I am quite sure that Welsh Members of all parties in this House will wish to express their gratitude to the Government for providing this opportunity to debate matters of importance to Wales. It is now some 400 years since Welsh Members were first returned to the House, and this is the first day that has been set aside for the discussion of Welsh affairs. I think the Debate is somewhat overdue. We hope that the Government will speed up their time-table with regard to Wales and will think, not in terms of years, but in terms of hours in the future. We welcome this Debate as a recognition of the distinctive problems and needs of Wales, not as an area, not as a part of England, but as a nation with a living language of its own, with hundreds of years of history behind it, and with its own culture. We speak a different language in more senses than one. I hope this is the beginning of a fuller and inure adequate recognition of these cardinal facts.
We have constantly heard it said in the course of the last few years that we are fighting for our way of life. It is the Welsh way of life we are determined to see maintained in the reconstruction of our country after the war. It is not unnatural, I think, for the people of Wales to view the future with a good deal of misgiving and a good deal of anxiety, after the bitter experience between the two wars, after 20 years of severe and constant unemployment, years of unspeakable privations. The whole situation in Wales has been transformed by the war. Employment has been given to about 100,000 people. Even North Wales, which up to now has been very largely rural in population, has become industrialised. To-day, therefore, there is a very considerable measure of prosperity in Wales, but what we Members representing Welsh constituencies are anxious to know, is what is to happen in Wales now. What is to happen to the hundred thousand now in employment in war factories, when the war is over? We all realise that there can be no prosperity in our country until the coal industry is re- organised and made efficient, until coal is regarded not as a finished product but as a raw material far other industries. Equally we realise that there can be no prosperity for our small country if agriculture is allowed to relapse into the depression it was in before the war. We do not know what the Government policy is with regard to exports, upon which so much must inevitably depend, particularly for the coal industry. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have pressed the Government on this matter, but so far without success. Perhaps we are within sight here of one of those rocks upon which coalitions founder. All that we have been told so far is that we must export more than we did before the war. We are well aware of that fact, but we have not been told how we are to go about it in face of the intensified industrialisation of other countries as a result of the war.
The Government have produced not a policy but a White Paper on employment. That was nearly five months ago and some of us feel that there is not a sufficient sense of urgency about this problem in the mind of the Government; that there is a very great danger that peace, with its benefits but also with its very great problems, will be upon us before the Government, at any rate, know where they are. In the White Paper there are certain proposals about what used to be called Special Areas but are now to be called Development Areas—I hope very much that that signifies not only a change of name but a complete change of approach from the old defeatist attitude towards this problem. What is to happen? Priorities are to be given to industrialists who will go into these Development Areas. They are to have licences to build new factories. South Wales has been scheduled, as we naturally expected, as one of those areas, but North Wales has not been scheduled, and I should like the Government, and particularly the President of the Board of Trade, to reconsider this matter in the light of the facts. The unemployment figure for England as a whole before the war was 16 per cent. In North Wales it was as high as 32 per cent., and in my own constituency it rose to 40 per cent.
North Wales has become industrialised, as I have said, as a result of the war. Many of the firms there are anxious and ready to remain, but they are to have no inducements or advantages such as are to be given to other areas, and if as a result those firms withdraw, then the last state of North Wales is going to be worse than the first. We shall have there what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power has seen in his own constituency, in Pembroke Dock, a community made prosperous and created as a result of war conditions and then allowed to become derelict. Therefore, I hope very much that the President of the Board of Trade will reconsider the question of scheduling North Wales as a Development Area. What is to happen? We are not to have planned location of industry. That, I think, has been made clear. There is to be a negative power to prevent firms starting in certain districts, certain congested areas. The Government are going to steer, to influence; they are not going to compel but to mesmerise industrialists into these areas. But these are business men and not philanthropists. Are these areas to be dependent upon the good will of a few industrialists or upon their change of heart?
We had a policy of trading estates in South Wales before the war. The employment they provided was negligible. We had also a policy of financial inducement to go to South Wales, and a few industrialists settled there as a result, and I would point out that by far the greater number of them were foreigners. These are the old familiar strains; this is the old stock in trade of the policy which failed so miserably in the past. The only factor which materially affected the employment situation in South Wales before the war was the migration of about 400,000 of our workers over the border into England. This is something which Welsh Members in all parties are determined to avoid in the future. The loss to Wales cannot be computed. There is no more effective way of sapping the vitality and virility of a nation than by taking away its young men and leaving behind a community of the middle-aged and older people. Hitler knows that very well; the Germans systematically practised that policy in Europe; but we in Wales are determined that never again shall our young people be compelled by economic circumstances to leave their native land. We are conscious of the need for mobility of labour—yes, from one town to another, from one county to another; but not from one country to another; not from Wales to England. In this connection will the President of the Board of Trade tell us what the Government intend to do regarding the Royal Ordnance factories in Wales which now employ very large numbers of men and women? Now that the end of the war is in sight and war production is being slowed down, surely the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to make some statement about which of these factories will be retained as permanent Royal Ordnance factories and which of them are not to be retained for munitions, and whether these are to remain Government-owned property. We should very much like to hear something about that.
There is one proposal in the White Paper which offers, I think, more hope to these Development Areas than any other, and that is the undertaking that the Government will take such action as may be necessary to secure the full development in these areas of the basic services on which industry depends. That we regard as vital. It includes the improvement of communications, the extension of power services, the improvement of housing, and the improvement in general of the public services. But that proposal, again, depends upon the extent of the assistance. If the assistance is to be measured by the small, paltry sums that were given before the war it will not be of very much use, it will not be effective. If, on the other hand, it means a programme of national development, with adequate finance and imagination behind it, I believe it would be a very substantial contribution indeed to the problem, because conditions would be created under which industrialists would be attracted to these areas and want to remain in them. We should be creating conditions in which industries would thrive naturally and without the official stimulus which they have had up to date.
The first and foremost thing needed is cheap electric power. In this respect Wales is very severely handicapped. The pre-war cost of generating a unit of electricity was approximately one-third of a penny. The domestic consumer in the Welsh towns paid an average of 2½d. per unit. That is a very heavy handicap. Are the Government prepared to help us there? The Government have paid out something like £30,000,000 towards a hydro-electric scheme for the de- velopment of the Highlands of Scotland. Why should they not assist Wales in the same way? Perhaps if Wales had had a Secretary of State to look after her interests she would have been better served in this as in other matters. In this connection I should like to ask whether the Government can give us any information about the investigation being carried out into the Severn Barrage scheme, and also into the question of road development. In this respect Wales has its special problem. There are mountains to scale. Also, there are more unclassified roads in Wales than in England; if anyone has any doubt about that he has only to take a car journey through some of our rural districts and he will soon find out.
Can the Government give us any information about two schemes which have been before them for some time—that for a road between North and South Wales and that for a road from West Wales which would open up a great deal of the country? In the rural areas particularly roads are an essential part of any development policy in Wales. Wales has great natural resources—coal, iron, lime, water-power and many others—and it has an abundance of skilled labour. All these have been neglected and remain undeveloped. Labour has been allowed to become a liability instead of a source of wealth to the community and to the nation. There has been great poverty in Wales—poverty of low wages, poverty of low incomes in the agricultural industry, poverty among the local authorities, the penny rate in one case producing only £700. There are appalling housing conditions, particularly in the rural districts. The other day the Ministry of Health produced a report on rural housing. There was a special section dealing with rural housing in Wales. That report said the only thing that could remedy those conditions was special subsidy provisions for housing in Wales. Our poverty will prevent our taking full advantage of the new education charter. Poverty runs right through the life of the Principality.
In agriculture we find that the equipment of the farms is out of date, as my right hon. Friend well knows; farm holdings have been neglected; the land is impoverished through lack of lime and other fertilisers: and all this is due to lack of capital. For farm workers the minimum rates of wages before the war were much lower in Wales than in England, ranging from 31s. to 36s. As to the farmers, Wales is a country of small family farms, and in many counties the incomes of some farmers were as low as the wages which their workers now have. In some cases, indeed, the incomes of the farmers were lower—about the same as if they had been on public assistance. They are told that they must put money into the land. How can they put money into the land with the poverty which exists at the moment? There must be State assistance for the modernisation of agriculture, if we are to prevent the decline that existed between the two wars.
I am very glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is well enough to be back in his place. Although there is general agreement among all parties that the right hon. Gentleman has done a very remarkable job in stimulating food production in this country during the war he has got as great an opportunity as any Minister in his position ever had, of laying the foundations of prosperity for this industry. We are all eagerly awaiting the declaration of Government policy. We hope that it will not be delayed very much longer because, in this industry, plans have to be laid far ahead. I think that the opinion of both the experts and the practical men in Wales is that it is not a wheat-growing country. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman quite agrees on the point, that it is not a wheat-growing country except under the compelling circumstances of war. It is far better suited to the production of milk, to the raising of cattle and sheep and, in certain parts, to the growing of vegetables for that holiday industry which we hope to see extended after the war.
There are two central points which I would like to put to the Minister. I know he is already familiar with them. The first is the vital need of refitting our dairy farms in Wales. The other is the vital necessity of piped water supplies to all villages. We feel that a great deal might be done to encourage afforestation in South and North Wales. Many of our woods and forests, cut down in the last war, have never been replanted, and there is a very great deal of leeway to be made up in this respect. We think that Wales should play an important part in this afforestation programme. There is another point. The countryside everywhere has been the poorer for the decline in rural industries. That is true of England as well as Wales and of Scotland too, and we hope very much that certain of these industries will be renewed and revived in a new form, particularly new industries ancillary to agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman took a certain amount of interest in a milk factory recently opened in the island of Anglesey. We want to see ancillary industries of that kind springing up all over Wales, which will add to the prosperity of this industry.
In conclusion, I would like to say that at this moment plans are being made and policies are being formed for the future. In recent months Members representing Welsh constituencies have had to make the rounds of Whitehall, from department to department, because there is no single Minister whose responsibility it is to see that the interests of Wales are safeguarded, or even understood. No Englishman can understand the Welsh. However much he may try, and however sympathetic he may feel, he cannot get inside the skin and bones of a Welshman unless he be born again. I realise that I cannot pursue this matter any further in detail because, if I did, I should be out of Order. But the Government, in the name of this country, have pledged us to the Atlantic Charter. One of the provisions of that Charter is that all countries shall be governed according to their own desire. That provision does not apply only to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania—the countries far distant. It applies also to Wales, and I hope that when representatives of our country go to the Conference Table they will remember that; otherwise they will be speaking with their tongues in their cheeks.
I would add that there is a whole community of people in these islands, who have suffered greatly, who have sacrificed, and who have made their contribution proudly in this common struggle. They look to the Government to see that they shall not be plunged, once again, into the despair of the 20 years before the war. They look to the Government to see that they shall share in the well-being and prosperity of the peoples of these islands. They would like to share in assisting in the great task of securing peace. We have fought with you; we have also, many a time and for long centuries, fought against you, but we would now like to be in partnership with you, in this, the greatest endeavour in our long history.
This is a memorable day, not only in the history of Wales, but in that of Parliament, and it is a day to which generations of our predecessors have looked forward eagerly. It has taken us hundreds of years to amend the Statute of King Henry VIII which prohibited Welshmen from pleading in their own language in their own courts, in their own country, and, as the hon. Lady has pointed out in her most eloquent speech, it has taken us a similar period of time to sway successive Governments to allot a Parliamentary day exclusively for the discussion of Welsh affairs. We should like to think that this historic occasion is a further step which will bring us nearer our legitimate goal, which is, of course, the establishment of a Welsh Office under a Secretary of State, but, as the hon. Lady has pointed out, on an Adjournment Debate the Rules of Order prohibit us from discussing this matter further except to say that we are indeed grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the National Government for having referred this problem to a Committee of the Cabinet for examination and report, and also to my right hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury for having made this Debate possible to-day. We trust—most sincerely—that a precedent has now been established, which will be observed at least once or twice in every Parliamentary Session.
In this connection, I would ask the Government to realise that when the victorious soldiers of Wales passed through Rome only a few months ago, they noticed on the walls of the Roman Forum a map of Trajan's Empire of 117 A.D. which, I gather, was placed there by Mussolini as a suitable guide for the ambitions of the Italian people. Hon. Members will recall that it shows the Roman Empire of that day stretching all along the coast of North Africa and completely round the Mediterranean, including all Asia Minor and Europe, but excluding Germania, Russia and a large portion of Wales where, within the fastness of her mountains, Cymri held out, and the conquering legions gave up in despair. We feel that we should no longer be regarded as "orphans of the storm" just because we held out longer against the conqueror and his successors than any other part of Great Britain, but that, at long last, the Welsh nation should be regarded as a fully fledged member of the family, enjoying equal Parliamentary rights and privileges with Scotland.
I am sure I am speaking for all my colleagues when I say how happy we are that it has fallen to the lot of a Member of such a distinguished Welsh political family to open this unique Debate, in her capacity as Chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party. We are proud, indeed, of our choice of leader, and the happiness that this event will undoubtedly bring to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. David Lloyd George). Next Session, in all probability, the chair of the Welsh Parliamentary Party will be taken by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) as the representative of the largest political party in the Principality—the Labour Party. As a Unionist and the representative of the smallest political party in Wales which is returned to the House of Commons, I confess I find comfort in the fact that the hon. Gentleman has always professed a keen sympathy for the undoubted rights and privileges of minorities.
Eight months ago, the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council submitted its first interim report to His Majesty's Government, a report which most of us felt reflected great credit on its authors who devoted intense study and vision to its preparation and recommendations. As the members of that Advisory Council themselves said in paragraph 5 of that report:
They were acutely conscious that after the last war the victory in the field (to which Wales contributed in no small measure) was followed by virtual defeat at home when problems of peace replaced those of war. After a short post-war boom—which broke about 1923—Wales faced years of chronic depression which lasted substantially unrelieved until well into the present war.
Among other subjects which the Council had under review, and on which they made recommendations to His Majesty's Government, were coal, slate, the tin-plate and associated industries, export trade, the conversion of Govern-
ment war-time factories, the retention of new industries and, of course, transport and public services. As that report has now been in the possession of the Government for eight months, I hope that when my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, or my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, comes to reply to this Debate, he will indicate what recommendations have been accepted, what recommendations have been found, on examination, to be impracticable and rejected, and, in short, what steps are being taken to deal with the problems which have been raised.
As one who has twice occupied the chair of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, there are, naturally, many subjects with which I would like to deal, but I hope the House will forgive me if I now turn to matters of the utmost importance to that great and illustrious city of Cardiff, part of which I have had the honour to represent in this House for a number of years. I have been asked by the Parliamentary committees of the Cardiff city council and the Glamorgan county council to draw the attention of the House to the importance of a South Wales motorway from the Severn Bridge to a point in the neighbourhood of Port Talbot. I might add that the local Public Works and Town Planning Committees support the proposal, and there is little doubt that such a motorway is an urgen necessity to meet the post-war industrial requirements of South Wales.
I am assured that such motorways would reduce the running time of a five-ton laden lorry, for instance, over a 100-miles journey by no less than two and a half hours, with a corresponding reduction of 2s. 10d. per ton in transport cost. I am advised that such a motorway would consist of two 30-foot one-way tracks, divided by a central strip, to obviate the danger of head-on collisions. There would be no crossings on the level, all junctions being effected by fly-over bridges, and the roads themselves being reserved exclusively for motor traffic.
There can be no doubt that, as my hon. Friend has said, a North-South Wales road is of the first and utmost importance to the post-war prosperity of the Principality. It is not a new proposal: it has been broached on one or two occasions over the years; but there has been in the past an objection that it is a difficult proposition. The difficulties, in my judg- ment, have always been over-stressed. Of course it would be difficult; but if it is possible to build a road over the French Alps, which can take traffic at 50 miles an hour in the depth of winter, surely it is possible for us to build roads over the Welsh mountains. My timid friends might do well to consider the motto of the American Eighth Army Air Corps: "What was difficult was done yesterday; that which is impossible will be done to-morrow."
In connection with roads and communications, may I put in a very hurried word about the potential tourist traffic. This is not a small matter, to be passed over as unimportant. There is money in the beautiful Welsh mountains and the picturesque valleys of Wales—that is, of course, if only we can persuade the Englishmen and other foreigners to come there and spend it. But we must have good hotels and hostels. I do not mean necessarily new buildings, but places where good service and good food can be obtained on tap, for all requirements and all tastes. I do not mean a long variety of anaemic dishes with French names, but good healthy Welsh food, if it is only Caerphilly cheese, bread and butter and good beer; it must be of the finest, and not stuff which has been left over for a month. If it is cottage pie let it be of fresh vegetables and fresh meat—let the cooking be simple but good. And have a look at the beds; let mine host of the Welsh tavern sleep in all the beds which are intended for his guests. That is the acid test.
But I must hurry on if I am to keep within my time limit. Seriously, what of the Cardiff Docks and their future? One question which I think should be examined is, whether the docks can be put to their best use as the exclusive property of the Great Western Railway or whether the whole of the South Wales ports should reorganised under an arrangement similar to that of the Port of London Authority. I pose the question for thought and useful discussion. For myself, I have an open mind. Before the war we handled bulk cargoes practically exclusively at Cardiff Docks; to-day we are in a position to handle general cargoes. Apart from bulk cargoes of iron ore, grain, and timber, the general cargo trade has increased three-fold since the war started, and shipments three times the size of those of 1940 are discharged in half the time. To-day there is in operation in Cardiff, an efficient barging system, which places the Port of Cardiff in direct sea contact with the heart of the Midlands. I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether this machinery and the facilities which have been so assiduously built up are to be maintained and improved, to relieve the overworked Port of London. Is the already congested transport system of London to be assisted by encouraging the diversion of imports through South Wales ports, and so direct to the Midlands? Is the vast amount of money spent on refrigeration plant at Cardiff which did not exist before the war to be wasted or are the Government going to insist on a more equal distribution of incoming traffic and particularly of goods of a perishable nature?
