Referendum in Wales

Orders of the Day — Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 4th June 1997.

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Photo of Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones Plaid Cymru, Ynys Môn 6:30 pm, 4th June 1997

I beg to move amendment No. 68, in page 2, line 7, leave out `propositions' and insert 'options'.

The Chairman:

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 70, in page 2, line 9, leave out '2' and insert `(Referendum in Wales: Form of Ballot Paper (No. 2)).'.

No. 207, in page 2, line 9, leave out '2' and insert `(Referendum in Wales (No. 2B))'.

No. 69, in page 2, line 17, leave out from 'shall' to the end of line 26 and insert `under prescribed arrangements determine the order of preference of those voting in the referendum as between the options to be voted upon.(7) "Prescribed" means prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument.'.

New schedule 1—'REFERENDUM IN WALES: FORM OF BALLOT PAPER (NO.2)Parliament has decided to consult people in Wales on the Government's proposals for a Welsh Assembly and the policies of other parties. All four options are explained in the Government's White PaperMae'r Senedd wedi penderfynu ymgynghori â phobl yng Nghymru ar gynigon ar gyfer Cynulliad i Gymru a pholisiau'r pleidiau eraill. Esbonnir pob un o'r pedwar opsiwn ym Mhapur Gwyn y Llywodraeth.Note your preferred options in order or preference by marking "1", "2", "3" or "4" by each option. You need not use every option.Nodwch yr opsiynau sydd orau gennych yn nhrefn eich dewis drwy ysgrifennu "1", "2", "3" neu "4" gyferbyn a phob opsiwn. Nid oes raid i chi ddefnyddio pob opsiwn.

I AGREE THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO CHANGE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF WALES

or

I AGREE THAT THERE SHOULD BE A WELSH ASSEMBLY

or

I AGREE THAT WALES SHOULD LEAVE THE UNITED KINGDOM.'.

Amendment No. 123, in title, line 4, after 'Assembly', insert `and other constitutional proposals for Wales'.

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

This bank of amendments allows us to shift the axis of the debate in Wales away from the rather sterile arguments about the status quo and whether we should have constitutional change, to a more intelligent and less confrontational level. Indeed, it would allow us to consult the people of Wales not only on whether they want change but on what kind of change they want.

Such an approach is well within the spirit of inclusive politics that has been trumpeted by Welsh Office Ministers since the election, so their response to the debate will be an early sign of whether that new spirit of inclusive politics is meaningful.

Once we lift the debate to a different level and concentrate on the powers that any Welsh body will have, we can have a mature discussion on the way ahead. Let me make it clear at this early stage in the debate that this is not simply a party political issue in Wales.

There is a range of opinions within parties in Wales about the powers that an elected Welsh body should have. In the last Session of Parliament, the Government of Wales Bill—which called for an elected body with legislative and tax-varying powers—was given a First Reading and received support from all parties. The Bill was proposed by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) and sponsored by his Labour colleagues the hon. Members for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). The Bill was also sponsored by the former hon. Member for Montgomery, Alex Carlile, and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative former hon. Member for South-East Cornwall, Sir Robert Hicks, was a sponsor, as were my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and I on behalf of Plaid Cymru. That clearly showed that there was cross-party support for an elected body with legislative and tax-varying powers. From the opinion polls published in Wales in the run-up to the general election, it is clear to me that of those who favour constitutional change, a substantial majority favour legislative powers and a clear majority favour tax-varying powers.

One of the features of this debate that is in marked contrast to the debates of the late 1970s is that sections of the Conservative party in Wales and in Scotland are rethinking their approach to the topic. There was a tradition in the Conservative party of having an open mind on this issue, but that was stifled during the Thatcher years. One can well understand the Conservatives' need for change in the aftermath of the Tory wipe-out in Wales and in Scotland, and it has been refreshing to read the comments from Sir Wyn Roberts in Wales and Malcolm Rifkind in Scotland. How different their approach is from the flat-earthers now occupying much of the Tory Benches.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek Labour, Wrexham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was not in the interests of the people of Wales for the Government to have fixed the timetable motion so that the group of amendments starting with amendment No. 48—one of which was tabled in my name—has no chance of being debated?

One of those amendments would have given the Welsh people the opportunity to vote for exactly the same tax-raising powers as the people of Scotland. It is a great pity that the Government felt that they could not explain why they will not give the Welsh people that option. Does the hon. Member agree that we should appeal to the Government to come out of their shell, be honest and tell the Welsh people why the powers to be offered to Scotland are not to be offered to Wales?

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has strong views on the matter, for raising it in that way. I agree with him, and a number of the amendments grouped with his were tabled by me and some of my hon. Friends. I invite him to look at the wording of amendment No. 68—to which I shall refer later—which may allow him to develop his argument in that context, even if his amendment has not been selected.

All the amendments seek to do is to give the people of Wales an opportunity to be consulted on the real choices that face them and to enable the debate to be much more positive. We understand that the Labour party in Wales will want to campaign on its own proposals for an executive Assembly, but widening the options—as the amendments propose—would give the electors an opportunity to listen to all the arguments on constitutional change.

6.45 pm

Within this group of amendments, there is the opportunity to support a multi-option referendum. That would be fair, because it would give the people of Wales an opportunity to vote for the programmes put forward by the four political parties in Wales at the last election. Why should the only choice facing the people of Wales be between the status quo and the Labour party's proposals? Why should the Conservative party's programme—which was so decisively rejected by the people of Wales at the general election—have priority on the ballot paper? Its position is preserved, and the people of Wales will yet again have an opportunity to reject the Conservative status quo option.

In the circumstances, and given that hon. Members representing seats in Wales come from the Labour party, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, why should not the option favoured by the Liberal Democrats and my party be on the ballot paper? In the spirit of inclusive politics, the Government should surely take that on board. The group of amendments gives us the opportunity to vote for a multi-option referendum. The hon. Member for Wrexham has stated that had there been sufficient time, there would have been an opportunity to consider other options, including legislative and tax-varying powers. We would have liked an opportunity to have such a debate because we could then have looked at all the available options.

There are people in Wales who are asking why Wales should be treated differently from Scotland. Why are the Scots deemed to be mature enough to be allowed to vote for a Parliament with legislative and tax-varying powers, but, for some reason, the people of Wales are not? What difficulties might be created if a Welsh Assembly was established with only secondary, not primary, legislative powers? What would happen if the framework of legislation was set up here in Westminster by a Government of a different political complexion from that running the Assembly? There will be a straitjacket.

Members of the Assembly could pass only secondary legislation on the back of primary legislation, which could have been imposed by a Conservative Government in Westminster. If the Assembly wanted to change primary legislation and invited Westminster to do so, what priority would be given in the administrative and legislative logjam at Westminster to legislation sought by a Welsh Assembly? These are questions which could have been answered if we had had an opportunity to widen the referendum question.

The group of amendments does not allow us to have a vote specifically on legislative and tax-varying powers as a discrete option, but we may want to divide the Committee on the amendment that would allow Members to vote on the principle of widening the questions. I invite hon. Members to look at amendment No. 68, which proposes to remove the word "propositions" from clause 2(2) and replace it with the word "options". If the Committee supports that amendment, we will be content to leave it at that. In other words, the Committee would have voted for the principle of widening the options. In the spirit of inclusive politics, we would leave it to the Government to decide what second question they would want to add later—perhaps in another place.

If the amendment is passed, the Government will need to look at the mood of the debate and the views coming from different parties to see whether there is a general demand for more questions to be included, and what kind of questions they should be. In the spirit of inclusive politics, the Secretary of State would want to consult other parties about the nature of those second or third questions. I hope that those hon. Members present who favour further questions—but who may not want to go all the way and support a multi-option referendum—will feel happy about supporting an amendment that simply looks at the principle.

I think that the Secretary of State will realise that there is a strong argument in Wales on the issue of parity with Scotland. It is strong at not only an emotional but a rational level. People simply cannot see the difference between Wales and Scotland on the issue. I ask the Secretary of State to reflect on the strength of opinion on the matter, and I know that he and his colleagues will want to carry support across the parties that have a positive attitude to the subject.

This is the Government's opportunity to reach out to all shades of opinion in Wales and bring them into the debate in a positive and constructive way. We make this offer to the Government: if they accept the amendment and consult on the second and third question, they will have an opportunity for all shades of opinion to be reflected. I think that that is a reasonable offer.

Photo of Martin Caton Martin Caton Labour, Gower

Thank you, Mr. Lord, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate on a referendum that will decide how Wales is to be governed in the new millennium. I continue a long and proud tradition of Labour representation in the Gower constituency that goes back to 1906 when John Williams was elected as Gower's first Labour Member of Parliament. He was followed by D. R. Grenfell, supported by the South Wales Miners Federation, and then by Ifor Davies. I never knew either D. R. Grenfell or Ifor Davies, but there are a number of people still living in the constituency who remember them both with enormous respect and affection.

I did, and do, know my immediate predecessor, Gareth Wardell. He was my Member of Parliament for 13 of the 15 years that he represented Gower in the House. Many of the hon. Members who served alongside Gareth during that time will know much better than I do the contribution that he made in this legislature. From speaking to his colleagues, in particular his fellow Welsh Members, I find that there is clearly enormous respect here for the work that he did, and especially for his willingness and ability to master detailed subjects.

Alongside those parliamentary colleagues, people all over Wales have recognised and valued the tremendous job that Gareth did as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, undauntedly leading investigations into all sorts of aspects of public life in Wales over the years.

I know and will remember Gareth best as a superb constituency Member. As a local councillor, I would take constituents to his surgery when I felt that any case needed his involvement. I honestly cannot believe that the concern that he showed for those people or the attention that he gave to seeking solutions to their problems have been surpassed by any hon. Member.

I know that Gareth's friends here will join the people of Gower in wishing him all the very best in his return to higher education as head of geography at Trinity college, Carmarthen. I know, partly because I was told it on the doorsteps so many times during April, that I have a very tough act to follow. I intend to do my very best.

It is probably not common knowledge this far east, but in south-west Wales the residents of the city of Swansea are nicknamed Jacks, and people who live in Llanelli are called Turks. Most of my constituency lies between those two population centres, which has led some bar-room wits to describe us as half Jack and half Turk—or Jerks, for short. People who talk in that way make a big mistake, first, because such terminology can seriously damage the health in the area that I represent, but, more importantly, because the people of Gower may be many things—indeed, they are many, many things—but a bunch of Jerks they are not.

It is a huge privilege to have been elected to represent so beautiful and diverse a constituency as Gower. I am acutely aware of the responsibility that I now carry as its Member of Parliament and I am conscious of the problems that I may well face in the years ahead because of that very diversity.

The Gower constituency cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as a single homogeneous entity. It snuggles around the south-west and north of Dylan Thomas's "ugly, lovely town" of Swansea, and provides the new unitary authority, the city and county of Swansea, with virtually all its rural population.

On the face of it, being non-urban seems to be all that the various communities that make up Gower have in common. Starting in the south, Mumbles, where I live, is an old fishing village that developed into a seaside resort and has expanded to become part of Swansea suburbia. Mumbles is currently struggling to revitalise and renew itself, always seeking to conserve and treasure the best of what we have inherited from the past.

To the west is the Gower peninsula, which most people think of when the Gower constituency is mentioned. It was the first designated area of outstanding natural beauty in the country, and a wonderfully fascinating combination of coast, countryside and estuary for palaeontologists, archaeologists, historians, zoologists, botanists, oceanographers or holidaymakers.

Even the peninsula itself can be divided at least into two. South Gower, with its glorious cliffs, caves and sandy beaches, is much more anglicised, even in place names and pronunciations. North Gower, on the Loughor estuary, is equally beautiful in its own way and still holds on to the Welsh language in villages such as Crofty, Llanmorlais and Penclawdd.

Penclawdd is, of course, the home of Gower cockle gathering, with the only commercial cockle beds in the country where people can harvest all year, every year, because they refuse to use mechanical drags; they still hand-rake and gather, thereby ensuring a sustainable shell fishery that provides an environmental example for the whole of Europe.

South Gower also provides a fine example for sustainable living and community action. Holtsfield is a remarkable collection of wooden chalets in a wonderful woodland setting, just outside the village of Bishopston, where more than 20 families are trying to live in harmony with their beautiful surroundings and the wider community.

Unfortunately, a property development company has different ideas. It has bought the land and is seeking to evict those chalet dwellers, who are resisting with enormous resolve and imagination and who have the support of the vast majority of the rest of the population of Bishopston, which was wrongly thought of previously by many people as merely a dormitory village for Swansea commuters.

Coming off the peninsula on the North Gower road, one enters Gowerton and begins to meet the community whose recent history is the history of coal, steel and tin. Like the rest of south Wales, it has suffered terribly from the economic decline of, especially, the past two decades.

Villages such as Loughor, Pontybrenin, Penllergaer, Penyrheol, Garden Village and Grovesend have over the years melded together around the central village of Gorseinon, but their sense of identity as separate communities remains strong, as I found out during the election campaign when I accused someone from Loughor of living in Gorseinon. She gave me the strong impression that she would much rather have been described as a "Jerk" than as a resident of her neighbouring village.

Those communities have learnt, often the hard way, the importance of solidarity to achieve common objectives and to enable fulfilment of individuals. They are strong, Welsh, socialist-minded villages where people and families look out for one another and are prepared fiercely to combat what they perceive as injustice. That is probably even more true of the separate settlements of Pontardulais, Garnswllt, Craig Cefn Parc, Pontlliw, Felindre and Clydach, all directly to the north of Swansea.

The tragedy of those communities is that so much of the tremendous talent and quality that exist there has been undervalued and wasted for so long. Very few jobs have come in to replace those lost in mining and steel. Even the small number of manufacturing employers based in the constituency have been shedding jobs in recent years. The decline is reflected in the commercial centres of the larger villages. One has only to walk the main streets of Clydach, Gorseinon or Pontardulais and see the number of empty shops and charity shops to understand why the posters declaring "Britain is booming" that sprouted this spring seemed like a sick joke to people who live there.

7 pm

The different parts of Gower vary enormously because of geology, geography, history and relative wealth, yet there is much that unites us wherever we live in Gower, as became clear to me during the general election campaign.

First, in every part of the constituency there is still a sense of community, an acceptance that we are responsible one for another; a belief that there is such thing as society. Secondly, many of the concerns are the same in the different communities. In every part of Gower, there is equal concern for improving our schools and colleges, rebuilding our national health service, protecting our environment and providing jobs for our young people and the long-term unemployed. When we come to ask the people of Gower, and of the rest of Wales, to vote for the creation of a Welsh Assembly, those same concerns will still be at the top of those people's minds.

I believe that there are enormously powerful constitutional and democratic arguments for making the Welsh Office accountable at last to the people of Wales. Those arguments are even stronger when we consider the might of the quangocracy that has grown up in Wales over the past decade and a half. However, I do not believe that it will be those arguments in the main that will win us the referendum in my constituency or across Wales. People will vote yes if they are persuaded that a democratic Welsh Assembly will provide a vehicle for creating a first-class education system for all our children; if they believe that our Assembly will play a central role in developing a national health service in Wales that can and will deliver quality treatment and care whenever they need it; if they are convinced that a Welsh Assembly can ensure that environmental protection will be at the heart of all policy-making in Wales in the new millennium; if we can show them that our Welsh Assembly—their Welsh Assembly—will be an engine for harnessing the skills and talents of the population of our country, to regenerate our economy and create decent jobs for our people.

