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This Report is a very interesting one, it is a full one, and it contains much valuable information. But we are not here to eulogise. The field to be covered is so extensive, and the time at our disposal is so limited, that we have to make our choice of topics.
From a personal point of view, I should like to speak about education. There are 30 paragraphs in the Report devoted to education, and only two to the question of the expansion of training facilities for teachers. I must forgo this on this occasion and satisfy myself by giving the Minister appropriate notice that on a future occasion we shall discuss this important matter. Graciously, we give him time to ponder this question and we hope that when we discuss it later we shall find that he had been prepared, also graciously, to meet our wishes.
With those few introductory words I want to proceed to what we consider to be an important aspect of this Report and review the underlying basis of the economic fabric of Wales and draw the Minister's attention to it. We shall concentrate our attention on the question of employment and the state of agriculture in Wales.
It would be as well if I stated my personal position quite clearly at the beginning. I cannot take the view, and I do not think that any one on these benches takes the view, that Wales is an economic unit, or that the economy of Wales can be separated from that of the rest of Britain. The economic life of Wales has been integrated with the economic life of Britain, as, of course, it should be. Long ago we achieved in Britain what some countries in Western Europe are still trying to achieve, namely, an integrated economic system. We have arrived and these other countries are still on the way.
Nevertheless, Wales and her people, whether they be Welsh-speaking or not, is a national entity. Community life within the geographical area known as Wales has its own identity of cultural interests, and we shall not make headway unless this fact is acknowledged and conceded.
Perhaps I can explain this by comparing the difference in the results of identical phenomena in England and Wales. If there is rural depopulation in England as there is, people move to the towns or industrial centres and there is no loss to England. English life continues. The pattern of her community life may change, but it changes only within England. When rural depopulation takes place in Wales, due very often to the modernisation of agricultural methods, the young people of Wales cross the border to England. They are a loss to Wales and to that extent the community life of Wales is impoverished.
This movement of people is not confined to rural areas. During the inter-war period Wales lost a quarter of a million of her people to other parts of Britain. This splintering of the Welsh nation has been, and still is, a vital threat to the life of a people. Welsh national life must be able to hold itself together within the geographical boundaries of Wales if the nation is to survive. This thesis has been stated time and time again, but I make no apology for saying that it is against that background that I shall discuss the Report before us today.
We are concerned with the economic and cultural life of a people living as a national entity within the boundaries of Wales. As every geographer knows, people live where they can earn a living. Such is the fundamental principle governing the distribution of population. If the people of Wales are to prosper in their own land they must be able to earn their living within the Principality. The whole problem resolves itself into that of employment.
Taking a bird's eye view of Wales. the problem reveals itself in three different ways in three distinct types of country within the Principality. There is industrial Wales based upon the coalfields of South and North-East Wales, as well as a sub-industrial area based on slate and stone quarrying in Caernarvon and Merioneth. In these areas there are dense concentrations of population. Secondly, there are the agricultural areas of better land where there are lesser but more evenly distributed populations, with fair concentrations in the market towns. Finally, there is the type of country where the population is much more sparse. This is in the upper reaches of the river valleys and the hills and upland regions.
Each of these types of regions has its own peculiar problems. What has been the extent of Government action in the industrial areas? What has been the extent of Government action in the agricultural areas? What have the Government done in the upland areas of Wales? These are pertinent questions which we are asking in this debate. May I deal first, with the section of the Report on employment and industrial development. Ninety paragraphs are devoted to this aspect of the problem which touches industrial Wales. The very first paragraph is at once a confession of failure and an expression of hope. I think that that is a fair assessment of it.
We are told:
In the period under review the adverse changes in employment outweighed the favourable ones…
I am going to repeat what has been said many times from these benches, that the Government cannot wash their hands of their responsibilities in bringing about these adverse changes in employment. They may deny that they planned these conditions deliberately, but what they cannot deny is that they have been warned of the consequences of their policy. Unfortunately, those consequences have materialised in Wales.
We are told that there is a credit side to the balance sheet and that substantial increases in employment took place in the modern steel and tinplate works. That may be so, but conditions are substantially worse than they need be. We are concerned with the less commendable features of the balance sheet because those features concern the lives and well being of peoples.
Let us examine the Report in a fairly detailed fashion, because my hon. Friends will bring in more details during the course of the debate. We are told that the manufacturing industries showed a drop of 5: per cent, mainly in the older tinplate works, in engineering, textiles, furniture, bricks and patent fuels. That is a very fair list for a country like Wales. I have furniture interests in my division, as well as a brick industry, and both these industries have suffered.
Let us go further. We are told that the mineral industries of coal, slate, granite and lead all showed a fall in employment. That is not a very encouraging catalogue, even at best. In addition, there was less overtime and more short-time employment. In view of all this, what is our indictment? It is that in whatever direction we look, wherever this unemployment is to be seen, or wherever under-employment exists, it was foreseeable in every instance. It was predictable in every instance, yet it was allowed to develop.
Take, for example, the sub-industrial area of North-West Wales, in particular the slate industry of Caernarvon. Has there not been a consistent decline in that industry over the years, and has not that decline assumed serious proportions over the past decade? Has not my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) drawn attention time and time again to this question? Even this week the Minister of Works has refused an inquiry. He said that all that is to be known is already known. If so, I suggest he is the only one who knows it. He hides behind the suggestion that industries are being introduced into the district. We have waited seven years for the Government to introduce anything tangible in that part of North Wales.
Turning to the industrial areas of South Wales. we are told that the scale of unemployment is due in the main to technological changes. That may be so, but technological changes do not take place in a day. Such changes have to be planned, thought out and implemented. Such changes are not a bolt from the blue, nor due to world causes. They involve planning and that period of planning gives plenty of time to work out schemes to absorb both labour and capital rendered redundant.
We are told that there are contributory factors such as the cuts in the defence programme. I am not going to argue against cuts in the defence programme. In a sane world the defence programme shpuld be very low indeed. We are paying the price for our insanity. Yet the fact remains that even cuts in the defence programme were Government decisions and policy. The Government knew what they were doing. They knew the effect there would be on the employment situation. They knew there would be redundancy. The whole position was predictable. What alternative plans were there so that factory space and labour force rendered redundant could be reemployed?
This redundancy is distilled into all grades of employment, the able-bodied, the disabled and even youth and children leaving school. In paragraph 44 of the Report we read:
Towards the end of 1957 it became more difficult to re-settle disabled persons, and from July, 1957, the number of unemployed registered disabled persons increased by 1,216 to a total of 5,561 in December, 1958.
What is true of Britain generally is applicable also to Wales. These disabled persons made a worthy contribution to the so-called strengthening of the £. Yet there is little evidence that they were remembered on the great day when the Budget was opened recently by the Chancellor. For all we know to the contrary, their silent penury goes on. To be unemployed is a tragedy to the home. To be unemployed and disabled is a double tragedy. Tragedy is personal; it is individual and must be borne by individuals. I suggest that it is little comfort to the disabled unemployed to read nothing but percentages and figures in a Report of this kind.
I referred to the question of youth and school-leavers. I am bound to say that this section of the Report is the most disappointing of all. Only three short paragraphs in a very full Report are devoted to this all-important question of employment of youth and school-leavers, and of those three paragraphs two are mere statements of fact. The first says that because there is more unemployment it is difficult to find employment for school-leavers. That is a gem. The third paragraph says that as employment vacancies decreased
unemployment tended to become more prolonged.
Even Euclid never proved his proposition more convincingly. It is very difficult to find a better example of elaborating
the obvious. There remains one paragraph in which we are told what is belg done:
…Youth Employment Committees pursued ways and means of stimulating the interest of the employers in Wales and in the Report of the Carr Committee on 'Training for Skill'.
Before examining that statement, I state again that the general indictment still holds. This situation was also predictable. It was clear years ago that the bulge then in the schools would, in due course, enter the labour market. It was calculable to a high degree of factual accuracy.
I do not say that the Government did not foresee the emergence of the bulge to the labour market, but I do say that the Government failed to see that the entry of the bulge to the labour market would coincide with the consequences of their own economic policies. Less than three years ago the entry of this additional labour supply was considered as something which would help to overcome the labour shortage. It was considered as a labour force windfall, something to make full use of and take maximum advantage of because of the decline in our labour resources. That was the purpose of the Carr Committee. It was not set up to find employment for youth. Employment was broadly taken for granted. The task of the Committee was to make full use of youth in employment.
The economic policy of the Government has gone awry and as a result the labour force presented by the bulge cannot be absorbed. That is why the Carr Committee Report is, in this context, completely irrelevant, extremely valuable though it may be in other directions. The fact is that the percentage of unemployed among young people in Wales has been about double that for Great Britain as a whole. The answer is that more employment must be made available for youth within the Principality itself and something must be done immediately because the full effect of the bulge has not yet been felt.
here was twice the number of youth unemployed in December last as in December, 1957. At this rate what will be the situation in 1962? True, the Government have begun to recruit additional youth employment officers, but that will avail little if the jobs are not there. Here is a wealth of young human material, the greatest treasure any nation can possess, but what do we see? Boys and girls leaving school are unable to find interesting and suitable employment, a fact which will warp, if it will not destroy, the life pattern of these unfortunate youngsters. Instead of being provided with employment at the most formative period of their lives, they are allowed to drift. It is too much to expect to build a strong nation on a drifting youth. It is too much to expect youth not to drift if we fail to provide them with firm economic anchorage.
I wish to deal briefly with the second type of problem, that of the agricultural areas of Wales. I refer now to the agricultural areas of the better lands of which Anglesey, Caernarvon and parts of Merioneth are good examples among others in the Principality. In one respect the cause of the adverse employment situation is similar to that obtaining in the industrial areas—it is due to modernisation of methods. Thanks to mechanisation, farming output is on the increase. As the Report states, in paragraph 152:
the continued rise in net output has been achieved with a labour force in Wales which has fallen by 20 per cent. in the last ten years —a striking indication of the increase in efficiency that has been achieved.
That is perfectly true, but the problem of the 20 per cent. remains. The labour market for agricultural workers has shrunk by 20 per cent. in ten years and there is little doubt that this will continue. As my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) has said many times, the percentage of unemployed in Anglesey is 12 per cent. In Caernarvon, as my hon. Friend the Member for that constituency has said more than once, it is 9 per cent. There is no solution to this problem along the lines of agriculture, but there is hardly an advantage when we have an expanding cattle population and a diminishing human population, when increased milk, butter and cattle output move in harmony with increased unemployment.
I am tempted to quote:
Cars and lorries, tractors and ploughs
Have come at last to the world of cows.
The cattle do thrive and the milk does flow:
Machines have come and men have to go".
Welcome the advantages; we want to wipe away the disadvantages.
This question has been raised again and again. It has been ventilated by hon. Members from this part of Wales from every possible angle. Yet, year after year has gone by and, while we welcome the recent decision of the Minister to build one of the advance factories in Anglesey, we repeat that areas such as North-West Wales should have been scheduled years ago so that the Development of Industry Act, 1945, could be implemented there to the full and community life sustained and strengthened.
Finally, there is the third type of area to which I have already referred, a type different from the other two, which poses a problem of its own and demands a solution of its own. I refer to the more sparsely populated areas of the upper river valleys, of the hills and the uplands, to areas such as Radnor and Brecon and the central part of Wales. There, farms are in severe isolation. There are fair concentrations of population in the villages and rural towns on the valley floors. There rural depopulation is at its worst. It is there that we find schools closed for lack of pupils. I put in a word here in favour of the rural child. He has plenty of disadvantages because he lives in the country. If there are educational advantages to be obtained, let him have them.
The chapter on Rural Wales is very disappointing, if the Minister will forgive me for saying so.
I am always gracious to people who cannot agree with me.
There is one confession to which I want the House to listen. The Report states:
Inevitably, the effect of the financial restrictions "—
due to Government policy—
that have been in force has been felt in the agricultural field, as in other sections of the economy.
I am sorry to say that the whole chapter shows a pathetic lack of drive. If hon. Members read that chapter they will agree with my observations. The dead hand of despair is much more evident than the living fist ready to deliver its punch.
I have always held, and I have argued so in the House, that the solution can be found only by resuscitating the old, well-established villages and towns in this part of Wales, and this can be done only by introducing suitable industries. Up to the second part of the nineteenth century these centres hummed with activity, both economic and cultural. There was equilibrium between the economy of the farm of the hills and the simple crafts of the valley communities—the craft of the smith, the carpenter, the tailor, the weaver, the shoemaker and the cobbler. Those crafts have disappeared and many of the people have left.
A vacuum was created, and that vacuum has never been filled. If we examine the map, however, we shall find that all is not lost, for these small villages and rural towns are on the periphery of the forests, now beginning to yield their timber. New housing estates will have to be built for the forestry workers. These should be built in or near to villages or towns long established. New industries meeting rural requirements, and some of them ancillary to afforestation, should also be established near these centres of population to bring variety of occupation and to add to the richness and attractiveness of community life.
True, according to the Report a few small factories have been introduced. It is equally true, I am sorry to say, according to the Report, that some of these factories have been killed, not by the people there but by the Government's economic policies. In paragraph 479, we read chapter and verse:
Unfortunately, the adverse economic climate of the period under review caused the failure of a few small factories…
There is the answer.
The economy must be planned. I have a feeling that we are dealing with the problem in bits and pieces through a multiplicity of councils, committees and associations. A Welsh Board of Industry after the Scottish pattern might help to find an answer. In any case, if private industry cannot be persuaded, we shall have to fall back upon other means and upon other methods, because we cannot stand by and watch this part of Wales die before our very eyes.
Nothing short of an economic plan, comprehensive in scope and in character, will meet the needs of the immediate future. We must concentrate on the three different types of areas to the advantage
of all three and to the neglect of none. Such are the economic foundations of a nation rich and varied in resources but richer and more varied still in her cultural life and her social pursuits. We need economic politics.
May not be all it claims to be:
But still it does show up the tricks
Of uneconomic politics.
For many years I used to stare at a text on a school wall which ran:
He may begin his work today, but God knows when he'll end.
I have sometimes thought of that in the House, but never when the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. ldwal Jones) has been speaking. He is a scholar representing a constituency with scholarly traditions. His historical atlases, which he gave us only in the briefest outline this afternoon, are supreme in their field. For all that, I cannot undertake to follow him along every contour of his speech, but I congratulate him on correcting the prose of many lines in the Report, at one moment by translating it into poetry, and on maintaining, if I may say so, a high standard of political good will and sound feeling on many matters which are dear to his heart.
There is a wish among many hon. Members that the debate should be confined to industry and agriculture and so to avoid the diffuseness which has characterised some earlier debates. Yet this Report covers the whole range of development in Wales, and part of the value of "Welsh day" in the House is that every Government Department and agency in Wales ought to approach it, as I do, in a state of healthy apprehension. At the same time, we must always try to get our priorities right, if only as an example to outside bodies.
It is inevitable and right that unemployment, especially where its incidence is heaviest and the problems are most intractable, should be foremost in our minds today, yet it should not blind us to the fact that in Wales as a whole, during the period of this Report, as can be seen in paragraph 54 of the Report, 96 out of every 100 employees were at work. To paint Wales as a vast depressed area would be to fly in the teeth of the facts without helping the pockets of misery which exist and which the hon. Member for Wrexham mentioned.
To suggest that nothing has been done to help our worst-hit areas would be to ignore the measures taken to counter unemployment, which are referred to mainly in paragraph 55 and with the detail of which I will not weary the House. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Wrexham did not say—indeed, he is much too intelligent to suggest it—that the Tory Governments which have ruled this country over the last seven-and-a-half years have deliberately worked to produce unemployment. That would be quite untrue. If any Government worked for unemployment it would be not only wicked, but also very foolish, because, clearly, the electoral chances of any such Government would be gravely endangered by such an action.
There should not go out from the House today the false impression that Wales is a land of despair, for she is a land of expansion and opportunity. From Llanwern to Trawsfynydd, from Milford Haven to Tryweryn, she is a land of exciting new projects, and though we must never he blind to unemployment, wherever it exists, it would be a mistaken kindness to give a false impression of Wales to potential bringers of new industry.
The Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire has made a number of criticisms of the Government's employment policies which merit some attention in detail. First, there is a complaint of the fact that some local authorities show a reluctance to make available houses for key workers, and that is a very serious matter indeed. Secondly, the Treasury is accused of dilatory decisions on applications for extensions to Government premises. Thirdly. the suggestion is made that rentals charged for Government factories
inhibit the development of existing industries and the introduction of new.
Fourthly, the criticism is made that
more encouragement should be given by local authorities, the planning authority and other departments
to expansion. The Memorandum states:
It is essential that the time lag between the presentation of a detailed case for an extension and a decision thereon should be reduced to the minimum.
It is always easy to make charges of a general character, but I hardly think that the Industrial Association would have made these lightly, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that each of these matters could suitably be referred to the Economic Committee of the Conference of the Heads of Government Departments.
I should also be grateful if, in due course, my right hon. Friend could tell the House what the position now is between the South Wales ports and the British Transport Commission, Docks Division, concerning new railway rates. Last February a statement was made to this effect:
In continuation of the British Transport Commission's policy to assist in the development of trade through the South Wales ports, it has been decided that as from 1st May, 1959, British Railways will introduce a system of new rates for merchandise (with certain exceptions) through the ports of Newport, Cardiff, Barry, Swansea and Port Talbot, inclusive of rail conveyance from wagons (exports). Transit shed services shipping from quay to vessel or receiving from vessel to quay, will continue to he excluded from the railway rate.
Since that statement various rumours have been current that a state of near deadlock has once again been reached. This matter has been troubling the hon. Members for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and myself for so long that a further delay at this stage would be a matter of great damage to Cardiff and of great vexation to us all.
There is a further and final reference which I wish to make to the Memorandum of the Industrial Association. It states:
The Association, in welcoming the recent measures taken by the Government which have subsequently resulted in this decrease—
that is, of unemployment—
expresses the hope that there will be no diminution of effort in reviewing what further inducements are desirable to enable industry to offer more opportunities for increased employment in this area.
The point to which I think the House should turn its attention today is, what further inducements are necessary? The hon. Member for Wrexham said at one time that something must be done immediately. Later, he said that the economy must be planned. He also said
that there must be other methods, without defining what they should be. The question which we must face is whether any methods of inducement can bring new works to our worst-hit areas with sufficient speed and in sufficient strength. I read a brief report in the Manchester Guardian during the visit of the Leader of the Opposition to South-West Wales which suggested, at any rate to me, that it was his opinion that the problems of unemployment in South Wales could be cured only by direction of industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I should like to say something about it, because this is a course of action which clearly commands a measure of sympathy among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I would ask them to consider two possible disadvantages of that course. First, that it might give the impression that Wales is a country to which new industry would only go under direction; and, secondly, I must remind the hon. Gentleman opposite that the direction of industry is, in part, an euphemism for the direction of management and skilled technicians, that is, of labour.
It ought to be made crystal clear, in my view, whether the Labour Party embraces as its official policy—not unofficially, as a good idea, as something that may or must be done, but as its official policy—that it is in the interests of Wales that there should be positive State direction of industry to the worst-hit parts of Wales.
Frankly, I do not feel that this is any time for stifling criticism of the Government. Had I thought that. I should have held back, I would hardly have quoted a such length what the Industrial Association has to say. Equally, it is no time for secret remedies to be held up political sleeves until they can be conveniently produced. Frankly, that is why I am very glad that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) is to intervene in the debate, because if he is not always right he is always forthright, and I do not believe that he will in any way shirk the issue which I have placed before him. I hope that he will tell us in precise terms what more or what else the Government should attempt, and, indeed, whether his party is committed or not to the positive State direction of industry to Wales.
Whatever views may divide us on that or anything else, I am sure that the whole House welcomes the setting-up of a Development Corporation for Wales, which was inspired by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. As soon as Sir Miles Thomas became its chairman, I wrote to him congratulating him, and including among the congratulations the request that he would do something as quickly as possible for the Royal Ordnance Factory at Llanishen, which is another matter which has concerned all three hon. Members for Cardiff. It would have been so easy for him to say that this was a matter for the Minister of Supply, and that I should go to see him. Instead, Sir Miles accepted this at once as within his sphere of interest.
These are early days in the Development Corporation's life, but there are two matters of importance in Wales about which the House would like to hear a progress report. First, I think we should like to know what progress has been made by the Development Corporation in the research which it has ordered to blow sky-high, once and for all, the falsehood that labour in Wales is unduly prone to strike, for the exact opposite is the truth. I hope very much that the results of the inquiry into that matter will be published as soon as possible, because it must influence the climate of industrial opinion.
