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Column 1128sensitivity. Farmers are keen environmentalists--if it were not for them we should not have the countryside that we love--but they cannot conjure cash out of the air. The Government have, however, reduced by £40 million the expenditure available for the environment by reducing the grants for agricultural diversification and the farm conservation grant scheme.
Welsh farming needs investment if it is to survive. We have to decide whether it is worth farming on the hills. If we decide that it is not, we shall have a derelict and ugly countryside, bereft of its communities. If we decide that it is--as I believe--we must support it. I shall suggest in a moment how we should do so.
Welsh agriculture is dominated by the common agricultural policy. It is generally agreed--I do not dissent from the view--that the amount of money spent on the CAP is too high. Efforts have been made to change its structure via the MacSharry reforms, but they seem merely to have increased bureaucracy, as happened with the integrated administration and control system, cattle identification documents and the arable scheme which splits Wales into two areas. Although it could not be said that the areas were arbitrary, they are nevertheless proving to be unjust and are exciting consternation among farmers of a kind which, I suspect, would be likely to vote for the Conservatives rather than the Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Ainger : Does the hon. and learned Gentleman ; agree that the position adopted by the Welsh Office in relation to arable regionalisation is wholly illogical ? Wales produces only 2 per cent. of the cereals produced by England, but England has one system and one payment whereas Wales has to have a two-tier system. Is not that irrational ?
It is increasingly likely--even inevitable--that the CAP will be altered dramatically. I believe that we should tear it up and start with a blank sheet of paper. The Americans are opposed to it ; the third world is opposed to it ; and, perhaps most important, the emerging central European democracies are opposed to it. The CAP is self-evidently incompatible with the expanding European Union about which many of us are enthusiastic. The accession in due course of other countries--notably the democracies of central Europe--will provide the opportunity for change.
If and when the CAP goes, it will have to be replaced with something ; if not, the rural dereliction to which I referred will follow. We must prepare for that now. It will not be good enough for us to learn, following a meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, that the shop is now closed. However, some of our experience of the way in which the business of the European Union has been conducted leads one to conclude that that could happen. Post-CAP farming will be very different from the agriculture of today. It is likely that there will be no more intervention and no more payment for fallow, set-aside land. For many farmers, especially those in Wales where holdings tend to be small by British standards, it will be uneconomic to farm for profit in the traditional way. We must find new systems of farming, with the emphasis on not only food production but land use. Intensitivity will be a thing of the past, but the danger is that many farmers will be blown away in the often cruel gale of the free market.
Column 1129In Wales, we must prepare a structure--a strategy--to ensure that land is used in a diverse and economic way. Farmers must be given the training and funds to enable them to diversify as much as possible. Tourism, alternative cash crops, rural industry and leisure are all very important, but we must bear it in mind that diversification is difficult in the remotest areas--one can sell only so many love spoons at the gate.
I suggest that farmers should be encouraged, probably through a scheme of fairly negotiated contracts, to come up with as many strategies of their own as possible for the future use of their land. I foresee the possibility of a system in which each farmer will have the option of either remaining in the free market or negotiating a contract for the future production, environment and management of his farm, or a mixture of the two. Only if we are brave enough to venture down the road of considering that kind of future will we avoid disaster for the hills.
Farming was the mainstay of the Welsh economy long before coal and steel. Now coal and steel have declined. The challenge is for agriculture not to go the same way, but to show that it can prosper, albeit in a different world. If it dies, a huge swathe of Welsh culture and society will die with it. The solution to this long-term problem is a challenge. It will take a bold and imaginative Government to introduce the kind of agricultural policies which will meet the uncertain future. Rural Wales is rich in those "dappled things" of which Hopkins wrote so immortally. Unfortunately, the survival of the Welsh countryside depends on the mortal weaknesses of economists and politicians, but we must not shrink from the challenge.
Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth) : I wish to go back to where we began the debate, with the Secretary of State's announcement on the road programme in Wales. I wish particularly to congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he announced for my particular part of Wales. The emphasis of focusing on economic needs and at the same time minimising environmental damage is a welcome development. It is perhaps to be expected from a Secretary of State who represents a constituency in Wokingham that he sees the importance of strategic motorway routes, which are a significant means by which the state can properly contribute to economic prosperity and development. Those of us in south-east Wales are particularly aware of the M4 effect--I appreciate that it does not go far enough ; it does not go further up the valleys, and I can see the point that will be made--which has swept down and transformed Reading from the rather grubby railway town of 20 years ago and transformed Swindon into a much more prosperous place than we remember when we used to be stuck there because of British Rail on Sunday afternoons 20 or 30 years ago.
