HC Deb 09 May 1978 vol 949 cc995-1145


Order for Third Reading read.

4.21 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I have made it clear from the beginning of our work on devolution in 1974 that we were ready to listen to constructive criticisms of our proposals. That has been our attitude throughout, in each of the White Papers we have presented and in the debates on the Bill.

In the event the main structure of the Bill has successfully survived the scrutiny given to it by this House. A number of amendments have been made. Apart from the Government's own amendments, we did not seek to retain the original Clauses 1 and 39. We considered that we must take account of the relevant decisions of the House on the Scotland Bill, and although we thought that Clauses 1 and 39 were useful declaratory provisions, we accepted that their loss has not detracted from the main objects of the Bill. Likewise, we conceded the arguments advanced by some hon. Members for shortening the preamble to the question to be put in the referendum. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite got themselves, and the Bill, into a bit of a muddle over the commencement provision; but I am glad to say that this was put right on Report to the satisfaction of the great majority of Members.

I cannot pretend that the Government are happy with subsection (2) of Clause 81 as it now stands. The House, in Committee, inserted the "40 per cent." provision against the Government's advice. Of course, we now have to accept this in the Bill, and whatever the result of the referendum, the last word on whether the Act should be brought into effect will quite rightly rest with Parliament.

While our discussions over the last two months have helped to clarify much, it still seems to me that there is some misunderstanding of certain of the Government's proposals. I should like to take a little time to attempt to remove some of the misunderstandings.

First, let me turn to a subject that has run through many of our debates and which is of understandable concern to the House—the position of Parliament after devolution in Wales and the relationship between Parliament and the Assembly. Let there be no question that we are, in the Wales Bill, completely devolving a large number of the powers and functions now exercised by myself and my colleagues—by Ministers—to the Assembly. The Assembly will be fully responsible for the exercise of those powers and functions and will be answerable for the exercise of those functions to the people of Wales and not to Parliament.

In other words, the Bill transfers certain executive responsibilities of the central Government to the Assembly, but Parliament will continue to legislate in these fields for Wales, and Members of Parliament will continue to be responsible for all primary legislation applying to the Principality.

This has important consequences. Perhaps I may refer again to an important point made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in the House quite recently. The Kilbrandon Commission considered quite specifically the position of parliamentary representation following the kind of devolution of powers we are proposing in Wales, and the report of the Commission is quite clear. Paragraph 905 envisages the possibility of devolution to certain parts of the country only and deals with the question of changing the parliamentary representation of those parts. The paragraph concludes: This question does not arise under executive devolution since Parliament would continue to legislate for all regions". That seems to me a quite unequivocal statement on the post-devolution position over Welsh parliamentary representation. It is one the Government fully endorse. Welsh Members of Parliament will continue to have a complete and vital role to play over the full range of primary legislation as well as over all reserved matters. When legislating for devolved subjects in Wales, no doubt hon. Members from the Principality will wish to listen to and take account of any views expressed by the Assembly, as they do now of the views of existing Welsh bodies, but that will not belittle the role of hon. Members. On the contrary, I believe their role will be thereby strengthened. A new relationship between Members of Parliament and the Assembly will certainly have to be forged, but we on these Benches should certainly not be afraid of taking that—essentially progressive—step.

Secondly, in our debates a great deal of concern has been expressed about the relationship between the Assembly and local government. It has been suggested that the Assembly will encroach upon or duplicate or take over the work of Welsh local authorities. These are, of course, complete misconceptions. There is nothing in the Bill which lends any credence to these suggestions. In the devolved fields, local government will relate to the Assembly in the same way as local government now relates to the central Government. There will be no duplication of functions.

The Assembly will take over central Government responsibilities for such matters as housing, education, planning and highways. Local authorities will continue to exercise their own well-defined responsibilities in these fields, as they do now. Because the Assembly will have these general responsibilities for local government in Wales, it is both sensible and proper that it should also be responsible for the assessment and distribution of the rate support grant. It will have close and regular discussions with the local authorities about their financial needs, and will be best placed to judge these needs within a specifically Welsh context.

I suggest that this is a development which the local authorities should welcome. Under the present system, the special needs and interests of Wales have to be construed and considered within a much larger framework and population. Under the new Wales-only system, Welsh local authorities will be in a much better position to ensure that their needs are taken fully into account and that the distribution of rate support grant is tailored to particular Welsh circumstances.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Does what my right hon. and learned Friend has just said mean, in his general estimate, that the Welsh local authorities will receive more under such a system than they could get at present? Secondly, does it not mean that under Clause 13, whatever the functions exercised by local authorities and the Assembly, the removal of at least one current tier of local government is unavoidable?

Mr. Morris

The amount of money that local government has will depend on its negotiations with the Assembly, which will negotiate its block grant with Parliament. Then it will be for the Assembly to negotiate the element of the rate support grant with the local authorities.

Every time there has been a rate support grant settlement while I have been in office, and I am sure for many years before that, there have been local authorities in Wales distinctly unhappy with the settlement, because certain factors are put into the formula, and whatever factors are put in they say do not take sufficient cognisance of their own circumstances. I believe that a Wales-only system will certainly ensure that those factors which local authorities regard as important and relevant to their Welsh needs will be fully taken into account, and therefore the rate support grant will be tailored to meet their needs.

On Clause 13, I have nothing to add to what I have already said. The position is set out in the clause. I am not sure which particular point my hon. Friend is concerned with.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not the case that one can expect that following such a review and reorganisation of local government as is laid down in Clause 13—[HON. MEMBERS "Clause 12."] I am sorry. I mean Clause 12. Will it not unavoidably lead to the destruction of at least one tier which, whatever its lack of virtues, is at least more localised than any national Assembly could be?

Mr. Morris

I thought that I was at odds with my hon. Friend, in that I was looking at the latest copy of the Bill and he was looking at another. I am sorry that I was not able to deal with his question.

What we have said is that there is undoubtedly anxiety in Wales about the present system of local government. The only question is how much that anxiety is justified. Certain systems have been devised in the past to ensure that there is a better system of local government. There have been Royal Commissions, commissions, committees, bodies set up by Ministers and nominated bodies, and civil servants and Ministers themselves have considered the question. None of them seems to have devised an effective system to run local government in Wales which satisfies the people of Wales.

We have taken the view that a body elected right across Wales will be the best body to consider the real needs of local government in Wales. It will be necessary for it to consult local government and it will be up to it to make its representations to the central Government following the review. Whether one tier will survive is a matter for consideration.

It may be that if there is no cause for anxiety the whole system will remain exactly as it is. I doubt it. It may well be that a certain tier will be removed. It will be a matter for the Assembly to consider in its representations, but at the end of the day it will be for this Parliament to legislate. It will be this Parliament and this Parliament alone, in that it is only through primary legislation that one can have a change of this kind. I believe that the Assembly is the right kind of body to try to evolve a system in Wales which meets our requirements and certainly meets the dissatisfaction expressed to me from one end of Wales to the other.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

Could this lead on to a different system of financing local government activity? If that were feasible—and some of us often thought about it as being a possibility in regional development—could that bubble up in such an Assembly?