Secondly, I should like to hear what progress has been made as a result of the creation by the Corporation of an office in New York, and when that enterprise bears fruit in Wales I hope that we will not hear complaints of "dollar imperialism" and the rest. I am sure that Welshmen and Wales are equally in the debt of the trade union movement in this matter, for it could have kept aloof from the Development Corporation, if it had wished to do so, but has shown instead, a deep understanding of its work and purpose.
I believe that this Corporation could, in time, become not only the bringer of work to Wales, but could bring about a great improvement in the industrial, social, and, indeed, the cultural life of Wales, for its articles of association are most widely and imaginatively drawn. With all the vast development under way and planned in Wales, we may well be at the dawn of a golden age for our country, but such is the spirit of Welshmen that it will not be golden so long as there is left one valley of despair.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) is as adept at drawing red herrings across the path as the "Junior Member for Treorchy", who writes in the Press of South Wales. No doubt he challenged my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) to follow that series of red herrings in an attempt to obscure the point that, of all the annual reports on Government action in Wales that have ever been published, this is demonstrably the worst, when looked at from the standpoint of industry and employment.
When the hon. Member sought to suggest tentative remedies for attracting industry to Wales, he showed a total lack of understanding of what the problem in Wales is, as well as of the remedies to be applied. The fact of the matter is that in Wales, as Lord Kilmuir said not many days ago, a new industrial revolution is taking place. There is the reorganisation of the two great basic industries of South Wales—steel and coal —and everyone knows that these reorganisations will lead to employment problems. Economists call it structural unemployment, but what the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and the members of the Government do not appear to realise is that the problem of structural unemployment cannot be solved except in an economic climate of expansion. In other words, if the problem of general unemployment is not solved, the chances of solving the problem of structural unemployment in Wales are very few.
I referred unkindly to this document. The Report refers to the closure of two pits, sited in the Aberavon constituency, which employed 760 men some of whom live in my constituency, and of two advance factories in Maesteg, built by the Labour Government. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Angelsey (Mr. C. Hughes) will not be too hopeful about the mere erection of an advance factory, because it will require intelligent economic policies if tenants are to be found. In addition to the two pits and the two idle factories referred to, there is the closure, which we expected, of the coke oven works at Tondu, as part of the revolution which is taking place in the South Wales coal industry.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, North challenged us to say what the policy of the Labour Party is, but, surely, it is superfluous for him to do that. In this matter, as in many others, actions speak louder than words, and the record of the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951 shows that the negative power of control, the effective use of the weapon of the industrial development certificate, in a climate of economic expansion can in fact deliver the goods.
Certainly, in my own constituency, it provided new jobs for between 5,000 and 6,000 of my constituents, and I have no reason to believe that the return of a Labour Government, bringing with it a change in policy and a real desire to use economic controls and the industrial development certificate in a climate of general economic expansion, would not have similar beneficial results.
I am following the hon. Member's theme with great interest. Does he say, in effect, that the weapons already possessed by the Government are sufficient to cure unemployment in the really bad areas of Wales?
I say that during the last four or five years the Government have not used the weapons at their disposal. If the hon. Gentleman will study the replies given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly on new factory building in the Development Areas—in Wales, in particular—in contrast to the South-East of England and London and the industrial Midlands, he will see that during those four or five years the Government have not used the weapons they have to hand.
Further, I say that if those weapons proved ineffective I would use other weapons. As a Socialist, I should not oppose—indeed, I should energetically support—proposals to establish publicly-owned industries in those remote parts of Wales to which private industrialists might not be attracted. Taking the longterm view, that is probably part of the solution of the problems existing in far Wrest Wales and North-West Wales.
I turn now to the problems of the coal industry. As I have already said, two pits involving my constituency have been the subject of panic closures. Let hon. Members remember that if the sunshine talk of the Tory Party at the last General Election had proved right, if the Home Secretary's confident prediction that industrial production would rise 3½ per cent. each year had been fulfilled, then, after four years, the demand for fuel of all kinds would now amount to a coal equivalent of 15 million or 16 million tons more than are now required.
It is, therefore, quite clear that no matter how serious may be the competition from oil and nuclear power, the panic closure of pits, and the consequent unemployment of my constituents and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams), would not have been necessary. The panic closure of pits was the result of the inability of the Government to pursue policies of full employment and economic expansion leading to an annual growth in the output of the British industrial system.
This, again, illustrates the fact that, unless there is a general climate of expansion and full employment, one cannot hope to carry through structural changes in great industries without causing unemployment. Everyone in South Wales, and certainly those connected with the coal industry, realised that following nationalisation there would be reorganisation and long-term planning involving the closure of pits, but it was expected that this would be done on a planned basis, and that displaced men would be reabsorbed either in existing pits or in new ones to be sunk.
For example, under the long-term plan, the closure of pits on the edge of my own constituency was accompanied by a proposal to sink a new pit at Margam, close to the Margam steel works. That proposal seems now to have been abandoned. In addition, it was part of the long-term plan of the Labour Governments of 1945–51 that there should be a conscious provision of new industries in those parts of the coalfield where planned closures would otherwise lead to redundancy and unemployment.
I therefore tell the Minister that, as a result of their bankrupt economic policy, the Government stand condemned of inflicting substantial suffering on large numbers of Welsh men and women. Wales has 28 Labour Members out of a possible 36. If the Minister for Welsh Affairs wishes to do his duty he should go to his colleague the Prime Minister and urge him to go to the country at once, so that we can have a Labour majority in the House and the present number of 28 Welsh Labour Members can be increased to 36.
I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) has said about the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones). I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his good fortune in being chosen to open this debate. He spoke in the moderate way that we expect of him, though he was somewhat selective in his references to the Report.
Perhaps I should mention that the hon. Gentleman was given his task today by the Welsh Parliamentary Party. He continually referred to "we", but it should be known that he was then talking about the members of the Welsh Parliamentary Party on the opposite side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Twenty-eight."] Yes, 28, and within possibly another year I think that that number will have considerably decreased.
Listening to the hon. Member for Wrexham and his hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), I wondered what impression they gave about the Principality. I think that the general impression would be that Wales is a distressed and depressed area, with very little hope, a country in which an industrialist would be a fool to place any confidence. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North said. It is doing no justice to Wales, and offering no help to her, continually to emphasise the depressing features.
It is right, of course, that hon. Members opposite should probe matters of which they complain. It is right that we should discuss today that part of the Report dealing with unemployment, as that is a matter of importance to us all. I submit, however, that it is not right just to forget the other things. If one is to paint a picture of Wales one's duty as a Welshman is to paint a fair and objective picture.
The hon. Member for Ogmore was perfectly right when he said that Wales was going through a great economic transformation—I think that he was referring to what my noble Friend Lord Kilmuir said in Cardiff quite recently. It is quite true. No other area of Britain has had such an economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Unemployment in Wales today is not the type of unemployment that we had between the wars, which was unemployment caused by a recession in our two great basic industries. Today, the unemployment in Wales is due mainly to adjustment, to progress, and a change-over from the old-established industries to the new. In this exciting new period of transformation which we have been going through over the last few years, we are reaching—in fact, we have already reached—an overall prosperity that we have never known before. Also, in Wales there are new opportunities which were not there before.
It is only right, in a debate of this sort. that at least one hon. Member should mention some of these things. The hon Member for Ogmore talked about the coal industry. As we know, there have been great technological changes, not only in the coal industry, but also in the iron and steel industry, which is the other great basic industry of Wales. There has been a reorganisation of the coal industry in Wales costing millions of pounds, and new modern collieries are now replacing some of the old uneconomic pits.
The same is true in the iron and steel industry. There have been similar transformations. Wales has the biggest blast furnace and the most modern steel works in Europe. We have the most progressive tinplate industry in the world. There have been transformations in Wales in the last few years in the production of power. I do not mean just in gas and electricity, though there have been great strides forward in those two methods of producing power. I mean in petroleum and soon in nuclear power.
There has been, as the hon. Member for Ogmore mentioned, an infusion of new industries in Wales. It interests me that hon. Gentlemen opposite all the time take credit for the 1945 Act. The 1945 Act, as hon. Members opposite know only too well—but it should be mentioned again—was introduced in the House by the Coalition Government. I think that it became an Act at the time of the Caretaker Government. Hon. Members opposite had the use of that Act at a time when industry was crying out for the opportunity to go to places and when there was a tremendous opportunity for people to set up industry. It is very different today.
Since the war, approximately 400 new industries have come to Wales. I agree that many of them came under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. They have played a great part in the new situation that obtains in Wales. They have infused a variety into our industrial life which is part of the strength that we have at present. Up to last year 44 million square feet of industrial building had been approved in Wales since the war. It is interesting to note that out of that 44 million square feet, 36 million was privately financed. That shows the faith that private industry has shown in Wales.
That means that Wales today is no longer a nation dependent on two main industries. We have been given new opportunities for new and varying jobs. In particular, since the war there have been jobs for women, which is quite new in the life of Wales. Compared with 1948, 57,000 more people in Wales are employed in manufacturing industries. There are greater and wider opportunities for all of us, and we are still on the threshold of greater things to come.
The hon. Member for Ogmore mentioned that when there are these great changes then, obviously, there must be an upheaval and disturbance. That is so. We have felt that greatly. The hon. Member for Wrexham said that this upheaval and disturbance should be predictable and that one should have been able to plan for it. I was surprised to hear him say that, because one of our problems of late has been the closure of the old hand tinplate works in West South Wales. It must have been obvious to anyone at the time that the first continuous strip mill was opened that, if there are to be strip mills, the old hand mills would have to be closed.
One would have thought that planning for this would have gone on long before the Conservatives came to office in 1951, but the fact was that many hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that, because of the great demand for tinplate in the world, the two new mills in Trostre and Velindre could work hand in glove and side by side for several more years with some of the old hand mills. It was because the world demand for tinplate fell suddenly that the present situation arose and many experts were taken by surprise.
Listening to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it appears to me that what they have been doing today is not debating Welsh affairs, but debating economic affairs. The speeches which have been delivered could properly have been delivered in a debate on the general economic situation for the whole of Britain.
Both hon. Members opposite have condemned what happened in September, 1957, when there was the credit squeeze and when certain measures were taken to combat inflation. I do not think that it would be proper for me to enter into that argument. I think that, if those measures had not been taken and if the Government had not conducted and succeeded in a determined economic policy to combat inflation there would be far greater unemployment in Wales at present. That is a matter of argument between the parties which probably will never be resolved in a debate of this sort.
Unfortunately, a very difficult situation arose in West South Wales, but there is great hope for the future. It is all very well to play around with figures and percentages. I agree with whoever said that the only thing that statistics support is statisticians. One can always change figures around to suit one's argument.
The position now is that in West South Wales, these old hand tinplate factories having closed down, projects are already afoot to provide 5,000 new jobs. We heard the hon. Member for Wrexham indicting the Government. If he wished to be perfectly fair, he should have mentioned some of the things which the Government and Government agencies have done in areas such as that. Why are hon. Gentlemen opposite reluctant to mention, for instance, the new factory to he built at Swansea for Pressed Steel, at a cost of £2 million?
It is to be built near Swansea. I am sure that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) will not in future interrupt me on a small matter like that. The new factory to be built near Swansea for Pressed Steel at a cost of £2 million will be the largest engineering workshop in Wales. It will assist local industry by consuming large quantities of locally produced steel. As the hon. Member for Swansea, West knows, it will be the largest factory ever financed by any Government in a Development Area.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Swansea, West thinks that that will be a good contribution to his locality. I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels that, in introducing and assisting to introduce that scheme and other similar schemes in the area, the Government have done something. I am sure that he will not subscribe to his hon. Friend's condemnation. His hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore indicted the Government and the Government agencies for doing absolutely nothing in this extremely difficult matter.
In Wales at present there are 47 industrial projects under construction. They will provide, when they are ready, for a further 9,000 jobs. That does not include the new strip mill in Newport, and no one has mentioned that on the benches opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "We have not had the chance yet."] Neither of the hon. Members who spoke referred to it. This new strip mill in Newport, as hon. Gentlemen who represent that area may wish to tell the House very soon, is to cost £100 million, and out of that the Government—I should say the State, that is to say, the taxpayers from all over Britain—will advance £60 million.
Those things, in my submission, present a much more accurate view of the overall position in Wales. The foundations have been strongly built. We are hoping to move further and further forward into a new era of progress and opportunity. Wales has been transformed and is still in the process of transformation. It is a country worth going to. Industrialists who wish to do well should be able to find opportunities there. I shall laud Wales to the skies and not continually denigrate its opportunities for people outside.
The hon. Member for Wrexham very properly referred to the position in North-West Wales. This, of course, is a matter of direct interest to me. There is an extremely difficult situation there which appears at the moment to be not capable of quick solution. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) knows that there are, at the moment, one or two encouraging signs in the area. Progress will take time. One cannot suddenly build factories. It is hoped that there will be a large chemical factory at Glynllifon Park, but it cannot be built overnight. It is hoped that it will employ many of the constituents of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) who really need employment in that area. There is a factory soon to be built at Penygroes, and I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that that will assist in another very difficult part of his constituency. In my constituency, on the eastern side, the Hotpoint Company is enlarging its premises and it is hoped that several hundred more people will be employed there by the time the work is finished. The Aluminium Corporation's works, in the Vale of Conway, is increasing, also, and it is hoped that there will he extra employment there.
These things cannot happen overnight, but there is a move in the right direction and we hope that soon there will be a real alleviation of present difficulties. I should not like to suggest that all that needs to be done has been done. But much is being done. Continually, people are doing everything possible to attract industry into the area, short of the direction of industry, and that I would never support. Local authorities, Members of Parliament, Departments of State and Ministers are doing all they can. The Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, Lord Brecon, has himself been most assiduous, I am delighted to say, in what he has done to try to attract industry to the area, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs has, too.
One cannot force industry to go there. I have found that people are somewhat loth to go much farther west than the Conway River. One can encourage people to come—they are interested at the moment in coming—to Llandudno Junction and the area around there, but they are not particularly interested in going much farther west. That reluctance must be broken down.
There has been a decline in the slate industry for many years. It is a great problem, because slate is the one basic industry in the area. It has played a great part in the history of the community, and the people who work in the slate quarries have played a great part in its social life. It is always sad to see a great industry like that declining. I hope that it will not decline much more. I am told that nowadays most of its production is concerned with the repair of existing roofs. It is quite obvious that new markets will have to be found for the product if the industry is to have any hope of real survival.
It is easy to say. "What are the Government doing about it". Hon. Members will agree that it is not easy for any Government to discriminate in matters like this. No man who works in a tile factory, which may be in oppositon to slate, will be grateful to any Government discriminating in favour of slate and throwing him out of a job. It is extremely difficult for any Government to take a too-active part in favour of a particular industry which is in active opposite to another.
I am myself most grateful for what my right hon. Friend did in this matter. He said to the English local authorities as well as to the Welsh local authorities that, if they cared to use slate on their roofs, they could do so with his blessing and financial backing. I do not know what the effect of that has been. Whether they have reacted, whether they have taken him up and are ordering slate, is not at the moment apparent, but at least it shows that the Government are anxious to do what they properly can.
There is something which can be done. I mention it to my right hon. Friend in this debate because it has only just been brought to my notice. I should like the Government to pay particular attention to the possible restriction and prohibition of the import of foreign roofing materials. I have been told. for instance that there; s at present a considerable extension being undertaken at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire. The Bethesda slate quarries asked whether they could have the roofing work, but were told that the contract had been given to a firm which was using foreign tiles.
It seems to me that this is a matter in which the Government can act. Public buildings, buildings where Government money is being used, should be roofed with materials from within our own shores. I know the difficulties in restricting trade when one has trading arrangements with other countries, but in this case not only is the material which is to be used of foreign origin but it is competitive with the slate industry, which is in urgent need of assistance. I hope that this is something which can still be stopped and that an order can be given for the roofs to be slated with material produced in this country.
I had hoped to say something about the 1948 Distribution of Industry Act, which 1 think, when some of the attitudes of D.A.T.A.C. are resolved, will be of tremendous assistance to North-West Wales, but at a meeting of the Welsh Parliamentary Party the other day we were rather dragooned. being in a minority on this side of the House, into agreeing not to speak at length. I do not, therefore, wish to say much more. I will merely remind the House that. during the last eighteen months, the general economic climate has been less favourable to large-scale expansion of production than it has in recent years. Therefore, the scope of attracting new industry to Wales has been less favourable.
Today, I think that we can confidently look forward to a new period of expansion and an upsurge in business activity. Industrial foundations in Wales are sound, and if certain types of new industry can be established in parts of Wales. such as North-West Wales, then the prognosis for the future is good.
I will attempt to be as brief as possible, because I know that a number of my hon. Friends desire to give their views on matters affecting Wales.
The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) said that the speeches of my hon. Friends could be applied to problems that affected not merely the Principality but the whole country. If my hon. Friends had dealt with the matter in the manner which he indicated, he would not have had a basis for his own speech. I think that for most of the time that the hon. Member spoke he attempted to do the impossible. He attempted to paint the rainbow. He attempted to hang on the rainbow the colours of the Conservative Party and to give the Conservative Party the credit for warning or informing the Principality that, although the rainbow colours itself, with the additional colours of the Conservative Party attached to it Wales would never suffer from the severity of the flood or deluge in future.
We must not only look at the rainbow; we must look to where the rainbow ends. In South Wales, the rainbow ends right down in the pit, within the shadows of our narrow valleys. While the eyes of the hon. Member for Conway were fixed to the stars and to the rainbow, he probably deliberately refrained from looking down from his giddy height to the depths of the valley, because he would have been greatly disturbed by the situation that prevails there at present.
I agree that in the Minister's Report there are positive proposals which are calculated to benefit the community in the years to come. It has been often summarised in this House as "jam tomorrow". The hon. Member for Conway referred to the Pressed Steel works which is to be built near Swansea and to the proposed steel works at Newport. I think that he was amiss when he refrained from mentioning also the developments at Milford Haven. The three or four industries which have been referred to are on the rim of the coal basin, and between these extreme points of prospective development there lies a vast area that is at present suffering from a high incidence of unemployment. It is on these areas that I want to concentrate my remarks.
The real stubborn problem at present does not require what Viscount Montgomery would call the American approach on the wide front. We should consider the narrower approach and telescope our points of view into the most stubborn problems. A very high incidence of unemployment still exists in those areas which suffered from a high incidence of unemployment during the 'thirties. This problem is a challenge to any Government, whether Conservative or Labour. While we wait for the developments that have been indicated in the industries mentioned, a very bold policy is required to meet the present unemployment. In particular, we should look forward and anticipate what will be the effects of the trends now manifesting themselves in the coal industry.
I think that we are all acquainted with the contraction of the mining industry. We know that the Minister of Power, in conjunction with the National Coal Board, in the early part of this year announced plans for 1959. Undoubtedly, between now and the end of this year—somewhere about October—the National Coal Board, the Minister of Power and other Government Departments will have to get together to consider the extent of the contraction of manpower in the coal industry and, more important, where it will take place.
I want to give an example of what may be anticipated to become a common experience within the basin of the South Wales coalfields. I should like here to refer to my own constituency. I could give many statistics to show that, in comparison with Great Britain, the Rhondda. which was the most severely hit area in South Wales in the 'thirties, has held that position throughout the last ten years. Whereas the figure of unemployment in Great Britain is 2.4, in Wales it is 4-1. In 1958 it was 6.1. The percentage of unemployment for this former depressed area on 9th March was nearly 10 per cent. I understand that since then there has been a slight improvement and that unemployment is now settling down to the figure of 8 per cent. Within that figure lies the core of the problem as it affects the Rhondda and its neighbouring constituencies.
In December, 1958, total unemployment in the Rhondda was 1,994. Of that figure, 747 males and 423 females, or about 60 per cent. of the total, have been out of work for over three months. Forty-three per cent. of them have been out of work for over six months. In view of the possible contraction of manpower in the industry and in view of the anticipated closures of pits, the Minister should admit that if this takes place it is bound to result in a very depressing state of affairs.
Because the recessions of the past, including those of the recent past, have been due largely to economic causes, such as, for example, the changing pattern of the economy, I anticipate that these will have a very short-term influence upon the position of the coal trade. The greatest potential impact upon it, however, is from the emergence of the new fuel and power agencies now being delivered to us by the backroom boys. Therefore, in looking ahead, not to the remote future but over, say, the next ten years, the emergence of these new technological forces inevitably will have a severe impact upon the coal trade, as a result of which many of our existing problems will become more stubborn.