These are some of the questions which are being posed in South Wales to-day, and I hope that they will receive the attention of the Board of Trade and others. It might be that in future Cardiff will have to have in mind that the export of our hard steam coal in other forms than coal—that is, in manufactured processes—will be necessary for a number of years. In that case Cardiff Docks will have to adapt themselves to the altered circumstances, as other places have to do. But we must have a clear indication from the Government as to their attitude towards the export coal trade of this country. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) raised the question of the Royal ordnance factories in South Wales The question of whether they should be operated under Government auspices or handed over to private enterprise is a major question, of the greatest importance. Personally I find myself in agreement with the views expressed in the White Paper and also with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who said:
There are certain enterprises which are of their nature public services, though they may have been originally created by the enterprise of individuals. It must be for Parliament to decide whether enterprises or services of this type should be managed centrally or locally, under private or State control. For our part, we would draw no rigid line; we would judge each on its merits. But there is a third, and indeed largest, category. These are the industries which, by their variety and diversity of character, call in a special degree
for the qualities of initiative, individuality and imagination. Here it is clearly to the public interest that full play should be given to individual enterprise and leadership.
In other words, the hard-boiled business slogan, "Will it pay?" and the political moralist's slogan, "Is it right?" must give way to the business-oum-political query, "Will it work?" Hitler's Germany has proved that things can be made to work that neither pay nor are right. We must prove that the lesson works equally well in reverse, in this democratic country of Britain. I see that my time is up, and I must keep my bargain. I will conclude therefore with the hope that the problems which have been, and will be, posed in this Debate will assist His Majesty's Government to determine some of the immediate difficulties which face the Principality, and so encourage the Welsh nation to look forward with confidence to a peace which will bring hope and reward to a loyal and eager people.
The problems we are discussing to-day are the problems of Wales, and I would like to emphasise that the problems of Wales transcend the problems and difficulties of any portion of the Principality. They are national problems. Reference has been made to the way the industrial areas of Wales suffered in the inter-war period. It was a suffering which extended to the whole nation. Proportionately, the rural and agricultural districts lost in population even more heavily than did the industrial areas. Indeed, in Wales there is a very close link between the industrial and the rural areas. I do not propose to deal with the industrial aspect of the problem, but to emphasise that the industrial areas depend to a large extent for their Welsh life upon the rural areas. It is the rural areas of Wales that retain more deeply and more purely their Welsh language, culture and traditions; and from them flow the streams which have watered the industrial parts. It is a national problem for us, and a problem which depends upon rural Wales.
Rural Wales demands a distinctive treatment—a distinctive Welsh treatment. This has, in some measure, been recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture: they have a special section dealing with Wales. It has been recognised, too, by the work and ability of many able scientists, economists, and other experts, who have worked out matters of research and produced books dealing with rural Wales, as a problem worthy of study in itself. Our agriculture is different: it has different origins, a different background, and different methods. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) has pointed out that we are a country of family farms. One county in Wales, a very extensive agricultural county, one of the more prosperous counties, has for every 10 farmers only four people employed on the farms. That is a measure of the extent to which Wales is a land of small family farms. What are the needs of the Welsh countryside? They are electricity—as the hon. Lady has pointed out—water, roads, farm buildings, and houses. I do not propose to elaborate under any of these heads, but in every case the problem is different from the problem which arises in England. Our Welsh countryside is lamentably worse off than the countryside of England in the amount of electricity that it receives.
Our farms are immeasurably behind the farms of England in the supply of water laid on to them, and, as for our rural roads, there is nowhere in England that can compare with their condition, not only because of the inaccessibility of small farms, but because they cannot be taken over by the local authorities, who have no resources with which to look after them. There are farms in South Wales which I know where the cart and two horses go to the bottom of the lane to take the stuff from the lorry, because the lorry cannot possibly get to the farm buildings. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture knows that the need for the improvement and rebuilding of agricultural buildings in Wales is far higher than in any part of England.
These problems, taken separately, may easily be regarded as only an English problem accentuated in Wales, but, putting all of them together, all arising in the same country of ours, they constitute a problem, not of a different degree, but of a different order. In Wales, we have distinctive features of farming, such as afforestation, with all the rural problems which it causes, and we have a far greater need for the development of market gardening and fruit farms. It is scandalous to think that great towns like Swansea often have to live upon the cast-offs of Covent Garden, when there is within range of that city first-class land that would make excellent market gardens. Here we have, therefore, a problem which is becoming a distinctive Welsh national problem, and one which cannot be dealt with from Whitehall.
I welcome the presence here to-day of the Minister of Agriculture and also of the President of the Board of Trade, and the others who have graced the Treasury Bench upon this occasion. I mean nothing derogatory to all these gentlemen when I say that I would prefer to see one face on the Treasury Bench, rather than the galaxy that we have had to-day. That would be recognition that Wales and Welsh problems must be treated as a whole, as a national problem, and, indeed, we deserve a wider recognition than we have had. It has been said that we have played our part. I think recognition should be given, not only to that fact, but also to the fact that we have stood so long by ourselves. We have survived three conquests, and, what is even more remarkable, we are surviving the quisling infiltration of the last 50 or 75 years. We seek an opportunity, however, to be able to develop our Welsh life, rurally and industrially, to express our character and tradition, and express them as a nation. In fact, the claim we put forward is a nationalist claim; it is nationalism, not of the kind that has been so rightly condemned in recent years, but nationalism of the right kind, which involves no danger to others, no ostracism of others, no contempt for others.
Jews have a language and a contempt for those who are not Jews—Gentiles. The Greeks called all others "barbarians." The English contemptuously refer to "foreigners." The Germans refer to them as people who are not Herrenvolk. Our word for all other peoples is Estroniaid—people who come from somewhere else, people of another place. That gives expression to the nationalism we have. We do not demand a recognition of any wild or impracticable nature. We do not take the conduct of Eire as our model. I can state in a few words what is the recognition we ought to have. We ought to have the political status of Scotland. We ought to have the economic status of a constituent State of the United States of America. We ought to have the linguistic status of minorities in the constituent Republics of the U.S.S.R. Those are the things we seek. They are recognitions of a type which have been accorded in the past by the British Parliament. We want them accorded to Wales.
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, I say it has been a great encouragement, and I hope it will be a great encouragement in future, but, encouraging as it has been and as its possibilities are, it has not given to the Welsh people and the Welsh language in Wales the same legal linguistic rights as those enjoyed by minorities to which I have referred. There is no time to elaborate that but I could give numerous examples of it, one of which is that, in every public body in these constituent authorities, one-half of that body must be made up of those who speak the local language. We do not yet enjoy that privilege in Wales. Long before there was the song "There'll always be an England," we had, in Wales, Cymru Am Byth— "Wales for Ever." I can only hope that the Government will give to that motto the same accord and support as they do when the song "There'll always be an England" is sung.
I see that the Under-Secretary for Scotland is on the Treasury Bench, and I have noticed Scottish hon. Members listening to the Debate. I have often looked somewhat enviously at the very special facilities which they have enjoyed in this House and which we have not been able to enjoy. While we are grateful to the Government for allowing us this Debate, which is quite an innovation and a departure from custom, one cannot help feeling that there is an atmosphere of unreality about it—as there will be, until there is a Minister on that Bench specifically charged with the duty of dealing with Wales as a nation. I know that, under the Rules of Order, we cannot develop this point, but we can make reference to it, and I say that there will always be this atmosphere of unreality until we get that Minister to deal with our own special problems. There is a tendency in London to think of Wales as a glorified county on the Western borders of England, not recognising that we have a very distinct nationality and our own very distinct language. I have no apology to make to the House for dealing with this question of language. It is an old language, and there must be something in it, because it has survived a thousand years. It survived the Roman occupation of this country, and the Roman Empire. It survived the Normans, whose language was the language of this country for many years, and was the language of the courts and, even now, is the language of portions of our legislation. It survived side by side with a greater language—the English, which spread all over the world and founded a great Empire. I want the Ministers never to forget that fact when dealing with Wales. I am very glad the Minister of Education has given a new incentive to the Welsh language, because the language question governs all our life, our philosophy, our industry—and even our economics to a certain extent.
Officials in London really do not realise the position in Wales. I remember many years ago going with a deputation to the Postmaster-General in regard to the refusal of a small post-office in Wales to accept a telegram in the Welsh language to a member of the family somewhere abroad. I had to bring the matter to the attention of the Postmaster-General, and the then occupant of that office said to me, "Is the Welsh language spoken in Wales to-day as a live language?" You can understand the conception of mind of a responsible Minister asking that, in regard to a small town in Wales. I pointed out to him that, in that very town, there were 14 churches and chapels, and out of those there were 12 where the services were conducted entirely in the Welsh language. I think we must get a different conception among officials in London in regard to our nation, if we are to secure proper government.
There was a meeting upstairs some time ago, when a very fine man, now alas killed in the war—a New Zealand Member of Parliament, who had given very fine service to this country in Crete and Africa—made the remark that he had been a prisoner in Switzerland for 18 months. He added "I am a Britisher and a New Zealander, but I consider that Switzerland is the best governed country in the world." Switzerland has four official languages and, if this little democracy can deal with a nationhood made up of four different kinds of people and nationalities, surely it is not beyond the competence of the British Government to do the same in relation to Wales. Let them start by printing important leaflets from Departments in English and Welsh.
There are differences between North and South Wales, geographical, geological and ethnological, but I do not want to bring that forward except to point out that I think that, so far, all Governments have failed to recognise the special position of Wales in this House. There is a tendency in Government Departments in London to group South Wales with Somersetshire. Many of their offices are put in with Bristol, and in regard to North Wales we find some of our offices grouped with Lancashire and Cheshire. I realise that the present situation is due to faults of the past and that Wales was for long a country of poets and artists and preachers and that it never for many years went in for industry. The whole trend of our country was to drift towards England from South and North and that was encouraged in London. There is a new Wales arising now and this drift must be stopped, and it will he stopped. That is why I want Government officials to visualise Wales more and more as a unit so as to get the best out of it. I am sure it is possible, and I hope it will be done.
In the period between the two wars—and I want this to be remembered —North Wales had an unemployment ratio of between 30 per cent. and 36 per cent., and it was at one time as high as that of the county of Glamorgan. South Wales has developed but there is now in North Wales a Post-war Development Committee, but the rateable value of the whole six counties together is less than the rateable value of the whole county of Glamorgan, and the committee are handicapped in their work by lack of funds. However, they have done very fine work for North Wales. We have magnificent resources, we have plenty of minerals. Members of Parliament from Wales have got up in this House and talked about water. In North Wales we have water resources equal to those in any part of the British Isles, including the North of Scotland, and yet farmers in my constituency have no running water, and cottages are without any. The North Wales Power Company has developed its electricity, naturally as a private company would, in the direction from which remuneration comes back, but it is being subsidised by the Government. It is financed by the Treasury to a certain extent. I am a believer in private enterprise but if it cannot develop North Wales under private enterprise then the State must take it over. We cannot go on as we are. It is a public scandal—the absence of electric light and power and the prohibitive charges—and the position must be remedied.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will give encouragement to light engineering industries. Since the war we have had something like 12,000 engaged in these industries in eight or nine big units and 3,000 in smaller units. Owners of these factories tell me that the people of North Wales are adapting themselves splendidly to this kind of work and that the labour is excellent. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, Is he going to take them away from North Wales? The owners of one factory in the borough of Ruthin have said that they are willing to stay there and turn over to some form of light engineering work after the war. They have been told by the Board of Trade that they must go back to Liverpool from whence they came, but they are anxious to keep the factory working, employing 200 or 300 men and women. The owners of the factory are prepared to carry on if the Board of Trade will give them some indication of the way in which they can develop some new peace industry. Mr. Percy Thomas, a Board of Trade Regional Commissioner, said that they had a wonderful work programme ready for post-war but could not say much about it yet. I am sorry in passing that my right hon. Friend has been laid up and I am glad he has come along to-day. I hope that he will now take people into his confidence and say what they want them to do and what kind of industries they want us to develop.
I want to say a few words with regard to agriculture. North Wales has a great potential value to agriculture, but it will never be an arable country. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is looking at me now but I would tell him that I have watched the thistles growing there in spite of diligent farming and have watched the corn growing in Essex, Hertfordshire and Norfolk. My country is not a corn-growing country and never will be. The corn grown on the hills and in the valleys of North Wales is thin, anaemic, and can never compete with East Anglian corn. Wales is a land of animal husbandry—cattle and sheep and pigs and milk. I hope that the Minister—as soon as the war is over—will clamp down on the policy of trying to grow wheat on these high mountains in Wales. It may be a war policy but it is a wrong policy for peace time. They will also want, in these small upland farms, better transport, water and electricity facilities and better amenities generally if they are to carry on after the war.
With regard to forestry, I should like to see the Forestry Commission encouraging the growing of fir trees and the use of the soft wood which has to be thinned down for the manufacture of wood pulp. And we want factories for the repair of agricultural implements. When are the Government going to appoint a representative Wales on the Forestry Commission, It is a scandal. Here is a Forestry Commission dealing with an acreage which in proportion to its area is very much above the acreage of England with its very special problems and there is no representative on the Commission. This would not be tolerated by Scotland for one week, and I most strongly press for this glaring omission to be remedied as an urgent act of justice.
We have made a great contribution to the war effort in proportion to our population. Both in this war and the last war Wales has been able to hold her head high as having made her contribution to the Forces and developed her resources in man-power and agriculture to the full. Wales has a great future but that future will not be developed properly until the Government acquire the mentality of recognising that it is one unit—one nation.
I wish, in the first place, to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) upon the very excellent way in which she put the case for Wales at the beginning of this Debate. I want to say to her in the Welsh language "Daiawn," and that is all the Welsh I am going to say. This is an opportunity given to Wales to express its views and the needs of Wales. Wales is a nation. Let that be clearly understood in this House. It is a proud and a loyal nation and its people have proved their worth. But it has not had the recognition it deserves in this House, through prejudice without evidence. I say that definitely because when you seek the evidence in Wales, you find the facts are quite different from the views presented by those people who are trying to introduce prejudice against our little country.
We gave of our best in the 1914–18 war, but the sacrifices that were made were forgotten immediately after the war. No part of the country suffered more than Wales, particularly South Wales. The destitution and privation among the people were severe, staple industries closed down, and when brave men returned from the war they had no homes, no pension and no work. The reward very largely in that part of Wales was parish relief. Local authorities tried to meet the needs of their poverty-stricken people through the rates. There were Government grants, it is true, through Commissioners giving us doles. Our people were in great need and a good deal of assistance was given in order that the people might exist after the sacrifices that had been made. There was no Government planning after the last war and we had to live from hand to mouth. It is impossible to think that the people in Wales after this war are going to endure what they did before. Immediately after the last war our young boys on leaving school at 14 worked in the mines until they were 17. On reaching the age of 17 or 18, the question arose of increases in their wages. Neither the miners working on piece-work, nor the employers, would give an increase to these boys, and the result was that they became unemployed. Some of them were unemployed for periods of from four to eight years, and there was no question of providing anything for those young men in the prime of life—they were thrown on the scrap-heap.
Not only were industries closed down but combines bought up small and larger collieries. After working them for a short period, these combines closed down the collieries. There are areas in South Wales, to my own knowledge, which have become absolutely derelict, with not a single industry working in them. In one area in Brynaman there was a tin-plate works which was closed down after the last war; nothing has taken its place and the surrounding villages are derelict. The local authorities have had to carry the burden. They had made provision for roads, water, gas, electricity, sewerage, and all the necessary amenities for these people, but then they could not proceed because of the difficulties with which they had to contend. They were left with heavy burdens. Still the Welsh people were courageous and they have stood the test. While the employers were selling out at good prices, on which they retired, they left the workers without anything at all, with no kind of compensation or recognition, but allowed them to remain a burden upon the local authorities. Not only were our people thrown on the scrap-heap, but our institutions were crippled. We had a number in Wales, all maintained by the workers. All those institutions had been paid for by the workers, in the main by weekly contributions, and they became crippled.
Knowing the difficulties resulting from the last war, we are very apprehensive as to what will follow this war. Since this war commenced, Wales has maintained its traditions in meeting all the demands made by the Government for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. What has been done by these people has not been excelled anywhere in this country or in any other country, although they have had to face the closing-down of industries even during the present war. I know of one old tin-works which served well in the last war, and which has been closed down for storage purposes in this war, and no undertaking has been given by anybody that it will he re-opened when this war is ended. That is why we are pressing. Is there any part of the country which has given more homes to evacuees than Wales? No section of this country has given greater assistance than that given by the people of Wales to the evacuees.
We have heard from the hon. Member for Anglesey that the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council, composed of very eminent people, has issued its interim report, and I consider that it is a very valuable one. Its recommendations should be implemented, and we ought to get something known immediately. We support to the full what has been submitted by the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council. These people have given of their best; they know the difficulties, they know what is necessary in the area, but there is no indication from the Government as to plans, as to the location of industries. Plans have been asked for from local authorities, but they have been given no indication at all by the Government of what is actually required. We are getting no instructions and are only asked to send in reports. The Government are giving instructions and directions for war purposes, so why not give directions and instructions for peace purposes? This would not give any information to the enemy. They are directing industries, and they should give some direction to the authorities so that they know what is actually required.