Mr. Morris

Under our proposals the Assembly has no legislative powers, and any changes needing legislation would have to be decided by this Parliament.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

Can the Secretary of State clarify something that has been puzzling me? As I understand the scheme, under the Bill the statutory powers of Ministers are transferred to the Welsh Assembly in relation to devolved subjects. I think that that is right. In addition, there are two clauses—I think that they are Clauses 10 and 11—which transfer non-statutory powers of Ministers, the prerogative powers of Ministers, to the Welsh Assembly.

The implication of this—and indeed the impression that the Attorney-General gave the House the other day when we were debating this very important matter—is that all the non-statutory or prerogative powers of Ministers that are not specifically transferred to the Assembly under those particular provisions of the Bill are not transferred, and by implication remain with the Secretary of State.

For example, it seems to me that the Secretary of State's general powers in relation to the environment are not transferred. There are certain specific powers which are transferred. Those are the ones created by statute. But the non-statutory powers remain with the Secretary of State, so he will still have a function for non-statutory prerogative powers in relation to activities to do with the environment. But he will not have the statutory powers. Will not this make for the most enormous muddle, or have I got it wrong?

Mr. Morris

I do not think that it will make for the most enormous muddle. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been concerned with this matter. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General set out the position precisely in a letter. As I understand it, the overwhelming number of the powers which are relevant are the statutory powers, and they are the ones which will be transferred, in addition to the ones set out in Clauses 10 and 11. So I do not expect any difficulty on this score. I have nothing to add to the very full statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Raison

I do not think that that is an adequate answer.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

Of course it is.

Mr. Raison

It is not. There is an area of non-statutory function in relation to the environment. To take one very small example, it might be decided that Wales should be represented at a United Nations conference about the environment. To the best of my knowledge, there is no statute which lays a duty on Ministers to arrange for the country's representation at such a conference. Nevertheless, that is a non-statutory power which on the face of it will not be transferred to the Assembly, but it has to do with the environment. That is just one example of a power which is clearly part of the normal routine duties of the environmental department of the Secretary of State's office and which will not be transferred to the Assembly.

One could think of innumerable other examples. Surely it will be quite unworkable to have this arbitrary division between the statutory and non-statutory powers.

Mr. Morris

I do not think so. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman catches the eye of the Chair he will set out the innumerable examples that he can think of. I doubt very much that he can think of many. There may well be one or two.

Mr. Raison


Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman may be able to make a speech on this point. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it quite clear that we are dealing with the statutory transfer of those matters which are set out in Clauses 10 and 11. They cover the bulk of the issue.

One could go on at length. The hon. Gentleman might try to think of a whole number of minor matters in the course of the afternoon, but I doubt very much that he will succeed. The bulk of the relevant powers are transferred, one way or the other. The hon. Gentleman should be content with that. If he can think of any more that can cause difficulty, I am sure that we can deal with them in the course of the winding-up speech, but I doubt very much whether he can think of any.

I think that in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) I dealt with the need for local government reform. It will be necessary for the Assembly to satisfy itself that the structure that is devised is efficient and economical and will provide a sound basis for good working relationships. But let me repeat that the Assembly will not itself be able to make changes in the structure or functions of local government. Any such changes will require primary legislation and will therefore need to be settled here in Parliament.

The third misunderstanding I want to take up is the claim that our proposals will lead to over-government and that they are costly. I do not see how it can still be maintained, in spite of all the explanations that have been given, that the Wales Bill creates an additional tier of government. The functions that are being devolved to the Assembly are not new functions. They are carried out now by Ministers. The functions will simply be transferred, and the Assembly will take over the present role of Ministers. That is not creating an additional tier. It is merely improving democratic control of an existing one by bringing the decision-making process closer to the people of Wales.

I do not deny that devolution involves some extra cost. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill shows clearly the estimates of costs which will arise. These are essential costs arising from the need to provide the Assembly with accommodation, staff and reasonable services. They are based on modest and sensible assumptions and the experience of this House. If setting up the Welsh Assembly leads to a better allocation of the considerable resources being spent at present on the devolved services in Wales—as I believe it will—then there is absolutely no argument against the Assembly on the grounds of the relatively small demand it will itself make on public expenditure.

Fears have been expressed that the Welsh Assembly will exercise its powers in such a way as to discriminate against non-Welsh speakers or even to discriminate against its own non-Welsh speaking staff. Little need be said on the last point. The Bill provides that the staff of the Assembly shall be members of the Home Civil Service and the procedures for recruiting, appointing and promoting civil servants provide ample safeguards against discrimination among the Assembly's staff, if indeed such safeguards are needed.

But why should it be thought that the Assembly will discriminate against non-Welsh speakers or, for that matter, against Welsh speakers? The Assembly will be a directly elected body, fully representative of all parts of and all opinions in the Principality. Is it likely that such a body would discriminate against the non-Welsh speaking majority of Wales? Merely to ask the question is to demonstrate the unreality of the fear. There can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who is prepared to trust the Welsh people that the Assembly will be fair to both Welsh and non-Welsh speakers alike.

I should now like to say a word about the Government's reserve powers, on which some misapprehensions have been expressed. Lurid pictures have been painted of the conflicts between the United Kingdom Government and the Assembly, but I suggest that these are far removed from reality. The Bill provides that in certain limited and carefully defined circumstances the Government may step in and, with the approval of Parliament, prevent certain actions by the Assembly—when, for instance, reserved matters such as defence, are liable to be adversely affected. But it is wholly wrong to suggest that the reserve powers will give rise to frequent or continual conflict. On the contrary, their very existence will reduce the risk of conflict, and in practice I would expect these powers to be little used. There will be regular formal and informal consultations between the United Kingdom Government and the Assembly, and this is the way in which any difficulties will usually be settled.

Also we do not see the financial arrangements in the Bill as any kind of a battleground. Of course, there will be hard bargaining and serious negotiations, and it would be over-optimistic to predict complete satisfaction always on all sides. But we expect the upshot to be a sensible compromise between responsible people.

There will be no question of selling Wales short. The amount of the block fund must be one which the Secretary of State can justify to Parliament as fair and reasonable. Similarly, the Assembly's Chief Executive will need to give an account of his stewardship to the Assembly Members.

We have, however, put forward some ideas for smoothing the negotiations, which will be discussed with the Assembly. These include the possibility of an independent advisory board to make objective measurements of the needs of the devolved services and the establishment of a formula which can be used as the basis of settling the Welsh share of the cake for a period of perhaps four years ahead.

Once the amount of the block fund and the allocation for the Assembly's loans Fund have been settled, it will be for the Assembly to decide how the money can best be spent. It will determine its own priorities as between housing, education, health and its other responsibilities. Parliament will have no hand in this. Westminster will have played its part in determining the total. It will be for the members of the Assembly, with their close knowledge of Wales, to decide with their votes how that total should be allocated. That is what devolution means.

The absence of revenue-raising powers does not mean that the Assembly will be an "irresponsible" body. On the contrary, it will need to act with a high sense of responsibility in determining, in full view of the electorate, how its resources will be applied. If it seems likely to arrive at unwise decisions, there will be 2 million electors who will want to know the reason why.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Without being too curmudgeonly, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he really thinks that the priorities that he, the Under-Secretaries for Wales and Welsh Labour Members have established in relation to government at present are so far wrong that it justifies this kind of tinkering? I think that Welsh Members have a very clear idea about priorities for Wales, and that marginal tinkering is the best that we can hope for from the establishment of the Assembly.