I implore the Minister to have the closest consultations with his noble Friend the Minister of Power and with the Coal Board, so that, if we are to have this inevitable contraction, adequate preparations will be made to deal with it in the formulation of the Government's plan for 1960. We have had a semi-assurance from the Minister of Power that the 1959 plan remains but that the plan for 1960 has not yet been finalised.
I know that the Minister has an intimate knowledge of the South Wales valleys, and especially the coal valleys. In his early days, he served a form of apprenticeship at the Maes-yr-haf, in my constituency. Therefore, there rests upon him as Minister for Wales a grave responsibility to bring his influence to bear upon the Coal Board and upon his noble Friend the Minister of Power that when they determine where the contraction takes place, they shall not be influenced merely by economic or technological considerations, but will throw into the balance the social considerations also.
These valleys in South Wales have already suffered from the closure of pits. As Minister for Wales, the right hon. Gentleman must accept his responsibility to ensure that if the closures and contraction in manpower are inevitable, they must be so phased as to cause the minimum disturbance to these social communities in South Wales who, for the past twenty or thirty years, have never come up completely from the shadows of unemployment, the fears of which are stalking the valleys again. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will do all he can to avoid an unfortunate situation developing and that we will go forward to 1960 with his assurance that these considerations will be borne in mind.
I endorse what has been said by most previous speakers about the reasonable and friendly manner in which the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) initiated this debate. He commenced by dealing with the industrial problems and he concluded his remarks with some references to the agriculture of Wales. It is about the latter subject that I should like to say a few words.
As the hon. Member will appreciate, successive Governments, have, by their policies, recognised that Welsh agriculture has a number of special and particular problems. Despite those problems, however. and because of the manner in which successive Governments have treated them, it is true to say that any impartial witness today would be impressed by the progress of agriculture in the Principality, sometimes under difficult conditions.
Indeed, many hon. Members, like myself, were rather surprised when they saw the livestock population figure for Wales up to June of last year and discovered that it was 27 per cent. above the 1947 figure, as compared with an increase during the same period of only 16 per cent. in England. This underlines the achievement of agriculture in Wales. Just as noteworthy was the record total of 1,104,000 cattle in Wales reached by June of last year.
It is satisfactory to note that, despite the economic and financial difficulties of 1957–58, no fewer than 1,665 farms in South Wales were connected for the first time to an electricity supply.
I appreciate that. The hon. and learned Member will, however, recognise the progress that has been achieved at a time of economic difficulty. I would remark to my right hon. Friend the Minister that I have never been able to ascertain similar information for North Wales. From the Report on Government action, it appears that these figures are included with those of new consumers who have been connected for the first time and no distinction is drawn between householders and farmers.
A number of Acts which have been passed by the present Government have had a particular impact in parts of the Principality. We recall the farm improvement scheme initiated in 1957. To the end of last year, no fewer than 2,818 proposals from Welsh farmers had been approved. As we learnt from the latest figures, these involve an expenditure of £1,539,000. That is an impressive indication of how the benefits of the Act are being taken up in Wales.
Secondly, we remember the Agriculture (Small Farmers) Bill, which has been introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am quite satisfied that this Bill will be of great benefit in Wales, which is so largely a country of small farmers. Indeed, I understand that of 28,000 farms in Wales, 10,000 are likely to benefit from the help to be afforded by the Bill when it becomes an Act.
Another Act which was brought forward by the present Government and which is of particular interest to agriculturists and farmers in Wales is the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, passed in 1955. Of the £4 million authorised to 1962, something like £2 million can be expended in Wales. I would also for a moment like to refer to the closely related subject of forestry.
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman on the question of rural roads? Will he indicate how much money has been spent already and how long it will take to spend the £2 million at the rate that we are spending it at the present time in Wales?
I appreciate the implication of the hon. Gentleman's interjection that at the commencement progress is necessarily slow, but it has speeded up very quickly now and I anticipate that much greater use will be made of this Act in the months ahead. I should like to refer my right hon. Friend for a moment to another closely related aspect concerning forestry.
Many of my constituents are disturbed by the proposals for the increase of the rents because they say that the rents paid by agricultural workers, who earn not dissimilar wages, are not similarly affected. They also call attention to the fact that in many cases these houses are situated in somewhat remote places, lacking, in most cases, lighting and other amenities. They are not satisfied with the explanations so far given by the Commission and, to me, by the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to look into this. My constituents say that these are by their nature service agreements and the low rents are related to comparatively modest earnings, which are usually lower than earnings in industry, and they feel that there should be a case for reconsideration of these proposals.
After agriculture and forestry, it seems appropriate to turn to road and rail communications in Wales, which may be described as the very lifeblood of industry, the very arteries, in fact, of industrial production. The Government have recognised that good roads and communications are vital in Wales. Like Ulster and Scotland, Wales has suffered, particularly in the past, owing to its comparative remoteness from the great centres of population in England, and also from the poorness of some of its road communications.
A few years ago, the Lloyd Committee, in its assessment of the problems of South-West Wales, recognised that the improvement of road communications would be a vital factor. The record, as I see it, is a mixture of good and bad, with the good predominating. In the case of North Wales, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) will agree that it would seem reasonable that priority should be given to the Conway Bridge, and I do not doubt that he would agree that proposals for the Queensferry Bridge over the Dee, with its approach roads, also deserve a high degree of priority.
In the South, few people would quarrel with the decision in the first place to make the Briton Ferry viaduct and the first part of the Neath by-pass. It seems logical that the second part of the Neath by-pass should follow closely and this is what the Government have decided.
In the same way, the Ross Spur scheme, included in the present phase of the roads programme, will be a boon to travellers and industrial traffic between South Wales and the Midlands. The decision to proceed soon with the Heads of The Valley Road seems quite natural, as this will join up the development near Neath with the development at Ross Spur.
I should like to make some mention of three roads which have not yet been mentioned and about which I have heard a good deal of criticism. Many people regret that the Severn Bridge has not been started sooner. They question the need to defer this important project until a certain stage has been reached with the Forth crossing. The view has been expressed to me by people in the civil engineering world that this is in some way a slur on the capabilities of our bridge-builders and our civil engineers. They say that we possess the skill and resources which should have made it possible for these two schemes to proceed together.
The second criticism concerns the delay in by-passing Port Talbot. There can be few worse bottlenecks in the whole of Britain. Here we have a great disincentive towards industrial growth and prosperity in South West Wales. The other omission is, I think, a notable one. With the completion of the Ross Spur scheme and the Heads of The Valley roads, there will still be a gap which will separate the South Wales ports, to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) referred, from the south-west end of the Ross Spur.
The docks at Barry and Cardiff, in particular, are fighting a very difficult battle to obtain new trade and new traffic to replace the coal exports which are no longer available. In this struggle, these ports have been sadly handicapped by the poorness of the communications between them and the Midlands. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have further consultations with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on the need for a good, modern road connecting the south-western extremity of the Ross Spur scheme with the ports of Barry and Cardiff.
Regarding Barry Dock, which is one of the responsibilities of the British Transport Commission, I must again call my right hon Friend's attention to the fact that the shortage of general cargo trade has been accompanied by a decline in ship repairing. Ship-repair workers and other dock employees and railway workers are among those who have been affected. I know that the Minister of State, Lord Brecon, is visiting the docks this week, and I hope that his visit will be fruitful.
We are still handicapped, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North implied, by obsolete and obsolescent customs. I, like my hon. Friend, want to know more about the statement which was made about the railway rates, and I would also stress once again the need for some change in the apportionment of the dock charges between exporters and ship owners.
Only recently I heard of a business man who sought to export cargo from Barry. He obtained a quotation and within twenty-four hours he was able to obtain a much cheaper quotation from a port in the north-east. I wonder why this should be so. Are the overhead expenses in the south-west docks so much greater than those in the north-east? I cannot believe that this is so. I feel that this must be related to some of these obsolete charges and differences in charges which still apply.
Many hon. Members have referred to the industrial pattern, and hon. Members opposite have stressed the difficulties and the shortcomings. Certainly the state of Welsh industry and employment is not uniform. There are black spots, and it is right that we should give every possible attention to them. My hon. Friend has quoted instances Where attention has been given to them and it has proved successful, but I think that we must have a different emphasis if we are to see the whole picture. Far be it from me to minimise the hardships and difficulties in certain parts of Wales. In North-West Wales and South-West Wales real and tangible problems exist. I suggest that the miracle is not that our problems and difficulties are so great, but that our achievements and opportunities are so much greater.
It is necessary to note some of the good things. I disagree here with hon. Members opposite, because I submit that Wales, like the rest of the United Kingdom, has weathered the decline in world trade to a remarkable extent. Indeed, when we consider what has been happening in so many other countries, we can only be amazed that we have avoided the worst stresses of this difficult period in world trade. We can certainly be absolutely satisfied with the manner in which small units in industrial estates have consolidated and became established. Dissatisfaction, however, exists about some of the rentals on these estates. I read a Press report that the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs had removed these fears, but I have been assured since that some of these apprehensions still exist. I hope, therefore, that, if not at the end of the debate, then in the near future my right hon. Friend will be able to give us more information about this important aspect of the industrial problem.
As to the major of industries—coal and iron and steel—the ending of the older and less efficient steelworks and mines has not only caused difficulties, but in some cases, as has been pointed out, has provided the country with a different form of splendidly equipped industry for the future. At Margam, at Trostre, Velindre, Ebbw Vale. Flintshire and soon at Llanwern, we shall have some of the finest plants in the world. We can truly take pride in the fact that Wales now produces about 30 per cent. of all the crude steel output of the United Kingdom and almost 90 per cent. of United Kingdom production of sheet steel.
We can also take satisfaction at the success of the efforts being made to attract new industries. We can all commend what has been done by the Minister of State. The Government-built factory for Pressed Steel near Swansea is, I believe, the biggest ever provided with taxpayers' money in such an area. I understand that eventually it will provide new jobs for about 4,000 employees, and that the present projects for new factories, not including the great new steel mill at Llanwern, will provide 9,000 new jobs. And how very variegated Welsh industry has become. We have chemical processes at Newport, in Flintshire, in my own constituency, and near Swansea. Nylons, plastics and silicones are being produced, handbags and fabrics, clocks and watches. There is the extension of the Hoover undertaking at Merthyr, and the go-ahead South Wales Switchgear and South Wales Cables at Blackwood and Aberdare.
I am sure that hon. Members would commend the energy of Mr. A. H. Nicholas of South Wales Switchgear who has been going out for orders. [An HON. MEMBER: "A very good man."] Our executives are becoming known all over the world. They travel not only in Europe but in America, Australia and New Zealand in search of orders. This, despite the black spots, is not a sad picture. It is not the doorway into despondency. I see it rather as the gateway of opportunity.
One matter which probably will not be mentioned otherwise in the debate is the responsibility of the Postmaster-General for a subject to which I should like to refer. Some hon. Members on both sides will disagree with me and regard it as a small matter. I refer to my right hon. Friend's policy in connection with political broadcasts. I have had representations on the subject from Labour people, Conservatives. Nationalists and non-Nationalists.
I am not at all happy about the restriction imposed by the Postmaster-General on certain political parties. The matter has been dealt with on the basis of the number of constituencies in Wales, and an unreasonable regulation provides that a party must contest 50 constituencies to qualify for the opportunity to broadcast. There is a party in Wales which if it contested every constituency would contest only 36. It might be suggested that it should contest seats in Liverpool and Manchester, but that would be going too far.
By means of a regulation of this manifestly absurd nature, a sense of victimisation is developed. It forces into forms of extreme nationalism people who may well not be Nationalists at all. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will look into this problem. I am not a Nationalist. I do not subscribe to the idea of economic or political separation, but if we are to have sensible regulations covering political broadcasts this is one rule which should be scrapped.
The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) repeated the omission which the Minister's predecessor, the present Lord Chancellor, made when he addressed the Council of Wales for the first time, in 1951, and said:
The face of South Wales has been transformed during the last five years.
He omitted to say who was responsible for the transformation. In the course of his indictment this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) said not that the Government had done nothing but that they had not done enough and had not acted with the speed which we expected of them.
The hon. Member for Conway was in error on a second matter. He suggested that my hon. Friends were under the impression that Velindre, Trostre and Margam would be able to work side by side with the old mills. We were never under that impression. It may interest the hon. Member to know that it must be twenty-five years since I was a member of a deputation from Swansea which waited upon Sir William Firth when the first strip mill was being built at Ebbw Vale. We pleaded with Sir William to believe us when we said we should not object to modernisation or mechanisation. We felt that to be inevitable, but we asked him to do everything possible to bring other industries to Wales to compensate for our loss. Pressure was then brought to bear upon us by industry to believe that our fears were groundless and that for many years there would be no trouble for the tinplate workers.
Our fears, however, were not entirely removed. We waited upon the Government of the day to take steps to make it possible for new industries to be developed side by side with the closing of the old mills. Hon. Members may recall that the then Government appointed the Lloyd Committee. We begged the Government to tell us that Committee's conclusions, but the answer we received on every occasion was that they were strictly confidential. We knew very well that the Lloyd Committee was applying another sedative in telling us that there was no need to worry, that there was no difficulty over the steel and tinplate industry when in fact Italians were being recruited. They made that further effort to persuade us that we were alarmists.
I was surprised at the reference of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Conway to the new steel works in Monmouthshire, because he said that would cost no less than £100 million, of which the Government would find £60 million. I thought he would have added in strict logic that if £60 million of public money is going into that venture, there ought to be a far greater measure of public control.
The £60 million is an advance, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have been only too willing to assist industry by making advances. That does not mean that the Government wish to take over or command the industry by nationalisation.
That does not alter the validity of my argument. The Report on Developments and Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire, and indeed the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs, are far too complacent. The percentage of unemployment in Wales continues at twice the rate for the whole of Great Britain and, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, the figure is five times the national average in several parts of the Principality. Who can measure the misery and anxiety implied by those figures? I was shocked to learn that applications for National Assistance have gone up by 600 and that the number of registered disabled persons has increased by 1,216. It is inevitable, therefore, that we should continue to harass the Government until substantial improvements of a permanent character are introduced.
I acknowledge that there has been a slight improvement, due to the introduction of what we hope will prove to be major industries, but they cannot bear fruit for eighteen months or two years, and something must be done immediately to provide employment during the transitional period for the middle-aged and elderly men who have been made redundant in the steel and tinplate industry.
There are many valid reasons preventing them from seeking employment in other parts of the country, but even if they did so, the consequences to local authorities would be serious. If I may be excused from making a constituency reference, there are 500 such men unemployed in Morriston, an industrial sector of Swansea. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) and myself are inundated, week after week, with inquiries about what the Board of Trade, what the Minister for Welsh Affairs, what the Government are going to do to find employment for these men.
The only major industry in that area was steel and tinplate, and modernisation has meant idleness for them for approximately 18 months to two years. They beg the Government to exercise some initiative and enterprise to provide them with work or maintenance, preferably work.
There are about 1,000 tailors and garment workers still waiting for employment. They would like to go into the vacant factory at Fforestfach Trading Estate. Incidentally, there are forty sites there available for industry. However, we have been hindered in that direction owing to the anxiety about rents. The problem of rent increases is common to all trading estates, and I respectfully suggest to the Minister that it would be worth his while to maintain employment by giving concessional rents. We hope that the Government will not be penny wise and pound foolish in that direction.
We are troubled, too, about school leavers. It was natural that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) should refer to them. In connection with the new industries coming to South Wales, unless the young lads leaving school are given opportunities for apprenticeships and special training, those major industries now coming will be short of technical men. It is of paramount importance, therefore, that these young men should be given special privileges so that they may equip themselves and be readily absorbed in the new factories when they are erected. The Report makes it clear that owing to lack of opportunity for the training of apprentices, potential craftsmen are being driven into unskilled jobs. The intake of youth in apprenticeship schemes is appreciably lower in Wales than in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Civil aviation is not having a square deal in Wales; in fact, quite the contrary. The withdrawal of the Cardiff—Bristol—Manchester service is deeply deplored and is a great hindrance to the development of business connections between those areas. There is a splendid service available from Manchester to all parts of the world, but this Cardiff to Manchester link has been cut, and it should be restored if only as an inducement to other industrialists to come to Wales.
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the term of office of the present members of the Welsh Advisory Council for Civil Aviation expired at the end of last year? Although they have made repeated representations and recommendations they have heard nothing. I am wondering if the Ministry treats the Northern Irish and Scottish Councils in the same way? If so, it is time that somebody looked at these things and treated with the courtesy they deserve these men who are rendering public service on a voluntary basis, and encouraged them to do something in the interests of civil aviation in Wales.
I am bound once more to make a constituency reference. Swansea aerodrome cost the Government £3 million during the war. The local authority has spent over £30,000 there, but the mean and niggardly approach of the Treasury prevents it from having Customs facilities. I thought it used to be the maxim of the Tory Party that trade follows the flag, but we are told now, "You must first get the trade and then we will see if we can give you Customs facilities". People are being deterred from using that aerodrome because within about twenty minutes or so they have to alight at Cardiff for Customs inspection.
We have mentioned this point to the right hon. Gentleman. We have mentioned it to the Chairman of the Development Corporation. We have referred it to the Wales Advisory Council. We have pleaded with everybody and they have all agreed to help, but the Treasury, for the sake of a few pounds, stands pat and says, "You cannot have Customs facilities". So we ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will get rid of this studied indifference to our needs in that respect and see what can be done to help us.
I ask the Minister of Transport to expedite not only the planning but also the carrying out of his major road schemes. We need a much narrower gap between planning and execution. A difficult situation has arisen in South Wales. Extensive road improvements have been authorised east and west of Port Talbot. It is not often I find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), but really the position at Port Talbot is tragic. If the Government wish completely to ruin the economy of South Wales, let them leave Port Talbot as it is. I do not know what the Margam Steel Works people feel about it, but ask the South Wales Transport people how they feel about their transport services having to go through the town.
It has been my duty during the last ten weeks to pass through Port Talbot at week-ends. It is not a new experience to have a queue a mile each side of Aberavon. Imagine what it is like during the rush hour. The right hon. Gentleman can say quite fairly that this is not his responsibility, but it is his responsibility to tell the Minister of Transport that if he wants to save the economy of South-West Wales he ought to treat the Port Talbot position as one of extreme urgency. We shall be very glad to hear his comments on that matter.
In making this complaint, I am expressing not only my own view but also the sentiments of the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouth—a body of 447 members representing more than 75 per cent. of the working population of Wales. It feels that the time has arrived when somebody should properly assess the needs of Wales. Send the Welsh Secretary, for whom we have a very great regard, to Caldy Island, give him a free hand and see that he has all the necessary information at his disposal to assess the real needs of Wales and then introduce the necessary Measures to cater for them. There seems to be a lack of a clear plan and even now, when new industries are coming into Wales, we are working haphazardly.
I would not object if it meant giving employment to men who are now unemployed. That might have to be a priority, but I do not believe that it is absolutely necessary. The various parts of Wales are able to provide for special industries. That is why I suggest we ought to have a clear design, which will enable the right things to be put in the right places. The Government should encourage and help us to the best of their ability.
I come to a close not because there is nothing more to be said but because I am conscious that many of my hon. Friends have their contributions to make. I beg the Minister to heed the fundamental points made and do what he can to help us in the coming years.
We come again to another Welsh day. Unlike previous Welsh days, however, no Minister has opened the debate. Despite that, we had an extremely good opening speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), who covered the ground in a very competent way Although it was modestly put, I am sure that his speech represented a fairly heavy indictment of the Government's lack of activity in Wales.
I can understand that, but there is now in the Government a Minister who is responsible for general economic development. I refer to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. It is his business to provide employment in areas where there is now grave unemployment. I would have anticipated that he would be anxious to tell us what he has been doing. After all, he has been in South Wales for thirty six hours, and he was able to make a rather brilliant speech at the end of that time. I can quite understand the right hon. Gentleman himself not wanting to take up too much time, but the House is entitled to as much information about the Government's policy and activities as it is in their power to give us.
I suppose it is because we are nearing a General Election that we are having a great deal of political activity by hon. Members opposite in the Principality. The Lord Chancellor has been down there, and the Parliamentary Secretary has been down there—for a little more than thirty-six hours.
