HC Deb 03 May 1978 vol 949 cc279-317

'In exercising its powers under section 10 above the Assembly shall not do anything which would unreasonably prejudice the interests or restrict the employment opportunities of those who do, or those who do not, speak the Welsh language.—[Mr. Wyn Roberts.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss the following amendments:

No. 8, in page 6, line 22, leave out Clause 10.

No. 9, in Clause 10, page 6, line 22, leave out from 'may' to end of line 24 and insert 'make arrangements to support museums, art galleries, libraries, the languages and culture of Wales, the arts, crafts, sport and other cultural and recreational activities; but shall not under this section do, or include in any such arrangements anything which would unreasonably prejudice the interests or restrict the employment opportunities of those who do, or those who do not, speak the Welsh language'. No. 10, in page 6, line 24, at end insert 'provide that such activities do not discriminate against the use or position of the English language in Wales'.

Mr. Roberts

The new clause is inseparable from Clause 10, which provides that The Assembly may do anything it considers appropriate to support museums, art galleries, libraries, the Welsh language, the arts, crafts, sport and other cultural and recreative activities. Those of us who have served on Standing Committees will be familiar with those words. The phrase "may do anything" will be as shockingly familiar as the first heavy raindrops from an impending cloudburst. The deluge of questions that follow will also have a familiar ring.

Equally familiar will be the gentle, priestlike incantations of the Minister. He will protest his innocence and that of the Government. He will say that the clause has many respectable antecedents, which take us back through the mists of recent history to the Local Government Act 1972, and beyond.

I remember discussing a clause on the same lines on the Community Land Bill, in Committee, in the early hours of 17th June 1975. The Opposition were then assisted by Government-provided notes on clauses, and I quoted the notes on this power to do anything. They referred to it disarmingly as a power commonly conferred on statutory authorities who may carry out only functions which they are specifically authorised to carry out. The statutory authority under discussion then was the Land Authority for Wales.

The notes on clauses went on to say: Since it is not possible to foresee from the outset exactly what may be required in all circumstances if the Authority are to be able to function efficiently, a power is taken to cover any minor activities which it might otherwise be doubtful whether the Authority had power to carry out. The minor activities were not spelled out in that Bill, but we have the Government's assurance that they were minor and that the begetter of the original clause was none other than my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), who had installed it in the Local Government Act 1972.

Section 111 of that Act shows how carefully my right hon. Friend hedged about the power to do anything. In the first place, in that Act it is a subsidiary power, whereas in this Bill the power to do anything has graduated into a principal function. That is a significant elevation for a common little power to perform minor activities.

Furthermore, instead of the hedging that appeared in the 1962 Act, which confined the power and made it subject to the provisions of this Act and any other enactment passed before or after this Act", the sphere in which the power may be exercised has now been opened up. The question of what is appropriate is left to the discretion of the Assembly. In other words, Clause 10 opens the door for the Assembly to do anything. It can act intra or ultra vires, within or beyond the powers specified in the remainder of the Bill. There is no limitation on this power to do anything. The Assembly may do anything that "it considers appropriate". I purposely emphasise that latter phrase relating to consideration.

When we were discussing the Local Government Bill in Standing Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby rejected an amendment which would have allowed local authorities to do anything which "in their opinion" was likely to facilitate the discharge of their function, on the ground that it opened the door wide to a breach of the vires rule.

That door has been thrown wide open in Clause 10. Coupled with the fact that the power to do anything is a principal function, we have here a new departure in legislation—a departure that may have serious consequences. What began a few years ago as a fledgling clause, designed to cover minor unforeseen eventualities, has developed into a major power, not limited, as in the Local Government Act, the Community Land Act and the Welsh Development Agency Act, to activities ancillary to the main functions of the bodies concerned.

The power in Clause 10 is one that has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. On those grounds alone there is much to be said for the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) in Amendment No. 8, that the clause should be dropped.

That, in brief, is the constitutional background to our new clause, which seeks to inhibit the Assembly in at least one sensitive area, that of interest and employment opportunities, and to ensure that there is no discrimination on linguistic grounds. We touched on this matter previously, when we discussed Clause 25, now Clause 24, and the appointment of staff to the Assembly. What I said then is equally valid now, and I shall not repeat it.

Whether we like it or not, there is concern about the danger of discrimination on linguistic grounds. There are those who fear that the Assembly will become an instrument of political and cultural nationalism of an extreme character. What we on the Conservative Benches seek to ensure is fairness in all matters and equal opportunities for all.

Our Amendment No. 9 makes this abundantly clear. It would give power to the Assembly to make arrangements to support, among other things, "the languages"—plural—"and culture of Wales". But the amendment also states that the Assembly shall not under this section do, or include in any such arrangements anything which would unreasonably prejudice the inteests or restrict the employment opportunities of those who do, or those who do not, speak the Welsh language". The question arises whether the Assembly is likely or unlikely to do anything that is unfair to Welsh speakers or non-Welsh speakers. If the Members of the Assembly represented the numerical division of the Welsh population, about 20 per cent. of Assemblymen would be Welsh speaking and 80 per cent. would not. But they will be elected not on a linguistic basis but on a constituency basis. Even if knowledge of the Welsh language is a winning asset to a candidate in the predominantly Welsh-speaking rural areas, such candidates are very likely to be heavily outnumbered in the Assembly by non-Welsh speaking representatives of the heavily populated industrial areas of Wales. Therefore, on the face of it, the greater potential threat is to the Welsh-speaking minority.

It was said more than once in Committee that the majority of Assemblymen may have far less sympathy with the Welsh language and its related culture and institutions than has been shown by the Westminster Parliament and central Government. There is perhaps an element of truth in that.

5.45 p.m.

Everything depends on the preservation of a sane and balanced approach to our cultural problems in Wales. The sanity and balance must be shown on both sides of the linguistic divide. We know from experience that the extremist approach only causes antagonism and a gnawing fear of the future, and makes us appear as a house divided against itself. The majority of Welsh people do not want a divided society. They have the example of Northern Ireland vividly before them.

Only 1.2 per cent. of our entire population of 2.7 million claimed in the 1971 census to be Welsh speaking only. The rest of us are either bilingual or speak only English in our daily lives. The ideal for the vast majority of us is not so much a peaceful as a stimulating co-existence which enriches us all.

For example, the English literature of Wales owes a great deal to the influence of the Welsh language, and Welsh literature is often influenced by English style and thought. The inter-dependence of Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers in Wales is extensive. We not only accept it but enjoy it.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman said that 1.2 per cent. of the population claimed to be simply Welsh speaking. I spent a very happy holiday in Dolgellau, in the heart of Welsh speaking Wales, and we were told then that there was virtually no one who could not understand the English language, if he or she wanted to. What is the truth of the matter?

Mr. Roberts

We are talking not about understanding but about speaking the English language. However, I think that in order to discover that 1.2 per cent. one would have to look extremely hard.

There is a biased feel about Clause 10

Sir Raymond Gower

I have been following my hon. Friend's speech with much interest. Presumably, one of the things that the Assembly might do to which some people would object would be to devote a disproportionate amount of its resources to the Welsh language. Would not that place the Assembly in some difficulty when it came to this House? It has no means of raising money on its own. It must come to this House for funds, annually. Would my hon. Friend regard as a sufficient safety measure the fact that there is no means of raising money separately?