We are told by men in charge of the various factories in Wales that they have never had better workpeople than the Welsh people. They do whatever they are called upon to do, and they are adaptable. It should be remembered that in a very large part of Wales there were no women working in factories before this war, yet they have adapted themselves well, and have become factory workers in the true sense of the word. I am told by the experts who are managing these industries that they are quick to learn and willing to work. I may say that some of these factories have taken greater steps of late to try to train young people. The employers say they are very glad of the training scheme of the Ministry of Labour, which has done excellent work, but they want to train the boys, and we are delighted that they are giving opportunities in their works to the boys, because our key men have been taken away and utilised in other parts of the country.
I want to say to the credit of these employers that they are not only making provision for these boys to go to school, as well as training them in their works, but they actually pay the boys the whole of their wages for the days they are attending technical schools, and they are giving facilities to the boys to be away one whole day a week for this purpose. That is helping us very much, and we are hoping that more employers will do this. The coalowners in South Wales never gave us any assistance at all in training boys to go into the mining industry; they simply refused to assist the local authorities who were providing the money and running these coursues, and never gave any assistance at all.
I would ask the President of the Board of Trade one or two questions. There is a new aluminium factory called Rheola which has been erected since the beginning of the war. In addition to finding its own money, this concern had a good deal of assistance from the Government, because the Government were anxious to get on with the work. The plan succeeded, and the factory was in production at the beginning of 1942, with over 500 men employed. To-day, however, the number employed is about 100, and only alloys are now produced, the whole of the aluminium works having been closed down. That has again been reduced during the last two weeks and, in fact, only two furnaces are now working. What assistance will the President of the Board of Trade give to these people to see that they get their fair share of Government contracts so that this factory may be kept alive after the war?
Again, a large tin-plate works in my constituency is now mostly engaged on war work, but it can transfer in a very short space of time to pre-war production and post-war demands. It employs between 1,500 and 2,000 people at present, but they will be able to employ, after the war, another 500 to 1,000 people. There is, however, a difficulty of crossing over a main line, and the local authority has been asked if it can give better access to the works. The local authority has stated that it is prepared to make provision and to give assistance, because not only will it help the factory but it will open up other land which will then be available for other works. To our astonishment, we found that the Board of Trade was willing and ready to give all the assistance possible.
Here I want to pay tribute to the Regional Commissioner for Wales, for the excellent work he has done in this direction. The Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport are willing. They asked the local authority what proportion of the cost they would meet and the Welsh Board of Health said, "You cannot use any ratepayers' money to provide this work for nearly 1,000,000 people after the war." I ask the President to see that the Ministry of Health takes action to cut the red tape which is impairing the position of people in these areas. The Regional Controller of Production in Wales said the other day that the Board of Trade were primarily responsible for post-war development. As I have said, we have had some assistance, but others are holding back. We have had a great deal of information and assistance from the Development Council in Wales; they have done a useful piece of work, and I do not think they have had the recognition to which they are entitled. The Ministry ought to give more attention to whaat that Council have been doing.
I want to call attention to another matter—the question of the Severn Bridge. This scheme has been in the air since before I came into this House. We were definitely promised, some years ago, that something would be Clone, and I am glad to know that the Ministry of War Transport have already said that the bridge would have a priority claim. But I want something more definite than that. I want the Ministry to say, "This job is essential and must be done." I am glad to note that the Deputy Prime Minister has just come into the House, because we shall want his active help. If he gives us that help, I am sure there will be results. The Glamorgan county council have submitted to the Ministry of War Transport a proposal to construct a motorway from the Severn Bridge to West Wales, to serve the industrial areas of South Wales. Nearly 1,750,000 people live in this area, and their future wellbeing is dependent on the ability of the Government and local authorities to offer facilities such as will encourage industrialists to set up large factories in that area. South Wales must, and will, to a large extent, depend upon her coal and heavy metallurigical industries, but this will not suffice. Permanent prosperity can only be obtained if factories and industries producing manufactured articles and consumer goods can be erected in that area. South Wales has not in the past depended to any great extent on road transport. Only six per cent. of her people were engaged in manufacturing trades, but in future, judging by what we hear, that figure will rise to 40 per cent., with the consequence that rapid road transport will be an immediate and vital necessity for the future development and rehabilita- tion of South Wales. Such a motorway would give direct access to large industrial areas, and open up sites for the suitable development of by-products and light industries among the mass of the population. I visited an exhibition at Newport last week, which had been arranged by the county council and the local authority, and it showed what could be produced in that area. But unless we are given transport facilities we shall be deprived of a number of the things which could be provided.
Will the President tell us what are the prospects for the future of Wales? What are the Government's plans? We are entitled to know. Where are the industries to be located? Can we get any indication? What action will the Government take to implement their White Papers and their Advisory Council recommendations? We ought to know. We have to provide housing, water supplies, electricity and education, and unless we can get some information which will assist us, the people of Wales will not be so docile as they have been in the past. We have been trying to do the best we could. We have a good number of industries in Wales, but we cannot forget the past and we are afraid that we shall be treated similarly in the future. Wales will stand up for, and accept, only the same treatment as anybody else. Our people have stood the test in and out of the war, and I ask the Government not to betray Wales when it comes to a question of finding employment for our people.
The designation given to this discussion of Welsh matters is so broad that one might bring into this Debate innumerable aspects of questions affecting our country. But I want to deal with only one great problem. I think the burden of everybody's anxieties and dread in Wales is the memory of the past and dread of the future. Wales is not a great residential population; it is a working-class democracy, and we are more interested in post-war reconstruction than any other part of Britain, simply because we have suffered very much more than any other part in the inter-war period. Wales lost, in that period, over a third of a million people, who were driven from home to what the vast majority of them think is a foreign land. The national traditions of Wales and her language lead Welsh people, inevitably, to regard England as a foreign land, and that must be borne in mind in any attempt to appreciate the pain, struggle and suffering involved in any question of tearing them away from the land of their birth. Whatever value may be attached to this historic Welsh day, unless we can get from the Government more definite assurances about the future of Wales than we have had up to now, this day will have been in vain.
I do not want to waste time in prating about the past. The historical traditions of Wales and her culture can be wiped off the slate, unless there is some future for her people. Whatever economic salvation can be offered to the Welsh people, do not attempt to offer it to them in England. They do not want to work in England; they want to work in Wales, and the solution to their problems must be found in Wales. At the present time it is true that Wales is fully employed—indeed, in some respects, it is overworked—but already rumblings can be heard about redundancy here and redundancy there and small groups of men and women are out of work. These are dangerous symptoms which reflect the growing anxiety of Welsh men and women. The rumblings will grow unless they get some satisfaction. Let not the Government run away with the idea that employment for Welsh people can be found merely by retaining the present industrial undertakings in some sort of activity. The wartime basis and use of factories in Wales is inadequate for peace purposes. During the war they have been, and are, working three shifts a day, but when peace returns, you will not expect ordnance and munition factories to continue to work three shifts. So there will be redundancy, which must grow. Further, we have to bear in mind that there will be many men and women returning from the Forces, for whom work will have to be found. When it comes to assessing the future of Wales, we are in the unfortunate position that our existing basic industries do not assist us.
At the end of the last war the Rhondda employed 50,000 miners. In these days of dire need of coal it employs about 12,000. Where do the men and women find work? In factories, some distant from that area, which they fear will come to an end. Mining will not assist in absorbing anyone. Each of our basic industries—mining, iron and steel, tin-plates and so on—presents a problem in itself. The mining industry requires a strong hand. It requires something more than the petty, trifling methods of the Ministry of Fuel and Power. It requires to be uprooted and re-organised root and branch if there is going to be any success in the future. The same applies to the other basic industries. There is no provision for future employment even in those that are there now, let alone any possible addition to their number. In this period of war a large number of relatively small undertakings have come to Wales.
The Minister recently mentioned four or five factories. Is this the proverbial swallow that is supposed to make a summer? Existing industrial establishments are so inadequate for the purpose of providing employment that they can be disregarded. The position requires to be planned thoroughly over the whole country. It is not a question of one factory, one town or one village. Every county presents the same problem. It requires a separate planning authority, to be applied with the intense energy that is directed to the war, if its economic and social life is to be resuscitated. There should be no delay about it. This is what crushes the people. They ask, "What are the Government thinking? What are they doing?" All we know is that they are saying nothing, and the fact that they are silent adds to the apprehensions of the people.
The small industries that have come there present another problem. They ask, "What can we look forward to when the war ends? Are we to be permitted to develop the export trade? Are we to be allowed to have the necessary supply of raw materials, if only to present other countries with samples of the work that we can do? We cannot even get that." Industries that are organised have their plans ready and have their ideas about the future, but the Government will not say a word about what they are prepared to do, and what they will be enabled to do, to develop the export trade. Some Government spokesmen talk about the degree to which we shall depend on the export trade, as if the export trade is going to be the beginning and end of our future prosperity, but ask them for a roll of calico or a piece of leather to fashion samples of what we hope to be able to export and we are not allowed to have it. It is time the Government was compelled to make a statement of policy if only to reassure the people and remove their grave apprehensions. If Wales is to be kept quiet, something has to be said to-day. Unless it is said, there will be another assembly on Saturday in Cardiff, and they will have their ears very close to the ground. They will listen very carefully to what the Government have to say today and, if the Government fail to satisfy the workers, Wales will have something to say to them. The people of this great working-class democracy are full of anxiety. They were forgotten in the interwar years but they will not allow the Government to think that they can be forgotten again. Unless something is told them definitely this week, Wales will declare war upon someone.
I should like to join my Welsh colleagues in thanking the Government for this opportunity of dealing with Welsh matters. I hope the discussion will result in practicable suggestions being put to them to make certain that there will be no unemployment but that work at reasonable wages will be available for all when the switch-over from war to peace comes. Mast people realise that preparations should be made now, so that all the authorities concerned, whether local authorities, Government Departments, owners of industries or leaders of workers' organisations, know what to do when the time comes. We have read and heard a great deal about Development Areas. Certain areas, South Wales included, have been scheduled as Development Areas. I do not know what a Development Area means but I notice that they were known as Special Areas before the war, and distressed areas before that. I understand that they are to receive special attention from the Government when the switch-over comes.
The Minister of Reconstruction at Newport on 7th instant said the Government were determined to see that new factories established in the Special Areas, were continued for munitions, or for civilian production, and that was important because it was realised that South Wales had, for many years, been dependent on heavy industries. Early building priority would be given for new factories. The standard factories that were going up, for war purposes, were built with an eye to the transition period, and they would be getting more industries established. That is a definite promise, that every factory in South Wales that is utilised to-day for munition purposes, will be utilised for civilian production; that there are to be new factories; that building priority is to be given, and that the Government are erecting standard factories now, with an eye to the transition period. I am sure Monmouth Members were delighted to hear that declaration and I should think it would give considerable consolation to the Welsh people in general.
I want to know what about North Wales. Is the Minister prepared to say that the Government are determined to see that the factories which have been established there are to continue in civilian production? There are many doing excellent work, and the industrialists owning them are anxious to remain in the area. The workers also have become mechanically minded, and they are exceedingly anxious to know what their position will be when the war ends. Can we be given some encouragement to-day? North Wales Members met the industrialists a few weeks ago. They were all most keen and anxious. Two organisations have been formed, the Light Engineering Association and the Industrial Development Committee. They should be encouraged. It is true that North Wales was not considered a Special Area before the war, but there was considerable unemployment. Many areas will, no doubt, become special areas unless preparations are made now for their factories to be utilised for civilian production. There are several Government factories, some of considerable size, and in some instances local authorities have assisted.
I know of one in my division where a small rural authority has erected approximately 500 houses in order to house the technicians of this factory. They erected them without any subsidy, They also spent £30,000 to enable electricity to be brought to the works. Is there any wonder that the members of such local authorities are anxious about what is to happen to these factories? They have often asked me to find out what is to happen, but I failed to do so. Let me suggest that North Wales should be scheduled as a Development Area and given the same promise which the Minister of Reconstruction gave to South Wales, namely, that all these factories will be carried on after the war for civilian production if they are not required for munitions. We shall then be perfectly satisfied.
Having made this appeal for North Wales to be made a Development Area, I am sure that my colleagues in North Wales will pardon me if I call the attention of the House and the Government to the position of Flintshire. Flint is a county whose population has been increasing steadily for many years. From 1931 to 1935 it increased by many thousands, and from 1935 to 1939 the electorate increased by 4,000. Since that year I have no doubt that it has increased by many times that figure. Everybody is working now, but I cannot think how all the people are to be given employment after the war unless some preparations are made now. I am making a special appeal on behalf of a county which has been an industrial county for many years, and I emphasise that I would not push this question if I thought that it was unsuited for industrial development and if it were difficult to carry on industry on a sound financial basis. But so convinced am I of the suitability of Flintshire for industrial development, that I believe that, given the full co-operation of the Government, local authorities, industrialists and workers, there need be no unemployed in any part of the county when the war is over.
The county of Flint is already an important industrial centre, and its industries include coal, artificial silk, paper, textiles, bricks and several others. It has all the requisites for the development of industry in general. It has an abundance of raw materials—coal, lead, clay and the finest limestone in the country. It has sites with plenty of space for the erection of factories all the way from Chester to Rhyl, and they are convenient for road, rail and sea transport. That cannot be said of many counties. When I talk about sea transport, I would call the attention of the Government to the fact that if the River Dee were only made more navigable, larger boats could come up the river and transport would be improved considerably.
There is one other matter concerning the county of Flint to which I want to call attention. Last Friday we heard over the air of a terrific storm in North Wales, in which coastal towns were badly damaged and many bungalows had to be evacuated. This was an exceptional storm, but there has been for some time grave danger to the L.M.S. main line from Chester to Holyhead, and between Prestatyn and Rhyl, owing to coast erosion, 400 bungalows are in danger of being made uninhabitable. If the Government were to give a special grant to the authorities concerned to build a strong sea wall from Rhyl to Prestatyn it would provide work for a large number of men for a considerable time to come. It would also secure the safety of this line and of the houses in the vicinity. I hope that this Debate will not have been in vain. I particularly press the Government to schedule North Wales as a Development Area so that we may have something to tell the people there that will encourage them and give them some hope that there will not be a great deal of unemployment when the war ends.
The granting of a day by the Government for the discussion of Welsh affairs is indicative of two important factors concerning Wales. The first is that Wales is a national entity, and the second is that there are problems peculiar to Wales. The first has already been referred to. As far as Wales is concerned I am not an isolationist. I would like to refer to the special problems of Wales and to deal with only one. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade is not present in his place, because I want to direct my observations to him. I am not complaining, of course, but this is such an important matter that I should like to have in the Government's reply to-day, something definite about the tinplate and steel industries in South Wales. There is much wisdom in the old adage that the cobbler should stick to his last, and I intend to do so and to confine myself to the basic industry of tinplate and steel. Many appeals have been made to the Government in the past and to-day that we should get diversified industry in Wales—smaller industries and more variety in industries. There will, however, be no restoration of industrial prosperity in Wales if we do not have the basic industries established upon a sound foundation. There is no reason why we should not have the industries that are ancillary, say, to the tinplate trade. I do not see any reason why the tin should not be turned into containers where the plates are made. To a small extent that has been done, but there are great possibilities in that direction.
Wales is the home of the tinplate trade and generations of men have worked in it. I believe that the tinplate industry to-day is a lot better than it was. One of the hardest physical efforts put forth in the industrial world is put forth in that trade, and the men in the industry are entitled to some consideration for the contribution they have made to industry. The problem which faces the tinplate and steel industry in South Wales arises from two causes. There are the problems of readjustment which, of course, will apply to all industries; but there is also a problem arising in the tinplate trade which does not apply to other industries in the same degree. That is the mechanical and technical development which is imperative if this trade is to live. In other words, it is not a question of just bringing the men back. It should not be forgotten that 10,000 tinplaters have gone away from Wales to work in England and Scotland. In large areas where munitions are made now there is a large percentage of the people who have left one factory and gone to work in another. When they cease making munitions, they will go back to their former factory, or, possibly, the factory in which they are working will be altered to meet peace-time requirements, and they will remain in it. That position, however, does not apply in South Wales because the tinplate workers, when they come back, must return to a changed and modernised industry. The industry must enter a period of mechanical change which will revolutionise the process and completely alter its character.
I am referring to the establishment of the strip miil process. This is not new. There was a strip mill factory at Ebbw Vale before the war. There is no doubt on either side of the industry that this is a natural development and must happen if the tinplate trade is to live. My plea is that the strip mills, when they are established, should be established in the areas where the men have worked for years at this hard toil in individual mills. We have a right to make that claim. The fathers and grandfathers of these men have worked on these arduous undertakings, and the present generation of workers are entitled to the benefit of improvement. Many opinions have been expressed. Some say that, instead of integrating one big strip mill, some of the processes should be spread out, in order not to upset unduly the communities where these works are erected. I quite understand the spirit that prompts that view, but I think it would be a great mistake.
If we are to enter the international market, as we must, and hold our own in the competitive world, we can only do so by getting balanced, integrated undertakings like our competitors. There are 13 steel works dependent on the tinplate trade in South Wales, and they will no longer be required if we have the integrated strip mill. It would not be a revolution to convert them to produce other commodities, and to form the basis of new developments in production in the lighter and heavier sections. What reason is there, for instance, why South Wales should not develop the building of lighter sea-going craft? We have asked that this matter should be considered, and these 13 steel works turned in that direction. That is only a bird's eye view of the problem, but I am sure that I have emphasised a very important side of it.
