Today is Welsh day—the first occasion for Welsh affairs to be debated on the Floor of the House in the life of the present Parliament. The choice of date has coincided with the 18th birthday of Prince Charles and I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will wish me to express our warm congratulations and best wishes to him. We all look forward to his taking an increasingly close interest as Prince of Wales in the affairs of the Principality.
The debate is taking place in the shadow and under the cloud of the terrible disaster at Aberfan—a shadow that will never quite disappear. At 9.15 on the morning of Friday, 21st October, our world stopped and when it moved on again its course was somehow not the same as it had been. Indeed, after Aberfan, Wales will never be the same again. The disaster has brought into very sharp focus for all of us our general concern about Wales—the land of our fathers, and, more pointedly, perhaps, the land of our children. When our thoughts return to Aberfan, as they frequently do, we realise that there are so many lessons to be learned from the disaster.
I am not referring, of course, to lessons about the causes and circumstances of the disaster—these are matters for the Tribunal of Inquiry. I am referring rather to the wider lessons, those that it is our duty to learn as we take stock after such a shattering event.
We think, first, of coal and of the massive part that the industry has played in the economy of Wales. We think, in particular, of the state of the industry today and of its future. I know that many hon. Members are deeply concerned about the industry. But let me say at once that the Government are convinced that coal will continue to play a major rôle in the economy of Wales for as far ahead as we can see.
I do not minimise, of course, the seriousness of the problems created by the National Coal Board's programme of closures. But closures are not new. For the last six years, the Board has worked to a programme of concentration and closure. The rate of closures under this programme, taken year by year, was somewhat slower than the current rate, but the indications are that, save for this year, the long-term rate of closures will be little different from previous years.
The number of men on colliery books has, of course, steadily declined, but during the last 12 months—which include the first 10 months of the accelerated closure programme—the decline has been slower than in the previous 12 months, 5,700 as against 7,500. The change has been most marked in the last six months when, in comparison with the corresponding period last year, recruitment has been better and wastage appreciably less. Indeed, in the last week for which figures are available, the number of men on colliery books in South Wales has actually increased. This must be the first time for many years that there has been an increase.
The major problem facing the industry in South Wales is the continued shortage of manpower at the efficient pits. There are about 3,000 vacancies, mostly at these efficient pits. It must be in the interests of the coal industry as a whole for these vacancies to be filled. There is no reason why any able-bodied man affected by colliery closures in South Wales who is prepared to transfer to another colliery should be unemployed. Wherever possible, the Board will seek to offer jobs to the men affected at collieries within travelling distance of their homes; but it will in any case provide generous transfer allowances, and wherever possible, alternative accommodation to men prepared to move from one area to another.
All the Government Departments concerned—Welsh Office, Board of Trade, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Power, Department of Economic Affairs—are in-formed about closure proposals so that Ministers can be told if a proposed closure is likely substantially to increase unemployment in areas where men are already being discharged from other industries, and the coal industry is unable to offer alternative employment. But there are redundancies, and we are doing all we can to provide other work for the men who are affected.
It is not always practicable to provide alternative employment within the valleys themselves, because of a shortage of suitable sites. In these circumstances, we are doing everything possible to establish the new industries within easy reach of the valleys, so as to render it unnecessary for the redundant miner to move house. In this way, we hope to be able to deal with one of the most serious social problems arising from closures.
I now want to turn to the unemployment position in Wales generally and to industrial prospects. The unemployment figures at the present time are high. The last thing I want to do is to gloss over these figures, but we should get them in the right perspective. A rate of 3½ per cent. is, admittedly, higher than any of us would want, but even this would have been regarded as Utopian within the memories of most of us. Furthermore, although the percentage is higher, there is no sign that Wales is proportionately worse off than the country generally.
For instance, between September and October, the rise in the total unemployed register for Wales was 25 per cent.; for England, it was 35 per cent. The increase in persons wholly unemployed was 15 per cent. in Wales; in England, it was 17 per cent. These figures encourage us to avoid pessimism in looking at the longer term.
During the last 20 years, diversification of employment in Wales has gone on at a tremendous rate, with the result that more of our people are at work than ever before and in a wider variety of jobs. But the fact is that we still rely greatly on extractive and basic industries and that nationalisation in these give rise to problems which need fundamental treatment.
The treatment must, in the main, consist of a broadening and deepening of Government support of new manufacturing employment. Under the Industrial Development Act, 1966, almost the whole of Wales has been included in the Welsh development area and all firms expanding or opening there will be able to seek a wide range of financial inducements.
Investment grants at the rate of 40 per cent. will be available in manufacturing, extractive and construction industries—compared with 20 per cent. elsewhere. But medium to long-term measures already taken in the past are having cumulative effects which can be recognised even now. During the last three years, for example, the number of industrial development certificates approved in Wales has risen in a dramatic fashion. I should like to give the House these figures, which are of the utmost significance in the context of this debate.
In 1963, certificates were issued covering 1·6 million square feet of factory space. In 1964, the figure was 3·2 million square feet. In 1965, certificates were issued for 4·5 million square feet. But in the first 10 months of this year, certificates have been issued for 8·2 million square feet. With two months still to go before the year ends, this is already by far the highest figure reached in any post-war year.
What is even more significant is the increase in the Welsh share of the area covered by all industrial development certificates issued in Great Britain: in 1963, the Welsh share was 4·2 per cent. of the total; in 1964, it was 5·5 per cent.;and in 1965, the Welsh share was 7·3 per cent., but in the first three-quarters of this year it was 14·1 per cent. These are significant figures, showing the advance which has been made. They are very important statistics and they are the clearest possible testimony to the effectiveness of Government policy. They provide a firm foundation for confidence in looking beyond our immediate difficulties.
What is also significant is that these approvals have been spread over Wales in a most encouraging way. In the six North Wales counties, for instance, where just over 20 per cent. of the people of Wales live, certificates have been issued this year to date for nearly 1·8 million square feet—which is also just over 20 per cent. of the total.
But we recognise that there are small pockets of difficulty, and within our broad strategic approach, we recognise the need to pay special attention to these pockets of difficulty. In some localities, unemployment figures are higher than the average and have remained so for many years. It is in these areas that the Government concentrate on building advance factories to make it easier for industrialists to move in. Since October, 1964, when the last Labour Administration took office, 24 advance factories have been allocated to Wales. Nine of these are under construction or completed, of which four have been taken up. The Government are pressing ahead as quickly as possible to obtain sites—where these are not already available—or to let contracts for the others. Three of these have already been allocated and extensions are required for two. All this shows how keen is the interest of industrialists in settling in the Principality.
When my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade announced the fourth advance factory programme two weeks ago, six factories were allocated to Wales—at Swansea, Kenfig, Bridgend, Merthyr, Maesteg and Caernarvon. In all these places the land is already owned by the Board—or is about to be acquired by the Board. The availability of land for factory building was, in fact, a material consideration in the selection of these locations for advance factories.
I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the long time it takes between the announcement of a particular factory and the commencement of building work. It is, of course, absolutely vital to avoid delay, but the major cause of delay, where it exists, is the time taken to acquire land. This is the basic problem, and it is a complex matter since it often involves the rights of private individuals. But my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is urgently examining whether it is possible to make procedural changes which will result in a speeding up of the processes of acquisition.
In the meantime, it will obviously help the Government in their programme of expanding industrial floor space if those local authorities which seek industrial development in their areas would help in making land available quickly, either for advance factories to be built by the Government or for factories which are to be built privately following the grant of an industrial development certificate. Local authorities in those areas have a very important part to play in this.
In addition to the 24 advance factories, there are three factories in Mid-Wales to be financed by the Development Commission. In all, therefore, there is a programme of 27 factories announced since October, 1964, with an aggregate planned area of 405,000 square feet. This is the "planned" area;but we know from experience that, not infrequently—Merioneth and Rhondda are examples—considerable extensions are required to the planned area before building is started.
The Government will continue to pay special attention to the areas where there are these special difficulties—areas such as the valleys in South Wales, rural areas and, if I may be permitted to refer to my own constituency, Anglesey, where the unemployment rate is already above the national average. The point I want to make is that we are doing all we can to anticipate the trouble spots and to take action in advance of redundancies. This is the duty of Government.
I am very conscious of the fact that a number of hon. Members wish to take part in today's debate, and I am keen that as many as possible should be enabled to do so. Within the self-imposed time limits which I have set myself, it is clearly not possible for me to deal with the problems of particular industries and particular areas of Wales in great detail. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with as many of the points raised in the debate as time will permit him to do when he winds up for the Government, if, as I hope he will, he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker.
The omission of detailed reference by me to such important industries as steel, agriculture, and forestry, oil, tourism, etc. should not, however, be taken as indicating any lack of recognition on my part, or on the Government's part, of the great importance of these industries and of the vital part they play in the Welsh economy. Nor do I ignore the significance of the other industries—many comparatively small ones—which form a part of the patchwork pattern of the economy of Wales, especially in rural areas.
I would, in passing, like to pay a warm tribute to the work of the Development Commission in helping to solve the problems of rural Wales. I also want to express my appreciation of the work of the Rural Industries Bureau, both nationally and in the counties of Wales. Its achievements in sustaining, encouraging and advising small industries in invaluable. The work of the Commission and the Bureau has been of great help in Mid-Wales.
The initiative shown by the local authorities of the area some years ago when they decided to set up the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association is also to be commended. This, with financial aid from the Government, has done a great deal to draw small factories into the rural towns. The Government's recognition that more help was needed has been shown in the inclusion of all this area in the new Welsh development area, so that now, for the first time, the full range of financial inducements under the Industrial Development Act will be available to industrialists interested in Mid-Wales. Here again, the availability of suitable sites for industry is of crucial importance, as I am sure the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) agrees.
Local initiative takes other practical forms. Earlier in the year, I launched a project put forward by the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association to study the possibility of doubling the size of Rhayader. The Government are meeting the cost of this work, which will be carried out by consultants in association with the local authority and the Welsh Office, in the expectation that it will delineate the practical steps which could be taken to expand this and similar towns. I am delighted to learn that since it was launched other local authorities in Mid-Wales are exploring, on their own initiative, the possibility of doing the same thing for towns in their area. I warmly commend this spirit of self-help on the part of county councils and other local authorities in this area.
So far as the Report on the proposed new town in Mid-Wales is concerned, I am at present receiving the observations and reactions of the authorities in the area. When I have received and studied all these, I hope it will be possible for us to have a debate, possibly in the Welsh Grand Committee, on the problems of Mid-Wales in particular, when I hope to be in a position to make a statement of Government policy on the area.
It would not be proper, in a debate on industry and employment in Wales-urban Wales and rural Wales—to ignore the paramount importance of communications. Effective communications are one of the principal keys to establishing the Welsh economy on an increasingly sound and more diversified basis. And good communications are needed throughout Wales. The past year has been one of notable progress for road communications to and within Wales. Let me remind the House of some of these improvements. It has seen the opening of the Severn Bridge, of the Port Talbot by-pass and of the final stage of the Heads of the Valleys road.
Some important road contracts have been let, the most recent being for the construction of dual carriageways from Mitchel Troy to Raglan, on the A40 road, as part of our programme of dualling this road as far as Newport. In North Wales, we have continued our programme of improvements on the A55 with a contract to by-pass Abergele and provide a diversion at Llandulas. Work has also begun on the Llandudno Junction fly-over.
In West Wales, I am pleased to be able to announce that I have decided to trunk the A477 road from St. Clears as far as Nash, which is a convenient distribution point for places on the south side of Milford Haven. This is a 22-mile stretch of road in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and has been a controversial issue for many years. It is one on which we have recently received further representations. The Government's decision to enhance the status of this road is an indication of the importance which we attach to realising the full potential of the excellent facilities which nature has given us in this part of Wales. West Wales will also gain from the improvements in communications in South-East Wales, and even from improvements outside Wales.
I thank my right hon. Friend for making that announcement, which is of some importance, particularly to my constituency. It is a tribute to the Welsh Office to be tackling this bottleneck. Would my right hon. Friend explain what this means in terms of money in support of the trunking procedures, so to speak?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. I realise the part that he has played in making representations in respect of this road. I do not have the figures with me, but my hon. Friend will, I hope, be in a position to supply them when he replies to the debate.
Hon. Members will wish to know how the current financial situation has affected our road programme. Since most of Wales is a development area, we could not lightly contemplate any great cuts in the programme. Our financial ceiling for major improvements in 1967–68 has, in fact, been reduced to about £0·4 million below that originally contemplated, but I expect to be able to manage this without having deliberately to postpone any major schemes. In short, the reduction can be more or less accommodated within the margin of timing errors which are inevitable on all major schemes.
But we must look further ahead to the period after 1970. I can say that we are now well advanced in preparing the programme of schemes which we shall wish to put in hand. This programme has been discussed with the Welsh Economic Council, whose views I shall certainly take fully into account. There is a tremendous task waiting to be done on improving Welsh roads. But two factors are of over-riding importance. The first is that the total investment in Welsh roads should match the need. The need is increasing all the time; the signs are that the rate of increase is faster in Wales even than it is in England. I am, therefore, planning for a rising level of investment in our roads.
The second need is that we should get our priorities right. On this question of priorities, it is fitting to record that Aberfan illustrated in a grim fashion the urgent need to look at our urban roads. Hon. Members quite properly draw attention to the need for better roads in rural areas. I have frequently done so myself in the House over the last 16 years. But in settling our priorities, we must give close attention to the chaotic conditions that can and will be created in our towns with the massive and progressive increase in car ownership.
The economic tools at our disposal to determine the best order of priorities are becoming more sophisticated. We must ensure, however, that they give adequate weighting to future developmental needs. At the same time, it would be wrong to provide roads of too lavish a standard to cater for traffic which, even on the most optimistic assumptions, will not arise for very many years to come. That would not be wise use of resources. I hope that by looking boldly at the pattern of need, and with a rising overall programme, we can provide industrialists and the private motorist with roads of which Wales can be proud.
In the context of industry and employment, sea communications are of equal importance to those on land. The future prospects of the ports of Newport, Cardiff, Barry, Swansea and Port Talbot are of the utmost importance. Following the Government's decision not to promote a third major liner terminal, the Welsh Economic Council, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, through its Port Development Panel, has carried out an urgent study of the resources of the South Wales ports and their potential for development. The panel's report is, in fact, being considered by the Council at the monthly meeting which is being held today and the Council's recommendations will be submitted to me within the next week or so.
The largest port in North Wales is Holyhead. I am in touch with British Rail and the Ministry of Transport about Holyhead. British Rail is making a study in depth of the potential of the port and of the future pattern of trade there. I have every confidence that the outcome will be an expansion of the port and an increase in trade over the next few years.
I come to the problem of derelict land in Wales. Aberfan has focused the attention of the country on the other areas of industrial dereliction in Wales. These areas have been surveyed by the Welsh Office. Taking as the definition of derelict land all that land that has been so damaged by industrial or other development that it is incapable of beneficial use without treatment, there are over 16,000 acres in Wales consisting in the main of spoil heaps, excavations and disused industrial sites, including disused colliery buildings and plant. Of this total of 16,000 acres, about 10,000 acres are considered by the local authorities to justify treatment either to enable the sites to be used for new development or to improve the appearance of the neighbourhood or to remove possible sources of danger. This is one of the inheritances of the industrial revolution.
The Government accept that one of the lessons to be drawn from Aberfan is that much faster progress must now be made in dealing with this problem of dereliction. To this end, it has been decided that every encouragement should be given to local authorities to take full advantage of the provisions of Section 20 of the Industrial Development Act, 1966. These provisions enable derelict sites in the development areas to be cleared where it appears to the Minister concerned that the site is "derelict, neglected, or unsightly" and where it appears to the Board of Trade that it is
expedient with a view to contributing to the development of industry in that area that steps should be taken for the purpose of enabling the land to be brought into use or of improving its appearance".
For these purposes it is possible for me, with the consent of the Treasury, to make grants to the local authorities for acquiring the land and carrying out the necessary works.
Spoil heaps no longer in use, which constitute a safety hazard, will normally be "derelict, neglected or unsightly", and it will be open for me, as the Minister concerned in Wales, to include them under the provisions of the 1966 Act. The Board of Trade will interpret the provisions of Section 20 in a broad sense so that even if the spoil heap itself or the area immediately adjacent to it is not to be turned into a site for industry, the spoil heap can still be covered by Section 20 on the grounds that improvement in its appearance is likely to contribute to industrial development in the area generally. For example, an unsightly and unsafe tip could be covered, even though it was not in the immediate vicinity of industrial sites.
As regards finance, the grants payable under the 1966 Act are at present 85 per cent. of the net cost, with a maximum of 95 per cent. of Exchequer money payable in cases of authorities which attract rate deficiency grant. These are already generous grants, but if finance is an impediment in any exceptional case where safety is involved we shall be prepared to consider some relaxation in the existing arrangements so as to ensure that early progress is made. The Government are determined to see real progress in clearing derelict sites with priority for those which also constitute a hazard to safety; and provision for the necessary expenditure will be included in Estimates for 1967–68, which will be submitted to the House in due course.
Some of the local authorities concerned may not themselves have all the staff or the resources needed to undertake all the work involved. To meet this difficulty, and to provide the necessary impetus, I am creating a small special unit in the Welsh Office which will have professional staff attached to it and which will work in close co-operation with other Government Departments, the local authorities, the National Coal Board, the Forestry Commission and other bodies whose co-operation will be needed. This co-operation will, I know, be readily forthcoming.
The House will agree that this is a substantial step forward in our attempt to deal with this difficult and urgent problem. The improvement of the physical environment involves much more, however, than the removal of tips and the treatment of areas of industrial dereliction.
It also means the provision of decent housing for our people. This is a subject which is very relevant to this debate today, because one of the first questions asked by industrialists moving into Wales is whether houses are available for executives and key workers. We must also see to it that good housing is available for our own people—especially young people—otherwise they will move out of the older industrial areas and perhaps out of Wales altogether.
Last year, more houses were built in Wales than ever before. In fact, nearly twice as many were completed as were completed seven or eight years ago. But at present we have a record number of over 23,000 dwellings under construction. Our aim is to steadily increase the size of the housing programme in Wales to keep pace with increased productivity in the building industry so that every family that wants a house of their own will be able to have one.
Another inheritance of the industrial revolution is our large stock of dwellings which are now over 80 years old—many of them unfit to live in, many more of them lacking modern amenities. With over 3,000 unfit houses being cleared each year, and over 7,000 older houses brought up to modern standards each year with the aid of Exchequer and local authority grants, the general state of housing in Wales is steadily improving, but we shall not relax our efforts until everyone has a good house with modern amenities.
What sort of Wales do we want to see? This is the concern of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Our plan for Wales will, in fact, be published as early as possible next year. It will be produced in close consultation with the Welsh Economic Council, which has already contributed to the thinking behind the plan through its own studies and in other ways. Many other bodies are also being consulted, including a wide range of Government Departments, both sides of industry, the Welsh Tourist Board and the University of Wales.
The plan will set out the Government's proposals for dealing with Welsh problems and for making the best use of the great resources of Wales in the next decade and until the end of the century. I am anxious to present the White Paper as quickly as possible, and there will be no unavoidable delay, but the House will appreciate that a study of this kind—ranging so widely in time and content—cannot and should not be prepared in a hurry.
Obviously, the plan will have a bearing on the immediate problems facing Wales, but it will be mainly concerned with the Government's long-term policies. These are designed to establish the Welsh economy on a secure and lasting basis and to create the best possible living and working conditions for the people of Wales. The plan will show what progress the Government are determined to make towards achieving these objectives in the years ahead.
The picture of Wales as I see it, therefore, is of short-term difficulties, which should not be minimised, but with long-term prospects, which are bright. Those who paint a gloomy picture of Wales are doing our country the greatest possible disservice. The scars on the Welsh landscape and in the hearts of our people are not to be removed in one day. All of us are impatient to get on with the job of building up a new environment. If we are not making the rapid progress, or more rapid progress, that we would all wish to see, it is not because of any lack of willingness on our part, but because of the magnitude of the job. We are, however, at last grappling with these problems after a century of comparative indifference and a "couldn't-care-less" attitude.
I want to see a Wales whose unrivalled beauty is preserved for future generations. I want to see a Wales where our young people can enjoy the opportunities of a good education and rewarding employment. The progress we are now making demonstrates that we are on the right lines. Our people have shown throughout history that they are an independent, courageous, imaginative, tough and adaptable people, and I want to see a Wales in which these qualities are given the chance of full expression.
Above all, and I end on this poignant note, I want to see a Wales where our children can live and study and play in healthy surroundings and in complete safety—with no fear of tips, no fear of traffic and, above all, no fear that when they grow to manhood or womanhood they will be faced with the spectre of unemployment and the need to leave the land of their fathers.
Secondly, I turn to a more sombre matter. The Secretary of State quite lightly referred to the Aberfan disaster. Let me say here and now that what he said later in his speech, about getting rid of the dumps and some of the unsightly parts of the Principality, under Section 20 of the Industrial Development Act, 1966, will have our full support. Of course, there may be questions of detail which we may wish to ask him. We may, for instance—in fact, I do so now—wish to ask him whether this Section will apply not merely to those areas which are owned by local authorities, but also to those which are owned by nationalised industries and, indeed, by private individuals. Will this legislation apply in the same way throughout?
When we are faced with this annual debate, and when those of us who are concerned with the future of Wales have to consider what we will say, there is so much and there are so many subjects upon which we can touch. It is a fact that the Report—Wales 1965—is already out of date. I do not complain, but it is, perhaps a pity that our debate takes place so long afterwards. We know, too, that the annual Welsh Digest of Statistics is not yet out. It is expected, I believe, at the end of next month.
I put it to the Secretary of State, that in arranging the date of our debate—and we all know that this is a matter which has to be arranged through what is called "the usual channels "—we might have a date when both these productions are before us. It does make it a little difficult for anybody who does not have access to all the information, which obviously the Welsh Office has, to make a complete study of these matters.
We are discussing trade and industry today, which is a very wide subject. I cannot help referring to the fact that last Wednesday there was a debate on the agricultural industry. It was a long debate. It was opened by the Minister of Agriculture and it was wound up by the Secretary of State for Scotland. There were a number of speeches from both sides of the House and a number of questions were asked about Welsh agriculture: but not one answer did we get from either the Minister of Agriculture in starting or the Secretary of State for Scotland in winding up. Nor did either of those right hon. Gentlemen give way, except on one minor occasion, throughout that debate.
I regret this, and I believe that many hon. Members on both sides of the House regret it, because there are a number of difficulties—I do not wish to paint a gloomy picture—in the fatstock and the store stock position, both with sheep and cattle. Perhaps the Minister of State, in winding up, could say something about this today.
No. It would take too long for me to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman why I am not of his opinion.
In listening to the various matters which the right hon. Gentleman discussed today, we realise full well the great number of problems which the Secretary for Wales already has to face.
Reverting to agriculture, we have, over three-quarters of the land surface of Wales, affected today by the difficulties of the livestock industry. This will mean, and it is often overlooked by industrialists, that farmers will buy very much less machinery and fertiliser this year than last—the money is just not there. That, of course, will affect the agricultural machinery and fertiliser industries. Perhaps the Minister of State will be able to tell us something about that aspect.