Mr. Roberts

The point that I have been making is that it is entirely up to the Assembly to decide what is proportionate and what is disproportionate. My hon. Friend asks me whether it is a sufficient guarantee that the Assembly must come to this House for the block grant. I do not think that it is—nor are the other measures to which the Assembly would be subject. The whole point is that the Assembly is very much a law unto itself, particularly under Clause 10.

I was saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is a biased feel about Clause 10 as it stands. It is easy to understand how that has come about if we look at the clause in the light of the fact that in recent times the most persistent demands for financial support by Government have come from institutions and organisations associated with the Welsh language, which has, sadly, been in decline, and for that reason has caused deep anxiety, which expresses itself in various ways.

This, in turn, has induced a feeling of neglect among the non-Welsh speakers and arguments as to the proper balance in effort and resources which should be maintained—the sort of problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) has just referred. These arguments range from broadcasting to education, and are to be heard at local and national level. They are a fact of life in Wales.

As legislators, our duty is clear. It is to provide a basic framework which is essentially fair. I believe that our new clause and Amendment No. 9 do that admirably, and better than Clause 10 as it now stands. If I had to choose between the two improvements that we suggest, I would express a sneaking preference for Amendment No. 9, because it is slightly broader in scope than is the new clause, and it leaves out the odious phrase "do anything", which has a curious air of irresponsibility about it.

What I think has happened is that the Government sought to combine in one clause the usual ancillary power to cover unforeseen minor activities necessary for the Assembly to perform its major functions with a main power to support the string of subjects mentioned in the clause. To my mind, the combination makes nonsense of the whole clause. If the Assembly may do anything, it could, let us say, in support of the crafts of Wales, force every household to buy a coracle, or to support the Welsh language by banning the use of English on Sundays. The mind boggles at the faintly humorous possibilities.

But what sort of thing will the Assembly do? I think that the Government are in honour bound to tell us what kind of activity the clause is intended to cover. Of course, the Government will say that we must trust the Assembly; that the Assembly can do only what it thinks appropriate, and is hardly likely to do anything foolish. That was the line taken by the Secretary of State on one of his rare visits to the House in connection with the Bill. He said: There is no reason to imagine that it would act in any way which would antagonise the English-speaking majority in the Principality. There can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who is prepared to trust the Welsh people but that the Assembly will be fair both to Welsh and non-Welsh people alike."—[Official Report, 8th March 1978; Vol. 945, c. 1488.] Very well. Let us hope that the Government are right and that the Assembly will behave responsibly. But let us, in this clause, give the Assembly a better indication than there is in the clause now of what we consider to be just, fair and appropriate for it to do—and perhaps our feeling about fairness in these matters will permeate down to local authority level as well. Otherwise, if and when we come to the referendum, those electors who have bothered to read the Bill will rightly be fearful of the power that we are to give the Assembly under this open-ended clause, which, as I said earlier, not only contains no inhibition and no limitation whatsoever on the power of the Assembly but gives the Assembly discretion in the way it is to be used. It is a power without precedent, and it is we who will be blamed if it is misused.

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the new clause.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I had not intended to speak on the new clause, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Having read it and having listened to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts), however, I am not greatly moved to support it. It certainly does not impress me as being necessary.

My first comment to the hon. Gentleman—who obviously has given a great deal of thought to the subject—is that the Welsh Language Act 1967 covers all the necessary points which he made and safeguards the Welsh language. The new clause, therefore, in my view, is unnecessary.

The hon. Gentleman and the House will recall that the 1967 Act gives the Welsh language equal validity with the English language in public processes in Wales. The Act is generally accepted by the great majority of the people of Wales, whether they speak Welsh or not. As I had responsibility for drafting the Bill and for piloting it through the House at the time, I have followed its operation with considerable care since then in all the various fields of public activity in Wales. I am bound to say that I have received no criticism of it at all. The general view from Anglesey to Gwent is that the Act—which emerged from the recommendations of the Hughes-Parry Report—was desirable and has been entirely effective. Therefore, to seek to insert the clause in the Bill at this stage is, in my view, to create a needless complication.

It is worth bearing in mind that before the 1967 Act the Welsh language had no status whatsoever in Wales. It had been neglected for centuries. In my view—and in the view, I think, of every Member of the House with any feeling for liberty—it was without doubt a disgraceful thing that the oldest spoken language in these islands had been deprived of status and no equal validity with the language which is, we recognise, is spoken by the majority. It was a dishonourable state of affairs, and the 1967 Act is one of the things for which I have been responsible in this House of which I am most proud. A great wrong was righted.

As for those who cannot speak the Welsh language—we appreciate that they are represented by the great majority of the people in the Civil Service in Wales, who likewise do not speak Welsh. That is not a point of criticism or a comment; it is a statement of fact. As for Members of Parliament from the Principality, the majority of them do not speak the Welsh language. They represent, in other words, the people who elect them, and that is how the system works.

6.0 p.m.

I should like to ask the hon. Member for Conway a serious question. What is the real objective of the new clause? Is it further to safeguard the Welsh language? Is it to ensure that Welsh speakers are not ill-treated or victimised in some way? Is that the object of the new clause? As I understand it, that is what the new clause says. It says that In exercising its powers under section 10 above the Assembly shall not do anything which would unreasonably prejudice the interests or restrict the employment opportunities of those who do, or those who do not, speak the Welsh language. It is quite clear in saying that, somehow or other, Welsh speakers are to be protected from ill-treatment, victimisation or exclusion from appointment to some employment in the public service. But, of course, the hon. Member for Conway and the other signatories to the motion know perfectly well that those who speak Welsh also speak English. So far as I can predict, no monoglot Welsh-speaking people will apply for these posts.

If that is the purpose of the new clause, we should be told by Conservative Members that this is what they are seeking to achieve. With that I would have a certain sympathy if it was realistic. But the fact is that our Welsh-speaking compatriots, who will be in competition for any of these appointments, are people who will be fluent in both languages.

Why, therefore, is the new clause necessary? I have a slightly uneasy feeling—I am open to persuasion—that the whole thing is a bit of a humbug and that it is something of an insult to the Welsh language. The endless innuendo—

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) is bringing down the level of the debate.

Mr. Hughes

When one begins to criticise a new clause moved by the Opposition, one is always accused by hon. Members of bringing down the level of debate. It is not a question of the level of debate, it is one of analysing the new clause honestly and looking at it from every conceivable point of view.

This endless innuendo that, somehow, English speakers will be ill treated in Wales is, in my view, offensive. They are not badly treated. If they were, I would certainly take all possible steps, as would all my hon. Friends who speak the Welsh language, to ensure that that did not take place. Indeed, it never has taken place. Any student of Welsh history knows that that is just not true. English speakers in Wales have had every opportunity, at every level and at all times during the last 500 years to find jobs. I do not know what the hon. and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) is muttering about. That may not be within the right hon. and learned Gentleman's knowledge, but it is certainly within mine.

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

Since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to me specifically, I was merely indicating that as far as I was aware there is absolutely nothing in New Clause No. 4 which indicates or suggests that in the past any people have suffered discrimination of the kind to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. Therefore, there need not be such a flurry of Order Papers when I say that.

Since I am on my feet, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will answer a question? It is a genuine question, and I hope that he will take it as such. When referring to the 1967 Act he seemed to imply that that rendered this new clause unnecessary. He indicated that that Act, for the first time, achieved what we would all agree was the laudable object of giving validity, for certain purposes, to the Welsh language. Is he saying that there is anything in that Act which prevents discrimination against people who speak Welsh, or discrimination against people who speak English? As I understand it, there is not. If there is, I would genuinely be assisted if the right hon. Gentleman, as author of that Act, could identify the section that has that effect.

