I add my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment.
In rising to make my maiden speech I confess to feeling "ever so 'umble". I am aware of the great traditions of this, the mother of Parliaments. I cannot deny the contribution made by the Chamber to the history of the British Isles. The irony is that I stood for election to the Westminster Parliament to secure my release from it, and the return of my nation to the full nation status that is richly and rightly deserved.
Mine is a particular privilege and honour as I represent the constituency of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, where I was born and bred. I have the pleasure of representing my people, among them family, friends and innumerable acquaintances. Meirionnydd Nant Conwy is a geographically large constituency, although it is sparsely populated. My constituents have traditionally been staunchly independent—a tradition that, thankfully, persists.
In 1974, my predecessor, Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas, was elected to represent the constituency—one of the first real breakthroughs for Plaid Cymru. He held the seat with distinction until his decision last year to resign and make another career move. He was well known in the House as possessing a supreme intellect, and his contributions to debates are legendary. He also set the scene for a debate on the proper place for Wales in the European scenario. A committed European, he typically foresaw the proposed integration of the states of the European Community well before others. Many of his early speeches of 10 or 12 years ago still find favour today.
We in Wales, particularly Plaid Cymru, have always been comfortable with the concept of further integration, while preserving one's identity to the full. As well as being committed to Europe, my predecessor worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and the people of Wales. He served on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs and the Standing Committee that debated the Broadcasting Bill. He was a former president of Plaid Cymru and had a keen interest in regional and countryside policy, as well as cultural and educational policy. Last year he served on the Standing Committee on the Further and Higher Education Bill. He is a hard act to follow and I am mindful of the presssure.
I emanate from a professional stable once occupied by another Welsh wizard, Mr. David Lloyd George. I served my articles at the firm of Lloyd George and George, and was articled to Lloyd George's nephew, Dr. William Lloyd George. My father knew Lloyd George—actually, he did not, but I thought that I would say so, anyway.
Welsh is the first language for the vast majority of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, a constituency of breathtaking scenic beauty, and an amalgam of rural hill farms, slate mining towns and villages, coastal holiday resorts and traditional county councils. There is a saying in Welsh, "Tra Mor, Tra Meirion". For those who do not speak the language of heaven, I shall paraphrase the saying: Meirionnydd will last as long as the sea lasts. That is a romantic concept, but one which could soon be evidenced by local government reorganisation.
Meirionnydd Nant Conwy has everything that one could ask for, including gold mines. It could be argued that the monarchy might be in difficulty were it not for the reserves of high-quality gold in the hills of my constituency. I have to be careful not to romanticise overmuch—a temptation when one is describing something that one dearly loves. However, we do have problems —problems which may threaten the very existence of my constituency. They include high unemployment and chronic youth unemployment. There is a housing crisis of staggering proportions and crises in agriculture brought about largely by the Government's laissez-faire attitude to the common agricultural policy reform proposals. Such an approach appears typical when one considers the depth of Euro-cynicism among Government ranks.
Nothing that I have heard in the Chamber gives me comfort or reassurance that the serious problems are being effectively addressed—in fact, the contrary is true. Urgent initiatives must be taken if we are to combat the chronic youth unemployment. Is it not possible to re-evaluate the youth training schemes to make them more attractive to the young and to prospective employers? Would it not be possible to set a mandatory longer term for employment to qualify for the scheme?
We must try to regenerate the economy of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, particularly as the Trawsfynydd power station is soon to be decommissioned. During a recent visit to the European Community headquarters in Brussels, I canvassed the possibility of funding for the future in the event of the station's closure, and was staggered that the subject had not previously been discussed.
We need inward investment, and to ensure that, we need a transport infrastructure that will attract jobs and job creators to Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. I referred to the crisis in housing. In the public sector, 1,100 people are on the local authority waiting lists. That figure is creeping upward daily. If there is to be a serious reorganisation of local government in Wales, it provides the opportunity to bring responsibility back to the local authorities, where it should be. The right-to-buy legislation had benefits for individuals, but wrought havoc on the public housing stock. The Government should be urged to fund Tai Cymru properly and so assist enthusiastic housing associations in their vital role. The problem is sufficiently acute to merit an attack on both fronts.
Planning legislation should be introduced in the private sector to minimise the detrimental socio-economic effect of second homes and the consequent harm to the constituency's intrinsic culture. It is well know that a small amendment to the Use Classes Order could readily address that problem. That would involve minimal legislation, but could have a major effect.
One family in five in my constituency depends either directly or indirectly on the agricultural industry. We must face the challenge posed by the CAP cuts head on, and we must cut the cloth to suit our needs. Only then can we be assured of a healthy and prosperous future for the constituency. It is no use sitting here and complaining: the answer is to take a full part in the European deliberations. The Secretary of State for Wales, as the Government Member responsible for agriculture in Wales, should have done so at an early date. I am hopeful that he will shoulder his responsibilities as he should and, even at the eleventh hour, take on the challenge for our communities.
On 11 May, the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) said that Plaid Cymru
did incredibly well to win four seats in Wales",
although he confessed that he did not know what the message was. He also invited my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) to
explain to the House where he thinks Wales is going."—[Official Report, 11 May 1992; Vol. 207, c. 427.]
My hon. Friend is well able to answer any questions put to him, as he displayed in his masterly maiden speech, but I shall reply to the hon. Member for Christchurch.
Wales is on its way to self-government. The electorate of Wales will see Plaid Cymru as the only radical party in Welsh politics. They see Plaid Cymru as being in the main stream of European politics and they see in support for Plaid Cymru the way forward to solving its problems, some of which I have but briefly highlighted.
I pledge to work tirelessly and ceaselessly for the benefit of my constituents and the people of Wales. Thank you, Sir, for your indulgence.