We must prove that democracy in the form of a Welsh Assembly is not merely a nice idea if we can afford it, but an essential, practical mechanism for improving the quality of life of the people of Wales. I am sure that we will.

Tempting as is the amendment so eloquently moved by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones), it is time for the Labour Government to carry out their pledge to offer the people of Wales the chance to vote to create the sort of Assembly described in our manifesto. It is time for the democratic debate to move on, to engage with the people of Wales. It is time for all of us who believe that extending democratic accountability in Wales can and will help deliver the goods on education, health, the environment and jobs to prepare ourselves for the task of campaigning to secure a massive yes vote in the autumn.

Photo of Mr Richard Livsey Mr Richard Livsey Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire

I heartily congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his excellent maiden speech. It is a test of a maiden speech as to whether one can mention all the villages and communities in one's constituency. I know his constituency well, and he had a jolly good go. My paternal grandmother, a redoubtable Welsh speaker who hailed from Alltwen, took me to Penclawdd when I was three or four to pick cockles. That has been etched on my mind ever since. People still do that in almost the same way, but one no longer sees donkeys there. He has a wonderful constituency to which he paid good tribute, as he did to his redoubtable predecessor, Gareth Wardell, who did a superb job as Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee.

Amendment No. 68 deals with multi-options. In theory, it is very attractive. If Wales had a multi-option referendum, there would be four choices. First, there would be the Government's proposals. Secondly, we would have the Liberal Democrat proposals for legislative and tax-varying powers, and a more thorough system of proportional representation, although we hope that that may be proposed in the Government's White Paper. Certainly, we favour a federal solution for Wales, which is an entirely logical way of proceeding towards the unity of the United Kingdom and a successful legislature.

Thirdly, there are Plaid Cymru's proposals for an independent Wales in Europe. The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) moved his amendment well, and that option would appear on a multi-choice ballot paper. Finally, there is the status quo, which was wiped off the map in the general election. That view has been defeated. As we have heard, some members of the Conservative party in Wales are having a rapid rethink, going back to the drawing board and saying that perhaps, after all, there is a possibility of meaningful government in Wales with devolution. I believe that more still will do so before the referendum is put to the Welsh people.

Clearly, this is a complex situation. We are trying to maximise support for a Welsh Assembly. Perhaps the choices should include a question asking people whether they favour a Welsh Assembly, and if so, what option they favour. It might be more logical to go about it that way.

We did not have a constitutional convention in Wales, which I regret. I approached the Labour party five years ago on two occasions to ask whether it was possible. I know that the former Member for Montgomery, Alex Carlile, did the same. We did not have the benefit of what they had in Scotland to have a proper debate. It would have been helpful, because the debates on the Scottish referendum have shown that there is perhaps a greater unanimity of purpose. It is certainly not the Liberal Democrats' purpose in Wales to frustrate the Government's efforts to create a Welsh Assembly. Polls before the general election showed that the Liberal Democrat federal proposals for tax-varying and legislative powers were the most popular options among people who favour a Welsh Assembly.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers Labour, Rhondda

The hon. Gentleman has more than once spoken of a federal situation. Will he spell out his idea of a federation? We know that Plaid Cymru's patriotism is based on resentment of the English. That is why it put forward the proposition of a Wales in Europe. It does not want a Wales in Britain. What is the Liberal Democrat policy on the federal idea?

Photo of Mr Richard Livsey Mr Richard Livsey Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's intervention is helpful. As 20 to 25 per cent. of the population of Wales originates from the other side of Offa's dyke, if we are to win the referendum, we must get everyone, of whatever origin, to support a yes vote. We should not go down the path that he offers. He asked what a true federal situation was. I can spell that out simply.

In a federal Britain, the functions of the Welsh Office should reside with the people of Wales. That means that primary legislation that could affect those functions should be possible. Other functions in a federal Britain should be operated from a United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster. Those functions could be defence, macro-economic policy, foreign policy and other matters of wider impact. Other functions could operate on a European scale—for example, the environment, where problems of environmental degradation know no boundaries. All those scenarios are entirely logical. There are plenty of examples around the world, including Canada, Australia and the United States, of countries that operate successfully under a federal system.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

The hon. Gentleman said that one of the responsibilities of this Parliament would be macro-economic policy. Surely the Liberal Democrat party supports a federal Europe and a single currency. If that is the case, does he recognise that macro-economic policy in a federal Europe would be in the hands not of the United Kingdom Government but of the European central bank?

Photo of Mr Richard Livsey Mr Richard Livsey Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire

I shall leave those questions for the contenders in the Tory party leadership contest. The hon. Gentleman opens up a big debate, and I shall not be led down that path.

In a multi-choice referendum, we could end up with just two questions such as, "Do you favour the status quo?" and, "Do you favour independence?" We hear Conservatives debating that situation ad infinitum, as if those were the only two choices that existed. Of course, there is a coalition of view elsewhere that we need a Welsh Assembly in order to achieve devolution. Such an Assembly is a much more constructive way of going forward and of achieving meaningful and effective government within Wales.

I have some sympathy with the multi-option referendum. It has been referred to as a preferendum. It is inclusive. People could vote for their own options and still produce an overall majority in favour of a Welsh Assembly. However, people in Wales must be united, especially at this time. They require leadership. I and my party are determined not to let slip this opportunity. We must combine across party boundaries to secure a yes vote in the referendum. That referendum is coming soon—in September. We do not have time to consider the possibilities of a multi-option referendum. That would delay a straightforward vote on whether Wales needs an Assembly and whether people in general want it.

We have to remember that, although many of us fervently back the creation of a Welsh Assembly, many aspects of constitutional reform do not interest all the people of Wales. People look on it as an academic exercise. They just know that they are in favour of devolution. The individual powers of such an assembly, which are important, have to be debated and defined within a Wales Bill.

Those of us who have been waiting a long time for a Welsh senedd believe that it is better to proceed with one question. Although we have sympathy with a multi-option referendum, we must achieve a coalition of views in Wales if we are to win the referendum. Now is certainly not the time to hesitate, so we shall not impede the progress of the Bill. The people will decide. The options can be considered later when the Wales Bill goes through the House.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on a wonderful and excellent maiden speech. He reminded us not only of the constituency with which many of us are familiar in both campaigning and personal terms, but of the remarkable representation that he follows in the form of Gareth Wardell. I also knew Ifor Davies as a Member of Parliament and a Minister in the Welsh Office in the 1960s. My hon. Friend said that he had a hard act to follow. I think we all agree that he has made an excellent start.

The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) moved the amendment. I recently read some internal memos and documents from the late 1950s on the development of Welsh administration and on Welsh constitutional change. In minute after minute by Mr. Henry Brook, the then Minister for Welsh Affairs, derisory, insulting references were made to the Joneses wanting to keep up with the Macs. I find offensive the notion that we have to follow the Macs; that we cannot devise a set of constitutional arrangements that suit our requirements and meet the needs and aspirations of Welsh people; the carping belief that we must follow some other model, which may or may not be suitable to another part of the country.

The hon. Member for Ynys Môn argued that because the Scots seek to do one thing, we have to follow them. That shows a curious inferiority complex. We should devise our own means and methods of constitutional change. The hon. Gentleman also observed that all the votes except the Tory votes added up to a vote for constitutional change. I would like to believe it, because it would mean that 78 per cent. of the electorate in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney voted for devolution. I do not believe that that is the case. So one should not invoke the argument that the result of the general election was a massive mandate for a Welsh Assembly. That is why we decided to hold a referendum, to test public opinion separately.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru 7:15 pm, 4th June 1997

Given that the general election did not reflect the attitude of the people of Merthyr or elsewhere to the constitutional proposals that the Government may make in a White Paper in due course, how can the Government or the hon. Gentleman say that only one constitutional proposal, rather than the full range supported by the various parties at the election, can be put to the people of Wales?

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

The vast majority of people in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney voted for a Labour Government. They did not vote for an option promoted by the nationalists, who polled only about 2,300 votes. So the notion that the nationalist option should be included on the ballot paper is not supported by the experience in my constituency or in the rest of Wales.

I put it to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) that I sense a degree of ambivalence even towards a Welsh Assembly within Welsh communities. While opinion has changed, my own political instinct—I speak only for my own communities, not for anyone else's—is that if the prospect of a tax-raising, legislative Parliament is actively promoted during the referendum campaign or in any other discussion, the anti vote will grow. There will be alienation and a feeling that the Assembly will not be a measure of devolution such as we have promised during the past X years. The prospect of a tax-raising Parliament would lead not to a stronger vote for devolution, but to a stronger no vote. In terms of practical politics, it would increase the scepticism, if not the opposition to the principle of devolution.

I do not support the amendment. Two things have changed public opinion in the past 18 years. First, people have seen for 18 years an unrepresentative Government determining Welsh affairs. We have had Secretaries of State who did not understand, feel or appreciate Wales. They all made an effort, but most of them did not have a feeling for Wales and did not have the democratic mandate of the Welsh people to implement their policies.

The second contributory factor that has shifted public opinion in favour of our devolution proposals is the growing revulsion for the quango state, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower so eloquently described. That state offends the instinctive democratic instincts of the Welsh people. They have found the huge number of political appointments increasingly offensive. Because of that, it is far more important than any option about tax-raising or legislative powers that our White Paper and our subsequent devolution Bill should include the power to bring to an end decisively the quango state. I hope that my colleagues on the Front Bench heed those remarks.

I am concerned that we appear to be fudging the issue when we say that a Welsh Assembly may at some future date deal with the quango state. It was created by primary legislation passed by the House and it is the job of the Westminster Parliament to dismantle it. If we address that need directly in our White Paper and the devolution Bill, we shall appeal powerfully to the Welsh people. If they vote yes on that basis, they will know that they are voting for the dismantling of the quango state rather than for that possibility to be referred to a future Welsh Assembly. I stress again to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that it is vital that the White Paper states our intention to do that and that our Bill contains the necessary power to do so. Our rhetoric about the quango state must be matched by our legislative action in the autumn.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers Labour, Rhondda

Would my hon. Friend care to carry his argument a little further? Many of the quangos were set up by a Labour Government. However, because the Conservatives could never win seats in local government, they distrusted it—they even went to the extent of abolishing the Greater London council—and they side-stepped Welsh local authorities and gave their powers to quangos. If those quangos were not dismantled prior to the establishment of a Welsh Assembly, I am extremely fearful about whether the powers that would normally have gone to local authorities would ever be given back to them. We would then get not devolution, but evolution upwards from local authorities.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. As the basis of our appeal during the referendum campaign, our devolution Bill must guarantee not only the dismantling of the quango state but, wherever possible, the return of powers to local authorities, particularly from housing quangos. We must demonstrate that we shall legislate to dismantle the quango state, because I believe that the growing revulsion towards it has been a major factor in increasing the mood in favour of devolution. I sense that that feeling has grown in the past 18 years.

Again, I stress to my colleagues on the Front Bench and elsewhere that we must make the right case for devolution. We must not make exaggerated claims about the Welsh Assembly. We must not talk about the huge number of jobs that may be created as a result of its creation, or those that may be lost if that Assembly is not established. The proper case for our devolution Bill is a fundamental democratic one, based on the need for appropriate Welsh administration.

I accept that, in the past, we wanted such Welsh administration and that we set it up deliberately. When one looks at the minutes from the 1950s, there was little Welsh administration, but we built it up with the development of the Welsh Office and the increasing powers of the Secretary of State for Wales. Despite our belief that the Welsh Office should be better scrutinised by a Welsh Assembly, it is accountable, through the Secretary of State, to the House. The quango state is not similarly directly and effectively accountable. We have witnessed growth of a new administration at the Welsh Office and a host of non-departmental bodies, which constitute the quango state. It is their democratic control which will be vital to our campaign for devolution, and not any of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn about the tax-raising and legislative powers of our Parliament.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

Yesterday, our colleagues on the Front Bench stated that if we did not have a Welsh Assembly, thousands of our people would find themselves thrown on the dole. What evidence has my hon. Friend found to substantiate that claim?

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

I do not have to take responsibility for the speeches of my colleagues, but I am sure that they will justify that claim.

It is extremely important that we make the proper case for the Assembly which can be justified and which will not be received sceptically. The Assembly must not be seen just as another political creation. It must address the instinctive feelings and wishes of the Welsh people, who are against the growth of the quango state. We should appeal to the Welsh people on the need for a directly elected Assembly, which will oversee the dismantling of that state and scrutinise and deliberate on the key issues of the Welsh administration that has developed since the 1960s. We should not campaign on the options that the hon. Member for Ynys Môn wants to include on the ballot paper.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

I am grateful to follow the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) because I want to address some of his arguments in due course.

First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his maiden speech. Members from all parts of the Committee were warmed by his comments about Gareth Wardell, who was an excellent Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman speak on many future occasions.

One theme that the hon. Gentleman stressed in his speech is important to the debate on a multi-option referendum. He is right to say that if we have an elected Assembly or Parliament for Wales, it must be relevant to the people of Wales in their ordinary circumstances. As he said, it must be relevant to education policy, economic policy, jobs and the health service. It must be relevant to those policies, which have been at the heart of Welsh politics down the years. It is those services which, to some extent, have been undermined by the growth of the quango state to which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney referred.

Therefore, the question that arises in the context of the comments from the hon. Members for Gower and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney is how we can make a difference to the prospects of the ordinary people of Wales, whether they live in Merthyr Tydfil, Gower or Caernarfon. It is our belief that, unless the Assembly or Parliament has adequate powers, it will not be possible to tackle the problems that arise.

An example is education policy. We know that the Conservative party tried to privatise education in Wales. We know that from the way in which the Tories introduced nursery vouchers. If there were another Conservative Government, particularly led by one of the right-wing contenders—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I dislike interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but we are discussing the amendments. The hon. Gentleman is talking in general terms about devolution, but we are talking about a referendum and the amendments related to it.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

I shall show you, Mr. Martin, how my remarks are relevant.

If we have an Assembly that has nominal responsibility for education, but no legislative power for it in Wales, the reality is that our educational framework will be determined in this Chamber. Unless we have the power in Wales to pass legislation, we may find that in five or 10 years, or whenever we have the misfortune to have a right-wing Tory Government again, we shall be in danger of seeing our legislative framework being determined here. The Assembly in Cardiff will be unable to make a difference, by protecting the people from the privatisation of primary or secondary education. That will be determined by legislative capability.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

No, I will not give way. I know that the hon. Gentleman is busy going around the Welsh local authorities advocating the policies of his colleagues on the Labour Front Bench. He is persuading those representatives that Labour's proposal is important and will help those authorities. I am sure that his time will be well cut out for him. During his rounds, he can tell the people in the various local authorities in Cardiff, Rhondda and elsewhere how the educational framework may well veer again to the right unless the Assembly or Parliament has primary law-making powers. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has some sympathy with the model of a Parliament with primary law-making powers, as it would be a body relevant to the problems.

