Welsh Assembly

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1996.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley 12:00 am, 17th June 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent representations he has received on the establishment of an assembly for Wales. [31652]

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

Since 1 January, I have received three letters about a Welsh Assembly—one in favour, and two against.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

I am extremely grateful for that interesting response. Does the Secretary of State agree that there is no demand among the people of Wales—or among the good people of the north-west of England—for yet another tier of government? They think that the levels of government we currently have are bad enough. Does he agree that going down that cul de sac would be an attack on the very integrity of the United Kingdom and would begin the break-up of the Union?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

I agree with my hon. Friend that an extra tier of government would be a waste of time, a waste of space and a waste of money. It would weaken, not strengthen, the position of Wales in the United Kingdom. The people of Wales voted by four to one against the proposal on the previous occasion they were consulted on it. What puzzles them is that the Opposition want to overturn such a referendum without having the guts to say that they would hold another one.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

Is it not apparent that we need an assembly now, if only to protect essential Welsh interests? We are increasingly losing out to Bristol. The latest casualties are the forensic laboratory in Chepstow and the traffic commission office in Cardiff. It appears that the Secretary of State is falling down on the job and needs some reinforcement.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman represents one of the Newport constituencies, where, on St. David's day, I was able to announce 800 new jobs because of one of the largest investments into Wales that has ever been undertaken—so I do not think anyone has been falling down on that job. That is the type of thing that has been taking place in recent years, and the establishment of an assembly would be no help whatsoever in such work.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

What could a Welsh Assembly, under a supposed Labour Government of the future, achieve that the Welsh Grand Committee cannot? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Grand Committee is a much better forum to protect and advance Welsh interests than a spurious assembly without a proper mandate?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

The Welsh Grand Committee could achieve a good deal more if the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) would agree to its having a Question Time, which is what I have been asking him to do, but certainly an assembly could not achieve very much. Opposition Members cannot agree about how its members would be elected, so they cannot get very far with saying what it might achieve.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson , Swansea East

Might it just be that the reason for the small response to the Secretary of State is that the people of Wales do not take him very seriously, do not think it is worth writing to him, recognise that he does not want to meet our local authority leaders and feel that he and his team are no longer relevant to Wales?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

They write to me in their thousands about many other subjects, so they appear to take me and my colleagues seriously. It may just be that they regard this subject as an utter irrelevance and waste of time.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

Does not the Secretary of State have to agree that a Welsh Assembly would be far more efficient and democratic than the present set-up in considering a wide range of issues, from his unconscionable dithering about the location of the new Euro-freight terminal to the new proposals for the Welsh ambulance service? Should not the future of the Welsh ambulance service be debated and discussed in the open by the people of Wales, instead of being sorted out behind closed doors by a small, tightly knit cabal of personally motivated people—the 10 men who run the present ambulance trusts in Wales?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

All those matters are handled by Ministers who are accountable to this House, and they can be debated in this House. The hon. Gentleman must bear it in mind that, if such matters were devolved to a Welsh Assembly, Welsh Members of this House would no longer be able to hold Ministers accountable on those subjects, so democratic accountability would be weakened, not improved.