimistic now. Indeed, it would be surprising if he were not. It would certainly be surprising if my right hon. and hon. Friends did not take pleasure in the fact that unemployment has declined. We are sometimes accused of being without feeling, but any decline in unemployment gives us enormous pleasure. Strangely enough, however, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reeled off statistics showing the decline in unemployment and the creation of new jobs, misery spread across the faces of Opposition Members. That is quite incredible—it is as though they had expected, or hoped for, unpleasant figures.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)


Sir Raymond Gower

One could gain that impression. Every good statistic seems to increase the Opposition's misery. After all these years, inflation is still generally being contained at a low figure, and after many years of disappointment and trial we now know that unemployment can be contained, although we have still to establish whether it can be reduced at a greater rate. That must be our challenge for the future. One of the most important figures to consider is the number of notified vacancies, and it is significant that they have increased steadily while unemployment has come down. That is partly due to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Welsh Office, the Welsh Development Agency, other associated agencies and private industries.

The improvement has been accelerated by the great improvement in our communications. The M4 is now nearing completion, and the main north Wales route from Chester to Bangor is three quarters complete. One most valuable improvement in south Wales is the extension of the connection between Cardiff and Merthyr. I hope that it will soon reach further to Brecon. A second Severn crossing is vital to the communications of south Wales. I accept that the statement made by Trafalgar House and the interpretation of it by the Member of the European Parliament for Wales, South were completely without foundation. I hope that, whatever happens, my right hon. Friend will give an assurance that there will be no further large increase in tolls of the kind described by the MEP for Wales, South. The crossing is so important to south Wales industry that anything which could upset its efficiency or impose new burdens would be unacceptable to the vast majority of people in Wales. The impact of tolls on industry is not, perhaps, so great as is sometimes claimed, but it must be substantial.

Our great objective now must be to improve and extend our existing industries and to obtain a fair share of new industries available in the United Kingdom or likely to come from overseas. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Welsh Office on the progress that they have achieved in this respect. Their achievement is most remarkable in regard to the creation of new factories and jobs. We must also remember the importance of British Coal Enterprise Limited, which has invested £21 million in the United Kingdom and is likely to create 2,500 jobs. I believe that my right hon. Friend said that quite a large proportion of them will be in Wales. I share the pleasure expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House at the support of the Government and British Coal for the new super-pit at Margam. I understand that approval is still subject to certain conditions, including a six-day week, but I hope that terms can be agreed at a reasonably early date so that this great undertaking is not imperiled in any way.

The massive new investment in steel is also most impressive, but the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside did not mention it at all. Some £171 million has been invested in a hot strip mill at Port Talbot, and there has been investment in the Concast plant at Llanwern. I do not know how much—perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can tell me in his winding-up speech—but I understand that the investment is on a substantial scale. One could also mention the arrival of new industries, such as the electrical industries, new technology and biotechnology.

My right hon. Friend the Minister did not refer today — although he has previously done so — to the great increase in self-employment in Wales. As in the rest of the United Kingdom, the self-employed have increased in number and I understand that there are now about 154,000 of them. Compared with the small scale of self-employment even a couple of decades ago, that statistic is impressive. It represents 12 per cent. of our working population, so we should not deem it an unimportant factor on the road to improvement.

Mr. Alex Carlile

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I join him in welcoming the improved level of self-employment in Wales, but does he agree that we should be concerned about the mobility of some of the self-employed, and also about the high number of personal bankruptcies among them?

Sir Raymond Gower

I do not agree entirely. Recently, a friend of mine from the United States was asked what he thought about employment in Britain. He said that, compared with the United States, we had far too few failures. That is a remarkable thought.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

The Government are putting that right.

Sir Raymond Gower

No, in America there are many failures, but also an enormous number of successes.

Mr. Alex Carlile

America has only half our interest rate.

Sir Raymond Gower

To some extent, I accept what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said about mobility. However, the self-employed are less likely to want to move than big industries or their employees. The self-employed tend to establish themselves in small communities, so mobility would be less important for them than for most industries. I adduced the example of the United States to show that success is sometimes accompanied by difficulty. In a competitive area, one cannot expect great successes without some failures, although many people will doubtless disagree with that thought.

WlNvest has not been mentioned, but I understand that it has been instrumental in assisting 155 projects in Wales with an investment of £570 million. That represents a valuable contribution to Welsh industry. Eleven thousand new jobs have been involved and WlNvest has safeguarded another 8,000 jobs. Seventy eight of the companies concerned are from the United States and Canada, 58 from Europe and most of the remainder from Japan. That shows that the Welsh scene and economy are not unreceptive to new ideas, and that Wales is attractive to companies from overseas. I am sustained in my hopefulness not only by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State but by the forecasts of independent bodies, including the CBI Wales.—[Interruption.] I am talking about experienced industrialists who have to bear the difficulties as well as the advantages of industry. They foresee a period of increased employment, which is encouraging.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside criticised the Welsh Development Agency, but I think that its achievements have been great. It has created 1,252 advance factory units, 21 bespoke factory units and 95 factory extensions. That is a large contribution in a relatively short period. As the hon. Gentleman admitted, the unoccupied proportion of its factories has now declined to just under 10 per cent. That is a good figure when one recalls that only a few years ago a larger proportion of its completed factories were difficult to let. That is another sign of the improved buoyancy of the Welsh and British economies.

I am sorry to have to refer in less hopeful terms to the present state of Welsh agriculture. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who represents part of the county of Dyfed, will know that the difficult period in relation to milk quotas is not yet entirely over. Many farmers also have fears about beef production and some farmers in my constituency share the fear that the change from milk to beef production will increase their difficulties. Most of them feel — right or wrongly—that the best solution would be some devaluation of the green pound, and they have impressed that view on me time and time again. I know that it is a difficult issue, but I hope that the Ministers concerned will think about what could be achieved in that direction.

Let us not be foolishly over-optimistic. I, for one, am not. Enormous problems face the Welsh and British economies, but there are some brighter signs than we could have foreseen even a short time ago. There are signs that the continuous increase in unemployment has been stopped. Indeed, there are hopeful signs that it is slightly in decline. Let us hope that that decline will accelerate and that the new jobs will last for a long time. We do not want a false dawn and 1 do not think that this is one. Had it been even brighter, it might have been false, but it has taken the form of a slow improvement. That is more likely to be permanent and that is why I am hopeful.

5.37 pm
Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

The speech made by the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) contrasted in its sober realism with what we have heard on other occasions about the prospects for the future. He painted on a large canvas.

I was reminded by what the hon. Gentleman said about America—that perhaps we did not have enough failures — of what a delegate said to me at the National Farmers Union conference : "How do you make a small fortune from agriculture? Start with a large fortune." I fear that that describes the future for much of agriculture.— [Interruption.] Perhaps I should declare my interest. The point is that I did not start with a large fortune; I started with a small overdraft that has become larger. Some of our small Welsh family farms have better prospects of survival because of their capacity to use the family resources than have farmers in other parts of Britain, but they face a tremendous slog.

I was also pleased to hear the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan tell us about the wonderful work of the Welsh Development Agency. It pleased me greatly to hear of his conversion to that great organisation, which his party spoke against, voted against and described as socialist excess when it was in opposition. Indeed, this afternoon we have seen a Raymond come to judgment.

I do not wish to speak on the same broad canvas as the hon. Gentleman, because I have a feeling that this is the last opportunity that I shall have to make a speech on Welsh day. I wish, therefore, to make an unashamedly constituency speech. Although I have been very fortunate in holding a number of governmental offices, none of them could have been held without the steady and consistent support of the people of Cardiff. We should all speak for and represent the interests of the people who sent us here, and that is what I want to do this afternoon.

In some senses, Cardiff presents a paradox. As the Secretary of State said, there has been a constructive period in my own constituency, as well as in the centre of Cardiff, for which he, the county council and the city council take all the credit. The lead that the county council set when it decided that the new South Glamorgan headquarters should go down to the docks began to give new hope to an area of considerable dereliction. That was followed by the imaginative concept for which the Secretary of State has been responsible: the barrage from Cardiff docks to Penarth, which will encourage leisure activities, new economic activities, shopping facilities, housing and much else.

I pay tribute to the combined efforts of the leaders of both councils. Too often there has been unnecessary friction and a feeling that they must stand on their dignity. But on this occasion councillor Watkiss for the city council, Lord Brooks and councillor Kitson for the county council, and the Secretary of State have all subordinated their individual interests. No doubt those who come after us will be as proud of what they have provided as we are of their forefathers, who established the wonderfull civic centre which we now enjoy and which was built some 80 years ago.

I have observed that the Secretary of State cares about the large issues that concern and improve the environment. However, I feel that the right hon. Gentleman should show the same sensitivity about the quality of life in considering some of the smaller, more personal issues that concern my constituents. I heard only yesterday — I now move deliberately from a large issue to something that is tiny, yet matters—about a dispute over the laundry of elderly people in geriatric wards. The argument is about whether they can have their own underwear and whether it can be laundered. It is absurd that something that matters so much to old people should be the subject of controversy because there are not sufficient funds.

Such tiny things matter to our people: they are what the quality of life is about. But I believe that we have missed out on a number of them. I hear stories about how nursing staff in the geriatric ward of one of our hospitals are being stretched almost to the limit in trying to look after the patients who are so dependent on them. It is unedifying and unfeeling for such things to be happening in Cardiff today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) spoke about the problem of jobs. We know how Wales has suffered, and I do not intend to repeat the figures. There is too much bandying of statistics today. I am reminded of Disraeli's comment about lies, damned lies and statistics". If he had been listening to the exchanges at Question Time —not only today but over the past few months—he would have added a fourth category—election figures, which are statistics inflated by adjectival ministerial excess and bear no relation to reality.

We have lost one third of our industrial workers during the 1980s—over 100,000 men and women—but we have gained no more than 25,000 jobs in the service industries to offset that. Of course, we are moving into a different era; the Secretary of State is absolutely right about that. However, I see no prospect that the jobs now arising in the service industries, which are many fewer than those that we have lost in manufacturing, are likely in any measurable period to offset them.

I still do not know what the Government intend to do to remedy the position. It is having an appalling effect in my constituency, among others. The paradox is that. while great schemes such as the Cardiff barrage are going ahead and the centre of the city is being revived — it looks better than I can remember in all my time in Cardiff—in the housing estates and the homes of our people there is evidence of a different attitude, a depression in morale. Why is that?

On the Llanrumney estate in my constituency, one man in three is out of work. It is the same story in Tremorfa. In Splott, one man in four is out of work, and in Bute town in the docks, where the position has always been worse than in the others, every other man is out of work in every other house. That is the extent of the problem.

I do not know the remedy. I am not my right hon. Friends. If they win the election, as I hope and trust that they will, I should like them to make a real attempt to carry out their plan to reduce unemployment by a million. That would offer hope to our people. No doubt mistakes will be made but, as I walk in and out of those homes, I believe that it is essential that a real effort is made. The social consequences of that continued depression are extremely serious.

Let me give another illustration of the paradox. I would say that our more elderly people are better looked after today, in the geriatric wards and in the bungalows that are being built. But, in my view, the young people now suffer more than they did. Somehow the position has been reversed. Forty years ago, they had something to which to look forward; today that is no longer true.

Of course, I am not speaking of everyone, but the cancer has certainly infected our estates. Recorded crimes in Cardiff have increased by 50 per cent. during the past seven years. I am not making a political point; those happen to be the years for which I have figures. Admittedly, the 50 per cent. figure may be a little inflated. Some areas are now included in the record because of values that were not hitherto recorded. Nevertheless, the thought of an increase in crime of anything up to 50 per cent. during this decade must seem absolutely shocking to all of us, and we must consider where we are going.

I asked the chief constable what had been the increase in the police force in that time, and was told that it had gone up from 3,025 to 3,064. I do not want to start bandying statistics, but I believe that the Government should clarify the record, because that is what is worrying my people in Cardiff. Only a few days ago, I received a letter, which I took up with the chief constable, from a very sensible constituent in Llanrumney. He said : As one of your constituents, I write to tell you of my serious concern at the recent escalation of violence and burglaries on this estate. Could you use your influence on behalf of the majority of your constituents to see if something could be done to rid us of this? Most of the incidents might be regarded as trivial, especially if they had not happened to oneself. I have had some personal experience of that, but it is my opinion that failure to crack down on minor matters allows a climate of lawlessness to build up. I speak as the father of five. The business establishments in Countisbury Avenue have experienced a spate of burglaries. One has been `done' three times in a week. I hear there was a fake motor cycle accident in Ball Road when a motorist was stopped and robbed. Buses have been stoned, resulting in their withdrawal, and glue sniffing in the area is notorious. The police, it seems to me, must be strengthened to enable more officers to give their enthusiastic attention to the situation until it is cleared up so that people can walk the streets and sleep in their beds without trepidation, as was once the case. I am afraid that if this is not done, the public or some member of it at some time to come will take the law into their own hands. I sent that to the chief constable, and he wrote back saying : As far as the specific matters … are concerned, in the majority of cases the culprits have been arested and either have been dealt with by the courts or are awaiting trial. We have also mounted a number of operations with both uniform and CID personnel in an effort to reduce the incidence of crime. We shall not hesitate to repeat such exercises when necessary. In addition, we are giving the most careful consideration to the policing needs of the Llanrumney area as part of our current review … the current force establishment is totally inadequate. We intend to assess the proper manpower level to meet modern requirements and I hope to present the findings to the police authority at their next meeting in March. I hope and expect an assurance from the Secretary of State that if a request comes for an increase in the establishment of the police in South Wales, this will be conceded and the funds will be forthcoming. This is what concerns my constituents.

Mr. Best

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Callaghan

No. I am speaking about my constituents and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman knows too much about that. Perhaps he will allow me to continue.

Cautious sociologists and perhaps complacent politicians may say that there is no proven connection between unemployment and crime, but the common sense of my electors in Cardiff tells them, and they tell me. that an aimless youth without sense of hope for the future, sense of purpose or a steady job is the one who is the most likely to turn to vandalising housing estates, theft, burglary and other crimes. This is what concerns my people on estates. I hear this time after time.

I was glad to hear what the Secretary of State had to say about Avana Bakeries. Rank Hovis McDougall has considerable interests in, and therefore a commitment to, Wales. Nevertheless, Avana Bakeries is essentially Welsh, and under the guidance and leadership of Marks and Spencer some years ago built itself up into one of the most efficient enterprises in Wales. I cannot believe that there will be the same depth of commitment if the control of this firm moves outside of Wales as there will be as long as it remains inside Wales. I hope that the Secretary of State will use such influence as he can without going outside his proper responsibilities to ensure that this is so. He made a good statement this afternoon and we ask him to continue the good work. The Avana Bakeries may not be so efficient and its workers may be less secure if the firm is handled from outside Wales.

Apart from all this, the issue most affecting my constituents, to judge from their letters and from what they say when I have interviews with them, is housing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside referred. I do not wish to bandy figures with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Terlezki) about how much was spent on modernising housing before 1979. That is not the problem.

Mr. Terlezki

It is.

Mr. Callaghan

It is not. The problem is that when the coal industry expanded, Cardiff became the premier export port for coal and Cardiff's population doubled within a short time. A large number of huge housebuilding programmes took place. Now those houses are nearly 100 years old. The problem — here the hon. Member for Cardiff, West will not disagree, although he may disagree on other points — is that those houses are almost reaching the end of their lives, although they can be rehabilitated. The guttering has rotted, the roofs have reached the end of their lives and in many places floors need to be replaced. The city council has had to face this problem.

Mr. Terlezki

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Callaghan

Allow me to finish my point. If the hon. Gentleman disagrees with me I shall give way.

In addition, housing built only in the 1950s is showing signs of premature old age. It has not stood up as it should have done. The standards adopted then were not as high as they should have been, or as they were in the case of the late Victorian dwellings. This housing is absorbing resources unexpectedly, to avoid deterioriation or abandonment.

In addition, the city is faced with the normal demand for housing from young families on the housing list. There are now 4,500 applications on the housing list, many of them from young families waiting to be rehoused. Last year, another 700 were added to the list, all hoping for a home to rent because they cannot afford to buy. Many remedies have been put forward for that. I will not go into them this afternoon, but I wish to state the case. Frequently, the cases on the waiting list are the most desperate of all because these people do not have a roof over their heads.

It is easy to paint a composite picture of these people. Every hon. Member knows them. On the Saturday morning when we do interviews, we hear them outside first. Then they come in. Frequently, there is a young mother with a toddler who runs round the room until one can find a sweet to settle him down. Perhaps there is another child, a baby in her arms. Yes, she has been to her councillor and he can do nothing. Yes, she has been to the housing authority and it can make no promises. Yes, she has seen what she can do to find private accommodation to rent, but there is no prospect of it.

The next move is to ask about the circumstances. Often, such families are living with one set of parents and younger brothers and sisters in a three-bedroomed council house. The husband and wife with two young children are sleeping in the box room, where it is impossible to put up a cot as well as a double bed. Such people are asking for help but one cannot give it. One probes and asks, for example, about the health of the parents. It may be that the father has a bad heart condition, or the baby has asthma. One asks whether this has been recorded on the file, and whether the local authority knows about it. If one finds out that it does not, one writes to the local authority, but with a sinking heart because one knows that if one succeeds in this case, one will push somebody else further down the list. This is the problem that we all have to face. I do not paint an exaggerated picture. This is the experience of every hon. Member. Such people come to me often.

Mr. Terlezki


Mr. Callaghan

Allow me to finish my point. I have not done so yet, but when I do the hon. Gentleman may intervene if he still wishes to do so.

Frequently, all that we can do is listen with sympathy and understanding, but with a sinking heart, as we tell the brutal truth that there is nothing we can do to help such people. When young people marry and establish a family, that should be a happy period in their lives, but often it is miserable, a period crowded with domestic strife with parents, or by differences between wife and husband. Never mind what the statistics say—that is the reality and every hon. Member knows it.

Last year, the council in Cardiff—to stop the hon. Member for Cardiff, West rising again I do not criticise at this moment—did not build a single new home. Those 4,500 people could find accommodation only if other houses fell vacant into which they could be decanted.