7.30 pm

Our multi-option amendment deals with the central question of what the people of Wales want. A year ago, there was not to be a referendum; then, the leader of the Labour party decided, for whatever reason, that there would be one. It was meant to be an inclusive referendum to find out exactly what the people of Wales wanted. Apparently, that is something that cannot be determined at a general election—many other matters can be determined, but apparently not this issue.

That being so, we must look at the four options being proposed by the various parties: the status quo, advocated by the Conservatives—or, at least, some Conservatives, as many Welsh Conservatives are thinking again about their party's position; the Assembly, without primary law-making powers, advocated by the Labour party; the federal model, advocated by the Liberal Democrats; and full self-government within Europe, advocated by Plaid Cymru. Apparently, the proportion of support for each of those four models cannot be judged from a general election result. That is the basis on which the Government are putting forward their proposals.

What is the support, as far as can be told, for the various models? Based on the NOP and Beaufort polls in Wales last year, it appears that of those who are in favour of, or not against, the concept of an elected Assembly, 71 per cent. are in favour of legislative powers and 69 per cent. in favour of tax-varying powers. If that is true and the people of Wales want an Assembly that has those powers, why are the opportunities to vote for those models being denied in the referendum? If it is a consultative referendum to find out what the people of Wales want, why will they not be allowed a full range of choice? Through our amendment, which allows for a I, 2, 3, 4 vote on the four options, we could find out exactly what the people of Wales want. On that basis, it would then be possible to introduce relevant legislation.

Photo of Mr Gareth Thomas Mr Gareth Thomas Labour, Clwyd West

The central question is how to maximise support for a yes vote in the referendum. As a representative of a party that rather grandiosely and incorrectly describes itself as the party of Wales, the hon. Gentleman should accept that that is the central question. Does he accept that a multi-option referendum would engender confusion and deny that central goal?

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

As was explained in a previous debate, multi-option referendums have been run successfully in other countries. I do not think that the people of Wales have greater difficulty than the people of other countries in comprehending these matters. If it causes the hon. Gentleman a problem—and from what he said it clearly does—we could attack the issue from a different angle. We could have two questions: first, whether people want an Assembly, and secondly, whether people want legislative powers. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) tabled an amendment along those lines. It is another way of reaching the same determination. If the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas) has difficulty with a 1, 2, 3 transferable vote, it could be overcome in that way.

The people of Scotland are being allowed a second question, but the people of Wales are being denied that second question on the legislative powers that we believe to be essential if the Assembly is to be successful.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

The hon. Gentleman may find my remarks more friendly that he anticipates. Does he find it insulting that not only are the Scots to have two questions and the Welsh only one, but the Scots are to be allowed to vote a whole week or more before the Welsh? I understand that it is an attempt to use the Scottish vote to influence the Welsh.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

Until we see the White Paper, we do not know the details of what will happen. However, one aspect of the Government's case is that it is necessary to differentiate between the arguments relevant to Scotland and those relevant to Wales. To that extent, it is a wise precaution to hold the vote on different days, so that there can be a focusing on the issue in the media—given that most of the mass media come from London and are seen in Wales and Scotland alike.

If the people of Scotland are being offered a Parliament with law-making and tax-varying powers, which can develop considerable clout within the European Union, it is absolutely essential that Wales has the opportunity to develop those powers as well. The clout of Wales in the EU will be that much stronger if we have a Parliament that can have a credible voice in Brussels. Catalonia and the Lander governments in Germany have successfully developed their prospects within Europe and it is essential that Wales likewise has that opportunity.

It is important that when the White Paper is published, we are able to understand exactly what the powers will be, because at the moment it is difficult to reach a decision. However, we know that there are various themes. The Secretary of State has said in the past that the status quo is no option.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

I note the right hon. Gentleman's agreement.

In the referendum proposed for Wales, the status quo is an option. It is the only option being offered other than the Government's policy. The options of Liberal Democrat policy and Plaid Cymru policy will not be offered. The option of a law-making Parliament, which is supported by many members of the Labour party, is not to be put to the people of Wales. Between now and the completion of the Bill's passage through the other place, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look for a vehicle to allow the people of Wales to be genuinely included in a decision-taking mechanism in the referendum.

If that is not to be the case and if there is a yes vote, the right hon. Gentleman will have his Assembly and he can build on that. I respect that. But if there is a no vote, it will not be worth the paper it is written on, because the reason for it will be unclear. Was it because people did not want that much power, or was it because they wanted law-making powers and a strong Parliament? The former Welsh Minister, Sir Wyn Roberts, has said that he would vote yes if there was the option of tax-varying powers. Without that second question, a no result would be absolutely meaningless. The Secretary of State must address that aspect. This is a vital debate and it is important that we get it right.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Conservative, Devizes

I congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his eloquent maiden speech. He was particularly eloquent in his tribute to his predecessor and in his attachment to his new constituency. We look forward to hearing further speeches from him.

I listened to the debate with a certain amount of ambivalence as I heard the arguments in the Scottish debate being put slightly differently in this Welsh debate. It is interesting that in this debate, as in the other, I find myself sympathetic to the proposal to have more than two questions in the referendum.

I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). He, like me, finds it difficult to be precise in his reaction because without the White Paper we are not certain of the nature of the proposals that will be put to a referendum. I again make the plea that the White Paper is produced in good time. I make the same suggestion to the Secretary of State for Wales that I made to the Secretary of State for Scotland—that in accordance with declarations about future White Papers, he might consider attaching a draft of the Bill to his White Paper so that by the time of the referendum the people of Wales will have a full and clear idea of the detail of the issues.

The referendum, as currently set out, contains two questions: whether there should be a Welsh Assembly and whether there should not be a Welsh Assembly. Having listened to this and previous debates, it is clear that various people will vote for a Welsh Assembly for very different reasons. The hon. Member for Caernarfon said that a no vote would be complex; I think that a yes vote would be even more complex. I suspect that some people, such as the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones), will support an Assembly because they believe that ultimately it will lead to an independent Wales. After all, that is the purpose of their party. They will see it as part of that process and will therefore vote for it. On the other hand, others will vote for a Welsh Assembly—I include the Secretary of State in their number, because I have listened closely to what he said in previous debates—because they believe that it will retain and, indeed, buttress the United Kingdom. Therefore, the so-called maximisation of the vote for an Assembly, referred to by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey), will be constructed on two totally contrary purposes. To claim that that is an endorsement on which an Assembly can be built would be dangerous ground on which to build.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers Labour, Rhondda

Surely the right hon. Gentleman grasps the point that the issue of an independent Wales has been put in front of the electorate of Wales time after time after time by the Welsh nationalist party and the nationalists have never got more than or even as much as 10 per cent. of the vote. In the last general election, the people of Wales completely rejected the one policy on which the nationalist party stands, so what is the point of putting it in as an option in the referendum?

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Conservative, Devizes

Doing so would at least underline whether people were voting for an Assembly because they wished it to lead to an independent Wales, or because they wished it not to lead to an independent Wales. That is a relevant question and the only way it can be answered is by having a multi-option question that sets out the issues fairly and firmly.

Having said all that, however, I have to point out that because of the guillotine and the way in which it has affected the debate on the amendments, the amendment on which our vote is being sought this evening is not one that fulfils those criteria—it goes further and looks for order of preference to be part of the process. I repeat what I said in the previous debate: the idea that constitutional issues should be decided by second or third preferences would be a novel concept indeed and one that I certainly could not support.

On that basis, I say that although I support the principle of the amendment and the reasons why it was tabled, neither I nor my Front-Bench colleagues can vote for the amendment and I cannot ask my Back-Bench colleagues to do so. Nevertheless, a relevant issue has been raised and the Government have to address it. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will answer the questions raised. If he does, it will be a first because none of his colleagues from either Wales or Scotland has done so in previous debates.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I begin my reply to this good debate by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his excellent speech. It was a model maiden speech—confident, articulate and witty—and I was especially delighted to hear him because we are neighbours in the Swansea valley. We share a road in the socialist village of Trebanos and I was delighted to hear him use that term. I welcome him to the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) made several telling points and I share his desire to deal with the quango state. The White Paper will address that matter. However, we must not pre-empt the Welsh Assembly and its own obligations to deal with the matter.

Photo of Mr Denzil Davies Mr Denzil Davies Labour, Llanelli

I was reading the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on 16 May. He said that the Assembly will have powers to reform the quangos". —[Official Report, 16 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 350.] But having powers to reform the quangos is not the same as the devolution Bill reforming the quangos. Will the Minister give an assurance that the devolution Bill will itself reform many of the quangos and subsume them into the Assembly?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

My right hon. Friend makes a similar point to that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. The point is an important one, and it will be addressed by the White Paper. When the White Paper is published, they will see what the detailed proposals are.

The issue of jobs was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith). I say frankly that, yes, I do believe that if we do not have a Welsh Assembly, jobs in Wales will be threatened, investment will be threatened and the strength of the Welsh economy will be threatened. Let me explain why. The Scots will get a Scottish Parliament; next year London will get the opportunity to vote for an elected authority; and the regions of England will follow within a matter of years thereafter—the north-east is already pressing hard for an elected authority. Is my hon. Friend really saying that Wales should be the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have a devolved form of government? In those circumstances—especially with the English getting regional economic development agencies—I believe that job prospects in Wales will be threatened if we do not have an Assembly. A Welsh Assembly will give us the power and the authority to reorganise the Welsh economy to protect jobs and, indeed, to increase employment and tackle unemployment.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

My hon. Friend the Minister just said that if we do not have a Welsh Assembly, thousands of jobs will be threatened. First, in yesterday's press release from the Welsh Office, he was talking not about jobs being threatened, but about jobs being lost. Secondly, if we take his argument to its logical conclusion, is he also saying that we have LG investment because LG recognises the possibility of a Welsh Assembly in the near future?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

We got LG investment because the company knew that there was a Labour Government coming and knew that it wanted to be in a Wales ruled by that Labour Government. In a modern economy, inward investors will be attracted to Wales if there is an Assembly to assist with the development of our economic strategy.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West 7:45 pm, 4th June 1997

The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) made the point that the LG jobs might not have come to Wales if it had had a Welsh Assembly. He was entirely wrong. As someone who was involved in the decision to bring the LG jobs to Wales and who discussed at great length with LG executives their decision to bring the jobs to my constituency, I know that they knew, as did everyone else, that a Labour Government were almost certainly coming and that a Labour Government would bring a Welsh Assembly. They are entirely comfortable with the idea of being in Wales under a Welsh Assembly. The links between Korean investment in Wales, which stretch from Caernarfon to Merthyr to Cardiff and to Newport, are very strong and will be greatly strengthened when we have our own Assembly in Cardiff.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I take my hon. Friend's point. This is not simply an erudite constitutional matter, and these interventions have focused our attention on the fact that this debate is about jobs, health, schools and housing. If we get a measure of self-government in Wales, we will better be able to deal with all those issues.

Let me now directly address the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones). He effectively advanced the proposition that there should be what is called a preferendum and I respect his right to argue that case—indeed, given his party's policy, he has a duty to argue it. He did so constructively and in an inclusive spirit, which I acknowledge. However, I have to say that his policy at the general election was roundly defeated and that our policy won overwhelmingly. We are putting that policy in a confidence vote in the referendum, which will take place later this year.

People in Wales do not want separatism; they do not want Wales to break away from the United Kingdom. We do not want more taxes; under the Tories, ordinary people in Wales have paid more taxes than ever before.

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek Labour, Wrexham

Will my hon. Friend the Minister give way on that specific point?

Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek Labour, Wrexham

It is an important point, so I ask my hon. Friend to give a concise and intellectual defence of the reasons why the people of Wales are not being offered the same choice that is being offered to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The defence is clear: we did not give in our election manifesto a commitment to give tax-raising powers to the Welsh Assembly. [Laughter.] It is no laughing matter. That commitment was given in the election manifesto to the people of Scotland. We are honouring our election manifesto in Wales, just as we are honouring it in Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said, Scotland is different from Wales, which is why there are different propositions for Scotland and Wales.

People in Wales want the enormously powerful functions of the Welsh Office to be exercised by democratically elected people from Wales; that is our policy. The new Welsh Assembly will be a very powerful institution. No doubt it will evolve over the years. When, in 1964, James Griffiths was established as the first Secretary of State for Wales, it was not nearly as powerful a position as it is now, and no doubt there will be opportunity for it to evolve in future, but we need a Welsh Assembly to make it possible.

I want to address the points made in the amendments tabled by, among others, the hon. Members for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and for Ynys Môn. There is great potential for confusion in what one might regard as a complex multiple choice examination paper, the "preferendum" that is suggested. It is quite possible that no single majority view will be expressed for any of the options. Where will that leave us, given the arguments and the momentum for devolution and decentralisation in Wales? It might leave us where the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and other Members want to leave us—with the devolution process delayed or abandoned. I urge hon. Members not to fall into that trap.

Several technical questions have not been answered by the hon. Member for Caernarfon and his colleagues. Would the multiple choice referendum be conducted on a first-past-the-post basis, as they have suggested, or by single transferable vote? If it was conducted by single transferable vote, which would allow a majority view to be expressed after preferences had been transferred, it would be the first time ever that that electoral procedure or form of preference had been used in any referendum or election in Britain.

The referendum in Wales on this vital principle should not get bogged down in a complicated voting arrangement tried out for the first time. We want the people of Wales to have a simple, straightforward and clear choice—yes or no: "Do you support the Government's policy, which we advocated in our manifesto, on which we received an overwhelming mandate to establish a Welsh Assembly, or do you not?"

The greater the yes vote, the more authority the Welsh Assembly will have, and the bigger will be the mandate from the people to make progress in the House in the months to come. In those months, the negative, destructive, filibustering tactics that have been attempted by the Tories in the past few days will be used. We do not want to give them an opportunity to pursue them.

On one of the ballot options that the hon. Member for Caernarfon has proposed—envisaging self-government within the European Union—it is not clear whether Wales would be a sovereign state or something different. If he proposes a full sovereign state of Wales in the European Union, that would require a treaty amendment, because it would enlarge the European Union. A unanimous vote by European Union members and a new intergovernmental conference would be needed. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman seriously wants us to go down that route simply to create a Welsh Assembly.

We made a contract with the people on 1 May for a referendum in Wales to enable the people of Wales to express their precise view on this question. We spelt out exactly the terms of the question when we said that it would be on a Welsh Assembly, and we are now implementing that commitment, as we did our commitment regarding Scotland. We are keeping our promises. It may be novel, given the Governments of the past 18 years, for an incoming Government to keep their promises, but we are doing so and deserve credit for it. We are inviting the electorate to endorse a clear principle that they will support our policy for an elected Welsh Assembly.

Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams Labour, Swansea West

How can my hon. Friend reconcile his argument that we are putting a specific proposal to the people of Wales with his argument that the Assembly might subsequently evolve? If he believes that it may evolve, why does not he give the Welsh public the option of choosing an evolved form?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I believe that my right hon. Friend, whom I respect as a colleague in the West Glamorgan area and for his role in Parliament in the Welsh group, is confusing two points. We shall outline in the White Paper our policy for a Welsh Assembly; that is what will be voted on. That is what will be legislated for in Parliament thereafter. I am simply making the obvious point that one cannot bind future Parliaments and that a future Welsh Assembly may be able to evolve in future. There is nothing contradictory in inviting the people of Wales to vote on the policy set out in the White Paper.

I see that the shadow Secretary of State for Wales has finally turned up to the debate, very late in the day.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

He is canvassing, is he, for extra votes? That displays the typical arrogance that the Tories have shown in the past few days for the mandate that we have received from the people of Wales, and which they definitely have not received. Indeed, the real opposition in Wales to the Government is sitting on the Liberal Democrat and nationalist Benches, because there is no opposition in Wales on the Tory Benches.

I pay tribute to the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru Members who have spoken. I especially appreciate the constructive spirit in which the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) made his contribution, especially bearing it in mind that his grandmother is from Alltwen. She comes from very good stock, as it is in the Neath constituency.

I hope that we can move forward together to get a massive yes vote in Wales for an elected Assembly in Wales, because Wales must not be left behind in a movement for democracy that is being unleashed throughout Britain. We have this historic opportunity to modernise our system of government, to bring power to the people of Wales and to decentralise decision making.

The referendum and the Bill—in defeating the amendment, we shall carry through the Bill—will give us the opportunity to take forward the battle for democracy and get rid of 18 years of degenerate, corrupt Tory rule in Wales and strike forward on a new path of democratic devolution in Wales.

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

I join the congratulations to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his excellent maiden speech. I was proud of the fact that he mentioned the village of Garnswllt, where I was brought up and educated, so I am sure that he will be looking after the residents of Garnswllt very well, like his predecessor, Gareth Wardell.

The Minister made heavy weather of technical arguments against more than one question. I find it rather strange—I put it no higher than that—that the people of Scotland are mature and grown up enough to consider that they might have to vote on two questions, but somehow the people of Wales are not that mature—that it would be too complicated for the people of Wales to have more than one question, but not too complicated for the people of Scotland.

I also find it strange that the Minister should say that the people of Wales cannot be bothered with tax-raising Parliament, yet the people of Scotland can be. What is the difference? He seems to me to be making very heavy weather of it. I understand that he wants to advance the proposals made by the Labour party, and he is entitled to do so; the Government have a mandate on that.

The Minister told the Committee—a point that I did not fully appreciate—that the people of Wales decisively rejected Plaid Cymru at the general election. They rejected the Conservatives decisively, yet the Conservative position is maintained on the ballot paper. The status quo is there. The Conservative option is being voted on. What is the problem in putting the option suggested by the Liberal Democrat party or Plaid Cymru? I find it strange that the Government cannot make the connection there, in the spirit of inclusive politics, to bring people together.

The amendment does not tie the Government's hands by committing them to a multi-option referendum but enshrines the principle of options. The Government can consider what options might be appropriate, after consulting the people. There is no hard and fast reason why the referendum should be multi-option.

The Minister said that a multi-option referendum would be different from the kind of question to be put to the people of Scotland. There was an opportunity, which the Government did not take, to debate questions similar to those being put to Scotland. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) provided that opportunity, but it was denied because of the guillotine.

I ask the Government to recognise that there are strong feelings across all parties in Wales that we should consider all options. In order to gauge the strength of feeling in the Committee, we shall divide the Committee on the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 20, Noes 330.

Division No. 13][7.59 pm
AYES
Brand, Dr PeterLidington, David
Brazier, JulianMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Chope, ChristopherPaterson, Owen
Cormack, Sir PatrickSt Aubyn, Nick
Cunningham, Ms RoseannaSalmond, Alex
(Perth)Swinney, John
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Dafis, CynogTyrie, Andrew
Duncan Smith, IainWelsh, Andrew
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
George, Andrew (St Ives)Tellers for the Ayes:
Hancock, MikeMr. Elfyn Llwyd and Mr. Dafydd Wigley.
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeBrinton, Mrs Helen
Ainger, NickBrown, Rt Hon Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)
Ashton, JoeBurden, Richard
Atherton, Ms CandyBurgon, Colin
Atkins, Ms CharlotteButler, Christine
Austin, JohnByers, Stephen
Barnes, HarryCaborn, Richard
Barron, KevinCampbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Battle, JohnCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bayley, HughCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beard, NigelCampbell-Savours, Dale
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCanavan, Dennis
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)Cann, Jamie
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCaplin, Ivor
Benton, JoeCaton, Martin
Bermingham, GeraldCawsey, Ian
Berry, RogerChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Best, HaroldChaytor, David
Betts, CliveChisholm, Malcolm
Blackman, Mrs LizChurch, Ms Judith
Blears, Ms HazelClapham, Michael
Blizzard, RobertClark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidClark, Dr Lynda
Bradley, Keith (Withington)(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Bradshaw, BenClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Healey, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clelland, DavidHepburn, Stephen
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHeppell, John
Coaker, VernonHesford, Stephen
Coffey, Ms AnnHewitt, Ms Patricia
Connarty, MichaelHinchliffe, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Home Robertson, John
Cooper, Ms YvetteHood, Jimmy
Corbett, RobinHoon, Geoffrey
Corston, Ms JeanHope, Philip
Cousins, JimHopkins, Kelvin
Cranston, RossHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Crausby, DavidHowells, Dr Kim
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Hoyle, Lindsay
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Hughes, Ms Beverley
Cummings, John(Stretford & Urmston)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnHumble, Mrs Joan
(Copeland)Hurst, Alan
Curtis-Thomas, Ms ClareHutton, John
Dalyell, TamIddon, Brian
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairIllsley, Eric
Darvill, KeithIngram, Adam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Jamieson, David
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)
Dawson, HiltonJohnson, Ms Melanie
Dean, Ms Janet(Welwyn Hatfield)
Denham, JohnJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dewar, Rt Hon DonaldJones, Ms Fiona (Newark)
Dobbin, JimJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankJones, Ms Jenny
Donohoe, Brian H(Wolverh'ton SW)
Doran, FrankJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Drew, DavidJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Drown, Ms JuliaKeeble, Ms Sally
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethKeen, Alan (Feltham)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Kemp, Fraser
Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)Khabra, Piara S
Edwards, HuwKidney, David
Ellman, Ms LouiseKilfoyle, Peter
Ennis, JeffKing, Andy (Rugby)
Field, Rt Hon FrankKing, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fitzsimons, Ms LornaKingham, Tessa
Flynn, PaulKumar, Dr Ashok
Follett, Ms BarbaraLadyman, Dr Stephen
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLawrence, Ms Jackie
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Laxton, Bob
Foster, Michael John (Worcester)Lepper, David
Galbraith, SamLeslie, Christopher
Galloway, GeorgeLevitt, Tom
Gapes, MikeLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gardiner, BarryLewis, Terry (Worsley)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)Liddell, Mrs Helen
Gerrard, NeilLivingstone, Ken
Gibson, Dr IanLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Gilroy, Mrs LindaLock, David
Godman, Dr Norman AMcAllion, John
Godsiff, RogerMcAvoy, Thomas
Goggins, PaulMcCabe, Stephen
Golding, Mrs LlinMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Graham, ThomasMacdonald, Calum
Grant, BernieMcDonnell, John
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McFall, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)McGuire, Mrs Anne
Grocott, BruceMcIsaac, Ms Shona
Grogan, JohnMcKenna, Ms Rosemary
Gunnell, JohnMackinlay, Andrew
Hain, PeterMcLeish, Henry
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)McMaster, Gordon
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)MacShane, Denis
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Mactaggart, Fiona
Hanson, DavidMcWalter, Tony
McWilliam, JohnSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Mrs AliceShipley, Ms Debra
Mallaber, Ms JudySimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marek, Dr JohnSingh, Marsha
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Skinner, Dennis
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)
Martlew, EricSmith, Miss Geraldine
Maxton, John(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Meale, AlanSmith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)
Merron, Ms GillianSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Milburn, AlanSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Miller, AndrewSnape, Peter
Moffatt, LauraSoley, Clive
Moonie, Dr LewisSouthworth, Ms Helen
Moran, Ms MargaretSpellar, John
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Squire, Ms Rachel
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Morley, ElliotStevenson, George
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Mountford, Ms KaliStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mudie, GeorgeStinchcombe, Paul
Mullin, ChrisStoate, Dr Howard
Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)Stott, Roger
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Naysmith, Dr DougStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Norris, DanStringer, Graham
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Sutcliffe, Gerry
Olner, BillTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
O'Neill, Martin(Dewsbury)
Organ, Mrs DianaTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Osborne, Mrs SandraTaylor, David (NW Leics)
Palmer, Dr NickThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pendry, TomTipping, Paddy
Pickthall, ColinTodd, Mark
Pike, Peter LTouhig, Don
Plaskitt, JamesTruswell, Paul
Pollard, Kerry Pond, ChrisTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Pope, GregTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Powell, Sir RaymondTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Prentice, GordonVaz, Keith
Primarolo, DawnVis, Dr Rudi
Prosser, GwynWalley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Purchase, KenWatts, David
Quin, Ms JoyceWhite, Brian
Quinn, LawrieWhitehead, Alan
Radice, GilesWicks, Malcolm
Rammell, BillWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Rapson, Syd(Swansea W)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)Williams, Dr Alan W
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)(E Carmarthen)
Robertson, Rt Hon GeorgeWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
(Hamilton S)Wills, Michael
Rogers, AllanWinnick, David
Rooker, JeffWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Rooney, TerryWise, Audrey
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Wood, Mike
Rowlands, TedWoolas, Phil
Roy, FrankWorthington, Tony
Ruane, ChrisWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Salter, MartinWyatt, Derek
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, PhilTellers for the Noes:
Sedgemore, BrianMr. Graham Allen and Jane Kennedy.
Sheerman, Barry

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan Labour, Cardiff West

Clause 2 commits the Government to holding a referendum in Wales on the Government's proposals. Many people have talked about a referendum in the past, but the clause actually commits the Government to providing one.

Before going any further, I want to pay tribute to the new Member for Gower (Mr. Caton)—[Interruption.]

The First Deputy Chairman:

Order. I appeal to hon. Members for quiet while an hon. Member is addressing the House.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan Labour, Cardiff West

I am grateful to you, Mr. Martin, for your protection. I was just going to say how good the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower was. I have a special interest in this because of my family history. My hon. Friend is my mother's and brother's Member of Parliament, as was Gareth Wardell before him. I knew from my hon. Friend's delivery of his speech that he is going to be a superb representative of the whole constituency of Gower—including my ancestral home of Cwmcile in the northern part of the constituency. It was there that my great-great-grandfather, Morgan Morgan, at the height of the Rebecca riots, shot—I am not sure whether he killed—Colonel Napier, the head of the Glamorgan yeomanry; aided by his mother, who struck with a frying pan one of the sergeants who had been sent to arrest him.

The relevance of all this to proceedings on the clause is that it took place in the 1840s, when the people of Wales, in Gower and across west Wales—including the area from which the former Home Secretary comes—were rioting because of the way Wales was being run. At the time, Wales was run by the squires and their friends by means of a system of quangos, very much as it was, increasingly, during the past 18 years. The squires appointed the justices of the peace, the poor law guardians, and the turnpike trusts. It was against these trusts that the Rebecca rioters rebelled. Finally, there were the school boards. It was very much the squire and his pals—a squirearchy—and there was widespread rebellion. The Chartists were active in some of the industrial areas, such as Newport, and in the rural parts of west Wales including Cwmcile and the Gower area. The rebellions were specifically against the turnpike trusts and the imposition of taxes.

What the rebels wanted was democracy. At that time, because Wales did not have a proper democratic franchise, it was run very much in the interests of the squires and the landowners, and, by and large, only the squires and their friends could vote. That is one of the reasons why, when the secret ballot was introduced, the tenants lost their fear of being evicted if they did not vote for the squire or his nominees to come to this place and represent them. Ever since then, Wales has voted against the Tory party. It has never forgotten the lesson that it was taught by people like my great-great-grandfather Morgan Morgan in the Gower constituency, and the spirit that they represented. My great-great-grandfather may have gone too far on that occasion, but the lesson of that period of rebellion in the 1830s and 1840s—of the Chartists and the Rebecca rioters—is very relevant to tonight's debate.

During the past 18 years, the Tories have tried to turn the clock back and reproduce a Victorian society in which the squire and his pals—or, in this instance, the Tories and their pals, by means of quangos—took Wales away from what its people thought that they had gained by securing the secret ballot and the universal franchise. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower may not want to assault the captain of the Glamorgan yeomanry—indeed, the Glamorgan yeomanry no longer exists—but I know that he has done a very good job for all the people of Gower. I also know that, by supporting clause 2, we can do the job for which the Welsh people were looking in the 1840s.

How do we achieve some form of democracy in Wales, and how do we ensure that the people of Wales can secure what they want by means of a democratic system? That does not mean shooting the Glamorgan yeomanry, and it does not mean riot, but it does mean using the ballot box and democratic procedures, and that can be done only if people respect the fact that there is a deep-rooted dislike of the Tory party in Welsh history.

In that respect, there is a difference even between Wales and Scotland. Members of Parliament—perhaps they include you, Mr. Martin—may be old enough to remember a time when Scotland actually produced a Tory majority. That happened at the 1955 election. We have never done that in Wales: we have a very different history. We have not voted for the Tory party since the secret ballot was introduced, and, given the spirit of Wales, even if the ordinary people had been able to vote back in the 1830s and 1840s they would undoubtedly not have voted Tory then. It was only because of the phoney, funny franchise that operated at the time that occasionally the squire's pals would get in. Clause 2 is a way of putting right all the injustices that Wales has suffered because of its inability to secure a form of democracy that would give it some control over its domestic affairs.

The clause will give Wales a chance to have its own Welsh Assembly. It does not commit the Government to establishing such an Assembly; it does something even better, because the Government are committed to two forms of direct democracy. The manifesto for which everyone in Wales voted so overwhelmingly on 1 May said that people could vote for the party that would bring them—among other things—a Welsh Assembly, subject to having the direct democratic right to veto that Assembly. After all, some people in Wales might be in favour of a Labour Government but against a Welsh Assembly. The manifesto said that those people could vote for Labour on 1 May, but could vote against the Government, given the right to veto a Labour proposal, in a direct referendum that would be held in the autumn.

That is a very democratic action. That is what the Tories denied Wales back in the 1840s, and what they took away from Wales when they reduced local government powers by appointing all their pals to quangos during the 18 years which, thankfully, came to an end on 1 May. That is why I think that clause 2 is so important to the history of Wales, and to the relationship between Wales and this Parliament.

It could be said that we have a unitary state, and that we should worry about all the anomalies that will be created if Wales and Scotland have separate Assemblies or Parliaments. We hear people express worries about the so-called West Lothian question, as though it were a reason for doing nothing to modernise the constitution. We have heard Opposition Members express, by implication, the view expressed by the Prime Minister when he referred to a thousand years of British history, suggesting that in some way the constitution of this country was immutable; but it has never been immutable, particularly when it comes to the relationship between England and the Celtic fringe.

