HC Deb 25 April 1978 vol 948 cc1220-99

'(1) For the purposes of this Act there may be appointed a Speaker's Conference, being a conferenec convened at the request of the Prime Minister and presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons with the function of considering and making recommendations to the House of Commons relating to the appropriate number of Members of that House representing Welsh constituencies after the enactment of this Act. (2) Those participating in the Conference shall be Members of the House of Commons invited to do so by the Speaker, who shall secure that the balance of parties in the House of Commons is reflected, so far as practicable, among the participants in the Conference'—[Mr. Nicholas Edwards.] Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Thanks to the staccato, effective and oft-repeated interventions of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), the consequences of the Bill upon Welsh representation at Westminster have seldom been very far from our thoughts during our debates. It has emerged as a central issue, and one that cannot be avoided.

With fearful inevitability, we have been led again and again to the same conclusion—that one effect of the Bill will be to create an ever-strengthening demand for a reduction in the number of Welsh Members of Parliament and in their influence upon this place, while recognising that that demand itself provides no solution to the particular problem that the hon. Gentleman has so often posed to the House. But, frequently as the West Lothian question has impinged itself on our debates, the opportunity for a full discussion of it has not arisen. Our new clause is designed to provide that opportunity.

It is right that a central issue of this kind should be fully debated and not covered simply by interjection into other discussions. Parliament and the Welsh people have to face up to the issue involved. I and my right hon, and hon. Friends wish that it were not so. We deplore the existence of a Bill which forces us to consider the issue. We would not otherwise wish to do so. We regret the necessity to do so. With passionate conviction, I believe that the interests of Wales are best defended by Welsh Members in this place, and that if a reduction in our numbers was forced on us Wales would be the worse for it. Because of its special problems, Wales needs the strongest possible representation at Westminster. But the question cannot be dodged in the case of this Bill any more than it could in the case of the Scotland Bill. It cannot be dodged because it is unpalatable or avoided because I or other hon. Members do not wish to face up to it.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down South)

Can the hon. Gentleman refresh my memory? I apologise for employing him upon a research errand. Did the Conservative Opposition move a similar new clause on the Scotland Bill?

Mr. Edwards

An identical new clause was indeed moved on the Scotland Bill. If I may refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory still further, he made a particularly eloquent and convincing speech about it. I refreshed my memory about what he said on that occasion before rising to speak this afternoon.

If it is an inevitable consequence of the Bill—as I believe it to be—then we should debate it. The rules of order within which we operate dictate the form of our new clause. They are limited and they restrict what we are able to do. In fact, probably the only other way in which we could have raised the issue would have been by an amendment, and I am not even sure whether it would have in order to write into the Bill a specific number of seats for Wales. After all, that is what was done with the Government of Ireland Act.

But personally, I do not think it right that the number of seats—or matters of this kind generally—should be decided by legislation introduced on a party basis in this House of Commons. We Conservatives believe that constitutional change should be done on the widest possible basis of consent and that changes in the numbers coming to this place are properly and appropriately decided by a Speaker's Conference. That is, of course, what has been done within the last few weeks with regard to Northern Ireland—where recommendations have been made by the Conference to this House.

Therefore, I move this new clause believing that the Speaker's Conference is the appropriate mechanism for consideirng these issues and also in the knowledge that there really is no other way open to us to bring this issue before the Committee for full debate.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to disclaim what is the clear intention of this new clause, namely, that the Conservative Party wishes to have a Speaker's Conference which has the goal not of increasing constituencies in Wales but of deliberately reducing the number of Members of Parliament that will come from Wales if devolution goes through?

Mr. Edwards

I shall say more about this during my speech. But I have already strongly expressed the view that the Conservative Party would in no way wish to reduce the number of representatives for Wales. We think that it would be damaging to do so. But we believe that we are faced with the inevitable consequences of this Bill and that this is likely to be one of them. Before passing the Bill we believe that the House of Commons should consider those consequences very fully.

It is an appalling fact that this Bill is forcing so many of us to do things, at various stages, that we really do not want. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), whom I am glad to see in this place, marches through the Lobby in support of a measure which he thinks is inadequate because he hopes that it is a stepping stone to his real objective. Large numbers of Government Members troop through the Lobby to support a measure they dislike for a variety of political reasons. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) has told us that he casts his vote in support of a measure which he regards as an unmitigated disaster in order to get the referendum result which he believes will destroy it.

I am forced to move a new clause providing for a Speaker's Conference that I do not want at this moment—which might recommend a reduction in the number of Welsh Members, which I would deplore—because I believe that it would be an act of total madness and irresponsibility not to consider the consequences of this legislation before we pass it and without at least attempting to provide some mechanism to produce some kind of practical working arrangement.

5.15 p.m.

It is not the fault of the Conservatives that we face up to an issue that could otherwise be left in peace and quiet. During the debate on the Scotland Bill, the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) opposed our new clause because he thought that our motives might be misinterpreted, in precisely the way that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has just chosen to misinterpret them. But at least the hon. Member for Penistone was absolutely clear where responsibility lay. He said: we must be very careful that we do not appear as wishing to respond to certain dangerous tendencies that will inevitably develop if the Bill is passed. The people responsible for these dangerous tendencies will be the promoters of the Bill, not its opponents. I do not want its opponents to be put into a false light on this matter. The Government and the supporters of the legislation must assume responsibility for these dangerous developments. What are these dangerous consequences? Obviously, no matter what I say or what is said by any other right hon, or hon. Member, and no matter how we vote on the amendment today, once the Bill is passed and its implementation begins, many of our constituents are bound to begin to raise the question of Scottish over-representation. To that the hon. Member for West Lothian interjected: Of course". [Official Report, 31st January 1978; Vol. 943, c. 291.] I believe that the same is true about the Wales Bill. It is the fault of the Government who have introduced a measure that remorselessly forces the conclusion that the representation of Wales is unlikely to be left untouched or, at least, that there will be great pressures to change it. The Secretary of State and Ministers generally say that this is not so. Like King Canute they seek to hold back the tide. But the difference between the king and them is that he was wise and they were foolish. He was seeking to convince his courtiers that he could not hold back the tide. They are seeking to convince theirs that that is precisely what they are able to do. Indeed, worse, they quite unnecessarily destroy the dam and then seek to hold back the water with their bare hands.

Those of us who are Welsh Members of Parliament will see our role changed in a devastating fashion, as the hon. Member for Pontypool has frequently pointed out. The day-to-day control of the majority of issues that most concern our constituents will be removed from us—matters such as housing, education, health, social services, roads and all the things that constituents come to see us about week in and week out in our surgeries.

I suppose that we shall have to say to them "I am sorry, there is very little we can do about this. This is no longer my responsibility or the responsibility of Parliament. You had better to go to see Assemblyman Jones. Oh, but by the way, by my voice and my vote I shall be deciding on exactly these issues in Oxford, Abingdon, Newcastle, Southampton and London". We then have to expect our constituents to understand this extraordinary position.

What are we to do when we come to face them in a General Election? What are we to say to them in our Election addresses? Will our Election addresses say: "Vote for me and elect my party because of our policies on these great social issues in England, but, of course, I shall not be able to do very much about them down here in Wales"?

It is no good saying that we shall still have a full say on the great economic issues or on defence and foreign policy, because very frequently it is the social questions that decide General Elections. It is also no good saying that we shall still decide on the primary legislation, because primary legislation is only a fraction of our duty or of the responsibility of government in this place.

It is through secondary legislation and administration that huge areas of government are decided and carried on. For example, education policy is decided largely by Government within a broad framework of infrequent Education Acts. We can examine a whole string of social issues plucked from current experience and debate. Without legislation we could end the sale of council houses, abolish Health Service charges, abolish pay beds, increase bus subsidies or change the rate support grant.

We shall not be able to debate ministerial responsibility or ask parliamentary Questions on huge areas of Government responsibility in Wales. If we did raise them Ministers would reply tartly that it was not their responsibility. Yet, we shall be able to raise those matters in respect of England.

We and our Scottish colleagues, numbering more than 100, will decide the political fate of England. We shall be powerless over most of the great social issues in Wales and Scotland. But we shall have decisive power on occasions at Westminster. We shall not decide only the outcome of individual votes on separate issues but also the political character of the United Kingdom Government and the Government of England. I do not believe that that will be tolerable for more than the shortest time to English Members or the English electorate.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Member mentioned defence. Like me, he has been sitting here for many days. I wondered whether he had tumbled to the fact that there is to be a defence committee of the Welsh Assembly, which was outlined in the Lords yesterday. I certainly thought that it would not be proper for the Assemblies to set up committees on foreign affairs, defence, unemployment and other non-devolved subjects.

Mr. Edwards

I am interested in that. I have not caught up with that development. I suppose the situation is that whatever powers are transferred, there is nothing to stop the Assemblies from setting up committees to consider other matters. I do not know what the committees will do, because they will not have control over these matters or over the expenditure. We shall have to explore this issue when the Scotland Bill comes back from the Lords.

We have been told that this anomaly existed for Northern Ireland. But initially there were only 13 Members, and later 12 with the abolition of the university seats. In that case there were not 107 Members. The price that Northern Ireland paid for a long time, and up to the present time, was a 30 per cent. under-representation in the House of Commons. In addition, on no occasion since the War have the votes of Irish Members changed the political colour of the party forming a Government here. On no occasion would Labour have been in power instead of the Conservatives if the Conservatives had lost the votes of the Northern Ireland Unionists. But there were occasions—on steel, for example—when the influence of Ulster votes was of importance.

This was regarded as an acceptable price for avoiding the greater problems inherent in the Northern Ireland situation. By accepting this small sacrifice we were able to bury the Irish question—or so we thought—for 50 years or more.

Wales is not under-represented in that way. In terms of population it is overrepresented, but not in terms of equity. The average electorate in England is 66,056, in Wales, 57,088, in Scotland 53,336 and in Northern Ireland 83,076. There are proposals to change the Northern Ireland representation.

The disparity in the size of electorates undoubtedly has been seen by some as a good reason for reducing the number of Welsh Members. It is proposed that another 80 representatives should be elected to an Assembly in Cardiff. That means that we shall have about 116 representatives doing the work that is at present borne by 36. However, Wales has been over-represented for well-established and generally accepted reasons. I do not recall that the position has been challenged in the House of Commons for a long time.

The geographical size of some of the constituencies has been an important factor. The need to balance the interests of the South with those of Mid-and North Wales has also been a factor, as has the desire to guarantee an effective Welsh voice against the preponderance of English voices.

Even with an Assembly the United Kingdom Parliament and Government will continue to be responsible for many of the most crucial matters affecting Wales. Taxation, foreign affairs, the economy, the EEC, defence, agriculture, energy, industry, the block budget and the override powers, will all be the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament. In particular, the United Kingdom Parliament will continue to enact primary legislation for Wales.

This brings me to another matter which is not generally understood. It concerns the way in which all legislation in future will have to be specially tailored to suit the existence of the new Assembly. As a result of the proposals in the Bill the powers to be devolved under Schedule 2 can be altered at any time. They can be increased or decreased at any stage and in any Bill that passes through the House of Commons. We shall therefore have to examine every clause and every line in every Bill, ask ourselves whether it is a matter which is to apply to Wales and what we wish the powers of the Assembly to be.

There will have to be a clarification in every Bill of that Bill's relationship to the Assembly. There is nothing fixed, stable or permanent about what we are discussing today. From time to time there will be good reasons why Governments might be tempted to extend or withdraw particular parts of a Bill. In such circumstances Welsh Members will have a crucial part to play. There will be a real need for a full quota to represent Welsh interests.

The Kilbrandon Commission calculated on a parity basis that Wales should have 31 Members instead of 36. It recommended no change in the number for a scheme of Executive devolution. But the essential feature of the scheme for Executive devolution, which the Commission was proposing when it made that recommendation, was that it would be applied in a more or less uniform way throughout the United Kingdom. That seems to be a fairly important qualification of that recommendation.

In the case of legislative devolution, the Commission recommended that there should be a reduction to parity. Indeed, it argued that there might well be a case for reducing the Scottish and Welsh representation to below the parity level in the legislative case following the Irish precedent. The argument is set out in paragraph 815 of the report.

One of the difficulties is that there is no clear-cut distinction between legislative and Executive devolution. The legislative process is complex. In this case it is being divided. Whatever the terms and definitions we shall have substantially different laws which will be applied in a substantially different way in Wales and in England as a result of the differences in secondary legislation and administration.

5.30 p.m.

Whatever the theoretical concepts, I have little doubt that people will feel that things are different. In politics, what people feel matters a good deal more than the theory. We face a situation of incredible complexity, with Scottish, Welsh and English Members all having different roles and differing interests. That must inevitably create dissension and a demand for changes in the complex balance.

The problem arises because the Government's proposals are not based on the principles that surely should govern any constitution if a country is to remain stable and united. The first is that every citizen must be related to those who govern him at each level of power and authority in the same way. The second is that any one institution should bear the same responsibility, even if it is not exercised in exactly the same way, for any citizen, regardless of where he lives. In other words, the implications that Scotland and Wales cannot be part of a quasi-federal United Kingdom and England part of a unitary United Kingdom.

One must be clear about this. A reduction in the number of Welsh Members does not solve the problem. There will be a demand, and there has been a demand already, for a reduction in the powers as well. That brings me to the in and out option, the idea that Members might vote on some issues but not on others. The arguments against that option have been well developed since they were first examined in, I think, about 1893.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

It was in 1896.

Mr. Edwards

I accept the correction from my hon. Friend, than whom there is no one more expert.

The option is as unacceptable now as it was then. I do not wish to set out the whole case again. It was done with particular power in the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) of which I reminded him a short time ago, a speech in which he concentrated on this issue.

There is the impossibility of defining and dividing our business in the way that would be necessary, and there are the intolerable burdens that that impossible task would place on Mr. Speaker and the officers of the House. There is the indirect effect of every decision taken in this place for one part of the United Kingdom upon the finances of the other part. One cannot pass measures without financial consequences which affect the whole of the State. There is the impossible situation that would be created for any Government, for part of their time acting as an Anglo-Welsh Government and for part of it as an English Government. They would never know whether they could carry legislation, and the concepts of ministerial responsibility would collapse.

For these and other reasons, it seems to me that the in and out solution has justifiably been the subject of ridicule for more than 80 years, although it must be said that that does not prevent people still proposing it today, because the problem will not go away, and the desperate search for a solution goes on.

It is not only Conservatives, as perhaps the hon. Member for Pontypool was implying, who are impelled to ask these questions. They have been asked again and again on his own Benches. I remember their being asked very eloquently by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), for example. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), speaking for the Scottish Liberals, not only asked these questions on 14th November last year but came to the conclusion that it is imperative that clear conventions are invoked … by which Scottish Members do not vote on such matters."—[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 112.] In other words, he opted for the in-and-out solution, though on the previous day his Leader had opted for a reduction in numbers to proportionality. Therefore, it is not only Conservatives who can be critcised for some vagueness or imprecision in the search for a solution. We cannot fairly be blamed for vagueness over a problem that we have not created.

Our solution is very simple. It is to drop the Bill that creates the problem. Therefore, I do not accept the criticism that in seeking to find a solution we are being vague and indefinite.

But the central argument advanced against our clause when a similar one was debated on the Scotland Bill was that it could produce no solution, because the problem was insoluble. That was the main reason that persuaded so many who share our concern about the issue to oppose our attempt to resolve it.

