Local Government Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones , Ynys Môn 12:00 am, 24th April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the issue of constitutional change in Wales following local government reform. [18728]

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

I have received a number of representations in the course of local government reform, quite a lot of which were of a party political nature.

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

Given that the Conservatives have all but given up fighting local elections in Wales, with only 20 per cent. of Tory candidates fighting Welsh seats, how can the Secretary of State continue to justify ruling Wales through the unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic quango system—which is the only way that he can outrule us? Must he not now recognise the moral, democratic imperative of establishing a parliament in Wales so that we can decide our own policy priorities, which, incidentally, would include protecting jobs in RAF Valley?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

We are fielding more candidates than ever before—I would like to field rather more. Also, a number of independent candidates vote Conservative at general elections and agree with much that this Conservative Government are doing. Local government in Wales is given a great deal of trust by this Parliament, spending almost half the total Welsh Office budget through revenue and capital allocations—most in the form of block grant. Local elections are important. I recommend that people vote Conservative on 4 May because that will result in better service at less cost.

Photo of Mr Walter Sweeney Mr Walter Sweeney , Vale of Glamorgan

I thank my right hon. Friend for visiting the Vale of Glamorgan on Friday and making an excellent speech on the occasion of the Primrose dinner at Dufferin gardens—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does my right hon. Friend agree that the local government reforms that he has just introduced will increase accountability and improve efficiency? Does he further agree that were we to accede to Opposition desires for a Welsh Assembly or Welsh Parliament, the likelihood is that new accountability would be destroyed, the influence of Wales would be reduced, taxes would increase for the Welsh people and Welsh influence at Westminster would be substantially lessened?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

Like you, Madam Speaker, my hon. Friend is extremely wise. I agree with everything that he said. Opposition Members are jealous because they were not at the Vale of Glamorgan dinner on Friday night. It was a most enjoyable event and I thank my hon. Friend for his hospitality. He is right to say that a Welsh Parliament would take power from local people and local government as well as from this Parliament. It would be a totally unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. It is a policy on which Labour is so keen that it still has not made up its mind what such a parliament would do, who would sit in it, how it would be elected or how much it would cost. We await progress, when the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) has done more thinking.