I wish to begin by making a suggestion to the Minister for Welsh Affairs which would help hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and would provide in the next Session of Parliament further opportunities for us to discuss the matter which obviously aroused intense interest earlier in our proceedings today. I suggest that in the Annual Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1961 there should be included one short paragraph referring to leasehold reform. That would bring the matter within the purview of the Welsh Grand Committee and we should ask for two extra days to discuss it in the Welsh Grand Committee.
We thought that we had a duty to take at least part of the one day that we get on the Floor of the House to discuss Welsh matters to deal with the nagging problem, which still continues, of the intense difficulties being experienced by elderly and disabled workmen in Wales in securing employment. We know that the other problem is of very great importance, but this one has great human interest, and we therefore feel justified in directing the attention of the House to some of their problems. I am glad to see the Minister of Labour present, and we are gratified to know that he is to reply to the points that we raise.
The problem of disabled and elderly workers cannot be considered except in the context of the general employment situation. While we welcome the improvement which has taken place, there are still difficulties. I wish to raise a few points about the general employment situation and the figures of unemployment in Wales in the hope that the Minister will be able to comment on them.
At 20th June, 1961, the number of unemployed in Wales was 20,024. That represented 2·1 per cent, of the number of registered workers at the unemployment exchanges in the Principality. This is twice the national average. Wales is one of the ten areas for which figures are provided on a regional basis. The figure of unemployment in Wales is the second highest of the ten. The only other area with a higher figure of unemployment than Wales is Scotland. I speak for the whole of Wales when I say that we shall not be content until our figure of unemployment is at least as low as the national average.
I have looked up the figures of registered unemployed during the month of June in each of the last four years. It would appear that we have become stuck. The figures are as follows: 1958, 20,156; 1959, 19,446; 1960, 21,653; and 1961, 20,024. I should like to ask the Minister what are the prospects in the coming year of being able to reduce this figure of about 20,000. Or is the Minister complacent and satisfied that, so long as the figure remains at 20,000, although it represents 2·1 per cent. of registered workers and twice the national unemployment average, it is a satisfactory figure for Wales?
I wish to say something based on a very interesting table which is to be found on page 23 of the June issue of the Ministry of Labour Gazette. I ask the Minister to make this a regular feature, because it deals with something which deserves consideration. The figures of unemployment, particularly concerning the older industrial areas—Wales is one of them—are no longer a true reflection of the problem of unemployment in the Principality, or indeed in Scotland or in any of the older industrial areas. The table shows the shift of working population which is taking place and of which full account must be taken when we discuss these problems. It is a revealing table, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides will look at it.
The table gives figures to describe what it calls the movement of population from one region to another—the inter-regional immigration of labour. It is extraordinarily interesting. The areas are grouped together and cover the great conurbations of London, Southern, South-Eastern and Eastern England. These are the areas to which industries and populations are moving. In the year ending May, 1960, there was a not gain in registered workers in those regions of 36,000. In the other great conurbation to which there is a movement, particularly from Wales, Birmingham and the Midlands, there was a net gain of 7,000.
Then we come to the other areas. In Scotland there was a net loss of 16,000 registered workers in one year. For a country like Scotland that is a very big loss. In the North and North-West, the old industrial areas of Lancashire, Northumberland and Cumberland, there was a net loss of 13,000. In Wales there was a net loss of 4,000. The figure of 20,000 unemployed in Wales does not reveal the true situation. It is 20,000 plus the net loss of 4,000. This is going on every year. I hope, therefore, that the President of the Board of Trade and the Government do not think that the distribution of industries is by any means solved.
We are confronted with a great technological revolution. We welcome the promise of the new industrial revolution. None of us who travels these days, as so many of us do—and as I shall be doing again tomorrow, from the Severn to the Tawe, along the main line—and sees these giant plants going up can but feel a thrill of promise, particularly when we remember the bad old days.
There are, however, two facts about these developments to which I want to call attention. First, what disturbs me in this development and in what I see happening in Wales is that it is all going to the coast. I have said this before and I make no apology for repeating it in the presence of the Minister for Welsh Affairs. If in twenty years' time the bulk of the population of Wales lives on the coast, with every respect to Cardiff and even more to Llanelly, and if as a consequence the valleys become dormitories, something very precious will have been lost to us.
The other aspect which is relevant to the problem of the elderly and the disabled is that we are dealing with the problem of those who, in the main, remain in the valleys. The new works are far away. For the young and for the able-bodied, it is easy to travel ten or twenty miles in the morning and back in the evening, but for the elderly and the disabled, this adds to their difficulties and to their problem. Whereas, therefore, these new develepments bring promise to the young, they add to the grievance of the old and the disabled. They see all this new promise coming, but it is not for them.
I will be as short as I can because a number of other hon. Members wish to speak and have important contributions to make. I come now to the problem of the elderly in Wales. I am sorry to bother the House again with statistics, but they are essential to an understanding of the problem. Table 27 on page 26 of the Digest of Welsh Statistics gives for December, 1951, an age distribution related to duration of unemployment of registered workers in Wales and Monmouthshire. I will give a fair summary which illustrates the problem of the difficulty of the elderly to get work.
Of those under 20 years of age who were unemployed in December, 1951, 1 in 20 had been unemployed for more than a year. Of those in the 20 to 40 age range, 1 in 6 had been unemployed for over a year. Between the ages of 40 and 55, 1 in 3 had been unemployed for over a year, whilst for those over the age of 55 the proportion was one-half. This clearly reveals how very difficult it is for the elderly people to secure work.
Let me make a few suggestions. I will take examples from merely one industry, steel and tinplate. During the last few years there has been a tremendous revolution in Wales. At one time there were 400 mills employing 24,000 workmen. Now we have Margam and Trostre, and shortly we shall have Llanwern. I have already spoken about the promise of these developments, but let us look at the other side of the picture.
There are the victims of technological change. There are the men who have learnt their craft, and a very skilled craft it was. In the old tinplate industry, there were the rollermen, the furnacemen, the shearers and the rest. They are fine men. It is not my industry, but I have lived with these men. Members of my family have worked in the industry. It was the only other industry apart from the pits.
Suddenly, by technological development, not only do those men lose their jobs, but their craft becomes meaningless and at the age of 45 or 50 they are out of work. The nation needs them. They are the salt of the earth. They are the owner-occupiers of whom we have been speaking earlier this evening. They are fine citizens. Therefore, I ask the Minister during the next twelve months of his administration, if he is still in office and has not been swallowed by the Common Market or something like that, to make a special study of this problem, which is of tremendous importance. We ought to concentrate upon it.
I am sure that the Minister and the House will agree with me that to say to a man at the age of 45 that because of these technological changes, the shift of industry or something like that, there is nothing for him except for the rest of his life to stay there idle, unwanted and forgotten until he reaches the age of 65 and goes on pension, represents a terrifying waste of time and human material. The nation badly needs these people. I hope, therefore, that the Minister and his staff will concentrate upon the problem of helping them.
I venture to make an appeal to the old firms, who owe a great deal to Wales, who are building new plants. I hope that the owners of all the new plants which we see being erected by the old firms in the steel industry and the rest will accept fully their obligation to the men who have been put out of work by technological change. They owe a great deal to these men. It was they who built up the industry. I shall not mention the names of companies; we all know them. These are the men who made them. I hope that none of the new works will set age limits which bar these men. I do not say that they do, but sometimes the men think that that is what happens—in other words, that it is quite all right for them to be employed in the old works at the age of 50, but not in the new places. Anybody who adopts that attitude is making a profound mistake.
These are splendid men, of fine character, great skill and adaptability. If the new industry coming to Wales employed them, it would soon know that it had some of the best workmen. If the firms find work for these men in the works which they are establishing, they will add balance, strength and poise to their labour force. They need not imagine that they are doing a work of charity. They will be doing something which is in the best interest of themselves.
May I express the hope, which, I am sure, my right hon. Friend shares, that they follow the example of the publicly-owned steel industry—for example, Richard Thomas and Baldwins, which, in my constituency, is showing great initiative in seeing that all men employed in the old works and whose livelihood may be endangered by the coming of the new steel works at Llanwern are given adequate jobs or redundancy payments?
I welcome that. I hope they will all follow that example. My concern is that these people shall be found jobs.
I turn now to the disabled and I wish to quote some figures from the Ministry of Labour Gazette and from the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. As as old worker in industry and a trade union official, I have known of this position for a long time. I have known it also as a former Minister of National Insurance, but I wonder whether the House realises it.
I have given figures about the shifting population and about the contracting areas and the developing areas in Wales. Our young people—and good luck to them—are being attracted and enticed to all the areas which have prospects, and they are leaving Wales and its problems behind them. In giving these figures, which speak for themselves, I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the contrast in population between Wales, with her 21- million people, and the great conurbations of London, with its countless millions, and the Midlands, with its several millions. The table from which I shall quote shows the number of workers absent from work because of industrial injury for the week of 16th May, 1961, although the figures for any week will be more or less the same.
In London and the South-East, the number of workers absent from work for that reason was 3,500; in the Eastern region, 3,000; and in the Southern region, 1,500. In that one week in those three regions, to which most of the new industries are going, 8,000 workers were absent from work because of industrial injury. That was out of a population which I do not think I would be far wrong in putting at 20 million. To be on the safe side, however, let us call it 15 million. So in a population of 15 million there are 8,000 absent from work through industrial injuries. In Wales with a population of 2½ million there are absent from work through industrial injuries, 7,600.
