HC Deb 20 November 1958 vol 595 cc1323-4
46. Mr. C. Hughes

asked the Prime Minister why he has appointed the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs to be chairman of the Council for Wales and Monmouth; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

When the former Chairman of the Council unexpectedly resigned, it seemed right to take the exceptional step of appointing my right hon. Friend as Chairman until a new Council falls to be appointed next September. I am most anxious that a closer relationship between the Council and the Government should be developed. This temporary arrangement will provide an opportunity to consider the best means of achieving this object as part of a constructive review of the Council's functions and of the way in which it can most effectively serve the interests of Wales in the years to come.

Mr. C. Hughes

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the chief virtues of the Council for Wales was that it could tender independent advice to the Government? Is he aware that by appointing a Minister of the Crown to be Chairman of the Council he is making that impossible? Is he aware that by what he has done he has changed both the function and the character of the Council?

The Prime Minister

I think one of the objections raised was that there was not sufficient contact between Whitehall and the Council. This seems to me at least to achieve that. I have seen varying comments, some approving and some disapproving what has been done. What I want to make clear is that between now and next September it should be possible to work out, perhaps, a better structure, a better system, and I think the Minister hopes that as Chairman he will be able to assist in that task.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are we to take it from the Prime Minister's reply that until such time as it is reconstructed, which I gather was the proposal, the Council will not submit any reports to the Government? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Council has from time to time submitted independent reports to the Government? How can it go on doing that if a member of the Government is Chairman of the Council?

The Prime Minister

How long this will go on I cannot tell, but I think that this method is one which, in the circumstances, can produce useful results. I know that my right hon. Friend's sole object is to see that the Council is reconstituted and operated in such a way as to get over some of the objections which have been raised in the past.