Mr. Morris

Without being immodest, I am satisfied with my priorities for meeting the position of the Welsh people. Regrettably and unhappily, one does not have any permanence of a Government of any one colour from one decade to another. Perhaps we shall be in power for a long time yet, but looking back over history we see that too frequently the Government for the United Kingdom consist of people who have been rejected in Wales. That has occurred as far back as 1857. I suspect that the priorities of a Welsh Assembly would be totally different from the priorities of a Conservative Government.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend saying that the only period in which a Welsh Assembly is justified is that when Labour is not in office? Does this not show a lack of confidence in our own ability before the electorate?

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend really must not put up an Aunt Sally of this kind knowing full well that it will be knocked down very easily. Looking back at history we see that far too often there have been Governments of a majority for the United Kingdom as a whole that have been different from the majority view in Wales.

In addition, my hon. Friend knows as well as I do that decisions which are very difficult can be made much more acceptable if the people who are immediately affected take part in them. That is where I expect that the quality of decision-making in the Welsh Assembly will be even better than that of my hon. Friends and myself.

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

Has the Secretary of State not made an unreasonable point here? Is it not a fact that, similarly, people of Kent and Surrey have sometimes had to endure a Labour majority which was recruited entirely from Scotland and North-East England? Is it not unreasonable, therefore, to denounce that? Is it not true that the United Kingdom has had a happy interchange of Administration because of that fact? Would it not be most undesirable if parts of the United Kingdom were consigned to one-party government?

Mr. Morris

That is why the hon. Gentleman is opposing devolution, because he is afraid of one-party government. I want to ensure a democratic Government. I want to ensure that as many decisions as possible are taken in accordance with the priority that the majority of the people of Wales want. I do not know how familiar the hon. and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) is with Wales. It may be that he is not familiar at all with Wales. The majority of the people of Wales have rejected the Conservative Party for well over 100 years and will continue to do so. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman comes to Wales to see us on some future occasion.

Mr. Peter Thomas (Hendon, South)

Have not the majority of the people of England rejected the Labour Party? If the Minister is to carry his argument to a logical and rational conclusion, surely there must be an Assembly for England.

Mr. Morris

The right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas), like the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower), is arguing for devolution for England. That may well come about. I would not stand in its way. I am anxious to ensure that we forward the cause of democracy. What has the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South to fear from democracy?

Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

If the Minister accepts that the logical conclusion of his policy is devolution for England as well, why did the Government introduce proposals for Scotland and Wales, issue a Green Paper with regard to the English dimension, but decide that they would do nothing about devolution for England?

Mr. Morris

We issued our paper in order to discover the feelings and views of the English people. They vary. In the North-West there is stronger feeling than in parts of the South-East of England. My party in Wales for the best part of 10 or 15 years has made clear where it stands. If the people of England do not want a system of closer decision-making, that is a matter for them. When they see the system working in Wales and in Scotland, they may desire such a system. I would be the last person to stand in their way. The Conservative Party in Wales has been rejected time after time, and will be rejected in the coming General Election.

What we are suggesting will bring a wide area of decision-making now undertaken by the central Government and nominated bodies in health, education, housing, the environment, roads and cultural matters under the direct control and scrutiny of a democratically elected body, which will have at its disposal the local knowledge and the time to consider the issues thoroughly. These are the areas in which decisions affect the people of Wales alone and do not affect people in other parts of the United Kingdom, and they are also the matters which people in Wales really care about. My experience has been that people's anxieties are about when and where, for example, the new hospitals and the new schools will be built. I decide these questions now, as well as I can, but I suggest that the elected Welsh Assembly will have more time and greater local knowledge to bring to bear on these issues.

Let me quote one example—which I put recently to the TUC Wales conference. At Morriston, Bridgend, Wrexham, Llanelli and Gwent they will be arguing which district general hospital or its extension should come first. They will be coming up to the start line some time next year at about the same time. Some will have to go first. Some will have to follow. Who could best decide issues of this kind—a matter of major moment to the people who live in these parts? A Secretary of State, even a Labour one, let alone a Tory one from Hampstead, Hendon, Newcastle, Luton, West Derby or Leeds or wherever Tory Ministers for Wales come from? Alternatively, would it not be better if such a decision were taken by a democratically elected Assembly of the people of Wales? In my very firm view, decisions on priorities taken by the elected representatives of the people of Wales in this way must not only be better decisions than those which one Minister could make but must be more widely acceptable.

If this is true of matters now decided by Ministers, how much more so is it true of decisions taken by nominated bodies? The scheme therefore provides for the Assembly to appoint and control bodies operating wholly in Wales in devolved areas. Thus the present rather remote control of nominated bodies by Parliament through the Secretary of State will be replaced in Wales by control by directly elected representatives.

In addition, however, the Government believe that it is important to enable the Assembly, if it considers this appropriate, to assume the functions of the nominated bodies whose activities are confined to Wales. In considering whether to assume the functions of a particular body, the Assembly is required to consult the body concerned and to obtain the formal approval of the Secretary of State. This is mainly to ensure that any United Kingdom interest that may be involved is properly protected.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

Will the Secretary of State confirm my understanding that in the event of the Assembly not taking over the functions of a nomina- ted body, that body will still be nominated, but by the Assembly rather than, as at present, by the Secretary of State?

Mr. Morris

The answer is "Yes", but it will be open to the Assembly to decide how that body is to be run.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

The Minister is misleading the House.

Mr. Morris

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must not make such accusations. If he suggests that I am misleading the House, I want to hear what he has to say.

Sir David Renton

The Secretary of State has been telling the House and, through us, the people of Wales that the Assembly will decide where hospitals, for example, will be placed. That will be a matter for the health authority, and the Secretary of State has taken, under the excluded powers in Clause 2, all the responsibility for the planning permissions which would need to be given not only in the event of compulsory purchase but for statutory undertakers, such as health authorities. Therefore, it is misleading to say that the decision on where hospitals will be placed will be taken by the Assembly.

Mr. Morris

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not usually guilty of using extravagant language. I suspected, when he used the word "misleading", that he was in error. He is in error. He must not shake his head before I have given the explanation. In Wales there are no such things as regional hospital boards. Their role is subsumed in the Welsh Office. There are eight area health authorities which make their proposals not to a regional hospital board but to me, as the Secretary of State. My powers will be transferred to the Assembly. My responsibility to decide which contestant should come first will be passed to the Assembly.

I have not been guilty of misleading the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a fair-minded man, but he made a grave accusation against me. It may be that I did not put my case as I could have done. I hope that I have now done so. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must reconsider his suggestion that I have been misleading the House. I have not done so.

Sir David Renton

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman because he has, in effect, conceded the point that I was making. The health authorities for the areas in Wales will decide, in the first place, where hospitals shall be. They have to make an application, at present to the Secretary of State, and he has to supervise the various planning procedures in consultation, at present with the local authorities, which will continue to have a say in this matter. The position of the Assembly in this new set up will be very confused.

Is the Secretary of State saying that local planning authorities will no longer have a say in the matter or that he will not be able to exercise the excluded powers that he has reserved for himself in the Bill? He must come clean with the House and the people of Wales.

Mr. Morris

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not at his best today. The planning processes will remain as they are. Planning permission must be obtained for the siting of a hospital in any place—as for any other significant building. That remains as it is, but appeals will go to the Assembly rather than to the Secretary of State.

