Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
It falls to me to make the opening speech in this debate upon Welsh affairs. I am very glad to have the opportunity and the honour of doing so. Hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies will be keenly interested in the subject of this debate, and we all welcome this further opportunity of discussing the affairs of Wales. For Wales has many difficult, complex problems and many urgent and human problems, and it is right and appropriate that they should be debated in this House, and that hon. Members from Wales should express their views about them. It is my task this afternoon to deal with some general Welsh problems, with special reference to the economic and industrial situation in Wales.This is the sixth debate we have had on specifically Welsh affairs. Already, Welsh Day, as it is known in Wales, has become an established institution, both in Wales and in Westminster. It evokes the keenest interest among Welsh people everywhere, and it has become one of the most important days in the Welsh political calendar. Since the first Welsh Debate in 1944, vast and sweeping changes have taken place in Wales. I was recently re-reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of that debate. What struck me most forcibly was that in every speech there was one dominant note. That note was fear—fear that at the end of the war there would be a recurrence in Wales of the ghastly tragedy of the interwar years. That fear was widespread and deep in Wales at that time. We all felt that with the coming of peace we should be faced once again with the horrors of mass unemployment, the indignities and cruelties of the means test and the mass migration of Welsh people in search of employment elsewhere. Fortunately for Wales and for Britain too, those fears did not materialise. If there had been a recurrence of the interwar depression there would have been no Wales left today, and this debate would not have taken place in its present form. It would not have been a debate on the problems and prospects of Wales but an inquest upon the Wales that had been. No nation, and no economy could have survived a second visitation of that ghastly tragedy. The policy of the present Government since 1945 has been the salvation of Wales. It has completely transformed the prospects of the country and the outlook of the people. It has brought a large number of new industries into the Principality, in areas which had been derelict, has brought prosperity to the Welsh countryside, and, above all, has given to the Welsh people a new sense of security and a sense of confidence in the future. In the last few years a second industrial revolution has taken place in Wales. The whole economy has been transformed, so much so that some of the pre-war problems are now appearing completely in reverse. We have many examples of that. The most outstanding is coal. In the inter-war period Wales had too much coal and too many miners. That was our most difficult problem. Now there is an acute shortage of miners and a desperate shortage of coal. That is our most serious post-war problem. Another example is housing. Before the war houses were sold in the Welsh mining valleys at fantastically low prices. There was no demand for them because people were leaving the valleys. Now there is an acute housing shortage in every mining valley and mining village in Wales. The building industry is another example. By 1939 the building industry in Wales had died from sheer atrophy. Now, with the industrial expansion in Wales and the requirements for houses, factories, hospitals and pit head baths, the Welsh building industry cannot cope with the demands made upon it. Electricity is another example. Before the war there was no shortage of electricity in Wales for Wales had no factories to consume power, the Welsh people were too poor to instal electricity in their homes, and the Welsh countryside was too poverty-stricken to demand electricity. Now we are faced with a chronic shortage of electricity, for the new factories are insatiable in their demands, through the prosperity brought to Wales our people can now afford to instal electricity in their homes, and with the new prosperity in the countryside there is a widespread and insistent clamour for the electrification of the rural areas. There is, however, a vital difference between these two sets of problems. The old problems were problems of decay. They arose from the decline and disintegration of Welsh economy. The new problems are problems of growth. They arise from the rapid development and expansion of Welsh economy. In some respects the Government has been the victim of its own achievements in Wales. This Government has an excellent record in Wales, but it has not yet solved all our problems. There are some difficult long-term problems, about which I wish to speak later, and there are some urgent human problems which call for immediate attention about which I want to say a word or two. The first of these is that Wales has the highest unemployment figure in the whole of Britain. We have had that unenviable record since the end of the war. I do not want to give figures and percentages, for they are well known to everybody who is interested in the affairs of Wales, but we are very much concerned about reducing the Welsh unemployment problem to the general national average. The prosperity which has been brought to Wales has, unfortunately, not been evenly spread. The new industries have not always gone to the right places. There has been a tendency to concentrate them around the larger towns, near the main lines and near the coast. This is quite understandable, but it has meant neglecting the upper reaches of the mining valleys, with the result that in those areas we now have very heavy pockets of unemployment. In South Wales we have a serious unemployment problem of a special kind, that of the partially disabled. Large numbers of these people are ex-miners, men who have been suspended from the mining industry through pneumoconiosis. They cannot return to the mines, and, unfortunately, there is no alternative employment for them. This is a tragic and serious problem in every mining valley. I hope that later on some of my hon. Friends who catch Mr. Speaker's eye will have something more to say about these grave matters, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will be able to indicate to the House that he has some positive and practical proposals for dealing with these very urgent matters. I now turn to the White Paper which appears this year as a Blue Book. It is the fifth White Paper on Welsh affairs which we have had and in both form and content it comes up to the standard of its predecessors. It contains a very impressive record of Government achievements and activity in Wales. It contains a mass of information about Wales and is packed with facts and figures. It tells us almost everything that can be told in figures. No one can now complain of inadequate information about Wales. There is an abundance of information in the White Paper about every facet of Welsh affairs. The danger may now lie in the other direction, that with this mass of data we may fail to see the wood for the trees and that with too close a preoccupation with the arithmetic of Wales we may forget that we are dealing with a nation and the human beings who make up that nation. For Wales is a nation. We do not learn that from the White Paper, nor indeed from any of its predecessors. Sometimes it is very difficult to get Government Departments to understand that in dealing with Wales they are dealing with a nation and not with a province, or a zone or a region. It seems to be the fashion in some quarters to regard Wales as a province of England, or, what is even worse, as a region of Great Britain. Whenever the expression "The Wales Region" is used a cold shiver runs down the back of even the most internationally minded Welshman. People who do not understand the reason for that will never understand Wales, and people afflicted with the regional complex will never solve Welsh problems. Wales is not a province and not a region. Wales is a nation with a history, a character and a culture of her own. The Welsh are, indeed, the oldest nation in these islands, and throughout all the crises and upheavals of their history the Welsh people have preserved their own language, their own traditions and their own way of life, the roots of which go far back into the past. These are the great imponderable forces which make and mould a nation, and they cannot be expressed in graphs or reduced to the statistical table of a White Paper. Wales has her own history. Indeed, that is a truism, but there is a tendency now in certain political and academical circles in Wales to idealise and romanticise Welsh history, to read into it things which it does not contain, to gloss over or ignore things which it does contain, and to deduce from this all kinds of false notions not only about the past but about the present too. According to this view, all the trials and tribulations of Wales spring from the Act of Union of 1536. An eminent Welsh professor has written that Fascism came to Wales with the Act of Union. The Russian Marxists argue that history sometimes takes forward leaps. Some of our Welsh professors are evidently under the impression that history sometimes takes backward leaps, too. And according to the violently anti-Labour tone of their writings and speeches, one would imagine that the Act of Union was placed on the Statute Book by this Labour Government, and that it was piloted through this House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Before the Act of Union, Wales is supposed to have enjoyed a golden age, which was destroyed by a conspiracy of the wicked English, supported by some Welsh Quislings, all of them Socialists and all of them, presumably, members of what is contemptuously called the English Labour Party. By a strange paradox this English Labour Party is stronger in Wales than it is anywhere else. It is by far the strongest party in Wales; indeed, in some parts of Wales it is the only party. And the recent by-election in Abertillery is proof of that. But Wales never had a golden age. If there can be such a thing as a golden age on this troubled planet, then for Wales it lies in the future and not in the past. The basic and most consistent features of Wales, throughout history and down to our own day, are the poverty of the country, the low level of her general economy, and the general backwardness of her technical equipment. This is the key to the understanding of Welsh history. It is the key to the understanding of the problems of Wales today. Now may I raise a question of some relevance to this debate: is there a special Welsh problem? Has Wales a problem which is unique and distinct to Wales and which has no parallel in any other part of Britain? This question has been argued at great length in Wales over a long time, and we have had a variety of points of view about it. Some hold that there is no special Welsh problem and that Wales, therefore, calls for no special treatment. That, I believe, is the point of view of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health who argued it very forcibly in the first Welsh debate. Others contend that Wales has a special national problem which calls for a new constitutional relationship between Wales and the rest of Britain. That, I believe, is the point of view of the Liberal Party, and it has been expressed in this House on more than one occasion by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George). Some people argue that Wales has a special and unique problem which calls for the complete separation of Wales from the rest of Britain. I do not accept any of these views, but I believe that Wales has a special problem. It is not a national problem; it does not arise from the national characteristics of the Welsh people. It is not a constitutional problem; it does not arise from the constitutional relationship between Wales and the rest of Britain, though we have had all kinds of constitutional proposals for dealing with it. The special Welsh problem is economic, and it arises from the peculiar pattern of the economy which grew up in Wales over the last 100 years. Welsh economy suffers from four fundamental defects and these constitute a special and unique Welsh problem. The first of these is the utter inadequacy of the transport system in Wales; if, indeed, it can be called a system. An efficient transport system is essential to any prosperous, expanding economy. Wales never had an efficient transport system; it has not got one today. The main railway lines in Wales were built to converge on London and not to unify and integrate our scattered Welsh communities. The other railways lines meander endlessly round the country, leading nowhere, going nowhere. The Railway Executive has recently closed down some of these old lines. Unfortunately it is much easier to close down an old railway line than to open a new one. Road transport in Wales is in a shocking condition. Somebody has said that all the best roads lead out of Wales and the rest lead nowhere. Our road system is entirely inadequate to meet the demands of modern industry and commerce, and I hope that in the next few years we shall have a vast expansion of the road transport system to cope with the demands of the new economy which is being built. The second fundamental defect of Welsh economy is the entire lack of balance that has existed now for a long time. Until recently, Wales had only three industries—coal, iron and steel, agriculture—and the overwhelming majority of the Welsh people were employed in them. Practically the whole of Welsh industry is concentrated in one narrow strip. Half the population lives in one geographic county, two-thirds of the population live in a narrow industrial belt extending from Blaenavon in Monmouthshire to Llanelly in Carmarthenshire. The rest of the population is scattered throughout 10 counties. When Welsh industry was expanding, this disequilibrium in our economy was concealed. Nobody worried about it. Industrial expansion brought temporary prosperity to our valleys, but when the great depression came Welsh economy collapsed and Wales as a nation disintegrated. We are still grappling with the aftermath of that terrible calamity. The third weakness of Welsh economy is the technical backwardness of industry, of transport and of agriculture. Wales has always lagged behind England in technical equipment, and the Welsh worker has always had less machine power at his command than his opposite number across the border. Welsh agriculture has never caught up with the technical level of English agriculture. It has always lagged behind and it lags behind today. The Welsh section of the iron and steel industry was the most backward in Britain. I remember that some years ago my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning described the tinplate undertakings of South Wales as "a lot of old junk." They are still operating on the technical level of the 1870's. The most notorious example of technical backwardness is provided by the Welsh mining industry, which is the most important single industry of Wales. Until quite recently it was technically the most backward mining industry in Europe. For 30 years this industry was afflicted with what was tantamount to complete technical paralysis, and in South Wales the National Coal Board faces its most formidable task of reconstruction. Indeed, in the Anthracite, in my part of the country, the problem is almost insoluble. The coal plan issued recently by the Coal Board states that in the anthracite area technical reconstruction is impossible and that the only real course for the Coal Board is to start a new industry. The fourth peculiarity of Welsh economy is the wide gap that has always existed between the economic life of the nation and the educational system of the country. Until quite recently this gap was not only wide and deep; it was complete and absolute. Industry and agriculture were not interested in education, and the educational system was not interested in the economic life. Welsh education became a means of escape from the pit, from the steelworks, and from the countryside, and very often it became a means of escape from Wales. Welsh education became not only exclusively academic. It became aloof, abstract and artificial. It had no social content. It had no real contact with the basic and vital elements in the life of Wales. The Welsh nation is still suffering from the gap between the educational system and the economic life of the nation. Much has been done in recent years, I know, to bring about a closer liaison between education and economy, but a great deal more remains to be done. We are still exporting teachers from Wales to every education authority in England and Scotland, and we are importing technicians to man our new industries and to reconstruct the old ones. Last year 352 boys were sent from Wales to be trained in industries in England; there were no facilities for this industrial training in Wales. These boys had to leave their homeland. And what happens? They are trained in England, they find jobs there, and they settle down and are permanently lost to Wales. That is one of the serious problems facing us in Wales today. These are complex and massive problems. They will not be easily solved, but they will have to be solved if Wales is to enjoy prosperity and, indeed, if the Welsh nation is to survive. We have had many proposals for dealing with these problems, and the tendency of the last few years has been to suggest that what Wales really needs is a change in the constitutional relationship of the country with the rest of Britain. During the last few years we have had a spate of constitutional proposals.
Proposals involving legislation are out of order in this debate.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was not arguing in favour of that, but was simply dealing with some of the proposals which have been made. I was saying that we have had proposals for all kinds of new relationships between Wales and England—I am not arguing that; I am not in favour of it. We have had proposals for a Minister for Wales, for a Minister responsible for Welsh affairs, and even for the complete separation of Wales from England.I have two things to say on that. The first is that the Welsh people do not want separation from Britain. They are too politically mature for that, and they know that such a step would be disastrous. Second, there has been a tendency to look for all kinds of constitutional alibis, instead of facing up to the real Welsh problem, which is the economic reconstruction of the country. That is the basic Welsh problem, and it is our responsibility in this debate to stress and to understand that the only hope for Wales to survive as a nation is to provide it with a solid, stable and prosperous economy, so that Welsh life and Welsh culture can be preserved. What Wales needs, above all, is a plan. Some time ago the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said that there could be no freedom in a planned economy. In Wales we know otherwise. We know from experience that there can be no freedom without planning. Under the anarchy of free enterprise the people of Wales had two freedoms—the freedom to starve, and the freedom to leave the country. Under the planning of the present Government, the range of freedom for the Welsh people has been enormously widened. For the first time people are enjoying real freedom. What Wales needs now is a plan to decide the future pattern of Welsh economy, to work out a proper balance between agriculture and industry—we have not started even to think about that yet—to work out a scheme of rural reconstruction, and to decide on a system of priorities within Wales. This is a job which can well be done by the Council for Wales. The Council is composed of people who know Wales. They have already worked on some very important Welsh problems, and I suggest that they should now look at Wales as a whole. I am sure that the Council, given the authority and the necessary technical assistance, can undertake this task of planning the Welsh economy; and they can, I believe, do a really worth while job for Wales.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this early stage of the debate with some general observations on both the White Paper—or, as the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) called it, the Blue Book—for this year and the report by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, before Members from Welsh constituencies, with their intimate knowledge of the problems concerning those constituencies, raise particular points later in the debate. I shall be as brief as possible, because I realise only too well the shortness of the time allotted today for all these great problems of the Principality.According to past debates on Welsh affairs, it seems customary for the speaker from the Opposition Front Bench to make a personal statement about his credentials for intervening. This is largely due to attacks from, I am sorry to say, the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) on this Front Bench for failure to provide a Welshman with a Welsh constituency. In a previous debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), in spite of a claim to Cornish blood, and in spite of what he has done for education in Wales, was described as an Anglo-Saxon cuckoo in the Welsh nest. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) fared even worse last year, owing to a remark he uttered on the antiquity of the Gaelic tongue, which proved to be rather unflattering to Welsh. I can assure the noble Lady that I am at least Carmarthenshire born, and that I did, at a very early age, attempt to win the Llanelly Division of Carmarthen shire. Having accepted, with due modesty and with grave financial loss, so far as my election deposit was concerned, the fact that the constituency preferred to be represented by men like the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for the Colonies and his predecessor, I decided to make a border raid into Herefordshire. It is quite true that I found a fellow Welshman, then the baby of the House, already in possession of Hereford, which he had captured from the Conservative Party for the Liberal Party. But after all, Welsh men and women do sometimes differ politically, as even the noble Lady herself has shown so recently on the Liberal benches of this House. I would suggest to the noble Lady, with respect, that instead of chiding me for leaving Wales she should congratulate both Mr. Frank Owen and myself for the pioneering spirit, so typical of the Welsh, by which he and I captured the ancient border City of Hereford and held it for Wales for 21 years. To quote the hon. Member for Neath, I hope the House will not think I am romanticising too much about the past, but perhaps I may be permitted one more personal note in view of the attack which I dare say will come upon me from the noble Lady, and that is that the men and women of Herefordshire were the people who protected Owen Glendower when he sought shelter at his daughter's home at Kentchurch Court—in my constituency—in the last years of his life. I may say that I have slept peacefully and un-haunted for any political infidelity to Wales in Owen Glendower's own room, and that we in Herefordshire are proud to believe that his bones lie peacefully in our soil by the River Wye—that river which draws its source and strength from the Welsh hills. With those credentials, I hope that hon. Members will allow me to say that I welcome the opportunity of this debate. I feel, however, that to hold the debate on the Adjournment Motion limits our discussion unnecessarily by making it impossible, as we have already heard during the speech of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams), to refer to problems involving legislation. I should like to put on record the opinion, at any rate from this side of the House and, I believe, from other quarters, that as the Council for Wales develops, and as it begins to make still more specific recommendations, any future debate should be on a formal Government Motion asking us to take note of the contents of the Report under discussion. My own impression, on reading the Report on the Government action in Wales and Monmouthshire, is, frankly, rather different from that of the hon. Member for Neath. He said that this White Paper or, as he called it, Blue Book came up to the expectations of its predecessors during the last five years. I remember the criticisms of those Government White Papers on Wales during those five years, and I can hardly believe that that remark was a compliment. My own impression on reading this Report is that it has got the failings of the White Papers of the last five years. It seems to me rather a hotch-potch of contributions from different Government Departments. It lacks not only co-ordination but also the leadership and vision of one man in real authority. It seems to me to call loudly for a high ranking Member of the Cabinet with a special responsibility for Wales, as recommended by the Conservative Party in their policy for Wales—which needs no legislation. By that pledge and that policy we on these benches still stand. I do not believe that a Cabinet Minister in charge of Welsh affairs would have described and dismissed the slate industry in only four lines, in paragraph 118, when double that space is given, in paragraph 240, to what has happened with regard to school dinners, important indeed though they may be, in Merthyr Tydfil since the price was raised by the Government from 4d. to 6d. in October of last year. After all, we have been waiting since 1946 to know what the Government intend to do about the Rees Report on that slate industry, with all that that means for employment in North Wales. On the other hand, I feel that the Memorandum by the Council for Wales and Monmouth is much more illuminating and helpful than the White Paper. Although this Council has come in for some very rough handling during past debates on Welsh affairs in the House, I think that on this occasion it has been most constructive and helpful, and shows the immense amount of work, time and trouble that members of the Council have put into making their report. We owe them our gratitude. We on these benches, as a party, urge that a properly constituted Council for Wales should be in existence, to advise and assist a Member of the Cabinet with special responsibility for Wales and Welsh affairs.
Does the hon. Member contemplate having a Civil Service under that Minister? Does he not realise that if there is no Civil Service his suggestion would be quite futile?
Frankly, I do not believe that that is the case. We believe that a Member of the Cabinet should be watching all subjects under discussion in the Cabinet from the point of view of the Welsh. I am quite certain that in that way we should get more co-ordination than appears in the Government White Paper this year. We still feel, despite that excellent Report of the Council, that the two chief features of our policy for Wales cannot be properly separated, because they are complementary. I am certain that a Council for Wales, in isolation, cannot be nearly so valuable as it might be as an adjunct to a Minister with the objects I have described.The Council itself, in its Report this year, talks about the need for a coordinated authority, especially so far as rural Wales is concerned. I realise that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), may have hopes, after her Parliamentary Question to the Lord President of the Council, of having a special day for debating the Report of the Council for Wales. But I do not think his answer was definite enough to justify one in failing to seize this opportunity of comparing these two documents today.
I understand that there has been a communication from the Lord President to the secretary of the Welsh Parliamentary Party on which hon. Members from all parts of the House sit—it is open to Conservatives if they care to come—by which we are given to understand that there is a very strong indication that there will be a further opportunity for debate in the New Year. For that reason some of us, I think on both sides of the House, propose this afternoon to exercise a self- denying ordinance and not to discuss in detail the work of the Council for Wales, or the problems of rural reconstruction, so that we make have a coherent debate during the New Year.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I had not myself heard of that message, but I am abiding by what I understand to be the wish of the Welsh Parliamentary Party not to discuss rural Wales at any length, if at all. I do, however, wish to take the opportunity afforded by this debate to make some comparisons between the Government Report and the Council's Memorandum, because they contain points which need underlining, and to which I hope we shall receive an answer from a Government spokesman today. The Council's Memorandum underlines and brings out more clearly in detail what is dealt with more briefly in the Government Report.I intend briefly to make comparisons between the two documents. Paragraph 39 of the Council's report states:
It is surely very difficult to achieve this great degree of mobility without sufficient houses, and the report on housing in the Government document, and indeed in the Council's Memorandum, is extremely disheartening. The hon. Member for Neath made the point that the Government Report shows a drop both in the building of new permanent houses and the total number of accommodation units comparing this year with last year, and this at a time when Wales—"There must be a much greater degree of mobility of labour if full employment is to be realised throughout Wales and is to extend to the outlying pockets of unemployment … in the slate quarry region and some other parts of rural Wales."