The critics point out, as I have done, that the in-and-out solution is unworkable and unjust, and that a reduction in Members leaves the problem unresolved. It applies whether there are 36, 31 or 15. They argue that if one has an insoluble problem there is no point in fudging it, that there is no point in going through an exercise in consultation to establish what they already judge to be a fact.

I share the critics' view that, given this obnoxious Bill, the problem is indeed insoluble. But we exist in a world where, if we cannot learn to solve insoluble problems, at least we sometimes have to learn to live with them. If the Bill by some mischance becomes law and is accepted by the people of Wales in a referendum, although I do not judge that that will happen, the problem will not go away. We shall have to learn to live with it. We shall have to find a modus vivendi. We shall have to make the best of a bad job. We shall have to discover, at least for a time, a politically acceptable compromise.

That compromise may not endure. The situation may prove so intolerable to the English Members that we shall be forced down the road to federalism or to some other political settlement. In my view, that is likely. This is not a settlement that we on the Conservative Benches expect to endure.

In the meantime, as a Parliament we should have to do our best to make the whole beastly thing work with a minimum of friction. If we did anything less than that, we should be failing in our duty.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

I have been following with interest the hon. Gentleman's argument about the in-and-out system and his admission that some kind of federalism could take place. Do I fairly summarise the Conservative Party's position when I say that it is dead against any creeping devolution but in favour of creeping federalism?

Mr. Edwards

No. I said several times that we did not want this Bill. We do not want to set off down this road. What I have been seeking to do is to point out some of the unavoidable consequences with which we are faced if the Bill becomes law.

I take the view, and have taken it all along, that this is not a settlement that can endure. If that is so, we are bound to be forced down a road to some other kind of eventual solution. I have argued on other occasions, and I do not want to repeat my argument today, that it is at least a possibility—though not, I think, at present a politically acceptable solution—that we shall move in some distant future towards a federal structure rather than the chaos produced by the Bill. But I do not wish to say more than that at this time.

We consider that the best way to seek the compromise that we shall have to find is by the traditional and well-tried method of a Speaker's Conference. If the Bill becomes law, I believe that those who say now that our proposal is a waste of time will find themselves caught up in a irresistible parliamentary movement towards just the kind of Speaker's Conference that we propose. Parliament will find itself in a completely new situation, which it will wish to examine. Even if the conference finally arrives, as it may and as I hope it will, at a justification of the status quo and the retention of the existing number of Welsh Members, the fact that it has done so will for a time make things work more smoothly.

The recommendations of Speakers' Conferences, if accepted, are accepted in the spirit that they should be made to work. I believe that for a time an effort would be made to make them work. A conclusion about the number of Members is much more likely to be accepted if it is arrived at by a body such as a Speaker's Conference than if it comes by way of the Canute-like declarations of a political party that has a considerable political interest in the outcome.

I commend the clause. If the Committee rejects it on the ground that it fails to provide a solution for an insoluble problem, the only logical alternative is to throw out the Bill altogether. I hope that our critics who join in that point of view will join us in doing exactly that on Third Reading.

Mr. Abse

We have heard an interesting but tortuous contribution from the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards). With considerable clarity the hon. Gentleman adumbrated all the reasons for it being inevitable that there would be an erosion of the number of Members of Parliament coming to the House of Commons from Wales in the event of the disaster of devolution taking place. The hon. Gentleman, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, gave clear and unequivocal notice that it would be the intention of the Conservative Party, if ever it came to power and if devolution existed, to refer the issue to a Speaker's Conference. That in the end could have only one conclusion—namely, a reduction in the number of Members of Parliament coming to the House of Commons from Wales.

But it is tortuous for the hon. Gentleman to claim that he would personally wish that in the end justifications for the retention of the existing position would emerge from such a Speaker's Conference, when at the same time he has in a powerful argument shown how inevitable it would be that the Speaker's Conference would come to the conclusion, taking into account opinion in the House of Commons, that there would have to be a radical reduction in the number of Members of Parliament representing Welsh constituencies.

The hon. Gentleman's argument leads us to the position that the ultimate conclusion of such a Speaker's Conference would be not merely that there should be parity so that the number of Members of Parliament representing Welsh constituencies should be reduced from 36 to 31, but that inevitably, since the task and role of the Members representing Welsh constituencies would be so reduced, the demand would come, and would undoubtedly be reflected in the conclusions of the Speaker's Conference that the Conservative Party is proposing, that the number would be less than 31.

I do not doubt that what the hon. Gentleman is saying is exactly what will come about in the event of having devolution and having a Conservative Government. From the time that the controversy began I have warned the Labour movement in Wales that it was walking into a trap. I have warned it that if it decided to vote to be a devolutionist it would inevitably mean a permanent Conservative Government in Britain. I have warned the trade union and Labour movement in Wales that if ever, unhappily, a Conservative Government came into existence they would seize the opportunity to reduce the number of Members of Parliament coming from Wales, and that devolution would give them absolute justification for that to come about.

5.45 p.m.

The Labour electorate of Wales must understand that if it voted for devolution it would be voting to end Labour Governments in Westminster. All history shows that that would be so. There would not have been Labour Governments for the past 28 years if it were not because of the opinions that have come from Scotland and Wales. The consequence, which must be understood by the whole Labour electorate in Wales and by the trade union and Labour movement, is that it would be suicidal to vote for devolution, to vote "Yes" in the referendum.

Sir Raymond Gower

It is not possible that some of the electors of whom the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) is speaking might take the view that they would be prepared to exchange the opportunity of getting a Labour Government returned occasionally at Westminster for a longer term of Labour control in Wales and Scotland?

Mr. Abse

I have no doubt that the people of Wales, who have consistently acted as the dynamic for the creation of Labour Governments in Westminster, know full well that the leverage that they want to exercise for the whole of Britain exists in this place. I have no doubt that they will reveal that understanding in the referendum, when they will make it clear that they wish the present position to be maintained.

The people of Wales must understand that the speech delivered today by the hon. Member for Pembroke is a clear and unequivocal notice on the part of the Conservative Party that it is wholly committed, in the event of devolution taking place, to the setting up of a Speaker's Conference, which would mean a severe reduction in the representation of Wales as for Scotland. It would mean the end of Labour Governments for Britain.

When I entered this controversy a long time ago I emphasised the loss of Labour Governments and was described as an alarmist, as someone looking for difficulties that would not take place. Therefore, unusual as it may be, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, after the long debates that have taken place over two Sessions, for at last declaring that the Conservative Party has clearly taken up the position, and allowed it to be known in Wales, that that which it proposes will undoubtedly hand on a plate the opportunity for permanent Conservative Government in Britain if a "Yes" vote is recorded when the referendum is put before the people.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has said that the Speaker's Conference and its conclusions would be both inevitable and fully justified. Is it not likely that exactly the same result would emerge if a Labour Government were returned to this place following a General Election and we had the Bill? Surely it is likely to happen whatever Government are in this place because of the pressures that have been created by the Bill. Surely that will happen notwithstanding the desire of any political party.

Mr. Abse

I do not doubt that a Labour Government in this place, even if the justifications came into existence, would resist the demand out of political self-interest. I realise, however, that we live in a democratic community in which, inevitably, oscillations take place that lead, as they have always led, to different Governments arriving at different times. It is only a question of when the position will be created when there will be a radical reduction in the number of Members of Parliament representing Welsh and Scottish constituencies.

I should regard it as tragic if there were a reduction of Members from Wales and a gutting of their roles entirely. Wales has supplied to Westminster a humanity that often it would otherwise have lacked. The whole history of the contributions that have come from Wales to Westminster has shown that Wales is concerned primarily not with ideology, but with humanising the legislative process from the time of Lloyd George, who was responsible for bringing in the old-age pension, to the time of Nye Bevan, who carved out the Health Service, and of Jim Griffiths, who saw and brought into being the Industrial Injuries Acts and the National Insurance Acts. That was because the prime concern in Wales was about people, not power. It has inevitably meant that concern has been brought into the House of Commons for particular problems—for the disadvantaged.

The Members of Parliament from Wales, precisely because they belonged to a minority group, have always had the capacity to empathise with those who may be minority groups. I am glad that I can claim to have concluded the divorce measures started by Lady Eirene White.

I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State fox Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones), was able to participate vigorously and to play a prominent role in dealing with the problems of those who suffer as a result of divorces.

I am glad that one can identify people—such as the Foreign Secretary, who is a Welshman—who have assisted those of us from Wales who wanted to alter the adoption laws and to bring into effect the Children's Act.

Wherever one goes, one will find, looking at the history of the last 40 or 50 years, the particular quality which has emerged out of Welsh culture. Wales has humanised Westminster and brought relief and succour to minority groups throughout Britain. Wales has spoken for the disadvantaged. Wales has been able to persuade the rest of the House of Commons to bring about solutions which alleviated problems which otherwise would have remained chronic.

It would indeed be an extraordinarily sad day if we were to create conditions in which the Welsh voice at Westminster were to become muted, as inevitably it would if devolution were to come about. I agree with the hon. Member for Pembroke that we would become hopelessly politically ineffective. We would be estranged from our colleagues, because we would be regarded as presumptuous if we sought to intervene in determining any question, including all the social questions in which Wales has played a great part. It would mean that we would be pariahs almost in the House of Commons. Instead of having the capacity to be able to mould the future of the whole of Britain, we would be mere supernumeries.

The people of Wales are profoundly political. They revel in and enjoy their politics. They have the capacity to give to the rest of Britain, often polemically, but certainly with an elan which is often lacking in other areas. I believe that it would be tragic if that were lost to the House of Commons. I believe that the people of Wales would also feel that it was tragic.

The great figures who have come from Wales—for example, Nye Bevan and Jim Griffiths; figures whom the Welsh Labour movement has thrown up—would no longer have a place here. Whatever our intellectual capacities, we would be reduced to mere pygmies in the House of Commons. That is not the role that Wales wants for its own people. It believes that it can give more.

I have no doubt that in the referendum Wales will exercise its customary political wisdom. In doing so, as a result of the notice given this afternoon by the hon. Member for Pembroke, the people of Wales, by voting "No" to the referendum, will at the same time be saying "Yes" to the continuation of Labour Governments in Britain.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards), in moving the new clause, made it clear that it was mainly, through not perhaps entirely, for instructional purposes that he did so. It was in order, once again, as we approach our ultimate parting from these three Bills—the double-headed Bill, the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill—to reinforce the underlying theorem which has become known as the West Lothian proposition. Perhaps, therefore, there is no need to use much powder and shot upon the objections to the method chosen in the new clause of again highlighting the insoluble problem. However, I think it should be said that it is objectionable that we should write into a statute prescriptions, and, what is more, detailed prescriptions, for a Speaker's Conference.

The device of a Speaker's Conference, which has upon the whole worked very well since the First World War, is a device domestic to the House of Commons. It is its own business. It is a source of advice which the Prime Minister of the day calls upon by means of the intermediary of the Speaker. It has its own rules and its own methods, and it is the Speaker himself who summons it and decides upon its composition. Therefore, I do not think that it is appropriate that its nature should be prescribed by an Act of Parliament.

One understands, of course, the conveniences of drafting the new clause in this way. One outstanding convenience is that one does not have to answer the unanswerable question oneself. One does not have to write into the new clause a reduced figure which might lay those who produced it open to misunderstandings, such as the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has just exemplified. Besides, it would be a little difficult, whatever number one chose, to explain why one had chosen that particular number.

Although the impossibility of finding a number which is defensible helps to prove the proposition once again, it is a little awkward to move a new clause for the purpose of demonstrating that what one has written into it is indefensible and can have no logical basis. Therefore, I think that the hon. Member for Pembroke should not be expected to apologise for having resorted to the well-tried method of passing to sonic other body—a commission, a board, or whatever it may be; in this case, a Speaker's Conference—a question which has already been recognised as being insoluble.

I was surprised, therefore, that, at the end of his speech, the hon. Member for Pembroke nevertheless called upon the Committee to pass the new clause. It seemed to me that that was injudicious and pessimistic. It seemed that he assumed the passage of the Bill, which I think we should be reluctant to assume, and that we were thereby invited unnecessarily to affirm what was intended to demonstrate the impossibility of solving, by any such means, the problem which legislation of this kind creates. Therefore my right hon. and hon. Friends will not be supporting this new clause.

6.0 p.m.

Perhaps there is a practical and local reason why it would be singularly inappropriate for us to do so. The House, almost without dissent, has accepted and has undertaken to implement the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference, which recommended that the representation of Ulster should be put on a fair and equal basis with the rest of the kingdom.

Indeed, if the Boundary Commission, as I anticipate it will, finds it convenient to avail itself of the permission to exceed the average figure of 17 seats by one, the representation of Northern Ireland will be approximately on the same basis as that which is enjoyed today by Wales. That is something which is fully justifiable by the similarity of many parts of the Province to conditions in the Principality of Wales.

The sequence of events leading to that result began in the earlier stages—there were no later stages—of the abortive two-headed Bill of the previous Session, when it was roundly declared that whatever form of devolution was settled upon for Scotland, as far as the Government were concerned this would make no difference to the representation of Scotland in this House.

Ulster has been used to an extensive form of devolution for some 50 years, and even since it was abolished in 1972, the prospect of restoring that form of devolution has been held, until recently, to debar us from enjoying the privilege of fair and equal representation in this House.

Illogical, therefore, though it might have been as applied to Scotland, the declaration of the Government was that the matter of devolution could be regarded quite separately from the matter of representation in this House. This was the key which opened for Northern Ireland the door to full and fair representation which we now look to enjoy with the general and almost universal consent of this House.

Therefore, it would be grotesque for us, even for demonstrational purposes, to go through the Lobby in support of the new clause, which invokes a Speaker's Conference to reduce the representation for a part of the Kingdom upon which devolution in administration and secondary legislation is being conferred.

I am sure that my apology for our absence from the Lobby on this occasion will be readily accepted. I hasten to assure the hon. Member for Pembroke that we shall, as heretofore on this Bill and on the Scotland Bill, be taking the more excellent course—that of reforming it altogether. In other words, having proved to ourselves the West Lothian proposition, we must draw the conclusion from that that we are doing something which we ought not to be attempting.

The West Lothin proposition, in its application to the Scotland Bill, ran in the simple form that it was impossible satisfactorily in a unitary parliamentary State to create legislative devolution in one part only of that State.

The Wales Bill has enabled us to extend that theorem, and add a rider to it. In its extended form, as exemplified by the contradictions and impossibilities of this legislation, it runs somewhat as follows—that it is impossible satisfactorily in a unitary parliamentary State to confer administrative devolution upon one part of that State to an extent which is not enjoyed by the other parts of that State. That indeed is what is happening here in relation to Wales.

In all parts of the United Kingdom there is administrative devolution in the form of local government. The devolved administrative powers are exercised by those who are answerable to elected assemblies. That devolution is, for practical purposes, uniform to the whole kingdom. A much greater degree of administrative devolution, not shared for example in England, would be conferred upon Wales by this Bill and consequently it brings back, although perhaps in a less crass form, but equally clearly, the contradictions and impossibilities which led us to say that either one must have a federal State or one must desist from the attempt to confer different forms of devolution, particularly legislative devolution, upon some but not all parts of that State.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

As always, the right hon. Member is constructing a fine argument in logic. However, he has left out one element in his analysis of the relationship between central and local government in the United Kingdom. Already there exists in Wales and Scotland a Department of State which does in fact intervene between the unitary central Parliament and Government and the elected representatives and the people in Wales and Scotland. We have had, since 1964, a decentralised Welsh Office, and the object of devolution is to ensure that the policies which are at the moment being carried out by individual Ministers within that Department of State are in future carried out by an elected Assembly.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Member has provided an admirable support to the case that I was developing. Indeed, he has greatly strengthened it, and I am much in his debt for bringing this to my attention.

