Committee (14th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 26th January 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 6:30 pm, 26th January 2011

My Lords, I wish to speak very briefly. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, introduced this debate with eloquence and discipline and summarised the points beautifully. I wish to address two aspects only: devolution and Wales's contribution to the UK today.

In the devolution settlement for Scotland, the powers were much clearer. Even if Wales has greater devolution -the Liberal Democrats had always said that they wanted to cut the number of MPs when the Assembly was stronger-and we go down to 35 MPs, we in Wales will still have lost a greater percentage than Scotland will have done. Fairness in devolution needs to be looked at.

What about Wales in the UK today? I refer noble Lords simply to the Armed Forces. We should remember that the population of Wales is just over 5 per cent of that of the UK. There are 37 regular battalions in the British Army, three of which are Welsh and six Scottish. Eleven per cent of recruits come from Wales and more than 7 per cent of casualties in Afghanistan are from Wales. At the height of Operation Panther's Claw in summer 2010, the proportion of Welsh soldiers was between 20 and 25 per cent, as Welsh regiments such as the Welsh Guards were on the front line. An MoD spokesman, Paul Barnard, said in an interview last year:

"It's certainly true ... that Wales punches above its weight in the armed forces ... And for that Welsh people should be proud, and the rest of the UK should be grateful".

Indeed, the rest of the UK should be grateful, as Wales does contribute. We have a devolved Assembly, but the role of the MPs in the other place is important. We contribute to the UK. That is why this is such a serious debate and why the amendment as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, is well crafted and should be supported.