Perhaps after the debate we shall have time to explain to the right hon. and learned Gentleman at even greater length. He must understand that a decision on the next stage of hospital building programmes is not a matter for the area health authorities for Wales. It is a decision for the Secretary of State, and that responsibility will be transferred to the Assembly.

I see the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South, a former Secretary of State for Wales, nodding his head in concurrence with what I am saying. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire is in error. He could have said that I was accidentally wrong, but to suggest that I was deliberately misleading the House is wholly unacceptable. I am trying to explain to him how he is wrong.

Sir David Renton

I do not wish to bandy words with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I shall do my best to explain the matter more fully than the Secretary of State took it upon himself to do when he said that this was a matter for the new Assembly. By oversimplifying the matter in that way, he has, no doubt unintentionally if he wishes me to say so, misled people. There is much more to it than the right hon. and learned Gentleman has suggested.

Mr. Morris

Well, there it is. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has done his best. I shall not pursue the matter. It is as plain as a pikestaff. Of course everyone will be consulted. I was not over-simplifying the matter. All those who have been concerned with this issue in Wales know where the decision-making rests and where it is to be transferred. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to reconsider the matter before making his speech, perhaps he should consult his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South who will put him right.

After that diversion, I can bring my remarks to a fairly speedy conclusion. We have deliberately avoided the temptation to provide too rigid a constitutional framework for the Assembly. We are, after all, dealing with a responsible, elected body which will be perfectly capable of determining how best to handle its business. This is a matter which should evolve, rather than be imposed from above.

The Bill therefore confines itself to a few key features. There must obviously be a system of delegation, but the precise system employed is left to the Assembly to decide. It will be able to delegate functions to committees, and the committees in their turn will be able to delegate responsibilities to Executive Members.

These arrangements will facilitate the achievement of two objectives that the Assembly will no doubt have in mind. First, it will wish to ensure that there is wide participation in decision-making. This will be helped by the requirement that the committees must be politically balanced. Secondly, the Assembly will want to make arrangements for efficient, and indeed speedy, administration. This will point in the direction of conferring decision-making responsibilities on Executive Members. This does not mean, however, that the Executive Members will act entirely on their own. Their powers will be derived from the Assembly and its committees, and it follows that they will need to account fully and regularly to the Assembly and the committees for their actions. The arrangements set out in the Bill, therefore, provide full scope for the Assembly to work out a system which will be both effective and democratic, and I am confident that it will do so.

In the conclusion to my speech on Second Reading, I emphasised that devolution has nothing to do with separatism. We and the electorate of Wales have rejected that. I firmly believe that the Wales Bill, while adding to the diversity and flexibility of our constitution, will strengthen the essential unity of the United Kingdom. This has been my party's policy for years. There have been some people, in the Labour Party and in the Tory Party, who have paid lip service to the principles of devolution, but who have then cavilled at our detailed proposals. Our debates have drawn many confessions from hon. Members who profess to be some sort of devolutionist or federalist but not yet or not now. So many are against the sin of the status quo but do not want to be saved just yet.

I believe that the proposals embodied in the Bill are constructive and practical. When the time comes, I believe that the people of Wales will endorse our proposals and that we shall take the final steps forward to the implementation of this great democratic reform in the government of Wales. I commend the Bill to the House.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

At the outset, I should like to thank Ministers for their help, as far as they could give help, and for their replies, as far as they could provide them. That comment is much more than a matter of courtesy, particularly in respect of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones), a constituency of happy memory for me, even though not so many years ago it taught me a sharp political lesson but it did it so very nicely.

The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Rhondda, has done most of the work on the Bill and has attempted to deal with points raised in the debates. Similarly, the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, has put in a number of appearances, though not quite as many as he did on the Scotland Bill. He maintained his usual composure and desire to help.

We are grateful to those Ministers, but as to the other occupants of the Treasury Bench who were occasionally brought on, the less said the better. Some seemed to show an extraordinary lack of understanding of what was implied and involved in the Bill and it is a matter for regret that the Attorney-General and the Law Officers have been so obvious by their absence except on very rare occasions.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was often the only occupant of the Government Back Benches and some Labour Members representing Welsh constituencies were never, as far as I saw, to be seen in their seats.

My hon. Friends from Welsh constituencies have played their part in the debates and some have been here almost the whole time, as has the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). He will be missed very much in the next Parliament, in which he would have occupied an important seat on this side of the House. I should also like to say how much I appreciate the help I have had from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) and Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), to name but a few.

The Secretary of State did not have the smoothest of passages in moving the Third Reading. From various quarters he seemed to give all the signs of looking like someone who had been shot down in flames. The reception given to some of his remarks must have caused him some anxiety. He made what I describe as rather a typical ministerial speech on a devolution Bill. It consisted of a series of assertions that are challenged by Members on both sides of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tends to say "What a splendid Bill it is. It is a model of constitutional propriety. It is just what the Welsh want. It will do no harm to the constitution and will actually strengthen the unity of the United Kingdom." He did not get away with that.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be allowed to indulge, to some extent, in political propaganda in favour of the Bill, but I think that his speech was dangerous. It told only half the truth. That was obviously the half that suits him. It was not a complete picture or a fair and full description. I shall have to remind the House what the Bill contains and what it seems to the Opposition to mean, including its implications and the effect that it will have in practice.

There is no case for saying that our existing constitutional arrangements should continue unreformed if there are better ways of doing things. However, if we are to change, let us set about it in a practical way and ensure that what we in this Parliament propose and decide is workable, effective and of real benefit for those it is designed to help.

I wish that I could say that about the Bill. I would much prefer to be able to do so, but in truth I cannot. What is more, the House has not been able to say that either, as anyone who has listened to the debates would agree. The impression is clear throughout the House that unhappily the Bill will usher in a period of uncertainty and confusion into our constitution, and especially into the government of Wales. The implications of the Bill are so far reaching and so ill-thought through by the Government that I do not believe that anyone can say for sure where it will lead us. It is for this reason that we should set out on such a course for Wales only if we are convinced that the Welsh people want a change of this nature and if we are convinced that we can present the Bill to the Welsh people as a viable scheme.

My right hon. and hon. Friends believe that neither of those two condition has been met. On the contrary, there is much evidence to suggest that the Welsh people do not want anything to do with an Assembly of this sort or of any other sort. We know that it will be put to the test. Of course it will if the Bill becomes an Act. However the people of Wales should realise—I am sure that many of them do—that it will do nothing for the creation of jobs or for improving their life. It will do nothing to make the government of Wales more efficient. I disagree with what the Secretary of State said about the Bill not providing an additional tier of government. I think that it will have just the opposite effect. In theory it may not provide an additional tier, but we believe that for all practical purposes the Bill in practice will do so.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledged, there will be many negotiations to take place between the Assembly and the United Kingdom Government. That is not exactly devolving powers to Wales and not providing an extra tier of government. It amounts to an extra tier. Surely an extra tier is the last thing that anybody in the country wants to see. Again, contrary to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, I think that the Bill will serve to slow down the taking of decisions and create uncertainty about who is responsible for taking them.

