HC Deb 03 December 1973 vol 865 cc891-3
9. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales which organisations in Wales are being consulted about the report of the Commission on the Constitution ; and what part he will take in these discussions.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I shall welcome views from any Welsh organisation or individual, and these will be fully considered by my colleagues and myself.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that the Prime Minister rightly said that there should be a reasonable period for consultation and public discussion of the report? Will he consult, in particular, the Welsh Council and Welsh local authority organisations, in view of the implications of the report for them and possibly upon their functions?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I understand that the Welsh Council has already begun a study of the report. I am sure that political and other bodies are also considering it, and I very much hope to receive their views in due course. Indeed, I would welcome their views at any time.

Mr. Ellis

Is the Secretary of State aware that my Welsh right hon. and hon. Friends are largely agreed on this matter and that we should be happy to facilitate the passage of a Bill giving effect to the major recommendation of the report?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I am delighted to hear that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are agreed. I read in a newspaper a report of a speech by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), made, presumably, on behalf of the Labour Party in Wales. I found it very interesting. I did not detect much enthusiasm in it, but it was quite clear.

Mr. George Thomas

The Secretary of State must learn to read with care. The Opposition are clear, unanimous and unequivocal on this question. We are united in our determination—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is the time for questions, not for policy statements.

Mr. George Thomas

No one holds you in higher regard than I do, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.] I am simply casting my bread upon the waters. Is the Secretary of State aware that on this matter the Opposition have declared their position quite clearly, which is for a directly elected assembly in Wales? When may we look forward to the Secretary of State's clear observation on the question?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I was interested to find that the right hon. Gentleman, for the first time for a very long time, appeared to be speaking on behalf of all his colleagues in the speech which he made last Friday. I assure him that I shall study what he says with great care, and I welcome the views which he has expressed. The Government wish carefully to consider this large and complicated report before coming to a decision. We hope to receive, and, indeed, will welcome, views from all interested bodies in Wales, which in many cases will be very different from those of the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir A. Meyer

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, unlike right hon. and hon. Members opposite, many of us on the Government side of the House do not wish to bury this matter in a cloud of ambiguity and would welcome a forthright statement from my right hon. and learned Friend to the effect that the report is totally and utterly misguided and that with local government reorganisation, new authorities, and so on, the people of Wales have been pushed around quite enough? The Welsh people want to see the report decently buried as soon as possible.

Mr. Peter Thomas

My hon. Friend has expressed a view which I know exists. The Government intend to put forward their proposals as soon as they are in a position to do so. Those proposals will be put forward clearly and unequivocally, just as the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) suggests his proposals were put forward. But we do not intend to put them forward until public opinion has had time to form.