Mr. Evans : Yes, I agree. That is probably not a bad sedentary observation. But one well remembers going back to university in the 1960s and being stuck on Swindon station on Sundays, sometimes for four or five hours if British Rail was doing its maintenance work.
Column 1130The M4 effect has meant increasing prosperity, and it is a very useful way in which public expenditure can assist economic development. But there is increasing awareness in the 1990s that if one is to build roads, they must be economically highly desirable and focused, and we are much more aware of the environmental damage that can be caused by the wrong type of road proposal in the wrong place. I do not know if, because of the Standing Committee on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) heard the news, which I have no doubt he will join me in welcoming, of the deletion of the A40 Crickhowell bypass proposal.
Mr. Evans : He was here for it. I am corrected. It is a matter of considerable importance for our part of the world. My right hon. Friend very properly told us, in respect of the Abergavenny western bypass, that he would await the inspector's report. That is the correct way of proceeding in these matters. I have no doubt that in Abergavenny the deletion of the Crickhowell bypass proposal will be greeted as an encouraging signal that the Abergavenny western bypass will go the same way.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : My hon. Friend may know that it has been estimated that, if the Abergavenny western bypass were to proceed, traffic flows through Crickhowell would increase by 17 per cent. In those circumstances, if we are not to have a bypass in Crickhowell, he will understand that the people in Crickhowell will be anxious to ensure that we do not have the Abergavenny western bypass either.
Mr. Evans : My hon. Friend is right. Those two schemes go together, and the logic and the policy must be that if one is to be abandoned, the other must be as well. In Abergavenny that will be particularly welcome, because the proposal to build a motorway-style causeway across the Usk valley, creating an unsightly urban scar in a particularly attractive piece of rural landscape, with the kind of 10-metre lighting columns which at night can be seen from the top of the Skirrid mountain, and generally debasing the environmental quality of the whole area, is exactly the kind of ill thought-out, old-fashioned, 1960s style of road building that we no longer want in the 1990s.
The other facet of this matter which has become increasingly appreciated is that when one builds new roads--sometimes that is a good thing, when trying to create an important strategic route such as the M4 corridor or to improve the heads of the valleys road through the A465--and attempts to create and attract traffic, they do attract traffic and that sometimes, by creating new roads in the wrong place, one attracts traffic where one does not want it. As I understand the position in Abergavenny, the peak traffic jam problem is on Sunday morning at bank holiday weekends, when the type of traffic which is said to be objected to and which stuffs up Abergavenny is visiting tourists, who are exactly the kind of people that we want to see more of in Abergavenny. So if communities are to go on living, and if historic communities are to preserve the
Column 1131quality that makes their environment so attractive, as in the case of Abergavenny, road schemes must be sensitive and be directed more to environmental matters.
I have another problem to put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, if the A40 is not to be the great strategic through route which, as I understand it, both the Department of Transport and the Welsh Office have assumed for many years.
Some of us sometimes, in protest at the M4 being rather full of traffic, take the other way to south-east Wales--via Gloucester--and see, as we are stuck in a traffic jam at Northolt, those enormous notices telling us about the great road scheme described as the "A40 London-Fishguard trunk route". Will we see an end to that scheme in its entirety now that it has at least been realised that it cannot be expected to proceed through the environmentally sensitive part of Gwent and Breconshire in the same way ? I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement.
I am particularly grateful to the Welsh Office ministerial team for their recent announcements, not just because of greater respect for the environment but also because of heritage matters. I refer particularly to the emphasis on and increased resources available for re-listing and properly surveying Wales for buildings of architectural and historic importance, and the help to be given in the form of the proposed redundant churches and chapels fund to save parts of Wales's important heritage.
I have one query about local government reform. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) is absolutely right in thinking that I am the kind of Tory who is deeply concerned about mayoral chains. Not only do I not want them melted down : I believe them to be part of the municipal heritage of Victorian Wales, and want them preserved.
But there is an important point here, which goes slightly beyond mayoral chains. It is about what happens when local government is reformed and councils are closed down, which may or may not be controversial. Councils tend to accumulate over the years various types of memorabilia--paintings of former civic dignitaries and so on--which are terribly important and part of the pride of the community. I ask my right hon. Friend whether proper arrangements will be made to preserve these vital parts of the Welsh municipal and county heritage.
Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) : There has been a debate on the Government's "back to basics" policies for several months now. Many Opposition Members have argued that the Government were referring to individual morality, whereas the Government would deny that, saying that they were trying to apply those policies to some of the big issues, such as health, education and crime.
It is hard to deny that they were talking about individual morality, because it became obvious when we heard the attacks on single mothers. We were given to believe by some Ministers that all the problems that western civilisation faced were probably caused by single mothers--that is, until one Minister said a few days later that the clergy must also take a considerable amount of the
To be fair to the Government, I believe that they were also trying to apply "back to basics" to the big issues. I am surprised that that idea caused such a stir, because in my opinion that is what they have been doing over the past
Column 1132decade--applying that policy to the problems we now face. Every time I hear the Minister of State, Department for Education speak, and every time I hear the Secretary of State for Wales address the Welsh Grand Committee on education, as he did last week, I am convinced that the Government are sincere about going back to basics. In educational terms, "back to basics" could mean not only changing from comprehensive to grant-maintained schools, but changing from comprehensive schools back to the old 11-plus examination. There is often a lot of debate about the 11-plus, and much time is set aside to say how grand the grammar schools were. That is debatable, to say the least. However, it is remarkable that, when we debate the 11-plus, virtually no time is given to discussing the merits or otherwise of the old secondary modern schools.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : While we are talking about the benefits of the old grammar schools, may I declare an interest and say that I went to the same grammar school as the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), the former leader of the Labour party--although I always say that I learned more there than he did. Were not grammar schools a vehicle for social mobility, an avenue by which children were enabled to do so much better in life, and has that not been cut off by many of the changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, which the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) appears to support ?
Point number two is that, when we discuss the 11-plus examination, we should talk not only of the merits or otherwise of the grammar schools, but also about those of the secondary modern schools, because, under the old system, 75 per cent. of our youngsters were written off and dumped at the grand old age of 11. They were dumped in the secondary modern schools and conditioned for life at 15 or 16, when they would go out to work, labouring in the pit, the factories or the building sites. The lucky few would manage to achieve apprenticeships.
That was a tragedy. Many youngsters with tremendous skills, talents and creativity were not given the opportunity to use them for the benefit of their communities, and even to create the industries in which their fellows could have been employed when they left the secondary modern schools.
What worries me is that, if the Government go back to basics and return to the 11-plus and the secondary modern schools, it will all be even worse the second time round. If it happens again, we shall be dumping youngsters in secondary modern schools that will condition them not for a life labouring in factories and building sites, with a few skilled apprenticeships, but for a life on the dole, with the lucky few doing soul-destroying, menial, part-time jobs in the local factories.
It is a tragedy that Conservatives are still willing to defend the old secondary modern system and the 11-plus, which wrote off 75 per cent. of our youngsters at the age of 11.
The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts) : The hon. Gentleman is expressing concern about children who are not academically inclined. Does he not appreciate what the Government are now trying to do
Column 1133by introducing GNVQs--general national vocational qualifications--and so on ? Those are aimed at precisely the people whom he is talking about.
Mr. Smith : I am shocked to hear a senior Minister talking about the old 11-plus system and the secondary modern schools in a way that shows that he is willing to write off the 75 per cent. of youngsters who did not go to grammar schools as, in his words, "not academically inclined".
I happen to be an authority on secondary modern schools, because I was one of the children who attended one. I found that the people who went to secondary modern school and joined me in the activities of the school were academically inclined. The tragedy, and the argument against the 11-plus examination, is the fact that those children did not have the opportunity to show that they were academically inclined, because they were written off at the age of 11.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : I do not want to intervene too often, but surely the lesson is that we should have been endeavouring to improve the standards of technical and secondary modern education, just as the Minister has suggested, rather than cutting away the grammar schools, as happened in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr. Smith : I am all in favour of raising standards, but the hon. Gentleman does not understand that the 11-plus worked against that idea, because it said to 75 per cent. of youngsters, "You will spend four or five years in a secondary modern school being conditioned not to expect anything better in life than a job in the factory, the building site or the pit."