The people of Mid-Wales and North Wales know very well that their interests will be less well protected in an Assembly that is dominated by the industrial South than they are in this Parliament. That is one of their greatest fears.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that the representation of the counties of North Wales at Westminster is nine seats out of 635 and that a representation of 20 seats out of 80 in an Assembly appears favourable.

Mr. Pym

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument. There is the fear in North Wales, particularly, about domination by the South. In this Parliament all parts of Wales are of equal importance and significance. What is more, the interests and prosperity of Mid-Wales and North Wales depend far move heavily on their links with the Midlands and the North-West of England than with their links with South Wales. There is, of course, an all-Wales dimension. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to a specifically Welsh context. That is right, but it is only one of the dimensions and not necessarily the most important from the point of view of the prosperity of the people. It is our view that in the Bill those aspects are found to be out of proportion.

If the Bill becomes an Act, it will be put to the test in the referendum. During our debates many hon. Member have said that they are voting for the Bill only because they are certain that it will be defeated in the referendum. That is a novel and dangerous doctrine. I do not think that we have the right to abdicate our responsibilities in that way. We should not pass the buck to the Welsh people and wash our hands of the matter. In my view to do so is to fail in our duty and to act irresponsibly. If we do so we might just as well apply for the Chiltern Hundreds. That would be much easier and much cheaper and save a lot of trouble.

We are sent to this place as representatives of our people. We are sent her to exercise our judgment and to make decisions on behalf of the people. They, as electors, can pass their judgment on us. I have never before heard of an occasion on which the House of Commons came close to passing legislation in which it did not believe so as to allow the people themselves later to reject it directly. That is a parliamentary absurdity.

If the House could say with conviction to the people of Wales, "We have examined this legislation. We believe that it would work and that it would be of value to Wales but we want you to make the final decision whether it should go ahead", that would be different, but we cannot say that.

Over the past few weeks, hon. Member after hon. Member has opposed both the principle of the Bill and the numerous flaws and difficulties in its detail, which many of us have identified. If it has any merits, they have not been spelt out in this place. Where have all the Bill's supporters been? They have not been here. For most of the time the Government Benches have been pretty empty as have the valleys of Wales in terms of the merits of the Bill. I do not think that the valleys have been echoing from the shouts of Ministers and Labour Members speaking in support of the Bill. Whatever they have been speaking in support of, it has not been the Bill. The truth is that the Bill has no supporters except those on the Treasury Bench.

I acknowledge that the idea of a Welsh Assembly has more supporters. However, there are few supporters for this Bill. The Labour Party shows no evidence of supporting it in the House. The Conservative Party does not support it. The Liberals vote for it but they do not really agree with it because they want something different. They want federalism and they have always advocated that course. That is fair enough. The only enthusiastic supporters of the Bill seem to be those on the Plaid Cymru Bench, and they do not really want it either. They know very well the confusion that it will bring. It can do nothing but good to their cause of trying to break Wales away from the United Kingdom. I quite agree with the Secretary of State that that is not what the people of Wales want.

The real reason for the Government introducing the Bill is partly, as it seemed to come from the right hon. and learned Gentleman in reply to an intervention, that they want a permanent Assembly of Labour supporters. They want a Labour strong Assembly in Wales that will insulate them from any other political views that might come their way. They have introduced the Bill partly because of that and partly because they are worried about the nationalists. I think that they should have had more courage. Of course, they are not quite so frightened of the Welsh nationalists as of the Scottish nationalists. That is why they are proposing a different form of devolution for Scotland. It is fair to say that if they were genuinely keen on the concept of devolution on its own merits, they would have introduced the same measures for Wales and Scotland, and quite possibly for England, too.

At one moment the right hon. and learned Gentleman was saying that the people of England, if they wanted it in due course, could have some sort of devolution as far as he was concerned. What indication have the people of Wales given so far that they want devolution? They have not given it yet. The general view is that they do not want it. I know that it is to be put to the test.

Mr. John Morris

The right hon. Gentleman forgets the long consultations that took place during 1974 with a whole host of bodies, including all the political parties in Wales, the local authorities, the unions and the CBI. They came to the conclusion overwhelmingly that they wanted something not unlike that which we are proposing. That was the beginning and was the basis of the first White Paper on the subject.

Mr. Pym

I accept that from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, of course. However, there has been no more general desire from the people of Wales for devolution than there has been in England. From that point of view I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument is unsound. Given that background, it cannot be right to pass this legislation regardless of whether there is to be a referendum and regardless of whether 40 per cent. of the electorate is required to vote "Yes". If eventually we pass the Bill, we shall be saying to the people of Wales "We in the House do not believe in the Bill although we have voted for it. We do not believe that it will be of benefit to Wales. Indeed, we believe that it could be positively harmful. However, we do not have the guts to vote it out ourselves so will you please do the job for us?"

What a monstrous proposition. If the Welsh people are to be asked that question in the referendum, they have the right to expect that the Bill on which they are to vote commands the confidence of the legislators who have examined it. But we cannot claim any such confidence. It does not exist. We cannot claim to have examined it.

It is a parliamentary scandal that a Bill of such importance to the United Kingdom should have had so few of its clauses discussed. Of the 84 clauses and 12 schedules, only 16 clauses and two schedules have had any debate at all. That is less than one in five. Issues such as the powers of the Assembly, the committee structure, the role of the Executive, the relationship of the Assembly to local government and many other matters have gone undebated. That cannot be justified as a parliamentary exercise. No major constitutional measure should be passed with the detail unconsidered, let alone digested.

I remind Labour Members, who like to remind me of the guillotine on the European Communities Bill, that every clause in that Bill was debated and time was provided for it. That is one difference. Another difference is that the back- ground to the two Bills is totally different.

I believe that this Bill stands condemned for three principal reasons. First, it will lead to instability in local government in Wales, in the central government of Wales and in the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom as a whole. Secondly, it will lead to disputes and arguments between Cardiff and Westminster. Thirdly, it will lead to less effective and less efficient administration in Wales. I want to justify those central criticisms.

The primary and crucial defect is that the Bill will lead to instability in the future cohesion of the United Kingdom itself. Taken with the Scotland Bill, it means that each nation within the United Kingdom will be governed differently. There will be one rule of procedure for Scotland, one for Wales, one for Northern Ireland and another for England, and each will be different from the others to a major and significant extent. Members will have different roles depending on which part of the country they are dealing with. For Wales alone we shall have three different roles: where the Assembly is responsible, where the Secretary of State for Wales is responsible and where a United Kingdom Secretary of State is responsible on a United Kingdom basis. What is more, Members will have different responsibilities to their constituents, depending upon which part of the country they represent.

As in the Scotland Bill, we still have the central constitutional question which remains unresolved and unanswered: how are we to cope with the situation that, after the Assembly is established, hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies will be able to vote on matters affecting England, but that neither they nor English Members will be able to vote on matters affecting Wales? For how long will the people of England be prepared to accept that situation? No one has asked them yet. This Bill will, for the first time introduce into the constitution the concept of Members representing different nations within Britain instead of Britain itself.

It was no wonder that the Government made no attempt to restore the original Clause 1, described by the right hon. and learned Gentleman just now as a useful declaratory clause. The trouble was that the House of Commons did not believe it. Even now, I do not think that the Government have faced the damage that they are doing to the unity of this kingdom.