Mr. Hughes

What the Act does is to ensure that there is no discrimination against the Welsh language. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman well knows, that is what had occurred for several centuries. It is that point of view that he must try to understand. What I am saying is that in the light of that Act, and in the light of all the circumstances which we know to obtain in Wales at present in the public service, this clause is not necessary. It tends to confuse the issue and to create a situation that is not helpful to either the Welsh speaker or the English speaker.

Mr. Brittan

I am sorry to interrupt again. This is a genuine question, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would like to assist the House by answering it, if he is able to. As I understand it, the Act makes lawful what was previously not lawful, namely, the use of the Welsh language for certain purposes. To that extent it removes discrimination against the Welsh language.

But does the Act, in the right hon. Gentleman's view, prevent discrimination against people who speak the Welsh language or speak the English language? If so, where in the Act is it to be found? That is quite a different matter from permitting or banning the use of the language. If the answer is that there is nothing in the Act which does that, this provision is not rendered unnecessary by the Act, although it may be desirable or undesirable on other grounds.

Mr. Hughes

The short answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman is that at present the law itself protects the English speaker. English is the official language of all the United Kingdom. There is no policy of bilingualism. English is always the first language, not only in England but in Wales. English has priority. All official documents are published in English. Some are translated into Welsh. For example, as the hon. and learned Gentleman well knows, that is true of legal documentation. There is no likelihood of discrimination against English, because English is dominant under the law as it is. There is no reason to repeat the obvious in this new clause.

Mr. Brittan

With great respect, that does not deal with my point. I promise the right hon. Gentleman that I am genuinely not trying to be awkward or difficult for its own sake. But it seems that there is a real question which has to be disposed of if the argument that the 1967 Act renders the new clause unnecessary is to be considered seriously. As I understand it, that Act merely says that Welsh may be used as well as English for certain purposes. That is quite a different matter from saying that people cannot be discriminated against because they speak Welsh or because they speak English.

It is perfectly possible that someone would be permitted to use the Welsh language if he is engaged in a certain function. None the less, a public body could exercise discrimination to prevent him from enjoying the opportunity of exercising that function by gaining a particular type of employment. As far as I am aware, the Act that the right hon. Gentleman introduced does not prevent that. The new clause may not be necessary or desirable, but it is not rendered unnecessary by the Act, because the Act does not cover the same ground as does the new clause.

Mr. Hughes

I regret that I have not made myself clear. What I was seeking to explain was that for the first time for several centuries the 1967 Act made it possible for discrimination against the Welsh language to be avoided. With regard to the English language, there never has been any discrimination, and could be no discrimination at present. I hold this to be self-evident.

I return to my question. Do the signatories to the new clause believe that because a man speaks Welsh in his own country he might be denied the opportunity of a job? The answer to that is "No." Do they, then, think that because a man speaks no Welsh he will be denied a job in his own country, for example, by the Assembly? I think the answer to that is obviously "No." The great majority of any Assembly which may be elected as a result of this Bill will consist of people who represent non-Welsh speaking areas. They will reflect the same kind of linguistic ratio as exists in the House of Commons at present.

Does anyone in the House believe that a Welsh Assembly will have a majority of Welsh-speaking people who will seek to impose the Welsh language on the population of Wales against its wishes? That seems to be the proposition. If that were to be the case, if anyone in the House believed that it would be so, there might be a case for supporting the new clause.

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)

May I, as a Welshman who does not speak Welsh, give the right hon. Gentleman a precedent that he may care to consider? I understand it to be the case, although I have not checked, because I did not anticipate the course of the right hon. Gentleman's argument, that in the Republic of Ireland there are certain posts where it is obligatory to speak Erse, or the Irish language. It is not without the bounds of possibility, because we can never entirely forecast what future generations may do in an excess of enthusiasm, that that kind of restriction will be imposed on some positions in Wales. One cannot foretell. But if it is a possibility, surely this new clause cannot be undesirable.

Mr. Hughes

I do not want to be tempted to cross the Irish Sea to Ireland and discuss the experience there, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman knows Irish, or Erse, as I know it, he will agree that it has been a dismal experience. We have to do a little better than that. The hon. and learned Gentleman has advanced an argument against the new clause. There may be rules and regulations in the Republic about language, but as far as as I know very few people observe them. We want to ensure that people speak Welsh naturally and are encouraged to do so with the minimum of rules and regulations. Therefore, I think the new clause unnecessary and I invite the House to oppose it.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I want to speak about my Amendments Nos. 8 and 10, particularly No. 8, which proposes that we should leave out Clause 10, which provides that The Assembly may do anything it considers appropriate to support museums, art galleries, libraries, the Welsh language, the arts, crafts, sport and other cultural and recreative activities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) said, that seems to convey or provide an enormously wide range of powers. This debate is important at least because it gives us a chance to find out exactly what those powers are. As the House will recall, it was one of the many important clauses that were not debated in Committee because of the operation of the guillotine, and it is therefore vital that we should have a clear statement of what the whole thing adds up to.

As I understand it, the Government's view is that the powers embodied in Clause 10 are the normal executive non-statutory powers of Ministers. In other words, it does not provide any power to legislate. Indeed, the Assembly is not a legislative body. The Attorney-General, in a debate on 18th April, described the powers in these words: Those are the sorts of powers which are exercised by Ministers of the Crown even if they step outside what is perhaps properly or constitutionally the subject of ministerial powers as such."—[Official Report, 18th April 1978; Vol. 948.] That seems a slightly odd description. I was surprised that the Attorney-General should talk in terms of accepting things outside the proper or constitutional powers. Nevertheless, I think that I see what he meant.

These powers are really executive powers which have grown up out of time to Ministers of the Crown. One of the interesting and important aspects of Clause 10 is that it marks an exception: that the rest of the executive powers which belong to Ministers are not transferred to the Welsh Assembly. The Government make it clear, by Clauses 10 and 11, that the normal executive non-statutory powers of Ministers of the Crown will not be exercised by the Assembly and that they can be exercised by the Assembly only when conveyed to the Assembly by specific provision in the Bill. That is what Clauses 10 and 11 do. So it is worth noting that there is a real limitation on the powers of the Assembly in the normal powers that are not conferred by statute, and that these are the exceptions.

I was also to a certain extent reassured by the Attorney-General in a letter that he has written to me. He says: The powers conferred by the clause do not include any power to impose legal duties or liability on the subject, or to confer legally enforceable rights or immunities on the subject. For those purposes, further legislative provision would be needed. So, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right—and I am not disputing what he says—the sweeping powers in Clause 10 are not perhaps quite as sweeping as they appear at first blush.

6.15 p.m.

That is an improvement. I was glad to discover that point from the Attorney-General. But it remains true that there appear to be very wide executive powers, and those powers do not necessarily involve the spending of resources. One hon. Member has implied that the need to raise resources would serve as a limitation on the Assembly. But, even if the Assembly is limited in its resources—it has only the block grant—there are some important actions that it could take which do not require the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. Therefore, it appears that, in the task of promoting the Welsh language, for example, and in the other topics mentioned in Clause 10, the Assembly can operate very wide executive powers.

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) said that it would be unthinkable for the Welsh Assembly to do certain things. He may well be right, but we do not know. We cannot tell until the Assembly is in being. But I reiterate that, when one is debating legislation of this kind, one has a duty to prepare for things going wrong. It is no good providing constitutions which depend solely on good will and common sense being exercised on all sides. The world is not necessarily going to work like that.

