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I beg to move:
That this House takes note of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for the year ended 30th June, 1957 (Command Paper No. 319) and the White Paper on Government Administration in Wales (Command Paper No. 334).
I shall explain this Motion quite briefly, Mr. Speaker, because the White Paper has aroused great interest in Wales. In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and with his approval, I thought it only right to say something about the White Paper, especially dealing with administration, and the letter written by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Alderman Edwards, which is included in Cmnd. 334. In view of the number of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate, I do not propose to detain them for an undue length of time.
In the ordinary way, this annual debate is based on the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire. The Report contains, as is usual, the kind of issues that hon. Members would wish to raise, and which they will have ample opportunity to raise this afternoon. To all those points to which I shall not refer, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs, with his special knowledge, will reply. He will not, unlike myself, have reason to limit himself. I hope that he will have an opportunity to make a full speech later in the debate.
My contribution relates to this other document, the White Paper on Government Administration in Wales, which was issued last week and which contains the letter of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. The Council made proposals for a new Welsh Office under a Secretary of State, somewhat on the lines of the Scottish Office.
The recommendation that that should be so was published last January, and we, in the Government, have purposely taken a little time to consider these proposals—which, incidentally, some of us, in various incarnations before, myself particularly in the Ministries of Labour and Education, have had reason to examine at very close quarters. We purposely took our time, and so did the Prime Minister, because of the importance of the document.
I am sure that nobody will deny what excellent work has been done by all those concerned, and I should, therefore, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, like to endorse the language that he used in the early part of his letter to Alderman Edwards. In that letter he says:
…I should like to congratulate Sir William Jones and his Panel and, indeed, the whole Council on the valuable descriptive account and analysis of the machinery, of Government administration in Wales.…
He goes on:
So careful and comprehensive a study of the subject has not, so far as I am aware, been published anywhere in recent years.
And my right hon. Friend calls the White Paper
…a mine of detailed information, and undoubtedly will be regarded as an important contribution to the history of modern Wales.
That, I would like to endorse, and, on behalf of the Government, to express our thanks to all those gentlemen and others who served so capably on this Council whose Report I have before me today.
The House will be aware that the Government have not felt able to accept the main recommendation of the Council for Wales. The reasons for this are set out clearly in the Prime Minister's letter and, therefore, I need not go over them again. I would only summarise them by saying that the disadvantages to Wales that would be involved in a transfer of that responsibility for administration to small Departments of State must not be under-rated. Any of us who have the interest of Wales at heart will be aware that that is a very real danger for Wales as a country.
I think that it is all summed up in pages 4 and 5 of Cmnd. 334, which is really the nub of the problem. There, my right hon. Friend says:
…what Wales needs is not isolation from the rest of Britain, but concentration of ability and wise understanding upon Welsh problems, and on the Welsh aspects of general problems. Wales, unlike Scotland, has the same system of law and of local government and of land tenure as England; there is no division or need for division there. The geographic and economic links with England are very strong.
That sums up—
Hon. Members have it before them and can read it all, because it forms part of the subject-matter of our debate.
As I say, those words seem to sum up the whole question when one is looking impartially at the future of Wales and its connection with England. Speaking from my own experience of dealing with Welsh affairs, I feel that this is the right solution—
The hon. Member says, "Read the following paragraph." The next paragraph runs as follows:
Wales deserves, as much as Scotland, a system of Government administration suited and shaped to her special needs.
That is precisely what the Government intend, and precisely what we have gradually been building up a great deal under the administration of this and previous Governments. I believe that if an impartial person—if it were possible to find one—who was neither Welsh, nor English nor Scottish, were to examine this matter he would feel that the efforts being made by the Government are on the right lines, and in the best interests of Wales.
Before I go in detail into the Government's administrative proposals—which is the object of my intervention in this debate—I want to remind hon. Members of those last few words which I read at the top of page 5:
The geographic and economic links with England are very strong.
I am absolutely certain that, whether we take education, health, agriculture or industry, we all know that when we examine the problems arising in this White Paper and in the other White Paper, which will be the subject of so much of the debate, we shall find that industrial problems in Wales, whatever they may be, can be better solved in collaboration with, rather than isolation from, England. I am convinced that, in the end, that will be to the best advantage of the Welsh people and of the Principality as a whole.
I speak as one who, during my term of office as Minister of Education, did something to help to provide interest and practice in the Welsh language and one who has certain Celtic antecedents and is very desirous and interested to encourage as much interest as possible in the life of the Principality and its real genius on its own account.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what personal representative of any sort or of any Welsh body is advocating complete isolation from the rest of the people in these islands?
I was not claiming that. I was trying to prove the converse as much as is possible and desirable. I find myself, for once in my Parliamentary career, completely in agreement with the hon. Member. That is a very satisfactory manner in which to start the debate.
The Government's own changes, which it is my duty to encourage and put before the House, are summarised as follows. They represent a most important step forward in the continuing process of improving the system of administration in Wales. This has gone a very long way in the last few years. For example, we had the creation of the post of Minister for Welsh Affairs; the setting up of the Council for Wales; improved machinery for bringing together Government action in Wales; a marked devolution to the Welsh offices of the central Departments; and, indeed, this annual debate itself, from which we expect so much.
The appointment of a Minister of State to help the Minister for Welsh Affairs will create, as the Prime Minister said the other day, a stronger Ministerial team for Wales than ever before. We have been fortunate in securing for the post of Minister of State the services of a Welshman with a wide experience of public life, business knowledge, and an intense interest in Welsh problems and aspirations. He will be able to spend much of his time in Wales where, as I shall explain, he will have the support of a strengthened Welsh office and will be able, under the Minister for Welsh Affairs, to devote his full attention and energies to Welsh problems and policies and to the general bringing together, or what is called co-ordination, of Welsh administration.
This appointment will bring about very good results. It does not mean that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs will cease to visit the Principality as frequently as possible. I know the House will be aware that the present Minister—who will speak later in the debate—has travelled widely throughout Wales. He has met persons in all walks of life, representing all sorts of interests. His personality has already imprinted itself upon all with whom he has come in contact. He intends to maintain his close interest and I am certain that he will continue to represent the special interests of Wales in the Cabinet with the firmness which, without broaching any Cabinet secrets, I can assure the House he has shown with faithful success. My right hon. Friend has not neglected to draw the attention of his colleagues to the problems arising from this experience.
The Council for Wales has said that in its view the greatest single failing in the existing administration in Wales is that there has been far too little co-ordination of the activities of the various Departments. The Government accept that aspect of the weakness of the present situation, although we do not accept the solution of the Council.
The Minister for Welsh Affairs has been taking the chair at the conference of heads of Government Departments in Wales. The important step has now been taken of setting up an economic committee of the conference which will sit under the chairmanship of the Minister or of the Minister of State. The Committee held its first meeting on Friday, morning, so that it has not wasted any time. The House will, therefore, see that the Government are earnest in the changes which we propose.
I would rather leave the details to my right hon. Friend. I am intervening to give only the broad outline and the assurance of the line that the Government hope to take.
The economic aspect of the co-ordination of the machinery for the administration of the Government in Wales is a very important feature. We think that it will help to bring together all aspects of the Government which are interested in the economic problems. Some of these are touched upon in the Prime Minister's letter. It is clearly in this sphere of economics, which has so much affected the history of Wales in the past, that the need for a committee of this sort is most important.
The Report of the Council for Wales made a number of comments about the desirability of securing increased devolution of administrative authority to the Welsh offices of certain Departments. We have again, as a Government, reviewed existing arrangements in the light of the Council's comments. In particular, changes have been made in the sphere of three Ministries—Education, Agriculture, and Transport—to which I shall make short references.
The present arrangements for education have been questioned on two grounds. First, that the Welsh Permanent Secretary has his headquarters in London, although he spends a good deal of his time in Wales on official business. Secondly, that the Cardiff office of the Welsh Department, and, indeed, the Welsh Department as a whole, deals at present with less than the whole range of functions carried out by Welsh local education authorities under the Education Acts.
Our conclusions are as follow. First, that the right place for the headquarters of the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department is London. The more important aspect of his work is not to supervise the detailed operation of his Department. For many years—I can speak from my own experience—Ministers of Education have had the benefit of experienced Welshmen in London as their Permanent Secretaries for Wales. All these men have stood up for Wales in the counsels of the Ministry and have made sure that in anything planned or done at the Ministry affecting England and Wales as a whole, the special interests and needs of Wales were not overlooked and that proper interest was paid to the tradition and experience and to the special problems arising from the Welsh language and the Welsh tradition in education. I am convinced that to change this pattern would be against the interests of Wales and of Welsh education.
I would not say that if I did not realise that the Permanent Secretary for Wales has in the past spent a great deal of his time in Wales. He certainly did in my day and, as far as I am aware, he does so now. I do not think that the system would work unless he did. He has been wise to accompany the Minister whenever he tours Wales, to have a special knowledge of Wales, but I am certain that his influence would be reduced if he did not have a post at headquarters. I do not think that it would be in the interests of Welsh education and I do not believe that it would work.
That, therefore, is our answer to that point, but I should like to say, in passing, that the more strength and power to the elbow of the Permanent Secretary for Wales the better the Government will be pleased. All we want to be sure of is that he has his contact and his place in London to influence the policy as a whole. Secondly, I am convinced that what he can derive from the unfolding of national policy in education by being on the spot in London is of value to Welsh education itself.
So far as the second point is concerned, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education informs me that he is examining the organisation and staffing of the Welsh Department as a whole with the aim of extending the range of its direct functions and of delegating the maximum possible responsibility to the Welsh Office in Cardiff. The Minister tells me that he does not think it would be practicable to set up an absolute microcosm, a literal representation, of the London office in Cardiff; but within these limits he is desirous of going as far as he can to meet Welsh ideas.
I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will accept that statement and that in their contributions to the debate, for which I shall allow them plenty of time, they will put forward their constructive ideas so that the operation of the Ministry of Education in its relationship with Wales can, subject to the Permanent Secretary being primarily located at headquarters, work in the best interests of the Principality as a whole.
As regards the Ministry of Agriculture, much has happened since the Council reported. At the time of its Report, the Department's Welsh Secretary was directly responsible for about 60 staff out of nearly 1,500 stationed in Wales. Since then, the Department's staff has been reorganised on a regional basis following the recommendation of the Wilson Committee, which, as hon. Members will remember, was set up after some recent events a year or two ago.
The result in Wales is that the Welsh Secretary is now directly responsible for the whole of the executive, clerical and ancillary staff at the Department's divisional offices as well as responsible for the staff at the Welsh headquarters in Aberystwyth. The divisional offices, as the House will be aware, handle the payment of agricultural grants, subsidy applications and much other routine but important work from the point of view of the administration of agriculture. The total number of staff is no fewer than 800. That is a considerable change which has been deliberately made.
In addition, a further 100 staff will come directly under the Welsh Secretary as soon as the reorganisation arrangements become effective for their work. These 100—I shall go into a little detail to illustrate the extent of the devolution—will be engaged chiefly in things like milk testing, fatstock marketing, the control of infestation, and so on. When all these changes have been made, the Welsh Secretary will be responsible for a staff of about 900 as compared with a staff of 60 at the time of the Council's Report.
Not only, therefore, will the devolution have assumed a very different physical aspect from what it did before in the numbers involved in the sphere of agriculture, but, I remind the House, the Welsh Secretary carries substantial responsibilities additional to those delegated to the Department's regional controllers in England. In particular, he is given full opportunity of advising on the Welsh aspects of new policy proposals.
I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that he will keep this organisation under his close review and that this aspect of the Welsh Secretary not only having a vastly increased staff to deal with the important matters to which I have referred—including the question of grant, subsidy applications, and so on—but also the aspect of policy, will be kept under review by my right hon. Friend with a view to ensuring that there is the maximum devolution and satisfaction given to Wales, So much for two great Departments of State, Education and Agriculture.
I now come to a change proposed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. His staff in Wales covers a very wide variety of functions. There is the divisional road engineer, the regional traffic commissioners, the marine survey staff, the Mercantile Marine office and the commandant of a Ministry-owned airport. Here again, there cannot be any simple solution of setting up in Wales an exact replica of the London headquarters, but the Minister proposes, as a new step, to appoint and post a senior administrative officer to Wales who will be able not only to play his full part in the machinery which has been established, but to give his own point of view about the aspect of transport and civil aviation policy in its relation to Welsh affairs.
These detailed arrangements have been worked out by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. They will be brought into force as soon as possible. In this case also, it will be valuable if hon. Members, in their contributions to the debate, will make any constructive suggestions that they can in this sphere.
I therefore invite hon. Members, in the sphere of education, agriculture and transport in particular, which are the only three subjects to which I shall refer in my short explanation of the Motion, to make any constructive proposals they can with a view to making these arrangements work as satisfactorily as possible. I would only reserve the position by saying that in agriculture a great deal of advance has been made since the Council reported.
We claim that these steps, taken with what has already been done, represent a substantial measure of devolution. We see these latest steps as an important part in a continuing process. I do not suggest that they represent finality. Hence the importance of this debate. This is the statesmanlike way to look at the proper development of relations between Wales and England. We are convinced that these measures represent in themselves an invaluable improvement in the machinery side of Government administration.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has authorised me to repeat what he has said: that it is the purpose of the Government to put beyond all doubt the fact that Wales, as a nation, has a place of its own in the counsels of Britain and that it is our object to achieve that and to give satisfaction in that sphere as well as frame a system of efficient administration for Wales that can be adjusted to meet every modern need.
It is our conviction that these proposals, these steps, taken, as they have been, in good faith, with due consideration for the long tradition of the relationship between our countries, for the proud purposes and character of Wales itself, and for the efficiency of the administration of Wales, and with a proper regard to what I said at the beginning, that we believe that the interests of the Welsh people are bound up intimately with our own, are as satisfactory as can be made at the present time.
The custom has grown up in recent years for the Chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party to have the privilege of being the first to speak in these annual debates on behalf of the Welsh Members. That privilege should have fallen this year to my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones). Unfortunately, he is laid low with a severe illness. I know how anxious he was to take part in this debate, and I know that the House will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.
The Home Secretary had an advantage over the rest of the House today in that he was able to overlook completely the important Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire. The rest of us will be obliged to divide our speeches into two parts. We shall seek to refer both to the constitutional changes and to the Report. In view of the number of hon. Members who are anxious to take part in the debate, I propose to deal with only one aspect of the Report, and that is the changing pattern of education in the Principality.
In the view of our fathers, our social security and, indeed, our social status in Wales were linked with white-collar jobs. Consequently, almost all the emphasis in our education has been on the development of the grammar school. Until the post-war years technical colleges and technical institutions of all sorts have been the Cinderella of the education service in the Principality, but now they are coming into their own. During the past decade we have witnessed a veritable revolution in the approach of Welsh education qualities to technical education.
I believe that this is due in no small measure to the work of the Welsh Joint Education Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and I had the privilege of serving on the Working Party which the late George Tomlinson set up and which eventually led to the setting up of this Joint Education Committee.
The Committee has more than justified its existence, for today we have 18 technical colleges, 15 technical institutes, four farm institutes and one horticulture institute. In one aspect of technical education Wales now leads the entire United Kingdom, and that is the special work which is being done, by co-operation between the National Coal Board and the Welsh Joint Education Committee, in providing courses for mining deputies and shotfirers. It is a matter of pride in Wales that the Coal Board is now urging its regional officers throughout England to copy this model in the Principality.
Whereas in the past we have led in the production of teachers and preachers, the pattern is changing. We shall, no doubt, keep a balance, but it is good to know that we have forged a lead in the production of skilled craftsmen for the mining industry, and I believe that that lead must be matched by the output in the higher levels of technologists and technicians. Now that Wales has her own College of Advanced Technology there is no reason at all why this should not be so, but there are difficulties standing in our way.
A major difficulty in the development of advanced and sandwich courses in South Wales is that many of our major industrial firms are offshoots of English firms. Policy is thus settled outside Wales, and sometimes the mother firm centralises the training facilities for all its group of factories, and generally that is at an English college. Clearly, if this is done on a considerable scale great damage will be done to our College of Advanced Technology and to other technical collegs, for cutting down the advanced full-time work available to them will mean a reduction in the staff they can carry with a corresponding reaction on the services they can give for part-time students; and industry generally is far more concerned in Wales, as in England, with part-time than with full-time students.
I noted from an address by the distinguished principal of our College of Technology, Principal Harvey, last September, reporting to the Governors of the College, that there is a grave shortage of science and technological teachers in Wales. Even on the advanced college level there were nine vacancies in an establishment of over 100. Repeatedly, local authorities with technical colleges in Wales fail to make appointments because of the lack of candidates of the right calibre. The Willis Jackson Committee reported last May, and still we have had no clear indication whether the Government are to take some positive action to help these Welsh technical educationists to obtain the supply of teachers they need.
We in Wales have a reputation for producing teachers, as I suggested just now. I believe that this reputation and this tradition can be renewed if we use the College of Advanced Technology for the training of teachers for technical colleges. We can supply both the needs of the Principality and, as we have in the other teaching branch, many of the needs of England itself.
I believe the industrialists in Wales can do much more than they are doing to help the technical education colleges to have the right type of students. I am glad to note that the British Electricity Authority combs through its apprentices and sees that those who are capable of benefiting from an advanced training on a much higher level get their opportunity. Private enterprise in Wales must be equal to this challenge, or within a few years we shall be faced with a grievous problem indeed. I believe that the future of the Welsh economy depends upon an adequate supply of trained scientists, technologists and technicians. This is a question of more importance than forty Ministers of State.
I know that my hon. Friend is anxious to bring his speech to as speedy an end as possible. [Laughter.] Well, he indicated that in his very first sentence. May I put to him a point which I do not want him to overlook? Some of our colleges and university colleges are making great headway and are extending very successfully on the technical and technological side.
My hon. Friend has misjudged my enthusiasm. I think that he rather protruded his desire into my mind. I am aware of the considerable development that has taken place in Wales. We all rejoice in it, and I pay tribute to everyone concerned. The new Minister of Education may bask in the reflected glory—
—and I readily congratulate the Department of which he is the head.
I now turn to the constitutional issue. Unfortunately, the Government have not given the Welsh Parliamentary Party an opportunity to meet to discuss the White Paper. On Thursday of last week, when business was announced, I asked the Leader of the House whether this debate could not be postponed so that Welsh Members would be able to discuss this question together. The right hon. Gentleman thought that the agility of the Welsh mind was equal to the problem, but, nevertheless, he will suffer accordingly today, because the right hon. Gentleman will find that we now have to speak on our personal responsibility. I am able to give the House only my personal view, and that I shall do with the greatest of pleasure.
Wales has turned sour on this appointment of Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. The news has been received badly throughout the Principality, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), who, if I may say so without undue offence, has views on Welsh affairs that are considered to be somewhat eccentric.
I am interested to find that the hon. Gentleman, in his distress, looks for allies in another place.
This is surely the most astonishing appointment in this Parliament. An unoffending, unobtrusive county councillor has been catapulted like a Russian Sputnik from the recesses of Breconshire past the aldermanic bench to the outer space of another place, where he will be a satellite for the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, I worked rather hard on that.
Until last Thursday night, I had not even heard of this distinguished gentleman, so that, clearly, I would not want to say anything personal about him. I note the surprise which he has had at his appointment, a surprise which all Wales shares. He declared proudly to the South Wales Echo, as published on its front page:
I went to London on Tuesday to see the university rugby game.
He passes so far.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister sent for me. I went to No. 10, where the Prime Minister offered me the appointment, which I accepted. You can imagine the surprise, because I went to London in my tweed suit.
That is the authentic voice of the Welshman.
Does it not reveal that this county councillor is speaking the absolute truth? He had no idea, when he left South Wales for the Rugby match, that he would come back a baron and Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. Good will makes me want to be a little charitable towards him. I am told that he has a pleasing personality. So have most people in public life, or they would not be there. That even applies to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and we know that we ought to be able to take that much for granted. If he has not a very pleasing personality, then he has lost the last advantage which he could claim.
I have' some questions to ask, and I know that all Wales wants them answered. What special qualifications does this gentleman bring to his task? Is it because he is Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party? If so, that is hardly regarded as a qualification in the Rhondda. Llanelly or, indeed, in the greater part of the Principality of Wales. That is a secret which he had better keep to himself. Why has this House been ignored? The Minister of State belongs to that Front Bench opposite, where he would be available in this House to answer the Questions of Welsh Members. There is no part of the United Kingdom which has less affection for, or less interest in, the House of Lords than Wales, and probably it is true to say "and vice versa."
The Welsh people are democratic by instinct, as the Minister has found out to his cost. They prefer to deal with elected representatives, and to send this Minister to the House of Lords is to put salt on the pride that has been wounded by his appointment. It gives added proof that the right hon. Gentleman has not learned much about Wales since he has been Minister for Welsh Affairs.
What powers will this Minister have? I noticed that the Lord Privy Seal skated gently over this thin ice and went on to talk about agriculture and a lot of other things. The Prime Minister tells us, in the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph in page 5 of the White Paper—
…all experience proves that a Minister who is to be effective needs power in his own hands to act.
Has he given the Minister—
This is getting to be a habit.
The Minister for Welsh Affairs told all Wales how little power his colleague will have, and the voice of the Tory Party in Wales, which, as he knows, is the Western Mail, gave the matter a big heading:
New Welsh Minister 'Only an Adviser'.
This was last Saturday morning. Then:
MR. BROOKE: I Am Still In Charge.
The whole shoddy business is a piece of window-dressing to deceive the Welsh people. It is a confidence trick, but we see through it.
The Minister of State has not any staff unless the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will lend him a private secretary. He has not a Department. He has not an office. He has not any powers. In short, he is not a Minister at all. He is a Parliamentary Secretary masquerading as a Minister, with this difference—that his salary is £3,750 a year and his title is that of Lord.
What is his work to be in the Principality? The noble Lord, if I may so refer to a county councillor, will have to take messages from the Welsh people to the Minister. He will advise the Minister. He receives the news and he conducts it to the Minister. He will be the most expensive messenger boy in Britain, and that is about his status.
Let the House listen to what the Western Mail has to say about this announcement—and the Western Mail is not unsympathetic to the Government. That is no Welsh exaggeration. The heading is, "Waiting over—we inch forward." And the leading article states:
The mountain has laboured and brought forth a molehill. That molehill is likely to become a political battleground, for the people of Wales, who have waited so long for the Government's decision on the next step in devolution, are unlikely to feel that their patience has been well rewarded, or their hopes fulfilled.
