asked the Lord President of the Council what further steps have been taken in connection with the setting up of a National Council for Wales; what invitation local authorities and other public bodies have received to submit names for the Prime Minister's consideration for seats on this council; and who has been selected as chairman.
As I informed the House on 24th November, it was not the intention to set up the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire until the New Year. The object of waiting was to enable the Government to take into account any further views which hon. Members and others might wish to convey, and I am glad to say that the reception which the scheme has had in Wales has been such as fully to justifiy the Government in proceeding with the proposal. At this preliminary stage, no invitations to serve on the Council or to submit names for consideration, have been issued, but we shall go ahead as quickly as is practicable. It will, however, take some time to complete the necessary consultations with Welsh local authorities and other bodies.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the question I put to the Prime Minister a few minutes ago when I said that there are more than one or two individuals in Wales, particularly in regard to the chairmanship of this body? If rumours are correct they are not very pleasant reading.
That observation is really not in any way justified on the record of the Government. In making appointments the Government have remembered Wales, I think, more than any previous Government. In any case, there cannot be more than one chairman.
My hon. Friend is on a fair point. I think we have struck the happy medium between giving Wales an opportunity to express itself and that undue delay which would manifest itself in indecision.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that out of 180 authorities only about 12 have expressed their approval, about 60 said that this was better than nothing and more than 60 declined, while the rest expressed no opinion at all? In view of that, how can he say that the proposal has commended itself to the public opinion of Wales?
That is a very unfair and biased summary of the opinions of local authorities. I am surprised at the hon. Member. The fact is that 79 local authorities have expressed themselves in principle in favour of the scheme and 64 against and, if we take the matter on a population basis, the numbers in favour are overwhelming.