It is reasonable, therefore, to put forward the view that one ought to be cautious and, if one likes, to lean over backwards to make sure that there are adequate safeguards. It seems to me that it is probably within the executive powers of the Welsh Assembly, without breach of any statute, to require, for example, that the correspondence of a certain Assembly Department should be carried out exclusively in Welsh. I may be wrong—there may be some statute which would prohibit the Assembly from doing that—but on the face of it it seems to me that such power exists.

It is certainly evident that the Assembly, in so far as it can control these matters, might decide to support only Welsh language education courses rather than English language education courses. If these were matters for local government, it could not do so because it has no powers over local government, but in so far as these are matters for Assembly government I think that these powers would lie with the Assembly.

As far as I can judge also, the Assembly could require the operation of the National Health Service in Wales to be conducted in the Welsh language because the NHS comes under the Secretary of State. It is not under local government. Therefore, that power theoretically exists. Hon. Members may laugh at the suggestion, and I accept that it is unlikely that the Assembly would do that, but the fact remains that, if I read the situation correctly, that is the sort of power that could exist.

Clause 10 appears to make it possible for the Assembly to decide to push the Welsh language in that kind of way as long as the matter is within the executive purview of the Assembly. I believe that these are very important considerations. I put forward my two amendments initially to try to get clearly on record what the position is—that is very important—but if we get an unsatisfactory reply from the Minister I shall have no hesitation in dividing the House.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

I suppose that all of us, when we envisage what the Assembly will be like, tend rather to exaggerate in our imaginations. My hon. Friends tend to think that it will be dominated by the Labour Party, while Labour Members in their nightmares imagine that it will be dominated by Plaid Cymru. People in my part of the country assume automatically that it will be dominated by representation of the Valleys and of the South.

If, however, we reflect for a while, I think we realise that the Assembly will be composed almost certainly of reasonable men trying to do a reasonable job. However much I hope that the thing never comes into existence, the probability is that when it comes to elections it will be composed of reasonable men.

However, there is another possibility that I wish to outline which will not stretch the imagination too far. Suppose that, impossibly, the Bill receives Royal Assent and there is a referendum this year. Suppose even more impossibly, that the referendum comes up with a "Yes" answer. Suppose that the next thing that happens is that there is a General Election, and the Government fall. Suppose that the new Conservative Government, as is only reasonable to expect, runs into very severe difficulties. Almost certainly, the first few months of the next Conservative Government will be very difficult. There will be a period in which that Government will undoubtedly be very unpopular. All incoming Governments tend to lose popularity very quickly and to lose by-elections. If the kind of threats that sometimes come from the Left wing of the Labour Partymaterialise, the Conservative Government will have to take very tough measures and they may find themselves very much reviled. Suppose that at that moment, elections were held to the Welsh Assembly.

The people of Wales would be very unhappy about the firm line being taken by the Conservative Government, but they would also be very mindful of that the total and utter failure of the Labour Party to do anything at all to resolve the problems of Wales. The Welsh people would remember the level of unemployment, the stagnation in production and all the unfulfilled promises.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Will the hon. Member tell the House which firm line will be pursued by the Conservative Government that would prove unpopular with the people of Wales?

Sir A. Meyer

Let us suppose that there is a politically motivated strike in one of the public services and the Conservative Government feel obliged to stand up to that strike and refuse to give in to unreasonable demands. There could be a massive revulsion of feeling on that issue. It is not unthinkable. However, I do not think that it will happen for one moment. I am sure that the trade union leaders will be very sensible and responsible in their dealings with a Conservative Government. But such a situation could occur. In these circumstances, with the Conservative Government very unpopular, and everybody remembering the total failure of the Labour Government, it is not inconceivable that the elections to the Welsh Assembly would produce a massive majority for Plaid Cymru. If the election was held at the right psychological moment, this could be the outcome.

Mr. Alec Jones

Does the hon. Member recall his early remarks today when he said that it was possible to exaggerate the situation? Is that not what he is doing now?

Sir A. Meyer

I do not think that this will happen for one moment. I am simply saying that it is possible.

I said earlier that I was sure the Assembly would consist of reasonable men, and I am sure that if there is a majority of Plaid Cymru members they will all be like the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Wigley)—eminently reasonable men. However, even if they are reasonable, they are dedicated to the prevalence of one particular philosophy. By definition, they will place very great emphasis on the promotion of the status of the Welsh language.

The champions of the language, more than anyone else, need the force of law in order to attain their ends. This is a demonstration of the absurdity of the tactics of some elements in the Welsh Language Society who deliberately set out to break the law and bring it into contempt as a means of advancing their cause. There is nothing they could do that is more sure to frustrate their own ends. It is only by the operation of the law that the language will spread.

I see very real advantage in trying to define as tightly as possible, and very much more tightly than is done in this very wide clause as it stands, the functions of the Assembly in this matter of the promotion of the language.

It is to be expected that when the Assembly meets, these reasonable men, whether they belong to Plaid Cymru or any other party, will be bitterly disappointed by the powers which they find they are able to exercise effectively. It does not take any great gift of prophecy to say that one of the most contentious and time-consuming issues will be the language itself. This is one of those subjects about which people can talk at enormous length without any great need for facts. One can feel a great deal better having had a thoroughly good argument about it. I am quite sure that it will be a major issue in the debates of the Assembly.

For that reason, I see great advantage in trying to define as tightly as possible what the Assembly may or may not do in order to discourage the kind of fruitless, demagogic oratory which will undoubtedly ensue if the Assembly has the feeling that it need only push a little further to get additional powers in order to do more for the Welsh language.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Is the hon. Member suggesting that we will have fruitless, demagogic oratory in the Assembly in Wales?

Sir A. Meyer

My experience of the Welsh Grand Committee has convinced me that such activity is totally unknown in any present elected forum of Welsh Members. However, the unthinkable could happen.

It would be harmful if the Assembly sought to extend its powers in the matter of the promotion of the language. I understand the point of view of those who seek by every means to extend its use and its influence. But there is a very delicate balance.

In the county part of which I have the honour to represent, the education authority has a policy that every child in school must learn the Welsh language. While that is its policy, it is nevertheless always prepared to be reasonable if there are parents who, for any good or valid reason, do not wish their child to learn Welsh. This is managed with great skill and subtlety and with a general consensus of opinion all round. The number of complaints that I have had, other than from fanatics on both sides, has been minimal. I woud be very reluctant to upset the kind of modus vivendi which exists in local authorities in many parts of Wales by the incursion into this very delicate area of an Assembly which is burning to find something to do and, which is perhaps, consumed with a desire to perform well in front of the television cameras.

I would very much prefer that the role of the Assembly in these matters should be as closely defined as it is in the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). That is why, if there is a vote on that amendment, I shall support it.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) made two points with which I do not entirely agree. He referred to the new clause and my hon. Friend's amendment as if they applied only to the public sector and the public service. If he re-reads the wording of Clause 10 as it stands, I do not think he will find that it was amenable to that interpretation. It goes a good deal wider.

The right hon. Member pointed out that the Welsh language is the oldest language spoken in the United Kingdom. But all the languages spoken in this country are, in historical terms, relatively young. Welsh itself dates only from shortly before the Roman invasion, so the historians tell us. It was a Celtic language; in fact, it was a brythonic branch of the Celtic language. Many things in the Welsh culture and in the Welsh heritage are older than the language. Indeed, the great Welsh mountains can be dated in millions of years. Therefore, we are talking of languages that are young. Languages are still growing and developing. I think that we have a common bond in this aspect of our debate.