I think the hon. Member has misunderstood my point, which was that in the depression of the inter-war period there was no demand for houses, and that now, with industrial expansion, the building industry cannot meet the demand.
I did not misunderstand the hon. Member's point. I heard what he said about depression before the war and how much better off the Welsh people were now. All I would say on that improvement is that a great deal of that was due to planning in advance by the National Government under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), as right hon. Gentlemen opposite who served in that National Government well know. The fact remains that there is this shortage both in the building of new houses and in the total number of accommodation units compared with last year, and that at a time when Wales has an immense task, not only of providing new houses, but of reconditioning at least 45 per cent. of the existing rural houses.Both these documents make it clear that Wales is not getting her fair share of the building programme. This is confirmed by the Panel of Depopulation in the Council Report and by an analysis of the housing returns. Let me give the House one example. Both the southern region and the south-eastern region of England have 5.8 per cent. of the total population of Britain, while Wales has 6 per cent. of that total population. The southern region has had 44,000 houses provided by 1st March this year and the south-eastern region 43,000, while Wales, with a higher percentage of the total population, has had only 33,165 houses provided during that period. In both those English regions there are today more houses under construction than there are in Wales. My comparison of these two documents brings me to the development of the tinplate and steel sheet industries, especially in the Swansea area, and I would like from the ministerial spokesman in this debate a reply on the point I wish to raise. The Panel on Unemployment is much more realistic and far more alarming on this development than is the White Paper. The White Paper contents itself by saying, in 2½ lines, that:
The Panel say they are aware of this investigation, but they go much further and warn us that by 1955 additional unemployment, due to these developments, will be no fewer than 5,000 and may be as high as 10,000. They stress the importance of planning in advance to avoid that danger, and I hope that whoever speaks from the Government Front Bench today will be able to give us some assurance, in greater detail than we have had from the Government White Paper, that they have plans in preparation. I turn to the diversification of industry. We must distinguish carefully between diversification of heavy and medium industries on the one hand, based as they are on the Welsh native coal and iron and steel industries, and the ill considered—I stress the word—stimulation of light industry in Wales. While the Government Report merely hints about the difficulties of the latter in a somewhat hazy and embarrassed sentence in paragraph 78, the Panel of Unemployment of the Council for Wales says that it feels considerable anxiety about the future of the new industrial economy that has grown up in the last few years. I do not know if Members heard the broadcast by Professor Arthur Beecham, Professor of Industrial Relations at Cardiff, on St. David's Day this year, when he pointed out that we may be spreading our manpower resources too thinly in building unwanted factories for industries which may have no future as competition becomes keener and the margins of markets narrow. While, in the last year, the Government White Paper tells us, four million square feet of factory space has been completed, I believe it is still true that the Government have not been able to find a single new tenant on Grenfell terms for the Grenfell factories. If the Minister can refute that no one will be more delighted than myself. So far as the South Wales ports are concerned, we are glad to see from the Government White Paper that there has been continued improvement since last year, but the figures produced in the Appendix corroborate the statement in the "Conservative Policy for Wales" at the last election that"The possible effect on employment … of the establishment of the new steel and tinplate works at Margam and Trostre is being investigated."
I had a fairly intimate knowledge of those ports when I was at the Admiralty at the latter half of the war. I know their immense strategic value. Their capacity for handling cargoes is far greater than the trade which they are now handling. The 1938 figures bear this out, for in that year the six principal ports handled total traffic amounting to 24,500,000 tons. Last year the traffic handled was just under 16 million tons, about 65 per cent. of the 1938 figures. Some ports seem to have been worse hit than others. The trade at Swansea is as big as it was pre-war, but the trade at Cardiff is only half what it was. It cannot be expected that the handling by South Wales ports of coal for export and bunkering can soon, if ever, be recovered. I agree with the hon. Member for Neath that it is vital that we should make progress in the matter of transport and the linking of the South Wales ports with the great industrial areas of the Midlands. In our Conservative Policy for Wales we stated bluntly that we considered that the trunk routes from South Wales to the Midlands should have first priority, even over that trunk road about which we have talked so much between South and North Wales. In my view first priority should go to a road for fast-moving traffic between South Wales to the Midlands, with spurs branching off to Nottingham and Derby. When one turns to the coal industry, with which the hon. Member for Neath dealt, the most alarming position disclosed in the Government Report is the fall in the output of saleable anthracite. Members who sit for mining constituencies know better than I do what that fall means, for apart from a very small amount in Scotland, it is in Wales alone that anthracite is to be found; and how important it is for domestic heating, steam raising, malting and brewing and many other purposes. This, and the growth of absenteeism in the coal mining industry in general must cause concern, and I shall be grateful if the Minister who is to reply to the debate can analyse the causes. In a debate in which we all want to do our best for the Principality, I am very anxious not to stress party differences; but to compare the coal industry with the steel industry, as the White Paper does, gives us a very different picture. Here, as the White Paper says:"the ports of South Wales are a national asset which is now being party wasted."
The labour force in the steel and tinplate industries increased in the period under review by 1,235, as against a decline in the coal industry of 4,537. The White Paper says, on coal, that there will be no appreciable supply of foreign labour in the future, but, on steel, it says that plans to recruit more foreign labour are being prepared. What explanation can the Government give for this divergence between the two industries on this Question? I had wished to say something about rural Wales, but, as I said in reply to an interjection, although I am not a member of the Welsh Parliamentary Committee, I would not wish to break the agreement to which that Committee came. Nevertheless, I hope that a day will come—and soon—for a debate on rural Wales which perhaps could be based on the very illuminating factual report of the Panel on Depopulation. In particular, we should want to ask the Government for their views on the interesting and important recommendation of this Panel when it says that:"in the production of crude steel South Wales is maintaining a constant ratio to the figures for the United Kingdom in the steady progress made by the steel industry as a whole."
That would also give an opportunity to certain hon. Members who cannot be present on the Liberal benches today because, I understand, they are on important work connected with the Towy Afforestation Scheme. I know the area well; I went over it only last August. It would be wrong for me to discuss that subject while the matter is sub judice, but I should like to make one constitutional point, and perhaps the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) will not be altogether in disagreement with me on this. It seems highly unsatisfactory that an inquiry should be held by the Minister of Agriculture who is himself the person responsible for agreeing, in the first place, that the Forestry Commission should plant this land. I need hardly say that I am making no personal attack on the present Minister of Agriculture. I am only trying to help him, for when one appeals to Cæsar against Cæsar it is sometimes apt to be embarrassing for Cæsar I have noticed that my non-Welsh predecessors, speaking from this Front Bench during previous debates, have usually concluded their speeches by magnificent tributes to our literature, our poetry, our songs and our music. That is all very flattering, but my conclusion today will be somewhat different. I wish to ask for actions and not words. My appeal is to the Lord President of the Council, the arch-priest of the Festival of Britain. I saw in the Press last weekend that, once more, the Lord President gave us what is now obviously his signature tune when he said that it was his greatest wish "to make the people happy and to let the people sing." That is all very well. But why is it, if that is the case, that the Lord President has allotted less than 0.5 per cent. of the general expenditure on the Festival as a whole to our Welsh land of song? I cannot feel that the Lord President is so free from all troubles and anxieties about the Festival that he can ignore this golden opportunity of allowing the Principality to come to his rescue. Not only have we the most beautiful country in this island for foreign visitors to see, but the festival spirit is surely an integral part of the Welsh character, as it has been throughout the ages. How often have we all watched those long treks in carts, in gigs, and on horse back, for miles and miles down mountain roads and lanes when there is music to be found at the end of the journey? I beg the Lord President not to ignore these potentialities, and most seriously do I hope that those who answer for the Government today can promise us action on the many disquieting features contained both in the White Paper and in the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire."the Council for Wales should be given authority to undertake, with an independent staff, detailed and authoritative investigation into the problems of rural Wales, including all aspects of Welsh administration."
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) has intervened in this debate. I thought that he did not need to spend so much time apologising for his intervention. He seemed to me to give the impression that for two long years he had been smarting under the strictures of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), and to endeavour to show that this time, at last, the Conservative Party has produced a speaker for Wales whose credentials are above reproach.I entirely agree that it is not desirable to have this debate on the Motion for the Adjournment because it restricts the scope of our discussion. I wonder whether the Conservative side of the usual channels made that point clear when the business for this week was being settled. After all, it is rather late to put that on record today. I should call attention to the fact that I raised the point a week ago when the programme of business for this week was announced by the Lord President of the Council. I hope that in future years we shall avoid having any debate on Welsh affairs on the Motion for the Adjournment. I wish to refer to one other matter which was mentioned by the hon. Member, and that is the question of housing in Wales. There is no hon. Member from any part of Wales who is not distressed by the letters that he gets from his constituents. Let it not be thought that the position is better in the rural areas than it is in the towns. The position in the rural areas is simply shocking. There are disgraceful houses in my constituency of Merioneth. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) did a most useful service when he published his Report in 1939 criticising so many of the rural authorities in Wales for their neglect of rural housing. I had occasion to look at the figures mentioned in that Report which is now known as the Clement Davies Report. Those figures disclosed that in the 20 years between the two wars 130,000 houses were built in Wales. In the five years since the end of the last war, under the present system of building, 50,000 accommodation units have been provided in all; in terms of permanent homes, about 36,000 homes have been provided. If that rate of progress is maintained, it is obvious that, in the 20 years from 1945, we shall do better than we did in the 20 years between the two wars. It is only right that we should look at the matter in the light of the actual figures which have been published. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) referred to unemployment in Wales. The fact that our unemployment figures are so much higher than those for any part of the rest of Britain is one of th most distressing aspects of Welsh affairs today. The hon. Member did not give the percentages but they are disclosed, as at June, 1950, in the White Paper, and, as at October, 1950, in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. From those figures it is evident that we continue to have the highest rate of unemployment. In October, 1950, in Great Britain the percentage of men unemployed was 1.5 per cent., and that of women unemployed was 1.4 per cent.—an average of 1.45 per cent. In Wales the figures were: men, 3.2 per cent.; women, 4.3 per cent.—an average total of 3.5 per cent. The total unemployment in Wales at 16th October was 32,932, and we have the highest percentage of unemployment in Great Britain, Scotland coming next. I hope that the Secretary for Overseas Trade will tell us that there are some special measures in hand to deal with the very difficult problem. The Advisory Council refer to the matter in their report when they state that, in future
I wonder if the Board of Trade have considered that statement; if so, I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us whether the Board of Trade agree with it, and, if they do, what their policy is for safeguarding the future of these new light industries in Wales. While I am on the subject of new industries, I should like to point to the extraordinary slowness with which decisions are taken in regard to Welsh problems. Although I am not going to make a constituency speech, I wish to refer to Blaenau Ffestiniog, in my constituency. We have been agitating for a new factory for at least five years, even longer. The President of the Board of Trade came down on 18th December, 1948. He was convinced of the need for a new light industry to provide alternative employment to the heavy industry which already exists. He was convinced and everything was to go forward with Cabinet priority. Yet, the building of that factory has not yet started. It cannot be the fault of the local authority. They are, naturally, anxious to have the factory started. There has been a handing over of responsibility between the Board of Trade and the Welsh Board of Health, and one feels that decisions in regard to Wales are taking far longer than they ought. There is no authority charged with co-ordinating and hastening the activities of Government Departments. The hon. Member for Neath referred to what he called a "constitutional alibi," instead of facing up to the real economic problems. I should be out of order if I developed the case for a Welsh Parliament, but the whole case for such a Parliament is that these problems cannot be solved unless the authority to deal with them is concentrated in Welsh hands. The hon. Member also referred to the need for giving the Advisory Council more authority. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Hereford supported that or not, but I think that that would be quite wrong. Authority should be in the hands of an elected body, which deliberates in public, and which has an adequate Civil Service at its disposal. There is a Civil Service at present in Wales under the various regional offices. The trouble is that there is no elected body with authority directing the activities of that body of civil servants. We have far too many consultative councils and too much power in them in Wales. The real solution is to transfer authority for decisive action into the hands of the elected representatives. The hon. Member for Neath said that Wales needs, above all, a plan to decide her future economy. I absolutely agree with him, but surely it is rather late in the day to be saying this. Is there no plan already? The foundations of the plan should have been laid five years ago. It is more than ever urgent that the Government should be considering whether they cannot frame a plan for Wales, which will co-ordinate the whole of the interests in Wales and decide her future economy, and the manner in which to deal with her manifold problems. I am sure that bodies such as the Advisory Council cannot prepare, or work out, or operate, such a plan. If a plan is necessary for anything it is necessary for the land of Wales, because it is clear at present that there are a lot of conflicting demands for land in Wales—the Ministry of Agriculture, the Board of Trade, the Forestry Commission and the War Department. It does not look as if there has been any really comprehensive survey of the land of Wales or any plan for its use. The land of Wales is important in two senses. First, it is important as the source of the national life, in which the hon. Member for Neath rejoiced; secondly, it is important in a very practical way—for our sustenance in these days and in the years to come. It may even be more important than ever soon, because we may have to depend upon it for food production more and more The hon. Member for Hereford referred to public inquiries into various demands for land. I entirely agree with him that they are completely unsatisfactory. An inquiry held by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning into the War Office demand for land at Trawsfynydd was completely unsatisfactory in every way. The whole burden of the case of the local bodies was that this was valuable food producing land, and a large number of farmers and agricultural experts gave evidence. There was no one there to put the point of view of the Ministry of Agriculture, and we had no opportunity of asking them questions or cross-examining their officials. Then, some months after the inquiry had been held, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning confirmed the War Office demand without giving any reasons at all. That was done without even publishing the report of the chairman of the inquiry. That is not in the nature of a democratic process, and as Wales is infinitely concerned with this demand for land from various Government Departments, it is necessary that the procedure for public inquiries should be reviewed. I want to finish by referring to one other matter. The hon. Member for Neath said that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey had been one of the most prominent persons in putting forward a demand for a Welsh Parliament. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies—he is not in his place at the moment, although he has been present throughout most of the debate so far—in a debate on Welsh affairs in 1944, put forward a demand for devolution in very strong terms. It was also put forward in strong terms by the Minister of Health in those days. I think there is a very widespread demand for this, which is not confined to one party. The question is often asked, "Can Wales sustain a Parliament or a Government of her own?" The answer to that could be provided if the Government were to take a more sympathetic view of the various demands which have been put forward for a full inquiry into the financial and economic position of Wales. A short while ago the Prime Minister announced that he was setting up a committee which would prepare an economic balance sheet for Scotland, and there was much pressure from both sides of the House at the time that that committee should cover the whole of the United Kingdom, or that a similar committee should function in respect of Wales. By the rather curt nature of the replies he gave at that time, the Prime Minister conveyed the impression that he was entirely unsympathetic to that kind of inquiry. I think it would be a very good thing if at present the Government were to take a sympathetic view of this demand for an inquiry into the financial and economic position of Wales—a demand which comes from many quarters. The hon. Member for Neath told us that there are many figures in the White Paper. That is true, and they are interesting and valuable, so far as they go. But it is not a complete economic balance sheet for Wales, and I can seen nothing but good coming out of the production of such a balance sheet. If we want to prepare a plan for Wales, we can only do it when we have that balance sheet. I should like the Government to look again at this question of preparing a complete financial statement for Wales, because, on that basis, we can prepare a plan and pursue a course of action for the well-being of our country."… the survival in Wales of many of the new industries which are subsidiaries of larger concerns outside Wales may be highly problematical."
In entering this debate today, I feel that I am called upon to present my credentials for so doing. As Secretary for Overseas Trade, under the direction of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, I have been entrusted with the distribution of industry policy, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) said, in opening the debate, that the most important thing in connection with it today, and generally, was the consideration of economic matters. May I say to him and also to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas), who opened from the Opposition Front Bench, that I am grateful to both of them for providing me with a good deal of historical background.In dealing with the subject with which I am most fully conversant, perhaps I may be allowed to make a brief review of the past in presenting what is, after all, the annual stocktaking, and in dealing with some of the questions addressed to me. I think it is true to say that in the past the basic industry of Wales was chiefly coal-mining. The world markets then were in such a state that there were no demands for exports of coal and steel, and that had a serious effect on the economy of Wales generally. There was little or no secondary industry and the low wages paid in the rural areas were a general pattern for industry. As a result of that, we have, today, low standard farms and poor houses. That situation has obviously to be put right, but in these days of shortages of raw materials, and sometimes of skilled labour, it is not easy to overcome problems left to us from the past. I think it can be truthfully said that when the Labour Government came into power, in 1945, they had to construct new industries, reconstruct old industries such as the coal, iron and other heavy basic industries, and had to rehabilitate agriculture. In other words, they had to provide a properly balanced economy. From 1945 until 1949, coal production went up by 10 per cent. in spite of the fact that during those years we were losing too many people from the pits. I confirm that the figure of 4,500, mentioned by the hon. Member for Hereford, is correct as representing the number of men who left the pits. Naturally, the loss of those men is now beginning to affect production. The drop in the output per shift is not due entirely to absenteeism. Indeed, many excuses can be made on that ground, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General will be dealing with that point. At the same time, the output per shift in South Wales is not as high as we would wish. The real cause of this is, of course, minor disputes, which could easily be put right if the conciliation machinery were used. As we know, the National Coal Board have introduced a plan. They have made one or two reservations in the case of Wales for the very reason I have just given. From 1950 to 1965, they hope to spend £97 million for the provision of seven new pits and the reconstruction of 26 existing pits in South Wales, and eight in the North. As has already been mentioned, the coal produced in South Wales is of great value. The steam coal and anthracite produced there is the best in the world; indeed, South Wales is the only source of supply. As Secretary for Overseas Trade, I know what a heavy demand there is for that coal, and how, despite the gloomy forecasts, we were able to resume exports of that coal much more quickly than was at one time thought possible. Those exports have resulted in our getting the food and raw materials which have enabled us to build up our economy so successfully in the past few years. If everybody puts his back into it the Welsh coalfields can be revolutionised. Iron and steel production is increasing, although I think it is true that, with existing plant, the limit has been nearly reached. However, as we all know, new plants are being created at Margam and Trostre, and as they get into their stride we shall see production further increased. There is a fear of redundancy in connection with the opening of these new steel works. There is a possibility of that, and the leaders of the industry are by no 11 means sure how big the redundancy problem will be. I can only say that in overseas markets, the demand for tin and steel plate is as heavy as it has ever been and looks like increasing, so that, as far as I can judge, the opening of these new plants will not result in redundancy, but in an increased demand and more work. Nevertheless, the Government have to face the possibility of redundancy, and they are not just sitting down waiting for that to happen without doing something about it. They have planned to provide advance factories. In the past, as we know, the Government have had to consider, in permitting the building of factories, whether they would achieve the earning or saving of dollars. The Government had to apply that test. But in certain areas, like the one I am talking about now, the Government ease these tests in order that the factories will be there to provide work, should there be any unemployment. This applies particularly to West Wales.
In the report it says that the advance factory programme is now finished, and that of the 38 factories constructed, only one remains unlet. I am not able to reconcile that statement with what the hon. Gentleman has just said.