It is an insult to those children for the Minister to categorise every one of them as not being academically inclined. That shows a misunderstanding of the nature of schools under the 11-plus system. It is an insult to every one of those youngsters who would have liked the opportunity to use his or her skills, and who objected to being written off at the age of 11.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : I am surprised that we are having this argument across the Chamber, because I thought the Conservatives had now come to terms with comprehensive schools. Is not one of the problems with education in Britain the fact that we are still elitist and tend to think only of the top 10, 20 or 30 per cent., whereas Japan, Germany and the United States think that 60, 80 or 90 per cent. of the people need to be very well educated today, because jobs will change so much during their working lifetime ?
Mr. Smith : I agree with my hon. Friend. The situation will be exacerbated by student loans, because youngsters from working-class homes will find it increasingly difficult to participate in the colleges and universities in our land.
I shall touch on another area in which the Government are serious in their belief that we should go back to basics. Over the past decade, they have definitely been developing "back to basics" policies on employment--and, indeed, on unemployment. For them, "back to basics" means back to the 1920s and 1930s.
Mr. Jonathan Evans indicated dissent .
Mr. Smith : The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) should know better. He would not shake his head if he revisited the constituency in which he was brought up, and with which I am sure he was proud to be associated. He would see that conditions in that constituency are becoming increasingly similar to those which prevailed in the 1920s and 1930s.
A number of my colleagues and I spent a considerable time collecting and collating statistics on poverty in Blaenau Gwent. We also went out and interviewed people in the villages to find out about their experiences. I should like to quote from the pamphlet. It will be one of the few occasions in the history of Parliament when the words of ordinary working people, who have been subjected to extreme poverty, will be spoken in this Chamber. Some 50 per cent. of the people in one street of families we surveyed were unemployed. I want to relate the experiences of those people in our community who suffer severe poverty. The first case is that of an unemployed couple with one child at home. [ Laughter .] The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor may think that it is a laughing matter, but if he bothered to visit our community, I suspect that he would be reluctant to laugh at the people and their experiences, which I am about to iterate.
Excuses are not necessary on this occasion. I repeat that one case involves an unemployed couple with one child at home. The father, aged 49, is on invalidity benefit and suffers from arthritis. He has not worked for 11 years. He says :
"The Hoover's broken, it'll cost about £70 to repair so we'll just have to go without. We don't go on holidays--just day trips. We don't go out, we don't drink.
We have got into debt but we learnt from that. It we want something now we sit down and talk about it. You've got to watch every penny.
I think we go from day to day. We feel a bit depressed. It affects your whole life--its monotonous. Some days we get up thinking if only something was different. But you've just got to get on with it." Another case involves an unemployed couple with an unemployed son. The father, who is 62, has been unemployed for 10 years. He has worked in the building trade for 30 years, sometimes on low pay. He said :
"People like us will get into debt. The social will only give you a loan and then you have to fight for it. We put in for a £70 loan for a cooker and they wanted £8 a week back off us. Well we didn't bother-- we couldn't afford to pay that.
We went on holiday once--we paid for a caravan--that's in more than 30 years of marriage . . . I'm not optimistic for me, nor for my grandchildren. The chosen few will be getting all the resources and all the others will get left out."
That shows some of the problems that we have in our communities. It is right to accept the Government's argument that they are committed to going "back to basics" in terms of unemployment. That policy extends further, because unemployment and poverty are related to other problems, such as low pay. The Government often give the impression that, if we had low pay in our communities, all our problems would be resolved and all of a sudden our communities would flourish. That is nonsense. If low pay were the answer to all our problems, Germany would be the poorest country in the world and India the richest. I suspect that that is not the case.
Bad health is another problem that is linked to poverty, to unemployment and, indeed, to low wages. That issue is relevant in my community and constituency, where we have some of the worst health problems in Wales. A high
Column 1135percentage of people in Blaenau Gwent have a permanent disability. The 1991 census shows that 41 per cent. of households include someone with a long-term illness or disability that limits how they live. The people in my community, therefore, have a vested interest in ensuring that there is decent health care, and that we maintain the national health service.
The Government are sincere in their belief that we should go "back to basics" in the NHS. Their idea of "back to basics" is to return to the position that prevailed before the NHS, when people's ability to receive effective treatment depended not on their health needs, but on the amount of money in their pocket.
The Government are determined once again to go "back to basics". The health service will be increasingly dependent on, and determined by, whether people can make a quick buck out of health provision. By supporting that trend, the Government are going "back to basics". That is true not only of this country--health care in the United States is going back to basics. At least it is now recognised in the United States that there are major problems in the health service, and efforts are being made to resolve them.