6.30 p.m.

If we think of the more primitive languages, it will be within the knowledge of some hon. Members that it is said by Persian scholars that the three basic languages are Arabic, Persian and Turkish. It is said that Arabic is the most persuasive and the language spoken by the serpent to seduce Eve, that Persian is the most poetic and the language in which Adam and Eve talked to each other, and that Turkish is the most menacing and that it was the language spoken by the Archangel Gabriel in dealing with Adam and Eve. I do not know whether there is any truth in that view, but it suggests that there are possibilities in developing our own languages.

With a name such as mine, I could be none other than friendly to the development of the Welsh language, but it would be as a developing langauge and not as a language from the past. We want to see the development of the Welsh language as a modern language. No more harm could be done to the wider use of the Welsh language than any attempt to show prejudice in Wales against the use of the English language.

As far as we know, the number of Welsh speakers in Wales is just over 20 per cent. Let us be generous and say that one-quarter of the Welsh people are Welsh speakers. Most of these Welsh speakers are, of course, bilingual. On the other hand, the vast majority of Welsh people do not speak Welsh at all. We must keep that fact clearly in our minds. The right hon. Member for Anglesey might like the position to be the other way round so that 75 per cent. of the Welsh people were bilingual, but the fact is that that is not the position. That factor must be taken into account in our arguments.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why our fears arose on this topic, and he wondered whether there was any evidence of prejudice one way or the other. I am sure he would agree that the fact that it was necessary for him to put the 1967 Act on the statute book was evidence of prejudice against the Welsh language in the past. Therefore, I believe that it would not be a bad thing to reaffirm in this Bill the importance of the Welsh language. Examined the other way round, I think that there is little evidence at the moment of prejudice against the English language in Wales, but it could be that as the population in Wales—over, we hope, a generation or two—becomes more bilingual between Welsh and English, there could be a degree of prejudice in certain appointments against those who speak only English and are not bilingual.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are schools in Wales where the predominant language is Welsh and English is the second language. Unless one is a Welsh speaker, it is obviously inappropriate that one should be appointed to those schools.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

It is a question not so much of prejudice but of common sense. It is not only a matter of public appointments. What must be borne in mind is that the four great clearing banks in my part of the world have appointed bank managers who are Welsh speaking, otherwise their business would go down. That is a matter of common sense.

Mr. Price

That may well be so, and I should like to see more bilingual people in Wales. But, having said that, I think that it would be a pity if there were not a general statement written into the Bill that both languages coexist and that there should not be a prejudice against one or the other. The Wales Bill and the Scotland Bill are new departures in our arrangements. Therefore, we must examine these matters in terms not of today but of tomorrow. We are entitled to anticipate what could be prejudices in the future as such bodies as the Welsh Language Society pursue their aims by means that do not always commend themselves to Members of the House.

Although I hope that my fears are groundless, I can see nothing but benefit in writing into the Bill provisions on the lines of the new clause. If the Government come forward with an alternative form of wording that achieves the same end, I shall be agreeable to accepting it. I hope that the enthusiasts for the Welsh language will follow the old Welsh proverb "A gentle word will make the argument strong".

Mr. Hooson

Although there are superficially attractive arguments in favour of the new clause and of Amendment No. 9, I think that they should be rejected. I believe that these proposals are highly divisive. I do not doubt the motives of those who tabled these provisions, and I know that there is a certain amount of fear in the House that language somehow will be used by the minority in the Assembly as a lever to thrust the language on other people, but I think that the whole concept behind these provisions is an insult to the people of Wales.

Let me say why I take that view. For about 350 of the 450 years which have elapsed since the Act of Union was passed, there was a tremendous effort by the Government to get rid of the Welsh language. In Tudor times the 1542 Act was definitely aimed against the language. It was thought at the time that to ensure the unity of England and Wales it was necessary to get rid of the Welsh language as soon as possible. The excepion is that the order for the translation of the Bible came from a Tudor monarch, and nothing did more to preserve the Welsh language than the translation of the Bible into Welsh.

However, over the last century or so one can see a gradual change in educational policy and in the policy of the Government in promoting the Welsh language and Welsh culture. By the time the Government decided to promote the language, it had already suffered enormous depredations. A vast amount of Government money had been spent over the centuries devoted to killing the Welsh language. The amount of money necessary for first aid was an amount commensurate with a language and a culture which had received grievous blows as a direct result of Government policy.

We are gradually getting over that stage, and there is a general appreciation in Wales among non-Welsh-speaking people of the value of the Welsh language and culture and little genuine hostility towards it. I have been amazed at the contributions made to some of these debates by some hon. Members who should know better to the effect that, if the Assembly is set up, language will be a divisive issue. I do not take that view.

There are people in my constituency who are nearly monoglot Welsh speakers but who are against the Assembly. They do not take the view that the language will be divisive. I can understand people who do not want devolution or the Assembly and who put their point of view fairly and squarely, but I hate the raising of the prejudice involved in the Welsh language. Most right hon. and hon. Members have not raised such prejudices, but there have been exceptions.

I well understand the motivation of those who tabled these provisions. I do not think that they are aiming their proposals at the Welsh language and I do not think that they intend to be divisive, but let us examine the wording of the proposals. The clause states: the Assembly shall not do anything which would unreasonably prejudice the interests or restrict the employment opportunities of those who do, or those who do not, speak the Welsh language. There is an endless source of litigation in the interpretation of the words would unreasonably prejudice". Is it not much better to leave the issue to the good sense and the good grace of Assembly Members? Bearing in mind the linguistic pattern of Wales, is there any reason to think that the elected Assembly representatives will be of a different pattern from the Members elected to this place? By and large, the House broadly represents the linguistic pattern of Wales as well as anything else.

It is insulting to the people of Wales to suggest that it is necessary to provide this sort of rule. It should be left to the Assembly. If there is to be a statement about the language, both languages should be enshrined in the Bill as languages of equal validity.

I represent a constituency where the linguistic pattern is close to the general linguistic pattern of Wales. About one in four of my constituents speak Welsh. About three-quarters do not speak Welsh, yet they would throw anything at anyone who described them as English. They regard themselves as non-Welsh-speaking Welsh people. There are many of them, and there were their forebears going back a couple of centuries.

In my constituency, which represents a fair pattern, we do not see people refused jobs for which they are appropriately qualified merely because they are not Welsh-speaking or because they are. There are obviously some jobs where the fact that the applicant is Welsh-speaking is an added qualification. The matter must be left to the good sense, the good taste and the sensivity of the Welsh people.

If we are trying to save the minority language, the worst thing that we can do is to engender the hostility of the majority. If that is done, sympathy for the language and the culture is lost and steps are taken to try to stamp them out. If we take a more civilised view, we shall assist the Welsh language.

The musical festival in my constituency is nearly always run by the non-Welsh-speaking section of the community. However, choirs take part from the Welsh-speaking section and it is supported equally by those who are Welsh-speaking and those who are non-Welsh-speaking. On the other hand, the committees of the Powys Eisteddfod are run very largely by the Welsh-speaking community. The money is often raised by the non-Welsh-speaking community as much as by the Welsh-speaking community. Both communities always support the eisteddfod. That is the pattern which has been established in my constituency, which is wedged between England and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells).

My constituency has had a linguistic pattern that is somewhat different from, for example, the linguistic patterns of Gwynedd or South Wales. The constituency of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) was anglicised more than mine many years ago. The people have learned to live with these patterns, and the bogymen that are raised when talking about language do not exist in practice.