This is in addition to that. What I am trying to say is that in West Wales, at present, where there may be unemployment because of redundancy in the steel industry, we are making pro- vision for a new factory in the Swansea district. If the, problem necessitates it, another one will be provided at a later stage. We want to be assured that there will be a substantial tenant for this advance factory at Swansea, so employment will be of a continuing nature.I turn now from the basic industries to the diversifying light industry. Before the war, men were mainly employed only in the basic industries and there was no employment for women, but as a result of what has been done by the Labour Government it has been possible to employ in the manufacturing industries double the number engaged in the mines. The Government have done all they can to use the old munition works that were in Wales. In addition, they have brought about the development of new factories and have either built them themselves or encouraged private enterprise to build them. In the case of three Royal Ordnance factories they have developed three new industrial estates. I would be the last to suggest that we have done all that is necessary. That is only an attempt to tackle the problem. We recognise that we have more to do, and we shall continue to carry out this policy. Indeed, the number of factories under construction and licensed to be built is 93, and 96 new factories have been approved though they are not yet licensed. We have found, of course, that it would be an advantage to have a factory down on the site ready for industry to take over, rather than to wait for industry to come there and say, "Will you build a factory to our requirements?" The Government, therefore, have provided advance factories so that the incoming tenant has a factory readily available and does not have to wait one or two years before he can start production. Thirty-six of these 38 advance factories have been allocated and they are employing nearly 2,000 more people than were employed a year ago when we were last debating this subject. Since 1945, 450 new firms have been introduced into South Wales alone. It would be wrong of me to attempt to deal with rearmament, but I ought to say, in passing, that the Government in their rearmament programme certainly have the development areas very much in mind. To date, 10 per cent. of the additional rearmament contracts placed have gone to Wales and, of course, there will be indirect benefits from the increased steel, increased coal and many other items that are required. Turning now to the unemployment situation, I can confirm the figure given to the House that it is at present 3.5 per cent. of the insured population. But I do not confirm that it is the heaviest. It is heavy enough, but Merseyside has a higher percentage than Wales. However, since the last debate there are 3,000 fewer unemployed, which is an indication that the problem is being tackled. When we compare figures for the past we find that in 1932 there were 238,000 unemployed, or 39 per cent., in 1946 there were 61,000, or 8.5 per cent. Today the figure is 33,000, or 3.5 per cent. The greatest problem in connection with unemployment, of course, is that of the disabled workers. There are 64,000, or 7 per cent., of the insured population in Wales disabled. That is a very large number and of those 64,000 there are 10,700 unemployed. However, here again the figure is 2,000 less than the figure we had when we debated this matter last year, which shows that an improvement is being made. The disabled men are provided for in the Remploy factories. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is here and that is the special responsibility of his Department. They employ many disabled men. In my Department we have the Grenfell scheme. All the Grenfell factories are let. I had the pleasure of going to Ammanford this year and taking part in the letting of the last one. In connection with the Grenfell scheme I should say that if it should so happen that the factories were not being taken up we should not hesitate to change the terms. It is important that these factories should be used. We have changed the terms to some extent in this sense, that if there is a firm with a parent factory, which also wants a Grenfell factory we are prepared to let it on the terms that overall the same number of disabled men are employed as would have to be employed in a Grenfell factory alone. Only one factory has been let under those terms. All the others have been let under the full terms of the Grenfell scheme. There are other factories in addition to the Grenfell factories, which have been let on the Grenfell terms. Disabled workers are, of course, many in number and so we must rely, in the main, upon new industries to help them. Four hundred and fifty of these have been introduced, and those that employ 20 or more are asked to make up 3 per cent. of their employees from among disabled men. In a recent survey of 400 factories it was found that the percentage of disabled employed was nearer 8 per cent. That means, in estimated figures, that somewhere about 50,000 disabled men are employed in the industries that have been introduced. Reference has been made in the debate to the rural areas. I want to conform to the wishes of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, but I should like to refer to those areas in passing. Agriculture and forestry have benefited by Government action in introducing the Forestry Act, 1945, the Hill Farming Act, 1946, and the Agriculture Act, 1947, to say nothing of our attempts to deal with rural water supplies and sewage under an Act passed some time ago. There is much leeway to make up and the Government will not hesitate to take action. I hope we shall be able to debate this at greater length on another occasion. There has been some criticism during the debate of the firms that have been introduced into Wales. I think this criticism can be summarised as alleging that they are of an unsatisfactory financial standing, that they are only branch factories of parent undertakings, and that their production is flimsy. This may be true in some cases, but it does not apply universally. When it comes to letting a factory or leaving it idle one may sometimes let it to the wrong customer. The Government have applied stringent tests. In the case of a factory that is to go on one of the estates the estate company concerned is careful to examine the financial position of the company, and only if it is satisfied on that point, does it allow the factory to go into production. If a firm builds its own factory I think it is reasonable to assume that its financial standing is such as to allow it to go into full production. It should be said with regard to branch undertakings that many of them are employed on work which has necessitated removal from the industrial centre of this country for strategic reasons. Or it may be that entirely new production has been started, and that new production can be carried out better in the new area than in the old established centre. With reference to "flimsy" production, whatever our economy may be, some less essential goods are desirable, and to that extent it is perhaps necessary to introduce this kind of light industry to obtain a balanced economy. I can assure hon. Members who raised the point that the Government are constantly concentrating upon the need to get the right kind of industry in order to provide stable employment in Wales and, indeed, elsewhere. I believe that what I have said indicates that the Government have not only given consideration to the matter but have given effect to the many considerations involved. The most important thing is that there should be no slipping back. If we can hold our gains, that in itself is a most desirable thing. If we can improve upon them so much the better; and, of course, we shall try to do so. If I may end on a personal note, I should like to say that in 1935 I became associated with a Welsh miner. He was and is the general secretary of my own trade union, the National Union of Public Employees. He told me a lot about Wales. I know that the Welsh people have a passion for education and culture. I know they have a keen interest in their religious and social institutions. They have an ancient language. I know what caused more damage to all that than anything else. It was mass unemployment. So far as I am concerned in today's debate, I want to say that the prevention of economic insecurity is the best way in which we can be sure that the ancient heritage of the Welsh people is preserved for all time.
The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) sought to have a bit of a wisecrack at my expense when he said that I knew nothing about the Welsh language. It is quite true that I do not know as much about it now as I used to know, but some years before he was born, every Sunday I used to go to Sunday school in Wales because that is where we were taught to read the Bible in Welsh. At the day school we only learnt it in English. Although I have forgotten a good deal of what I then learned, I still remain a rather enthusiastic Welshman.
I only indulged in what the hon. Gentleman calls a wisecrack because he was muttering something about the Welsh language.
I merely said that somebody had suggested Wales was a nation, and I said it was a language. There is something in that, because a large number of people who speak Welsh in South Wales are descendants of English agricultural labourers who went into the coalmines. They are not Welsh at all. It is just as well to bear that in mind. I have some claim to be Welsh. My father was from Caernarvonshire and my mother from Montgomeryshire. She was English-speaking, and she could only talk with her mother-in-law when my father acted as interpreter. My grandmother could not speak English at all.I rejoiced when the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who has now left the Chamber, said that the Welsh had a deep faith in education. That is true. It is extraordinary what happened in the rural villages of North Wales in days gone by. My father, who died many years ago, walked nine miles a day to go to a secondary school. Of course, today a benevolent Board of Education provide scholars with taxis, but there were no taxis in those days. It is true there is a fanatical devotion to education among the Welsh people. It was Wales which started the county schools about 55 years ago. Their secondary education was streets ahead of that of England. But we are not primarily discussing those problems today. We are going to discuss the industrial problems. I am amazed to find how few who live in England have been to Wales. I have been surprised at the number who have no knowledge at all of the lovely scenery of Wales. It is interesting to look at the Welsh map. As a boy I lived in Cheshire, I could see across the Dee to Moel Fanau, Flintshire's mountain, where we have an iron and steel industry and a coal industry of importance—an industry with which is associated the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers). In parts of Denbighshire a great deal of farming is carried on, and as we move further south into Caernarvonshire and Merioneth we have the slate quarries and a good deal of agriculture. Moving further south we come to an area which is primarily agricultural, and then we come to the great South Wales area which dominates Wales in population and industry, with its coal going down and iron and steel coming up. It is South Wales which has presented many of our great problems. Let us advertise to the people of England the great tourist possibilities of Wales. A very large proportion of the people of Wales earn their living by providing facilities on the beautiful Welsh coast and in inland resorts such as we find in Radnorshire which are not patronised as much as they might be by English people. The Council for Wales might do a bit more for tourism in Wales. It was my privilege just over two years ago to become chairman of the largest political conference ever held in Wales.
It must have been a Labour conference.
No, it was not. The Conservative Party conference, being held on a democratic basis, has four times as many delegates as ever attend a Labour Party conference, and we have no card vote. However, I have no wish to get into this kind of controversy. I was amazed to find the large number of delegates at that conference who had never before been along that lovely coast of Flintshire, Denbighshire and Caernarvonshire and many other places further south. We ought to do a little more to advertise tourism in Wales, because it is an important factor in the economy of the Principality.I think South Wales owes an enormous debt to the late Lord Portal. As Sir William Portal in the days of the grave distress in South Wales, he was commissioned by the then Government to report on the position there. I believe other people reported on the North-East coast and Cumberland. As a result of what Lord Portal did, there were established the first trading estates in South Wales, and in particular one with which I am familiar, the Treforest estate, which is in the constituency of one of the Officers of the Household whom I am glad to see on the Front Bench. I refer to the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson). He knows the place very well because he has visited the factory of which I am chairman, though I am only a nominal share- holder. It happened to be the first factory opened on the Treforest Trading Estate, and I think the first factory opened on any trading estate in South Wales. That goes back to 1937. Two refugees from a certain part of Central Europe thought that from the point of view of their religious beliefs they were better out of Germany. I only met them after they arrived, and they started an enterprise. I am not seeking to advertise their products; they are selling all they can produce at the moment. There was no suitable labour for that factory in South Wales; the managing director had to train all the labour because there was no similar factory in the whole of South Wales. I merely mention that to indicate that I have some knowledge of the problem that existed there. Some of the enterprises that started have been very successful, although others have been less successful. There have recently been great developments. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), who is very interested in nylons, would be delighted if she travelled in a motor car in South Wales and found a great nylon spinning works. They make only the yarn there. Somewhere else, I think, they are making those things which seem essential to the comfort of the modern woman. [An HON. MEMBER: "Those elusive things."] I do not know whether they are elusive or not, but I understand the great advantage is that they do not ladder so easily and that if they are washed they can be dried without any trouble. As a devoted husband, I am sometimes instructed by my wife to do the washing and I find that if I put nylons over a towel they are perfectly dry in the morning. I cannot achieve the same results with my own socks. These remarks, of course, were not in my notes but I was led into them by injudicious interruption. I wonder whether enough attention is paid by those interested in Wales to the influence of petroleum on Wales. In one of these documents there is a reference to the great refinery at Llandarcy, which I think is near Swansea, where last year they refined two million tons of petroleum. We all rejoice in that; it gives employment to people and makes sure that more of the refining process takes place in this country, which is an advantage. We are not importing the oil in a refined form, but are importing the crude oil and obtaining the petrol, lubricating oil, the paraffin and all the other things which are obtained from the fractional distillation—cracking is, I believe, the correct term—of petroleum. Nevertheless, it was petroleum which caused the grave unemployment in Wales. South Wales owed its prosperity primarily to the export of coal for ships' bunkers and coaling stations all over the world, to supplying coal for our own Navy and other navies, and supplying coal for passenger ships. For strategic reasons, in the case of navies, coal has ceased to be the fuel used. For technical reasons, for cleanliness and for other reasons, it has ceased to be employed for the propulsion of passenger ships. The vast unemployment in South Wales, which was built up after 1919, was primarily due to petroleum, not to four years of Liberal misrule—and I see that the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) is no longer in her place; not to so many years of Tory misrule or to subsequent years of Socialist misrule, but to petroleum. In fact petroleum was the dominating factor. Everybody knows that, but people do not mention it often enough. It should be pointed out. As a result, South Wales was left with this tragic army of unemployed, and the extraordinary thing was the number who did not want to leave South Wales. They remained there in the vain hope of returning to the pits. It is a most extraordinary thing, as the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) knows; he and I are good personal friends. It is perfectly true that adequate recognition was never given to the tragedy. What is the use of saying that there were so many unemployed coalminers in South Wales? In one sense they were coalminers, but in another sense they were not. Last night I decided that I should like to take part in this debate and I looked up a few figures. I hope I have them correctly, but it was about 11 o'clock last night when I was looking for them. I had two separate books of statistics and one of them was the Annual Digest of Statistics. If my information is right, employment in the coalmines of South Wales and Monmouthshire, which was treated as part of South Wales for this purpose, reached its maximum in 1923, when there were 253,000 on the books of the colliery companies. I do not say that that was the number at work on each particular day, but that was the number entitled to be at work, unless they were absent because they did not want to work that day or were sick. At any rate, they were not unemployed.
The figure recorded for 1920 is 273,000.
I obtained my figures from this statistical abstract for the United Kingdom. Perhaps they did not have a Welsh editor. I think the hon. Member for Gower is thinking of the total number of people registered as miners. I am dealing with the number on the colliery books. Let us assume that he is right, however, and that I am wrong; it was a very large figure. I said 253,000; he said 273,000. As I indicated, I obtained these figures very late last night after taking some part in the Festival of Britain in this Chamber, and that may have misled my eyes.That figure fell precipitously and by 1938 had dropped to 135,000. There were a lot of people who were unemployed in South Wales at that time who declared themselves to be miners, but who, for some reasons, would not move. As a broad proposition, very few of the factories established on the trading estates have taken in miners—people who have worked in the mines. I know a shop steward in a place in which I am interested who used to be a miner and who thinks that the factory in which I am concerned is better than the mines. That may be due to a change of boss or to a change of employment—I am not certain which. There still remained, however, a lot of people described as unemployed miners. I turn now to 1948. The number of people in work in the mines was 108,000. In 1950 it was 102,000 so that, in fact, there were 30,000 fewer people in work in the coal mines of South Wales than in 1938. The older people have died or have ceased to seek employment; they are no longer on the register. Thus, when the Minister of Fuel and Power, talks about full employment he should remember that the trouble with the coalmines is that, for a variety of reasons, people have drifted away from the mines and are drifting away from them more rapidly today than they did in pre-war days—and that cannot be blamed on Tory misrule. That was the tragic effect. As a result of the change in the shipping situation Cardiff has suffered in particular, and more than Swansea. Presumably because they are more concerned with the import of iron ore and the export of tin plate, and because they are very much concerned with the petroleum developments, the people of Swansea have not suffered in the same way. Cardiff has suffered catastrophically, and the employment provided in Cardiff in that direction is much less than it used to be. We ought to bear in mind the catastrophic effect on South Wales of this switch-over from coal to petroleum as a means of the propulsion of ships. Petroleum has had another effect. I do not want to trespass on a debate which is to be held on another day, when hon. Members will discuss the rural problems of Wales, but I must point out that petroleum has had a curious effect on agriculture in mountainous areas. The more we mechanise the agriculture of the plains the more it is possible to remunerate adequately the ordinary farm worker. On the other hand, one cannot mechanise sheep on the hillsides. One of the problems we face is the depopulation of the agricultural mountainous land in every country in the world. The more we mechanise an industry the higher is the output per man-hour and the higher is the remuneration we can offer. The depopulation which has taken place is, again, in part a petroleum problem, and I ask hon. Members to consider it. It may be rather a new thought to many; it is rather a new thought to me; but it is worth while bearing it in mind, because there are some forces which one cannot resist. There has been a suggestion that there should be a Welsh Parliament. Although I have lived in England for many years, and although the two constituencies I have represented have been English constituencies, I retain my affection for Wales and I go there very frequently. They seem to like me when I go there. The other evening I had a meeting at Brecon. The population is only 6,000, yet the number at the meeting was 1,500, which seemed an undue proportion of the total population. I understand some had come in buses from elsewhere, but that does not matter; it was a good meeting. [An HON. MEMBER: "There were many curious people."] I am disturbed about what I call Welsh nationalism. The plain truth of the matter is that Wales is economically dependent upon England. Scotland is dependent upon England.
For what? Not for men.
They are dependent on England. Later on we may get a report on the financial relationships between England and Wales, as on those between England and Scotland. It will be found that Wales does depend on English money. Let us consider the road problem. In the north of Scotland they could only develop the roads with a 100 per cent. grant from the Ministry of Transport. At the meeting I was at at Brecon I heard an insistent demand for an improvement of the roads in central Wales. I think they need improvement. That cannot be done out of local resources. Hon. Members have only to look at the statistics about the yield of a penny rate in Wales to see that.It has to be English money that will solve some of these Welsh problems. It has to be English money to solve the not so great problems of Scotland. If the Welsh want Home Rule they have to pay for Home Rule. I shocked some hon. Friends of mine before the war who had a Motion down about Home Rule. I shocked them by proposing to add at the end of their Motion words to the effect that they could have it provided they paid for their unemployment insurance, their health insurance, and all the rest of it. They were all very angry with me because I shocked them.
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that England took a considerable amount of money in the past out of both Wales and Scotland?
I do not know. The United Kingdom collects the taxes for the lot. But hon. Members must bear in mind what is paid out of that money on local services, for that is the real test—and that is apart from the expenses of general services, such as defence, and all the rest of it. Scotland and Wales are in fact, subsidised by England.
I am sorry to interrupt a fellow Caernarvon man, but how can he come to that definite conclusion when he knows that the full facts and figures about the Welsh contribution are not available?
They used to publish them in the old arguments about Home Rule for Ireland and with regard to Scotland. In those days it was perfectly clear that Scotland was definitely dependent on England and Wales. I remember reading the figures. It was probably before the hon. Member was born. Moreover, my memory is pretty retentive. I have not the precise figures, but I remember the truth of the general statement. One has only to look at the vast areas of mountainous country in Scotland, and the similar characteristics of Wales, to know it must be so.That is why I have always resisted proposals for making Wales separate. I regard them as completely reactionary. We have got half the world trying to federate Europe and the other half of the world trying to de-federate the United Kingdom. It seems to me that there is something to be said for leaving some things alone. [Laughter.] I am glad I am getting some support from someone like the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who was doing a good job of work at Strasbourg, if I may say so. Nevertheless, there is a problem. There is a sense of dissatisfaction. There is a feeling that Wales, to use a common phrase, is not getting a fair crack of the whip. The Conservative Party have considered that, and at a Conservative Party conference over which I presided a resolution was passed which I may summarise by saying that our view is that there ought not to be a Minister for Wales but a Minister, comparable to the Lord Privy Seal or the Lord President of the Council, in my judgment, who would have supervisory responsibility over all the other Departments in so far as they deal with Welsh problems. We have the Welsh Board of Health under the Minister of Health already. The Minister happens to be a Welshman now. Sometimes it is a Scotsman. There is seldom an Englishman in charge of the health of Britain. I remember that at one time the Secretary of State for the Home Department was a Scotsman and the Minister of Agriculture was a Scotsman, and the Minister of Health was a Scotsman, and the two last Ministers had responsibility for affairs in Wales. That all shows how very tolerant we in England are.
Does that not show the contribution that Scotland makes to the health of England?
I agree, but I should like to know what would happen in Edinburgh if I were appointed Secretary of State for Scotland.
Mr. Ernest Brown was.
Yes, but he had been elected to represent a Scottish constituency—Leith.However, there is a conflict in Wales, to which reference has already been made, between the Forestry Commission and the farmers. I do not know the exact area affected, but I heard very distressful stories about how families running the same hill farms for generations were now apparently to be turned out in order that trees might be planted. It may be that the Forestry Commission are right, but I do think that there ought to be some consideration given before the State, or an agent of the State, by violent action expropriates people from holdings which have been theirs for generations. I am not judging that particular case. I do not know enough about it. But I am impressed by the sense of anger and frusstration I discovered on this subject when I was in Wales the other day. This sort of thing is going on not only in Wales. The Earl of Iveagh, who served for many years in the House of Commons, is fighting exactly the same battle in Suffolk, where, at great expense, he has turned what was bad land into good land producing a great deal of food; and now it is to be taken away from him by the Forestry Commission unless he succeeds in his appeal under the procedure. We all know that we want trees, but, on the other hand, there ought to be a balance in these matters. I see the Postmaster-General on the Front Bench. He is not getting any wrong numbers today, but he is here to defend the interests of Wales. He is a Welsh miner. I shocked a lot of miners when I was speaking in Swansea some two years ago. [Laughter.] Oh, I shocked them all right. I believe in shocking my audience. It is one way of making them sit up. It is an awful tragedy that some miners of South Wales are suffering from the worst of moral diseases—undue self pity. It is true. I hope it does not shock anyone here if I say so. It is true, I think, of miners throughout the country, but particularly true in South Wales; and the right hon. Gentleman and others of his colleagues by their propaganda have helped to induce that attitude. It is a terrible thing to inflict that sort of inferiority complex by talking all the time about the "boss class." The boss class in those days were mainly Liberals, not Conservatives. Most of the coal barons in South Wales were Liberals when I was a youngster. We have the National Coal Board now. It is still the boss class. It is a boss class just as bad now as it was bad then. The miners are all very unhappy. They are leaving their jobs. There is no happiness in the nationalised coal mining industry. Nearly half the strikes that take place in this country are in the nationalised coalmining industry. I do not want to introduce a note of undue controversy on an occasion when Welsh people are trying to be united, but even at the. National Welsh Eisteddfod they have a few dissensions, and this is the first Welsh Eisteddfod we have staged in this new Chamber. However, I do hope that this debate, though there are not many English Members present, may receive reasonable publicity in our much reduced newspapers, and that it will draw the attention of the people of England to the fact that Wales—although we have a lot of Socialists in South Wales and a lot of Liberals in North Wales—has some perfect tourist resorts which are worth visiting, and which will bring immense advantage to that perfectly beautiful country, which I always visit with the utmost pleasure.