I am told that he has been there twice. He did not give sufficient publicity to his first visit. Lord Brecon has continued trotting up and down the Principality like a commercial traveller who has nothing to sell. We have seen no results from his activities. The Minister himself has been down there for meetings with his Council and with heads of the Departments, and a great deal of publicity attached to his visit. But we do not see many results from these activities.
All that they have been concerned to tell us is how good things are in Wales and how prosperous she is. So far in this debate hon. Members opposite have been very concerned to tell us how good things are, while hon. Members on this side of the House tell us of the shortcomings of the Government in their responsibility to the Principality. Perhaps that is as it should be, but I thought that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) rather overdid it. He talked about overall prosperity. He was repeating the speech made by the Lord Chancellor to the Annual Conference of the Conservative Party. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) indulged in the same sort of effort to obscure the underlying discontent at the unemployment which exists in Wales by telling us of a number of things that have happened.
As I have said, some days ago we had a visit from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. He spent a short time in Wales and had lunch at Treforest with the industrialists. He made his speech after lunch, and it sounded as if he was making it after lunch. Even the official organ of the Tory Party in Wales, the Western Mail, had a cryptic comment to make about it when it said:
And he even surprised hard-headed Welsh industrialists when he told them,'The run is shining on the valleys, on the coast, and the nation of Wales. I can foresee a time when you might be embarrassed by industrial development here'
He then dropped his voice and said:
as soon as it gets under way.
We can only assume that that speech was as much a personal triumph for him as was his winding-up speech in the recent unemployment debate. All the industrialists to whom I have spoken and who listened to that speech were amazed that in so short a time the hon. Member could come to such an ill-founded conclusion.
But the shandy gaff of the hon. Member would convince nobody. For the annual conference of the Welsh Conservative Party heavier material was required, and it was supplied in the person of the Lord Chancellor. If black was to be made to appear as white, this was the man to do it. Here was the prosecuting counsel who would disdain all restraint in his presentation of the Tory case. In his peroration, dealing with the changes that were taking place, he ended with this gem:
In the process Wales has now reached a state of overall prosperity she has not known for half a century.
Here was the able lawyer making black appear as white. If what we have in Wales now is prosperity, what state of affairs must exist before the noble Lord regards it as a depression? This is only to be compared with the verbal slip of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said that the present rate of unemployment was not excessive.
Is not it an exhibition of the Tory mind to say that a 5 per cent. rate of unemployment in Wales represents overall prosperity? Is it not scandalous to say that with five men out of every 100 unemployed we have a state of overall prosperity? The more we breakdown the average figures the nearer we get to reality. Let us see what the position was. At the time when both speeches were made, the unemployment rate in Great Britain was 2·5 per cent. In Wales it was 4·6 per cent. and in Scotland, 4·8 per cent.
Let us get this picture of Tory prosperity quite clear. In Blackwood, Bargoed, Pontlottyn and Ystrad Mynach it was 6·2 per cent.; in the Western valleys, 5 per cent.; in Pontardawe, 8 per cent.; In Ammanford, 10·8 per cent.; in my constituency of Caerphilly, 8·4 per cent.: in Ferndale, Tonypandy and Treorchy, 8·5 per cent.; in Llanelly it was 8·6 per cent.; in Caernarvon, 12·6 per cent., and in Anglesey, 11 per cent. This is a state of overall prosperity. This is a condition of things for which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite pat themselves on the back. While these figures sound alarming to us, as they are, we must remember that to the unemployed man himself they represent 100 per cent. unemployment. This is a picture which requires much more energetic activity from right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
What happened between February and March to produce all these panegyrics from the Lord Chancellor and the Parliamentary Secretary? From 9th February to 9th March, out of 37,791 people unemployed in the two Development Areas in Wales, one got a job. In the South Wales Development Area, 198 more people had become unemployed, while in North Wales 197 had found employment. To use that favourite phrase, the overall picture was a change of 1. That was the basis of the rhetorical triumphs of the Minister of Labour in the unemployment debate. It may be that that change inspired the hon. Member to make his speech at Treforest.
Let me give a further indication of the changes which have occurred. In the Bargoed Valley, during the month from 9th February to 9th March, out of 667 unemployed people, six got jobs. In Blackwood, out of 468 people, eight got jobs. In Tredegar, represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) three more became unemployed. So we could go on picking out the cases where, during the month when the Government were boasting that there had been a fall in unemployment, in these worst-hit valleys of South Wales unemployment was actually increasing.
Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite are doing removes our apprehensions about the future of Wales and its people. It will be recollected that because of our worries about the closing down of 36 pits we met the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the House. Since this matter has been the subject of some journalistic controversy. I want to say a word about it. Lord Mills was there, representing the Ministry of Power, to deal with the coal situation. He was asked if he could give an assurance that no more pits would be closed this year. My recollection is that in reply he said he could not give such an assurance and, as for next year, we would have to wait to see how the position developed.
Coal would have to compete with other forms of fuel. I have a recollection—I can find no confirmation for it—that he said that economically it was possible to shut down the whole of the industry in Scotland and supply the coal at a profit from the Midlands. My recollection is that he never indicated that that was his intention; it was merely an economic argument. I do not suppose that there would be any objection to my quoting from the note circulated to hon. Members—may I have the attention of the Minister. Would there be any objection to my quoting?
I wish to relate my memory to the actual note made by the servants of the right hon. Gentleman who were present. This is what Lord Mills said:
The Government, by action already taken, had dealt with 1959 and they would have to wait a bit before they could see whether other pits would have to close.… He said he did not think at present that there would have to be any more special closures in 1959.
That seems to reinforce my memory.
What alarmed me was that the question was put to him whether or not it would be better to share the work among the pits rather than to shut down pits. His reply was that the guaranteed week stood in the way and that it might be a problem which might have to be faced. Frankly, we are facing an extremely serious position. I personally—and I am sure I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends—was glad to get the published assurance from Lord Mills that no more pits are to be shut down, at least this year. That is an assurance which I thought he failed to give to that deputation.
We came from that interview with the right hon. Gentleman and his friends with the impression that, irrespective of the social consequences or the national and strategic interests, the fate of coal would depend entirely upon the free play of competitive forces. Nothing else was to be allowed to interfere.
I think I should say, on behalf of my noble Friend, that he cannot give any undertakings about the future until he has received from the Coal Board its long-term plan on which it is now engaged, as the House will be aware.
That leaves us in exactly the same quandary.
I am not saying that it is something which can be foreseen. But as the right hon. Gentleman knows, estimates have been made, plans have been made for this year. What worries us is that his noble Friend appears to be cynically indifferent either to the miners or the mining communities. I am only giving my impression which is shared by my hon. Friends.
We came from that deputation very disheartened by the story dealt out to us, in particular by the Minister of Power. I stress this matter because the fate of coal is very largely the fate of South Wales. It is the fate of North-East Wales. Here we have 100,000 miners and their families, and many mining communities, completely dependent on coal. It will be recalled that in order to deal with the coal situation this year the Government propose to cut opencast mining by 3 million tons; to stock an additional 3 million tons and to cut deep mine production by shutting thirty-six pits. We want to know how this is turning out. After all, the Coal Board has published the figures and the situation for the first thirteen weeks is alarming. Consumption is down. Exports are almost non-existent. Man-shift production is up. Stocking is taking place at an alarming rate. I ask the right hon. Gentleman by when the stock limit fixed by the Government will be reached. If that limit of 3 million tons is reached, as it looks like being reached, before Midsummer, what are the Government proposing to do about it?
There is a new serious crisis for the mining industry, and we are entitled to ask the Government whether they have planned for this position. Are they going to drift into a new crisis? It is quite possible that the detailed answer to this may not be forthcoming during the debate today. But I am sure the Paymaster-General will realise that this is a matter of the utmost gravity; one which will create tremendous difficulties for the Government and very grave difficulties for people engaged in this industry. We should like some information as soon as possible about how a situation of this sort is to be dealt with if it arises.
Having said what I have about that side of the question, let me turn to what help the people of the coalfields can expect from the Government. Despite all the Government boasting, the facts are there. The first thing that this Government did was to issue that infamous Circular 59/54. Grants for the rehabilitation of the amenities for South Wales were stopped. The water scheme, the sewerage scheme the site clearance scheme were all put in cold storage. That was the first thing. The advance factory programme which we had started was stopped by this Government. It is true they have now decided to restart it. Is that because there is a General Election in the offing? I am told that they already have a tenant for one factory which proves that that policy is one which is bound to produce good results.
The Remploy factories were curtailed by the Government. The Grenvil factory scheme was brought to an end and the industrial development certificate procedure became a real farce. On 17th February the President of the Board of Trade supplied us with an excellent table indicating what the right hon. Gentleman had done in this sphere. The question has been put by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and the Minister himself has put it, whether it is the policy of the Labour Government to direct industry. The answer is, "No". The proper use of the Distribution of Industry Act would be sufficient in 1959 to do what we were able to do in 1945 and the subsequent years.
Let us see what happened. According to the Table provided by the President of the Board of Trade, in 1955 to 1958, inclusive, over 10,000 new factories were built in Great Britain. Of that number, only 1,200 were in the Development Areas. Location certificates had been issued to all the rest to build round the huge wen of London and the Home Counties. If the same proportion as the Labour Government influenced to come into the Development Areas in the four years from 1945 to 1949 had applied during those four years, we should have had over 2,000 more factories in the Development Areas and South Wales, on the old proportion, would have had more than 400 new factories in the last four years. That would have dealt with the situation where there exists this tremendous percentage rate of unemployment. Instead of the sun shining on the South Wales valleys, what we are afraid of is that there are a lot of gathering clouds.
I do not want to leave the impression that the future of South Wales is as grim as all that. I concede immediately that there are oases of really exciting development at Trawsfynydd, Margam and Llanwern, and the Pressed Steel factory. Yes, let us give the Government credit for that. But it is not half enough. We do not complain about what the Government have done, but about what they are not doing. We complain of their lack of energy and drive. Is it that they think that there exists no problem? If there is now in Wales a state of over-all prosperity, does that indicate a state of mind in which it is thought that nothing else needs to be done? That is the question we put to the Government.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to bestir himself and see that the Board of Trade uses the Distribution of Industry Act with vigour and energy and to see to it that location certificates are issued for areas where there is a need for employment and where men are unemployed. The present position in Wales offers a great challenge. We have the skill, the men and the sites. We have the ports if only they were used. We have all these things. What is lacking is the capacity of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to direct the efforts of this nation in the way in which they were directed between 1945 and 1950.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) dealt, in the main, with the problem of the South Wales coalfields. It would be presumptuous of me to follow him in that matter. The observations I wish to make concern more particularly the truly rural areas of the Principality. But first I wish to raise another matter.
I am pleased that I have been called to speak in this debate before the Minister, because I wish to urge him to say something, and to be forthright in what he has to say, about the constitutional position of the Principality. Will he tell us what is to be the future of the Council of Wales? Are we to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what is to be the future of his own Office in relation to Wales?
When Lord Kilmuir was appointed Minister of Welsh Affairs we understood that the appointment was by way of an experiment. That is the way in which the noble Lord expressed himself at the time of his appointment. He said that he regarded it as an opportunity for him and his colleagues in the Government to acquire more direct and intimate experience of the problems of Wales so as to be able to formulate more specific proposals about the problem of devolution.
The right hon. Gentleman has had considerable experience in that matter by now, and I think that we in Wales as a whole are entitled to know the fruits of his experience. What are his views on these topics? What are his intentions and those of the Government? I hope that he does not intend to be silent. I have expressed my own views on this topic in earlier debates, and I am not going to take up the time of the House by repeating them today. But I urge the right hon. Gentleman to take this opportunity of telling us what has been the result of his experience as Minister, and what his plans are in the field not only of administration if he deals with that, but the whole problem of the relationship between the Government and the Principality as a whole.
The real problem of the rural areas of Wales is that of an ever-ageing and steady drop in population, and, most disquieting of all, a steady drop in the proportion of the working element of the population. I have listened with great sympathy to all that has been said about the employment figures in various parts of Wales. There are parts of Wales where we are almost reaching the stage where we would be glad to have a population to be unemployed.
As this steady drop in population proceeds, particularly this continued redistribution of the population with the emphasis on the age element, it brings with it great social service problems for the local authorities in those areas. It has brought great problems to my area. I believe that we are carrying out our duties in a way which compares very favourably with the rest of the country generally, but we are only doing it by imposing a very harsh financial burden on the community as a whole.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. ldwal Jones) touched on this problem of employment. I do not believe that the answer to the problem is an easy one, far from it, but in this Report we have no indication that the immensity of the task has been realised and that anything really promising is being done to solve it.
The Rural Wales Committee refers to this problem. What it has to say about employment in these areas is this. They describe afforestation as by far the most important way of providing additional employment. The whole emphasis of the Report of the Rural Wales Committee is on the contribution which afforestation can make to the problems of rural depopulation. I do not want to disparage the work which has been done on this, and, in particular, the special survey which is referred to in the Report, but we will be fooling ourselves if we imagine for one moment that afforestation can make any appreciable contribution towards this problem in the immediate future.
I am not doing this to deprecate what has been done by the Forestry Commission in Wales, but let me just follow this up simply to get it in its proper perspective in relation to the problem of rural depopulation. During the last six or seven years the Forestry Commission has spent about £10 million in Wales. One would have thought that that expenditure would have been reflected in a substantial increase in the number employed in Wales in afforestation, and would have been a valuable contribution to the depopulation problem.
What, in fact, is the position? The number of employed in the year that we are discussing in this Report was the average for the whole of that seven years. There was no appreciable increase during the whole of that time. In actual fact, however, the position is more disturbing than that. For the year that we are discussing the figure given for the number of workers in afforestation in Wales is 3,136, which is roughly the average for the whole seven-year period. The figure given in last year's Report, or the last Report we had, was about 3,500, which means that between those two years. far from afforestation contributing towards employment in Wales, there was a drop of 364.
Inevitably, alongside that is the continual drop in the number of people employed in agriculture. The figure is down by 20 per cent. in the last ten years and there was a drop of 1,400 last year. It is pleasing to have over 3,000 people employed, but we regret that the Rural Wales Committee reported that more and more Welsh wage packets were being made up by the Forestry Commission each year. That is contrary to the facts.
I am a little disturbed as to what is to happen in the immediate future. If one looks at the figures for the planting programme, they are not very happy. Apparently, in June, 1954, 13,099 acres were planted. In 1955, 12,650 acres were planted. In the year that we are discussing in this Report, 10,351 acres were planted. In another place, in answer to a question, the Minister said:
The approximate area to be planted in the next three seasons, is 12,598 acres…
I find it a little difficult to believe, but that was the answer given.
I will give the specific quotation, because I should like to believe that it was wrong. The question was:
…what further developments of their nature are contemplated; and how much land for the purpose has been acquired.
And the answer was:
The approximate area to be planted in the next three seasons is 12,598 acres…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th December, 1958; Vol. 213, c. 319.]
Whether it was by mistake or otherwise, that is what was said. I hope that it was a mistake. I hope that the figure will be corrected if it is wrong. If that figure is correct, we can expect a further drop in the number of persons employed in afforestation in Wales.
There are other signs that the contribution of forestry to the solving of the rural depopulation problem will not be of anything like the dimensions many of us hoped. During 1946–47, the Forestry Commission built 340 houses in Wales The number it built last year was 12. I have referred to these figures to show that if something really practical is to be done in relation to rural depopulation it has to come from a source other than the Forestry Commission. Of course, the Commission can help and it can do a great deal more than it is doing, but we must look in other directions for more help.
I was very disappointed to see that the Rural Wales Committee has not followed up the possibility of developing industries ancillary to forestry in Wales. If we want really to make a contribution in this problem of rural depopulation here is an opportunity. I visited a forestry community in the southern States of America recently. I visited a town of 15,000 inhabitants, where all the industries used timber as their primary raw material. The relation between those employed in the forests and in those industries using timber as their primary product was that for every one in the forests 10 were employed in the ancillary industries.
I do not for a moment suggest that the conditions are comparable, but, after all, the Forestry Commission is a Government agency and if it wants to make a really effectual contribution it should look again into the whole question of linking forestry with industries which could use timber as a primary raw material.
If a population is to be maintained in these areas which will make it possible for basic social services to continue to exist, it will have to come about through the introduction of light industries. As I have said, I am not underestimating in any way the great difficulties there are in this field. Those difficulties are now being extended by reason of the fact that we have pockets of unemployment in other parts of Wales. In one sense, the whole of the Distribution of Industry Act is working against these industrial areas because, as soon as an industrialist shows any inclination to go to these parts of Wales, pressure will immediately be brought upon him to go to some area with a high percentage of unemployment. The Mid-Wales Development Association has done good work. The fact that it has not been able to produce results so far is no fault of its own.
The Minister of State has been critical of the work of local government in this matter, but local authorities, particularly those whose financial position is far from strong. are in great difficulties. They have been urged by the Minister to acquire sites and develop them with a view to attracting industries. Are the Government prepared to finance those projects? Are they prepared to meet the loss in revenue which is inevitable if local authorities acquire sites and have them idle for a considerable time in the hope of attracting new industry? The problem is very difficult indeed. I hope that the Government are prepared to allow expenditure by local authorities in that way to rank for grant and that we shall be told something to that effect from the Minister this evening.
One of the great difficulties about attracting industry to these areas is the problem of communications and public transport services. There has been a steady deterioration in the position for some considerable time. Rural Wales has never been worse off for public transport than it is today. An added complication in this struggle to attain light industries is the fact that there are strong rumours that a number of railway services are either to be reduced or abolished altogether. For example, there are disturbing rumours that the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen service is to be reduced, and that the Whitland-Cardigan line is to be closed and further limitations placed on the Aberystwyth-Shrewsbury line. There is reference to the activities of the British Transport Commission in this Report. I hope that we shall be told tonight that there is no truth in these rumours, so that no industrialist shall be discouraged by the prospect of having much reduced railway communications in this area.
I want to touch on one or two matters relating directly to agriculture. In paragraph 176 of the Report, there is a reference to the existence of a working party on the question of the establishment of a National Agricultural College for Wales. That matter has been under consideration a very long time. It is a considerable time since the Seaborne Davies Committee reported. I hope the working party will report soon and that its report will be favourable. If it is, I hope that this college will come into existence with no further delay.
Reference has been made to the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955, which is dealt with in paragraph 156 of the Report. That measure became an Act as long ago as 1955 and, according to its present terms, it is to operate only until December, 1962. Of the expenditure to be carried out in Wales, amounting to £2 million, to date only £79,000 has been paid out. The Act has been running for four years and during the first two years virtually nothing was done. The position this year is considerably better and I hope that that improvement can be maintained. If necessary, I hope that the period of operation of the Act may be extended. I want to see a rapid acceleration of the whole programme.
There has been an acceleration of the programme, particularly in those areas where unemployment is heavy. Anything that can be done to reduce unemployment in that area is good, but the tests as to what should and should not be approved under the Act are basically agricultural tests. The Government should not use an Act of this kind to help with employment at the expense of agriculture as a whole. I want to see as many schemes implemented under the Act as is possible and directed towards helping the Upland areas.
On the question of roads, I suspect that expenditure in general, particularly on those in rural areas, is not receiving the measure of Government support it should have because of the existence of major schemes throughout the country. I certainly do not deprecate those major schemes, such as the Severn Bridge, but they should not be carried out at the expense of maintaining ordinary basic road services throughout Wales.
Another problem which has already been touched upon is rural electrification. Years ago I used to find myself continually chasing the electricity boards in Wales, M.A.N.W.E.B. as we used to call them, and the South Wales Electricity Board. It would be churlish not to pay a generous compliment to the amount of work they have carried on in both North and South Wales in recent years. Probably I have pestered them as much as anyone and I have found them on almost all occasions extremely helpful. What needs to be emphasised is the vast amount of work remaining to be done in Wales and that should be compared with the position in England and Scotland. I have before me the figures for farm connections in the three countries. They show that the amount of work remaining to be done in Wales is far greater than in either England or Scotland.
In England, in almost every area the number of connections totals 80 per cent. The range is 84 per cent., 81 per cent., 74 per cent., 87 per cent. It may be said that many of these areas are not comparable with the rural areas of Wales, but the figure in the North of Scotland is 66.3 per cent. In South Cardiganshire, it is 41·2 per cent. and in Montgomery it is 40·6 per cent. I have not the figure for Radnor, but in Carmarthen, with a large industrial section, it is only 46·45 per cent.
