Wales is a country of hills and mountains, the highest of which are in Snowdonia in the northwest; the tallest
peak is Snowdon. Two-thirds of the population lives in the southern valleys and the lower-lying coastal areas. The chief urban centers are Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham. Wales is a principality; prince Charles, the heir to the throne, was invested by the Queen with the title of Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.
Latest figures suggest that about one-fifth of the population speaks Welsh, a language of Celtic origin. Welsh speakers are concentrated in the rural north and west. The Welsh name of the country is Cymru. Welsh has equal validity with English in law courts, bilingual education in schools is encouraged, and there has been an extended use of Welsh for official purposes and broadcasting.
The country returns 38 Members of Parliament and there are special arrangements for the discussion on Welsh affairs. For the last 60 years the industrial communities have tended to support the Labour Party in elections, ensuring a Labour majority of seats. The Secretary of State for Wales, who is the member of the Cabinet, has wide-ranging responsibilities relating to the economy, education, welfare services and the provision of amenities. The Headquarters of the administration is the Welsh Office in Cardiff, which also has an office in London. Local government is exercised through a system of elected authorities similar to that in England, and the legal system is identical to the English one.
Wales produces about 10 per cent of British opencast coal production, including all of its anthracite. Although Wales still accounts for 31 per cent of British steel production, it is now an important center for electronics, and several new high-technology businesses in related industries have been established. Although south Wales remains the principal industrial area, new industries and firms have been introduced in northeast Wales and light industry attracted to the towns in mid and north Wales rural areas.