I am very pleased indeed that I have sat throughout this debate listening to the sensible, practical speeches that have come from every part of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who has just spoken as a Conservative, is proud, I believe, at being a Welshman. I, too, am proud of being a member of that small community. We have an old saying in Wales which expresses my thoughts better than any words I could choose of my own. It sounds better in the euphemistic words in which it was handed down to us:
Translated it says, "Hateful the man who loves not the land that bore him." Scott said something equally fine in his eulogy of his native country."Cas gwr na charo'r wlad ai maco."
There is something wrong with a man who does not love the land to which he belongs and the people from whom he sprang. I am very proud of the place that Wales has held in the country and in this House, where it has made a tremendous contribution. Seventy-five per cent. of the possible Welsh membership of this House belongs to the Labour Party. The Welsh are democrats. There is an explanation for all things, and this afternoon we have done well in emphasising the physical explanation for the changes in fortune that have befallen this little country. I am a planner, and just as I like to explain the reason for a break down, I also like to examine and analyse the elements in reconstruction. In the little country of Wales, with an area of 8,000 square miles, for as far back as departmental statistics carry us, which is over 100 years, we nourished roughly one in 15 of the entire population of the British Isles. Our proportion is smaller today, for we have 2½1 million of the total population of over 50 million, which is about 5 per cent. of the population of the British Isles. What is the explanation? Is the country intrinsically too void of resources to maintain its due proportion? I do not believe so. I should like to remind my own countrymen, as well as those who are not expected to know Wales as well as we know it, that 100 years ago Wales produced half the iron production of the British Isles. At the same time she produced one-third of the coal production of the British Isles—an enormous disproportion of production and service given by and exported from Wales for the sustenance of Britain. No country in the world has exported so large a quantity and so high a value in proportion to her population as Wales. The hon. Member for Croydon, East, referred to the coaling of ocean-going steamers, and I would remind the House that the British Navy has had an incomparable advantage in being able to have the coal from South Wales. I should like to sit down to plan the future of Wales. I am not at all pessimistic. I believe that we can fix a figure of population which we might fairly be entitled to maintain. We are now 2½ million. We had 2¾ million 20 years ago. Three million is a fair target; I think the figure should be higher. If we budget for a larger population we must also budget for a larger production of the goods which flow through the channels of trade. We can pay our way as we go, and let Britain as a whole buy her proportion of the commodities we cannot get at home. Wales must be an exporting country. We are not now able to export coal in as large a quantity as I should like to see exported. I say in the presence of my coalmining colleagues that in Wales we should aim at an annual production of not less than 30 million tons a year. I should put the steel production figure for Wales at about four million tons, which is substantially above our present level. For tinplate and strip tinplate I would put a target production figure of two million tons. Production only needs to be brought up to that level in those three main elements, and Wales becomes at once the most prosperous country in Europe. There is nothing too ambitious about those figures. There is nothing we cannot do. In agriculture Wales has its disadvantages, because the average level of Wales physically is hundreds of feet higher than the average level of England. Excuse the conceit, but in my opinion the average level of Wales intellectually is substantially higher. When considering the problems of transport and movement, it must be remembered that we cannot have the railways anywhere except in the valleys, and it will be difficult to construct main roads needed especially to deal with modern traffic, except along the main valleys, with suitable inter-valley communications to link up. I am glad that the House has approached this problem with far more judgment and far more appositeness than it has done on previous occasions. There is to be another debate, when larger considerations will be before us. I have been many years in this House and am a great admirer of this institution. I know of no better Parliamentary House in the world. I do not think there is a more universally representative planning authority than this House. I hope that we shall come back with a plan for Wales for early consideration, first for the material problem involved, secondly in the commercial field in world association, and thirdly, that we shall come here without prejudice in considering how to heal the decayed portions of a small nation which deserves well of Britain."Breathes there the man with soul so dead. …"
I should like, first of all, to say how very proud I am to have the honour of following the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell): This is the first time I have spoken in this House in a Welsh debate, and I know that hon. Members opposite will not take it amiss if I say that I would rather follow the hon. Member for Gower than anyone else, because he is held in such high esteem in all parts of the House. I hope he will forgive me if today I start by saying something with which I started a speech in Swansea not long ago, when I told the story of a small boy in Cardiff, of whom we often speak, who ended his prayers by saying, "Goodbye God. Tomorrow I am going to Swansea." I feel rather like that myself in coming here for my first Welsh day, as the only Tory on the Taff south of Flint and west of Monmouth.Welsh Day, like Christmas Day, comes but once a year, although I believe that is to be remedied in future. As far as we can, I believe that we shall try to persuade the Government to grant our demands. Ogden Nash, the American poet, said:
"Things are always what they seem,
And this is wisdom's crown.
Only the game fish swims upstream
Nevertheless, things are not always what they seem. I have listened with interest to the Secretary for Overseas Trade in his admirable stocktaking, and I think he should be congratulated on resisting the temptation to spoil the stocktaking by striking out on both sides of the counter. But I cannot help wondering why he chose 1932 as the particular year, in the midst of "Tory misrule," for quoting unemployment figures. I can only imagine that it was because that year was the first anniversary of the then Labour Party out of office, and they were very thankful to be out. There is a second point on which things are not what they seem. To judge from the White Paper or the Blue Book concerning the state of the South Wales ports neither the paragraphs on it nor Table 8 give a clear picture of Cardiff docks. I hope that in future years we shall have a review in the Blue Book showing the number of ships entering the ports, the number of men on the dock register of each, the average number of unemployed per day and the export and import figures of main commodities for each port. The Blue Book conceals the true and tragic situation of Cardiff docks today. If we compare the figures for 8th October this year with those of last year we find the following decrease. Cardiff, down 51,000 odd tons; Penarth, down 38,000 tons; Barry, down 64,000 tons, making a total of 154,000 tons. On an estimate, on the basis of those figures, this year will be a worse year than last. Or again, in terms of shipping—281 fewer ships have entered this year than last. If we compare the estimate for this year with 1938, of the total trade—and 1938 was itself not a very good year—we see that the trade of Cardiff is down by 3,300,000 tons.The sensible fish swims down."
Is it the hon. Gentleman's case that there should be direction of shipping into the quiet ports?
I will give the hon. Member the answer in my own way. Barry is shown by 3,178,000 tons and against this downward trend of six and a half million tons, Penarth shows a rise of 20,000 tons. The hon. Member asked whether I advocated the direction of shipping. The answer to that is "No," nor, I believe, do Gentlemen opposite, certainly not the Front Bench. Perhaps if I am wrong on that point I shall be corrected later.Looking at the problem in terms of the state of the national dock labour register for the month ended 11th February, 1950—and this is Cardiff dock workers only— the total number of men on the dock register was 1,056 and the average number per day unemployed during this particular period was 215. We get a downward trend every month from February to October of the total number on the dock register. The fall is from 1,056 to 1,020, and no replacements. If we look at the month of September, which was the worst, we find that one-third of the total men on the dock register were unemployed every day. These figures are calculated on the exclusion of men transferred to other ports. As the hon. Member for Barry (Mrs. Rees) knows, similar conditions prevail there. I do not have to stress to the House what the effect of this slump is on the ancilliary trades and services in the ports. Taking into account the factors I have given I am sure that the House will appreciate that the Prime Minister's reply to a Question which I put to him on 26th October, 1950, caused great concern, to put it mildly. I asked the Prime Minister whether he was aware of the lack of trade at the Cardiff ports. I will not weary the House with the whole of the Question and the Prime Minister's answer, except to quote the first sentence of his reply:
I do not wish to appear ungrateful for the fruits of Government action. It was a good thing when, in 1947, the Minister of Food made arrangements for the importation of 7 per cent. of the nonperishable foodstuffs to come to the South Wales ports. It was a good thing for them that he made arrangements for their cold storage to receive 3½ thousand tons of meat and dairy produce every six weeks. Neither do I quarrel with the Prime Minister's dictum about private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by saying:"I am not aware of any substantial falling off in the trade of the port of Cardiff in the last two or three years but there has been a loss of tonnage on export coal as compared with pre-war years."
Of course, private enterprise could be more enterprising, and it would be, in my view, if there were greater incentives for industry to take risks, and if there were better opportunities for new entries into trade and industry. I think that the figures I shall quote show that the results of private traders efforts compare favourably with those subject to State control. If we compare the figures for 13th November, 1938, with those for the almost comparable period of 5th November, 1949, we see that the imports of grain and flour are down. On the other hand, iron ore is up, and oil and spirit is up. Mining timber is down, and general and other cargoes are slightly up. The State controls, to a large extent, imports of grain and timber and much food that comes into our docks. It cannot, therefore, shed the load of responsibility to private enterprise for the state of Cardiff Docks. Moreover, let it now be remembered that in times of war South Wales ports are necessary for the survival of the whole nation. It is impossible to divorce the prosperity of the Cardiff Docks from that of the coal fields. I am afraid that is a platitude. As the House well know, my family has not been unacquainted with the coal fields. I was a little surprised when the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) said that in 1938 our mines were the most technically backward in Europe. I only present these figures to him because they reveal the gravity of the problem. In 1938, if we exclude opencast coal, the coal output was 35,292,800 tons and in 1949 just under 23 million tons. I do not want to press the point too far. There are strong differences which divide us upon it. I want, however, to say one thing: I am sorry that the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) is not here. I am sorry to have to quarrel with my own side when I have so much to quarrel over with the opposite side, but I do not think that it helps to go about saying that the miners are suffering from a sense of self-pity. That may or may not be true; but I think that if it were true, it is all the more damaging to say so. I want to say, also, that I do not think that it is altogether fair to blame the Government for the exodus of people from the mines. They have greater choice of employment. It is a dangerous, difficult and unattractive calling. I deny the right of anyone in times of peace to benefit from coal production which has been mined at the expense of other men's liberty. The first memories I have of my father was of him coming home straight from work at the pit with coal dust still on him and taking a look at his children before cleaning himself. That is a memory which may be shared by other hon. Members opposite. I agree with the spirit of the letter, written by "Ex-Miner," that appeared in the "Observer" on Sunday. He states:"… to obtain an increased share of trade for a particular port, much depends on the initiative of the local trading and shipping interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1950; Vol. 478, c 403.]
I agree, but I know that that climate is conditioned as much as anything else by politicians. To play up the grievances of the past or of the present, and both are real, involves the risk of swamping a sense of service with an overwhelming and blinding sense of grievance. The finest news that could reach Cardiff Docks would be the success of nationalisation expressed in terms of trucks and coal. I hope, too, that the National Coal Board are bearing Cardiff in mind in selecting ports for the imports of coal from America and elsewhere. I ask the Government, although I know that it is partly in vain, to do four things for the Cardiff Docks. I ask them to increase the imports into our docks of State-controlled commodities, to improve communications with the Midlands as a matter of urgent priority, to frame their financial policy so as to encourage risk-taking by old firms and new, and to remove the threat of nationalisation from the steel industry. So much for the calm and sad and often empty waters of Cardiff Docks. I regret having to turn now to a matter on which I have been asking the Postmaster-General Questions. It is a matter in which I have a remote interest, and that is the question of television in Wales. The reason why I have a slight or perhaps strong personal interest in this is because I believe that at one time the home in which I was brought up, but in which I have no financial interest at stake, was considered as a possible studio and television station site. I am not absolutely certain about this, but I want to raise the question of the television station site. It is strange, in view of the fact that on 25th May the Postmaster-General's approval was sought for the site and was granted on 26th June, that there is no mention of it in the Report, which takes us up to 30th June. As the House knows, Cardiff Rural District Council, in co-operation with the Glamorgan County Council, objected to the selected site and suggested St. Lythan's Downs. Since then, five months have elapsed. I hope that the Postmaster-General will be able to tell us that the site has been acquired, or that the negotiations are now far advanced. Who is to blame for this? If someone is to blame, the House and the country should be told. The Postmaster-General, not unnaturally, says that he is not to blame. He suggests that the Cardiff Rural District Council is to blame. In passing, I apologise to the hon. Member for Barry for raising a matter which concerns her constituency, although I am doing so by agreement and it is a matter that concerns us all. Whoever is to blame, it is not the Cardiff Rural District Council. That is confirmed by the Minister of Town and Country Planning who, in reply to a Question I put to him, said that there had been no unnecessary delay. I now come to the Air Ministry. The Secretary of State for Air has admitted a delay of six weeks arising out of a rather extraordinary misunderstanding with the Glamorgan County Council, which is equally concerned; but not with the Cardiff Rural District Council. He stated that he regretted there was a delay in his Department, which was owing to the failure to indicate that the application for the siting of a television mast at St. Lythan's was related to the siting of a television mast at St. Nicholas. When a Minister expresses regret, it would be ungenerous to pursue the matter any further. Therefore, there is no need to say anything more about the delay of six weeks. I now come to the Postmaster-General and the charges he made against the Cardiff Rural District Council on 15th November, 1950. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas) asked him"There is a need of a new social climate in the mining industry."
He replied:"what progress has been made by the British Broadcasting Corporation in its negotiations for a new site for the Cardiff television station and what is the location of the new site."
It seems rather odd that they should have to wait for that, in view of the fact that it was the Cardiff Rural District Council that originally suggested the change. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), whose attention I am always delighted to have, then asked:"The B.B.C. is awaiting the agreement of the local authority before completing negotiations for the acquisition of the new site, which is on St. Lythan's Downs, near Wenvoe."
It is clear that he was under the impression that they were to blame. The right hon. Gentleman replied:"May I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is likely that the rural district council will hold up this development much longer?"
That suggests a lack of co-operation, if it suggests nothing else. I further asked:"I am hoping to get their co-operation in this matter, because we have wasted three months on this."
The right hon. Gentleman's reply was "No, Sir." It subsequently transpired—I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman knew it at the time—that the Air Ministry admitted a delay of six weeks. He went on to say:"Is it not a fact that the rural district council are not holding this up, but that the Air Ministry caused a very long delay, and that they—not the rural district council—are responsible for holding it up?"
The evasion or misunderstanding is very evident from that reply. It did not escape the attention of the House, because my question obviously related to St. Lythan's, as did the original Question. Later, following a Question in regard to a television station for the North of Scotland, I asked the right hon. Gentleman, in a supplementary question, whether:"The St. Nicholas site was cleared with the Air Ministry very quickly. It was the rural district council which stopped it there."
The right hon. Gentleman replied:"some small rural district council is holding up this development?"
The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but there are three charges that are made: that the rural district council held up development; that there was a lack of co-operation on its part and a shared responsibility for wasting three months, if not the entire blame for wasting three months; third, that the rural district council had shown a lack of sense. The right hon. Gentleman laughed. I did not hear his laugh re-echo through the House, but it seems to me that if that were a joke it was a poor one and made at the expense of the Cardiff Rural District Council and, indeed, of Welsh rural district councils as a whole. It is more like a joke that we would expect from someone who was trying to be a poor imitation of Caradoc Evans and not from a Welsh Postmaster-General. It is an ill bird which fouls its own nest. I invite the Postmaster-General to prove that there was any unreasonable delay on the part of the rural district council, and he will then have to disprove the Minister of Town and Country Planning, or lack of co-operation, or lack of sense in the planning objection to the original site which the rural district made."No. In Scotland they seem to have more sense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 1706–7.]
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us if he is speaking for the Cardiff Rural District Council in this matter?
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to me he would have heard me acknowledge that I was speaking about something which was in part of the division of the hon. Member for Barry. I am not speaking for the Cardiff Rural District Council any more than I am speaking for the Glamorgan County Council, because their reputation as the planning authority is at stake, too. I have no claim to speak for either of these bodies, but as a Member of this House, who has seen an injustice done to a small rural district, I want to see it removed. I hope that we shall not be told that this was merely another of the right hon. Gentleman's hypothetical flights of fancy. The Cardiff Rural District Council is only a small rural district council in a small land, but it is as much entitled to have its reputation and good name preserved as any large council or Government anywhere. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to remove the smear which he has put upon this body, whether he intended it or not.
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), in his pursuit of the question of the delay in regard to the site for the new television station in Wales. I was rather surprised to hear him refer to the Cardiff Rural District Council as a small council. It is one of the most important rural district councils in Wales.
What the hon. Lady says is perfectly true, but I am sure she will agree that when compared with the Glamorgan County Council, on which she also serves, she will see that the rural district council is comparatively small.
Yes, the rural district council is comparatively small compared with the Glamorgan County Council, but it is one of the wealthiest if not the wealthiest, rural district councils in Wales, and it could hardly be described as typically rural. It is not my purpose to defend either the county council or the rural district council. I shall leave the Postmaster-General to deal with that point at the end of the debate if he so desires.The hon. Member for Cardiff, North, made reference in some detail to the trade at Cardiff Docks. The question of the volume of trade at the South Wales docks is not a new one, and particularly is that so in Barry. Before the war it was a burning problem. I was a member of the Barry Council, as it was at that time, and we were continually concerned through the years with the depression at the docks. Ship repairing in those days went to the Continent, and Barry suffered as a result. I can claim to know something about the docks problem because I am a docker's daughter. I have lived among the dock workers all my life, and I still live in close proximity to Barry Docks. Therefore I can claim to speak with some experience of the position in South Wales in general and in Barry in particular. There is no need for complacency at the present time in the matter of trade in the South Wales ports. The dock workers are concerned about their future and have expressed great fear about their future employment. Of course, the prosperity of the South Wales ports is linked closely with the prosperity of the mining valleys. Barry docks were built for the export of coal, and the present insecurity is due to the decline in the coal shipments. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, stated, the Government Report is not up-to-date on the present situation at the ports. As far as it goes, it is accurate, but there have been further developments since it was published. In 1949, 2,658,094 tons of coal were dealt with at Barry. In 1948 and 1947 the total was less, but in the first half of 1950 1,343,038 tons were dealt with, giving reason to think that the position was improving. However, since the end of June and the publication of the Report, there has been a steady de- cline with a much greater fall in recent weeks. Indeed, it is estimated that by the end of this year there will be a decline of 300,000 tons on the 1949 figures from Barry. The difficulties of the mining industry are appreciated, but the dock workers with the present sense of insecurity, are concerned for their future. They fear that the coal trade will not return. Certainly, as has been stated by the Member for Cardiff, North, there is an urgent need to develop more general trade in the ports that have been dependent upon the export of coal. It is evident that efforts have been made in the ports in South Wales by the Government Departments including the Ministry of Food, and by the nationalised industries to ensure shipments of goods from the South Wales ports. I would express the hope that that policy will be maintained, and, indeed, that renewed efforts will be made to generalise the trade of these ports. Recently in Barry three vessels were loaded with Government stores for the Far East. We welcomed the loading of those ships in Barry, but greater shipments were made of Government stores from Liverpool and London, where there is less fluctuation in the general trade. The dockers read the shipping journals, as do most people in seaport towns. They follow their friends and relatives from port to port. They read other items too, of how ships are held up waiting for berths at certain British ports. They feel that some of that shipping could be diverted to the South Wales ports and they ask for a fair share of the nation's overseas trade. I received a letter recently, as I gather the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, did too, from the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce. The hon. Member quoted from the letter, so I know that he received it. The letter dealt with the general question of the decline of trade in recent weeks in Cardiff, Penarth and Barry Docks. I was grateful for that information, although the letter contained bad and not good news. I imagine that the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce would not have written to me had trade at the port been improving. The purpose of the letter was to draw the attention of the Government to the situation and to air the problem in this House. That has been done. I think I am now entitled to express the hope that a similar letter was sent to the national body, the Federation of Ship-owners, or whatever may be its proper designation—I understand it is the Shipping Federation—because that body could do more to send ships to South Wales ports than anyone else. For my part, I regret that the Government relinquished their wartime power for the direction of shipping; it would certainly have helped with the difficulties in South Wales at the present time if it had been retained. There is a reference in the Blue Book, on page 14, to the Government's action and encouragement for the improvement of facilities and equipment at various ports in South Wales, and for the modernisation of those ports. I should add that since the publication of that Report the commercial dry dock at Barry, owned by the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive and now under lease to Messrs. Graham Bailey, Ltd., is being widened to 75 ft. by the lessees. It will be ready in 1951 to take the largest types of cargo vessels afloat. I would recall what I said at the beginning of my speech, that in pre-war years much of the ship-repairing which should have been done in South Wales was done on the Continent of Europe. Ship-repairing is dependent on some extent of general trade at the ports. Naturally, being on this side of the House, I must pay tribute to the Government for their policy of encouraging the establishment of factories in the development areas. The ports of South Wales have benefited from that policy. Factories have been opened up in Barry since the war, and new industrial buildings constructed, employing some 1,500 men and 700 to 800 women. The last factory to be completed was for a subsidiary of Distillers, Ltd., British Resin, Ltd., and it is now employing something like 1,200 men. This diversification of employment, which takes up the leeway and balance of unemployed men and women, and particularly of men, at the ports, is greatly appreciated. Our largest industry in the seaport towns is the docks. Our largest industry in Barry is the dock, which now employs directly something like 3,000 men, which is approximately one-third of the male working population of the town of some 40,000 inhabitants. Another 1,000 men are indirectly employed in ancillary industries connected with the ports. Those industries would not be there but for the fact that Barry is a seaport town. I would join with those who have already spoken on this subject in an appeal that something should be done to retain this national asset. At this stage I would pay tribute to Mr. Hugh Edwards, the Chairman of the Council for Wales, for his prompt response when this problem was brought to his attention and for saying that his Council would immediately investigate the problem. Already I gather that he has asked—according to information which I have at home—for a statement to be made by each of the interested parties in this industry so that his Council may sit down and consider the problem and make recommendations at an early date. I hope that there will be no delay about their report and that when the report comes, those who should make their contribution to preserving this industry will do so, whether they be on the Government benches or in the industry itself. I understood that this debate was to be narrowed down to questions of employment and industry in Wales. I would have preferred a wider debate, because I should like to speak about education in Wales. I pay tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education in regard to his guidance as chairman of the working party on educational administration in Wales and the setting up of the Welsh Joint Education Committee. This committee has recently made its first report. The activities of the committee show that it has made a worthy start and I welcome the work that it has done. The Government's Report refers to education and to the Welsh Joint Education Committee. On page 45, reference is made to technical education in Wales, and I am glad to see that a good deal of progress has been made recently both through the activities of the Joint Education Committee and by the local education authorities in Wales to improve the facilities for technical education, particularly in industrial areas. The report of the National Youth Employment Council, just published, on the work of the youth employment services, draws attention to the shortage of accommodation for technical education in many areas in Wales which has—this point is important—
I want to stress the need for further expansion in this sphere in Wales. I know that the Welsh Joint Education Committee has considered technical education in rural Wales. Perhaps that is not necessarily a problem peculiar to Wales. It must be difficult to establish facilities for technical education in any area which is sparsely inhabited, but it certainly is a problem in rural Wales. It is also a problem in those areas where new factories have been established and where new skills are required of the people. I mention this in the hope that there will be further developments in technical and further education in Wales. Another aspect of education in Wales is the problem of the handicapped child. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), has on more than one occasion in the House mentioned the paralysed, spastic children and has deplored the lack of facilities for their education. The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has made reference to the delights which we in Wales have in educational matters and the faith that we place in education for our people. The head of the Welsh Department of Education is reported in one of the daily papers as saying:"militated against the development of plans for progressive training of young workers."