Mr. Terlezki


Mr. Callaghan

I shall give way at the end as I have advised the hon. Gentleman. He should contain his patience for a moment.

Indeed, the council now has to decant some of those young families into bungalows that were built for pensioners. That, too, creates problems because pensioners who were hoping to live in quiet circumstances are now disturbed by the inevitable noise that comes when children are around. Therefore, unhappiness spreads.

This year, the council has started to build 300 houses. Thank God for that start. However, it is totally inadequate set against the needs rather than the demands of our people who come to see us on a Saturday morning. The reason why no new houses were started last year was that the council decided—I do not criticise it—to allocate its resources to improving the older existing properties, to which I have referred, and to preventing them from falling even further into disrepair.

One cannot envy the council its task in this matter. It has a huge waiting list of people, who have already made applications for grants, not within the past six months but some years ago, to improve their houses. I am not referring now to the young people on the council's waiting lists. I was told not so long ago that the council can only meet applications that were made in 1982 from people living in the older houses and who want grants to improve them.

It is no use discussing what happened before 1979, because this is the situation with which we are faced in 1987. This almost insoluble problem comes down quite simply and shortly to the inadequacy of the resources available. The council does not have the resources necessary to do both. It has had to make the choice of directing the money to the people who are living in the older houses. That has increased the misery of many young families. Those twin problems are beyond the capacity of the council.

What kind of society requires parents to serve their married daughter with a notice to quit, or even an eviction order, so that the council can fulfil its legal obligation to provide some temporary accommodation, at a tremendous cost, when construction workers are sitting idle at home on those estates waiting to build those houses?

Finally, I remind the Secretary of State that we have been told that the Chancellor may have up to £5 billion to give away. I urge him—I believe that the House will demand it—to use every ounce of authority that he has in the Cabinet to ensure that, before any resources are devoted to reducing taxation, these unmet needs should be fulfilled. The major part of any resources that are available should be put into building houses and improving the lot of the elderly and the hospitals and fulfilling the needs that we all know exist.

I have some confidence about the future of Wales because our people have survived before and will do so again. The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan may be right and there may well be a new start for Wales. I know that such things go in cycles. However, there will be a great deal of misery before that happens. Some will be unnecessary because we have been told that the resources are available. It now lies upon the Government's conscience to devote those resources to meeting the needs of our people.

6.3 pm

Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, Central)

As my neighbour in Cardiff, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) and fellow Hampshire-born Member has said, this is his swan song in a Welsh day debate, and he made it in fine style. Earlier, he told me a little mischievously that he was going to make an electioneering speech. I must admit that I wondered whether he would make the sort of speech he made in Penarth at the last election because that was a fine electioneering speech — quite the best — and perhaps there is yet time for him to repeat that performance.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about Cardiff. I spent yesterday afternoon with some of my Bangladeshi constituents, celebrating their national day, their martyrs' day, and it was extremely interesting. Later, in the evening, the deputy lord mayor and I transported ourselves to St. David's hall, that fine concert and conference hall, to the entertainment that some hon. Members may have seen on BBC Wales later. When one looked around St. David's hall, it is sad to say that one was not aware that we lived in a multiracial society, and perhaps one of the changes to which we can look in the years ahead is for those celebrations to incorporate others who live in our midst.

I suspect that this is the last St. David's day debate to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will contribute. I should like to pay tribute to the way in which he has led Welsh Conservative Members, in opposition and then when in government. for many years. He has made a magnificent series of speeches for us both when as our spokesman when we were in opposition when we were fighting those dreary debates on inflation, state control and devolution — heaven knows all the things that we are promised again by the alliance, Plaid Cymru and the Labour party. I feel sheer horror at the thought of going into opposition and having to go round the tired old track of the 1960s again. What a policy or promise to hold out to the people of Wales or Britain.

Of course, my right hon. Friend has been recognised in some quarters that we may find surprising as the finest Secretary of State that Wales has ever had. He has transformed Welsh life for the better in many ways. Above all, there is now an awareness— although perhaps not widespread enough— that Wales will be helped most by its own exertions and by seeking value for money.

Wales now has a fine story to tell—we now have efficient and not overmanned industries. We are linked to all the great markets of Britain, and when the Channel tunnel comes we shall be linked directly to the continent of Europe. Wales offers a wonderful opportunity for relaxing, or for being more energetic if one wants, for those who want holidays, whether they come from Britain or from abroad. That also applies to the growing conference business that every town arid city in Wales now seeks and to which, 10 years ago, we did not give a moment's thought. Wales is aware that industrialists who seek new sites, especially those coming from overseas, will find in Wales, probably more than anywhere else in the United Kingdom or the EEC, that mix of finance, labour and real welcome that has brought so many Japanese and north American firms among us.

Above all, my right hon. Friend has raised the eyes and minds of the people, whether employed in large firms or self-employed, so that they will be free from the trammels of state control and the terrors of trade union domination. Rather they will be encouraged to seek their fortune in an expanding economy in which profit and success are applauded and not looked on either with envy or simply as a source of redistributed revenue.

Of course, there are problems. Finding sufficient jobs in a modern economy for all those wanting them is common to virtually all advanced economies. I join the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth in stating that the likelihood of our ever being able to offer jobs to everybody, all the time, in the years ahead is nugatory. There is no real chance of doing that in a modern economy. People will have periods in and out of work. However, we have to ensure that they will not be out of work for long at a time, and that they will have chances to train in between those jobs. However, I do not think that we shall ever return to full employment or at least to the appearance of full employment that we had in previous years. Incidentally, one of the reasons for that is that modern industry and modern developments in offices have tended to make more work available for women.

That change has come in the past 20 years, and it will continue for the rest of the century. Who would have believed, 20 or 30 years ago, that we would have lady bus drivers? Of course, with power-assisted steering and all the electronic aids, one does not have to be a muscle-bound man to swing vehicles around. Whether driving buses or operating computers in the office, and so on, a woman is on an equal plane with a man for any job. In some circumstances, she is better placed. Just ask Hitachi and other electronics firms that want to have components put together. The small fingers then come into their own.

There are problems with falling school rolls, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned. There are far more schools than we would ever build for the present number of pupils. But care must be taken when proposals are made to close community schools. Such care was never shown by South Glamorgan county council when it drew up proposals for secondary education in eastern Cardiff. That can be seen from the fact that the controlling Labour group on the county council was elected pledged, despite all the evidence to the contrary, to close no schools. When reality became too great to withstand, a hastily produced proposal was cobbled together which involved the closure of the most successful, best built, most centrally placed and most socially and ethnically mixed school in east Cardiff — Howardian High—and the establishment of a tertiary college, not close to the centre, but on the fringes of the city, where it would be uniformly inconvenient for most of the youngsters intended for it.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State who will reply to the debate will be aware of the hornets' nest that the proposals have stirred up. The matter is now before him, and every person, every group, every parent and every party in central and east Cardiff now look to him to squash that travesty of an educational plan, and to tell South Glamorgan to go back to the drawing board, look a second time at secondary education in the county as a whole and produce a policy to which the majority of citizens can give their support.

Meanwhile, on another educational front, which is not directly the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State but surely of considerable interest to him, is the serious problem of University college, Cardiff and its finances. It has led to a real threat to the continued existence of the Sherman theatre. I need not rehearse the full story of the theatre. I say just that, even with the final gift of the university to the Sherman, the theatre is in peril of closing from August this year at least until new money can, we hope, be raised for next year. That means that some £200,000 is needed. At the moment there is a clear game of pass the parcel between local authorities and the Arts Council. It seems that all feel that the books are closed for the current year. I hope that my right hon. Friend can find some way of helping that money to emerge from some account somewhere.

In the meantime, as regards the university itself, far too much is being said. I believe that a refusal to face facts and a somewhat irresponsible approach to financial control over the years have led to the present situation, but the university will not close. It has many extremely fine departments and is a worthy college for the capital city. Under a new principal, to be appointed in the near future, and with a new and more professional financial team, the college will pull through. When, in three years' time or so, the merger with the University of Wales institute of science and technology takes place, Cardiff will have one of the most powerful academic institutions in the United Kingdom. That will coincide with other major developments in Cardiff—the new national museum, in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has played such a part and the new national centre for the arts at the Cardiff bay development. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for being the motive force. It was his idea above all others, and he promoted it. What a reminder to future generations that development will be —"Better than Baltimore", indeed.

The new Cardiff, no longer a city of fumes and belching chimneys or run-down docks, but a centre of life for the 21st century, with modern industry, fine leisure, shopping, housing and cultural facilities, will serve all our peoples. I want people to say, "You come from Cardiff? How I envy you." My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been a great friend to the capital city of Wales. He is leaving us with the foundations of a magnificent heritage for the oh, so close, turn of the century.

6.16 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Debates on the Floor of the House on Welsh affairs are rare, so it behoves us all, for the sake of our constituents and the people of Wales as a whole, to be positive during such debates. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) knows that I, as a defeated election opponent of his on two occasions, have considerable regard for him but I am bound to say that although in his speech he seemed to be trying to bring the surgeon's knife to the economic malaise of Wales at the crucial moment he seemed to shut his eyes, fail to cauterise the wound and lose the stiches that need to be applied to cure the economic ills of Wales.

In the positive spirit in which I set out, I welcome the developments to which the Secretary of State referred in his speech, particularly the numerous factory developments. In my own constituency, I very much congratulate the Development Board for Rural Wales—Mid Wales Development—on its continuing and remarkable success in improving life and the economy in mid-Wales. The whole of mid-Wales is grateful for such Government support as is given to Mid Wales Development.

The fact remains, however, that Wales is still suffering from considerable economic sickness. I shall not fall into the trap, particularly as I run the risk of rebuke from the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), of indulging in a welter of statistics to show that there is still a considerable lack of economic success in Wales—some were mentioned by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside—but there is little sign of Wales climbing up from the bottom of the league table in terms of gross domestic product or employment.

One measure of industrial development in Wales is the business expansion scheme — an imaginative concept introduced by the present Government. The value of the 700 or more schemes created throughout the United Kingdom is twofold. First, they are entrepreneurial and involve the use of risk capital, which is a good thing. Secondly, and very important from the point of view of Wales, they involve the creation of indigenous industry. Of course, we welcome industry from outside—always, and with open arms — but it is exceedingly important to create our own home-grown industries as well. Sadly, however, despite the efforts of the Welsh Development Agency and Mid Wales Development, Wales has had fewer than 2 per cent. of the business expansion schemes—a poor record, and a sign that all is far from well in the industrial and economic environment in Wales.

We also see in our constituencies—I certainly observe it in mine—that the infrastructure is in physical decline. The deterioration is perceptible. In many areas, rural roads are in a deplorable state, but Powys county council —a good county council which is trying hard to meet its obligations—has no money to repair them.

The education system is also in a sorry state. School inspectors have reported on school buildings which are falling apart. That is not a good environment for children to learn in. Indeed, teachers are troubled by the way that resources are being distributed in education. We welcome the arrival of TVEI money in schools in Wales, but many teachers and parents feel that there is a disproportion between those subjects which have the benefit of TVEI, and therefore reasonable funding, and those which do not and are severely under-funded.

At Question Time this afternoon the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) raised the issue of language teaching. I took him to be referring to languages other than Welsh, which is extremely well taught in Wales. In my constituency, and in the whole of Powys, there are clear signs of a lack of resources for the teaching of European languages to pupils. Bright, ambitious pupils who may wish to play their part as Welsh people in a Europe which includes Wales must have better opportunities to learn French, German and other European languages.

The condition of many houses in Wales is deplorable. It is an open secret—if it is a secret at all—that the Welsh Office is conducting a housing condition survey and requiring local authority housing officials to sign a declaration pursuant to the Official Secrets Act. That is an extraordinary subject on which to demand the rigours of section 2 of that Act. What comes next? A Zircon housing estate in Welshpool?

Health Service waiting lists are grotesquely unacceptable. 1 do not dispute what the Secretary of State said about spending on the Health Service. If that is right, so be it, but it is not coming through to the patients. An example which has been the subject of several letters in my postbag in the last fortnight is the time that it takes for test results to be given for cervical smears. In my area it has been taking between four and five months for the results of cervical smears to become known. That seems to be regarded as acceptable by one health authority with which I have corresponded. One of the constituents who wrote to me on this subject was found to be suffering from cancer. She was not just worried but exceedingly anxious, and her anxiety was heightened by the fact that she had to wait so long for the result of the test. I ask the Secretary of State to ensure that waiting lists—particularly in this crucial area which is of such importance to women—are reduced quickly and substantially.

There are, however, some rays of sunshine in the Health Service in Wales. I hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, when he replies to the debate, will join with me in welcoming and congratulating the Laura Ashley foundation and the Ashley family on their gift, which was announced today, of a £230,000 grant to the University of Wales college of medicine, £130,000 of which has come from the foundation and the balance of £100,000 from Sir Bernard Ashley and the rest of the Ashley family. The money will be spent on research into the prevention of kidney damage in children caused by urinary infections in infanthood. That welcome gift is a generous memorial to Laura Ashley, one of the great industrialists of Wales.

I turn to a less fortunate event in recent months. Every week at my constituency surgeries, earnest, hard-working farmers, often with farms that have been in the family for generations, show me their accounts, letters from their bank managers or other evidence of the desperate financial state in which family farmers find themselves today. There are quick remedies for this. For the life of me, I cannot understand why we do not join the European monetary system now. The Government say that they think we should join it, but not yet. The Labour party says that it thinks that we should join it, but not yet. But neither will tell us when. For the sake of farming—indeed, for the sake of the British economy — we should join the European monetary system now. That would bring an immediate alleviation of the interest rates which our farmers face. In real terms, farmers in the United Kingdom are paying twice as much as borrowers in the United States and about 50 per cent. more than farmers in France. No wonder they find themselves in such a parlous state by comparison.

The way in which the proposals for land use change were brought about in Wales was insulting and chaotic. From what I have been told — I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments— there was no consultation whatever between the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the one hand and the Welsh Office on the other. It was confirmed, in answer to a parliamentary question from me, that there was no consultation between the Welsh Office and bodies such as the farming unions or even the Development Board for Rural Wales before the document was produced.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

I must contradict the hon. Gentleman's statement that there was no consultation between the various Departments of State. Of course there was consultation, and it included the Welsh Office.

Mr. Carlile

I accept the hon. Gentleman's word for that. Nevertheless, there should surely have been consultation between the Welsh Office and the statutory bodies in Wales, and with interested parties such as the unions in the farming industry before those proposals were introduced, particularly given the way in which they were introduced.

The Government's prescription lacks shape. It is time that the Welsh economy was given an integrated approach. We should not put agriculture in one compartment, industry in another compartment and tourism in yet another. We should look at the economy as a whole. I suggest to the Secretary of State that a new integrated shape should be devised with some —preferably all — of the following features. First, there should be substantial public sector assistance for alternative farm use, with grants for the renovation and adaptation of farm buildings for manufacturing and service industries. Secondly, to assist farming in Wales there should be positive public sector assistance in the establishment of food processing plants in strategic locations. The Secretary of State knows only too well what happened to Welsh Quality Lamb. There is now a gap in the market. I suggest that an integrated meat and dairy processing plant, built to EEC and United States import standards, ideally in Newtown, would be a great success and would give farming the boost that it so sadly needs.

In tourism, the success of the advance factories built by the Welsh Development Agency and Mid Wales Development should be applied to hotels. As a pilot project, two advance hotels could be built at strategic locations. We cannot have them all in my constituency, so on this occasion I suggest the Ffestiniog valley and Builth Wells as examples. There should be a clear commitment that the Montgomery canal scheme, which will benefit not only Montgomeryshire but Shropshire, will go ahead by the Government ensuring that the financial package is not hamstrung by regulations about the use of rate support grant. I hope that I shall be given a sympathetic hearing on that score at least. In forestry, we should have not only the planting of broad-leaved woodlands but the establishment of tourist sites too with chalets and shooting, canoeing and fishing areas in the woodlands.

As part of the integrated package in manufacturing, there should be an increase in the current speculative factory building in rural Wales, with special attention to the provision of facilities and grant aid for firms wishing to establish their research and development units in rural Wales. I suggest to the Secretary of State that the mid-Wales development grant, which has been such a success, should be not just continued but increased to a maximum of 20 per cent.

On regional strategy, I ask the Secretary of State to reaffirm the conclusions of the Beacham report in 1964 that the problems of the rural areas — depopulation, deprivation, peripherality, and so on—equate with those of unemployment and to endorse and extend the growth towns strategy which has been so successful in Newtown. The Secretary of State should consider the designation of more new towns or new town areas within existing towns, for example, in places such as Aberystwyth, Llandrindod Wells and Brecon. On the housing front, more money should be made available so that the council houses which have been sold can be replaced to provide housing for key workers.

Of course, it is no use asking for factories, hotels and key workers unless we have the necessary roads, so I also ask for an absolute commitment to the improvement of the mid-Wales east-west Shrewsbury-Aberystwyth link.

People in rural Wales are not particularly demanding, but they are entitled to expect a reasonable quality of life for young and old—in education, the Health Service, agriculture, industry and all the other arenas in which they lead their lives. The countryside feels that it is in a state of crisis, particularly because of what has happened in agriculture. There have been some achievements, but much more could have been done. Measures of the kind that I have suggested would generate jobs and income and would become self-financing, as industrial development in mid-Wales has already done. I earnestly urge the Secretary of State not to close his eyes to the possibility of the developments that I have advocated.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. As the House knows, I have no authority to control the length of speeches, but if hon Members who speak between now and 9 pm do so for 15 minutes each, I think that every hon. Member who wishes to speak would be called.

6.34 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

I shall not take up the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), but I should like to allude to the remarks of the. hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones). He got many things wrong but the only one on which I shall correct him is when he said that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was made to defend vulnerable seats. It was not made to defend vulnerable seats; it was made to win vulnerable seats. As many of us are aware, the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside has a majority of only 100 more than the Labour party had at Greenwich.