There is the problem, the problem of the disabled in the land of slate quarries, coal mine, steel works and heavy industry. I am indeed very proud, if I may say so, of the fact that so much has been done under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, which I had the honour of piloting through the House when I was a Minister, and I hope that we shall have an opportunity of discussing its operation in this House before long, for we have not had one for a long time; but there is still a great deal which can be clone to improve immensely the provisions under that Act. I was shocked the other day to learn that the service was so well off that we gave the employers 1d. off a week. I wish I were the Minister of that 1d. I should know what to do about it.
I am concerned about the disabled getting work. From my experience I can say that one of the essential things for the recovery as far as possible after injury of physical health, of self-respect, which is so important because of the influence which the mind has on the body's fitness, is for a disabled man to get a job as quickly as possible. A man's work forms a man's life, and if he is disabled from doing his work he feels, "I am finished because of this accident," and so it is intensely important that he should be got work as quickly as possible. I beg the Minister to give attention to that.
I understand that there are just over 42,000 — 42,979 — registered disabled workers in Wales of whom 5,034 are unemployed. We must find work for these men. It is extraordinarily important in these days, with the developing Health Service. There is a lot of work for them, a lot of work which they could do. These are men who could be found work and for whom work must be found quickly. I beg the Minister to take every possible step to find employment for them. Of course, there are the severely disabled for whom, I think, unfortunately, it may be impossible for us to say that they will ever fit into the industrial pattern again and get jobs. We find that in December, 1960, in Wales there were 619 severely disabled persons out of work.
There is a matter for which the Minister is responsible and about which I ask him. When is he going to begin building more Remploy factories? I put this to him. There are 619 disabled people in Wales out of work. Of course, there are many others in the country as a whole, but I am speaking of Wales. One of the most imaginative pieces of real, constructive, social work we have done in this country was the establishment of Remploy factories to give severely disabled men work. Surely in this age, with all the resources which are available to us, we ought to be able to provide them with employment. Some time ago now some of my colleagues from Wales and I saw one of the Minister of Labour's predecessors, who told us that when the Government did reverse their policy and the Treasury agreed and there was money again to provide for the establishment of Remploy factories the first in the new programme would be built in Wales.
That was a promise. We look forward to its fulfilment. That is in the future, when the policy is changed. The policy is not changed at the moment. I would ask the Minister, therefore, to give us an undertaking that he will go into this matter at once and fight to get more Remploys, and that the Government will carry out the undertaking that the first factory in the new phase would be built in Wales so as to give some hope to these men.
I must say a word or two about one other thing. I am going to say a word or two about pneumoconiosis, because we cannot think about or discuss the disabled without thinking of pneumoconiosis. I will say one or two words of encouragement. I have been associated with this problem from the beginning. I remember the first time when in the mining industry we got pneumoconiosis as a scheduled disease. I rejoiced greatly, and I rejoice greatly at the progress which has been made and at the work which the doctors have done. The names of Dr. Fletcher and others who have worked in Llandough Hospital deserve a niche in the history of Wales. They have done a good job for Wales, and I pay my full tribute to it, and also to the work done together by the Coal Board and the N.U.M.
For years there was argument about what caused pneumoconiosis, and in the end we came to the sensible conclusion that it was dust and that we must do everything we could to stop dust from doing this damage. There has been progress, but in the last ten years on the average each year 900 men have been certified as disabled to some extent and to varying degrees by pneumoconiosis in Wales.
Today we are more civilised about it than we were in the old 'thirties. In the old 'thirties we did not certify a man until he was half dead. Now we find it easier; we assess percentage of disablement, 5 per cent., 10 per cent.; and we keep men under survey and make perfectly sure that before they reach the crippling stage of disablement they are taken out of the pit. Many are still able to continue work in the coal mines in improved conditions free from dust, and for many years, and it is all to the good that they are able to continue and that for so long as they are kept under survey they can do a useful job of work at their own job and with their own mates, and so on.
Things are much better now, and I rejoice at that, as one who has lived with this problem. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to hear that step by step—sometimes too slow for me—we are getting on top of the problem, but if it is essential, as it is, for a disabled man to be provided with employment, believe me it is essential for a man who has got pneumoconiosis. I do not know what the figures are. Frankly, I have not got them. How many of the 900 disabled each year are still able to continue to work?
They come out from work, but they must be found work again. I use the word "must". It is an obligation we awe to them. Not only do we owe it to the men, but it is very important for the coal mining industry and very important for the nation. With over half a century of association with the coal mining industry I see for the first time in my life more men are leaving the pits than are going in. I leave hon. Members to pon- der that. It is very serious. In spite of all our dreams of atomic energy and all the rest of it, for generations to come coal will be the lifeblood of this nation.
I tell the House what would be the best recruiting sergeant for the mines. I am sure that in my valley and in every other valley represented in this House now the best recruiting agent to induce young people to go into the mines would be, the seeing of every disabled man cared for and his family cared for, the seeing him retrained and seeing him in a job. The worst would be seeing him on the dole. Every man on the dole is a frightful deterrent to recruitment. In the interest of the nation it is imperative for the future of the coalmining industry, and that means the future of this country, that steps should be taken to establish Remploy factories and to encourage employers to employ more than the present 3½ per cent. of disabled. I am sure that they can employ more than that percentage especially in the new industries.
This is a nagging problem, and it is a very serious human problem. We welcome the improvement that has been made in this respect in Wales, but we shall not be satisfied until the progress made is as good as that made over the country as a whole. We have taken advantage of this half day of debate to present to the House and to the Government one of the problems that face us in Wales and to ask far action to deal with this the most human of the problems that confront the Principality.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has quoted some very disturbing figures relating to disabled and elderly workers in the Principality. The figure which he gave of over 10,000 disabled out of a population of 2½ million compared with 8,000 in southern England was the one that caused us the greatest concern of all. There is a very high percentage of disabled workers in the anthracite areas of South-West Wales and I should like to put one or two points to the Minister of Labour, who I understand will wind up the debate, about the particular difficulties in securing employment as a result of the closure of old pits and the difficulties of transferring redundant miners to the new pits at Cynheidre and Abernant.
In the revolution of improved techniques in which machinery is taking over the work of man it will be extremely difficult to absorb a great proportion of disabled and elderly workers. This will mean that there will be far fewer suitable light jobs for these workers and this in spite of the fact of the policy being pursued of securing that every able-bodied worker should go to work underground in order to create the maximum opportunities of employment for their less fortunate fellow-miners.
So far, it can be said that it has been possible to accommodate a good proportion of these workers, but with the next batch of transfers we shall be faced with a hard-core problem. There will be a difficult and delicate operation of transfer and adjustments and, it may be, even of recruitment as the Minister of Labour well knows, and it is very easy to disturb the rhythm of the operation.
In this connection I should like to refer to the extraordinary outburst of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) a day or two ago about the future of Cynheidre and Abernant which might create a crisis of confidence of some gravity. He questioned whether those pits were likely to reach a fraction of the target which had been suggested. This is a serious matter not only when we consider the question of obtaining the necessary labour for Cynheidre but also the employment of the older workers. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not now in his place. I gave him warning that I had one or two observations of a critical character to make about him. I do not know by what stretch of imagination the hon. Member could conceivably think that he was rendering a service by his rash and ill-advised intervention at this moment of all times.
Mr. Kellett, the divisional chairman for the South-Western Region of the Coal Board, said that anything that casts doubt on the projects makes the recruitment of workers more difficult. The hon. Member's defence was that he said what he did solely and simply as the guardian of the public purse. He said that when expenditure of millions of pounds is involved it is the duty of hon. Members to investigate when it appears that public money is being wasted. That is an admirable principle to which we all subscribe both with regard to public and private industry. But I was a little surprised, however, to recall that when voices were raised on this side and even on the opposite side of the House against large subventions to private industry for projects which at any rate were questionable, we did not even have a well-modulated squeak from the guardian of the public purse, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North.
It is important, because this might create a crisis of confidence, to ascertain what people who really know the facts of the development of Cynheidre have had to say about it. Mr. Kellett doubted very much whether the hon. Member for Cardiff, North had enough knowledge of the industry to draw the right conclusions from the letter which he had received from the Chairman of the Coal Board, the noble Lord, Lord Robens, about the probable target at Cynheidre. Mr. Kellett said that he would draw entirely different conclusions from the information. He said:
The first stage of development is a great technical achievement. Cyndheidre is a continuous process and is built for fifty years and not for a day. It has only just begun production and it could not be expected to reach its full production for at least two years.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, who made this extraordinary pronouncement entirely off his own bat, did not consult Mr. Kellett or even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, who is a mining engineer. He visited Cynheidre a few weeks ago and spent five hours there, and he said:
The time is coming to show that the vast investment in these new projects"—
that is Cynheidre and Abernant—
is justified and I am satisfied that everything points to a gradually rising output.
I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will have the grace and wisdom to retract these wild statements which he has made without any justification.
As we all acknowledge, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly has said, Remploy factories have made a considerable contribution towards the solution of the difficult problem of the employment of the disabled in Wales. There is a Remploy factory in my constituency, at Aberaman. It is almost fully manned and at the moment it employs fifty-five. There will be some vacancies there in two or three months.
I should like to raise two particular complaints that have been made to me about Remploy factories. One is that the type of work at the factories is very restricted in scope. As far as I can judge, and I have looked through the list of the products which they produce, these factories are mainly employed on furniture of various kinds and domestic equipment. I think that it would be an extremely good thing if the range of the products could be extended.
The second complaint is about the low rates of wages, and I should like to remind the House of one or two interesting figures which bear upon the matter. First, the value of output per man in 1951 was £56. It had risen in 1959–60 to £409. That is quite a remarkable increase. The second figure I should like to quote is that of the sales as a percentage of wages for the disabled and the cost of raw materials. In 1951–52 it was 55·4 per cent. It has risen in 1959–60 to 102·5 per cent.; in fact, it has very nearly doubled, which I think is a remarkable achievement. Now I come to wages. In 1951–52 average wages were £5 4s. 6d. In 1959–60 they had risen only to £7 10s. 4d. I do not think that anyone would say, particularly having regard to the figures I have just quoted, that that figure can be regarded—certainly not as adequate—but as a fair reward or return for the increased productivity.