He was referring to handicapped children—"We may compare favourably as far as passing people into universities goes but in the preparation of these poor children"—
The Welsh Joint Education Committee last year dealt with the problem of the deaf child most effectively and had the co-operation of all the education authorities of Wales in establishing, with the help of the Ministry of Education, a school for the deaf at Llandrindod Wells—"we are far behind England. Wales is already aware of the needs of the blind and the deaf"—
The figures which I have are not up-to-date and are not completely reliable. They will become more reliable as ascertainment of these cases through the education authorities improves. The 1949 Report estimates that Wales has 1,636 delicate children of whom only 244 are being educated; 1,145 physically handicapped children of whom 111 are being educated, and 94 epileptic children of whom only 23 are being educated. There are also figures for mentally defective children and the maladjusted. I believe that "educationally subnormal" is the correct description now. I should not like the Government's Report on Welsh activities to go by, without stressing the paragraph dealing with handicapped children and the lack of facilities available for their education. We have referred in the debate to the disabled men. These are disabled children. It is no use talking about training centres and so on for older people if we do not provide a basic education, a foundation for the physically handicapped and delicate children. As a new Member of this House I should like to say how much I appreciate the co-operation of the heads of Government Departments in Wales. They are most helpful. I think this is the moment to express one's thanks to them for their co-operation and assistance. There may be room for criticism of the Blue Book, but it is a most useful document. The annual reports which the Government have inaugurated are worth having. Government action has helped Wales and her seaport towns. We are not complacent and we do not think that all the problems of Wales have been solved, but we feel that something has been done to meet her problems, and I am glad that we shall have another opportunity to discuss the excellent Report produced by the Council for Wales."and schools have been provided for them, but there are categories, such as weak and difficult children and epileptics, for whom no provision is made. We must admit that the picture is an unsatisfactory one reflecting unfavourably on the educational set-up in Wales."
We have all been impressed by the sincerity of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mrs. Rees). I wish I could follow her in her treatment of some of the educational problems of the Principality. I shall not do so because I have come to the debate on the assumption, suggested in the Lord President's statement last week, that today would be devoted more or less to the question of industry and employment in Wales.I welcome this arrangement whereby we concentrate on a specific aspect of the Welsh scene. Past debates on Welsh affairs have appeared to me to be in danger of becoming diffuse and inconclusive because they have ranged over too wide a field. I thought we were in danger of having that happen earlier today when we began to half-handle the constitutional issue. We cannot treat the constitutional question in a series of asides. Later in this Session we must have extra time prescriptively to consider the Report of the Council for Wales and the constitutional issues thrown up by it. Consequently, this afternoon I shall confine myself deliberately to the question of industry and employment. Actually, this subject is not so narrow as some might think, because it is of fundamental importance to Wales, not only economically but socially and culturally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) so ably put it. The chief threat to modern Wales and to our survival as a nation has always been economic insecurity. The story of the inter-war years is well known, when mass unemployment became a chronic feature of the Welsh social structure, when we lost half a million of our youngest and best, and when, even after this massive exodus, we still had an average of 167,000 unemployed in the Principality. The result of this was obviously not only a declining and ageing population; it meant, also, the attrition of the very fabric of our social structure. As the pits closed so did the churches, and as the farm houses were deserted, so were the village Eisteddfodau. Language and livelihood, culture and industry in Wales, more than anywhere, have been linked to-together in adversity and prosperity. Today, the position is vastly different, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mrs. Rees) rightly pointed out, and a great deal of praise is due to the present Government for what it has achieved in the field of industry and employment in Wales. Having given that due credit, it is right for us to point out a number of disquieting factors, and that I now propose to do briefly, offering certain constructive suggestions. First, it is true that the unemployment figure for Wales today is about 33,000, which contrasts most agreeably with the pre-war figure and which is a marked advance on the post-war peak of 70,000 in March, 1946. But what is equally true is that while throughout the United Kingdom some 15 out of every 1,000 of the insured population are unemployed, in Wales the figure is 35, more than double. Now we have our fair share of Income Tax, of military service and of everything else, and it is time we had our fair share of the remunerative work of this country. A second disquieting fact emerges when we analyse the content of the Welsh figure. It is a chilling fact that a very high percentage of our unemployed is partially disabled, about 10,500 or, roughly, one-third of the whole. We know why this is so. Until recently Wales was almost exclusively a land of heavy industry, of dangerous industry. But as the diversification of industry proceeds and the opportunity of lighter occupation increases, we shall more and more reduce the load of industrial casualties. In the meantime we have this hard core of partially disabled unemployed, both in the south and north. In the coalmining areas in the south there are the Grenfell factories which propose to give employment to disabled miners. In the slate quarrying areas of the north factories are projected under the Development Commission. Here may I say to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) that if he is having difficulty about getting the factory built in Ffestiniog I think we might be able to help him in Caernarvon, because the Nantgawr one is actually going up and the cases are fairly analogous.
Yes, but the agitation for the factory at Nantlle started five or six years ago, and that factory is still not completed.
I think that the cases are fairly analogous. They are new factories, designed to take up the slack of unavoidable unemployment in a slate quarrying area, where the traditional industry is no longer able to give full employment.But building new factories is not enough. I think there is a case for the Government paying special attention to their tenancies in areas like this and of assisting them financially so that they may find their feet. After all, their purpose is humanitarian as much as economic They are designed to provide work for men who produced, in the days of their strength and health, enough wealth, and more, to justify a subsidisation of the lighter work provided for them when they are older and disabled. I make a special plea for the tuberculosis disabled, of whom we have far too many in the rural areas of Wales. Can we be a little less punctilious about forcing certain factories, designed to give work to T.B. subjects, to conform exactly with a mass of regulations before they can qualify for financial assistance? Let me give one small example from Caernarvon, a town which I have the honour to represent. As a result of an upsurge of public spirit and voluntary contribution we have there a bright little factory designed to provide work for tuberculosis disabled slate quarrymen, who can do what work they can when they feel like it. Yet we are having the utmost difficulty in qualifying for the grants which we know are available. This is the kind of case where the Departments concerned should slash through the red tape. The third fact which emerges from an analysis of the Welsh figure is that the decrease of 3,000 in the number of our unemployed between 1949 and 1950 is a net decrease, there having been a welcome drop of 4,100 in the development areas, but an actual increase outside them, that is, in rural Wales. All the reasons for that increase are not bad. For instance, a glance at page 18 of the Blue Book will show that mechanisation of Welsh agriculture is now proceeding rapidly, and this is bound for some time to come to cause a certain displacement of workers. There is another reason, quite unconnected with agriculture, for this small but serious rise in rural unemployment. It is a reason to which I draw the attention not only of the President of the Board of Trade but also of the Minister of Supply. During and since the war a great many small engineering concerns have been established in North and West Wales, giving employment to a largely rural population. Unfortunately, some of these concerns are now finding it difficult to obtain orders and are laying off men. At the same time, there are manpower crises in many of the older established engineering undertakings in the tradi- tionally industrialised areas—Birmingham, I heard today, has vacancies for some 40,000 new workers. In Caernarvon a small engineering firm has just closed, and has dismissed some hundreds of highly skilled workers, while, at the same time, near Chester, a large firm is crying out for men. There are two ways in which that kind of paradox can be solved. We can depend upon the effect of protracted unemployment to drive men away from home to where the work exists, or we can take measures to direct overworked firms to sub-contract some of their work to under-employed firms. I come now to a general point. I hope that because our factories in Wales are so new and our workers so adaptable, there will not be a wholesale switchover to rearmament work during the next few months. We have a right to this assurance and to know that, whatever the course of rearmament, a permanent peace-time structure of employment will be maintained in Wales equally with other parts of the country. We assumed at the start of this debate that we would concentrate on industry and employment and would not touch too much upon agriculture. I do not want to do so unduly, but I must mention one aspect of the agricultural industry in Wales which today is probably reducing the number of people who want to enter that industry and, indeed, of those who want to stay in it. I refer to the inordinate and persistent demands for good farming land by Government Departments, particularly the Forestry Commission and the War Department. There is considerable unrest and misgiving in the countryside of Wales about this matter. It is having its effect upon recruitment to agriculture, and is tending to drive people out of Welsh agriculture. The Welsh farmer needs security as much as he needs subsidy. He is exhorted to look up to the Minister of Agriculture, and when he looks down again the Forestry Commission have taken away his farm. We cannot conduct a secure, healthy, effective agriculture on the basis of mistrust, anxiety and uncertainty of that sort. Yet, in spite of all these difficulties and dangers, the general picture from the viewpoint of industry and employment in the Principality is encouraging. I am glad to be able to pay a heartfelt tribute to the work of Members of the Government and the Government as a whole for what they have done in this fundamentally important field of providing an adequate livelihood for the Welsh nation. They have made a magnificent start, although a good deal remains to be done. I believe that the Welsh people agree with me in giving thanks to the Government for what they have done in this field. Certain hon. Members might dissent from that remark, but I believe that the vast majority of our compatriots agree with what I am saying. I end by saying that Abertillery, at least, is practically unanimous about it.
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) should have finished on that note, for I was waiting to hear the Hallelujah Chorus once again. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) began the debate in a mood of optimism and thanksgiving, and I rather hoped that all the other hon. Members who followed would maintain that note. We all welcome the tremendous transformation in the life of the Welsh nation since those dark years before the war, and I believe that everybody would give praise where praise is due in this respect.I was rather sorry, in some ways, that the hon. Member for Caernarvon dealt with the Blue Book. It is an extraordinary document, one of the most scrappy documents I have ever known. I believe it was the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) who described it as "a hotch potch." I would call it "lobscouse," made up of scrag ends, and it will be noticed that the price even of those scrag ends has gone up from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d., although the content is very much the same as in previous years. I am sorry that the scope of the debate is rather limited. Those of us who represent industrious but non-industrial constituencies find ourselves rather at a loss about which subjects we should take up. I very much hope that what the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) said is true, and that we shall have yet another debate at the beginning of next year on the much better report produced by the Council for Wales.
May I correct the hon. Member? It was, in fact, I who made that suggestion.
I beg the hon. Lady's pardon. I thought that there was a little hurried consultation between the two Members. Although the voice is the voice of Flint, the message really came from further south.I should like to draw the attention of the House to a small village in my constituency and to its plight. I do so with great modesty after listening to the plight of the constituents of the hon. Member for Caernarvon and the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), both of whom, I know, have much greater problems in Nantlle and Ffestiniog. Most hon. Members will have heard of the village of Glyn-Ceiriog—it is only a very small village. It added to its fame by lending its name to one of our best lyric poets. This tiny village, although only five miles from the English Border, has maintained an extremely lively Welsh culture. It depends entirely for its livelihood on the quarrying of slate and granite. In September of this year the last quarry in that village was closed, and 70 men were thrown out of work. There is no other industry of any sort in that valley apart, of course, from agriculture. It has become a miniature distressed area, and I plead with the Government to extend the Wrexham development area at least as far as Chirk, so that these men can still live in their Welsh surroundings, enjoying their Welsh culture, and yet earn an honourable livelihood. There is a very tragic point to which I would like to call attention about the Ceiriog Valley. About 25 years ago there was a project for building a reservoir in the Valley. The Warrington Corporation wanted water; they planned a great reservoir there. Had that scheme gone through there would have been enough employment in the Glyn-Ceiriog to have kept the people employed for all time. But what happened? Prejudice, masquerading as Welsh nationalism, was stirred on this subject. The building of that reservoir would have involved the flooding of a considerable area of the upper reaches of the valley. Certain homesteads would have been flooded and, worst of all, a cemetery would have been flooded. A terrible howl went up all over North Wales and vast petitions were signed. People said, "You must not do this." I remember the slogans of the time:
"Drowning Wales to slake the thirst of Englishmen." That prejudice and playing on the emotions were sufficient at that time to bring about a suspension of the scheme and the misery of Glyn-Ceiriog today is to a large extent due to the stupid narrow-mindedness of some of our fellow countrymen, 25 years ago. There are other vast schemes for Wales which might be prejudiced quite as much today, and I beg of fellow Welsh Members, whenever they touch on any development schemes for Wales, to rid themselves, as far as they can, of some of this nationalistic nonsense which might result in the impoverishment of our fellow men. I am going to "stick out my neck" when I mention hydro-electric schemes. There are vast schemes for hydro-electric development in Wales at present. We must have electricity, apart from the human drudgery which lack of electricity entails. I am appalled to read in the Report that in the constituency of the noble Lady the hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) more than 60 per cent. of workers' and farm houses have no electrical supply. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor the situation is even worse and more than 80 per cent. have not these facilities. It is not only the economic side of our life which suffers through lack of electricity, but I believe that our cultural future is jeopardised by that lack. One cannot run a television set on a battery. There will come a time, I hope before long, when we shall have our own broadcasting corporation in Wales, putting across Welsh television programmes. There will be great competition among the Nonconformist ministers as to who is to be the "Charlie Chaplin of the cyfundeb" on television. I believe we can maintain a strong cultural life in rural areas if we can bring to the countryside the amenities of the town in the way of television and broadcasting. There is also the employment side. A lot has been said so far about the lack of co-ordination between our educational system and our industrial system. I can envisage a time when thousands of young Welshmen will be kept fruitfully employed in their own country generating electricity, even if that electricity is exported over the English border. But already a tremendous howl is going up about these hydro-electric schemes. All sorts of prejudices have been raised. I should be the last ever to suggest that any unnecessary damage or desecration should be caused in Snowdonia. I should fight it tooth and nail, but already these prejudices are being worked up. The noble Lady—"Boddi Cymru er Mwyn torri syched Sais"—
Do I take it from what the hon. Member says that he is in favour of the hydroelectric scheme as far as Snowdonia itself is concerned?
As far as hydroelectric schemes for Snowdonia are concerned, I am 100 per cent. in favour of them.
May I qualify that? I said I was 100 per cent. in favour of them but I did not say I was in favour of 100 per cent. of the schemes, too. That is a different thing. I believe there are certain parts of that scheme which would be unpleasant.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but will he be more specific, because I think it is vague generalisations of this kind that prejudice the whole case? He says that he does not wish to have electrification at the expense of desecration of Snowdon. Could he explain to which particular parts of the scheme he takes exception?
I am sorry I have not the scheme in front of me at the moment, but I hope I shall be able to particularise later on. The point I am making is that hon. Members should be very careful before they raise these old prejudices. The noble Lady did a Moses in reverse. She saw the golden calf, then went up the mountain with the Tablets and then broke the Tablets. She turned up there and made a most brilliant speech. Snowdon, we were told, is the temple of our independence and we must keep the money changers out. That is the sort of thing which has kept back development in Wales over a long period. I do hope that as the new Moses the noble Lady will not lead her people back into an alien captivity, be it that of England or of the Socialist Party.
What about Colwyn Bay and the tourists?
Again, we have this prejudice cropping up on the subject of forestry. I read this Report with great enthusiasm. I find, according to the Report, that there is a possibility that some 800,000 acres of Welsh land will be planted by the Forestry Commission, giving employment to 25,000 men. It is a tremendous possibility. I agree with every word that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) said about the need for a plan. Of course, we ought to have a better picture of what parts can be spared for forestry. But I do beg hon. Members not to begin with a prejudice against forestry. There is an odd feeling which many people share that every new invention is the invention of the devil. That kind of attitude is taken up by far too many people and organisations in Wales.Turning to the subject of education in industry, we find that although we have a forestry school at Capel Curig, on an average only six Welshmen attend that school. The number increased this year to 17, but I repeat that on an average only six young Welshmen are taking advantage of that training scheme. I beg that when we consider forestry development in Wales—we should do so with an open mind, and should also think about the tremendous potential which it has in store for the happiness and future of our nation. Let us eliminate this old prejudice. One can already hear the kind of new phrase which will be coined—"Welsh people are to be just lumberjacks in the lumber room of England." That is the sort of phrase that will be coined to defeat any of these schemes. I wish to refer to the tremendous possibilities for the development of the tourist industry in Wales. I should like to pay my tribute to the splendid work which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), has done in that connection. I beg the Minister of Works to be a little more imaginative in the way he treats applications for licences for the improvement of hotel accommodation in North Wales. Most hon. Members will have seen how these applications are treated, and I need not go into that aspect of the matter. In passing, I should like to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, once again, to the facilities and amenities which exist on the North Wales coast for the housing of civil servants. I believe that the whole tourist industry will to a very large extend depend on the extension and the encouragement of festivals and of the arts generally in Wales. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) refer to that point. We need more encouragement for the arts in Wales. Rightly or wrongly we have the feeling that we are not getting a fair share of the financial assistance which is being given in that direction. It has already been mentioned that out of the Festival of Britain expenditure of next year only 0.5 per cent. will be spent in Wales; that is, out of an expenditure of about £10 million about £60,000 will be spent directly by the Festival Committee or its agencies in the Principality. The Arts Council of Great Britain has done splendid work in encouraging the arts in Wales, but we are very doubtful if we are getting, even from the Arts Council, anything like a fair share. The budget of the Arts Council for the next year is about £900,000. The expenditure of the Arts Council in Wales will be about £30,000. I beg all those in authority to press the Arts Council—possibly issue a directive—to reconsider the claims of the arts in Wales. I said at the outset that I was in a very optimistic mood. I share the hope and belief that the hon. Member for Neath expressed in his statement that the golden age for Wales has still to come. May it come soon.