Of course there has developed a separate branch of administration for Scotland, dating from the last century, for Wales, dating from the last 30 or 40 years, and for Northern Ireland, dating from 1972. But as with all the rest of the administration that the Government carry out, those who administer are responsible to this House, and that is exactly my point.

Under this Bill this House will cease to call to account those who administer in a devolved form what at present is administered by the Secretary of State, and that for which the Secretary of State, like any other Minister, is responsible to this House. The mere fact that the Departments are organised in a particular way—are organised regionally in some respects—does not alter the fundamental fact that for all those acts of Government they are responsible to the whole of the House of Commons, and to each Member of the House equally. On those subjects the constituents of each hon. Member have no other recourse than through their representative in this House. That is why all attempts to escape from the dilemma and the conundrum by reducing the representation are foredoomed to failure.

If the subject which is being dealt with is one which has not been devolved, then the part of the United Kingdom concerned is entitled to as full representation in this House for that purpose as any other part of the kingdom.

On the other hand, if this House is debating a subject which has been devolved, if it is calling to account a Minister who is not responsible for that administration in the relevant part of the United Kingdom, there is no justification for any Members at all from that part of the kingdom being in this House.

This is where one got into the old story of the in-and-out Members, the notion that in order to recognise the fact that these parts of the Kingdom were entitled to full representation in some circumstances and in other circumstances to none at all, it was expected that they could pop in and out according to the subject that was before the House.

I need not dwell upon the impracticability of that course because it was very well dealt with by the hon. Member for Pembroke in moving the new clause. All I need to mention again is that one does not deal with that by saying "Let us split the difference and have, say, half as many Members", because half as many Members does not deal with the problem. Half as many Members does not give one full Members when one is entitled to them or no Members when one is not entitled to them. It is, in fact, a nonsense.

Those who passed what is regarded as a precedent for this purpose, the Home Rule Bill for Ireland, 1912 to 1914, knew perfectly yell that it was illogical. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has been going around for some time saying that he intends to institute researches to discover on what basis the figure 13 was devised for the parliamentary representation of Northern Ireland under the 1920 and 1922 Acts. I can save the hon. Member a lot of trouble. He need engage in no such research. He will find no reasoning on the matter whatsoever, because there neither was any reasoning nor could have been. It was simply an exertion of authority. The Government of the day said, as it were, "Look, we have a problem here. We have decided to cut the Gordian knot by roughly halving the representation of Ireland in the House of Commons. Now shut up about it if you want to get the legislation through at all."

That is how it got through in 1912, because the Liberal Government of the day dared not not pass it. They had no choice but to pass that legislation, and to pass it again in 1913 and to pass it again in 1914. Then, what happened in 1920 was not that the matter was rethought but that there was a sort of judgment of Solomon—it was a judgment that Solomon would have performed if he had had four mothers to deal with and not two—of dividing into three-quarters and one-quarter, and giving the one-quarter of the reduced representation to Northern Ireland.

But everyone knew, or they knew by 1922, that there was nothing stable in that absurd device. They knew that it must result in one of two consequences, which were exemplified in the two parts of Ireland. It must either be the prelude to effective political separation, which was what happened in the South of Ireland, or else it would be so worked that despite that being the implication of such a form of devolution, the power would be exercised in Northern Ireland in a way which would prevent that deduction being in practice drawn.

The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), describing, in eloquent tones, what would be the reduced condition of Welsh Members in the House of Commons if this legislation passed, said that they would be parliamentary pygmies. It was to the status of parliamentary pygmies that the representatives of Northern Ireland in the House of Commons were reduced—greatly to the disadvantage of that Province and greatly to the disadvantage of the House of Commons when the House of Commons at last had to address itself to the Government of Northern Ireland—by the impossible but enforced compromise of 1912 and 1922.

Therefore, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I say, as we have said from the beginning of these debates on devolution in Scotland and Wales, that this is an irremediable contradiction. We cannot go down this road without entering upon an infinite vista of instability and further discontent and change. The time to stop is now. Let us, therefore, after drawing instruction from the debate upon the new clause so ably moved by the hon. Member for Pembroke, leave it for what it is, a blackboard diagram, and then proceed, not in the referendum but before that, for we are the legislature, the House of Commons, to throw out the Bill.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans

It is right that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) should explain in this debate the experience of Northern Ireland regarding the whole issue of devolution, because it has a great bearing on our discussions and on the likely effects that the future will hold for Wales and Scotland.

As the right hon. Member said, the Bill setting up Stormont led to Northern Ireland being under-represented vis-à-vis the rest of Britain. Of course, at that time the fact that we had Stormont led to a situation in which we did not have a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland sitting around the Cabinet table. It is interesting to note that the decision taken to suspend Stormont has led to the setting up of a Speaker's Conference. That Speaker's Conference, which has made its recommendations only in the last few days, has recommended an increase in the representation for Northern Ireland. The question whether there is a separate Assembly in Northern Ireland seems to have some sort of bearing on the representation of Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.

Again, what is significant is that sitting at the Cabinet table at present we have a Secretary of State for Wales dealing with Welsh affairs and a Secretary of State for Scotland dealing with Scottish affairs, and now we have a Secretary of State dealing with Northern Irish affairs. The people of Northern Ireland now have in the British Cabinet a representative dealing directly with Northern Irish affairs.

We do not know what the future holds in regard to the relationship between the House of Commons and Northern Ireland. However, the Speaker's Conference has said that irrespective of whether we get a devolved Assembly, the increased representation is, presumably, to be maintained. But when the Kilbrandon Commission made its recommendations on the whole constitution and recommended that an Assembly be set up in Wales and Scotland, it referred to the fact that there was over-representation in the House of Commons of Wales and Scotland. We have heard mention of the figures. Scotland is overrepresented by 12 Members and Wales is over-represented by five Members. One can presume that it is the thinking that the figure of 36 Members now representing Wales in the House of Commons could well be reduced to 31 Members.

That is why, although I shall not be voting for the new clause, I think that the Opposition are fully justified in raising this issue. Under the guillotine procedure, we might not have got around to realising that, when we are talking about what is being done for Wales by creating an Assembly, there is a danger that we look at one side of the balance sheet and say "We are creating a new Assembly and we are giving something to Wales. Wales is now having something that it has never had previously." However, it is important in this Committee stage and it is certainly incumbent upon us in the referendum campaign, to put before the people of Wales a realisation of what it will cost them if the Assembly is established. The question of the number of representatives that will in future represent the people of Wales in the House of Commons will obviously be affected if an Assembly is to be set up in Cardiff.

Normally, one puts questions during debates on a Bill and has one's answers by the end of the debates. With this Bill, however, as with the Scotland Bill, the longer the Committee stage has gone on, the more questions have been raised in my mind. One justification at least for the guillotine is that without it countless more questions would have remained unanswered.

For example, on the Scotland and Wales Bill, I asked what would happen to the Welsh Office. We do not know what powers will be transferred to it, as well as from it. What will happen to the Secretary of State for Wales? I have just quoted the Northern Ireland experience. When Stormont existed, there was no Secretary of State; when it was done away with, we created a Secretary of State. Are we to presume that Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff will lead to the abolition of the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales? If they remain, will they have places in the Cabinet? These questions should be answered before we go any further.

Mr. Dalyell

Like me, my hon. Friend has heard some of the debate in another place. Has he not been struck by the number of times that Government spokesmen—not least the Lord Chancellor—have been forced, when there is no guillotine, to say that they will come back with some reply on Report because they cannot answer it at that stage? On the other hand, because of the guillotine, we in this place cannot explore all the manholes.

Mr. Evans

As I said at our last meeting, they are looking at these matters through a microscope, while we are using a telescope.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

And the wrong end of a telescope.

Mr. Evans

I take that point, too. We have not examined the clauses in detail. We have lost our function to debate the real issues affecting the people of Wales so that they know the full implications of this measure. They should know that they are not being given something on a plate but are being presented with a bill of which they do not have the full details.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman has sought to cast doubt on the future of the Secretary of State's role and to compare it with the situation in Northern Ireland. He has missed out one point. When it existed, Stormont was a legislative Assembly. The Welsh Assembly will be executive. When it was proposed to set up a Northern Ireland Assembly, there was no suggestion that the office of Secretary of State should disappear because the Assembly was to be executive. Such an Assembly, therefore, can exist alongside a Secretary of State.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman makes his point. I am not saying that there is a direct comparison with Northern Ireland, but if he is saying that a legislative Assembly would mean no Secretary of State, I do not know whether the people of Scotland have been told that. Their Assembly is to be legislative. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland be abolished while the Secretary of State for Wales carries on? I can imagine the reaction in Scotland. That shows the difficulty.

We also need a categorical definition of the role of the Member of Parliament at Westminster. Certain functions and powers are to be devolved. Do the people of Wales know that, with the creation of the Assembly, certain matters of education, housing, social services and so on, which used to be raised by their Members here, will be raised in Cardiff instead? The role of an MP will be greatly changed, with an inevitable effect on the number of Welsh Members. If 36 Members deal with a whole range of issues and then half those issues are to be made the sole province of 80 Assemblymen in Cardiff, surely the argument can be taken one stage further. Not only will there be an Assembly, but its members will carry out a different function from that of their counterparts in England.

Nor should we forget the West Lothian question—what we know in these debates as the West Glamorgan question. Presumably Welsh Members will be allowed to ask questions affecting English constituencies but not affecting their own constituents. This will create more contradictions. It will be a divisive rather than a unifying influence for the people of Wales, England and Scotland.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman spoke about raising issues in this House. When did we last have a debate on the social services in Wales in this House?

Mr. Evans

We have debates here on social services in Britain. We had one last Thursday.

Mr. William Hamilton

And the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) was not here.

Mr. Evans

Hon. Members have equal rights in this Assembly.

Mr. Thomas

That debate was not on social services in Wales.

Mr. Evans

When we talk about social services, we mean those of Britain. Does the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) suggest that we should have different pensions in Wales? That is a social service.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that only last week we had a full day's debate on the National Health Service, which includes Wales, and that not for one minute was any member of Plaid Cymru present?

Mr. Evans

One should be a little sympathetic.

Mr. Hamilton


Mr. Evans

They had got into hopeless confusion the night before and had to have a meeting to assess the difficulties. After claiming to be the great champions of the Wales Bill, they had been the architects of the defeat of a major clause. We should say, "Physician, heal thyself."

Mr. Thomas

I was here for both opening speeches on that occasion.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman says that he was here. He could have gone further and added that he could have spoken in the debate on the National Health Service in Britain. That is the important point.

What is to be the future role of the Assemblies? When Stormont was in existence, hon. Members in this House could tell Northern Ireland Members "You can raise these matters in Stormont, because they have been devolved to that Assembly". Will a similar cry be raised by English Members in the House of Commons if Assemblies are set up in Cardiff and Edinburgh?

I do not expect to carry with me in my argument the hon. Member for Merioneth, who believes in independence for Wales and wants to break up the United Kingdom.

Mr. Thomas


Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman denies that, but he knows that his party takes that view. It is no use talking about interdependence; he and his party want political and economic separation for the people of Wales.

Mr. Thomas


Mr. Evans

If he wants that, there will flow from the situation a separate Parliament in Cardiff which will have full powers. But that is not what the people of Wales want. In fairness to the Government, that is not what they want, either. We know that Clause 1 was deleted, but we also know that the whole purpose of the Bill was expressed in that provision originally in order to unite the people of these islands. The sole purpose of the Government has been aimed at creating that Assembly as a method of unifying the people of these islands. I believe that the Government are wrong. I believe that there are dangers in that view and that numerous questions must be asked.

We should be turning our minds to certain important matters. We know that the Scotland Bill is making some progress in the other place, but what will happen if this Bill does not receive Royal Assent? We should seriously consider that possibility. It is no use the nationalist Members saying that we have obstructed the Bill, because it was they who voted against the provision dealing with the commencement of the Bill. They were very obstructive on Thursday and we shall now have to find more time.

Mr. Thomas


Mr. Evans

I cannot keep giving way. The hon. Gentleman must make his own speech.

The nationalists are now saying that they will vote against Third Reading. That is what the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) said. I know that the hon. Member for Merioneth disagrees with that view and I know that the two hon. Gentlemen have their differences. Since certain members of Plaid Cymru say that they will vote against Third Reading whereas others disagree, we do not know what is their attitude.

We must turn our minds to one other matter. I find that there is no enthusiasm for this Bill in the Labour and trade union movement, a point clearly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). We must make Labour supporters in Wales consider whether they are prepared to have the luxury of an Assembly in Cardiff while at the same time denying opportunities to the people of Wales—and, indeed, the people of Scotland in that context—to play a part in electing a majority Labour Government in the years ahead. I am not as pessimistic as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool. I believe that, even if the Asesmblies are set up, we can have a Labour Government, but I believe that it will weaken our chances. That matter should be put to the people.

We must examine what will happen if these proposals are given Royal Assent and are then put to the people. I believe that there are still one or two items in the Government proposals that need to be examined. We must consider some machinery for the nominated bodies. I do not believe that we should create a full-time Assembly of 80 people and at the same time maintain the existing machinery of government and add to it to deal with the problem. Nevertheless, that problem needs to be thoroughly examined.

I believe that a Speaker's Conference on this matter should be given different terms of reference which will enable it to examine a method of consultation in Wales as a result of which there may emerge a body which will bring together Members of Parliament as well as representatives of district and county councils. They could examine lists submitted by the Secretary of State to fill the various nominated positions. That would ensure a body of elected people who would then meet the wishes of the people in seeing that it was not a decision merely of the Welsh Office, but a decision by a body representing district and county authorities. That is a constructive alternative, which we should examine in the coming years.

If an Assembly is created in Wales there will be a major reconstruction of Welsh local government. That will happen yet again. We have already gone through a traumatic experience in Wales with the reorganisation of local government. The people certainly do not want the whole of local government in Wales to be put back into the melting pot so soon after the earlier upheaval. If my suggestion were accepted, local government could be left alone. One could have the eight counties and 36 district councils, and their representatives could meet together with Members of Parliament. We could do away with the Welsh Grand Committee and those issues could be debated with representatives from districts and counties.

I do not wish to take up any more time. I believe that the Opposition are fully justified in raising this matter, but I shall not be supporting their clause because it will mean that, since there is to be a referendum, there will be a threat which is apparent to the people of Wales. They will see that Welsh membership in the House of Commons will be reduced in the years ahead. I think that we must cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mr. Pym

It would be fair to say that the hon. Gentleman is assuming that if such a conference were called it would reach the conclusion that fewer Members of Parliament for Wales would result. Our new clause does not prejudge any conclusion, but the hon. Gentleman obviously regards it as inevitable that that would happen. That means that in his opinion, if this Bill ever were to become an Act—an unhappy prospect—that situation would arise. It is for precisely that reason that we, the hon. Gentleman and many others are fighting this Bill. Am I not right in thinking that that is what he is saying?

Mr. Evans

If the right hon. Gentleman recalls my earlier remarks, he will know that that is what I said. I believe that that is an inevitable consequence.

