Orders of the Day — Local Government (Scotland and Wales)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:34 pm on 22nd November 1993.

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Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru 7:34 pm, 22nd November 1993

This debate is in the context of the entire Queen's Speech. Before concentrating on local government in Wales, may I mention two or three other aspects of the Queen's Speech? It is deficient for the needs of Wales and its content is unacceptable. For example, it contains further threats to local government services by contracting out more services, which has a bearing on today's discussion. It contains a threat to social security systems, with talk of limiting benefits within affordable limits. That engenders fears for the future of invalidity, housing and unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, countless thousands of people in Wales still need unemployment benefit. Finally, it contains a ridiculous threat to the future of student unions. The draconian power of legislation is being used to go after something that should be a free association of peoples.

Then there are the sins of omission. The Queen's Speech makes no reference to tackling unemployment, contains no Bill to deal with the housing crisis in Wales, no energy conservation Bill and no Bill to outlaw discrimination against disabled people.

On the main theme of today's debate, it is outrageous that the Bill on local government in Wales should go to the House of Lords for its first hearing. It is a constitutional Bill and I thought that it was a tradition of Parliament that such Bills are heard first in the first Chamber. On what basis is the Bill being sent to the House of Lords for its first hearing?

It is equally outrageous that Standing Order No. 86 is likely to be set aside. We saw how the Government could hold Welsh public opinion in contempt with the Welsh Language Bill in the last Session. Standing Order No. 86 was suspended and a Committee dealing with the Welsh Language Bill consisted of 28 members, 15 of whom were Conservatives. Of those, only six could be mustered from Wales and nine had to be drafted from England.

Are we to see the same again, with English MPs, who do not have to live with the consequences of changes in local government, on the Committee while Welsh constituency MPs, whose areas are affected and whose local authorities expect them to speak up on their behalf in Committees, are excluded from the debate? That will not be acceptable and if the Government intend to go down that road, it is highly undesirable.

Apparently, the Secretary of State may make a comment on timing in the wind up. As a statesman, nothing prevented him from telling the House by way of an intervention at the beginning of the debate what the timing provisions would be. It would have enabled us to deal with the likely timetable. To hold back that information until the wind-up serves no purpose other than to cut across a logical debate.