Now I want to ask the Government to let us know to-day what reason there is for all the secrecy that surrounds the negotiations that have been in progress. The men in the industry are asking what of the future, and what is to become of them. Fifty per cent. of the tin works are used for storage purposes. Around places like my own constituency, there are many relics from very prosperous times, but the men who came there to make their money are now gone, and the buildings are standing idle. They are an eyesore. The workers to-day are asking whether the places in which they work are to be discarded in the same way, and whether their children will go there, look round upon the ruins and say: "There were your works." We want to avoid that situation. In conclusion, I would put a few questions to the President of the Board of Trade. What progress has been made, if any, in the negotiations on the strip mill business? What has been the basis of those negotiations? Can the industry do this without Government assistance? and if Government assistance is to be offered, will the Government have pro rata control, commensurate with the money that has been put into the industry? A reply to those questions would ease some of the anxiety in the minds of our people. I tell the President of the Board of Trade now that the eyes of Wales are on this House to-day. I trust that they will not look to it in vain.
Although there is some controversy on whether Monmouthshire is in England or Wales, there is no doubt that, for a large number of purposes, Monmouthshire is always associated with South Wales. That is my reason for attempting to come into this discussion, and I should like first to associate myself with the hon. Member who has just spoken. We want to get some decision from the Board of Trade. I want to touch on four points and in doing so I shall take up as little time as possible. The first point concerns the employment and the industrial development of South Wales and Monmouthshire. About 10 days ago, an exhibition was held at Newport at which were represented the industries of Monmouthshire, and its surroundings. It was opened by Lord Woolton, who expressed some most excellent sentiments. Those sentiments are echoed in the Board of Trade, but what is lacking is practical co-operation. Nobody seems to know what is going to happen. They are all willing to do things, but nobody can say what is going to be done, in this direction or that. Lack of decision is holding back the industrial development of South Wales, except in one particular in which a Board of Trade decision has been made. It is on the question of the immediate priority for the building of the Severn road bridge, which is essential, and is to be started. I hope that the priority will apply to a large number of other road developments in South Wales, to connect it with the Midlands. This is very important for our industrial development.
The Great Western Railway serves South Wales, and has done very well under difficult conditions, but Welsh Members ought to get together, to press the Ministry of War Transport to reinstate some of the express services to London from South Wales and also to improve the services generally. I do not know another industrial area in the country where the last train to London leaves so early as five o'clock. In Manchester and Liverpool, and other places like that, you can do a day's work and still start back to London at about six o'clock. In South Wales, the 6.50 p.m. train has been taken off, and there is nothing from Newport until 4.40 a.m., which is very inconvenient. If we can get the former trains restored it will make a vast difference to business in the South Wales area. Before I leave the question of railways, I should mention that that company have issued a statement about what they would like to do, if permitted, in regard to air development. I see that no mention is made of South Wales and Monmouthshire in connection with that matter. We have a very peculiar position, inasmuch as we have the estuary on one side, and the mountains on the other. Air facilities from South Wales would be a very great convenience in all respects, and would be very helpful to industrial development in south Wales, An air service across the channel, into the Midlands or up the coast would be equally useful, and I hope the point will not be overlooked
My final point is the question of ordnance factories at Newport. They have employed upwards of 3,000 work-people. I understand that a petition has been signed by 2,000 workpeople asking for the continuance of the factory. I cannot for the life of me see any necessity at the moment to shut that factory down. If that is done, we shall be in a position similar to what we occupied in the early days of the war. A lot can be done, by way of research work particularly, to help materially in the transition from war to peace, which we are all anxious to see. I do not know which Department is responsible, as they keep handing matters from one to another, but if a decision could be arrived at it would facilitate, matters, and a simple decision should be arrived at without further equivocation. Before I sit down I would take the opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), who is chairman of the United Welsh Party, on having obtained from the Government this Welsh day, which I hope will be productive of a great deal of good.
I join with the last speaker in the hope that this day's discussion will be productive of benefit to many people in Wales. The discussion has become a little parochial. I do not think there can be any solution for Wales as a whole, in settling the problems of one or two districts, and leaving the remainder unsettled. Even though we get sufficient work at one place to employ the whole of the people there, it is no good if we leave other areas unprovided for at the same time. In this Debate we have rationed ourselves to about 15 minutes' speaking each, to enable every speaker to have a chance. It is an historic occasion and I hope that it will be repeated, from year to year, so that we may get public expression of the Welsh point of view. Three of our Members are ill, unfortunately, to-day. One is the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I know how keenly he feels on this matter. The others are the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) and the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Jackson). I am sure that we wish them well and hope that they will have speedy recoveries.
Much has been said about the distressed areas of South Wales; much is already known about them. The subject has been discussed in this House any number of times and, let us frankly admit, some benefit has resulted. The Treforest trading estate employs about 17,000 people, I believe. That is helpful, but the main problem is still unsolved. What troubles me is the real danger of there being, at the end of the war, as there was at the end of the last war, thousands too few jobs. If that happens again, little respect will be shown to Parliament by the young people who come back from the war to face that situation. The iron will go more deeply into their hearts than it did into the hearts of their parents. There may be increased violence, which will be understandable if we fail to do the task that lies before us.
There are two problems. One is real, and the other is somewhat imaginary. I want to quote from a speech made by a Member of this House and published in the "Western Mail" on 16th September, 1943. It was made by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate). He is not in his place today although I wrote
him saying I intended to raise it to-day. He said:
The one reason why South Wales was a depressed area, was because it was persistently Socialist and Communist, and because the workers there broke every agreement which their trade union leaders made for them with the employers.
I thought the hon. Member must have been misreported, because I cannot imagine any hon. Member being so ill-informed about the real situation, but when I spoke to him he stuck to the point, and said he believed it. A statement very different from that was made recently by Sir Miles Thomas, who, I believe, is the head of the Nuffield organisation. He spoke in laudatory terms of ex-colliers who are assembling and adapting "jeeps" in South Wales. Another case is that of the general manager of a large Government-owned factory in Monmouthshire. He said that despite his doubts when he came to Monmouthshire he found the labour adaptable in such a manner as did them credit. He was satisfied it was equal to any labour throughout the country. When the factory started there was very little skilled labour as compared with the other three factories in the country producing the same article and privately owned. To-day in this Government-owned factory the cost of that product with all that new labour—green labour, I think it is sometimes called—compares very favourably with that of the product in the privately-owned factories. I hope we shall not have the experience again of the hon. Member for The Wrekin, or anybody else, making statements of the kind he made without going much more fully into the facts.
I would like to say a word about one or two subjects, particularly coal, because that is the basis of our present difficulty in South Wales. That is so because the present situation has been coming upon us for a quarter of a century or more. I regard the industry as having been in its normal state in 1913. It had developed remarkably well up to that point. with an average annual increase in production of 1, 000,000 tons, until it had reached 58,000,000 tons a year, with about 220,000 people employed. As far as mining could be prosperous, the mining districts were prosperous. My hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) told us about the throbbing life of the Rhondda Valley, at that time, with its 50,000 miners. But that 220,000 has now dwindled to 104,000, and the 58,000,000 tons of coal produced have fallen, until this year I do not think the total will exceed 30,000,000. Therefore, we have lost, roughly 28,000,000 tons of coal a year—nearly half—and we have only 40 per cent. of the number of persons employed in 1913.
We have had no new collieries, the pits are old. It is like trying to do a job with out-of-date tools, and with old workers. I am told that the best average age in the mining industry is about 29 years. That represents the best age groups which can work the industry effectively. But the average age in Wales at the moment is over 40, due to the fact that so many young people left the industry. The figures are even worse if the 1921 figure of 271,000 persons employed is compared with the present figure of 104,000. Therefore, a great deal of valuable labour has been lost, and there has not been that development of the mining industry that every industry needs. Every industry needs modernisation. Many of us here know of collieries in South Wales that have taken to themselves 20 or 30 per cent. dividends year after year, and have neglected to develop and employ modern methods.
I want to compare this state of things with the State-owned mines in the Netherlands. Mines have been in operation there from about 1901, and they have been more or less self-financed, but these mines have been developed carefully, and with regard to the national interest rather than to private interest, although there has been a reasonable return on capital. The result is that in Holland to-day instead of having the state of things we have in our mining industry in this country, particularly in Wales, there is a higher average wage than in this country, and a production, in seams that are as difficult as ours, varying from 50 to 75 per cent. higher than our production. There is an accident rate which is little more than half of ours and there is no shortage of labour. It is one of the most popular industries in the country. Young men come to it. Here young men run away from the industry, which is all due to the fact that the industry is old and antiquated. There is a great deal in what the hon. Member for East Rhondda said. We shall not restore this industry to its former vitality without tackling it as a whole, modernising it, and giving it modern tools—tools that will help production. I, therefore, hope we shall get away from the meticulous detailed criticism of absenteeism and such comparatively small things. That indeed is very small compared with the main problem I have tried to indicate, the great problem of modernisation that faces the mining industry.
We have heard a very helpful speech on the matter of tinplate steel and iron, and I quite agree with the hon. Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort) that there is need to reorganise these industries of steel and tinplate. Two-thirds of the output of steel in Wales is consumed in tinplate and associated industries, and that industry must be brought to an efficient state, if it is to meet the competition of the world and export its proper quota. Surely, this is the responsibility of the Government. The admirable Report prepared by the Welsh Advisory Committee presided over by Principal J. F. Rees, of the Cardiff College of the Welsh University, and including the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and others gives a great deal of informative material in their interim Report. One fact that comes out of it is that, between the wars, Wales lost 431,000 of its population. Glamorgan and Monmouthshire each lost one-fifth of their population—224,000 in the case of Glamorgan and 97,000 in the case of Monmouthshire. Even more significant is the fact that 87 per cent. of the people who left Wales were below the age of 44 years. That is a real tragedy. What happened was that these young people, with their potential productive capacity, went over the Border to England and other places, carrying great potential wealth with them and leaving in Wales an older population. What is needed now in Wales is a restoration of the balance of age groups, and steps should be taken to bring that about.
While it is essential that the basic industries should be brought to life again—I think that can only be done in the way I have indicated—we should try establishing in Wales a wider range of industry. I do not think any community should have all its labour in one type of industry, whether heavy or light. Some persons are suitable for light industries, some are suitable for heavy industries, but if they have both, they are insulated to a large extent against unemployment, and so much richer because they can find work for great numbers of their people. I want that to be done for Wales. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) made reference to a very significant statement by the Minister of Reconstruction at Newport a week or so ago. I attach the greatest importance to it, and I want to see the Government give effect to it as soon as possible. He said that the Government intended to see that new factories which had been established should be continued either for munitions or civilian production. He said also that priority would be given to the building of factories. He referred too to factories now to be built. I believe we are to have five in South Wales.
On that point I think an ascertainment should be made as speedily as possible to see how many people there will be without work after the war and what factory floor space is required to accommodate them, and we should build accordingly. We cannot get new works to come unless we have a suitable house in which to put them. Wales is poor in factory space because its industries have been, in the main, coal and tinplate, and all the buildings we have are the derelict buildings of the coal and tinplate activities of former days. The President of the Board of Trade knows the difficulty we have had to find storage space there. In some parts of the country there were millions of square feet of storage space but there is little in Wales. We must provide buildings and exert what pressure can be brought to bear to bring new works there, and I hope that what is now proposed, will be so effective that we shall rehabilitate those areas. I know some of the work the President of the Board of Trade has done. I know his interest in it, and I hope he will continue the effective work he has commenced. He studied the question long before he became a Minister, and probably reached conclusions which have turned out to be helpful to him.
I wish finally to urge the very great necessity of getting a wider range of industry. One of the things I felt keenly was when German journalists visited us. They came to Wales and saw us in our poverty, and went away and wrote in their Nazi papers, saying "This is decadent Britain." I am not sure those conditions did not have some effect on the Nazi mind in those days. I want to avoid that in the future. I hope we shall work with determination for greater expansion and prosperity. I hope the Government, industrialists, commercial men, the banks and the trade unions, everyone interested with this matter, will join in order to rehabilitate those industries which were once better off, and to make them richer. To achieve that will indeed give great satisfaction to the people, who have to live in those areas and to those people who have played a part in bringing it about, and the nation as a Whole will be much richer as a consequence.
Like those who have already addressed the House, I welcome this opportunity of taking part in a Welsh Debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) said, we have been sending Members to this House for the period of 400 years; we have contributed, during those centuries, many leading figures to the life of this country as a whole, yet we have had to wait until to-day before we have had a Debate of our own in this House [Interruption]. The Tudors, after all, helped to establish the greatness of this country. Even in those days there were representatives of Wales in this House of Commons. Many of my colleagues who preceded me referred more especially to the conditions in South Wales. Personally, I prefer to look upon Wales as a whole, and I deprecate this separation or division of the country into two parts, North and South. That is why I would like this afternoon particularly to emphasise the necessity of what has been referred to already, that is, the recognition of the whole of Wales as a Development Area.
It has been said by other speakers that during that period of depression, when the public Press and public speeches time and again drew attention to the conditions in South Wales, we, in the North, who were a little less vociferous and the publicity given to whose conditions was a little less, suffered as much in proportion as the rest of the population. The percentage, in fact, in some of our areas was even larger than that of Glamorgan. In the county of my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey it was as high as 40 per cent. In my own county of Carnarvonshire, the percentage in agriculture and the slate industry was over 25 per cent. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who, I understand, is going to reply, to reconsider the policy, or such portion of the policy as the Government seem to have adopted so far, in connection with the priority that is to be given to the four Development Areas. I think my right hon. Friend, as the previous speaker mentioned, devoted a great deal of his time to this question before he became a Minister. What I fear is that my right hon. Friend is rather inclined to look at these things from an academic point of view.
Let us consider for one moment how North Wales will be affected by differentiating between the North and South. Priority is to be given to fresh industries to establish themselves in South Wales. Employers of labour who are now engaged in working factories in North Wales—in spite of the denials of the right hon. Gentleman—have been approached by officials of his Department, and have been asked to move their factories into South Wales. That is the truth. In my view, the Board or trade is following a suicidal policy in that respect. What has been the position with regard to the counties of North Wales, and most of the other counties of Wales, with the exception of Glamorganshire? The population has been declining for practically the last 100 years. There has been no increase in the population. It is not because we have not a virile people there; it is not because the population has not been produced. The population has been produced, but owing to our economic system in this country being so lopsided and so out of balance the young people of our rural areas—and this particularly applies to North Wales—have had to leave those areas.
The congestion in South Wales is largely due to the migration from other counties in Wales. As a boy I was brought up in the County of Cardigan. Just before my time the lead mines of Cardigan were prosperous, but foreign competition put an end to that industry. What happened? Practically all the virile manhood of that county migrated to South Wales. During my time there was no opportunity, except in agriculture, for any youth to start any new kind of work. They, again, went to South Wales—Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire—to London and other English towns. We pride ourselves in Wales that we have a fine system of secondary education. Who benefits by it? We in Wales pay the cost of it, but England, in the main, benefits from it because the better and brighter pupils of our secondary schools find no outlet for their abilities in Wales, and they migrate to England and other parts of the country.
Since the war several factories have been established in the North Wales area. Tribute has been paid to the quality of the labour we have got there. The industrialists tell me that they find our people grand workers and, as my hon. Friend remarked just now, adaptable, intelligent, loyal and willing. [An HON. MEMBER: "And docile"?]No, not docile, but they have those qualities which give excellent results in efficiency in the factories. If I may give one example I would like to mention an industrialist who was given the lease of a new Government factory. He arrived at the factory without a single key man. He began with five men taken off the building—labourers—and he started his factory with those five men. One of them to-day is a superintendent in that factory wren employs over 2,000 workers. That shows the quality of the labour. At the same time I should like to pay a tribute to those industrialists who came to North Wales during the war. They have proved themselves exemplary employers of labour and have, to a very large extent, identified themselves with the people of North Wales, with their aspirations, have shown every respect for their feelings and have done everything they can to promote the cultural and social organisations of that area. I am glad to be able to pay them that tribute.
Let me put one other serious point to my right hon. Friend. As he is aware, it takes some time for an employer and his employees to establish relationships of understanding, of confidence and of mutual respect. In the whole of North Wales during this period, there have been somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60,000 people employed in factories on war production. Many of them were new to this kind of work, but four or five years have passed, and during that period a feeling of confidence has been established between employers and employed. Yet the policy of the Board of Trade is to shut those factories down. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am glad he shakes his head, but what the Board of Trade is actually doing is equivalent to telling those factories to shut down, because they say "We cannot promise you any priority either in building materials or in raw materials, or in machinery and equipment. That is going to be given to the four Development Areas."
What will be the result? There are 6,000 or 7,000 people in Carnarvon to-day engaged in war production. What is to happen if those factories cannot continue after the war? Will those people have to go to South Wales or elsewhere to find work? This is going to perpetuate the misery and squalor, the dirt and the filth caused by unemployment in these congested, industrial areas. The Government have the opportunity to-day, if they will only grasp it, to enable industry to be spread out and factories to be built, where they can have all the amenities that are necessary in order to produce effective and efficient work, and to give the men and women employed in the factories good and healthy air. But it seems to me that the only policy so far declared by the Government is "We are going to send you to those places where you cannot get these conditions which are now in existence in the rural counties of Wales and other parts of the country."
Reference has been made to agriculture, which is our main industry in Carnarvonshire. I do not want to add anything on that subject, but I hope and pray that agriculture will not be allowed to sink into the depression in which it found itself during the period between the two wars. I have another industry, an old-established one, in my county. The slate industry, like agriculture, was one of the first industries to suffer whenever there was a cycle of depression. My experience during my 21 years as Member for Carnarvon has been largely one of wondering where I could find work for my people. We have had people out of work for five and 10 years, and many of the quarries have been closed down. Yet in those quarries, and in the rubble heaps which make some of the most beautiful parts of North Wales unsightly, there are natural products which can, and should, be made use of. We have in this country our research departments. May I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman? Will he persuade the Government to get our research chemists to look into the possibility of making use of this vast source of wealth? I am glad to say that the quarry-owners themselves are starting in that direction. They are going to engage scientists to look into the question. If the Government Research Department cannot deal with the matter, will the Government give a grant to enable the owners themselves to carry on this most important work? Finally, I hope that this Welsh Debate is only a forerunner of future Debates of a similar character. I feel convinced that there is little hope of that, unless we are given a Secretary of State for Wales, who can put our case in the inner councils of the Government.
