Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour 6:15 pm, 9th February 2011

I add my support to both amendments because of the extreme unfairness and inequity with which Wales has been treated. I begin with a reflection of what the United Kingdom is. It is a very special kind of polity. It is not a federal state. It is a union state in which different nations are brought together and, through the mediation of all political parties over 100 years, a union state in which all the nations have equality. They do not seek separatism: they seek equality. Wales in this instance is being treated most unequally.

From time to time, I reflect on a famous Liberal, whose successors do not appear to be very close to his traditions-David Lloyd George. On one occasion, Lloyd George pointed out the sheer hypocrisy of a Tory Government before 1914 who claimed to be Unionists and yet somehow implied that the Irish nationalists were lesser members. He said that they were hypocrites: they were either equal members of the union or not. It seems to me that something of the same attitude is being shown towards Wales on this occasion: that Wales can somehow be dismissed in this casual way without debate as we have heard.

In the status of Wales in a union state, Parliament is absolutely crucial. The representation of Wales in numbers is crucial. We had an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who is not in his place at the moment, in which he pointed out the quality of people such as Aneurin Bevan, David Lloyd George and my noble and distinguished friend Lord Kinnock sitting behind me. That was an argument for saying that if you had a group of geniuses, Wales could be represented by 10 people or even one person. There is no limit. It is the kind of argument that the noble Lord himself applied when we were discussing the amendment about the threshold for the referendum. There seemed to be no minimum: if only 5 per cent of the electorate voted in a referendum that was absolutely fine. If 40 per cent voted that was fine. Any percentage was fine.

Wales has, as I said in a previous speech, created and won recognition for its status through its power in Parliament, not just the ability of people who have represented Wales in Parliament, but the fact that collectively they are able to make a major contribution and to fulfil the wider role that parliamentary representation can have.

There is a point about the Assembly. The Scottish Parliament has greater powers, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Touhig, than the Welsh Assembly. That has been taken into account in relation to the representation of Scotland in Westminster. We do not know what will happen in the Assembly. We are therefore just second-guessing what the result might be and the sensitive relationship between the Assembly and Parliament is therefore being put at risk. The potential way in which a lesser number of MPs and a greater number of Assembly Members might be able to collaborate is also being put at risk.

This is an unfair distortion of the political process. It is unfair on the Welsh people and on Wales as a nation. When we discussed this previously, the Minister produced an argument that I hope we will not hear from him this time. He said that because Wales is being organised by the same rules as other parts of the country, the unfairness would somehow be accepted by the people of Wales as simply a part of accepting the rules. That is rather like looking ahead to next Saturday when Wales play Scotland at Murrayfield. It is like saying that Wales will be playing by the same rules as Scotland; Wales will be the same pitch but will be playing three men short. That is therefore a fair way of looking at it.

Wales is manifestly been treated far more seriously and severely than any other part of the country. It is at variance with our history and particularly at variance with the history of the previous proponents of the views of the Liberal Democrats who are supposed to be heirs of that liberal tradition. This is treating Wales with contempt. It is putting the union at risk and is likely to cause enormous anguish and a feeling that the tradition to which all parties have contributed has been wantonly betrayed.