The annual debate on Welsh affairs provides an opportunity to review what has happened in Wales during last year, especially in our constituencies. I shall follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) in that respect and take his points a little further. The debate also provides us with an opportunity to bring out the world of difference, the sharp contrast between the way in which we on this side of the House approach the great issues and crucial problems in the Principality and the approach of the Opposition.

It is, of course, one of the oldest myths in politics, perpetuated by the Labour party, that massive structural unemployment of the kind we have experienced in my constituency in north-east Wales began in 1979. That unemployment did not suddenly emerge in May 1979 when the Conservative party took office. The massive structural unemployment in our two major industries in north-east Wales—in textiles and steel—is not a seven-year phenomenon but a 20-year phenomenon. Let me give the facts to back that up. The rundown of Courtaulds' Deeside works began in 1969. The first major job losses at Courtaulds' Greenfield works occurred in 1976 with the loss of 600 jobs. The closure of Courtaulds' Castle works with the loss of 1,500 jobs — the biggest single redundancy ever in Delyn—happened in 1977.

The attitude of Labour's leadership and of its Welsh Front Bench appears to be, "We have suffered electoral defeat in 1979 and again in 1983. We have done our act of penance. We deserve absolution. Our slate is wiped clean. We can forget our past." Labour cannot forget it. We shall not allow it to forget the past and nor will the electorate. We are entitled, just as the country is, to judge the Labour party not just by what it says but by what happened when it was in office and what it did when it had the power to act. The indisputable fact is that massive structural unemployment had already taken place and was continuing to take place in Delyn throughout the years of Labour's last term of office.

If any independent, non-partisan, objective confirmation of that is needed, let me quote from one of the Labour party's favourite documents—only this time the one that Labour produced during its term of office—the Labour party's European regional development fund report in 1978. What did it say about north-east Wales? Just this : Unemployment over recent years has increased substantially …there must be uncertainty about the future of the area with its dependence on a narrow manufacturing base centred on the steel, textile and aircraft industries. Having established that, let us look at Labour's response to Delyn's mass unemployment, especially the closure of Courtaulds' Castle works in 1977 with the huge loss of 1,500 jobs. Did the Labour Government put together a special package to help the town of Flint, recognising the intense local impact of those redundancies? The answer is no. Was Government pressure exerted on Courtaulds to hand over the Castle works site to the local council for industrial development? Again, the answer is no. Indeed, the site was sold behind the council's back to a private developer from whom the council later had to buy it at the market price.

Contrast that with what happened following the April 1985 announcement of the final closure of Courtaulds' Greenfield works with the loss of 530 jobs the following August. Within a week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had met me, then local borough and county councillors and their officers in north Wales. Within a month, the Government had prepared a special package, ultimately worth £1,450,000, to help regenerate Delyn's economy to bring new industry and new jobs to the area. Following Government pressure on Courtaulds, the company agreed to hand over its No. 1 site, not at market price, but for £1 to Delyn borough council, having spent a significant sum clearing the site of hazardous materials.

Courtaulds also agreed to make a three-year commitment to an expanded Delyn business partnership by seconding staff to help to bring new companies and new jobs to the constituency. That is the sharp contrast between this Government's and our Secretary of State's response to a closure that involved 530 redundancies and the last Labour Government's lack of response to a closure involving three times that number—1,500 redundancies. One could not have a sharper contrast between the way the two sides in this House have approached massive structural unemployment in north-east Wales than the way in which we have approached two similar, though different-sized closures, in eight years.

This Government and this Government alone ensured that Courtaulds could not just up and walk away from a work force and a community that had served the company for so long and so well. There is no point in the Opposition simply dismissing this as exceptional or as one particular case history. The contrast between this Government's response and the last Labour Government's lack of response to Delyn's mass unemployment can be carried further. It was this Government in 1979 who gave Delyn the highest level of development area status. It was we who in 1983 designated the Delyn enterprise zone, backing it with over £5 million.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the enterprise zone approach has proved how effective an intensive localised approach to unemployment can be. Some 1,155 new jobs have been created since designation, 88 per cent. of them full-time, 63 per cent. of them full-time male jobs and 86 per cent. of them in a wide range of manufacturing activity. I wish that the Opposition would applaud this. They are always asking for more jobs in manufacturing. Why are they so silent? I do not expect you to intervene, Mr. Speaker, because even in the face of this good news you must restrain yourself, but surely the Opposition can applaud good news.— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) is always fair about these matters, even if his hon. Friends are not.

The good news does not stop there. A further 530 jobs are projected for the enterprise zone and an additional 640 are to be provided on the Greenfield business park within three to four years. In north-east Wales the Government have begun to reverse the industrial decline of the last 15 to 20 years. As I mentioned at Question Time, they have achieved a significant reduction of 11.5 per cent. in the unemployment figures in the constituency of Delyn. Unemployment is down from 5,894 in January 1986 to 5,215 in January this year. That reduction is all the more dramatic when it is remembered that we had to absorb during that period the major Courtaulds closure at Greenfield.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the hon. Gentleman not appreciate the contribution made by the other local authority, Clwyd county council, to this regeneration project? In that context, why does he seek the removal of the elected chairman of that council?

Mr. Raffan

The hon. Gentleman has thrown a red herring into the debate, but I shall tell him exactly why I seek that. It is completely wrong for the chairman of a county council, a civic head who should be above politics, to enter the party political fray. He has been much criticised, I think today, by people from all political parties for so doing. He demeans the dignity of his high office by doing that. I am critical of Clwyd county council's spending policies because I do not believe in spending money on opera houses and castles when for a much lower cost more industrial jobs could be created in the county.

That is why I am so praiseworthy of Delyn borough council. Its activities are in sharp contrast to those of Clwyd county council, which spends millions of pounds and proposes to spend another £2.3 million on a castle that has serious revenue implications for the county because it costs £350,000 a year to run and maintain. That money should be used to buy more school books, to carry out more school building maintenance, to help further with the introduction of the GCSE and to restore the school library stock. I am sorry that in that context I do not have the support of the hon. Member for Merionnydd Nam Conwy (Mr. Thomas), but I shall say no more because I do not want to harm the chances of Plaid Cymru in my constituency. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting up a candidate and he knows exactly why.

It is no wonder that in this year's report to the European regional development fund we were able to say about north-east Wales : Job gains at new manufacturing plants since 1981 more than offset job opportunities lost as a result of plant closures during the same period. In its 1978 ERDF report Labour talked about the future of the area being uncertain. We have reversed that uncertainty and have given hope.

In his speech to the Cardiff business club on 3 February my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales said : I offer a new measure of success, and that is how many pounds of private sector investment which would not otherwise have taken place, we can secure for each pound of public money that is spent. By that measure, the Delyn enterprise zone is an outstanding success. The five latest companies to move into the zone have shown their confidence in its future by buying their own plants. We must build on that success with more public sector pump priming to ensure still more private investment in the zone and in the Greenfield business park.

What, however, is Labour's attitude towards enterprise zones, towards this outstandingly successful instrument for job creation? When the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) had responsibility for these matters he told us: We shall have no more of them. Of course, I am aware that Labour party policy has a habit of mutating. In my speech in last year's Welsh day debate and in my speech during the debate last October on the Government's regional policy, I asked whether the Labour party had changed its policy of open hostility to enterprise zones. I received no response. If Labour is against the concept of enterprise zones., which are a proven success, what are they for?

The shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside, earlier this year announced with a great fanfare that the Labour party would set up a series of council-based regional enterprise boards across Wales—more quangos. That was on Monday 5 January. But wait. On Wednesday 7 January, just two days later, the last Labour Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), announced that local councils in Wales should draw up job-creation plans based upon areas larger than their own boundaries, based on travel-to-work areas. He made no mention of regional enterprise boards. "Shock, horror", we thought. "Does the shadow Secretary of State know what the previous Secretary of State is saying?" We did not have to wait long to find out. All was revealed, as it often is to the Opposition's great distress, in the next day's Western Mail. Views differ on Labour's plan for jobs", said the headline. The Welsh Labour party was in confusion last night… ran the opening sentence, as if we did not already know.

More, much more, was revealed and I quote : The Shadow Secretary of State for Wales was authoritatively said to be exceeding party policy in pledging to set up a series of council-based regional enterprise boards across Wales…his ideas are rejected by Welsh party leaders as inoperable in Wales… The next bit sounds very familiar, one might almost say characteristic of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside.

It reads : he is said to have taken his ideas from England and applied them to Wales without fully considering that precisely the same work was being done already by the Welsh Development Agency…party leaders have been alarmed by his pledges. That is not exactly the white heat of industrial policy-making. There seems to be a role here for that hon. Gentleman, the clever looking one in the Opposition, whom the Leader of the Opposition now puts in charge of nearly everything—I mean of course the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). The shadow Secretary of State for Wales is one of the few jobs in the shadow Cabinet that is not being done by the hon. Gentleman, and look what happens—chaos.

The Observer hit the nail on the head yesterday. It is an unbiased newspaper, as I am sure the Labour party would agree. After all, it is almost one of its newspapers. The Observer said that the Labour party had fallen victim to the oldest delusion of public relations. Carried away by their belief in images…they have entirely forgotten that politics is about substance. The electors of Greenwich looked at Mrs. Deirdre Wood"— this is still The Observer; I do not want hon. Members to think that this is me— and saw at best a vacuum and at worst a mass of contradictions. When the electors of Wales look at the Labour party they see exactly the same—at best a vacuum and at worst a mass of contradictions. Red rose images are not enough or, in the words of the old song : Wash me in the water That you washed the colonel's daughter And I shall be whiter than The whitewash on the wall.

That is not enough, because the whitewash is peeling and is revealing the cracks and the rot that has set in beneath. A huge chunk of it peeled away at Greenwich and it is rapidly peeling away in Delyn, too.

Mr. Terlezki

And in the rest of Wales.

Mr. Raffan

Yes, and in the rest of Wales, as my hon. Friend reminds me. He will realise, of course, that I am making a strictly constituency speech.

In the words of one senior Labour councillor in Delyn : These 'loony Left people' have been taking over the Delyn constituency Labour party. In the last few months, one Labour councillor after another has stated in the press that they believe that the local Labour party, especially in Flint, is being infiltrated by Militant Tendency. Last December, five moderate, well-respected Labour councillors, whom I also greatly respect, were booted out as candidates for the district elections in May. The present Labour leader on Delyn borough council and a former mayor of Delyn, Councillor Darrell Evans, was booted out. The present mayor of Flint, Councillor Joe Wedge, was also booted out. A former mayor of Flint, Councillor Jack Johnson, Councillor Joe Roberts of Bagillt and Councillor Vernon Parry of Flint have also been booted out. Another Labour councillor, the present mayoress of Flint, Mrs. Rosa Davies, withdrew from the selection battle because of what she called the undemocractic and unconstitutional methods of doing things in favour of Left-wing militants and their followers. I mean she added, Militant Tendency. Councillor Darrell Evans, the present leader of the Labour group—though not for long—and, as I said, a former mayor of Delyn, has regaled us with details of the kind of democratic procedures that are favoured at Labour party selection meetings. He said : I have been at meetings where people have been insulted and physically threatened.

These are not the first councillors to go. Two other moderate councillors — Councillors Ernie Joyce and David Jones—have gone before them.

And within spitting distance of this bloody Labour party civil war lives whom? Yes, the shadow Secretary of State for Wales himself. He lives in Papermill lane, just outside Flint. Has he spoken out? Of course not. He is like the three monkeys rolled into one: hear no Militant, see no Militant, accuse no Militant. He has not the guts to speak out, but others among his colleagues have. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cox) and the hon. Members for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) have had the guts to speak out. They have spelt out what is happening in the Labour party. The people of Delyn, too, will spell it out in large numbers on polling day when it comes.

6.52 pm
Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

I do not intend to take up what has been said by the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan). He seems to have an obsession with 11.5 per cent.

We hear a great deal these days about the decay of the inner cities of Britain. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) gave a graphic description of the decay in the city of Cardiff. We heard him describe the problems that are caused by the older properties in the city. That decay has been portrayed by the commissions that have studied the inner city problem, most notably by the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission. The main thrust of that examination was the Church's mission to the inner cities, but it was inevitable that it would also demonstrate and highlight the decay in those areas. That decay manifests itself in bad housing, in inadequate health and social provision and in poor educational facilities for our children. The commission also highlighted the hopelessness of the dead hand of unemployment that is felt by those who live in those places.

I am sure that the Government do not thank the Archibishop of Canterbury or the members of his commission for showing up the realities of life in the inner cities. If our newly elected Archbishop of Wales were to set up a commission to look at faith in the south Wales valley communities, I suspect that his report would highlight in an equally dramatic way the dire problems that face the valley communities. The decay there manifests itself in bad housing, in inadequate health and social provision, in poor educational facilities and in the hopelessness of unemployment.

The neglect of the south Wales valleys communities has led to the same decay as is to be found in the inner cities. As happens so often on these occasions, the Secretary of State catalogued his Government's achievements. Although they may satisfy him, they do not satisfy us. We see with our own eyes what is really happening. If we are not deceived, those who live in the neglected valleys communities are not deceived, either.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman seems to be putting the responsibility for the condition in the valleys entirely on the Government. Does he feel that the Labour party, which has had political control of the valleys for more than half a century and has run almost everything in the valleys, has no responsibility at all for the conditions there?

Mr. Coleman

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, I do not place the entire blame on this Administration, but I suggest that before the Secretary of State comes before the House wearing rose-tinted glasses and trying to make us believe that everything in the valleys is OK —

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have not.

Mr. Coleman

The right hon. Gentleman has, and he has tried to do so on more than one occasion. I shall make my own speech and develop my own argument.

Those of my hon. Friends and I who represent the south Wales valleys communities are not immune to the complaints of our people about bad housing, almost nonexistent transport facilities, decaying school buildings and inadequate health care facilities. The south Wales valleys communities are saying that they are forgotten up here. The Secretary of State should listen to them.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Each of those authorities is Labour-controlled.

Mr. Coleman

The people in the valleys communities have been as badly hit by unemployment as people anywhere else in Britain. Unemployment hurts just as much in the valleys of south Wales as it does in the cities, and in many cases the bitter experience of unemployment has hit the people of south Wales for a much longer period. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State to humble himself a little and to remember that he has had responsibility for Wales for nearly eight years. It is just not good enough for him to come to the House or to go to the Welsh Grand Committee and read off this, that and the other. We know that things are not happening in the valleys communities, as he appears to think they are.

The right hon. Gentleman refers time and time again to his valleys initiative, but I receive cynical complaints about it. He should go and find out for himself. Money ought to have been allocated for urban aid. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Welsh Office targets specific areas for assistance. However, I have received complaints about insufficient money being provided to carry out remedial work on the dereliction in south Wales valleys areas. The only place in west Glamorgan that has benefited is in my own constituency. I refer to Pontardawe. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) and if do not believe that real value will come from this initiative. In Neath money was refused for housing renewal and for the clearance of tips.

The money that has been spent does not create revenue expenditure for the maintenance of projects. Neither does it cover the decaying schools, sewers, highways or footpaths. The Secretary of State should understand that that is the reality in the valleys of south Wales, not the catalogue thumbed through from time to time whenever he appears at the Dispatch Box or in the Grand Committee.

I shall now deal with another matter of concern to the valleys communities, opencast mining. I raise that matter not as a result of the promptings of any protest or action group, but as a means of highlighting the feelings of the communities that I know, about how opencast mining affects life in those communities. Every one of us in the Chamber should understand that the people in those communities have a considerable dilemma to deal with. They recognise that they live in places where valuable coal is found. They recognise the importance of that coal to the nation's energy needs and to the economy of Britain. They are only too aware that opencast sites are the means of employment in places where employment is not in abundance. That is one side of the dilemma. The other side is the disruption to their lives that opencast operations bring—the dirt, noise and ugliness.

In several parts of my constituency opencast mining .has gone on for over 40 years and for most of that time such operations have been embarked upon with not too much concern about how they affect the lives of the people. The National Coal Board has not been the most considerate of neighbours. I shall recount one instance of its lack of consideration.

Some years ago the Coal. Board wanted to undertake opencast mining behind the 'village of Pant-y-ffordd in the Dulais valley. The proposal was to bring the site right to the boundary fences of houses in that small village. We had a public inquiry which resulted in the Coal Board being deterred from doing that. During that inquiry I was challenged by counsel for the Coal Board with the taunt that it was inconsistant of me to complain about unemployment in the valleys and to oppose the board's application for opencast mining. That was rich, coming from the Coal Board at that time, since it was NCB policy, before the early 1960s, to oppose the introduction of any form of industrial activity in valleys such as the Dulais valley lest it attracted labour away from the mining industry.

It is that sort of arrogance that lingers on in the minds of many in the valleys, which fuels opposition to opencast mining operations, even though, in many cases, it is clear that the improvements in the environment after the extraction has taken place have been beneficial.

During a recent Welsh Question Time, we asked how decisions for planning applications for opencast mining were to be proceeded with and dealt with. Opposition Members demand that the Secretary of State uses the same criteria in respect of applications for planning permission for opencast mining in the valleys communities as he does in his own constituency.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I will.

Mr. Coleman

I am glad to hear the Secretary of State say that, and I hope that all the communities will recognise that and keep the authorities to that point of view because we believe that there must be an end to the ringing of villages by opencast sites, which have been a curse in the past. We demand that there is the closest examination of planning applications by planning authorities. What is more, we believe that the environmental work should begin before mining operations start so that those sites do not become the dirty, noisy eyesores that they have been in the past. There must be a new approach to opencast mining operations. If it is, as it is, a means of securing the nation's energy and economic needs, there must be a recognition that there is a debt to the communities affected which must be paid to them. The rest of the country, which is not affected by those activities, has a responsibility to pay that community charge because the country is benefiting from opencast mining.

The time has come for councils in the communities affected to take a more positive role in those matters. They are statutory bodies. They should be making demands of the National Coal Board and expecting to receive every support in their demands from the other authorities involved, including Her Majesty's Government.

I hope that before the end of the debate we shall have spelt out for us that the Government support those objectives and it will be stated that we shall have a level of opencast mining which is compatible with life in those communities so that there is not simply extraction for the sake of it. There should be a level to which the National Coal Board will be allowed to go, and no further.