I make no apology for intervening in this Debate. It is true that I am not a member of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, and that I do not represent a Welsh constituency in this House. But I think I can claim to have as great an interest in Wales and in Welsh affairs as any hon. Member who sits for a Welsh seat. I have considerable Welsh connections, I have a good deal of Celtic blood in me, and for the last 17 or 18 years I have lived in my home on the borders of Montgomeryshire and Merioneth, in a district which is almost entirely Welsh-speaking and where Welsh sentiment, culture, and pride are very strong, without in any way turning to those extreme forms of political nationalism which so many of us believe to be an unprofitable and mistaken attitude of mind. I rise for a very few minutes, as I do not want to take up the time of hon. Members who have a very much more specialised knowledge than I have of the problems which affect Wales and her future, and which are of vital concern to the constituents whom they represent. But my main object in intervening in this Debate is to say how much I welcome this opportunity which has been given to the House to discuss Welsh affairs entirely on their own, and how much I hope that Welsh days will become a regular part of our proceedings.
There is no doubt that there has been a deplorable tendency in this House, in some Government Departments, and in the country, to regard Wales merely as a rather large English county, and Welsh affairs as matters which can always be discussed along with English affairs. I do not want to say anything which would arouse the feelings of our Scottish colleagues; but if Scotland, which has no separate language of its own, can have its own separate days set aside for the discussion of its own problems, we in Wales, who talk so largely our own language, and who have our own characteristics and our own problems, can also claim to be considered as a nation, which is entitled to have its own problems discussed on exclusively Welsh days and from a definitely Welsh point of view.
In this Parliament we have seen two very welcome steps forward. The first is the inauguration of this Welsh day: the other is the Act which set the Welsh language in its rightful place in the courts. As the chairman of a bench of magistrates, I sincerely welcome a Measure which enabled the Welsh-speaking parties in a case to speak their own language, as a right and not merely as a concession. Now that these two very welcome steps have been taken, I hope that this National Government will take a further step undoubtedly a much bigger step but one which I believe would be a right and proper one, and one to which we in the Principality are certainly entitled. I refer to the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales.
I was only going to refer to it in passing. I would not dream of infringing your Ruling, Sir, by mentioning any of the arguments for such an appointment. I would only say that I hope it will not be long before this appointment is brought about. There is only one special point that I wish to raise in this Debate, and that is with regard to the activities of the Forestry Commission in North and Mid-Wales. There is no doubt that the Forestry Commission have done very valuable work in Wales and that they have planted many areas which were of little use for other purposes. But I am not sure that there has always been sufficient care in selecting the areas for planting. In the last 15 or 20 years, I have watched the Forestry Commission, in my part of the country, absorbing land which previously was reasonably good sheep-grazing land. They have entered the market against the ordinary buyer of land, their attractive terms have encouraged the owners of farms, especially in times of depression, to sell, and to sell to them rather than to other farmers; and while they have certainly done valuable work in planting such areas as Eisteddfa Gurig on the lower slopes of Plynlimmon and other areas of a similar nature, which could only carry a small number of sheep, they have also taken over other areas lower down the mountains and even in the valleys which, I believe, it would have been better to have left for the raising of sheep. I understand that the Minister of Agriculture is going to take part in this Debate. I know that we all congratulate him on the way in which he has helped to bring about so great an improvement in the farming lands of Wales. But I would like to suggest that, in their future plans for forestry, the Commissioners should not rush in and buy up whatever land comes into the market, simply because they need more land or because they wish to round off or extend their existing forests, but that there should be a much more careful survey to decide what land is best left for sheep farming and what land is most suitable for the planting of trees.
I would conclude as I began. I welcome the opportunity that has been given to us to-day to discuss Welsh problems as such. Wales has certainly earned the right to be afforded this opportunity, for no part of the United Kingdom has made a more valuable contribution to the war effort than industrial and agricultural Wales. Oar desires and aspirations are not unreasonable or exhorbitant. None but a small and insignificant minority are actuated by motives of extreme political nationalism; but we hope that to-day will mark the beginning of that much more specialised treatment of our problems which we, as a nation, feel that we are justly entitled to expect.
We are very glad to have the opportunity of discussing Welsh problems from an exclusively Welsh standpoint, but it seems to me that there are two rather difficult aspects of the Welsh problem which are very closely inter-related. We have heard a good deal to-day of the political and economic problems of the Principality. There are a great many of my colleagues on these benches who know much more about those problems than I do. They are of the greatest importance, though I will not go so far as to say that they are more important, more difficult, than the problems of England or Scotland. There are, certainly, very many questions which have to be looked upon from a broad national point of view, and that is what I think we are attempting to do to-day. I would remind the House that Wales is a nation and a community which, in its tradition, history, language and literature, is quite distinct from England. There are many people in Wales who are more concerned about the future of Welsh culture than they are about the economic life of Wales, though we all recognise that, if the economic aspect dies, the cultural aspect will die too. I think we should realise that there are many of us who are particularly keen on retaining the distinctive features of this Welsh nation, as apart from the English nation.
I would like to point out that our close association with the dominant partner, as I think it was once called, over many centuries, has tended rather to dim the consciousness, on the part of the average Englishman, of the existence of quite a different type of civilisation living, so to speak, next door. The hon. Lady who opened this discussion pointed out that Welsh Members of Parliament have graced or disgraced this institution for 400 years. I am sorry to have to correct her in that respect. We have been here, not for 400 years, but for 600 years, because I find that, in the Parliament that was formed in May, 1322, there were no less than 24 Members chosen to represent each of the two parts of the Principality, North and South Wales. That meant that there were 48 Members of Parliament from Wales in 1322, and again in 1327. I am sorry to say that, since those days, our membership has declined, but it is a significant fact that, not only in the early Parliaments that were held, Welsh Members were a very considerable body of people, and, going further back, we find that the association of the Welsh people with the government of this country, under the old Anglo-Saxon system, was very close indeed. I find that, in one of the early meetings of the Witenagemot, held at Luton in Bedfordshire, the two Archbishops were present, but only two Princes from Wales. At another meeting, held at Winchester, the two Archbishops were there and the Welsh Princes this time were four in number.
Our association, I claim, in building up this constitution, has been of the very greatest kind, and an opportunity has been given to-day for the oldest of all the Dominions to air its grievances, because, curiously enough, in the Act of 1542, when England and Wales were finally joined, there is a reference to the "King's Majesty's Dominion and Principality of Wales." I think the next oldest Dominion is possibly Newfoundland, which was not founded for another couple of hundred years.
I would not mind if Wales was under a Commission. We have established the right, and not only because of the services rendered to England in war, to be considered as an exceptionally important partner in the great struggle wrought by these islands in the course of the last five or six centuries. Because of that, I hope that, in future, we shall have many more Welsh days and be able to point out the particular difficulties facing us as an industrial and economic unit, but, particularly, as a cultural community. It is one of the miracles of modern history, surely, that here, in the closest association with a very powerful body like England, this community has retained its literature, which is one of the richest and most remarkable in Europe, and has retained it despite all the difficulties with which it has been faced. It is faced, even more to-day than ever before, with difficulties that threaten its very life, and we are particularly concerned that this point of view, in addition to the point of view put so eloquently by my colleague, should be represented occasionally to this House.
I see that many of my colleagues desire to speak and, therefore, I shall endeavour to be brief. The Debate up to now has clearly shown that Wales has an historic tradition and a culture of her own, and that tradition and culture must be extended into the future. It would have been a good thing in this Debate in which we are able to discuss the cultural values of Welsh life,
if a representative of the Board of Education had been here. I suggest that the Board of Education need to take into their purview the provision, co-ordination and national planning of technical education for the whole of Wales, but I do not intend to go into further details. The Debate has clearly shown that, though we realise the cultural values of Wales, we must also realise that these cultural values depend for their continuance on the economic prosperity of Wales. This applies not only to the well-being of Wales, but has significance and importance as far as Britain and Europe, and indeed the world, are concerned. To take South Wales in particular, the prosperity of its coalmining industry and its steel industry not only depends on the effectiveness of the internal organisation and technical equipment, but it also depends upon the high foreign policy of the Government. Therefore we are an integral part of the whole national scheme. Although I support very strongly national cultural values, I am also concerned deeply that we should not have brought into this Welsh Debate an intense reac-
I want to ask one or two rather parochial questions. I would like to support the pertinent question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Swansea (Mr. Mort). The people of Port Talbot are extremely anxious about the situation there; rather wild rumours are going about. I have heard suggestions that the industries are to be closed down or transferred, they told me, to some "foreign place" in England. The fears and anxieties which exist are having a very serious effect upon the people and their mentality and upon the local authority. On the other hand, I have heard that there are to be huge developments in the area. The point is that there is no certainty, no settlement and no security about the position. Therefore, this Debate will have served some useful purpose if the Minister can let us know the position and what is proposed to be done. I strongly support the question with regard to the steel and tinplate trades raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Swansea.
The other question I wish to raise is, What is to become of the carbide works, which happen to be in my constituency? There was a Government inquiry some years ago and I understand that, taking all factors into consideration, the raw material, limestone, coal and facilities for transport, the Government came to the conclusion that the most economic position in which to place the carbide works would be in Port Talbot. There, again, there is uncertainty. It is being said that it is to be dismantled immediately the war is over and transferred to the North of Scotland. I hope that the Minister will give us assurances about the steel and tinplate trades, and also convey to us some information of the Government's intentions in relation to the carbide. There is plenty of land and room for development and there are an amazing number of derivatives that can be got from carbide, and it is extremely important for the well-being of that part of the country that the Minister should give some assurance on these points.
I understand that it was thought that it would be for the convenience of the House if I spoke at this stage in the proceedings and left my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to deal with the industrial matters later on in the evening. Judging by the amount of reference made to agriculture during the Debate, my task, if I merely had to reply to the Debate, would have been a very easy one. I think however that it will perhaps be of interest not only to hon. Members inside the House, but to the agricultural community in Wales outside, if I give some short picture of what Welsh agriculture has actually managed to do. It is, I believe, the case—and perhaps the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) will not mind my pointing it out—that although, there was until comparatively recently a very eminent Welshman who was Prime Minister, it was left to an English Prime Minister to arrange for an English Minister to speak about Welsh agriculture on a purely Welsh day.
A book has been recently published which I commend to hon. Members entitled "The Agriculture of Wales," written by Professor Ashby and by Professor Evans, of Aberystwyth. They show that the industry in 1939, as in England, was in very poor fettle indeed, suffering from the same sort of things from which we have been suffering. People had been drifting away from the land and large parts of the country were impoverished, following on a period of low prices. Buildings, fences, etc., were falling into disrepair, and, owing to the lack of lime and other fertilisers the fertility of the soil was being seriously reduced thus affecting the yield of crops on land still under arable cultivation. The industry was in a serious economic plight, standards of husbandry were deteriorating and Wales was very definitely being underfarmed. I will give some illustrations later to bear that out.
Looking back on the position in 1939, and remembering that as late as last spring of last year we were losing ships at the rate of over 1,000,000 tons a month, I think it is quite clear that the policy of extending the tillage area, both in England and Wales, was justified. Producers in Wales undoubtedly responded magnificently. Tillage—that is the area under crops—which had risen in the last year of the last war to 762,000 acres, had fallen by the beginning of this war to 292,000 acres. We pushed it up last year to 885,000 acres—really a very remarkable effort indeed. Some counties have actually a greater area under crops than the peak year of 1870, while the country as a whole has exceeded the figure of 1918. The speeding up was obviously only rendered possible by a hard effort on the part of farmers and farm workers, and by a tremendous and very tedious amount of administrative work by the Executive Committees and their district committees, all honorary. I think their members deserve the nation's thanks. Obviously, we could not avoid in a policy of this kind some financial loss and some hardship to individuals, but, subject to that, I make no apology for the general plan that has been carried out in Wales at my request.
I venture to think that my Department and my agents have provided very material and substantial inducements and help to the Welsh farmers to carry out their tasks. For example, the shortage of labour was very largely counteracted by the allocation of 4,000 members of the Women's Land Army and 5,000 prisoners and, in addition, a number of Irish workers were sent to Wales. There is no doubt at all that this supplementary labour would be greater than it is to-day but for the unwillingness of Welsh farmers in the early days to take advantage of the labour that was available. Farmers in Wales—also, to some extent, in England—regarded the Women's Land Army as a joke. Now they have entirely changed their minds, and when it is difficult to get members of the Women's Land Army they are clamouring for girls. The place of agricultural workers and farmers' sons who have joined the Forces was filled not only by the Women's Land Army and prisoners, but by seasonal labour—by university students, harvest camps, school children and so forth.
Not only that, we have also been very active in providing farmers with equipment and materials. The book to which I have just alluded, amongst other things, mentions what struck me as a very remarkable fact, giving evidence of the under-farming of Wales, that at the outbreak of war there were only 1,619 tractors in the whole of Wales; which is almost unbelievable. There are to-day over 11,000 of which over 2,000 are in the hands of committees to help farmers whose land is not suitable, or whose holding is not big enough, to justify them having a tractor themselves. Welsh soil, it is well known, is gravely deficient in lime. It was calculated that at the beginning of the war there was a lime shortage in Wales of 3,000,000 tons. The maximum amount put on the land before the war was 135,000 tons a year as against a total deficit of 3,000,000 tons. The House will realise how long at this rate it would have taken to catch up—in fact the pre-war application of lime was not sufficient to replace the annual lime loss. We have opened a large number of additional quarries, limeworks, and so on, and, in spite of transport difficulties, we have managed to step up the annual application to 350,000 tons. We have put on three times as much nitrogenous fertiliser as pre-war. We have more than doubled the amount of phosphate applied, and have largely increased the amount of potassic fertiliser.
We also came to the conclusion that we would have to provide some additional assistance by altering the price structure. A single price system covering such immensely diverse conditions as we find not only in Wales but also in England, was inappropriate. By various means, such as acreage payments, ploughing up grants, and so forth, we have tried to remedy some of these anomalies. In particular, by the Hill Sheep Subsidy of 1941, and by the Hill Cattle Subsidy of 1943, we have, I think, done something of peculiar value for Wales, and we have certainly lifted an important section of Welsh agriculture from a position of acute economic need to a level of, let us say, moderate prosperity. Incidentally, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth Central (Major Beaumont) mentioned his desire to see that the Forestry Commission should not take good hill sheep land. I share that view, but what is of interest is that there is a general opinion prevailing in the country that the highlands of Wales consist of nothing but large sheep farms. Nothing could be a greater fallacy. Actually 35 per cent. of the hill flocks in Wales contained under 50 sheep; another 29 per cent. contained between 50 and 100, and another 22 per cent. contained between 200 and 200. So it will be seen that 86 per cent. of the flocks in Wales were small flocks, most of them considerably under 200 sheep. They actually were responsible in numbers for 54 per cent. of the whole sheep population, whereas the remaining 14 per cent. of the flocks were responsible for no less than 46 per cent. of the total sheep population. It is rather interesting, as far as numbers are concerned, that a very large proportion consists of small men.
On that very important point is not that the whole difficulty, that the small farmer who has only 50 or 100 sheep feels it much more when some of his mountain grazing is taken away for forestry?
I could not agree more. But the time has not quite come yet for announcing forestry policy, and I think I had better leave it at that. For the sake of historical accuracy, and in view of its importance to the future, I would like to deal for a moment with two criticisms levelled at me personally and at my Department. I have been accused of imposing impossible tasks on Wales, and I have been told also that these tasks ignored the country's climatic conditions and the advantages that Wales has in livestock production. I want to try and show the House that both those criticisms are wide of the mark. In the first place it is untrue to say that I have imposed tasks on my committees. They are composed largely of working farmers with an intimate knowledge of local conditions. Hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies will have some idea of the extent to which Welsh people are prepared to take orders from an English Minister. The Committees, in turn, rely to a considerable extent on district committees which, of course, are practically entirely composed of working farmers. The whole machine is supervised by my Welsh Department at Aberystwyth and by my Land Commissioners, who have an intimate knowledge of the two or three counties for which each of them is responsible and, as far as policy is concerned, by my Liaison Officers who are selected for their peculiarly wide and deep knowledge of Welsh conditions.
It is perfectly true that on occasions, when I have been faced with very heavy demands for increased food by the Minister of Food and by the War Cabinet, I have had to ginger up committees. It is also unfortunately true that when they had made out their programmes, and I had approved them, my liaison officers had on occasions to ask them to alter the programmes in the light of new knowledge, or actual or prospective food shortages. But in the vast majority of cases I have accepted the tillage targets of these committees, and I am satisfied that the targets have been kept within reasonable limits, consistently with the necessity of maintaining food for livestock.