The second paragraph of the article shows what the Tories in Wales think about this appointment, for it says:
…this office is little more than a return of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary we were deprived of 10 months ago.
The leading article in the Western Mail was matched by one in the South Wales Echo, which said:
Instead of a Secretary of State with a seat in the Cabinet, the Government has given us a Minister of State with a seat in the House of Lords…It seems that Wales now has two Mr. Brookes to look after its interests.
That is even more than Wales could stand. That last sentence, of course, is not in the leading article, which continues:
This does not add up to one Cabinet Minister.
I want the Minister for Welsh Affairs to listen to one more quotation, this time from the News Chronicle, which said:
There will be angry murmurs in the Welsh valleys today…Welsh nationalism will get another boost because Westminster and White
hall seem so indifferent to the special problems of the country.
The newspaper goes on to describe the Prime Minister as being needlessly tactless.
Overwhelmingly, the Government's proposition has been rejected. What of the devolution to which the Minister has referred? There is very little indeed in what the Lord Privy Seal said this afternoon. As to the devolution in Welsh affairs, I shall wait to see what it is before I comment too far. I have always believed that the Permanent Secretary ought to be in Wales. Will the English Minister steal an advantage because the Permanent Secretary is in Wales? Will he say, in this age of telephones, that he cannot speak to him? At present, the Welsh Office of the Minister of Education, with the sole exception of the inspectorate, which is first-class, has very little power indeed. When we wanted a grant for a little community centre in Ely, Cardiff, I had to bring a deputation to see the Welsh officials in London.
Surely the Government can give some real power to this Department, in particular, because Wales is more sensitive about its culture than it is about most things. We are offered a sub-committee of a committee which has met for years. If the heads of the Departments in Wales have not already been co-ordinating their work on the economic plans for Wales they have not been doing their job. Surely they have been doing this for years. When the hon. Member for Cardiff, North spent his time at the Home Office dealing with Welsh affairs I remember his saying then that they were co-ordinating the work of the Departments in Wales. Either he was wrong then or the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House are wrong now.
I believe that that sub-committee will lead us very little further and that if it is justified now it was justified a long time ago. The Government have muffed their chance in Wales. The constant postponement of replies to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) led all Wales to expect that something substantial and real was being done. A broad sector of opinion in Wales was prepared for a Government lead, but the opportunity has been missed and in this Parliament I do not suppose that it is likely to recur.
The Lord Privy Seal quoted the Prime Minister as saying, in page 5 of the White Paper, that
…Wales as a nation has a place of its own in the counsels of Britain…
He has now made it clear where that place is. It is outside the Cabinet room, but we shall not be content until we have a Minister for Wales whose sole job it is to look after Welsh interests and who will speak in the Cabinet for the people of Wales. Wales is entitled to have her own Minister sitting in the Cabinet. It would have been better if the Government had done nothing rather than have done what they have done by this appointment.
I wish I could have said a kinder word, but I know that I am speaking for the overwhelming majority in Wales when I say to the Government that this appointment is an insult for which we cannot thank them.
I do not want to make a long speech longer by replying to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) point by point, but I should like to congratulate him on his good fortune in opening the debate. I thought that the first part of his speech, on education, a subject about which he is well-informed, was as generous as his reference to Government administration, of which When it comes he knows a little less, was ungenerous. I join in regretting the absence from the House of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones). We miss him on Welsh day, and indeed on every day when he cannot be here, but I am sure that he is now contriving new educational delights for the children of Wales.
As the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire is out of date, and always will be unless its publication coincides with the end of the financial or calendar year and it is debated immediately afterwards, I should like to concentrate largely on the Prime Minister's letter. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West would have given us the first fruits of Labour rethinking in the Welsh garden, but we have not had so much as a leak. All that the hon. Member has done is to reveal the utter disunity of the Labour Party in this as in almost every other aspect of its policy.
The hon. Member poured scorn on the new post of Minister of State and on the new arrangements, but this is what Lord Ogmore had to say about it:
I am surprised that no one"—
that is, except himself—
appears to have appreciated the tremendous implications of the Prime Minister's statement—that the Government's cardinal purpose is to put beyond all doubt that Wales as a nation has a place of its own in the counsels of Britain.
Lord Ogmore added:
At long last the Prime Minister has conceded what so many of us have been demanding—the recognition of Wales as a constituent nation of the United Kingdom.
It is all very well for Lord Ogmore to come forward now and say "At long last," but he was a member of the Government that did not grant this recognition. Also it ill becomes the hon. Gentleman to speak of the new arrangements as he has done, in view of the desperately bad record of the Labour Government in this respect.
We have had one policy from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West. He said that he was speaking for himself. I think that the Labour group of the Welsh Parliamentary Party had not met beforehand, but even if it had the hon. Gentleman would still have spoken for himself because there is not a united policy among hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they know it. When it comes to an agreed policy for Wales, the Labour Party has only caught up with King Lear:
…—I will do such things,—
What they are yet I know not,—but they shall be
The terrors of the earth.
I congratulate the Government on creating this new post and on the choice of Mr. Vivian Lewis to fill it. I shall not list his qualities. [An HON. MEMBER "Come on, tell us."] He will prove himself, and the hon. Member for Cardiff, West will be sorry, in a few months, for the words that he has spoken.
Later, I intend to examine the achievements of both sides of the House in their work of Government administration. Meanwhile, we must bear with such fortitude as we can the gibes that have been made in the Press and by hon. Gentlemen opposite at the lack of quality on this side of the House which may have meant that the appointment had to go elsewhere, as against their great qualities and talents.
The hon. and learned Gentleman must not make my speech for me, but I am in favour of it and I will tell him why later.
By the same token, hon. Gentlemen opposite are really praising the merit of Conservative leaders in the Principality, and they are right. Although the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, did not remind the House of this, it was reflected at the last General Election. In our capital city more votes were cast for the Conservative Party than for the Labour Party for the first time since 1935. Despite the eccentricity of my views—
To make the picture complete, will the hon. Gentleman also tell us that in the last municipal election the Conservatives were heavily outvoted by the Labour supporters?
I do not think I shall agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) for long. Some people voted for the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and some people voted for the hon. Member for Cardiff, West. Notwithstanding that, more Tory votes than Labour votes were cast in Cardiff.
Having said that, I can say, from my own experience when I was Joint Under Secretary for State at the Home Office, responsible for Welsh affairs, that whatever may be said about the new post of Minister of State the new Minister will be able to rely on the good will of hon. Members in all parts of the House in the work he does for Wales. For my part, I shall not forget the extreme generosity with which I was received.
There are those who imagine that the new arrangements are merely a return to the original Under-Secretaryship. I want to point to certain profound differences. The three Under-Secretaries of State at the Home Office who were responsible for Welsh Affairs had to divide their time between Wales and infinitely varied work. There were not any civil servants at the Home Office in daily contact with Wales, in the sense that there are now in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and, as far as I know, there was none who could speak Welsh.
There was not even a map of Wales in the Home Office and I remember that out of my first week's wages I bought one in the Charing Cross Road. I remember, too, that when I asked the Ministry of Works for a Welsh flag, I received the reply that a combination of English winds and Welsh flags in Whitehall raised serious difficulties, some of them constitutional.
Of course, then the Home Office did not have a Department in Wales. By courtesy of the Welsh Board of Health a room was used which could be said to look over the back of the building but for the fact that it also faced Aberdare Hall. It was intended for the reception of local authority delegations, but it was never used because, for reasons which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will appreciate, Welsh delegations are particularly fond of coming to London.
There were two legacies from the Labour Government. There was, first, the quarterly meeting of heads of Departments in Wales, presided over then by a civil servant on loan from the Ministry of Health in Whitehall. That had in it, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West indicated, the seeds of devolution. I agree with him, however, that for a long time it has been too little used for the purpose. I may say, in passing, that I welcome very much indeed the setting up of the sub-committee which is to be specially concerned with economic growth. I believe that through this agency co-ordination can best be achieved without creating a new, costly central machine.
Secondly, there was the Advisory Council for Wales and Monmouthshire set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to act as a decoy so that Welsh people could go out shooting while he, unscathed, got on with the serious job of government. The right hon. Gentleman had far too great a sense of humour to take it very seriously. So much so, that in his book "Government and Parliament" he did not even mention it. That was not due to any lack of space for, amongst other things, he paid a most touching tribute to the birds in St. James's Park.
I will return to the Advisory Council later. Today, thanks to successive Tory Governments, there is a Minister for Welsh Affairs answerable in this House for a vital sector of Welsh life. There was not any such Minister directly responsible, who was Minister for Welsh Affairs, in any Labour Government.
Secondly, my right hon. Friend now has a Department in Wales under a greatly gifted civil servant, whose recognition as the senior civil servant in Wales is so much welcomed by his colleagues and by all who know him. Thirdly, there has been since then devolution in varying degrees in other Departments. The new Minister of State will, therefore, be free, in a sense that former Under-Secretaries at the Home Office were seldom free, to be able to meet hon. Members of this House in Wales whenever and wherever trouble threatens. I believe that the people of Wales like this kind of personal government and that it produces results.
Also, my right hon. Friend will now have invaluable aid in seeking Welsh men and women outside the usual run of party and bureaucratic circles in order to improve the quality of Welsh councils and committees. As the new plans go forward, it is vital that there should not be recruited a new lot of hard-faced men who look as though they have done well out of the devolution. I am certain that, at this stage especially, there should be a far wider recruitment of Welsh men of all parties to the councils and committees of Wales—except the Communist Party—and I would without doubt include Welsh Nationalists. I want Welsh Nationalist leaders to be given the chance of working in a team on councils and committees with Welshmen of differing opinions. Then we shall see whether they are morally capable of selflessness, or whether they are less concerned with the Principality than with power.
I am saddened by the reaction of the editor of the Western Mail to recent developments. He is a great friend of mine, and I understand the disappointment which he feels at the rejection of the proposals which he has sponsored. The Western Mail published a leading article which suggested that the effectiveness of my right hon. Friend would be reduced:
…with the people, important though small in number, who are the mainstay of our public life.
I would, first, say that 90 per cent. of the Welsh people will judge him on very different criteria. They care, above all, about full employment, social services and the incidence of taxation. To the extent that devolution is divorced from these, they are happy to do without it. Secondly, public life in Wales is crying out for new blood, and it looks to the Minister and to the new Minister of State to inject it.
I promised earlier that I would return to the subject of the Advisory Council. The Government ought now seriously to ask themselves exactly what the Advisory Council is for in 1957. Presumably, it is to advise the Government. But the Prime Minister seems half-persuaded that it is unqualified to pronounce at least on certain subjects. In page 4 of his letter he writes that the disadvantages of its proposals are
…disadvantages more easily apparent, perhaps, to those who have close experience of the machinery of Government administration from within.
My right hon. Friend is, of course, right.
That brings me to the point which was made by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), when he intervened. That is why there should have been set up years ago a Royal Commission, having upon it men with Ministerial experience and senior civil servants who would be immune from the magic of such tribal appeals and war cries as "Parity with Scotland" and could have given us in detail what the Prime Minister's letter gives us in brief.
The second function of the Advisory Council is to advise the Government in the right way. Here again, it would seem that the Prime Minister is not fully satisfied, because in page 7 of his letter he says:
It is right that the Council should be wholly independent of the Government, so that it can give unfettered advice. It is equally right that its liaison with the Government should be as direct as is compatible with full independence.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell us, when he replies to the debate, exactly what the Prime Minister had in mind and what lack of directness there has been in the recommendations of the Advisory Council.
In my view, this public rebuke or these references have not come a day too soon. For example, hon. Members may remember a Welsh day in, I think, 1953, when a document was circulated by the Advisory Council to hon. Members in all parts of the House. I remember referring to it at the time as notes for Opposition speakers, in which there were some damaging criticisms of the Government and, I think, the Minister himself. That is how undemocratic bodies behave when the Government give them too many oats. After the Prime Minister's reference, it will be interesting to see whether the Council resigns on Thursday, as it should, of course, do, or whether, in accordance with its own ample precedent, despite threats to the Government of reconsidering its position, it clings to office like ivy.
We talk of "the Council", but, just as Louis XIV could say "L'etat c'est moi.", so Alderman Huw T. Edwards can say, "The Council, it is I.", for he stands head and shoulders above his colleague. Personally—I am speaking of him purely as a person—I would not change a hair of his head. I would hate him to impoverish public life by leaving it altogether. After all, if he did, who else could take the place of the Merionethshire County Council at the Tryweryn talks? Besides, he is our most distinguished romantic. No Ministerial bridegrooms have ever had quite such a best man. For Lord Kilmuir he tried to do what Tennyson succeeded in doing for Queen Victoria. For Lord Tenby he took to prose, and he has served my right hon. Friend with the same erratic but intense devotion to public duty.
In view of his pre-eminence, it is by his record of advice to the Welsh people that the merit of his latest idea ought to be judged. In 1947, he wrote a pamphlet, "They went to Llandrindod". In that pamphlet he tore to shreds the folly of the idea of a Parliament for Wales. But, by 1953, he had gone there himself, and, together with the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), had become the pin-up of the campaign. Today, he is halfway back again. Today, this is the recommendation before the House—
The hon. Gentleman is devoting a great deal of his speech to a personal attack on someone who cannot answer him here. Is he aware that it is not the Chairman who is recommending this? The proposals under consideration were made under the chairmanship of Sir William Jones, another distinguished Welshman?
It is a political attack, because the letter was sent from the Prime Minister to him as Chairman of the Advisory Council, and it is to Alderman Edwards himself that the Prime Minister replied. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, West had read the letter with care, he should have known both those facts.
It is perfectly true, also—I concede this to the hon. Gentleman—that Alderman Edwards is not in a position to reply to me in this House, although there is no reason why he should not try to get here in order to be able to do so. At the same time, he has plenty of opportunity elsewhere, which on occasion he has exercised. I rather resent the suggestion that this is in any sense a personal attack on him. It is an attack on his opinions. Now that my right hon. Friend has the advice of his Department in Wales, the Welsh Parliamentary Party and the new Minister of State, that should be sufficient and the Advisory Council should no longer be necessary.
The Prime Minister's letter advanced arguments which I have long accepted. The best comment upon them has come from The Times, which said:
The Prime Minister is assuredly right to reject the policy of 'parity with Scotland,' and to concentrate instead on the administrative co-ordination of economic development in Wales. Wales has half the population of Scotland and it does not have distinct systems of law, administration of justice, land tenure, and local government, which are the administrative justification of a separate Scottish Office, with very often separate legislation to apply. The sense of nationhood which Welshmen share is acknowledged and respected in other parts of the British Isles. But it needs neither political nor administrative separatism to give it means of expression, as the history of the past few hundred years bears witness. It can hardly be in the best interests of the Welsh people to saddle the country with a semi-autonomous bureaucracy which would he justified neither by scale nor function, even if it were Wales's own.
In the last resort, it is the taxpayer who has to pay and the ordinary citizen who has to suffer from any excess or deficiency of bureaucracy.
I now turn to the Labour Party's alternative to the proposals now before the House so that we may judge the worth of the Labour Party's co-operative talent in this subject. As I understood the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, it is simply that there is to be a Minister for Welsh Affairs in the Cabinet, but without any Departmental responsibility whatsoever. The right hon. Member for Llanelly and others have already advocated that. I remind hon. Members that my right hon. Friend has said that all the experience of the working of Government showed that a Minister who had not a strong Department behind him lacked power.
If the right hon. Member for Llanelly will not listen to my right hon. Friend, perhaps he will listen to his right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who, when the question of a separate Minister for Welsh Affairs first arose, asked blandly:
What does Wales want a messenger boy for?
Later, in December, 1953, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale described the office of the Minister for Welsh Affairs as a device
…which sought to create between the Government and the natural indignation of the Welsh people a sort of constitutional shock absorber.
The right hon. Gentleman went on:
A shock absorber is a very useful piece of mechanism, but it is no good by itself. There has got to be an engine.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 1914–5.]
Today, after six years of bickering among right hon. and hon. Members opposite, the Labour Party stands exactly where the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said in 1953 that it ought not to stand. It now thinks that the Welsh chariot can be propelled not with an engine, but with the right hon. Member for Llanelly or some other future Minister holding no responsibility for a Department. That is why I suspect that in a few years' time, right hon. and hon. Members opposite will come limping along lamely once again in the wake of the Tories and accepting, as they have virtually accepted already, the office of the Minister for Welsh Affairs, the new Minister of State, and their association with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. This is all that the Labour Party's combined talent has resulted in, as considered on this side of the House. The Labour Party's theme song is simply this:
Anything you can do, we can do later.
We can do anything later than you.
Finally, I welcome this latest devolution since it is rooted not in devolution for devolution's sake, but in the social and economic needs of Wales. Tory effectiveness in Wales will be judged not only by this devolution, but by the extent to which it heals the awful wounds of the past and prevents further wounds being inflicted in future.
If I am wrong, I certainly withdraw. However, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Labour Party has anything of which to be proud between the years 1929–31. I do not want to do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice—
I do not know, but I have no wish to say anything about the unhappy experiences of the past which would personally wound the right hon. Gentleman.
I was saying that my right hon. Friend's effectiveness will be judged by the great nuclear programme in North Wales which he did much to inspire. His effectiveness will be judged by the development of Milford Haven and the new trade which comes to our docks, by what is done to help the fine old craftsmen in the dying hand worked mills, by where the new strip mills go, how soon the Severn Bridge is started, and by his success in attracting capital investment to Wales, not least from Welshmen.
These matters cannot be divorced from the working of the administrative machine any more than from the capacity of the Welfare State to shoulder its burdens. However, my right hon. Friend has proved himself a true and courageous friend of Wales. So long as Welshmen get the bread of work the problem of fancy cakes will solve itself.
As I listened to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) I wondered whether there was anyone as much out of sympathy with Welsh sentiments, Welsh ambitions and Welsh hopes as the hon. Member. I wondered what was his connection with Wales, apart from his splendid Welsh name, which I envy—I envy him nothing else.
I begin by paying my tribute, a well-deserved tribute, to the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, which has produced this remarkable Report. It is a work which has taken the Council a considerable time and the Council has shown a selfless devotion to the needs of the Welsh people. This is an historic document. I especially want to pay my personal tribute to the Chairman, Sir William Jones, whom I have had the honour of knowing for many years. His devotion to the people and his public service in Wales have earned him not only the respect and admiration of the Welsh people, but their deep gratitude.
These people were asked to inquire into the organisation of the Government Departments in Wales. I want to refer straight away to their conclusions, which are very shortly summarised in paragraphs 182 and 183. They say:
Having carried out their detailed examination of Government administration in Wales it is abundantly clear to the Panel that the organisation of the machinery of administration needs to be improved to secure that the functions of Central Government are discharged with maximum effectiveness in Wales and with greater recognition given to distinctive Welsh conditions and to the many differences between Wales and the remainder of Great Britain. The greatest single failing in the present organisation is that there is far too little co-ordination of the activities of the Departments operating in Wales. This is a feature of the problem which has impressed itself upon the Panel time and time again during the course of their investigations.
That is followed not only by a criticism of the Government Department, but by a criticism of the office held by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, Minister for Welsh Affairs. Very rightly, the Panel pointed out, repeating what has been said from time to time in this House, that the weakness of that office lies in the fact that the Minister has no specific executive authority for Wales. He is a sort of watchdog, who just sees what is happening in Wales and inquires about it, but, with the exception of his other office, Housing and Local Government, he has no executive authority at all for any of the other Departments in Wales.
One is, therefore, not surprised that, having made its very full inquiries, the Panel comes to the conclusion that there is only one way of solving this problem, and that is by creating for Wales a Secretary of State, having full executive authority for Welsh affairs, to exactly the same extent—no less and no more—than the Secretary of State for Scotland has with regard to Scotland.
Naturally, I was delighted when I read the Report and recommendations. The only time, since I have been a Member of this House, when I was successful in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills, was in 1937, when I brought forward a Bill which sought to create the very office which the Panel has now recommended, namely, a Secretary of State for Wales having exactly the same powers as those possessed by the Secretary of State for Scotland. On the back of that Bill there were names of Welsh Members representing the three parties in the House. There were the names of old Labour friends who have now left the House, and names of Conservative Members, as well as of the Liberal Members who supported the Bill.
We desired that the Secretary of State should be appointed for Wales not merely because of the need for the exercise of executive functions, but for the additional reason that the voice of Wales should be heard in the initial stages, when policy was being considered in the Cabinet. So far, we have always had to wait for the policy to be decided by the Cabinet; the Bill is then prepared by the Department concerned and we have to consider its effect upon our people for the first time when we see it in print, and then do the best we can in this House.
It is well known that once a Bill has been decided upon and the draft placed before the House it is much more difficult to get the Government to alter or amend it in the way that one desires than it is to get them to consider the matter before they actually commit it to print. We were, therefore, anxious that the voice of Wales should be heard in the initial stages, not only in the settling of legislative policy but policy in general.
In the letter written by the Prime Minister to the Chairman of the Council one finds that he feels that Wales has a special part to play in the affairs of this country. He says:
The Government's cardinal purpose is to put beyond all doubt that Wales as a nation has a place of its own in the counsels of Britain…
In what councils? Not in the central council, where policy is decided. If a voice is heard at all there it will be the
voice of the Minister, who has given us a sort of second thought, as a secondary part of his duties. He is a Minister who is there because he holds some other office. Then, perchance, he may be asked, "What do you think would be the Welsh view of this matter?" That is all that is to be done for people who are described as a nation. Earlier in the letter one finds that the Prime Minister has made quite a number of discoveries. He has discovered not only that we have our own traditions, literature, and history, but even our own geography; that we can be found on a map of the world.
Is it, therefore, to be wondered at that he dismisses us with a Minister of State in this way? What is the meaning of this part of his letter?
Wales has her own history, her own geography, her own hopes, her own life. It would be surprising if she were ideally served by a copy on half-scale, of the existing system of Government in Scotland.
I take it that the Prime Minister meant that the population of Scotland was about double that of Wales. Scotland is rather well represented in the House. Not only is there a Secretary of State, but there are four other Ministers to assist him, in addition to two Law Officers—which means that there are six representatives in the Government to look after the interests of Scotland, which has a population about twice that of Wales.