The tourist industry is in some difficulty. The Secretary of State quite rightly said that although he had not time to refer to that industry today it did not mean that he does not think it as important as I do. Investment grants are no substitute for investment allowances, and the tourist industry does not think so. The Selective Employment Tax has hit it for six, and a very large proportion of the hotel industry in Wales—particularly in Notrh Wales and Llandudno—is not within the development area. Those are three things that the Government have the capability and responsibility to alleviate, and I hope that the Minister of State will be able to refer to that subject.
Wales has much to offer the holiday-maker, and we could do much more than we do today. Some time ago the right hon. Gentleman told me that he was to have talks with the Welsh Tourist Board. Has that meeting had any results? What can we be told about it? We know that the Welsh tourist industry faces great problems, and it is not only we on this side who criticise the Government's actions here. One has only to look at the Sunday newspapers to read what Lord Shawcross, an ex-Labour Minister, has to say about the present Government's treatment of the tourist industry.
What did Lord Shawcross say? He accused the Government of
… giving the impression that it was determined to destroy tourism both as an earner of foreign exchange and as an amenity at home.
It is open to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) to describe his erstwhile friend as fatheaded, but I am quoting the words of someone who was thought worthy enough to make this speech at Torquay, and that is what he had to say. I do not know whether the hon. Member is particularly interested in the tourist industry in his part of the country, but if he was trying to get people to come to his town he would find is extraordinarily difficult owing to what has been done by the Government—
I am interested in greater numbers of people coming to Ebbw Vale. What I was describing as fatheaded was Lord Shawcross's suggestion that the Government deliberately wanted to do away with the tourist industry. No remark could have been more outrageous, and Lord Shawcross must have known its absurdity and, indeed, its completely misleading nature, when he made it.
I am glad to find that the hon. Gentleman is in accord with his Front Bench. I have mentioned the three things that the Government could do to help the tourist industry and which they have not done. They have not put a large portion of the hotel industry into the development area. They have not done anything in the way of removing the Selective Employment Tax from the industry—and we also have that third matter which skips my memory for the moment.
Let us go from there to another question touched on by the right hon. Gentleman—the question of the new town in Mid-Wales. There we have always had our depopulation difficulties, and depopulation has been the major concern of our Welsh debates. It is fair to say that in this respect, the right hon. Gentleman got landed with the election pledges of his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). The consultants have now reported on the new town, and I well remember that the report was held in the Welsh Office for six months and not made public until July last.
Now it has been publisher, and the right hon. Gentleman is asking local authorities for their views. That is very right and proper, but let us be in no doubt what he is asking. He is asking every local authority in Mid-Wales, "Do you or do you not want £137 million to be spent in 3'our part of the country?" Well, we are all Welshmen—how many of us would refuse £137 million to be spent in our part of the country? We must consider this question in that light. It will remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State, and his alone, to decide whether to spent £137 million in Mid-Wales on this one project is the best way of spending money in Wales.
The hon. Gentleman knows my views, and I have not changed them. I think that the new town is the answer to the problem of Mid-Wales. Coming from Radnorshire, as he does, I am sure that he will join me in saying how glad he is to find that his county, and Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire, have come out in favour of the new town.
I had hoped that by throwing the fly over the right hon. Gentleman I would get him to rise to it. If he had been at the meeting of the Radnorshire County Council the other morning, as I was, he would have heard what proposition was put and accepted, but it was very clear from the debate that the council did not want a new town at Caersws. That was made fundamentally obvious in the debate.
I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, so I come back to the question that any Secretary of State for Wales has to face, which is whether this £137 million he has should be used on a new town in Mid-Wales, or on communications, or on the vast number of things on which the right hon. Gentleman touched in South Wales. I merely say that this is a question of priorities.
We are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on new towns in England and in Scotland. The hon. Member's argument applies not only to a Welsh new town, but to all the new towns in the country.
Yes, but even the consultants said in their report that this was not a Welsh answer to a Welsh problem. They also said that it was not an answer to overspill from the Midlands. We should bear those two points in mind.
In these debates we have always referred over the years to the pressing problem of redeployment—something which the Secretary of State has mentioned today—necessitated by the con traction of older industries which has gone on under all Governments since the war. I thought that the right hon. Gentle man rather over-egged the pudding when he said that in Wales we had suffered from comparative indifference for over 100 years—
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point on dereliction. I thought that he was speaking in a general way, and I withdraw what I said.
But I would say that Governments of all colours have tried to deal with this question of redeployment, and one of the factors here is the location of industry. This is clearly something that vitally affects every hon. Member. There is hardly an hon. Member in the House today who has a constituency in the valleys who is not faced, first, by the short-term question of bringing in immediate employment, and, secondly, by the long-term question of where the best place is to put these industries.
Very often the short-term and the long-term can be in conflict. Here again, a major difficulty which industry faces—leaving aside all the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave today about advance factories and I.D.C.s—the one fundamental thing which the industry in Wales, as in other places, faces, is the level of private investment.
The Chancellor, indeed the Prime Minister, has been asking for higher private investment, but that is not easy under a Socialist Government. For two years we have had a Government who have been openly anti-private enterprise and have treated profits as something with a bad smell. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] When we have a party which, over the years, has run down the profit motive we cannot be surprised that there is a rundown in private investment. This is something which has to be got over. If, during the course of getting over it, we change the philosophy of the party opposite, at least something will have been achieved.
I now deal with some financial matters. If we leave on one side restriction of credit and speak of Corporation Tax, Selective Employment Tax and 10 per cent. Surtax, we realise that these are some of the things which are discouraging investment. Hon. Members opposite often make noises against the Surtax payer, but in many cases Surtax payers are the men and women who can start industries and help to diversify industry. They need encouragement. They should not be continually discouraged by crippling taxation.
Today, the financial climate in which businessmen are hesitant to launch out on new ventures is something we have to get rid of. It is a situation which has been created by the financial policies of the party opposite and is described by the Prime Minister as "a period of shake-out". I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government how long they intend deliberately to keep high levels of unemployment which result from lack of investment resulting from the failure of their economic policies.
Until the Government recognise that through their financial policies they should encourage enterprise, we shall not see the situation improve. The Government may argue that they are bringing to Wales a great deal of public expenditure, but this is only half the answer. Although it may bring employment, so much public expenditure does not of itself make a direct contribution to exports.
I come to the question of Selective Employment Tax.
Yes, the old, old story, but it does not get better as we go on.
Many people, in small industries particularly, would bear out what I say. I do not believe that the Chancellor likes this tax any more than he did when he was forced to produce it. Even he must have thought that it was a bad tax when he introduced it.
If the Chancellor really believes that about his tax he had better consult the gentlemen in the Treasury, who know more about it than he does. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say this with great respect to him. If the right hon. Gentleman honestly believes that people in small industries are benefiting from Selective Employment Tax, he is utterly wrong. There are people in small Welsh businesses today who would bear me out. If one does not happen to be in manufacturing industry, one does not benefit at all. In Wales, over the past 15 years, we have seen a great growth in the service part of industry. This is something greatly to be encouraged, but now, I am sorry to say, it is being discouraged.
The Secretary of State has been asking the Economic Council to tell him of the effect which Selective Employment Tax is having. He has been told for a very long time what effect it would have. He has been told that it would hurt the tourist industry, that it would hurt agriculture. He has been told that these two industries, which are the greatest savers of our balance of payments, will be particularly hard hit.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his usual courtesy in giving way. Does he appreciate that Wales appears to come out of Selective Employment Tax rather better than England? In Wales, 32·3 per cent. of the people pay the tax, whereas in Britain as a whole 38·1 per cent. pay it. In Wales, 37·2 per cent. receive a refund, whereas in Britain only 27·3 per cent. receive a refund.
This is a dangerous argument. I doubt very much whether the hon. Member would be prepared to follow it up in his own constituency. A Question was asked in the House a week ago about the effect of the tax on the South-West. Perhaps the officials are not so quick to find the figures there, but they were not available from the Ministry of Labour. This is an argument which the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) should give up.
It was not necessary for the Secretary of State to take the question of Selective Employment Tax to the Economic Council. What will it be able to tell him which he does not know already—what we have told him from this side of the House for a very long time? This is a public relations exercise. A man of his calibre need not have adopted this type of subterfuge. It is a bad tax and the Chancellor who is sitting in our debate today should see his way to remove it at the earliest opportunity.
The Secretary of State dealt very rightly with the question of communications. This is a matter which we on this side of the House are very ready to talk about. After all, we were responsible for launching a very large motorway and trunk road programme in Wales, much of which is obviously still being finished. What has concerned us is what will happen in the years ahead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), the other day, asked a Question relating to motorways and trunk roads. He was told by the Under-Jiecretary of State that 4·4 miles were opened in July, 1966 on the Port Talbot by-pass and 18½ miles were under construction on the M4. He was also told that there was no motorway for which a contract had been placed, no scheme for which tenders had been invited, none for which a scheme had been made, nor for which a draft scheme had been published.
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, when he gave us some welcome news about two roads in particular, perhaps, in winding up the debate, the Minister of State can tell us whether what the Under-Secretary said only three or four days ago is now out of date, whether something is planned for this period, or is the cupboard bare for the period 1969–70–71? I leave the question of communications there, except to say that we still believe that if money is available an east-west road from Shrewsbury to Cardigan Bay would be an immense improvement for the Welsh economy, particularly the economy of Mid-Wales.
I hope that I shall have the under-sanding of the House in dealing with such a human question as employment— jobs—and those who at present are unemployed in Wales. I have said before that over the years the unemployment rate in Wales has been stubbornly twice the national average, or not very far behind it. There are reasons for this, known to many hon. Members on both sides. What is an acceptable figure of unemployment? The present Government are having difficulty, as all Governments have had, in facing up to this. The Prime Minister said that it is clear that 2 per cent. is acceptable after redeployment, and this was made clear by the Minister of Labour, at col. 673, in the debate on 24th October. If we are to have a 2 per cent. average in the United Kingdom after redeployment, what figure shall we have in Wales? We must face the fact that it will be near 4 per cent. unless things change very considerably.
When will redeployment be completed? Many people think that it will go on and on. Therefore, we do not know what the forward figures of unemployment are likely to be. I do not intend to say more, but I point to the fact that if we are to accept the figure of 2 per cent. put forward by the Prime Minister for the United Kingdom level and 4 per cent. as the Welsh level, the figures in certain parts of Wales will be certainly higher. Therefore, this is something to which the Government must carefully turn our attention.
Perhaps the Minister of State can tell us how many of the present unemployed in Wales are temporarily unemployed. In the 24th October debate the Minister of Labour said that of the 437,000 unemployed in the United Kingdom 63,000 were temporarily stopped.
We are today debating a question which concerns the livelihood of many thousands of men and women and, in particular, the future careers of our young people. This is a great responsibility. It is a subject that we all try to tackle in a responsible way. As I said earlier, the problem is whether or not the Secretary of State of the day should take the long view always or sometimes the short view. We are a great home-loving people, and we prefer to have our work near home. This makes the Government's job more difficult. The problem of whether to take the job to the people or the people to the job is something that the right hon. Gentleman must often have in mind.
This annual debate comes as a form of stocktaking as we weigh up the future prospects of the Principality. What a different picture industry and employment present now compared with 4th November last year! On that occasion the right hon. Member for Llanelly, who opened the debate, ended with these words:
My last word is to my compatriots in Wales. A fresh new opportunity for Wales is coming under the National Plan. I believe that we shall rise to the challenge and build a Wales of tomorrow which will be equal to the inheritance bequeathed to us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th November, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 1255.]
There is not much left of the National Plan. It has gone with the wind. There is talk from the right hon. Gentleman of a new Welsh Plan. I only hope that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), will have nothing whatever to do with that. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will produce it, and that it will be a plan that will help us with the problems that we have to deal with tomorrow.
Anybody today who considers the position as it was a year ago must be tempted to answer the question which the right hon. Gentleman then asked about the Welsh inheritance and inquire whether anybody today believes that the position which the Labour Party inherited from us in Wales has been improved. I do not know; it is up to the Welsh people to decide, and it is up to each Government, over the years, to do what they can within the framework of the national economy.
The Secretary of State today touched on many matters, but I believe that the greatest matter that we have to deal with is the positive employment of our people. I have on purpose framed my remarks today in a way which, I hope, will be encouraging and positive in relation to what the country and the Principality, in particular, are trying to do for the future. We look to the Secretary of State and his Office to lead this spearhead, and I hope that when he winds up the Minister of State will measure up to and answer the questions that we put to him in this debate.
I listened with considerable interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, and take this opportunity to congratulate him on the admirable way in which he dealt with trade and industry in the Principality. He covered a great deal of ground, and I am sure that the House is grateful for the information that he gave us. After the information that we have been given, I imagine that this will be a very well balanced debate. We are particularly grateful to know that improved measures are being taken with regard to derelict land in South Wales, particularly after the tragedy at Aberfan.
I feel sure that my right hon. Friend, with the enthusiasm that he has always displayed, will ensure that the advance factories will be occupied as soon as possible and that the unemployment figure is brought down as soon as possible. I recognise that my right hon. Friend and others have come into office at a very crucial time in the history of Wales when we are facing rapid changes in industrial and social life. Many industries are being modernised, and this is creating problems of redundancy and unemployment in many districts, and also other problems. I am conscious that my right hon. Friends have not had a very long time to do the job that they are there to do.
In addition, we must not forget that Wales cannot escape the effect of the policy of the Government—a policy that I wholeheartedly agree with, however unfortunate it may be—in relation to their efforts—I hope that they will be effective efforts—to improve our balance of payments. No doubt this is creating some hardship in Wales. My concern arises because this comes on top of and in addition to pit closures which have taken place in Wales for years.
We are not here dealing with a problem that is suddenly brought about by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in dealing with the matter, such as the heavy taxation of the last 12 months, or the Selective Employment Tax. We are dealing with a problem that has been facing the miners of South Wales for many years. I say at once that the National Coal Board, the National Union of Mine-workers and Government Departments for quite a time have faced up to this problem. The Ministry of Labour, the Board of Trade, and the mining industry have been able to cope with pit closures for a long time, and men have been found other work. Government Departments have been very busy in an effort to find other employment.
By and large, this re-employment has worked fairly smoothly in the valleys of South Wales for some time, and there has been co-operation between all those associated with the industry. But during the past 12 months, in the South Wales coalfields, the end of the road has been reached. Pit closures have been going on relentlessly over a long period and we have arrived at saturation point. If these closures are to continue in localities where there is already high unemployment a great deal of distress and hardship will be created.
I have argued for a long time that perhaps certain pits which the Coal Board has in mind can still be closed in areas where there will be little hardship. That may be being done now. I do not know—I should like to see the Coal Board's plans for future pit closures. It is possible that in future circumstances the Board can say that it will close a pit, as it is unremunerative, and that there will not be much unemployment because employment prospects in the nearby area are good. That is all very well. All along the mining community has realised that there must be pit closures. If they are inevitable it faces the position. It understands the economic position and the position of many pits in South Wales. It may be true that closures can still take place in certain localities in certain circumstances.
I am sorry that there does not seem to be a representative of the Ministry of Power present, because I must voice my protest very strongly at the continuation of pit closures where there is already high unemployment. I do not want to make a constituency speech, but in my own area, at Risca, we have had the closing down of the famous Nine Mile Point Colliery and the Risca Colliery. The percentage of unemployment there is now 6 per cent., and the neighbouring pit is likely to be closed. If so, a great deal of hardship and suffering will be caused to the people of Risca.
All I ask is that in these circumstances the Coal Board will look at its future programme and consider those areas where there is high unemployment, and hold off pit closures at least until alternative work is available. That is not too much to ask in the present circumstances. The Government must either pay unemployment benefit, and there will be the suffering that unemployment involves, or, under certain circumstances, the Coal Board must foot the bill for a short period.
Over the years the mining communities have suffered from subsidence. They are told, "You cannot build a hospital in this valley because of subsidence," and, "You cannot build houses in the place the local authority has in mind because of subsidence". In my constituency, houses are falling down because of subsidence. The tips have been referred to. We have mentioned tips on this side of the House before, but this matter has not received publicity. One of my hon. Friends who has now retired was always dismayed when, after making a lengthy speech on momentous problems, it had little publicity. My hon. Friends and I raised the question of tips on a number of occasions, but it is not "copy". It is not of a national character, or to do with international affairs. "What are tips?", it was asked. Now there has been the Aberfan disaster and all the talk is of the tips. While I agree with my right hon. Friend and am very gratified that he has taken the additional steps, I must point out that we have raised the question on a number of occasions.
In addition to the problem of mining subsidence and tips there are the mining injuries caused by explosions and diseases such as pneumoconiosis. Just before Aberfan we had the Taff Vale explosion, when men were burned. This has been part of the life of mining communities, and the miners have borne it over the years with fortitude. They say nothing, and go on with the task, but now they also face pit closures. And they do face up to them; they do not run away. I do not want to be critical of the car industry. I realise that people in it are facing hardships in many respects. But the mining industry never made all this fuss and bother during the years that it has had to face unemployment and pit closures.
I appeal to the Ministry of Power to listen to these figures: in 1958, 107,000 men were employed in the Welsh coalfields, and this figure has now fallen to 55,000. Those are amazing figures. The men have left the industry or been reemployed. The figures show that the miners and the mining community deserve—I was going to say the compassion of the Government—a policy whereby the Coal Board and the Ministry of Power will say, "Very well, we must go on with pit closures as time goes on; we must face the economic facts of the position. But, having regard to the high unemployment in certain localities, we shall put them off until alternative employment is available". That is a reasonable and sensible policy to adopt. That is planning as it should be, planning to look at each locality for the years to come.
I am sorry that I must be critical on one or two aspects of Government policy, but there is also the question of training. The National Union of Mineworkers has for a long time made reasonable demands for more training centres in South Wales. It makes no criticism of certain pit closures, but wants its men trained if they must leave the industry. Thanks to the Ministry of Labour and other Government Departments, there are two excellent training centres in South Wales. It is encouraging that the Government's Cardiff and Llanelli training centres are so successful. Industrialists are going there, and men are beginning to see the great advantage of them. This gives extra impetus to the demand for more training centres, and I appeal to the Ministry of Labour to push on with the establishment of training centres in the valleys of South Wales. It is all very well having them in Cardiff and Port Talbot—some men are willing to travel—but let us have them in the mining valleys so that miners becoming redundant and leaving the industry can be trained there.
It will be said, and I have heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour say it before, that this takes time. I appreciate that it is necessary to have efficient lecturers and teachers to set up a training centre, but pit closures have been going on in South Wales for years. This is not something new. I should have thought that by now there would have been established somewhere in the coalfields another Government training centre to which miners and others could go for training to fit themselves for using new skills in industry. If the Government take early steps to do that they will earn the gratitude of the miners, who are not ungrateful. I again urge the Ministry to proceed as quickly as possible with the establishment of these centres.
I have one other point on this matter, which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) has raised before. It concerns B.O.T.A.C., the Board of Trade Advisory Committee, which I wish would be a little more flexible. There is not only a need to get new industries into South Wales, but to expand those which already exist there. Quite a number of firms in South Wales have applied for grants to expand their undertakings, but B.O.T.A.C. seems to be a sort of law unto itself. We do not get any reply from it.
Industries in my constituency have made applications for extra grants to expand, and when there is a refusal no explanation is given. Some of these industrialists feel very frustrated; they do not know why they are refused. It may be that B.O.T.A.C. has sound reasons for refusing an application. If so, let the industrialists know why, so that they will know what the prospects are for the future.
If my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Board of Trade would look at this organisation again, to see whether they could from time to time give industrialists the reasons why their applications for grant cannot be accepted, this would be a great help. People would then know where they stood.
I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends and the Welsh Office for the efforts which they are making to improve the situation in South Wales. I am sure that, if it rests with them, they will do all they possibly can. We are awaiting the expansion of industry. We are now in a lull. Let us take advantage of this standstill. Now is the time to get moving, to train our men so that they are ready for an expansion of industry in Wales. At the end of the day, perhaps by this time next year, with expansion beginning to come along, we shall have some trained men to undertake the necessary work in the coalfield valleys. Miners are waiting for these jobs. Industrialists tell us that they want more trained and skilled men. Let us get on with it now during the standstill.
If measures in that direction are taken, my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Welsh Office will be able to say, 12 months from now, that we are ready to expand, that more industries are coming to Wales, and that we are once more moving as near as we possibly can to the full employment for which we all are striving.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bed-wellty (Mr. Finch) spoke with great knowledge of mining and the problems of South Wales. My fear for the future is that we are much more likely to be short of coal than have too much of it in 10 or 12 years. I have quite a number of miners in my own constituency. Some of them are working in Denbighshire, but there is one colliery working in Flintshire, Point of Air, where a large expansion is taking place. Houses are to be built by the Coal Board to accommodate miners who are coming in, and it may well be that we shall have the privilege of giving hospitality to some of the hon. Gentleman's constituents.
I shall speak about a subject on which I have addressed the House before, the exclusion of the coastal strip of North-East Wales from the Welsh Development Area. As soon as this was announced, naturally, all the local authorities realised the dangers. Representations were made, and I led a deputation to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), then Secretary of State for Wales, to put the case to him. It was put very well. Needless to say, we were received with the utmost courtesy by the right hon. Gentleman, but, although we were not sent away with a flea in our ear, we were sent away with nothing else.
Representations continued both to the Secretary of State and to the Board of Trade. At the urgent request of the Flintshire County Council, the Minister of State came to a meeting with the Flintshire County Council, which I attended. Most of the members of the council and the officials were so intoxicated by the hon. Gentleman's febrile charm that they actually thought that something had happened. For myself, however, having been under the wand of the enchanter before, I was, so to speak, inoculated, and I was fairly certain that nothing would happen. Nothing has happened, and I gather from the Board of Trade, with which I have been in touch during the past week or so, that it is very likely that nothing will happen.
This is a matter of considerable importance. The Board of Trade rests the case for the exclusion of the coastal strip of North-East Wales on employment statistics. These statistics are contested by the local councils, particularly in the Rhyl Employment Exchange area, which includes Prestatyn. Rhyl is in the almost unique position of having been a development district but now being excluded from a development area, although unemployment there is just as high as it is in many other seaside resorts of Wales which are in development areas. Much the same is true in England. Scarborough, for example. where unemployment is not so bad as it is in Rhyl, is much the same area. A lot of the arguments based on other similar areas do not hold water from the standpoint of unemployment.
On the whole, we have been fortunate in Flintshire. The population of Flintshire has gone up every year this century and there has been some progressive industrial developments. Our difficulty is that employment is concentrated in too few directions. There is coal, as I have said, there is aircraft, there is textiles and there is steel. Aircraft, although we are all right at the moment, is always a dicey business. As for textiles, the industry is to run down, according to the National Plan, though whether that will happen or not I am not sure. At the moment, we are all right.
Steel is the real worry because the Summers Rolling Mills cater for the manufacture of cars and other consumer durables. There is already a warning of redundancy, and I do not see how it can conceivably be avoided, and the steel mills have probably got quite as many men as they ought to have anyway. So we need diversification, and we need it much more because the other end of the county depends upon tourism, and tourism, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) pointed out, has been struck some savage blows, including the Selective Employment Tax. We could easily find ourselves in bad trouble.
There in another point here, which ought to be taken very seriously, that, if one is trying to build up the industry of a country, it is not wise to penalise those areas where production is likely to be most economic. The centres of production must be fairly near the market; there must be the necessary road, rail communications, and water. If too many factories are put down in isolated areas where costs are not competitive, at a time of difficulty, such as we have now, these are exactly the factories which will have to close first. It is wrong, therefore, to stop development in areas where development can be most useful and profitable.