While we have every reason to be grateful for the Remploy factories, we would ask the Minister to consider very seriously increasing the number in Wales. I should like to make one other point, but as I know very many other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall be brief. I wish to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said about the need for small industries in the valleys. There is a tendency at the moment for industrial development to concentrate on the coast, and, indeed, we may find that in a number of years the valleys will be deserted and derelict. Should that happen the loss to the community will be incalculable. I therefore ask the Government to consider establishing—and to put far more drive into trying to secure—small, light industries for the small market towns and the larger villages, places like Llandovery and villages like Felindre. These small industries would employ the local population which, at the moment, has to go far afield in order to get work.
My right hon. Friend has reminded the House that the unemployment figures have gone down, and we welcome that wholeheartedly, but we still have a record of unemployment in Wales which is twice the national average and is still the second highest in the kingdom. The House well knows that the figures of unemployment in Wales do not actually reflect the true situation, because they do not take into account the school leavers, the miners who have left never to return—and this may well be one of the great problems which will have to be faced by the National Coal Board—and the steelworkers who left when the old steel mills were closed down in South-West Wales. We still have a very considerable problem to tackle if Wales is to be able to say in truth that she is enjoying full employment and that she is giving a full opportunity for her young people and is also giving a chance for the elderly and the disabled to continue in employment.
The subject which has been chosen for debate in the second half of this Welsh day is certainly one that affects the social conscience of everyone, whether in Wales or any other part of the country.
The question of the disabled is very properly referred to in pages 7 and 8 of the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire for 1960. I could have wished myself that rather more space had been devoted in that Report to this very important social subject. Despite the many excellent features that appear in the Report, I think that these twin problems could have been dealt with in rather more detail. However, they have been chosen for discussion today, and I am sure that all of us, inside and outside the House, will be a great deal better informed upon them at the end of this debate.
I agree with what has been said by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that these questions cannot be dissociated from the general question of unemployment, because the persons concerned, and I suppose the elderly in particular, are likely to be among the first to be adversely affected if the employment situation is unsatisfactory. I very much appreciate the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I agree with what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) that there is no ground for complacency in the unemployment figures, though personally I welcome the fact that there has been a small but marked decrease in the unemployment figures. Between June of last year and June of this year there has been an appreciable decrease from just over 21,000 to just over 20,000, and there has been a percentage decrease in Wales and Monmouthshire during the same period from 2·3 per cent. to 2·1 per cent.—not very much, but certainly a move in the right direction.
That is not the whole picture, and we must be fair about it. I understand that the vacancy figures in Wales have improved very considerably during that period, from about 12,500 to 16,500. This is particularly important where the disabled are concerned because, fortunately, it is possible to find employment for many of these unfortunate people in ordinary industry. In this connection. I am very gratified to learn—and I understand it to be the case—that it is possible to settle quite a proportion of the Section 2 disabled persons in ordinary jobs, not merely in sheltered employment, and this is a tribute at once to the efforts of the officials of the Ministry and to the co-operation of employers.
I hesitate very much to query any figures put before the House by the right hon. Member for Llanelly, but I understand that during the last ten years—from May, 1951, to May, 1961—the number of registered disabled persons who were unemployed in Wales has very nearly been halved—from upwards of 8,000 to little more than 4,500. I understand further that there has been a significant improvement during the last year. It may be that we are not considering quite the same figures, but I hope the Minister of Labour will be able to deal with this important point when he speaks at the end of the debate.
I should like to turn briefly to the work that has been done and is still being done in Wales by the Remploy and Grenfell factories, which are briefly referred to in the Report. I join in the tributes that have been paid to the work done by the Remploy factories by the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen, and, to a great extent, I would associate myself with some criticisms she has made.
It is hoped that Remploy, with a continued improvement in its trading, will find that its resources will enable it to make a progressive increase in the number of disabled persons employed. It is satisfactory to know that there are thirteen factories in Wales. Twelve out of the thirteen are in South Wales, and because of the disparity in population one cannot make too much complaint about that from the North. There is another significant factor which should be borne in mind when any criticism is made about the failure to establish further factories in Wales. Of the 6,000 or so employed in Remploy factories in the whole country, a little more than 1,000 are employed in South Wales. This is a very important point to bear in mind in view of the population comparison between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.
We would do well to appreciate and pay tribute to the substantial contribution made by Remploy towards the solution of the problem we are discussing. I agree that in all probability the range of products could be extended and that the scale of wages deserves looking into, but there is a great deal to be said on the credit side.
In particular, the Remploy factories do not remain static in their attitude to employment. I was gratified to learn from a recent report that the Remploy factories have, by arrangement with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, taken in a small number of patients suffering from the effects of schizophrenia. This effort to give mentally disordered persons a place in the working life of the community deserves every sympathy and encouragement. The rehabilitation of these particularly unfortunate disabled persons is a challenging experiment, and it must be a satisfaction to us all that the results, according to the report, have so far been very encouraging.
Before leaving the subject of Remploy, should like to say that, appreciating as I do the strength of the remarks made about wages and so forth, it must be a matter for satisfaction that during the last year the sales revenue exceeded £5 million. There was a marked increase on the figure for the previous year—an increase, I understand, of about 23 per cent. For the first time sales revenue has exceeded the total of wages and raw materials. In other words, the Remploy factories seem to be turning the corner in their development. One can, therefore, look forward with great confidence to an increase in their employment figures.
No discussion of employment of the disabled in Wales would be complete without reference to the Grenfell factories. They are to be found only in Wales. They came into being as the fruits of the labours of the working party set up in 1944 under the chairmanship of one who will always be known in South Wales as Dai Grenfell, and who was for so long a distinguished Member of this House.
It was the original intention of the Government that these factories should employ at least 50 per cent. disabled persons. South Wales was chosen as the area for them because that was where, unhappily, the greatest number of persons suffering from pneumoconiosis was concentrated. As the right hon. Member for Llanelly said, one cannot consider the question of disablement in Wales without thinking of pneumoconiosis.
It is perhaps unfortunate that because these factories were advance factories—not purpose-built—and because the rent rebate did not prove as attractive to firms as was originally hoped, the original terms had to be modified and rather less than 50 per cent of those employed were disabled persons. Even so, of the number employed, just under 2,000, in the thirteen factories which exist in Wales—by coincidence, it is the same as the number of Remploy factories—about 750 are disabled persons, and some two-thirds of them are sufferers from pneumoconiosis.
Perhaps the most satisfactory thing of all in this connection—it has been eloquently referred to by the right hon. Member for Llanelly—is the tremendous fall in the incidence of this dread disease in recent years due to improved methods of dust prevention and employment of sufferers in dust-free conditions. I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to those responsible for this great deliverance. I have some interesting figures on this subject. I learn that in April this year there were only 400 sufferers from this disease unemployed compared with nearly 5,000 fourteen years ago.
Before I leave the problem of the disabled, there is one general remark that I want to make. It is a matter which I have discussed with hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). Obviously, the problem of the disabled exists in its most acute form within areas of concentrated population. It is there that the greatest efforts have to be made. But we should never forget that in the rural areas of Wales we find a person here and there who is disabled, and the needs of such persons must not be ignored.
I now want to say a few words about the employment of the elderly. I think it is right to say that the over-fifties in general have benefited from the improved employment position, and this is reflected in the decrease in the numbers of that group who are registered as wholly unemployed. According to the figures which I have received from the Ministry of Labour, there has been a reduction in this group during the last two years from nearly 9,000 to a little over 6,000. That is a very significant fall of about 30 per cent. There has also, during that period, been an increase of a few thousands in the number of those persons employed.
I was very impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the difficulty of obtaining employment for elderly persons. It is clear that employers must constantly be pursuaded of the need to make full use of the services of older workers. The difficulty is—it exists elsewhere just as much as it does in Wales—that, to use an economist's phrase, when the economy is not buoyant, employers tend to become selective and older workers generally experience difficulty in obtaining employment. As I have said, it is a general problem and not peculiar to Wales. It is the duty of this House to ensure that the older workers benefit like everybody else from overall expansion and better distribution of industry.
Many of the problems discussed today are of general application, and I think it is fortunate and appropriate that we should have discussed them on the one day when we have, or should have, the Floor of the House entirely to ourselves. I hope that the observations that we have made and the conclusions that we reach will be of benefit not merely to our fellow Welshmen in the Principality but to Britain as a whole.
I shall confine myself to a few brief remarks on this subject because I had intended to speak upon another subject earlier in the day. I consider that this problem is in many respects just as serious a social problem in its impact on my constituents as the problem which we discussed earlier—the question of leasehold. Many of my constituents who are disabled are finding themselves faced with the problems of leasehold at the present time. I know that the leasehold question is not referred to in the Report which we are considering, and I will not discuss it any further, but I felt that it was important to stress the coincidence that today we are discussing two serious problems which affect many people in South Wales and my constituency as much as, any other constituency in the whole of South Wales.
I wish to refer to some statistics, from Government reports, about accidents in employment. I refer first to accidents in all employment and claims for injury at work causing at least three days' incapacity. In 1959 there were 826,000 such cases in the United Kingdom. The other figures that I have refer to other industries, but I want to point particularly to one industry in my constituency in connection with these accidents.
I repeat, therefore, that in 1959 there were 826,000 such accidents. In the mining industry—and I have 7,000 miners in my constituency—there were 209,168 accidents in 1959. The significance of the figures is that more than a quarter of all the accidents in the United Kingdom in that year occurred in the mining industry. Indeed, the figures for 1956, 1957 and 1958 show that in each of those years the incidence of accidents in the industry was more than a quarter of the total.