I would like to give a few comparisons for England and Wales. In 1944 there were, in Wales, 114,000 acres under wheat and rye, compared 3,062,000 in England. The area under wheat and rye in Wales was 4·5 per cent. of the total area devoted to crops and grass, compared with 14.1 per cent. in England. The figures for oats were 16.2 per cent. in Wales against 10.2 per cent. in England, showing that we tried to get Wales to grow cereals for livestock as being most adapted to its climate. Only 2.2 per cent. of the area of crops and grass was under potatoes in Wales, as compared to 4·2 per cent. in England. Coming to permanent grass, we find that in England there is only 38·7 per cent, of the whole country under permanent grass, whereas in Wales there is just over a half—to be exact 51·7 per cent. So I am confident that we have made no immoderate demands on Wales. It is true that the harvesting weather has not been too favourable, but it has been more favourable this year than in Northumberland and Cumberland. Even so, the percentage of land under the plough in Wales is only 33 per cent. of the total area, compared with 49 per cent. in England. The wheat area in Wales is one-twenty-sixth of that in England, and one county in England by itself grows more than twice the quantity of potatoes grown in the whole of Wales. In the face of figures like that I do not think anyone can accuse me of favouring England at the expense of Wales.
As regards the necessity to plough up, the first grassland survey of Wales was made in 1935. There were 2,400,000 acres under grass and the best pastures—the rye grass white clover pastures—amounted to only 16,000 acres out of the 2,400,000 acres, and the next best pastures amounted to only 10 per cent. of the whole. That will give the House some idea of the problem which faced us and the Welsh farmers. We have made a considerable start, but we have a great deal to do. That, of course, is not the end of the story. The ploughing up policy has belied the gloomy prophecies of those who said that if we carried it out livestock would fall off. We were always sceptical of that view, because of the work which had been done by the Welsh Plant Breeding Station. Events have proved that increased tillage goes with an increased amount of livestock. We anticipated from the word "Go" that large quantities of imported food-stuffs, on which livestock before the war had so largely depend, would be cut off.
This is the story of what happened. The total number of cattle in Wales is 80,000 above the pre-war figure, and is a record. The dairy herds are greater than ever and 18 per cent. above pre-war figures. The sheep stock of nearly 4,000,000—although 15 per cent. below the 1939 figure, which was itself a record—is recovering, and in areas where the hill sheep subsidy has been particularly helpful the numbers are back to pre-war.
The only livestock that has decreased are pigs and poultry, who are the main competitors with human beings for bread grains. They have declined, pigs to a half and poultry to three-quarters of the 1939 level. As against that, the area under bread grains has increased by 457 per cent.; other cereals by 137 per cent.; potatoes by 294 per cent. So we have maintained our important livestock and grown enormous quantities of food for direct human consumption. It is difficult to give a picture of the actual production of livestock, because Welsh and English agriculture is so much inter-locked. There is so much Welsh livestock sold that comes to England for finishing. But a fairly good test is, perhaps, milk sales. In the winter of 1938, 27,000,000 gallons were sold; in the winter of 1943 the figure went up to 36,000,000 gallons. In the summer of 1938 it was 44,000,000 gallons, and last summer it was 57,000,000. So that the total has gone up from 71,000,000 gallons to 93,000,000 gallons, which is a fine achievement indeed. But I would like to emphasise that Wales has still great leeway to make up in securing a better balance between her summer and winter milk production. Over half the farms in Wales are producing and selling milk direct, and it is clear that the efficiency and economy of that branch of the industry will be of extreme importance in the future to Welsh agriculture.
I would like to pay a tribute, in passing, to the work of the "Dig for Victory" campaign. The total number of allotments in Wales has increased by 80,000 since the war began and the extent to which private gardens and allotments have been better cultivated has made quite an appreciable contribution to the food problem of South Wales and, above all, to the provision of fresh foods for South Wales. I would add, with all the emphasis at my command, that good though this story is our food position, and especially our prospective international financial position, calls for a continuation and further intensification of past efforts.
I hope the encouraging picture I have painted will not lead Members to think that there are no problems in Wales. On the contrary, they are many and difficult. If I may be allowed to make a claim without undue modesty, it is that I have seen more of Wales during the last four years than any other human being. I have made a practice of making regular tours around Wales and in the various counties. I have not stuck to the beaten tracks. I told my committees in Wales, as in England, that I did not want to see the good farms—I took them for granted—but that I wanted to see the problems. I can vouch for the truth of what some hon. Members have said to-day about Welsh roads. I have been to places where not only was it impossible to take a motor car but even a wheeled tractor, and I have had to carry out my inspections from behind a caterpillar. Therefore, I know the problems of Wales as well as anybody in this House or outside.
If we are gradually to improve the nutrition of Wales it is clear that we must have more livestock and more milk. That is why I have been advocating the necessity for a change in emphasis from direct foodstuffs to livestock products. This, of course, throws up several difficult problems. I am satisfied, from going round the country, that Wales could carry much more livestock in the summer, and that it could even manage to provide additional supplies of winter protein. The bottle-neck is the lack of buildings in which to house additional livestock in winter and, what is more important, houses in which to house the additional number of workers required. That is not only the case in Wales. In other words, buildings are the bottle-neck—shelter for man and beast. I hope that Members from Wales who agree with me will back us up in any efforts to see that rural buildings come very high on our list of priorities after the war.
Then there is the question of additional supplies of water. The total number of new liquid milk producers or sellers is over 6,000 since the beginning of the war and, of course, the great bulk are producing milk with no proper water supply and many without any supply at all. I instituted a little time ago a new Domesday Book. It has not gone on as fast as I should like, owing to difficulties of staff, but we are now making the necessary calculations to try to find out what this survey is showing up. I have some preliminary figures about water supply. In Anglesey the number of farms with farm buildings of five acres and upwards supplied with piped water is only 3.3 per cent. On the other hand, 42 per cent. are dependent on water that they collect from roofs. In Radnor there is the same sort of story. Montgomery has only 15 per cent. supplied by pipe, 22 per cent. by well, and in 24 per cent. there is no water at all. The constituency of the hon. Lady who opened the Debate is better than that. Anglesey has only 1 per cent, with no water at all. Still it is not a pretty picture and it shows the size of the problem that we have to tackle. There is a seasonal shortage of water in certain Welsh counties and there is a good deal of work to be done there. Of course, this raises the further question, and possibly a rather controversial question, whether many of these farms ought to be allowed to produce liquid milk at all, quite apart from the uneconomic cost of transport in collecting these little lots. Many of the holdings used to rear calves and make farmhouse butter. The switch over to milk from store cattle raising has been very costly.
So long, therefore, as the scales are so heavily weighted as they are in favour of milk as against store cattle, most of these small Welsh farmers who entered the fresh milk market will not unnaturally cling to a form of farming which provides them with a monthly cheque. Mere propaganda in favour of restoring the store cattle trade will not cut any ice. We shall have to give them, whether we like it or not, some kind of State encouragement to carry them over the interregnum while they are adopting whatever form of production we find desirable in the national interest. These problems are no different, despite what the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) said, in degree or in kind from the problems similar areas in this country, in De on-shire and Cornwall, Cumberland and Westmorland, in the mountains of Derbyshire or in the dales and wolds of Yorkshire.
Another problem to which the Welsh Council of Agriculture has called attention is the great amount of money that has been spent on land reclamation and drainage. They say it is essential to secure that such monies are not lost and that some steps will have to be taken to see that the land does not deteriorate again into the condition in which we found it. Another matter of great interest is the question of animal health and the control of the various diseases. Wales was in a rather remarkable position before the war because she had a higher proportion than England of attested herds and, despite the difficulties, the total number of attested herds has actually increased by 3,000. That is a very good record indeed. Some of my committees, as the result of the reopening of attestation, are trying to work out plans to see whether it is possible to clear whole parishes—some would like to clear whole counties—of tubercular cattle and get all the herds attested. That would be an enormous advantage to Welsh agriculture, because it would create a reservoir of healthy cattle which could be used to build up herds in England. There are all sorts of problems in this, however, and I hope hon. Members will support me if I have to come to the House and ask for further powers.
I have tried in a very brief summary to show what Wales has done. I think it can be proud of its effort. I hope I have also said enough to show that a very great deal still remains to be done and it will need all our energies, and all the support hon. Members can give to whoever occupies my position, to see that these are carried through within a reasonable period of time.
With regard to the interim period of change from milk production to some other form of production, how long does the right hon. Gentleman contemplate that Government control will continue?
I too, welcome the opportunity of discussing questions which directly concern the people of Wales and Monmouthshire. Most Members on this side appreciate it and hope that we shall be afforded similar facilities on future occasions. I think that this is the first occasion on which a day has been set apart for a discussion of Welsh affairs. Here I need to exercise some care, because I cannot claim to be a Welshman and I may not be entitled to claim, without some opposition, that I represent a Welsh division. But from many points of view Monmouthshire is an important county. It has been interesting to read some of the newspaper comments on what has been described as a "special day" for Wales. One editorial considered it was a tribute to the charm, eloquence and persistence of the Welsh Parliamentary Party. I wonder. In any event, many of my English colleagues would certainly question the use of the word "charm," and I am sure that they would readily find a substitute for the word "eloquence."
As for the demand for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales and the creation of a Welsh Office, the same editorial points out that this would put Wales on a level with Scotland, and, as Scotland has always reckoned to govern England, no higher compliment could be paid. Apart from and above all these considerations, this day is looked upon by the people we represent as one of great importance because they have not forgotten the past and their future is still blurred. The marches of unemployed men and women, migration and the means test, all with their consequent misery, are still remembered by the people who suffered in Wales during the interwar period. I do not propose to argue the case for a Secretary of State for Wales, which has already been done. I think it is a reasonable demand. We hear a lot to-day about the right of small nations to govern themselves, but that does not form part of our request. I trust that consideration will be given to this question.
The people of Wales and Monmouthshire, like others, I admit, never had a complete measure of justice in regard to new industries during the inter-war period. Their share of new industries, as I have previously demonstrated in this House, was meagre, miserly and mean. They had during that period 39 new undertakings out of a total of 1,712, and the future worries all of us who represent these areas. In my submission, no newspaper has dealt with the cause of our anxiety more effectively and accurately than "The Times." On 6th October it was pointed out by that paper in one of its leaders that:
the old depressed areas have had a turn of prosperity that will leave nothing permanent behind it unless there are plans for the re-adaptation of each new undertaking capable of
survival and for the introduction of other undertakings to take the place of those which are not.
This, in the opinion of the writer, is the first need of the areas. We have in our areas the pre-requisites for the establishment of new industries. We have raw materials, docks, markets, transport and labour—everything required for this purpose.
Whatever is said about post-war reconstruction, the position of the coal industry cannot be ignored, whether the discussion relates to the post-war problem in England, Scotland or Wales. In making that statement, I must not be understood to be neglecting the importance of either agriculure, iron, steel or tinplate production. It has already been observed, and I should be surprised if there is a Member who does not accept it, that nowadays every argument on British post-war trade leads back to coal. Even if permitted to do so, I am not disposed at present to discuss this matter. Nevertheless, I desire to enter my protest against the attacks that have been made on the people of Wales and Monmouthshire, especially the miners, by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and by the courteous, congenial Conservative coal-owner, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate), whose inane observations and reckless allegations will not assist in the attainment of the objects which most Members of the House desire, although we shall naturally disagree when we come to discuss the methods of obtaining those objects. To emphasise the paramount need for a prosperous mining industry in South Wales, it is only necessary to mention that just before the war broke out South Wales and Monmouth produced 35,000,000 tons of coal, of which 14,500,000 were exported. These figures were far from satisfactory, because in 1923 we produced no less than 54,000,000 tons, of which 30,000,000 were exported. That shows that in the year before the war broke out, the Welsh output of coal, compared with 1923, was down by no less than 19,000,000 tons and exports were down by 15,500,000 tons—that is, down by more than one-half. Those who are always talking about prices being the only cause for such a position should bear in mind that in 1923, the free-on-board price was 26s. 3d. per ton as compared with 23s. in 1938.
That indicates that even free coal is no solution if the demand does not exist. It also shows that while we may possess a prosperous mining industry in one period, we are not entitled to anticipate its permanency unless it is well looked after and its inevitable partial decadence must be provided for by the establishment of new industries. While I do not agree with some of the proposals contained in the interim report of the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council, which was submitted to the Minister without Portfolio on 10th February, I think that the position regarding this point is well put:
While the degree of dependence upon the old basic industries of coal, steel, tinplate and slate has diminished and it is desirable that it should be still further reduced, it is still clear that, for as long a period as this Council may usefully look ahead, the ultimate prosperity of Wales must depend, in large measure, upon the prosperity of the basic industry.
There also appears to be Government agreement with the view expressed by members of that council, because in the White Paper entitled "Employment Policy" it is proposed to
promote the prosperity of the basic industries on which they primarily depend.
such as coal, steel, engineering and shipbuilding. It is the aim of Government policy to
help those industries to reach the highest pitch of efficiency and secure overseas markets.
As we are vitally interested in the future of our division we would like to know when the plan required to apply this policy is to be made known. I am supported in this connection by a letter written by the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Lieut -Colonel Lancaster). In dealing with the recent appointment of an export committee by the Minister of Fuel and Power to report on the technical changes required in coalmining he pointed out:
Even now, after the report has been submitted, it will be necessary to solve the problems of the structure and organisation of the industry, the finance and re-equipment—running perhaps into from £150,000,000 to £300,000,000.
If those figures are correct—and the hon. and gallant Member claims to speak with reliable knowledge of the industry—a too early start cannot be made to get to grips with the problem. It is incumbent upon the Government to do so. Our solution is obviously unacceptable, al-
though I am convinced that there is only one remedy for the troubles of the mining industry, and that it is complete social ownership. With the output of coal down by 19,000,000 tons as compared with the year 1939, that is sufficient indictment of the existing system reigning in the mining industry. Knowing that that observation is not accepted by the Government, I want to remind the House of what happened after the last war, especially since we are hearing so much to-day about the further introduction of machinery into the mines of this country. I am of opinion that we are becoming machine mad. The Minister will find that, after the last war, as a result of introducing machinery, there was an increase in the output of coal and a decrease in the number of men employed. If that is continued, we say that the Government are under an obligation to provide employment for those men in the industry, before allowing them to exist upon a miserable 24s. per week unemployment insurance benefit.
Since I raised the question in this House about retaining national property, I have had immense support. I referred to the amount of money that we have spent upon new factories in this country, running into the region of £1,000,000,000. The people in Wales are anxious that, just as the factories have served us well during the war, so the same properties should be retained by the nation, in order to serve its interests in time of peace.
My colleagues have already dealt with many aspects of the general problem of Wales, such as the location of industry, the mining industry and agriculture. It might be thought that I should add my contribution on the subject of education — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear,"]—but I am not going to do so. I realise that, like all those questions that are the subject of reconstruction after the war and that, all important as they are in themselves, they are not an end in themselves. The end in itself, so far as we are concerned, is the preservation of the integrity and the individuality of a country called "Wales" and the guarding of the rights and privileges of Wales as a separate country with a separate tradition and with very much a separate way of life.
I do not think it is necessary to say in the House of Commons at this time of day that, though we speak a different language, and have a different literature and a different view of life, we are not a queer people. We are not like the Hairy Ainus of Japan, a survival of the past, nor do we come out of our caves covered in woad; nor do we dress our womenfolk in witch hats and stuff skirts. We claim to be partners in the Government of Britain, although we have our differences. I believe I am making a new plea not yet made in this House when I speak of the privilege of nationhood in Wales. We rightly claim that all Welsh activities should be directed towards safeguarding that privilege, but it is quite as much a duty of this House to safeguard the nationhood of Wales as it is to safeguard the nationhood of England or of Scotland. We are not a subject nation, to be dragooned into assimilation; we regard ourselves as a full partner with Britain. This may sound rather strange in the ears of some of my English friends, but I would like them to revise their ideas of the past, to judge by much that I hear spoken and read in books. Let them forget that they are a sort of Herrenvolk of the Island of Britain. They are not, of course; we are all equal partners.
I said I would not speak of education, but there is one aspect of it to which I must refer before I sit down. In spite of the enormous stride in Welsh education during the last 100 years—in many respects I claim that Wales leads in education—and in spite of the fact that we in Wales are now passing through a period of unprecedented revival in our literature and cultural life in general, and in spite of the very much greater part which Welsh men now play in the life and activity of the Empire and the world, we in Wales, especially in Welsh Wales, have a definite feeling of frustration. My colleagues have touched on the industrial aspects of it. I will mention only one other, and that is the result of the education system, of which we are so justly proud. With all its excellencies and in spite of the promise that it would open for us the gates of Heaven, its results have in one respect been disastrous. Instead of enriching Welsh life as it should—it has, of course, done so in many ways, and I do not deny that—and helping to create a land fit for Welsh men to live in, it has been the indirect means of depriving Wales of its most brilliant sons and daughters.
To put this matter plainly even at the risk of over-simplification, Welsh life, social, industrial, economic, religious, has been so impoverished that it can no longer find sustenance for those it educates, and they have to emigrate in increasing numbers to other parts of the Empire. Hon. Members will remember that pathetic cry of Mussolini, "Who will bring me back my legions?" I must say I very often feel as Mussolini did then. Who will bring back to us the sons and daughters who we have reared so carefully, and who have had to leave us, never to return to their own country?
All this was within the period when Welsh industry was able to find room for vast numbers of immigrants from Somerset, Gloucester and Ireland. At the time they were coming to Wales, when the coalfields were prosperous, we had to send away our own sons and daughters whom we had educated. Let me put the matter at its plainest—the national life of Wales, its language, its literature, its institutions, all the best that is characteristic of it, depend in a degree unequalled on the prosperity of the rural areas. It is here that Wales flourishes, and it is here that Wales in the past has been poor. Even in the most markedly industrial portions of Wales we have a strong rural background. I would say that the admirable and to me enviable eloquence of my Labour colleague is quite as much a product, though an indirect product, of rural Wales and its traditions as the eloquence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carvarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). But the rural life of Wales has been neglected by legislators for over no years, ever since the Reform Bill, but I do not say that in this matter of the countryside we have been treated worse in Wales than England.
