Adjournment (Spring)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd May 1979.

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Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarvon 12:00 am, 23rd May 1979

These debates are usually an occasion when subjects are raised as a pretext for opposing the Adjournment, even though hon. Members in their heart of hearts feel that the Adjournment motion for the recess is justified. But in this instance there is every reason to regard the proposed Adjournment as outrageous, coming as it does only a fortnight after the new Parliament has been opened. Many uncertainties face many people in various parts of these islands. People want answers and guidelines about the new policies, and the new Government should be making these matters clear.

During the time of the last Government, the Conservatives criticised Labour on a number of occasions for having made policy declarations during parliamentary recesses. I can remember a number of such instances during the long Summer Recess. Inevitably, during the next fortnight there will be a rush of policy declarations, because guidelines are needed. Since those declarations will be made during the recess, it will be impossible for Members of Parliament to react to them when they are announced. Some measures hanging over from the last Parliament need urgently to be cleared.

Let me spell out three of them. The first concerns parts of the Education Bill which was lost. It concerns grants for the teaching of the Welsh language. Education authorities in Wales are expecting information about that. Clearly, it will not be forthcoming during the next year, as had been hoped, and the education authorties want to know where they stand.

Another is the Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers Compensation) Act. That Act was of considerable topicality in the last days of the last Parliament. It comes into effect on 4 July. Between now and then the House must pass a string of orders on the subject. There will probably be no time between 11 June and 4 July for these orders to secure the attention that they need. In such circumstances it is ridiculous that Parliament should be going into recess.

The question of the fourth television channel as it affects Wales has been put into a state of confusion as a result of the Queen's Speech. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) will be able to say something on that matter later this evening.

Other uncertainties have been left hanging over from the last Parliament. There is uncertainty for industry that is contemplating investment programmes which will bring much-needed jobs. What will happen about the Industry Act 1972 and its grants structure? What will hapen about the Welsh Development Agency, the Development Board for Rural Wales and the Land Authority for Wales? We have heard the Conservative Party's opinion of the Community Land Act, but the situation facing the Land Authority in Wales is somewhat different from that in England. We shall want a reply on that.

Certain practical problems face local authorities. We have heard that guidance has been given that they should not be recruiting staff, that they should now be taking part in an exercise of natural wastage. However, during the next three weeks, local authorities will be making appointments which have been advertised and for which short lists have been compiled. Are these posts not to be filled? My own county council in Gwynedd is to consider tomorrow the appointment of the county treasurer. Do the Government's guidelines suggest that it should not be doing so? Four senior officers in the treasurer's department will be retiring over the next few months. Should they not be replaced? Local authorities need answers on these points, and if they are not to be given when Parliament is sitting we shall get them in the recess. That is totally unsatisfactory.

The oil crisis is most serious. The day after the House reassembles, the Chancellor will be presenting his Budget. Hon. Members should have every opportunity in the next fortnight to press upon the Chancellor on the Floor of the House the implication of putting more duty on petrol. We have already heard the £1 a gallon prediction, and there have been suggestions that the price will go as high as £1·20 or £1·30.

If, in addition to the increase caused by international pressures on prices, there is to be extra taxation, the strain on many rural areas will become insufferable. That will affect particularly the rural areas with low incomes, such as the area I represent. There, motor transport is not a luxury but a necessity for getting to work. Unlike in London where there are four or five modes of transport for getting to work, in my constituency there is very often only one. My constituents have to make journeys of 20, 30 or 40 miles to work, and if the tax on petrol is increased the burden upon them will be unacceptable.

It is wrong for us to shrink away from this problem during the fortnight leading up to a decisive and important Budget. For all these reasons, I believe it to be wrong for us to go into another recess.