Over the centuries, there has always been a need for change in regard to the way in which we deal with relationships with the small Celtic countries—Ireland in the 19th century, and Scotland and Wales later in that century and, indeed, in the 20th. In our Parliament, we have always found it necessary to adjust the relationship between England and the other countries. England is, in that context, a very big country, comprising 82 per cent. of the United Kingdom population. As for the three small countries, or provinces, Scotland has 9 per cent. of the population, Wales 5 per cent. and Northern Ireland 3.5 per cent.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

Could not the problem be solved by the establishment of three Grand Committees composed of Welsh, English and Scottish Members who would pass their own domestic legislation? Would that not avoid the extra expense, the constitutional problems and the West Lothian question?

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan Labour, Cardiff West

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his constructive contribution, and for his acceptance of the principle of what I am saying.

England is a big and a dominant country, containing well over three quarters of the UK population and of its Members of Parliament. It is a case of the elephant and the three Celtic fleas. Obviously, when people have fleas they scratch from time to time, and there is currently a desire to readjust the relationship between, in this instance, England and Scotland and Wales. Under the last Government, an attempt was made to readjust the relationship between England and Northern Ireland. That does not mean that the British constitution will collapse; if it did, the British constitution would have collapsed every time we readjusted the way in which we dealt with the affairs of Scotland, Wales, Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

I was very pleased by what the Prime Minister said about the Irish potato famine. He apologised to the people of Ireland for the part that the British Government had played in it, and that is very relevant to clause 2. Before the famine, everything was about expanding the United Kingdom constitution to take in first Wales, then Scotland, then the Republic of Ireland. The potato famine, however, was such a devastating experience for one particular Celtic country that its people never forgot it, and it eventually left this Parliament altogether.

After the famine, the issue was no longer expanding to take over the rest of the British Isles—Wales, then Scotland and Ireland—but establishing new rights for the Celtic countries, with Secretaries of State for Scotland, then Ireland, the setting up of the Stormont Parliament in 1922 and the Republic of Ireland becoming an independent free state in the same year before leaving the Commonwealth and the Crown altogether in 1949. Since the famine, the readjustment has gone the other way. In general, it has worked to allow the Celtic countries of the United Kingdom to have more say in their own affairs, and clause 2, in two ways, gives more say to two of the Celtic countries for which this Parliament is responsible. It establishes the prospect of a Welsh Assembly and a Scottish Parliament, but establishes it via an additional hurdle that the legislation will have to cross by way of a direct vote by the people of Wales and Scotland in the autumn.

This Parliament should not be frightened of that. During the past 150 years, every 30 or 40 years, there has been a major change in the relationship between England and the three Celtic countries, or, putting it another way, between this Parliament as a whole and the amount of respect that is given to the diversity of those three Celtic fleas. England is in the middle, with well over 80 per cent. of the total population, wealth and representation in the House of Commons. The Government have committed themselves to a very democratic measure, which I welcome.

One could say that, in adjusting the relationship, the Celtic fringe countries are asking for more recognition of their diversity and tradition. For instance, there is the tradition that we in Wales do not vote Tory, and our commitment to helping to bring about the welfare state.

Looking at it from a Welsh perspective, one could say that we are looking for a boyo-diversity treaty; a readjustment of the relationship between Wales, England and Scotland. In the spirit of asking for that boyo-diversity treaty, I hope that the House will give warm approval to clause 2.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

It being half-past Eight o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN put the Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Clauses 3 to 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office) 8:30 pm, 4th June 1997

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill is short and simple and my contribution can be similarly brief. During the debate on the Scottish amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) took up a point with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about the provision of local information in Wales. We are discussing with the chief counting officers at county borough level the provision of information and our intention is that it will be released. But, if possible, we want the result to be declared nationally first. We are discussing how both those objectives can be accommodated and we shall announce our conclusions in due course.

The Bill authorises the holding of referendums in Scotland and Wales as the first step in the Government's programme of radical constitutional reform. A mood for constitutional change is abroad in Scotland and Wales and the referendums will give people in each country the opportunity to express their views on the Government's devolution proposals. We promised them that opportunity and we now intend to deliver on that promise.

We do not have to do this. Our election victory gave us a clear mandate for our policy to decentralise power to the people of Scotland and Wales. We could simply have proceeded with the necessary legislation, but we want to secure popular support for those policies, as our manifesto promised.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

The hon. Gentleman is just doing as he is told because the referendum policy was decided in London, not by Wales.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

When we have a serious contribution from a Welsh Conservative Member of Parliament, he might have a serious answer to such a question.

We did not have to do this, but we decided that we wanted the authority of the people to support our legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who is waiting for the Tory party leadership election result, will recognise that if and when we have a yes vote in Scotland and Wales, Parliament must respect that yes vote.

Last time, some 30 days were spent on the devolution question—nearly 15 weeks of parliamentary time during which the then Conservative Opposition behaved in a typically destructive and negative fashion, filibustering through the night as best they could. We intend that Parliament will respect the mandate given by the people of Scotland and Wales in order to support the legislation that we will introduce.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

I was there and my hon. Friend was not. There was serious discussion. People such as Enoch Powell on the one side and others of us on the other did not filibuster. I saw it at first hand.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The last thing that I would accuse my hon. Friend of doing is filibustering. I was talking about the Conservative Opposition. They would have done the same this time had they had the opportunity.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I shall give way in a minute.

What we are proposing is sensible and the Government have chosen to introduce the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill first. That way there will be an efficient use of parliamentary time. There is a clear mandate from the people for the introduction of legislation and that is a sensible use of parliamentary procedure and time.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

Will the hon. Gentleman, please, apologise to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The hon. Gentleman was not here when we debated devolution. I was, as was the hon. Member for Linlithgow. The debates were serious. They showed true division on both sides of the House. Many Labour Members were deeply unhappy about devolution in Scotland and in Wales. The Labour Government of the day did not attempt to drive the Bill through like a steam roller. The hon. Gentleman should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for what he said.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

My hon. Friend does not need any assistance from the Tory Benches to make his case. He is probably the most effective and admired Back Bencher in the House. I made no criticism of his role in that devolution debate.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position. He referred to the outcome of the referendum. If, as he hopes, it is a success and he comes back to the House with a detailed devolution Bill, he has said that we should not thwart the will of the people of Wales and Scotland. To that extent, does he also accept that the detail of those Bills is important to the success of what comes about? Therefore, will he undertake not to try to do what the Government have done this time, which is to ram some tight guillotines through from day one?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

Of course the detail of the Bill is important and it will be considered with due care and attention by the House. It is a matter for the Procedure Committee to determine how that will be done. Our proposals for devolution for Scotland and Wales are different because they reflect the different historical circumstances and the modern-day realities of each country. But in each case they will allow diversity to flourish and the implementation of policies reflecting local circumstances and traditions and national needs. We must get away from the idea that London decides everything, regardless of local people's wishes, especially in the context of the nations of Scotland and Wales.

We also intend to get rid of the unelected Tory quango state which, during 18 years, the Tory Government ruthlessly packed with their own people who could not get elected through the ballot box. One English Secretary of State for Wales has been bad enough without him reproducing himself on virtually every quango in Wales. The Tories have developed a new meaning to the word "cloning" in Wales by their use of the power of the quango exercised through an English Tory Secretary of State.

What a rabble the Tories have represented in the debates on the Bill. They have made no constructive contributions. The only constructive, serious and intelligent contributions have come from Liberal Democrat and Scottish National party Members on the Opposition Benches.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

No, I will take no more Tory interventions.

The reason why the Liberal Democrats and the nationalists have made constructive contributions is that they represent constituencies in Wales, unlike Tory Members.

It is good to see that the shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, has graced us with his presence at this late hour in the debate. Neither he nor his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) seriously addressed themselves to the issue of giving people an historic opportunity to vote for increased democracy in Wales and in Scotland.

The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe indulged himself in his usual barrack-room lawyer style, picking up a brief and indulging in all sorts of tit-for-tat debating points, but he never addressed the substantive democratic issues. Similarly, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks employed his best Oxford Union style in taking up a series of detailed debating points without seriously addressing the democratic issues. That is no surprise because the Tories have forgotten how to address democratic issues. In 18 years, they flouted every democratic tradition in Britain and imposed a centralised, elitist form of government on both Scotland and Wales.

When I dealt with the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks as Secretary of State for Wales, I respected the way in which he conducted his duties. I remember, however, that when he first took office, he walked into rooms all over Wales and was given a standing ovation. He thought that that was because he was popular; it was simply because he was not the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). It is important that we move forward in a spirit of unity in the House—

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

No, I will not take any more interventions. I want to give as much opportunity as possible to Back-Bench Members to contribute to the Third Reading debate. I have taken plenty of interventions from Conservative Members.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

No, I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman can make a speech in the time left to him before 10 o'clock.

The questions set out in the Bill invite the people of Scotland and Wales to express support for our devolution proposals. We will set them out in detail in the White Papers which are to be published before the House rises in the summer. I look forward to a constructive and informed public debate on those plans in each country. I hope that representatives of the Conservative party will make their contributions in a positive and constructive spirit. That will be the Government's intention.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe

On that point, will the Minister now do what the Prime Minister conspicuously failed to do earlier today, which is to apologise for the misleading information the Prime Minister gave to the House on 14 May? He said: Of course the Bill will be published in time for the referendum".

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is intervening in the way for which he has become well known in the House, taking up a misleading point rather than addressing the central issue. I say to him and his Conservative colleagues who represent English constituencies that England voted for devolution as well. The Conservatives received only 34 per cent. of the vote in England—a minority vote in England. The then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), made the break-up of the United Kingdom, as he misleadingly put it, a central issue in the election campaign. He and his fellow Conservatives lost the argument.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe

Will the hon. Gentleman now answer the question that I put to him a minute ago? Will he apologise for the misleading information given by the Prime Minister to the House on 14 May? He said: Of course the Bill will be published in time for the referendum".—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 64.1 May we please have an answer to that question?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is the person who should apologise for attempting to divert the debate from the central issues of democracy and devolution which we have been discussing. He has hardly been here to listen to the arguments. The Prime Minister made the position absolutely clear this afternoon.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Conservative Front-Bench Members might consider why they did not ask that question on 14 May, but we will leave that to one side. Would it not have been better if the Prime Minister had simply told the House today that he was sorry and that he had made a mistake?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The Prime Minister made the position absolutely clear. I will speak to the hon. Gentleman in a constructive spirit; I welcomed the constructive spirit in which he and his colleagues contributed to the debate. What is important, once we have the White Paper which will be published later this summer before the House rises so there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss it and consider it in the weeks that run up to the referendum, to those of us—the vast majority of Members—who support democracy and decentralising decisions to local people, on a national basis in Scotland and in Wales, is that we unite for a yes vote. That is absolutely vital. We must not allow the Tories to divert the people of Scotland and the people of Wales from our historic mission to get democracy brought back to our people and to get decisions brought down close to the individual. That is our mandate; that is our historic obligation. We were given the mandate by the people in the massive landslide victory on 1 May, and all of us—Government Members, Liberal Democrats and nationalists—have a duty to unite, grasp the opportunity, move forward and create a democracy in Britain of which we can be proud.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks) 8:44 pm, 4th June 1997

We have reached Third Reading, and in my view and that of my hon. Friends we have done so extremely prematurely. The debates have not done justice to the importance of the Bill or to its detail. We have just witnessed four clauses and two schedules of a constitutional measure being agreed to without any debate at all, which is a disgrace to the procedures of the House. That is what we have come to with the Government's arrogant behaviour. They have been unbelievably arrogant to treat the House in such a way.

There is no finer example of such arrogance than the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain). Despite the fact that holding referendums was a manifesto commitment, the hon. Gentleman proudly and magnanimously announced that the Government did not need to do so. The Government have a responsibility to implement what was in their election manifesto.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The point that I was making was that we did not have to put the commitment in our manifesto but that we wanted to do so because we have confidence in our policies engaging popular opinion and receiving support.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Labour party felt that it had to include the commitment in its manifesto in case it lost a large number of votes in Wales and Scotland at the election. It wanted to be able to say to the people, "Don't worry, you can have a referendum about it later."

The Under-Secretary of State not only derided people who spoke on the matter in the 1970s; he criticised Opposition Members for raising detailed points when that is exactly what debates on Bills are for. He criticised me for receiving standing ovations around Wales. If he continues to make such speeches, he will never enjoy that experience for himself.

The Secretary of State for Scotland referred to the Bill a couple of days ago as a modest measure. It is not a modest measure: it is a measure of great importance, which is how he described it a couple of weeks ago.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)

I will not give way for the moment. Many of my hon. Friends want to speak. Debate on a measure of such great importance has either been severely limited or denied. We do not dispute that the Government have a mandate to hold referendums. We believe that it is right for them to hold referendums on the subject. Indeed, we welcome the Labour party's belated conversion to the idea of holding referendums on devolution. The Scottish Labour party had five policy positions on the matter in five years—indeed, it had three in two weeks. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) reminded the House a few minutes ago, it was decided in London that Labour party policy would change.

Although the Secretary of State for Wales has just left the Chamber, I make no apology for reminding the House of his famous remark on 24 June 1996, when he said: The trouble with a pre-legislative referendum is that there are so many questions that you cannot answer. Three days later, it was his policy to hold a pre-legislative referendum. How true it has become that the trouble with a pre-legislative referendum is that there are so many questions that one cannot answer, since there have been so many questions that Government Front Benchers could not or have been unwilling to answer in the debates. The Secretary of State for Wales was right—he is not often right and it was a pity that he changed his mind—on one of the rare occasions when he came out with a perceptive and perspicacious remark about the folly of holding pre-legislative referendums.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

On the subject of parties changing their minds on this issue, on what date did the Conservative party decide that in principle it was in favour of a multi-option referendum in Scotland, as we were told this afternoon?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)

The Conservative party is entitled to set out its policies without having to report to the Scottish National party on what date it developed its policy. We have stated in the House today that the multi-option referendum policy is one with which we would have sympathy. If the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends on a multi-option referendum had been selected, we would have voted for them. It has been a side effect of the guillotine motion, which has denied debate on large parts of the Bill, that my hon. Friends have not been able to vote on or argue for the amendments that they had tabled.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

The right hon. Gentleman would not have noticed, because he was absent himself, but for the major part of the debate no Tory Whip has been present and only one or two Tory Back Benchers have been in their places. On the subject of losing votes, does he not take responsibility for making devolution his one priority in the election? He went prancing around with balloons and told everyone that we had 72 hours to save the Union. He is personally responsible for the worst election result the Conservatives have had in Wales. If he had been standing for a Welsh seat, he would not be here now. Will he introduce a note of humility and apologise to his colleagues who used to represent Welsh seats, because his leadership destroyed their position?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)

The hon. Gentleman may have noticed that the final opinion polls of the general election campaign—which, as it turned out, accurately forecast the result of the general election—showed that opinion on a Welsh Assembly had moved to 34 per cent. in favour and 37 per cent. against by the end of the campaign. The hon. Gentleman should make no presumption yet about who has won the arguments or about the result of the referendum in Wales when it is held. Labour Members made assumptions about the result of the referendums in 1979 and they regretted it. I advise the hon. Gentleman not to make such assumptions on this occasion.

