Government in Wales

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29 March 1993.

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Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain , Neath 12:00, 29 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had about the future of government in Wales.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

My right hon. Friend had extensive consultations before he published his White Paper on local government reorganisation in Wales and he is now seeking views on the future of the Welsh Grand Committee.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain , Neath

But does the Minister agree that the Government are standing like King Canute in front of a tidal wave of opinion in Wales in favour of an elected Welsh assembly, and that no seedy deals with the nationalists will buy off that opinion? Does he realise that, although Plaid Cymru may be willing to accept a few pathetic little appointments from the Tories, both it and its new Tory partners will be swept aside in the county council elections by Labour candidates favouring an elected Welsh assembly, the restoration of local government powers and democracy and an end to undemocratic quangos?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been marching leftward in his life, but he will be aware of the celebrations that are taking place as yet another country rejects socialism. Faced with the march of progress, he will have to disabuse himself of the dream that a Welsh assembly might be a last refuge for the Labour party.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in the referendum in Wales in 1979, some 85 per cent. of the Welsh electorate voted against an elected Welsh assembly, and that one of the leading campaigners against it was the immediate past Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A Welsh assembly has been overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Wales. I remember the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) saying that, as long as he was active in political life, for the rest of that political life he would campaign against such a Welsh assembly.

Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn

Is not it absolutely clear that, if Wales is truly to take her place at the heart of Europe, we must secure a legislative parliament for Wales similar to those already secured by the small nations and historic regions of Europe? Do the Government understand that, as distinct from the Labour party, which wants a second-rate assembly or regional council—though it does want a Parliament for Scotland—we in Wales want real dcmocracy?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

It is here, at the Dispatch Box of the House of Commons, that we have real democracy. The future for the Principality of Wales lies here, not with any of the half-baked ideas of which we have been hearing. As the hon. Gentleman says, the Labour party cannot even come clean on exactly what it has in mind.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

Does not the Minister realise that, as the majority of the Welsh people voted Labour last year, as all the Welsh Euro MPs are Labour, as the vast majority of Wales's Westminster MPs are Labour and as the majority of councillors are Labour, any proposal to set up a so-called Welsh forum without the involvement of the Labour party is nothing more than a meaningless and empty gesture? Does not he accept that the House is waiting with great interest—it would be courteous if he told the House—to hear what are the arrangements and what is the deal between the Government and the Welsh nationalist party? We have a right to know.

Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn

As we have said, we are seeking views on the future of the Welsh Grand Committee, and the hon. Gentleman would be most welcome to come forward and give his views on that. We look forward to hearing from him.