The Prime Minister might have looked over the sea and compared us with a land which is about half our size, namely, Northern Ireland. The population of that country is about 1,300,000. But they are not only treated as being entitled to their own views; they are given a separate Government to look after their own affairs.
The Prime Minister then says:
…what Wales needs is not isolation from the rest of Britain…
I agree; not one of us wants that. After all, we were here before these others arrived, and I do not think that we want to claim isolation in that way. Isolation, or one nationality claiming complete isolation from other nationalities, is a complete anachronism today, but it is also an anachronism for one people, who are different in origin, language and tradition, to claim domination over another. Whatever happens to us in this House, as representatives of Wales, whatever legislation we may propose or whatever policy
we may put forward, we are always liable to be outvoted by the dominant party. Our voice cannot even be heard in the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister's proposal has come as a deep shock to us. Still more was the shock when we heard who is to be regarded as the recipient of all the information and knowledge about Wales. That gentleman has already been dealt with faithfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). But among other things, what a cheap insult it is to hon. Members opposite. Why should this man be made a member of the House of Lords? I suppose that there he will, at any rate, find sanctuary from any Questions or information, and from giving a description of his office. The only person who will be responsible is the right hon. Gentleman, and he will be receiving his information second-hand—
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. But if that be not the case, I cannot understand the purpose of this appointment.
I am reminded of the expression used about the House of Lords by the right hon. David Lloyd George, as he then was. He called it, "Mr. Balfour's poodle." May I take it that from now on we shall refer to the new Minister of State as the "lap-dog" of the right hon. Gentleman, the person who will fetch and carry for the Minister?
This is no way to treat a proud nation, especially at a time when the whole world is wondering what the future will bring forth, and when we are desirous of getting closer co-operation and understanding with one another. At such a time the Prime Minister recognises the separate needs of Wales and its own particular problems. Yet the right hon. Gentleman says that they shall not be settled by Welsh people, but that the Welsh nation shall be fobbed off with someone of whom we have never heard before, who will sit in another place, and whose voice will never be heard in this Chamber.
I am tempted to follow the trend of this debate and discuss Government administration in Wales. However, I hope I shall be forgiven if I devote my remarks to the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire which is now before us. When speaking on this subject in the past, I have been tempted to discuss the industrial problems which are raised in that Report. Today I shall discuss the wider field of local government services in Wales. The developments we are likely to find will engage the attention of the new Minister much more than anything else, and I feel, therefore, that I must voice my views about them. They will affect every individual in Wales.
A week ago I sat in this House for two days endeavouring to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the debate on the Local Government Bill. I know that strictly I should be out of order were I to deal with that Measure now, but I wish to say something about it which has a relation to our debate today. Had I been given the opportunity, I should have been very harsh in my criticism of Part I of the Local Government Bill. The Minister will agree that when I have spoken about housing and other local government matters in the past my criticism, both of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, have been severe. I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to think that I am praising him today, though I shall commend him for certain of the actions he has taken. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), when criticised for praising the Minister last week, said he was trying to get something out of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope to succeed in doing that myself.
Part I of the Local Government Bill dealt with the financial provisions, and I was pleased that the Minister included the rate-deficiency grants. This is important to Wales, because during the last three years the Exchequer equalisation grant has amounted to over £10 million a year. That will indicate the importance of including a provision in the Bill to replace that grant in the shape of the rate-deficiency grant. I was also pleased that the Minister followed the recommendations of the Edwards Committee in presenting the grant direct to the county districts. That will have a vital effect upon my constituency and upon the whole of Wales.
Although the transitional arrangements for grants may best be discussed during the committee stage, in case I am not a member of the Committee, may I say now that I am not satisfied with them. I wish to enter a caveat regarding the proposals in Parts II and III of that Bill. It is no use the Minister thinking that the proposals contained there will be successful if we do not solve the financial impasse in which local government now finds itself. The proposals in Part I will exacerbate that position rather than cure it. I am in favour of the single or all-purpose authority. That will serve the interests of Wales better than any other type of authority, though there are difficulties which will arise in certain parts of the country.
I should like the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales to consider this matter when advising on the new areas. Many problems will face the Commission, as may be adduced by hon. Members when considering the differing authorities which exist in Wales, and the jealousies—let us be frank—that are apparent, whether it be in the county council or the parish council. The Minister has proposed something which will ease the Commission's task. At least, it will be easier in England, although I do not know about Wales. The right hon. Gentleman has put a population basis in the Bill to guide the Commission. The figures used are 100,000 and 60,000.
I would ask to Minister not to adhere rigidly to these figures regarding Wales. Community interests, especially in the rural areas, and questions of geography must play a vital part. It is obvious that the Minister has tried by compromise to meet the conflicting interests of these authorities. I hope that the Commission will weigh carefully all the various interests against the good of my country; and what is good for Wales, and indeed for England, will be good for local government, because they are synonymous terms.
I wish to preface the remarks I have to make about the paragraphs in the Report dealing with water. I feel strongly about the position of my own party when in office during the period 1945 to 1951. The process of centralising local government has gone on for over a hundred years, but it is fair to say that during the period from 1946 to 1948 that process was most marked, and I was very disturbed about it at the time. Whether it be the Electricity Act, 1947, the Gas Act, 1948, the National Health Act, 1946, or the Transport Act, 1947, highly efficient municipal undertakings—I stress that—and highly efficient municipal hospitals were taken away completely from local government. I think that was a tragic mistake.
The transport undertakings are still threatened by the provisions, as the Minister knows, of the 1947 Act. I know that local democracy was safeguarded—as I do not want to be accused of being too cynical, I would put safeguarded in inverted commas—by the so-called consultative committees or management committees, each of whose members was or is appointed by the Minister. I felt at the time and still feel that the iron curtain was brought down between these committees and what we might call the rebel, the difficult person, who has often been so correct and progressive, as we have found, and now it is quite impossible for that type of person to be appointed to these committees. I think that it was a mistake. I know that these are rather bitter words, but I am bound to say them because I felt at that time that such a splendid chance was lost.
There are three criteria. National standards which have to be followed, area boundaries where conflict could have a harmful effect on national policy, and local interest which these consultative councils were created to protect and, in that respect, have done valuable work. We are all asking ourselves now where is the local interest in electricity, gas, hospitals and so on. A week or so ago in my own constituency the local hospital management committee held its annual meeting. It presented a very fine report. It went to a considerable amount of publicity and succeeded in getting a total of ten in the audience. That is something to be deplored.
Turning to the question of water—and this is why I wanted to preface my remarks with what I have said—in paragraphs 235 and 236 there is "water policy in general" and "grouping of water undertakings." I know the Minister has exerted a considerable pressure on local authorities during the last 12 months in Wales to put their own house in order. I do not know what has been the result of that pressure. I know that there has been some small progress, and I am hoping it will be much more positive. Here is a chance of putting local government right back into the picture by not taking the distribution at least of water out of its hands. I am of the opinion that the only answer to the water problem in Wales is to nationalise the water undertakings and have a Welsh Water Board. I will comment on that in a moment.
So far as water distribution is concerned, I ask the Minister to say that at last he will give the local authorities a fair crack of the whip. With regard to a Water Board for Wales, I notice in paragraph 235 (d):
That the establishment of a Water Board for Wales was not a practicable proposition.
I cannot accept that bald statement. Before I would agree with such a conclusion I should like the Minister to give us some more comments about it or present us with a report to that effect.
Turning to the question of local government services in Wales—
I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman wants me to comment about. The statement
That the establishment of a Water Board for Wales was not a practicable proposition.
was not a statement made by the Government, but a statement made by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.
With reference to local government services in Wales and the local government set-up, I think that any one who has read the Report of the 1945 Local Government Boundary Commission and its 1947 Report will see that the Minister has agreed to many of the proposals. We saw this when we followed the proposals in the Local Government Bill which was before us last week. I want to commend him for this. After all, as he knows perfectly well, that local government boundary Commission in the year 1946–47 held over 400 conferences. I think that speaks for itself. Indeed, when we read the Report we find that it is an exceptionally fine study of the present set up of local Government in Wales.
What I am concerned about is this. In view of the Minister's acceptance of these proposals, I am wondering whether the new local Government Boundary Commission for Wales will itself be so impressed. I have in mind the very serious changes which have been presented in that Report. It is going to come upon us in a very short time. So far as Glamorgan and Monmouthshire are concerned, I was pleased to see that the Minister has now included Monmouthshire with Wales in this Report. He will recall that the 1945 Local Government Boundary Commission was not empowered to include Monmouthshire in Wales. The Minister has certainly put that right in the Bill and I commend him for it.
The criteria of population figures given in the Bill will have to be applied very loosely indeed to Wales, and I also want to commend the Minister for that. In his speech on the Second Reading, he stated that so far as population was concerned he was going to see that the figures were not too rigidly applied. I ask him to extend this favour to Wales. It is much more true of Wales than it would be of England.
To give a brief picture, there are only four county boroughs in Wales, three of which have over 100,000 population—Newport, Cardiff and Swansea, all in the south—and the other, the County Borough of Merthyr has a population in the region of 60,000. There are only five urban districts in Wales with a population of about 40,000 and they are all well below 50,000. So, if we get the criterion of 60,000 with regard to compulsory delegation, Wales has just "had it". I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman was recently in Rhondda, which has a population of 107,000. That should certainly not present any difficulty. I am certain that whatever the outcome of the Reports of the Local Government Boundary Commissions—and I view them with some trepidation— it is better to do something than to do nothing at all.
I want to refer to paragraph 178 of the Report, which deals with development plans. This is the main burden of my speech. The planning authorities in Wales are now in the process of presenting to the Minister their new development plans. Some have already done so. Decisions have been made in relation to some and they are following the statutory obligations of the 1947 Act. As the Minister is aware—at least, I hope he is—this is having very serious consequences because of what is now known as the "planning blight". It is a new and perhaps ugly word, but it is having ugly consequences. This disease is spreading in the Rhondda and Aberdare Valleys and other parts of South Wales. It is also causing, so I was told quite recently, some concern in London.
In Rhondda and Aberdare, there are over 40 per cent. of owner occupiers. Because of the very high percentage of owner occupiers in Rhondda and Aberdare, the planning blight has become very serious indeed. The effects are not generally known. I think that they are effects which have not so far been seriously considered by the planning legislators, and that includes my own party. Will not the Minister give serious attention to this matter? I would welcome a statement from him that he is doing so, although I do not expect detailed answers today.
I would like to give the House two or three examples of what happens. A town plan is proposed, and although the plan may not be coming into effect for ten, fifteen or even for 30 years, it immediately begins to have its effect. I can give specific cases which come within my personal knowledge. The first is of a family wishing to buy a bigger house because of the increased size of the family. It receives two offers of £1,800 for its present house, which is a very fine building. The town plan proposals are published; the houses ceases to have any saleable value and the family has to remain where it is.
The second case is of a contract which has been entered into for the purchase of a bigger house on the basis of an offer of £900 for the present house. These people cannot get anything now for their present house, although they have entered into obligations for another house. Consequently, they will have practically to give away their present house in an attempt to meet their contractual arrangements.
The third case is of a bungalow which has been bought for £1,750, on the basis of a promised offer of £650 for the present house. The town plan proposals have meant that this family cannot get a sou for its present house although it has bought the bungalow and entered into the commitment for £1,750. I could multiply these cases.
Other serious consequences are sustained under the provisions of the 1949 Housing Act by people whose houses come within a town plan which may not operate for fifteen years. Building societies are now, quite apart from the financial stringencies of the present day, including the 7 per cent. interest rate, refraining from giving loans to people to purchase houses. I have here a letter from the general manager of a very prominent building society. It says:
I have been giving consideration to the Redevelopment Plan…and I am surprised to see from the Programme Map the number of properties involved.
As you know, we have made numerous advances in the past on houses in your town, but in view of the uncertainty of the position, I must inform you that, until the situation is clarified, we shall not be able to entertain mortgage applications on any properties where development is expected to be undertaken.
I would explain that there are 3,600 properties affected in my constituency and 3,000 affected in the Rhondda, that I know of. The letter goes on:
As regards the properties shown as being in areas likely to be developed after 1971, we shall approach this very cautiously and it may be such applications will have to be declined.
I am sorry to have to give you this information and I hope it will be possible to make some amendment to the map. Perhaps you would let me know as soon as you have any information in this regard.
That is a very serious position for owner-occupiers and especially for poor people in my county.
There is another problem. Properties which are not affected by the town plan are now acquiring a highly inflated value. Offers were made to me for a house which I vacated. They were fantastic offers, and I would have been ashamed to accept them, I say publicly. That is another consequence of the so-called planning blight. The position is particularly exasperating when the people and the local authorities are aware that the plans are unlikely to be carried out for many years. Because of the high interest rates it will be difficult for local authorities to replace houses, especially when they will have no subsidy, as this has now been taken away. The problem remains and we must do something about it. Local authorities in my constituency and other constituencies in South Wales are facing severe criticism for a situation which is not of their making.
Another point in this connection is about administrative tribunals of inquiry. I was hoping to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the discussion of the Franks Report, but the matter has relevance to planning and compensation. The importance of the basis of compensation is emphasised in that Report, paragraph 278 of which reads:
One final point of great importance needs to be made. The evidence which we have received shows that much of the dissatisfaction with the procedures relating to land arises from the basis of compensation. It is clear that objections to compulsory purchase would be far fewer if compensation were always assessed at not less than market value. It is not part of our terms of reference to consider and make recommendations upon the basis of compensation. But we cannot emphasise too strongly the extent to which these financial considerations affect the matters with which we have to deal.
That brings me to another point about planning which is engaging the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Power. That is the question of spoil heaps by which my area, and, indeed, the whole countryside of South Wales, has been disfigured. I am certain that the Minister will have noticed, during his week-end tour of the Rhondda Valley, that there has been a complete disregard of the amenities, as the result of which we have these ugly monstrosities, the coal tips. The Town and Country Planning Acts and the General Order of 1950, have not been sufficiently stringent.
In fairness to the National Coal Board and its officials in my South-Western Division, I must say that they are doing all they can, in conjunction with local authorities, to remove this evil, although they know that their first priority is to get coal. My object in raising the matter now is to place on record the fact that the House has its own obligation in this matter. Much good work is being done in Yorkshire by the local authorities and Ministers are watching this development with interest. I would very much like the Minister to see these monstrosities. If he had only come over from the Rhondda area last Saturday over the Mardy Road down into the beautiful town of Aberdare, called the Queen of the Hills, he would have seen the way in which two of these coal tips obstruct the view of the whole valley. He could have gone three miles down the valley to the birthplace of my wife and of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I am sorry that my hon. Friend is not here.
I would very much like the Minister to see those two monstrosities in that valley; they can be seen by everybody. They are the Maclean type of tip. One is about 100 feet high with a huge base which completely obstructs the valley. This tipping is going on now. That is another reason why I am bringing the matter up here.
I have gone on at length about these matters because I feel that the present situation confirms the old adage, "Out of sight, out of mind." I do not want that to be true in this case. Although we need the coal and the obligation on the Coal Board is to the nation, I want to know whether the Ministry propose to give technical and financial assistance to local authorities who are trying to deal with coal tips.
My final point is in reference to private streets. In the Report reference is made to this and to the old industrial areas of South Wales. The Report says that only £15,000 was approved for private streets in the last year for the whole of Wales. That is absolutely shocking and scandalous. It is a short-sighted policy, because, from what I have seen, derelict areas which look absolutely dismal and horrible become transformed once streets are made up. If something further could be done to assist local authorities by giving more grants for private streets many parts of development areas now included in town plans would, perhaps, not be necessary.
I sat through two days of the debate on local government and it may be that I missed any statement he made, but I am wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman is including the question of claimed roads, as by the White Paper he intended, in the Local Government Bill. My two urban districts are very much concerned about this matter. I think that the Minister is seized of the point of whether claimed roads are still to be the privilege of urban districts with a population of 20,000 and over, or whether that is altered by the Bill.
Naturally, as might be anticipated, the debate today has been dominated by thoughts of the constitutional changes which have taken place since January, and more particularly in the last few days. It is not surprising that opinions on both sides of this House and in Wales should differ about the value of those changes. It would have been surprising, perhaps, had it been otherwise. I suggest that whatever might have been done, whatever changes would have been instituted, probably there would have been quite considerable criticism from some quarter or other.
My views about these matters have not varied a great deal in recent years and they are fairly well known to those who know me. I have long taken the view that we should have in Wales a Secretary of State and a secretariat approximating to the Scottish model. I should like them to be instituted sooner rather than later, but I am not firmly devoted to any rigid agenda or timetable. If we judge the changes since last January against the background of an ultimate introduction of a Secretary of State and secretariat, I think that to be fair we can say only that they represent a quite decided advance.
I noted one suggestion put forward today which I do not think carries any weight at all. That was the suggestion that Wales cannot have any sort of system because it is only half the size of Scotland. Wales is larger in population than New Zealand, which has a well-established Parliament and, as the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) pointed out, Wales is considerably larger than Ulster, which has its own elaborate Parliamentary system.
The first of three developments which have taken place which I respectfully submit constitute an advance, was the Prime Minister's decision last January that the post of Minister for Welsh Affairs should be held by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, with the obvious advantage that my right hon. Friend would have his general advisory functions combined with direct responsibility for the very important duties of housing, planning, and local government in Wales. Secondly, and very recently, there was the appointment of a Minister of State, possessing more freedom to manoeuvre than the Minister for Welsh Affairs. That, surely, will mean that my right hon. Friend will have his Departmental advice supplemented by the counsel of a Ministerial colleague, which I submit is of some considerable value. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—I say this very kindly—
—made a lot of play this afternoon about the fact that the new Minister is a county councillor and for that reason is a lesser person than those who have the honour to sit in this House. I have never thought that, because by accident or other strange happening, some of us find our way here we are necessarily superior people—
—I think I shall always presume to speak for others as well—better than or superior to those who happen to represent local authorities. I think it fairly safe to say that there are men of immeasurably greater ability on some of our great local authorities than some of us who sit in this House. For that reason I do not think it at all valid to say that a person is merely a county councillor. It may be an inestimable qualification, for service in our great local authorities is just as much a part of democracy as service in this House.
The third step, the importance of which we can scarcely exaggerate, was mentioned in the Prime Minister's letter to the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. It is the intention to strengthen what I like to describe as the Welsh Civil Service. I particularly welcome the proposal for upgrading the Cardiff office of my right hon. Friend, and promoting the Under-Secretary there to the new rank of Welsh Secretary. I think that a most valuable and significant step. In his letter the Prime Minister described the improvement of the Welsh Civil Service as a continuing process. I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister will be able to give the House an assurance that in this matter there will be no turning back. The Prime Minister said it was a continuing process—I presume he meant in a forward direction. I would reiterate the comment of Sir Godfrey Llewellyn last weekend when he expressed the hope that the new office of Minister of State would be a permanent office. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that it will not disappear like the former office of Welsh Under-Secretary, but remain until some further substantial constitutional advance is contemplated?
Among the other new decisions to be noted is the proposed appointment of a senior administrative officer in Wales from the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. When I had the honour to be P.P.S. in that Department I always thought the attempt at some technical devolution in the Ministry of Transport should be accompanied by some administrative devolution of this kind.
I pass to the question of better facilities for debating and considering Welsh affairs generally in this House. A former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), in a debate a week ago, mentioned the advantages of the Scottish Grand Committee in considering matters of general interest to Scotland—not necessarily Scottish Bills, but Scottish questions. The right hon. Gentleman implied that Wales should share the advantages of that procedure. I certainly share that view. We want better facilities to consider and debate special Welsh topics. The speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) indicated the variety of those topics. It its scarcely possible to compress into a debate of one day, like this, consideration of a tremendous constitutional issue and those other individual issues which, relatively, are of great importance to the Members concerned.
That could best be achieved without impeding the general business of the House by allowing a Welsh Grand Committee to meet occasionally for the purpose. The general debate today has, I think, reflected that need and I hope my right hon. Friend will give consideration to that possibility.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have necessarily dealt with a large number of dissimilar questions, and who can blame them? I should like to make a reference to the Council for Wales. I certainly do not share the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn); I think the Council has done a most valuable service and I do not think that the members should feel that they have been slighted in any case if their advice has not been taken exactly. I do not imagine that any advisory body expects its advice to be followed exactly. Probably it can be seen to the members of the Council that their advice and reports have influenced constitutional development, because even today we can see that the interest in the topics and the discussions of them both within and outside Wales would scarcely have increased to this extent had there been no Council of this kind.
The general picture shown by the White Paper can be described as very encouraging. I am glad that the name of the Paper has been changed to a "Report on Developments and Government Action". I have always felt that the description "Government Action" was a sort of hyperbole in the case of Governments of either party, because so many of the events referred to have fallen outside the province of any Government.
It would be strange if Wales had escaped all the stresses which have affected the United Kingdom and the other countries of the sterling area in the past year or so. What is truly remarkable is that the economy of Wales has shown itself to be so firm and so resilient in the circumstances. There cannot be anything fundamentally wrong with an economy in Wales which supplies a larger steel production than any other part of the United Kingdom, in which the production of coal has risen substantially during the past year, and over the year prior to this Report, and in which a great variety of light industries have become established and consolidated.
While we cannot deny the concern which is properly felt about the position in South-West Wales, due to the closure of some of the old type works and about the comparatively heavy unemployment in North-West Wales, I still respectfully say that the general picture is distinctly encouraging. I also use the description "surprisingly encouraging", because many of us feared that the newer industries might be less securely established than in fact has been the case.
Our anxieties about South-West Wales and North-West Wales are largely counter-balanced, I think, by the hopes for the new strip mill in South Wales and the great oil developments at Milford Haven. Stern efforts are being made to divert this new steel and undertaking from South Wales to Scotland or some part of England, but the company concerned has made it clear that it wants this undertaking to be in South Wales, and nothing can stop this happening but the intervention of the Government or some Ministerial agency.
I imagine that the Labour Party might favour the intervention of the Government or a Government Agency to direct industries into particular places, but I am not sure that Welsh hon. Members opposite would be so attracted to the idea of Government intervention if that resulted in this industry being directed out of Wales. We on this side of the House do not favour too much Government intervention of that kind. I suggest that since the company in its estimation of the economic needs and prospects of this industry has decided that the best site for it is in South Wales, only in the most extreme case should any Government interfere with such a decision.