I do not intend to pursue the topic which the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner-Evans) has pursued and to dilate upon the prejudices of my fellow countrymen. I should prefer to reserve those observations for my native land. We have had some interesting speeches in this debate, and one of the most interesting was that of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas). It is always interesting to hear how Wales appears to one of her prodigal sons across the frontier.I do not wish to follow the course which has been followed by quite a number of hon. Members in this debate, mainly to make a kind of grand tour of Wales and a general survey of her problems. Rather, I intend to direct my attention to one problem and to one special industry in which I am particularly interested. I refer to the slate industry in North Wales. The hon. Member for Hereford referred to that industry in his speech. I wish to address myself to a special problem which arises in that industry. Slate quarrying has for many decades been regarded as a peculiarly Welsh industry. It has in its day made a marked contribution to the prosperity of the counties of Caernarvon and Merioneth. The slate quarrymen have traditionally been regarded as one of the most cultured bodies of men in the Principality. They have been patrons of the arts and of the literature of our country. It was, indeed, largely through their initiative and enterprise in seeking for advanced education in Wales that our present educational system was developed to the extent to which it has been developed. It was due to their financial sacrifices that the University College for North Wales was established at Bangor 70 years ago. Accordingly, the welfare and future development of the slate industry intimately concerned the economic prosperity of the two counties of Caernarvon and Merioneth. Its prosperity also has profound significance for the cultural life of Wales as a whole. It is unfortunate that in recent years there has been an appreciable decline in the number of those engaged in the industry. In 1939, about 4,500 men were employed in slate quarries, but today the number has declined to approximately 3,000. That is an appreciable decline in a small industry. It is causing grave anxiety to those concerned with the future welfare of the people of the two counties which I have mentioned. I also searched to see what reference there was in the White Paper to the slate industry, and I shared the astonishment of the hon. Member for Hereford. I found that there were in this long Report only four cryptic lines which deal with the industry. I am surprised that those who compiled the document did not devote greater attention to this basic industry. As the White Paper states, there is a demand for the product of the industry. There is no doubt that as roofing material slate is far superior to any other product. It is superior to the tile in durability. During the 20's and 30's there was a marked decline in the demand for slate, but today builders and architects recognise the superiority of slate as a roofing material. I want to draw the attention of the Minister concerned to one of the causes of the decline in the number of men employed in this vital industry. It is the dread fear of that terrible scourge of both coalmining and slate quarrying—the disease of silicosis or pneumoconiosis as it is now called. I wish to emphasise the imperative need of doing everything possible to reduce the incidence of this disease among slate quarrymen. I am sure that my sentiments are shared by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), because I know that there is a similar problem in his constituency. The burden of my contribution to this debate is to impress upon the appropriate Minister the necessity to put into operation the scheme for the reduction of the incidence of silicosis in the slate industry, as this is one of the main causes which has retarded recruiting into the industry during recent years. For about 15 years now, experiments have been carried out at the quarries at Penrhyn, Dinorwic and Llechwedd to discover the best method of extracting slate dust from underground workings and the sheds in which the men work. I pay tribute to the initiative and enterprise shown by the owners of those quarries in carrying out these experiments. I am glad to say that by now a most effective method of dust extraction has been discovered. Machinery for this purpose has already been installed in many quarries, and the need now is to extend facilities for dust extraction to all the quarries in North Wales. The old method of dust extraction was somewhat primitive and quite inadequate. It consisted of the application of water to damp down dust which lay on the floors, on the machinery and on the slate. This method was ineffective because it did not deal with the dust suspended in the air. The machinery recently devised will extract the dust in suspension and at the source. According to tests in the sheds and in the underground workings, the experiment is highly successful. I ask the Minister of Fuel and Power, who has already approved the system, to pursue the matter with the greatest energy. I am certain that he will obtain every help from the representatives of the men engaged in the industry who are organised in the Quarrymen's Union. Although the quarry regulations have for many years placed upon the owners of quarries the statutory duty of suppressing dust, I regret to say that the appropriate Government Departments have not shown that activity in pressing this matter which one would have expected. At present one of the main difficulties in the installation of dust extract machinery is that of securing adequate supplies of steel to enable manufacturers to make the plant. I urge the Minister of Fuel and Power to exercise his influence to secure a fair allocation of steel to manufacturers to enable them to make the necessary equipment. The industry should receive the support of every Government Department, because it plays a vital part in the life of Wales as a whole. I wish to draw attention to one other aspect, and that is the medical treatment of those suffering from silicosis. Silicosis frequently occurs with tuberculosis. There are long waiting lists for admission to sanatoria. I am aware of the difficulties of manning the hospitals, but I urge the Minister of Health to hasten the admission of sufferers from these diseases to sanatoria as quickly as possible. It should be our prime purpose to reduce the waiting list to a minimum.
Tonight we are discussing Welsh economy and I, at least, will attempt to give effect to that by economising as much as I can in the use of words and pinpointing the problem which, in my opinion, is the outstanding one confronting Welsh economy. The greatest factor at the foundation of our economy as a nation is the prosperity of the coalmining industry, and that prosperity and its future development depend upon the possibility of recruiting additional labour to the mines. The Ministers concerned make the necessary appeals, in the first place to the miners to put their backs into their job, and secondly, to the country as a whole to recruit manpower from outside the mining communities. There is upon the shoulders of the Ministers themselves, and the Government collectively, the responsibility of ensuring that a fruitful contribution is made.I have heard hon. Members expressing their concern about the desecration of Snowdonia. I want to call attention to something which, for many years, has brought about the desecration of human life in the mining valleys. To me, the greatest problem which the Government have to face—and, up to now, it has not been possible to find a solution to it—is that of finding employment for disabled miners, particularly those miners who have been disabled as the result of silicosis and pneumoconiosis. It may be suggested, but it cannot he argued, that this is not a peculiarly Welsh problem. An examination of statistics would reveal that this problem of the disabled miner concerns the South Wales coalfield more than any other coalfield in this country, because the latest figures I have, show that, from 5th July, 1948, to 24th September, 1949, of the total of 5,421 certificates that miners were suffering from silicosis and pneumoconiosis issued in that period of 15 months, 4,302 were in the South Wales coalfields. Everybody has adopted a most sympathetic attitude towards this social problem, but I am of the opinion that if it is to be effectively dealt with, it must not be treated as a normal unemployment problem. Out of a total number of 9,250 persons on the disablement register at present, 3,712 are certified as suffering from pneumoconiosis. This is the important point to which I wish to call the attention of the House. One-third of all the persons who are certified as being disabled from pneumoconiosis are over 40 years of age and have been idle for more than 12 months. Let me give a picture to sharpen the vision and pin-point it into the constituency which I represent—the Rhondda. The total number of persons employed in the Rhondda Valley is 3,096; the total number of males is 2,293, and there are 1,257 on the disablement register. That is equivalent to saying that 54 per cent. of all the males employed in the Rhondda Valley are on the disablement register; 80 per cent. of these persons are over 41 years of age, and 64 per cent. have been employed for periods between 12 months and two years. Therefore, it is impracticable and well-nigh impossible for men suffering from these diseases, apart from the fact that they are now in the autumn of their lives, to compete in the open market for the normal types of occupation that are in circulation. Many years ago, in an effort to solve this problem of providing work for disabled persons, the Government set up a committee known as the Grenfell Committee, named after my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). That Committee was set up mainly to deal with this growing problem of disablement in the South Wales mining valleys, and the recommendation of the Committee to establish the Grenfell factories at that period was the basis of the strong hope and belief in a bright prospect, not only of the Committee that made the recommendation, but of this House, which accepted it and legislated upon it. What is the position up to date? In view of the fact that we have had these Grenfell factories operating for many years, what inroad have they made towards the solution of the problem of the disabled person suffering from pneumoconiosis? These factories are employing only 288 disabled persons, and they are employing only 109 persons suffering from pneumoconiosis. If, in addition to the Grenfell factories, we take the four other factories which have been leased on Grenfell terms to other firms, we find they employ 137 persons suffering from pneumoconiosis. So the total inroad made into this exceptional and extraordinary problem of disabled persons suffering from pneumoconiosis is the vast total of 246. It may be argued that, in these circumstances, we should apply the principle of trial and error. I believe that there has been a very fair trial. The time factor up to the present has revealed that the hopes and expectations of this House, when it accepted the Grenfell scheme, have evidently not been realised. Let me further pin-point this question of the pace of development of the Grenfell factories in the Rhondda Valley. I will not mention the names of the factories, because mention of their names might prejudice them and people may be inclined to fix responsibility on those men who are doing such excellent pioneering work in the mining valleys. This factory, which I will call No. 1, was occupied in 1947, and the target figure of employment when it was leased was 175. After three years of occupation, this factory employs a total of 18, but—and this is the remarkable fact—only 27 persons suffering from pneumoconiosis have been employed in that Grenfell factory in the Rhondda for three years. The average rate of employment of persons suffering from pnuemoconiosis in this factory has been nine per year. Let us take factory No. 2. This factory was occupied in January of this year, with an employment target of 110 persons. The present number of persons employed is 69, but only 18 persons suffering from pneumoconiosis have been employed in this factory since last January. The most extreme case is factory No. 3. This factory has been in occupation since 1948 with a target of 100 persons to be employed, but up to the present it is employing only 21, and of that number only eight are suffering from pneumoconiosis. One could repeat instances of this complete failure. The people of Wales recognise the achievements that are being accomplished by this Government as a result of their planning of the economy of Wales. We are all proud of the successes, but do not let our successes and the brilliance of our achievements blind us to the facts—the ugly facts—that lie beneath, or blind us to our failures. They are not conscious failures, but failures, after all the available avenues have been exhausted, to solve this problem. With all the inducements, all the persuasion and all the very hard and difficult work of the Board of Trade representatives for Wales in steering industrialists towards these factories, the result in November, 1950, is a complete failure of the scheme. Striking a personal note, I am very sorry that this should be a barren memorial to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) who has been responsible for pioneering this work.
I do not regard these factories as barren memorials of my report. I am proud that we have the new factories, and I am hoping to see them fully employed soon.
There are powerful organisations such as the National Union of Mineworkers who are concerned at this very moment in meeting the Minister of Fuel and Power and in persuading the men in the mining industry voluntarily to work two extra shifts a month in order to get the necessary coal on which to found our national economy and our additional war economy. Here is an opportunity for the Government to assist the National Union of Mineworkers in their attempt to do what everybody expects them to do, to put their back into the job and to keep the men in the mines and to get additional men into the mines. The greatest contribution that the Government can make towards the assistance that the Minister of Fuel and Power requires, is to guarantee to those new recruits into the mining industry that if at some time or other they become affected by this dreadful disease, they shall have security and employment in the autumn of their lives.I wish to call the attention of the Government to the recommendation of their own child—the Council for Wales. This Council has probed into the matter, and it is convinced that certain proposals and responsibilities must be accepted by the Government. I ask the Government to consider this matter and to admit that the Grenfell scheme will not solve the problem. But I anticipate that the reply will be, as has been repeated oft-times in this House in the course of the past six months, that the Government are depending in the main on the absorption of these disabled men into the factories as a result of the normal development of industry. I have no faith in that prospect being realised because it is not fair even to the pioneering, well-intentioned industrialist who comes into the development area and has to conduct his business on commercial lines, to expect him to solve what is, after all, a social problem. Therefore, I ask the Government to think again, and by any positive action that they can take administratively, to do something in these valleys that will give security to those men who have given their lives at the coal face in order to found our peace economy and who are expected in the next three years to risk the infections of the mines in order to found a war economy. I anticipate that the reply of the Government will be that the prospect of the impact of rearmament on the development areas, is bound to bring some benefit in its train. I hope that the present war economy is not the alibi which the Government are putting forward for their own shortcomings in this matter. We do not want the disabled men in the South Wales coalfields to rely upon the few crumbs that will fall from the rearmament and defence table; we want the Government to consider more positive, far-reaching and lasting proposals that will give these men a place in our peace economy.
I am glad to have the opportunity of taking part with my Welsh colleagues in this debate. I think it was in 1944 that a day was originally set aside for the discussion of Welsh affairs, and according to the report in HANSARD quite a number of hon. Members at that time expressed their anxiety about the future position in Wales when hostilities came to an end. We now know that as far as the unemployment problem is concerned, it has been reduced to the figure of 32,000, whereas in the inter-war years it stood at between 150,000 and 244,000. Anyone travelling through the areas of South Wales will now be impressed by the large number of factories that have been established and the thousands of men and women who have been absorbed by them.The question now arises whether we are sufficiently fortified against future vicissitudes of trade. Have we a reasonable chance in South Wales of facing competition in trade and industry in the future? It is in this respect that I am somewhat apprehensive. In the first place, it has to be recognised that road transport costs are high and are bound to be reflected in the prices of goods for export and home consumption. Long distances have to be travelled to convey goods to and from the Midlands to South Wales. I agree with the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) that transport is a very important factor in the economic life of the country. These long distances from Cardiff round Gloucester into the Midlands are very costly to the industrialists, and the time has come—indeed, I think this has become an economic necessity—for the Severn bridge to be constructed. Without that, we shall be handicapped in South Wales from every point of view. A similar position of difficulty exists on the roads of South Wales. They are some of the worst in the country. From Cardiff to Merthyr there are bottlenecks and narrow carriageways which give rise to serious impediment of traffic. A similar difficulty exists on the road from Newport to Tredegar, and the level crossing at Pontllanfraith is dangerous. Apart from that, we have to bear in mind that a larger number of men and, indeed, women are travelling to and from work on roads utterly inadequate. If we are to give the South Wales industrialists and the people in South Wales a fair chance to compete in trade and industry, the first and the most important thing to do is to reduce transport costs, which can be brought about only by improvement in the roadway system and the construction of the Severn bridge. I know that in 1946 there was a policy for the construction of the Severn bridge and the improvement of certain roadways, but, so far as I know, we have heard nothing further about that since. I hope that whoever is to reply to the debate on behalf of the Government will give us some assurance that some policy will be adopted to improve the roadway system and the transport system generally in South Wales. In the second place, we have to bear in mind that we have for years depended largely upon coal and steel. During and since the war a large number of factories have been established in the South Wales industrial area. However, the majority of these factories are in what may be termed the light industry category—furniture, radio, electric goods of one kind or another. Works have sprung up in South Wales which to a large extent are branches of undertakings that have their head works and offices in the Midlands. In any time of trade depression the industrialists will probably be more inclined to close down their works in South Wales, which are branch undertakings, rather than their works in the Midlands, where the possibilities of development are larger. The question arises whether it is possible for light engineering industries to be brought to South Wales. The Coal Board has put forward its plan. We now know exactly what collieries in the near future are likely to be closed, those that will remain in production, and those where new sinkings are to take place. I want to submit that here is a guaranteed market for colliery machinery; here is a guaranteed market for pneumatic drills, pneumatic picks, machine belting of many kinds, that can keep quite a few factories in South Wales in production, adjacent to the collieries themselves. Therefore, I submit that the second suggestion to help trade in South Wales is the establishment of light engineering works in the Principality. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), has already referred to the efforts now being made to deal with the problem of pneumoconiosis. We know of many problems affecting the mining industry in South Wales which are not peculiar to the industry in South Wales; but when we come to this problem of pneumoconiosis we can say it is peculiar to South Wales. Seventy-eight per cent. of those certified in the mining industry are from South Wales, and for years now this in itself has given rise to the serious unemployment problem with which we are confronted. It is not, however, only a question of unemployment. In these days, when so much is said about loss of manpower from the mining industry, it is important to remember that for the 10 years prior to the coming into operation of the Industrial Injuries Act, 15,000 men went out of the mining industry of South Wales suffering from pneumoconiosis—sufficient men to man seven fair-sized collieries. They were prohibited from continuing to work in any occupation involving the handling of minerals. However, the Industrial Injuries Act, which came into operation in July, 1948, allowed men to continue to work in the industry provided they came up for periodical examination. The Workmen's Compensation Act provided that a man suffering from pneumoconiosis had to leave the industry unless he could obtain a situation which did not involve his hand- ling minerals. Under the Industrial Injuries Act men can continue to work in the industry, under approved conditions, with the result that since that Act came into operation, from the 5th July, 1948, to the 25th March of this year, 4,615 men declared to be suffering from pneumoconiosis were recommended for work at the colliery. I do not want for a moment to give any encouragement to absenteeism. Far be it from me to do that, but I would remind the House that in the mining industry there are 4,615 men suffering from pneumoconiosis who are working underground in South Wales today. Since 25th March of this year a further 1,400 men have been certified to be suffering from pneumoconiosis, and are continuing to work underground. So that, by the end of this year there will be over 6,000 men suffering from pneumoconiosis employed underground in the mining industry. It must be appreciated that those men will not be able to continue daily at their occupation. In winter time and in severe frost it is impossible for them to continue at their employment, so that when considering absenteeism in the South Wales coalfield, I ask the House to bear in mind that 6,000 men suffering from this disease are working underground. There are two other points that I should like to make in connection with the problem of pneumoconiosis. I have already pointed out that under the Industrial Injuries Act a proportion of the men certified as suffering from this disease are able to continue working in the industry. The men so certified come up for re-assessment. Approximately 6,000 men will come up for re-assessment this year, and there will be another 7,000 to be initially examined next year, with the result that the medical board will have to cope with examining between 13,000 and 14,000 men in 1951. In South Wales there is a medical panel of seven doctors, one working part-time, and in the Swansea district there are four specialists, making 11 specialists in all to cope with the examination of between 13,000 and 14,000 men in 1951. I submit that number of specialists is quite inadequate; that this medical panel will not be able to cope adequately, and that delays are bound to arise. Even now between 900 and 1,000 men are waiting examination by the medical board. I know that the Ministry of National Insur- ance are doing their utmost to increase the personnel of these panels, but one of the difficulties is that the specialists employed for pneumoconiosis by the Ministry under the Industrial Injuries Act are paid on a Civil Service basis, and their status is lower than that of those employed by the hospital board. Indeed, from the information that I can obtain, it seems that specialists in lung diseases, such as tuberculosis, who are employed by the hospital boards get twice the salary of those employed under the Ministry of National Insurance for treating pneumoconiosis. Miners should have the best possible medical attention, and if we are to increase the personnel of these panels, measures should be taken by the Ministry to improve the status of the medical men who are employed by the medical boards. There is one other point in connection with these men who have been certified under the Workmen's Compensation Acts to be suffering from pneumoconiosis. I have already indicated that they are prohibited from returning to work in the industry. Now that those under the Industrial Injuries Act can return to work in the industry, there is a growing concern among many men certified under the Workmen's Compensation Act who desire to return to work. I know in my own constituency men who would be prepared to return to work underground if their compensation rights could be safeguarded, although they are suffering from this disease in its early stages. I know that negotiations have been proceeding between the Ministry and the National Union of Mine Workers on this matter for some time, but that the time has now arrived, especially when we are short of manpower, when we should have some statement from the Government as to whether there is any likelihood of these men being allowed to return to work, with their compensation rights safeguarded. I have mentioned several problems in South Wales which are so much the concern of most of us on these benches. If we are to retain men in this industry, we must make the villages, towns and valleys a lot better than they are. I look with great satisfaction on the development which has taken place at Cwmbran; but has not the time arrived, even from a long-term planning point of view, for villages on a similar basis to be established throughout the coalfields of South Wales in order to bring more happiness and contentment to the people of South Wales? The grim surroundings are not attractive to young men; they prefer to get away from them. They prefer to go to Cardiff and Newport or somewhere else and take up a position outside the mining districts. I hope that we may obtain an assurance from the Minister that in their future plans the Ministry will at least put forward proposals for meeting the local authorities in South Wales in setting up cultural centres in the mining valleys, providing better towns and better transport and lighting. I believe that some of the matters to which I have referred can be dealt with in a sympathetic way by the Government, as I am sure they will be. I do not for a moment want hon. Members to imagine that we are not getting prompt attention either from the Ministry of National Insurance or from the Welsh Coal Board. To my knowledge, we are getting the most prompt attention, but these are matters of high national policy. I think that if some of the proposals which I mentioned can be put into operation, they will bring more contentment and happiness to the people of the South Wales coalfields.