We should do nothing to suggest that it is necessary to incorporate in the Bill the sort of provisions that are in the new clause. The matter should be left open. If we are to have an Assembly, I am sure that those who are elected to it will behave in a civilised way conscious of the great Welsh heritage, whether it is in Welsh or in English.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans

I tend to share the views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). I believe that we are considering fears that need never have been expressed. The major safeguard is that an Assembly would have to be re-elected. However, I can understand some of the fears that have been expressed. The hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) referred to the possibility—he contemplated a fearful situation—of the Welsh Assembly being dominated by Plaid Cymru Members. We are, of course, dealing with a hypothesis. We may never have an Assembly.

If there is to be an Assembly, and if there is the situation that the hon. Member for Flint, West postulated, Plaid Cymru Members may try to insert some compulsion rather than persuasion into the move towards the Welsh language. However, I tend to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey. I do not think that what was contemplated by the hon. Member for Flint, West is a likely eventuality. Even if that evil day should ever come, I am sure that it would be rectified, assuming that we have an Assembly in the first place. Provided that we do not get a one-party State, the people would take action.

We have been talking about job opportunities, which are linked very much to education opportunities. I agree with John Stuart Mill, who said that education worked better by persuasion that persecution, by conviction rather than compulsion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey can take credit for the Welsh Language Act, 1967, which has given legal status to the language of Wales.

There is no difference between the main parties on this issue. We all want to encourage the language. The difference between a small minority and the rest of us is that there are some who take measures that are repulsive to the majority in Wales. Those who try to encourage the Welsh language by painting out road signs are doing the language more harm than good. There is a small, vocal minority which, instead of trying to act through the ballot box and trying to take legal action, tries to take the law into its own hands. It takes action that is detrimental to the language.

All these matters are connected with education. We had some interesting figures from the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts), who told us that 1.2 per cent. of the people of Wales speak only Welsh. That is because of the education system. In August 1976, primary school pupils were assessed to ascertain whether they were fluent in Wales. Of those assessed, 52.4 per cent. were found to be fluent in Gwynedd and 28 per cent. in Dyfed. In the six other counties it was found that fewer than 10 per cent. were fluent. The figures are interesting. In Powys there were 9.3 per cent., in Clwyd 9.1 per cent., in West Glamorgan 5.5 per cent., in Mid-Glamorgan 3.9 per cent., in South Glamorgan 2.1 per cent. and in Gwent only .2 per cent.

Although it is to be hoped that Wales will move forward and will become bilingual, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey has said it is at present dominated by non-Welsh-speaking Welshmen, who are Welsh none the less. There are those of us in Wales who are just as proud of Dylan Thomas, who wrote his poetry in English in Wales, as we are of those who write their poetry in the Welsh language.

There is a need to preserve and encourage the language. I am pleased to find that the Labour Party in Wales is putting forward the following proposals. First, it proposes that there should be a strong sense of priority as regards the most urgent and effective ways of helping the language. Secondly, it proposes that there should be respect for the views of the local community. Thirdly, it proposes that there should be respect for parental wishes and for the rights of the individual. Fourthly, it proposes a recognition of the essential need to prevent the language from becoming a divisive issue among the people of Wales. Fifthly, it proposes an acceptance of the view that the language can be saved only if the people of Wales want it, and not by compulsion.

It is important that we should seek to persuade the people to become Welsh-speaking, but there must not be any attempt to compel them to do so. That is why, in a sense, there may be some justification for the Opposition intro- ducing the clause and seeking to incorporate it in a Bill that is designed to cover all eventualities.

Part of Clause 10 states: The Assembly may do anything it considers appopriate to support … the Welsh language. That is a sweeping statement, but there is the safeguard that those who are elected will seek to be re-elected. Those who are elected will come largely from South Wales, Mid-Glamorgan and Gwent. I question, therefore, whether the Opposition should persist in dividing the House on this issue. If an Assembly was established and it insisted that ability to speak Welsh was essential for posts in it, that would be divisive. That would deny job opportunities to the many non-Welsh-speaking candidates. I do not see such a situation arising, however. We should not unnecessarily arouse dangers that will not materialise.

I believe that all parties wish to encourage the language, and we would deplore it if the best person for a job in the Assembly was not appointed because of language considerations. The Assembly could say that Welsh was preferable or desirable. That would depend on the job. I agree that in some jobs fluency in Welsh would be essential; the Welsh language teacher is an example. It would, however, be wrong for the Assembly to insist that for administrative posts the Welsh language was essential.

We should deplore the activities of those who seek to introduce compulsion. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) gave evidence to the Kilbrandon Commission in which he tended to indicate that in the future there might be an element of compulsion. I hope that his party does not think that we can change the situation in Wales by Compulsion. If anything is to be done, it must be done by persuasion. We must persuade people that we have a cultural heritage that must be encouraged in the future.

I believe that the safeguard on this matter will be the people of Wales, 80 per cent. of whom are mainly English-speaking. I cannot imagine a situation in which a majority would be elected to the Assembly who would seek to bring about the type of compulsion to which the Plaid Cymru Members occasionally refer.

Mr. Alec Jones

Many hon. Members have used words such as "fairness" and "reasonableness" and so on. I wonder though whether we are being as fair as we think if we seek to write a provision such as this into the Bill. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) said that we should seek to write into the Bill what we consider to be fair. That contains an element of conceit. It assumes that on the question of language we in this House would be fairer than would be an elected Assembly in Cardiff. I do not see that there is conclusive proof that in all such cases this House would always act in a fairer way.

The new clause and Clause 10 refer to several subjects apart from language. But the Government believe that if a particular unfairness can occur—it was suggested that an example might be the Assembly's spending excessive sums on sponsoring the Welsh language—similar unfairness could occur by the Assembly deciding under Clause 10 to spend more money on the arts or on sport or on a whole range of other matters than some people would think was appropriate.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Does not the Under-Secretary realise that our clause refers to actions which might prejudice the interests or restrict the employment opportunities of the persons concerned? Therefore, it could apply to any of the issues in the clause, not simply to language.

Mr. Jones

I listened attentively to the debate, but I do not recall any hon. Member making any contribution to the debate without emphasising that there was a possibility of unfairness over the Welsh language. That was at the root of the debate. The form of words used suggests that there should be fairness to Welsh speakers and to non-Welsh speakers alike. In the new clause there is the automatic assumption that the House would be fairer than the Welsh Assembly, and there is also the suggestion that unfairness could occur only in relation to the Assembly's handling of the language issue.

The hon. Member for Conway was somewhat concerned that the wording of the Bill permitting the Assembly to do anything it considered appropriate might go too wide. He conceded that those words have fairly respectable precedents, however. I am advised that his reference relating Clause 10 to Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 is not strictly valid, as Section 111 would be more appropriately related to Clause 27 of the Bill.

There are, however, good antecedents for this sort of terminology. A similar point to this was raised in our debates on the Welsh Development Agency Bill. Section 1(6) of the Welsh Development Agency Act reads: The Agency shall have power to do anything … which is calculated to facilitate the discharge of their functions". At that time there was great suspicion about that provision. I believe, however, that in the end there was wide agreement in the Committee on that Bill that those fears were unfounded, and I believe hon. Members will agree now that the Welsh Development Agency has acted perfectly reasonably and there is no reason to suppose that the Assembly will do other than that.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I apologise for interrupting the Minister again, but he has referred to the Welsh Development Agency. I dealt with the section he quoted during the Committee proceedings on the Bill. There is an important difference. On that occasion we were discussing a subordinate clause which referred to the principal functions of the Bill. Those powers could be exercised only subject to the principal functions. Here we are discussing a principal clause laying down a main function. Surely that is a considerable difference.