The difficulty in North-East Wales, particularly in Flintshire, is that we are sandwiched between two development areas. Believe it or not, the Wirral is a development area, but the Wirral has been busting at the seams for years, and it is now actually drawing workpeople out of Wales. On the other side, the greater part of Denbighshire is included. The tax advantages in going to the Wirral or to Denbighshire over going to Flintshire are, therefore, enormous.
If this is put to the Board of Trade, the answer always comes, "If someone applies for an industrial development certificate, we shall look at it quite favourably". But the important words are, "If someone applies". Why should someone apply if they are put at such a tremendous tax disadvantage? In Flintshire, we have the sites, we have the communications and we have the water. We have all the necessary means for development, and, now the Darwen and Mostyn Iron Works has been closed, there is a perfectly good site for a trading estate.
South-East Wales has been excluded from the Welsh development area, but an enormous and very expensive shot in the arm has been given to South-East Wales by the building of the Severn Bridge, which will reduce costs in South-East Wales and make the area far more attractive industrially than in the past. Nothing like this has been done for North-East Wales, but our equivalent of the Severn Bridge could be the Dee estuary scheme. We have had a few encouraging noises from the Government about this, but I hope that the Minister of State will tell us, if he can, of any late developments.
We understand that a model of the Dee estuary has been built at Wallingford, and that various other things have been done. It would be a great encouragement to us if we knew that at least some firm ideas about the future had been formed. Nothing could be more likely to assist North-East Wales and, indeed, the whole of North Wales, than that scheme, which would have the great advantages of creating good communications, water conservation and the reclamation of land. That is all I have to say. I hope that we shall have a favourable answer from the Minister of State.
I very much hope that the fact that I have some reservations about the improved state of economic development and the prospects for economic development in Wales will not be interpreted as any lack of appreciation of what has been done and is being done. The Welsh Office and the Board of Trade are to be congratulated on the very considerable activity of the last two years, particularly in comparison with the activity or rather lack of activity under the previous Administration. What has been done is doubly laudable in view of the nature of the economic crisis which has prevailed during the greater part of the past two years.
It is not with the present intentions of the Government or with the way that they are putting those intentions into effect that I am concerned as much as with whether we are attributing the right order of magnitude to the employment problem which is about to face us in Wales. I am not now referring particularly to the extra difficulties which result from the period of special restriction under which we now suffer.
I very much hope that in answering this debate, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Welsh Office, can show that my fears are ill-founded, but I rather suspect that the problem of surplus labour which we will have to face in Wales at the end of this decade will be of considerably greater magnitude than we are catering for and calculating for.
It is now somewhat academic to speculate what the position would be if the rate of growth envisaged in the National Plan were likely to be achieved at the end of the present five-year period. It is now more realistic, perhaps, to think in terms of what the situation will be in terms of a continuation of the kind of rate of growth which we have encountered during the last five years.
If we assess what we are likely to have at the end of this decade given a normal rate of growth, what we are likely to have in the way of labour supply and what the demand for labour is likely to be at the beginning of the 1970s, I fear that we shall be meeting a demand for employment which is considerably greater than that for which we are calculating. It would be extremely valuable if a detailed study, more definitive than anything which has been published, were to be carried to show what the position is likely to be at the beginning of the 1970s and the size of the problem that we will then have to face.
I refer particularly to the advance factory programme, which, during the last two years, has been concentrated largely on meeting the special needs of the areas in which there have been pit closures. I am very much afraid that this advance factory programme is inadequate to the kind of problem that we will have to face. I grant that it is impossible to forecast with precision, but there is reason to believe that, given the widest margin of error, the kind of problem of surplus labour that we will have to face at the end of this decade may be three or four times the magnitude of the problem that we sometimes feel we have to face.
The coal industry alone is catering for a rundown by 1970 of more than 39,000 men. There will be a continued rundown in agriculture and there will certainly be considerable shedding of labour in the steel industry. Moreover, we have set ourselves certain goals. We have set ourselves the target of an unemployment figure as low as the unemployment figure for Britain as a whole. That is a considerable task to set ourselves. We are also speaking in terms of a considerable reduction of outward migration and of the possibility of reducing it to zero. We talk, also, of a much improved activity rate. The activity rate in Wales stands at about 48 per cent., which is astonishingly low when we consider that the activity rate for Britain as a whole is nearly 10 per cent. higher. If, however, we are setting ourselves these ideals of policy, the employment problem that we will have to face will be of very great magnitude if we are to achieve those aims and to cater for not only the natural rundown in certain industries, but the special additional rundown resulting from the policy of the National Coal Board.
I would be inclined to say that, taking everything into account, we would be facing a surplus labour problem in the neighbourhood of 100,000 at the end of this decade; and if we were to achieve the rate of activity which we say that we would like to achieve, the figure might be considerably more than that. If that is the kind of problem that can be tackled and faced, that is all very well.
I base this estimate of the number of jobs to be filled on the considerable rundown which is expected in certain industries and on the calculations that can be based upon our desires to reduce our figure of unemployment to the national figure, which would mean bringing it down to about 1·6 per cent. We would be cutting down on outward migration, the yearly rate of which will be known to my hon. Friend, and we contemplate increasing our activity rate by 10 per cent. Taking all these factors into account might well give us a figure in excess of 100,000 jobs to be filled. I shall be very glad if my hon. Friend is able to reassure me. I have expressed the hope that my suspicions were ill-founded and that a detailed study will be carried out with as much precision as possible and that definitive figures can be given.
Part of the problem, however, is due to the fact that the coal industry is pursuing a policy of rundown, and many of our resources are being used to meet the situation which is created in the coalfields and being devoted there to advance factories which are needed elsewhere—in rural areas in Mid-Wales and North Wales, where the rundown is not as dramatic but where it is taking place just as realistically. If the Coal Board could, if not retract completely, considerably slow down the process of closure, this would enable many resources which are now being devoted to the coalmining areas to be used in the rest of Wales where they are considerably needed.
There is one other point in that connection. Most of Wales is now a development area and this is very encouraging. A great deal is being done and I do not disparage it. I would, however, be very happy if the Board of Trade could give us guidance about precisely what kinds of industries we need to attract into Wales to face the kind of employment gap that will have to be filled by the end of the decade.
A number of factors have to be taken into account. Obviously, we want growth industries rather than industries which might die on our hands. It is important also that we should have industries which are labour-intensive and industries which in the process of growth will greatly add to their labour force. Using a number of criteria of this kind, and particularly the record of certain kinds of industries in Wales, some of which have succeeded and some of which have not, it would be possible to calculate and give guidance on the kind of industries which we need.
We are now facing in Llandegai the problem of getting an occupant for a 40-acre industrial site. I know that the Board of Trade has been diligent in trying to get an occupant, but I have a feeling that we are throwing out bait in the hope of catching anything. It is important to be selective and discriminating and to give guidance about precisely what kind of industry, judged according to a number of criteria, would be suitable to our needs in Wales.
I conclude by drawing attention briefly once again to the tourist industry. Wales's share of the internal tourist market in Britain is increasing and it can continue to do so considerably. This industry is, however, composed of small units. No individual hotel or group of hotels, no individual local authority, is large enough to finance its own research and publicity.
Hence it is important that the Wales Tourist Board should be doing this for Wales as a whole. It is already carrying out significant research. Its task is to project the image of Wales as adequately as possible.
I am deeply disturbed that the British Travel Association has been given a grant of £39,000—but for the period of restriction it would have been £1 million over three years—to finance internal publicity in Britain. It is the proper task of the British Travel Association to project the image of Britain as a whole abroad, but not to finance schemes within different areas of Britain, to publicise Wales, to publicise Scotland, to publicise regions of England, all of which are in competition with one another. This, in Wales, is the proper task of the Welsh Tourist Board, and I think that it is nonsensical that this kind of thing should be done through the British Travel Association, even if it uses the Welsh Tourist Board as its agents in doing so.
It is very important that the Welsh Tourist Board should have direct grants from the Government, and that its ties with the Welsh Office should be very much closer than they are at present. I know that this would be the wish of the people connected with tourism in Wales. I know that it would also be the wish of the staff of the Tourist Board. I very much hope the Secretary of State will look at the question of just how far he can involve himself more directly in tourism in Wales and the extent to which the tourist industry can become the responsibility of the Welsh Office.
The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) will forgive me if I do not follow him immediately in what he said, though I hope to come back later to a few of the matters on which he touched.
First of all, I should like to associate myself with what the Secretary of State said about Aberfan and the measures he outlined that he is intending to take about derelict tips. I do not think that any Member of this House could put his hand on his heart and say that at this time last year he would have regarded tips as a first priority.
I know that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) mentioned this matter, and I know that it has been raised in the House from time to time, and that that fact has not been given publicity—
I will give way in a moment. Let me finish this.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said that we had to have our priorities right it flashed through my mind that the best laid plans of mice and men go astray in the light of certain events. This was certainly one of them. It is a salutary lesson to us that our priorities, however honestly they are biased, may nevertheless be wrong.
I have not doubted for a moment that hon. Members were concerned about tips, and rightly so. All I am saying is that no one in that light of the then knowledge either knew or suspected this time last year that there would be immense danger, it would not be our first priority. We all know now that it should have been. This was something we could not, perhaps, have adequately foreseen politically, but it shows how we all must from time to time examine our own priorities.
It has always been difficult, I think, to speak on a Welsh day, because we try to cover so much ground. We have already tried to cover the whole of Welsh industry. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), whom we are pleased to welcome from over the Border from time to time, raised the question of the new town and tourism. Of course, it is very difficult not to make a constituency speech, or one which is very narrow in its approach. Partly it is the fault of the system whereby we have only one day on the Floor of the House to discuss Welsh matters.
I was looking recently, as is the custom on these occasions, at past debates, and I saw that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), whom I am very glad to see in
his place, speaking in the debate in June, 1964, after he had reviewed the situation in Wales, said:
We therefore propose that the Labour Government which will be returned in the autumn shall appoint a Secretary of State for Wales, with a seat in the Cabinet, with executive authority over a number of Departments and overall responsibility for Government actions, policies and plans in Wales"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1964;Vol 697, c 660]
The right hon. Gentleman went on to enlarge upon that, and I entirely approved of what he said then. What I would express disappointment about is that the Secretary of State and his able team have not got greater responsibility than is entrusted to them at the present time.
I think that all Welsh Members, even the Front Bench on the Conservative side, if converted to this view, should press the Prime Minister that greater authority should be given to the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Hereford complained that in the debate on agriculture neither the Minister of Agriculture nor the Secretary of State for Scotland dealt with any Welsh problems, though hon. Gentlemen had raised them in that debate. I suggested to him that it might be a very good reason for giving the Secretary of State for Wales authority over such matters.
There are certain Departments which, I am sure, are ripe for devolution to Wales. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will press for this devolution to take place. Indeed, I suspect that at present the Welsh Office has not enough to do. The Minister of State is for ever going to different parts of Wales, rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin—and I know that the hon. Member is going to my constituency shortly. In fact, he arrived at my constituency during the summer and visited a farm which is infested with Warfarin resistant rats—and with his charm, rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we hoped that he would lure the rats away; but in that we were disappointed.
Although from time to time one hears complaints rightly made in the House about the industrial revolution, and so on, I could not help reflecting on what I read recently by a very famous economist who opined that much of Britain's modern economic problems have arisen because it matured industrially and economically at too early a stage. This, of course, is very true also of Wales. I was looking at the unemployment figures for the whole of the country and it is very interesting that our figure in Wales is very much higher than that for the south-east of England. The figure in Scotland is higher than in Wales. The figure for Northern Ireland, which has its own domestic Parliament, is very much higher, double, what it is in Scotland and Wales. The figure for Eire is even higher.
This simply proves the point, I think, that certain areas developed economically for very good economic reasons, and even though there is the will and the instrument there is often not the means of curing unemployment easily. I am a great believer that Wales should have a domestic Parliament. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) believes that Wales should have complete independence. Even so, countries which have got it cannot always cure this problem. One has to examine its root economic causes.
I remember that a few years ago in the House I listened to the right hon. Member for Llanelly—to whom the House always listens with great respect—even when it disagrees with him, saying that between 1900 and 1910 the population of Wales increased by 100,000. Since that time—I have checked it up—the population of Wales increased between 1910 and 1920. It is difficult to get the exact figures because of the war and war movement, but since that time—that is, 1920—the population of Wales has certainly decreased relatively and is not increasing in proportion to that of the rest of the country at the present time.
One of my complaints, not only about the present Government, but also the previous Government, is that the Reports on Wales are over-optimistic. I have read with interest every page of this green book, but one always finds in these books, in these Reports, as is almost inevitable—one can appreciate the human reasons for it—an over-optimistic approach. We are always given the numbers of new jobs provided. We never have the figures given of the old jobs which have disappeared. If one went back over these books and took the figures out and added them all up—why, Wales would be absolutely booming at the present time; because we have always had news of the new factories, but not a word about Mr. Jones's little factory round the corner which employed nine and closed last year. We never get that sort of thing mentioned. It is partly because of Parkinson's Law in Government Departments; they have to justify their own existence, and always take a rather optimistic view. But I think that it behoves us to take a realistic view.
As I have said in the House before, it it not right for any Government to say, "We are doing far better for Wales than was achieved in the 1920s, or in the 1910 era." Progress is always relative. The fact that Fascist Spain is doing far better now than ever before is no justification for Fascism. The fact that Communist Russia is doing better than she was 30 or 40 years ago is no justification for Communism. The fact that the Government can say that things are better today than they were 20 or 30 years ago is no justification for the Government of today.
One can only compare progress in Wales with that in like countries of development in Western Europe and elsewhere. The truth is that, relatively, Wales has fallen behind. That is true, whatever Government we have had in power, of the last two or three decades. Because of the discovery of coal and iron and the development of the ports of Wales, we had an early industrial maturity. However much we complain of the effects of the Industrial Revolution, we also had great benefits from it. As every Social historian knows, the average industrial earnings in Wales between 1900 and 1914, as in England, were the highest in Europe.
That is not to say that they were high enough, but people were relatively better off here than they were in like countries of development. But because we had that kind of early industrial maturity and now we have had the decline of those initial basic industries, naturally we have had difficulties in our economy, which would have occurred whatever complexion of Government we had trying to control the problems. The criticism comes as to the effectiveness of efforts made by any given Government to deal with those problems.
What I want to concentrate on is this. Very often, we are too concerned with patching up what has existed, accepting the pattern of life as it was laid down in the nineteenth century, rather than looking into the future and deciding what the pattern of Wales is to be in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years' time. When visiting other countries, I am impressed by the great changes which have been brought about almost artificially by the creation of roads and by the planning of certain developments. In an area of high amenity such as California there has been the great development of the brain industries, and people have moved there because they enjoy the high amenity value of California.
I remember being in Finland a few years ago, and seeing a new town with a motorway made specially—[Interruption.] I shall come to the new town in a moment. I saw a new town, and a motorway had been built there. That had been planned.
As I have touched upon the new town, I now come to that. My objection to the new town as planned and put forward by the consultants is not primarily on economic grounds. If it is looked at simply and basically and wholly as an answer to an economic problem, there is much to be said for it. However, if one bears in mind that Wales is a nation and that there are vital social and cultural aspects involved, the problem becomes much more difficult. I have always stated that there is everything to be said for a massive investment in Mid-Wales, and the problem will not be tackled without that kind of investment. My difference of opinion arises largely over the siting of this town—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite can laugh. If they are in favour of this plan to draw 60,000 people from the Midlands to fill it, let them get up and say so.
Not at all.
May I illustrate the point in this way? In Northern Ireland, compared with the rest of Ireland, there is a very prosperous community. Industrially, Northern Ireland is much more developed than the rest of Ireland. It was a plantation of settlers which arose in Cromwellian days. Economically, it had much to be said for it. But I am sure that no hon. Member opposite will argue that culturally, politically and socially it was justified. Just look at Irish history since.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I am with him for the preservation of Welsh culture. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that in my town of Llanelli, the proportion of Welsh speakers far exceeds that in the area where we propose to build the new town?
Yes, but the Minister of State interrupted me to ask if I was against 60,000 people coming from the Midlands. Of course, I am not in itself. I am a great believer in internationalism. What I object to is the fact that 60,000 is larger than the existing population of Montgomeryshire, so that that number of people cannot be absorbed by the existing community. They will dominate us completely.
There are many parts of Wales which are in decay. There are many scars of the nineteenth century which could be repaired by having a new town or an extension of an existing town for the benefit of Wales. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say that Birmingham or the Midlands are the only areas with overspill problems, they are wrong. There are parts of South Wales where industries have decayed, just as there are in North Wales.
This is the only speech given from this bench, and it has been punctuated constantly by interruptions from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
On the alternative plan which I have put forward, a great deal of the population would be derived from other parts of Wales. If we are to have a debate in depth about this, that matter should be considered. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Llanelly nodding his agreement. He will also agree with me that it was my predecessor, Clement Davies, who first put forward the idea of a new town. His complaint was that he could not persuade any Government to do anything about rural depopulation, and that the beauty of a new town, from a politician's point of view, was that it was possible to get money for another purpose and use it for this purpose, without having to come to the House of Commons to get it. It must be admitted that the first reason which drove people to consider the idea of a new town was that it was possible to get the money under the New Towns Act without having to come to Parliament to ask for it.
What is vastly important is the setting up of communications. That is why the hon. Member for Hereford was right in talking about the importance of a road from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth. I know that a double carriageway road has been proposed by the Conservatives. I should much prefer to see a modern motorway, because we need those sorts of communications in Wales, and we must plan for the future.
What we are doing at present is to lay down a pattern of communications for Wales which suits the past. If we are to plan for the future the kind of Wales which we want by the end of the century, our pattern of communications must be different, because at the moment it merely satisfies the past pattern. The great difficulty which faces all Government Departments is that of having money available for futuristic schemes, as opposed to patching up existing roads and developing roads where there are existing bottlenecks.
I think that this, again, is a question of priorities, but without better internal roads I am sure that we will continue to lose population. I think that the hon. Member for Carmarthen is right about this. The Severn Bridge will result in a considerable degree of depopulation in South Wales unless we plan the roads inside Wales as well to make it attractive for industrialists to come in. As I jocularly said to the hon. Gentleman in another context some time ago, the Severn Bridge will do for Wales what the Channel Tunnel is likely to do for England. It is likely to take away some of its population unless we plan an attractive, modern development, particularly with regard to roads.
I do not believe that the Secretary of State for Wales will disagree with me in this respect. This is not to argue against the Severn Bridge. I am all in favour of it. It is an argument in favour of Wales itself having the will, the instruments—through a Parliament—and the means available to plan internally to take advantage of the beneficial effects which can come from such developments as the Severn Bridge.
I should like to see in the Government's plan for the future a picture of Wales as they see it towards the end of this century. In this context there are great possibilities in the development in Mid-Wales, but surely hon. Members will agree that the major consideration in the development of Mid-Wales must be Wales as a whole? The Secretary of State got his job because the Government recognised that Wales was a nation, that she was an entity, and that she had certain rights. How, therefore, can the right hon. Gentleman argue—I have not heard him personally, but his predecessors certainly did—that we can settle the problem of Mid-Wales only by solving Birmingham's problem? There are many other problems which could be settled.
I think that the plan for Mid-Wales is a valuable contribution to the literature, but this has to be considered in much greater depth against the vision of the kind of country, and the kind of life within it, that we want to see in the future.
I shall not follow the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) into the intricacies of the problem of setting up a new town, but I shall in a moment deal with the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Wales.
I would be failing in my duty if I did not say at once that a number of Members who represent constituencies in South Wales, and particularly the Valleys, cannot feel at all complacent about the Government's policy on deflation. It is of great concern to us that the immediate effects of these policies are what we feared and what we feared in the immediate past. They are having a serious effect on the so-called development districts.
We cannot deny—and I say this with all approbation of my Government—that since they took office at the end of 1964 all their intentions and their legislation have been directed towards one end, namely, the deployment of industry and labour on a far more rational basis than existed during the 13 years of Tory Administration, and certain measures which have been put into effect are showing results in this respect.
I want to touch on one or two matters, particularly in relation to the coal mining industry. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who spoke so feelingly about the restriction and contraction of this industry. Many of us have spoken about this on a number of occasions. I did so within months of of the Government taking office, and I shall not elaborate on the points that I made then. I am particularly pleased that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power is present, and I hope that he will listen to what I have to say.
No one praises more than I do the contribution which the National Coal Board and the N.U.M. have made towards easing the problems of contraction in the mining industry. This in itself justifies the nationalisation of the industry, because only a nationalised industry of this calibre could have faced and dealt with this tremendous problem. It is only because there has been co-operation between this great historic N.U.M. and the Board that it has been possible to deal with this almost insuperable problem, and I think that the country as a whole owes them a debt of gratitude.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty said, whereas they have been digesting these closures in the past— and this has been going on for some time—the period of digestion is at an end. The N.U.M., and indeed the N.C.B., cannot face the social problems inherent in pit closures while the economic freeze is having its effect. I therefore appeal to my right hon. Friend, and indeed to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power, to consult the Coal Board to see whether, at least during the period of the economic freeze, pit closures can be halted to give the Board and the N.U.M. an opportunity to digest the present closures.
Reference has been made to the existence of 3,000 vacancies, and the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said that there were vacancies in certain coal pits. We are all aware that in many cases vacancies are necessary to make pits viable propositions, but we shall not solve the problem of having 3,000 vacancies by closing further uneconomic pits because, as we know, the wastage in closing an economic pit is not very great. I therefore appeal to my right hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend to stop pit closures at least for the duration of the economic deflation.
I was impressed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), and indeed those of the right hon. Member for Flint, West. They referred to inadequacies in the scheduling of areas in Wales. It was rather cynical of them to say what they did, because it was their Government which de-scheduled four areas. It is rather cynical of them to complain and to suggest that their areas should be scheduled. It is a tragedy that during 13 years of Tory Administration the process of scheduling areas and bringing industry to them, which had been started by the Labour Administrations of 1946 to 1951, was slowed down and eventually halted, because as a result we are suffering disastrous effects in South Wales.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can be allowed to get away with that all along the line. Both my right hon. Friend and I were referring to the development areas from the point of view of the tourist industry. The hon. Gentleman will remember that what we complained about was that a large area in South Wales had been left outside the development areas and did not get the benefits which those areas receive. That is the point that we wished to make.
I have two comments to make on that. First, why did not the Tory Administration include these areas as development districts? Secondly, if my memory serves me right, the right hon. Member for Flint, West referred to this in an industrial sense. However, I do not want to prolong the debate by dealing with that in detail.
One of the evil results of the slowing down to which I have referred is that the administrative machinery and the personnel machinery for bringing industry to development areas has slowed down to such an extent that in South Wales the preparation and acquisition of industrial sites is proceeding far too slowly. I hope that my right hon. Friend will see whether he has sufficient money and machinery to cope with the vast developments that will take place in the next five or ten years if the Government's legislation is made fully effective.
