HC Deb 02 November 1970 vol 805 cc648-50
19. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many official visits he has made to Wales since his appointment.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I have spent 20 days in Wales on official visits since I took office as Secretary of State.

Mr. Hughes

I appreciate from earlier Questions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has to spend some considerable time in his English constituency of Hendon, South, but is he saying that all his visits to Wales have been as Secretary of State? Will he tell the House how many of those visits have been as Chairman of the Conservative Party, or whether they are all in a dual capacity?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The visits which I have paid to Wales, and I have mentioned the number—which includes, incidentally, 33 official engagements in Wales—were entirely official in respect of my position as Secretary of State for Wales. I do not think it would be right to suggest that I have in any way neglected Wales in order to attend to my constituency. I am fortunate in having a constituency which is a very short distance from the House of Commons.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think it most unfair of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) to suggest that he has been visiting the Conservatives in the Principality, since he knows very well that there are not any left?

Mr. Peter Thomas

As so often is the case, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. In the last General Election we increased our representation in this House by gaining four seats, and the number of Conservatives in Wales, as he knows only too well, has of late increased considerably.

Sir A. Meyer

As one of the non-existent Conservatives in Wales, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he is aware that there are a great many people in Wales who are very pleased, first, that they can at least communicate with the Secretary of State in their own language, which comes as a pleasant change, and, secondly, that they have a powerful friend not only in the Government but in the Conservative Party to influence things in their favour?

Mr. George Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when he said on television in Wales that his position in the Cabinet would be stronger because he was Chairman of the Conservative Party, he was at once insulting the rest of the Cabinet and denigrating the office which he now holds?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. With his experience of the Cabinet, the right hon. Gentleman will know that Wales can best be served if the spokesman for Wales has a position of authority and respect in the party.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

On a point of order. It will not have escaped your notice, Mr. Speaker, that Questions Nos. 20 to 31 inclusive, which are addressed to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, are interposed in what is otherwise a Welsh Question Time. As far as I know, this is the first time that it has happened. This is a rather ironic development in that it has occurred only a year after new functions in relation to health have been transferred to the Welsh Office and just as other functions of primary and secondary education are being transferred to Wales. I think that I am right in saying that it has not happened in the 85 years' experience of the Scottish Office. I wonder whether you can advise us about what redress we have in this intolerable situation?

Mr. Speaker

I have often advised hon. Members to raise points of order like this at the end of Question Time. This has cost the time of two Questions. The order in which hon. Members put down Questions is arranged through the usual channels and is nothing to do with me.