Now I turn to my constituency. I will quote two local figures. The question which concerns me very much is that of the disabled unemployed. In June, 1960, there were 157 Section I and Section II disabled unemployed. In June last there was some improvement, of which I am appreciative—although I have wondered, and have discussed with the managers of local labour exchanges, how much this so-called improvement is due to what I must, rather morbidly, call wastage due to death. Last June there were 144 Section I and Section II disabled unemployed. They have been unemployed for a very long time. This is a great social evil.
I want to compare that figure with the total number of unemployed in the constituency, because that is relevant. I must use the May figures of the total unemployed because I have not the June figures. The figure for May was 570, but I understand that it has been slightly reduced. Thus, 144 disabled unemployed represents more than 26 per cent. of the total. Indeed, in the figures for June, 1960, it was more than 30 per cent.—almost one-third—of the unemployed. That is why I am so very concerned about the disabled.
I want to pay tribute to the local factories in my valley, and here I must also include the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) and Pontypridd (Mr. A. Pearson), who have the trading estates of Treforest and Hirwaum. The factories in those estates and in my constituency are employing far more disabled people than the statutory percentage. I have stated in this House before that this is a great tribute to the industrialists there, and I again want to pay them tribute tonight.
I come now to Remploy. I add my tribute to that paid by hon. Members on both sides of the House to this imaginative social innovation of the post-war years. It has had a considerable effect on the disabled, particularly in my constituency, where there has been such severe disability due to pneumoconiosis and other diseases. It is a great mistake of the Government of the day, whatever its political colour, to create a ceiling for Remploy. The figure is, I believe, about 6,000 for the United Kingdom as a whole, although I am aware that the actual number now is 6,300 or 6,400. To create a ceiling is a short sighted policy, however.
Anyone who knew disabled persons who were unemployed before Remploy came into being, and has seen them after a period of employment in Remploy, has seen these men absolutely transformed. They are the envy of the few hundred disabled who are still unemployed in their neighbourhood.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that a promise had been made that when new Remploy factories were added the first would come to Wales. In a sense, that promise was made to me by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. My constituency prepared for such a factory but, unfortunately, it has not come about.
It is no good telling me that there are Remploy factories in Merthyr or Rhondda or at the bottom end of the valley, because the topography of my area means that, generally, one has to cross mountains in order to get to those factories. Indeed, from my constituency, quite a number of chaps are having to travel these arduous routes in the most inclement weather. I hope, therefore, that the Government, in their wisdom, will begin to look forward instead of back and will, when they come to extensions of Remploy, consider the claims of the Aberdare Valley.
I want to venture criticisms about the way in which Remploy appears to me to be working. I admit that the matters I shall refer to were raised with me many months ago, and it may be that some of these things have been rectified. But if they happen in other Remploy factories, then the Minister of Labour must pay attention to them. First, there is the question of overtime. In conversations I have had with chaps in these factories—and every point which I shall mention arises from such conversations—they were concerned with the excessive overtime that they were being forced to work. There was even the question of a night shift to meet extra work which had come in as an emergency.
But when one thinks of between one hundred and two hundred disabled people, most of them in Section I, in my constituency, having to work night shifts and excessive overtime—which in view of their disability is not conducive to their progressive good health—and remembers that they have comrades who have been unemployed for many years, one can imagine the feelings both of those who are unemployed and those who are employed. But these men are afraid to refuse overtime.
There is also the matter of fit men, already in full time occupation in other factories, who have been brought in to cope with certain extra work at Remploy. In view of the purpose of Remploy, this is a shocking state of affairs. Then there is something which is, perhaps, not so objectionable to some people employed in Remploy but is certainly objectionable to me, and that is the use of a bonus system. Remploy is not the place to have a bonus system, whereby one encourages unfit men to do much more than they are perhaps physically able to do. A bonus system encourages such evils.
This all boils down to one factor. I admit that I may have a suspicious mind, but I ask the Minister to pay attention to what I am saying in case there is truth in it. I believe that certain managers of Remploy factories, by applying this bonus system, and by using overtime, encouraging night shift work, and calling in fit men to deal with extra work, are trying to enhance their own personal positions by making their factories highly competitive. I emphasise that that is my suspicion. I mention it here so that the right hon. Gentleman can step firmly down on this practice, if such be the case.
With these few remarks, I am expressing my constituency point of view about what I think is a serious position in Remploy. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay due regard to these comments in case there is a grain of truth in them, especially in the last suspicion which I mentioned.
I want to direct the attention of the House to paragraph 48 of the Report, which deals with the question of industrial rehabilitation, because it is most important to get disabled persons back into normal employment, although it may not be the employment which they followed before their disability, rather than set up sheltered employment or specific employment for disabled people as a group. There is nothing more demoralising or worrying to a disabled person than to feel segregated from the general community for some reason of that sort.
For that reason, I draw attention to the Industrial Rehabilitation Unit at Cardiff and to the whole rehabilitation service. Before doing so, I should like to take up what the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) said about the bonus system. I appreciate his anxieties about unfit persons being encouraged to work too much, to the detriment of their health, but that is a criticism of the method of calculating the bonus rather than a criticism of the bonus system as such.
There should still be a competitive spirit among persons who are disabled, and, although I hope that his words will be noted, that is not to say that the bonus system should necessarily be destroyed, but rather that the allocation of the bonus payment should be carefully related to the man's ability and his efforts.
In Mid-Wales there is a very good example of the provision of normal employment for disabled persons. It is in the Cambrian factory at Llanwrtyd Wells, which is run and administered by the British Legion. It is run at a substantial loss, but it nevertheless produces a normal commercial product in an atmosphere which gives the disabled the most incentive and the feeling that they are part of the community. If more can be done to help in that way, it will be greatly to the benefit of all concerned and of the community generally.
In Wales we have had a high percentage of industrial disabled because of industrial disease. Disabilities can be divided into two categories, those arising from industrial accidents and those arising from industrial disease. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that in relation to population there was a higher proportion of disabled in Wales than in the rest of the country. I cannot quote the figures, but I believe that it will be found that that is largely due to the number suffering from pneumoconiosis and similar diseases, rather than those suffering the loss of a limb, or having a limb impaired in any way in the steel and other heavy industries.
As Wales tends to have a diversification of industry and to get many light industries and some changes in the heavy industries, we will find that there is a shift away from a higher proportion of those disabled by industrial disease to those disabled by industrial accident. As such, we should gear our plans to catering for the rehabilitation of those suffering from industrial accidents who can be brought back into useful and beneficial employment, not only to their own benefit, but to that of the community.
That brings me to the main subject of my speech, the Industrial Rehabilitation Unit at Cardiff. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Minister about the subject of this unit becoming residential, or of a separate unit being set up at Swansea, Llanelly, or Gorseinon. My right hon. Friend has given figures to show that such an arrangement would be uneconomic. Nevertheless, we must consider what is happening in Cardiff.
The Report says:
The strength of the Cardiff Industrial Rehabilitation Unit fluctuated during the year, averaging 80. Courses were completed satisfactorily by 81 per cent, of those admitted to the Unit during 1959: 67 per cent. of these were placed in employment or given vocational training. This was a welcome increase on the figure of 56 per cent. quoted in last year's report.
One of the difficulties is that we are not getting all those who are suited to, or who would benefit from, that course at Cardiff. They may have to live in digs. The Ministry of Labour works very hard and is to be congratulated and commended on its efforts to find accommodation for them. But a man has to leave his home and has to worry about the maintenance of his family and leave them while he is in ill health. He has to go to a new environment. There are people living in Swansea who think that Cardiff is a long way away, and there are people in Cardiff who are not always sure where Swansea is. Nevertheless, many men go to Cardiff to attend these courses full of anxiety and misgivings.
The net result is that the more timid, and those who can just manage, try to do for themselves and to stay put and to muddle along. They do their best, but the net result is that their industrial efficiency is impaired and their restoration to full health is impaired, perhaps permanently. The result is that we do not get the full benefit which we might obtain from the unit.
I appreciate that when considering Wales the Minister has to remember that it is part of Great Britain and that what he does in one corner of the country will be blazoned across the Chamber here and that he will have shouts from all over the country asking why, if he can do something for South Wales, he cannot do it in other areas. Consequently, he has to look after the purse strings and make sure that he is not spending money too lavishly in one quarter.
However, I suggest that he considers parting company with responsibility for industrial rehabilitation, handing it over to the Minister of Health. I am not sure that the Minister of Health necessarily wants it, but we are dealing with human beings who are sick and ill. We talk of the industrially disabled, but that should include the injured housewife who is also an industrially disabled person needing treatment. There is no way of training her to use a broken arm, or to get along after an arm has been amputated. She needs training in the same way, but the unit at Cardiff is sectionalised to deal with those engaged in industry of one sort or another, although not necessarily of the type which they knew before disablement. Sometimes those engaged in clerical jobs need rehabilitation, major or minor.
There is a good physical medicine service in many hospitals in South Wales and, with a little co-operation between the two Ministries, it might be found possible to expand the physical medicine rehabilitation services in the hospitals to include a larger element of industrial rehabilitation. That will require considerable co-operation from industry as a whole, because it is no good trying to teach a man how to use a lathe when he has one arm unless one has the lathe on which to show him.
I have seen examples in some of the motor car factories where the firms have been prepared to adjust and even adapt some machinery in a small rehabilitation department of their own in order to get some of their injured workpeople back to work quickly. I hope that that is something which will spread throughout the country and will be used as an example by the Ministry of Labour for many of our industries in South Wales.