When we compare these figures, Wales comes out of the comparison extremely badly. It is only fair to say that there was far greater leeway to be made up in Wales than elsewhere. A great deal of work has already been done, but the fact is that if the farming communities of Wales are to be placed in a comparable position with those of England and Scotland there must be a rapid acceleration in the farm connection programme by these two boards. I am glad to see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the Front Bench. I am sure that he does not want the Welsh farming community placed in a position of such disadvantage compared with colleagues in England and Scotland.
The reason given by the Board, which I accept, for not having been able to accelerete its programme during the last few years is that there have been substantial cuts in capital expenditure. We are apparently moving into a different climate in that respect, however, and I hope that that will be reflected in no uncertain way in a rapid acceleration of the programme.
There are many other points about the rural areas on which I should like to touch, but if I did I should be unfair to my colleagues. I will, therefore, not pursue them, but I hope that the Rural Wales Panel, in conjunction with voluntary organisations and Government agencies, will attempt to deal with a problem which, I admit, is by no means easy and will see whether there are not further fields to explore in attracting light ancillary industries into rural areas.
I can promise the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) that I shall follow him in some of the points which he has made. I welcome the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) in which he ventured into agriculture. He spoke as a man who has studied geography. May I come down to the brass tacks?
I thank the Minister for Welsh Affairs for tidying up the Report on Government action in Wales. The period now covered is 1st July, 1957, to 31st December, 1958. I welcome the fact that there are more pages and paragraphs on agriculture, but I hope that the Minister will take one or two tips from me about what should be reported in those paragraphs. There are five pages and twenty-five paragraphs dealing with policy, legislation and organisation. If one were to change the word "Wales" to "Cornwall", no different report would be required for those paragraphs. Surely that space could be better used to give statistics on Welsh agriculture, which I know are in the possession of the Department of Agriculture. I find such statistics very useful and important. I will stress their importance later.
There is one paragraph in Part I on devolution. It is a very acceptable paragraph. How does it work in practice? Does the Minister claim that there is greater devolution in Wales and that more decisions are taken by the Welsh Secretary at Aberystwyth? If the Minister says that this is so, I will accept it, but at the moment I am doubtful about it. If all these decisions can be taken, why have me had a quibble about the appointment of a chief livestock officer and a deputy for Wales? There are rumours that the appointment was to be given to a monoglot Englishman. Has the Welsh Department been consulted about that? Is it advising on this matter? I hope that the rumour which I have mentioned is untrue, because it would be contrary to the kind of devolution which I want to see in Wales.
In my opinion, there should be regular information about agricultural schemes. The hill farming and livestock rearing schemes have been in operation for ten years, and one paragraph of the Report gives the number of schemes approved and the number of applications as well as the amount of money spent. Reference has been made to 4,855 applications, but what is staggering, and what is not indicated, is that only 118 schemes in the whole of Wales have been completed. This was reported in the Welsh Farm News last week-end. I have since checked those figures. If they are correct, the mid-Wales counties of Cardigan, Montgomery and Radnor submitted and obtained approval for 1,514 applications but only 32 of them have been completed. If these figures are correct, what is the reason for them? I could suggest many reasons, but I will not go into detail.
When we discussed the Bill dealing with small farmers' schemes it was suggested that if farmers had completed their hill farming and livestock rearing schemes they could begin other schemes as small farmers. In view of the fact that so few of their other schemes have been completed, shall we have any small farmers' schemes at all?
I regret that, especially in Part II, there is no direct information about mid-Wales, despite the fact that at least five separate reports have been made on mid-Wales, including two Government Reports or White Papers. I am anxious that the people living in Central and North Wales should clearly understand that, whichever Government is in power, agriculture is their mainstay. I make that point because between 1947 and 1957, there was a decrease in the number of farms between 5 acres and 100 acres of 2,000, whereas there was an increase in the number of farms of over 100 acres of 400. Apart from the economic aspect, such a trend will affect the Welsh way of life, which is why I deprecate it.
If it is a good thing economically, may we be given information in future reports to show whether, as a result of these voluntary amalgamations, the yield per acre or the overall production has increased? I suggest that this is increasing rural depopulation because during the same period 2,000 familities left rural Wales. Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will make a note of these points and deal with them, perhaps not tonight, but at some future time. I am anxious, because this trend was more pronounced between 1955 and 1957 than before. That is the important aspect. Mention has been made of the decline in the farm labour force in Wales. It has been pointed out that the number of full-time workers has decreased by 4·8 per cent. since 1957. In the last ten years there has been a decline of 20 per cent. in the farm labour force, and most of the people involved were full-time, regular workers.
An aspect not mentioned in the Report concerns farm values, which is a good criterion of the situation. The value of farms over 300 acres has risen five times since before the war, whereas the value of smaller holdings has increased less than three times. The value of farms below 50 acres showed no change last year. That emphasises the problem which arises in mid-Wales.
One of the reasons for it, which is not mentioned in the Report, is the February Price Review. In 1958, the small farmer was hit because the prices for his products were reduced. In 1959 he expected an increase, but instead of that the price of eggs fell. I know that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) extolled the increased production in agriculture, which I welcome, but he said nothing about the figures for poultry production, nor did he say why they had fallen. There is no wonder that they have fallen if the farmers receive no profit on their eggs.
One of the reasons for our troubles is that the Government are faced not only with an agricultural problem but with a social problem—a social problem which has been examined by many Committees in Wales. The Economic Digest of January, 1959, had some harsh things to say. May I quote the following:
The continued depopulation of Wales in the post-war years has been largely due to deliberate Government policy, favouring as it does the medium-sized and large farm units at the expense of smallholdings and hill farms in particular.
To what extent is that true? Inquiries which I have made suggest that it is true.
I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to look at a very important aspect of the schemes for these small farmers. Paragraph 139 dismisses two airily the decision to wind up the marginal production schemes. We cannot afford to neglect marginal land in any part of the country, because if marginal land is allowed to go out of production the tendency will be for the national resources to be steered into land which gives easier and quicker results, at the expense of marginal land. Unless marginal land is looked after, it will be difficult to rehabilitate the countryside.
I turn to the second Report of the Rural Wales Committee. All this week I have been trying to find a Biblical quotation to describe the Report, but I cannot find one. It is an Epistle, but an Epistle to whom I do not know.
It contains nothing except a lot of platitudes. Is this the Report which was presented by the Big Three, who are civil servants, and who are excellent men? Did they send a shocking report to the Minister and has he been afraid to publish it? Or are they afraid of the Minister and, as a result, have been very cautious about it? If the Report as published is that which they presented, they stand condemned. If not, the Government must be blamed.
There is nothing in the Report of interest except a paragraph on afforestation. It has been presented by the Big Three, but I suggest that the Minister ought to ask for better statistical reports and action. I demand action. It is true that there were seven meetings before the first Report and four meetings before the second Report, but those four meetings took place over eighteen months. Apparently they had no official meetings with anyone. I cannot understand why they have not met Lord Brecon. I am sure that he would have put some stimulus into the Committee, knowing him as I do. Perhaps they have met him but, if so, the meeting is not recorded. They should meet him and put some stimulus into these Reports.
In addition, they could have met the mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, but they have not done so. The Report goes out of its way to say that they are
gratified … that so much has been done".
That is all right as a peroration for a Welsh preacher. I would also point out that in this Report by the Big Three there is only one reference to Mid-Wales. The fact remains that the establishment of this Committee was due entirely to the Reports on Mid-Wales. The terms of reference were
to co-ordinate the detailed implementation of Government policy for rural Wales".
It is an indictment of the Government if the Report can say nothing at all about this matter. Have the Government no policy for Mid-Wales? I should be glad to know whether there is such a policy.
The terms of reference also stated that the Committee was "to expedite the services therein". It has not expedited any services. There were to be "consultations" and it was to "foster effective measures". We have only to look at the schemes presented to see what thas happened about that.
Should not the Committee dealing with rural mid-Wales have looked at the repercussions of a Private Member's Bill in respect of permitting the farmer to claim for his own labour? This was something practical which could have been done to accelerate these schemes.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cardigan mentioned rural roads. On the figures given for this financial year it will take seven or eight years to use up the £2 million grant allotted, but the scheme finishes in 1962. I do not know what will happen after that. No figures have been given to show what has been allocated for unadopted roads for the present year. The global figure for last year was given in a Parliamentary reply from which it appeared that only £48,000 was spent on unadopted roads. The main purpose of the Act was to deal with unadopted rural roads in mid-Wales and other parts of Wales.
I am sure that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will note that not only Anglesey but some other parts of Wales are not included in its provisions, including some where there is heavy unemployment. Had Anglesey been included it would have had a share in he sum made available specially for unemployment. May I ask how many roadmen were employed on schemes implementing the grant of the extra money given to the three counties? I suggest that hardly any at all were employed.
On the subject of electricity, I do not want to follow up what has been said already but I would make one suggestion to the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
Does he realise that the Board in South Wales and the Consultative Council have made similar statements about this and have said that no extra money will be made available for the Mid-Wales counties at all in connection with electricity? People in Mid-Wales might just as well have been just outside Cardiff as in some of the isolated villages in North Radnorshire and some parts of Cardiganshire.
No mention is made by the Rural Wales Committee of housing, but it might have paid attention to the question whether some local authorities might have gained something by using Section 5 of the Housing Act, 1956, in connection with the increased rate burden if they build houses. This is very important. On the question of water supplies, I could give the Minister a long list, but I will leave it to another occasion to ask him some questions.
I turn now to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, which has been in existence for eighteen months and which so far has done excellent work. Despite whatever criticism I have offered of the Minister of Welsh Affairs, in as nice a way as I possibly could, may I now suggest to him that he should say a word in this debate to indicate that he agrees entirely with the setting up of the Mid-Wales industrial Development Association, because it is doing good work. May I also ask him to try to encourage industrial development in Wales, and particularly to try to get some plans for introducing industries to Mid-Wales. I suggest that he should give the Association some indication whether there is to be any overspill development in the Welsh counties, or whether there are to be any new towns, and that he should get some plans worked out in connection with that matter.
In connection with the recent announcement in connection with the Distribution of Industry (Financial Provisions) Act. a leaflet has been issued to 50,000 industrialists throughout the country giving information about developments and facilities which are available, and the Association is disappointed that no mention is made of the development fund in "Industry on, the Move". Could not some guidance also be given, as the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan suggested, about industrial sites and the possibility of grants being made for their purchase?
I think that a stimulus should be given to the Rural Wales Committee and that they should light a candle, if nothing else, instead of complaining of the darkness. There is an old saying to the effect that many a false step is taken by standing still. I think they have been standing still, and by doing so, in my opinion, made a false step. I wish to express my thanks to Lord Brecon, particularly on this suggestion I made in the unemployment debate, that he should visit the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association. He did and has visited the local authorities in Mid-Wales in the area covered by the Association, and he gave them some encouragement, but I am afraid that the local authorities, with due deference to the hon. Member for Cardigan, did not rise to the occasion and so there is need for the Minister for Welsh Affairs to do something in that direction.
I am very glad to find that the Association is to circulate 25,000 copies of a leaflet, and I am sure that that will please the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), because it gives a true picture of Wales—the Wales which he and I want to help, though not in a political sense. That is the Wales which we want to have—a Wales to which we can bring more industry, and I hope that this debate will give encouragement to the Minister. I am very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture is to take part in this debate, because he and I got on very well in Standing Committee, when he accepted a number of points which I put to him. I hope that, though there might be a change of Government, that fact will not discourage farmers from improving agriculture in Wales, and making it as prosperous as they can in these days.
I hesitate to intervene in the debate, but I think perhaps it might be helpful if I were to be allowed to say a few words on topics relating to agriculture which have been raised. I am very grateful for the concluding words of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) in regard to myself, and I was very interested when earlier in his speech he said that he had been trying to find a Biblical quotation in relation to the Report on Rural Wales, which is the one to which I think he was referring. Listening to the debate today, I thought of quite a number of quotations from Jeremiah which might have been appropriate to some of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Yes, but perhaps we had better not carry that one too far. Even the right hon. Gentleman himself seemed to be almost annoyed that any Conservative Minister should call attention to the fact that the sun was shining. I sometimes think that hon. Members opposite go so far as to think that it is a wicked invention of the Tories, because when we have a fine day it prevents people remembering that it rains sometimes. Although we look differently at these questions, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that we seek to do things by different ways but try to do the best we can for the people of Wales, as well as for the United Kingdom as a whole.
In intervening in this debate, I want to touch on one or two matters of agricultural development. I think over the last year or two the story of agricultural development in Wales, as set out in the chapters of the Report we have been discussing, is a pretty good one, and one in which the farmers of Wales can take pride. In saying this, I am not forgetting for a moment the problems facing Welsh farmers. I know they are very real, and in some cases extremely complex, but I do believe that considerable progress has been and is being made in tackling them.
Before turning to specific problems which have been raised in the debate, I should like to say one or two things of a general nature. The linch-pin of Welsh agriculture is livestock, particularly cattle and sheep, and here I think the progress that has been made is very striking. The figures in paragraph 149 of the Report speak for themselves, and I would only add that the December, 1958, Agricultural Returns show that the steady upward progress is still going on. The total number of cattle has risen by 1·3 per cent. on the previous December returns, and sheep and lambs were up on a cow-unit by 5·3 per cent. Again, according to the December returns, the livestock population was 30 per cent. up on the 1947 total. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) referred to a 27 per cent. increase, and I am happy to be able to assure him that the figure is even higher than that. It is quite a striking improvement.
These figures do not disclose that great strides have been made in improving the quality of animals produced in Wales and in increasing the numbers sold in a finished state.
I realise that in this last winter farmers there have had very serious trouble with liver fluke, but the conditions were abnormally favourable to liver fluke. I would remind hon. Members that the Ministry was not only aware of it, but issued special warnings last autumn telling farmers that they should take such steps as were open to them in connection with it. I am only sorry that not more of them did take such steps to safeguard their own position in that respect.
On land drainage, to some extent the Government can assist, but in regard to the type of land drainage involved in this connection, many of the farmers could have helped themselves. There are means of dealing with the particular type of snail responsible for spreading the disease and on which we have given information to the farmers concerned. Having said all that, I do realise that it was an exceptional season, and I hope that this year conditions will be better.
Hon. Members will have noted from the Report the increasing use of artificial insemination and the significant change in the use of bulls of beef breed. Here, I should like to pay tribute to the fact that no less than 97 per cent. of Welsh cattle are now attested, and we expect that by October of this year all of them will be. In this respect, Wales has set the pace for the rest of the country, and the Welsh farmers deserve every congratulation.
One encouraging feature is that the production of silage continues to go up. The total for 1958—again, according to the December returns—was almost 50 per cent. higher than that for the year before, 346,000 tons being made. Grass is the most important Welsh crop and, taking permanent and temporary grass together, the acreage continues to increase. Today, it is almost 20 per cent. higher than it was in 1947.
I should now like to say something about the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts. The healthy state of affairs that I have mentioned is due to a large number of factors, but we must not forget the role played by these Acts. Under them, all the upland areas of Wales are eligible for 50 per cent. grants towards the cost of comprehensive schemes for the rehabilitation of livestock-rearing farms. As the Report says, work is going on steadily on schemes estimated to cost over £13 million, and grants totalling nearly £3 million have been paid for work done.
The bald figures give little idea of what these schemes mean in practice in improving the amenities of those who tackle the very difficult task of farming the uplands of Wales. The schemes are not only of tremendous value in improving the facilities of the farm itself, but also in providing necessities such as bathrooms and lavatories on the farm. As a result, the Welsh uplands are being enabled to take fuller advantage of the revolution in agricultural techniques that has occurred over the last decade or so, and to enjoy a higher standard of living.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor called attention to the small number of schemes that have been completed. This is true, not only in Wales but in England, too. We get a large number of schemes that take a very long time to complete, but that does not mean that very real improvements have not taken place on those farms, and that the farmers have not benefited thereby. We hope to be able to see full completion of a greater number of these schemes in the near future. That will certainly be our wish, but the fact that such a small number have been completed should not be allowed to obscure the fact that in a very large number of schemes a substantial amount of very valuable work has been done.
The experience gained in administering the Hill Farming and Livestock Rearing Acts has proved of value in the administration of the farm improvements scheme. This scheme has given an opportunity to Welsh farmers in the more fertile lowland regions in particular, and they have not been slow to take advantage of it. Improvements to the value of over £1½ million have been approved, and fresh applications are coming in at an undiminished rate. We have received 4,700 applications, and 3,100 have so far been approved. That is a good indication of the way in which the Welsh farmers have taken advantage of this scheme, and I am indeed glad to see it.
I am particularly glad that we were able to extend to the farm improvement scheme the system of standard costs whereby the applicant is able to choose whether to have grant based on the actual documented costs or on a standard cost basis. This is particularly important to the small family farm that is found so extensively in Wales. I hope that if the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) goes through in another place we shall be able to see still further help available for exactly this type of farmer, who appears so frequently in Wales. I am sure that standard costs are one of the most useful ways of helping the small farmer.
Speaking of the small farmer, I must mention the small farmer scheme which, I believe, has a most important part to play in Wales. It is designed to meet the problems of very many of the Welsh farmers. I am glad to say that the response from Welsh farmers has been very good. Over 4,000 applications have so far been received—and the scheme has been going for only a very short time indeed.
In view of the very large number of applications received, we are keeping a close watch on the position, and steps are being taken to strengthen the staff where necessary. An important feature of the scheme is that the advice and assistance of the National Agricultural Advisory Service will be needed in the preparation of farm business plans. This should lead to a general improvement in the standard of management, and particularly to an extension of grassland management techniques which Welsh agriculturalists—and particularly the Welsh Plant Breeding Station—have done so much to develop in recent years.
I should like to add a general point that applies to all the schemes that I have mentioned this evening. It necessarily takes some time to clear applications—we must always remember that it is the taxpayers' money that is involved—but I would assure the House that we are doing all we can to deal with them as quickly as possible. I would, however, add a word of warning about the small farmer scheme. With applications coming forward so rapidly, we may eventually reach the point when we will have to tell some of the applicants that they must wait in the queue, and that if we are to deal with them effectively and well we cannot possibly deal with them all at once.
There has been some comment on rural roads, and the application of the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act, 1955. I know, of course, that these road schemes got off to a slow start, and hon. Members are rightly impatient to see more work done. It is certainly true that in the current year we have been able to step up this work very considerably indeed. For the current financial year we propose to approve work to the value of approximately £400,000 in Wales, bringing the cost of the total work approved to about £850,000. That is a very big improvement indeed, and we have been able to go a long way here to meet the concern of hon. Members. We were naturally sorry that we were unable, in the previous year, because of capital restrictions, to do as much as hon. Members would have wished, but we are really going out of the way to help now.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) thought it a little unfair that some of the funds should have been diverted in the last few months to areas of high unemployment. One cannot have it both ways. Other hon. Members have spoken of the need to divert funds to areas of high unemployment. I think that an hon. Member's attitude to this rather depends on the area he represents, but on this specific point I can give the assurance that though some authorities have been allowed to proceed faster than others during the last few months the money available will be allocated as fairly as possible during the currency of the Act. This was merely an acceleration. Other authorities will get their share, and all will get it more rapidly than they have up to the present. I hope that that will be some comfort to hon. Members.
The hon. and learned Member also raised specific points on forestry, and mentioned something that has, I think, been answered in another place. He spoke of 12,000-odd acres being planted over a three-year period. Although I have not been able to check the figures in the short time available, there must be some mistake here, but as in the planting year 1958–59 it is hoped to plant 12.000 acres, it is clear that there is some error in the figure he mentioned.
In fact, the figure I have given for the current year shows an increase of 1,649 acres over that shown in the Report for the previous year. That shows that we are seeking to improve the planting acreage although we are inhibited to some extent by the difficulty of getting sufficient suitable planting land. However, we are doing our best. The hon. and learned Member also spoke of the numbers employed, and—although I accept a good deal of what he has said it is right to make one point. Thinning is now let out on contract, so that the labour employed on that work is not included in the figures. It is a secondary point but one that should be taken note of.
The hon. Member also asked about the Seaborne Davies Committee. The working party, which my right hon. Friend set up to consider the financial organisation and other arrangements appropriate if a Welsh agricultural college were to be established at Aberystwyth, is actively engaged on its task. I understand that it hopes to complete its work before the Summer Recess. Naturally, the House will be informed as soon as possible of any decision taken.