I do not ask the Government to give us any assurances that there will be no such reduction in numbers; they cannot do so. Nobody in this House can give assurances about what will happen in the future, but I believe that if we create Assemblies in Scotland and Wales a demand will be created. We must remember that people are appointed to the Speaker's Conference; they are there representing not their parties but the House of Commons. The decisions taken in that conference are taken on cross-party lines. In other words, they vote on issues as they stand.

What will happen if we create a Speaker's Conference to examine the representation of the Welsh people in this House? We all know that the Speaker's Conference on Northern Ireland was bound to come to the view that increased representation in this House was required for the people of Northern Ireland. One has only to look at the figures to draw that conclusion. In the same way, if we created Assemblies in Wales and Scotland there would inevitably flow a demand for a reduction in numbers. I believe that would be a backward step. I believe that the political logic of a Speaker's Conference may be directed to that conclusion, but I believe that would be another step which could disunite the people of Wales, Scotland and England.

Although I resist the clause, I emphasise that the Opposition are fully justified in raising this issue, because it is important that the people of Wales should know what it involves when it is time for them to reach a decision.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

We are discussing an issue which is fundamental to the whole Bill. If I may say so, the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) made a characteristically candid and constructive contribution to the discussion. I was interested to hear him say, in effect, that it might be a good thing if the Bill were withdrawn and we had some kind of consultative Assembly in Wales without powers of the kind that the Welsh Assembly is to have under this Bill but with the Secretary of State retaining his powers and being answerable in the House.

I was interested in that suggestion, because I was one of the three members of the Kilbrandon Commission who opted for just such an Assembly—and directly elected, too. One of the many advantages of that was that we should then be able to duck this awkward issue of Welsh representation in the House of Commons.

The Government have introduced what I call a pretty over-developed measure of devolution, and it is a measure of devolution on which the issue ought not to be ducked. But the Government have ducked it. I think that they were wrong to duck it altogether and to pretend that it did not exist, giving no indication how they would deal with it when eventually—if by mischance it ever happens—the Bill is implemented.

But, having criticised the Government to that extent, I think that they were justified in not writing into the Bill what the future representation of Wales should be. That question would involve an agonising reappraisal if ever the Bill came into force—such an agonising reappraisal that, if I were in the Government's shoes, I should ask myself three questions.

First, will the Bill ever reach the statute book? Obviously, if it does not, the issue will not arise. Second, will the Bill be killed by a General Election before it receives Royal Assent? Again, the issue will not arise.

Third, let us assume that in a General Election all the pro-devolution candidates do badly and all the anti-devolution candidates do well in Wales. Would the Government then be justified in going ahead with implementation of the Act or, indeed, with the referendum? It would then be cheaper, quicker and simpler to introduce a three-clause Bill repealing what had become the Act than to have a referendum, and, in the circumstances, perhaps fully justified.

However, let us assume a fourth event; the referendum is held and not enough people support it. The Bill, or the Act, as it will be, will then become a dead letter.

There could be all those circumstances in which the agonising reappraisal would not arise. I see this as one of the rare occasions giving justification for the old adage "Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you". Generally, that is a bad excuse for doing nothing, but in my opinion this is an occasion when it is all right.

However, while hoping for the best, hoping that one of the circumstances which I have described will avoid the need for the agonising reappraisal, we should prepare for the worst with the minimum of embarrassment. In my view, this innocuous option proposed in the new clause put to us by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) is about as good a way as could be found of raising the issue and of asking Parliament to give it its blessing. No other way is being put forward. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has described this as "an irremediable contradiction" which no kind of device could overcome. But we have to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, and I think that there is a justification for the idea of a Speaker's Conference.

In company with the right hon. Member for Down, South, I served recently on the Speaker's Conference on Northern Ireland representation. Naturally, it was not free from some controversy, but a clear consensus emerged both on the principles to be applied and on the factual decision which was reached.

6.45 p.m.

I therefore support the new clause. Since it has been deployed so clearly and so well by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and his hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), I do not need to go over the West Lothian argument again, but I wish briefly to add one or two points.

Mr. Dalyell

May we just be clear? The right hon. and learned Gentleman wants a Speaker's Conference, but to do precisely what?—to come up with some form of devolution, or to say that it is impossible to have it? What is the object of the Speaker's Conference?

Sir D. Renton

Let me repeat what I said just now. It is a matter of preparing for the worst. In the event—the unlikely event, I hope—of the Bill receiving Royal Assent and its being approved in the referendum, the Government of the day will have to face arguments of the kind which the hon. Member for Aberdare has been adducing, that we really cannot have this strange difference with Welsh Members who are precluded from having the kind of say which they would like to exercise in all Welsh affairs but being able to have a say, to vote, to ask Questions, and so on, on English affairs of an equivalent kind.

That is a ridiculous state of affairs. It would turn the House of Commons into a farcical proceeding, and that is the sort of situation which has to be avoided. What I should expect the Speaker's Conference to go into is, first and foremost, the question of the extent of intervention by Welsh Members. In my opinion, that is the first point. Whether my hon. Friends have that in mind in putting down the new clause, I am not quite certain.

That point having been settled, there then arises the agonising reappraisal, as I call it, of the number of Welsh Members. In a sense, this is a matter which the Kilbrandon Commission partly ducked. Kilbrandon certainly did not go into detail on it. Having said that if Scotland and Wales had their own legislative Assemblies, there would have to be a reduction of their representation in the House of Commons, the Kilbrandon Commission went on to say, in paragraph 815: the amount of this reduction would be a matter for discussion in the light of the extent of devolution, and it is not possible to lay down any hard and fast rule. One thing which the Speaker's Conference would have to do is to follow up that phrase in the Kilbrandon Report. This is putting down the marker, and the Speaker's Conference would have to take the matter up from there.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that in the passage from which he has quoted the Kilbrandon Commission was specifically concerning itself with legislative devolution, and when, in paragraph 905, it talked about administrative devolution, it ended by saying: This question the question of representation— does not arise under exeutive devolution, since Parliament would continue to legislate for all regions"? I merely make the point that Kilbrandon was pretty explicit in relation to executive devolution.

Sir D. Renton

Ever since the Kilbrandon Report was published it is a difficulty that has bedevilled matters that the majority on the Commission wrote the main terms of the report. Those of us who had reservations about the powers of the Assemblies in Scotland and Wales were merely recorded as having those reservations, but we did not attempt to rewrite the report.

My position—I hoped that it was reasonably clear from the reservations that I made—was that if we have a consultative Assembly we could duck the issue of representation. But if we have a legislative Assembly or an Assembly with executive devolution—that, after all, is not far short, in terms of powers, from the legislative solution, especially as presented in the Bill, with the Welsh Assembly's powers over subordinate legislation—we cannot avoid the West Lothian situation arising. Therefore, we have to face the inevitability that, when the Assembly has been established and Welsh Members elected to the House of Commons, there will be a difficulty over the duality.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that the Kilbrandon Commission majority was explicit in its recommendation, which was that the scheme should be applied in a more or less uniform way throughout Great Britain. It was against that background that the majority of Kilbrandon Commission made the recommendation to which the Minister has recently referred, that there should be no reduction in the case of administrative devolution. That is in a wholly different situation.

Sir D. Renton

I am exceedingly grateful to my hon. Friend. What he has said reinforces the case that I was attempting to put. That clarifies the position.

In order to clarify the position further and put the record straight—there has been some confusion over this—I should say that the members of the Kilbrandon Commission all suggested that if electorates were to be of the same average throughout the United Kingdom, Wales would have 31 members instead of 36. In the past I had a good deal to do with the legislation on parliamentary boundaries and parliamentary boundary commissions, and I am sure that I carry the Committee with me when I say that I hope that the whole of the United Kingdom will never become "average". If so, there will be some pretty impossible constituencies.

The constituency that I represent is impossible enough. There are 93,000 electors, spread over 80 villages and five towns. I would like that to be averaged, because that would create an improvement for me. But it should be better than averaged. My constituency should be one that has far fewer electors but in which the number of electors should be related to the very large geographical area.

We should regard the statement of the Kilbrandon Commission about average constituencies merely as a yardstick that was put forward to show a comparison between the Welsh constituencies and and the English constituencies. The latest figures that I have show that at present—I am prepared to leave it as it is, so long as the Bill does not become law—the average size of Welsh constituencies is only 57,000 people. Thas compares with 66,000 in England. However, England has some very concentrated urban areas, and it is therefore right that the average should be greater in England.

So long as we do not have devolution on the lines proposed in the Bill we need not worry about the Welsh representation, but if the Bill is implemented after a referendum we cannot avoid doing something about it. If and when such an unhappy circumstance arises the holding of a Speaker's Conference will be inevitable.

Mr. Dalyell

When I listen to the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdon (Sir D. Renton), as I have done over the last 42 days, I often reflect that the Kilbrandon Report, in its own words, depended on good will. It is surprising that Lord Kilbrandon is now to head a controversial "Yes" campaign, having said in his report that it all depends on good will. Whatever side of the argument one takes, one realises that this is a fiercely contested issue. There has been demonstrated, unfortunately, a great absence of good will. Lord Kilbrandon should think hard about his position, having, as chairman of the Commission, put forward the proposition on the basis of good will.

I should like to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The Committee will be relieved to know that I shall not make a long speech on the so-called West Lothian question. That would be an impertinence after all that I have said. However, there is an Irish dimension. I refer to this only because of the Prime Minister's answer on the matter. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his statement on the Irish seats, I asked in general terms how long a situation could endure in which 71 Scots Members of Parliament—and, indeed, the Welsh Members—could vote on matters in relation to Derry but not Dundee, and in relation to Belfast but not Bathgate. My right hon. Friend is a skilful, consummate, quick and marvellous parliamentary performer. In the way in which I phrased the question, it was easy for him to reply "Almost indefinitely" in a broad tone. Everybody laughed. I do not complain of that.

However, the question remains. Perhaps I should have asked whether the Prime Minister was satisfied, in a sense of fairness, with the justice of the idea that this should last. That question may be asked in this way: how long can a situation endure in which Members of Parliament for Cardiff can vote on the most delicate issue of politics in Coleraine, but not in Cardiff, or a Member for Ebbw Vale can vote on the most gut issues in relation to Enniskillen but not in relation to Ebbw Vale?

The question applies as much to Northern Ireland as to Wales. Although The Scotsman said that my right hon. Friend gave a crushing reply, that is not exactly how, in the cold light of day, these matters might be interpreted.

The analysis of the right hon. Member for Down, South and of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) and the statement of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) make it superfluous for me to make a long contribution, though even on day 42 I congratulate the hon. Member for Pembroke on introducing a relatively new—at least, I have not tumbled to it before—aspect to the debates.

I refer to the difficulty of framing future legislation to take account of the variations between Scottish needs and the needs of Wales. This will certainly put extra pressure on parliamentary draftsmen. It is difficult to quantify the amount of extra pressure, but this is a substantial point.

7.0 p.m.

Even at this stage, we do not have a clear picture of what Assemblymen in the Coal Exchange or the High School will do. Like some of my hon. Friends, I have spent many hours at the Bar of another place, and last night, during discussion of a seemingly innocuous amendment moved by Lord Gray, I heard the Government spokesman, Lord Kirkhill, say that the Assemblies could set up committees on anything they pleased. My noble Friend went on for about half an hour, and he was repeatedly challenged on the question whether he really meant that the Assemblies could set up committees on foreign affairs, defence, employment and other non-devolved subjects.

Lord Wilson of Langside asked whether a specific question of defence or some aspect of foreign policy on a United Kingdom basis could be discussed. Lord Kirkhill replied: As I read the Bill, such a discussion is not debarred to the Assemblymen if somebody chooses to raise the issue and there is a majority view that the matter be discussed."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 24th April 1978; Vol. 390, c. 1567.] That may be the legal position. I am not saying that Lord Kirkhill was wrong. Presumably the Scottish Assembly can discuss anything it likes. However, when committees are set up on particular subjects, such as defence, they raise the expectation that they can do something. The setting up of any Assembly committee will involve the expenditure of some public money, though I do not say that it will be very much.

I am not exaggerating this matter. I hope that the House will agree that I have never seized just any stick with which to try to argue my case. It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh at the suggestion that the Assembly will set up a defence committee, but I did not make that suggestion. I had not tumbled to it, because I did not believe that it was possible. It was put forward by a Government spokesman in reply to an amendment to a clause that was not properly discussed in this House. That shows again the dangers involved in our not discussing every clause.

Mr. John Smith

Whose fault is that?

Mr. Dalyell

Not entirely mine, though I shall not be drawn into that argument.

I warn the Minister of State that if committees on these sort of devolved subjects can be set up, the Assembly's approach will naturally be to go direct to Ministers, bypassing the House and in some cases going straight to Downing Street.

We have not yet discovered precisely what are to be the functions and roles of Assemblymen. If we are discussing numbers, we must be clear on their roles. If they are to set up seriuos foreign affairs and defence committees—the Scottish Assembly will certainly want to discuss fisheries policy and other EEC policies—they will go straight to the British Government.

Sir Raymond Gower

I accept that the Assemblies could set up these committees. In many cases, local authorities can set up such committees. However, the Assemblies would not have the power to deal with half the subjects that the hon. Gentleman has referred to and it would be foolish for an Assembly to waste time setting up committees on matters with which it did not have the power to deal.

Mr. Dalyell

That may be so. That is why I have been careful in what I have said. The Assemblies would have no power at first, but that would not stop the committees being set up, and it is unlikely that a Scottish Assembly would not set up a fisheries policy committee and an EEC committee.

Mr. John Smith

My hon. Friend knows that sea fishing and agriculture are not devolved subjects; they remain the responsibility of the British Government. There would be little point in an Assembly concerning itself with such subjects.

Mr. Dalyell

All I can say to the Minister is "You tell that to the Assembly". The Assemblymen will not take it. They will see the Assembly as the Scottish Parliament. It is being paraded as the Scottish Parliament and if the hon. Members for Clackmannan and East Stirling-shire (Mr. Reid) and Galloway (Mr. Thompson) are Members of the Assembly, it is inconceivable that they would not form such committees. A fisheries committee of the Assembly would want to do things for the Scottish corner which might be to the disadvantage of other areas.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Has it come to my hon. Friend's ears that during his speech Ministers have repeatedly been saying that the Assembly would have no power in these areas and therefore would not concern itself with them? Does he accept that the defiinitions of power handed down to a subordinate Assembly do not necessarily define the aspirations of the Assembly? If that were the case, we would never talk about EEC affairs in this House, because of the limitation of our power in that respect.

In the event of Assemblymen feeling that external affairs had a direct effect upon the conduct of matters in their constituencies and on the interests of their consituents, they would, by investigation or analysis, even without the exercise of power and only with the exercise of opinion, want to become directly involved and they would consequently raise expectations and challenge the interpretation of central Government on these affairs to the possible discomfort of Ministers.

Mr. Dalyell

Furthermore, they might be expected to have opinions on these subjects. People might ask why, if the Assemblymen did not have opinions, were they drawing their salaries. This all comes back, even after 42 days, to a fundamental issue of confusion.

Sir David Renton

We always listen to the hon. Gentleman with interest. He said that he wanted to make a brief speech and, although I do not wish him to do so, it may help him to shorten his speech if he refers to Clause 18(1) which provides that Without prejudice to its powers to appoint other committees, the Assembly shall appoint committees in accordance with the following provisions of this section with functions relating to all the powers conferred on the Assembly by sections 10, 11 and 12 above and with such other functions (if any) as the Assembly may determine. It looks as though the Assembly will be able to choose other functions to exercise.