To-day we face these terrible problems of the future which have on so many occasions been described in this House by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). We cannot go on spending our pitiful doles on education and other services when the only result of our sacrifices is that we lose for ever those for whom we were glad to make those sacrifices.
I do not expect my English and Scots colleagues to feel this tragedy as we do, or to feel it at all. Why should they? But they must be told it only paves the way for the time when Wales will be so de-nationalised that it will be easily absorbed into England. That for me would be the final tragedy. Therefore, may I be allowed to register the conviction which is growing more and more upon me as I get older that only Wales itself can find a solution for its own problems, and even at this late hour I think a solution is possible, if we are allowed to diagnose our own complaints and prescribe our own remedies—in Wales itself, by Welshmen for Welshmen. That can only be done by a very large measure of self-government. Self-government cannot be given by one stroke of the pen. We must grow to be worthy of it, to learn it; we must grow into self-government. Certainly it must come gradually, but if we are to secure it, we ought to begin on the process now.
It is difficult at this time of day to avoid repeating what has been said by one's colleagues, and I shall endeavour to be as brief as I possibly can and to ask a number of questions. Before doing so may I say that I think this Debate might not have occurred at all if we had been satisfied with replies we have had from Ministers who have been met by the Welsh Parliamentary Party. We have met the Ministers who are present on the Front Bench—the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Fuel and Power, and also the Minister of Reconstruction. Certainly, as individual Members, we have met the Minister of Supply and other Ministers too, but it was very difficult for us at an early stage to get from the Ministers concerned anything like a definite policy. We realised that the war was reaching a very acute stage, but we wanted to ascertain from them what they were prepared to do about the recommendations of the Welsh Advisory Reconstruction Council set up by the Minister without Portfolio. We failed to get any satisfaction whatever. I am certain it is largely arising from that, and the pressure resulting from it, that we have managed to get this day on which to discuss Welsh affairs. I do not want to be controversial. There are obviously some things said by one's colleagues with which one might not agree. I am not an ultra-nationalist. So far as my constituency is concerned, and the people whom I meet and among whom I move in Wales, I feel that there is grave anxiety in their minds lest we repeat the follies of the inter-war years. They are living in a state of trepidation. The one thing they are not prepared to stand is to go back to the position they were in before the war. It is ironical that it is only in war-time that men and women can be fully employed. There is nothing quite so irrational in society as to think that just at a time when we are building everything for destruction, men and women can be permanently engaged, and that when the time arrives when they should be engaged in producing things for themselves, to make human society happy and safe, we should have long queues of unemployed, not only in Wales but elsewhere in what are called the distressed areas of this country. That is a very serious reflection upon the capacity of the House of Commons. In this, of course, we take sides. As a Labour Party we believe we could prevent that. The Conservative Party believe in a system and a political economy which we think would perpetuate what is happening.
I am certain that the people in Wales, who, during this war, have been fully employed, will not be satisfied to go back to pre-war conditions. They will want an answer to such questions as: "What are you going to do with us? Are we going to be used only in war-time? Are we going to be trained only for this time? Are we to waste and fade away when the war ends? Have you any plans for the transition period? What are you going to do with the factories—the publicly-owned factories?" How are these people to be employed in future? Is there a plan, or are we to find scores of thousands of these people unemployed when the war suddenly ends? In my constituency, for example, we have one factory which employs 26,000 people. That is a community. How many of those persons are to be engaged on the morrow of the war coming to an end? How much floor space can be leased for other work?
For the first time, we have more than coal—if I may put it this way—in our basket. We have never had a balanced economy in Wales. We have had coal, iron, steel, tinplate, and small agriculture in the North and West; but it has been mainly coal. The success of the coal industry will mean success for other industries. We want to know from the Minister of Fuel and Power, who is surveying the problem, what is really happening. It is not specially a Welsh matter, except in the sense that the Welsh coal trade has been especially an export trade. Is there any proposal to sink new shafts in Wales? Are we going to rejuvenate the industry in Wales? It is more than 40 years old—and the miners are 40 years old, too. If you wanted to build a battleship, it would be scheduled; and with the cost of that battleship we could have 15 or 20 shafts sunk. What are you going to do with the other private factories, into which Government money has been put? There are roughly 100,000 people employed in war production in South Wales, probably 60 per cent. of whom are women. Are they to be sent out of Wales after the war, for domestic service, or are their skill and training to be fully used? I saw an exhibition at Newport last Friday, and I was agreeably surprised to see the diversity of industry which existed within Monmouthshire. We should have something like that for Wales as a whole. We should know the quantum of labour that is being trained. I am certain that that would be helpful.
The people of my constituency, and, indeed, the Welsh miners, and the Welsh people as a whole, will not be satisfied with this day unless the President of the Board of Trade, on behalf of the Government, can tell us what is going to happen to these factories. Will he put in more floor space? We appreciate what he has done. He has put in, roughly, 250,000 square feet of floor space. We shall require millions of square feet. We shall require to employ the persons who will be made redundant, possibly within a few months of the termination of the war. These are the questions that are put to us, and that I want to put before the President of the Board of Trade. We want to know what is being done about communications—particularly, of course, the new motor road, seeing that the Severn Bridge is accepted as a No. 1 priority. I have had an intimation from railway people, who are concerned about it, that they are hoping that when the bridge is constructed nothing will be done that will interfere with their working conditions and things of that sort. I make that point because it has been put to me by the N.U.R. divisional representatives. We shall not be satisfied with a Debate on Welsh affairs unless the Government are prepared, as a matter of policy, to assure our people of work, with good wages for it.
This Debate has ranged over a very wide field. The discussion has dealt with long-term policy and with short-term policy. I would like to refer to the immediate postwar problems. The President of the Board of Trade has had placed on him certain responsibilities for industry immediately after war. Reference has already been made by a number of hon. Members to the fact that a distressed area became a special area, and a special area became a development area, in South Wales. The President of the Board of Trade some weeks ago told the House quite definitely, in connection with the Government's White Paper on Employment Policy, that it was the policy, after the war, to assure, in the first place, basic prosperity and full employment for industries already in the area. There were No. 2 and No. 3 priorities also; but I would like to deal with those industries which are in our area.
While Welsh industry is our special concern, we all recognise that the success of our basic industries in Wales, and in South Wales particularly, is dependent on our national prosperity and on world prosperity. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) brought that matter very forcibly before us. Government policy on the international plane is of vital importance not only to this country generally and to the world, but to Wales in particular. The White Paper on Employment Policy refers to the need for not only maintaining our export trade at prewar standards, but increasing it by at least 50 per cent. We have been told that equalisation in international payment may be very interesting, and that we have to import more and more, in order to provide that full employment and higher standard of life which we all talk about and desire our people to have. It is very essential that we should increase our imports, and, if we are to do that, and increase our food supplies, it is obvious that we have to increase our exports.
Up to now, we have played a very important part in the export trade of the world. Coal has been a very important international currency. We have exported large quantities of coal in the past. But there is one other product in South Wales which is of considerable importance, and that is tinplate. I know something about the tinplate trade, and would like to mention a few things concerning it. It is a very important industry to South Wales, and its future is a matter of very considerable concern to all of us, whether we are interested in coal, steel or tinplate. Normally, this industry employs about 25,000 men, and it consumes, as its raw material, practically the whole of the production of the West Wales area. It consumes large quantities of coal. It is an important factor in the transport industry of West Wales, and could provide considerable employment, not only on railways, but in the docks. The problem put to us by the Government is that we should, in the immediate post-war period, increase our tinplate exports by 50 per cent. as our contribution to the total increase by 50 per cent. in the imports of the whole country.
Our problem at present concerns how we are to regain our normal imports immediately after the war. The question is not one of increasing our exports by 50 per cent., but of getting our normal export trade back to the pre-war level. What has happened? It is a well-known fact that the effect of Lend-Lease on the Welsh tinplate industry—hon. Members will remember that the Americans laid it down that raw materials which could be used for war purposes, must not be used in the manufacture of products for export—was that the tinplate industry of South Wales was told by the American Government that they must, on no account, export tinplate abroad. Immediately, the trade was cut off from the South American, Australian and New Zealand markets. The South Wales manufacturers are very concerned about this. Are we, they say, to get back those markets we have lost in South America, Australia and New Zealand? In the White Paper on employment on page 5, paragraph 5, there is this statement:
While the Government will spare no effort to create, in collaboration with other Governments, conditions favourable to the expansion
of our export trade, it is with industry that the responsibility and initiative must rest for making the most of opportunities to recover their export markets and to find fresh outlets for their products.
The industry is, I think, ready to do this, but it takes the view that, since the Government made an agreement with America, they ought to tell us what they are doing in their negotiations with America and other countries to get back for us our pre-war standard of trade by agreement. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will be able to tell the House what is taking place in these negotiations, which are foreshadowed in the Atlantic Charter and in the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. I am sure the President, with the assistance of his right hon. Friend who is in charge of overseas trade, will be able to help. I am really concerned about South Wales. We are entitled to ask the Government for a declaration at this stage. We are optimistic enough to believe that, probably early in next year, the war in Europe will end, and we feel entitled to ask the Government what is this international economic superstructure which they promise to build up with America and other countries, and into which we have to dovetail our life. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say something about those negotiations.
I want to express to the President of the Board of Trade the bitter disappointment of the Welsh tinplate industry at his failure to approve of their redundancy scheme. I know there has been considerable correspondence, but I want the right hon. Gentleman to know that his failure to approve that scheme of redundancy, which was approved by 100 per cent. of the trade, accepted at joint conferences with employees and then rejected by the Minister—although it is believed that the scheme will satisfy the three conditions of the Finance Act of 1935—has caused considerable surprise. I know that the President may say that he will approve of that scheme once the announcement is made to him, or he has definite information about allocations, to which reference has been made. The redundancy scheme in the tinplate industry, approved in discussions with the Board of Trade before the time of the right hon. Gentleman, recommended by the Essendon Commission, and in agreement with the trade unions, was to prepare the industry to eliminate excess capacity. That scheme has to be effected before modernisation can be tackled, because that redundant capacity has to be got rid of, in order to meet postwar demands, and before reorganisation can be tackled at all. Even if the question of modernisation did not arise at all, the question of redundancy still has to be tackled in the tinplate industry. I very much hope that the President of the Board of Trade will be able to throw some light on this matter.
Mr. S. 0, Davies:
I propose to try to make only one point, and I am not so sure that I shall be able to make it clear enough, because I have a feeling that the President of the Board of Trade has listened to so many suggestions in regard to Wales to-day, that he must feel almost as bewildered as I do at this moment, with the prospect of confining my speech to four or five minutes. Emerging from what has been stated in this House to-day, Wales is, industrially, economically and geographically, without going into its culture and tradition, a single unit. I would make this appeal at this late stage in the Debate. Is it not possible to regard Wales as a unit and to apply a unified plan as regards postwar change and reconstruction? Our memories go back to the experience of unemployment and destitution in Wales in the inter-war period, but Wales to-day is one of the most important manufacturing districts in Europe. If I bad time, I could tell the House of the amazing variety of the materials, articles and products of Wales which are produced there to-day.
With regard to agriculture—and I think I am entitled to say this from the very interesting contribution made by the Minister of Agriculture this afternoon—Wales has a capacity to feed its population. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, on whom will devolve the major responsibility for whatever happens to Wales in the immediate post-war years, to regard it as a unit and to avail himself of the resources that there are in Wales that might help him in the replanning of Wales after the war. We all know of the splendid work of the Welsh Advisory Reconstruction Council, which has garnered a tremendous amount of very useful information. In addition our University in Wales is made up of four constituent colleges which are ideally situated geographically. There is Bangor in North Wales, whose academic atmosphere has been coloured very largely by the social, industrial and economic conditions of the district, and similarly, the college at Aberystwyth, again impressed with its near environment and traditions, and the two university colleges in South Wales. They could also give a very great deal of help in this matter.
References have been made to the big new industries which have been established in South Wales during the war. May I make an appeal once again that, either directly to the Minister or on behalf Of the Minister through the Welsh Advisory Council, the principals of these great industries should be taken into the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman. I am satisfied that if consultation took place with the principals of some of our big factories in South Wales, they would be able to make most useful suggestions as to how to make the best use of this great production in the industries which have been brought into being down there. I am not going to lay emphasis on any particular industry, but I feel strongly convinced that, if the Government would use the resources we have in Wales with a view to planning Wales as a unit, much would be accomplished. I realise that the rural and agricultural life is as important to Wales as its industrial life and I would feel far more confident if, after this war, a very important contribution could be made towards the rehabilitation of Wales by the avoidance of what happened in the inter-war period.
I have sat through most of this Debate, which is more than can be said for many who have taken part in it. This Debate has been taken to satisfy the requirements usually associated with "Scottish days." It provides an opportunity for persons to make speeches who are never seen in Parliament at any other time. I am going to be frank during the few minutes I am on my feet. I am delighted that the Debate has occurred. Wales has a special place, a special individuality, a special culture and special claims, and I do not think that this is the place where any of them can properly be considered. There may be an argument—I think there is an argument—for considerable devolution of government, but there is no need for a special day in Parliament and this Debate has demonstrated it completely. Do not let us indulge in the humbug that this Debate to-day has had the slightest relevance to any important Welsh problem. If we had wanted to discuss the mining industry, there would have been more Members present than there have been all day. We have had an average of 20 Members in the House during this Debate all day long. My colleagues have, properly, pointed out that the coalmining industry is the most vital industry in South Wales. We would Lave got more consideration for the South Wales mining industry by considering the mining industry problem here than by discussing it on a Welsh day. The same thing is true of agriculture. My colleagues, all of them members of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, have no special Welsh solution for the Welsh coal industry which is not a solution for the whole of the mining industry of Great Britain. There is no Welsh coal problem. There is a low proportion of Welsh exports but that is also the case in Fife. It is not only Wales, and why, therefore, should we deceive the people by this deplorable humbug that there is anything like a Welsh mining problem?
We heard to-day of a Welsh agricultural problem. What is the Welsh agricultural problem? I have not heard a word about it. I heard it referred to as a Welsh agricultural problem. There are sheep on the Welsh mountains, and there are sheep on the mountains of Westmorland and in Scotland, but I do not know the difference between a Welsh sheep, a Westmorland sheep and a Scottish sheep. It is called "Welsh lamb" because it grows in Wales, but as far as my knowledge of agriculture goes it is exactly the same problem to grow sheep on Scottish mountains, as it is on Welsh mountains. Why cannot we put things in their proper place and discuss them intelligently away from blah, blah, blah?
We have had talk also of the Welsh iron and steel industry. I am interested in the iron and steel industry, but the iron and steel industry of Great Britain has most cartels in the industry. I know why we shall not get any attention for iron and steel works in Ebbw Vale. It is a problem of Great Britain. I know that there is a tinplate industry and we have heard talk about redundancy. It has been said, "What are you going to give us for worklessness, for redundancy, for obsolescent plant? What are we going to have?" I know that very well. That is not a Welsh problem; it happens in the tinplate industries in Wales, but it is there by the accident of circumstances. What I want to put to my colleagues is this—and I want to put it to my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) for whose eloquent speech at the opening of the Debate I have great admiration. What is the problem that I, and my colleagues, were up against between the two wars? We had in Wales, in the Welsh valleys in particular, a problem arising out of unemployment in the basic industries. I spent most of my adult life in the shadow of unemployment, because the basic industries happened to be situated largely in South Wales. Our problem was to try to get enough political leverage to secure attention for our difficulties. Look where we have got to-day—if you take this technique as a way of drawing attention to Wales. The English are not listening to us, nor have the Welsh been listening to us for most of the day. As a means of directing public attention upon particularly Welsh problems, it is a farce.
It is a great mistake and a great public disservice for us to try to persuade our people that any great merit is to be obtained in this way. We in South Wales, in between the war years, talked to each other because we could get nobody to listen, and the only way we can get them to listen now, is by considering these problems industrially. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) complained that agriculture in Carmarthen was being denuded because the people were moving from Carmarthen to South Wales. What do we find when we go to South Wales? What do they say in Ebbw Vale, in Rhymney, in Brynmawr? They are saying there that Cardiff and Swansea are sneaking their populations away from them. I never hear them say that they are content because the people are moving about in Wales. The fact of the matter is that if any modern family has to move 20 or 30 miles, it might as well move 200 or 300 miles. The people from my constituency are as angry if they are shifted down to Dowlais as they are if they are moved to Abertillery. Dowlais was as angry because it was established outside Cardiff as men would be who were sent to Lincolnshire. They were not content because they were still in Wales. They were angry because they had to pick up their chattels, sell their homes, and shift to another part of the country altogether. That was the problem they were up against.
Let us keep these things in their proper places. There is a place for Welsh culture—I subscribe to it as warmly and as sincerely as most of my hon. Friends—there is a place for Welsh independence, there is a place for Welsh national self-consciousness and pride, but do not trail that in the House of Commons, with the result that you obscure from the public mind a proper consideration of the way in which these industrial problems ought to be considered.
The reason why my colleagues and I asked for this Debate is because we have no place in Wales where we can discuss these questions, and I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) expressing a view which I share completely: that is, that the time has come when the whole process of legislation and of administration in this country ought to be looked at, because I think devolution will be essential for the proper working of democracy in the future. There is no need for me to remind him, but let me remind this House, that the last independent community in this United Kingdom which said that, ended up in revolution. I, therefore, put it quite frankly to hon. Members—I heard Conservatives cheering my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale when he said that we ought to discuss these matters in Wales. Did he really mean that? He talked about humbug—
I said that hon. Members cheered the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale when he said we ought to discuss this in Wales, but those cheers were humbug, unless they are prepared to concede a measure of self-government to Wales. We have a Government which is predominantly Conservative, and we have asked that Government, not for complete self-government, but for a measure of administrative devolution, and for recognition of our identity and unity as a nation. If, as I gathered from the Conservative cheers this afternoon, they were in favour of conceding self-government to Wales, then I hope the Government will concede this modest first instalment of it.