Mr. Jones

If the hon. Member had waited a few seconds more, he would have heard my full explanation, which was sought by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) concerning hese powers. We have had a similar argument about the use of the words shall have power to do anything". Experience has shown that those fears were unfounded in respect of the Welsh Development Agency.

I believe that the new clause is unnecessary. The correct course of action is to leave the matter to the responsible people. There is some element of risk or danger in writing such a clause into the Bill. As the debate has shown, while hon. Members have used words such as "fairness" and reasonableness", many of the speeches this afternoon have referred to confusion, division and exaggeration. Should the House be so foolish as to agree to the new clause, it would be adding to that confusion and division and to the exaggerated statements that we have heard today.

The hon. Member for Conway said that this meant that the Welsh Assembly could act ultra vires. When people use Latin words to me, especially when they have legal connotations, I consult the oracle. I am given the advice that it is nonsense to suggest that the Assembly could act ultra vires. I am advised that the Assembly will be a statutory body and able to act only within the powers conferred by statute.

7 p.m.

The powers do not entitle the Assembly to override the general law. The clause confers on the Assembly the same functions as the Secretary of State now possesses. Those functions are to support museums, art galleries, libraries, the Welsh language, the arts, craft, sport and other cultural and recreative activities. Those are the ordinary non-statutory powers or functions to which the hon. Member for Aylesbury referred. It means, for instance, that without such powers the Assembly would not be able to aid the National Museum of Wales, the Council of Museums in Wales or the National Library of Wales. It would not be able to give support to those organisations. It concerns the appointment of advisory bodies on the Welsh language, and it is the power which the Assembly would have to provide grants to support Welsh language publications.

Mr. Brittan

Is the Minister saying that the sole effect of the clause is to permit the Assembly to carry out the non-statutory powers of the Secretary of State and, I suppose, those which are conferred upon him by the Royal prerogative? If so, does he not agree that a lot of fears would be put at rest if, instead of the clause reading as it does now, there was a clause saying that the Assembly may act in this area to the extent that the Secretary of State at present may lawfully do so? Such a provision would make the position clear. At the moment, there is nothing to indicate that these provisions are in any way limited to the powers at present exercised on a non-statutory basis by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Jones

I take the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The advice given to me and my reading of the Bill indicate that that is what it does. It confers on the Assembly the same functions relating to the subjects listed in Clause 10 as the Secretary of State is now able to exercise. I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I shall take further advice on the matter. Should I accidentally have misled the House, I shall take steps to draw his attention to it so that corrective action might be taken. However, I am advised that it does nothing other than to confer on the Assembly the same functions as those possessed by the Secretary of State. Without such powers the Assembly would not be able to support many of the cultural organisations which the Secretary of State now supports, because his powers to do so are not statutory powers. For instance, the National Library of Wales is a Royal Charter body. Some such power is necessary.

If there is no safeguard as to how the Secretary of State now exercises these powers, why should it be necessary to put some sort of safeguard on a democratically-elected body? The new clause talks of "unreasonable prejudice". One can have unreasonably prejudiced individuals. In my time in the House I have referred to some Conservative Members as being unreasonably prejudiced, and on other occasions Conservative Members have probably referred to me in such terms. But we are not talking about individuals or about conferring functions and powers on individuals. We are talking of conferring functions and powers on a balanced Assembly elected in accordance with the wishes of the Welsh electorate. Therefore, I cannot see that the Welsh electorate would elect a Welsh Assembly which would be dominated by people with unreasonable prejudices. If one were to suggest such a thing it would be a slight on the intelligence of the electorate of Wales and on those elected.

Sir David Renton

Although the Assembly will lay down the policies, the detailed implementation of them will be carried out by officials of the Assembly, some of them quite minor officials. What the Minister says must be applied not only to the democratically elected people who will be answerable to their electorate but to all the minor officials over whom the Assemblymen cannot hope to keep day-to-day control.

Mr. Jones

I would have thought that an elected Assembly of about 80 Members would find it easier to keep that sort of control on civil servants than would I as one Minister or my colleagues. If there is such a difficulty, it must be present now and the Assembly would add to the weapons for controlling and overcoming that difficulty.

Clause 10 gives powers to the Welsh Assembly to operate on behalf of Welsh people a wide range of powers related to the quality of life in Wales and, in the main, powers purely concerned with Welsh domestic affairs. It is, therefore, my view and that of the Government that the exercise of these functions can and should be left to the corporate wisdom of a democratically elected Welsh Assembly.

The hon. Member for Conway called for sanity and a balanced approach. The powers provided by Clause 10 enable that to be achieved, and the Assembly can be relied upon to achieve it.

Mr. Raison

In addition to the undertaking that the Minister has given to think about certain aspects of the clause, will he think about bringing in an amendment in another place which would embody the words which the Attorney-General used in a letter written to me? Those words, if they were written into the clause, even if they were not required legally, would remove some of the doubt. The Attorney-General said: The powers conferred by the Clause do not include any power to impose legal duties or liability on the subject or to confer legally enforceable rights or immunities on the subject". If a proviso could be written into the clause embodying what the Attorney-General says in that sentence. I should feel happier about Clause 10 passing on to the statute book.

Mr. Jones

There is always a danger that, if one opens the door a little, someone else will wish to push it open a little further. However, I take the point made by the hon. Member. After each day's debate, for the following couple of days, because of printing problems, we have gone through the debate and tried to pick up any points which have been omitted. I have not seen the letter which the hon. Gentleman has received from the Attorney-General and would not expect to see it, as it is a letter from my right hon. and learned Friend to the hon. Gentleman. However, I shall examine the point raised by the hon. Gentleman again to see whether what he says is necessary. My advice is that it is not necessary because the fears that he has expressed are not real fears to be found in Clause 10. I shall look at the wording and the points made by the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Conway called for sanity and a balanced approach. That can be achieved by the existing provisions in Clause 10 and the Assembly can be relied upon to achieve it.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

As I said earlier, there are two major points with which we are concerned. We are all familiar with this type of clause that gives power to do anything. We are concerned that Clause 10 has developed and has reached a form where it appears to put no limitation and no inhibition on the Assembly.

We do not intend to deny to the Assembly any of the executive powers that are clearly necessary, but to seek an assurance from the Minister—and he has dealt with certain aspects of that assurance—that the Assembly cannot go beyond what we would consider to be its proper authority. We want to see some form of limitation, and we see no limitation upon the power that is contained in the clause to do anything.

The Minister mentioned the debate a similar clause in the Act which set up the Welsh Development Agency. But that clause says: The Agency shall have power to do anything, whether in Wales or elsewhere, which is calculated to facilitate the discharge of their functions specified in subsection (3) above, or is incidental or conducive to their discharge. Those functions are specified. Our point is that the power given in Clause 10 is not a subsidiary power or a conducive, facilitating power. It is labelled in the Bill as a principal function, and we are concerned that there should be some limitation upon it.

The other major point concerns discrimination. We have been told that we should not introduce the question of discrimination on linguistic grounds and that it is best left alone. But, when we last debated the question of language and jobs in connection with the staffing of the Assembly, the Secretary of State accepted that there was concern. We all know that there is concern about linguistic divisions in Wales.