Mr. Dalyell

I am not the man to give instant legal opinions. I shall look at that in Hansard. I promised to make a short speech. My condition for sitting down is that we have a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) on the subject.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

May I try to help the hon. Member further in his scenario of the international relations of these Assemblies? I draw his attention to Clause 29, which provides that The Assembly shall not in the exercise of its functions conduct relations with any country outside the United Kingdom. That seems entirely to answer the point. No Assembly can meet in Cardiff and discuss potential relations with Patagonia or anywhere else unless it has the power to do anything about it.

Mr. Dalyell

I suspect that if the hon. Member became a Member of the Welsh Assembly he would not feel himself inhibited in demanding that the Assembly, if need be, should have precisely the power to do this. I am not quoting some fanciful idea of mine but the official view of the Government spokesman in another place.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would not require a very ingenious member of Plaid Cymru to say that although Clause 29 prevents the conduct of relations with any country outside the United Kingdom it does not prevent an Assembly from making representations to other countries or to international bodies, sending delegations, and so on. Once that process starts, where does it end?

Mr. Dalyell

It is not good enough to say that local authorities do this. They do so, but within certain limits. The limits on the Lothian and Strathclyde Regions are there when they go to the Regional Development Fund and the Social Fund to get some kind of grant. This system operates within certain parameters. An Assembly, harnessed as it would seem to all sorts of national aspirations, is a totally different kettle of fish, especially when we would have some Members of the Assembly inevitably claiming that they would want, in Brussels, not only their Minister in the Council of Ministers but their own Commissioner on the Commission, as well as their own officials right down the Brussels hierarchy.

We are dealing with two different creatures when we talk about local authorities and the Assemblies. I ask my Front Bench one question with regard to the statements made in the other House and the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence at Question Time today. Can my hon. Friend clear up the position of Assembly committees on non-devolved matters, since this is directly relevant to the new clause? This issue raises the whole question of the function and burden of work of Assemblymen and, theoretically at any rate, that should determine the number of Assemblymen.

I have finally to explain that, like the right hon. Member for Down, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare—this may be a tiny consolation to the Minister of State—I shall not be in the Opposition Lobby tonight because I do not believe in a Speaker's Conference. I said so at length on the Scotland Bill. I think that it is fudging the issue.

Sir Raymond Gower

I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) initiated this fascinating debate in a most pertinent way when he described it as being for instructional purposes. I think that that was the phrase he used. A good deal of the discussion has been of a probing nature. He took the view that certain consequences, which he described, would almost certainly follow the enactment of this legislation. Certainly I would tend to agree with him that in the fullness of time, should this Bill be enacted, it is almost certain that at some time or other, a future Parliament here would be obliged by the very nature of things, as the pressure for devolution advances in Scotland and or Wales, to look at the arrangements for representation in this Parliament.

7.15 p.m.

This view seemed to be supported not only by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) but by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) and the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), although they looked at it from a different point of view.

Whereas my right hon. and learned Friend was concerned, as indeed many of us are, with the effect of this legislation upon the nature of the United Kingdom Parliament, the two hon. Members were also giving a great deal of attention —I hope I do not overstate this—to the consequences for the Labour Party and for future Labour Governments, which is rather a different thing. They could see that it could be destructive of Labour power at Westminster in future if this sort of legislation were enacted.

There is a good deal of evidence to support that view. I am not so concerned about the future of particular parties. This kind of legislation is bound to have the effect that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke prophesied. On the other hand, I do not see that happening immediately. Some who have intervened in this debate regard it as certain that at an early date these changes would take place. For example, I would have thought there would be a big difference in the consequences in the case of Wales as opposed to Scotland. Obviously, if Scotland were given fairly important legislative powers in its Assembly, one would have thought that the consequences upon representation here would be more severe than those for Wales. I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend would agree with that.

Sir David Renton

I do agree. I think that this is a matter of degree, as the Kilbrandon Commission pointed out.

Sir R. Gower

I would certainly have thought that the consequences for Scotland, with its legislative powers, would be much more severe than the consequence, in the first place, for a Welsh Assembly without those legislative powers. I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). On the whole, I do not like the detailed prescription for a Speaker's Conference. That is one of the reasons why, in the case of the Scotland Bill, I did not support a similar proposal. I shall not support this one, either.

I do not think that this is intended to be an important point. I hope that it is brought forward for instructional purposes. I hope that it impresses on all hon. Members the consequences of this legislation. It is not possible to have a situation in which these Assemblies, particularly in Wales, will have been operating for a long time, with wide devolved powers, and with the representatives of the respective countries in this Parliament continuing to enjoy the same position as they do today. On the whole, this debate has afforded us a valuable opportunity of considering all these consequences. I hope that the Government have considered them, too. They may have valid arguments for not taking immediate steps to change the constitutional arrangements here. I would like to hear a Government spokesman say that, in the long run, devolution of this nature must affect the position here. No Government spokesman has gone as far as that, as I understand it. It is unreal to imagine that there can be no effect at all.

I am inclined to feel that the effect would come sooner than the Government are prepared to admit, although not as soon as some have suggested. I believe that these consequences would occur irrespective of whether this clause were in the Bill.

If we have this kind of devolution, irrespective of any powers in the legislation, ultimately, a Speaker's Conference would be bound to consider this issue. It could not avoid the problem. Those of us who have had the honour of taking part in a Speaker's Conference, as I have on two occasions, will recall that the conferences were convened by Mr. Speaker himself.

The new clause states that the Speaker's Conference would have the function of considering and making recommendations to the House of Commons relating to the appropriate number of Members of the House representing Welsh constituencies after the enactment of this Act. All Speaker's Conferenecs have the duty of considering and making recommendations as to the appropriate number of Members. The only difference is that here we have the addition of the words after the enactment of this Act. Presumably that means that the Speaker's Conference will consider the position in the light of the consequences of the enactment of the Act.

At all times any such conference has to consider what is the apropriate representation of all parts of the United Kingdom in this Parliament, and the very passing of the Act would alter the basis on which it would establish its judgment.

I do not consider the passing of the clause tonight as being of any great importance, but the debate that we have had on it has been of tremendous importance. I hope that it will influence the thinking of hon. Members in all parts of the House, and particularly the thinking of Ministers, who have been putting their heads in the sand over this issue.

Mr. Kinnock

The discussion of the general areas of competence of the Assembly and the matters that it might discuss was of interest earlier in the debate. I think that it is worth pursuing, since it is of direct relevance to the functions that would be exercised by an Assembly and the way in which those functions would later be viewed by the House of Commons, eventually through a Speaker's Conference, such a conference obviously taking into account the powers that an Assembly exercised or the aspirations that it had, and eventually calculating the kind of representations that Wales should have in the House of Commons.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), in an intervention, drew our attention to the wording of Clause 29, which states that The Assembly shall not in the exercise of its functions conduct relations with any country outside the United Kingdom. As a consequence of that, the interpretation has been that the Assembly must not, among other non-devolved matters, discuss or express a view upon or lay down motions upon or set up committees about matters which are not devolved precisely in the Bill.

It seems to me that it is impossible to assume and totally insupportable to think, that any national body elected by ballot of the people of a country—and therefore occupying the position of and endowed with the authority—albeit superficial, of being the voice of the nation—should not seek to exercise that authority in its attitudes expressed towards and conduct with other bodies and subjects that go beyond those which are rather starchily laid down in the Bill.

It may well be that in the exercise of its functions the Welsh Assembly cannot conduct relations with any country outside the United Kingdom, but its expression of opinion may be in direct transgression of the policies of Whitehall and Westminster, which may or may not be under the domination of my hon. Friends or of the Conservative Party. I do not think that there is anything particularly wrong with this. I think that any radically expressed opinion which exhorts support for human rights, or criticises incompetent or imperialistic foreign policies, or articulates the feelings of people about the way in which foreign affairs are conducted, is to be encouraged.

It would be totally inconsistent of me to advocate the support of various organisations to which I belong and then to seek to deny the exercise of that function by a nationally elected body in my own country which would, I hope, on many issues utter opinions that were concurrent with mine. I have in mind anything from, say, South Africa to Ethiopia, and from human rights in the Soviet Union to the attitude of the United States of America to the conduct of policies in South-East Asia.

I recall the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) sharing my opinion in an interjection—albeit from a seated position—when he asked what would be wrong with the Assembly doing that sort of thing. From my point of view, there would be nothing wrong morally—or, indeed, politically—with the Assembly doing that. Indeed, it would probably be more useful to me politically than to the hon. Gentleman. But the fact is that, if we pass the Bill, it would be illegal. That is the problem.

Indeed, it is a good definition of the whole nature of devolution that the centralised Government have chosen in their wisdom condescendingly to hand down certain powers and then draw a fence round those powers, and to deny by law those matters which are within the legal competence of the Assembly.

It is impossible to stultify the opinions, the voices and the brains of politically motivated people, who have a strong commitment to political purpose and who embrace the world in their causes. We cannot elect them to a national and responsible body and then expect them to shut up on matters which affect them, as politically motivated people—the condition of the people of Wales, their freedom, their economy and their society—as directly as they affect the rest of Britain.

What I am saying, as a background to the discussion of the clause, is that, as the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) said, whether we have a Speaker's Conference or not, the representation of Wales in this House will eventually have to be considered not only against the background of matters devolved under the Bill but against the background of the reality of the expression of opinion made by the Assembly, and the apparent seeking of power which it will undertake as an inevitable consequence of being endowed with elective responsibility and elective authority. That is an authority and a responsibility which, for an Assembly with the status of the Welsh Assembly—or, indeed, the status of the Scottish Assembly—it is not possible to restrain.

It is possible, for instance, to restrain or limit the authority and aspiration of a county council or of a borough council, because its responsibility, by definition, is to a parochialised area, a sub-division of an economy or a local government area. That is the only responsibility that it cares to exert and the only responsibility that it exerts in practice. It does not stop a council having opinions about other matters, but it accepts the limitation of their responsibility and authority. Such disciplines do not exert themselves upon a national Assembly. I do not think that that is a bad thing, but it is something to which the Committee should pay attention.

Mr. Alec Jones

My hon. Friend suggests that local authorities accept this sort of limitation of the area in which they can operate, but that is not quite true. I know that my hon. Friend is aware that within the last two or three weeks the Mid-Glamorgan County Council called and held a very successful all-Wales conference on unemployment. I should have thought that we ought to encourage that sort of thing. I do not think that my hon. Friend can rightly say that local authorities accept a narrow boundary, either geographically or in terms of subject matter.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Kinnock

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I was about to draw attention to an even wider exercise of opinion, admittedly in days of yore. I am thinking of the Tredegar Urban District Council, of late and lamented memory. For instance, in the 1930s it frequently used to pass resolutions to send telegrams to Comrade Stalin—as it always addressed him—criticising his particular attitude over this or that, or exhorting him to make a stronger commitment to the cause of the republic in Spain. Certainly, the imagination of local and county councillors goes well beyond the cramped and limited powers which they have been awarded by the statutes of this House. Their responsibilities go beyond that. They also understand the value of the co-ordination of opinion in influencing Government and the co-ordination of policy in implmenting statutes which would be of benefit to a wider area.

I understand all that, but no one has ever passed a law with regard to local authorities saying that they shall not do this or that, or that in the exercise of their functions they shall not convene national conferences. Yet we are in the process of passing a law in that regard on a national Assembly.

Perhaps I can put it in proportion. A county council—with my full support and the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones)—may wish to convene an all-Wales conference for the purpose of discussing a scourge upon the whole country—unemployment—and see that as the fulfilment of its duty to its own people who share a future and a problem with the rest of Wales. That would be accepted by my hon. Friend and myself as not only legitimate but entirely supportable and laudable. But if we change the scale a little into a situation in which an Assembly might see a community of problem and a community of resolution with other countries, it might wish to exercise its functions along those lines. But under this Act it is specifically excluded from doing so.

Sir Raymond Gower

Cannot the hon. Gentleman envisage a situation in which a United Kingdom Government could enter into a treaty with Poland, as a result of which there would be an importation of coal from Poland? A Welsh Assembly might well pass a resolution condemning that, but it would not have power to upset that treaty or to interfere with the making of such a treaty.

Mr. Kinnock

I understand that. In the context of this new clause, what is even more important is that not only will the Welsh Assembly not have the power to enforce its condemnation of the import- ation of Polish coal—or anyone else's coal—but, as a consequence of the inevitable result of demarcating a different system of government and the reduction of political representation in this House that comes as a result of the passage of this Bill—should it survive the referendum—the people of Wales will have even less power than they do now to prevent or impede the importation of foreign coal.

At the very point at which an Assembly may wish to voice an opinion or exercise its power—this is in the nature of the condescending philosophy of devolution—by the very Act that gave the Assembly life and existence, its alleged freedom becomes a bondage. The alleged loudspeaker becomes a gag. The very thing which is intended to set the people free, or bring decisions a little nearer home, as the 1975 White Paper used to put it—it is now almost part of political archaelogy—may well—I think, in fact—be the cause of their losing even more power.

The hon. Member for Merioneth mentioned Patagonia. I realise that he has a particular relationship there. On closer examination I think he will find that far from it being a land free of torment, which the settler of Wales went to find. It is in the scale of reaction, if I may put it like that, a little to the right of South Africa. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not have any pride in the way in which events have transpired in Patagonia any more than I do.

But local authorities have twinning arrangements with towns. I think that Cardiff is twinned with Nantes. There is a street in Cardiff called Boulevarde de Nantes. Someone has crossed it out and in brilliant Welsh graffiti put "Boulevarde de £64,000", which is what it cost to turn it into a dual carriageway. Therefore, Wales might have twinning arrangements with Patagonia, Kurdistan, Quebec or the supreme Soviet of Uzbekistan sitting in Tashkent. If we should fall under Plaid Cymru domination in the Assembly, I am sure that the relationship would be a twinning relationship with whatever democratic Assembly Colonel Gadafi in Lybia has blessed himself with for the purposes of expediting exchanges of sheep and other materials, which were the basis of a magnificent trade agreement that we were promised by the nationalists in Wales a couple of summers ago.

However, there is a serious point to be made about the new clause. It is a harbinger of an absolutely unavoidable consequence of the implementation of this Bill. I think that it becomes unavoidable in any case. What would make it a speedy prospect would be the unfortunate election of a Conservative Government. One of their first acts would be to suggest to Mr. Speaker that he sets up such a conference and that it can come to only one conclusion. Even in the more fortunate event of there not being a Conservative Government for many more decades—indeed, generations—still the demand would grow that because of the divisions of powers, the way in which Welsh Members of Parliament could exercise definitive power—indeed, deciding what the government should be for the whole of Britain—without this House being able to make important decisions about the conduct of day-to-day life in Wales, the consequence of all that would be inevitable demands for the reduction in representation in Wales.

This point has been repeatedly made from the outset. It would help us if we understood the various opinions on this matter. For instance, I understand that the Liberals in Wales view such a possibility with equanimity because they see the future of the United Kingdom as a federal structure. Consequently, they feel that a federal Parliament should eventually exist. Therefore, together with their proposals for proportional representation, the actual representation of Wales and Welsh interests in the federal Parliament would in any case be somewhat smaller, numerically, than it is in the non-federal Parliament—in the unitary Parliament that we have at present.