The hon. Member will recall that some years ago the company decided that the best site was outside South Wales entirely and that the Government of the time, a Conservative Government, persuaded the directors to go to Wales. I am sure that the hon. Member will rejoice in that decision.
The suggestion has been for the direction of this industry outside Wales and I certainly hope the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with that. I certainly believe that it should come to South Wales, for the company wants it to come there.
I read a report that Scottish trades unionists at a meeting last week were told by one of their members that we in Wales do not want a steel undertaking of this kind. He said that we wanted only other kinds of undertaking. I do not know where this gentleman obtained his information but I hope that all concerned, on both the employers' side and on the trade union side in South Wales, will make it clear that we want the industry and intend to get it.
I should like to comment on another announcement of particular satisfaction to Wales. We were informed of the decision to build two atomic establishments in Wales, but I suspect that it cannot be denied that my right hon. Friend's influence in this was paramount. I am sure that whatever the party differences in the House we shall be prepared to praise my right hon. Friend for the steps which he took to persuade the authority to site two of these undertakings in Wales.
My concluding remarks will relate to the province of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. I was very pleased with a Written Answer which he gave me last week giving details of road improvements between Cardiff and Swansea estimated to cost in total about £3 million. In my opinion, however, two projects seem to be regarded with less than the urgency which they deserve. The first is the problem of connecting the Midlands with South Wales and the second is the immensely important project of by-passing the town of Port Talbot. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use his best efforts to influence the Minister of Transport to speed up both these projects, because if Wales and the United Kingdom are to obtain the full benefit of the industrial prosperity of South Wales there must be smoother and swifter movement of traffic into and across the South Wales coastal areas.
I cannot omit a reference to the ports of Barry and Cardiff. On the future of Barry Dock, I received a long letter from the Ministry of Transport last week. Most of it would be equally pertinent in considering the problem of Cardiff. There is one point to which I would call my right hon. Friend's attention. The Minister of Transport stated:
As to Dock Charges the British Transport Commission (Harbours) Charges Scheme, which was submitted to the Transport Tribunal for confirmation in July, 1956, contained a proposal for a common level of maximum
charges at all the major B.T.C. ports. This proposal, however, provoked very strong objections from organisations representing shipping and commerce.
I do not doubt that it did, because these organisations prefer the ports of London and Liverpool, but I feel that in a case like this, where the State-owned organisation is providing dock facilities for companies which presumably function in both London and South Wales ports, or in both Liverpool and South Wales ports, there should be a uniform charge. Such ports as London and Liverpool already have great advantages. They have their established custom of trade and other great advantages. They do not need the extra benefit of preferential dock charges. I hope that my right hon. Friend will go into the whole question with the Minister of Transport because it is causing tremendous anxiety in South Wales.
The picture of the Welsh industrial economy is encouraging. We have two or three big problems, but I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that this is a better picture than any of us would have had any reason to expect even at the commencement of the problems of the redundant mills.
In South-West Wales we still have a very great problem, and I do not think that anyone in this House would attempt to minimise it. I know, however, that my right hon. Friend and his new colleague the Minister of State will devote the maximum amount of time to that. There is another problem of the utmost gravity in North-West Wales, which successive Governments have found difficult to cure. Again, I know that my right hon. Friend will do all that he can. But, on balance, and subject to that, it is a picture of encouragement. For my part, I feel that although the constitutional advance may not satisfy those who want to run very quickly, it is, perhaps, in accord with the feelings of the majority of Welsh people. I should like to move faster, of course, but I am glad that we are moving in the right direction, and I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues for what they have done.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) waxed eloquent, as was to be expected, about the attainments of Her Majesty's Government. He brought out some of the points in the important Report that we are considering, and he thought that the Government had come to favourable conclusions. He pointed a finger of scorn at this side, and spoke of the danger of the direction of industry to any part of the country.
I rather think that had it not been for the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, South Wales would now be making a very poor showing. I think that the Government of the day were perfectly entitled to endeavour to influence industry towards South Wales, and to the other Welsh Development Areas in Wales, and I am sure that, on second thoughts, the hon. Member will agree, even though he may fear the more positive direction that we might, perhaps, adopt were we on the other side of the House.
I should like to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for his very able opening of the debate on behalf of the Opposition. He dealt very effectively with an extremely important phase of Welsh life—education, and particularly, at this time, technical education. Wales will not play its part unless it can get that quality in higher technical education that is necessary in order that the foundations of our national life may be true and firm.
This Report on Developments and Government Action—the twelfth—certainly serves to remind us that the tide of human needs never recedes. The range of the survey is a great convenience and succeeds in giving us a picture of the agencies at work trying to satisfy life's economic demands. The Report says that during the year there was some anxiety
…because the first material weakening in employment was apparent since the new prosperity of Wales became established…
It goes on to say:
But if comparison is made with any pre-war period, it is the success with which the test was undergone that is the outstanding feature.
It is good news, indeed, to know that most of the industries that have come to Wales during the last twenty years or so have proved themselves well established, and able to withstand the strains and ups and downs of trade. We are fast approaching a period of twenty years of our fullest employment. This welcome change from the old pre-war misery
warrants a build-up of the best knowledge attainable to lead Wales forward, and enable us to hold on to the gains that we have, as is acknowledged on all sides, achieved. Our interest, in the Principality, is to see that as many young people as possible find an outlet as high up the scale as their abilities permit. We must encourage, with even greater enthusiasm than in the past, the pursuit of both technical and commercial studies.
At the beginning of this year, the House gave a little time to the Report of the Council for Wales on Government Administration in Wales. Many hon. Members expressed the view that a case had been made out for a more adequate Governmental administrative structure. From the text of the Prime Minister's letter to the Chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, we now know the Government's views. We know that the proposal for a Secretary of State, or a Minister, has been turned down on the grounds that he would be only a kind of "advisory overlord" if he was not head of "a strong Government Department."
That is the justification for allowing the Minister for Welsh Affairs to be retained in the person of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. So be it. The pros and cons have been considered, and a disappointing decision arrived at. Instead, Wales is to have a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, and he will sit in another place. This is surely unacceptable to Wales. It fails to stir or warm a single heart. It has had a very unfavourable reception in Wales.
If I was asked which voice was expressing the true feelings of Wales—that of the Council for Wales, to whose Report the Prime Minister has paid such a high tribute, or that of the Prime Minister on the question of the structure of administration in Wales—I would say that the Council for Wales spoke with the true voice of the Welsh people—
I say a Secretary of State for Wales but, in those circumstances, it must devolve upon the Cabinet of the day to work out the details. Right hon. and hon. Members can express their views on this but, in the last resort, it must be the Cabinet that makes the decision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) drew the Minister's attention to the uneasiness felt by house owners who might be affected by the general intentions embraced in the county development plans. I am worried by this, too. It is the Glamorgan County Council No. 2 Plan that has caused anxiety to my constituents. There is an awareness by them that a public inquiry will be held by an inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to hear objections, but the inspector will not deal with the vexed question of reasonable compensation for houses required to be demolished under the plan. The district valuer will decide how much compensation a house owner shall receive. We are told that compensation will be based on the market value of the house at the time the authorities are ready to proceed with any scheme within the county plan.
However, many things can happen between the announcement of a plan and the actual execution of the schemes it incorporates. It is clear that as soon as a plan is made public the house owners affected have their house values depressed where, say, through domestic reasons, they wish to dispose of their houses long before the near fruition of the actual county development plan. The district valuer does not enter the picture at this point. He comes into the picture only when the authorities are actively preparing to proceed with the works intended. If the sale of a house coming within the confines of a development plan under the aforementioned circumstances takes place, the subsequent depressed value has to be accepted, thus imposing a hardship upon the house owner. This will happen because the value of the house has been depressed through the knowledge that at some time the property has to be demolished for an improvement.
I want to ease, if possible, the anxiety of these folk who come within the development plan and whose houses and property are scheduled to be demolished. No one will buy property of that sort when it is to be demolished under the plan. Can the rules within which the district valuer operates be reviewed so that all cases affected by the county development plans at any stage can have fair and reasonable compensation? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give his best attention to this question, because for those counties which are not thickly populated the development plans can go through easily. Where the areas are built up and a new road is to go here and a new road is to go there, it is causing a good deal of anxiety to very worthy countrymen of ours.
The Report mentions the proposal of Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd, to erect a new, fully integrated steel plant in Wales. This is of vital interest to South Wales, and I am wondering why the reaching of a decision upon this new steel project is being prolonged. The recovery in motor car output, with its demand for sheet steel exceeding domestic capacity, shows that short-term fluctuations in demand ought not to unduly influence the planning of future steel capacity. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to be forthcoming on this matter. The impression is widespread that a fourth strip mill is necessary. Is it true that Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd. are less keen to proceed with this fourth mill?
The estimate of the Iron and Steel Board is that there will be a shortage of sheet steel in 1962. If this is so, does not the state of the economy require the Government to weigh in with their influence in no uncertain manner to give a clear lead? The Government have wide powers over the industry and they should be used to stop any further delay.
I should like to quote from a leading article in the Financial Times to reinforce what I have been saying:
Although differences about estimates of future demand have something to do with the impasse, it appears that finance plays a large part in it as well. R.T.B., the main producer still to be denationalised, may feel that its
chances of denationalisation might be jeopardised if it saddled itself with the obligation to erect a fourth strip mill. But considerations of this kind cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the needs of the economy. Financial backing must be provided, if necessary, by Government agencies like the F.C.I., either to R.T.B., or to a consortium of sheet producers. The stalemate must not continue.
That is an organ that speaks for private industry. The remarks there are very potent, and I hope that the Minister will give us some consolation on this important matter.
I want to mention a rather important aspect of our life which we shall be facing shortly. During the past decade, as the result of the post-war birthrate increase, we have familiarised ourselves with the word "bulge." The special problems that this "bulge" created in its progress through the schools are known to all of us. Its present point of advance is the secondary schools. We shall be feeling its effects on industry when its peak effect takes place in 1962. Then, nearly 300,000 additional children will be leaving schools. That is the "bulge." Are the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour taking the measure of this problem? It is not a small problem.
A recent wireless talk made the point that the recent White Paper, "Call-up of Men to the Forces", shows the present size of the Armed Forces as 690,000 and the proposed size—I hope that the Minister will mark this—in 1962 as 375,000. In other words, about 300,000 young adults will be returned to civilian employment at the time that the "bulge" is coming on to the labour market. Can the figures as they affect Wales in this respect be extracted? Here is a situation which presents a challenge. If plans are to be effective, they need to be shaped soon.
These strains may produce unemployment among young people. That is the last thing that this House wants to see. Are they any factors in the situation that the Government can control—for example, by raising the school-leaving age? If no vacancies will be available in industry at the appropriate time, I trust that the modern schools will be equal to providing courses for these "bulge" juveniles so that their education may go forward until employment is at hand.
During our last Welsh debate, I was delighted to find—as, I am sure, hon. Members in all parts of the House were, too—that I had spoken at rather less length than usual. I do not wish to break that good record tonight. It is my intention to speak quite shortly and to say a few words about the constitutional measures that were announced a few days ago.
During the last Welsh debate, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) referred to my right hon. Friend who had just then been appointed to the position of Minister for Welsh Affairs. The hon. Member said that Wales would judge my right hon. Friend's activities by events. It is now ten months since that last debate and about eleven months since my right hon. Friend became Minister for Welsh Affairs, and we have had an opportunity, during that time, to judge in some measure by the events that have taken place.
I can say this to my right hon. Friend quite firmly. The people in Wales are satisfied that the position of Minister for Welsh Affairs is better served in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government than it was with the Home Office. I know I can also say that the general consensus of opinion in Wales is that no person could have shown greater interest in Welsh matters or greater concern for them than my right hon. Friend has done. Some of us have been amazed by the way that he has been able, in conjunction with all his other activities, to visit us so frequently in Wales. I should like to thank him for the great tact and courtesy that he has shown in Wales at all times.
The matter of main interest to the House in our last debate was the recommendation of the Panel of the Council for Wales in regard to a Secretary of State for Wales. As hon. Members know, only one person in this House who represents a Welsh constituency was in opposition to the principle of the proposals put forward by that. Panel. I mention the principle of the proposals, because very few people were brave enough to come out openly and say that they welcomed the proposals in their entirety.
Now what was the principle behind the proposals? As I see it, the Panel said, "We have made a very close and detailed investigation into the machinery of government in Wales, and as a result of that investigation we find that the semiautonomous Departments in Wales, put there by reason of the policy of administrative devolution, lack co-ordination and that the heads of these Departments, in the main, do not carry sufficient weight and authority with the Government in London."
The Panel said that that was a grave defect in the machinery of government in Wales and suggested that the remedy rested in the appointment of a Secretary of State who would have executive control over a Welsh Office containing four Departments of State. The principle of the Report was that in view of the present defects in administration a remedy is necessary.
The real value of the Report, however, was not the Council's recommendations. Its real value was the fact that it had done this detailed analysis, this comprehensive survey of the machinery of government in Wales. That survey will remain for a very long time an extremely valuable document for Wales.
The recommendations, of course, have been rejected, and I am not surprised. There is not one hon. Member in the House who is surprised, and I am quite sure that not one member of the Council for Wales was surprised. Everybody, I am sure, will agree that when recommendations seek drastic constitutional changes of this nature, it is obvious that they can only be brought about by a gradual process, as was the case in Scotland. If, in Wales—and this was the reason for my intervention in the speech by the hon. Member for Pontypridd—it is proposed to hasten constitutional changes of this sort, a Conservative Government would be ill-advised to do so without having the full support of the Labour Opposition, which holds 28 out of the 36 seats in Wales. I should like to know: would they have had that support?
During the last debate, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that the Labour Members of this House had a panel to examine matters such as this. He said that he would be prepared to give my right hon. Friend the benefit of the advice that that panel could give after an examination of the proposals. There has been criticism about the delay on the part of the Government in bringing out their decision after examining the proposals of the Council for Wales.
I should like to know from the right hon. Member for Llanelly, who is to speak in the debate for the Opposition, whether that panel of the Labour Party has reached its conclusions on those proposals. If so, does it support the recommendation of the panel of the Council for Wales? I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman's answer will be, "No." It is only right that Wales should know that the Labour Party, being, as it is, the' biggest political party in Wales, does not support the proposals and the recommendations put forward by the Panel of the Council for Wales.
Let us view the measures which the Government have now announced in the light of these realities. I, who support in principle the recommendations of the Panel of the Council for Wales, have no hesitation in saying that the changes which have been recently announced in the administration of Government in Wales are the most forward-moving changes which we have had for a very long time in the constitutional life of Wales.
No one can deny that these are great progressive changes for the better: the appointment of an extra Minister with the stature of a Minister of State, who will be almost permanently employed in Cardiff, with some executive control by reason of being Minister of State, when he stands in for my right hon. Friend, over a well-organised, important Welsh Department which has an influence over almost all life in Wales and the strengthening of the Welsh aspect of the Departmental office in Cardiff, the further administrative devolution, as has been announced by the Home Secretary today and the creation of the new economic committee.
These are great, progressive changes for the better, and Welsh Members must inevitably, if they have any real national pride, welcome these changes.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the new Minister as having executive control over a Department, and said that he was appointed for that purpose. Would the hon. Gentleman tell us the name of the Department over which this Minister is to be the executive, responsible Minister?
The hon. Gentleman will have read the Prime Minister's letter and have noticed that in it—it is in page 5 of the White Paper—my right hon. Friend said:
The traditional duty of a Minister of State is to act for and in the name of his Minister at times and places when the Minister cannot himself be personally present.
It is proposed that the Minister of State shall be almost permanently in Cardiff. My right hon. Friend will not be able, by reason of his other duties, to be present as much. The Minister of State will be able to act in the place of my right hon. Friend with his authority if and when occasion demands.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I appreciate that there is not the executive authority a senior Minister would have, but there is no doubt that the Minister of State has great authority in his Department and this is a real advance on any position which has obtained before.
Nevertheless, it is right to say, and I was very happy to hear the Home Secretary say, that these changes do not represent finality. I myself am quite certain that they do not. I am sure that, with the passage of time, experience and the wish of the people of Wales will bring about a change which, eventually, will approximate to the recommendation of the Panel of the Council for Wales and that, ultimately, we shall have a Minister for Wales with executive authority over a Welsh Department. Meanwhile, we have these new and extremely welcome changes. I think that all of us with the welfare of Wales at heart should welcome these changes and do all we can to give them every assistance.
I must refer to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). I had intended earlier to congratulate him on his speech, but I did not see him because he has moved to another seat. I would congratulate him on the way he opened the debate for the Welsh Members, his inimitable way. Happily, much of what he said, as he knows, will not be taken very seriously. I do not think that he would wish certain things he said to be taken very seriously.
The hon. Member inquired about the new Minister of State. He asked. "Who is the new Minister of State?" Apparently, he had not heard of him. I will tell him this about the new Minister of State. There is no one who enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's speech more than the new Minister of State. He at least, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, would appreciate all the humorous and extremely good "cracks" which the hon. Gentleman made. I will tell the hon. Gentleman something about the new Minister of State, Mr. D. V. P. Lewis, because I have had the great pleasure and honour of knowing him personally for some time.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on what I consider to be an admirable and imaginative appointment. Mr. D. V. P. Lewis is a person who not only is indigenous to Wales, has his roots in Wales, has a stake in Wales, loves Wales, and has worked for Wales for a long time; he is also a man of great industry and great enthusiasm. I have no doubt that he will make a great success of his new job.
I would begin by joining my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) in his expression of regret that our hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) was not here to open the debate because he is unwell. Not only hon. Members on this side, but, I am sure, the whole House, felt, when he came here, that he was an acquisition to the House. I hope very sincerely that he will soon be able to return to us.
I should like to join, also, in the congratulations which have been offered to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West upon what I thought was a typically good Rhondda speech in the best tradition. If the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) thought that some of my hon. Friend's language was harsh, he ought to have been with me in the 'thirties at miners' meetings at Trealaw. I thought that my hon. Friend's language was very restrained indeed. He expressed what has been the feeling in Wales during the weekend.
I propose to take not too much time, and, therefore, to devote myself almost entirely to the constitutional changes, as they have been called, but, first, I would say one or two words about the debate generally. I hope that through what we call the usual channels we may have discussions altogether about the timing of these Welsh debates. Generally, they have taken place several months after the Annual Report has been published, so that it has, to some extent, been out of date by the time of the debate. Today, we have the experience, similar to that which we have had before, of having a debate not only on the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales but upon another Report presented to us on the eve of the debate.
It is not fair to the Welsh Members or, indeed, to the House, because that compels us to divide our speeches into two parts; and this Welsh debate is the major if not the only opportunity we have in this House of ventilating matters of concern to Wales and, in particular, to our constituents. This is, in a sense, a Supply Day on which, according to the old tradition, we bring the grievances of our people to the attention of the responsible Ministers. As happened at the time of our last debate, we have had a White Paper which was published during the weekend immediately before the debate with, consequently, only a very short time available in which to consider its contents. Moreover, the debate has to be divided between two documents.
The debate was opened by the Leader of the House. I hope that he himself, and the Government as a whole, will realise that we do need some better timing of and arrangement for these annual Welsh debates. I am inclined to think that one annual debate is now becoming completely inadequate. I would not reject the proposal mentioned by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and by other hon. Members, too, and first put in this House by someone we shall always remember with deep affection, Richard Roberts, when he was the Member for Wrexham. That is that we should borrow an idea from Scotland, and follow the example of Scottish Members, that we should have a Welsh Grand Committee which would meet on three or four occasions during a Session to provide opportunities for discussing Welsh affairs. So much for the timing of the debate.
I come to the White Paper. I agree with it that the majority of the Welsh people do not desire to be separated from the rest of the people of the United Kingdom. Indeed, my view is that the majority of the Welsh people believe that, certainly over the broad field of economic and social policy, everything is to be gained and nothing to be lost by a close association with the economy and the pattern of social life as it has developed in the United Kingdom. I think that that is the view of the majority.
At the same time, there is in Wales a strong desire, which grows stronger all the time, for full recognition of its nationhood. This is the problem, and it is a difficult one. Although—as I believe the majority of our people agree—we do not want to be separate from the United Kingdom, but want to share in its economy and national life and in the way it has developed, we also want recognition for this nationhood and we have to find out how that can best be done.
This demand for recognition is now widely felt in Wales. It is not confined to one party or one section, but embraces the whole people of Wales, and if I do not agree with anything else which the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) said, I am sure he would agree that there is that demand. Indeed, I would be very much surprised if that demand did not come least from the city, part of which the hon. Gentleman represents, which was quite recently designated the capital of Wales. I am sure the hon. Gentleman appreciates that if there is not to be recognition of Wales as a nation, the question then arises: what is the purpose of making Cardiff a capital city. Capital city of what? I am sure that he rejoices that Cardiff was designated, by his own Government, and I congratulate them on it, as the capital city of Wales. That was clearly recognition of nationhood, and that is very important.
We are discussing administration in Wales, and I want to say that the demand for recognition is due to certain causes, some of which I will seek to explain, which cannot be met merely by creating machinery, but represent something very much wider and deeper, involving policy. We must beware of the danger of dressing up a machine that has nowhere to go, and I speak as one with experience in Government, and—I will say to the hon. Member for Cardiff, North—perhaps of ineffective machinery. I was not here in 1931, but in South Wales, and that I have a good memory of what happened then. I say very sincerely to the hon. Gentleman that I am very proud of what the Labour Government did for Wales from 1945 to 1951. We went back to a new Wales, not the sort of Wales that existed in 1931. We have created a new Wales, and in these days one cannot really understand the feelings of Wales unless one understands some of the elements that go into the making of this demand. Let me cite them.
The first is that there is fear, coupled with determination, for the preservation of our language and the culture which derives from it. This is very strongly felt. We are the only Celtic people who have kept their language alive. All the rest have lost theirs. One of the most interesting, and in some ways tragic, developments of the last few years has been the attempt made by the independent Republic of Ireland to recover its language. Once lost, it is gone, and cannot be recovered; that is one of the things that must be understood.