A few years ago, when I read a book on health care in the United States, I was reminded that we are copying the position that prevails in the United States. The book stated that the chairman of Kentucky Fried Chicken had resigned his position to head the new Hospital Corporation of America, because, in his words, the growth potential in hospitals was enormous--it was even greater than in Kentucky Fried Chicken.
I do not know how many right hon. and hon. Members have tasted Kentucky fried chicken. Those who have done so will be justifiably concerned that the quality of that product will be similar to the quality of health care that we can expect in the months and years ahead.
The money that can be made out of health care is not the only issue ; the people who run the service are also a matter of concern. We find increasingly that the people who serve on area health authorities have never worked in the national health service, have not devoted their lives to it, do not care about it, and do not know what makes it tick. Increasingly, those serving on health authorities are slick business people who are out to make a quick buck. That is utterly unacceptable.
The Government are successfully attempting to take our democratic process back to basics. They have taken us back to the days when that process had no relevance to the vast majority of people. I do not suggest that the Government intend to abolish the vote in the next few months--even by their standards, that would be going too far--but the result of their policy will be the same.
People will be allowed to participate in the vote for local authorities, but it will be a worthless exercise, because those authorities will no longer have any powers--it will be a charade. Increasingly, powers are being put into the hands of quangos, and of people who are unelected and unaccountable to the local population. Councillors are often attacked, but the money that councillors receive is nothing compared with the money that some quango members receive. The then Mr. Geoffrey Inkin once fought a parliamentary seat in Ebbw Vale,
Column 1136which is now part of my constituency. He managed to win about 2,000 votes. When the votes were announced, I thought, "That Mr. Inkin, he's a loser" ; but I was wrong and I apologise.
Some years later, although Mr. Inkin had become somewhat disillusioned with the democratic process and elections, he was sympathetic to the idea of appointments. He now works for a few days a week. He receives about £60,000 to £70,000 a year. That is an insult to the people who, at one time, he wanted to represent. If we go "back to basics", we should go back to the time when we gave our youngsters the opportunity to use their skills and talents : when we said to them that there were opportunities for them if they used the available facilities. We should go "back to basics", to the days when youngsters left school and knew that they were going to gain employment. We should go "back to basics" in terms of how we care for our people in hospitals ; we should say to them that we will respond to their health needs, and that the money in their pockets is totally irrelevant.
We should go "back to basics" in our communities. Communities, including my own, which is one of the most famous in western Europe, are now breaking up because of the 10 or 12 or 13 or 15 years of "back to basics" from the Government.
unreconstructed socialism that so many of us on the Conservative Benches recognise. It took me back to my childhood in Tredegar, where there were so many people with the same outlook as the hon. Gentleman running the local councils. Does he recall that, in those days, the level of unemployment in Wales was always higher than the national average ? Wales was a country heavily dependent on the old, heavy industries. He will recall that there were coal mines in the area. In fact, my grandfather worked in a coal mine in Tredegar.
As the hon. Gentleman rightly outlined, the aspiration of youngsters in that area was either to work in the pits or to go over to the Ebbw Vale steel works, which was a major employer in the area at that time. He has obviously conveniently forgotten that a substantial rationalisation of the steel industry at Ebbw Vale was subsequently announced by the former Member for Ebbw Vale, his own predecessor Michael Foot. That change was brought about not through wickedness on the part of Michael Foot, but through a recognition that the steel industry was not able to carry on with the high level of manning that had previously been the case. That process of rationalisation has carried on in Wales.
Mr. Llew Smith : I certainly do not have a short memory and, because of that, I remember the announcement of job losses in Ebbw Vale. I remember it well, because a few days later it was followed by another announcement that there was to be substantial investment in new factories and developments in the northern part of the constituency. That is what makes that period different from the present period. In the present period, jobs in our community are part-time, low-paid, menial and non-union.
Column 1137probably the last occasion, on which I addressed many thousands of people at the Ebbw Vale rugby ground and got an immense cheer for my remarks. If I may say so, on that occasion, the hon. Gentleman and his friends in the local Labour party were not as popular in that constituency as they might have been at the election.
In considering the position of the economy in Wales, it is important to recognise that all is not perfect. We must recognise from where we have come during the 20th century and that is why I referred earlier to the position of the old, heavy industries. A more substantial manufacturing base subsequently developed in Wales. Historically, the former manufacturing base was at the end of the line of industries based in the United Kingdom. When there was recession job losses would always occur first in Wales and that is why we always had levels of unemployment that were significantly higher than the national average.
