HC Deb 26 July 1976 vol 916 cc12-4
8. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the negotiations taking place between his Department and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs for the use of the Temple of Peace and Health by the proposed Welsh Assembly.

Mr. John Morris

Responsibility for these negotiations rests with the Property Services Agency, although my Department is participating in them. Negotiations are still proceeding and it is hoped to make an early statement. In the meantime, the House will not expect me to say anything which might prejudice them.

Mr. Grist

Realising that the latest estimate for the alterations to the Temple of Peace in the event of a Welsh Assembly being established is £1,700,000, does not the Secretary of State agree that the 999-year lease held by the Welsh United Nations Association is extremely valuable and should be recognised as such? Will he give an assurance that, in the event of the South Glamorgan Health Authority's having to move, the cost of the move will fall on the devolution budget and not on the National Health Service?

Mr. Morris

In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, the area health authority has agreed in principle to move, subject to suitable alternative accommodation being provided. Detailed proposals for this and for the financial arrangements to be made are at present being discussed between the area health authority and my Department. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, negotiations are proceeding and it would be prejudicial for me to comment at present.

Mr. Abse

By what right and what power is the Secretary of State negotiating for premises for an Assembly that has not been approved by Parliament? My right hon. and learned Friend is reported to have said that he believes that the debate on the Assembly issue is over. Will he please come down to earth in his helicopter out of the clouds and recognise that the House has not approved the setting up of the Assembly? Will he make certain that any negotiations that are going on are subject not to contract but to the expressed will of the House? He will find that the House is not a creature of the Secretary of State for Wales or the Leader of the House and will be expressing itself next Session.

Mr. Morris

The statement I made referred to my party and my hon. Friend's party—

Mr. Abse

I was there before you were.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Not before me.

Mr. Morris

I said that the debate in my party was over. I am sure that my hon. Friend understands the sense in which I said that. As to negotiations my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced to the House the Government's intentions. We are proceeding in the normal way, as is customary.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the objective of those on the Conservative Benches who question him on this matter is to delay the setting up of the Assembly for Wales in favour of an increase in the power of bureaucratic government by increasing the size of the Welsh Office and refusing to submit it to Welsh democratic control?

Mr. Morris

I am responsible for many things but not for the policy of the Conservative Party.

Mr. Kinnock

Will my right hon. and learned Friend explain what could be more bureaucratic—indeed, autocratic—than building a multi-million-pound Assembly without submitting the proposal to the examination or vote of Parliament?

Mr. Morris

As I said a few minutes ago, my right hon. Friend's announcement was in the usual form—that these matters are proceeding.

Mr. Marten

At what age will people be able to be elected to the Welsh Assembly? If elections can be from the age of 18, and if the same applies to direct elections to the European Parliament, would it not be a good idea—in answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock)— and take up a lot of the unemployment of school leavers if they were elected to both assemblies?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has made a serious comment and that if he puts himself up for election to the Welsh Assembly it will be treated equally seriously.