The larger industries do much of this work, but, I am glad to say, in South Wales we are not concentrating solely and simply on the big units, but are encouraging smaller firms. Smaller firms, however, do not always have the resources to provide facilities of this type. If my right hon. Friend could see his way to expand them, I am sure that over the years we would gradually see the problem of the disabled reduced, although it will never become negligible because there will always be industrial accidents. However, the number will be reduced and we will be able to get people back into employment more quickly as we get expert advice about changing employment and getting disabled men into industries more suitable to their new conditions of health.
It has been suggested that one way of recruiting to the coal mining industry is to show that the dependants of men suffering from pneumoconiosis will be properly cared for, but more should be done to show what advance is being made with getting rid of dust in the mines. More research should be done. People are well aware of the problem, but if the authorities could show that they are trying to get rid of that dread disease—and it has been a dread disease in South Wales for many years—we should find that much of the problem would go and that in most industries the emphasis would swing more and more to industrial accidents and away from industrial disease.
I do not want to detain the House longer than to say that the figures are encouraging, but we must not be complacent about them. There is nothing more demoralising to the community than for it to have large groups of men who are unemployed and who, although they may be financially cared for by the State, feel that they are on the scrap heap and wasted. In the clubs and various social communities men have said to me that they are on the scrap heap, and that is demoralising to the person who hears it.
If we are to be competitive in world markets and in our own markets, we must use our labour to the full and to the most beneficial capacity. We cannot afford to have people injured or ill, or disabled. I am glad to see the progress mentioned in the Report, for this is the most important aspect of employment, but I hope that in future Reports we will see even more encouraging trends, with the percentages falling and more people being more fit for work.
One of the disturbing features of the problem of the disabled in Wales is that 10 per cent. of the number of disabled persons are unemployed. This has to be related to the figure of about 2·3 per cent. of the general unemployment situation in the Principality. This relatively high figure of unemployed disabled persons in Wales is at a time when the opportunities for employment are better than they have been for a number of years. We have seen established in the valleys of South Wales and in the cities in recent years additional factories and industrial undertakings, and one would have thought that the disabled would have a corresponding share in the increased prosperity. But that is not so.
I want to refer to the position of those who are seriously incapacitated and who require sheltered employment. In this state of affluence, when these factories are being built and the general unemployment figure is down to 2·3 per cent., the number of persons requiring sheltered employment has increased. It went up last year from 585 to 619. It may be argued that a few hundred men disabled is not a very serious feature, but I would remind the House that these men are seriously incapacitated. Some are disabled ex-Service men seriously maimed in the last war and some in the war before, and there are those who have been seriously incapacitated in industry, particularly in the mining industry, and serious cases of pneumoconiosis. These men require sheltered employment.
Within the figure of 619, there are some people suffering from various congenital forms of disability. Their numbers have increased at a time when there has been an improvement in the general employment situation in South Wales. That is a reflection upon the Government. The figure of 619 looks cold, but behind it there are human tragedies. It consists of people who have given up hope of getting a job. Some of them are young ex-Service men, and they see no chance of a job. Their health is being impaired by their continued unemployment. Some of them have wives and children. Their wives are bound to go into the same markets and try to purchase the same food and clothes as the wives of the able-bodied section of the community. Many are poor, and are on National Assistance. I repeat that the number of disabled persons has increased from 585 to 619.
I pay tribute to some of our voluntary organisations, such as the Red Cross, which are doing so much to lighten the burden of those who require sheltered employment. I cannot say the same for the Government, who have the financial power to assist Remploy to set up more factories in Wales and provide further sheltered employment. The 1960 Report of Remploy points out that one of the results of the financial agreement arrived at in 1956 with the Minister of Labour was that Remploy was unable to employ more than 6,250 persons. That is shocking. Here we are with our affluent society, in the middle of so-called prosperity, and yet Remploy has remained static. In 1955, Remploy was employing 6,400 people, but the figure now is just over 6,000, and yet we have all around us this increased prosperity.
No Remploy factory has been constructed in Wales since 1952, yet Remploy was formed to give work to those requiring sheltered employment. Its organisation is efficient. The present situation is not the fault of Remploy; it is due to lack of financial support by the Government. It is a very serious criticism of Government policy that they do not feel able to afford to spend more money on capital expansion for Remploy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) has referred to the need for a factory in his constituency. What a great feeling of satisfaction there would be if it were known that another 200 seriously disabled men could get jobs. It is work that these men want. They want a sense of security—to be able to go out and get a job. They deserve all that the community can do for them. They are men who have been injured in the service of their country in war and in peace. They are disabled, and they feel that they are rotting away. What does it matter if we spend another £2 million on Remploy, bearing in mind what a sense of happiness and contentment we shall be giving these men, who deserve the best?
We talk about the need for recruiting men into the Forces. If we want recruits we must guarantee that in the event of disablement there will be a job available. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) pointed out, the difficulty in the mining industry is that the men feel that if they are disabled they will not be able to get a suitable job. This feeling has eaten into their systems.
There is a Remploy factory at Blackwood, in my constituency. Very few people have been taken on there. After some efforts, one man was taken on not long ago. I met him and his wife a month later. It was a pleasure to see the look on his face. He was satisfied because he now had a job and was earning money, and was able to go out in the morning and return home in the evening with a feeling of self-respect. Seeing him was compensation enough for the efforts that had been made to get that man into Remploy. The Government have squandered far more than £2 million. That is all that we are asking should be given to provide work for these people.
What is the position of the ordinary disabled person who is fit for light work? It will be said that the figures have gone down. They have to some extent. Last year the figure was 4,562, and it has gone down to 4,024. That is some improvement, but the position ought to be looked into further, because, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, many of these men come from the valleys of South Wales, and in that area a number of factories and industrial undertakings have been set up. Steps should now be taken to see whether sonic of these industrial undertakings would be prepared to take an additional number of disabled people.
The employment of 3 per cent. disabled people is not sufficient in an undertaking which employs more than 5,000 men. That figure should be looked at again in the light of present circumstances. It should be increased to about 4 per cent. If that were done, it would provide additional employment in the valleys.
Next there is the problem of men having to travel to and from work. Even if we get an additional Remploy factory in the valleys of South Wales, it will still be necessary for some men to travel from the villages. Travel is difficult for some people, particularly for those who suffer from pneumoconiosis and who feel the effects of it on a cold and frosty morning. It is about time that the Government encouraged local authorities to provide buses to take these men to and from work.
The Government do not seem to tackle the problem boldly. They do not give sufficient encouragement to local authorities to set up workshops for the disabled. The Act provides for local authorities to do this, but there does not seem to be any enthusiasm on the part of the Government to tackle this problem of the seriously disabled.
The hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) referred to the fact that some years ago 5,000 men in the valleys of Wales were unemployed and disabled by pneumoconiosis. Now there are about 400. Until about ten years ago men were not allowed to return to employment in the mining industry if they were suffering from pneumoconiosis. I have vivid recollections of dealing with many cases of men suffering from this disease. Thousands of men were unemployed, but then the Medical Research Council came to South Wales and recommended that many of these men could, in the early stages of the disease, be given approved conditions of employment. The result was that thousands of them returned to work in the mines, and they are there today. Thousands of men now at work in the pits of South Wales are suffering from pneumoconiosis.
I pay tribute to the National Coal Board for employing thousands of disabled men, both underground and on the surface. By doing so it has eased the anxieties of the Minister of Labour. I am sure that the officials at the Ministry of Labour breathed a sigh of relief some years ago when the National Coal Board decided to employ these disabled men.
I have been to the Cardiff Rehabilitation Centre and have seen the excellent job that is being done there. I was extremely impressed by their efforts but what I want to know—and I raised this point in the Welsh Grand Committee—is how many of these men, after being rehabilitated, receive employment. When we last discussed this subject the figure of 56 per cent. was given. That is not an over large figure when one considers that, after receiving treatment, 44 per cent. of these people do not find employment. I therefore urge the Minister to look more closely into the attitude of the employers in this matter.
I appreciate that many employers employ more than the 3 per cent. disabled. But many, however, keep rigidly to the 3 per cent. figure. In this connection the Ministry of Labour should carry out a detailed inquiry to see how many disabled men have been taken into employment in the various industries in South Wales.
All hon. Members agree that Remploy is doing its work efficiently, and I agree that its sponsorship scheme, whereby certain employers supply the raw materials to Remploy and the workers there produce the necessary goods desired by those employers, is an excellent system. I pay my tribute to employers who have joined this scheme, but can we be told exactly how many have joined? I often feel that the whole question of Remploy should be publicised more in order to make its efforts better known.
How many Government Departments, for instance, are taking commodities from Remploy? Are Government Departments encouraging Remploy sufficiently? The same question can be asked of local authorities. Are they giving some of their contracts to Remploy? And what about some of the other industrial undertakings? Many hon. Members are extremely interested in the activities of Remploy, but we seem to hear little of these activities. Going about the country one might see the occasional van passing by bearing the Remploy name, yet very little is known about the actual work going on. In order to make it more efficient, everything should be done to encourage that organisation's activities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare spoke about pockets of unemployment in South Wales. That is very true and, for example, in Bargoed there are 108 disabled unemployed and in Blackwood 82 or 85 are unemployed. Those are just two examples, but the areas, added together, result in a considerable figure of unemployment. I therefore urge the Government to study this problem of unemployment and disability with much more initiative than they have done hitherto.
I hope that we shall receive a concrete reply from the Minister tonight as to what steps the Government are prepared to take to improve the situation of this section of the community that is deserving of the best, and I hope, too, that as a result of this debate we shall get something definite, which we have not had before. I hope also that hon. Members will receive a concrete reply about Remploy and the financial handicaps that are preventing this excellent organisation from carrying its efforts still further.