I want to take this opportunity of expressing the thanks of my constituents to my right hon. Friend for the speedy action which he, together with the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary, took in connection with the tragic happenings at Aberfan. The fact that the Secretary of State for Wales—a member of the Cabinet, representing the Prime Minister—was able to reach the site so quickly was of inestimable value to all those who were organising the rescue operations—the local authority, and so on—and, to some extent, those who were bereaved. I want to express my thanks, because this tragedy happened just over the mountain from my constituency.
My right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Welsh Office are veritably at the grass roots of the problems of Wales. I want to refer to the question of responsibility, which was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. Some of my colleagues and I feel some concern at the fact that my right hon. Friend does not have sufficient responsibility in connection with certain departments—especially the Board of Trade. This is no disrespect to the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who has been present for most of the debate.
I know of his great sympathy for the problems of Wales. I pay tribute to the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of State for the fact that on every occasion that I have approached them with specific problems I have received help and assistance of all kinds.
But to the extent that the Secretary of State for Wales is at the grass roots of Welsh problems, once policy has been decided in the Cabinet and it has been decided that certain advanced factories should be erected, is my right hon. Friend consulted about their siting or is he merely told by the Welsh Section of the Board of Trade that a certain number of advanced factories will go to Wales—at sites A, B, C, D, E. F and G? Is he consulted before these factories are sited? If he is not, he should be. Once a decision has been made on policy grounds the Secretary of State should have oversiting responsibility in order to decide where these new factories should go and where industrialists should be persuaded to go. It is not the Board of Trade that carries the can if anything goes wrong; it is the Secretary of State for Wales. I hope that he will consider this question. It is not so much a question of consultation or co-operation with the Departments for which the Minister is concerned, but the question of his over-siting responsibility. He must have a voice in the decision that is made. Many of my friends and I feel very strongly about this.
On the question of derelict sites, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who was Minister of Housing and Local Government in the previous Administration. He was very sympathetic on the question of the clearance of derelict sites and encouraged local authorities to do all they could in that respect. Unfortunately, as the figures have shown, time and time again he did not receive the necessary response. I pay tribute to him because his sympathies were with us 100 per cent. and he did all he could in this regard. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty, it took a terrible tragedy like that at Aberfan to persuade people to support the efforts that have been made for many years by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend is tackling the subject of valuation anew. What he said today on this matter is very encouraging, but I am told that if a certain site is up for clearance and the district valuer is brought in and says that after the site has been cleared its value will be greatly enhanced, since this means a lower grant the local authority is inhibited from clearing the site.
The value of the site may be enhanced because of its potential industrial use, but it may be vacant for many years, during which time the local authority will nevertheless have to go on paying interest on the capital which it probably has had to find. The district valuer is right in pointing this out, but this should not operate as an inhibition, in a purely financial sense, to the local authority carrying out the scheme.
It may be discovered, on the other hand, that the cost of clearing a site will be so great that it is not worth clearing. I should like to know whether sufficient attention is being paid to the amenity value which exists after a site is cleared.
I now turn briefly to the question of industrial training. We all appreciate that the Government's efforts in this regard do not match up to the needs, but there are very important reasons why the situation cannot be met. There is the question of finding appropriate personnel and appropriate training sites, and so on. I have had cases in which personnel applying for training had been offered posts in the Llanelli training centre although it is almost impossible for people to travel from Aberdare to Llanelli. I know that mention has been made of the centre at Port Talbot, but we must have a proper centre for the Valley area.
I want my right hon. Friend to be satisfied that he has the fullest co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade in respect of investment within industry. Let us imagine that an industrialist decides to come into a certain area and informs the local authority and the Board of Trade that in two years' time his factory will be opened, and that he will require 300 or 400 men and women. What happens when the two years have elapsed? People may have been expecting employment in that factory but they may be found to be unsuitable because they are not skilled or semi-skilled. The industrialist must therefore import outside labour, and the poor souls who have been signing on the dole year after year will find that their hopes are squashed.
I suggest that immediately such a venture is put forward other industrialists should be persuaded to take on personnel from the area concerned and train them, taking advantage of the facilities provided by the Government under their training schemes. If this were done at the earliest possible stage, it would meet the situation.
Lastly, I want to refer to roads and communications in Wales. For many years I have been of the opinion that many of the inducements which are being put forward to attract industrialists into Wales have been nullified because of the lack of communication facilities in certain areas. I do not know what studies have been made of this subject but it is important that, apart from the provision of investment grants to industries to come to these areas, the infrastructure of the areas should be fully studied. I suggest, therefore, that, in any consideration of transport and communications in and congested and over-employed areas, or in the development areas, he should give priority to the development areas. If we can pay attention to the improvements in the infrastructure of these old industrial areas, the Government policy of redeployment of labour and industry will have a much better chance of success.
The Seoretary of State made a very important announcement, which other hon. Members have followed up, about the methods of dealing with the spoil heaps or the coal tips which are making our land hideous. This is something on which public conscience was awaked by the terrible Aberfan disaster. These coal tips are all over Southern Wales; there are some in my constituency and probably in those of other hon. Gentlemen. I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about steps which the Government intend to take to try to remove at least some of the tips and to deal with some of the more urgent aspects of the problem.
I would urge the Government that, in tackling this problem they should try to develop a comprehensive policy for tip clearance all over Wales and one which will mean not just the removal of some of these tips—I recognise that there are many hundreds—but the whole lot. Some, of course, take their place in the landscape without making the countryside too hideous, but so many of them are scars on our countryside and prevent the attraction of industry and industrial development.
If this were done on a large scale, it would be costly and the removal of the spoil itself would be a difficult and big problem, but perhaps the tips could be turned to good account economically. This material could perhaps create car parks or sites for buildings, light industry and so on and could even be taken some distance to fill up waterlogged land and to make up uneven land. It would therefore add to our national assets in the same way in which the Netherlands has added to its assets by recovering land which had been under water.
Perhaps the challenge posed by this disaster gives us the impetus and opportunity to think of it in this way. For those which need not be moved, perhaps the Forestry Commission could decide which tips could be planted with trees. This has been done in the north-east of England, for instance, and in other countries as well. Much of this might be done where it would not affect land drainage or give rise to flooding problems. But this gives us the opportunity of creating pieces of flat land in Wales, which are not often to be found.
It would be a good thing to use this approach and to consider how to use the spoil to help in our road-building programme. Part of this material might be useful in that connection. The Government would do well to look at the latest techniques of road mechanics and soil engineering to tackle this problem in an ambitious way, following the start which has now been made. Perhaps this could be considered against a background of clearing other industrial sites altogether. There is a very good scheme in the lower Swansea Valley and it would be a good thing if that were applied to the whole country.
I now turn to the more general industrial situation. As the employment figures show, despite the very optimistic speech of the Secretary of State, the position in Wales is still worse than that in any English region and nearly twice as bad as in England as a whole. That is the position, whatever we may say about steps which are being taken or are to be taken. This is not new for us. It is the position which has existed as long as most of us can remember. It is certainly the only position which I can remember.
This position is shown by the population figures. A Question of mine the other day revealed that the excess of births over deaths in Wales over the years since 1921 was 575,000. There was no year in that period in which the excess of births over deaths was less than 30,000. Yet the total growth of our population in Wales over that period of 45 years is only the equivalent of the total of one of those years' excess of births over deaths. This shows that during that period at any rate we have not had the development we needed.
Is there any other part of Britain where fewer men are at work now than 12 years ago? That is the situation in Wales. This again reflects the great need for development in that country. A decline is likely. If action is not taken more radically than now suggested, it is likely to gain momentum. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) suggested that we may, by the end of the decade, need about 100,000 or even more new jobs.
I gave that figure as well when I first spoke in the House four months ago and it was based on the same kind of calculation which the hon. Gentleman used. When one faces a problem of that magnitude, one is bound to consider methods which are out of the ordinary. I feel that the methods which the Government are now relying on are insufficient to deal with a problem of this size.
In this kind of situation, redeployment as the Government envisage it is a non-starter. It is only a euphemism for unemployment. What is being done? What has been done? We have heard of some new factories and we have heard of millions of sq. ft. of factory building in the future, but what is being done to plan the country? When I have asked about this, the Government's response has been that regional machinery has been set up, but when one asks what that machinery has done, one cannot get a satisfactory reply. Where are the results? What has been produced by this regional machinery in Wales? Is it unproductive machinery? The Government are appealing to everybody to increase production. Cannot there be more productivity in this respect? We need it very badly.
The other reply which they give when ore asks what is being done is a reference to advance factories. These are very good things to have, but we must realise that they will not do more than touch the fringe of the problem. I have no doubt that the Government realise that. They are a positive contribution, but they do not go far enough to meet a problem of the size of that in Wales. This is a tremendous problem which poses a crisis for us in Wales and measures adequate for a crisis situation are needed.
There is to be one of these advance factories in my constituency, in Llandybie, but it will have an area of only 10,000 sq. ft., and may give work to about 40 people. That does not touch the problem locally, and when this is applied elsewhere in the country one sees that something more is needed. This is too much like putting a sticking plaster on a gangrenous wound.
Why has this situation developed in Wales? Why does it exist? Hon. Members opposite will not agree, but I feel that the Government—and this applies not only to this Government but to the whole series of Governments—are not serious about Wales. They do not take Wales seriously. They have no policy for Wales to counter the effect of their own general policy. We have heard of the effects of their own general policy on Wales and elsewhere in other debates. In Wales the effect of the deflationary measures is to make far worse a situation which is already bad.
These deflationary measures were taken because of an English situation, not because of a Welsh situation. They were taken to meet the position in this part of this State. So was a measure such as the Anglo-Irish trade agreement. This was taken to suit English needs and not to suit Welsh needs. If we had complete responsibility for Welsh policy under a Welsh Government, nobody responsible for Welsh policy would have thought of making an agreement such as the Anglo-lrish trade agreement. The Welsh farmers are very hard hit by it, and by the credit squeeze, so hard hit that they are not now getting for their livestock even the capital which they put into it. That is the situation over the last four months, and it is a very serious situation.
Much of the trouble arises from the balance-of-payments crisis, which is one of the root causes of this crisis. It certainly has nothing to do with us in Wales. It is relevant to the policy followed by the Government in foreign affairs and particularly in defence and overseas spending on military matters. We have the Chancellor's word for this. According to Der Spiegel a year ago, he said to that magazine,
There would not have been a sterling crisis if we had not had to bear so much of the burden of defence abroad We would have restored our balance of payments if we had not had to bear this heavy load.
It is because of this expenditure on defence abroad that we have to bear this burden in Wales. Possibly the heaviest burden caused by the big power ambitions and imperial nostalgia of this Government is borne by the Welsh people.
Does not the hon. Member realise that even if Wales had self-government, the English Government would still exist and would still have their own foreign policy—and that the impact of this on the balance of payments would still affect Wales, for example, through the car industry and through orders for steel?
I appreciate that point, but we should then have a Government to deal with it. At the moment we have no Government to deal with it. We urgently need an Administration in Wales which will deal with these changing situations.
Let us consider the effect on Wales even of measures taken in areas contiguous to Wales. Often measures are taken without the interest of Wales in mind. Indeed, quite the contrary. Hon. Members have referred to the Severn Bridge. A decision was taken to build this bridge and, having built it, it was then decided to have an inquiry to see what the effect on Wales would be. Apparently one does not ask before building the bridge what the effect on Wales will be; one asks afterwards. This is typical of the Government's attitude. Another example is that of the proposed new town in Mid-Wales. The Government are inquiring into the effects of building that new town in Mid-Wales-two years after the announcement by our first Secretary of State that such a town would be built.
I suggest that the Government are far too complacent about the situation in Wales. They perhaps think that they have the country in their pockets. But I warn them that the Liberals thought that 60 years ago, and they have melted away like the snows of yesteryear. Certainly if the Government continue, as now, without any planned action for Wales, they will lose support among the Welsh people.
What about planning? We have had it announced more than once in the past year or more that the plan is to be published in the near future. Now we hear that it is to be published some time next year. This year, next year, some time. Will it ever come? One begins to wonder. The strongest indictment of the Government's attitude and policy to Wales is that we have not yet a plan of action for Wales. If the situation which exists in Wales were found to exist in England, there would have been action long ago. In fact, when a situation not nearly as grave as this arose in the north-east of England three years or more ago, speedy action was taken, a Minister was given responsibility to take action and there was a plan in operation within a year. In Wales apparently there is no need to hurry, there is plenty of time, there is no need to do anything.
That is a very unfortunate precedent. One is not always much better off for having a plan. But we need an effective plan for action in Wales. The National Plan was not a plan of action at all; it was a study of what was likely to happen in future. We most urgently need a plan of action. If we had this plan we should have integrated in it the development of communications, on which more than one hon. Member has touched this afternoon. If we had had a plan of action in Wales we should not have seen rail closures on such a scale and we should not see the cuts which are taking place even now in Wales. They are taking place, even though all the evidence shows that the railways in Wales as a whole are paying their way. That adds to the immorality of the situation.
I am pleased that the hon. Member has come to this point because he has stated previously that the railways in Wales pay their way. Would he like to tell the House what he was informed by Mr. Hilton of British Railways who explained to him that there is no justification at all for claiming either that they pay their way or that they do not pay their way, because it is impossible on the present system of accountancy to know?
I do not know what information the Minister has been given, but in my conversation with Mr. Hilton I took his words as confirming my standpoint in this matter and confirming the evidence which I put in articles and which has never been denied by British Railways. The articles showed that in one twelvemonth period just over two years ago, British Railways in the southern area of Wales made a gross profit of nearly £13 million. I do not know what the net profit was.
Is not the hon. Member aware that the figures which he saw were for the Cardiff and district area? They showed, on the one hand, receipts for that area and, on the other hand, the outgoings. Since a large part of this traffic is generated in South Wales and goes from one end of the country to the other, is it not obvious that a great deal of expenditure arises not within Wales but outside Wales? Whatever figures he has, he should know that they do not accurately reflect the situation.
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I gave gross profits and we do not know what are the net profits. I know that at least 60 per cent. of the traffic, which is mainly goods traffic, on the Western Region originates in Wales, and the Western Region is the most important region commercially in Britain.
Will the hon. Gentleman now withdraw the idea, which he has been canvassing from one end of Wales to the other, that these figures represent accurately the railway statistics of Wales?
I will withdraw nothing. Instead, I would welcome the publication by the Government or British Railways of these figures. That is the only way to clear the air.
We need an efficient and effective railway system in Wales as well as an adequate road system. At the moment we have neither. Some time ago I asked a Parliamentary Question about the mileage of motorways to be built in Wales in the years 1969 and 1970. I also asked what proportion of the money to be spent on motorways in Britain generally would be spent in Wales. The Answer I got was "Nil"—nothing is to be done in 12 of the 13 counties. Something must be done to put this deficiency right.
It was announced this afternoon that the road west of St. Clears is to be trunked down to Pembrokeshire. That is an important contribution, which I welcome. However, I urge the Government to look more closely at the road from Swansea to Carmarthen and on to St. Clears because part of that road is still only an 18-foot carriageway and it some-tines takes some hours to do the nine miles from Carmarthen to St. Clears. We cannot expect to have industrial development in Wales if this state of affairs persists.
If it is argued that the Government cannot find the money to build these roads, the answer is simple. It was estimated by a consultant that the proposed new town for Mid-Wales would cost about £137 million. One could do a lot of road building with that sort of money. A road is urgently needed to run from Cardiff, on to Wrexham and across to Carmarthen, and it has been estimated that to build such a road would cost little more than half the amount that might be spent on the proposed new town. I suggest that the building of this and other equally important roads would make a vital contribution to the industrial development of Wales.
We must have Wales developed in a planned fashion. It must be planning which takes into account its needs as a nation with every kind of activity being integrated. We must create conditions in which Wales can be developed as a Welsh national community of Wales. Nothing like this has been attempted by any Government and I very much doubt whether it will be attempted by the present one. Nevertheless, that is what we need and what must ultimately be done.
In any event, London is not the place from which to govern Wales. It is the overgrown centre of an empire on which the sun may have now set, although the ethos and habits of an empire persist and Britain is still regarded as one nation. Wales should be controlled from Wales and not from London—not as if London were still the centre of a great imperial régime. Even the Prime Minister likes to think himself a great world statesman. I fear that for Wales to go on being governed in this fashion is not relevant these days, and that this country is too often merely regarded as too much of a nuisance.
Even the most well-intentioned Ministers—and the Ministers at present at the Welsh Office are indeed well-intentioned and able—cannot hope to cope with the pressures that exist. They are faced with the Government's economic failure in Wales. Indeed, a whole series of Governments have failed in this direction and this failure is attributable to a political failure. Since the failure is political, the remedy must, therefore, be political, too—and the answer is to move the governing of Wales to Wales. Only a government of the Welsh nation in Wales will develop a Welsh economy which is suited to the needs of Wales.
I have no doubt that there will be a powerful rearguard action in some parties to prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, today the Welsh are beginning to think independently and are becoming free in their minds. Once they are free mentally, national freedom will follow as sure as day follows night.
I have no intention of commenting on the remarks of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), who, as usual, took us on one of his regular rambles through the highways and byways of Wales, demonstrating his prehistoric nationalistic tendencies. Instead, I wish to deal with some of the major problems facing Wales, and I make no apology for saying that some of them are confronting me and my constituents.
The Secretary of State's speech represented a sound statement of policy, both for the future and the present. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his colleagues at the Welsh Office on having done so much for Wales in the short time in which the Labour Party has been in power. My right hon. Friend made a number of disclosures and at least one important announcement in connection with measures which the Government have already taken, particularly following the Aberfan disaster—that terrible occurrence which brought to the forefront of the minds of people, not only in Wales but throughout Britain, the dangers that exist in the areas of certain tips. Although in this case we may speak with hindsight, my right hon. Friend's statement will make people think about certain problems to which, in the past, they may have given little thought.
Some hon. Members have been worried by certain assumptions and inferences in connection with the Aberfan disaster. It has been suggested that nothing has been done or said by hon. Members over the years about this problem. My right hon. Friend's speech dealt effectively with those inferences, and his statement proves that at least the present Government intend to do everything practicable to remove this danger from our Welsh valleys.
My right hon. Friend spoke about the difficulty of looking ahead to the future of Wales and indicated that it might be possible for us to think more about the future. He spoke of the pockets of difficulty that have persisted in certain areas in South Wales, and I agree that one cannot divorce Wales from the general pattern of the rest of Britain. The effects of Government measures must be felt on industry in Wales. The decline in basic industries in Wales, industries which for many years have provided the bulk of employment for the Welsh people—I am thinking particularly of coal and steel—has caused very serious problems indeed. The people of many of the valleys have been almost completely dependent on coal mining and the people who for years have earned their livelihood from the mines and who have served the nation well are entitled to special treatment.
In my constituency of Rhondda, East, which has been one of the worst hit for very many years, only three collieries remain, and two of those have hanging over their heads the danger of closure. There is no possibility, if this happens, of any other form of employment being available for the people concerned. That is the situation with which we are faced, and Rhondda, incidentally, has been on the list of development districts—or whatever one might call it; it has had various names—since it was established over 30 years ago. Never once has any Government taken it off the list.
The unemployment situation in Rhondda has always been so bad that no Government could afford to take it off the development list. We have been a distressed area, a scheduled area, a special area, a development district, and a development area. We have had all these names, but the work has not come.
I say frankly that despite all the efforts—and I want to be perfectly frank, because successive Governments have attempted to do something—Rhondda has remained an area suffering from high and persistent unemployment throughout that whole period.
The Local Employment Act of 1960, with the further provisions of the 1963 Act, failed to deal effectively with the situation. During the debate on the Second Reading of the 1960 Act, shortly after I came into the House, the then President of the Board of Trade stressed the great benefits that were to be expected in areas of high and persistent unemployment when the Bill became law.
I said in that debate:
Whatever may be the improvements which the Government have extolled during their presentation of the Bill in this House, its passage will be in vain unless there is a strong, determined and purposeful effort by the Government to implement its provisions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 278.]
That still exists today; and, indeed, the plain fact is that successive Presidents of the Board of Trade, who have been responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Act, have either not been sufficiently serious or they have not been tough enough in seeing that industrialists come into the areas and provide work in development districts scheduled under the Act.
I turn now to the mechanics of the local Employment Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) mentioned one problem arising here, and I, too, am not at all happy—indeed, I am very dissatisfied—about the speed with which B.O.T.A.C. deals with applications for grants under the Act, and I have said so in the House on many occasions. My colleague the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iowerth Thomas) has also said the same thing. We are dissatisfied with B.O.T.A.C. over the delay in dealing with some of these matters and I want to pose one or two questions. Is there too much red tape about all this? Further, is social accountability taken sufficiently into consideration by these people, and is B.O.T.A.C. the right sort of body to deal with this problem?
B.O.T.A.C., as its name implies, was set up as an advisory committee, but it is not an advisory committee. Neither the President of the Board of Trade nor any other member of the Government has any right under the Act to question any decision made by the committee. Its decision is final, and cannot be altered, changed or varied in any way. In view of the present situation, this is not good enough.
Under the 1966 Industrial Development Act, a new advisory committee is to be set up. It will be called, I think, the Investment Groups Advisory Committee. I should like to ask my hon. Friend to inquire of the Board of Trade and to consult with his right hon. Friend to find out whether the same conditions exist in the setting up of this new advisory committee as exist in connection with B.O.T.A.C., because if they do, then once again the Act will not be worth the paper it is written on.
I am convinced more than ever before that there is need now for some special action on a matter which was brought to my notice recently by a local authority. Under the Acts, local authorities have power to acquire by compulsory purchase order sites for housing, but they have not power to acquire by compulsory purchase order sites for industrial buildings. This should be looked at seriously. It must be tackled immediately if localities such as Rhondda, which are limited in their sites, are to get the necessary freedom to prepare sites which will be needed.
I welcome the provisions of the Industrial Development Act, 1966, because they give full power to the Secretary of State to deal with this matter of building land in Wales. I have asked my local authority to go through the whole of the area and to make its applications to the Secretary of State for Wales. I understand that two applications are to be submitted. I hope that when they come before my right hon. Friend they will be dealt with expeditiously and generously, because there is no excuse, in view of the conditions which exist in Rhondda, for any alternative action to be taken. I am, of course, very pleased that one of the members in the Welsh Office is an old Rhondda boy. I know of his love for Rhondda, and it will help him to do everything possible for the people of Rhondda.
We are having difficulty in getting colliery sites prepared as industrial sites. The Coal Board has not been very helpful. The President of the Board of Trade announced almost 12 months ago that an advance factory was to come to Rhondda. The only site available was one known as the Lady Lewis site. It has been a colliery for very many years and used by the Board for stocking purposes. No coal has been stocked there for about five or six years. The Board will not release it because, it says, "We might need it for a colliery up the valley". Recently there was a move to stock coal from a colliery outside the Rhondda area, and we objected. We in Rhondda want to make it clear to the Welsh Office, to the Board, and to anyone else concerned, that we are not prepared to have our very few and limited sites kept so that the Board can stock coal for collieries in other areas which are far better off for colliery sites than is the Rhondda. We have made it very clear to the Board that we are not prepared to have this practice continue.
Another question is the powers of the Minister under the new Act in regard to the clearance of derelict collieries. Only last week the Western Mail carried an article on the condition of tips in Tylorstown. At this place, children can come off the main road on to colliery tips where there are severe and dangerous hazards. I will say no more on that topic now, because I have already taken it up with the Coal Board and it is only fair to wait now for its reply. These tips are scars of the first Industrial Revolution, and they should be removed to provide sites for new industry in the second Industrial Revolution that is now upon us.
