Economic Affairs

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1966.

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Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West 12:00 am, 27th July 1966

In any case, I believe that it is our attitude to help a maiden speaker during his speech by not interrupting. But that does not mean that he is absolutely free from criticism for anything said during that speech. I am sure that the hon. Member for Carmarthen would not want to be free from criticism, any more than any of us would.

Let us look at the point of view of the Welsh people, who have to bear "more than their share of the price", of this "English" economic crisis. Even if there were this elusive Parliament for Wales, that country still could not escape these economic facts. The hon. Member quoted, for example, the Selective Employment Tax. In Wales, the employers of 30 per cent. of the insured population will not be receiving the rebate, compared with nearly 35 per cent. in the country as a whole. On this point, the hon. Member does not have a valid argument.

In any case, virtually the whole of Wales is a development area. This is a particularly important part of the Government's present policy, in that exemption from restrictions is given to these development areas, the very areas which most need aid and employment. We are arguing that development areas may be in a fairly strong position, particularly the more established ones, to defend themselves. Many of them have the more recent factories.

I know that it is commonly argued the opposite way, that it is the subsidiaries which suffer, but it could be that because the subsidiaries have more up-to-date plant than the large national firm, they may survive these attacks even without special treatment.

The hon. Member said that unemployment in Wales is three or four times as high as in the South-East of England, but many hon. Gentlemen who represent English constituencies could probably say the same. It is not fair to take the area with the highest employment in England, which is admitted to have over-full employment, and try to treat it as the norm, which is what the hon. Member was trying to do. Surely it is because we recognise that the South-East of England is receiving an undue proportion of resources that we have proposed restrictions. The more relevant fact is that in Wales 98 out of every 100 of the insured population already have jobs. In every 100 insured workers in Wales, there is one fewer at work than in England. That puts the matter more in perspective.

I said that I would be brief, and I should have been even briefer but for the points of order that have been raised. Confronted with a position in which there could be unemployment and redundancies in the coal mines and redundancies in the steel industry as the result of techno- logical change, there are two possible approaches. The hon. Member for Carmarthen took one when he virtually implied that we should not allow these technological changes to take place because they mean redundancy. But this is the surest way to long-term unemployment.

The other solution, which is the choice of the Government, is to ensure that adequate alternative work is available for those who will be redundant. This, surely, is the sensible solution, as I think both major parties accept. Over the first 12 months of office we created in Wales 60 per cent. more new jobs than had been created on the average of the 13 years that hon. Members opposite formed the Government. Last year there were 31 new firms and 15 extensions. During the first six months of the year—and these are significant statistics for Wales—5 million square feet of factory space have been subject to industrial development certificates. This is more in six months than in the years 1961, 1962 and 1963 all taken together.

On this basis I claim that Government policy is Wales is extremely relevant. The prospects for Wales are extremely good, and I am sure that all Welsh hon. Members, perhaps with one exception, see that we are approaching this problem in the correct way.