As the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent accepted, we have had to face rationalisation of those old, heavy industries. We hardly have a deep-mined coal industry left in Wales but, at least, we have a rationalised steel industry, which is at the forefront of competition in Europe. We should recognise and be positive about that instead of adopting the negative approach that we so often hear from the Opposition Benches.
We must also recognise the job that has been done in developing the manufacturing base in Wales and the work of the Welsh Development Agency in that regard. I know that it is the favourite sport of Opposition Members to deride the work of the Welsh Development Agency, but we would do well to recall that there are many thousands of people who are working in Wales today primarily because of the efforts of the Welsh Development Agency.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : We are concerned about the Welsh Development Agency and the lack of accountability in its structure. Nobody on the Opposition Benches undervalues the work that it has done. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the present reorganisation of the Welsh Development Agency into three regional offices and the closing of the office in Carmarthen will mean the loss of 70 jobs, the loss of 70 key people whose expertise lies in working to develop indigenous industry and to attract inward investment ? Is the WDA safe in the Government's hands ?
Mr. Evans : The hon. Gentleman asked three questions. It has been shown in past months that the Welsh Development Agency is a demonstrably more publicly accountable body than many local authorities in Wales and all the people in Wales attach great importance, as we do in the House, to the activities of that body. The Public Accounts Committee demonstrated the accountability of the Welsh Development Agency. If that were not the case, the occasions when it fell short of the standard that we required would not have come into the public domain.
However, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's recognition of the work that has been done by the Welsh Development Agency in the development of industrial opportunities in Wales. Clearly, every organisation must operate according to a specific plan. In those circumstances, my inclination is to give maximum support to the new chairman of the Welsh Development Agency, helped by the recent appointments made to the board which include--there is
Column 1138silence on the Opposition Benches--George Wright of the Welsh Trades Union Congress and the Transport and General Workers Union. He has agreed to join the board of the WDA, which is carving out the organisation that it requires to take forward the next stage of industrial development.
It is important that we should recognise where the successes have occurred. I am not saying that they are all successes and that we should rest on our laurels, because many concerns have properly been raised by some Opposition Members about sectors in which we need to progress still further. Let us recognise the major achievements in winning new inward investment to Wales. Let us not deride the fact, as some did a few years ago, that we have investment from north America, from Japan and from continental Europe because they do not set a lower standard of wages.
Assessments that have been made of wages paid in many of the new manufacturing plants in Wales show that their levels of pay are in no sense dramatically different from levels of pay in the UK. The overall wage level in Wales is lower than the national average, but that is because of many of the reasons outlined by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) earlier. He said that wages for those who do not own large farms, but for the ordinary family farmer on a small farm in Wales, are about 60 per cent. of national wage rates. Wage rates in indigenous business in Wales are pulling the average down. The new investment from others parts of the world has not reduced wage rates in the Principality.
Mr. Ainger : The hon. Gentleman touched on the accountability of the Welsh Development Agency. He claimed that, because the Public Accounts Committee investigated the scandal of more than £1 million of public money which was not being used in the correct manner, the WDA was therefore properly accountable. The Public Accounts Committee became involved because some Members, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan), drew the serious allegations and rumours about the Welsh Development Agency to the attention of the Audit Commission. Its proper route of accountability was through the Welsh Office, but under the administration of the Secretary of State's predecessor that Department totally failed to make the WDA accountable. That is why Opposition Members constantly refer to that accountability.
Mr. Evans : All public organisations within Wales that are within the remit of the Welsh Office are accountable ultimately to the House. That is the factual and the constitutional position. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) has not been in Wales quite as long as I have. At the start of my political and legal career in Wales one of the first cases that I dealt with involved corruption on the old Glamorgan county council-- supposedly an accountable organisation. It had decided to delegate authority for all planning matters in an area that covered West Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan to one Labour councillor--the chairman of the planning committee, who came from the Rhondda valley. He ended up serving three years in prison, but that does not mean that the system was not accountable. Nor does the example that the hon. Member for Pembroke
Column 1139gave about the work of the WDA in any way undermine the fact that the agency is accountable to Parliament, as I outlined.