I come from a part of South Wales where the language and all that is associated with it is still strong, but is even now battling for its life, not, as the Nationalists say, because of English and the English people, but because it is surrounded by all kinds of other things in our own day, particularly radio and television. If there had been more time, I should have liked to have said a few words on that subject. I speak as one who comes from a family which has devoted itself to the peasant culture of Wales, and I would hate to live in a Wales in which it was not present, because something precious would be lost.
The second factor, which is associated with it, is witnessed in the whole trend of development, both in industrial and rural areas, resulting in the decay of our villages. Our culture is a village culture. The French have a name for it—steeple culture—indicating that it is associated with the church and the centre of the village. It does not thrive, indeed it scarcely survives, in a city, and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North ought to know that—not even in the capital of Wales. It depends on the village community, for one kind of reason or another, as perhaps some of my hon. Friends from the rural areas may be able to confirm, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins)—and I hope that we shall hear the real voice of Breconshire before we hear the other voice in another place. My hon. Friends will probably deal with the decay of the village and of peasant culture and life.
We found the same thing in the industrial areas. I will not speak about the problem of South-West Wales, because the Minister of Labour has seen many delegations in recent years and will know what is the situation in villages like Ystalyfera, Pontardawe, Llangenech, Pontardulais, and the rest. There is deep concern here, because here are communities which grew up around one pit or one tinplate works, and the people are now finding that that one pit or tinplate works is closing and they are deeply concerned about what is to happen. Industrial units get bigger.
I can see the time coming in one of the valleys in the area from which I come when, where there used to be 10 pits, each employing 300 men, there will be one pit employing 3,000 men. We shall lose something here, and we must call attention to this fact, because there has always been a close association between the community and their work, which has meant something to them. This is one of the factors on which there is very strong feeling and a desire to preserve this close association.
The third factor associated with this demand is the loss of our youth. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, deal with the pattern of our education, because here is something of great importance. The House should remember the background of education in Wales. There were only two industries, both of them heavy industries, both having their ups and downs and being dependent upon the export trade, open to the winds of the world. Our parents and ourselves were brought up in an atmosphere in which there was a passion for education and culture in Wales.
It is interesting to note that the percentage of boys and girls who, at the appropriate age, go to grammar schools is very much higher in Wales than the national average. There was a passion for education and a readiness to sacrifice something for it, because the problem of education was regarded in the context of our industrial life. Education in Wales became a means of escape from industry and its uncertainties.
A matter of supreme importance to which we must give attention now is the repatterning of our education system for the new Wales which we have started to build and must go on building. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West mention this point, for he is a young man who is a product of the passion for education in the Rhondda Valley.
Another point which must be stressed is that Wales is very sensitive about the 1920s and the 1930s. I do not want to argue about which Government was responsible for the state of affairs in those days but, as a nation, we ought to be ashamed of what happened not only in South Wales but in other areas during that period. I hope that we all look back with real shame on the fact that for nearly twenty years 25 per cent. of our people in Wales were kept on the dole. The memories of that period still survive and are very sensitive. The latest Report on Developments and Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire states that South Wales has not yet developed confidence in its new economy but, after all, it has had that economy for only a short time. It has existed for a very much shorter period than the old economy with all its tragedies.
It may be that we in Wales are oversensitive and that as soon as we begin to see the slightest sign of unemployment we hold meetings and send deputations to see Ministers. It has been urged upon us that we are not rendering a good service to Wales in advertising so much those occasions when there is the slightest recess. It is said that by so doing we drive people away from South Wales. But we do not conjure up this feeling out of our own minds. There is a public feeling about it. Immediately the slightest recession starts, people ask, "Are the bad old days coming back again?"
For all these reasons—and I have mentioned only a few—there is a demand that Wales shall be recognised in the highest counsels of the nation—in the Cabinet. I beg the House to realise that, vast as it is, the whole problem of administration is secondary to this demand. We must say quite frankly to the Minister that the first reaction to the proposal put forward by the Government is that it does not provide the kind of recognition which the majority of Welsh people not only believe that they ought to have but, because of the way in which the whole matter was handled by the Government, they thought that they would have.
I believe that there is a majority view in Wales—and I am surprised that there is not a majority view in the party opposite—that if we are to have recognition for Wales at ministerial level there ought to be a Minister for Welsh Affairs in his own right—
I am coming to that.
Should such a Minister, or should he not, have a Department of his own? There is more than one view of this question in my party. This is a problem of balance of advantages and disadvantages. I speak now for myself when I say that, though I agree with the Report in principle, I think that in some of its details the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire proposes to put too many Departments and too many functions under one Minister. In my view, some of these proposals involve a transfer of function which would lead to the very thing that I want to avoid, which is taking Wales out of the main stream of the economic and social development of the United Kingdom.
There is a suggestion, however, which I should like to put forward for consideration. My party has not yet made up its mind about it, but the House should believe me when I say that it will make up its mind by the time we on this side of the House take office. For the moment, the party opposite is in power and it must make up its mind. My suggestion is that there are three Departments which it might be considered as possible to form into one Department, without running the risk of the disadvantage of taking Wales out of the main stream to which I have referred. These are the Departments which deal with education, local government and agriculture.
I mention education first because there is already a Welsh Department. I find it difficult to believe that if the head of the Welsh Department is in Cardiff and not in London he will not be able to influence the Minister on general policy. After all, Cardiff is much nearer London than some of the London suburbs. It takes me two-and-three-quarters hours to come to Westminster from Cardiff, which is a shorter time than it takes the Minister to come here. Therefore, I take that reference to general policy with a pinch of salt. It is very important that the permanent head of the Welsh Department should be able to influence general policy in education, but general policy is not discussed every day. Major general policy is discussed on only comparatively rare occasions.
My second reason for making the suggestion is that there is already a Joint Education Committee. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West refer to one, whom I would describe most sincerely as our very dear old friend, the late George Tomlinson. It was he who began the process that led up to the setting up of that Committee.
A third reason for suggesting that education should be one of three subjects dealt with by one Department is that, whilst the education systems of England and Wales have grown up together, we have a problem of education in Wales which does not arise in England and exists only to a very limited extent in Scotland. We have the problem of bilingualism in Wales. Three-quarters of a million people in Wales speak Welsh and an effort is being made to meet a growing demand that parents who want their children taught in Welsh should have that facility provided.
The second subject which, I think, should be dealt with by my suggested Department is local government. The situation in local government in Wales disturbs me very much. We in Wales can unite in trying to achieve some big aim, but when it comes to the smaller things we tend to be very parochial. I have thought that ever since the House debated a report made by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) on the incidence of tuberculosis in Wales. I have thought ever since that we need to reconstruct and strengthen Welsh local government. How can we continue to have a situation in which a county council, for example, had a rate product of £600, which I should not be surprised is not much more than £1,000 even now? Welsh local government is something which has special Welsh attributes. Hosts of difficulties peculiar to Wales arise in it. The Minister of Housing and Local Government has recognised that fact, and the Local Government Bill, which is not yet an Act of Parliament, provides for a special body to study these Welsh problems.
The third Department which I suggest might be made a component of one new Department is that which deals with agriculture, because in agriculture Wales faces some of its gravest problems. The problem of the rural areas has been discussed already in the House and I will not go into the details now. One thing that can be said of the new Minister of State is that he comes to his post from an area which presents one of the great challenges to him, as to everybody else, and poses problems in rural Wales with which my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor is familiar.
I am not committing anyone in suggesting the setting up of one Department. I say that it ought to be considered. I appreciate the disadvantages. For instance, I have heard teachers say that it would be a major loss if we took the Permanent Secretary away from London. The Government have expressed one view; I have expressed my view.
Now I return to the proposal on devolution. The most interesting of the suggestions put forward is that a committee should be formed from the standing conference of the heads of Departments concerned with the problems of economic growth in Wales. It should have two functions: first, to study the trends in economic growth and problems; and, secondly, to co-ordinate all the Departments directly concerned with economic growth.
In opening the debate, the Lord Privy Seal told us that the committee had met already. I asked him a question to which I hope his right hon. Friend will reply, namely, what Departments were thought by the Government to be involved, and, therefore, what Departments were represented when that committee met. In a sense this is new machinery created for the Minister. How is the committee to be composed? I understand that in the absence of the Minister for Housing and Local Government the new Minister will preside. Is the committee to have a staff of its own? Is it to have an office of its own? It appears not, from the White Paper. This is one of the curious anomalies.
In addition to having a Minister of State it is proposed to have a Welsh Office. It is suggested that the existing Department office in Wales of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government shall be called the Welsh Office and that the head of the Department shall be called the Welsh Secretary. All of us who know the officer filling this post have the greatest admiration for his ability and energy; indeed, we welcomed his report.
If we are to co-ordinate the heads of Departments in Wales, does the Minister think that the right way to do it is to get one of the heads of Departments to co-ordinate all the rest? If this is to be a continuing process why not create an office for the new committee? Why not staff it? Why not have the Welsh Secretary there? Even if we do not transfer functions from other Departments, why not have the beginnings of an office which can do the job in Wales? I should have thought that this might be considered within the limited scope upon which the Government have decided.
I will now repeat what I said earlier. There is a demand for recognition which goes very deep. These proposals have disappointed us. The new Minister made a speech at Cardiff on Friday in which he said something that I hope the Minister for Welsh Affairs will note. I quote from memory, but I think the substance is right. He said that the trouble in Wales is that we have watched difficulties arising instead of preventing them. That brings us back to policy. The Minister knows that he and the Government have watched difficulties arising in South-West Wales for a long time. We have watched them arising in Mid-Wales without taking any effective action.
What Wales wants now is full recognition and the utmost devolution. It does not want any steps taken to its disadvantage, but, more than anything else, what it needs now is a new policy as much as a new administration. Unless a new administration is urged on by a new policy, it will be like a machine without an engine. All the machinery, important as it is, essential as it is, will not succeed unless it is accompanied by a new policy. Wales needs resources as well as the will to use them. It is not without significance that this debate is to be closed by the Minister who last Monday, a week ago, brought a Bill before this House which everybody knows will weaken the resources of Wales.
I end on that note because it shows that, while we want the most effective administration for our country, we realise that unless that effective administration is used to implement a new policy there will not be much hope for our people.
I am delighted to be called to speak after the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). His last remark was that what Wales needs now is not a new administration but a new policy. Let us be frank about this. It seems to me that during these last few months there has been a new approach to Welsh policy. We cannot brush aside the new establishment at Milford Haven or the enormous possibilities of atomic energy in North-West Wales or the hydroelectric scheme at Ffestiniog. Although I am often critical of the administration, I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Llanelly should have thought that a new economic policy for Wales was not being carried out by the present administration.
The right hon. Gentleman was rather ungenerous in not mentioning one word about agriculture. It is still our major industry in the Welsh speaking parts of Wales for which he and I have such a great fondness. The new policy, started last year, is bringing life into the Principality. The new long-term guarantees, the new capital to be invested in our agricultural industry—does he count that as nothing or as not a new policy?
I am with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that we want more new policies and possibly less administration. I rose immediately because I was so touched by his references to the development of Welsh culture, especially in the small areas. It is in this respect that I think we must expect more from Government co-ordination than we have had in the past.
There is one pleasing feature in the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire to which I wish to draw attention. I have great sympathy with the hon. Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) who have tremendous employment problems in their divisions. What is encouraging is that the smaller market towns of Wales are now attracting light and modern industries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not in mid-Wales."] Mid-Wales can often be backward. Perhaps I live in a much more forward-looking area. Take the delightful small town of Llangollen. There new industries are growing up. There are not only the old industries of wool, leather and tourism, but also a new seed factory, light engineering works, and a printing works. I should like to see that sort of development taking place in other market towns in Wales. What we have done at Llangollen ought to be possible in other market towns.
Here I would ask for closer co-ordination between the Ministries concerned. There is still a lack of liaison between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade. The activities of the Board of Trade in Wales should be increased. I know that the hon. Members for Caernarvon and Anglesey will want Board of Trade officials in their constituencies all the time, but if those officials cannot solve the difficult problems there, let attempts be made to work with local authorities in other parts of the Principality to bring about greater employment in the small market towns. Ours is not a problem of unemployment. It is a problem of lack of employment. Our young people are leaving, and so it is a problem of depopulation. If we can encourage industries to enter and stay in these areas, so much the better for Welsh culture.
I return for a moment to the subject of Welsh agriculture. The policy which the Government have been pursuing during the last seven years has been extremely useful, but there are still uncertainties, especially in the milk industry as we near the stage of overproduction which results in payments to the farmers declining because so much milk has to go to manufacture. As I have done before, I would again ask the Government to maintain the price of milk to the small family farms on the hills, to give them security, because for some time to come they will be the mainstay of our agriculture. I believe that our farming industry, if given that security, can continue to make use of the grants which the Government are now making available for the improvement and development of our farms. But we must have security first.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs will now sit up and take notice. What a miserable business the Agriculture (Improvements of Roads) Act has been. It is about six years since we first started talking about it. We had an extraordinarily good Report relating to the depopulation of rural Wales. Many of us did not agree with the Report, but there was at least one little sparkle in the eye about it. We were to have a certain amount of money for agricultural roads.
We now find that after six years of discussion and after passing the Act we have about 300 miles of roads in prospect. This is less than two inches of road for every day during the time that we have been talking about the problem. I hope the Minister will take the matter very seriously. It is no good talking to us about inflation. We are referring to an area in which there is unemployment and in which people are available. Dealing with these roads will not harm the export market in television sets. Instead, it will improve agriculture.
My right hon. Friend will agree with me that one of the major industries of Wales is tourism. Yet he must know that the rate burden on the catering and hotel industry there is so intolerable that we cannot develop as we ought to do. I am sure that the noble Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) will agree with me about what I now have to say. I hope the Minister will pay very much more serious attention to the caravan sites which are sprawling about and spoiling Wales. A right hon. Gentleman spoke the other day about the despicable sight along the Abergele stretch. Yet only recently I found that that stretch is to be still further despoiled. Tourism in Wales will not succeed if our countryside is despoiled in this way.
In this debate we are expected to talk about a Report and also constitutional issues. The right hon. Member for Llanelly said that we had precisely the same situation in our previous debate. We were prepared to discuss a Report, and then at the last minute a spanner was thrown into the works in the form of the Report of the Council of Wales about administrative devolution. Last Wednesday afternoon we had the Prime Minister's letter to Alderman Huw T. Edwards. It is not fair. We cannot discuss two Reports, let alone six or seven Reports, in a debate so restricted in time as this one is.
Great constitutional changes have been suggested. My right hon. Friend must by now be well aware that the proposals which he has made are causing great disappointment to the people of Wales. There is such lack of imagination. For years many of us have been shouting out for a Secretary of State for Wales with a seat in the Cabinet. We are now fobbed off with a Minister of State whose powers are as nebulous as one can make them.
I did not agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) when he said that the Minister of State might be a messenger boy. Is it a case of:
…the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands for the…
Minister of State? I do not know what the duties of the Minister of State are to be. Is he to interpret Welsh opinion to the Minister for Welsh Affairs? If that is the job, what is wrong with the Welsh Members of Parliament? For what are we elected? Do we really need this Minister? From all accounts, he will be extremely good, but at times he will preside over councils of civil servants—although they call themselves a Conference of Heads of Departments.
I should like Welsh affairs to be discussed in Wales. I remember that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) illustrated this point only last year by references to the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs. The Royal Commission said that Scottish affairs must be dealt with in Scotland. If that is good for Scotland, it is good for Wales too. Therefore, instead of the Minister of State presiding over a body of civil servants, he should preside over a body of Ministers in Cardiff.
Why should not the Minister of Transport be there? Why should not the Minister of Education and particularly the President of the Board of Trade attend? Let them meet in Cardiff. It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to pick up hearsay in Cardiff—although it may be well reported—and then have to come to London to discuss it with the President of the Board of Trade, or the appropriate Minister.
I was amazed this afternoon when the Home Secretary said how essential it was that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education should be in London because the Minister of Education had to have him at his side and had to be able to listen to his advice. Education is not the most important subject in Wales today. If the Minister of Education has to have his Permanent Secretary at his elbow, why does not the President of the Board of Trade need to have his controller, or the Minister of Housing and Local Government his Permanent Secretary?
I am sorry that I should have been so critical. Normally, I am very generous in my outlook and I know that generally speaking in Wales there is a greater degree of prosperity than we have ever known. There is a hopefulness in the situation. I ask the Government to encourage us in that outlook.
I share the contempt of the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) for the constitutional changes announced last week and I believe that my attitude is shared by the overwhelming majority of people in Welsh public life, irrespective of party loyalties. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) very clearly set out the nature of the problem. I was very glad that he appeared to agree substantially with the solution of the ministerial aspect of the matter which was put forward by the Panel of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire.
Both he and the Panel want a Minister in the Cabinet and responsible for a number of Departments operating in Wales. The only conflicts between the views of my right hon. Friend and those of the Panel was on the title of the Minister, whether he should be designated a Minister for Wales or Secretary of State for Wales, and on the exact number of Ministries which should be included within his compass. The difference was that my right hon. Friend did not include the Ministry of Health. I should have thought that historically at least there was a very strong case for including the Ministry of Health, because for very many years that has been one of the Departments which has enjoyed a substantial measure of devolution. However, those slight differences of detail are relatively unimportant.
The real point is that the Government have thought fit to reject what is a very general demand in Wales, namely, for a Minister in the Cabinet with overall responsibility for the Welsh activities of a number of Government Departments. In the Welsh debate of February this year, I gave my reasons for favouring the appointment of a Secretary of State and I shall not repeat them now. I shall say only that the present constitutional change goes no way towards meeting what Wales really needs.
To add insult to injury, the new Minister, the only full-time Minister for Wales, is to be in the House of Lords. Perhaps because of our radical traditions, the Welsh have always had a revulsion against the House of Lords—I think that that is historically true. There are very few Welshmen in the other place and I can think of only two who now take part in the activities of the House of Lords who have any close connections with the Principality.
In this respect, I compare the positions of Scotland and Wales. I do not do that to argue that Wales should have parity with Scotland. My reason is that the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs, on which the Government based their assertion that the Scottish Office and the Secretary of State for Scotland had been of inestimable service to Scotland, apply equally to Wales. Scotland has a Secretary of State, three Under-Secretaries of State, and two Law Officers in this House and a Minister of State in the House of Lords.
Scotland has had a Secretary of State since 1926. Apart from three months during the Caretaker Government, that Secretary of State has always been in the House of Commons. The only two Ministers of State have been members of the House of Lords, but each of those has been an ex-Member of the House of Commons and each has held office as a Minister in the House of Commons. The fact that Wales can be fobbed off with one full-time Minister, and he in the House of Lords, indicates that the Government do not regard this constitutional change seriously. I do not propose to say any more about the constitutional position.
I have some observations to make on the First Report of the Rural Wales Committee. I am sorry that there is no one on the Government Front Bench from the Ministry of Agriculture because what I have to say relates to agriculture and to forestry. During the last few years the Forestry Commission has spent millions of pounds of public money in Wales. In so far as that expenditure relates to roads and housing I welcome it, and I welcome any expenditure of the Forestry Commission which is attuned to agriculture, provided, of course, that these activities are carried out voluntarily and not by the exercise of compulsory powers.
The Report talks about the dispersal of prejudice against forestry on the part of the agricultural community. I am pleased that there is now a far better relationship between agriculture and forestry than there was in the past, when the Forestry Commission had an autocratic and hostile attitude towards agricultural interests. That is an old story; I am pleased there has been a substantial change for the better.
To read the Report one would think that the only prospect for rural Wales to deal with its repopulation problem lay within the field of afforestation. That attitude would do untold harm to rural Wales. The Report was made by three civil servants and contains a number of extravagant statements which create a wholly erroneous impression. One of its phrases is—
Yes, certainly. If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to page 46 he will see paragraph 257. In page 48 he will see paragraphs 262 and 263. The words:
The forestry programme is the largest single measure which can improve the prosperity of rural Wales
are in the first sentence of paragraph 263. My next phrase:
…further afforestation, by far the most important way of providing additional employment,
is in the first sentence of paragraph 262. Then there is the statement in page 46:
Each year more and more Welsh wage packets are made up by the Forestry Commission.
In the 1956 Report, the Commission talks about the increased number being employed in Wales by the Forestry Commission. In view of all those dogmatic and unqualified statements, it is necessary to analyse the contribution of the Forestry Commission to repopulation and employment in rural Wales.
Do not think that I am deprecating what the Forestry Commission has done. We are pleased with it, but it is very modest and makes only a small contribution to rural development, in relation to the capital expenditure involved. Let me illustrate that point. From October, 1955, to October, 1957, the Forestry Commission spent £4 million in Wales. What was the effect of that expenditure upon the employment of forestry workers? The number of forestry workers employed dropped by 196. Last year, from October, 1956, to October, 1957, the Commission spent £2 million of public money, but the number of employees dropped by 91.
It may be said that one or two years are a short period to take. Let us therefore take the last five years, during which the Forestry Commission spent £7,399,000 in Wales. The number of employed did not substantially change during that period. The average for the five years was 3,182. The number of employed last year was 60 less than that average, despite this expenditure. If part of this £7· million had been spent on assistance the establishment of light industries in rural Wales, including industries ancillary to forestry, a far greater contribution could have been made to our rural economy and our de-population problem.
That does not end the story. Forestry has the greatest wastage of all the industries. I challenge the Minister to indicate any substantial industry in Wales with a greater wastage than forestry. There is a basic number who regard forestry as stable and permanent employment, and most of these men have come from agriculture. That does not help the rural re-population problem. The rest are in the main a floating population. In South Wales they are known as "The hello, goodbye boys".
The wastage in South Wales amounted last year to 105 per cent. In Wales as a whole figures given by the Forestry Commission last year show that there were 1,078 new engagements and during the same period 1,069 left the Commission's employment. From the point of view of providing employment of a permanent character for a stable community the activities of the Commission at the moment leave much to be desired.
I make these points not with the object of deriding the activities of the Forestry Commission in Wales, but of placing them in a proper perspective and making it quite clear that if this Committee is really to help rural Wales it has to look far further afield than merely to the present activities of the Forestry Commission in the rural areas.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) will readily appreciate why I am not pursuing his train of thought, although it would be very profitable to do so and the House must be obliged to him for the very interesting information that he has just given us.