The Government have ignored in their handling of the Bill the truth spoken by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on Second Reading when he said that the devil is in the detail. They will hold referendums without being able to give the public the detailed implications of what they propose. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) has just reminded us, the Prime Minister told us on 14 May that the Bill would be published before the referendums were held, but he was too mealy-mouthed today to recognise either that he had made a mistake or that he was backtracking on the commitment that he had given. The Prime Minister should have had the courage and the confidence to admit that his statement was a mistake or that he had backtracked on his commitment.

As it is, we are promised a White Paper. We do not know whether the White Paper will answer the questions to which the electorate need answers before voting in the referendum. We do not know whether the White Paper will be able to explain the relationship between a Welsh Assembly and non-departmental public bodies in Wales, or between an Assembly and local government in Wales. We do not know whether the White Paper will explain the Assembly's power to call for persons and papers, its relationship with the Committee of the Regions, the role of the civil service, the resources that the Assembly will have at its disposal, the running costs and the remuneration of its members, its impact on inward investment, or how its electoral arrangements could be changed in the future. We do not know whether a White Paper will cover those subjects.

The Government do not know whether the commitments that they will make in a White Paper will still be intact after the referendum has been held or after the legislation has passed through the House. If the Government are asking the electorate to vote on specific proposals in a White Paper, can they now say that the provisions of the White Paper will not be changed after the referendum has been held? They can give no such commitment. They are asking the electorate to vote for a pig in a poke; that is no way to hold a referendum in a parliamentary democracy.

It should be a basic principle of referendums that the electorate should be as well informed as possible about the proposition on which they are voting. That principle could be satisfied only by holding the referendum after the legislation had passed through Parliament, not before. It should be a basic principle of referendums that people should know exactly what they are voting on. They cannot know exactly what they are voting on when a pre-legislative referendum is held.

Our second objection to a pre-legislative referendum—after the fact that it leaves the electorate in the dark—is that the Government clearly intend to use the holding of a referendum as a substitute for the parliamentary process rather than as an addition to it. The Government clearly intend to use the result to say that the electorate have now voted on the general proposition and that nobody else should dare to argue with the details of the legislation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales said that the House would decide how the eventual legislation would be handled, but that is not the reality. The House will not decide, because Labour Members would vote for any proposition put forward by the Government even if it meant dealing with the whole Bill in a Committee lasting five or 10 minutes. Most Labour Members would be prepared to vote even for that proposition if the Government Whips said that they should.

The Government have to decide. It is the Government's responsibility to say that constitutional legislation should be dealt with on the Floor of the House. It is their responsibility to give us the guarantee that we have asked for—that that Bill will not be guillotined in the disgraceful way that we have seen happen to the one before us. They must guarantee that the abuse of the rights of the House will not continue. As we come to the end of proceedings on the Bill, they are not prepared to give those guarantees.

What confidence can the Opposition and people outside the House have that debates on the legislation which may follow the referendums will be treated fairly and properly when the Prime Minister has described the prospect of debates on such legislation as "game playing", when the Secretary of State for Wales has said that he will brook no interference with his plans, and when we have seen the cavalier use of the guillotine over the past two days?

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, Cotswold

Is it not arrogant in the extreme to confine the principles of what the eventual Bill will contain to a White Paper while putting no detail whatever in the referendum? Members of Parliament do not know what the Bill will contain, and the voters at large do not know either: the final Bill could be totally different from what they expect when they vote in the referendum.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)

My hon. Friend is right. The effect of a pre-legislation referendum will be that the electorate can be kept in the dark and that Parliament can be told afterwards, "You had better pass this legislation in the detail in which it was presented in the White Paper because the electorate have already approved it."

We favour the holding of referendums on the proposals. Indeed, we believe that that is essential, given the rejection of such proposals in 1979. None the less, we shall vote against Third Reading, for two reasons.

First, to hold a referendum now means that the electorate will not be properly informed: no provision has been made for the fairest possible debate and people are being asked to decide without a specific question and without the specific information that they need to come to a reasonable conclusion. The Government are asking for a referendum just so that they can get away with asking for general approval of vague proposals before the implications can be fully understood by the electorate. The Government intend to use that device to get around proper scrutiny rather than to facilitate it, and to escape full debate rather than to encourage it.

The second reason why we shall vote against Third Reading is that the opportunity to debate the full implications of what is proposed has been denied, even in Committee. There has been no opportunity to debate the procedures to be used in the referendums or the financing and conduct of the campaigns. We have not been able to discuss whether people should be asked about the tax-raising powers of a Welsh Assembly, nor the introduction of a threshold. Ministers have derided, as frivolous or esoteric, amendments tabled in good faith. The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), concerning the voting rights of service men, was protested about yesterday. Yet that is a subject that should have been discussed in the House. When we consider such amendments, we can see how the denial of debate has obstructed the proper consideration of the legislation.

The Government have done that without need and without justification. They have relied on the argument that they have a mandate, and ignored the fact that the House as a whole has a mandate to give proper scrutiny to legislation, and that all Members of Parliament, from all parts of the United Kingdom, should have the right to propose amendments. The Government have been utterly blind to the case for any amendment to their legislation. A pre-legislation referendum was conceived by Labour party spin doctors last June, and now the Government's attitude is, "This is the law; we say this is the law." Law is permitted only if it was made in Hartlepool last June, when the decision about a referendum was made.

The Government have been unwilling to consider the case for any amendment, and unable or unwilling to answer most of the questions that have been put to them. They have conducted the debates on the proposals in a way which can lead only to bad law. For that reason, the official Opposition will vote against Third Reading.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Labour, Swansea East 8:59 pm, 4th June 1997

A certain humility might have been expected from the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) in the light of his party's record and the position that he and others adopted during the election. They made devolution—or the fragmentation of the United Kingdom, as they saw it—and a little Englander view on the continent the centre points of their election strategy. The public decisively rejected the Tories' little Englandism abroad and their wrapping themselves in the flag in respect of the future of the United Kingdom.

One is bound to ask what claim to authority or legitimacy the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks has to make his points, since his party was so decisively rejected at the general election. He referred to the guillotine, and I think that most people of common sense—having seen the way in which the amendment paper has been swamped by often flimsy and irrelevant amendments—would say that the Opposition's clear intention was not to have a proper debate, but to prolong the debate for as long as possible. I would hope that when we come to the devolution Bill itself, the Opposition—rather than seeking to swamp the amendment paper with the aim of having excessive debates—can reach a reasonably agreed timetable.

I am aware of the precedents in relation to constitutional Bills, but key elements of the Finance Bill, for example, may be discussed here in the Chamber, while matters of less importance may be debated in Committee. I hope that that system will be adopted in respect of the devolution Bill. Otherwise—as the Conservative party wishes—other matters will be pushed off the table altogether.

The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks referred to the public wanting to know the details before pronouncing in a referendum. That is clearly absurd. Will the ordinary Welshman or Welshwoman—or Scotsman or Scotswoman—make up his or her mind on the broad package or on details which may or may not be included? Of course there will be a gut response: do people broadly want devolution or not? They will not be moved either way by the minutiae of details. It is therefore absurd to suggest that everything should be cut and dried in advance.

There were many excellent speeches in the debate, but I wish to refer to the remarkable maiden speech by my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton), who followed proudly and extraordinarily well in the footsteps of our esteemed former colleague Gareth Wardell.

I also commend the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who made the key point that we should not try to oversell devolution by suggesting that it will be a great engine for job creation. We must get through to the people of Wales and Scotland the fact that the Tories have shamelessly bypassed local government and democratic structures for 18 years by creating quangos from which they largely excluded representatives of the majority—from whichever party—by putting in their own people, who often had no credible claim to be Welsh or to represent Wales. One can understand the way in which opinion in Wales has changed only by the strong reaction to the quangocracy created, used and manipulated shamelessly by the Conservative party in Wales. It is on the basis of democracy that the best argument will be made, rather than by trying to oversell the point in relation to job creation. There is a key point, and it is on that basis that we should put the case to the people of Wales.

I would reject a multi-option clause because the key point is whether we want an Assembly. All progressive forces in Wales—all parties with the exception of the Conservative party—accept the case for devolution, and to argue for a multi-option referendum has the danger that it would be a distraction from that key point; if, for instance, we put before the people of Wales an option in relation to taxation, that could have an extremely negative effect on the referendum result.

We face a choice which arises once in a generation and I do not believe that what we have so far is a coherent package. I think that it should and will alter, because no institution is static. Every institution will have its own dynamic, according to the public opinion at the time. We should listen to the people. Options relating to federalism, taxation and primary legislation can all be debated at the appropriate time.

I shall cite a precedent in conclusion. When the Welsh Office was created by the Labour party, against Conservative opposition, some people argued that it was a puny creature; some were absolutist and said that they rejected that silly little Welsh Office. In fact, it developed incrementally, so that the Welsh Office today is a wholly different creature from what it was in 1966.

In the same way, by the dynamic of public opinion operating on representatives here and in Wales, the Welsh Assembly can be modified and changed and can adapt to new circumstances. That is the essential point. Let us have the Assembly—it will be dynamic, not static—and let all forces of good will and progress ensure that we vote in the same way on this key issue.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale 9:06 pm, 4th June 1997

May I first say how much I appreciate being called to give my maiden speech so early in the new Parliament and in particular being able to contribute to this important debate?

I consider it a real privilege to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, following 32 years of distinguished service by my predecessor, Sir David Steel. Sir David made a conscious decision at the start of his parliamentary career to commit himself to the Borders and to be very much a member of the local community. I believe that his close involvement with issues directly affecting his constituents—whatever his other responsibilities, especially as leader of the Liberal party—was the key to his achievements as a Borders Member of Parliament. As I look forward to my first summer as a Member of Parliament, attending the many festivals throughout the Borders, I consider it a great honour to take over responsibility from Sir David as one of the standard bearers for the Borders in Parliament.

The boundaries of the constituency changed over time—indeed, they were changed for the general election-and it now stretches from the Eildon hills in the south, near the towns of Selkirk, Melrose and Galashiels, along the River Tweed, through my home town of Innerleithen, past Peebles and up to the new part of the constituency in Penicuik at the foot of the Pentlands. It is a beautiful part of the world and its landscape has shaped the industries, culture and people of the area over many generations.

Many hon. Members will be familiar with the fierce rivalry between the Borders towns. It shows most clearly on the rugby pitch, but it is evident in many different ways. As an incomer to the Borders—twice over—I am very conscious of the traditions in each of the communities, which give them all great strength. As well as paying proper respect to traditions, people in the Borders have shown themselves to be adaptable, responding time after time to new challenges and demands.

The challenges are significant. My area is heavily dependent on traditional economic sectors such as agriculture and textiles. Those sectors have responded to many different challenges over the years, and continue to do so. Agriculture has been a mainstay of the constituency, but now has to cope with the continuing BSE disaster and the prospect of reform of the common agricultural policy. The textile industry has constantly had to reinvent itself, responding to changing market conditions across the world. More recently, we have developed a highly successful electronics industry and are taking the lead in new businesses focused on sustainable development.

The economic future of the Borders will depend hugely on a new approach from the Government. We desperately need investment in our infrastructure. We have trunk roads, such as the A7, which have lost their status. Others, such as the A701, desperately need further investment. It is a long time since there has been a railway station in the Borders; it is time that stations reopened. We also need a level playing field. Under previous Governments, Galashiels and Penicuik companies which sought assistance to expand their businesses were told that they should relocate to the central belt of Scotland if they wanted help. That cannot be right, and I shall campaign on that issue in years to come.

We also require equal access to grants, not least for investment, training and machinery. Too many young people in the Borders, when they leave school also leave the area—as I did when I left Jedburgh grammar school—and do not return, except in unusual circumstances. Education is vital in the current situation. Industry is more challenging, but parents and teachers are forced to raise money for essential equipment and books in schools. School buildings intended to last 10 or 20 years have been forced to last much longer.

In the health service, a crisis faces local hospitals as trusts debate whether they will have to close wards because of the internal market and the bureaucracy that is choking them and starving them of decent resources. There has been a new mood in the country since 2 May, but the many commitments made by the Government must be backed up by proper resources.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in an earlier debate complimented the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) on keeping to the subject, and I appreciate that it is appropriate for me to refer to it. Each of the issues that I have mentioned is at the heart of debate on the Scottish Parliament. For too long, especially over the past 18 years, the Government have been remote and unaccountable to the people of Scotland. A Scottish Parliament must tackle each of those issues, but ultimately its success will be judged on whether it better delivers on issues such as health, education and jobs. However, people must be persuaded of that.

I am very conscious that in the past, and at the last referendum, the people of the Borders gave a less than whole-hearted response to the proposals for what was then the Scottish Assembly. The proposals in the White Paper will be crucial in that respect, especially the proportional representation aspects of the Scottish Constitutional Convention scheme, which must be the best defence against swapping overbearing London rule for overbearing central belt domination.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have argued throughout the passage of the Bill that there is no need for a referendum in Scotland. Our voting has followed that logic. Now, however, we recognise the reality of the juggernaut arithmetic that favours the Government. Our priority is a Scottish Parliament. We wish to ensure that it happens sooner rather than later. For that reason, we do not wish to hinder the Bill's progress any further.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers Labour, Rhondda 9:13 pm, 4th June 1997

It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), who made a fine speech outlining the aspects of his constituency that he regards as virtues. I am pleased that he did not go on too much about rugby, because his area gave the world the game of sevens. For many years, they beat everyone at it, but now neither Scottish, Welsh, English nor Irish teams can compete with those from the other side of the globe. Perhaps through his area's membership of the British Lions we can put it over the South Africans in the 15-a-side game very shortly. I wish him a long and distinguished career in the House, in the same way as his illustrious predecessor, who not only served his party with great distinction but was a valuable and respected Member for many years.

I come to this debate like an old threepenny bit—with many sides. In 1979, in the Ystrad Mynach Labour club, I and other hon. Members whom I will not mention to save their embarrassment organised the vote no campaign. We had a 4:1 victory in Wales against the same sort of line that we get today—a Labour Government, the chattering classes, the archbishops, the moderators, the head of this and that Church, university professors, bureaucrats and everyone else who has a vested interest in extending the number of bodies that govern the poor people of the Rhondda among other places.

Times have moved since 1979. I certainly recognise that. We had 18 years of Conservative rule. Without any doubt—this is accepted within the Welsh community—the Tories had no mandate whatever. When the injustices heaped on the people of England were also heaped on the people of Wales, it was an easy way out to blame the problems of Wales on the lack of a body to look after the interests of the Welsh people. We are now hearing the same silly arguments that we heard previously.