Let me return to the thrust of my argument on the development of the Welsh economy. It is important that we take advantage of some of the positive messages that we have received, for instance from the "Wales 2010" report by the Institute of Welsh Affairs. I drew attention to that report in an intervention as it sets out an important agenda for the future. It suggests that we should aim to become one of the most prosperous regions in Europe and that we should not spend our time looking negatively towards the past but should build on some of our successes--for example, the undoubted growth within the Welsh economy.
During the past 12 months there has been greater growth in the Welsh economy than in the United Kingdom as a whole. The "Wales 2010" report shows that we should be more ambitious and should seek annual growth of up to 4.5 per cent. in Wales. We must also aim to increase the gross domestic product in Wales. That is an agenda that can and must be addressed. It must be our ambition to make Wales one of the most prosperous regions in the United Kingdom. We can do so only by changing attitudes within Wales and that is why I pointed that out to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. I am glad that he dealt with my argument and accepted it.
We need a new spirit of enterprise in Wales, which does not have a great history of entrepreneurial activity. I am pleased that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery at least recognises that it is important that we develop that spirit in Wales, because the growth and jobs that people and Opposition Members want will result from that sort of entrepreneurial activity. The difference between Opposition Members and Conservative Members is that the former believe that such activity is Government- generated.
We shall change the situation in Wales only by dealing with the concerns outlined by the Institute of Welsh Affairs. Yes, we all agree about improving skills and about the importance of achievement for our school children. The Secretary of State for Wales remarked on that recently. However, we should also develop that entrepreneurial spirit. All those issues are of the utmost importance.
The Secretary of State mentioned the roads programme and I welcome his announcement about the Crickhowell bypass. Judging from what he said, he has clearly taken into account the weight of local representation on the subject. I am slightly disappointed that my intervention in my right hon. Friend's speech about traffic-calming measures was treated with derision by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. I do not know whether he has received any representations on the subject from his constituents, but many groups in my constituency strongly believe that traffic is travelling through our towns and villages much too fast and that in the past, sadly, roads policy has not dealt with that problem. The thrust of that policy has been to get traffic moving more quickly from one main centre to another, without dealing with the traffic management problems, such as how one gets traffic through a community other than driving a bypass around it. That is one reason why I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement.
Column 1140observed some of the traffic-calming measures, such as those in the village of Crew Green in my constituency, which are ineffective and almost encourage motorists to accelerate ?
Mr. Evans : I certainly think that it is an important matter. As I returned to Westminster this week I approached Glangrwny, the most southerly village in my constituency, and saw 37 Welsh Office approved traffic signs within 100 yd, many of which merely tell people to reduce speed. That is not what we mean by traffic-calming measures.
On Saturday I attended a meeting at Llanwrtyd Wells in my constituency--the smallest town in Britain--where the Welsh Office has sponsored serious proposals involving placing gateways across the road to the town. They are interesting and innovative proposals, which I discussed in detail with representatives of the traffic department at the Welsh Office.
Although it is a well-known fact that I do not have the highest opinion of the Welsh Office's previous approach to the roads programme, I was much encouraged by its attitude to that development. I want more developments of that type. That was the essence of my intervention on the Secretary of State. That is why I was surprised at the derision expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, as I thought that he would have welcomed my observation. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister will convey to the Secretary of State my next point. It is perhaps known that a "Panorama" programme revealed that I am one of a group of Members who have asked questions about Government transport policy. However, the Secretary of State's announcement on the roads programme shows that he has carried out the type of review that I have been urging Ministers to undertake nationally. It would be churlish of the House not to recognise that he has dealt with the issue and caused that first review to be undertaken in Wales and he deserves great credit and support. I am happy to convey that to him.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery mentioned agriculture and said that it was the oldest and the largest industry in Wales. I recognise that fact and he knows that our constituencies are not dissimilar in that regard, although he painted an especially bleak picture. As we all recognise, there has been a decline in employment in agriculture since the 1950s. I take some solace from the fact that the number of agricultural holdings has not declined during the past 10 years and that is another factor. Having said that, many of the holdings have become larger, as the hon. and learned Gentleman outlined.
I wonder whether the imaginative and radical solution that he outlined-- scrapping the common agricultural policy--is the answer that so many of our constituents want hear. Would they accept that it is uneconomic to farm for profit in many parts of mid-Wales ? When the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the need for diversification it took me back to those days when my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) used to make similar observations, as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. As I remember, he had a somewhat rougher passage from Liberal Members on those occasions.
This year, income from agriculture is better and it improved last year. Although that was partly helped by what the hon. and learned Gentleman derided as the