The mining valleys of south Wales were the foundation upon which past prosperity was founded. In most cases, the means of producing that prosperity has gone. However, let no one forget that the people who produced that prosperity are still in the valleys communities and it is the job of the Government—soon, I hope, a Labour Government — to protect them and preserve those communities properly.

7.6 pm

Mr. Stefan Terlezki (Cardiff, West)

I shall not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) except to say that, having listened to Labour Members who have spoken, it is evident that the Greenwich by-election has made them nervous and that they do not know whether they are coming or going. They realise that the Labour party in Wales is crumbling. As for the SDP—semi-desperate people — it has not got a cat in hell's chance of winning that seat again when the general election comes.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Terlezki

No, I will not.

I make no apology for speaking about the achievements in Wales that have been brought about by the Welsh Office and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The Cardiff bay development scheme is likely to attract features such as speciality shopping, sport and restaurant complexes, hotels, an arts centre and an aquarium. That would blend in with existing developments such as the industrial and maritime museum, the South Glamorgan county council headquarters and the Penarth marina. The development corporation has been allocated £45 million in addition to the substantial capital expenditure on urban development grant and through the urban programme. The Government are looking to substantial private sector investment in a development which, over the decade ahead, is likely to produce a total investment of well over £1 billion.

The estimated income from tourists visiting Wales in 1985 was about £600 million. That is proof of the significance of the industry to the Principality. It is calculated that between 80,000 and 90,000 people — 8 per cent. of the working population — work in the tourist industry in Wales. We are very proud of that and I, as a former hotelier and caterer, am proud of that. I am closely involved with that section of employment.

The Welsh tourist industry has undoubtedly benefited from the Government's ambitious road programme, which has made the Principality much more accessible. Tourism is also a central part of the rural enterprise initiative and is prominent in many urban renewal projects, such as the proposed Cardiff dockland development, which is designed to make Cardiff one of the most attractive cities in Europe, and the 1992 garden festival in Ebbw Vale.

Since 1970 the Government have invested more than £450 million in renovating old housing in the private sector through grants and housing association rehabilitation schemes. There has also been a capital investment of £270 million in repairing and modernising council houses. The Labour Government spent only £57 million on renovating private sector houses and only £86 million on the public sector housing stock. That shows that Labour's constant allegation that the Government have neglected the housing stock in Wales is without foundation and is a deliberate falsification of the truth.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Terlezki

No, I will not.

Houses in Ely and Caurau in my constituency are not 100 years old, as was alleged by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). They were built under the Labour Government and under a Labour-controlled city council. They are in disrepair and need urgent repairs. The right hon. Member, who has left the Chamber, should not say that all houses in Cardiff are 100 years old. Why did the Labour Government not provide the necessary capital to repair and renovate houses in my constituency?

There are many examples of successful enveloping schemes, involving the repair and replacement of whole streets of homes in housing action areas, at no cost to occupiers. Block repair grants are paid for single projects, with a financial contribution being made by each householder. By the end of 1986–87 a total of 35 enveloping schemes, covering 3,684 dwellings, should have been started in Wales. That is a highly cost-effective form of repair. Supplementary allocations of £20 million have been made available for such schemes in 1987 and 1988. That will allow for the completion of the present programme and the start of a further 27 schemes under the block repair scheme by the end of 1986–87.

The Government's record of support for housing associations in Wales is equally impressive. Between 1979 and early 1986 the Government had committed £269 million to the movement in Wales, which has led to the building or renovation of 11,700 homes. That record compares favourably with that of the Labour Government under whom only 2,200 homes were built or renovated by housing associations, at a cost of £58 million.

In 1986–87 the net provision for housing associations in Wales has been increased by almost 15 per cent. to £44.7 million. Why did not the Labour Government do likewise? Labour Members tell us how badly the Government are doing, but we have done 100 times better than they did.

The Government's policy on the sale of council houses has been an unqualified success in Wales. More than 55,000 public sector tenants in Wales have bought their own homes since 1979 and about 66 per cent. of homes in the Principality are owner-occupied. I am proud of that. In my constituency, people in Ely, Caurau, Canton, Riverside and Fairwater have bought their houses and turned them into little palaces. I am pleased for them. I hope that more people will buy their own houses. As a former Cardiff city councillor, I remember that when the council was Labour-controlled people were not allowed to buy their own homes. Councillors who owned their own would not let tenants buy their homes. That was hypocrisy.

The Conservative-controlled Cardiff city council has spent, in the last three years, £25 million on housing improvements and £3 million on enveloping schemes. Those are great achievements. I am convinced that at the May elections the ratepayers and taxpayers in Cardiff will remember the good deeds of the council and the care that it takes of its people.

However, I am sorry that more money has not been made available to Smith houses in my constituency which need to be repaired and made habitable. I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that more money is made available so that the occupants of those houses can live in a proper and decent environment.

An article in the South Wales Echo a few days ago reported a boom in private house building, which led to starts being made on more than 7,000 homes in Wales last year — the highest level since the Labour Government were voted out of power. Builders said that the 10 per cent. increase on the 1985 level meant an extra 2,000 jobs and firms say that they are optimistic about the new housing market during 1987. Barratts, which opened five new developments in 1986, has plans for another seven this year, including pioneering schemes in Rhondda.

Last year also saw a growth in retirement housing schemes, with local companies such as the Bailey group in Cardiff leading the way. The New Homes Marketing Board said that 9,000 jobs had been created and maintained since 1980, when housing starts were just 4,000 a year. Its chairman, Mr. Don Lewis, said: History will recall that time and time again the house building industry has been the barometer of future economic trends, and that is why these figures should be seen as extremely encouraging for the whole Welsh economy. Like other hon. Members, I am concerned about a second Severn crossing. Approval for a second bridge has been given by the Government and it is estimated that the crossing will cost about £200 million at 1986 prices. The bridge will carry a dual two-lane motorway with much-needed hard shoulders. It will be the largest estuarial crossing in Britain, spanning three miles between the shores.

A second crossing is imperative. It must be provided as soon as possible, because south Wales is an industrialised and expanding area. A second crossing will be used extensively and will encourage more industries and industrialists into the area.

We are no longer at the mercy of the International Monetary Fund in Wales or in the United Kingdom as a whole. We are no longer riddled with political strikes and we are no longer the sick country of Europe. We are now in the first division and we intend to stay there. My message to the people in 'Wales is loud and clear. They should watch out for the loony Left, the militants, CND, the disarmers, the Labour party and its policy for Wales.

What is the Labour party's policy for Wales? It involves scrapping the Government's trade union reforms, sweeping nationalisation and the re-nationalisation of everything that is now privatised. It involves the total dismantling of Britain's nuclear defences, the nationalisation of Britain's armed services, and the control of the police by local councillors on salaries of £30,000 per councillor. The Labour party will outlaw jury vetting. The Labour party policy involves legalising homosexual acts for 16-year-olds and a vigorous drive to promote homosexual, lesbian and gay rights policies. That is the Labour party's policy for 'Wales. The Labour party will penalise private firms that have won contracts for providing services formerly carried out by the public sector. Under the Labour party, pensions and life insurance fund money will be directed towards the national investment bank. That is the Labour party's policy for Wales.

I would say further to the people of Wales, if they want higher taxes, do not vote Tory. If they want higher inflation, do not vote Tory. If they want horrendous nationalisation and renationalisation, do not vote Tory. If they want to give power to the trade unions and to the militant barons, do not vote Tory. If they want a defenceless Britain, do not vote Tory. If they want Britain to become another socialist state like the Ukraine, Poland or Czechoslovakia, do not vote Tory. Voting for the Labour party is not tactical voting; it is national suicide.

7.22 pm
Mr. Leo Abse (Torfaen)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardif, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) made a valedictory speech. It is not my intention to follow his example. It is true that he will be leaving the House, and so shall I, at the end of this Parliament. Indeed, so will many Tory Members. We shall be leaving voluntarily and they will be leaving involuntarily. I will not follow my right hon. Friend, because I am only too well aware, as he would be if he was in the Chamber and I could prompt his memory, that Prime Ministers have a strange habit, in times of difficulties, of postponing elections. Therefore, he will understand if I do not say my farewells just yet. Rather, I will follow the example of the Secretary of State for Wales who has been his usual polemical, acerbic self. Although I cannot match him in those qualities, perhaps I will be able to match him in his insouciance that I noticed a few weeks ago when he allowed us to discover that a review existed—which he distributed to us—praising the work of the Welsh Development Agency.

Apparently there had been a detailed scrutiny of the Welsh Development Agency. Of course, as the Secretary of State explained, all that he gave us was a summary. Bowdlerised versions of documents is something for which the right hon. Gentleman has a particular penchant. Usually, however, he is able at least to give some reason, either commercial or judicial, why a whole report cannot be published. On this occasion he was completely brazen and more, gave no reason, and said that the report was just part of the Government's programme for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the WDA.

No suggestion was made that the catalyst or the report—

Mr. Nicholas Edwards


Mr. Abse

The Secretary of State need not bother to interpose because I do not intend to give way. I will make my speech and the Minister will give a reply.

The Secretary of State presented the report as if it was some general review. We would be ingenuous if we did not realise that the real catalyst for much of the content of the review was the appalling, miserable scandal of the Parrot Corporation. That matter still remains completely unresolved and is still in the air.

The report states quite clearly in its synoptic account, despite the headline, that the review praises the WDA's work, and that it recommends : Ways in which the WDA could achieve improvements in the planning and execution of its function. However, the officials concluded : there is scope for further efficiency and economy and have made appropriate recommendations. There is little sign of those recommendations in the report.

Towards the end of the report some of the consequences of the Parrot scandal are revealed. It becomes clear how seriously the matter has developed. The report states : The Welsh Office is the sponsor department for the WDA. Its role is to ensure maintenance of high standards of management and financial control. It must be said that for more than a year the Secretary of State has been trying to distance himself from his firm responsibilities for the Welsh Development Agency. The report continues : It is recommended that the Welsh Office and the Agency agree— in words that are worthy of the Secretary to the Cabinet— a taut profile of anticipated monthly spend at the beginning of each financial year and that the WDA provide explanations of any in-year variations with its monthly expenditure returns. Those returns ought also to include information on the commitments entered into by the Agency in the previous month. The Agency's reporting of its investment expenditure should be improved and it is recommended that funds for investment are not released by the Welsh Office until the required information is provided. That "taut profile" means that the Welsh Office in future does not release a penny until it is sure into whose pocket that money is going. As the report states, there is a need to intensify monitoring. That report gives us only the creaking of the stable door long after the horses have bolted.

The blunt fact is that the Secretary of State failed in the role that the report rightly says falls upon him. For years he permitted the WDA to carry on with a reckless disregard of the commercial and financial disciplines which any large company would insist were essential. The inheritance of the shambles has fallen upon the new executives who are evidently making valiant and considerable efforts to create a discipline now where none previously existed.

If disciplines had been imposed and if genuine monitoring had taken place, it would never have been possible for more than £2.5 million, given as a soft loan from the European Community and intended to be used as working capital in the Parrot factory in my constituency, to have ended up effectively frozen in an American bank earning money for that bank and doubtless, by way of backhanders, for all who had conspired and colluded in that mafia-like transaction. The House must consider what the Secretary of State's culpable negligence and subsequent efforts to obfuscate the scandal has cost and is costing the taxpayer.

Recently, I asked the Secretary of State about the total cost to public funds of each current job at the Parrot factory in Cwmbran new town. He replied blandly that it was about £6,900 per person. Such a reply is as impudent as it is misleading. It is based upon the direct financial assistance from the Welsh Office and rent concessions made for the factory. It completely excludes the £1.7 million which the Secretary of State supposed would be a so-called commercial investment, but from which, unhappily, there has been not a single penny of return. It excludes the millions that came from Europe. It fails to make a contingency provision for a £13 million claim being made against the agency in the American courts by the former managing director of Parrot, Frank Peters, even as it does not take into account a substantial claim, against the corporation, as part of the backwash of the murky events, by the German sales manager at Munich. It makes no provision for a separate action in this country by Mr. Peters, which is due to start in June.

The reply totally ignores the cost to public funds of the massive police trawl, which has led the police to spend weeks in Chicago. It totally ignores the cost of the lawyers in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, not to mention the heavy legal costs incurred in defending the American action. It does not include the loss to the taxpayer caused by the approval of a tax-reducing element whereby the huge salaries given to Peters and other directors and employees were paid into a United States-based corporation as fees for consultancy services to Parrot.

With a few more than 100 jobs created in my constituency, we have witnessed a first for the Secretary of State for Wales, for this is the most expensive job-creation scheme in Europe. One of the most disagreeable aspects of the affair is the Secretary of State's attempt to evade his personal responsibility by throwing a cloak of secrecy over the squalid bungling. When the project was mooted, the Secretary of State was ready to claim all the praise for what has proved to be an ill—considered initiative. As the Financial Times said bluntly, recalling the occasion when the factory was opened : As champagne corks popped and hundreds of guests enjoyed a fine lunch in a sun-baked marquee, the royal opening appeared to put a final seal of approval on the harnessing of US technological know-how and management, and a partnership between UK public and private sector finance.

I did not attend that opening, but I believe the Secretary of State did—

Mr. Nicholas Edwards


Mr. Abse

Perhaps he did not, but I have no doubt that he was well represented. I did not attend, even though it was in my constituency, because the alarm bells were ringing for me. Within two months, the director who had proudly shown the Duke of Kent round the new facility found the hospitality being returned by Her Majesty's Government in a cell at Chelsea police station.

It is especially disagreeable that we had to force an explanation out of the Secretary of State. The Opposition had to force him to mount an inquiry, but what a limited inquiry it was. He certainly intended that his personal responsibility could not be called into question, and when the report was issued it was a bowdlerised version hiding behind the idea that there were legal and commercial reasons for not publishing the entire report.

Recently, I have been pressing—not for the first time —the Attorney-General to take some action. About a week ago, he replied : I am advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions that police inquiries into the affairs of the Parrot Corporation have been completed and a decision has been made regarding the institution of criminal proceedings. It would, however, not be in the interests of justice were I to divulge publicly any further information regarding this matter at this stage."—[Official Report, 24 February 1987; Vol. 111, c. 6.] That is a cabalistic reply. We still do not know whether proceedings will be started, whether the report has been published or whether an attempt will be made to extradite Peters. All that we know from the HTV interview—HTV has probed well into the matter—is that Peters has said that, if his expenses are paid, he will return to Wales. I hope that the Secretary of State is passing that information to the Attorney-General. I hope, too, that he is not being coy, as he appears to have been, about asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to expedite matters. Is the Secretary of State playing for touch? Does he not want the scandal revealed before the general election?

The attempts to enforce silence continue. In recent days, the WDA, no doubt with the approval of the Secretary of State, sought an injunction against the BBC to prevent the broadcasting of Peters' allegations against the corporation. It is attempting to suppress his claim that the WDA was guilty of fraudulent misrepresentation in the prospectus that it issued to induce investors in the City to put money into the Parrot Corporation. He claims that the true conditions imposed by the Community soft loan were deliberately concealed and misrepresented. I have met Peters only once—in the autumn of 1985—and I would not accept his bare word for such a grave allegation. I left him with a far different assessment of him from that of the Secretary of State, who was foolish enough to put millions of pounds of public money in his care. Without presuming to judge whether Peters is guilty of criminal conduct, I can say that I would not have entered into a partnership with him to run an ice cream stall.

My experience as a solicitor who has prosecuted and defended criminals is that when thieves fall out they make allegations against each other that are often true. The relevant question that I put is this: if Peters' allegation is false, why, when the unavailability of the European millions became apparent and when the threat of writs from the institutions claiming that at the very least they had been misled was descending, did the Secretary of State tumble over himself to beg yet more public money from the Treasury for the Parrot Corporation? Was it because of his concern for some jobs in my constituency or was it because he and his officials were afraid of the consequences — certainly civil and perhaps criminal —that could arise if the threatening City institutions took action?

Many other questions must be asked which remain unanswered. What was the sinister role of Mr. Neil Taylor, one moment a member of the Welsh Development Agency's investment staff while the Parrot deal was being stitched together, and the next moment a so-called independent financial consultant working for Parrot? Who approved of that in the WDA and why? Did the Secretary of State inform himself of the clogs in the service contracts of his staff? Did he approve of such ambiguous mobility? What did Neil Taylor's superior at the Welsh Development Agency, Allan Sutton, know of that extraordinary transaction? What was the real role of Mr. Faulkner of the Development Capital Group? Why was he used by the WDA, and did he obtain £35,000 for becoming involved in what the report described blandly as an "unusual transaction"? Was the transaction well rehearsed at a Parrot board meeting in February 1984, when, among others, Mr. Shakespeare of the WDA was present?

Those involved in this murky transaction—I do not believe that only one person is responsible—almost got away with their scheme. But the financial projections prepared in late 1983 were absurdly over-optimistic. The fall in the world market price for flexible diskettes, the poor performance of the pound against the dollar, the increasing costs of capital equipment, the delay in the completion of the Cwmbran factory by the WDA and the late funding by the WDA of £300,000 of its equity meant that the company ran out of working capital by the summer of 1985, and the conspiracy was exposed. The conspiracy that had been hatched fell apart, and it was revealed that the equivalent of the European Community funds were frozen in the American bank. None of that could have come about if the Secretary of State had insisted long before now, as was his duty, upon proper financial controls at the WDA.

With more than 6,000 unemployed people in my constituency, the overriding concern must be that the past fiasco is not followed by collapse but at least by some success. That must be the concern. Are the new directors, acting as accountants, lacking the imaginative, technological skills that are needed to expand the company operating in the highly competitive high-tech field? Will they act to build up a credibility that has been damaged? Certainly, I have misgivings when I hear the treatment now being meted out to Dr. Langler, the man recruited by the original directors to promote German and Austrian sales. I gained the firm impression that he has been made a victim of the deviousness that informed the former hoard at Cwmbran. If confidence is to be restored in Parrot's integrity, I hope that Mr. Gareth Luke, the present financial director, will have the wisdom to handle the Langler matter in a way that will not inflict further litigation costs upon Parrot and, hence, indirectly upon the taxpayer.