During the afternoon and this evening, it is true to say, the tenor of the debate has been confined mainly to the administrative set-up in Wales and the need for having improved Government machinery. I entirely agree with all that my right hon. and hon. Friends have said and I appreciate that without an efficient administrative staff and a proper set-up every other effort may be nullified, but I am constrained by the trend of events to direct attention to the increasing anxiety in North and South Wales in respect of unemployment.
On Monday of last week my hon. Friends the Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) made a grave and convincing indictment of the Government failure to cope with the increasing problem of unemployment in North Wales. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade endeavoured to reply in conciliatory terms but, I am afraid, in vain.
The hon. Gentleman said, among other things, that the Government would do their best, but they had to be very careful because they did not want to be involved in the direction of labour as that might mean, in turn, the direction of employees, which would not go down very well with hon. Members on this side of the House. That position need not arise at all. Under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, my right hon. Friend the Bishop of Auckland—[Laughter.] I do not think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) would be cross about that—prevailed upon a number of industrialists to go to South Wales. They made the interesting discovery that labour in Wales was very adaptable. If the Minister will make inquiries of the five trading estates and the Anglo-Celtic Clock Company he will hear tributes to the adaptability of men and women who never before have been engaged in work of a very fine and delicate character.
Labour is available in North and South Wales today. It is for the Government to take the initiative and to lend a helping hand. Very often the Prime Minister canvasses American opinion. May I remind him of what Franklin Roosevelt said:
A Government that cannot take care of its old, that cannot provide work for the strong and willing, that lets the black shadow of insecurity rest on every home is not a Government that can or should endure."?
We feel that about the present Government.
I wish to turn my attention for a few moments to the position in South Wales. From the excellent report prepared by the Town Clerk of Llanelly, to whom we are all indebted for a great service in this connection, we know there is a prospect of no fewer than 15,000 men being declared redundant in the coming weeks. We want to know what action the Government are taking to provide for those men. They are to become redundant because the old mills are inadequate for their original purpose, but that is not a new situation. It was not only foreseeable, but was foreseen twenty-five years ago.
I was one of a small deputation that waited on Sir William Firth, at Shell-Mex House, about twenty-three years ago. The purpose of our visit was to tell him in plain terms that we recognised that if we were to compete with America, and the steel and tinplate industry was to survive in the United Kingdom, we could not possibly object to the introduction of the new strip mill at Ebbw Vale. We made it clear, also, that we felt that if the industry were to develop on the right lines we should have not one strip mill, but several. We pleaded with Sir William Firth to lend us a helping hand in getting for Wales other industries of a light character, especially light engineering, that would enable our men to continue in work. I am sorry to say that at the end of our plea, which was made quite dispassionately, the first comment of Sir William Firth was, "Gentlemen, there is no sentiment in business." We have discovered that to our pain over and over again.
Who are these men who are being penalised? They are men between the ages of 45 and 65, the very men who in their 'teens and early twenties were walking the roads looking for work. They not only have the rough end of the stick, but it has been rough at both ends. In their early years they were dispirited, discouraged and deprived of legitimate opportunities. Now, after giving a number of years to this industry, they are likely to be put on the scrap heap. It is true that we can scrap old mills, but we have no right to scrap old men. Not only in South Wales, but also in North Wales, we are determined to pursue the Government day in and day out until proper provision is made for these men.
We are not suggesting to the Government that they and they alone should have ideas on this matter. Mr. F. A. Spencer, a man of very wide practical experience in the industry, and Mr. A. W. Kieft, who, for many years, was associated with Sir William Firth, have been writing to the Press in South Wales pointing out that if proper use were made of these discarded mills new industries of a light engineering character could be introduced. The men could be found employment and the industries could make a contribution to the prosperity of our country. I sincerely hope that the Government will give attention to the suggestions that these men are making.
Until the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) there had been no reference in the debate to those matters, but in referring to them he also introduced the problem of the school-leavers. I should like to add to his observations that unless time is taken by the forelock we shall have no industry to which the young people can be apprenticed. Although the need for technologists is so great, unless we give them the necessary training these young people are likely to find themselves in the same predicament as their forefathers. I hope that in his reply the Minister will let us know the way in which he is cooperating with the industrialists in South Wales who say that their discarded property can be obtained at scrap prices. What are the Government doing to see that these places are occupied? If they take action to have them occupied, then we feel that something of a substantial character can be done for our young people.
The Report of the Council for Wales has been referred to several times today. I do not know how members of that Council must feel tonight. Their Report has been in the Government's possession for nearly twelve months. It represents the work of men who have devoted their own time to the public service, in many ways at their own expense. They have sought, without malice or favour, to suggest schemes for the setting up of Government machinery and they have indicated in several ways what can and should be done almost immediately to improve the working of the Government organisation in Wales.
They have had very few thanks. Indeed, I doubt whether they have had any thanks of a tangible character. At various functions the Minister has thanked them on behalf of the Government, but I know some of them; they are rather hard-boiled men and their reply must have been, "Soft words butter no parsnips." If you appreciate what the Council have done, and if you feel that they have made competent recommendations, then its recommendations should have had attention a long time ago.
I cannot improve upon the description given by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) to the appointment of the Minister of State. I do not deprecate the fact that he is a county councillor. That experience may be of great assistance to him. But we cannot help asking ourselves: what if there had not been a David Vivian Penrose Lewis? Who would have been the new Minister? If there had not been a function for him to attend, would the Question to the Prime Minister have been postponed again? We have never heard of any appointment, especially of such an important character and so decently remunerated, being made in such a casual manner. It is like throwing a sop to Cerberus or like giving a bone to a yapping dog. It is an insult to the Principality that the Prime Minister has dealt with the matter in this way.
We shall hear the same reply as we heard twelve months ago, although the Minister must be in some difficulty because, a year ago, when we said it would be impossible for him to function as Minister for Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs, he said, "The organisation is working perfectly. We have these conferences in Cardiff three or four times a year, and the Parliamentary Secretary or I will be down there and will preside." Now, however, the old set-up has been resumed and we are being denied the opportunity of questioning the new Minister of State.
What opportunity will be given to him to exercise any initiative or enterprise? Whatever ideas he possesses, he must first submit them to the Minister of Housing and Local Government who, as my hon. Friend commented, says, "I am still in charge." This is reducing the position of the Minister of State to a complete farce. Although that may draw a smile to the face of the Minister, he has yet to demonstrate that he can function successfully in the best interests of the government of Wales.
Events will prove themselves. I am unable to think of any contribution which the Minister himself has made which has improved the industrial prospects of Wales or the Government machinery there. I doubt whether he will be vain enough to claim credit for Milford Haven. The Government would have found it impossible to reject that opportunity because this is the only harbour which offered the necessary facilities. If the Government had rejected the advances of B.P. and Esso in that connection, they would have been very blind indeed.
I want to emphasise the urgent need of improved road communications in Wales. We have already heard about the bottleneck of Port Talbot. The Minister of Transport is still lagging about the Severn Bridge. At first, he was tempted to say that the project was being held up on the question of tolls, but when cross-examined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) he admitted that the question of tolls had not held up the work at all. The need for the bridge is greater than ever. In view of the fact that we have already conceded that if tolls are inevitable we will accept the inevitable, will the Minister tell us what prospect there is of that bridge being built?
These are some of the things about which we in Wales are very concerned indeed, and we commend them to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Perhaps I may comment, finally, on the new Minister of State. Nobody in Wales will hinder him or seek to discourage him in his work. We shall do everything we can to give him a fair opportunity. We should like to be equally assured that the Minister himself will give him a free hand and that the Government will give his recommendations earlier and much quicker attention than they gave the recommendations of the Council for Wales. In that respect, I hope that the members of the Council will make their view very clear indeed to the Minister.
I wish to reinforce the case made so feelingly—and understandably so—by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) about the unemployment situation in Wales. It may be understandable that in any large and complicated economy like that of the British Isles the periphery will suffer to some extent more than the centre, but I submit that there is no justification for the disparity which now exists between the employment position in England and that in Wales. The situation in Wales is increasingly alarming. The unemployment percentage is almost twice the unemployment percentage of England.
I read with great sympathy the fine speeches made by my hon. Friends the Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) in the Adjournment debate last week. One of them said that in Anglesey there is 10 per cent. unemployment, and the other said that in his constituency in Caernarvon the percentage is 7·5. In England the percentage is 1·5. It might he understood that there would be a slight advantage for the large industrial centres of England as compared with the circumference of the British economy, but there cannot possibly be any justification for such a vast disparity as this.
Even in South Wales the position is darkening. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) gave me the impression that he was rather complacent. He rather suggested that the situation was quite satisfactory. I cannot agree with him at all. The figures are alarming. The Report itself says:
In Merthyr Tydfil and in the Rhymney Valley the average unemployment rate was 4·5 per cent."—
that is considerably higher than the English percentage:
and in the Rhondda Valley it was 4·2 per cent
I tried to ascertain the figures for that part of the Principality in which I live, and which I represent in this House. I was unable to get the percentage of unemployed among the insured population in Abertillery. The Abertillery employment exchange told me that I could only get the percentage figure for a group which included Bryn Mawr, Blaina, Abertillery, Ebbw Vale and
Tredegar. In November, 1955, the percentage figure for that group was 2·4 and by November, 1956, it had risen to 3·3. While the manager of the exchange in Abertillery could not give the percentage figure for November, 1957, he told me that there was a slight increase again.
I must inform the Minister that our feelings about unemployment in Wales are not tinged with complacency. We think that this is a dark and developing cloud and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, we should deal with this situation before it reaches the point where very drastic and radical steps are necessary. These problems should be tackled at their inception, and before they assume serious proportions. We shall certainly not be complacent about this matter.
I want to link up that with the valuable point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), who referred to the large refuse tips in Abercwmboi. The other day, with one of my hon. Friends, I attended a conference in Monmouthshire where great concern was expressed about these tips in South Wales. I discovered that, in Monmouthshire alone, 4,000 acres have been rendered completely useless in this way. Of course, this is not just a Welsh problem. I have here what I can call a most wonderful pamphlet. It is entitled "Derelict land and its Reclamation." It is technical Memorandum No. 7, and it is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It is one of the best pamphlets I have ever read.
That pamphlet says that in England and Wales, 126,699 acres are occupied by these tips, etc. That is an absurdly high figure for such a comparatively small land mass. The figure for Wales is 19,947 acres. By "derelict land" is not meant moorland or marshland. This is land which has been largely filled up with the scrap of our industrial system, and in the South Wales valleys, of course, they are coal tips.
I urge on the Ministry of Housing and Local Government what I think is a constructive proposal. If the Ministry, the local authorities, and, particularly in South Wales, the National Coal Board, could get together—and there are possibilities that the Forestry Commission, too, could do something—they could tackle this problem of waste land in South Wales. If they were seized, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and I are seized, of the urgency of this problem, I am sure that something could be done to reclaim this waste land.
The possibilities are obvious. These tips could be levelled and made into playing grounds. In my own constituency, the local authority, by energetic action, has literally transformed one of the local tips in a place called Cwmtillery. With the help of the welfare section of the coal industry, they have levelled the tip, and now have a very fine football field there, which is a great social amenity. Such things can and should be done.
Again, the unattractiveness of these tips has a bad effect. Let me quote just a paragraph from this wonderful pamphlet:
Public attention is often focussed on the improvement or preservation of amenities in areas of high landscape value, rural areas or green belt land, but the needs of places where dereliction is widespread and severe are perhaps more urgent. Unrelieved drabness of the surroundings and the depressing spectacle of useless land is often a direct cause of difficulties in attracting new development. Improvement of amenities may, therefore, assume an important place in policies designed to raise the general level of prosperity and to create a more vital community.
I speak for the mining valleys of South Wales in emphasising the importance of this aspect. It is something that the Government could tackle, and something that would not involve them in large expenditure. It would be constructive. It would maintain in our valleys an attractiveness which will mean so much to us as we see these industrial recessions taking place. In Abertillery, an old tin works, which had been in existence for 110 years, is now completely closed down.
These are grievous blows, to be understood not only in economic, but in social, family and, if I may sincerely say so, in religious terms. These things have a grievous effect on our communities. Therefore, in this very brief intervention, I would ask the Minister to see what can be done, particularly about making these mining valleys of South Wales more attractive to industrialists, who could otherwise be induced to avail themselves of the very fine labour, and adaptability of labour, that we have in such wealth in these mining valleys.
I want to refer, very briefly, to the two documents that we are compelled to debate today. I cannot feel as sanguine about the Annual Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales as do some hon. Members opposite. If we look at the Report closely, we observe certain ominous trends. Certain industries have closed. The drift from the rural areas of Wales continues, unemployment is up, and paragraphs 19 and 20 of the White Paper give us the figures.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) has said, they are not at all reassuring. The figure for Wales as a whole is 3 per cent. in June as compared with 1·3 per cent. for Great Britain. The figure is 10·5 per cent. in Anglesey and even in Merthyr Tydfil and the Rhymney Valley unemployment is as high as 4·5 per cent. of the insured population. That should give us all cause for great concern.
We accept that our economy is healthier than in the inter-war years, but our experience in those years gives us cause for apprehension. There is certainly an acute need in Wales today for the more efficient planning of our economic resources, so that we may derive the maximum benefit from them.
May I give one example of what I have in mind. The Report has underlined the importance of forestry in rural Wales. The Rural Wales Committee, presided over by Mr. Blaise Gillie, in an excellent first Report, dealt with forestry at some length. But, surely, if Wales is to derive the maximum benefits from her forests, then we must have in Wales the sawmills and the pulp mills to take the timber, because at the moment the more lucrative half of the forestry industry is over the border and the other half is in Wales.
I make this point in no carping spirit, but to emphasise that if we are to find employment for our people and to build up contented communities in Wales we must plan our resources more efficiently. We have coal, timber, sea ports, and manpower. These are things which very many countries would be glad to possess. With more effective planning Wales could be a much more prosperous country.
Paragraph 6 of the Report makes the point: it says:
The fundamental basis of the Welsh economy remains the same; the coal and steel industries; agriculture, specialising in animal husbandry, and with increasing afforestation; and the tourist and holiday industry.
May I say, in parenthesis, that if the Government believe that the tourist industry is one of the five pillars supporting the Welsh economy, then they should give it the same attention and assistance as the Scottish tourist industry.
It is, in my contention, impossible to judge the Government's White Paper in isolation. After all, it is a reflection of the Government's general domestic policies and it is the effect of these policies on the Principality that we are considering today: the Government's economic policy and its effect upon the public services, housing, water supplies, drainage, rural electrification, and roads; its policy towards the Development Areas, which has a special significance for Wales.
The abandonment by the Government of those instruments whereby the Labour Government could induce industry to settle in those areas where they are most needed has made it ten times more difficult for the Government to deal with unemployment areas like Caernarvonshire and Anglesey.
It is the Government's policies that stand indicted today. Let me, briefly, give three examples. It is generally agreed, I think, that the provision of certain basic amenities is essential if the drift from rural Wales is to be halted. Proper housing is one of those amenities, and here the Minister for Welsh Affairs has a very special responsibility. For reasons which are very well known to the House, the tempo of building in the rural areas was not as rapid as it was in the urban areas. Heaven knows, the countryside has its slums as well as the cities.
The cutting of the housing subsidy dealt the countryside a very severe blow. We sought to point this out in our debates when the matter was before the House, but to no avail. The Minister for Welsh Affairs was adamant. Our worst fears have been confirmed by the Committee that the Minister himself set up. I refer to paragraph 272 of the Report before us, which says:
The fact must be faced that the rent of a modern 3-bedroom council house, with rates but without subsidy, is well above what can be reasonably afforded by a man earning about £8 a week, which is the predominant earnings level in a rural area. Even the maximum subsidy of £30 a year for areas with difficult local circumstances cannot make the rent attractive…At the present time, with high building costs and high contract rates, this represents an unsolved problem in rural housing.
The Minister for Welsh Affairs must now accept that he has done nothing to help solve this problem. He has made the problem impossible to solve.
What about another basic amenity—rural electrification? The pamphlet published by the Central Electricity Authority says:
The electricity supply industry believes that the prosperity and well-being of the countryside are increasingly dependent on electricity. This belief is inspiring the industry to develop the supply of electricity in rural areas as quickly as possible.
What is the present position? It is this. I quote from the pamphlet published last year by the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board:
The Government, confronted by the new crisis, imposed restrictions on all forms of capital investment and the electricity supply industry was called upon once more to play its part in the conservation of the country's resources. All projects involving expenditure of capital were substantially pruned or postponed and our plans for development in the countryside received a considerable setback. Present economic uncertainty makes it impossible for us to give any kind of work schedule for the counties for more than two years ahead.
That is the situation today, and how serious it is for our rural areas. By these measures the Government are holding back vital development in the countryside. By this policy the Government are constricting the national wealth, not expanding it.
The Boards have done very good work. The Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board has been quite exceptional in Anglesey. The number of premises connected since vesting day has risen from 7,000 to 16,000. That is a very substantial contribution to the rural areas and especially to the agricultural industry. The Board's scheme divides Anglesey into 22 sections. Eight sections have been completed, and the remaining 16 remain to be completed. Although these sections cover sparsely populated areas, their importance to agriculture cannot be exaggerated.
I wanted to mention the supply of piped water and drainage facilities in the rural areas, but I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak and I must desist.
I should like now to refer to the Government's new proposals for administration in Wales. I welcome the appointment of the Committee of heads of Government Departments, because it may make a very good contribution. I am particularly glad that we have a Scotsman who is a very good Welshman as chairman of that committee. Even here, however, one asks whether that is not just one more Welsh committee—meeting, reporting and advising endlessly with nobody taking any notice of it at all. If we have plenty of anything in Wales, it is committees. Welsh Members of Parliament have to burn the midnight oil most nights reading the reports of these committees. I hope that the Prime Minister has not simply acted on the principle that another little committee will not do Wales any harm.
Our fears, after all, are not groundless. The Committees of the Council for Wales have produced three notable memoranda. They have all been shelved with thanks, but they were written by some of the foremost men and women in Welsh public life. The last memorandum, a remarkable document, whose merits the Prime Minister has himself acknowledged in his letter to Alderman Edwards, proposed the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales and backed its recommendations with a formidable mass of evidence.
I should like to congratulate Alderman Huw Edwards, the Chairman of the Council, and Sir William Jones, who presided over the Panel, on their work. I should like, also, to refer to the sarcastic references which the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), in what I thought was an unhelpful speech, made about Alderman Huw Edwards. They were quite unnecessary. Alderman Huw Edwards does not need me to defend him. He is well able to defend himself. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North should know that Alderman Edwards stands for certain values in Welsh life that he himself obviously has not understood and seems incapable of understanding. When the hon. Member has made a tithe of the contribution to Welsh life that Alderman Edwards has made, perhaps he will be entitled to launch such criticisms.
The Prime Minister has jauntily dismissed the recommendations, saying that Wales is a nation with a history and geography, and so on, just like Scotland, but that Wales is not to have what Scotland has. He seems to have proceeded on the principle that all nations are equal, but some are more equal than others. The proposals are really a very minute step forward. They fall very far short of what we hoped for and what the Welsh people were expecting. Newspapers like the Western Mail and the Liverpool Daily Post, which support the Government, have criticised the Government. It is unfortunate, also, that the new Minister of State is to be a member of another place. He should be here, so that he can tell us what he is doing and take part in our debates.
Not at all. I think it important that the first full-time Minister of State that Wales has ever had should be sitting in this House, taking part in our debates and available to answer our Questions. After all, the Minister for Welsh Affairs is also the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman Wales is a long way down on his list of priorities. The fact is that the new Minister of State should be in this House, because, as has already been said, the connections of Wales with the other place are very tenuous indeed. Wales is one of the most highly democratic nations in the world. In our country we shall have a non-elected politician and a Civil Service and in this House a Minister whose main job and whose executive functions are by no means exclusive to Wales.
These proposals show that the Government are completely out of touch with the Principality. What does the Minister for Welsh Affairs really know of Wales? What does his new assistant know of Wales? What do they know of the history of our country and the people who have moulded that history? I am sorry that the Minister is not present, because I should like to ask him whether he has heard of men like Thomas Gee, J.R., S.R., Michael Jones and Howell Harris. These are the men who have moulded history. They are the warp and woof of Welsh life.
There is clearly a great gulf between the Government and Wales, and it cannot be budged by a committee. It is exactly as if the Prime Minister had appointed as Home Secretary a man who had never heard of Hampden, Pym, Bolingbroke and Pitt. That is the sort of treatment that we are getting in Wales, and it is not good enough. A nation, after all, is a blend of the material and the spiritual and the needs of Wales have not been properly met.
I warmly support my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) in what he said about the Government proposals regarding the administration and government of Wales. Both in content and in presentation, the Government's proposals reveal an astonishing disregard for the facts of political life in Wales today, not to mention a lack of respect for the feelings and expectations of the Welsh people.
The Council for Wales was presided over by one of the most distinguished Welshmen of this generation, if not of this century, Alderman Huw Edwards, to whom I pay my tribute this evening. To the references that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) thought fit to make, I, too, contribute my protest. The Report of the Council of Wales was presented nearly a year ago, but the Government presented their diktat only within a day or two of the annual meagre opportunity of debating the whole range of Welsh problems which is provided for Welsh Members in this House. That is a deplorable proceeding and one which finally tears away from the face of the Government the last shred of pretence to any understanding or sympathy with Wales as a nation, of respect for the work and status of the Council for Wales, or of ordinary Parliamentary courtesy towards the nation's representatives in this House.
As to the proposals themselves, it would be a compliment to call them inadequate. Indeed, compared with the Government's own policy in 1951, they are actually regressive. Hon. Members opposite have claimed that this farrago of trifling concessions is a substantial step forward towards the form of devolution for which the Council for Wales asked. Actually, it is a step backwards, because in 1951 the Minister for Welsh Affairs had to assist him an Under-Secretary of State in this House. Now, the Minister's assistant is to be not even a Member of this House. From the mountainous Report of the Council, asked for by the Government themselves, the smallest of Ministerial mice has crept and it is not even expected to squeak in this House or in the other House, for the new Minister, we understand, is to spend his time in Wales, presumably opening bazaars and closing factories.
I do not want to refer in any derogatory fashion to the new Minister of State. I understand that he is an amiable and able gentleman and when he is appointed and takes up his duties, such as they are, I am sure that hon. Members from all parties in this House will extend to him the courtesy and co-operation which is usual in these circumstances. I do not blame him for being appointed. I blame those who appointed him. They finally found a Minister among the spectators at the universities' rugby game, instead of going into the Parliamentary scrum and finding one of their own supporters on that side of the House.