I am convinced that on the day that the votes of Welsh and Scottish Members determine a matter affecting only England in a way that the English do not want—a matter on which they could not vote for Wales or Scotland—will be the day when this arrangement breaks down. It will be too late then to prevent the damage. If one takes the spanner out of the works of a sensitive machine, one is still left with a great deal of costly and unnecessary damage. The Government do not accept that there is a problem. It might be one thing if they said "There is a problem, but we believe it more important for Wales to have this Assembly than to let the problem stand in the way." But it is quite another matter when they do not admit to the existence of the problem.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that paragraph 905 of the Kilbrandon Report, which asserts that this problem does not arise in relation to executive devolution, is basically flatly wrong? Secondly, if the Welsh Assembly is to have responsibility for the Welsh Development Agency and, therefore, economic responsibility, does it not arise in a very acute form?

Mr. Pym

I think that is true. The Royal Commission also pointed out the impact that would arise when legislative devolution was involved.

The Secretary of State was entirely right in saying that primary legislation for Wales would still be the responsibility of the House under the Bill. That is true. But secondary legislation would not be the responsibility of the House. Therefore, there is still a wide area in the legislative, apart from the executive, sphere for which the Assembly will have responsibility. That undoubtedly brings about the problem that I have just posed and that we had all through the proceedings on the Scotland Bill in a very acute form.

As a result, the English have not even been asked whether they are prepared to accept the disadvantage under which they are being asked to continue. This United Kingdom is a partnership. Any change for one partner must be accepted by the rest. It does not make sense to have Wales and Scotland as parts of a semi-federal United Kingdom and England as a unitary United Kingdom, and even less so when the arrangements for Scotland and Wales are different not only from England but from each other. Therefore, for this reason alone, if no other, the Bill should not be passed.

Whatever the Government may claim, everyone knows that sooner or later—more likely sooner than later—the constitutional conundrum that they have created will return to haunt us. The arrangements proposed here will not last, because they will not work satisfactorily. There will have to be another change. The question is not whether but only when it will come. I find that an appalling prospect.

Not only the House of Commons but the central government of Wales will suffer. If any hon. Member is labouring under the impression that once we have passed the Bill the powers of the Assembly will be fixed and final, he is under a delusion. If the Bill is passed, no one will know in one year what the Assembly's powers may be in the next. They may change from one Bill to the next, never mind from one year to another. The powers assigned to the Assembly in the Bill are not immutable. They are, as it were, a movable feast. They are granted solely by reference to Acts of Parliament. But Parliament can and will repeal and amend these Acts in the ordinary course of its business, and every time that it does it may extend or curtail the powers of the Assembly.

An Assembly elected in one year on a particular programme—education, housing or health—could find that by the following year it no longer had discretion to act in the way that it intended. How many hon. Members have grasped and reflected on the fact that we are letting ourselves in for this problem? In future, every time there is legislation on housing, health or education or on any of the other areas devolved to the Assembly, there will have to be a separate Bill for Wales to take account of the role of the Assembly or a separate section on Wales. Every Bill that we consider will have a constitutional element in it, because it will carry implications for the powers of the Welsh Assembly.

Is that a sensible basis upon which to build a new institution of Government? I hope that the Lord President will say something about that aspect of the matter, because it has not received the consideration that is most certainly its due from both a Welsh and a House of Commons point of view. The Minister of State spoke a few words about it, but we did not have the extent of debate upon it which I am certain the problem ought to receive.

Apart from the problems of Westminster and Cardiff, local government is also affected. Uncertainty in local government is written into Clause 12—originally Clause 13—which went undebated. The Assembly is under a legal obligation to review the structure of local government. I do not know the experience of other hon. Members, but mine is that if a body is told to review something it seldom, if ever, recommends that there should be no change, even if that is the most sensible thing to do. Therefore, for the next two or three years, local government in Wales will once again be thrown into a disturbed and unsettled state. It will be unable to plan its future properly. How can it? There must linger the suspicion that, if the Assembly is to recommend change, it may want to do so on the basis of increasing its own powers to some extent at the expense of local government. I accept what the Secretary of State said about there being no question of any takeover, but it can certainly nibble away at some of the powers that local government now enjoys.

Like their colleagues in the public bodies, which the Assembly has power to abolish at will, the careers of the staff will be thrown into confusion. I am concerned for the officers of Welsh local authorities who face this anxiety at present. I cannot believe that it is in the interests of Wales for it to be left by this Bill in a state of such uncertainty. If we are to change the constitution, let us make the change and stick to it. We should not build change into the system so that it goes on indefinitely.

My second major area of criticism involves dispute and disagreement that flows inevitably from the Bill. There will be dispute between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. Apart from the argument that must arise when two elected bodies share responsibility for one area, there are a number of examples of areas where specific disagreement seems inevitable. The most obvious is if two different parties are in control of the Assembly and of Parliament. With the best will in the world, there are bound to be problems then. If a party is elected to power in the United Kingdom on a particular programme for education or housing, for example, is it to say that that programme does not extend to Wales? Is it to enact separate legislation for Wales so that the Assembly can go its own way? Is that practical politics? I do not think that it is.

One of the obvious arenas for conflict is the negotiations for the block budget, to which the Secretary of State referred. Every time the budget is negotiated, the Assembly will claim that it needs more. The Members of the Assembly would be inhuman as politicians if they did not do that. Every time there are complaints about a particular service, the Assembly will want to blame the shortcomings on a parsimonious United Kingdom Treasury.

Where will the Welsh Members of Parliament stand in all this? Will they really he able to oppose an Assembly which apparently speaks for Wales, or will they think it right to do so? The Secretary of State only touched on the relationship between Members of the Assembly and Members of Parliament. I believe that Members of Parliament representing Wales, after the Assembly is established, will have an extremely difficult role to fulfil. They will experience a conflict of loyalties that will put them in difficulties.

Wales has always received more than her fair share of expenditure on a strict per capita basis. The rest of the United Kingdom has accepted that willingly and without question because they recognise Wales's special needs. But it is one thing when funds are voted for a particular service, it is quite another when a whole budget is voted away to another body to spend as it decides. This House will be handing over the money. That will serve to emphasise the discrepancy in Wales.

How long will it be before people in Merseyside, for example, start to wonder why people in Anglesey receive more resources? For the first time there will be an English and Welsh national dimension in the equation. That will make a difference that could exacerbate jealousies and hard feelings which we should be at pains to avoid. It will strain the partnership of the United Kingdom. That is one of the most fundamental objections that I have to the Bill.

How long will it be before a Government tell the Assembly that if it wants more money it must raise it itself? How long will it be before the Assembly decides that it does not receive enough and so forces local authorities to raise more through the rates? Will the United Kingdom Government accept that or intervene? These questions remain unanswered by the Government.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

I could not help reflecting that the scope for disagreement obviously is there but it is far less than the scope for disagreement between the House and the EEC, which the right hon. Gentleman supported. Is not part of the development of modern government that when there is disagreement it should be settled by process? Such a process is laid down in the Bill.

Mr. Pym

For centuries the United Kingdom has worked extremely well. The infinite variety of differences between Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland have been recognised and accepted. It has worked effectively as a team. Whatever else we do we should preserve that.