A university professor wrote a letter to the Western Mail, in which he said that if the people of Wales had had the courage to vote yes in 1979, we would not have had the poll tax, we would not have had poor health and we would have had jobs and—the most stupid claptrap of all—we would not have had the miners' strike. I was sorely moved, but I resisted, to write and remind him that the miners' strike started in Nottingham. I doubt whether a Welsh Assembly, even one with powers much greater than what is proposed, could have stopped that. It could not have prevented the high unemployment or the harsh economic realities of the outside world that visited my constituency among others in the valley communities in Wales.

I am not one of those who believe that a Welsh Assembly will resolve the problems of south Wales or my community just like that. The Labour Government have to work a lot harder than that to rectify the problems that we have inherited both from the bad Government of the past 18 years and from the harsh economic realities of the world outside.

I am pleased that a referendum is taking place because it provides an opportunity for the arguments to be put. I am sorry that my Front-Bench colleagues from Wales are not here. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), said—I took the phrase down—that he wanted a constructive, well-informed public debate. So do I. I want democracy to be brought to all our institutions. If people say that we must have a Welsh Assembly in order to have democracy in Wales, are they saying that we do not have it now? I would then ask what is the Secretary of State. Is he an unelected dictator? What are Welsh Members of Parliament? Are they unelected? What are the Welsh Grand Committee and the Welsh Select Committee about? Where is the thread of accountability and democracy? On those grounds, I do not think that a proper argument has been put forward. I am not yet convinced.

I am convinced about another matter, however, which is why I go along with the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is present. There is too much centralisation of government in this country and there is a profound argument for devolving power from here to institutions closer to the people. Whether we have to set up new institutions to do that is another matter. I believe there might very well be existing institutions to which those powers could be given.

We have heard the argument that the quangocracy was set up because the Conservatives could not win seats at local government elections. They therefore bypassed local government and transferred their functions to others, for example, Tai Cymru, Housing for Wales. If we opt for devolution, the first thing that must be done, as some other colleagues have already said, is to take those powers from the quangos and return them to where they belong—in many cases, with local government. When that is done, we must then consider the role of other institutions.

We have heard so much about the principle of subsidiarity. This country is being torn apart constitutionally by people who want to set up new structures, so-called devolved structures. We are being torn apart because powers and functions are being given to Europe and Brussels. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Somewhere in between, someone must stop and start to think about the form of government that we should have. Conservative Members think that I am on their side, but I am not. I am on the side of the Labour party because at least it is tackling the problem positively.

Once we start breaking up the quangos and returning their functions to local government, we can start looking at the structures that we want. That is why I appeal to my colleagues on the Front Bench to consider the future of the quangos at the earliest possible moment.

In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, some time ago he asked me, knowing my great reservations on the matter, "Why don't you do something?" I have, and I hope to present my findings to him tomorrow. The main thrust of my case will be that we should consider such matters prior to the development of any relevant legislation because some of the fears that have been expressed are justified.

To be honest, I do not think that the referendum will go through. The last time the vote was lost by 4:1, and my bet, if I were a betting man, would be that next time the vote might go the same way. As for the Labour party mandate for devolution, with all due respect, I was returned to Parliament by 35,000 voters in the Rhondda, but I do not think that any of them voted for me because they wanted a Welsh Assembly. I certainly did not mention that in my manifesto leaflet. Everyone I canvassed there said, "Get rid of that dirty, corrupt, sleazy Government." That is what it was all about. It was not about giving a mandate to anyone, but about getting rid of the Tories. I am glad that that sentiment is recognised.

I will support the Government on this issue because, even with all my reservations, they are positively tackling the problem. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already said, a referendum based on a constructive, well-informed public debate is what is needed for Wales. We might eventually be able to get the right solution, but I will not support the creation of another level of government which will take functions away from existing local authorities. That is another issue which must be settled.

I will not support a Welsh Assembly that has the power to decide its own remit, because, by the nature of any elected organisation, it would want to acquire power for itself. I do not believe that the principle of subsidiarity and proper devolution would be served by that.

I will vote with the Government tonight, but I hope that, when the Bill is finally published, my fears, which I will continue to express, will be taken on board and treated constructively.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells 9:24 pm, 4th June 1997

I was greatly interested in the observations of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers). In particular, I sympathised with what he said about the relationship between central and local government. As a Conservative Back Bencher, I freely admit that since the war this country has failed to get the balance right—especially the financial balance—between central and local government. If we had made a better job of that, much of the demand for alternative forms of devolution would dissolve.

I shall be genuinely brief, in deference to other hon. Members who want to speak. I shall confine myself to one point, which follows on from what the hon. Member for Rhondda was saying. Over the past day and a half of debate, it has become clear that there are many confused and contradictory expectations of what the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly will be like. The reason why the Opposition have taken such a close interest in the wording on the ballot papers is that Parliament must be clear about what questions are being asked. They must be unambiguous and they must be able to deliver a clear result and effect.

We have found it alarming that, for example, the Scottish National party clearly believes that the entire process is aimed at breaking up the United Kingdom, whereas the Government believe that it is a way of cementing and reinforcing the United Kingdom. The SNP believes that, at the end of the process, the Scottish Parliament will be a sovereign Parliament—or will rapidly become such.

The Liberal Democrats believe, in general terms, in home rule and a degree of sovereignty for the Scottish Parliament. The Government, I think—although it is not clear—intend that the Scottish Parliament will be subservient to the Westminster Parliament. I should be grateful if the Minister could make it clear beyond dispute that this Parliament, in which we sit, will be legally superior to the Scottish Parliament. We must be completely clear about the constitutional arrangements.

All the other parties are coming together to urge a yes vote, but all the parties cannot be satisfied by the outcome. The contradictory expectations will become clear only when it may be all too late. The Government say that everything will be revealed in a White Paper, but this House has no control over that White Paper. The other Opposition parties would be most unwise to rely on any White Paper to sort out matters that should be made clear in legislation before a referendum.

Whatever the imagination put into the White Paper, we will be left with an in-built contradiction between the aspirations of a Scottish Parliament to control matters such as health, education and the environment, on the one hand, and expenditure powers on the other. This Parliament will continue to write the cheques; the Scottish Parliament, even with a tax-varying power, will remain almost entirely dependent on the financial decisions being made in London. Therefore, the imbalance that we see in local government—the subject with which I began my speech—will be magnified in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Scottish Parliament.

The best way of solving the problem of confusion and contradictory expectations would be to have a referendum after the main Bill had been passed; then, the question would be clear, simple, unambiguous and enforceable. I ask the Government, even at this late stage, to show a little less arrogance and to use the Bill to reverse the order, so that at least the people of Scotland and Wales will be asked to vote on something that is clear.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 9:29 pm, 4th June 1997

It was 38 and 39 years ago that I was the Labour candidate in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, as the constituency of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale then was, and I endorse what the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) said about the welcome that the people there give to incomers. He represents some very nice, hospitable people, even though they may not be of his political persuasion or mine. They are welcoming people and he is very lucky to represent that seat.

The hon. Member is sitting in the seat that, for so long, was occupied with charm and distinction by Lord Steel, as he now is, whom we knew as David Steel. When David Steel had announced his retirement and we asked about his successor, he described the hon. Gentleman, saying, "He's very nice and he's a better prop forward than I am." We wish him well.

When I say that I have sat here for every single speech in the past two days, it is not to claim virtue but to make a judgment. I say as gently as possible to my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that, in all this, they have to take into account a point that has been so often missing in our discussions and that is that there is an English dimension. There are consequences of the English dimension to whatever action is taken.

I hope that I will be forgiven, but, in the light of the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, it is worth making a correction—or at least saying what actually happened in 1978–79, because it is relevant.

The then Bill was produced by two very able Ministers: the late John Smith QC and Bruce Milian, later to be a European Commissioner. They were very clever men and so was Joel Barnett at the Treasury. They were helped by some extremely clever and able civil servants: Sir Michael Quinlan, Sir John Garlick and Sir Brian Cubbon, who were some of the most imaginative civil servants.

The fact is that there honestly was not any time wasting in the House of Commons. The Conservative Members who participated in the debate were Leon Brittan—whatever one thinks about him, he is an extremely clever lawyer—and Enoch Powell, who speaks for himself. Incidentally, it was Enoch Powell who christened the West Lothian question—it was not named by me. The truth is that I had gone on reciting, although not at unwarranted length, the dilemma of Scottish Members of Parliament being able to vote on English matters, but English Members being unable to vote on matters that pertained to Scottish constituencies. It was Enoch who said, with that marvellous overtone of irony, "In order to save time, we are finally seized of the problem. I have grasped the issue." For Enoch Powell to have any difficulty in grasping an issue really stretches the imagination, but that is how it began. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), who knows Enoch Powell well, will know exactly what I am getting at.

However, the devil is in the detail and, as the various issues came up, it was like stones being turned: all sorts of creepy-crawly things, in the form of real difficulties, emerged from under the stones.

At the end, very many people reached the conclusion that there were two solutions: the status quo, or something indistinguishable from that favoured in general terms by the Scottish National party.

It was not a waste of time; it was the House of Commons educating itself. My fear is that in the learning curve we may be back, not at 1979, but at 1977.

Others wish to speak, so I leave this Third Reading by saying to the Ministers that they must soon come to grips with the problems that surround the Barnett formula. There must be a statement on that because, as the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) said, someone is writing the cheques, and the question is, will they continue for ever writing the cheques in conditions that have fundamentally changed?

Secondly, to save time, I say that Ministers must consider the problem that is encapsulated in the Bury, North question.

Finally, a statement must soon be made about the responsibilities and accountability of the civil service. That is a very real problem because, if we are to have a Scottish Parliament, there is a strong suggestion that there must be a separate civil service. If there is not to be a separate civil service, we must be told what that solution is, and soon.

I make a last plea to Ministers. It is not good enough in terms of Parliament for Ministers to present a White Paper, let alone the Bill—which I thought that we were promised—on 25 July, or 27 or 28 July, in the last two days before the recess. In honour bound, the Government really must produce that White Paper by, say, 10 July at the latest, because there must be some parliamentary scrutiny from everyone's point of view. It really would be disreputable suddenly to produce it at the fag end of the Session, when people's to minds were wholly on going away. There must be a serious opportunity for Parliament to discuss what is to be the subject of the referendum.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex 9:37 pm, 4th June 1997

I feel somewhat awed to follow the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who made yet another distinguished contribution to the debate. His speech is evidence of the fact that, as a result of the guillotine, we have had a mere smattering of the arguments that we should have had. I add, with the utmost respect to the hon. Gentleman, that he has criticised some of the amendments that have been tabled, and from him I take that criticism very much to heart; I say no more than that.

I ask Ministers to consider a single question about the Scottish Parliament. From where will the authority of that Scottish Parliament derive? The question in the referendum is very general. The referendum question, and no doubt the White Paper—indeed, the Government's entire position—is about avoiding that issue. Legally, there is no doubt that the power is devolved from the United Kingdom Parliament, which is sovereign, but the Parliament that is being offered in the referendum has been founded on a claim of right of self-government of the Scottish people.

This is not just a theoretical debate. The strains and stresses of real politics will excite the real expectations of the various parties involved in the struggle for power that will result from the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

Power does not have the quality of an object that can be picked up and transferred. Power is a fluid commodity which flows in an unpredictable way. When the United Kingdom Parliament is in negotiation with the Scottish Parliament about the issues that affect the livelihoods, health, education and well-being of the people of Scotland and of the United Kingdom, how will those issues be settled without the Scottish Parliament reverting to its legitimacy directly from the Scottish people, as opposed to the powers technically delegated to it by the United Kingdom Parliament?

The Bill is designed to obscure an unstable proposition. What is wrong with extending the arrangements of the Scottish Grand Committee, which could decide everything and anything that the British Parliament wanted it to decide, within the framework of a sovereign United Kingdom Parliament? With a Labour Government and a Labour majority on the Scottish Grand Committee, there is nothing that it could not do—and without passing any legislation—except raise the tartan tax. It deals with the famous West Lothian question, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) says.

We Conservative Members of Parliament have been criticised throughout the debate, as though we have no legitimacy to speak on these issues. We speak for the sake of the arguments that we advance. We do not pretend to speak for the Scottish people or the Welsh people. Ultimately, the Scottish people and the Welsh people are sovereign. They have it in their power to decide their own future. If they were to vote for independence or for a majority of nationalist Members of Parliament, there would be little to argue about in terms of their future, but that is not the choice being offered in the referendum.

This is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it referendum. It panders to the expectations and prejudices that have been aroused by whatever political tensions have existed in the United Kingdom for the past 20 or 30 years. There is no honesty in it.

There is nothing intrinsically democratic in announcing that there is to be a referendum. Clement Attlee described referendums as potentially a device of demagogues and dictators. Old Labour may have had some respect for the niceties of the political arguments that new Labour prefers to ignore.

Clearly, there are circumstances in which referendums are appropriate, but we have only to observe how, in our lifetime, people such as Pinochet and Ceausescu have used referendums to assert their own views. All too often we become aware that a referendum has been called by the people who think that it will help to assert their side of the argument.

The proposed referendum is clearly an abuse of the procedure for referendums. It asks the Scottish and Welsh peoples to vote blind, without knowing the full consequences of their decision. Our opposition to the Bill involves no disrespect to the Scottish people or the Welsh people. We will have to respect the result of the referendum, although that will take some degree of interpretation, in view of the way in which the Government have attempted to fix the result in advance.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that the Chair has responsibilities to the minority parties in the House? The Chair recognises the political situation in Scotland and Wales. Is it not extraordinary that, even in a guillotined Third Reading, no speaker from the Scottish National party or Plaid Cymru has been called in the debate? Might that just make the case for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments that we are discussing?

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I point out that the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties voted for the guillotine, so they have got their come-uppance?

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I shall deal with the first point of order. The selection of speakers is entirely a matter for the Chair. It is not to be criticised in that way.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I correct in believing that the Chair takes into account the position of the minority parties in this House? Furthermore, does not the Chair take cognisance of the political situation in Scotland and Wales? The Scots and the Welsh returned no Member from the Conservative party—the Chair must be aware of these things.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The Chair recognises all the points that the hon. Gentleman has made and always adopts a balanced view of these matters.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe 9:44 pm, 4th June 1997

The debate that we have just had has been marked by a number of distinguished speeches, however brief the time available for it has been. We heard another speech from the uniquely authoritative standpoint of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), and a distinguished maiden speech by the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), who rightly paid a glowing tribute to his predecessor, who is missed by all in the House. The hon. Gentleman gave us an extremely interesting insight into the economy of the Borders constituency that he represents. We look forward to hearing many more such distinguished contributions from him.

The House is now nearing the end of its consideration of the first Bill of this Parliament. It has been a melancholy experience, a chastening example of the tyranny of the large majority, laced with contempt for this House. The time allowed for discussion has been ludicrously inadequate. Debate after debate has been curtailed before the real issues at stake have even begun to be expounded.