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) implied that, through our new clause, we were trying to denigate or insult the Welsh language. I am a Welsh speaker, and that is the last thing that I wish to do. I mentioned earlier the possibility that there will be a preponderance of non-Welsh speakers in the Assembly. Our new clause seeks to protect the Welsh speaker and the non-Welsh speaker alike and to ensure fair-

ness between them in employment opportunities.

We have had an interesting debate. I said that I preferred the wording of Amendment No. 9, and I still feel that way, but I understand that it is not possible for us to vote on that amendment. If it should appear wise to another place to table an amendment on the lines of Amendment No. 9, we should be very happy.

The only way that we can indicate our feelings on the need for some limitation of the power of the Assembly in the context of Clause 10 and the need for protection against discrimination is by voting for New Clause No. 4.

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

The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 243.

Division No. 196] AYES [7.15 p.m.
Adley Robert Dunlop, John James, David
Aitken, Jonathan Durant, Tony Jessel, Toby
Alison, Michael Dykes, Hugh Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Arnold, Tom Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Emery, Peter Kershaw, Anthony
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Eyre, Reginald Kimbail, Marcus
Awdry, Daniel Fairbairn, Nicholas King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Baker, Kenneth Fairgrieve, Russell King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Banks, Robert Farr, John Knox, David
Bell, Ronald Fell, Anthony Lamont, Norman
Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Finsberg, Geoffrey Latham, Michael (Melton)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Fisher, Sir Nigel Lawrence, Ivan
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Fookes, Miss Janet Lawson, Nigel
Biffen, John Forman, Nigel Le Merchant, Spencer
Biggs-Davidson, John Fowler, Norman (Sutton C't'd) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Blaker, Peter Fox, Marcus Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Body, Richard Fry, Peter Lloyd, Ian
Boscawen, Hon Robert Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Loveridge, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Gardiner, Edwards (S Fylde) Luce, Richard
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Braine, Sir Bernard Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert
Brittan, Leon Gorst, John Macfarlane, Neil
Brooke, Peter Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) MacGregor, John
Brotherton, Michael Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Bryan, Sir Paul Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Gray, Hamish Marten, Neil
Buck, Antony Grieve, Percy Mates, Michael
Budgen, Nick Griffiths, Eldon Mather, Carol
Bulmer, Esmond Grist, Ian Maude, Angus
Burden, F. A. Grylls, Michael Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mawby, Ray
Carlisle, Mark Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hampson, Dr Keith Mayhew, Patrick
Channon, Paul Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Churchill, W. S. Hayers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hayhoe, Barney Miscampbell, Norman
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Heath, Rt Hon Edward Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Clegg, Walter Hicks, Robert Moate, Roger
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Higgins, Terence L. Molyneaux, James
Cope, John Hodgson, Robin Monro, Hector
Costain, A. P. Holland, Philip Montgomery, Fergus
Critchley, Julian Hordern, Peter More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Crouch, David Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Crowder F. P. Howell, David (Guildford) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Hunt, David (Wirral) Neave, Airey
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Neubert, Michael
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hurd, Douglas Newton, Tony
Drayson, Burnaby Hutchison, Michael Clark Nott, John
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell) Onslow, Cranley
Page, John (Harrow West) Royle, Sir Anthony Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Sainsbury, Tim Tebbit, Norman
Page, Richard (Workington) St. John-Stevas, Norman Temple-Morris, Peter
Parkinson, Cecil Scott, Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D.
Pattie, Geoffrey Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Trotter, Neville
Percival, Ian Shelton, William (Streatham) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Pink, R. Bonner Shepherd, Colin Vaughan, Dr Gerald
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Shersby, Michael Viggers, Peter
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Silvester, Fred Wakeham, John
Price, David (Eastleigh) Sims, Roger Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Sinclair, Sir George Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Raison, Timothy Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Wall, Patrick
Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Speed, Keith Warren, Kenneth
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Spence, John Wells, John
Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Rhodes, James R. Sproat, Iain Wiggin, Jerry
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Stanbrook, Ivor Winterton, Nicholas
Rifkind, Malcolm Stanley, John Whitney, Raymond (Wycombe)
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Younger, Hon George
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Stokes, John
Ross, William (Londonderry) Stradling Thomas, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tapsell, Peter Mr, Anthony Berry and
Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Lord James Douglas Hamilton.
Allaun, Frank Doig, Peter John, Brynmor
Anderson, Donald Dormand, J. D. Johnson, James (Hull West)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Douglas-Mann, Bruce Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Ashton, Joe Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dewar, Donald Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Eadie, Alx Judd, Frank
Bain, Mrs Margaret Edge, Geoff Kerr, Russell
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) English, Michael Kinnock, Neil
Bates, Alf Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lambie, David
Bean, R. E. Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Lamborn, Harry
Beith, A. J. Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Evans, John (Newton) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Loyden, Eddie
Bidwell, Sydney Flannery, Martin Lyon, Alexander (York)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Forrester, John McCartney, Hugh
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekln) MacCormick, Iain
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Bradley, Tom Freud, Clement Mackintosh, John P.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Garrett, John (Norwich S) Maclennan, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. Provan) George, Bruce McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Gilbert, Dr John McNamara, Kevin
Buchan, Norman Ginsburg, David Madden, Max
Buchanan, Richard Golding, John Magee, Bryan
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Gould, Bryan Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Gourlay, Harry Marks, Kenneth
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Graham, Ted Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Campbell, Ian Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Canavan, Dennis Grant, John (Islington C) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cant, R. B. Grocott, Bruce Maynard, Miss Joan
Carmichael, Neil Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mikardo, Ian
Carter, Ray Hardy, Peter Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cartwright, John Harper, Joseph Molloy, William
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Clemitson, Ivor Hart, Rt Hon Judith Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Moyle, Roland
Cohen, Stanley Hayman, Mrs Helene Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Coleman, Donald Hooley, Frank
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hooson, Emlyn Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Corbett, Robin Horam, John Newens, Stanley
Cowans, Harry Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Noble, Mike
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Oakes, Gordon
Crawford, Douglas Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cronin, John Huckfield, Les Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Padley, Walter
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Palmer, Arthur
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Roy (Newport) Park, George
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hunter, Adam Parker, John
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Parry, Robert
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Pavitt, Laurie
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Pendry, Tom
Deakins, Eric Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Penhaligon, David
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Janner, Greville Perry, Ernest
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Price, William (Rugby)
Dempsey, James Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Radice, Giles
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Ward, Michael
Reid, George Snape, Peter Watkins, David
Richardson, Miss Jo Spearing, Nigel Watt, Hamish
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Spriggs, Leslie Weitzman, David
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Stallard, A. W. Wellbeloved, James
Roderick, Caerwyn Stewart, Rt Hon Donald Welsh, Andrew
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Stoddart, David White, James (Pollok)
Rooker, J. W. Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Whitlock, William
Roper, John Swain, Thomas Wigley, Dafydd
Rose, Paul B. Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Wlllams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Rowlands, Ted Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Ryman, John Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Sandelson, Neville Thompson, George Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Sedgemore, Brian Thorne, Stan (Preston S) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Sever, John Tierney, Sydney Woodall, Alec
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Tomlinson, John Woof, Robert
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Torney, Tom Wrigglesworth, Ian
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Tilley, John (Lambeth, Central) Young, David (Bolton E)
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Urwin, T. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Silverman, Julius Wainwrlght, Edwin (Dearne V) Mr. Thomas Cox and
Skinner, Dennis Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Mr. James Tinn.

Question accordingly negatived.