All hon. Members are anxious to see these people employed, and if we do not receive some definite undertakings from the Government we shall take the matter into our own hands and point out the failure of the Government to do something more quickly. After all, if something cannot be done now—at a time of full employment—what hope have we if unemployment comes next year or the year after? Now is the time to get these disabled men and women employed.
So far every speech that we have heard has dealt with South Wales. For the next ten minutes I should like hon. Members to come with me to North Wales. If it were possible I should like to drop them at Llangollen, where they would see the representatives of the world enjoying themselves.
Anyone who represents coal miners and quarry workers must have an acute knowledge and experience of the ravages of one disease in particular, pneumoconisis. It is extraordinary how recently this disease was recognised as an industrial disease. It used to be generally believed that it was a chest weakness which was peculiar to certain areas or perhaps was the result of heredity. One has only to read the gravestones in any quarry town or village in North Wales to appreciate how merciless this disease has been. Before it became recognised as an industrial disease very little, if any, precaution was taken against it because, as I have said, it was believed to be inherent in the worker himself. It was believed that it was his constitution which was at fault and not the constitution of the industry in which he was engaged.
The only underground slate quarries in Britain, if not in the whole of Europe, are to be found in my constituency of Merioneth. In places like Corris and Blaenau Ffestiniog this disease has been rampant, and it is heartrending to speak to men of middle age who are doomed for the rest of their lives to be out of work. They are good men, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) has referred to their calibre.
A fortnight ago I had occasion to go to the tuberculosis sanatorium at Llangwyfan to see a councillor of Blaenau Ffestiniog who was there suffering from this disease. Standing by his bed I recognised three more people from Blaenau Ffestiniog suffering from the same disease. One was a former quarryman's union secretary. In the fifth bed was the chairman of the Gwyrfai Rural District Council, a personal friend of my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), suffering from the same disease. They were all there in this sanatorium trying to recuperate.
One would be much happier if these people were cared for, received adequate pensions or decent compensation. But, indeed, not only are they badly treated in life; they are badly treated at death. I want to refer to an un-Christian and inhuman practice. If a man has been certified for twenty years or more to be suffering from this disease and has been compensated for it, when he dies his poor widow cannot claim compensation until his lung has been extracted to prove to the doctors and the tribunal that he has been suffering from silicosis. Yet for twenty years he has been gasping for breath, and it has been obvious to anyone who has spoken to him that his lung has been solidified by the dust from the stone and the slate.
Apart from these effects, these people are physically fit in every other way, but they are obviously unfit for heavy work. Nevertheless, they deserve better of the nation than to be left on the scrap-heap, as happens today. They could be usefully engaged in a specialised industry. This would answer two purposes. First, it would make them independent, and every man wants to feel independent, after giving his life to the nation in industry. Also, it would prevent them from dwelling on their plight and having the mental agony which so many of them suffer now.
We shall for all time be grateful as a country to the late Mr. Ernest Bevin for all he did on behalf of the disabled and for convincing us in a practical manner that the disabled could be restored to become useful citizens. I emphasise that in this debate: Bevin believed and proved that the disabled man could still be a useful citizen.
It is incredible what a disabled man can do. During the war, at the behest of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who was then a highly placed civil servant—I was always obedient to her, and I only hope that her husband has been as obedient as I always was—I went to an institution at Colwyn Bay to interview the secretary. After I had rung the doorbell, the door was opened and an armless man confronted me. I was much intrigued to know just how he had unlatched the door. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he was the secretary I had come to interview. During the interview, he wanted to make some notes. He put a pen between his toes and wrote in a manner which would put my penmanship to shame, and I am an ex-school teacher, supposed to be an expert in legible writing. He showed me his paintings which would do credit to the Royal Academy. This man was the product of the Remploy factories. He was armless, but he was yet able to prove himself a useful citizen. I say again that we are indebted for all that to the late Mr. Ernest Bevin.
I do not know how much it costs the nation to produce a man able to do those things. But who would begrudge whatever it cost? My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty mentioned a sum of £2 million to establish a Remploy factory. We cannot measure these things in £ s. d. We owe a debt to these people who have given of their best in the interests of their country.
This is a Welsh day and one is excused for making constituency points on such an occasion. So far, I have dealt with men who are suffering from one particular disease. Of course, there is inevitably a large number of such men in every quarry area, in Merioneth and in Caernarvonshire. Unless the Government find means of employment for these men, they will be doomed to be left on the industrial scrap-heap because we cannot expect private enterprise to step in. We cannot depend on philanthropy and altruism. One cannot think of an industrialist saying, "I shall establish a factory here because these men are unfit and disabled". Therefore it calls every time for Government action.
I wish to draw the attention of the House and of the Minister to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. There is one thing in my favour in so doing. Blaenau Ffestiniog is scheduled as a development area. The Government therefore recognise their responsibilities in relation to this town and the area around it. I discovered last week that of all the people signed on at the labour exchange 37 per cent. of the men are disabled and 15 per cent. of the women are disabled. These are astounding percentages, but they will appear more astounding when I say that people suffering from silicosis and pneumoconiosis are not included in them. It will therefore be appreciated what a great problem we have in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
I will. I anticipated that I would get that question from the Minister or from an hon. Member opposite. It is true that there are only sixteen disabled men, apart from the other people about whom I have been speaking. They can be reckoned by the scores. It is obvious from speaking to men in the town that many of them are suffering from this disease and therefore should not be called upon to do heavy work or work as heavy as that which they are doing. We have had the pump storage scheme in operation at Blaenau for the last three years. Many people other than those which make up the 37 per cent. to which I have referred would gladly go to work there, but cannot find employment there because of their peculiar chest trouble.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that a promise of a Remploy factory for Wales has been made by the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) put in a claim for it. I ask the Minister to let us have two such factories, but, if there is to be only one, let it go to North Wales, and let it go to Blaenau Ffestiniog. It would also serve the surrounding area. It is all very well for the Minister to derive some courage from numbers. However, we must deal in percentages, too. The In-came Tax people deal with me in percentages rather than numbers. On humanitarian grounds alone, I ask the Minister to think of these men, having worked hard down in the bowels of the earth, knowing the risks that they were taking but believing that perhaps the disease would avoid them. However, it did not avoid them. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, with all the eloquence that I can muster, to consider the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and its plight in this respect.
I imagine that it is very rare that an hon. Member on either side of the House is followed in the debate by a Member on the same side. I am sure that it is even rarer that a brother in the flesh follows his hon. Friend. That is the only way to put it in Parliamentary language. I know Blaenau Ffestiniog very well. I know it almost as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). I speak now in all seriousness. I am certain that 75 per cent. of the gravestones in the Bethesda Cemetery at Blaenau Ffestiniog record deaths of people below 50 years of age. That is a terrible indictment of what has gone on in the past.
We had an excellent opening speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who dealt with the matter positively and exhaustively. He knows the problem from the beginning to the end, and I trust that the Minister will take good note of what he said. We have also had interesting speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who made some revealing observations regarding Remploy factories, from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) and, similarly, from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch). On the whole, we have had a valuable debate.
We on this side consider the subject of employment of the elderly and the disabled of such importance that we were prepared to allot to it half of the only day that we are allowed to discuss Welsh affairs in this Chamber—not that these people are numerous as such; indeed they form a small proportion of the population. But in times when we are prone to think in terms of large numbers and high percentages, it is only right that we should on occasion focus attention on the few whose lot is less fortunate than our own.
We are dealing in this debate with people into whose lives has entered a strong element of tragedy. Tragedy is personal. It is individual. Numbers and percentages do not measure tragedy any more than a number of thermometers decides the temperature of an area. It is no comfort to the individual sufferer to know that thousands of other people are suffering in the same way. It is a personal experience and, consequently, the problem must be reduced to individual terms. In this case, we must think exclusively in terms of individuals.
In the final analysis—and here I give my little philosophy of life—we Shall be judged by our attitude towards the less fortunate members of our society. The principle involved in the statement
I will give unto this last, even as unto thee
—a statement found at the end of a parable dealing with the unemployed found standing idle in the market place—is not only sound morals but sound economics. It predated Keynes by nearly 2,000 years. The Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1943, introduced by the late George Tomlinson, enshrined that principle. It is one thing to have a Measure on the Statute Book, but it is quite another matter to apply it with the vigour which the conditions demand and with the determination which those who sponsored the Measure expected. It is often urged that although this human problem deserves our most serious consideration, we should not forget to look at the financial aspect. Of course there are financial implications. Of course money is involved. It stands to reason that
money will be spent, but every penny lost on the balance sheet will be more than balanced by the weight of human happiness and human welfare on the other side. Indeed, it would be a very grave indictment on the present order of things if a population of 50 million people, supposedly in an affluent society, could not honourably support this infinitesimally small proportion of the working population. Indeed, the Tomlinson Committee expressed this very forcefully. It stated:
In an industrial country such as Britain the number of separate occupations is so large and the demand for physical activity is so varied that it is possible to find occupations within the physical capacity of all save the small minority of disabled.
But these disabled people need not be a dead weight on the economy. They can, within their capacity, contribute to the national dividend if given the opportunity to do so.
I have visited the Remploy factory at Wrexham. I have visited other factories and other works in the country, and a visit to a factory or to a works can be informative and is usually very interesting. When I visited the Remploy factory on the Wrexham industrial estate I found it not only informative, not only interesting; it was inspiring and uplifting. I was impressed by the excellent tone of that factory. Everyone was usefully employed. There was obvious joy in work and happiness in achievement. The articles of furniture produced, tables, chairs, filing cabinets, were without fault and without blemish. It was craftsmanship at its best.