The provisions of the Bill will make the continuation of that unity and success difficult. We are bringing in an additional area of dispute and disagreement which is unnecessary. Obviously there would be some disagreement in any form of devolution. But I do not believe that the Government have responded to the satisfaction of the House to the fears that have been expressed from all parts about the Bill's effect on Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not wish to dwell longer on this aspect but I should like to ask this question. How are the United Kingdom Government to ensure that the Assembly carries out the spirit of their legislation? There seems to be no provision in the Bill for that.

The Royal Commission said that the Assembly could fail to make regulations, or make them in terms deliberately unsuited to the purpose which the United Kingdom Government intended. In paragraph 860 the Commission states: The central government would, however, need to be in a position to secure the implementation of its policy". Paragraph 863 states: It must be recognised, however, that there would be strong political resistance to the use of any of these powers of coercion". That is so. But there are no such powers in the Bill. How do the Government intend that disagreements of this kind shall be resolved? They will, of course, arise with or without coercion. We have criticised the override powers for that reason. They are so vague that they will allow the Government to overrule the Assembly if any of its actions: would or might affect a reserved matter, whether directly or indirectly". The Secretary of State described that as carefully defined. I do not think that it is. There are few actions to which that description could not be made to apply.

If these powers are used frequently the whole scheme will break down. If, as the Secretary of State suggested, they are used infrequently their use will occasion a bitter clash. That is the quandary in which any Government will be placed by the Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not true that when defining this the right hon. Member defines a central weakness of this proposal for devolution? The presumption of the Bill, although it does not state it, and the presumption of my hon. Friends who are well intentioned, is that whenever the Welsh Assembly receives the answer "No" to anything, it will tamely go away without taking any further action or raising any further difficulties.

Mr. Pym

I agree. I shall come to that argument shortly.

The hon. Member for West Lothian raised the question of the Welsh Development Agency. What about the guidelines which are to be laid down by the Secretary of State? What happens if the Secretary of State lays down guidelines which the Assembly does not accept? What happens if the Assembly does not follow those guidelines? Is the Welsh Development Agency then to observe the instructions of the Assembly or is it to ignore them? What happens if the Assembly takes over the functions of the Agency and then dissolves it under Clause 60?

There is a curious anomaly. The Welsh Assembly will have the power to do that but the Scottish Assembly will not. What is the thinking behind the different treatment proposed by the Government of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies? If the Government have thought it through they are wary of letting the House know their conclusion.

In addition, there is a strong possibility of a direct political conflict when the Assembly directly challenges the judgment of the United Kingdom Government in a matter which affects Wales. It could be a matter for which the Assembly has no direct responsibility. But of course the Assembly will claim to be the authentic voice of Wales. It will claim to be a better judge of the feeling of Welsh people that a United Kingdom Government of either colour. That is obvious.

How will this situation be resolved? The Assembly can set up committees on any matter that it wishes, whether or not it is directly responsible for that matter. Who can doubt that one of the first of those committees will be to examine the Welsh economy, to speak for those without jobs and to give expression to Welsh opinion. It is one thing for a local authority to do that but quite another for a national Assembly, with all the pretensions of a Parliament and with its own Cabinet, to do it.

Every time the Assembly makes representations to the United Kingdom and is turned down, in the eyes of some that will be another nail in the coffin of the United Kingdom. What is the purpose of such committee if it is oot to criticise the United Kingdom Government? Without the burden of responsibility, the Assembly will be free to put forward any kind of plans it likes, grandiose or not, for the future of the Welsh economy. Every time its proposals are rejected the tendency will be for the Assembly itself to ask to assume the powers. Every economic decision will be complicated by the political and constitutional implications for Wales—and for Scotland. Who then will speak for England in all this?

If all this was the price we had to pay to secure a decided improvement in the Government of Wales, it might just be worth the risk.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

The right hon. Gentleman asserted a short while ago that the Assembly might be able to take over the Welsh Development Agency, whereas the Scottish Assembly would not be able to take over the Scottish Development Agency. He must be careful about this because Clause 60 of the Bill, which I have just checked, makes it quite clear that the Assembly can take over the functions of certain bodies provided only that it has the approval of the Secretary of State—that is to say, the United Kingdom Government. It is untrue to say that the Assembly can take it over itself. It can do it only in a situation in which the United Kingdom Government concur in the view that that should be done.

Mr. Pym

I am grateful to the Minister of State for that intervention. I am not sure what parliamentary process is involved in Clause 60. [HON. MEMBERS: "None."] What happens if there is a dispute? How will it be resolved? Supposing the Assembly for Wales take one view and the Secretary of State takes another? There will be no reference to this House whatever.

Mr. John Smith

The provision is quite clear, and the right hon. Gentleman can detect no dilemma because if the United Kingdom Government do not agree with it, it will not happen. It is very clear on the face of the Bill.

Mr. Pym

Anyhow, we have had an answer to that question, but I am not sure whether that will prove a successful or happy example of the relationships between the Assembly and the Government.

I was saying that, regretfully, the scheme proposed in the Bill not only will fail to improve the government of Wales but will make it less effective and less efficient. Furthermore, it will not improve the democratic accountability of the Welsh Office. It will weaken the strongest voice that Wales possesses—the voice of her 36 Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom Parliament and of her Secretary of State at the Cabinet table.

The authority of the Secretary of State will certainly decline, and conceivably will disappear altogether, because he will be deprived of the backing of a large Department and will carry out only minimal functions of his own. That was foreshadowed in one of the White Papers to which the Secretary of State referred. Yet the vital decisions affecting the future of Wales and the prosperity of its people—decisions over coal, energy, the economy, jobs and that kind of thing—will still be taken by the United Kingdom Cabinet. Even in his role as economic Minister of Wales the Secretary of State will be handicapped, because the responsibility for regional policy will be split between him and the Assembly, and he will have no control over matters such as roads, housing and planning, all of which affect economic and industrial decisions. Therefore, the power to co-ordinate these activities on all-Wales basis will be severely curtailed.

The Secretary of State will presumably still be the Minister to guide separate Welsh legislation through Parliament, but he will no longer have in his own Department the direct, immediate administrative experience on which to base his legislative proposals. In a few years we shall be left with a situation in which the Assembly will have the knowledge and experience on which the impetus and initiative for reform is usually founded but will not have the power to make the reform. Therefore, although the Secretary of State will have the power to make the reform, he will have no immediate experience of the problems for which reforms are needed.

So there it is—the Government have decided in this Bill to try to set up a separate Parliament in Cardiff with its own powers of law-making and its own Cabinet. That Parliament will have the power of making subordinate legislation which will have a very real effect on the law of the land. That Cabinet will act just like any other Cabinet in being of one party, allocating expenditure, and co-ordinating policy, while this Parliament in essence will foot the Bill. The whole arrangement is unsound in principle and is certainly ill-considered in our view by the Government but certainly by this House.

It is based on nothing, more than the unnecessary political alarm which they felt arose from the nationalist threat, leading to political opportunism of a most misguided kind. An attempt is being made by the Government to sell it to the people of Wales, and if this Bill is passed I have no doubt that that campaign will be stepped up. I suspect that they will try to disguise the whole truth from the people of Wales, but fortunately they are a shrewd people. But if this Bill is passed, we shall not be doing right by them, because we are not satisfied in this House that the Bill is a reasonable proposition to put to them.

