ST David’S Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:46 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee 12:46 pm, 28th February 2019

In fact, the hon. Member for Newport East was a member of the Welsh Affairs Committee when that first report was produced some nine years ago, and I think that it was at her instigation that the abolition went ahead. I pay full tribute to her for that.

As I was saying, the advantages that will accrue from the abolition of the tolls will be greatly increased if the Welsh Government now get on with building the M4 relief road. I know that was the policy—or it certainly seemed to be—of the Labour Government in the Welsh Assembly, and I am sure the Government here will want to support them in that.

To be slightly more parochial, the booming south Wales economy, for which my colleagues in government can take much of the credit, has meant that there is a demand for housing in south-east Wales, which is causing further problems. I hope Ministers will be doing everything possible to get the local authorities together to build the Chepstow bypass, which is also urgently needed.

The Select Committee on Welsh Affairs obviously cannot do much in the way of culture, media and sport, which is a devolved matter, but there are areas where we can offer support, not least in cheering on the national side as we all did on Saturday, but on S4C too. We have produced numerous reports to try to ensure that there are no threats to S4C’s budget.

I am also delighted that the Select Committee now enables anyone who wishes to do so to give evidence in Welsh. Debates can also now be held in Welsh in the Welsh Grand Committee, and I do not see why this cannot be extended further. I know that many Committee members would be quite supportive of it. There is no technical reason why we could not have debates on Welsh matters in Westminster Hall in Welsh, and I do not think there is any technological reason why a St David’s Day debate in this very Chamber could not also be held in the medium of Welsh. Perhaps we could look at that over the next few years.

We have looked on many occasions at the issue of powers for the Welsh Assembly. I was on the losing side of a referendum: I campaigned against the Welsh Assembly but quickly realised it would be utterly wrong to stand in the way of something the people of Wales had voted for. That is why I am glad the Conservative party, rather than trying to overturn the result of that referendum in 1997, embraced it and realised we would simply have to go along with what the Welsh people wanted, because that is democracy.