The measures taken by the Government to deal with this recurring economic situation have received a great deal of support from the people of Wales, including those in Rhondda, but talk of redeployment in a place like the Rhondda, where there is no alternative employment at all, is being received there with utter cynicism. The present position differs markedly from the freezes and crises that occurred during the Conservative years of power, because other areas in Britain are now feeling the pinch. On previous occasions, when the Tories were in power, the Rhondda and the industrial valleys of Wales were the first to suffer, and suffered the longest.
The fact remains that unemployment in the Rhondda is now rising and, as has been pointed out more than once in this debate, it is rising in an area where the level is high at the best of times. The unemployment rate in Rhondda has always been almost double the national average. There has never been any argument about that. It has just been accepted, but no one is now prepared to see us going back to the old position again.
Travel to work must also be considered. It has been argued that in the new era of redeployment it will be incumbent on people to travel 12 or 14 miles to their place of work, but in Rhondda we suffer from one very bad feature—there is no railway in one part, and that part is in my constituency. Travelling on the road when the workers at the Treforest factories are coming out at night is a nightmare. The roads are not suitable. It all adds up to extra working time for the men and women involved, and our people are not prepared to accept that situation.
The Prime Minister said, when these various measures were announced, that there would be a sheltering of development areas, and I should like to hear from the Minister tonight what specific measures are being taken to shelter those areas. We are entitled to know.
Are we satisfied that there is sufficient inducement to industrialists to set up in these difficult areas? I am not. I had a booklet sent to me—and I suppose that most hon. Members have had it—extolling
the virtues and advantages of Ireland. It states:
A newly established factory in Ireland pays no Income Tax or Corporation Profits Tax on its profits from exports for its first ten years, and there is a tapering-off period of five more years before the full tax is charged. There is no Capital Gains Tax. Profits on capital may be freely taken out of the country in the parent firm's own currency.
I do not say that we should do exactly that here, but we should see whether something like it can be done for the difficult areas in South Wales, and in other parts of the country.
The Secretary of State referred to the Welsh Economic Council. This is something that directly concerns my hon. Friend the Minister of State, and I assure him that I speak with no personal animosity when I ask: is this Council the right machine? Is its composition the best for meeting the present needs of Wales? As is well known, these councils have been set up in each of the regions in Britain, but there is one fundamental difference between the councils for Wales and for Scotland and those for the other regional areas. In Wales and in Scotland a member of the Scottish Office or of the Welsh Office is chairman. In the other areas, the chairman is an independent person. I make no reflection on the present holder of the position in believing that it would be far better if there were an independent chairman for the Welsh Council.
Let me give my reasons for saying that. First, there is a likelihood of some inhibition being felt by other members of that body when the Secretary of State or the Minister of State is chairing the meeting. My hon. Friend the Minister of State can laugh at that—
I know the Council. The difference is that I laugh with knowledge. My hon. Friend does not know the Welsh Economic Council as I do. Its members are sturdy, independent, intelligent people, who are certainly not browbeaten by me.
I still believe that the chairmanship should be looked at. It might be wise for us to compare results from areas having independent chairmen with those of areas where Ministers are chairmen. I do not want to be dogmatic, but I think that it needs looking at.
Returning to the subject of the fears of people residing in areas of high unemployment, I would point out that many of those people are disabled men from the coalmining industry who are unable to travel long distances to a new job, even if a new job could be provided. They comprise the forgotten army of casualties, and are an inevitable consequence of pit closures. The fear is natural in a people who have suffered more than their fair share of unemployment. We in Rhondda very much welcome the idea put forward by the President of the Board of Trade of a new industrial estate just outside our boundary. It will cater for Rhondda unemployed and men made redundant by colliery closures, but we have to face the fact that many pits have closed and we still wait for new factories. The decision was announced in 1965, and people are disturbed that there is no visible sign of any start being made on these projects. These matters are urgent, and I implore the Minister of State and his right hon. Friend to treat them as such.
At a meeting of the Rhondda Trades Council which I addressed recently, a delegate said that in his opinion—which was shared by most of the delegates present:
This Government will come out right at the end of the day, but we expect that some measures to deal with the particular problems of areas such as ours will now be taken because they need urgent and speedy attention.
I, too, have faith in the long-term success of this Labour Government, but I ask that the immediate problems of areas which have suffered so much in the past shall be dealt with by increased drive and vigour.
As all Welshmen know in their heart of hearts, the true capital of Wales is Shrewsbury, so, as a Shropshire Member, I feel justified in making an intervention in this debate.
The hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) made reference to Aberfan. While he is still in the Chamber, there are two things I wish to say about Aberfan which I think are of importance to all hon. Members, whether Welsh or English. First, I hope that we shall not allow ourselves to concentrate exclusively on the National Coal Board. There are many potentially dangerous tips in this country which are not the responsibility of the National Coal Board. Secondly, it is essential in the interests of our constituents that we should tackle this subject through our local authorities and through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Three years ago I was on a Standing Committee where this subject came up. If the hon. Member for Rhondda, East is interested I shall be very happy to give the details and the background and to show how the present legal position stands.
I want briefly to refer to the two subjects of agriculture and industry which, as my constituency is absolutely on the borders of Wales—indeed, owing to the boundary it is intermingled with it—are of common interest to Wales and West Shropshire. None of us who represent agricultural constituencies in that part of the world can help but feel concern about the position which faces livestock farmers in the fat cattle trade, the livestock rearing trade and the sheep trade. I read in the report of my own National Fanners' Union that in October the comparative price of steers was 166s. in 1965 and 150s. in 1966. That is some slight evidence of the catastrophic drop there has been in fatstock prices. In the sheep trade the general experience has been that prices have been anything from 30s. to 40s. less this year than last year.
The chap who has suffered most—this is of great importance to us—is the livestock rearing farmer. In the recent debate on agriculture, the Minister made an announcement of what he was to try to do to help the fatstock farmer. For that, although it may not be a great deal, we are grateful, but it still leaves in suspense the position of livestock rearing farmers. These are family farmers who live among the Welsh and Shropshire hills and they feel first the result of a depression of this kind. In the Agriculture Bill which we are considering upstairs in Committee there are proposals for amalgamations, but this is not good enough. The time has come when some special effort should be made through the Minister of Agriculture for some special provision for family farmers of this type.
I want to say a brief word about industry. I do not think it true that there has been no industrial benefit in this part of the world. In my constituency four years ago an excellent clothing factory was established in Ludlow. That has now developed branches, one in my constituency and one in the adjacent constituency of Brecon and Radnor. It is giving employment to a remarkable number of female employees. There is very little in the way of rail communications in one of the centres to which this industry has moved. It shows what can be done by factories of that kind. I suppose they would be described as light industry, but it is very important industry in these small centres. There is female labour there. That is the type of industry which can and should be encouraged in those areas.
I want to say a word about a question which has become very topical and is relevant to what has been said in this debate about the proposed new town in Wales. We are very conscious of the international boundary which divides England from Wales. We have reached a point in history when these things cannot be considered in isolation on each side of the national boundary. It has been said that there should be a new town in Caersws. As hon. Members will know, in my constituency we have already an established scheme for the new town of Dawley with a population of 90,000. Only this week a report appeared recommending that this new town should be increased to a population of 200,000. That has had the immediate reaction of provoking suggestions as to what should happen in Shrewsbury. The latest Dawley Report says:
An early decision is required on the future rôle which Shrewsbury will play in the region…Account must also be taken of the effect of any decision on the proposal
recently published for the new town in mid Wales.
We have now reached a point when it is essential that these three schemes, Dawley, Shrewsbury and Caersws, should be considered as one proposition because one must react on the other. Unless we are to have confusion they must be considered together. I should like an assurance from the Minister of State that in the decision which has now to be made about Dawley possible reactions on Shrewsbury and Caersws will not be overlooked and that he himself will ensure that he is brought into consultation with the Minister of Housing and Local Government before a final decision is made.
I am grateful for the opportunity of making a short intervention in this debate.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More), because he represents a constituency which might very well have been the capital of Wales. In that case, he would have been a Member for Wales.
Many striking statements have been made this afternoon. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) asked what about Wales of the future. That is what we are talking about. The statements made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) that no one has been serious about Wales were extraordinary. I have taken a very serious view of Wales since my youth and I shall do so for the rest of my time. I have not been afraid of standing at street corners to see that we shall have social justice in Wales.
My attitude is very simple. It may appear paradoxical. In the first place I regard Wales as a nation. I regard the people living within the geographical boundaries of Wales as forming the Welsh nation. Whether they speak Welsh or not, they belong to the Welsh nation. So when such people cross the Border it is a serious loss to the Welsh nation.
My second point is that people will live where they can earn a living. This is the economic question. On the basis of that economic question, I do not regard Wales as an economic unit, I regard it as an economic region, and I make no apology for that observation. Indeed, it is an economic region within a larger economic region, but just as the larger economic region has a part to play so also has Wales as an economic region its part to play as well.
I do not know whether I shall carry the House with me on my next point, but the hon. Member for Carmarthen asked how Wales can receive the attention it deserves as a part of Britain. Britain is a Common Market and has been one for centuries. There has been freedom of movement, of both labour ard capital between the three kingdoms constituting it. I cannot understand how it is possible to justify the breaking up of the Common Market of Britain and at the same time justify the entry of Wales into the Common Market of Europe as is the policy of Plaid Cymru. I would emphasise that Wales economically never can live in isolation. Not only is Wales an economic region, but it also has economic sub-regions.
I have two or three things to refer to in that connection. There is agriculture, for example, which covers the whole of Wales. But there are large areas of Wales where agriculture is the basis of the economy. Never in the history of Wales has farming been more productive than now. At the same time, farming does not employ as many people as it used to because of mechanisation. So farming will not solve our depopulation problem, and we must seek a solution elsewhere.
Then we have other areas which are not based upon coal. I refer to the great industrial areas of the North-West, such as the slate industry of Carnarvonshire and Merioneth. The slate industry has declined since 1881, the decline becoming very rapid after the First World War and particularly so after the Second World War. So in that part of the country we have industrial areas and an industrial-type population. The problems there are different from the problems in the agricultural areas.
Then we have the coal mining industrial areas, of which Wrexham is an example, and there we have a similar problem—pit closures. One mine has been closed in my constituency. However, I am glad to say that the prospect in the North Wales coalfield is much brighter than it was 12 months ago. It seems that one of our collieries will be breaking through in the very near future. I am sorry to hear about the situation in South Wales, but I am glad to be able to present a different picture from North Wales.
Taking Wales as a whole—the agricultural areas, the slate industry areas and the coal mining areas—there is evidence of change, and because of this we must have planning. I have been very encouraged to find today that hon. Members opposite have come to believe in planning. Every time we pleaded for planning when we were in opposition, we were turned down by the Conservatives. Now they are pleading for us to adopt a system of planning.
One thing that is clear is that the Conservative method of the Local Employment Act, concentrating on pinpoints of unemployment, brought no solution to our problem. I am glad that at last we have a Government who have taken this question up very seriously. Only this month the President of the Board of Trade reported that he had decided to build 21 new advance factories in Britain and that of those six would go to Wales. Six out of 21 is a fair proportion, and it certainly proves that Wales is not the forgotten child of the President of the Board of Trade. On the contrary, it is being given its share.
I do not want to be complacent; I am fully aware of the fact that very much needs and will need to be done, but it is only fair that I should make a brief report about my constituency. Two chapters have been written for Wrexham since the end of the Second World War, and a third chapter has now begun. The first chapter covered the period from 1945 to 1951, when the Government of the day introduced an industrial estate at Wrexham, for the first time diversifying the industry of the area and introducing such industries as textiles and toy making. That was a new experience, and it laid the foundations for development.
Then came the second chapter, from 1951 to 1964, when we had 13 years of Tory rule concentrating on the so called pinpoints of unemployment. Not a single industry was introduced to the area in that period. In 1960 the area was taken off the list of scheduled areas. What is more, the Government decided to sell out the industrial estate. That was the end of the second chapter.
Chapter 3 began in 1964, and the industrial scene started to change, and I am pleased to be able to say that it is is still changing. Firestone came to the industrial estate. It would have had no chance of doing so had there not been a Labour Government with a Secretary of State for Wales sitting in the Cabinet. I know the part that the Secretary of State played in that issue. I am glad to say that another firm, Multi-cables, has decided to introduce a very important factory into the area. That is at one end of my division. At the other end of my division there is to be a Cadbury factory at Chirk. That is at the focal point of two valleys, the Dee Valley and the Ceiriog Valley. The Ceiriog Valley, the old textile and quarrying area, has not had an industry for years. In the next few months we hope to see Cadbury's building a factory at Chirk, employing 500 people, and this will give hope once again to those two valleys. It will also provide employment for people just over the border. That is a remarkable story.
The clerks of Wrexham Borough Council and Wrexham Rural District Council are continually receiving inquiries as to whether they have derelict sites which they have cleared and which are suitable for small industrial sites. When the economy of Wrexham has been put on a sound basis the story will not end there. It will be a bridge, and across that bridge small factories will penetrate from this part of North Wales into the interior as far as Corwen, and perhaps even as far as Bala. That is the nature of the economic advance, and that is the story of the past two years. It gives me great pleasure to relate that story today.
This is my first Welsh day, and I am very grateful to be called. I welcome the very fine account given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, which I thought was cautiously optimistic, but it has been tempered by the remarks of many of my hon. Friends who have expressed genuine concern for certain areas and the employment and redundancy problems. We also welcome and look forward to the publication of the Welsh Plan for which we have waited a very long time. However, I am very disappointed that the Welsh Economic Council's Report and the reports of its panels are not to be published. It would benefit Wales as a whole and create full understanding and participation by the public in the problems of Wales if such reports were published. I regret the announcement at Question Time some time ago that they were not to be published.
There is no need for the Welsh Economic Council's Report to tell of the difficult problems that face Wales, and particularly parts of South Wales. They have been eloquently explained today by many of my hon. Friends. The crisis in the coal industry and the steel redundancy problems are already well known. It would not be for me to add to what has been said. We welcome the Government measures—the advance factory programme, the creation of jobs, the widened expansion of development areas.
What has been expressed very forcibly by many of my hon. Friends is a feeling of unease that the problem has not yet been full conquered, that battle has not altogether been won. We have had the feeling over the past two years that this has been a brilliant and successful holding operation. But we are by no means certain that we have established the true conditions for sustained economic growth in Wales. To find evidence of this we do not need to look much further than, for example, at the rather high unemployment rate. Unemployment is beginning to grow, and the potential redundancy in Wales as a whole is rather frightening.
Are we satisfied that the programme today is sufficient? Are we satisfied that we have a crash programme capable of conquering the problem and sustaining the economic growth? We recognised the difficulties of previous policies with the very important Industrial Development Act, 1966. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) explained, we are giving up the idea—I think that it was a wrong idea—of pinpointing, of confining industrial development in Wales to very restricted areas. This has been acknowledged, and I wonder, with the very large employment problem we face in Wales, and particularly South Wales, whether the logic of this policy should not be taken to its full conclusion. While we have widened development areas we have excluded on social rather than economic grounds the areas of faster growth in Wales. The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) made this point about the North-East, and it is for me to say the same about the South-East. I realise the social consequence of the decision taken, but if we are faced with a problem of such magnitude we should not perhaps actively discourage industrial development in what are already the successful growth points in Wales.
I therefore feel that while the priorities must, quite rightly, be given on social grounds to the constituencies of many of my hon. Friends, there is reason to think that we should plan regionally as a whole, and not with some exclusion, as in the case of the Industrial Development Act of 1966. Priority must be given to the Rhondda Valley and to West Wales, but there is reason to feel concern for the areas where there is potential growth which might stagnate or slow down without the advent of further industry. I would hate to feel that this would be the choice that would face Wales, and particularly South Wales. We may be faced with such a major problem that we have to make something of a choice between some migration of people within South Wales and emigration of people out of Wales altogether.
The key question in our debate has surely been whether after this period of deflation we shall have the right conditions in Wales for a steady growth in the economy. It is therefore very important to look at the region's long-term needs and some aspects of the economy which have not been mentioned today. It would be fitting if I mentioned them, representing as I do more of an urban centre and a less industrialised constituency than many of my hon. Friends. I refer to some essential industrial and business services which have not been a normal feature of the Welsh economy. These services, particularly the training and retraining programmes that have been mentioned, are a normal part of a flourishing economy. The fact that only two Government training centres are open is an indication of woeful inadequacy in tackling the problem we face in retraining. Two of my constituents have been waiting for over nine months to enter the Cardiff training centre, and this experience could probably be amplified by other hon. Members.
We need to develop technical education, and last year we saw a considerable expansion in the number of apprentices and apprentice schemes in Wales. We have seen the promotion of the College of Advanced Technology to university status, and there is the possible application of the Treforest College to be a Polytechnic. But the training and retraining, particularly the training of youth, is by no means adequate for future need. Perhaps we shall also find that some Welsh firms are lagging in responding to Government measures. In the Western Mail three days after the 20th July measures, there was reference to Welsh firms which lagged and had no enthusiasm for the new schemes and incentives of the Ministry of Labour. I hope that the Welsh Office does its best to publicise these fully. In terms of industrial and business services, I think of the establishment of an industrial design centre for Wales as an essential addition. Every local authority in Wales has given support to the campaign for one, and many professional people and industrialists in South Wales have supported it. In design and exhibition, in marketing and sales of products in Wales, Welsh industry is very badly served. They need rapid development.
For that reason I wish to mention the importance of considering the development of the capital city of Wales and the centre of Cardiff. I raise this not as a purely constituency matter but as a problem of the chief centre in a region of large industrial development, and also the capital. Cardiff is finding great difficulty in sustaining its rôle and carrying out what should be expected of it in its function as a major centre of an industrial area. It should provide an administrative and university centre. In addition, it should have the efficient docks on which its prosperity has been built over the years. Also, it should serve the social and cultural needs of a very large area. We have not heard much about social and cultural amenities in this debate, but they are an important part of the economic and social fabric of the region for which Cardiff has a prime responsibility.
In its present circumstances, Cardiff is feeling the strain and, I fear, is proving unable to sustain such a rôle. I ask the Welsh Office, therefore, to conduct, as part of the preparation of the Welsh Economic Council's report, a detailed study of the rôle and function of the capital city in the life and organisation, economic, social and cultural, of the region which it serves. In this study, I ask that attention be directed to four specific factors, which, though already familiar, must be taken into account.
The first is the need for modern industrial and business services centred in Cardiff to be encouraged in every way, for example by the encouragement of special services such as industrial design centre, and so on. Secondly, this should be combined with the maintenance of modern efficient docks and a declaration by the Government of an investment programme for the South Wales ports, and particularly for Cardiff.
Thirdly, in considering the organisation of local government as a whole in Wales, we should take into account the nature and range of services required in the area which Cardiff serves, and in so doing re-draw the boundaries to match the modern realities of the area. I ask the Welsh Office seriously to consider the possibility of establishing a Greater Cardiff Council which would have the rôle and function in South Wales which the Greater London Council has in the south-east of England.
Fourth, I ask the Welsh Office to encourage the development of the Cardiff city centre. Again, I ask this not purely for constituency reasons but because Cardiff is at the centre of an important region and should, therefore, be developed in order to perform the proper planning, social and cultural functions which the region needs, taking into account the expansion of its university, and taking into account not only the expansion of administration in Wales but the inclusion of offices sent to the region under the Government's decentralisation policy.
In a recent Circular issued by the Welsh Office, it was suggested that priority in town centre development would be given to towns in the development areas. I feel that priority might well be given to the City of Cardiff also, as capital city and as the centre of the region.
For these reasons, I raise the matter of Cardiff City itself somewhat as an offshoot of this debate, though an important one. Quite rightly, in the next few months, all eyes will be on the problems of unemployment and redundancy, but in the longer term the problems of the advancement of services, particularly industrial and business services, and the social and cultural amenities of the area will remain a very significant factor in developing the future prosperity of Wales.
The trenchant and controversial suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) strike a response in all of us who have an interest in Cardiff, even though we come from other constituencies. They are bound to attract our interest, for my hon. Friend seems to want to make his city not just a city among others but genuinely a capital city which acknowledges its responsibilities and obligations to the whole region which it serves.
However, I shall not follow my hon. Friend along his imaginative course. I shall return to the problems which have preoccupied us very largely during this debate, how to deal with the surplus labour which, clearly, will come into existence in Wales, how we are to provide the jobs which will be needed, and the scale on which they will be needed. If I do not take time giving considerable praise to the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh Office, they will understand that this is not out of churlishness but out of consideration for other hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I wish to make my speech as short as possible.
To come to the heart of the matter, I revert to the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Conway 'Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies), who raised the question which must concern us all: how many jobs will be required during the next five years? When my hon. Friend mentioned a figure of 100,000 jobs being required, my hon. Friend the Minister of State intervened to ask on what that figure was based. If my hon. Friend the Member for Conway was peddling some of the specious statistics produced by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), I can well understand the Minister of State being prompted to intervene as he did. Nevertheless, many of us are concerned when we remember that a quarter of our working force is still employed, substantially, in two major industries.
The National Coal Board is proceeding with its closures. Its pricing policy is reducing the demand for Welsh coals. Everything points to a drop of 40 per cent. in the productive work force at the pits, and the total fall in employment in the industry is bound to be very much greater. We are all deeply conscious that in the steel industry there has been, to put it kindly, an extravagant use of manpower and that in conditions of stiff international competition and the new pressures of technological change, it is not too pessimistic—indeed, it may be optimistic—to think in terms of at least 12,000 steel workers at present employed not being needed five years hence.
In addition, there will be a fall in the number of workers employed on British Railways. The number of jobs will necessarily fall as the coal industry concentrates production geographically and as modernisation reduces the need for railway manpower. Employment opportunities are bound to shrink in Wales. There is the continuing decline of employment opportunities in heavy chemicals, shipbuilding and ship-repairing as well.
Since figures are challenged, and since we are not apparently to have the statistics prepared by the Economic Council, may we be told whether it is correct that the total number of jobs likely to be lost in the next five years will be in the region of 40,000 to 45,000? I ask this question in the context of the changes about which we are all concerned, changes necessary to improve the technical efficiency and profitability of our Welsh industries. These are changes which, perhaps, should not be avoided. The miners have faced such changes in their industry, as everyone has said, with great courage. They are changes which Wales is ready to accept, but only on certain conditions.
We must take into account, also, the natural rate of population growth. We all hope that net emigration will certainly not be more than it has been in the last decade, and we assume that with our more egalitarian family structure, there will be work opportunities for women growing at the rate at which they have grown hitherto. During the spring of this year, Gerald Manners, a lecturer in geography at Swansea, suggested that the potential labour force would increase from 699,000 in 1964 to 720,000 in 1971. Is this right or wrong?
It is not good enough merely to dismiss these suggestions and figures as ill-founded. We are entitled to know what projection the Welsh Office has made and what the basis for it is. Otherwise, apprehensions are bound to grow. I am doing no more than put these facts to the House. I am not putting them dogmatically. Indeed, I incline to think that the figures I quote are an under-estimate. Adding those two factors together means that within the next five years we will require at least 60,000 to 65,000 new jobs, or about 9,000 jobs a year. We will need more if we project to 1981, but I shall not weary hon. Members as far as that tonight.