I was glad to have the tribute of the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan about what has been done in the form of rural electrification. I noted his wish for more. I think that we have made fairly substantial progress in this matter. I agree that perhaps in Wales progress has not been so rapid as elsewhere, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend is as anxious as anyone to see this work extended, and I am sure that the remarks of the hon. and learned Member will be carefully noted.
The period covered by the Report has been vital in the history of agriculture in Wales. It has seen first the enactment of important new legislation in the form of the Agriculture Acts of 1957 and 1958, which are designed to provide farmers with the basic conditions that they need today. Secondly, it has seen the introduction of the farm improvement and small farmer schemes, both of which have an essential role to play in putting agriculture in the Principality on to a sounder footing.
Thirdly, and very important, in my view, there has been the change of emphasis in the rôle of the county agricultural executive committees. Incidentally. I am glad that the Welsh Committees have made a good start in adapting themselves in accordance with this. Finally. there have been the changes in the Ministry's organisation in Wales designed to further the decentralisation of agricultural administration. I am sure that Welsh farmers, who deserve great credit for the progress that has been made over recent years, will not be slow to seize the opportunities which these new measures offer.
The hon. Member or Brecon and Radnor has asked me a number of specific questions on other points which I have not had the opportunity to check, but I will take careful note of the points which he has raised.
I say to the House in general that from the agricultural point of view Wales has a great deal to be proud of in its achievements of the last few years. The figures which I have quoted are merely an indication, but a fairly striking one, and, while I enjoyed listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) I could not think that his description of a dead hand of despair had anything to do with agriculture in Wales at present.
I apologise if I have taken time away from hon. Members from the Principality, but I thought that it would be useful to give this indication about agricultural matters and I hope that the House will forgive me for doing so.
I should like to ask the hon. Member a question about the Government's attitude towards smallholdings acquired and owned by county councils. Unfortunately, until recently—I do not know whether it is now general or whether there has been some improvement—a distinction was drawn by the Government as against county council holdings in favour of owner-occupied or landlord and tenant smallholdings. The result is that the county councils are not able to use even their own capital money for the improvement of their own smallholdings. What is the position today?
There is certainly no intention to discriminate against county councils' smallholdings. Indeed, the reverse is the case. Our policy regarding smallholdings in Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, is that we want to see such monies as are available used to improve the standard of existing smallholdings rather than for the acquisition of new ones. Acquisition by county councils does not necessarily make more land available for people in the farming community. We believe that it is necessary to bring up to date, in accordance with what is known as Part IV conditions in the 1947 Act, holdings which are already in the possession of county councils. It is only logical that that should be so.
It is only right that smallholdings provided by county councils should be equipped in the best possible way. There is a great deal of work to be done in that sphere yet. If we help privately-owned farms with small farmer schemes to improve their standard, it is only fair that those who are council tenants should have as good a standard of farm equip-meant as anyone else. Our policy is that such monies as are available should be used to that end, and I believe that that is in the interests of the smallholders themselves.
I wish to protest about the way in which Welsh affairs are treated in the House of Commons. Today, we had a very graphic instance of the farcical nature of the situation. When the Leader of the House informed us this afternoon of the business for next week, he told us that the whole of next Thursday was to be devoted to a debate on the question of deer hunting in Scotland. I agree that the Government's Report is a very fascinating and interesting document dealing with the whole gamut of Welsh affairs, but not only do we find ourselves limited to one day's consideration of this far-reaching document, but even the first three-quarters of an hour of our discussion today was taken up with question and answer across the Floor of the House on another subject.
I should like to make this constructive suggestion to the Minister for Welsh Affairs. I hope that the Welsh Whip will also take note of what I am saying, in view of the almost certain event that a Labour Government will be sitting on the benches opposite next year. I ask both sides of the House seriously to consider devoting two days to a debate on the Report. One day should be devoted, as we have been doing today, to industry and employment, and the other day should be devoted to social services, such as health and education. As things are now half the Members for Wales have no chance to speak and those of us who are fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye speak with bated breath, because we have to gabble our speeches at an absurd speed to give a chance to others to speak.
I should like to confine my remarks to the question of unemployment. I promise those of my colleagues who are still patiently sitting on these benches that I will limit myself to 10 minutes. If I have not sat down after 10 minutes, I am sure that one of my colleagues will pull my coat and I will immediately obey his injunction. There has been a measure of complacency in the way in which some leading Government spokesmen have discussed the unemployment situation in Wales. I have in my possession two quotations. One of them appeared in the Commercial and Industrial Review of the Western Mail of 26th January, 1959. It is an article written by the President of the Board of Trade, in which he says:
Changes in the economic circumstances of the world and of the United Kingdom have had their impact on Wales. Wales has taken it well and still presents a picture of wide and general prosperity".
I do not accept the last three words as conveying a true picture of the situation in Wales. I do not wish to paint the picture too darkly, or to be gloomy or unduly pessimistic. Also, I do not
wish to incur the wrath of the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas). I admit that there are very bright spots in the Welsh economy and I accept that the outlook is very propitious, but we are not discussing the unknown future. We are discussing the present situation, and I certainly would not describe it as very prosperous.
The Lord Chancellor, speaking during the annual meeting of the Wales and Monmouthshire Conservative and Unionist Area Council, in Cardiff, the other day, used these words:
There is a great difference between the unemployment that has arisen in Wales recently and that between the two wars. Then, unemployment was recession caused by the decline of two great industries. Today, it is unemployment caused by adjustment, progress and change-over from one form of organisation to another.
I accept that as being partly true, but it is only one part of the picture.
In many parts of Wales today, the unemployment situation has nothing whatever to do with the changed techniques in industry. It is true of Swansea and of Llanelly, but it certainly is not true of the northern part of Monmouthshire and some of the tops of the valleys in Glamorganshire. It is certainly not true of other parts of Wales, such as North-West Wales.
I prefer the description which we find in the Report. It gives a fuller picture and reveals as diplomatically as any civil servant would dare to reveal anything about the success or failure of the Government's policy. It points discreetly to where a large part of the culpability for the existing situation is to be found. I quote from page 10 of the Report:
At home, industrial production remained relatively stable for some time but, by the autumn of 1958, had declined to the 1955 level (or about 3 per cent. below the mid-1957 peak).
These are the revealing words:
Bank advances, machine tool orders, Government orders, houses under construction, new factory building projects started, and the building up of material stocks, all declined throughout the greater part of 1958. Exports fell by over £100 million in the first three quarters of 1958 but some improvement became apparent in the later months of the year.
Adjustment due to new techniques is obviously partly responsible, particularly in the steel and tinplate industries, but largely the responsibility for the high
percentage of unemployment still in Wales is to be laid solely at the door of the Government, who tried to solve the admittedly serious problem of inflation in the wrong way. The problem was admitted by both sides to be a serious and urgent one. Our condemnation of the Government is that they adopted the wrong methods to deal with that situation.
Unemployment in Wales doubled between June, 1957, and December, 1958. Can that be described as prosperity? It is no comfort to us that the situation was deteriorating also in England. But is it divinely ordained that at all times the unemployment figures for Wales must be double the national average? Is this a state of affairs which we have to accept willy-nilly and inevitably? I seriously suggest that we had better start putting the picture right.
The unemployment differential between Wales and England has widened considerably since the advent of the Conservative Government in comparison with the time of the Labour Government. It was never consistently twice the national average during the time of the Labour Government.
I am talking about the Government Report and the current figures for Wales. They are still serious. A figure of 4·6 per cent. unemployment is not my idea of general prosperity, as, I am sure, the hon. Member agrees.
We must also particularise when we deal with the question of unemployment. I expect great things, as every sensible person would, from recent industrial developments referred to by the hon. Member for Conway, such as the new steel works at Llanwern, outside Newport—do not let us start a quarrel between Monmouthshire County Council and Newport in the House of Commons—the Pressed Steel factory outside Swansea and the other factories to which referances has been made today. We are all proud of the possibilities inherent in that changed situation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and I are, however, disturbed sometimes at the way in which Monmouthshire is regarded generally as being a prosperous county. Newport certainly, by any stretch of the imagination, must be regarded as a prosperous town and its future obviously is favourable. Tonight, however, I want to speak about a different type of story. I am referring to the industrial position in North Monmouthshire at the tops of the valleys. I am very concerned about what is happening and what is likely to happen, perhaps increasingly, in the history of the tops of the valleys of Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire.
I have a theory, with which some of my hon. Friends agree, that there is a greater intensity of real culture at the tops of the valleys of South Wales than when those valleys approach the coastal area. I seriously ask the Minister whether he is prepared to allow these tops of the valleys, mostly mining towns, to die a slow and lingering death with their population becoming more attenuated year after year. That is the picture now. In a homogeneous area consisting of Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale, Rhymney, Tredegar and Newbridge, the unemployment percentage is 4·6.
There is one matter especially on which I should like an answer tonight from the Minister. I have with me the pamphlet which the Board of Trade has been sending to industrialists who contemplate expansion in new areas. It lists the places where Government assistance under the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, 1958, is available. A whole series of areas and townships will be qualified to apply to D.A.T.A.C. for assistance in order to set up new industries.
The first paragraph of the pamphlet states that
The Treasury have been given power to make loans or grants for purposes likely to provide more work in places where a high rate of unemployment would otherwise be likely to continue.
I understand from the Minister that the percentage of unemployment which he would regard as high must be a continuing and consistent percentage of about 4 per cent. In the area to which I have referred, in North Monmouthshire, there has been 4·6 per cent. unemployment consistently for the last two years. My people want to know why the area is not scheduled in the list contained in the circular from the Board of Trade.
We have gnawing in our hearts an anxious doubt and suspicion about the future of the mining industry. God be merciful to those valleys if anything calamitous happens to the mining industry. Not a single new light industry has been established in the area for years. The Distribution of Industry Act has almost lapsed into desuetude so far as that part of the Principality is in the question, and we are very concerned about it. I want a specific answer on this point from the Minister tonight.
Finally, I wish to refer to the question of school-leavers, to which many of my hon. Friends have already referred. The latest figures which I have ascertained for the Abertillery area alone show that 19 boys and 21 girls have so far not received employment of any kind since leaving school.
I want the Minister and the House as a whole to exercise imagination on this point. Let us put it to ourselves. I speak as a Member of Parliament; no better and no worse, I hope, than the ordinary Member of Parliament. I have had more inquiries about jobs for youngsters in the last two years than during the previous seven years in which I have been a Member of this House.
A boy leaves school at 15 and has no job open to him. I think that is one of the most terrible of all tragedies. I can think of nothing more soul-destroying, more frustrating, than for youngsters to leave school only to find that society has nothing to offer them. Then they form up in gangs and we have all the terrible things which we read about in the newspapers taking place. I am not saying that all these things are necessarily confined to youths who are unemployed—youths who are gainfully employed lapse, unfortunately, into those ways—but I am sure that nothing is more conducive to delinquency and to a general rottenness of attitude towards life than for youngsters to embark on the threshold of youth with nothing to look forward to, and with nothing to demand from them the qualities which I like to think are inherent in all of us. I beg the Minister particularly to take note of that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty has in his constituency one of the finest industrial establishments in the country, the South Wales Switchgear Company. Mr. Nicholas is a man whose name is to be spoken with real admiration for what he has done in the way of apprenticeship schemes. I should like that example to be followed. The Government could help a lot by giving inducements to similar-minded firms in the way of tax relief and preferential treatment in the placing of Government contracts. Nothing could be more constructive or creative than to give special concessions to a firm which is prepared to ensure the future not only of young boys, but of the country. I ask the Minister to think on those lines when he replies for the Government.
I should like to return to the theme which has preoccupied a number of hon. Members and which has caused the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) to describe many of us as acting as Jeremiahs. What we have to find out is whether in fact the diversity of industry which is being claimed as now established in Wales has really taken place.
We are told by Lord Kilmuir that Wales in fact has emancipated itself from its bondage to its two main industries. I suggest that instead of indulging in criticism of one side of the House or the other about how far this process has gone, we should give some attention to the actual facts of the situation.
I should like to direct attention to the percentage distribution of the insured population which was in fact engaged in mining in East Glamorgan and Monmouthshire in 1948 and then consider the position in 1957. We must understand the trends in order to know whether in fact technical change will bring about a considerable blow to the coal industry of this country and, if so, how we are prepared to meet it. Has the diversity in industry that is claimed taken place?
In the area of East Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, in 1948, 24·2 per cent. of the insured population were engaged in mining. The last figure available for 1957 was 23·4 per cent. So it becomes quite apparent that the percentage of the insured population engaged in mining has in fact changed very little. In engineering, we find that in the areas of East Glamorgan and Monmouthshire the change has been from 9·2 per cent. in 1948 to 11·4 per cent. in 1957. If there had been dramatic changes in the location of our industries and the numbers of people employed in them, they would surely have been reflected in those figures.
Let me bring this a little nearer home by referring to the position of the valleys. We have only to select the Rhondda, Merthyr, Aberdare, Rhymney and the Monmouthshire valleys to see how little the percentage of the insured population has shifted away from mining to engineering, and whether it is a myth or a fact that real diversity of industry has been created in Wales.
Taking the years that I have mentioned, in the mining industry in 1948 we were in the position that 46·5 per cent. of the population were engaged in mining and in 1957 it was 41·3 per cent. On these figures and statistics then is the diversity taking place at the rate that has been claimed? I am not trying to utter jeremiads, but I have sensed from the speeches made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North and the hon. Member for Conway and the attitude of Lord Kilmuir that an attempt is being made to build up the myth that diversity of industry in Wales has taken place. It has nowhere near taken place. In the face of the serious challenge of technical change, we clearly are not equipped and not ready to meet it.
If there is the same acceleration in technical changes during the next five years as there have been in the last five years, there could be serious tragedies throughout South Wales particularly in those areas which too many people are wrongly endeavouring to claim have now got diversity. If one is asked how we propose to achieve diversity, I would say that first we have to look at how we have succeeded in the past, and consider the dramatic contrast between what was done under the Labour Government and what has been done since. When the question is put by the Minister and by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North as to whether we believe in direction, we have to say, first, that of course we do not want direction if it can be avoided.
Let us look at the records. If we take the industrial analysis of buildings completed in South Wales we find, taking the years 1945–51 as one set of figures and then the years up to 1957, that the average amount of buildings completed in the years 1945–51 was 1 million square feet each year above the average from 1951 on. These figures show that the challenge of technical change has not been met.
Again the expenditure by the Board of Trade under the Distribution of Industries Act for development in Wales and Monmouthshire in 1947–48 was more than £4 million, 1948–49 nearly £4 million, 1949–50 £2,300,000, 1950–51 £1½ million. These figures show how much was done. But in 1952–53 the figure was less than £1 million and in 1953–54 £690,000. The last available figure shows only just over £1 million has been spent in 1956–57. Therefore, we have a situation in which great technical changes take place and where there is need to be alert to meet the dramatic changes in industrial life; but unfortunately under Toryism we clearly have lagged considerably behind the proud record of the Labour Government.
We must understand also how the available statistics show that we are not attracting the type of industries which we want and which will give us prolonged and genuine diversity. The statement has been bandied about that 350 factories have been brought into Wales since 1945. The hon. Member for Conway, who tells us that he has little respect for percentages and statistics, was generous enough to add 50 and make the figure 400 but, taking the figure of 350 given by Lord Kilmuir, I would ask the Minister why he did not tell us how many of these factories are now closed.
Out of the 368 factories, as I make the figure, which have come into Wales since 1945 more than 100 have been closed. Figures available to me show that 108 have been closed, that is approximately 30 per cent. Instead of boasting and swaggering about the great diversity of industry and the manner in which industry has been attracted into Wales, we should ask ourselves how many have been casualties. We should examine the reasons for the casualty rate and then consider whether the industrial future of Wales is as sure as hon. Members opposite, in their complacency, have suggested today.
Examination of the casualties will show that the larger the factory the less likely it is to be a casualty. Less than 10 per cent. have been casualties when, on coming to Wales, they have employed more than 500 people, whereas there have been 24 per cent. casualties among factories employing between 100 and 499 people. We must realise, therefore, that with this trend of casualties in industry it is vitally important to attract large industries and to stop messing around with tinpot ones which suffer so many casualties. It is not enough to say that we do not want branch factories, because it depends on the nature of the branch. If the branch factory is producing a component essential to its parent industry, that is the type of factory we want. If it is not, it may become marginal. If it produces merely a duplication of what the parent company can create, it is open to all the winds of misfortune that can blow upon it.
We must make quite sure, therefore, of the type of factory that we want to attract. We do not want those which make furniture and boxes, an industry which has proved to have a 65 per cent. casualty rate. We must attract those industries which will give us some confidence that there is some future for those who become employed in them, and we must make sure that when people learn their job they will not face the danger that once again they may be put on the unemployment market.
One never talks about Monmouthshire now without reference being made to Llanwern, as if it were the panacea and the answer to all Monmouth's problems. When so much enthusiasm is shown for Llanwern, let it not be forgotten that many of us have some sense of disappointment about the position. We want to know why Wales has been deprived of a fully integrated steel mill and why only a semi-continuous mill is to be established at Llanwern with a much smaller rate of operation and the probability of excessive capital cost per ton of production. There is a serious danger with a mill of that kind that the economic advantages of Newport in ore handling may be thrown away.
Why is there so much hedging about the timetable for the building up to full capacity at Llanwern? We inquire because we know that Richard Thomas and Baldwin is nationally owned, and we wonder whether the reluctance to spend £150 million to £250 million on a fully integrated mill is due to the fact that the Government recognise that if such sums were expended there would be obvious difficulties in unscrambling something of that order.
Or is it due to the fact that the Tories, unlike us on this side of the House, have no real belief in the future expansion of Britain and are prepared to contemplate the possibility that there would be indivisible units at Llanwern which would not be likely to be employed to full capacity for years to come? Apparently, it is because somebody is dragging his feet that a fully integrated mill is not to be set up there. We know from experience of the steel industry in the past that there is never a desire on its part to meet future economic needs. When my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) says that Monmouth shire has no reason to feel cock-a-hoop about the financial situation he is expressing the views of many of those who live there.
We are also aware of, and are deeply concerned about the problem of, the bulge in the teenage population, particularly in an area where diversity is lacking. It becomes abundantly clear, therefore, that we need more diversity, more opportunities for skilled employment, otherwise there will be an appalling waste of young men who could be used as skilled workers but who will have to drop down in the scale of employment and become at best unskilled labour. Or—and this is a horrible alternative—they will have to go away.
We were asked by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North whether we believed in direction. Some of us remember that hundreds of thousands of our people in Wales were directed by economic compulsion out of Wales, and therefore we are not inclined to be tender at the prospect that we might be inconveniencing a directorship or those in a managerial capacity by applying pressure to ensure that they bring work where the community needs it. We believe that if cajoling and coaxing industry is not effective, we must be prepared to consider alternative methods. Certainly we are not prepared complacently to allow a situation to continue where there is chronic unemployment in so many areas.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was in a very ebullient condition while in Wales. This may have been due to the air of Celtic romanticism which surrounded him. At any rate he said that a time would come, apparently very soon, when he could see that we might become embarrassed by industrial development. Wales is waiting to be embarrassed. In my valley the women are fair indeed they are probably the fairest in Wales. With a percentage of unemployment in Pontypool of 8 per cent. among the women alone, I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that he can go very far with our ladies without placing himself in any danger of being embarrassed.
I think there is a myth of diversification. I believe we have to press on and ensure that we have to have some regional grouping of factories particularly in these valleys. The people of Wales must cease to be the hewers of wood and drawers of water. In other words, we want to manufacture some of the end products. It is time we started thinking not only in terms of strip mills but of manufacturing the end products of the motor industry, like Birmingham and other areas. We believe that there is no future for Wales as long as we have a Government which is prevented through its own predilections from having the planned diversity which Wales needs.
I am glad to see that the Minister for Welsh Affairs has resumed his seat. I fully recognise the assiduity with which the right hon. Gentleman has attended this debate all these hours, and in welcoming him back I am in no way reproaching him for his wholly necessary absence.
May I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) on what we all considered to be a most able and stimulating speech? He laid down a principle to which I believe all hon. Members of this House will subscribe, namely, that it is impossible to sustain and preserve a national community like Wales unless work for its people is secured for them in their own home land. That is what this debate has turned on since it began five hours ago.
My purpose in rising is to pinpoint the attention of the Minister and of the House on two old-established industries which are of paramount importance to us in the province of Gwynedd, North-West Wales, namely, the slate and granite industries. They are also of immense social and cultural importance to our people, because they have supported communities of a peculiarly attractive and worthwhile character, Welsh in speech, sober, studious and steady.