In two respects I feel somewhat in the position of a maiden speaker today, because, first, this is my maiden contribution to a debate on a Welsh day, and, second, I am an Englishman who has the honour to represent a distinctively Welsh constituency. Any trepidation that I may have in addressing the House is lessened by the fact that I know that Wales is the most Socialist country in the world. And I speak as a Socialist. It may be that the modesty of my hon. Friends leads to this fact being under-estimated. It is true that nowhere in the world is there a nation with such a preponderance of Socialist opinion. Nowhere is there a people which has stood by the Socialist faith in good days and bad, with the tenacity of the Welsh people. It is, therefore, fitting that Wales today is being rebuilt by a Socialist Government.In this debate the parties opposite have not opposed fundamental Socialist policies. Indeed, at times they have endorsed them. We have not heard the cry of "set the people free," nor have we heard a demand to rid Britain and Wales of "irksome controls." The demand of the Tory Party Conference to abolish building licences has not been echoed in the speeches of Members opposite. Why is this? It is because it is self-evident to anyone who has studied recent events in Wales that only the instruments of economic planning—control over the location of industries, the licensing of building and the allocation of materials—could have secured the remarkable developments which have wrought the great transformation from depression to prosperity and from despair to hope. The Welsh economy is founded on two great basic industries. Under Socialist direction, since 1945, they have experienced a rejuvenation, and under public ownership the men and women of Wales know that their future is secure. Side by side with that rejuvenation of the old basic industries, new industries have been growing up, giving more balance to the industrial structure and providing employment for the people. It is sometimes said that this new structure is artificial. It is inevitable, of course, that there should be some artificiality in the present structure. In the modern world, attempts to develop infant industries in other parts of the world have always been accompanied by high tariff walls. It is not surprising that it has required, and will require in the future, deliberate stimulus and encouragement by Governmental policies if these new industries are to take root, and if they are to be built to withstand any competitive winds that blow. It is not surprising, because industrial Wales, in general, lacks the tradition for that kind of industry. It leads to the problem of importing key workers, with the adjacent problem of providing houses for them. I should like to underline the appeal which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) for the recognition by the Government of the need for drastic improvement of communications to and from Wales, which is vital if the new structure of light industries is to establish itself on a secure foundation. While I am on this point I would like to make a passing reference to the comparison made by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) between some Southern coun- ties of England and Wales in regard to houses. The hon. Gentleman did not give the comparable figures of new factories built. It is because of years of neglect by Tory Governments that the building resources of Wales have been stretched to the uttermost to provide not only homes for the people but factories to provide jobs for the people.
I gave the acreage of new factories, too.
I will check that up in HANSARD tomorrow, because what I was going to ask the hon. Gentleman was: Would he stop the building of new factories or introduce direction of building labour from parts of England into Wales? The building industry of Wales is working at full stretch, and in the district that I know best there are very great claims to three things—housing, factories and essential structures like power houses to provide the energy required by the new light industries.I come to my final point. Inevitably, the final point of any hon. Member who represents a Welsh mining constituency concerns the problem of tackling the hard core of unemployment amongst miners suffering from pneumoconiosis. In recent times Britain was shocked by two great coal mining disasters. The loss of life was such that our hearts went out to the communities affected, but the ravages of pneumoconiosis in death and suffering, though less dramatic than the grim casualties of a major disaster which attracts public attention, are, nevertheless, greater. The public conscience of Britain would respond to bold Government initiative which started specially-designed public enterprise in the Welsh mining valleys, particularly in the narrow valleys where factory siting is difficult and where there is a special problem which cannot be treated on economic grounds alone. It is a social problem, a human problem and a moral problem. I plead for the men of my own three valleys and the rest of the South Wales district for specially designed public enterprises to bring work and hope to that hard core of young men, who have given their lives in the industrial activities of the nation in both war and peace.
One of the advantages in being called upon to speak toward the end of a debate is that one can see the principal outlines that have emerged from the contributions made by hon. Members in all parts of the House. The problem of Wales was referred to in a very interesting article by Sir Frederick Rees, a former principal of Cardiff University and a great public servant. It was written for "The Nineteenth Century and After," and appeared in April, 1949, It was reprinted in February of this year, following the General Election. In the introduction, Sir Frederick said:
I immediately examined the question of the measure of political unanimity which has been reached in Wales. I find that in this House there are 27 Labour Members, five Liberals and three Conservative Members, and one Conservative National Liberal, whatever that may be. It is perfectly obvious that the Labour Party in the House has every right to claim that it is the voice of Wales. Hon. Members may prefer to apply the test according to the number of votes cast for the political parties who contested the election. No fewer than 11 parties were represented in the contests that took place in Wales. The Labour Party polled 887,647 votes while the other 10 parties' aggregate votes amounted to 640,580, giving the Labour Party a majority of nearly 250,000. When I heard the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), this afternoon I thought how unreal was the Conservative position about the situation in Wales, as expressed by hon. Members like the one to whom I have referred. When my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) initiated this debate he made it clear, and other hon. Members have reinforced it, that much has been done and that much remains to be done. If we are to succeed in our fight it must be done according to plan. There are very encouraging features, and we should give the present Government credit for them. If I may say so, without being thought presumptuous, we are obliged to the Secretary for Overseas Trade for the very helpful, informative and sympathetic statement that he made. He revealed at once an understanding of the problems of Wales and a capacity to deal with them. We are looking for- ward to having more to do with him in the years that are to come. Among these features is the spending of £50 million at Margam Abbey steel works. The same amount is being spent upon the generation and distribution of electricity. A sum of £10 million has already been spent on the re-equipment of coalmines, and a further £10 million is going to the development of petroleum refining. Altogether there is a capital investment programme for Wales amounting to no less than £220 million. That excludes orders that may come in in connection with the defence programme. It is essential that we should derive the maximum benefit from the expenditure of such a vast sum of money. That brings me to one of our major problems. That problem was referred to by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch). If we are to implement this industrial programme for Wales to its full capacity and derive the maximum benefit, we must have transport. We need transport to convey coal to the ports and we must have transport from South Wales to Birmingham and the West Midlands. The 10-year plan of the Ministry of Transport, adopted in 1946, must be applied in Wales for national highway development. Approximately £35 million should be spent in improving road communications to North Wales. That would be wise, because the Government would get a good return. There is nothing more helpful to trade than the maximum mobility of traffic to and from the ports. It is not a one-way traffic. It comes from Birmingham and the Midlands to South Wales. South Wales offers Birmingham and the West Midlands two great assets, a nearby outlet for all their productivity and also opportunities for delightful health-giving holidays amid scenery of great beauty. If these two areas can be wedded both industrially and also from the point of view of holiday resorts, it will be to their mutual advantage and to the advantage of our trade. I acknowledge what the Government have done and I urge them to do more. I have never joined in cheap criticism of the civil servants who help us so much, and for this comprehensive and informative Report I give them our thanks. I hope that in 12 months' time we shall again be discussing Government action and that we shall have an equally helpful Report and an even better prospect for the future."Until there is a considerable degree of unanimity in Wales and a resolve to place whatever plan is generally approved in the forefront of political agitation, little can be achieved."
I offer no more apology for intervening in this debate than has already been offered by other representatives of English constituencies who have spoken; and I do so for both personal and general reasons. I represent a Black Country constituency and I am a Black Country man. But, like very many Black Country people, I come of Welsh stock on both sides and I have since my earliest years, been connected with the Principality by ties of both study and affection.But there are more general reasons why it seems to me that these debates should not be restricted exclusively to representatives of Welsh constituencies. We too readily think of Wales as a country bounded by the frontier of the Principality; but Wales is wherever there are Welshmen and wherever the influence of Wales extends, and I am not sure that Wales is not doing a greater work outside the Principality even than inside it. Finally, as long as this is a United Kingdom and this is a United Kingdom Parliament, we ought all to take responsibility and feel responsible for the welfare of all parts of the United Kingdom. We should not allow this House to break up into, as it were, a number of "Grand Committees" according to the part of the Realm which we happen to be discussing. We have an advantage this year in the Welsh debate which we have not had previously, because we now have not only the official Report of Government action, but also an unofficial viewpoint on Wales from the Council for Wales. The memorandum is a very useful corrective, if one may so put it, to the rather bureaucratic optimism of the Report—I do not say that in any very critical spirit—and nowhere is this corrective more valuable than in regard to unemployment, which has been the main subject of the debate. The words in the memorandum have several times been referred to, but are so impressive that they are worth mentioning again.The memorandum says:
Then it says:"There must be a much greater degree of mobility of labour if full employment is to be realised throughout Wales. …"
Those are measured and grave sentences, and I believe they are justified. I cannot share the view of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) that there is throughout industrial Wales a sense of security. It is true that there is a sense of well-being and a sense of gratitude for the change in the economic climate from 10 to 15 years ago, but I challenge anyone who really knows the feeling in the South Wales industrial towns to say that there is a feeling of security."Looking further ahead, and upon a wider field, the Panel feel some anxiety about the future of the new industrial economy of Wales."
There is none in the world.
But not only for that reason. There is still a strong feeling of apprehension, which is not merely a reflex from the experience of the past but is based upon sound considerations which we ought to have in mind. The inhabitants of industrial Wales know that the governmental apparatus and the conditions which at present are ensuring near-full employment in the Principality are not of a nature to last for ever. They know that under present conditions the pressure which can be exerted upon firms to open factories in South Wales, and to maintain them there, is of a quite exceptional and temporary character. The whole force of the machinery of licensing and planning is being used for that purpose. They know that the Ministry of Food, and other Ministries, have at their disposal the direction of cargoes to Welsh ports. They know that we are living in a period of demand for labour, of demand for consumption goods, which is, in its present intensity, exceptional.Therefore, people in industrial Wales are seriously asking themselves whether their present near-full employment is as firmly based as it should be. There I agree entirely with the point of view of the hon. Member for Bedwellty who, if he will forgive my saying so, seemed to me to make one of the most constructive speeches in this debate. The section of the Government Report which deals with employment, and also the point of view inherent in the speech of the Secretary for Overseas Trade, set the sights rather low and looked too much at the immediate future. In thinking of employment this year and next year, important though it is, in thinking of our 11 million square feet of factory space which are planned and coming along, I think we are omitting the more important middle and farther distance. I believe that there can only be lasting full employment in Wales if Wales is able to compete on equal terms as an industrial location with any other part of the Kingdom. It is only if, when free from the temporary assistance which it has enjoyed since 1937, it can offer equal or superior advantages to industry that in the long run we shall be able to maintain full or near-full employment in industrial Wales. For that competitive capability two difficulties have to be overcome. As I see it, there are two main reasons why, at present, South Wales is at a disadvantage in competing for industry with other industrial areas in the Kingdom. The first is the pattern of population in industrial South Wales: the distribution of the population, conditioned, as it is, by the location of housing, conditioned as that, in turn, is by a pattern of economy which is already obsolescent or obsolete. The other obstacle, which has been more often referred to in this debate, is the remoteness of industrial Wales—not in distance but in comparative accessibility. I shall deal in a little more detail with those two points. The relationship between housing, mobility of labour and employment has been succinctly put in a document with which hon. Members opposite will be familiar. "The Conservative Policy for Wales and Monmouthshire." in which it is said that
"though high output of houses at low cost is a social requirement not confined to South Wales, in South Wales it is also an indispensable requirement of industry. The concentration and modernisation of existing industries, and the promotion of fresh ones, will not happen unless new homes arise where they are wanted and when they are wanted."
That is a platitude.
With that thought at the back of our minds, I find disappointing the account which is given in the Report of the progress both of new towns and of the extension of the existing towns in the coastal plain of South Wales, which is dealt with in paragraphs 190 and 191. The new town at Cwmbran has hardly got beyond the stage of the appointment of a corporation, and the other sites further west, from which much was hoped, have proved upon examination not to be suitable, so that—let us face it—practically no start has been made upon the re-arrangement of the pattern of homes in South Wales. So much for location. Now, as to quantity. It is no use relocating houses unless they are being built at a sufficient rate. The Report discloses that in the year to which it refers the output of houses was nearly 25 per cent. lower than in the previous year. I hope that both these points in regard to housing will at any rate be taken account of by the right hon. Gentleman when he replies. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but I am sure that hon. Members will not have overlooked a very interesting—I do not know whether I should call it cynical or euphemistic—expression which is used in regard to house building by the Council for Wales. They say that:"The main effort of house building for some time to come must he concentrated upon creating or expanding the centres which command easy access to a growing range of alternative employments."
and that they are satisfied—what are they satisfied about?—" … the Ministry of Health … have endeavoured to push forward the provision of houses so far as is practicable. …"
That is very tactfully put, but it is not incumbent upon me to be quite so tactful as the Council of Wales felt was desirable. I was very young when I learnt a Welsh proverb, of which I am always reminded by the Minister of Health and his housing policy:"that on the whole as much progress has been made as can be expected under the existing arrangements."
which, for the benefit of any Sais or even Yscotyn who may have got in here by accident, means, "When a clever man goes astray, he goes far astray." We see in South Wales the repercussion of the Socialist housing policy in a special form. We see its effect, not only upon output, but also upon location. If the main, or almost the exclusive, responsibility for housing is in the hands of local authorities, then it follows that both the waiting lists and the production of houses will conform to the existing layout of the population. The use of local authorities as the main housing providers tends to freeze the existing distribution of the population. Therefore, quite apart from the general national policy in housing, I ask the Ministry of Health to consider whether, in industrial South Wales, where private enterprise has a quite special interest and concern in housing, they will not give more attention to two other instruments of housing. With ordinary private enterprise we are familiar; the other, on which I want to place stress, is the use of housing associations, because I believe that in the development of the new housing centres which we want to see growing up in South Wales housing associations can play an important part. I pass from housing to communications, on which I can be more brief, since more has been made of this point during the debate. In the passage where the Report refers to South Wales ports, already dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), a significant and rather alarming statement is tucked away. It deals with 1949 and the first half of 1950. In regard to 1949 it is said:"Pan gyll y call, fe gyll ymhell."
that is, apart from those which had increased"Exports of other commodities,"
Then, in regard to the first part of 1950, it says:"particularly in the miscellaneous classes of manufactured goods handled as general cargo, were disappointing."
It is the general cargo passing through the South Wales ports which is one of the surest indices of the industrial stability of South Wales. Those cargoes from the South Wales ports are intimately connected with the communications between South Wales and the rest of the country because the whole process of knitting South Wales into the general industrial texture of the Kingdom as a whole is dependent on communications and, generally, road communications. If anyone with that in mind reads paragraphs 302 to 307 of the Report he will be deeply disappointed. We all know of the difficulties and limitations on capital expenditure on roads; but this is a case for that much abused word and idea, "priority." We have to decide what really matters most for the lasting continuance of high employment in Wales. I submit that it is communications between South Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, both across the Severn and to the Western and Eastern Midlands. If the Government agree, someone has to lay down what should come first. Here, as in so many ways, we miss what the Tory Party wants to see. We miss a single responsible member of the Government, who can say, "This is the policy, as far as Wales is concerned at any rate, which I have laid down for roads. I am here to defend it. I realise that there are other claims, but I believe this is right and will explain why." It is that spirit, that co-ordinating, informing, vivifying spirit of one responsible person that we miss in this Report and we miss it because we have not a Minister for Wales. The temporary—I use the word "temporary" in no carping spirit—specially favourable economic climate for South Wales gives Government and people an opportunity which will not last for ever, an opportunity of taking what steps the Government can, to prepare the basis and background for a lastingly firm industrial structure. I am sure that on grounds of pure economics there ought not to be so many people in Wales as there are. I am sure that on the same grounds we ought to forget the Welsh frontier and let the population move freely—and I am sure it would move out of Wales rather than into Wales. But we are not economic men and we do not want to be. The Welsh, in particular, do not want to be. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) described how, in the years between the two wars, unemployed miners remained for a generation in Wales, hoping against hope that there might be employment there, rather than leave Wales. I am sure that the people of Wales are ready to make some purely economic sacrifice. The Government, on their part, ought to make some sacrifice, a definite move towards retaining in Wales more population than perhaps on a purely economic basis could find optimum employment and productivity there, because it is, after all, the maintenance of a population in Wales not much less than the present size—to put it at its worst—on which the survival of the entire Welsh heritage depends. If that is to be, there must be a durable structure of full, or near-full, employment for industrial Wales. To that end the Government must do their part. I have tried to describe some of the ways in which they can and should act; but the people have to do their part, too. If the Government have done their share, it is the responsibility of the Welsh people if they do not make industrial Wales able to compete for industries upon even terms with any other part of the Kingdom."Exports … of general cargo decreased."
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has spoken with a knowledge of Welsh customs and Welsh ways. He quoted a Welsh proverb to the effect that when a clever man goes astray he goes far astray. There are few men on the other side of the House who are more clever than the hon. Gentleman, but I suggest that in his remarks tonight, particularly towards the end of his speech, he himself went astray. He threw out some suggestion that the Welsh people must be prepared to sacrifice; those are his words. I understand he was speaking for his party. He did not say what further sacrifices the Tory Party yet expects of the Welsh people.
Might I make that term a little clearer? If it is true, in an economic sense, that a redistribution of population within the Kingdom as a whole, taking no account of national differences, would bring about an economic optimum, it is clear that if we maintain that national frontier, as I think to some extent we should, and as the Welsh people also think, we shall have to put up with a little lower return for labour than we could get under optimum conditions. That is all I said.
Every Welshman in the House and certainly the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), and my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), would welcome the opportunity to deal with the hon. Gentleman. He has done his cause a great deal of harm.
The hon. Member for Hereford says "Nonsense," which reveals exactly how much he knows of the Welsh temperament. If there is one thing which a Welshman loves it is his home, and it was indeed the policy of the party opposite that drove half a million of the cream of Wales away to find employment elsewhere.
Does the hon. Member include the period from 1929 to 1931 as being the responsibility of the Tory Party?
If the hon. Member, who I believe was born in 1929 or thereabouts, believes that he can excuse the dreadful crimes committed against Wales by his party by referring to two years when there was a Labour Government which had not a majority in this House, then indeed his arguments are weak.
And which doubled unemployment.
I wish to turn to my own speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and I realise how relieved the Opposition are that I am leaving their black record in Wales. It was a miserable record, and the reason why there is so much emotion stirred up among Welshmen on a day like this is because Welsh people have long memories. We judge the experiences of today in the perspective of yesterday.It is bearing in mind what other Welsh days have been that the Welsh Party—I trust I can speak for the Welsh Party in this matter—come to the House and say that we acknowledge that tremendous inroads have been made into the mistakes of yesterday. Great improvements have taken place, but while we accord appreciation we do not feel complacent towards the Government. We are not complacent when we express appreciation for the things that have been done. This has been a bread and butter debate. We have not enjoyed ourselves, as we love to do, talking about Welsh culture, poetry and drama. We have left that in the firm assurance that there is to be another day when we might discuss constitutional questions affecting the Principality. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who is secretary of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, has been in consultation with the Government, and there are Welsh Members who have deliberately withheld today from this debate because they wish to take part in the debate on constitutional issues. What are the bread and butter issues in Wales? In essence they are no different from those in England, Scotland or Ireland. The Welsh people are not isolationists. Above all, they are conscious of their ties with their fellows in the United Kingdom. We realise that our economic problems are commonly those which affect the other parts of the United Kingdom. But let us look at the basic industries of Wales. I was proud when I heard the Secretary for Overseas Trade give new hope to the mining industry by his promise of new mines to be opened. He will have a problem to find men to work in the mines. In the old days it was not a problem of how to get men for the mines; it was how to get a job for the men. From the human point of view, we much prefer to have this problem in which we have to look everywhere for the men, rather than to have the problem of men looking everywhere for jobs. I rejoice that in Mardy in the Rhondda Valley the National Coal Board are investing £4,500,000 to re-open a colliery closed in the days of private enterprise and to give new life to the little mining community. It was my privilege to hear the hon. Member who represents me in this House, the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), speak on this subject of new hope for our industrial areas. Our approach to almost every problem is the human approach, and our main problem in Wales concerns that army of men who have been injured in the service of the community—those men whose lungs are turning to stone because they helped to provide the coal for the rest of the people who sometimes have the impertinence to talk about absenteeism among miners, but who take jolly good care not to let one of their boys go down the mine to produce the coal. These men have a special claim upon any Government, and they have a very special claim upon a Labour Government, for no part of Britain has been more loyal to the Labour movement than the industrial area of South Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who is loved and respected throughout the Principality by people of all parties, was honoured by the Government when he was made chairman of the committee to make recommendations about how to deal with the disabled. He produced a scheme. The Government now have every Grenfell factory in operation; but experience is proving that that is not enough. It is a wonderful scheme, but my hon. Friend would be the first to admit that it is not enough. There are still disabled persons who are rusting, and when any man is allowed to rust away in a community, it is a challenge to any decent Government or to any decent political party. I ask the Postmaster-General who, I believe, will reply to this debate, to tell us the state of the Remploy factories in South Wales. What are the local authorities and the Government doing? Are they pulling their full weight to provide the orders for the Remploy factories? I understand that there is some difficulty in this regard, and, if there is, here at least is one way in which the Government could stir itself to tackle this problem of the disabled. It is little less than a miracle that since the war 60,000 disabled men and women in Wales have been found a job. The Welsh people are a proud people, but they are also a grateful people, and we thank God that the days when an able-bodied man could not get a job are gone, and that 60,000 of our compatriots who have been disabled have been found employment. But the Government must not feel that there is left a solid core of disabled with whom it is unable to deal. I want now to refer to a question which several hon. Members have raised during the debate, and that is the question of the Welsh ports. We realise that, if it were not for so large an amount of traffic being directed and controlled by the Government, the position of the port of Cardiff, to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred, would be far worse indeed than it is at present. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the dockers would not agree with him.