If we need 9,000 jobs a year, are we likely to get them on past or present performance? I dispute it. For the decade 1953 to 1963, the work force of South Wales increased by about 36,000 per annum. That figure has been cited in many quarters, but when it is examined we have to realise that nearly all that increase was in female labour. About 32,000 out of those 35,600 jobs were filled by female labour. This means, if these figures are right, that the net male employment gain over the past decade was less than 400 a year, and this during a period when steelworks like Llanwern were being assembled.
It is quite clear that if these figures are anything like correct there is justification for the forebodings which have been expressed today. They clearly indicate that we must have some form of crash programme for attracting new male-employing manufacturing and service industries. This is not an easy task. I suggest that despite the measures which have been taken, it has not yet been faced effectively.
I know that each one of us will have his constituency interests and may urge them, but I know, too, that the contention of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), despite the well-deserved rebuff from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) when the right hon. Gentleman complained about his area not being within a development area, and the contention which was urged by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North that consideration has to be given to where we can have our growth points in order to maximise the degree of employment in Wales, is a challenge to the Government.
It is no good yielding to constituency interests here and there. It is no use spreading factories throughout Wales in response to the appeals of different people. To meet the challenge of this large number of jobs which we require, we are not necessarily selecting the area which is most likely to help a dynamic economy to come into existence in Wales.
On the face of it, one could ask why Cardiff, for example, should be classified as a development area. If one looks at the employment figures, why classify Newport, or Cwmbran, in my constituency? Why classify Monmouth or Chepstow? These, however, may be precisely the areas that should come within the development area. That was the argument of the National Economic Development Council when it pleaded for the designation of growth points.
The White Papers on Central Scotland and the North-East accepted the need for growth points. Without arguing the case for North-East Wales, with which I am not so familiar, I believe that despite the constituency pressures that may be set up there is an overwhelming case for South-East Wales, which is the natural area for economic growth, to become a development area so that it may spread and propagate out of that area for the benefit of the marginal and peripheral areas around it.
We have to look to the economic advantages of a region of South-East Wales which by the 1970s, with its bridge and its roadway system, will have a compact but discontinuous urban belt from Bath to Barry and a market of between 3½ and 4 million people. These two urban regions will be interdependent to the north and south of the upper Bristol Channel. I prophesy that before long we will have Welsh days that are not specifically Welsh and that we will not resent interruptions and interventions from other hon. Members from this side—they will not be from the benches opposite—who represent the other side of Severnside. This is an inevitable trend. Indeed, it is already happening.
It is important to recognise the advantages for making the South-East area a growth point. Whereas the development of manufacturing and distributive activities is inhibited by the small size of the market in South Wales or by the small size of Bristol individually, the picture becomes totally different once we begin to think of the whole region together. The relative isolation of South Wales from the rest of the country served as a disincentive to using South Wales as a base for serving national markets. The road systems which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has indicated are being yet further developed will surely, within the next five years, create a situation in which it takes, perhaps, little more than two hours to travel to Birmingham and not much more to London.
Is there in existence, therefore, a growth plan of this character? I know that the Board of Trade, to whom we look for both the long-term future and the immediate position, has come in for heavy criticism during this debate. I believe, however, that it is a question not only of the numbers of officials in Wales but of their quality. Faced with a challenge of these dimensions, it is high time that the Board of Trade, in its operation in Wales, should be rejuvenated by young, virile, active people who would be able to respond to the great challenge that faces us. There is no question in my view that however well the services may have been given in the past, it is necessary to bring in people with dynamism who could help to attract industry to the area.
I realise that there are difficulties for the Board of Trade in Wales. The Department has had to overcome the miserable inheritance of the rundown that was started by the Tories. We cannot, however, rely on that as an alibi and we must act on the situation as it is and expand the operation of the Board of Trade activities so that we can meet the type of challenge which is in existence as a consequence of the tremendous number of new jobs that we require.
So much for the long term. What of the short term?
The hon. Member will have plenty of time later.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) has mentioned, when the July measures were introduced we were promised that Wales would be protected. We understand the difficulties, but what is the nature of the protection that will come into existence? It is quite clear that if on top of all the existing difficulties the pit closures are to continue as originally planned, there will indeed be dark days for Wales.
My hon. Friends the Members for Aberdare, Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and for Cardiff, North have all pleaded, as I plead, that we need a slowing down of pit closures as part of the protection to which Wales has a right if the promise of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to become a reality. I hope that during this time of economic strain there will be no question that the programme as planned will continue and that on top of the existing unemployment we have disgorged upon us people who are unable to find work as a result of pit closures.
Nor do I think that during this short period we can do anything but demand from the Minister of Power that there should be co-ordination so that during this period there is no question of steel workers being placed through a process being called redeployment, but which could become unemployment. It is essential that if we have a short-term economic problem, during this period there should not be redundancies from these basic industries. Fortunately, the very fact that they are nationalised or partly nationalised means that some measure of control is left in the hands of the Government.
In my constituency we have suffered during recent months disturbing redundancies. My constituency understands, and expresses its view that if a country like this country has, in fact, been spending more than it earns there comes a time when its credit goes and there is a need for recovery and, with loyalty, it will wait to see how the Labour Government tries to pull us through these difficulties.
What we will not tolerate, what the people of South Wales will not tolerate, will be humbug which will tell them that men are made workless to be redeployed, and then find they are lengthily unemployed. There is a great responsibility upon the Secretary of State for Wales and on the Minister of Power to see to it that there is sufficient coordination to make certain that in these basic industries at least we do not get an exacerbation of the unemployment problem, which could be so grave, and which evokes in South Wales such tragically terrible memories.
The Welsh Planning Board, in its last Report, said:
One of the most vital and rewarding tasks of the Welsh Planning Board will be to see that new life is brought to the development areas so that the people of the industrial valleys may share to the full in all the benefits of economic expansion.
But what have we got? Nearly 40,000 unemployed or estimated to be unemployed by the end of the year, double the percentage of the national average, and loss of jobs caused by the continuing contraction of some of our basic industries.
We cannot be complacent in this situation, and I am quite sure that the Welsh Office is not complacent. It has become an urgent necessity to steer new enterprises to the areas where employment is contracting and communities are in grave danger of declining.
It is essential in exercising a policy of industrial development that communications and facilities should keep pace with the industrial expansion. All of us have been pressing for a greater measure of urgency in solving the present road problems. On the A.467, from Newport to Brynmawr, there has hardly been any major road construction for the last 40 years. There are 22 miles of roads to connect up the Heads of the Valley Road and 15 miles of this road run through my constituency where there are more steep hills and tortuous bends, which produce more road hazards, than there are in most parts of the country. Two steep hills at Llanhilleth, known for many years as Halfshaft Hill, have caused tremendous delays from time to time.
There are 20,000 vehicles using those roads every day, four times more than the Ministry of Transport recommended as the maximum. The mile and a half of new road between Newbridge and Crumlin, in the Abertillery constituency, has already been sanctioned and will solve some of the problem, but it will require from ten to twenty times that amount to remove those dangers and perils. If we want good communications, safety and industrial expansion, a new road is an urgent necessity.
I do not expect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to wave a magic wand and say that it will be done tomorrow. After all, there are so many urgent problems needing his attention, as there have been in the short two years he and his predecessor have been in office in the Government. The blame lies fairly and squarely on the party opposite for 13 long, wasted years when we "never had it so good" in the so-called affluent society—and nothing was done. That is the tragedy, and now we are faced with major cuts in our bus services which will inflict greater hardship on the travelling public and have some effect on the employees of the bus companies. This, then, is the plight that we are faced with in Abertillery constituency.
I now turn to the spoil heaps, or old colliery tips. The shocking tragedy of Aberfan, which aroused the conscience of the nation and, indeed, of the whole world, as has been mentioned already today, has caused widespread fear and apprehension among the people of our industrial valleys. First, however, let me commend the prompt action which the Secretary of State for Wales and the National Coal Board have taken and their prompt manner of doing it, whereby they are actively engaged in examining and probing these potential death traps to try to allay these fears. But those of us who have lived among our people, and with these ugly, potentially dangerous monstrosities, will never be satisfied till these tips are removed.
In my constituency 480 acres of good land are covered by the tips. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans)—I am sorry that he is not present—for mentioning the question of the Cwmtillery tip, in my area. I only hope he knows where the Cwmtillery tip is. I have seen two rows of miners' cottages, in years gone by, be completely demolished, either through subsidence, causing mountains to move, or a combination of tips plus subsidence, and, in my area, poor people left to their misery without a penny of compensation.
Probably the whole of their life's savings, invested in their little homes, vanished, while those responsible—I say this very deliberately, as an old miner of 40 years' standing—the "blood-sucking" former colliery owners who caused such devastation raked in their ill-gotten gains and lived in more salubrious areas. They did not work the rich coal seams of South Wales. They plundered them, and made their fortunes—and then spewed their muck almost on our back doors.
If those 480 acres of spoil heaps could be cleared away, three very important and desirable happenings would take place, and they could be repeated in most of our mining towns. First, there would be removed dangerous potentialities. Secondly, the outlook of the area would be improved. Thirdly, it would provide good land for industrial expansion, which would stop the drift of manpower from the district by providing employment for our people, who do not want to leave the warm community life of the valleys.
This, of course, requires a D-day operation and a fair amount of money. I see nothing wrong in asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to take the necessary steps immediately to stop any further payments in interest money, and to recover retrospectively the money which has already been paid to the former colliery owners who are wholly responsible for the defilement of our beautiful valleys. That is only common justice. I would prefer this method of financing this operation than calling upon the taxpayers of the country to foot the bill.
If this could be arranged, and the former colliery owners made to pay, we could, by way of interest, transport these huge mounds of muck on to their own back gardens and let them live with it for the next 100 years. The Secretary of State for Wales would earn the eternal gratitude of the people of the industrial valleys.
After the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Clifford Williams) I fear that my own efforts on this occasion will probably be dissipated into thin air.
There have been references in the House today to the black shadow that fell upon Aberfan. Once again, the people have been reminded of the real and true cost of coal and the way in which it has been dragged from the ground beneath Wales. Aberfan has also quickened the conscience of the people of Wales to the need to do something about these ugly mounds of waste which litter the valleys up and down the Welsh coalfield. We are glad that the Secretary of State took such prompt action at the time of that dreadful disaster, and we are glad, too, to have heard from him of the other measures which are being taken to see to it that our people do not live in the peril of the shadow of these mounds of muck to which my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery has referred.
Again, Aberfan has reminded us of the difficulties with which the coal mining community in South Wales has had to contend, resulting in a sharp contraction of the industry, which has created for us many difficulties of redeployment. I hope that the country will notice and remember the manner in which members of the mining community have dealt with the problem which has been placed upon them and contrast it with the complaints which we hear now from some other industries which are becoming affected.
The changes which are taking place in British industry and the effects which they have upon the employment position of the British people affect Wales and its people equally. Those who imagine that Wales can opt out of these changes delude themselves and do Wales a great disservice.
The past is a history of shameful neglect. The history of industrial development in Wales is one which has resulted in much poverty and unemployment. That can be testified to by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, not from reading books but from personal experience.
Since the war, there have been improvements, but still there persist in many parts of Wales pockets where the level of unemployment is above the average for the United Kingdom. The statement in the Secretary of State's Report entitled Wales, 1965, which says that unemployment rose slightly during the year compared with 1964, although the unemployment percentage was less than in 1963 or 1962, is not calculated to give much comfort to those who have experienced unemployment, especially when we are aware that industry is going through a period of change which has been brought about by technological advances that perhaps have affected Welsh industry to a greater degree than elsewhere. The reason for that is that there has not been the diversification of industry in Wales that we might have had.
In the past, there has not been the recognition by those in authority that, if we are to prevent unemployment when industries become obsolete, there must be forward planning to see to it that new industries come in before the old ones die and close down. Credit is due to the Government for the measures which they have taken to see that Wales is supplied with new industry to safeguard the future employment of our people.
In that, under my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the Welsh Office has done much which is to its credit. However, despite all its efforts, there are still fears among the people of Wales for the immediate future, that, while the measures which my right hon. Friends have taken are bearing fruit, there may be difficulties which will place hardship and burden upon them.
In my view, it is to this question of looking to the future that we must urge the Government to give much of their thought. I urge them not to take too much notice of present employment figures but, as far as humanly possible, to endeavour to anticipate the industrial needs of Wales some years ahead. It is very good that, from time to time, the Government are able to announce new programmes of advance factories for Wales, but it has become the cause of a great deal of lowering of the morale of people in the places where the factories are to be sited when they have to wait for a considerable time to see the factories built, let alone being brought into operation.
It might be a worth-while suggestion that consideration be given to using industrialised structures in preference to traditional building methods for these advance factories as a means of getting them built more quickly. This kind of building would have another advantage in that it would provide additional employment among those firms in Wales which are manufacturing such buildings already. It would also be a great help to the steel industry in Wales, which is already developing such industrialised building methods.
I am led to understand that one of the causes of delay in building these factories is the difficulty of obtaining ownership of the land upon which they are to be built. In my view, it is important that there should be a much closer liaison between the Board of Trade and local authorities so that greater information can be made available about sites which are ripe for development, and that the local authorities should be given much more encouragement than they have been in the past to acquire such sites.
The scheduling of the greater part of Wales as a development district is something which we welcome. It is regrettable that this policy was not prosecuted in the past, since it has taken very much longer for the policy now being adopted by the Government to become effective in Wales than has been the case in many other parts of the United Kingdom. However, while it is desirable, the mere scheduling of an area is not entirely the answer to the problem. It demands from those districts which are scheduled that they themselves engage in a programme of self-help.
It is encouraging to those of us who come from West Wales to find that the parochial outlook which has bedevilled the Welsh scene for so long is in some way being dissipated. We find that local authorities are now forming themselves into joint development committees. That is an action which we should applaud, and every encouragement should be given to it. I am glad, too, to find that the maxim of those local authorities is, "We are not concerned where it goes, so long as it comes." That kind of mentality speaks very well for the future of Wales.
In my constituency of Neath, we are very fortunate to have had sited the extension of the Ford Motor Company's activities. On a recent visit to the factory, I heard how high the Ford Company holds the Welsh worker in its estimation. Such opinions as that are invaluable to us in Wales. I would urge those companies which have settled among us and received such satisfaction that they do yet a further service to Wales by giving encouragement to other firms which are intent on expanding their businesses and their operations to join them in Wales.
As we have been told by the Secretary of State this afternoon, the long-term future of Wales is good because of the actions which have been taken by the Government, but it is the present which gives rise to concern, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend to remember that it is the short-term on which the greatest emphasis has been laid today. I ask the Government to bear this in mind so that we in Wales may be secure in the short-term, and thus be able to enjoy the long-term about which my right hon. Friend has spoken.
I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) and my hon. Friends the Members for Abertillery (Mr. Clifford Williams) and Pontypool (Mr. Abse). I agree particularly with what they said about the Aberfan tragedy.
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool, who told us of his vision for Severnside, who stressed that we should build on the success of those parts of Wales which can be self-sustaining in the not too distant future, and who pleaded for co-operation between the development departments for the future of the steel industry which significantly affects both his constituency and mine.
With the establishment of the Welsh Office and the success of the regional policies which have been developed by it over the past two years, resulting in the significant success story to date which was outlined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the future prosperity of Wales seemed, only a short while ago, to be assured. Yet, inevitably, in the current economic climate, old uncertainties arise. It is, incidentally, a climate from which no one in Wales would expect to be exempt.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), seemed to argue that somehow we could pick and choose those elements of national policy which happened to suit us—we will not have the Irish Free Trade Agreement, but we will have the rest of the agricultural packet because that suits us. The idea that we can pick or choose or be exempt from the major economic scene in the United Kingdom is not supported by hon. Members on this side of the House, but, equally, we do not expect Wales to have to pay proportionately more at a difficult time like this. This is something which everyone on this side would wish to press at this time of economic difficulty.
Only a couple of days ago I received a letter from a constituent who had been threatened with short-time working because of difficulties in the motor industry. He is a married man with three children, and he asked, "Where can I now find security of employment?". Such a question would not have been asked by Welshmen a year or so ago, though it was a question which many Welshmen asked during the difficult times of the 'thirties. I would not like to try any scaremongering of this sort. It would be wrong to do so, but my father had to leave Wales in the 'thirties to find work elsewhere, and inevitably the memories of the people of Wales go back to those difficult times.
When I was a small boy my uncle told me to be a teacher, to look for security. It is this search for security which makes a large proportion of the Welsh people preachers or teachers, and this question of the security of employment is now being raised again in our Welsh valleys.
Many people—and certainly I did, coming as I do from the west of Wales—think that Monmouthshire is a prosperous oasis in the more difficult areas of Wales, but I have learnt that this is not true at the moment. Both the County of Monmouth and the fringe area, particularly Brynmawr in the Brecon and Radnor constituency, are already suffering proportionately more from the squeeze than the country as a whole.
The county planning officer gives figures for the percentage increase in unemployment in the third quarter of the last two years. For 1965, the percentage increase in the county and fringe area was 26·1. In Wales, it was 19·9, and in Great Britain as a whole it was 14T. This year, the figures for the end of the third quarter show that in our county and the fringe area it was 45·2, in Wales it was 30·8 and in Great Britain as a whole it was 30·2.
The decrease in the number of vacancies in the county is distorted by a considerable increase in mining vacancies. I am sure that no one would argue that we should try to force men back into the mines because of the economic difficulties through which we are passing. We have, therefore, on the one hand, a considerable increase in mining vacancies, and, on the other, a sharp decline in service and manufacturing industries.
The latest report by the county planning officer—and this refers to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool—shows that the claim that we are sheltering the development areas is not borne out by statistics. The county planning officer's report, which takes the story to the end of September of this year, shows that only 96 of the 238 vacancies for males in manufacturing industry are to be found in the county and fringe area designated as part of the Welsh development area, and 68 of these are concentrated in the Pontypool and Caerphilly, and 15 vacancies are in the Pontlottyn area. Many other areas, including Blackwood, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar have no vacancies for males in manufacturing industry.
Despite the fact that almost 50 per cent. of the total vacancies available in the county and fringe area are in the mining industry and cannot be filled, the ratio of vacancies per 100 unemployed is still only 39, compared with the Great Britain average of 103. Even in the south and east of the county where mining vacancies do not obscure the picture—such as in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes)—and unemployment is low, the ratios are not high, Cwmbran having a ratio of 67, Newport 39 and Chepstow 36.
I must mention, too, the question mark which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool said was hanging over the steel industry in South Wales. Many hon. Members representing mining constituencies have eloquently told the House that the inevitable contraction in employment in these basic industries should not be allowed to coincide with a short-term contraction due to the present economic difficulties, and as these two things are to some extent at least under Government control—certainly the mining industry is, being wholly nationalised, and also a goodly part of the steel industry—they should play their part cushioning the effect of the present economic difficulties on these basic industries.
The problems facing the industry are obvious. There has been a decline in home demand, due in part to the general economic turndown, and there has been a decline in export orders due to surplus capacity overseas and the tightness of the export market. It is wrong, for example, that the Spencer Works, which account for so massive an element of employment in South-East Wales, should suffer more, proportionately, because of its great export record since its inception at the beginning of this decade, and because of the disjointed production lines resulting from an earlier Government compromise.
As hon. Members have said, many questions relating to the future economic picture in Wales have not been answered. We must have answers to these questions if we are to learn anything about the course of employment, trade, and industry in our Principality.
Is it true that the industries attracted to Wales are not those which are best for the Principality? The charge was made by Professor Edward Nevin, amongst others, that the bait that we have put down is not attracting the right mice? How much research is being done on this question under the aegis of the Welsh Office? Again, it is said that we are too dependent for our secondary industry on the motor trade and are therefore feeling the effects of the present downturn in this industry? Is this true?
I hope that the Government will be willing particularly to use the talents and resources available in our national university to find the answers to some of these problems. I have served for two years in a university as a teaching member, and I know how much talent is waiting to be used. I was delighted by the Government's initiative on the Severn Bridge Study, when they used the university facilities, and I hope that this will be used as a precedent for other studies concerning the basic problems of the Principality.
A further question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool and my hon. Friend for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) was the extent of the job requirements in 1970 in Wales. We know of the contraction in the old basic industries—mining, steel, and so on—and the extra employment needed as a result of a natural increase in population. Yet there is a tremendous variation in the figures which are being bandied about, ranging from 40,000 to 100,000 and beyond. There is certainly a need for some solid statistics in this and other areas.
This leads me to the long awaited National Plan for Wales. Many critics have frequently made the point that between 1963 and and 1966 Scotland has had a White Paper on Central Scotland and a plan; North-East England has had a White Paper and a report from its planning council; North-West England has had a planning study and published observations on it by its regional council; yet Wales have nothing. What is unique about the planning problems of Wales that puts it behind the other areas? Is it a lack of funds or the difficulty of building up the right staff?
We need an answer to this question, and I hope that the Minister of State will be a little more precise about the date of the expected publication of this Plan than just to say "the beginning of the year". Last year we were told that it would be at the beginning of this year, and then the midde of the year—"tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow". I would like something a little more precise.
There are understandable questions about the rôle of the Welsh Economic Council. Some of these questions were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands), yet none of us has had an opportunity of reading any views of the various subcommittees of the Council. It is reported that studies are going on on depopulation in Mid-Wales. What is to be the relation of this report with the economic associates' report on the new town? There is said to be a study of industrial dereliction in South Wales, the future of South Wales ports and the attraction of new industry to Wales. But what happens when these reports are published?
What do the Government see as the rôle for Members of Parliament in all this? Are we simply to come in right at the end, when all these experts have given their views on the ports, and on industrial dereliction? Are we expected merely to be rubber stamps? This situation is not confined to Wales; it operates over a broad field of Government policy. There is consultation between the Government and great interest outside, and Members are presented with a fait accompli. What possibility is there of members coming in at the takeoff stage of policy as well as the landing stage, so that they can play some part in deciding the vital questions which affect their constituents?
My only contact with the Welsh Economic Council has been through a constituent. There is much concern in the north of my county—a concern which is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins)—about employment problems and the future of the railway services in that part of the county. This is basic to the industrial structure of the north of the county. In Brynmawr, the unemployment rate is well over 8 per cent. now. Because of this great concern over unemployment in the north of the county several bodies, including the Trade Council, borough council and North Monmouth Development Council, have got together to try to contact the Welsh Economic Council to discover what is to be the future of rail services in our area, which are basic to its economic health. Back came the very disappointing and "wet" reply:
Any proposal to reduce train services over a particular section of line is entirely a management matter for the Railways Board in their day-to-day operations and is not one in which the Economic Council can intervene.…Should you feel that the Board's response, then, to the representations made is unsatisfactory,
the Council might wish to consider making representations to the Transport Users Consultative Committee for the area.
With the experience of my constituents and the T.U.C.C. in the past I can well understand their reluctance to take up this matter. The Welsh Economic Council, as seen by my constituents, seems to have even less teeth than the T.U.C.C., and the reply made seems to be a complete negation of what many of us were expecting from the speech of the Minister of Transport on the rôle of the Economic Council in relation to the communications network.
Now that it is accepted—at least, it should be to an ever greater extent—by the Government that the employment needs of both sides of the Bristol Channel are complementary I should like to know what the Welsh Office is doing in cooperation with the South-West. This point was touched on eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool, and I agree wholeheartedly with everything he said on it.