We have heard speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. Their speeches indicted the Government because of their lack of concern. My speech is an indictment of their lack of efficiency. The conjuction between their lack of concern and their inefficiency has led to the present situation in Wales where there are 200,000 unemployed, our housing is in a disgraceful state and our hospitals are run-down. It will not be long before the Government get their due reward from the electorate.

7.41 pm
Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

The speech of the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Abse) reminded me of "Finnegan's Wake". Had it not been so obscure, I am sure that it would have been obscene. The best commentary that I can make on it relates to the chap who threatened to publish a key to "Finnegan's Wake" and was told that that book wanted not so much a key as a lock.

I wish to make two specific points and then a general comment about the Government's policies. First, I wish to say a word about the Bodelwyddan castle project, against which my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) has argued often and passionately. I make no complaint about the matter, although Bodelwyddan castle is wholly within my constituency. It will do Clwyd county council no harm to have my hon. Friend snapping at its heels and urging it to be more cost conscious than it sometimes is. The project is valuable to the economy and to job prospects in north Clwyd and could serve as a major tourist attraction all the year round, bringing in the kind of tourists whom we need to attract and raising the tone of the tourist industry in the area. Private and public money spent on supporting the arts is money well spent, even in comparison with other such deserving causes as industry or social welfare. The arts is one field in which we are still world leaders. Money spent on the arts is money spent on backing success. That success has a spin-off effect which benefits many other activities both locally and nationally. By all means let my hon. Friend carry on with his campaign, for I am by no means satisfied that Clwyd's management of the project is as economic as it could be, but I shall continue to give it my backing.

My second point, which will perhaps be more controversial for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, concerns the all-Wales strategy for mental handicap and illness. I can understand the thinking behind the new policy of getting everyone possible out of institutions and into the community, but a niggling suspicion is beginning to form in my mind that we are all going along just a little too unquestioningly with a policy that is fashionable among psychiatrists but may not have been fully thought through and could turn out to be as dangerously mistaken as the wholesale clearance of so-called slum areas and the construction of residential tower blocks in their place. The visible fruits of the policy at present are that the magnificently sited and well-built North Wales hospital at Denbigh may be closed, with dramatic consequences for employment in Denbigh. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey) for straying over his border, but many of my constituents also work there.

Of more direct concern to me is the fact that all too many former patients will land up in less than ideal accommodation in Rhyl—very probably in the west end of Rhyl — which already faces a crisis from the uncontrolled spread of multi-occupation and where the local authority's powers of inspection, even for such vital purposes as fire precautions, are simply not adequate. I am bound to say that my experience of visiting even some of the better equipped and supervised private homes into which mentally handicapped patients have been discharged from institutions has sometimes been less than cheery. I shudder to think of what the arrival of dozens of ex-Denbigh patients in the so-called flatlets of west Rhyl will do. A great deal more thought needs to be given to the availability of suitable and appropriately supervised accommodation for the supposed beneficiaries of the policy of dispersal.

On a more general theme, Labour Members —clutching at straws like the drowning men that they are — would have us believe that there has been steady economic decline in Wales and that social services are in ruins. It is true that there is a worrying situation in our schools, due to the form of industrial action taken by the teachers' unions to press their pay claims and enthusiastically supported by the Labour party. I am delighted that my party intends to press on further and faster with restrictions on the power of trade union bosses to bully their own members' and the rest of us.

In the social services generally, however, there has been steady progress, as promised by the Government when they first came to power in 1979, although progress in this field always falls short of expectations. I have before me the health and social security services statistics for Wales. One may open the document at random and find on every page and in every column statistical evidence of steady, sometimes dramatic expansion of the health and social services in Wales under the present Government.

What of the Government's general economic policies in Wales over the past seven years? In Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, health and social services policies have been harsh and, sometimes, unfeeling. When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, British industry, despite the all too short lived efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) to get it to modernise, was still heavily overmanned and riddled with restrictive working practices that were enthusiastically maintained by workers and management alike. Much has been done during the past seven years to put this right, although much still remains to be done.

Even bearing in mind what has been done so far, however, which has led to Llanwern Steel, for example, being competitive with just about any steelworks in the world, the cost in terms of unemployment, loss of hope and social division has been terrible. If one has a gangrenous limb, it has to be amputated. That is the only way to save life, but it is no use pretending that the cost is not appalling. One must make the best of it. In Wales, the cost of the ruthless process of modernisation has been exceptionally high because Wales was exceptionally dependent on coal and steel, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out in his superb opening speech. Both were public sector industries and both were riddled with restrictive practices and overmanning, largely because they were public sector industries. Inevitably, old jobs were lost a great deal faster than new jobs could come in.

The social consequences for Wales have been grave. That they were not catastrophic is due in no small measure to the efficacy, determination and adaptability of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. As this may well be his last appearance at a Welsh affairs debate, it is right that public tribute should be paid to his immense achievement. I do not think that I do him any wrong if I say that he took office as a pretty convinced free market man, but that he was swift to perceive the need to temper the wind to the shorn lamb and to fight for Wales to have far more than its fair share of help to bring in the jobs to replace those lost by modernisation and to ensure that the social services in Wales were sufficiently supported to stand the shock thrown on them by the huge upheaval of modernisation.

The loss of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be a blow to the Government, to the Conservative party and to Wales. At the risk of rushing in where angels fear to tread, 1 believe that the next Secretary of State must be a Welsh Member elected for a Welsh constituency and that on both counts my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts) fully fills the Bill. 1 hope that he will get the job. I hope still more that my saying so will not spoil his chances. It could be said that he and I belong to opposite wings of the Conservative party, but like any well-constructed bird it needs two wings if it is to fly straight. If my hon. Friend gets the job, as I hope that he will, he will need to learn, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was so quick to do, that a Conservative Government dare not concern themselves solely with enabling the successful to get ahead and create wealth without hindrance, but that something must be done to help those who get left behind. That was a lesson of which the old-fashioned Conservative party was ever mindful—perhaps excessively mindful—and, whatever the economic imperatives, we dare not forget it now.

7.51 pm
Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merionnydd Nant Conwy)

The hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) has been a consistent critic of the Government's policies. He has repeated those criticisms today, although, like all critics, now that a general election is coming, he has tempered his comments with some praise. Nevertheless, his political antecedents show clearly that his support lies with the more humane type of Conservatism—of which there are still some representatives on the Conservative Back Benches, if not on the Front Bench. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman's endorsement of my colleague the hon. Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts) as the next Secretary of State will do harm or good, but when I say that I remember the hon. Member for Conwy in the days before he was a Right-wing Conservative his chances may be irreparably damaged.

Whatever may be the outcome of the next general election—I do not wish to talk about the Greenwich factor or any other factor—we have heard two major speeches today. One came from the retiring Secretary of State, the other from the retiring former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), and both speeches matched the occasion. In their different ways, both were speeches about the state of the nation. I shall try to follow their example, although I do not hope to emulate the quality of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth.

The right hon. Gentleman, in a constituency speech, gave us a vision of what the representative work of any Member of Parliament must be about. He conveyed graphically the plight of his constituents and their housing problems. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to him for his work in the House as a representative, for his stance and for the way in which he kept his word to those of us who supported the Labour Government in 1978–79. Many of my constituents are to this day grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, just as they are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, who as Minister of State, Department of Employment, in the last Labour Government played a leading role in ensuring compensation for people who suffered from industrial disease. That example demonstrates the compassion with which we have come to associate the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, although I may disagree with what he says about defence policy.

I have said privately, so I may as well say it publicly, that I recognise the Secretary of State as the longest arid in many ways the most effective and interventionist holder of his office. That is not necessarily a tribute to him as I do not agree with the form of his intervention. He has tried to present his vision of the modernisation of Wales, arid he will not be surprised to hear that I disagree with many aspects of that vision. He has stressed the gains that have been made during that modernisation. I want to stress the costs in human and community terms, as did the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West. I have in mind the cost to the community of the long and bitter struggle in the coal mining industry to which many Opposition Members, leaders in the mining industry and community leaders devoted themselves. It was a struggle which showed the courage of the Welsh people in the face of oppression from the Coal Board, its management and the Government. That was the unacceptable face of the Secretary of State's tenure of office.

The Secretary of State has stressed the gains of modernisation in terms of new jobs, but he has failed to remind us of the losses. We experienced a 17 per cent. job loss from June 1979 to June 1986, we suffered 36 per cent. job losses in manufacturing, and gross domestic product per head in Wales has remained at 88 per cent. of the United Kingdom average. He might argue that that level is increasing, but it is increasing from an extremely low base. Public sector spending on research and development, especially scientific research, has remained abysmally low. The figures that have emerged from parliamentary questions that I have tabled show that only 2.5 per cent. of United Kingdom scientific research is attributable to Wales. Whether it be employment, income per head or scientific spending, there is a lack of strategy for revitalising the Welsh economy. Such a strategy must take into account the key industrial sectors, including agriculture, which has suffered from a lack of representation under the Conservatives.

The Secretary of State told us about crucial decisions on agriculture policy that are being made in the European Community this week. Not once has he seen fit to represent Wales as its agriculture Minister at that key decision making. If we have the disadvantage of another Tory Government, and the hon. Member for Conwy succeeds the right hon. Gentleman as Secretary of State, I hope that he agrees that there must be Welsh representation in the Community if we are to ensure that our agriculture is adequately represented. I know that my colleagues in the Liberal party agree that there should be an immediate and substantial increase in the suckler cow premium. We also need increased headage payments in less-favoured areas and the Government should give their likely reaction to the continuing effect of Chernobyl on Welsh sheep. I have the misfortune to represent more irradiated sheep than any other hon. Member, and the farmers whose livelihoods are directly affected. There ought to have been much quicker action. The Government must now respond to what a radiation expert at University College Wales, Bangor has said about the possible need to shift soil in the hills. That would seem an impossible task. It would be the most massive derelict land clearance scheme in Wales if it happened. The Government must inform farmers of their prognostications for the worst incidence of caesium radiation on the hills.

Agriculture is not the only industry in which we need a strategy. We need an energy policy and strategies for steel, fabrication industries and engineering related to steel and coal. We look to the new sectors of high technology and micro-electronics and to the data storage industry, which is a major growth area in Wales, and also to the service industries that bring in income, particularly tourism. I hope that the Select Committee, when it comes to report on the subject, will initiate a new debate because it is high time that in this sector Wales was able to project itself directly overseas.

What is needed is an integrated approach to the Welsh economy, where growth in the various sectors is planned. The planning of development centres and of the so-called third sector of the economy, which includes new industries is missing. I endorse what the Secretary of State said about the Rank Hovis McDougall bid for Avana. We do not want to lose decision-making and investment centres, and in particular we do not want to lose from Wales control of capital. The Avana argument is a sign of what has happened so often in the Welsh economy, when centres of capital and decision making are outside Wales and we have suffered from job losses.

There is also the problem of lack of research and development in new projects. A recent constituency example is ICI bringing about redundancies. A major reason for not putting in reinvestment has been a lack of new products, because there has been no research and development or scientific innovation on that site. That is clearly part of the economic failing in Wales.

We look to the growth of the third sector of these indigenous industries, of small businesses, of the self-employed sector and of co-operative enterprises. I agree with the Government's rhetoric—although not with their way of practising it—about the need to encourage an enterprise culture. Any culture that is not enterprising cannot survive. It gives me much pleasure to see, in north Wales and the Gwynedd area in particular, the way in which there is enterprise, both culturally and progressively in terms of development of the media. The Government's investment in S4C has brought about not only far more Welsh programming, and an internationally recognised film industry, but real jobs in culture in Wales.

There are reasons for a lack of coherent economic strategy. One is that the government of Wales is not organised in a way that lends itself to the future model of democracy. We are labouring with institutions that were created in the early 1960s for executive decision making in Wales, but have not caught up with the situation in the 1980s. I know that the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) will say that I am raising the spectre of devolution, and I am. The issue of the national government of Wales and its democratic and bureaucratic nature is one to which we must continually return, because it is the essence of the problem of how one organises the modern economy. Does one do it by diktat from a Cabinet Minister operating through quangos or through democratically elected representatives coming together and agreeing on a strategy?

I ask the people of Wales, through the House, how long the present system of governing Wales can continue. We have had a Welsh Office since 1964. The Secretary of State has to handle spending of £3 billion, there is a staff of over 3,000 civil servants and more than 1,200 people are selected and nominated for various quangos and bodies. This is the nature of Welsh government. We have elected government for communities, districts, boroughs and at county level, but we have a massive structure of nonelected government at the Cardiff or Welsh level.

It is not enough for hon. Members to say that we have a Welsh affairs debate once a year, we have a Welsh Grand Committee and a Welsh Select Committee. The scale of the Welsh Office is such that accountability cannot be possible through the traditional channels of the Westminster Parliament. Many of the criticisms of housing policy, the economy and aspects of the WDA are about accountability and how people can scrutinise what Government are doing and how policy is devised. The present system of administration by the Welsh Office with three Tory Ministers, which includes the hon. Member for Conwy, is hardly an effective way to control a £3 billion budget and 3,000 civil servants.

Mr. Grist

Does the hon. Gentleman remember the St. David's day vote in 1979 when the Welsh people overwhelmingly rejected devolution? Does he agree with those who nevertheless have said that devolution should be foisted on the Welsh people next time round without asking their opinion?

Mr. Thomas

I have a dim recollection of 1979 and of the devolution vote. I do not believe in foisting anything on anyone. Any changes in the government of Wales should be subject to ratification by the Welsh people. One way would be through the opportunity for people to vote at a general election for the parties that have this as part of their programme.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman recall how the Government supported by the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) voted for taking Britain into the Common Market without the consent of the British people?

Mr. Thomas

I have a dimmer recollection of that event. Democracy cuts both ways. I want to stress the argument for elected democracy as part of the modernisation of Wales—the vision of the Secretary of State.

It is not acceptable for "quangocracy" to continue. Wales can be summarised as a country with a bureaucracy run by a quangocracy, with little or no direct democracy. That has to change and it will in the coming years, because whatever one may think of opinion polls—we are all subject to the Greenwich factor during political campaigns—recent opinion polls have shown majority support for some form of elected body for Wales. Public bodies that are accountable to the Welsh Office range from the Welsh Development Agency to the national museum. Those for which the Secretary of State has responsibility for making appointments range alphabetically from the agricultural dwelling house advisory committees through the place names advisory committee to the Welsh water authority. Those bodies to which the Secretary of State makes minority appointments range from the Audit Commission to the independent scientific committee on smoking and health, to the veterinary products committee. There are nominated bodies that take action in Wales but to which the Secretary of State has no responsibility for appointing members. All these nominated bodies should become accountable to the people of Wales.

That is the key to the argument. If we are to have a modern economy, it must he operated democratically. If we are to have a tolerant and bi-cultural society in Wales, the opportunity must be given at the all-Wales level for policies to be determined and for tension to be resolved democratically. If we are to have all-Wales strategies in health and personal social services and housing, those strategies should be democratically agreed at the all-Wales level and should not be imposed by nominated persons or by the Secretary of State.

The period of the Welsh Office has been important in the growth of government in Wales. We now have a Welsh state. It is there in existence and visible. Its architecture dominates the centre of Cardiff. It is part of a complex of buildings in the centre of town. However, the Welsh state does not have an elected component. It is a state without an elected Government. I firmly believe that, as we enter the late 1980s, with the deepening crisis in the Welsh economy and in Britain as a whole, the demand for national status for Wales and control over the state of Wales will continue to expand.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. If speeches do not exceed 10 minutes, all those who are seeking to catch my eye will have a chance to take part before the Front Bench spokesmen start to wind up.

8.9 pm

Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

If I may, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall refer initially to a local subject, which I might describe as the relentless march of concrete as our cities expand. Every week hon. Members return to their constituencies. When I arrive home on a Thursday evening or a Friday morning, I reach Cardiff on Eastern avenue and then leave that avenue to go up to my part of my constituency. I join St. Mellons road, which still manages to he something of an old country lane, and a spendid panorama spreads out in front of me. If it is at night, I see the lights in the whole of Cardiff, running down to the Bristol channel and the view that I would have in daytime on a Friday goes right over the Bristol channel to the west of England.

However, I think of the south Glamorgan structure plan and of the North Pentwyn plan which is an amendment to that structure plan. It would cover that point with new housing and a massive shopping development that would go far towards imperilling the whole of the city centre's shopping development, and with new roads, including a motorway link. I regret that not just because of the view but because that wide expanse of pleasant greenery will be concreted over.

A mile or so further on there is a similar situation where the Land Authority for Wales has built up not insignificant land holdings and is now coming forward with proposals for housing development, just like any other property developer, on the pretext of the circular issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the need for executive homes. However, I wonder whether it is appropriate for the Land Authority for Wales to act as a property developer instead of as a form of catalyst for bringing about more quickly that which is largely wanted by everyone.

However, that is not the example in Cardiff, North where, there is substantial opposition to what the land authority wants to do. I know of three developments that are already taking place on existing housing sites. On one development at Thornhill, the price of £96,000 per house has been quoted. On another development at Lisvane the starting price of houses is £105,000. On a third site we have no idea what the price will be per house, but it would not be unrealistic to estimate that it will be £200,000.

Does that not represent a sufficiency of executive homes in that part of my constituency? Surely there conies a time to say "Enough is enough". After all, Cardiff has physical limitations. We have the mountains to the north and the sea to the south. Therefore, we inevitably have barriers. Are we to make another decision before we concrete over everything between the mountains and the sea?

I was heartened to read that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had addressed a conference this weekend on the future use of agricultural land. .1 congratulate him on a particular paragraph in which he referred to the south Cardiff redevelopment and stated : One of my aims in pressing ahead with our major redevelopment in South Cardiff is because I believe that that will help to ease the pressure on green land in the Vale of Glamorgan and around Cardiff.