I understand that the Liberals approach with no qualms such a prospect as the implementation of New Clause No. 2, with its Speaker's Conference and its reduction of representation from the Principality to this House of Commons.

The Conservatives themselves would not be proposing such a new clause if they had any foreboding about the prospect of a Speaker's Conference recommending that representation from the Principality should be significantly reduced. Indeed, they would be totally inconsistent if they were worried about that. If one looks at the way in which their seats are distributed in Wales, one sees that there are seats to which, even in bad years, they can expect to hang on, seats that they can expect to collect only in good to moderate years, and seats about which they have aspirations. I quite understand that the Conservatives would not anticipate—even with a reduction in the number of seats in this House of Commons—proportionately to lose their influence in Wales. I understand how the Conservatives, without any disloyalty to their Members who have seats in Wales and without jeopardising those seats, can propose New Clause No. 2.

The nationalists are in a different situation. Indeed, one might say that they are in many respects in a different galaxy and planetary system. They do not want a federal system. They do not want the total union that the Conservatives want, nor do they embrace the general attitudes of the Labour movement. They reject the Bill because they want to go much further. On the other hand, they do not accept the proposition put forward by myself and several of my hon. Friends that in trying to secure the maximum advantage for the people of Wales we have a vested interest in union, albeit in democratising the unelected tier of Government. That does not go far enough for the nationalists. It is in direct transgression of their interpretation of decentralisation or of independence or of whatever particular flag they are flying. One is never sure which flag they are flying.

My son told me last week that he saw a marvellous pirate film about Captain Henry Morgan, who was from Tredegar, but not an ancestor of mine. Captain Morgan's favourite ploy was to dress up his men as women and haul up a French or Spanish flag. By such use of camouflage he was able to sail alongside his intended victim, fling his enemies into the water and make himself a rich man. With regret, I must inform the Committee that he never returned any of those riches to Tredegar.

The nationalists have much the same approach to the question of devolution. At times they fly the skull and crossbones of independence and at other times the union jack with the red dragon superimposed on it. It is the flag of devolution. It is difficult to assess their precise attitude. I believe that devolution inevitably will lead to a substantial reduction in Members.

I take on board the warning given by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). But we are not simply talking about proportionality on the basis of population. We are talking about proportionality on the basis of power. If the Welsh Assembly exercises substantial powers a full equation must be worked out, not only on the average size of the Welsh constituency but on what competence the Welsh Assembly has and what reduced proportion the House of Commons has in the government of Wales. The consequence of that equation is not the reduction of the number of Welsh Members of Parliament by five, but by substantially more.

That is because the equation of power plus proportionality does not equal a reduction of five. It equals a reduction of far more than that. I must leave it to a Speaker's Conference to guess what the appropriate figure might be.

Mr. Abse

While my hon. Friend is presenting this grim picture, may I draw to his attention a poll conducted by a local radio station in South-West Wales? This clearly shows that 53 per cent. of the population are against an Assembly and that 33 per cent. are in favour. It shows that in the Secretary of State's constituency, where he has failed signally to persuade his constituents, 54 per cent. are against and 27 per cent. in favour.

Perhaps it is right that my hon. Friend should speculate in this way. Happily, it seems that political sense in Wales is already making itself clearly felt.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Kinnock

I have never had any doubt about the political sense of Wales. The situation in Aberavon is significant. If one goes one constituency further east, to Neath, one finds that the findings of the poll are even more resounding. Even if one moves to Carmarthen, the seat of the Leader of Plaid Cymru, one finds a balanced situation. There is a 1 per cent. advantage for devolution. This is a seat which returns a Plaid Cymru Member. The support is for a Labour policy and there are many "don't knows". There is confusion in such areas. Where there is clear representation on the issue the confusion is less.

In the event of a reduction in the number of Welsh Members in the House of Commons the nationalists would be significantly advantaged. If I were them I should vote for New Clause No. 2. I should be hoping that as a consequence of devolution the Conservatives or the Speaker's Conference would do the job of nationalism for me. Reducing the number of Welsh Members at Westminster would dilute or demote the importance of the Welsh voice. I am not talking about my job security or that of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards)—I hope that his security is in any case tenuous; I am talking about the general impression that Wales could make upon the decisions of Government in Westminster and Whitehall.

If I were a Welsh nationalist I should hope that a Speaker's Conference would cut a chunk—one great branch—off Welsh representation in this Assembly.

Then, I should be characterising that faithfully—there would be no exaggeration—as the worst and most despicable manifestation in history of overweening imperialistic centralism that had been waiting for centuries to take vengeance on the Welsh people by emasculating them. That would do a good job for nationalism, because it would sign and seal all the ideas that they have been promulgating about the contemptuous attitude in which Wales is held by those awful centralists in Westminster and Whitehall. A reduction of Members would be the most clear and tangible numerical manifestation of that disregard for Welsh interests.

Mr. Pym

I regret that the hon. Member did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards). That was a reasonable speech explaining the background to the New Clause. I am afraid that the hon. Member is wide of the mark on this aspect.

Mr. Kinnock

I understand. I received a summary from two of my hon. Friends of the speech of the hon. Member for Pembroke. I am sure that that summary was faithfully given. I am not pointing out the deficiencies in that argument; I am talking of the construction that can and will be put upon the operation of this new clause by the enemies of both our parties in Wales.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

May I put the hon. Gentleman quickly and easily out of his misery, as I always like to do? We made our position clear earlier in the Committee deliberations, when we stated that while legislative power for Wales as well as England resided in the House of Commons we should oppose any reduction in the number of Welsh Members elected here, and while the block grant was allocated from the House of Commons to Wales we should equally strongly object to any reduction in the number of Welsh Members here. Our position on that is clear, and we shall be voting against the new clause.

Mr. Kinnock

It would be a very tortuous strategem, but a very wise one, for the hon. Gentleman and his party to support the new clause. I understand that, as long as superior legislative and financial power resides in the House of Commons and the Government produced by it, Plaid Cymru will object to reductions in the number of Members who come here from Wales, or to reductions in the block grant.

That would not prevent it from profitably exploiting a reduction of the number of Members, not only as a violation of the interests of Wales but as an outrageous confrontation with nationalist policy on the matter. It would not stop it saying "We told you so. Westminster has all along been waiting to take its proportional vengeance on the people of Wales. We can expect no mercy from a Whitehall and Westminster that, as their first act after giving us a measure of independence"—a phrase that is a favourite of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot)—"a measure of self-determination, delivers that self-determination in the form of reducing our number of Members directly elected to Westminster." To say that, one does not have to engage in political science fiction, exaggerate or use one's imagination. That would be the realistic position in the event of devolution.

I am not blaming the hon. Member for Pembroke or the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) for taking the course that they have as a consequence of the Bill. Even if the clause is not passed tonight, we may see a certain convention of government in a future Government or a convention in a future House.

It follows as night follows day—or day follows night, according to one's attitude to the advisability and desirability of the new clause—that it is impossible for such a Bill or the Scotland Bill, of such substantial import to the constitutional future of the whole United Kingdom, to pass through the House of Commons without having implications for the House.

It is impossible for allocations of finance to be made under this Bill or the Scotland Bill for the whole of the future to pass through the House of Commons without having implications for the financial powers and competence of the House. It is impossible for a new constitution to be drawn up for the government of two substantial parts of the United Kingdom without being very important for the constitution of this place. It would not make sense. It would not be historically consistent. Indeed, it would not even be fair if such considerations did not arise.

Therefore, if I were a Conservative I would make no apologies—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not—or seek to hide the purpose behind the clause—I am sure that hon. Gentleman did not—because the two go together like bread and butter. They are inseparable. It is a delusion to believe, if anybody does, that the Bill could become law and be implemented, that an Assembly could come into being, without having these significant consequences for the House of Commons.

I give the Opposition some credit. Instead of going for the jugular vein they propose to sever a less important artery. They are much more cautions about the whole approach to changing the system of government for Wales and its system of representation. If they had been incompetent and clumsy about it, they would not have been making this proposal. They would have been saying "In the event of the choice of new systems of government for Wales and Scotland the representation from those countries shall be reduced as follows", and at least operating the equation laid down by the Kilbrandon Commission.

But the Conservatives would not have enjoyed such extended periods in government, and an even more extended period of power, if they had been clumsy in the exercise of such power, especially on constitutional issues. As an admiring politician, although a hostile opponent of theirs, I give them full credit for approaching the matter in this way and saying "Let the Speaker's Conference decide. Let us have a serene council. Let us take all the factors into consideration, in the sure knowledge that at the end of the day Wales will be lucky to finish up with 25 Members of Parliament to discuss and determine the size of the block grant to serve the people of Wales."

I am full of admiration for the Opposition's political guile. Nevertheless—I think that the people of Wales clearly understand this—the inevitable consequence of the passage of the Bill and its operation, with an Assembly and everything that goes with it, is a reduction in the people's power. That is not because it has implications for the careers of politicians now sitting, but because it has grave implications for the power of the people of Wales to affect decisions that have a direct importance for them, the standard of living that they enjoy and the standard of services that they expect. If the Bill ever becomes operative we shall inevitably see that reduction in power.

I realise that there are hon. Members and parties outside the Chamber with a different interpretation of devolution and different aspirations for devolution than the Government propose in the Bill. Against the background of the new clause, in the referendum people should regard precisely what the Government propose, not what they might wish to happen or what the organisation to which they belong might have supported. For instance, they might be people closely associated with the Wales TUC who want a legislative Assembly. They might be nationalists who want independence, a Welsh Government, or whatever else. There are other people who think that we should simply democatise the non-elected bodies.

It is important that people take into account proposals such as the one in the new clause, the implications of a block grant, an identifiable, clearly demarcated Consolidated Fund allocated by the House of Commons, and all the other considerations. Most important of all, they should look at the precise proposals made by the Bill—not what they would like it to be, not what they hope it will become or what they think it should have been, but what is actually proposed in the Bill.

People will find that the Bill does not serve the interests of nationalists. It does not meet the aspirations of the Liberal federalists. It goes way beyond the hopes of all those who want to unseat the unelected placemen of the various unelected bodies. It certainly has no proposal to meet the demands of the Wales TUC and other bodies for a legislative Assembly.

In fact, the Bill achives the remarkable gymnastic feat of falling through every one of those stools and not meeting any substantial section of opinion in Wales in favour either of more devolution or less devolution, independence or total union. If we strip away those who believe in much more, those who believe in something different, those who believe in much less, and those who believe that we should not be here in the first place, the numbers of people likely to support the Bill on the basis of a realistic assessment of what it proposes to do for the people of Wales are bound to be such as to mean its rejection.

What happens if after all that people think that they can see advantages in the Bill? If they look at the political realities of the period immediately following its passage and implementation, if they see what the reaction will be in the House of Commons and the rest of the United Kingdom, and assess whether that will be of advantage to them in claiming their fair proportion, or slightly more, of the total resources, financial and otherwise, of the United Kingdom, they can come to only one answer. It is the answer that I shall give to the new clause tonight, because we should try to keep certain options open to get whatever powers we can in the unfortunate event of the Bill's being implemented. I shall vote "No". I think that Wales will, too. The answer is "No". However, I understand the reason for tabling the clause. I understand the unavoidability and inevitability of tabling it. I understand, too, the inevitability of it becoming law in the event of the other document, the Wales Bill, becoming law.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

At this late stage I intervene to make a few specific points. I begin with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). If I may say so, he ended extremely well although he had us rather confused at the beginning of his speech when talking about Tredegar, pirates, dressed as women in the Caribbean, Captain Morgan and the rest of it. However, at the end of his remarks he was at his very best.

After a breath-taking analysis of political motivation of all parties within Wales, including the party of which I am a Member, he ended at his best when he said that this measure does not meet the aspirations of any one competing part. That lines up precisely with that to which I draw attention, which is something that arose primarily during the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) as regards actual powers and the struggle, perhaps, for more powers. That is aligned precisely with what has been said about the Bill meeting the aspirations of no competing part. It is part of the simple analysis that everybody will be competing—all the competing parts—for more or less power depending on their point of view.

It is necessary to go one step further. I think it was the hon. Member for West Lothian who said that the proposed Assembly is very different from a county council as it is put forward as a national representative body that has national connotations. That is the crisis of the proposal. The whole matter becomes quite different when we take into account national aspirations and connotations. In that light the Assembly becomes very different from any other body that we know.

I strengthen the point by saying that even the bodies that we know do not have national connotations and aspirations compete enough for power. We do not have to go back very far in history to see that competing for power. It is happening now. It has taken place after the local government reorganisation. It is happening between metropolitan councils and district councils. It is happening between district councils and county councils. If we create a body of the sort that is proposed in the name of the Assembly it will compete for power.

I come round to where I started in pursuing this argument. It is all very well for a Welsh nationalist to say "We do not want that or the other. You can have all the Labour Members that you want at Westminster. We shall not deprive you of any of them." The answer is that they know full well that the Assembly, which will be a national body when it gets going, will be in possession of the power to discuss any aspect of national or even international policy, if not actual powers.

In that respect we do not have to go through the various clauses. We do not have to go through the precise powers to realise that there is no power to limit that which the Assembly may discuss. It may discuss virtually anything. Even if it cannot discuss something, I dare say that with a little nous and political common sense it will be able to raise any matter that it wishes.

It will be able to discuss virtually anything, even if certain matters are outside its powers. In that way we come to the direct representation that no doubt will be built up between the Assembly and central Government at Westminster. At each stage of the process this place will be suffering.

Mr. Dalyell

The Assembly will have the power to discuss, and it appears from that which was said yesterday in another place by a Government spokesman that it will be able to set up official committees to deal with such matters. That really is a vehicle for something else.

Mr. Temple-Morris

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the point quite clear. Clearly it is a serious matter. My hon. Friends and I are grateful for the news that the hon. Gentleman periodically brings us from another place. The news is helpful, and the quality of the various points that have been made in another place is a good advertisement for the other place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me, although I do not wish to go beyond the limits of the clause.

I have dealt with my first point, which is a reiteration and development of the arguments that have already been made. However, it is, perhaps, the most important argument.

It seems that we are to be faced with a struggle, and in that light I come to my second point, which is the argument about the quality of membership at Westminster, which has not been much discussed. The role of Members at Westminster and at Cardiff has been discussed. The diminution and representation of the Labour Party, or any other party, at Westminster has also been discussed. There remains the argument on quality. As the struggle takes place, which I see definitely happening, and I hope that I do not stand alone in taking that view, it is fair comment that the quality of Welsh politics will move from this place. That arises from what the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) said. The quality will go more and more to its Welsh base so as to take part in the struggle and to develop something which has been put forward at a national Parliament. That is inevitable.

I appreciate that those on the Opposition Front Bench fairly, properly and rightly put that forward as being the fault of the Bill, but that is at the end of the day an inevitability that was implicit in the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards).

That is a problem with which we shall be faced in this place. The problem will not be solved by having fewer Welsh Members. As the struggle takes place on behalf of Wales, and as the Assembly gets more power and has a claim to represent in a greater and greater sense, obviously there will be counter-pressure, which ever party is in control of the House of Commons, There will be a counter-pressure from the national Government to reduce representation in this place. I shall not go into the West Glamorgan question all over again, but one pressure is related very much to the other.

What will be the quality of membership in the House of Commons? It would be sad to see replacements for the Under-Secretaries of State for Wales, the hon. Members for Bedwellty, and Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), or the galaxy of Welsh talent that at present is seated on the Opposition Front Bench. If we are to lose them, or if they are to turn firmly to Cardiff what are we to get in this place on behalf of Wales?