How does the hon. Gentleman explain that the comparable figures for 1938 for this kind of commodity, without control, were better than they are today?
Surely, the hon. Gentleman has some knowledge of the figures regarding coal, and knows the demands that the new industries on the home front are making? More coal is needed on the home front, and new factories in Wales are using coal. If we were to go without fires, if we were to close down our factories, we could export much more coal through Cardiff docks.
The hon. Gentleman will have to excuse me, as I have not much more time.May I give this illustration? My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has been hailed in Cardiff by people of all political parties for his work on behalf of Cardiff Docks. The Parliamentary Secretary and I, with the present Minister of Pensions, went to a conference called by the Lord Mayor of our city to deal with the question of trade in the port of Cardiff, and what did we find? We found a shipowner complaining that not enough ships were coming to Cardiff, and my hon. Friend was able to pin-point one of the companies which had been complaining that the Government was not doing enough as a company which had, in fact, taken its ships away from Cardiff and sent them to another port because it paid them better to do so. Apparently, the hon. Gentleman opposite has also forgotten the fact that, if the Ministry of Food direct more ships and cargoes to Cardiff, they will not be working on the ordinary commercial basis. May we have an assurance from the other side of the House that there will be no Questions about losses by the Ministry of Food because we are sending ships a longer way round to Cardiff? In connection with this problem, I desired to refer to the closing of the East Dock at Cardiff, about which I am very much concerned, but I may be accused of making a constituency speech and therefore shall not do so, although it was a point with which I wanted to deal. There remains the question which almost every hon. Member who has spoken has raised. It is the question of transport in South Wales. It is a delightful run in a car from Cardiff to the Midlands, but it is a long, winding road, and it takes a long time. The winding road from Chepstow, in particular, down to Newport is a handicap. If the town of Barry were linked with a great arterial road to the Midlands we could transform the position of trade. The imagination shown by the Ministry of Transport in the original scheme was hailed throughout the Principality. The Welsh party welcomed these proposals, but now the icy hand of the Treasury has come down upon us. We submit that it is not in the best interests of England or of Wales to delay getting on with this job. With regard to the question of the Severn Bridge, about which an hon. Member wanted to speak if he caught your eye tonight, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at least the foundations of that project could be laid. That would make no demand upon steel or upon the weapons that are necessary for the rearmament drive.
What about cement?
The hon. Gentleman has just come into the debate.
I was here at the beginning, too.
I am very glad to see the hon. Gentleman.I wish to refer to a question which my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams) mentioned in his opening speech this afternoon. It is the linking of technical education with the needs of our economy of Wales. Five major projects have taken shape in Wales this year to provide further technical education. In all the bright history of the Welsh people there has never been a single year when five technical schools have been under construction before. Therefore, let us give credit where credit is due. Most of these schools seem to be going to the north, and I am very glad. Far be it from me to harm the unity that has prevailed throughout this debate today between the north and the south. Reference has been made to the Arts Council and what is being done for the Principality. I am always reluctant to compare what is done for Wales with what is done for Scotland. I think that is the wrong angle from which to approach our Welsh problem. However, I cannot but acknowledge that the Arts Council for Scotland has far more executive power, far more control over its finance, than the Arts Council for Wales. We have a couple of members in Cardiff who report to a handpicked committee of which the chairman is a civil servant. All due regard to him. But this handpicked committee spends but a fifth of the money that the Scots get, and I have yet to learn that the poetry and the literature of Wales, which is pouring out from our modern writers, is pouring out in Gaelic from Scotland. There is no one in this House who holds the Scots and Scotland in higher regard than I do, but I think it is unreal that the Arts Council should not be devoting more of its money and more of its ability to the Principality. I want in conclusion to address this word to my right hon. Friend. The Welsh Members are not expecting him merely to speak with pride of the achievements of these last five years. He can leave that to the people at home. They will speak with pride. What we want from the Postmaster-General is to know, where do we go from here? What is he going to do now to help the disabled, and to make sure that the adaptability and the versatility and the skill of the Welsh workmen are used even when the talents they first enjoyed are reduced because of physical weakness? We of the Labour movement must keep faith, first of all, with those who have fallen by the wayside in service to our community.
This has been, I think, one of the best Welsh days we have had in the House. It is certainly the best day's debate on Welsh problems that I can remember. I thought that the debate was opened with an extremely sane and sensible speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. Williams). I am sure my hon. Friends will not mind my mentioning his very good contribution. He was followed by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas), who tried a little bit of political seduction on the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), but completely without success.
I am glad to have the noble Lady's concurrence.Let me mention one or two speeches which I thought were excellent—in parts. Many of my hon. Friends on this side who were engaged in the mining industry will remember with a good deal of affection the father of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn). He was one of the brighter men in the South Wales mining industry. I thought that the first part of the hon. Member's speech was so much like his father, but that the latter part was, unfortunately, so much like himself. I hope that with the passage of time as he grows older, he will copy his father; if he does, I am sure that the House will welcome his contributions. I should like to clear out of the way a point about which the hon. Member was concerned. In so far as I was concerned, I thought it was put offensively. He was talking of the television site in Wales. I think he has got things mixed up. He mixed up the Air Ministry consent for the St. Lythan's Down site and the St. Nicholas site. It is true that with regard to the St. Lythan's Down site the Air Ministry was guilty of delay. It was the Cardiff Rural District Council, acting as agent for the county planning authority, which was responsible for the refusal to give planning consent for the St. Nicholas site. On the 28th of last month the whole thing was cleared up, and the St. Lythan's Down site has now had complete sanction from all the parties concerned.
In thanking the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely for his reference to my father, I should like to ask him whether or not he now shares the view of the Minister of Town and Country Planning that no unreasonable delay has at any time been caused by the Cardiff Rural District Council. If he will give that satisfaction, I think the matter may perhaps be decently forgotten.
It is always very difficult to agree with anybody else nowadays, particularly one's colleagues. I have not yet joined the "Brickdroppers union," but I am always in danger of having a close association with them. The Cardiff Rural District Council was responsible for the objection to the original site. That was, in itself, responsible for the delay from 26th June until October, when the B.B.C. made up their mind to abandon the St. Nicholas site because of the objections. That is the position. I do not want to be unduly critical of the Cardiff Rural District Council; I know they are an extremely wealthy rural district council, but I think that they could have acted with more expedition in this matter. I am giving my own opinion, and perhaps we had better leave the matter there.Let me now turn to matters of much greater consequence. I was very much impressed by the first three-quarters of the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). It is a pity it could not have been made retrospective 20 years. If only he had been here 20 years ago when there were frightful conditions in South Wales, and in Wales generally, we would have had at least one voice on the Conservative benches that would have been friendly to Wales. I thought that the last part of his speech left him open to a great deal of misrepresentation, and showed far too much regard for the economic man and not for the human. That was my feeling.
I was precisely attacking the theory of the economic man, and rejecting that approach to the whole question.
If the hon. Gentleman will read HANSARD tomorrow he will find that he rather slipped in this matter, and seemed to express a hard-faced policy which in the past, I am afraid, had too great a place in the counsels of the Conservative Party.There have been one or two little stirs on the surface of the water in this debate, but it has been a very friendly one. The problems which have been selected for discussion have been approached in a realistic manner. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), made a typical Welsh speech, full of fire and passion. He was the typical Welshman of the debate. While most of my hon. Friends kept their passions in control and softened their speeches, he felt, in winding up on this side, that he had to put life into the debate. I thoroughly enjoyed his speech and the things he said, as, I am sure, did the whole House. He asked me not to speak with pride about the past, and said that the people of Wales were very proud of what we had done. Nevertheless, I have, to a degree, to indicate what we have done as part and parcel of a continuing process. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who has now almost become the doyen of the Welsh Parliamentary Party, made a very sensible remark when he talked about having a budget and a plan for Wales. That is true. We must have a plan for Wales. It is equally true that the idea of a plan for Wales occurred in the time of the Coalition Government. The development and expansion of these plans and the execution of them has been the responsibility of this Government. So, in the first place, I say that the policy of full employment and the policy of the development areas did come originally from the Coalition Government in which members of this party were represented, and they undoubtedly had something to say about the matter. The need in those days was for complete diversification of industry in South Wales. That was accepted on both sides of the House. I think that the Conservatives agreed with us that that was the right policy to pursue. As a result, it was decided to plan development. The Distribution of Industries Act was passed, under which powers were taken by the Government to effect the change which has taken place. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, has said, a miracle has taken place in Wales. How has that miracle been effected? It will be remembered that, before the war, Wales was dying of pernicious economic anaemia. Our people were drifting away; there was poverty on all hands; housing was going to the dogs. Reference was made about houses being sold for next to nothing. Houses in my own constituency were sold for £20. That was the state of affairs in South Wales, and, indeed, in one part of Senghenydd there was a row of houses which no one would buy because the colliery there had been bought and shut down—bought in London one day and shut down the next, and the whole community was dislocated.
Are not the Coal Board shutting down collieries now?
It was planned to provide new jobs for 150,000 people in South Wales. Let us see how that has turned out. Up to the present, 107,000 of these jobs have materialised and are occupied. There are 43,000 more to come under the original plan. There is unemployment in Wales now of 32,000. Let me make it quite clear: there are 43,000 new jobs to come when the new factories are built and there are 32,000 unemployed. At the same time, there are 10,000 unfilled jobs in South Wales now waiting for employees. I hope that picture—this general background—is still in the minds of hon. Members on both sides of the House.In actual fact, if all the jobs could be matched to all the men, there would be unemployment now of 22,000, and there are 43,000 new jobs to come under the new factory construction. In that way—and with regard to the proposals which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower mentioned in his speech—the budget we have made provides for a greater population than the population at present in Wales. There is also in Wales now, as my hon. Friend knows, an unspecified number of vacancies in mining, an unspecified number in tinplate, and an unspecified number of skilled building craftsmen. Limitation on reconstruction in Wales is the limitation of skilled craftsmen in the building industry. When Members say that we should do this and do that, I would remind them that the question the Government have to face is from where we are to get the skilled men to do the job. Let me put it in other terms, in terms of factories. There are 276 new factories in production. There are 75 now under construction, and 112 that have been approved for construction but not yet started. It will be seen that if all these factories are built, the great problem we shall have to face in South Wales is to find all the labour to man the factories. Taking the general view, the Government have been generous in their conception of the needs of the working population of Wales. Let me try to put it in another way. I find that since the end of the war, the building licences issued in Wales for physical reconstruction are to the tune of of £65 million. On the building of new factories and the conversion of R.O.Fs., the Government have spent £14 million. A further expenditure of £2 million is provided for in the new factories that are under construction and have been licensed. It would be wrong if I did not at this stage pay a tribute to the private employers of labour who have come into the development areas. It is quite wrong for these new employers to have behind them the criticism that they are foreigners producing useless goods. We are doing a disservice to the new industries that come to Wales when we indulge in that sort of criticism. Many of them are public-spirited men. My only regret is that it is necessary to pull in people from outside of Wales, when more people in Wales ought to be prepared to take the same risks that these people are prepared to take. I should be very pleased to see a queue of Welsh capitalists lining up even for the Grenfell factories. I pay my tribute to these private employers who have helped in the creation of this diversification of industries in South Wales. I turn to agriculture. The agricultural situation in Wales is far better than it has ever been. Nearly every farmer has a motor car. There is a prosperity to be seen in the Welsh countryside. We have only to look at the number of applications for licences to build new farm houses or to recondition farm houses to know that money is about.
And for telephones.
And for telephones. Many farms were sold for a song in the old days. Let me take the injection of new capital for the year under consideration. We find that subsidies to the value of £4¼ million were poured into Welsh agriculture to improve land and stock, for drainage purposes and by way of marginal land subsidies. That, in itself, has made a contribution. Last year the total loans sanctioned to local authorities in Wales to enable them to do the jobs they want to do was £24 million. All this money, going into Wales, is bound to have the effect of giving liveliness to the old economy and a new hope and a new outlook to the Welsh people.Of great significance to the development areas are the Exchequer equalisation grants, which have saved the rates in heavily rated areas. This came to £6,480,000 last year. In my own constituency one of the urban councils was able to have the equivalent of a 2s. 10d. rate out of this grant. I might also mention £5,233,000 for universities, school buildings, hospitals and coast erosion. This sort of thing is bringing new life to Wales, and stopping the drift from that country to other parts of Great Britain. Many of the questions that were raised during the debate are, I hope, being answered in this general survey which I am attempting to make. For instance, there is the coalmining industry, in which last year there was an investment of new capital to the amount of £4 million. In the gas industry there was an investment of nearly £1 million and in the electricity industry nearly £5 million. The most gigantic strides are made in the steel industry, where there has been an investment of £56 million since the end of the war. This has been done by the Steel Company of Wales under the general direction of the Central Steel Board, in London, which is a sort of semi-Government body acting until the nationalisation of steel comes about. I should also refer to the rearmament programme and its effect on Wales. This year, under that programme, there will be spent in Wales £30 million, and that will materially help the new factories enabling them to work to their full capacity. I am conscious of the point put by some of my hon. Friends that we do not want a war production in Wales, which will collapse at the end of the period of rearmament. That is the situation to which the Government is very much alive. They will see to it that orders are spread in such a way as not to produce a situation like that.
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what proportion of the contracts will go to North Wales?
I could not give that information without notice, but I am sure that the noble Lady will not need any reminding that North Wales is not so heavily industrialised as South Wales. There are, however, a number of important production units in North Wales which will have to be considered, because of the general shortage of steel. In that way I hope North Wales will be adequately covered.Having dealt with the general position and given a general picture showing the Government's plan, how far it has been carried into effect, and how much further we have to go, I now come to those things about which there has been considerable discussion in the debate. We have to recognise that South Wales has unemployment. We have, roughly, 32,000 unemployed, and have had them for a number of years. Of that figure 10,000 are disabled workers, and one third of the 10,000 are pneumoconiosis cases, whose disability is of a special type. The 10,000 disabled unemployed men have remained at that figure for about five years. Despite the fact, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) said, that in the last five years 15,000 men have come out of the mines with pneumoconiosis, we have been able to keep the figure of the unemployed round about 5,000. In spite of the pressure which we have put forward to get these men into employment, we find all the time that a new intake is coming from industry to the unemployment register. We also have to remember that about 2,000 of the 10,000 disabled men are only fit for sheltered employment. That problem we have attempted to deal with by the Remploy factory programme, which, so far, has employed 894 out of the 2,000. There are 14 Remploy factories in Wales. I am not satisfied that all the assistance that could be given to these factories by local authorities is being given. I know that the factories are expensive. This is an expensive piece of ambulance work, but it ought to be done rather than let 2,000 men rot in their cottages. I should like to see local authorities in particular helping this plan. Having work done on your doorstep, so to speak, is of far greater importance with factories of this kind than with normal factories. For example, if a county council wants books rebound, it is far better to get them done in a Remploy factory in the county than to send them to London. That principle applies to Remploy factories throughout the Principality. I was rather shocked when I heard a reference to the "barren memorial" to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower. There are 10 of these Grenfell factories in production, and there are working and earning a living there 472 disabled men who, otherwise, would be rotting in the streets. The scheme has not had the success that we expected. We cannot expect to build up good production from disabled men in a short time because they take longer to bed down. It will need patience, but I am satisfied that in the long run this scheme will give us the right solution to a part of the problem. Neither the Remploy factory programme nor the Grenfell programme provides a complete solution to the problem of unemployment in South Wales. That is why we have proceeded with the general programme in excess of what appears to be the actual requirement. There was a complaint that too many of these light factories are coming to South Wales. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say disabled men should be employed on light work and, in the next breath, complain that factories doing light work are coming to South Wales. What is the use of asking for more basic industries when we cannot man up the basic industries which we have and upon which our whole economy depends? If we put more basic industries into South Wales it will mean that there will be a decline in the number of men in the pits and in tinplate. We must try to maintain some sort of balance. We must not look gift horses in the mouth. A number of my hon. Friends have referred to the pneumoconiosis problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty referred to the 6,000 pneumoconiosis sufferers who had gone back into the pits, and complained that if these men became worse they could not get any increase in their compensation. I am authorised to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance has consulted the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on this matter and is willing to make regulations as soon as certain points have been discussed between the two sides in the industry. These regulations will enable these men who go back into the pits and suffer a recurrence of pneumoconiosis to get industrial injuries benefit. Therefore, that deterrent to men going back and doing what they can will be removed. I am sure that that will be regarded as very substantial progress.
Will that apply to the slate quarries as well?
I ought to have notice of that question, because this is a matter that applies to the mining industry. If it comes under the general industrial injuries regulations—that is, unless it is an industry scheme—I imagine that this would apply, but if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question to the Minister of National Insurance my right hon. Friend will undoubtedly give him the right answer.A number of questions were raised which I shall not have time to answer. Reference was made to the evil of pneumoconiosis in slate quarries. I have paid some visits to the slate quarries. I think the owners of the slate quarries should have improved the conditions under which the men work. I was shocked to see the men working in rough sheds. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minitry of Labour I used what influence I had to try to get them to improve the conditions.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make about the Rees Report? We have now waited for many years for a Government pronouncement.
I believe that is a matter which should be put to the Minister of Works although I am not sure. However, it does not come within my purview and I have no note about it. When I was at the Ministry of Labour I paid some visits to the quarries. I believe that under the auspices of the Ministry of Fuel and Power a new method for extracting the dust has been devised. My hon. Friend complained that because of the shortage of steel it was not possible to get the equipment. I will certainly take that matter up with my colleagues to see that every opportunity is given for the quarries to introduce these new methods and, I hope, conquer the fear of pneumoconiosis among the slate quarry workers.Another matter to which I wish to refer is the difficulty of the physical rehabilitation of South Wales. It was referred to by the hon. Gentleman for Wolverhampton, South-West, who spoke of the old pattern of the population being where it was because it was attached to the mining industry and docks and roads being ancillary to the mining industry. What we have tried to do is to superimpose upon the economy of the development area this new set of factories. This has brought into existence completely new needs. There is a need for new roads. I was glad to see the consensus of opinion of the House that the road to the Midlands ought to be priority number one, that it ought to be considered even before the road from the South to the North. I welcome that commonsense approach to this problem. I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will pay attention to the sentiments that have been expressed and will now proceed with greater speed with the widening and extending and developing of that road.
And the Severn bridge.
The Severn bridge involves steel, and that will be a difficulty for some time.In the time at my disposal I have tried to cover most of the points raised. I will write to hon. Members about those I have not touched upon, letting them have such information as they have sought. Despite all that remains to be done, I think hon. Members and the country have to decide which is best—the Wales they knew between the two world wars or the Wales of today. The test of good government is to be found in the homes and lives of the people. There is no section of the Welsh population which has not benefitted by the great progress made in the six years. Each one can test this for himself. Which is best for the old people, the parish and the workhouse or what has been established for them today? Which is the best for the widow, what she knew between the two world wars—the relieving officer—or the independence she has today? Which is the best for the sick man, the club and the parish and the workhouse infirmary or the treatment he gets today?
When he can get it.
Then there is the injured man, either in the mining industry or elsewhere. The average compensation was 27s. no matter how large his family. Which is best, that and public assistance or what he gets today? Which is the best for the children, what they got between the two world wars—"Daily Mail" food parcels, second-hand clothing, the Prince of Wales fund—or what they get today?Let me give one example. In 1938 we had 45,000 in secondary schools. In 1950 we have 102,000 in secondary schools. There is the opportunity. I would ask the miners: Which they would rather have—what they knew between the two world wars, when their average wage was £2 16s. 5d.—with all the talk of victimisation, fighting the scab unions, the hooter blowing for a stopped day or the guaranteed week with an average wage of £8 3s. and holidays with pay today? One could talk about the farmer and the farmworker and the young women who now have a chance to find a job in Wales instead of trekking to London to work in cheap domestic service. The only industry in Wales which is not thriving to-day is the pawnbroking industry. Wales has something to sing about in the progress now being made.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.