One of the younger industrial geographers working in South Wales-Gerald Manners—has suggested that a contribution should be made by both sides of the Channel to the other's employment problems, as the industrial structures on the south-west side and on our own side of the Channel stand in vivid contrast. For example, he estimates that between 1965 and 1970 South Wales needs 9,000 jobs annually. This is, in part, because of a contraction in the basic industries and the natural increase in population, besides the greater activity rate which we hope for. Our problem consists of getting jobs into the area as quickly as we can, and into that part of it which is most attractive to industrialists. Mr. Manners concludes one of his papers by saying:
It would be foolish in the extreme to deny to South-East Wales industry which it can so easily attract.
There are very good economic grounds for arguing that if we do not saturate South-East Wales we shall not tackle the problems. Unless we tackle the problems of the coastal strip there can be no solution further west.
This is the picture on one side of the Channel. On the Bristol side, between 1966 and 1971 Mr. Manners estimates, by contrast, that the region will need at least 8,000 jobs for men alone which cannot be filled from the natural resources of the Bristol region. Either we are to invest heavily in a new infrastructure on the Bristol side—houses, roads, and so on, for the natural increase of 8,000 people—or we must somehow consider the two regions together, and try to tackle the problems togethers, perhaps by some missionary work from the Welsh side in the Bristol area. At least, this is a fascinating problem. I hope that the Welsh Office will consider institutionalising its contact with the Economic Council in the South-West, because, as I have argued, our problems are inter-linked.
We have great confidence in the longtetrm future of Wales. I am sure that, if the policies pursued by the Welsh Office are carried on and developed we will face a much rosier future. But one would not expect Wales to be exempt from the present economic difficulties. I hope that the triumvirate of Ministers in the Welsh Office will be able to look closely at some of these points.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) and the House will forgive me if I do not follow his speech, which was a lucid analysis of many of the problems of South Wales. I find it a great temptation to follow in detail the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), but, because of the self-denying ordinance which hon. Members have imposed upon themselves and upon each other, I will confine myself merely to saying that I share many of his views about Wales and his fervour for Wales as a land and as a nation. I share his belief that a Parliament for Wales is a condition of Wales's continued existence as a nation.
Nevertheless, I do not agree with his various sweeping analyses and his indictments of the Government and the Welsh Office. I am sure that what we have heard already in the debate has made it clear that this Government have done and have sought to do more for Wales than any of their predecessory. It is ironic but nevertheless understandable that the denigration of this Government from some quarters has been more vociferous and bitter than it was of any preceding Government. I yield to no one in emphasising the gravity of the problems which confront Wales in trade and industry. I am sure that there is no complacency in the Welsh Office. It was obvious from the Secretary of State's speech that he entered many serious caveats in that connection.
I am sure that it is not necessary for hon. Members to plead for humility in approaching this situation, and that the general tone is one of intelligent pessimism. We are all very much aware of the factors which apply—the over-dependence upon a few basic industries, the need for a greater diversity of industry, the lack of exploitation of processing techniques. In the main, our heavy industries produce the primary product and it is immediately whisked out of our country. The further processing takes place somewhere else and the heavier dividends are yielded there. Our people do not benefit to the extent which is their natural right from such developments.
There is ample economic evidence that a very perceptible downward curve in the fortunates of the Welsh economy became prevalent very soon after the Conservative Party took office in 1951 and continued in a steady and relentless downward course. Between 1955 and 1963, the increase in the numbers of people in employment in England was 9·4 per cent. In Wales over the same period, it was only 5·3 per cent. Although this year has for the first time seen one million people on the insured list in this country, it is incontrovertible that, between 1954 and 1963, there was a decrease of 42,000 in the working population of Wales.
It is obvious to all of us that such trends are disturbing, but they are much more than trends. They are points of evidence which show the great weaknesses in the structure of the Welsh economy. It is to such material problems that the Welsh Economic Council must apply itself, as we would plead that it should apply itself in a radical and comprehensive way to producing an ideal national plan for Wales.
I am sure also that I will be pardoned for saying something about Mid-Wales. I have spoken on this subject on previous occasions, but I do not apologise for mentioning it again. Whether the British economy is in boom or recession, the tale of such peripheral areas as these is one of eternal struggle and constant initiative in trying to get the attention of central government focused upon their deep and real problems.
The main problem in Mid-Wales is wholly congruous to the situations which confront my colleagues from South Wales and North-East Wales. There, in the short term, it. is a question of trying to fill the gap between the level of jobs which are lost through changing economic circumstances and the expected level of new jobs created by various agencies.
In Mid-Wales, the position is totally different. It is once again a problem of depopulation. This is—we must always remember—the largest area in the whole of England and Wales suffering rural depopulation. By "rural depopulation" we mean two things. First, there is the question of outward migration and, second, distinct from it but closely linked with it, the question of a natural decrease in that population. The continued effect of this twin blight is seen in massive tracts of territory in Mid-Wales, in which the general age level is already very high and is steadily creeping up.
An example in my own county is that in 1901 the percentage of young people under 15 was 29·5 per cent.; in 1961, it was 20·3 per cent. The percentage of people over 60 in 1901 was 12·9 per cent. and by 1961 it had risen to 22·3 per cent. The 1951 census for Cardiganshire showed that the percentage of persons over the age of 45 was 42 per cent., which compared with 38 per cent. for the whole of Mid-Wales and 35 per cent. for England and Wales as a whole.
The inevitable result of such a pattern must be a disintegration of the rural communities. Because the age level is so high, these communities lose the power of self-reproduction. Secondly, and this is more relevant to this debate, it means that the supply of available labour in those communities very rapidly decreases. It is therefore no coincidence that only just over one person in 20 in my constituency is in manufacturing industry. It matters not how attractive the grants are; in the end employers must have the employees available, for there is no other way of running a manufacturing concern, and there is no reservoir of labour in the areas of which I am speaking.
In some cases it may be possible for the drift from the countryside to be halted by the development of small, local rural industries based on the indigenous economies of those areas. I make a plea here to the Welsh Office. In Britain we are purchasing from abroad 91 per cent. of the timber which we use. By the year 2000 we shall need to double this amount of timber. The percentage of mature wood in the forests of the Forestry Commission, who hold 375,000 acres in Wales, is rising. I ask the Welsh Office, knowing that they will pay heed to it, to make a special survey of the tremendous potential for manufacturing concerns which lies in the woods and forests of the Forestry Commission in Wales.
But such developments are very limited and we have to think of many other possibilities. I say this in relation to advance factories—one of the main sources of employment in my constituency. The Industrial Development Act, 1966, has broadened the considerations, but I plead again that it should not only be a matter of legal and administrative theory but also in practice should be a consideration that rural depopulation in each case should be regarded as a factor equal to that of unemployment in deciding whether a factory should be situated in such a locality.
While not necessarily agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) in his advocacy of Severnside, nevertheless I believe that we should not approach this subject in too parochial a manner. The problems of trade and industry in Wales are the same as for the rest of the country—only more so. In saying that I do not wish to denigrate Wales in any way, because my whole background is in Wales. My father and both my grandfathers were South Wales miners.
To illustrate my argument, I will quote figures given by the Secretary of State in answer to a Parliamentary Question on 3rd November, in which he said that the unemployment figure was 1·7 per cent. for the country as a whole and 3·5 per cent. for Wales. There is no need for me to point out that these figures are rising. When there is talk of "acceptable levels of unemployment", I begin to wonder, because Wales has suffered too long from this philosophy. We expect this sort of talk from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite—
There is not time to give way. But when one hears such talk from this side of the House one becomes a little disillusioned.
I do not wish to belittle the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In fact, I commend the Welsh Office for the work that they have done in the two years since their inception in trying to alleviate the unemployment problems in Wales. But my right hon. Friend will be the first to admit that much remains to be done. I sometimes wonder whether he has either the power or the resources to tackle these enormous problems.
I represent one of the more prosperous areas in Wales but one that is increasingly reliant on the steel industry. Three weeks ago I attended the Motor Show. I was reminded that the shiny Cortinas on the stand were made from Monmouthshire steel. Many hon. Members will say, "The motor industry has had it too good for too long", but this attitude is regrettable. Before the war this was a seasonal industry and the trade unions fought for permanency of employment and have largely been successful in their efforts. However, now employers are being encouraged by the Government, in this so-called shake out, to take action which is causing unemployment—this 12 months after the National Plan forecast a considerable expansion in the motor industry.
I said that my constituency was essentially a steel town. In this sense, its fortunes are intimately bound up with those of the motor industry. The overall trade figures for Newport Dock are now tumbling fast—a drop of 62,000 tons in October of this year compared with October 1965. The bulk of incoming cargo is iron ore, but the amount of outgoing cargo has also fallen because of a drop in the export of iron and steel.
Unemployment figures in my constituency are now giving cause for concern, and certainly the unemployment figures for Monmouthshire and its fringe areas show it to be suffering proportionately more than the country as a whole, whereas from various Government statements one would have the impression that areas like Monmouthshire, and Wales generally, were to be protected from the worst ravages of the freeze.
I grant at the short-term measures to stabilise our balance of payments are meeting with some success, but surely the short-term answer is aggravating the long-term solution. The great need of this country is to increase productivity—and the way to do this is by increased capital investment in buildings, plant and machinery. The result would be to place more horsepower at the elbow of the worker so that more could be produced with less effort.
According to the latest industrial trend survey conducted by the C.B.I., private industry will be investing between 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. less in buildings, plant and machinery in the second quarter of 1967. I appreciate that, to some extent, this can be counteracted by increased public investment, but the overall position is most depressing and it will have a detrimental effect on trade and industry in Wales.
Hon. Members may imagine from these remarks that I am rather disillusioned with the Government's economic policies. I begin to perk up when I consider the alternative. After all, we had 13 years of Tory Government and we know the weak position the country was left in at the end of that time. That is why hon. Gentlemen opposite were twice rejected by the electorate in less than 18 months.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to urge his Cabinet colleagues to call off the freeze for the good of trade and industry in Wales. This will restore confidence in industry and get rid of wasteful unemployment in Wales and elsewhere, as well as encourage industry to expand so that the social benefits which we promised in our election programme can be realised. In this way we will tackle the real problems of the British economy and the problem of trade and industry in Wales.
It is astonishing to have sat through this debate with so few Conservative hon. Members who represent English constituencies showing any interest in the problems of Wales. It is also astonishing to think that successively so many Conservatives who represent English constituencies have been chosen as their party's official spokesmen on Welsh affairs. Indeed, it is a matter for regret that they hold their own Welsh Members in such low esteem. They can hardly complain if the people of Wales turn around and say, "If the Conservative Party does not consider them fit to speak for Wales, then why should the people of Wales consider them fit to speak for Wales?"
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) spent some time, as he has done in the past, criticising the Selective Employment Tax. This is an interesting point of view from the Conservative Party, because many of us can remember, just a short time ago, when the Conservatives were bleating about something which they called a payroll tax. It was not so long ago that they were voicing this as a possible alternative form of taxation.
I am very disappointed at that interjection. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was getting up to assure me that Herefordshire is Welsh.
However, I am not talking about the Selective Employment Tax, but the Conservative Party's proposed payroll tax policy. In fact, if the Selective Employment Tax is a blunt instrument, then the payroll tax would be even more of a blunt instrument and would have an even worse effect on the economy of Wales. Would it, for instance, be applied to such groups as nurses and school teachers;and if it were not, would it equal the Selective Employment Tax, or have not the Conservatives themselves been putting forward their own form of employment tax while hypocritically attacking the Selective Employment Tax on platforms throughout the country?
Our main topic is unemployment. Most points have been covered by my colleagues. The unemployment situation in Wales does not represent one problem but three different problems, because there are three different types of unemployment. Unemployment in Wales has been referred to by many Members as being almost twice as high as in England. For many years we have had basic unemployment, which is a problem which has to be solved. We also have structural unemployment, unemployment resulting from changes taking place in the old industries such as iron, steel, and coal in particular.
Deflationary or short-term unemployment has resulted, as most people recognise, from certain policies which have been undertaken since July. The solution to these different types of unemployment is not the same. The solution to the first two—basic unemployment and structural unemployment—obviously lies in the creation of new factories and new jobs. It is assumed that the solution to the third type of unemployment—and I use the term "assumed" advisedly—lies quite simply in re-flation, whereby those who find themselves out of work through deflation will obtain alternative employment through re-flation. But not all those unemployed will be re-employed, because in the meantime those firms which have been without this labour will have devised different ways of getting the work done. Many of them may actually have been holding labour, which was not absolutely necessary, up to the time people were declared unemployed.
We have had all manner of speculation about the number of factory jobs that will be needed in industry to deal with basic and structural unemployment, but to this speculation must be added a number of new factory spaces to absorb some of those who are unemployed as a result of the deflation. My views on the actual form of our re-development areas are well known to many of my colleagues. I feel strongly that our whole approach to development areas is wrong. I have argued before, when Welsh matters have been debated in this Chamber, that both sides are partly right, but neither side is completely right.
The ideal is to have, on the one hand, a blanket development area, which we have and which we reintroduced, and, on the other—since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to small pockets of difficult areas—we need to superimpose, in some black spots areas such as the Rhondda, extra facilities which will give them greater attraction. Otherwise, when we make bigger areas we worsen the position of places like Rhondda, because in terms of the location of factories those places are now as geographically unattractive as they were before but have more areas competing with them which can offer the same financial inducements. The problem expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for the Rhondda can only be met by a two-tier system of development areas.
I have a further worry about the whole credibility of either party's concept of help for the development areas. I am very much in favour of our entering the Common Market, but there is one very serious problem in terms of fulfilling the pledges which all parties have made to bring Welsh industry up to date. If we go into the Common Market, and accept the Treaty of Rome, one of the clauses we will have to accept is that concerned with free mobility of capital, which means that a business man can invest his capital anywhere within the Market—in other words build his factories anywhere, subject to local planning arrangements.
But if we are in the Market the attraction of the south-east of England will become greater. It will become a magnet for future employment. Our present policy is based on two different weapons. On the one hand, we offer positive inducement in the form of financial incentives to firms to come to the areas and, on the other, we have a negative deterrent in terms of the power of the Board of Trade to refuse I.D.C.s. I suggest that while, as members of the Common Market, we would still be able to carry on with offering the financial inducements—as is being done in South Italy and in parts of almost every country on the Continent—our power of negative prohibition would be drastically eroded.
If a manufacturer says to the Board of Trade, "I want to put up a factory in the south-east of England" the Board of Trade can at the moment say, "No, you cannot go there." The man still wants a factory, so he goes elsewhere in Britain. Under the Treaty of Rome, if the Board of Trade refuses that permission it no longer follows that the manufacturer will go to another part of England, or Wales, or Scotland; he will then have every right to say, "If I cannot go to the south-east of England, I will go to France." That one clause of the Treaty of Rome thus imposes a very serious limitation. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Minister of State may not be able to deal with this point tonight, but I hope that he will be able to make some mention of it.
One partial solution of this problem is, as so many hon. Members have rightly said, improvement of communications. Communications are a prerequisite of the industrial build-up of South Wales. I appreciate the sincerity of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans), when he spoke of the amount of money to be spent on roads in Wales, but he should bear in mind that it is not necessarily the roads built in Wales that will be of greatest economic benefit to the Principality.
I would sooner see a fast road to London and to Birmingham than a fast road striking north and south through Wales, because the important thing is to have a road that will enable our workers to get their goods to the mass markets. Therefore, when considering spending on roads which will be of benefit to Wales, the hon. Member should take into account what has been spent on M4 and M5 because these major roads will have an effect on the Welsh economy.
The mines used to be the bones of the social pattern and we built economic flesh around them to make them into communities. Today, the skeleton of the society is the roads pattern. That is why we have to give great thought to how the pattern should develop. A motorway complex would be very acceptable. As a motorist, I like travelling on motorways, but we have to bear in mind that they cost between £0·8 million to £3 million a mile. When there is a limited amount of money to spend on transport we have to ask whether it is better to spend £18 million on building 18 miles of motorway or to spend £18 million to obviate a major bottleneck by building the Severn Bridge.
Is it not better to spend a large part of our road programme in building a real bypass around Cardiff which will benefit the Heads of the Valleys Road, Swansea and the West and make easier access to all these from the Severn Bridge? This bypass should be one of the top priority items for South Wales. We are to get a £7 million Eastern Avenue in Cardiff. I do not want to enter into local politics about this. I should hardly dare to do so when my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is a Cardiff Member, is to reply to the debate. But I doubt very much whether this is the best way of spending £7 million.
We should think of the lesson of Gloucester and how out of date the ring road there has become. We should be considering a sweeping bypass around Cardiff because the effect of spending £7 million on Eastern Avenue during the next four or five years will be used by other parts of Wales as an argument against spending more on duplicating or improving another bypass around Cardiff.
As the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is to act as a temporary spokesman for his party, I wish to make one or two points about the attitude of the Opposition to Wales. The hon. Member for Monmouth has been talking about the present Government having discouraged investment. He based that on the fact that there are now about 32,000 unemployed. Did not his party discourage investment in 1957 and 1961?
If the hon. Gentleman wants to say that his party did not do so, and that we discourage investment when there are 32,000 unemployed, he can leave it to his hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Barry is capable of answering these points.
I am sorry that I got the hon. Member's constituency wrong. I meant the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt). How can he argue that with 32,000 unemployed we are deterring investment and that his party was not deterring investment when there were 45,000 unemployed in 1959 and 58,000 unemployed in 1963? He can check the figures, as I have done. He has referred to the long-term problem of unemployment in Wales. Perhaps it would not be there if during the 13 years of Conservative government the rate of increase in jabs had not been only half that in England.
We have heard about depopulation of Mid-Wales, but during the 13 years when the Conservatives were in office the annual rate of depopulation actually doubled. That was as a result of "progressive Conservative policy". The one thing which they would not allow was development area facilities. Now they are talking allegedly about protecting Wales, on the one hand, and of building Portbury, on the other.
I suggest that only one party has any record of a serious attempt to deal with the problems of Wales. I believe that my colleagues at the Welsh Office are at least making a genuine attempt at the moment to build Wales not, like the hon. Member for Carmarthen, with an eye on 1860 but on 2060.
We all welcomed the statement by the Secretary of State for Wales following the tragedy at Aberfan. I think he realised that the whole House was with him when he made it. We were glad to hear that he proposed to go a little further than the 1966 Act to try to persuade some of the slower authorities, or those least able to do this sort of work, to do it. All I would ask the Minister of State about it is whether to exceed the terms of the Act will require amending legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I welcome that fact.
One thing has emerged from the debate. I think I shall be on non-controversial ground when I say that it is no easy matter to manage the economy of Wales. For geographical and historical reasons, and owing to the physical configuration of the Principality, and because of the present distribution of population—that is rather important—the task of any Administration must continue to be formidable for many years. That is why I do not pretend that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at the Welsh Office have an easy task. Such criticisms as I may advance are not intended to be fractious.
My main complaint with hon. Members opposite is that in opposition, and indeed, even today, they have tended to belittle the considerable achievements of Conservative Governments between 1951 and 1964. They have often tended to create an impression that the more difficult problems which face Wales were easy of solution if Ministers only had the will. I am prepared to accept, and I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends are, that the present Secretary of State and his colleagues have the will. I believe that they are most anxious to make a success of their responsibilities. Our doubts relate more to their methods and to matters of detail. We fear greatly that in some respects their work may be hampered, even thwarted, by some of the Government's policies for the United Kingdom as a whole.
I agree with those on both sides who have emphasised the importance of road communications. It is perhaps always dangerous to suggest that any one factor is of greater importance than all the others, but in a country with the geographical difficulties of Wales it must be clear that the most practical and easiest and nearest to hand method of facilitating the improvement of industrial and economic efficiency may well be the improvement of road conditions. This can help our least accessible areas and, by definition in many cases, the areas most in need of new industry.
The right hon. Gentleman has made an important and valuable new decision. It will be a great advantage that part of the route to Pembrokeshire, one of our least accessible counties, will be improved. After all, Pembrokeshire, Cardigan, Merioneth and parts of Caernarvonshire are not easy of access, and that is true of some of the chief towns in our industrial areas. I need refer only to the present communications with Merthyr, Pontypridd and Maesteg, to take but a few examples. Far too often in Wales, even now, we have the spectacle of overcrowded and inadequate roads.
The right hon. Gentleman took a certain amount of credit for three schemes to which he referred, the Heads of the Valleys Road, the Severn Bridge and the Port Talbot by-pass. I do not want to take away any of the credit to which the Government are entitled, but I remind him that every one of those schemes was projected, started and substantially carried through before his party became the Government. I only wish that he had been able to mention three other schemes on which the Government were about to embark that were even half as impressive as those.
The Government must raise their sights on the question of roads expenditure. In the Financial Times on the 27th September this year, the Secretary of State admitted that they inherited from us a very fine basis for further advance in road building. The right hon. Gentleman then wrote:
We are already reaping the benefits of the investments made over the last five years in the Welsh road system.
Obviously, his reference to the previous five years was to three years of Conservative Government and only two of his own. When one considers the long preparatory periods necessary for building these modern roads one realises that he was referring to our record and not his own.
I have an uneasy feeling that it may be less accurate to have a similar statement in another five years, unless we are to have some very promising announcements soon. I do not necessarily press for vast motorways on the scale that has been suggested in today's debate. On the other hand, although I do not press for vast motorways all over Wales, I submit that the proposals for trunk roads are very disappointing, even now. Perhaps the announcements which we hope for are being delayed by the review by the Welsh Economic Council of the road needs of Wales, referred to in paragraph 21 of the Green Book, Cmnd. 2918. But how long must we wait before the right hon. Gentleman is likely to make an announcement on his new road programme based on the Council's findings. Meanwhile, if he is looking for a scheme which he might speed up I recommend him to travel on the road from Monmouth to Newport or the road from Cardiff to Pontypridd on any morning of the week. Hon.
Members on both sides of the House could give him similar examples of roads which need very early improvement.
I shall not make any prolonged or detailed references to the ports, but these are important. I recognise the efforts made by the British Transport Docks Board and others to improve the situation, but we are still having a difficult battle, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware. I wish that the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here, because when he: was on this side of the House he often implied that this was an easy problem to solve, that rates and dock charges would be equalised by a Labour Government. I do not know how these things will be done. We still labour under the disadvantage of certain less favourable charges. I hope that in his overlordship of all matters concerning Wales, the right hon. Gentleman will have a look at this problem in the fairly near future.
Turning to the general problem of the Welsh economy, it is important, as the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) has just said, to consider the long-term as well as the short-term implications. I hope that hon. Members read the article in the Financial Times of 27th September by Professor Brinley Thomas of Cardiff in which he said—I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect upon these words—
In the record of achievement since the Distribution of Industry Act 1945, Wales has been an outstanding success story.
No, the bulk of those years were Conservative years. The bulk of those years after 1945, and the years of greatest growth, were Conservative years. I should have thought that we could start with agreement on that. [Laughter.] Does not the Secretary of State agree? The figures for those years—I have them here—show the extent of the: improvement. The economic story of Wales between 1945 and 1964 was one of outstanding success, not only in the mind of Professor Brinley Thomas, but in the mind of many others who have studied the problem.
It is important that the present Government study the methods by which the success was achieved. During most of that period, there was no threat of further nationalisation. There was every encouragement to smaller firms in all parts of the United Kingdom, and there was every effort by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer not to impose excessive taxation on industry.