The nature of the recommendations of the Council for Wales was very modest. Hon. Members have spoken of them as being revolutionary. They were nothing of the sort. They constituted a reasoned argument for the organising of certain Departments for Wales—not all—under the executive authority of a responsible Minister in such a way as to give to the Welsh people and their representatives a measure of democratic control and supervision like that which has applied to Scotland for many years. A number of bureaucratic committees composed of civil servants, however able, is not a proper substitute for democratic devolution on the lines which the Council's Report suggested. The Government have not even attempted to meet this request.
The decision to create a Minister of State is a sham. The tiny advances in administrative decentralisation are trivial to the point of insult. We are left with another committee, once more of civil servants. It seems that any empty gesture towards Wales will do instead of one real, honest step to give to the people of Wales, the oldest element in the United Kingdom, a modest measure of control over their own affairs.
The Government ought to be ashamed of themselves. I stand here tonight to tell them that if certain sections in Wales despair of obtaining from this House a modicum of reform in the matter of government and administration of the Principality, and if disturbances and protests of an undemocratic nature take place, the blame will rest on those who have been blind and obdurate in the face of the most reasonable and modest proposals.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) ably addressed himself to the precious argument that they cannot give to Wales a Secretary of State because its population is only half that of Scotland. It seems they bend over backwards to give to half a province in Northern Ireland, with a population half that of Wales, not a Secretary of State but a full-fledged Government and Parliament. Is the fact that the population of Wales is only half that of Scotland sufficient justification to deny to it as much autonomy as is enjoyed by the Channel Islands? I say to the House that this is not a question of population or of size. It is a question of justice and right. If the Prime Minister means what he says in his answer to the Chairman of the Council, that he wishes to recognise the nationhood of Wales, then let him take political action to give reality, to give identity, and to give full partnership to that nation within the framework of the United Kingdom.
I make this appeal to the Government. They have rejected the proposals of what is really a statutory Council set up by the Government. They have rejected the Report supplied by that Council at their request. They have ignored the overwhelming balance of opinion in favour of these proposals, we evinced by the reaction of the Press in Wales and the reaction of the vast majority of the representatives of Wales on local authorities and in this House. What is the next step? Can we leave it there? Can we let this empty policy of appointing another shadow Minister proceed? I say we cannot. If the Government of the day will not act, then let there be set up a Select Committee of this House—there is every precedent for it—which will examine the whole question of devolution in Wales—and possibly in Scotland, too; but I would concentrate on Wales for the moment—including the question of Ministerial and Parliamentary devolution such as that described by the Council's Report, and also new and proper arrangements for the discussion of Welsh questions in this House.
I am one who for years has been urging what the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) advanced this afternoon, namely, the creation of a Welsh Grand Committee, with the appropriate documents before it, not this selective skeleton of a White Paper, which leaves out more than it includes, but a series of Departmental papers, containing the full facts and figures, which that Grand Committee could debate and the meetings of which the appropriate Ministers could attend in order to answer.
I give a serious warning to the Government. The crisis of emotion and circumstance in Wales today is a real one. Many aspects of it were movingly described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). The feeling that Wales is not receiving fair play and is not being received into full and proper partnership in the affairs of the United Kingdom is growing. This kind of treatment will make it grow faster. I advise the Government to withdraw the proposals. Let them take back these trumpery proposals and once more institute an inquiry into the whole question, possibly on the basis of a Select Committee, and then come back to the House and to the people of Wales with proposals which do honour, not only to Wales, but to the Government.
In the few moments which I have at my disposal, I should like to follow the hon. Members for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) and Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) in their attempt to bring before the House the very serious unemployment position in Gwynedd and South-West Wales and in an attempt to deflate the complacency which the Government and their supporters appear to have both in the Report and in the speeches we have heard today from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I should like particularly to refer to the position in South-West Wales. A very serious crisis is developing there. Since March, seven tinplate works have been closed and the closure of other works is imminent. I should like to make it absolutely clear to the Minister and the Government that migration is no answer at all to the problem. I have been told that at the Llanelly Employment Exchange in recent weeks jobs in Sheffield have been offered to redundant workers. I wonder what the workers in Sheffield would say if they were offered jobs in Llanelly. I have a pretty good idea that they would express themselves very freely in good north-country but un-Parliamentary language, but we can say it in Welsh just as well. The Minister for Welsh Affairs would not understand it; and, though the new Minister of State for Welsh Affairs would apparently understand it, he would not be able to answer back.
This migration is something that Wales will not stand for again. We had enough of it in the past. We simply cannot afford to debilitate the whole of a community and depopulate further our country. It is not only the middle-aged workers who are redundant. We also have to consider the position of the school-leavers. What opportunities are to be offered in these areas to these children? One of my hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) spoke of the importance of technical education. Of course, it is important, and there is great leeway to make up in Wales.
In Carmarthenshire, there is a great demand for engineering apprenticeships, and there have been as many as 300 applications for 50 vacancies. The demand is very great, but what will happen if we train young people who will have no prospects of employment in the vicinity of their homes? The young generation will be driven out of Wales as their fathers and grandfathers were before them.
We need not only new industries for these young people, but skilled men for the new industries. Above all, we want Government action. Much has been said about the deputations that have attended on various Ministers to discuss the critical situation in South-West Wales. There have been deputations to the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Power and the Minister of Education, accompanied, if I may put it that way, by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs. Proposals were put to them for bringing in new industries and for adapting and modernising some of the old mills. I should like to ask the Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will give some details tonight of the definite proposals which the Government have in this respect.
I would remind the Minister that in the debate on Welsh Affairs in February last year—and I was not here at the time; I was on my way—he said that the Government would have to see what they could do to attract industries to these areas. That was ten months ago, and the only change that has taken place in South-West Wales is a serious change for the worse. The right hon. Gentleman will not be judged, and neither will his Government be judged, by these minor administrative changes which he brings before the House. He and the Government will be judged by their actions, by how many industries they bring to this part of the world and how many of the proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey, for electrification, for housing and for the repopulation of the rural areas in Wales, are implemented. It is by these tests that the right hon. Gentleman will be judged and not by the administrative changes.
The truth is, as someone has said in the House before, that the right hon. Gentleman is too busy to do his job as Minister for Welsh Affairs. He is up to the neck, or has been, in the Rent Act and in the Local Government Bill and iniquities of that kind. I have no doubt that he will be further in before he is through. He certainly will be if we on this side of the House have anything to do with it. We cannot afford to have in Wales a Minister who is preoccupied with other duties. These problems need constant drive and attention and the right hon. Gentleman has neither the time nor the power to act. Such executive powers as exist are in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Power.
The only executive power which the right hon. Gentleman has is in connection with housing and local government, and the only far-reaching decision affecting Wales that he has made in the last year was his decision, as Minister of Housing and Local Government, when he tipped the scales in favour of the Liverpool Corporation against the united wishes of the peoples of Wales. In passing, I hope that he will be able to tell us something about the body which he set up to assess the water resources of Wales.
Hon. Members know very well that if they want a decision on policy which affects any Department other than that of Housing and Local Government, it is no good going to the right hon. Gentleman. It is a waste of his time and of the time of hon. Members. We had an impressive array of Ministers on the Front Bench opposite at the beginning of the debate, but now they have dwindled.
We had the Lord Privy Seal, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Transport and representatives of the Board of Trade and of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. Why were they all here earlier in the debate? The reason is clear. It is because, if we want to raise a question affecting agriculture, we have to go to the Minister of Agriculture, not to the right hon. Gentleman. That is equally true of supply and of the Service Departments; in fact it is true right along the line. It is simply because the right hon. Gentleman has no power to give a decision.
That is the practical, inescapable dilemma. The Government have recognised that this situation is unsatisfactory, otherwise they would not have asked the Council of Wales to consider administration in Wales. Now that they have done so, they have rejected its recommendations and they have damned the Council and its Report with great praise. The recommendations have gone the way of that other important Report on rural depopulation.
We have no Secretary of State, no Welsh Office, not even a Minister with a seat in the Cabinet, with sole responsibility for Wales. What we have instead is a Minister of State who is only a glorified Parliamentary Secretary, who is to deputise for a Minister who has no power. He is to preside over a sub-committee—in fact, he is to co-ordinate the co-ordinators. Even he himself has not a very high opinion of the job he is to do, because he is reported as having said the other day that he did not think it was a very tough assignment. If he had an idea of doing his job properly, he would know it is one of the toughest assignments that any Minister could take on.
No wonder the Prime Minister was in difficulty in finding somebody to take on this job. The Government had to scour the country for a Welsh Conservative. I think no one was more surprised than the Minister-elect himself when he was chosen. He came to London for the Varsity match and ended in the Government. That is worse than ending in Bow Street. I only want to know what he has done to deserve such a fate. He has done nothing, as far as Wales knows, except to move a resolution on Suez at the Tory Party Conference.
It may have been very well done, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the Government that this is no recommendation to the majority of the people of Wales.
If we needed any convincing about the futility of the proposals brought before us today, the Lord Privy Seal convinced us completely and absolutely. He showed what a hotch-potch are the whole of the proposals. There is no doubt that they have been received in Wales not only with dismay but with hostility and resentment. Even in the circles most favourable to hon. Gentlemen opposite they have been received with an arctic chill.
The Prime Minister said that, after all, these proposals are designed to fulfil a very high purpose, to put beyond all doubt that Wales as a nation has a place of its own in the counsels of Britain. Does he really think these proposals will achieve that? Does he think this is a serious answer to the serious recommendations of the Council of Wales? It is not an answer; it is an evasion, an irrelevancy. It is completely irrelevant to the problems of Wales today. If the Government really think that these miserable little proposals will satisfy even the moderate views of the people of Wales, they know even less about Wales than I thought they did, and that is saying something. If we did not know it before, we know now that this is a country of which they know so little.
On the occasion of our annual Welsh debate it is the custom that a back bench Member should be asked to wind up. I am very grateful to my colleagues for having given me the chance to answer this debate, which was opened from the Opposition side so brilliantly by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas).
The debate will go down in history as the Welsh debate about the man in the tweed suit. It so happens—quite fortuitously; it has nothing to do with politics—that some years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lewis. It was during the war. At that time, he was a most estimable young man. I have no doubt that now he is a most estimable middle-aged man. He is the man who was found just in time.
Several weeks ago I tabled a Question to the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said that he would not be able to answer it then, but would do so very shortly. I tabled the Question again, some weeks later. I offered to postpone it if the Prime Minister was not ready to reply, but he assured me that he was ready. The day before the Question was to be asked, the Minister sought me out and asked me to postpone it from the Thursday to the following Tuesday and said that I should then get a substantive answer.
On the Monday evening the Government Chief Whip asked me to postpone the Question for a few more days, from the Tuesday until the Thursday. I was puzzled by this. I could not understand why the Prime Minister could, on the Thursday, answer a Question which he could not answer two days earlier. I understand now that he had not seen the new noble Lord, and that he did not meet him until the Wednesday. The matter is now perfectly clear. The man in the tweed suit was found just in time.
This appointment, as the Minister for Welsh Affairs must know very well—it is no reflection, personally, on the gentleman concerned—has caused very great disappointment in Wales. It has also, been regarded very tepidly by national newspapers which have no particular Welsh concern. The Times said that national sentiment in the Principality, even the moderate variety of it—I am a representative of that moderate variety—is likely to feel rebuffed by the Government's proposals. The Manchester Guardian pointed out that the value of the appointment in practical terms seemed doubtful. The appointment has been damned by faint praise even by newspapers which have not condemned it outright.
We are entitled to ask just what the appointment means and what its practical effect is to be. We heard what the Lord Privy Seal said. I hesitate to call it elucidation, because what he said elucidated very little. For one thing, we want to know what the position of civil servants will be in relation to the Minister of State. Are civil servants in Departments other than the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to have direct access to the Minister of State at any time other than at their formal conferences? Can they go to him other than through the heads of their Departments in Whitehall? Which of the civil servants in Wales is to have direct access to his own Minister in his own Department apart from direct access to the new Minister of State? This is a very important point.
The Lord Privy Seal spoke as though some wonderful measures of devolution were being proposed. But what are they? The Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education has always been differentiated from his fellow civil servants by the fact that, instead of being obliged to go through the head of the Ministry of Education, he has had direct access to the Minister. Is the Welsh Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, for example to have that privilege? He has already had direct access to the Permanent Secretary of his own Department for some years. Thus, there is nothing new about that, unless—we have not been told—there has now been some change making him able to go direct to the Minister of Agriculture.
What about the Welsh Secretary in the Minister's own Department of Housing and Local Government? We know our civil servants in Wales personally, unlike in England where they are mere signatures at the end of circulars. For instance, can Mr. Blaise Gillie go direct to the Minister? Can he, if he so wishes, bypass Dame Evelyn Sharp? We are entitled to know that. This whole matter of the relationship between the other Departments and the Minister of State and the relationships inside the Minister's own Department has not been made clear by any means in the letter which the Prime Minister sent to Alderman H. T. Edwards.
Again, what is to be the division of responsibility between the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Minister of State? The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he will do all that he has done before and not divest himself of any responsibility, and then suggest that the new Minister of State will have any real competence. Either the new Minister will take something on his own shoulders, or the present right hon. Gentleman will keep everything in his own hands. We want to know which it is. Is the new Minister to be a Post Office messenger, or is he to have any real responsibility? If he is to have any responsibility, of what responsibility is the present Minister to divest himself? None of that has been made clear and we are entitled to an explanation. In any case, I am not sure how much good it will do us.
The Times leading article finally came down on the side of the Government, as it usually does in its leading articles. However, half way through, the leading article pointed out that one of the things which has caused the office of the Minister for Welsh Affairs to have more shadow about it than substance was that, having no executive authority, the Minister, though he has a portfolio, has nothing to put in it and that having a Minister of State to represent him does nothing to remedy that situation. That is very true.
The time has come to ask ourselves what we gain by having the right hon. Gentleman call himself the Minister for Welsh Affairs. He has a very able civil servant in Wales. The Minister himself
is most assiduous in visiting Wales on every possible occasion, but what is the net result of his visitations?—I use the word "visitations," for the Minister would have been happier in the Church than in politics. He has a Victorian urge for self-examination. I have been reading his speech in our last debate on Welsh affairs, when he said:
I have not been wholly idle and I hope I shall be able to prove that I am neither idle, smug nor complacent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1026.]
The right hon. Gentleman recently wrote to me about the closing of a factory in my constituency which employs 1,200 workers. He began his letter:
I have not been idle. I have seen the President of the Board of Trade.
No one would accuse the right hon. Gentleman of idleness. It is the very last thing of which we would accuse him. He is a most industrious Minister and his colleagues place upon him responsibility for piloting through the House the most arduous and unpopular Bills. However, merely taking his moral temperature, as he does, and letting us know the result, is not an effective substitute for action as Minister for Welsh Affairs.
There is one minor example which is indicative of the right hon. Gentleman's inability to fulfil his office. One cannot even put a Question to the Minister for Welsh Affairs. I have tried at the Table to do so. One cannot even put a Question to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs—one is not even allowed to add those words, apparently because, constitutionally, he is not even Minister for Welsh Affairs. That may be a very small example, but it is indicative.
What about the way Welsh affairs are handled in the House? It is monstrous that we are expected—not only last Session, but again this Session—to debate the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and, at the same time, matters of major constitutional importance to the Principality. Pages of the last memorandum of the Council for Wales have never been touched on at all. We tried to skim over the constitutional proposals in our debate last February, but there are three other Reports in this memorandum which have never been debated in this House.
The same is true today. We are obliged to devote a great deal of our attention to the administrative and constitutional proposals, which means that we have very little time to devote to many other matters which are contained in the Report. There is the Report of the Rural Wales Committee, its first Report; there are many subjects in that which we should very much like to discuss. Some of my hon. Friends have managed to raise a few of them. The whole debate seems unbalanced, because we have tried to do too many things at one time. The Minister, as Minister for Welsh Affairs, should try to protect our interests, but we do not feel that he has done so. He makes moral protestations all the time, but the effect is as though he were not there at all. I will not say that the emperor has not any clothes, but only that he is very scantily clad.
Many of my hon. Friends who were unable to speak on the Local Government Bill have spoken today, because, under that Bill, Wales has very difficult problems. The Minister gave very little indication on that occasion that he was both Minister for Welsh Affairs and Minister of Housing and Local Government. The Welsh county councils, for example, did not take the same line, with one exception only out of the 13, as their English brethren. We had no indication of this from the Minister. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) pointed out that we have peculiarly difficult problems in Wales owing to the very large number of small local authorities and that the problems needed a good deal of thought. The Minister has given no indication that he has thought of them with any success.
What does the Minister consider to be the functions of the Council of Wales, which makes reports to him which are not debated in this House? The Government have turned down their proposals for administrative changes and have arranged this debate without even waiting for the Council to hold its meeting, which will be on 20th December I understand. The Government have ceased to consider whether anything can be developed from the Council. I believe that there could be development. There is a more important place in Welsh life for the Council of Wales. The Council might be somewhat differently constituted. We have not had an indication from the Government of what they are thinking on those lines except that the Council is to be independent; in other words, the Government are leaving the Council in a vacuum. The Minister has proved himself completely inadequate to deal with problems of administration and constitutional action and to protect in this House the rights of Wales.
I turn to other matters which have been touched upon by a number of hon. Members. I would remind the Minister that of those who have spoken from the Government benches only the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) gave whole-hearted support to the Government. How much does the Minister think that he has had an effect on the economy of Wales? How much better off are we with a Minister for Welsh Affairs than we might be if we did not have a Minister for Welsh Affairs at all?
What can the right hon. Gentleman point to in the way of achievement? How is he able to influence his Cabinet colleagues? We understand, from what the Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal tell us, that we need not worry, that we have a spokesman in the Cabinet. But who listens to his voice? On something of very great importance to Wales we have not yet had a decision. That is the vitally important matter of the new steel strip mill, to which several hon. Members have referred in the debate. I am not saying for a moment whether it should be in East Wales or West Wales, but at least we are entitled to know what the decision of the Government is.
In a Written Answer, only three days ago, the Prime Minister said:
Very thorough studies have already been made…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 174.]
He is not proposing, therefore, to undertake any further investigations. If that is so, surely the Minister for Welsh Affairs should now be able to tell us something about it. From having the right hon. Gentleman as Minister, I cannot see that we have gained anything in such very important matters as the decision—it might be a negative one, but we would then know where we were—on the new strip mill.
Several hon. Friends have mentioned that his lance was broken on the Tryweryn controversy. I am presuming that tonight he will announce the names and the terms of reference of the committee which is to advise him on water resources in Wales. A Minister replying to a debate usually likes to have one or two little plums to pull out. I am assuming, I hope rightly, that that is one of the very few plums he will be able to pull out. We have been waiting for a long time—since last February—to hear precisely what proposals he has in that matter. In the debate last February he said that he would not wait for the technical investigations to be completed before appointing the Committee. Some weeks ago I asked a Question and he said he hoped to be able to give an answer shortly. I hope that we shall at least secure that answer tonight.
There are various other advantages Wales is anxious to have in the economic field—
Perhaps I might be allowed to make my own speech. I should point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) has brought a great deal of pressure to bear on that subject.
There are other matters of primary importance to the economy of both North and South Wales for which we want a really good fighting champion in the Cabinet. I am referring now to communications. For a very long time we have had on our Welsh programme the project of the Severn Bridge. We were disappointed when we found that the Forth Bridge was to take precedence over it. It was said that if we had had a Minister of our own in the Cabinet the Severn Bridge would have been higher in the list of priorities. I do not know about that, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we would forgive him a great deal if tonight he announced the date for the commencement of the building of the Severn Bridge.
I am extremely anxious that this bridge should be started, because we have other projects in North Wales which we are anxious to see materialise. We have a project in my constituency, the Queens-ferry Bridge, which is an essential project, and in a more embryonic stage we have plans for a very ambitious causeway and bridge across the River Dee. Queensferry Bridge would be of very great importance not only to my own constituency but to all other counties in North Wales which depend on the tourist industry, but it is not even mentioned in the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales for the very good reason that their action has so far not materialised. Can the Minister give me any assurance about this?
Another matter concerned with communications has been raised by several of my hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite, who have told the House how deeply disappointed we have been, after all the promises made of preferential treatment for Wales, about the working of the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act for the agricultural areas. Figures were published in HANSARD on 12th December, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), and they show how extraordinarily little has been done in Wales on this matter, which is of such importance to our agricultural economy. If time permitted I should like to go into much further detail on this, because I have pages and pages of information from my own local authority expressing its sense of disappointment at the very poor response which it has had from the Government in this respect.
There are other matters affecting our general economic situation in Wales which are causing us concern. My part of North Wales is regarded as the prosperous part because, admittedly, we have not the very difficult problems which perplex my colleagues in the North-Western constituencies in North Wales and about which they have spoken so eloquently. But even at the prosperous end of North Wales we have our problems. We have the closing of a large rayon factory and we have small but, nevertheless, quite important closures due to changes in defence policy. These have affected employment in various parts of North Wales where Service establishments have been closed, some of which had been there for many years. This affects employment in areas to which it is not at all easy to attract industry and where one feels that the Government have a particular obligation to see that employment is maintained in that vicinity.
If I may be permitted to refer to my own parochial affairs for a moment, we are very much concerned in my constituency with a wider matter with which I do not expect the Minister to deal, because it affects Government policy in general. It is the redevelopment in the aircraft industry. What is to happen to the aircraft workers in these large establishments? It is not primarily a Welsh problem, but in Flintshire we have a large aircraft works and we should feel a great deal more confident about our industrial future if we thought that we had on the Government benches Ministers who were capable of redeploying and reorganising the resources of that industry in such a way as to see that our resources of manpower as well as of factory space are used to the best possible advantage. It is, perhaps, not the right Gentleman's fault that he is no better planner than the rest of his Government colleagues, but I mention this to him as one of the factors which should be in our minds when we consider our economic future.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman wants time to reply to the very large number of points which have been made in the debate and I wish to give him ample time to deal with the constitutional and constituency matters which have been raised.