Despite the statistics that can always be brought out to demonstrate an endless need for housing land, I believe that that answer is preferable, because in the interests of the quality of life there comes a time to call a halt. We should, instead, encourage the investors who wish to build on that green land to consider some of the other housing that is not receiving investment at present, for example, some of the housing to which my neighbour the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) so rightly referred earlier. I hope that my right hon. Friend can respond in the way in which he spoke at the weekend when he comes to adjudicate on South Glamorgan county council's North Pentwyn plan, and in any involvement that he might have in the proposal by the Land Authority for Wales.

Many of the important features of Wales have been touched upon in the debate and earlier at Question Time. I noted that at Question Time we went through a variety of subjects, including unemployment, new jobs, Government assistance, youth training scheme, the job training scheme, housing spending and enterprise zones. All those subjects were rightly raised. However, I venture to suggest that an impartial observer would judge that there is a sharp difference between the way in which such questions are handled by Conservative Members and the way in which they are handled by the Opposition. A wholly negative approach was shown to each and all of those questions by Opposition Members.

When can any of us remember not having seen identical questions tabled time after time by the hon. Members for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) and for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes)? It is always the same question despite the futility of it because no right hon. or hon. Member needs reminding that unemployment is still too high. Nonetheless, there are some heartening signs in the trends in unemployment. As my right hon. Friend said earlier, since we last had the opportunity to debate Welsh affairs there has been a worthwhile reduction of 13,500 in that unemployment figure. Likewise, the seasonally adjusted figure has fallen in nine of the past 10 months. I am sure that we would all straight away say that that was not good enough. However, that is a far better response to make than the one from Opposition Members of "fiddled figures", which is the highest intellectual comment from those who do not care about that matter but merely want higher figures in the vain belief that somehow that will improve their political chances.

It is said that nothing succeeds like success but, in turn, surely nothing fails like failure. We should be doing everything possible to capitalise in every way on our successes. There was an interesting comment on the business page of the Western Mail this morning, which stated that Wales is doing better than Scotland at achieving grant money. That came out in a comment made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). Of course, it did not come out as a positive comment on Wales, but as another negative, whining and carping comment about Scotland. I congratulate the Western Mail on reprinting it so that it could be read in Wales.

The spirit of our country is so important. In his speech, my right hon. Friend contrasted the quality and length of our debate today in relation to the performance of the Welsh National Opera company on Saturday night. However, I shall bask somewhat in the reflected glory of the concert that I attended last night at St. David's hall. That magnificent St. David's day concert from St. David's hall had the first-class BBC Welsh symphony orchestra, the outstanding singing of Stuart Burrows and Eirian James, not to mention the Pendyrus male voice choir and the children of the east Glamorgan schools. The second half of that most excellent concert went out live on S4C and recorded highlights were shown on BBC Wales. All in all, it was a magnificent evening which showed that the best spirits of Welsh culture have never been better. The fact that it was shown on television was surely a wonderful advertisement for the capital city and for Wales.

After the concert was over, as audiences will, we discussed the concert and other aspects. As many people were present whom I might describe as being in public life or in the business community, our conversation turned to our attitudes towards business prospects and the prospects for our Welsh economy. Once again, those conversations confirmed to me that the view held by such people is the same as all the expert forecasts that are now emerging—of the real confidence that we can feel as we look forward.

One of the best comments that I have heard in the last few days came from Mr. Geoffrey Rich, the editor of the South Wales Echo—dare I describe him as a cynical source—who, in conversation, said to me, "Cardiff is cocky now, but cocky in the best and nicest possible way."

The way that we approach things is most important. In Cardiff, we are truly a city that is on the move and, as the capital city, we are and can be the flagship for Wales on the move. Such rightness of attitude is necessary.

What is happening in Cardiff and south Wales comes about almost entirely because of the Conservative party's determination. The present changed face of the city centre —St. David's centre, St. David's hall, the Holiday Inn and the ice skating rink—came about because of the determination of Conservative Cardiff city council. Yet another development in the past few weeks has been given the go-ahead—the new world trade centre. That is another tremendous contribution towards Cardiff's growth. Not just the city council in Cardiff is making a contribution. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made a substantial commitment to the redevelopment of south Cardiff. It is amazing that we have a Secretary of State who is so formidable in making sure that that project, like so many others in Wales, goes ahead.

We heard an excellent speech from the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. He said, while electioneering, that he was making a constituency speech. He was comparatively lukewarm about that major development, which will be almost entirely in his constituency. We should compare his commitment with that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Wales has never had a stronger Secretary of State or one who has fought harder for all parts of Wales. He has fought hard for the south Cardiff redevelopment. But there is great cause for alarm. If we were to have a Secretary of State from the Labour Benches, after an initial approach towards public spending of break the bank, which was exactly the line that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) put around Wales when he was a junior Minister at the Welsh Office, that approach would soon tail off. At best, the money would be siphoned off to pet projects. I do not think that I am scaremongering in any way if I say that in one way or another the lid would come slamming down. Under a Labour Government there would be no south Cardiff redevelopment, no second crossing to match the present bridge and no Severn barrage. It is clear that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside will not be the next Secretary of State for Wales. There is substantial room to doubt that he will be even the shadow Secretary of State in the next Parliament. It may be left to the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) to take on that role because at least he seems to have the courage to tackle the extremists in his own party.

There is yet a grim prospect about having a Secretary of State from the Opposition Benches. It comes from the fraudulent concept of a hung or balanced Parliament. It is fraudulent because there is no such thing. It means a minority Labour Government supported by their fellow-travellers in the Liberal party. Already around the watering-holes in the House Labour Members of Parliament are talking about doing a deal with the Liberals. Often they add—provided that they do not have to do any deals with the renegade Social Democratic party. Little wonder. I see that Mr. Neville Sandelson, a former Labour Member and a founder member of the SDP, is currently running a campaign within the SDP describing the Liberal allies as unpredictable, untrustworthy and on the make. However, surely that problem could be overcome, and in a hung Parliament that unholy alliance would hang together.

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend will have seen the news that the former Labour Member of Parliament and then SDP Member of Parliament, Mr. John Horam, recently joined the Conservative party. My hon. Friend may not be aware that my former SDP opponent in my constituency has also joined the Conservative party.

Mr. Jones

I am most pleased to hear that. It shows that there are some men of principle left in the alliance. They now recognise that the only prospect is to join the Conservative party.

The alliance's latest slogan in the attempt to relaunch the party is, "We are going for gold." What better sums up a political grouping of egocentric politicians who are desperately frantic to get their fingers on the levers of power? What would be the result of another Lib-Lab Government? The same old, tired, failed policies. We have the price tag of expenditure—£28 billion. The project is built around artificial jobs, with overmanning in local councils and in nationalised industries. However, I notice that even the plans are not working out because the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside has been warning that local councils are not ready and are not doing what is necessary to create that artificial overmanning. I should imagine that by now the hon. Gentleman is getting fed up with Scottish Labour Members of Parliament interfering in Welsh affairs. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was in Cardiff recently to explain that manufacturing jobs play little part in Labour's programme. That was confirmed by the Wales TUC.

None the less, we know what the cost will be—high taxation and high borrowing, which will push up interest rates, with the obvious consequences for mortgage rates and effects on the family budget. The various Opposition parties also intend to attack mortgage interest relief. The consequence will be an increase in unemployment and a decrease in real jobs. We shall be back to cuts in the National Health Service and the ultimate approach to the International Monetary Fund to be bailed out.

The Government's job still has to be done, with the essential objectives of continuing with the economic regeneration of our country and of maintaining at the top of the agenda the unacceptably high level of unemployment. While there are various forecasts, which are increasingly bullish and are now serving to confirm original forecasts, it is fair to say that there are qualifications in many of those forecasts. One became apparent when Welsh Conservative Back Benchers had a meeting with the Institute of Directors last week. The institute made a point that was repeated by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas), that Wales does not have enough of an enterprise culture. As the hon. Gentleman so correctly described it, without an enterprise culture, how can a culture progress, develop and reach the desired level?

We keep coming back to the matter of having the right attitude and the right spirit. Despite the apparent movement in moderation by the hon. Member for Merionnydd Nant Conwy, that necessary attitude and spirit are missing from Opposition Benches. Instead, the Government have the policies of realism and hope that are the best prospects for the future. It is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's last debate on Welsh affairs. I take the opportunity to record my estimation that he has been the best Secretary of State for Wales. I know that in whatever way he can, he will go on fighting and doing all that he can for Wales, and even perhaps for the Conservatives. However, we can reassure him that with his policies we shall go from strength to strength. Whether it is a case of winning with Wyn or making our Mark, I am confident of the future.

8.28 pm
Dr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)

It is remarkable what an effect a Gallup poll carried out in Newport, West, giving a Labour majority of 5,500, has upon the morale and some of the tempers of Conservative Members.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) mentioned the cultural facilities of Cardiff. It is not all that long ago, under a Conservative Administration, that symphony orchestras from London refused to come to Cardiff to play because they would not play in that barracks of a place in Sophia gardens. It is not all that long since the Covent Garden opera company, on its tour, refused to come to Cardiff, which was then run by a Conservative county council. The company did not come because there was not a theatre big enough and with enough facilities for first-rate opera. I agree that now people in Cardiff have something new, but people in other parts of the world have had it for far longer. We understand that that is a new toy to people in Cardiff, and we are happy that they have it.

We hear a great deal about a north-south divide. This afternoon, we heard the Secretary of State being congratulated on being able to provide opera facilities in Cardiff. Yet, from the Back Benches, we heard the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) castigate Clwyd county council because it intended to provide opera facilities. What a magnificent example of' a north-south divide. This afternoon we had another example of a north-south divide in the opposite direction. We had a wonderful speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), which was a mixture of compassion and caring. What did we have from the hon. Member from the north-east part of Wales? We had a speech which proved that the umbilical cord between the hon. Gentleman, the Daily Express and William Hickey has not yet been cut. That is the type of contrast that we have between north and south.

I shall now speak about matters that are important to Wales. Few Select Committee reports have been more relevant to Wales than the report by the Energy Committee on the coal industry. I found the introductory paragraphs to the report quite moving and even emotional. The present and previous Tory Administrations challenged miners, their families and communities head on in a struggle that produced bitterness, dissension and no outright victor. Government Members of that Committee, in supporting a report that challenged the wisdom of grinding those communities into the ground, have to be congratulated on their courage.

Chapter 5 of the report concentrated on the wider costs of coal mining, on the need of meeting the nation's energy demands and on the far wider costs of coal mining. More fairly and comprehensively than I can remember, it recalled the social and topographically disruptive human effects of gleaning our prime indigenous energy source. Those effects are analysed in a most fair and dispassionate manner.

Many of our mining communities have all their eggs in one basket. I shall quote from the coalfields community campaign, which says: Mining areas are small dispersed communities, heavily self-dependent and totally dominated by a single industry, often over several generations. When, in the 1980s, redundant miners were forced on to the sidelines by the thousands they found that there were no existing manufacturing jobs available and they had to compete with others whose jobs were falling by the wayside. Pit closure decisions have, for a long time, been highly suspect, but latterly they are being challenged. British Coal's accounting procedure has been far too secretive, and here the Committee calls for maximum disclosure. Maximum disclosure is common sense if good worker-employer relationships are to be attained.

Jobs that have been created by British Coal Enterprise, while not insignificant, are still small compared with the job losses that have been created. Even the doubling of the money available in 1986 was substantially inadequate. Stated simply, Government financial commitment must match the enormous size of the problem which is created by the most logically argued pit closure. Hitherto, that has not been the case. Nowhere has that been better exemplified than in the valleys of west Wales since the coal strike.

An open-cast site is not in an area for two or four years; it is there for 15 or 20 years. The present planning system is delaying and, frequently, embarrassing to British Coal. The Select Committee agreed that open-cast mining is one of the most environmentally destructive process that is carried out in the United Kingdom. The sites are among the most ugly examples of the ravages of industrial exploitation.

At present, British Coal is not well placed to make judgments about the relative costs and benefits of opencast developments. Here the Secretary of State has the last say as to whether work at an open-cast site can proceed after he has received the report of the inspector. I can assure him that the overturning of the recommendation of the impartial inquiry on the open-cast site within his own constituency has gone down badly in areas which are now being worked for the third and fourth times. The Secretary of State is aware—not only in the open-cast sector—that he must look after his own patch of territory.

Latterly, the socio-economic pundits have been drawing attention to the presence of, even within Wales, a south-east versus remainder divide. That is a divide even within the United Kingdom. It is little wonder that such a deep depression exists within the peripheral parts of an area that, as a total entity, is suffering the disadvantages of the magic centrifugal force of south-east England.

I welcome the highly relevant and lucid first editorial of the Western Mail of 17 February, which emphasised the chronic lack of work availability in rural south-west Wales. How would such an area fare under Government proposals to introduce regional differential pay proposals, when in such areas as unfashionable west Wales employers may be more positively attracted if wage costs there were palpably less? We reject that proposal vehemently in my part of Wales.

These are the areas where the Government's wicked agricultural proposals have a most penetrating knock-on effect. Measures to cut back production are not allowing sufficient time for alternative and transitional measurements. The determination to charge £90 for a dairy inspection is interpreted as further Government indifference to farming. Even a sliding scale to protect the small farmer is treated dismissively. Further bankruptcies are the order of the day, with the Welsh grassland sector paying the price for surpluses, to the charge of creating which they plead innocent. Welsh farmers are dead tired of ministerial platitudes and vague promises.

Alternative policies have to be far more definite than just the planting here and there of a few deciduous trees. The lack of long-term policies with regard to diversification and alternative land use may take many years before coming to fruition.

This is the season when health authorities are beginning to balance their books. Our local health authority chairman appealed to the Welsh Office for more sympathy. His Griffiths-style manager talks of dire consequences if such help is not forthcoming. We are not accustomed in west Wales to wards being closed with little notice. These days living within resources means exactly that—bed and ward closures. Money channelled to health education and much—needed surveillance and early diagnostic schemes are much advertised by Ministers. We hear little of the Government attacking that great source of ill health—general misery and suffering in our communities caused by the effects of unemployment. They are not prepared to deliver money into creating what the Prime Minister, when she was in opposition, used to call "real jobs".

The Under-Secretary of State might concentrate in his reply on Professor Catford's findings, which have recently been published, on the major health inequalities between the social classes in Wales. It is many years since the Black report was placed on the shelf to gather dust. Under she with whom the Health Service is apparently safe, these inequalities and diverging standards have grown even wider over the past eight years. The great contributor to that is the widening gap in living standards between those who have and those who have not got work to which to go. I have confidence, however, that the Minister responsible for health in Wales—the Under-Secretary of State—will not trot out strings of irrelevant platitudes such as those that we have been receiving in the House from the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security—the hon. Member for Derbyshire. South (Mrs. Currie). Professor Catford stresses the need to establish policies to reduces these inequalities.

Health is about resources as well as about voluntary lifestyle. The population over 75 has increased since 1979 by between one fifth and one quarter of the population; the number of geriatric beds has been practically static and increasing numbers of patients have been discharged because of the lack of specifically designated geriatric beds. As a result, more and more acute geriatric cases have to be admitted into the ordinary acute beds of a hospital. These beds are being taken up by emergency social admissions. To admit high priority patients from urgent waiting lists, these elderly patients are discharged into the community, the services of which are not comprehensive enough or sophisticated enough to cope with them.

Whatever figures are quoted of Government commitment, patients and their relatives feel distinctly less satisfied as each year of Conservative Government goes by. Early discharges lead inevitably to readmissions because certain complications are not detected early enough in the community. This compares with what happened when a certain period was regarded as a natural and sensible length of convalescence. It is sad to see patients forced out of hospitals to make room for others when they and their relatives at home cannot provide the necessary follow-up care. Under this new, managerial-style regime, consultants and senior hospital staff have been coming under more pressure than ever before. So often the management-consultant relationship is at a low ebb, and at some hospitals, I assure Ministers, it is nonexistent. I assure Ministers that that is the reality. Morale in some district general hospitals is as low as it has ever been.

The management is totally committed to business standards and is not paying sufficient attention to clinical problems. We must face up to the fact that many consultants feel that what is financially justifiable is totally incompatible with medical efficiency, and nothing affects the latter more detrimentally than continual pressure from management, with management breathing down consultants' necks. Consultants are highly trained people who know how to go about their business. Developing Marks and Spencer techniques in running and organising operating theatre sessions will not do for the people of Wales.

The Government's policy has been one of encouraging those in work to forget those who have no work. The south-east prospers when the remainder of the country is betwixt stagnation and impoverishment. Progress towards a less just, less fair, less caring and less socially aware society has been accelerated by the Government, and the people of Wales will finally turn them out.

8.44 pm
Mr. Robert Harvey (Clwyd, South-West)

In industrial Wales there can be few St. David's days with more to cheer about than this one. The Welsh CBI quarterly trends survey shows that 13 per cent. of businesses are more optimistic than before, 19 per cent. expect a growing volume of output, 36 per cent. expect an increase in total new orders and 16 per cent. expect a rise in employment. Wales's industrial economy is booming, thanks to the economic policies adopted by the Government and to the stimulus given to the Welsh economy by the pragmatic policies of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I reiterate what other Conservative Members have said : how lucky we are to have had such a great Secretary of State during the past eight years.

Yet in one part of the Welsh economy there is something approaching despair. and that is in the traditional mainstay of rural Wales, farming. It has become harrowing to observe the most severe farming crisis in post-war history as it strikes, not the rich barley barons ploughing up hedgerows, about whom one reads so much in the media, but Welsh smallholders in my constituency who work their lives out in back-breaking conditions on the worst of land. These are people who think nothing of working a 14-hour day in the most extreme conditions, whose every asset is tied up in the land, who never go on strike, who do not belong to a trade union, whose small businesses are among the most efficient in the land and who do not qualify for dole money. In a bad year, many of them earn considerably less than the national average wage. I have visited farms where the net income last year ranged between £3,000 and £5,000 and others that are only just managing to break even. A whole rural way of life is in danger of disappearing altogether unless action can be taken to stop it.