Prior to the Disabled Persons Employment Act, 1943, those men would have been allowed to drift and to fend for themselves as best they could. Many would have moped away their time in their fireside chairs in their poverty-stricken kitchen. Others would have wandered aimlessly in the streets. The Remploy factory is a symbol of change, the symbol of a revaluation of human values.
The principle has been accepted. It is accepted on both sides of this House. It is enshrined in an Act of Parliament. My question now is this, is it being fully applied? Although there has been sweet reasonableness in this debate so far, I am afraid I cannot promise that for the next ten minutes or so.
In 1947, in times of great economic difficulties, when the struggle for priorities was very keen and intense and when resources were very few, a start was made and six Remploy factories were built. That was in 1947. By 1951, four years later, the number had reached 86. That is what I call determination. That is what I call vigour. Then, in 1955, ten years after the war, after four years of Tory rule, the Government decided to stop the intake into the Remploy factories to save a few hundred thousand pounds, and yet at the very time that the Government decided to stop further intake into the Remploy factories the then President of the Board of Trade was able to say:
Production is up, and is rising … The figures today show that production is 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. above that for the corresponding period of last year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1955; Vol. 542, c. 161.)
That was in 1955.
What has happened since? Not a single Remploy factory has been built in Wales since that year. Not a single Remploy factory in Wales has been extended since that year. On the contrary, there has been a decline in the number employed in Remploy factories in Wales.
In 1955, 1,025 severely disabled people were employed at the 13 Remploy factories in Wales. By 1958 the number had fallen to 992 and by 1960 it had fallen to 966. Are we to infer from this, as has been suggested by some hon. Members opposite, that we are on the way to solving the problem of the disabled? Only three paragraphs are devoted to the subject in the Report on Developments and Government Action where it is stated that 5,034 disabled persons were unemployed in Wales in December, 1960 and that the number of severely disabled persons unemployed was 619.
I should like to make a comparison of these figures so that the House may see the seriousness of the position. The number in Remploy factories was 966 and the number of severely disabled people outside the Remploy factories was 619. Is that the measure of the Government's achievement—60 per cent. in Remploy and 40 per cent. outside? Against that background we are told, and I want the Minister to note the quotation carefully, that
Grenfell and Remploy factories maintained a satisfactory level of employment, and vacancies in Remploy during the year totalled 114, all of which were filled by severely disabled workers.
What sickening satisfaction! What brazen-faced complacency!
Of course, all the vacancies were filled, but should there not have been more vacancies and do not the Government enter the matter at that very point? The figure of 5,034 unemployed has not been broken down into different categories but when the number of vacancies is 114 and the number of disabled people unemployed is over 5,000 there is a disparity for which the Government must find an answer. The fact is that the number of vacancies in Wales today and in Britain generally is static and there is no evidence of an effort on the part of the Government to increase the number according to present day needs.
As to the general question of disabled persons, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare referred to conditions in his own constituency, but I want to refer to Wrexham where conditions are much more serious. There are 284 disabled unemployed people in the Wrexham division and I ask the Minister for Welsh Affairs to take serious note of the fact that the number has been on the increase for the last two years. During the past year 88 disabled persons were placed and 284 were not placed. It is not to the credit of the Government that the 88 were placed, but it is to their discredit that the 284 were not found places. The 88 were placed as a result of the attitude of local firms and the energy of local officers of the Ministry of Labour, but it is the function of the Government to understand that in Wrexham there are for each person placed three who are not placed.
I suggest that this is no time for complacency. I ask the Government what lies behind this persistent determination on their part to check experiments in human welfare. Why cannot they engender a little more enthusiasm for the Remploy factories? Here is a rich field for experiment. The Remploy factory is not perhaps the only answer, but there is no field of experimentation more rich in its potentialities than this field of experiment in regard to disabled people, and yet we have all the evidence that the Government are shirking the issue.
I should like to draw the attention of the Minister for Welsh Affairs and of the House generally to Government action in Wrexham. We have already had evidence of Government inaction. It is my unpleasant task now to refer to Government action, and I shall do so briefly, not because it could be disposed of briefly but simply because this evening I shall be satisfied with sounding the alarm.
Wrexham is the only place in North Wales with an industrial estate, and on that industrial estate there is a Remploy factory. Wrexham is an industrial area, formerly devoted to heavy industry—coal, steel, brick and tile making and chemical industries, all with a high rate of industrial accidents. It had an unbalanced economy, and it consequently suffered severely during periods of trade recession. To balance the economy, the Royal Ordnance Factory was converted into an industrial estate, and the area was scheduled as a development area right down to the last General Election. It was descheduled as a development area on the narrowest of margins. Of course, we were promised that other industries would be attracted to the area. The Minister for Welsh Affairs told us that the prospects for Wrexham were very promising indeed, and that the development of the motor industry on Merseyside would bring ancillary industries to Wrexham.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade informed me in February, 1960, that he expected that jobs for 400 would accrue in Wrexham in the near future as a result of projects in hand or in prospect. That was eighteen months ago. Not a single firm arrived, and the people of Wrexham are still scanning the horizon for the 400 jobs which they were promised eighteen months ago. On the estate itself, there are 33 acres of land cleared specifically at a cost of £40,000 for industrial development. Around this industrial estate is a green belt, which the Government mean to preserve, so that here alone—I should like to have the attention of the Minister, because I am speaking with great concern—here alone on this industrial estate is land with roads, electricity, water supplies and railway facilities where industry can be attracted. Not only is this estate excellent for the purpose, it is the only land available near Wrexham for this purpose.
A deputation from the Wrexham Town Council, the Wrexham Rural District Council and the Denbigh County Council met the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to see what could be done to attract industry to the estate. It was an intelligent delegation, as one would expect from Wrexham, and they could read the Parliamentary Secretary's face like a book. They knew that no industries would come; nor have they come. They were right and the Minister was wrong. Faced with that situation, they suggested that rather than the industrial estate should be broken up, they as the local authority should be given the opportunity to purchase the estate outright and become responsible for its development. They asked to meet the President of the Board of Trade to discuss proposals and expound their plans. The Minister refused to see them. It was left to the civil servants in Cardiff. It was at that level that this question of major national importance was discussed, and it was at that level that preliminary decisions were taken.
A few weeks ago the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs, a member of another place, visited the estate. He very kindly informed me that he meant to go there. He wrote in a charming way, and he has, of course, his own personal charm. But I must be quite frank and say that I would have preferred that he should have stayed away. I could read the evil omen. A few days later I received a letter from the President of the Board of Trade stating that he had decided to offer the factories for sale to the sitting tenants, and the land, the only land available and readily usable for industrial purposes, to former owners. I have yet to be convinced that the sitting tenants voluntarily requested the purchase of their factories. Suppose they do not want to buy? What then? This is a serious question.
The Minister of Labour was formerly the Minister of Agriculture and he must be aware of what I am now saying. In all seriousness, again I say that I am fully convinced, and shall remain so until it is proved otherwise, that there has been continual and persistent pressure on the Minister to sell this land. The President of the Board of Trade has persistently refused to tell us who the people are. What we are told is that it is the normal policy of the Government. This is undoubtedly the last refuge of a stubborn and unimaginative Minister. If this is normal policy, if this is the policy for Wrexham today, we are entitled to ask whether it will be the policy for Treforest, Fforestfach, Hirwaun and Bridgend tomorrow.
On the Wrexham Industrial Estate there is a Remploy factory. Is that also to be offered for sale? Is that also, despite all that it involves, to fall under the auctioneer's hammer? If so, what is to happen to the severely disabled people employed there? What is to happen to the Remploy factories on the trading estates at Treforest and Bridgend?
The Minister for Welsh Affairs must know what is happening. The first victim of Government policy, the first industrial estate to fall under the auctioneer's hammer is in Wales, of whose affairs he is the appointed custodian. The Government's policy in this respect is really shocking. Let not the Minister seek to tell us what he and the Minister of State have done. The Government are unscrambling the Wrexham Industrial Estate, and for that single act of economic vandalism the Minister must take his full share of responsibility.
I think that everyone who has listened to the debate will agree that it has been extremely interesting and very constructive. I am most grateful to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) for putting so fairly and without exaggeration the very important points that he had in mind. That atmosphere has continued throughout the rest of the speeches to which we have listened.
I felt some shyness when I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) say that this was a day when all Welsh Members were delighted that they had the House of Commons to themselves. I am not a Welshman but I was determined to play my part in a debate on a subject which I think is of very considerable importance to us all.
Although this subject is one which can often be analysed by using figures and statistics, a theme of the debate in the hearts of hon. Members was that, however much we might quote statistics to prove or disprove a case, what really matters is that we are dealing with human beings, and that it is the human approach to the problem which is of concern to us. Each disabled person is a separate individual with his own needs and problems. It is not much consolation to an unemployed disabled man to be told that he is one of 2,000 out of work rather than one of 10,000. What matters is how this affects the individual himself.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly said that he welcomed the improvement in the general employment situation in Wales, but went on to say that there are still difficulties. He and other hon. Members have stressed that there is no ground for complacency although there has been this improvement. I join in that sentiment. Indeed, I go perhaps a little further. It is true that, whereas in Great Britain as a whole, about 16 per cent. of the unemployed are registered as disabled, in Wales itself more than 22 per cent. are registered as disabled. It is also true that in Wales nearly 11 per cent. of all registered disabled persons are unemployed, compared with 7 per cent. in Great Britain as a whole. Therefore, there are particular problems affecting Wales to a greater extent than other parts of the country. But in spite of this we can agree that, although we still have a long way to go, we have made good progress recently, and there are strong grounds for hoping that this progress will be maintained.