There are quite a number of other points that I have been asked to make by various interests in Wales, and that, again, reflect our feeling that, although the right hon. Gentleman is called Minister for Welsh Affairs, he misses opportunities to safeguard Welsh interests. One occurred during the debate on the Local Government Bill, when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), as well as Welsh Members, asked the right hon. Gentleman to safeguard the position of the boundary between England and Wales. That, surely, was something on which a Minister of Welsh Affairs, one would have supposed, would have been prepared to pledge himself.
Not a bit of it. When the Parliamentary Secretary replied, we were told that it was certainly the intention of his right hon. Friend—that is, the Minister—to adopt the approach that there should be no major changes in the English-Welsh boundary, and no minor ones except where there was local agreement, but he added that it was not a matter that could be covered by a prohibition in the Bill itself. We, in Wales, cannot see why not.
I mention that as yet another illustration of the complete failure of the right hon. Gentleman really to live up to his name as Minister for Welsh Affairs. In small things, as in great, we find that Wales is constantly either overlooked or, even worse, that though the Minister is aware that we have feelings on certain matters, that we have problems, he makes a polite gesture in our direction, but does nothing about it.
We do not feel that the proposals made in the Prime Minister's letter to the Chairman of the Council for Wales will in any material sense really improve the position. We are disappointed in those proposals. We are still by no means clear as to their administrative effect on the Civil Service. We do not think that they will give to Wales any better expression of her individual political feelings or sentiments.
We have hopes that the economic subcommittee may, perhaps, make things a little smoother, but why has the right hon. Gentleman had to wait until now to set up this economic sub-committee of heads of Departments? This problem of lack of employment in Wales, and some of the other economic problems, have been with us now for quite a while. We have had the heads of Departments meeting in Cardiff ever since 1946. At that time, it was not clear whether some of these economic difficulties were merely matters of post-war dislocation or were continuing problems. The Government has now had since 1951 to deal with the fact that some are persistent. Why do they wait until 1957 to take some definite action—even if it is merely on an administrative and consultative basis—to deal with the economic problems?
We feel, Mr. Speaker, that this also, like the appointment of the Minister of State, is part of Conservative window-dressing in Wales. We are not convinced that these proposals will bring substantial benefits. Although, on these occasions, it is not customary to divide the House, nevertheless I think that the Minister should be fully aware of the feelings, certainly on this side, and of the majority of those who have spoken from that side, that the Government's present proposals are inadequate for their purpose.
The weakness of the Opposition today is that it has set up a continuous, high-pitched wail entirely devoid of any practical suggestions. On the main issue, that thrown up by the Prime Minister's letter to Alderman Edwards, it is quite clear that the Labour Party has not made up its mind. All it can agree on is to criticise the Government—a state of affairs which in no way qualifies it to govern itself—
I do not think that the Opposition are capable of doing that, and that is why they will remain continuously in opposition. I propose to take these two subjects in the order in which they are set out in the Motion and to direct the first part of my remarks to the Report on Developments and Government action.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) said that one of the troubles about this debate is that the Report is always several months out of date. I wish to take counsel with both sides of the House on that. I can never understand why the tradition has grown that the Report should be for the year ending 30th June. So far as, I am aware, not one of the other Reports and documents which we discuss in the House is based on that curious double half-year. It seems to me that it would be a much more practical plan to make the next period of a report end on 31st December.
I thought that I should like to have the opinion of the House. My own inclination would be to alter it to the calendar year, because we could get the figures out much more quickly if they were based on the calendar year. The report could also be made available to the House more rapidly, because 30th June is soon followed by the Summer Recess, which inevitably would cause delay. This leads to questions about the date of the annual Welsh debate, and so on. I do not want to settle anything now, but I thought it right to let the House know what was turning over in my mind.
There are also difficulties about 31st December. Presumably the Report would come out in February or March, and then we have the Budget and there is pressure on Parliamentary time. Surely this is a matter which we can adjust in some way or other.
That is why I am ventilating it today. I am conscious of the difficulty of debating these matters months after the end of the period, and I should like to consider whether we can do something better. Despite what the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) said, I am always trying to do something better for Wales and for Welsh hon. Members.
Far and away the most serious issue in Wales at present is the situation around Llanelly and in the west South Wales area arising out of the simultaneous closure of a number of hand tinplate mills. It is strange to me that, despite its dominating importance, that matter was not mentioned in this debate until eight minutes to six, when attention was drawn to it by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). The tragedy here is not that the old mills are closing—because it is recognised by everybody that in due course it must happen—but that the closing seems to be coming over a very short period of time, whereas everybody had hoped and expected that the closing of individual mills would be spread over a longer period, when it would have been much easier to make the necessary adjustment and to absorb the redundant workers into other employment.
Since the beginning of the year about 3,600 tinplate workers have been discharged. I am thankful to say that the greater part of that number has already been absorbed elsewhere. But the prospect of further closures in that area must cause deep concern—I know that it does—to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and to all hon. Members who represent constituencies in the area or who serve on local authorities there. With some of my right hon. Friends I have received two deputations about the situation there—one from the Welsh Board for Industry and one from the local authorities, who stated their case very succinctly.
The Opposition knows as well as we do that there is no power to direct industry hither or thither over the country. The Opposition carried the responsibility of Government from 1945 to 1951, and they know that there is not any power to do that. They know equally that if there were that power, it would not solve the problem. What is the value of directing an industry to a place if it cannot make a success of its business there? One is raising hopes only to dash them again. Patient work is required. We have got to work at this problem until we find solutions and I regard it as part of my responsibility as Minister for Welsh Affairs to lead and co-ordinate that work.
The direct responsibility falls, of course, on my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who is the Minister concerned with the Distribution of Industry Act. This is one of the Development Areas scheduled in that Act. I know that my right hon. Friend wants to do everything in his power to help towards a solution of the problem.
It is unemployment that arises not from decay, but from progress. The old mills are overtaken by the modern strip mills, of which that part of Wales has every reason to be proud; but that does not wipe away the human problem that exists whenever industrial change takes place hurriedly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry said that one of the features of the situation is that the Welsh economy as a whole is so firm and so resilient. That is one of the encouraging facts of post-war Wales. As my hon. Friend also pointed out, new industries, many of which perhaps began with a speculative future when they were first established, have grown up. Few of them have failed and many are giving steady and, in some cases, increasing employment in the areas where they have settled. Indeed, even in west South Wales, one has the contrast of Llanelly, where there is now 5 per cent. of unemployment, and Port Talbot and Neath close by, where there is only about 1 per cent. Port Talbot and Neath are extremely prosperous. Although I do not want people to have to go moving over the face of Wales, nevertheless there is no doubt that over a period there will be a certain movement from those areas which are hard-hit by modernisation into those areas which are still expanding.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has helped by giving his decision on the Port Talbot by-pass. That controversial matter is now settled and the work will go ahead. Several of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have called attention to the importance of road development in Wales. I regard that as one of the matters which we should watch carefully in the new economic committee that is being set up and which has already met. We want the closest co-ordination here. My right hon. Friend has helped me with the Port Talbot by-pass. He is helping the whole of industrial South Wales with the Ross Spur, to which he is now committed.
When I read in some of the Welsh papers that Wales always gets the wrong end of the stick, I am prompted to put on record that whereas Wales has 6 per cent. of the population of England and about 10 per cent. of the road mileage, no less than 15 per cent. of the Government's trunk road programme is going to Wales.
As another indication of what seemed to me evidence of the distance from reality and from the main issues of Welsh development which has been a feature of part of this debate, the Severn Bridge, a matter to which I attach great importance, was not mentioned in the debate, as far as I am aware, until almost eight o'clock. I mention that particularly because the greater part of last year's debate was devoted to the Severn Bridge and to the argument that if Wales had a Secretary of State it would have a Severn Bridge at once because Scotland had a Secretary of State and had the Forth Bridge.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House was asked to study two Reports at the same time and that every hon. Member has had to choose out of one Report or the other a subject on which to concentrate? Otherwise, there would have been the greatest variety of subjects discussed in the debate.
That may well be true, but in these eleven months in which I have held this office I have tried to single out what are the salient issues for Wales, and the question of whether or not a Severn Bridge is to be built is one.
The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has not been able as yet to make an announcement about the Severn Bridge being in the future programme, though he has assured hon. Members that all the planning for the Severn Bridge is going forward. The impact of major projects of that kind on what are specialised and limited engineering resources in this country is an extremely important factor which he is taking into account.
There were many references to the Severn Bridge during the debate last February, and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation was himself present and intervened. The Minister will recall that he referred to tolls. I asked him a question: if the vexed problem of tolls for the bridge were settled, would he authorise the building of the bridge? He was not able to reply. Can the Minister give any reply tonight?
I know what has been said about tolls, and I have indicated what is the position—that when there are a number of major bridge-building projects of this kind under consideration they have to be phased so that they will not at any one moment impose an excessive strain on the bridge-building capacity of the country. My right hon. Friend is taking all that into account.
As to another bridge, the Queensferry Bridge, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) referred, I know that my right hon. Friend is hoping early in 1958 to publish a draft trunk road order which will fix the line of the by-pass and give the specification of the bridge.
Several hon. Members asked about the integrated steelworks and strip mill. I certainly have no knowledge of what one hon. Member suggested, that Richard Thomas and Baldwin's are less keen than they were to proceed with that. Certainly that has not been brought to my knowledge. This is a most important decision. Richard Thomas and Baldwin have indicated their preference, but, of course, they certainly have not—I imagine they have not—at their disposal the vast capital resources which would be required to carry out the work. It is a matter which deserves and requires thorough consideration. It is regarded by the Government as a matter of urgency. A decision as to when the work could be put in hand could not in any case be taken till after the review of annual public investment which will take place in the spring. That is the position, and I want to be as frank as I can with the House about it.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) asked what I thought was a very pertinent question. He asked if the Minister of Labour and National Service and I were alive to the problem of what is called the "bulge" passing out of the schools. I can assure him that indeed we are.
This has been a problem especially for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, and now it is becoming an opportunity which we must not miss. It is an opportunity especially to recruit more skilled men and women for industry, and, with that in mind, some time ago, acting on a suggestion from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, the National Joint Advisory Council set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to study apprenticeships and recruitment in the light of the opportunity which is to be given us by the greatly increased number of boys and girls leaving school.
I am informed that the inquiry has just been completed, and that the Report will be going to the Advisory Council. Later, no doubt, it will be published, and I am sure that it will be of great help to industry in Wales, and indeed in the whole of Great Britain, in the consideration of the problem to which the hon. Member drew attention.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. He has just passed from the subject of bridges, and I wonder if he would be good enough to go back to it for a minute and inform the House whether he can say anything about the second bridge over the Usk at Newport?
No, I am afraid I have nothing fresh to say about that, but, having been in Newport recently—only two days ago—and knowing it well, I appreciate the problem there. I know that there are two rival views as to how the River Usk should be bridged—whether it should be north or south of the existing bridge—and that is another question to which my right hon. Friend is giving his attention.
One of the outstanding developments of Wales is unquestionably the project at Milford Haven. That is a matter on which I do not wish to seek to claim any personal credit. My concern is, with the help of hon. Members on both sides of the House, local authorities, public authorities and everybody, to work out our arrangements for Milford Haven so that these great new projects, which are to bring work to an area of Wales which badly needs work, shall be so carried out and developed that they will be a credit to the countryside and not a discredit, as so much of the older, Victorian industrial development in Wales was.
That is my main object, and I am keeping in very close touch with all concerned about it. I am affected as the Minister responsible for planning, housing and National Parks, in addition to my responsibility for Welsh affairs. Something great can come out of Milford Haven, but it will not be the solution of all our problems, though undoubtedly it will be an outstanding feature in the Wales of the future.
I hope the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) will forgive me if I do not go into detail on the question, which he raised, of planning rights and compensation. I am aware of these difficulties, but they are general difficulties not confined to Wales. Perhaps we could discuss them on another day. I am also well aware—the more aware having been in the Rhondda on Saturday—of the ugliness of coal tips until they have become overgrown by grass or moved. I always think that the great mountain at Bargoed is the worst of all, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman knows of one even worse at Aberdare. I hope in due course to pay a visit there, but perhaps I had better wail until the 16,000 objections from Aberdare to the Socialist Glamorgan Count). Council's development plan has been cleared up, but I promise the hon. Gentleman that I am concerned about this.
I liked his saying that what is good for local government is good for Wales, because his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said that the Bill would reduce and weaken the resources of Wales. So far as I can see, despite what was said by certain hon. Members in the debate, the Local Government Bill will increase the financial resources of almost every county in Wales, and I am sure that it will do good.
On the subject of water supplies, perhaps this is not the day for me to say anything fresh about Tryweryn, as this is the very day on which a deputation from Wales was to see the Liverpool Corporation, and I do not know what has been happening there. The only comment that I would make is that I absolutely deny that the development of the Tryweryn water resources by Liverpool could in any circumstances steal water from Wales that could be of commercial value to Wales. If I had thought that I should never have advised the House to pass the Bill.
I should like the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) to know that I have made considerable progress in connection with the new Advisory Committee for Water Resources in Wales. I propose that the terms of reference for that Committee shall be:
To advise the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister of Welsh Affairs as may be required by him from time to time upon matters connected with the conservation and use of water resources in Wales.
I am glad to say that a Welshman from Montgomeryshire, Alderman Lloyd Owen, has been good enough to accept my invitation to become chairman of that Committee. I hope very shortly to make known the full membership of the Committee.
Several hon. Members, and I think originally my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans), called attention to the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act. If it is alleged that Wales never receives its fair share. I must mention that one half of all the moneys made available for the whole of Great Britain under that Act is going to Wales. I hope that that will be of great value in improving farm roads. Another encouraging fact to me is the strong demand that is becoming apparent in Wales for capital grants for farm improvements under the Government's new scheme. That shows the initiative of the Welsh farmer, and I am quite certain that it will steadily raise the standard of efficiency of Welsh farms.
Has my right hon. Friend noted that the proportion of grants conceded in Wales is rather less than the proportion for the United Kingdom as a whole? Could he look into that point in future?
The first allocation under the Act was £250,000, of which half is coming to Wales.
I noticed what was said about caravan sites. They constitute one of the most difficult problems and bring great unpopularity to the Minister responsible for dealing with them. I entirely agree that the tourist and holiday trade is one of the most important industries of Wales. We should not have the whole of Welsh life subordinated to it. At the same time it can bring great wealth to Wales and I am very glad that the Council for Wales has set up a panel to make a special investigation into it.
I noted what the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) said about forestry. I am afraid that I cannot accept all his criticisms when he alleges enormous wastage. Most of that arises in South Wales, where there is strong competition from industry, and not in Mid-Wales and North Wales where the position is far more stable. I am not saying that forestry is the solution to all the rural problems in Wales, but it can make a considerable contribution towards that solution and we ought not to denigrate it.
I should have liked to have heard more in the debate about the importance of encouraging small industries in the rural market towns of Wales. I believe that many can be saved thereby, and I am delighted that Pilkington's have set up a factory at St. Asaph. I am very happy indeed when I hear of a new development of that kind. I wish all strength and good fortune to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, which seems to me to be self-help of the right kind in the right place.
I am sorry that I did not hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts). I know his concern, which he voiced in an Adjournment debate on 9th December, about unemployment in North Wales.
I made no reference today to economic matters because I had the opportunity of speaking at some length on Monday, and I was most grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for being present. Arising from the fact that the Minister is continually suggesting that we should have raised a number of important economic questions today, may I make the suggestion to him that he applies to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for another day on which to discuss this topic shortly after we resume after the Christmas Recess?
The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not arrange the business of the House. He also knows that developments such as the Ashburton Chemical Company's proposed works at Glynllifon Park and the Austin Hopkinson project at Penygroes seem to me exactly what is wanted, not only to relieve unemployment but to provide skilled work for boys leaving school—a matter to which I attach much importance.
The Central Electricity Authority has selected two sites for atomic power stations. I must not express any view on the suitability of those sites, because I must adopt an impartial attitude until the inquiries have been heard, but I can say that I did all in my power to encourage the Central Electricity Authority to direct its attention to North Wales and to study the possibilities there. For may part I was proud and delighted when the C.E.A. announced that it had selected two sites which seemed to it to be suitable.
Now I come to the second subject in the debate, the Prime Minister's letter. Various views have been expressed about the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire. On behalf of the Government I want to repeat the very sincere thanks which were expressed in the Prime Minister's letter. This body has put in an immense amount of serious work on the big subject of Government administration in Wales and, as the Prime Minister said, it has provided the most valuable descriptive analysis yet available to any of us. The Government also agree with its diagnosis in paragraph 183 of its Report, that the greatest single failing in the present organisation is that there is far too little co-ordination of the activities of the Departments operating in Wales. I would not necessarily endorse the word "far", but there is a lack of co-ordination which we seek to remedy.
Meanwhile, during this past year we have been making our own diagnosis in relation to the administrative structure. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced in his letter the other day decisions designed to remedy the three main weaknesses which we thought were revealed in that structure. First, there is room for more devolution to Cardiff and to Wales. That, I think, is common ground. The Council pressed that strongly, we have accepted it, and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal indicated in his speech today what is being planned for education, for agriculture and for transport.
Incidentally, with regard to education, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), whose speech we all enjoyed so much, paid fine tribute to the Welsh Joint Education Committee but failed to mention that it appeared to disagree strongly with the recommendations of the Council for Wales about the positioning of the Welsh Secretary for Education.
The second weakness that needs to be remedied is the one mentioned in paragraph 183. Closer co-operation is needed on the spot in Wales between the various Government Departments, particularly on the economic side. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly said he would like to have a Secretary of State bringing under his wing education, agriculture and local government. Frankly, however, I believe the main problems in Wales at present to be economic rather than social service. I think we should do well to concentrate on that.
The conference of the heads of Government Departments in Wales has met regularly for some years. We already have a Rural Wales Committee, which was referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan, who was rather critical of it in some respects, though I do not think he would disagree with its existence. I was struck by paragraph 253 of its Report, where the members of the Committee say:
Working together on the Committee has made us very conscious of the value of close inter-departmental work of this kind. Our three Departments had already been associated in many ways, but when able to work as a team and consider problems jointly we have discovered much needing to be done which could only be achieved by joint action and we feel that close inter-departmental co-operation is more and more an essential condition of successful work for the future.
If that is the case for rural Wales, surely it must be more definitely the case in respect of all the economic problems which lie ahead of us.
That is the purpose of the Government in bringing together those members of the standing conference who come from the economic Departments. I shall take the chair at this committee whenever I possibly can. The Minister of State for Welsh Affairs will take the chair when I am not able to be there, a contingency for which any member of the Cabinet always has to provide, because one of the radical difficulties is that a member of the Cabinet cannot be away from London whenever he wishes.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly and other hon. Members asked what Departments were represented on the Committee. The nucleus of Departments consists of the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Ministry of Works, the Department concerned with forestry, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and my Department, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The Admiralty would be represented there if Milford Haven matters were under discussion. Other Departments might be brought in for specific inquiries.
The third weakness of which I have been conscious—I confess it at once—is that if there is only one Welsh Minister and he is a member of the Cabinet, he cannot be sufficiently continuously in Wales. The major change here is that, whereas in the last eleven months there has been only myself, and whereas before that there had been for some five or six years a Joint Under-Secretary who was London-based, in future there will be a Minister of State—that is, a Minister of higher rank—who will be Cardiff-based.
Attacks were made on the Minister of State. I do not think they were intended against him personally. They were on the Prime Minister's decision, because the new Minister of State is to be a Member of the Upper House. There are considerable substantial advantages to Wales in that fact. It will no doubt have been noted that it has become customary for the Minister of State at the Scottish Office to be a noble Lord. If he is a Member of the Upper House, he is not, as we are, subject to being pulled back to London, sometimes at most inconvenient times, by three-line Whips and the like to cast his vote here. I am certain that it will prove of substantial and permanent importance to Wales that there will be a high-ranking Minister entirely on the job and continuously in Wales except when he is needed here in London.
I note with some interest and scorn that some of those hon. Members opposite who have been most critical of his appointment were the very hon. Members who a short time ago were criticising my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for not having provided a Parliamentary Secretary. I am entitled to ask, because these are serious matters, "What is the Opposition's solution?"
The Welsh Secretary in my office will not be supreme over all the other civil servants in Wales. That was a misconception expresed in one of the Welsh papers. I can assure the hon. Lady that he has the right of direct access to me, if he wishes to exercise it.
The House is entitled to know what the Opposition would do. Do the Opposition support the plan adumbrated by the Council of Wales for a Secretary of State for Wales with agriculture, education, local government and health dragged away from London and dealt with separately, cut off from the English Departments? If so, that seems to cut right across what the right hon. Member for Llanelly said about Wales and England going forward together.
I realise that that is the Liberal Party's policy, but is it the Labour Party's policy to adopt this plan of small Departments—because inevitably they would be small—cut off from the English stream; or does the Labour Party adopt what I might describe as the Western Mail plan, a plan of a Secretary of State with no Executive powers whatever? Any self-respecting Member of the House, if offered that post, would refuse it, because all Government experience—and hon. Members opposite have themselves supported their Government—proves that a Minister who has no Department behind him and who has no executive powers whatever is unable to do more than think; he cannot act.
I am in the fortunate position of having a strong Department with me and it is that which makes me effective in the task which the Prime Minister has put upon me. I am entirely satisfied with the position which I have been given. I am convinced that it is possible, whatever my personal defects, with this present structure to contribute to the life of Wales.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly spoke of the essentials of Welsh life, the language and the culture, protecting the villages, and recognition of the sensitivity of Wales about the past. Although I am not Welsh and have no Welsh blood, I understand that, recognise it and appreciate it; but let us be quite sure that in whatever we are planning we are applying the test of whether it will be effectively good for Wales.
I want to respond to the national aspirations which have been mentioned. They are matters not of feeling and emotion, but of deep reality, and it is not enough to respond to them unless at the same time one is creating a machine which will bring benefit to Wales. Otherwise, Wales might feel that it had merely a bubble which could be pricked.
I beg the House to come together and to give the new scheme a fair trial. I am sure that, whatever hon. Members have said, they will wish to do that for the sake of the Minister of State and of everybody else. Let us bear in mind, whatever our differences, that next year will be the year of the Festival of Wales and the year of the Empire Games. Wales will come into her own and we must all seek to serve her.