In a newspaper article this morning, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) wrote: In all my 47 years in the House of Commons I have never encountered a Government so determined to ride roughshod over its political opponents, its internal critics and the traditions of Parliament. On its very first parliamentary Bill it resorts immediately to the parliamentary bludgeon in a way which flouts every tried and tested convention, every tradition, every principle of parliamentary life. This is not the act of an efficient administration; it is the act of an elective dictatorship. It is clear that the central question at the heart of the legislation remains unanswered. The fundamental criticism that we have made remains as valid now as when we offered it at the outset. There is no justification for holding these referendums before the relevant legislation has been passed by the House. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow has pointed out, the only valid question to be posed in a referendum would be: "Do you approve of the Scotland Act and Wales Act of 1998?"

We make it absolutely clear that we are not against a referendum on this issue. We would not be opposed to a referendum on the question posed by the hon. Member for Linlithgow. We have no objection in principle to a referendum. But we do object to a referendum that is intended as a pre-emptive strike against proper parliamentary debate. That is the effect of holding a referendum before the legislation has been passed.

Earlier this evening, the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) put a simple question to the Welsh Office Minister. He asked for a concise answer. His question concerned whether the people of Wales should be allowed to express an opinion on whether the Welsh Assembly should have tax-raising powers. All he got from the Minister was prevarication.

Later on, I put another simple question to the same Minister. I asked him whether he would now do what the Prime Minister so conspicuously failed to do earlier this afternoon—apologise for the misleading information that he gave the House in answer to a question put to him on 14 May by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). The Prime Minister said then: Of course the Bill will be published in time for the referendum, because the referendum will take place on those proposals".— [Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 64] We now know that that was quite wrong, yet the Prime Minister was today incapable of saying, "I'm sorry: I got it wrong."

We fear that the Bill is the first legislative step towards the break-up of the United Kingdom, and we fear that the last two days' proceedings in the House will be looked back on as melancholy staging posts on the way to that destination.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Labour, Swansea East

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe

I am afraid that I have very little time.

If that indeed proves to be the case, the blame that will be attached to the Government on the basis of their responsibility for this measure will be compounded by the shame that will be attributed to them in view of the way in which they have railroaded it through the House.

Later in the current Parliament, we shall see these days as having established a pattern of arrogance and contempt of Parliament, as a hallmark of the new Government. They are days that the Government will come to regret; they are days that the nation will come to regret. That is why we shall vote against the Bill when the debate concludes in 10 minutes' time.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Minister (Constitutional Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you draw Madam Speaker's attention to the fact that we shall have had precisely one and a half hours' debate on Third Reading of a major Bill, and that more than half that time has been taken up by Front Benchers? Will you ask Madam Speaker to discuss, in the appropriate quarters, what can be done to try to redress the balance?

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Madam Speaker is always well aware of everything that goes on in the House, and I am sure that she will note what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office 9:51 pm, 4th June 1997

The debate can, I think, be summed up in three ways, especially in respect of the Conservative Opposition. First, their performance over the past three days has confirmed the wisdom of the electorate in doing the decent thing for the country on 1 May. Secondly, we have seen a remarkable example of the posturing that is going on in connection with the leadership of the Conservative party. Opposition Members have picked up briefs and arrived on the Front Bench, then disappeared just as quickly. Thirdly, we have seen no humility in regard to what happened on 1 May.

Let me ask the Conservative party in opposition to consider the plight of Scotland and Wales in relation to that party. The Scots and the Welsh simply rejected the notion of being represented by any Conservative Members of Parliament. If we needed just one example on which a bit of humility could be hung, that would clearly be it.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

No. I have not much time, and I want to reply to the points that have been made.

In the final speech from the Opposition Front Bench, many points were made relating to the detailed White Paper and to the debate and discussions that will ensue before the referendum. On Third Reading, many hon. Members—my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—have made points that are germane to discussion of that detailed White Paper, and to the subsequent process leading up to the referendum. Let me tell them that we shall not make progress unless we produce a detailed White Paper that addresses the issues that have been raised. In the context of tonight's debate, the Bill is a straightforward piece of legislation. It is important in that it paves the way for referendums in Scotland and Wales, but it does not change the constitution. It follows well-established precedent, and applies common sense. That is not a quality that we have observed in abundance on the Opposition Benches today or yesterday.

The Bill provides for people in Scotland and Wales to be asked whether they support our proposals for a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. It enables provision to be made by Orders in Council for the conduct of the referendums, and provides for the conduct of the votes. It also includes a prudent measure enabling expenditure to be incurred in preparation for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament or a Welsh Assembly.

As I have said, the Bill is simple and to the point, but at the same time it is important, particularly for the people in Scotland and Wales. When the Bill is enacted, it will set us well on our way down the path, taking, as I said in my concluding remarks on Second Reading, the next step in the unfinished business of establishing a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly.

The Bill will give the people of Scotland and Wales the opportunity to put beyond all doubt their views on our proposals for devolution in those countries. Its passage through the House is an important milestone on the way to modernising government in the United Kingdom.

I have no doubt that the Government will receive resounding support. That will lend our proposals moral authority. It will provide a helpful backdrop against which Parliament will be able to scrutinise the main devolution legislation. That has been a recurrent theme in the two days of debate. The Opposition should have some patience and then we shall have a full and long-term debate on the details of the White Paper.

The Bill has been debated on Second Reading and in Committee. For such a short Bill, of six clauses, it attracted a remarkably large number of amendments—more than 250 in total. Had they all been accepted, we would have had before us a Bill which, among other things, would have provided for a referendum to be held in Scotland only on a Sunday, on St. Andrew's day, in daylight hours, during a two-day period and—something of a Catch-22—on any day other than a Sunday.

The point about the frivolous nature of some of the amendments has already been well made by other hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).

However, it is fair to say that many other amendments rightly sought to promote debate on important issues, including in particular the provisions dealing with the franchise and the propositions on which the people in Scotland and Wales are to be consulted. We made every effort to ensure that, despite the attempts to disrupt and delay consideration of the Bill, those issues were given a fair wind, and we have had a constructive debate on the issues that we have discussed.

The House has had ample opportunity to consider the Bill. There is no reason why we should delay giving the people in Scotland and Wales the opportunity to vote on the Government's devolution proposals. The Bill will give them that opportunity. However, I repeat our categorical assurance that the devolution proposals will be set out in White Papers well in advance of the referendums and before the House rises for the summer recess.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

One of the justifications for the referendum has been that the people of Scotland and Wales would not have voted in a general election solely on the referendum issue. Will the knock-on effects of the legislation on the people of England be put to them by referendum?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

The answer quite simply is no. [HON MEMBERS: "Why?"] First, the measure primarily affects Scotland and Wales. However, as we have repeated throughout our various debates, hon. Members from every part of the United Kingdom will be able to debate the issues in the House and reflect any concerns that their constituents might have on the matter. We shall provide the detailed White Paper.

The Opposition simply cannot listen. They seek to lecture people in Scotland and Wales, who have decided to have nothing whatever to do with Conservative representation in those countries for the next five years. Surely that should elicit some humility from Conservative Members. It is sad that the first time they oppose a Bill, they fail the first test. If they want to be taken seriously in England, Scotland or Wales, they will have to address the serious issues before the House instead of, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, indulging in game playing. The future of Scotland and Wales, the future of the United Kingdom and the future of the Union are very important. No service has been done by the behaviour of the Conservative Opposition in relation to such important items.

The Bill, which is the first to get to this stage in the parliamentary process under the new Government, will be good for the people of Scotland and Wales, and good for the people in the rest of the United Kingdom. I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 339, Noes 148.

Division No. 14][9.59 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeCranston, Ross
Ainger, NickCrausby, David
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)Cummings, John
Ashton, JoeCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Atkins, Ms CharlotteCunningham, Rt Hon Dr John(Copeland)
Austin, John
Barnes, HarryCurtis-Thomas, Ms Clare
Barron, KevinDalyell, Tarn
Battle, JohnDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bayley, HughDarvill, Keith
Beard, NigelDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretDavidson, Ian
Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDavies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Benton, JoeDawson, Hilton
Bermingham, GeraldDean, Ms Janet
Berry, RogerDenham, John
Best, HaroldDewar, Rt Hon Donald
Blackman, Mrs LizDobbin, Jim
Blears, Ms HazelDonohoe, Brian H
Blizzard, RobertDoran, Frank
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidDrew, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Drown, Ms Julia
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bradshaw, BenEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Brinton, Mrs HelenEagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick(Newcastle E & Wallsend)Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Ms Louise
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Ennis, Jeff
Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)Field, Rt Hon Frank
Burden, RichardFisher, Mark
Burgon, ColinFitzsimons, Ms Lorna
Butler, ChristineFlint, Ms Caroline
Byers, StephenFlynn, Paul
Cabom, RichardFollett, Ms Barbara
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Foster, Michael John (Worcester)
Campbell-Savours, DaleGalbraith, Sam
Canavan, DennisGalloway, George
Caplin, IvorGapes, Mike
Caton, MartinGardiner, Barry
Cawsey, IanGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Gerrard, Neil
Chaytor, DavidGibson, Dr Ian
Chisholm, MalcolmGilroy, Mrs Linda
Church, Ms JudithGodman, Dr Norman A
Clapham, MichaelGodsiff, Roger
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Goggins, Paul
Clark, Dr Lynda(Edinburgh Pentlands)Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Graham, Thomas
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Grant, Bernie
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Grocott, Bruce
Clelland, DavidGrogan, John
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGunnell, John
Coaker, VernonHain, Peter
Coffey, Ms AnnHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Connarty, MichaelHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cooper, Ms YvetteHanson, David
Corbyn, JeremyHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Corston, Ms JeanHealey, John
Cousins, JimHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, StephenMahon, Mrs Alice
Heppell, JohnMallaber, Ms Judy
Hesford, StephenMarek, Dr John
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMarsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hinchliffe, DavidMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Home Robertson, JohnMartlew, Eric
Hood, JimmyMaxton, John
Hoon, GeoffreyMeale, Alan
Hope, PhilipMerron, Ms Gillian
Hopkins, KelvinMichael, Alun
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Milbum, Alan
Howells, Dr KimMiller, Andrew
Hoyle, LindsayMitchell, Austin
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Moran, Ms Margaret
Humble, Mrs JoanMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hurst, AlanMorgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Hutton, JohnMorley, Elliot
Iddon, BrianMorris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Illsley, EricMountford, Ms Kali
Ingram, AdamMowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)Mudie, George
Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)Mullin, Chris
Jamieson, DavidMurphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)
Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Johnson, Ms Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Norris, Dan
Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark)O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Organ, Mrs Diana
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Osborne, Mrs Sandra
Keeble, Ms SallyPalmer, Dr Nick
Keen, Alan (Feltham)Pendry, Tom
Kemp, FraserPickthall, Colin
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Pike, Peter L
Khabra, Piara SPlaskitt, James
Kidney, DavidPollard, Kerry
Kilfoyle, PeterPond, Chris
King, Andy (Rugby)Pope, Greg
King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)Powell, Sir Raymond
Kingham, TessaPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kumar, Dr AshokPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Ladyman, Dr StephenPrimarolo, Dawn
Lawrence, Ms JackieProsser, Gwyn
Laxton, BobPurchase, Ken
Lepper, DavidQuin, Ms Joyce
Leslie, ChristopherQuinn, Lawrie
Levitt, TomRadice, Giles
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Rammell, Bill
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Rapson, Syd
Liddell, Mrs HelenRaynsford, Nick
Livingstone, KenReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Lock, DavidRobertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
McAllion, John
McAvoy, ThomasRogers, Allan
McCabe, StephenRooker, Jeff
McCafferty, Ms ChrisRooney, Terry
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Macdonald, CalumRowlands, Ted
McDonnell, JohnRoy, Frank
McFall, JohnRuane, Chris
McGuire, Mrs AnneRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Mclsaac, Ms ShonaSalter, Martin
McKenna, Ms RosemarySavidge, Malcolm
Mackinlay, AndrewSawford, Phil
McLeish, HenrySedgemore, Brian
McMaster, GordonSheerman, Barry
MacShane, DenisSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mactaggart, FionaShipley, Ms Debra
McWalter, TonySimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWilliam, JohnSingh, Marsha
Skinner, DennisTouhig, Don
Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)Truswell, Paul
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Vaz, Keith
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)Vis, Dr Rudi
Snape, PeterWalley, Ms Joan
Soley, CliveWareing, Robert N
Southworth, Ms HelenWatts, David
Spellar, JohnWhite, Brian
Squire, Ms RachelWhitehead, Alan
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWicks, Malcolm
Stevenson, GeorgeWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Williams, Dr Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr HowardWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Stott, RogerWills, Michael
Strang, Rt Hon Dr GavinWinnick, David
Straw, Rt Hon JackWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Stringer, GrahamWise, Audrey
Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)Wood, Mike
Sutcliffe, GerryWoolas, Phil
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Worthington, Tony
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Wyatt, Derek
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)Tellers for the Ayes:
Tipping, PaddyMr. Graham Allen and Mr. Clive Betts.
Todd, Mark
NOES
Amess, DavidForth, Eric
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Arbuthnot, JamesFox, Dr Liam
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Fraser, Christopher
Baldry, TonyGale, Roger
Bercow, JohnGarnier, Edward
Beresford, Sir PaulGibb, Nick
Blunt, CrispinGill, Christopher
Boswell, TimGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGoodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brady, GrahamGorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, JulianGray, James
Browning, Mrs AngelaGreen, Damian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Greenway, John
Bums, SimonGrieve, Dominic
Butterfill, JohnGummer, Rt Hon John
Cash, WilliamHague, Rt Hon William
Chope, ChristopherHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Clappison, JamesHammond, Philip
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)Hawkins, Nick
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Hayes, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Collins, TimHogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Colvin, MichaelHoram, John
Cormack, Sir PatrickHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, JamesHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Curry, Rt Hon DavidHunter, Andrew
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)
Day, StephenKey, Robert
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Duncan, AlanKirkbride, Miss Julie
Duncan Smith, IainLaing, Mrs Eleanor
Evans, NigelLansley, Andrew
Faber, DavidLeigh, Edward
Fabricant, MichaelLetwin, Oliver
Fallon, MichaelLewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Flight, HowardLidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Soames, Nicholas
Loughton, TimSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Luff, PeterSpicer, Sir Michael
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSpring, Richard
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mcintosh, Miss AnneSteen, Anthony
MacKay, AndrewStreeter, Gary
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidSwayne, Desmond
Major, Rt Hon JohnSyms, Robert
Malins, HumfreyTapsell, Sir Peter
Maples, JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Mates, MichaelTemple-Morris, Peter
Maude, Rt Hon FrancisTredinnick, David
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr BrianTrend, Michael
May, Mrs TheresaTyrie, Andrew
Merchant, PiersViggers, Peter
Moss, MalcolmWalter, Robert
Nicholls, PatrickWardle, Charles
Norman, ArchieWaterson, Nigel
Ottaway, RichardWells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Page, RichardWhittinqdale, John
Paice, JamesWiddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Paterson, OwenWilkinson, John
Pickles, EricWilletts, David
Prior, DavidWilshire, David
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Robathan, AndrewWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)Woodward, Shaun
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Yeo, Tim
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, NickTellers for the Noes:
Sayeed, JonathanMr. Patrick McLoughlin and Mr. Peter Ainsworth.
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.