Orders of the Day — Welsh Courts Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 14th October 1942.

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Photo of Colonel Sir Henry Evans Colonel Sir Henry Evans , Cardiff South

As the representative of the Conservative Party on the Committee of the Welsh Parliamentary Party to which the Home Secretary has referred in his delightful speech, I would like to associate myself with the sentiments which have been expressed by my colleagues of the Welsh Parliamentary Party of all political parties which go to make up that organisation. In fact, the Home Secretary not only gave a most interesting historical review, but indeed one might use the language of previous Measures which have come before this House in days gone by and congratulate him on "the zeal, love and favour" which his Majesty's Government have shown towards the Principality by the introduction of this overdue measure of elementary justice.

We realise, of course, that this is not the first time that the Parliamentary representatives of the Principality have endeavoured to persuade the Government of the day to take practical action in this matter. I well remember when I entered this House for the first time, 20 years ago this month, hearing rumours then of a Measure which was to be presented. But nothing came of it. It is interesting to observe that it was only as a result of 365,000 people from the Principality, petitioning this House, a petition which received the unanimous support of the 36 Members of Parliament of Wales and Monmouthshire who make up the Welsh Parliamentary Party, that His Majesty's Government saw fit to pay attention to our request. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, the Lord Chancellor was the first of His Majesty's Ministers to give us that official encouragement which we required to pursue the matter further. At a later stage in the proceedings of the Committee we came in contact with the Home Secretary and his legal advisers. There again we met with that sympathetic encouragement of which we are all so conscious to-day.

I think we are entitled to say that this is an illustration of the valuable results which can be achieved by Members of all political parties when they get together as a Council of State, sink their political prejudices and go forward together with a single purpose in the national interest. It is not the first time during the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) that results have been achieved in this way. We have evidence in the setting-up of the Welsh Advisory Council, and I hope too that in view of the sympathetic encouragement which has been afforded to us by the Government in this Measure, it will be the forerunner of a practical recognition of the claims of the Principality for adequate representation in the Cabinet of the Government of the day. In the past Members of Parliament for Wales and Monmouthshire have had a right to complain that not only the Government of the day but indeed the party caucuses have been rather apt to regard the Principality as a political area and not as a nation. But, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), Wales is a nation of 3½ millions, a live nation with national ambitions and aspirations. For that reason I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary drew attention to the fact that in days gone by, we were regarded as a Dominion. I doubt frankly whether any Welshman to-day wishes Wales to be regarded as a Dominion, but we do wish at the earliest opportunity to see that Welsh problems and Welsh affairs are in a position to receive the attention of a Member of the Cabinet particularly appointed for that sole purpose, and follow the excellent example set by the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary.

To-day it was suggested, I think by the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Lewis Jones), that there might be a tendency for some Welsh-speaking people to abuse the privilege granted by the passage of this Bill and demand that their case be heard in Welsh, quite unnecessarily, in order to delay the proceedings of the court. I cannot believe that will happen, because it would be an act of lunacy on the part of the person concerned, whether it was a trivial or a major offence, to annoy the court in that unnecessary way as he would, of course, only be prejudicing the court against him.

I would like to associate myself with the regret which has been expressed by Members of all parties at the unavoidable absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and to say how disappointed we all are that on this historic occasion, when a further step has been taken towards that practical freedom which Wales has a right to enjoy, my right hon. Friend, the Father of the House and the most famous of modern Welshmen, is unable to be here to share our joy. Perhaps I might be permitted to ask the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) to convey to her right hon. Friend the feelings of all Welsh Members of Parliament in this regard. I would only say, in conclusion, with what pride and pleasure I join with the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary, and my Welsh Parliamentary colleagues of all political parties in crying "Cymru am Byth."