HC Deb 19 June 1972 vol 839 cc14-5
20. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many official opening functions he has performed in Wales in 1972; what was their nature; and where they were located.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Five. They were varied in nature and took place in both North and South Wales.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House who are Mr. Hywel Evans and Mr. John Clement? Is he not aware that it has been customary in Wales for opening ceremonies to be conducted by elected representatives? Why cannot he carry out more of these functions, particularly as he has shed his onerous responsibilities at the Conservative Central Office? Does it mean that he is making up lost time in Hendon, South.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The position, as the hon. Gentleman should know, is that, because of the attitude of the Opposition, members of the Government and their supporters are kept in this House day after day. I am, therefore, unable to perform many of the ceremonies I should like to perform. For that reason I am extremely grateful to the high-ranking civil servants in the Welsh Office who step into the breach where necessary.

Mr. George Thomas

The Secretary of State should not dismiss the matter lightly in that way. Is he aware that he should be spending week-ends in the Principality and that it is wrong for civil servants to be given duties that properly belong to Ministers? We acknowledge with gratitude the ability of both the gentlemen who have been mentioned, and others who serve in the Welsh Office, but it is asking for trouble for civil servants to be called upon to make at opening ceremonies public speeches which should properly be made by elected Members who can be questioned in the House.

Mr. Peter Thomas

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am willing to take full responsibility for anything that any civil servant may say on my behalf in Wales. I am in Wales almost every week-end, and I am very happy to perform any of these ceremonies if I am able to do so, but at present it is impossible to get to Wales during the week because of the pressure of parliamentary business.