Professor Brinley Thomas went on to say—this is not, perhaps, so happy—
Recently, however, there have been signs, quite apart from the impact of the balance of payments crisis, that the Welsh economy is running into turbulence".
I emphasise his words, "quite apart from the balance of payments crisis". He goes on:
this is the reply to the hon. Member for Swansea, West—
and 1964 Wales' share of British unemployment was halved, from 12·9 per cent. to 6·7 per cent.".
Those were nearly all Conservative years.
But in the last two years"—
two years of Labour Government—
there has been a reaction, and the proportion of British unemployment in Wales has risen again to 8·6 per cent.
The point the hon. Gentleman overlooks is that any study of the development of new industry shows that from 1952 the rate of growth in the development areas slowed down and the proportion of new factory building going to development areas was at its peak between 1945 and 1952.
The hon. Gentleman misses the point that the efficacy or success of a policy is not always to be judged by the number of factories. In the time of the Conservative Government, the creation of one factory at Llanwern provided as much employment as 50 advance factories. It is cock-eyed to judge everything by the number of single units.
I emphasise that Professor Brinley Thomas wrote those words in September before the stern financial measures of last July had had time to take anything like full effect. What reasons do the Government give for the change? Do they attribute it mainly to financial policies due to balance of payments difficulties, as the hon. Member for Swansea, West did?
If so, I remind them again that Professor Brinley Thomas was at pains to say that the troubles and signs now appearing arise quite apart from the balance of payments problem.
Professor Brinley Thomas posed the question whether this might prove to be a necessary pause for regrouping or whether it reflected some more serious instability. Do the Government consider that this comparative setback is mainly attributable to the contraction in terms of manpower of the two large industries, coal and steel? This would be a comprehensible argument which we could understand, and it would enable us better to assess the adequacy of the measures they are now taking to deal with it. None of the Ministerial pronouncements that I have seen recently has dealt with this problem. Indeed, I have great sympathy with the Secretary of State, who today sounded very optimistic, and I hope that he is right. I would, however, mention one other aspect.
"Wales 1965", the same Green Book, is in some respects most helpful. It gives excellent detailed information about applications by industrialists who are interested in Welsh sites, visits by industrialists to Wales, new advance factories and new jobs in prospect. As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) pointed out, however, it is much less adequately documented and provided with information about closures or temporary closures, numbers of redundancies or numbers of employees affected by closures. While I do not suggest that we want to dwell on these less pleasant facts, at the same time, to arrive at a balanced judgment, it would be helpful if we had more of this information, too.
Therefore, it may be helpful to the House if I try briefly to balance the circumstances, favourable and unfavourable. On the credit side, we have the undoubted anxiety of the Secretary of State and the Minister of State to do their very best, and I do not minimise that fact. That is a real factor. We also have the investment grant. It is not as favourable in some parts of Wales as the former investment allowances, but, nevertheless, it is in most cases a favourable factor. We also have the other financial inducements which are available to firms moving into our development areas. There is also the negative control in London and the other prosperous parts of England.
I would like to know whether the Government have considered going a little further than that. For example, in South Wales—indeed, in some of our development areas—I know of building and construction firms which provide most valuable employment but some of which are in grave financial difficulty because of new obligations like increased taxation, the Selective Employment Tax, and, above all, restriction on bank overdrafts. Has any attempt been made by the Secretary of State or by the Government to ensure that bank overdrafts are considered differently in development areas from bank overdrafts in the more prosperous areas? I put this forward as a real suggestion because it is important.
When we turn to the debit side, we must list some loss of confidence on the part of industrialists, whether it is based on sound considerations or not. Even with the benefit of the positive inducements to start undertakings in the development areas, even with the negative control of the withholding of industrial development certificates and even with the building of advance factories, some industrialists must hesitate in the present financial climate.
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the statistics which I gave in my opening speech show clearly that the number of industrial development certificates covered the largest area of factory floor space ever to be granted in any given year, and that this clearly shows the confidence of industry in Wales and in the Government?
I am much encouraged by what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Nevertheless, in parts of Wales we cannot overlook, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) pointed out, the unfortunate impact of the Selective Employment Tax. I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of State to note that on a count taken on 10th October this year it was found that 3·5 per cent. of the insured working force in Wales was unemployed compared with 1·7 per cent. in England.
In his explanation of those figures, the Secretary of State stated that the areas most affected were the North Wales holiday coast and the holiday coast in Pembrokeshire. It is ironic that those very areas are the ones most affected by the ravages of the Selective Employment Tax. These are the very areas which he referred to as being the ones of heaviest unemployment. I must warn the Minister, as I have already intimated, that I know of construction firms, in particular, and others, even in Cardiff and in my own constituency, which must face a very critical financial winter owing to the present economic climate, owing to the restriction on bank advances, and owing to a decline in some kinds of building activity, and, indeed, owing to the Selective Employment and other new tax obligations which affect the building industry.
I refer to the Minister of State because he was reported in the South Wales Evening Post of 19th July as saying that it was unlikely that new industrial developments promised for Wales would be affected by the Government's squeeze on expenditure. That is what he said or what he is reported as saying. This was indeed heartening news, and I hope that his forecast will be completely vindicated by events. I wonder if he can now give us a similar assurance in respect of existing industrial undertakings in the development areas of Wales, because these are just as important as new industrial prospects. It is no good telling us that the new ones will be unaffected by the credit squeeze and restriction if the older, longer-established ones will be savagely affected. So I hope that he will be able to say that the redeployment, the shake-out, will not have this injurious effect on the older industries.
Also, can he tell us, if the redeployment, if the shake-out, should threaten the very existence of firms and companies in Wales, have any special preparations been made by the Welsh Office to deal with the problems which will then arise? I do not want to make black prophecies, but I have every reason to believe that some companies will be in dire difficulty in the months ahead.
We on this side of the House share the Government's enthusiasm for new industrial undertakings in Wales, and certainly, too, we support the most generous provision for advance factories whereever the availability of labour, the terrain and other conditions prescribe. and we hope that the various forecasts of jobs in prospect are not over-optimistic. As I have already intimated, it would assist us in arriving at a proper assessment of these matters if we could get the other side painted in more fully.
I accept the fact that, of course, some of our present troubles may be temporary. I imagine there must be some effect on our ancillary industries of the present unfortunate troubles in the motor industry, and perhaps the Minister of State can inform the House and help the House and reassure the House by giving us some up-to-date information about the reactions so far of the troubles in the motor car industry on the feeder ancillary industries which are already established in the Principality.
I differ from my hon. Friend in this, that I am glad that the Secretary of State has asked the Welsh Economic Council to assess the effect in Wales of the Selective Employment Tax. I think that many of us on both sides of the House will applaud him for this decision. At the same time I cannot help reflecting that this is a most extraordinary way in which to proceed. We have the spectacle of the Government introducing a new form of tax, and then they depute to a Economic Council the job of examining its evil or good effects. I should have thought it much more sensible first to depute to some Economic Council an assessment of the good effects or bad effects of such a tax before introducing it, and not to do it in reverse.
I recommend the Secretary of State indeed that he should later ask the Welsh Economic Council to assess the effect in Wales of the present system of Corporation Tax, particularly in respect of its effect on and bias against smaller companies. I think it is most important for a country which, like Wales, must look increasingly to some of the smaller companies as well as the large ones to come and start enterprises with us.
The Council might also, with benefit, consider the effects of the substitution of investment grants for investment allowances in some parts of Wales and the fact that the grants do not extend to some areas of the Principality where the allowances were available. Can the Minister of State give us fuller information about the results so far of the extension of the development areas in Wales? He will have heard from some of his hon. Friends today that there are anxieties about this which were not confined to any one part of the House.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), it may have been by a Freudian lapse, referred to the "so-called" development areas. The Minister of State will recall the anxiety that was expressed. It was felt that the extension might affect some of these areas adversely. Can he explain what sanctions exist in his Department at present to persuade a firm to site a factory in reasonable proximity to the industrial valleys rather than to what may be the more spacious parts of the development areas? Are there some extra inducements and sanctions which do not obtain for the areas as a whole? This reflects the argument of the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) about a two-tier system. In some degree, I agree with that argument.
It has been voiced by the hon. Member for Aberdare, the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) that there is a good deal of evidence we need increased facilities over and above those already provided by my right hon. and hon. Friends and recently extended for retraining in Wales. The very nature of the Welsh economy at present demands a further increase in the facilities for retraining. I wonder whether the Minister of State would announce, either tonight or soon, the establishment of another training centre besides the one in Cardiff and the one in Llanelli. There is a case for at least one more in Wales in the next year, and I hope that the Government will be able to give us that facility.
At this time it would be surprising if on either side of the Chamber there were no anxiety about the economic future of the Principality. The Government assumed responsibility after what was described by Professor Brinley Thomas and others as an outstanding success story. To the hon. Member for Swansea, West I say that it would not be reasonable to expect the Government to maintain the remarkable momentum of those years, but there are disquieting signs that their predilection for central planning committees and plans, some of them of dubious worth, is less suited to the problems of Wales than the more flexible methods favoured hitherto.
No, I will not give way. I have very little time left. I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand.
Their task is to build on planned foundations already revived to enable Wales and the Welsh people to make an increasing contribution to the prosperity of the Principality. We wish them well in those formidable tasks, because they also have the very difficult job of reconciling the needs of the industrial parts of Wales to those of agriculture and tourism, and it is not an easy job to reconcile them all. We wish them well in the formidable tasks which they face and, without any intention of hampering them, we shall continue to be vigilant in opposition and critical at all times.
It falls to my lot to say to the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that we are very pleased that at last he has come to the Front Bench of the party opposite. It took me a long time to get here, as well.
I find the hon. Gentleman an interesting character. He alternates between such incredible optimism when his party is in power and such depressing sadness when they are out of power that his arguments lose some validity.
The hon. Gentleman was sensitive tonight. He thought that my hon. Friends were belittling the record of the Tory Government. Perhaps I might offer him a word of comfort. He should not be too sensitive about that. It is the way of Governments to criticise those who went before, though it will be a long time before hon. Gentlemen opposite have the opportunity to return the courtesy to us.
The hon. Gentleman asked a lot of questions. He always does. His speeches normally consist of a series of questions, some of them very good, too. He asked about the Economic Council, and about the roads plan. Other hon. Members, too, asked about the Economic Council, and perhaps I might at once clear up this question. The Welsh Economic Council, like all other economic councils, is an advisory body to the Government. All Governments have advisory bodies. My hon. Friends asked for reports to be published, but Governments do not publish reports from their advisory bodies, unless, of course, they want to. The advice which we are getting is helping us in our ambitious plan for the future of the Principality of Wales, and right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will not, I trust, have too long to wait.
One of my hon. Friends asked me for the date, as if the date was important. The important thing is that this plan shall ensure for our people full employment and a higher standard of living. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, and I are very pleased with the way in which the plan is developing, but we must make sure that cur priorities are right.
The hon. Gentleman also asked whether I would be able to pronounce tonight on the question of a further Government training centre for Wales. At present, there are about 800 people each year in Government training centres in Wales. A vast amount of other training facilities provided under recent legislation is opening up opportunities for our people, and my hon. Friends have every right to be proud of the way in which the Government are increasing training opportunities in Wales at a faster rate than ever before in the history of the Welsh people.
In addition, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is engaged in a detailed study of further expansion in Government training centres. There is a strong case for a third Government training centre in Wales, and I hope that it will not be long before my right hon. Friend is able to announce his expansion plans. I must, therefore, ask the House to be patient on that question.
Today has been a reminder to us all that Welsh day in the Commons has a new significance, since we have a Welsh Office with a Secretary of State in charge.—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) will hold himself in patience for a while, he will find that I have something to say to him to his advantage.
It is a long day's march from the time when a former friend and much-loved colleague of hon. Members on this side of the House—and I believe that he was beloved by many hon. Members opposite—"Nye" Bevan, ridiculed the Welsh day because it was so ineffective. Those were the days of diffuse debate. We covered a wide field, and there was no one upon whom we could pin responsibility. Today, from hon. Members on both sides of the House, it has been made clear that my right hon. Friend not only has executive powers over major aspects of the Government's work in Wales but that he regards as equally important the real oversight which he enjoys over the whole field of Government activity in Wales.
That is why my right hon. Friend was able to speak today with such authority on the question of dps. I grew up under the shadow of a tip in the Rhondda Valley. Like everyone else in the House, I was deeply moved by the tragedy at Aberfan. It has been my sad duty to go into many of the afflicted homes, and I shall soon have been in every one of them. I believe that character is proved in adversity. It certainly has been in that brave little community, called upon to bear a burden that no community would ever want to have to bear.
My right hon. Friend has ensured by his statement today that all the resources of the local authorities and the Government are available to see that never, never, never again shall a disaster of that sort occur. To those people who believe that money would stand in the way of removing dangerous tips I say that that thought is unworthy, and that my right hon. Friend has today given to all Wales a message of confidence and reassurance, and has pledged Her Majesty's Government to see that money will be available in respect of tips which are considered to be dangerous.
There are tips that cause some anxiety. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Power is this week obtaining an independent opinion on the Cilfynydd tip, and also on the Merthyr Vale tip, which is an old one, grown over with grass but which has caused some apprehension because it is near Aberfan. Anyone who went to Aberfan, let alone lived there, would share this apprehension in respect of any tip. There are also the Cwmamman tips, which are disused, and are the responsibility partly of the Coal Board, partly of the local authority and partly of private owners. The Board has advised that one of the tips, not wholly under its control, possibly presents a danger and has already put in hand remedial measures as a precaution, at the request of the local authority.
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) asked certain questions on this matter. He wondered whether the provisions of Section 20 of the Industrial Development Act would be limited to land in local authority ownership. I am pleased to be able to give him a categorical reply, "No, Sir". It may be applied to all derelict sites, irrespective of ownership. The Act provides powers for compulsory acquisition where necessary and a tip may be dealt with whoever owns it.
Both sides of the House have today expressed anxiety about employment. Before I deal with this, I should like to refer to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans). The hon. Member speaks with courtesy and kindness in the House and I want to speak with courtesy to him, but to say some straight things to him. The hon. Member seems to speak with a different voice outside the House, judging by a comment of his on 31st October when referring to the Aberfan tragedy, which caught the heart of all people and in which, surely, politics should have been forgotten. But the hon. Member is reported in the Western Mail as saying, in connection with the Government statement about public discussion on Aberfan:
It is afraid of something "—
the Government, that is—
and what the Government is afraid of is the anger of the people. It is afraid that it might have to spend a lot of money to clear the tips which disfigure our land and imperil the lives of our men, women and children.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that statement, in view of my right hon. Friend's speech this afternoon.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I hope that he will also withdraw another statement which he made, on 16th July, as reported
in the Liverpool Daily Post, which I found hard to believe. In this he said:
The Labour Party is politically corrupt and there is no moral integrity there.
If this Parliament runs its five years, as I believe it will, the hon. Gentleman will gain fair experience before he returns to Carmarthen and will know that to doubt the sincerity of those with whom he disagrees is a very unfortunate policy. I leave it there.
I wish to turn to the debate and particularly to the major issue of employment. The hon. Member for Carmarthen thought that the crisis had nothing to do with Wales and poured scorn on the fact that we have asked the Welsh Economic Council to enter into research with the South-West Economic Planning Council. He also said some time ago, as reported in the Press, that the Severn Bridge was the greatest disaster which had come to Wales—
The hon. Gentleman was reported as saying it. I am glad to learn that he was misreported.
When I was in West Wales, on Friday, I learned from the Mayor of Tenby that he had been asking questions about the exceptionally large number of visitors which the town had had this year, in October. He had discovered that two out of every three had come across the Severn Bridge. The fact that roads have been improved by the Port Talbot bypass and the Cowbridge by-pass means that the journey to West Wales has been shortened considerably, and that the Severn Bridge will have beneficial effects on the Welsh tourist industry.
And, of course, on Carmarthen, but I had finished with the hon. Member for Carmarthen.
In an able speech, my hon. end the Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) said that we need growth industries which are labour-intensive. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) was also anxious that the right sort of industry should come to Wales. I have heard this from both sides of the House tonight. I was about to say that I speak as Chairman of the Welsh Economic Council, but I speak here, of course, as Minister of State. As Chairman of the Welsh Economic Council, however, I do not tell anyone to go away. I do not refuse any employment for our people as long as prospects are reasonable.
I believe that the Board of Trade has done an excellent job in Wales during the past few years and has done it in the face of great difficulty. What of research into the kind of industry suitable to our needs? Of course, we need the sort of industries which are suitable to our needs. I should like a lot more light engineering industry to come to Wales. No one in the House believes in the direction of industry, and, therefore, we can obtain new industry only by inducement, by making it even more attractive for industries to come to the Principality.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been very helpful to us at this time of freeze and economic difficulty. What has he done to protect the Principality and other development areas in the country? There is a whole list of activities of which I remind the House. There has been control of office development, which is helping to steer such development to development areas. There is the extension of control by industrial development certificates. In answer to the hon. Member for Barry—there has been a request to the banks to have regard to development area policy, and that is something new. There is a new programme of advance factories. There is preferential access to the Public Works Loans Board for local authorities in development areas. There was exemption for development districts from the deferment of capital projects in the summer of 1965. There is exemption for development areas from building controls. There has been the widening of the former development district boundaries, which means that for the first time Mid-Wales comes under the provision. Later this week I shall be meeting the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Council.
I apologise. I have said before that I am only a poor Welshman trying to speak English.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was kind enough to send me a note to explain that he had flown home from Europe for this debate and that he was flying back tonight. He gave me a little "dig" about my movements around Wales. This is true. I have been in every hon. Member's constituency. That is a very important part of our work. Hon. Members opposite sneered, during the first election which we fought as a Government, last year, that we were weekend visitors to Wales. They cannot say that now. They might wish we were.
An important side of our work in the Welsh Office is to see at first hand what is happening throughout the Principality. I have talked with industrialists and this week I will be speaking with representatives of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, to which my right hon. Friend paid a well-deserved tribute earlier and of which my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) is the Vice-Chairman. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the outstanding work that he has done in Wales.
There are other advantages to which I could refer, but I wish to speak of the right hon. Member for Flint, West. I met him in his constituency and I assure the House that he is a different man when he is in North Wales. What charm! "Febrile charm", the right hon. Gentleman called it. He oozes such good will in West Flintshire that I hardly recognised him. I thought that I was one of his old friends; but, of course, he was on his best behaviour.
I am saying it better.
The hydraulic model, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, to be used for testing schemes for crossing the Dee has been completed and is just coming into use. A firm of consultants is well launched in the feasability study of the crossing, which has been commissioned by the Government in association with Flintshire County Council, Cheshire County Council and the Dee and Clwyd River Authority.
The Government are meeting 75 per cent. of the cost. When the consultations have finished the first stage of their study, it will be possible to determine accurately whether the total benefits of a crossing merit further examination, as I hope they will. The hydraulic study will not be completed before 1969. It is, therefore, too soon to ask for final decisions on this complex and highly technical matter.
I understand the anxiety of hon. Members about unemployment. Older hon. Members know that I am the son of a miner from the Rhondda Valley and that I grew up there during the depression. People need not talk to me about the horrors and cruelty of unemployment. I am on their side to begin with.
However, it is only right and proper that we should put into perspective the picture of Wales today. There is a great deal on the credit side and my right hon. Friend was not being foolishly optimistic when he talked of the long-term trends for our people. He was speaking on the basis of information.
In addition to the advance factory programme, the Board of Trade is currently completing in Wales eight extensions to factories and we hope that this work will be completed by next March. Together, they will provide about 1,200 jobs. The Board of Trade this year also approved 19 projects for new factories or extensions which are expected to provide about 3,200 jobs.
I want to repeat to the people of Wales who take an interest in this debate that existing industrial building already authorised, together with existing buildings taken over for manufacturing purposes, still promise eventually nearly 20,000 new factory jobs in Wales, nearly 14,000 of them for men. This is not airy-fairy talk. This is on the basis of contracts agreed, and is without taking into account any allowances for advance factories not yet allocated to a definite tenant.
To be sure, this a four-year forecast, and our people have to live in the meantime, but it is interesting to note how broad is the basis of the distribution of this employment. Of the figure of 20,000, East and West South Wales are expected to get 14,700 jobs. North-West Wales, North-East Wales, Central and South-West Wales are expected to get 5,000. I believe that the future for our people is much brighter than we have been led to believe.
I turn to the question of vacancies. On 5th October vacancies in Wales totalled 9,065. Nearly half the vacancies for men, it is true, are in coal mining. There is a national need for coal miners. We must not sound apologetic when we say to a man that he can serve the country in a coal mine. My father and brothers served there, and it is an honourable calling.
During the post-war years considerable diversification of industry has taken place in Wales, and now only three out of 109 manufacturing industries, recognised by the standard industrial classification, are not represented in Wales. That is a record of which to be proud, and it is something about which my hon. Friends should speak with pride, as I do myself.
It is true that a great proportion of new industries is related mostly to the car industry, and this has naturally caused some anxiety regarding employment; but I have no evidence of any major or damaging effects yet. I say "yet" because I do not want to "chance my arm" on any question about people's jobs. However, it is no mean achievement that 28 new firms in Wales or new factories, have been set up by existing employers since the middle of last year, which are currently employing 3,000 people.
That is the answer to those who say, "We hear your forecast, but where are the jobs?" Since the middle of last year 3,000 people earned their bread and butter because of the economic policy of Her Majesty's Government in helping to establish new industries in Wales. Sixteen firms have substantially increased their labour force by over 100 workers each during the last 12 months and these extensions represent an increase of 3,100 jobs since last October.
If the Government's policy had not been succeeding in the Principality of Wales, at the same time as the coal mining industry has been contracting and the private sector of the steel industry is shedding its over-manning, we would have been faced with monumental unemployment by now. I believe that we deserve credit for positive, constructive measures to protect the economic interests of our people.
There is another aspect of which we should be proud. We in Wales are connected with one of the most dynamic moves in the whole of Europe to associate technology with industry. In little North Wales—and I must apologise to my right hon. Friend, but I call it "little North Wales" because its population is smaller than ours in the South—in Eangor, exciting progress is being made in the relationship of industrial research and the university. The Ministry of Technology has been encouraging efforts to accommodate a further increase in the industrial activity of the university. The Ministry and the Science Research Council have together discussed with the college proposals to establish an industrial development unit at the college with Government support.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones), who made a thoughtful speech—as, of course, did all my hon. Friends, except one who was critical of me—also made a powerful speech on this subject last Welsh day. He will be pleased to know that people from all over Europe are coming to see the way in which the university is able to get so involved in industry that it can also enter the industrial market. I believe that here we are on the high road to giving to British industry and technology an advantage that is essential if we are to win our battle for economic survival.
A great deal has been said here today that will cause worry outside, but after six months in the Welsh Office with my right hon. Friend and with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, I esteem it one of the great honours of my life to serve the Principality of Wales—the land of my fathers—in this field. I believe in my heart that the Government are resolved to ensure that the gifts and the talents of our people are used for the national interest. I believe, also, that I can look the Rhondda in the face, and Merthyr Tydvil and Aberdare and all those places that have had such a long and wretched history of unemployment, and say to them, "This Government will keep faith with Wales as the Welsh people have kept faith with us".