We are gravely concerned, however, about the decline of both these industries, and I will give one or two figures. At the end of the century the slate quarrying industry in North Wales employed 14,000 or 15,000 men. Today it employs barely 3,000. The same is true of the granite quarries. The reasons for the decline of the slate industry are competition from cheaper but inferior roofing materials and the high working costs, especially the cost of clearing debris and over-burden and, of course, Government policy. House builders have been less ready to use slates, which are more expensive than tiles, when the price of money is so high. As a result we have 3,000 unemployed in the County of Caernarvon, and the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), who painted such a bright picture of the prospects in Caernarvonshire, should remember that we have that large number of unemployed in his and my county.
What can be done to assist the slate industry? There is need for an inquiry into its organisation and into its marketing methods. There is also a strong case for Government grants towards the clearance of debris and over-burden. In this connection I want to ask the Minister a question. Does the Distribution of Industry Act, 1958, apply in the case of a slate quarry which wishes to apply for grant towards the cost of the clearance of overburden?
Thirdly, I am told that the award of only a small percentage of the new roofing of the United Kingdom to slate would put this Welsh industry on its feet. Is it possible to do that? I understand that some such arrangement has been effected in relation to the much smaller slate quarry industry in Scotland. Cannot it be done for the Welsh industry, which is of such importance to North-West Wales? I join with the hon. Member for Conway in urging that Government agencies should use slate as much as possible. Government buildings are deemed to be made to last for a considerable time, although not every Government is expected to do so. In that connection it seems to us that the decision to use tiles—and foreign tiles at that—for work at Catterick Camp is indefensible. I have had representations from quarry owners in my constituency, as has the hon. Member for Conway, and I hope that the Minister will support the all-party plea to the War Office to reconsider that decision.
What I said about slate applies also to granite quarries. The decline of the granite industry proceeds at an accelerated pace. Whole villages are being desolated, and families dispersed to other parts of the country. I have in mind the village of Trefor, in Caernarvonshire, famous for the high quality of its cultural life. That village is dying. It is down to almost half its former population because the local industry on which it has depended for the past century has dwindled so much. Can we do something to help it? As other hon. Members have pointed out, if the Government would press forward with the implementation of the Agriculture Roads Act, 1955, that would help the granite industry. The whole House welcomed that Act, which provided £4 million for the rehabilitation of rural roads. That was four years ago, and to date only about £500,000 has been approved for expenditure on such roads. Furthermore, only £79,000 has been actually spent. I hope that everything that has been said about that Act this evening will spur the Minister and his colleague in the Ministry of Agriculture to carry out the provisions of that Act vigorously.
I am not satisfied that the possibility of using small granite in the tremendous amount of aggregate which will be necessary in the construction of the Trawsfynydd atomic power plant has been properly investigated. I hope that the Minister will look into the matter, and will consult the authorities responsible—C.E.G.B. and the Minister of Power—to see whether Trefor and Penmaenmawr could not make a contribution to that vast, new and exciting construction.
Having said that we need to support the old industries of slate and granite, I must make it clear that we also need new industries. When we speak of new industries, Government supporters refer to prospects on the horizon, including the chemical works which has been mentioned by hon. Members opposite as possibly coming to the Caernarvon district. Can the Minister give us some information about that possibility tonight, and in particular whether he is now ready to give his decision on the public inquiry into the water scheme at Glynllifon which was held on 4th February. We are anxiously awaiting his decision on that point.
Further, about eighteen months ago we were told that the Central Electricity Authority had earmarked a site in Caernarvon, at Edeyrn, a site which, after exhaustive inquiry, was considered to be an excellent one for the Authority's purpose, that is, the erection of a nuclear energy generating station. Can the Minister tell us whether the intention to use this site for that purpose is still firm? We earnestly hope that the Government and the Authority have not been stampeded by self-appointed amenity societies who are more concerned to preserve a few score acres of scenery than to provide jobs for 550 local men, some of whom have been unemployed for months or even years. Who is to say how the land of Wales is to be disposed of—the Government of the day and their appointed agencies, or a handful of people some of whom live in Surbiton or Sheffield, and who regularly write in the English Press denouncing any attempt to use a corner of North Wales for the purpose of providing a livelihood for its people?
All these short-term measures need to be taken to strengthen our economy in the province of Gwynedd—an ancient province which has always been a reservoir of Welsh speech and thought. We will not solve the fundamental economic problem of that province unless we schedule the area, or appropriate parts of it, under the 1944 Act. All the conditions for scheduling parts of Caernarvonsh ire and North Merioneth and Anglesey are present—all the considerations posed in the Barlow Report and the legislation that followed it.
There is a decline in the traditional heavy industries in North Wales; there is a lack of diversification apparent in North Wales as in South Wales; there is a lack of opportunity for young people, and a decline in local services, because when there is chronic unemployment rateable values and other values tend to go down. All the conditions for scheduling are present. Once more I appeal to the Minister to look again at the question of scheduling appropriate areas of the three counties in North-West Wales. Hon. Members of all parties. including that of the right hon. Gentleman, are agreed on that as being the true solution for our difficulties.
Today, we have been debating the latest Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire. For a number of years we have received Reports covering a period of twelve months from July until the following June. The present Report covers a period of eighteen months, from July, 1957, until December, 1958. We are told that future Reports will cover the period of the calendar year which, I understand, is a matter of administrative convenience. I have no objection to this change of form. We are concerned about the content of the Report, and the present Report differs from the previous ones not only in form but in content.
This is probably the least encouraging Report we have had since these Reports were first issued about twelve years ago. It presents a very depressing picture of the economic situation in Wales. That is not due to any defect in the compilation of the Report. The Report is, indeed, factual, objective and accurate. But it covers a period when there was a serious deterioration in the economic situation in Wales. This affected our basic industries. It affected nearly all our other industries and the employment situation was severely affected. The Report brings out clearly the adverse changes which took place in Wales during the period under review.
First, there was a serious decline in the level of economic activity. Secondly, there was the closing down of the old sheet steel and tinplate works in West Wales. Thirdly, there was the decline in the demand for coal and the effect of this upon the South Wales mining industry. Fourthly, there was the overall rise in our unemployment figures and the existence of heavy pockets of local unemployment in many parts of Wales. These are the most important economic and social problems which now face us in Wales. They are not peculiarly Welsh problems and there is no special Welsh solution for them. They are problems of the British economy and they are problems of Government policy. They did not emerge in isolation in Wales. They arose as a result of change in the British economy and because of the policies pursued by the present Government.
I want to say one word about the mining industry in South Wales and more especially in West Wales. I appreciate that this is not a debate on the mining industry, but it is impossible to talk about the economic and social problems of South Wales without making some reference to the mining industry. The industry there has severely contracted over the last thirty years in the number of pits, in production and the number of men employed in the pits. But it is still an important industry in South Wales and it is one of our biggest industries. Nearly 100,000 men are employed in the coal industry and many communities depend entirely on coal.
Over the last two years a dramatic change has come over the mining industry. Since the war there has been an insatiable and increasing demand for coal. There was a shortage of coal and a shortage of miners to produce it. That position existed in all the coalfields and that was the position in South Wales. But in 1957 the demand for coal fell and it is continuing to fall. Now there is a surplus of coal and restrictions have had to be imposed upon its production. At the beginning of last year the Coal Board stopped recruitment at many collieries in South Wales.
At the beginning of this year six collieries in South Wales were closed and one colliery was partially closed. Nearly 3,000 men became redundant although a large number of them were found employment at other collieries. Three of these closures, and the partial closure, took place in the anthracite coalfield in West South Wales. Nearly 1,400 miners became redundant. Very few of these men could be transferred to other collieries, because there were no expanding collieries in that area. They could not find jobs in other industries because there are no other industries in the area.
The result is that at present there are over 1,000 skilled miners unemployed.
They have no prospect of employment near their homes—and most of them own their own homes—and several mining villages have become derelict. This is the area where the old sheet steel and tinplate mills had closed down. This is the area which already had a heavy concentration of unemployment. On top of this came the closure of the coal mines. And because of the failure of the Government to bring in new industries, many of these old-established communities in West South Wales have become depressed areas once again.
This debate on the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales has largely been concentrated on employment and industry, including agriculture. We recognise that the Report contains a great deal of valuable information, particularly in connection with the social services. It deals with the Health Service, education, road communications, and many other things that play an important part in the life of a community. Because of that we feel that all the social services should have special consideration, but they cannot be considered in the few hours which a Parliamentary day affords. I hope that the time is not far distant when a number of days will be allotted to discussing the serious problems which affect the Principality.
It is well known that the people of Wales are enthusiastic about improving education in the country generally. We should have been only too happy to have spent a little time in expressing our views on the need further to encourage the aspirations of the people of Wales. We should have liked to have said something about the lack of air and water services. They are very important social services, but overshadowing them all is the fact that nearly 44,000 of our fellow countrymen are unemployed. They are eking out an existence on unemployment benefit and National Assistance. Many whose standard of living was reasonably good in years gone by have been reduced to living on £4 or £5 a week.
In addition, the nation is losing the skill and productivity of men at a time when it is more than ever necessary to improve the economic position of the United Kingdom. It is, therefore, right that we have debated this Report today—and it has been an excellent debate from both sides of the House—and devoted a considerable amount of our time to this very important subject.
The people of Wales are very much disturbed by the fact that 44,000 of their fellow-countrymen are unemployed. There is deep concern in the valleys and villages of Wales at that fact. I appreciate that the Minister for Welsh Affairs has been doing all he can to bring new industries to Wales. He has been using his influence with his colleagues, but we have to bear in mind, although it is unfortunate for him, that since he has been the Minister the unemployment figures have risen from 28,000 to 44,000. I suppose that he is a victim of Government policy, but he has supported that policy throughout.
He must share responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves. It is said that restrictions previously imposed by the Government have now been removed and that there is some reduction in taxation. We are hoping that that will result in some improvment of the position, but the fact remains that there is considerable uncertainty and anxiety as to whether it will bring any appreciable benefit to the people of this country.
With the coming on of the summer season, we can expect a reduction in unemployment to some extent. Nevertheless, the position is very grave. We have heard enough from my hon. Friends to show that. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) has spoken of 8 per cent. unemployment in the Rhondda Valley, and other hon. Friends of mine have spoken of 5 per cent. unemployed in Abertillery. In West Wales it is 8·6 per cent. These are serious figures which exist in spite of the expanding economy about which we hear so much at present.
In addition, there is the situation at Cardiff and Barry Docks. My hon Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put a Question to the Minister of Labour the other day. The Answer showed that the unemployment figure for shipbuilding and ship-repairing workers is 18·8 per cent. In my constituency, two factories recently closed down. Not a large number of people were put out of work, but there were more than 100 and these numbers go to swell the total.
Reference has been made to the position in North-West Wales. I do not want to labour the point, but the situation in North-West Wales as a whole remains as grave as ever. If there is a marginal decrease during the summer months that may be due to the tourist trade and to depopulation. We cannot expect the unemployed to be absorbed in Anglesey or Caernarvonshire, but we were glad to hear that an advance factory is to be built in Anglesey. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) is glad to hear that, too, because he has worked so untiringly to bring it about. I am convinced that the problem of North Wales can be resolved if there is sufficient imagination.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) again today drew attention to the decline in the slate industry in Merioneth and Caernarvonshire. What have the Government done about that? The Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, Lord Brecon, has a thorough knowledge of the quarries and slate industry. In view of that intimate knowledge, we should expect that things would have been improved there, but they have deteriorated. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there should be a Government survey of the industry. There is clearly a need for speedier mechanisation and a better marketing organisation if the industry is to survive. Anglesey and the other counties cannot live on promises. Positive Government intervention is called for as a matter of urgency.
Would the Minister not agree that a large number of local authorities in areas in which unemployment exists in North-West Wales have not the necessary finance to provide basic services? He knows that the product of a 1d. rate in those areas is very small. Does he not agree that in those circumstances it is reasonable that the areas should be brought within the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act, which would allow those local authorities to call for assistance for basic services under Sections 3 and 5? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some hope in this direction. It would go a long way to assist those local authorities if they could have grants of assistance, under Section 3 in particular. It would create employment and give confidence to the people there.
On the assets side, I quite agree we have reason to be pleased, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, that the Pressed Steel Company is beginning operations in South-West Wales. We are pleased that the strip mill at Llanwern is now in the offing and will soon be under way. We view these assets with a great deal of optimism, but, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, they will not touch the problem in the valleys of Wales, where unemployment is still serious. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) pointed out that we face a serious position in the mining industry.
It is becoming acute and communities in the mining valleys are asking what is to be their future. They see pits closing and coal being stocked. I know that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is not directly connected with the coal mining industry, but he should be fully aware that this is a question of planning and of taking every precaution to meet future emergencies. This was the theme of the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) and it has been the theme of the debate. In 1957 coal consumption fell by 7 million tons. There was a fall of 13 million tons in 1958. Consumption in the first 13 weeks of this year was 4,314,000 tons less than in the first 13 weeks of last year. If the present trends continue consumption will be down by 14 million tons at the end of the year.
When he visited Wales, the Parliamentary Secretary struck a note of optimism which we should have been delighted to share with him, but we all know the state of the industry. If we do not share his optimism surely we cannot be accused of scepticism. The right hon. Gentleman himself struck the same note of optimism when he opened the debate on 11th February, 1957, because he told us that the outlook in coal and steel was satisfactory. I do not know whether he could bring the closing of pits within his definition of "satisfactory", but, as he knows, in the last twelve months we have seen the closing of several pits and 2,370 men have been declared redundant. Indeed, 1,100 are still idle. Efforts are being made by the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers by which it is hoped to reduce the figure to 800. I dread to think what might have happened under private ownership.
But I warn the House, speaking from a Welsh point of view, that if we are to have a further closing of pits in South Wales, the Coal Board will be unable to reabsorb all the men declared redundant, however good the Board's intentions. We may be faced with this problem. We hope not, but here again we should be prepared for the future.
I hope that without delay the Minister will enter into consultations with the Minister of Power and the Coal Board to obtain an assessment of the situation. What are the plans? Is there a likelihood of certain pits being closed next year? If so, where? Where are these pits which are likely to be closed? What will be the local circumstances if they are closed? Is there a factory nearby? How many men can be reabsorbed into the Board's pits? Have the Government any programme to assist the men who cannot be reabsorbed into the mining industry? We do not expect the Government to place a factory in every small village, but if we are faced with serious unemployment we say that we should look at the situation and endeavour to attract industry into those areas in order to absorb the men who are declared redundant.
I should like to draw attention to the increased consumption of oil. It is evident that the Government are following a policy of cut-throat competition between the fuel industries. It is not a policy of supplementation between these industries, whereby they would work together, with so much allocated to coal, so much to oil and so much to gas, for example. It is a policy of competition. That is the policy which the Government are following at present.
I remind the House that if we cut back the demand for coal by 1 million tons it means a reduction in manpower of 4,000 men. The Government are sacrificing the mining industry. Indeed, it seems to me that they are gradually wiping it out. When hon. Members on this side speak of the problem of the mining industry they do not advocate that the consumption of oil should be stopped altogether. We say that there should be limits to the consumption of oil. There should be some plan to deal with the situation. I warn the Ministry that unemployment, like oil, has its price, and that to create unemployment in this great industry by extending the use of oil will be a costly affair.
We have to look at the social problem. If pits are closed, what will it mean to the valleys of South Wales? I realise that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is not responsible to the House for the mining industry, but I beg him to enter into consultation with the Minister of Power to see what the position is likely to be. Perhaps he will be able to give us some information the next time we have an opportunity to discuss Welsh affairs. Forewarned is forearmed, and if there has not already been consultation between the Ministries, I hope that there will be consultation in the near future.
Recruitment of young people into the mining industry has almost ceased in the valleys of South Wales, and that has added to the problem, which has been referred to in the debate as the teenage problem. There is a lack of employment for young people. Our information is that 3,619 boys and girls under 18 are registering at employment exchanges in Wales. That figure is bad enough, but it is not the whole story. Bad as it sounds, the full story is far worse. I say that without any exaggeration.
When young people leave school at the age of 15 they register at the youth employment offices. There is no payment for them, and although they register perhaps for three or four periods, they then cease to register, and we lose sight of them because they are not on the books. They are without work, but no record is kept of them. For the moment, I am not saying that a record could be kept, but the fact is that there are many more unemployed than the 3,619 I mentioned.
In addition, we have to realise that many parents in Wales, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, recognising the serious unemployment situation, are keeping their children at school. In all the circumstances this is a wise policy, but it means that the problem is accumulating. At the beginning of the Summer Recess, many of them will be leaving school, and we shall enter that first substantial stage of the "bulge". Then we shall see how serious the position will be.
I would say to employers and to the trade unions that they should get together to try to see what further steps can be taken in this direction, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll Williams) has said, there is nothing worse for young people than frustration or boredom. We have enough evidence in the papers every day showing what frustration and boredom mean to our young people. I make this suggestion from a personal point of view. I feel that perhaps the trade unions and the industrialists might get together to reduce the apprenticeship term of five years. Five years is the generally accepted period for an apprenticeship, but, with training. the increase in technical education and the co-operation of the employers, if they could, as my hon. Friend suggested, do what was done by Mr. Nicholas, of Switchgear, they would get on with the job in a much better way.
However, at present it is a period of five years. Can it be reduced to four? I am sure that if the trade unions and the employers get together they might make some arrangement for the adjustment which would be required in wages, because the apprentice would become entitled to a man's wage at 20 instead of 21, and, therefore, alteration in wage rates would be required. Here is the opportunity. If it can be taken and the period reduced to four years, we could then bring in more young people.
The Industrial Development Association for Wales made a suggestion in this connection in a recent memorandum. It makes reference to problems of youth employment, and suggests that the Government should consider granting special concessions in favour of firms operating an apprenticeship training scheme, possibly by way of tax reliefs and assistance in the placing of Government contracts. The lack of employment is not confined to industrial districts, because there is a similar position in agricultural areas.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham, in opening the debate, referred to the disabled. There are now 5,000 disabled in Wales, and I do not see much prospect at the moment of reducing this figure unless some definite action is taken by the Government. I think that it would be wise to see what could be done by entering into negotiations with Remploy to see whether that scheme could come to our assistance, but there is one aspect of this matter to which I would draw special attention.
Many of these young people are also disabled young people, who may have been attacked by poliomyelitis, or, from some natural cause, are not fully able to work, and who require suitable work. They register with the youth employment officer, but what hope have they got? When the youth employment officer applies to the employer, he finds that the employer has already taken his statutory 3 per cent. and is not able to take any more. Therefore, there is very little hope for them. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will discuss this matter with his colleagues in the other Government Departments.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham that so little has been said about youth employment in this Report. No hope is held out, no positive suggestions are put forward, but I am sure that the trade unions will be glad to help in this matter. I therefore hope that consideration will be given to that problem. I try to be practical in this matter. I am not unmindful of the difficulties facing the Government, but the trouble is that they have left this so late. They have had the Distribution of Industry Act in cold storage for the last four or five years, and now they must make amends. Time is not on their side. We are facing a problem of 44,000 unemployed, and if the Government had put the Distribution of Industry Act effectively into operation three or four years ago they would have found themselves in a much happier position than they are in today. Section 5 of the Act has been put into operation only recently. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly pointed out, it was withdrawn in 1953.
We have recently been told that the issue of industrial development certificates in the congested areas has been tightened up, but that should have been done long ago. I agree that in the last six months we have seen some evidence on the part of the Government to put some life into this scheme, but I accuse them tonight of the years of neglect—though I still hope that they can make up the arrears, for which they are equally responsible.
I listened with interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) had to say about agriculture. He drew attention to the plight of the rural areas, and to their continuing depopulation. The most important thing there is an efficient agricultural industry, with guaranteed prices and a guaranteed market. Labour legislation provided that in the upland areas, and accomplished a great deal of good for small farmers. What is now required is confidence in the future on the part of both the producer and the farm worker. I am glad, too, that my hon. Friend drew attention to basic services, particularly in the spheres of local amenities. If the local amenities are lacking, the young people will leave the villages and the land.
The theme of this debate has been planning and future preparedness for emergency. The Government have not done much in that direction in the past, but I hope that this debate will urge them on to do a lot in the future. We do not agree with one another on methods, perhaps, but I am sure that all hon. Members have at heart the one object of further reducing the unemployment figures, and so giving happiness and comfort to the people of Wales—those cultured men and women, many of whom are very worried today. They have contributed much to the country's economy, and to its culture, and I hope that as a result of the debate the Government will take the tip, and prepare.