As we all know, the crisis began when the European Community took action to stop the accumulation of food surpluses in Europe through the imposition of milk quotas. That action started in 1983. However justifiable in principle, it was precipitate and far too sudden, yet Welsh farmers tried somehow to stagger on and survive. They cut their production and borrowed more. By 1985 farm income had declined by nearly half, hank lending was at a record level, and many farmers were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the value of the land began to plunge. Last year some welcome stability returned to the market. However, the imposition of a further milk quota reduction of 9.5 per cent. in December has once again increased the worry and depression facing the industry, although at least this time—this is an important advance—the European Community has accepted the principle of compensation. But the position of many farmers in my constituency is desperate.

I know of one milk producer who can make ends meet only by overproducing and gambling that a super-levy will not be brought in. If it is, and the signs are that it will be, he stands to have to pay several thousand pounds. If that happens, similar farmers will be driven out of business. Producers are so desperate for quota that it is changing hands at the absurdly high price of 30p a litre.

Other farmers are also facing deep uncertainty. Beef producers were hit last year by an overvalued green pound, although they welcomed the retention of a variable premium in the last deal. Welsh sheep farmers fear that as dairy and grain farmers move into sheep production—there were 3,000 new entrants into sheep production last year—the market could be swamped by cheaply produced lowland sheep. Sheep farmers are calling for some kind of restriction on new entrants. It is urgent that the depths of the crisis be understood. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will address that problem in his forthcoming White Paper.

What are the immediate measures needed to restore confidence in Welsh farming? First and foremost, there must be a devaluation of about 20 per cent. of the green pound to ensure that our producers are not unfairly penalised and that our European competitors are not unfairly helped by currency misalignments. The whole problem could be resolved in the long term by British membership of the European monetary system. That is long overdue and would ensure that such differentials never arose again. Secondly, the principles of compensation for lost production and incentives for environment improvement need vastly to be extended beyond the welcome but insufficient package of measures announced last month and beyond the compensation for milk producers announced in the EEC package.

Every other major industry which has been overproducing in Europe has been granted substantial sums in redundancy money for the workers who have suffered. One thinks here of the mining and steel industries. Up to £40,000 has been paid to laid-off miners. Farmers who may be hit by the reduced quotas deserve no different. Thirdly, it is high time that Britain was brought at least to self-sufficiency in milk. It is absolutely wrong that under the original quota deal in 1983 West Germany was allowed 24 million tonnes, France 27 million tonnes, and Britain only 16 million tonnes.

These are the three things that my right hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should consider to restore confidence in an industry which was once the pride of Wales : green pound alignment, compensation and self-sufficiency. It is all too easy to knock the common agricultural policy and the Community surpluses and to forget that Community spending as a whole accounts for less than 1 per cent. of GDP of member states, compared with 51 per cent of GDP of member states that goes into national Government spending; or to forget that since Britain joined the Community farm prices have shown unprecedented stability, rising by considerably less than the increase in the general cost of living.

Some people say that farm prices would have risen by still less in a free market, but a free market would have been characterised by disastrous farm failures that would have ensured that over-production and low prices one year were followed by under-production and skyrocketing prices the next year—as used to happen in the past. Farm price stability is in the interest both of consumer and producer. The amount spent on the common agricultural policy is a small price to pay for that.

Critical as I am about some aspects of the Government's record on farming, I am certain that the situation would have been far worse if any other party had been in power. What, for example, is the alliance policy on farming? After all, that all-things-to-all-men party spends a good deal of its time wringing its hands about the plight of Welsh farming. However, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) has made it absolutely clear that he is committed to slashing EEC food surpluses far faster and far more effectively than the Government have been able to. That would put thousands of farmers out of business.

In addition, the alliance has set out a ludicrous proposal for a two-tier structure of farm quotas which, because someone in the alliance has not done his sums, would penalise three quarters of British grain producers while penalising only a fraction of continental producers. Presumably the same applies to milk. This proposal has been described as disastrous by the president of the National Farmers Union, Mr. Simon Gourlay.

What of the Labour party's policy? It is also committed to slashing surpluses, as has repeatedly been made clear by the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock). Like the alliance, the Labour party is committed to greater planning controls over agricultural land and to a policy of taking control of land usage from farmers and handing it to local councils with all the sensitivity that urban bureaucrats display to the needs of the countryside. The Labour party's policy is nothing less than nationalisation, state control, by the back door, and nationalisation not just without compensation but with farmers having to pay for the privilege. The Labour party's policy document on farming which was approved at their party conference is absolutely clear that there must be rating of agricultural land. If a Labour Government were to come to office, a £5,000 a year earner on the Denbigh moors would not only be clobbered by swingeing quota cuts, or deprived of the right to do what he wants with his own land and lose the ability to hand it on to his children under Labour capital taxation proposals, but would also have all the iniquities of the present domestic rating system thrust upon him.

We all know why Labour has it in for the farmer. That party hates the farmer, with his tradition of independence, hard work, efficiency and private ownership. At least the Opposition should be honest about it and not pretend that the party of urban minorities harbours anything but hostility for farmers. Gumboots do not suit the Opposition. It is time to take urgent action to help some of our most hard-working and deserving people, lest the countryside of Wales as we know it becomes a barren and empty wasteland.

8.55 pm
Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

I agree with the last sentence of the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Harvey)—that it is fundamentally important that the family farm in Wales should not be allowed to disappear. The support for agriculture is of paramount importance.

I should like to comment on some of the speeches in the debate. The hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) was right in what he said about the problems of the mentally ill and about the lack of facilities available for such people when they are discharged into the community. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying those things.

The health advisory service report on the mentally ill in Gwynedd appeared in August last year and painted a dismal picture. A private home in Llandudno was shown in a particularly bad light. I hope that the Minister will tell the House when the consultative paper on the mentally ill will be produced by the Welsh Office and whether it will heed the advice contained in the Welsh advisory service report.

The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) about open-cast mining are well taken. It is a pity that the Government did not accept the recommendation in the energy commission's report on coal and the environment, especially that which said that there should be a continuation of the limit on the ceiling of 15 million tonnes a year of open-cast coal with a reduction thereafter. Instead of that, we saw last week the publication of the report by the Select Committee on Energy. It shows quite clearly that the open-cast executive intends to raise production from 15 million tonnes a year in the United Kingdom to 18 million tonnes but it does not accept that ceiling as sacrosanct. It is a great shame that that is so.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) referred to cervical cancer. Last Wednesday the Secretary of State for Social Services came to the Dispatch Box and made his statement about additional screening for both breast cancer and cervical cancer. I was delighted by his statement, but I thought that it was rather unsatisfactory, to put it at its mildest, that a press release was issued about what is to happen in Wales and that there was no opportunity to discuss what is to happen in Wales in the House. Again, it is a great pity that the Secretary of State for Wales has not yet come to a decision on a report that has been in his hands since before Christmas regarding the radiotherapy services in Wales, in particular those for cervical cancer at Singleton and Velindre hospitals.

When the Prime Minister addressed the annual convention of the Institute of Directors last week she painted a picture of Britain that is unrecognisable by many communities in Wales. By the careful selection of statistics, the Prime Minister glossed over those sectors of the economy that she has caused to be decimated—the small businesses that have been hit by the recession and high interest rates, resulting in a record number of bankruptcies, the decline in our manufacturing industries, the penalties and the deprivation, and the high levels of unemployment and poverty.

For the last eight years, this Government have overseen a massive multiplication in the number of those who are living in poverty. By the pursuit from 1979 to mid-1986 of monetarist policies, the Government have increased unemployment in Wales from 6.9 per cent. in 1979 to 16.4 per cent. today. To make the point that a 10 per cent. increase in unemployment means that for every 10 people in Wales who are wage earners an extra person is on the dole is in itself a sufficient indictment of the Government's policies. I do not need to elaborate on the thousands of unemployed who no longer are counted, following the Government's retreat into cheap statistical manipulation.

If we look back to 1979 when this Government came to office, we can see the inexorable decline in manufacturing industry. Government figures, released in January, show that there was a net loss of 1.57 million jobs in Britain between June 1979 and June 1986. While there was an increase in the service sector of 861,000 full and part-time jobs, there was a fall in the manufacturing sector of 1,968,000. Every region, except East Anglia, shared in the decline, but Wales, together with north-west Yorkshire and Humberside, has lost most—more than 35 per cent. of our manufacturing jobs. We have also lost service sector jobs.

It is this callous neglect of manufacturing industry in Britain—which, as a trading nation, we shall always need—that has emphasised and encouraged the north-south divide that is now so starkly evident in Britain today. Conservative Members have rightly said that there are areas of prosperity in Wales. For example, before 1960 the Swansea valley was designated the largest area of industrial dereliction in Britain, with 60 per cent. of it covered by slag heaps, ruined buildings and abandoned railways and canals. Much of it was contaminated land. With both public and private investment, Swansea city council and West Glamorgan county council have transformed the area. They have created over 1,000 new jobs in the tourism and service sector in the marina-linked projects. They have created 2,000 new jobs so far in the enterprise park. However, that has been achieved despite the Government. It has been achieved despite the cuts in rate support grant, threats of penalties and ridiculous restrictions on capital spending.

The north-south divide debate is about the Government's abdication of responsibility. It is about cuts in public spending which meant the abandonment of an effective regional policy. It is about a lack of investment in proper training for new skills and a lack of investment in infrastructure.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I do not understand how the hon. Gentleman can say that that has happened in Swansea despite the Government, when the marina development was made possible largely by the urban development grant scheme initiated by the Government. The enterprise park to which he referred was the creation of the Government and it was opposed by his own party.

Mr. Wardell

As I said earlier, I accept that there was public and private investment. However, the work that has taken place there has been against a background of general economic cuts. That has made the job very much more difficult.

I have to tell the Secretary of State that the north-south divide debate is about the net loss of 1.1 million jobs north of the Wash against the net job creation of 356,000 in the southern belt. It is about all that that implies for increased poverty and increased inequality in all sorts of ways, but especially health.

The Government say little, if anything, about the link between inequality, unemployment and ill health. There has been the Black report "Inequalities in Health", which produced detailed evidence of differences in health and life expectancy between social classes. Sir Dugald Baird, in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that having a healthy baby was related to the health care and social class of the mother when she was growing up. The Manpower Services Commission paper "The Long Term Unemployed" said that there was evidence that long-term unemployment has indirect effects on the health of longterm claimants and their wives. The report of the House of Lords Select Committee on unemployment found that rates of infant mortality in Northern Ireland, higher there than in the rest of the United Kingdom to start with, became higher still in unemployed families, perhaps because of low nutrition as a result of lower income.

In the World Health Organisation's report "Health Policy Implications of Unemployment", which is a compilation and assessment of various international studies of the links between unemployment and health, the editors say that Experience from many countries indicates that insecurity at work, unemployment and under-employment can seriously affect social functioning, health and well-being".

The editors summarise by saying that the evidence showed that there was a vicious circle of poverty, unemployment, other social and economic symptoms of inequality, discrimination, social vulnerability and chronic illness.

Only last month Professor John Catford of Heartbeat Wales told us: health is not just about making choices concerning the lifestyle we lead. It is also about the opportunities and resources available to carry them out. In Britain, the healthy choices are not the easy choices. The result is that those in a more favourable position because of education and income have a head start. That is what all the latest research shows and that is why the Government's abdication of responsibility for protecting employment opportunities and for creating employment in Wales and other such areas is so diabolical.

There is no commitment by the Government to alleviate the inequalities in health and opportunities stemming from high levels of unemployment and poverty. The Government's so-called anti-poverty strategy has been mere propaganda. Think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of how many times the Government have used their majority to change the law when their interpretation of regulations has been illegal. One current such case involves the unemployment benefit for part-time community scheme workers. The Government have built up an industry of masking cuts in entitlement to benefit and reductions in benefits. Instead of defending well-being, they have created increasing poverty among groups such as pensioners, the disabled, single parents and the unemployed and their families.

However, the Government have begun to see the light. The light in this case is election day. Despite the facts that the Prime Minister still has 15 months to go, has a majority of almost 140 and can, as she did on Thursday in the final stages of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill, enshrine in legislation her slightest whim about what she thinks is best for Britain, everyone says that we are in an election year. That conjures up one of the Prime Minister's election date dilemmas. She can hardly go to the country after the cuts in pensions and in benefits for the sick and disabled, for single parents and their children and for the unemployed and their families contained in the Social Security Act 1986 which is to be fully implemented in April 1988. Or does the right hon. Lady really think that hammering the poor while they are down is a vote winner? I think not.

I think that the Government know that the Act will be an edict which will condemn yet another generation of parents and their children to the deprivation and health risks associated with poverty and increased inequality. In Wales we have more than our fair share of communities that will, if the Act is implemented, be yet another generation of parents and children condemned to deprivation and health risks associated with unemployment and poverty.

If the Government really believe that their policies are right, let them wait until May 1988 for an election. Let the Secretary of State for Wales fight in the Cabinet and issue a challenge to the Prime Minister, saying that if she is the brave lady that she claims to be she should wait until May 1988, when we will know what the Government's antipoverty stategy is all about. The problem for the Government is that they would then be sent packing.

9.14 pm
Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

The misery spread by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) is typical of the Labour party, but it does not relate to the facts.

What a contrast we have seen in the debate. We heard first from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who is, by common consent, the best ever Secretary of State for Wales. That point has been made by Opposition Members during the debate, not only quietly to me in the Lobby outside. Next we heard from the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), the shadow Secretary of State. What an apt description that is, and what a shadow the hon. Gentleman is. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside does not have a mirror in front of him on the Dispatch Box. I do not accuse him of narcissism, but if he had been able to see the faces of his hon. Friends behind him when he made his speech he would have been even more miserable than he was.

I thought that it would be appropriate to look up the debate held in the House exactly 10 years ago, in 1977. The Government did not then provide time for a Welsh day debate. In fact, it had to be taken out of Opposition time, and only some two hours and 40 minutes were allowed for the debate. My right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State complained 10 years ago that Wales used to have an annual Welsh day debate, but that the Government put it off until the tail end of the Session and then only late on a Friday evening. That was the action of the Labour party in office, but the Labour Opposition are now asking the people of Wales to put their trust in them after the next election.

Ten years ago, there was an inflation rate of 23 per cent. under the Labour Government. The consequences of the Labour Government's economic policies meant that inflation was double the rate of that of our competitors overseas. Industry was producing less than it had produced in 1971. Indeed, it was producing less under the Labour Government than it produced with the three-day week. What answer did the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) have? He said : We begin, rightly so, with the present level of unemployment. It concerns all of us. To listen to the hon. Member for Pembroke one would imagine that only the Opposition were concerned with the economic situation and unemployment. Unemployment cannot be divorced from the economic situation. It flows from it. It is not a peculiarly Welsh problem. It is not even a peculiarly British problem. Not even an Offa's Dyke, the English Channel, or the Atlantic Ocean can shelter us from the world-wide effects of a recession."—[Official Report, 28 February 1977; Vol. 927, c. 62.] How true those words were. One has a sense of déJà vu.

This Government have achieved lower inflation and lower unemployment. It is obvious that the Opposition do not like that. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), a former Prime Minister, said with characteristic frankness that he did not know the answer to unemployment. That was a frank statement and I commend him for that. It is a shame that that was his last speech in a Welsh day debate. However, I know that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that the way forward to future employment can come only through growth. Indeed, he has said it himself on many occasions.

I want to mention an example from my constituency to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred. My right hon. Friend referred to the DRIVE project, in which £200,000 will go from the Welsh Development Agency towards the Pringle scheme of £2 million which will transform Llanfairpwll station and create a manufacturing unit with 100 jobs. That is proof positive of a company set up outside a development area. Opposition Members make great play about the restriction of development area status, but they fail to appreciate the amount of selective assistance for companies outside.

There is now an urban renewal unit in the WDA and I am optimistic that money will be forthcoming to help Holyhead, which needs that money. We have had £220,000 urban development grant to aid the fishing industry in Holyhead with all the capacity for downstream packaging and other industries that will provide employment in the area. A company in Holyhead called MEM is working overtime four days a week. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside, who every so often trespasses into my constituency, appears not to visit companies of that kind to witness the success being achieved there.

Wales is undergoing a great period of change. I cannot resist responding to the comment by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside that I will lose my seat at the next election. I know that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) does not like opinion polls, and he will not like this one either. An accurate opinion poll was taken recently and, for all I know, the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside may have watched the television programme on BBC Wales last Friday which showed that in my constituency at the moment 38 per cent. of people would vote Conservative, 20 per cent. would vote Plaid Cymru and 30 per cent would vote Labour. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside frequently says that the seat must be taken by the Labour party—indeed, the brother-in-law of the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) is standing as a candidate against me—but it would appear that the Labour party has blown that one as well.

All that the Opposition can say in answer to the good news that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State imparted at the beginning of the debate about the new jobs that have been created in Wales—not by my right hon. Friend but by the private investment that has been stimulated through the pump-priming public funds provided by the Government—is that the Government are fiddling the figures. My advice to Labour Members is to continue accusing the Government of fiddling the unemployment figures. It is their only chance, however disingenuous they may be. I am confident that they will still be talking about fiddling, or even undertaking that activity, when the last unemployed person in Wales has found a job through the Government's restart scheme or other assistance. The Opposition need not be too worried about not getting their act together in time for the election because they will have another four or five years on the Opposition Benches to perfect their act.

9.20 pm
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

This has been our annual Welsh day debate and it has run true to form. The Secretary of State put his usual gloss on things. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) said that the Secretary of State had engaged in adjectival ministerial excess. What a marvellous description! He has had nearly eight years as Secretary of State, and I have been unable to discover the Wales in which he lives. Only Opposition Members have portrayed the reality in Wales, and there was a great contrast with the speeches of Conservative Members. The only shaft of light among Conservative Members came from the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer).

Wales has been going through a period of mass unemployment such as it has not known for 50 years, and the Opposition say clearly that the Government bear much of the responsibility for that heavy unemployment. The lack of employment for so many people, with the downgrading of the work ethic, means that young people especially turn elsewhere.