It seems that Wales cannot win the argument. That argument has already been advanced by the hon. Member for Bedwellty. Wales will not win whichever view we take. There is also the frightening prospect, which has hardly been touched upon, that from the talent, such as it be, that comes to this place the Secretary of State and Ministers have to be provided. It is upon them that we shall have to put the burden and the trust of the day-to-day relations with the Assembly, that will be competing with them for greater powers.

We shall be faced with a diminution of talent and a grave loss to the House of Commons. We shall have a massive struggle between the House of Commons, central Government and Wales. At each stage the trend will be for the Assembly to compete with this place. Talent will go away from this place, and where that will lead is a matter of which many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are fearful. It is for that reason that, fundamentally, we very much oppose the Bill.

Sir A. Meyer

I have always thought that si vis pacem pare bellum was a rather dangerous motto. I know that the inevitable consequence of the Bill will be to call in question the number of parliamentary representatives at Westminster. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower), I felt unable to support a similar new clause that was put forward during our proceedings on the Scotland Bill, if only for reasons of superstition. I feel unable to support such a clause in considering this Bill.

I recollect the film "Shoulder Arms", in which Charlie Chaplin, confronted by a house that had only the door left standing, would not enter the house except by painfully unlocking the door. I still have a touching faith in the reluctance of anyone to set in train a process that could result in the diminution of Members representing Wales in this place. For that reason I am reluctant to see the matter even raised and, therefore, I find it extremely difficult to support the clause.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The point made by the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) none the less does not detract from what could be an interesting debate. This is an exercise in an academic discussion, because most hon. Members on both sides of the House have no real expectation that, in the referendum, the Government's proposals will be carried. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity in the measure and in the new clause to discuss issues which may at some other time be relevant.

The new clause essentially sets out that there should be a Speaker's Conference because, as a direct result of the Bill, the numbers and composition of Welsh representation at Westminster are put in question. I must beg to differ from that assumption. I see no way in which at present, on the fairly limited form of executive devolution proposed, existing representation is put in question. I suppose that a more respectable argument can be made out in respect of Scotland with legislative devolution—that that by itself means that there should be a consequential change in the numbers of Scottish Members here—but, given the form of devolution proposed for Wales, I do not think that can properly be argued at this stage. That stage may be reached—this point was made by other hon. Members—further along the road if we are carried further along the road.

Certain arguments have been put forward. One is that there will be a more inward-looking Welshness at the expense of other considerations in the forefront of the Assembly's deliberations and that it will inevitably be pulled along towards a more insular and exclusive view of politics within the Principality. Certainly there are forces within the Principality which now seek to pull us along that road.

Mr. Temple-Morris

I appreciate the balanced way in which the hon. Gentleman is putting this point. But does he not see that, in the nature of things and in human nature, there will be a struggle for greater power for and coming from Cardiff? Have we not seen it all before in terms of struggle, power and the quality of Members—I do not want to be unfair to anyone—in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Anderson

I think it can be argued plausibly that there is a growth potential in this measure—that, by the very fact of human nature, people will seek extra powers and that there will therefore be greater pressure on the Government to increase the powers of the Assembly.

This is a major qualitative step in setting up an Assembly which, by its own inherent forces and by the forces of human nature described by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), will inevitably carry us along that road. But, by making that very point he meets my argument that it is premature at this stage to have a Speaker's Conference. One is always reluctant to talk about inevitability in an historical process, but I concede the probability—a probability which is welcomed by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley)—that we shall be taken further along that road. But currently, on the basis of these proposals, it is clearly premature to have a Speaker's Conference on that which will within the foreseeable future flow from this devolution measure if—it is a very large "if"—it achieves the approval of the electorate in a referendurn.

One can no doubt, if one likes model building, imagine some time in the future when there will be a neat structure of certain functions in Brussels, in Westminster, in Cardiff in Edinburgh and possibly in the English regions with all the results which flow in terms of quality of representation.

I am not wholly convinced about there being a limited number of people of talent in Wales. Thank the Lord, Wales is a political nation. It has an apparently infinite number of people—missionaries—who go outside and sit for English seats in this place, achieve the top positions in trade unions and so on. We are an inherently political nation. I do not think that there is a finite well of political talent in Wales which the hon. Member for Leominster seems to accept.

That may be so at some stage in the future, but on present evidence, given the limited nature of this devolution proposal, it would be wrong to suggest that within the foreseeable future there must be a relook at Welsh representation. That may come. Indeed it will probably come as a result of the forces here at Westminster. But now it is premature. I hope that the hon Member for Leominster, with his Cassandra-like mutterings about what may come, will at least concede that, although it will probably come, it is now premature and that, therefore, it would be wrong to support the new clause.

8.15 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

I must say at the outset that, despite the brevity of our discussions this afternoon and evening and the time that I have been a Member of Parliament, I have been constantly amazed at and congratulate hon. Members on both sides on the ingenuity with which they have been able to introduce such a fantastic array of items and to give the new clause an examination in depth, width, length, breadth, height and every other posible dimension.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) is not present, but I understand that he will be back. The only point with which I agreed in his speech was when he suggested that we should discuss what the Bill contains and proposes, not stretch it or develop fairy themes around it. However, it seemed to me that the content of his speech went a lot further than what the Bill proposed.

It seems to me that attitudes towards the new clause, with a few honourable exceptions on both sides, and the question of Welsh representation in the House of Commons are almost conditioned by the views on devolution held by hon. Members expressing views on the new clause. We had expressions of view on the principle of devolution tagged on to the question of representation here. Those who see devolution as essentially taking powers away portrayed a pessimistic, rather frightening picture, in which Wales would have a less significant voice here.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) need worry about a shortage of talent coming from Wales. It would be a matter of conceit for Welsh Members to believe that there were not many prospective Welsh Members equally as good as, if not better than, we are, sitting comfortably at home by their firesides at this moment.

I see devolution not taking away powers but adding something extra to Welsh life. It is an extension of democracy. The people of Wales will have a greater say in the management of their domestic affairs and, at the same time, a rightful say here in matters which affect the United Kingdom as a whole of which they are and obviously wish to remain part.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), with typical Welsh modesty, said that Wales had humanised Westminster. I think that in a different context hon. Members on both sides might say that Westminster sometimes had a similarily humanising effect upon Wales. But my hon. Friend made play of the fact that in the past great figures had come from Wales. Certainly no one would deny that. Anyone who had the privilege and honour to sit alongside the late James Griffiths in the House of Commons could not deny that.

My hon. Friend drew from that the conclusion that there would no longer be a place for such giants in the House of Commons. He suggested that the role of Welsh Members of Parliament in the House would be likened to that of pygmies. I thought that was going a bit further than the content of the Bill suggested.

It seems to me that the present problems facing the people of Wales are principally related to the economy, to industry and to employment. All the major powers affecting those issues remain here in the House. If we, as Welsh Members of this House, can overcome these problems, working in co-operation with our English comrades and our colleagues from Northern Ireland and Scotland, far from being pygmies we shall have become giants.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

By the list that the Minister has given, at least by implication he acknowledges that it would not be easy for another Aneurin Bevan to come to this House and give of his experience on social issues, on which he orginally made his great reputation.

Mr. Jones

In my limited experience of Nye Bevan—and I accept that the hon. Member has greater knowledge than I have—I would have thought that his impact would make itself felt anyway in whatever forum he found himself. He was not just limited to social services either; he played a role in foreign affairs and other issues.

There are significant functions here and the exercise of these functions in order to meet people's needs will enable Welsh Members to show that we can be giants in the future just as we were in the past.

Mr. Anderson

My hon. Friend is expressing a hope that Welsh Members will play an important role after devolution but perhaps in seeking to be objective we should look at the only analogy we have—the case in Northern Ireland. That Province with fairly similar powers could not produce any Member representing a Northern Ireland constituency, from the middle 1950s to 1974, who achieved even minor governmental office except for the then Mr. Robin Chichester Clark. This gives an indication of the way in which the House regards hon. Members from Northern Ireland.

Mr. Jones

It is a fact that in the 11 years that I have been a Member of this House there have been Members from Northern Ireland who were members of Government before 1974—and I see no reason for picking that period. But I would have thought that other factors were involved before one can draw such conclusions. Rightly or wrongly, those who have represented Northern Ireland have tended in the main to support one particular political philosophy.

Mr. Powell

Is the Minister seriously saying that it would be easy or even possible after this Bill for a Member for a Welsh constituency to become Minister of Education or Secretary of State for Social Services?

Mr. Jones

The right hon. Member must bear in mind the fact that since we have had decentralisation my right hon. and learned Friend who is Secretary of State for Wales is also responsible for education in Wales. I could well understand that any Prime Minister would feel that his Secretary of State for Education should be representative of somewhere else other than Wales in those circumstances.

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) said that devolution would bring about a devastating change in the role of Welsh Members. I concede the point that it will bring about a change. If it did not, there would be no point or purpose in our talking about devolution. It is the interpretation of the word "change" that counts. I think it is a change for the better and I argue that there is a major vital role for Welsh Members of Parliament under this Bill.

I would have thought that in the last few years one of the issues that has brought about particularly devastating changes to the role of hon. Members has been our entry into the EEC, yet I can recall no criticism from Conservatives generally about that.

Judging by the comments that I hear, there is inadequate time available to discuss EEC matters which arise late at night, and go on into the early hours of the morning. The House has not yet come to terms with that. I have not heard any Back Bench Members express great satisfaction at the way in which the role of hon. Members is being carried out in this context.

The Minister for Agriculture and the Under-Secretary of State for Wales are in Brussels today discussing agricultural matters. I would have thought that this was the sort of change in the role of Members which has had the devastating effect that the hon. Member for Pembroke seems to imply will come about as a consequence of devolution.

We made our position on this matter quite clear right from the ancient document—the White Paper of September 1974, Command 5732, in which we said: The setting up of Scottish and Welsh assemblies does not, however, detract in any way from the overriding interest of all the peoples of the United Kingdom in the determination of United Kingdom policies as a whole… For this reason the Government regard it as essential that both Scotland and Wales should retain their existing number of Members of Paliament in the United Kingdom Parliament… The White Paper went on to talk about the important function of distributing resources between Scotland and Wales and the regions of England. This was to be determined by the Government and approved in this House of Commons, with Scotland and Wales being required to be represented fully in this discussion Therefore, it seems that, despite all the arguments, there is no justification whatever for a reduction in the number of Welsh MPs consequent upon devolution.

The reduction in the number of Members is unjustified because the Welsh Assembly is not being given any legislative powers. All the laws will still be passed here. Parliament itself will play its part in legislation as before. When the hon. Member for Pembroke said that hon. Members would be powerless he is wrong again. In recent years hon. Members have shown that they are able to exercise power to influence and change legislation. I believe that it is the intention of certain hon. Members to do just that to forthcoming legislation. I believe in Parliament having that power and I believe that in that legislative role Welsh Members of Parliament will have a vital role to play.

8.30 p.m.

However the hon. Member for Pembroke reads the report of the Kilbrandon Commission—and I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is not present in the Chamber—it is quite clear that in its recommendations in paragraph 905 it says, referring to the previous chapter, In the last chapter we examined the case for reducing the representation of Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons if they were given legislative assemblies of their own and Parliament remained responsible for all English legislation. This question does not arise under executive devolution, since Parliament would continue to legislate for all regions. All that I am saying is that it seems to me that that was quite clearly the majority view—and I accept that there were minority views—and that certainly one is entitled to pray in aid the words This question does not arise under executive devolution.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

It is also fair, then, I think, to quote another paragraph from Kilbrandon, paragraph 1155, which says: It is an essential feature of the scheme that it should be applied in a more or less uniform way throughout Great Britain. We have always made clear that it is the act of separating the treatment of Wales and Scotland that makes the difference on this issue.

Mr. Jones

I am not denying that there are other quotations from Kilbrandon, but I am pointing out only this one because in the context in which we are talking, Kilbrandon was talking about the implications for central Government of having executive devolution. Quite clearly the argument and the consensus view of Kilbrandon was that as long as one was moving for executive devolution, there was no justification whatsoever for a reduction in the number of Welsh Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

Mr. Kinnock

Will not my hon. Friend accept that it is one thing for the Kilbrandon Commission, five years ago, and for him today to say that this question of changing the representation does not arise, in this frozen moment of April 1978, and it is another thing altogether in the practicality of the post-devolutionary situation for the House of Commons to take a different view? Does not this proposal gamble with the future to the extent that under the present system of government there is no justification for reducing the number of Members, but under that future system of government, a different system, there might conceivably be justification?

Mr. Jones

I believe that there are far greater gambles with the future than that. It seems to me that unless one deals with an aspiration which is showing in Wales and Scotland—we can argue about the extent of that aspiration, and the referendum will show one way or the other—the consequences could be infinitely worse than anything else.

On this issue I also say to my hon. Friend that there would be nothing to prevent incoming Governments or the next House of Commons, even if nothing were done now on devolution, making suggestions for reducing the number of Welsh Members of Parliament here for a variety of different reasons.

Mr. Kinnock

They would.

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend says "They would", but I, at least, lived through the time when they did, when certain actions were taken which cost my constituency of Rhondda an additional Member of Parliament. That is not so long ago. Those things happen even without any form of devolution.

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Jones

No, let me continue. When I have had a second breath, perhaps my hon. Friend can come back again.

Therefore, for those reasons, I do not believe that one can justify a reduction. But I say that for another reason, too. I believe that if one were to accept the new clause and the implication behind it of a reduction in the number of Welsh Members of Parliament, this itself could well be regarded—I would certainly regard it so—as a threat to the unity of the United Kingdom, since matters which are essential to that unity will be decided here and those matters which are essential to that unity need full Welsh and Scottish representation in the House of Commons.

I was not quite sure of the purpose behind it, but the hon. Member for Pembroke seemed, to me at least, to be saying that he did not want a reduction in the number of Welsh Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman nodded his head in agreement with me. If that is so, it seems a very odd way of going about it, because if the matter had not been raised in the new clause, it would not have been raised in this debate. Not only has it been raised in a speech which went on for a fairly lengthy time, but it was also suggested that it should be dealt with by a Speaker's Conference. Despite the hon. Member's protestations that he did not want a reduction, the new clause seems to be a vehicle which could bring that about. Indeed, he used many of the arguments used by those who want the number reduced.

We ignore at our peril those matters which are essential for the unity of the United Kingdom—international affairs, development partnership with the EEC, national security and defence, trade and industry, employment, industrial relations, management of the economy, energy and social security. Do the Welsh Conservative Members of Parliament believe that, even after devolution, Wales needs a quieter, more still voice of representation in this Chamber? If not, it is unreasonable of them to support the new clause. But if they do, many of their tears about industry, employment and EEC problems are crocodile tears.

These matters vitally concern everyone in the United Kingdom and there is no reasonable argument for reducing representation on these essential interests, even after devolution, of those of us who live in Wales.

The vehicle suggested is an odd one. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) started this, and some other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) suggested that they did not think that a Speaker's Conference was a good idea. The Government also believe that a Speaker's Conference is not the appropriate forum for legislation. It has always been the practice to regard a Speaker's Conference and the forming of its agenda as a matter of agreement between the parties. I do not see that sort of agreement materialising tonight.