There are still serious times ahead. If we have convinced the Government tonight of the need to tackle unemployment in Wales, this debate will have been well worth while.
The Government need no convincing, because we have long recognised that the greatest need of the Principality is to reduce unemployment. I wholly agreed with the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) when, in his most interesting opening speech, he remarked that Wales is a national unity but not an economic unit. Wales is and must be integrated with Britain, and all of us have to recognise that.
We all know that in Wales there is at least a certain doubt whether she gets a fair crack of the whip from England, but at any rate we have managed to usurp St. George's Day to debate the affairs of the Principality of St. David. My one regret about this fascinating debate is that we have not had a contribution from the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). We shall always be pleased to see him in his place when Welsh affairs are under discussion.
I think that it was my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture who said that there were a lot of Jeremiahs about. As the debate continued, I wondered whether we were moving from Jeremiah to Lamentations. The difference between most hon. Members opposite and the prophets of old is that the prophets of old invariably had something concrete and practical to say whereas I found that there was a lack of practical suggestions today. I grant at once that a number of speeches were addressed to what the hon. Member for Wrexham described as economic politics. I thought that others were addressed to politics without the economics.
One's mind cannot help going back to previous Welsh debates. The last one—and I except the special occasion in July—was in December, 1957, when the principal subject of debate was the appointment of Mr. Lewis, as he then was, now my noble Friend Lord Brecon. I think that it was the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who has not been able to speak today, who said that Wales had turned sour on the appointment of a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. Wales has turned sweet on it ever after, because, if one spoke to Welshmen of any age of any part of Wales and of any political faith they would all say that the man who has given outstanding service to the Principality during the last 15 months has been my noble Friend.
Another subject on which we might have had a debate, but the Opposition did not ask for it, was when the Chairman of the Council for Wales resigned in November and the Prime Minister appointed me in his stead. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) referred to the Council for Wales and asked me to say something about it.
The Council has held three meetings under my chairmanship. I believe that any member of the Council would say that it was doing valuable and constructive work. In particular, one of its panels is addressing itself to a major Welsh question which, curiously enough, has been hardly mentioned today, namely, the tourist industry. I certainly do not claim that the attraction of holiday makers is a complete solution to the economic problems of any area, but it is a very important element. I should like to see the parts of Wales where holiday makers might go, providing first rate facilities and attractively served food. If that were achieved I think that there would be less need to lay stress on the romance of the mountains. But I emphasise that both those things are desirable if we are to bring to Wales all those who can come and spend money therein.
The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan asked me not to fail to make some reference to the constitutional arrangements. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) created the post of Minister for Welsh Affairs in 1951. A degree of coordination has now been attained among all the Government Departments in matters affecting the Principality which certainly never existed in previous years. I trust that in the two and a half years that I have held the office I have managed to strengthen and improve that collaboration. I keep in touch with all my right hon. and hon. Friends on these matters, and although it may not always appear in public, they invariably consult me about every Welsh matter which they handle.
What became clearly apparent to me was that the Minister for Welsh Affairs—it would apply equally to a Secretary of State for Wales—is bound, through being a Member of the Cabinet, to be tied largely to London, just as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is. That is why there was a powerful case for the appointment of a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, a member of another place, who could be based in Wales and spend most of his time there.
Among the Government Departments in Cardiff and Aberystwyth we have achieved complete co-ordination. I take the chair every three or four months at a meeting of the heads of Government Departments in Wales. When the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) criticises the Rural Wales Committee for not having reported that it had met Lord Brecon, I should like to mention that all the members of the Rural Wales Committee meet Lord Brecon frequently at the conferences which I have just indicated. In addition, as the House may know, Lord Brecon is holding fortnightly conferences of the senior civil servants who are concerned with unemployment in Wales so that he may watch and guide throughout all the anti-unemployment action which is being taken.
In addition, there has been steady devolution of administrative functions to Wales. We now have a Transport Commissioner for Wales, whereas formerly there was never a senior administrative officer of the Ministry of Transport in Wales.
Not administrative; technical. There has been a substantial shift of administrative work in the Ministry of Education from London to Cardiff, and I understand that further devolution of certain services in the case of the Welsh Board of Health will come shortly.
I was grateful to several hon. Members who referred to the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales as a valuable Report. Others attached different epithets to it. I trust the House agrees that it is better to have the Report on a calendar year basis, when we can get it published within eight or nine weeks of the end of the calendar year, than to run it to the end of June and not be able to publish it until November.
These constitutional and administrative changes which have been described have resulted only in a substantial increase in unemployment. I am reminded of the saying, if Mr. Speaker will excuse me, that I can see the bleeding harness but where is the bloody horse?
The hon. Member perhaps knows more about bloody horses than others of us. If he thinks that action to devolve administrative work from London to Cardiff causes unemployment in Wales, he should say that in his constituency.
One or two hon. Members suggested that there should be a greater service of statistics in the Report. We have hitherto published the statistics separately in the digest. I consider it better to try to make the Report a readable document than so to fill it up with figures that nobody will open it. If any hon. Member on either side has any suggestions to make for ways in which we could improve the content of the Report and make it more interesting and valuable, no one would be more happy than I to hear of them.
We have today, through the decision of the Welsh Parliamentary Party to concentrate on employment and agricultural questions, necessarily omitted much else that is going on. There has been a greater progress in educational building during the last seven years in Wales than ever before in Welsh history. Most important hospital projects are on foot and similarly over the whole field of the social services.
The Rev. Ll. Williams:
The Minister was absent from the House when I made a suggestion, which I hope was conveyed to him, about the possibility of having two days for debate, one to discuss, as we have done today, industry and employment, and another to discuss the social services, which are set out in this fine Government Report.
I am sorry that I missed some of the hon. Member's speech. As he knows, I do not arrange the business of the House, but I certainly shall be prepared to answer on Welsh affairs whenever Parliament desires to discuss Wales.
What I shall seek to do in the next half hour is to try to take a view all round the Principality, and in so doing to reply to as many of the questions asked by hon. Members as I can. If I miss any of them, I trust that they will forgive me. The view is one of contrast. Just as every morning in Wales there is the contrast between light and shade because Wales is a land of hills and in the morning and the evening the hills cast long shadows, so when we look round Wales today and at the economic life of Wales one is equally conscious of the light and the shade.
There is throughout a great part of Wales high prosperity and a very favourable level of employment, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) rightly said in his speech. There are also dark spots—spots where life is sad, where the homes are anxious, where difficulties seem to press on the family and no one knows for certain what the future will be. These spots appear darker just because they are seen against the rest. The fact that the great majority of people in Wales are better off than they ever were before renders the dark spots harsher by contrast than they would otherwise be.
I suppose that the earnings level in Wales in, say, Port Talbot or in many of the modern factories has never been equalled in Wales of old. Alongside that we have unemployment far higher than it should be among boys and girls. That I regard as the gravest social problem of the Principality at the present time.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) said that the trouble was largely structural unemployment, and structural unemployment could only be remedied in an atmosphere of expansion. The Budget of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is designed first and foremost to bring about an atmosphere of expansion. I gather that his proposals to do that do not wholly commend themselves to the Opposition. Our policy as a Government is a policy of expansion and I doubt whether we should achieve the sort of expansion that the hon. Member for Ogmore wants by starting off by putting a tax on oil.
The figures of unemployment in Wales this winter have been serious. There was a hopeful reduction in March. I have no reason to doubt, although the full figures are not yet available to me, that that trend will be found to have continued in April.
The Government's approach to all these matters is threefold. First, to bring the right remedies to the dark spots. Secondly, to achieve success in stabilising the population in Mid-Wales, which is not a new problem but one which has been with us since the nineteenth century. Thirdly, to cast our minds ahead to see whether we can identify and isolate the economic problems of the future and take what action is open to us now to anticipate them One can to some extent forecast what will happen. What is almost impossible for any Government to do is to forecast the date at which it will happen. That was the truth about the old hand tinplate mills. When I talked of casting our minds ahead, I was thinking of what the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) said when he was speaking of the future of the coal industry. I constantly have in mind the communities at the tops of the mining valleys, where often one finds the older and deeper pits where much of the coal has been worked out, and one wonders whether those communities created there, first by iron ore and then by coal, can have a continuous survival at anything like their present population over the next century.
The Rev. Ll. Williams:
In view of that prognostication, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that a very practical way for any Government would be to try to stimulate new industries in these areas which otherwise may be inevitably doomed in future?
I was not making a prognostication but saying that we should cast our minds ahead to try to see what may well be the economic problems of the future as well as of the present day. I am sure that the hon. Member will recognise that some of these valleys are so narrow that it would be difficult to find places which would be attractive to industrialists, but I entirely agree with him that we must pay attention to these matters and see what steps we can take now to ease the transition which there may have to be.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what steps the Government are taking to bring industries to the isolated communities where the mines have already closed—not prognostications about the future?
I was just comin2 to the area which the hon. Lady represents. The largest of these difficult areas of Wales is undoubtedly the area of the old steel works and hand tinplate mills. There, as the hon. Lady so well knows, the problems have been accentuated by the closure of certain anthracite mines. Those closures of pits led to the redundancy of 2,680 miners, a very serious problem indeed. I am glad to say that out of the 2,680 only 1,100 now are registering for employment, which shows that there is more resilience than perhaps some people would allow. I believe that more of these 1,100 will be required before long to meet wastage in other pits. This is one of the most intractable problems in the whole of Wales.
The Opposition must make up its mind whether it wants a planned economy or not, and, if it does, what it means by it. A number of the speeches by hon. Members opposite to which I have listened showed a distinct leaning towards the direction of industry, but then the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) got up and said that it was no part of Labour Party policy. If there is no direction of industry, I wonder whether the planned economy is nothing more than a catch-phrase, a kind of incantation. None of us will solve the problems of Wales by incantation.
I tried to indicate that, using the Distribution of Industry Act fully and using location certificates rigidly, we were able to produce between 1945 and 1951 a situation in Wales which has never been equalled. It is the Government's failure to use this same procedure that has produced the present criticism in Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman says that what his hon. and right hon. Friends accomplished has never been equalled. I should like to give figures of industrial buildings and extensions. Last year in Wales 2,800,000 sq. ft. of new or extended industrial buildings were completed. As the House knows, or ought to know, Wales contains 41 per cent. of the insured population of Great Britain, but the figure which I have quoted of 2,800,000 sq. ft. of new industrial building was not 4½ per cent. but 6½ per cent. of the total area completed in Great Britain. So Wales under this Government is getting its full share and more. In fact, we have been so successful in attracting private industry to the West South Wales area that there are now between 9,000 and 10,000 new jobs definitely in view.
Hon. Members may ask why was not this action taken sooner so that all this work would have been available immediately the hand mills closed? The answer is that less than three years ago there was full employment in that area, and we could not attract new industry to an area where Italians were being brought in to work in the existing mills.
As I told the House the other day, we have approved extra public work of one kind or another, designed to relieve unemployment in Wales, to the value of £1¾ million. In fact, by now the figure is probably higher than that, but we are using to the full what I believe has always been accepted in theory as a proper remedy for an interim period of unemployment, that is the stimulation of valuable work that can be put in hand by the local authorities.
Those figures I have quoted of new industrial building were for completions. They do not include work which is being put in hand now, such as the new Pressed Steel factory which has been started this year. They do not include the new steel works and strip mill which is to go up near Newport. All that is coming along, and all that points to a bright future for the whole belt of industrial South Wales, from Llanelly in the west to Newport in the East.
On top of that, we have had formed, largely by the enterprise of my noble Friend Lord Brecon, but under the splendid leadership of Sir Miles Thomas, the Development Corporation for Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), in his excellent speech, asked about its activities in America. The Corporation already has a representative appointed in New York. My hon. Friend also asked about the research it was doing into the absence of strikes in the Principality. That is going on, and I feel sure that the information will be made available as soon as possible.
We have the work of D.A.T.A.C. I should perhaps break off here to give the House the total figures for Wales. There have been thirty-four applications for D.A.T.A.C. facilities, of which six have been approved and nine have been rejected. There was evidence that there were numbers of firms in the D.A.T.A.C. areas which were not fully aware of the facilities available to them. Officials of the Board of Trade have visited no fewer than 180 firms in Wales in the recent past in order to make certain that every firm which could take advantage of D.A.T.A.C. is aware of what could be done.
Reference was made to factory rentals. A statement was made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade about the policy that was being pursued by his Department in this matter. I cannot go into it in detail. I can only ask the House not to be led astray by one or two cases which have hit the headlines, but where I am sure from my own knowledge that certain individuals were hoping to be able to rent factory space at fantastically low figures. In fact, the Board of Trade is ready to make appropriate concessions in all cases where that will be necessary to attract industry. I do not believe that either side of the House would wish factory space to be made available for practically nothing just because an industrialist demanded an absurdly low figure.
Whilst not disagreeing with the right hon. Gentleman, will he not concede that in the top ends of the Valleys and in the culs-de-sac, where there are extra transport costs, and so on, and the area is naturally unattractive, there must be a preferential rate?
I have satisfied myself that the Board of Trade takes that into account, and where there is a vacant factory in a place to which it would appear to be definitely difficult to attract any industrialist on normal terms, it is prepared to make substantial concessions in order to let the factories.
Linked up with this problem of unemployment in South Wales is the state of roads and communications. The Government have embarked upon the largest trunk road improvement programme that Wales has ever seen. The principal object of that is to establish road communications between South Wales, West South Wales and Birmingham and the Midlands, so that it is possible for anybody, and not only industrialists, to travel at high speed from one to the other. The Severn Bridge is to go ahead, there is to be a further road bridge over the Usk, at Newport, as soon as the line can be settled, and I would tell my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that it is fully intended to improve the road link between Newport and the Ross Spur—Heads of the Valley Road, in order that there may be quick transport to the ports as well as to the west.
The work at Port Talbot is going ahead. We all deplore the long delay that occurred through the difference of opinion whether the removal of the level crossing should be given priority over all else. The first stage of the work, which will be at the western end of the town, will be the first to be put in hand. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West, who is not able to be with us now, hoped that I would be in a position to give a definite forecast about coal employment in South Wales. I cannot do that, because it all depends upon the review now being undertaken by the National Coal Board. He said that unemployment had been at 10 per cent. in the Rhondda, and he thought that it might now be down to about 8 per cent. I can assure him that when the figures come out he is likely to see that it is nearer 6 per cent. than 8 per cent.
Linked with the matter of communications is the state of South Wales docks. They have faced the tremendous task of having to change over on the loss of the coal export trade. Newport has been most successful, and Cardiff has suffered worst. My noble Friend Lord Brecon is making this his special study at present. He has visited Cardiff and Barry Docks in the last few days and is intending to continue his visits and to go to Swansea, Port Talbot and Newport.
I was asked about freight charges. The British Transport Commission is introducing its new system of charging in the South Wales ports on 1st May. This is not a complete solution to the problem. It takes the freight up to the transit shed. There is then the further question of handling at the transit shed and loading on to the ship. I understand that in that matter the British Liner Committee is being pressed by the Industrial Association. It is a tradition of the port to arrange these matters in a way differently from other ports. It is never easy to change old traditions, but the House can be sure that Lord Brecon, the Minister of Transport and I will do all we can to effect improvements in all the South Wales docks, including Cardiff. First and foremost, however, it is a matter for the Transport Commission.
Civil aviation has been referred to. What would help civil aviation in Wales more than anything would be for more Welshmen to travel by air. Provided we can get sufficient traffic the operators will be able to run these lines with confidence, but unless the traffic is there it is extremely dangerous to imagine that we can rely endlessly on running an air service at a loss. There must be more support from Wales if Wales is to get the civil aviation service which is worthy of it.
Since my right hon. Friend has so kindly referred to the development of civil aviation in Wales, can he say whether it would be possible to develop the whole of Wales—north, south and the middle—not by air line services but by helicopter services?
Would the Minister say what he is prepared to do to get us Customs facilities so that we can induce industrialists to use the air service without having to drop down 45 miles away for the customs? Can he also be more specific in his reference to Port Talbot, and tell us when work is likely to commence?
I cannot give a definite date for Port Talbot. As regards Swansea Airport, I had understood that the Customs authorities were willing to provide customs facilities on call, when aircraft landed there. I am sure that that undertaking has not been withdrawn.
There are many other parts of Wales with which I want to deal, and I only have ten minutes in which to do so. I want to move westwards, to Milford Haven. On both sides of the Haven unemployment has been falling. That area has been a black spot for very many years. There seems no reason why the great Esso refinery should not go full speed ahead, and there is the other work on the B.P. terminal and the iron ore terminal, and there may be more. Certainly, there is good reason to hope that Milford Haven, on both its sides, has a fairer prospect to look forward to.
Passing over the important county of Cardigan for a moment, I want to fly by helicopter to the North. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) knows that unemployment, which is far too high in Caernarvonshire, is falling. He appealed for the area to be scheduled as a Development Area. That question has been discussed for ten years and more. When in power the Labour Government had it urged upon them, but they always said no. We, too, feel that that is not the real solution. I dearly hope that the Ashburton Chemical Works project at Glynllifon Park will go forward, and I hope to be able to give my decision on the water order within the next few days.
But even then it was something like 6 per cent.
The granite and stone industries in that county will benefit from the expansion of the public works programme of the Government. I think that the slate industry needs not more inquiries but more orders. There is no other solution for the problems of that industry, and I trust that it will go all out to get the orders. I believe that there are orders which could be obtained.
Atomic power has been pressed forward and the power station at Trawsfynydd will relieve unemployment in South Caernarvonshire and Merioneth. Regarding Edeyrn, it is for the Central Electricity Generating Board to decide where it wants to put a power station. I can assure the hon. Member that the Government have not been bringing pressure to bear on it to go to one place in North Wales rather than to another. It has not put in a planning application for any place and the Government can take no action until a planning application comes in.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether there might be distribution of industry grants for the removal of overburden. Not distribution of industry grants, but it would be reasonable to put in a D.A.T.A.C. application. Whether it would qualify I cannot say, because it would depend on the merits of the case, but there would be nothing out of order in making an application for a D.A.T.A.C. grant if the purpose was to assist with employment.
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) has not been able to speak in this debate. In some ways Anglesey is the hardest county of all to help in the matter of unemployment because of the necessity for industrialists to cross the water, and every industrialist needs an extra bit of inducement to do that. I wish to tell the House that the Government, having decided to build a new factory in Wales and that Anglesey should be the place, and the people of Anglesey not being able to decide among themselves whether it should be at Llangefni or Amlwch or Holyhead, the Government, after consultation, came to the conclusion that the right place was Holyhead.
The hon. Member for Carnarvon and others spoke about the migration of youth. The hon. Member for Wrexham used the phrase "splintering the Welsh nation" which was a danger to the national life. I know that he and other hon. Members have the fear that the best blood of Wales may be drained off to England. However, there are exaggerated views about what is happening in this respect. Over the four years from 1954–57 in the county of Anglesey, more than 2,000 boys and girls obtained employment within their home county straight from school and only 86 were placed outside the county. The corresponding figures for Carnarvonshire are 4,296 within the county and only 200 outside. I hope that will belie the fear that there is never any work in these counties of Gwynedd for those leaving school.
Finally, I come to Mid-Wales. I heartily endorse the praise accorded to the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association and what it has said, as mentioned in paragraph 480 of the Report, about the need for realism among those seeking to attract industry to Mid-Wales. The Government are encouraging the provi- sion of electricity and water to the farms and villages. When we came to power in 1951, 15 per cent. of the farms that might have been provided with electricity had had it, and now the figure is well over 50 per cent.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Barry, I would say that 1,213 farms were connected with the mains in North Wales last year. Similarly we are pressing forward constantly to bring water and sewerage facilities to these farms and villages. For the benefit of Welsh farming, the coming of water may be even more important than electricity.
The hon. Member for Wrexham quoted as a dig against the Government words from paragraph 479 of the Report that adverse economic climate caused the failure of a few small factories. He did not quote the following lines—
… but a great many continued with success and some expanded even in a situation which, at first sight, would appear to be unfavourable.
That is a truer summing up of what is happening in Wales. The Government will support the forces working for employment with all the power we have.
The right hon. Member for Caerphilly said that the present position offers a great Challenge. The Government have taken up that challenge. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West asked where the Tory rainbow ended. The Tory rainbow ends for Wales, as it did in the fairy story, with a crock of gold.