I want to put the special Welsh claim in this matter, and I shall begin by saying that I share to the full all that has been said by my colleagues about the need for the recognition of the identity and the unity of our nation, and for the preservation of all that is best in the culture of our land. I am certainly not going to apologise for it. I believe there is a peasant culture in our Welsh valleys and in our Welsh countryside which compares favourably with the peasant culture anywhere else, and I cannot understand how we can all get extraordinarily enthusiastic about the culture of small nations 1,000 miles away, and neglect those a few miles away. I want to see that preserved, but I know perfectly well that culture does not live in a vacuum.
The culture of the people depends, first, upon being able to secure a livelihood, and I want to stress very strongly what I think is the supreme concern now of our people in Wales. It is not so much concern about their culture—they have kept it through storm and stress, through wars, through tragedies, through unemployment. Nothing has robbed them of their culture, of their language, of their pride, and I am glad that my country has expressed that pride. If I may put in a political word to my English comrades, I would say if we had self-government in Wales we would have a Socialist Government, and that cannot be said for any part of this country. Welsh culture is not, in the narrow sense of the word, nationalistic, or exclusive, or isolationist, but is one that wants to develop its own culture in order to make its own contribution in its own way to the wider culture. It can give a great deal, but if it were only able to contribute a mite, we believe we ought to have a chance to give it. We cannot do that unless we have a chance to develop and express it.
It is our livelihood about which we are chiefly concerned in these days. In the 19th century there grew up in Wales a crazy economic system with no plan of any kind. For 100 years Wales was exploited, and if one-tenth of the wealth taken out of Wales were available to us at this moment, we would not come and ask, we would build Wales ourselves. But the wealth was taken out. There were three great industries, coal, iron and steel, and tinplate and the slating industry which, until the years of the depression, employed three out of every five of our workmen in Wales. Three-fifths of our occupied population were engaged in three main industries, and two of those industries—coal and tinplate—were dependent upon export trade and, therefore, subject to all the winds that blow from every part of the world.
The fact is that the inter-war period disintegrated our economic system, until it now lies in ruins. Our mining industry employs only 104,000 men, against 271,000; our tinplate industry is at a lower level than for the past half century, and our slate industry is also at a very low level. Our first concern is to see that these industries are preserved, equipped and modernised for the needs of to-day. In the inter-war period, when the crash came in Wales, we had Debates about Wales and the special areas there. At the end of this war—before the end of it—we shall have to face the problem again, and I hope we shall begin by scrapping in its entirety the whole of the special areas legislation. In the first place, it was completely inadequate to meet the problem—it did not touch the fringe of the problem in Wales, Durham or Scotland, or anywhere else—and, secondly, in its whole approach it was tainted with charity. The idea of great men coming from other places to rescue these areas was distasteful. What the areas want is not saviours from without, but the opportunity of working out their own salvation. I hope, therefore, that there will be no return to that special areas legislation.
The war has changed a good deal of the situation in Wales. It has diversified its industrial structure, and has brought large new industries to our country, so much so that the total number of persons employed on purely war work in Wales is greater now than the number of people we used to employ in our old basic industries. What is to happen to the whole of this industrial structure which has been built up during the war? This is a matter of great importance. We all hope we are approaching the end of the European war, and when that comes, there will be an unwinding of the great machine which has been built up for war production. There are great factories in South Wales which have been used for war purposes during the last five years. What will happen to them when the war ends? They belong to the nation; they are national assets. We believe that one of the essential and immediate tasks, is to produce plans which will enable these factories to be turned to peace purposes when the war ends. If that is not done within six months of the end of the war, South Wales will be in as bad a plight as it was at any time during the inter-war period. Therefore, I hope we shall get from the President of the Board of Trade an answer as to what the Government propose to do.
I have read the recent White Paper on Employment Policy, and I have listened to my right hon. Friend's statements, and I have appreciated the efforts he has made. In the main, I gather, the long-term policy envisaged in the White Paper, to create a diversified industry in areas which have suffered from long-term and acute employment, will depend very largely on a policy of inducement. In the interim period a system of licensing will be used for building purposes. As a wartime measure that can be used in order to rebuild and re-create an active life. But beyond that, what then? Are we to have a plan for the industry of the country? Is there to be a national planning authority? Are we to plan the location of industry? Are we to depend entirely on inducements, or "bribes," as one of my colleagues described them? Suppose they fail. I gather that my right hon. Friend has invited industrialists to make application for tenancy of these war factories. But suppose there are not enough applications, either in Wales or elsewhere. What will happen then? It is the unanimous opinion of the people in Wales, and the Welsh Advisory Council, that if inducements fail, if there are not sufficient applicants to use these factories in peace-time so that our people can be employed, Wales will expect that the Government will use their own factories and organise them for the employment of our people by creating that diversified industry. That will be the acid test. There is a determination in Wales not to go back, and while offering my right hon. Friend all the help and encouragement we can give, in connection with the policy so far adopted, I would like to know how it is all to be done.
We asked for this Debate to-day, because there was a demand for it. I would like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and others from every part of Wales, that congratulations have come to us because of the fact that for the first time, almost, in the history of Parliament a day has been set aside for the putting forward of Welsh problems. We are having the opportunity of putting the special features of the Welsh case before this House, and, therefore, to the Government and people outside. We are fighting for the preservation of our old industries, and for a new industrial life. We are fighting for a community which has a real vitality. If this community should be lost to the United Kingdom, something precious would be lost. I have lived as closely as anyone to the tragedy of Wales in the inter-war period. Our people are determined not to go through that again. They look to the Government to organise the resources of our nation for peace, as they have organised them for war. Twice in my lifetime we have found full employment for all our people, including the people of Wales, because of wars. We believe that it is possible to find that employment, and all that it means, in a period of peace. In determining that that shall be done, I am certain that I am speaking this afternoon for the whole of our people in Wales.
I have listened to practically every speech in what I think has been a very interesting Debate. The hon. Lady the Member for the Isle of Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), who opened it, deserves our thanks for the way in which she made her speech, for its clearness and eloquence, and for the way she brought into the forefront matters which concern us all. I say, "us all," because the hon. Lady declared that, in order to understand Wales, one must be born again. I hope she will make a little qualification for me because I was born in Wales and my mother, though not my father, was Welsh. For that reason I have an emotional interest in the Debate and in the welfare of Wales and I share the determination voiced by my hon. Friend that the interwar tragedy must not be repeated and that it is the duty of all of us to play our part in making such a repetition quite impossible.
I will touch, in succession, on a number of points which have been raised and I would begin with a remark by my hon. Friend, who has just spoken, which goes very near to the heart of the present position and illustrates the hopeful side of the existing situation. He said, very truly, that there had been a crazy economic structure in Wales; that the people had been dependent on three or four principal industries which, themselves, in turn, had been excessively dependent on export markets; that there was a complete unbalance in Welsh economy, particularly in South Wales. He pointed out that since the war as the result of construction of the Royal ordnance and other Government factories and of the introduction of new industries of various kinds, a considerable step had been taken towards a diversification of the industrial structure and he appealed to me to say what the Government would do to maintain and extend this diversification in peace time. I think this is a very hopeful and accurate line of approach to the problem.
Let me break up the thing under several heads. First, there are seven Royal ordnance factories, six in South Wales and one in the North. They have made a very great contribution to the victory of our forces. Welsh labour has played its full part, both male and female. The many women trained for the task have done wonderful work. A previous speaker has quoted my Noble Friend the Minister of Reconstruction, as having said that the Government are determined that these factories will either continue to afford employment in making munitions in peace time or shall be turned over to peace time production. That is the attitude of the Government. It is our determination that these factories shall continue to be effectively used. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) asked if I would state on behalf of the Government what the Government would do, if we did not find suitable applicants who would take these factories as tenants and use them for peace time production. If I find that we do not get suitable applicants, who will make a proper contribution towards the establishment of a balanced distribution of industry, I will certainly go to my colleagues in the Government and acquaint them with the situation and we shall have to consider the matter afresh in the light of that situation. But I do not think that that is going to arise.
We have already had a large number of approaches, some good, some, perhaps, less good, from people who are very anxious to use the factories. I have every hope that we shall find it possible to make a smooth and effective switch-over from war to peace production. But if my hope is disappointed in the sense that my hon. Friend indicates, it will be my duty to take the matter to my colleagues and to take counsel with them as to what shall be done to carry out the pledge of the Minister of Reconstruction that these factories, if not continuing to be used for war purposes, may be effectively used for peace production and that this element in a balanced industrial life of Wales shall not be lost.
Let me turn from Government factories to the other new factories, which either have been built, or are now being built. My hon. Friend mentioned five new factories which were being built and he quoted some figures of oor space—he said there were 250,000 square feet of space in five factories in the course of construction. These are good, new, modern factories and I have no doubt that they will be eagerly sought after. Good modern factories are not easy to come by in these days, particularly in Wales. These five factories, concerning which, naturally enough, knowledge has spread in the areas where they are being erected, are only a small part of the total amount of new factory space, in addition to the Royal ordnance factories, which has been put up or is in course of being put up. Indeed the figure is already over a million square feet of new factory space in addition to the Royal ordnance factories.
This is not the end, because plans are being started—my hon. Friend will recognise the wisdom of my discretion in not naming places and projects—and are well advanced in many cases, for further new, modern, up-to-date factory building for a variety of purposes. When people ask me if I have a plan, I say: Not only have we a plan but we have implemented it. It is to have more factory space in South Wales, to diversify the industry of South Wales, to substitute the old and Nor opportunities for employment outside the basic industries with opportunities for employment in a very wide range of new industries suitable for male and female labour and for many different kinds of skill. The plan is being operated in spite of all the difficulties which the war situation imposes upon us, notably the limitations on the use of building labour and of many materials.
I pass from this to future building. The building licence is a temporary expedient, but it will be a most effective expedient during the time when it operates and, in view of the prospective shortage of building labour and materials, it will certainly operate for some considerable time after the end of the European war. It will not be suddenly brought to an end. As long as this system of building licences exists it will be possible to exercise a very great influence upon the location of industry in favour of those areas which most need new factories. Therefore, I beg my hon. Friends not to under-estimate the power of these inducements which we have and shall continue to have in our hands during the next few years.
May I say a word about trading estates? Treforest was the forerunner. It succeeded within its local limitations. I have it in mind that we shall multiply trading estates to a considerable extent. Already various projects are being considered, in one place and another, for building trading estates. These will provide special opportunities for the small light industries which are so much needed in order to diversify Welsh employment.
Several of my hon. Friends have referred to the tinplate industry and have asked me for information as to what has been going on, as to the negotiations which have been proceeding, and as to where they have got. I am anxious to answer with the greatest frankness. The Welsh tinplate industry is out of date from the material and mechanical point of view. It is, I think, common ground, and all parties and all sections agree, that, if the Welsh tinplate industry is to make its effective contribution to employment in South Wales—and it is one of their basic industries, referred to in the White Paper as one of those which are in the first line of those which the Government will help—and if it is to make its contribution to other industries which are dependent on its products, and its proper contribution to the export trade, there must be new, modern plants—new hot strip mills and new cold reduction plants.
Do not lead me astray from the direct point. I am dealing with things that will happen long after Lend-Lease has become a fine memorial to a great country. Lend-Lease has made a tremendous contribution without which this war would have been lost. Let us not speak slightingly of it. I am now speaking of a future long after the war has been won and Lend-Lease has become of no practical concern. The position is generally accepted that we must have these new hot strip mills and cold reduction plants. I have been endeavouring for months to get a simple statement from the tinplate manufacturers, or, failing them, from the Iron and Steel Federation, as to where they propose to erect these new plants. I have asked this question many times. I have asked it orally and I have asked it in writing. I have brought the correspondence here in case I should be challenged. I have had communications with Colonel Bevan and Mr. Macdiarmid on this subject. I have made it abundantly clear that I am not prepared to give consideration to a proposal regarding redundancy, which involves making certain payments tax-free and which to that extent involves public assistance in the form of exemptions from Income Tax at 10s. in the £ and from Excess Profits Tax at 100 per cent. above standard. I am much less interested, and I believe the people of Wales are much less Interested, in arrangements to pay people not to produce than in arrangements to enable production to be modernised and carried on for the public benefit.
I will give consideration to the proposals for redundancy when I am satisfied that the new plants are going to be on sites which are in accord with the public interest. We are talking about the location of industry. I will be no party to the dislocation of the Welsh tinplate industry, and I desire to be satisfied, as President of the Board of Trade, that these plants are to be put up in suitable situations. The experts, of course, must carry forward their studies and decide which sites are best suited within the broad Welsh field, but we are entitled to know, the President of the Board of Trade is entitled to know, and Members of Parliament who take an interest in these matters are entitled to know, where these plants are to go. The Essendon Report has been quoted. That Report was submitted to my predecessor in 1941, and it concluded by saying that it was of the greatest importance that the industry should forthwith—that is, in 1941—consider plans for modernisation. As soon as the tinplate manufacturers answer my simple question, "Where are the new plants to go?" I undertake to give the most careful consideration to the request they have made with regard to the redundancy scheme.
Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman received a memorandum from the Macdiarmid Committee, in which an undertaking was definitely given on behalf of the industry that the strip mill would be located in South Wales? The right hon. Gentleman is aware that every effort is being made by a specialist committee to find a suitable site.
Well, the sooner they find it, and let me know where it is, the sooner we can get on. Until the sites are definitely settled there will continue to be the apprehension, which was voiced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), that some of these sites may be in places far removed from South Wales. I have seen references in the Press in the last week or two which have been very disturbing from this point of view. There was a reference in the financial columns of the "News Chronicle," in which the editor said that already there were proposals for setting up one of these plants on the banks of the Humber. Many high authorities, he said, considered that somewhere on the banks of the Humber would be more suitable than in South Wales. We must remember what happened before the Ebbw Vale plant was set up. There was an agitation to establish the plant at Redbourne, in Lin- colnshire, and it was only the intervention of a number of people, including the Welsh Members, which led to the Ebbw Vale plant being established at Ebbw Vale and not at Redbourne. We remember these things, and I say, "Tell us the sites, then the other things shall be duly considered." I think that my hon. Friends are in agreement with that attitude.
One word about North Wales. I know North Wales, and I love it. It is a beautiful country inhabited by fine people, and I am anxious to do all I can to assist North Wales also. I ask Members not to press me to put North Wales on the same high level of priority for new industrial development as that which is appropriate for South Wales, having regard to the much greater population in South Wales, the much less balanced character of its economy and the greater mass of unemployment in the aggregate which it suffered in the period between the wars. I do not think the North Wales case, strong though it may be represented as being, is so strong as the South Wales case. None the less, I am anxious to remove the apprehensions which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Sir G. Owen) voiced to-day regarding the attitude of the Government, and of myself as President of the Board of Trade, towards new industrial establishments now operating in North Wales. I have no wish to disrupt or drive away or remove any new industry which has come into North Wales during the war. If any hon. Member representing a North Wales constituency has any real evidence that things are being made difficult—and, if this be true, it can only be through some misunderstanding, and I do not believe it is true—I will go into it and set matters right. Where a new industry has come into North Wales during the war, we are anxious to enable it to continue there after the war.
In North Wales, as a result of wartime developments, I think there is now a very happy balance between agriculture and industry, and holiday traffic will always make a great appeal. There are other industries such as slate quarries and I hope that, with the housing drive in the post-par period, they will have prosperity. I will follow up the suggestion made by my hon. Friend about research. Perhaps he will send me a note on the subject. I am most anxious to assist North Wales, within the bounds I have indicated, but if an employer comes to the Board of Trade and says: "Is it more in the national interest that I should go to South Wales than to North Wales?" I cannot conceal from my hon. Friends that I consider that, in the majority of cases, new enterprises should go to the South rather than to the North of the Principality.
Will it be possible for the people who are now running the factories to start new industries which they desire to carry on and will they have priority of materials and machinery for that purpose?
I will try to assist them to the utmost of my power. I am most anxious to be informed about any particular case.
I want to say one word about communications. The Ministry of War Transport and the Board of Trade are, and have been, in very close touch about communications. I have made it abundantly clear to the Minister of War Transport and his Parliamentary Secretary that I regard improved communications as vital for proper development in Wales, South and North. Plans are now being worked out in considerable detail by the Ministry of War Transport, in close consultation with representatives of my Department. The Severn Bridge has already been mentioned. I think that will be of the very greatest importance in linking South Wales and London, and work is proceeding with that plan. In the second place, work is proceeding with the improvement of communications within South Wales itself. That, I am sure, is long overdue, particularly East-West and lateral communications. In the third place, it is of very great importance, in my submission, that better communications be developed also between South Wales and the Midlands and Birmingham. Just how that should be done—[Interruption.] It is much more important economically than the North-South road. It is much more important to tie up the South Wales industrial community with the great Midlands industrial community than it is to build a North-South road. The latter, in my view, is a very desirable project but has value chiefly for opening up the beautiful area of mid-Wales for holiday traffic and has no direct industrial value.
My Noble Friend is also working on a scheme, in which I am very much interested, for improved navigation up the Severn so as to enable the larger vessels to move up from the Severn mouth at least as far as Worcester and into the Midlands area. That, I hope, should be of considerable economic value. I am sorry that I shall have to abbreviate my remarks at this stage. I should have liked to develop still further some of these matters, but those I have mentioned are very important. I am sure all hon. Members will agree that this day for the discussion of Welsh affairs has proved of great interest and value.