Here I wish to make a constituency point that has relevance for the entire country. On many occasions, local authorities, including mine, have voiced their anxiety about the inadequacy of existing planning and licensing legislation to control amusement arcades and centres and the social effects associated with their use. Local authorities cannot decide what is best for their communities and whether to grant permission for amusement arcades because the Secretary of State for Wales overrides their decisions. As effective licensing powers are not available, the planning system is called upon to exert control, but planners can do little because the moral concerns that motivate the public cannot be taken into account when determining the application.

What worries me most is the absence of powers to restrict young people from entering the arcades unaccompanied. They run great risks. At the very least, they may lose substantial sums of money. They may develop an addiction to gambling and their need for money may lead them into crime or prostitution as a means of earning money, especially at a time of high unemployment among young people in Wales.

The Government must take steps to deal with this growing problem and not bury their heads in the sand. It is time that they took the moral issues into account. Increasing evidence is being gathered by the police, education authorities and social workers as to the detrimental effects of those machines on children. Gamblers Anonymous says that one in five of those who turn to it for help are aged between 12 and 17 years. Twenty per cent. of gamblers who seek help are child fruit machine addicts. The serious consequences of the Government's failure to act cannot be tolerated indefinitely. We need urgent action. The Secretary of State for Wales must appreciate that his inaction is helping to create a casino society in Wales.

I did not impugn the Secretary of State's integrity in any way during my altercation with him. All that I said was that I could not understand how I knew about the intentions of Trafalgar House when the Secretary of State, with all his back-up staff, did not. At least I can say that my information was perfectly reliable. I have taken some interest in the Severn bridge. The Government repeatedly state that the effect of tolls is marginal, but any student of elementary economics will be aware that matters are decided at the margin. If one follows the route of the M4 heading towards Reading, Swindon and the Bristol area, one can see the obvious employment and prosperity. Yet: that good fortune does not cross the Severn bridge. As Mario Basini, in his perceptive article in the 19 February edition of the Western Mail, said : … Wales's economic future continues to look as bleak as a derelict coal mine or an abandoned steelworks.

Even if we accept the Minister's argument about marginality, there are many exceptions. Many people in the Caldicot and Chepstow areas are employed on the other side of the channel. Some are redundant steel workers from Llangwm. They accepted the advice of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to get on their bikes, but the Government do not give them much incentive to do so. In fact, they penalise them and they have to pay £10 per week net in addition to the normal costs of motoring.

The finances of the Severn bridge are now a complete and utter farce. A short while ago, the Government won their battle to increase tolls by 150 per cent. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport told me that the amount now likely to be collected in tolls in a full year will be about £8 million. On 28 January in answer to a parliamentary question by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), he said that the original cost of construction of the Severn bridge was £9.8 million.

The Avon bridge opened in 1974. After a two-year overrun, it cost £10 million to construct. Yet there is no toll burden on the Avon bridge. Why is there such discrimination? The Severn bridge is only a short stretch of the M4. Let us compare the construction cost of £9.8 million with the debt which, at 31 March 1985, was £55.8 million. Two years have elapsed since then, so there has been a considerable increase. Hon. Members must compare the construction cost of £9.8 million with the amount collected in tolls. Again, the figure is two years out of date. It was £29.7 million and it is now moving towards £40 million in tolls for a bridge which cost £9.8 million to construct, and that burden is being imposed on a battered Welsh economy.

Mr. Grist

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I have not finished this piece yet.

There is discrimination against the Severn bridge, which serves Wales, as compared with the Avon bridge, which serves Bristol and the west. There are now developments which could produce a further anomaly. The Transport Select Committee, after a full inquiry into tolls on estuarial crossings, called last March for their abolition. Durings its investigation, the Committee discovered that 40 per cent. of the debt was in respect of the Humber bridge. The Secretary of State for Transport is worried about that and discussions have been going on for months between the Department and authorities up there to try to rectify the situation.

Mr. Grist

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

No. I have not finished.

If the Government propose to write off the debt on the Humber bridge, that would represent further discrimination against Wales, which has such a chronic unemployment problem. Abolishing tolls would have a significant psychological effect which would bring practical benefit to the Welsh economy.

I know that we all want to do our best for Wales.

Mr. Grist

Has the hon. Gentleman finished now?

Mr. Hughes

No. I appeal to the Secretary of State, in view of the facts and figures that I have presented, to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the Chancellor has the surplus that the financial columnists tell us he has, he should be able to do something.

Mr. Grist

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I imagine that he remembers that when the toll was first brought in it was half a crown, which was a great deal more than the toll is worth today. Indeed, it would be 80p if the value had been maintained. That means that the toll has not covered what was originally intended during the past few years.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Humber bridge, which was built as a result of the 1965 by-election. I am sure that he remembers that. It was a prime example of doing public works for political ends, which is exactly what should be avoided.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman is even more naive than I imagined. Is he unaware that 2 million more people are now out of work in Britain than in 1979? More than 100,000 more people are unemployed in Wales. That is why I am calling for the concession.

Unemployment has undoubtedly been the kernel of the debate. It is beyond dispute that 100,000 more people are out of work in Wales than when the Government came to office. The seasonally adjusted figure for January shows an increase from 5.9 per cent. to 13.4 per cent. That is an indictment of the Government, who campaigned and were elected on the slogan, "Labour isn't working." The Government have no major plan to reverse the catastrophe. In their recent evidence to the EEC, as revealed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), the Government were clearly reconciled to the fact that mass unemployment in Wales would continue for years. So little has been done to remedy the problems. During the Government's term of office, there has been a 24 per cent. drop in manufacturing investment from £643 million to £486 million.

Another Government move hardly likely to regenerate the Welsh economy was the decision to halve regional development assistance from £137.5 million in 1979 to £85.9 million last year. In fairness, at least the Government seem conscious of the damage that their policies have caused, but instead of tackling those problems they admit to fiddling the unemployment figures. We have had no fewer than 19 changes in the method of calculating the figures. Many thousands have been taken off the register in Wales alone. Perhaps even more difficult to justify is the Government's decision to include the self-employed. That is a novel introduction, as is the inclusion of the armed forces. Will it be the inmates of Her Majesty's prisons next? Part-time jobs are counted as full-time jobs. Two part-time jobs done by the same person are classed as though two jobs are done by different people. All the fiddling is the work of Lord Young's shrink tank. Even locally, in Newport, the employment figures are in constant dispute. The South Wales Argus said, on 13 February, under the headline: Gwent Job Losses Highest In Wales. Employment in Gwent has suffered the worst setback in Wales according to the latest set of jobless statistics.

It is not only unemployment. There is deprivation in so many sectors. This deprivation simply stunts the life of Wales as a whole, as it does that of so many communities, families and individuals. The Prime Minister has told us that the National Health Service is safe in her hands, but no one in Wales believes that.

"Heartbeat Wales", referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas), in its press report on 19 February said: there are large social inequalities in health. Those in manual groups and the unemployed are much worse off.

The breakdown in law and order and the soaring crime statistics were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. The Government have invested heavily in law and order, but with puny results. In education, we have had chaos in the classrooms—much of it the direct result of underfunding, when the drop in the number of pupils could have brought real progress with a major reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio. The Government's latest move is to take away negotiating rights from teachers' trade unions. What a travesty that is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside gave the facts and figures about the housing crisis. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) referred to the perceptive article by Mary Evans of the Western Mail on 26 February, when she spoke of the chief environmental health officer's searing indictment of the failure to provide the people of Wales with adequate homes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Mark Robinson)

What are the Labour party's policies?

Mr. Hughes

The policies of the Labour party have been clearly set out time and again. I am sorry if the Under-Secretary of State is still not fully acquainted with them. I assure him that before the general election Mr. Paul Flynn will make him well acquainted with them as Mr. Flynn will be the next Member for the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Newport, West.

The Government preside over not a united but a divided kingdom. A future Labour Government will take all the necessary steps to remedy that.

9.39 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

Believe it or not, St. David was a holy man and it would be appropriate for me to quote a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with they might". That injunction has certainly been obeyed by my right hon. Friend in his pursuit of policies for Wales during his entire period as Secretary of State. No one who has worked as closely with him as I have would dissent from that view, and I say the same about the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who gave us his swan song this evening, certainly as far as Welsh days are concerned.

We are now seeing the fruits of my right hon. Friend's remarkable vigour and proof that the hand of the diligent maketh rich because the prospects for Wales are steadily improving, whatever Opposition Members may say. My right hon. Friend's opening speech presented a panorama of achievements in the recent past and a fine prospectus of betterments planned but yet to be fully realised. The foundations of a more prosperous future have been well and truly laid as was made abundantly clear at the start of this debate.

I have heard nothing from the Opposition Benches that leads me to believe that any of the Opposition parties offers Wales a better future. The truth is that they have been too busy criticising the Government to think positively and constructively about their own long-term policies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) said in his stirring speech, we have heard more about the Opposition's policies outside this Chamber than we have heard of them within it. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) is very fond of making hole and corner statements that he cannot resist leaking to the press. He made a statement the other day on education, in which he juggled with statistics in a way that must have aroused the envy of that master conjuror, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I had the facts checked and there were three pages of corrections. Of course, I shall not weary the House with them.

However, we have had references to the frequent visits to Wales from members of the Opposition Front Bench. I do not know whether the Shadow Transport Minister, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), actually came to Wales, but it was he who perpetrated the idea of doing away with vehicle excise duty and incidentally running down the driver and vehicle licensing centre at Swansea. Of course, the Welsh Labour group reacted smartly, if we are to believe the Western Mail, with a letter to the Leader of the Opposition the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) saying: We will not win votes for this; 58 per cent. of motorists will lose by it and it will be difficult to convince the other 42 per cent. that they have gained. So the question is, "Where do the Labour Party stand on this issue now?"

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The answer is clear. The hon. Gentleman knows that that idea is flirted with by politicians from time to time. It has been flirted with by Mr. William Rodgers, who is now in the Social Democratic party, by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) three years ago, and now by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) — [Interruption.] I have not finished. Hon. Members representing constituencies in the west Glamorgan area have seen off the Conservative plan for doing that three years ago, and we shall see it off again.

Mr. Roberts

It is quite clear that disunity continues to prevail in the Labour party, but I shall not add another act to the Deirdre sorrows.

There have been numerous references to housing. We have set gross provision for housing capital expenditure by Welsh local authorities in 1987–88 at £182 million. At £29 million higher than previously planned, it has enabled us to make available to local authorities housing allocations totalling £154 million.

The allocation process reflects our view that the renovation of both the public and private sector stock should again be the major priority investment next year. Accordingly, within the total available for allocation, some £70 million has been earmarked to encourage local authorities to concentrate their resources on renovation, including up to £20 million for the cost-effective programmes of enveloping and block repair.

I remind the House that between 1979–80 and 1980–85, we spent £333 million on renovation grants to the private sector, in comparison with the previous Labour Government's mere £57 million. Between 1979–80 and 1980–85, some £259 million was spent on renovating the local authority stock compared with the Labour Government's £86 million. So I am not happy to be lectured by Opposition Members on housing.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has increased the net provision for the Housing Corporation by £10 million to £55 million. The increased provision will enable housing associations in Wales to maintain a programme of 1,700 new dwellings for rent per year. It also includes new money to stimulate major investment by the private sector in rented housing, following the pioneering scheme to provide up to 600 homes for rent at St. Mellons, Cardiff. Similar projects on a smaller scale have now been approved at Abergavenny, Chepstow and Carmarthen and several further projects are under consideration. We anticipate that we can achieve another 700 homes for rent in Wales next year through such partnership schemes. We have always been in favour of a sound rented sector. We owe many of our housing problems today to the maltreatment of that sector in the past.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that I would have something to say on education and training. There is a great deal happening as we try to adapt the system to meet future needs. As hon. Members will be aware, both those areas, with the exception of the university, come within my right hon. Friend's sphere of responsibility, and there are distinct advantages in such unity of responsibility.

As to vocational training, I am sure that the House will approve of the progress that is being made at all levels. The success of the technical and vocational education initiative, which has been piloted in secondary schools from 1983 onwards, has been remarkable. Every LEA in Wales is now involved, and we look forward to an extension of the initiative.

The youth training scheme also enjoys a high reputation. There is no doubt that it provides training which is valued by young people and those who later employ them. The extension of the YTS to two years and to 17-years-olds, together with the possibility of securing a recognised qualification through the scheme, are significant strides forward, and there is no doubt that we have come a long way since the earliest versions of the scheme.

As from the end of this month, there will be the job training scheme, which is aimed particularly at 18 to 25-year-olds who have been unemployed for six months. It will be based on our experience of running YTS and will provide high quality training. There are training developments at the Polytechnic of Wales, and at the university and, of course, there are adult training schemes.

An important current development is the increasing emphasis on vocational education and training. I am sure that it is a healthy and natural development in response to the demands of advancing technology and the requirements of the labour market. Of course, we are taking steps, through the introduction of advanced secondary courses, for example, to avoid excessive specialisation and to ensure that a reasonably balanced diet of subjects is maintained. A strong influence by parents on how our schools are run is being progressively achieved and there are more developments ahead.

In that context, I should tell my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) that the proposals concerning the Howardian high school, published on 12 February, are now subject to a two-month period for local views to be put to South Glamorgan local education authority. After that, the case will fall to Ministers. Therefore, it would be wrong for me to comment, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will take all views into account.

In short, training and retraining are coming to be seen as an essential part of everyone's working life. That is good for the individual, in that it equips him with the skills that are in demand at any given time, and good for the country, because it helps to eliminate skill shortages and ensures that our work force remains adaptable and capable of meeting the ever-changing requirements of modern industry.

I want to comment on the views of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth about manufacturing and service industries. One cannot look at manufacturing employment or manufacturing investment in a vacuum. When a world recession hits a sector which is suffereing from poor competitiveness, a fall in manufacturing investment is almost inevitable. In Wales manufacturing investment fell between 1979 and 1984. Between 1983 and 1984, manufacturing investment in Wales rose by 28 per cent. Industry in Wales is now more competitive and better adapted to the demands of a modern economy. I must point out that about a quarter of the manufacturing firms in Wales have opened since 1979.

Prospects in this country are improving. As Christopher Smallwood said in The Sunday Times yesterday, productivity has risen as much in the last five years as in the previous 15 years, and consistently faster than in any other industrial country. Manufacturers are increasing their share of overseas markets. Mr. Smallwood goes on to say that last year's big devaluation of the pound has left British goods 25 per cent. cheaper in relation to our continental competitors, and this huge competitive advantage, on top of the progress which has already been made, means that the opportunities facing manufacturing industry are unparalleled since the war. Everything points to a sustained industrial revival. The picture that Britain is still going down the road to an industrial wasteland becomes less convincing with every day that passes. Those are Mr. Smallwood's words, not mine.

In a nutshell, the Opposition's case is that the Government's policies have failed and that the prime cause of the alleged failure was the Government's expenditure policies. Let us look at the record. Spending on the National Health Service in Wales is up 28 per cent. in real terms since 1978. Recurring revenue provision is up by 33 per cent. in real terms since 1979. The hospital capital building and development programme has cost £490 million since 1979. The number of staff who are directly concerned with patient care has increased by 13.5 per cent. between 1979 and 1985. Throughput of patients in hospitals has increased. In-patient cases are up by 76,000 a year and the number of new out-patients is up by 64,000 a year.

The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) referred to the mentally ill, so let me tell him what happened with the mental handicap strategy. It is planned to spend some £10 million in 1987–88 on that strategy, which we originated.

Expenditure on education was 2.5 per cent. more in real terms in 1984–85 than in 1978–79. Pupil numbers have dropped by 10 per cent., so expenditure per head is at a record high. Pupil-teacher ratios have improved to 17.6 pupils per teacher. Sixty-nine per cent. of the under-fives are in nursery classes—a higher percentage than in England and an increase of 40 per cent. from 29,000 to 41,000 since 1979.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Roberts

The number of enrolments in local authority colleges of higher education has increased since 1979 by 50 per cent. from 9,300 to 14,377. Taking all the higher education sectors in Wales together, student numbers increased by 20 per cent. between 1979–80 and 1985–86.

Mr. Wigley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman has not been here at all. He has missed the one and only Welsh day debate in the year.

I shall now give part of the record on the economy. Last year, 1986, was a record year for factory allocations by Government agencies in Wales—more than 2.5 million sq ft. There were 1,200 offers of job-related regional assistance, promising about 20,000 jobs and safeguarding 4,000 others. This compares with fewer than 10,000 jobs associated with offers of regional selected assistance in 1979. Seasonally adjusted unemployment has fallen in nine of the past 10 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) mentioned the self-employed. In September 1986 there were estimated to be 154,000 self-employed—an increase of 39,000 over June 1981. There is far more of this record, and we shall get down to it.

Government spending in Wales in the coming year will be at record high levels. Planned spending for the following two years will be very high as well. But it will not be wild, indiscriminate and profligate spending of the type about which the Opposition are always talking — the type that made us paupers at the door of the IMF in 1976. It is all spending that we can afford, spending that is necessary to achieve our political objectives, and spending that we shall watch constantly to ensure that the taxpayer gets full value for his money.

Yes, we shall spend more on strengthening the economy. Yes, we shall spend more on roads and river crossings. They are part of the essential infrastructure of a better future. Yes, we shall spend more on education and training to equip the young people of Wales with the knowledge and skills that they will need in a competitive world. Yes, we shall spend more on the Health Service to enable it to respond to changing needs. All this is clear evidence of our commitment further to improve conditions in Wales and to provide a better life for its people. There is only one certainty for the people of Wales under a Labour Administration. They would face increases in taxation year after year, increased borrowing by the Government and, in due course, a return to high inflation. It happened before and it would happen again.

Faced with the choice that they will have to make at the next election, the people of Wales must reject Socialism if they want a better, brighter future for their children—a future that is already within their grasp. They must reject the purgatory offered by the Liberals and the SDP and their tripe and waffle of policies, fine for a palaver on the doorstep but useless as a basis for conducting government.

They must choose the firm future that the Government proffers, because it is based on the often difficult but sound policies that have secured for the country the advantageous position we occupy today. The people of Wales have a lot to gain if they make the right decision, and I am sure that they will make the right choice when the time comes.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.