I have listened carefuly to the points put forward by hon. Members about the subject of more Remploy factories and I shall refer to this a little later. But one thing my Department has learnt in its sixteen years' experience of working the Disabled Persons Employment Act is that, given care in finding the right job, the great majority of disabled people are capable of undertaking ordinary employment.
We can go further and say that, for most disabled people, the only completely satisfactory form of resettlement is work in ordinary employment which they can take and keep on their merits in competition with able-bodied workers. From this it follows that the greater part of the needs of disabled persons unemployed in Wales, as elsewhere, must be met through increased opportunities for work in ordinary industry, rather than by the setting up of more Remploy factories or sheltered workshops.
The opportunities for employment open to disabled men and women clearly depend on the employment situation generally. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh if I would correct some figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave—they were, indeed, corrected from the right hon. Gentleman's own side—about the nature and number of jobs available and the numbers of registered disabled men. The figures are that in June, 1951, there were 7,807 registered disabled men and women in Wales who were unemployed, while last month the number was 4,459. This figure is the lowest since 1957.
One of the difficulties we have to face—and the right hon. Member for Llanelly brought this out very fairly and it is a major factor—is that more than half of the disabled men in Wales who are unemployed and considered suitable for work in ordinary industry are over the age of 50. More than one in four has been unemployed for more than a year. The rate of unemployment among able-bodied men and women over 50 is also well above the average, although in this respect the situation in Wales is no different from that in the rest of Great Britain where there is a special problem of finding employment for those people of 45 to 50 and over.
I hope that the House will agree that our disablement resettlement officers are going flat out to try to help to solve this problem. They have a special problem in finding work for these disabled people and they are doing all that they reasonably can. I think that the House would agree that the disablement resettlement officers do a good job, and are immensely assisted by the disablement advisory committees who do so much work to help my Ministry in its job. I should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work done by these public-spirited men and women who give up their time to work on these committees.
The work of the Cardiff Industrial Rehabilitation Unit has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) said that he was there fairly recently and he was good enough to pay tribute to the work being done there. I am glad to say that the performance is better than the House generally knows. About 500 disabled men and women complete courses at the Cardiff unit each year, and of those who completed the course during the first half of 1960, 73·6 per cent. had been placed in employment or accepted for training within three months of leaving the unit. That is an improvement on the figure of 67 per cent. for 1959, which was quoted in the Report on Developments and Government Action in Wales and Monmouthshire, presented by my right hon. Friend in March.
The men and women who come to the unit are those whom the disablement resettlement officers find most difficult to resettle in work. Remembering this factor, we can agree that this record of success—with gradually improving percentage of people who are able to find employment after passing through the unit—is satisfactory.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Rees) told the House that he had been in touch with me about his concern for rehabilitation facilities in West Wales in general. When I was in Wales on my last visit, this matter was brought to my attention, and I know that there is a good deal of local feeling about it. I want to tell the House briefly what the situation is and what my view of it is.
If an industrial rehabilitation unit is to be opened anywhere, it will be agreed that it must function properly, and to do that it needs a certain minimum number of staff and a minimum number of people undertaking courses. The inquiries I have made show that a unit in West Wales would run out of people who might use it in about nine months. Therefore, it would not be sensible to set up a new unit at Swansea. I have, however, arranged for a special message coming from me to be sent through my controller in Wales to long-term unemployed disabled persons in the West Wales area pointing out the opportunities available to them at Cardiff and the benefit which a course at Cardiff would give them in taking advantage of the better local prospects of employment.
My hon. Friend also suggested that I might hand over my responsibilities in this matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. I have no intention of handing over responsibility, but I have been in tough with my right hon. Friend who is looking into the adequacy of the facilities for medical rehabilitation in West Wales. I shall keep in close touch with my right hon. Friend about industrial rehabilitation while he is making his study of his side of the responsibility.
We also have in Cardiff a Government training centre with 100 training places in trades such as engineering, radio and television servicing, motor repairing and wood machining. The House may be interested to know that we are opening additional classes in electric welding and hairdressing, and that we are also considering setting up two further classes, one in engineering machine operating and the other for instrument mechanics. Courses in other subjects are available at Government training centres elsewhere and in the residential training centres for the more severely disabled. During the last twelve months nearly 250 disabled men and women from Wales received training under these various scheme to fit them for employment suited to their capacities.
I said that I would try to deal with a number of points raised by hon. and right hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Llanelly, the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), the hon. Member for Bedwellty and many others who have spoken in this debate.
First, I should like to spend a few minutes on the question of Remploy. Most hon. Members have said that we need more Remploy factories in Wales. I recognise that communications are a particular problem in Wales, but I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs has done a great deal to improve them. I admit that there are difficulties. It is because of these difficulties of communication that Wales has been given what might appear to those who live outside Wales to be rather more than its fair share of Remploy factories. Out of the 90 Remploy factories, 13 are in Wales and they employ more than 1,000 severely disabled men and women. Although the right hon. Gentleman showed that the numbers employed were static, because of wastage, retirement and in certain cases death, during last year 160 new disabled people were taken on by Remploy to replace those who left for one reason or another.
I think that the House also knows that I recently announced that Her Majesty's Government are providing extra financial assistance to Remploy for the next five-year period. I believe that this will lead to an increase in the numbers employed. Although I cannot give the promise for which the hon. Member for Bedwellty asked, I can say that, with the more generous financial arrangements which are being made, I hope Remploy will be able to take on more people than at the moment.
The Remploy officials say that as a result of financial arrangements and agreement between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and Remploy, they are restricted to the employment of 6,250 disabled persons. Is that agreement now to be changed whereby they will be in a position to employ more disabled people?
These financial arrangements will enable Remploy to take on more people.
Some criticism has been expressed about wage rates, bonus arrangements and overtime. Wage rates are arrived at by negotiations through normal union-employer channels, as are bonus arrangements. As for overtime, the House must not get the wrong impression. It is not normally worked. No doubt the examples of which hon. Members are thinking are instances where, for a particular reason, a factory has had a contract with a customer and has been in danger of not being able to deliver on the right date. In circumstances like that overtime is occasionally worked, but it is not the normal procedure in Remploy.
Either the hon. Member is being obstinate or I am being unclear. I have said that I cannot give him a promise that a new Remploy factory will be built, but under the better financial arrangements that we are making it will be possible for the existing factories to take on more people. I thought that I had made that reasonably clear.
When the right hon. Gentleman is considering this expansion, will he bear in mind areas like mine, which has no Remploy factory, so that the disabled people there will have some benefit?
I will bear in mind what the hon. Member for Aberdare has said, but I do not want to get into trouble with his hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), who said that the situation in his area was no better than that in Aberdare.
Apart from the sheltered employment provided in Remploy factories there are seven workshops for the blind in Wales, employing 239 blind men and women. Four of these workshops have recently begun to admit sighted disabled persons, who now number 27, and there are prospects of gradually increasing this number.
I believe that it was the hon. Member for Bedwellty who asked why more could not be done to raise the quota figure of 3 per cent. I would point out that I regard 3 per cent. as a minimum and also that many people employ considerably more than that minimum. I am told that 417 employers in Wales employ 5 per cent. or more disabled persons. I am sure that the House will be with me in saying that the greater the number of employers who adopt that attitude the better it will be for the disabled in Wales.
I do not wish to keep the House for too long. I know that there are some points with which I have not been able to deal in detail. Further, some points have been mentioned which do not lie within my responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs has been present throughout almost the whole of the debate, and he has taken a note of the points made. In respect of those points with which I have not dealt and which are my responsibility, I will get in touch with hon. Members later on.
I stress again that the employment opportunities available to the disabled must to a large extent depend on the opportunities which are available for men and women generally. I think that it has ben admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite that what has taken place in Wales during recent years is little short of revolutionary.
Only last week when I was in Africa I was talking to a young Royal Air Force officer who from time to time visits his parents in Ebbw Vale. He said, "What people do not realise is that it is now an entirely different place." There is great truth in that, and I do not see why this improvement should not continue.
He may be able to say that about Ebbw Vale, but he cannot say the same about Rhymney and Tredegar, where they are suffering from all the stresses which were emphasised by my right hon. Friend. They may be hypersensitive in Wales about the migration of population, but in the Heads of the Valleys they are concerned about it. They are concerned lest the kind of thing which happened before should happen again.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is convinced that it will not happen in Ebbw Vale and that he generously comes to the support of what he considers to be his less fortunate neighbours.
I do not believe that enough credit has been given to my colleagues who have been responsible for trying to encourage new industry to go to Wales. I am referring to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and to their predecessors. Too much has been taken for granted, and it is only fair to say that there has been this real transformation. Thanks to this transformation of new industries coming into Wales, the prospects of good jobs for those who live there are better now than they have been for years.
This improvement is something in which the disabled can expect to continue to share. I assure the House that my Ministry will continue to do all it can to be of service to the disabled men and women of Wales.
Before he sits down, will the Minister deal with one point?
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) made a statement which I think ought to be noted. Perhaps the Minister for Welsh Affairs would like to deal with it now. Have the Government decided to dispose of the trading estate at Wrexham? If so, it will be a major change in national policy. I hope that the Minister for Welsh Affairs will realise that if this estate is disposed of we shall take a serious view of such a move. This estate was devised by the Coalition Government and the Labour Government to try to solve the unemployment problem. The news given by my hon. Friend alarmed me.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of this as news, but he can hardly have read the papers. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) spoke about what I frankly supposed was well known to hon. Members. Where he went wrong was to insinuate that this was a threat to the prosperity of Wrexham. There is no truth in that.
My hon. Friend mentioned that the owners of the factories on the trading estate—which at the moment are rented from the Government—were being pressed to purchase them. This is compulsory leasehold enfranchisement. I understand that, but I was concerned about the land itself; that the estate as such was to be broken up and it was not to be the sale of the factories only.