Welsh Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th January 1948.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Thomas Mr David Thomas , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare 12:00 am, 26th January 1948

Previous Welsh speakers in the Debate have touched upon the major problems contained in the White Paper and have emphasised those which particularly trouble their constituencies. I come from a mining valley which has contributed much to the prosperity of this country as other South Wales valleys have done. Tributes have been paid to the coalminer by hon. Members on every side of the House—indeed, those tributes have come from all parts of the country—for the magnificent effort the miners have made in providing the coal which is so necessary in these very serious times.

There is, however, a side of the picture which we tend to forget. I refer to the casualties in the coal industry, as a result of which men suffer from accidents and from industrial diseases. In the Aberdare Valley—I believe that the President of the Board of Trade overlooked this matter—within a distance of three and a half miles there are 1,500 men disabled mostly as the result of work in the coalmines. Those men ask: "What is to become of us? Are we to be left upon the scrap heap for all time?" I have a letter here on that subject, but I will not detain the House by reading it. It means this: "It takes very little time for hon. Members and Ministers of the Crown to decide upon remuneration for themselves, but we are forgotten." Those men ask me, as they ask other hon. Members: "How would you like to live upon a measly allowance of 24s. per week, if you were a single man, or £2, if you were married?"

I appreciate that the Government have done much since the termination of the war to provide work for disabled miners and ex-miners, but much has yet to be done. I do not think I can be too critical on this point. Much has been said in recent months about eels and butterflies, but these men are not in those categories. They stand idly by at the employment exchanges, waiting for someone to hire them. We have heard a good deal about the Grenfell factories. Probably they have had their name as a result of the good work which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has put in, but if we are to wait very much longer the name of Grenfell will not be held in such high esteem as it enjoys now—due to no fault, of course, of my hon. Friend. We have been told that 10 factories are being, or will be, erected. We were told that in 1945. We are now in 1948. I know that one factory is being erected in Aberdare, but I heard this afternoon that it will not be completed until the end of this year.

I hope the Ministers responsible will speed up the erection of those factories so that some of these men can obtain a decent livelihood. The Grenfell factories are not touching the fringe of the problem. It is not 10 Grenfell factories that are wanted in the coalfields but more like 50 of the size at which they are being built. Owing to the economic crisis no more factories are to be commenced. Are there no other avenues by which employment can be found for these men? Reference was made in the White Paper to afforestation. Have the mining valleys been forgotten? They were at one time beautiful valleys, and if those responsible for afforestation reply that the ground is unsuitable, I would say that single trees are growing here and there which proves beyond doubt that the soil is suitable for afforestation. Let us have small forests in the mining valleys and let us again beautify those drab places.

What about the clearing of our rivers? The River Cynon overflows it banks if we have three days of continuous rain. The week before last I visited a street of houses a day or so after the floods had subsided, and found that water had come in to a depth of three feet on the ground floor. This was partly owing to the sheer neglect of the colliery owners in allowing the dirt to come from their washeries and partly to sediment washed down from the hillside. When those poor people ask whether the river can be cleared, whether the council, the railway company or the colliery owners will do something, they are told that it is an act of God. That term is a blasphemy. If the Thames overflowed its banks tonight, a three or four foot wall would soon be erected. Is not that possible in a mining town where the rates are as high as 29s. 6d. in the £? I hope the Minister responsible will cause an inquiry to be made. The Minister of Transport should look into this matter because it relates to the Mountain Ash stations which were flooded out for a whole day. Railway traffic from Swansea to Pontypool was at a standstill. The loss entailed does not compare with the value of the wall which could quite easily be erected to prevent a recurrence of that trouble which those people suffer twice or three times a year. I sincerely hope that that will be rectified, and it can only be rectified for the Aberdare valley, as in the case of other Welsh valleys, by the rivers being properly dredged.

There is still lurking in the minds of those in our factories that when the sellers' market becomes saturated with pots and pans, radio sets, electric irons and electric fires, they will again become unemployed, and I support the appeal which has already been made that the Government should look into this subject in order to bring some other industries into the depressed areas so that a measure of comfort can be brought to those people. There is another point which is very important to us as Welsh people. Objection has been raised by this Minister and that Minister to printing journals in the Welsh language. There are scores of places in Wales where the people can only converse in, and read Welsh. Therefore, we as a Welsh race are entitled to get these booklets, issued from time to time by the various Departments, and particularly the Highway Code, printed in our own language.