If a Speaker's Conference were set up, I invite the hon. Member for Pembroke to say what evidence the Conservatives would give it. Would they call for a reduction, an increase or merely the preservation of the status quo? Judging from the new clause, I suspect that they are not sure, because it is permissive and not mandatory. That suggests that they have doubts.

As for in-and-out voting, I believe that experience, the Kilbrandon Report and plain common sense weigh heavily against any such system.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) brought us posthaste a communication from the other Chamber and a question whether the Scottish Assembly could establish a defence committee. I assume that, to stay in order, he is interested in the Welsh Assembly's powers in this regard. This Bill—I am advised that, apart from the difference between legislative and executive responsibility, the same would apply to the Scotland Bill—devolves executive responsibility for a number of matters to the Welsh Assembly but defence is not devolved and the Assembly will have no powers in this field. However, the Assembly will almost certainly want to discuss all matters of concern to Wales and cannot effectively be prevented from doing so. It can also appoint committees, but such a committee would have no powers.

I am surprised that the provision is regarded as a revelation of something new. Clause 18 was written into the Bill many moons ago. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian reminded the Committee that we have now been discussing this matter for 42 days and 42 nights. Therefore, it is not a matter which has suddenly arrived because of something that has been said in the upper House.

Furthermore, in Welsh terms this situation is not new. I remember the Rhondda Borough Council frequently expressing its views on Vietnam and the nuclear disarmament campaign. I know that in recent years there have been representations to the Welsh Office by county and district councils on defence installations and other topics. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas), when he was Secretary of State for Wales, received similar approaches.

This is not a matter of one local authority acting on its own, but we must remember that it was the Mid-Glamorgan County Council that called a conference affecting the whole of Wales. Representatives came to that conference from almost every local authority to discuss unemployment in Wales. I see nothing objectionable in an Assembly having the same sort of power which every district council and county council now possesses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty thought that this was a desirable feature, and I agree with him. He also seemed to think that Clause 29 would prevent that process taking place. That is not so. The purpose of Clause 29 is to demonstrate that the Assembly cannot conduct relations with another country if we are talking about agreements, exchange representatives, joint arrangements and other matters. However, there is nothing in Clause 29 to prevent the Assembly from communicating its views to another country, and there have been occasions when my hon. Friend's own district council has carried out that role in the past.

Mr. Anderson

Does my hon. Friend the Minister not accept that there is an essential difference between Mid-Glamorgan calling a conference on unemployment, which is concerned with planning and industrial development in its own area, and a Welsh Assembly calling a conference, say, on an international matter which would be quite beyond the expected competence of the Assembly?

Mr. Jones

I do not agree that we should take this power away from the Assembly. If one sets up an Assembly and gives it certain powers, one knows that that Assembly will do what it wants to do. But nobody can stop a group of people—certainly not a group of Welsh people, and certainly not a group of elected Welsh people—talking about any subject under the sun. That is the reality of the situation. Therefore the provisions in Clause 18 are quite correct.

This issue was raised on the Scotland Bill, and indeed also on the Scotland and Wales Bill. In the debate in February 1977 a suggestion aimed at incorporating a provision on the lines of New Clause No. 2 was rejected by 277 votes to 199. In January 1978 a similar provision in the Scotland Bill was rejected by 272 vote to 220.

I invite the Opposition to withdraw their new clause. If they do not do so, I shall ask the Committee to reject it. However, I shall keep talking for a few moments more since I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty wishes to intervene.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Kinnock

My hon. Friend has specified the areas which the Assembly might discuss. Do I take it that he is saying that under Clause 29 the Assembly cannot have relations but it can have affairs?—in which case that might make it much more appealing to some of our colleagues and kinsmen in Wales.

Seriously, I should have expected my hon. Friend to understand the difference between, on the one hand, the profession of an opinion by a local authority, an elected body of people with political opinions, and the way in which that is ignored, taken on board or cast aside by the Government, and, on the other hand, the expression of a similar opinion by a committee or by the whole Assembly, a national Assembly, and the consequences of that being cast aside or ignored by the central Government.

My hon. Friend is well acquainted with the reality of these matters. Will he understand that there is a qualitative difference between the two affairs?

The Chairman

Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that he is straying extremly wide in that intervention.

Mr. Jones

It is a little difficult to reply when my hon. Friend has virtually been told that he is not quite in order, but may I go back to a concrete example? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members must have as much patience as I have needed to have in the past few weeks. They also serge who only sit and wait, I commend that as a good motto to hon. Members.

The Mid-Glamorgan County Council called the conference on unemployment in Wales. There was an expression of opinion. No one can reasonably say that, merely because it was called by a county council, my right hon. and learned Friend would ignore the feelings and opinions there expressed. Such expressions of opinion are made to my right hon. and learned Friend and, I assume, to all Ministers in successive Governments, and from whatever source they come they must receive some attention.

May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty—with this I shall sit down, though only for the moment, not for good—that I do not think that I can define the difference between affairs and relations. I like both.

Mr. Pym

In the course of this quite long and interesting debate, the frontiers of New Clause No. 2 have been pushed out for a fairly substantial distance. We have even had a discussion about the possibility of the Assembly considering foreign affairs—so much so, indeed, that the Under-Secretary of State seems to have summoned his colleague the Minister of State at the Foreign Office. I see that the hon. Gentleman has arrived on the Government Front Bench, having heard the news, no doubt, and the message will have travelled fast in Whitehall that perhaps the Foreign Office had better come in and take a watching brief.

Until the Under-Secretary of State rose to reply, every hon. Member who had spoken, from all parts of the House, spoke against the Bill. Everyone wanted the Bill to be defeated one way or another. Sad to say, by no means all hon. Members were in favour of New Clause No. 2, but practically all said that the thinking behind it and its implications were inevitable. Indeed, the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said in terms that the reduction of the number of Members of Parliament in Wales would be inevitable.

Our new clause is not designed to do that. Its purpose is to set up a Speaker's Conference to consider representation, and the truth is that everyone would prefer not to face up to what the new clause implies. Everyone would prefer to defeat the Bill.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) talked about my right hon. and hon. Friends not going for the jugular. The answer is that we are going for the jugular on this Bill. I hope that he and more of his hon. Friends will join us when the crucial Divisions come—certainly on Third Reading and on a number of other rather important occasions yet to come when the jugular will be on offer. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall not be making mere pin-pricks. We shall take the knife to it, and, as we are not quite numerous enough to succeed by ourselves alone, we shall look for a bit of assistance.

I acknowledge that there are certain illogicalities and a certain inappropriateness about the new clause. That derives, at least in part, from the fact that we have had a guillotine. The effect of that upon our debates has been major. We have not been able to debate a great many clauses, including, incidentally, Clause 18. Had we been able to debate in the usual way the very important issues raised throughout the Bill it is possible that the issues that we have discussed today and the thinking behind the new clause would have arisen in another way and in other circumstances, and, therefore, it would not have been necessary to table the clause. We think, however, that in the circumstances facing the Committee it was right to table the clause.

The main reason we are against the Bill is that we wish Wales to retain its most powerful voice, namely the 36 Members of Parliament representing Wales. That is by far the strongest voice for Wales, and we do not want anything to be done in the Bill—or any other Bill—that will damage that voice. The Bill, if implemented, will damage that position.

Some Labour Members who feel that the Bill is not right and should be thrown out, but who do not feel able to vote against it, are relying on the referendum. If the Bill becomes an Act, we hope and judge that the people of Wales will take that view. But we have to face the possibility that the Bill will be not only en-enacted but supported.

The Under-Secretary said that the purpose of the Bill was to have something extra for Wales. That is a very attractive and desirable thought. However, in doing that, we have also to consider the effect of the Bill and that sort of devolution on the rest of the United Kingdom and on the House of Commons. It is that side of the equation that the Government have forgotten to think about.

The Under-Secretary spoke about the changes that have been brought about on the House as a result of our joining the European Community. He is right about that, but at least it applies to every hon. Member and to every part of the United Kingdom. The Bill, however, would bring about a change that affects Wales—that is to say, one part of the United Kingdom—and a change in the relationship between Members representing Welsh seats and the rest.

The Minister also said that the Government believed that there was not a case for a reduction in the number of Members of Parliament for Wales. Without the Bill, the Conservative Party emphatically believes that to be the case. But if the Bill is passed, the position will not remain unaltered for long, as everybody has been saying with the inevitability argument, for the simple reason that the impact on England will, in the end, prove to be untenable. It is wrong to describe the future role of Members of Parliament for Wales as that of pygmies, as did the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), but the Bill will greatly change their role.

If the Bill is enacted, there will be three different roles in relation to Wales. One will be in matters where the Assembly is responsible for executive actions, that is to say, for the issues that will be devolved to Wales. The second role will be in the non-devolved matters, in which the Secretary of State for Wales would be responsible for distinctively Welsh matters. Thirdly, there is the situation in which the role of the United Kingdom is involved and Welsh Members of Parliament will be playing their part in the full United Kingdom role.

What will be the effect of each of those roles on English Members? On matters affecting the whole of the United Kingdom, there is no effect because English Members—and the English electors who sent them here—will have exactly the same influence and role as a Member of Parliament in Wales or in Scotland. When Parliament is concerned with legislation for England and Wales only, the English and Welsh Member and the elector for English and Welsh constituencies who sent that Member there will have only 89 per cent. of control of that decision, whereas the Scots will have complete control, because they can vote on all matters affecting England and Scotland.

When Parliament is concerned with executive orders or subordinate legislation for England alone, the English electors will have only 83 per cent. control of their destiny—unlike the Welsh and the Scots, who will have 100 per cent. control of their destinies.

The Under-Secretary gave the impression that the devolution that was envisaged for Wales was executive only, but it is also legislative. It affects subordinate legislation. That has been devolved, and there is legislative as well as executive devolution for Wales—although on a different basis from that for Scotland. That is what causes the problem.

The inconsistencies that will flow from the Bill if it is put into effect will not disappear. Everyone has admitted that fact in the debate, and that is why we tabled the new clause. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said that it was premature and other Members have criticised it, but is necessary to prepare for the inconsistency that will arise and to write into the Bill this new clause which will force the House of Commons, through a Speaker's Conference, to consider the implications of what has happened.

It will not be a matter of the Speaker's Conference having to make a decision or of the House shuffling off responsibility for a decision to the conference. We are asking Mr. Speaker to set up a conference in the usual way to consider all the issues involved and to make recommendations. It must be for the House to make the decisions.

Everybody in this debate has admitted that the people of Wales ought to understand what will be the impact if the Bill is enacted. They ought to understand that the English will take a different view about Wales and about the arrangements for Wales. It appears to me that the Government are trying to put over their case on the basis that everything will go on just the same and that all that will happen is that there will be a new Assembly—something extra for Wales—that everyone will be able to enjoy that, and nothing else will change. We know that it will not be like that. As with the Scotland Bill, this Bill sets up a legislative Assembly, though in a different form from that in Scotland.

That is why we tabled the new clause. It would be infinitely preferable to defeat the whole Bill. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that if the Bill were enacted there lay ahead an infinite vista of instability. We all feel, certainly on the Conservative Benches, that that is so. We know it is not going to work, that it will have an

unsatisfactory impact on this House, and that serious adjustments will have to be made to rescue this country, and particularly Wales, from the mess that will follow the implementation of the Bill.

That is why we would prefer it not to go through. If it does, we must make the best of it, but we think that we shall be forced to take a new view of the consequences of the Bill for Wales and for Parliament.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 160.

Division No. 190] AYES [9.00 p.m.
Arnold, Tom Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Parkinson, Cecil
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Gray, Hamish Percival, Ian
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Griffiths, Eldon Pink, R. Bonner
Awory, Daniel Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Bell, Ronald Hannam, John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Biggs-Davison, John Hayhoe, Barney Raison, Timothy
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hicks, Robert Rathbone, Tim
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Holland, Philip Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Brittan, Leon Hordern, Peter Rhodes James, R.
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ridsdale, Julian
Brooke, Peter Hurd, Douglas Rifkind, Malcolm
Brotherton, Michael Hutchison, Michael Clark Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Bryan, Sir Paul James, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Jopling, Michael Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Budgen, Nick Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith St. John-Stevas, Norman
Bulmer, Esmond King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Burden, F. A. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Knox, David Shelton, William (Streatham)
Carlisle, Mark Lamont, Norman Shepherd, Colin
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Langford-Holt, Sir John Silvester, Fred
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Latham, Michael (Melton) Sims, Roger
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Clegg, Walter Lawson, Nigel Spence, John
Cockroft, John Le Marchant, Spencer Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stainton, Keith
Cope, John Lloyd, Ian Stanbrook, Ivor
Corrie, John Luce, Richard Stanley, John
Costain, A. P. McAdden, Sir Stephen Stradling Thomas, J.
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) McCrindle, Robert Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey MacGregor, John Tebbit, Norman
Drayson, Burnaby MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Temple-Morris, Peter
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Emery, Peter Marten, Neil van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mayhew, Patrick Wakeham, John
Fairgrieve, Russell Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Farr, John Mills, Peter Wall, Patrick
Fisher, Sir Nigel Miscampbell, Norman Weatherill, Bernard
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wells, John
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wiggin, Jerry
Fookes, Miss Janet Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Winterton, Nicholas
Fry, Peter Mudd, David Younger, Hon Georgs
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Nelson, Anthony
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Neubert, Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Glyn, Dr Alan Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Carol Mather and
Goodhew, Victor Page, Richard (Workington) Mr. Jim Lester.
Anderson, Donald Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Blaker, Peter Canavan, Dennis
Atkinson, Norman Boardman, H. Carter-Jones, Lewis
Bain Mrs. Margaret Boothroyd, Miss Betty Castle, Rt Hon Barbara
Bates, Alf Bradley, Tom Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Beith, A. J. Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cohen, Stanley
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cowans, Harry
Bidwell, Sydney Buchan, Norman Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Crawford, Douglas Johnson, James (Hull West) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cryer, Bob Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rowlands, Ted
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sandelson, Neville
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sedgemore, Brian
Deakins, Eric Kilroy-Silk, Robert Sever, John
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kinnock, Neil Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Lamborn, Harry Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dewar, Donald Lamond, James Silverman, Julius
Doig, Peter Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Skinner, Dennis
Dormand, J. D. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Dunn, James A. Loyden, Eddie Spriggs, Leslie
Edge, Geoff Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McElhone, Frank Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Evans, John (Newton) MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Mackintosh, John P. Thompson, George
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Madden, Max Tierney, Sydney
Flannery, Martin Magee, Bryan Tilley, John (Lambeth, Central)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mahon, Simon Tinn, James
Forrester, John Mallalleu, J. P. W. Tomlinson, John
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V>
George, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Golding, John Maynard, Miss Joan Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Gould, Bryan Meacher, Michael Ward, Michael
Gourlay, Harry Mendelson, John Watkins, David
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mitchell, Austin Watt, Hamish
Grant, John (Islington C) Molloy, William Wellbeloved, James
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Moonman, Eric Welsh, Andrew
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) White, James (Pollok)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Hampson, Dr Keith Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wigley, Dafydd
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Newens, Stanley Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Hooley, Frank Oakes, Gordon Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Hooson, Emlyn Ovenden, John Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Padley, Walter Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Parry, Robert Woodall, Alec
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Pavitt, Laurie Woof, Robert
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Prescott, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hunter, Adam Richardson, Miss Jo Young, David (Bolton E)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoin) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Janner, Greville Robinson, Geoffrey TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roderick, Caerwyn Mr. Joseph Harper and
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Mr. Frank R. White.
John, Brynmor Rooker, J. W.

Question accordingly negatived.