There is still time to defeat the Bill. There is still time to say to the people of Wales that we do not believe that it will work, or that it is in the best interests of Wales. That is what this House really thinks about the Bill. Therefore, I invite the House tonight actually to do what it wants to do, and what it knows to be right—and that is to reject the Bill finally.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I am grateful to the right hon. Member fat Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) for his characteristically kind personal references to me, which I greatly appreciate. He will understand that what I am proposing to do is to practise what I preach and indulge in a little personal devolution in the direction of Wales.

Our debates on this Bill have been conducted on two levels. The first level is the examination of the Bill in some detail although it is to be regretted that there has not been the opportunity which we would have liked to discuss many parts of the Bill more fully.

Some of my hon. Friends and many Opposition Members have made it plain—and the right hon. Gentleman repeated this sentiment in his speech—that they can see no merit whatever in the Bill. I take a different view. For the Labour Party this Bill fulfils the pledge made by the Labour Party in Wales in the two General Elections in 1974. There is no argument about that. That pledge was abundantly clear. I made it in my election address in Anglesey and it was also made by other hon. Members from Wales in their election addresses.

The Bill broadly matches the evidence given by the Labour Party to the Crowther-Kilbrandon Commission when the Commission met in Cardiff. It also meets the general conclusions reached by the Welsh Labour Group when we considered the Kilbrandon Report in 1973, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Memeber for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot). The Bill reflects the compromise we achieved during those meetings. It is a careful and clear result of the consensus achieved in those numerous meetings held by the Welsh Labour Group in 1973.

I should like to have seen something more in the Bill. I should like to have seen it strengthened in many ways. But I yielded on many important points in order to achieve a consensus. I believe that many of my hon. Friends took the same view—or I believe that it was their wish at the time to move from the other direction to achieve that consensus. It was that compromise achieved in 1973 which formed the basis of Labour Party policy in 1974. In this Third Reading debate that needs to be made abundantly clear to the House and to the people of Wales.

There are some aspects to the Bill which need to be re-emphasised at this time. They are matters which weighed heavily with hon. Members in 1973. I take for example Clause 62, which is one of the most significant in the Bill.

We have agreed for years that some action was needed to make ad hoc bodies more accountable. These bodies, as we know, do valuable work and their members and officials are mostly conscientious and able men and women. We cannot—and on this point I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—elect every tribunal, every panel and every committee which operates in Wales. But the process has gone too far.

There is today too much government by nominated bodies in Wales. I have no doubt that that is true of Scotland and England as well. But we are dealing with Wales in this Bill, and the point about nominated bodies there needs to be driven home in the debate. It is one of the things about which the Welsh people are anxious. Indeed, for some people the proliferation of these bodies was the most compelling argument for devolution at the time.

Sir Raymond Gower

The point has been made by the right hon. Gentleman and by others, including the Secretary of State for Wales, that these nominated bodies have become quite insufferable and that Wales cannot endure them any longer. If that is the case, how can the Government reconcile the maintenance of similar bodies in England? If these bodies are so objectionable that they have to be got rid of in Wales, how is it that England can endure them and that the Government are to do nothing about them in England? Is this not a grave inconsistency?

Mr. Hughes

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concern about them. We are dealing now with Wales. As a Welshman, I would like to see the English problem being tackled and no doubt it will be. But we are not debating an England Bill at the moment. If we were, the hon. Gentleman's remarks would be more relevant.

Paragraph 304 on page 95 of the Kilbrandon Majority Report supports what I am saying. It reads: A number of our witnesses expressed strong disapproval of the growth of what are generally referred to as ad hoc bodies—that is, bodies appointed by the government to execute or advise on particular specialised functions … there are now some hundreds of these bodies. … The principal complaint is that they are not democratically elected and in practice are often not accountable to anyone. Paragraph 307 reads: The burden of the evidence we have received is that the drift towards government by nominated bodies has gone too far. It is generally felt that where these bodies perform functions which cannot sensibly be performed by a democratically-elected body, they should at least be made answerable to such a body in some way which will ensure that the views and the pressures of the electorate are brought more directly to bear on their activities. That was the mature judgment of the Kilbrandon Commission. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) was a distinguished member of that commission, and we should pay tribute to him and his colleagues for producing that massive report, which is the quarry from which this Bill has been hewn.

It is wrong also to say that there is no public opinion in Wales on this issue. The substantial and extensive evidence submitted to the Kilbrandon Commission, the details of which are given in Appendix 8 of the majority report, show the widespread concern that exists in Wales on the issue. I make that point because we did not have the opportunity to debate Clause 62, although it is one of the pillars of the Bill and one to which we should pay careful attention. I take that as one aspect—there are others—which justifies the Bill's passage through the House.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Knowing the emphasis that the right hon. Gentleman lays on the character of nominated bodies, how does he deal with the point that many of these bodies will remain as nominated bodies, nominated by the Assembly through the Executive Committee? So they are still nominated bodies.

Mr. Hughes

I do not dispute that. I thought that I had made it plain that there is some place for nominated bodies. The Government from time to time have to appoint ad hoc bodies to deal with certain matters. I want to see as many as possible made as accountable as possible. No one suggests—Kilbrandon did not—that they could all be made accountable. To that extent, the hon. Gentleman has a point, but it is not one which disturbs my main argument at the moment.

It has been claimed by hon. Members opposite that the Bill is unworkable. I do not agree. I think that it is a practical Bill. Obviously, there will be teething troubles. But the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire was good enough to say that the Welsh people are shrewd. Let me support him with an illustration.

We have had to operate in Wales the legislation introduced by the Conservatives in 1973—the reform of local government, the reform of the water undertakings and the reform of the National Health Service. The Labour Party criticised those measures at the time and how right we were. But the Welsh people have taken them on, and if they can make a job of those reforms they can also make a much better job of this Bill.

I do not want to make a provocative speech, but hon. Members are quite wrong and, indeed, even mischievous in their constant assumption that somehow or other if we set up an Assembly in Wales it will be at our throats and the throats of the Government. The evidence is generally that the Welsh are not only shrewd but politically sophisticated as well. We are perfectly capable not only of operating the structure provided for in the Bill but of ensuring that the maximum benefit will go to the Welsh people from its operation and that co-operation with the British Government will be as harmonious as possible.

Many of the arguments adduced by hon. Members opposite and some of my hon. Friends were rehearsed in the debates on the reform of local government in the 1880s. If one looks up Hansard for that period, one finds the same speeches. Then, it was said that the British Empire was about to collapse if county councils were created. It did collapse, but not because of the formation of county councils in Wales.

Let us consider the Glamorgan County Council which represented about I million people out of 2½ million in Wales and was in existence from 1888 until 1974, almost a century. It was controlled for a large part of the time by the Labour Party. During most of that period the Governments of the country were successively Liberal or Tory. But Glamorgan County Council worked reasonably well with Governments of all complexions—indeed, it was one of the most successful local authorities in the history of the country in its educational and other responsibilities.

I come to the other level on which these debates have been conducted—and one needs to understand this other level to appreciate all the criticism that has been made of the Bill. This is the broad constitutional level. It is a very old argument, which goes back centuries. It was the argument between Lloyd George and D. A. Thomas in the 1890s. It was the old argument in the Cymru Fydd period, and it was resolved in the great conference in Newport in about 1897. It was D. A. Thomas and his followers who won the argument, and L.G. lost it.

The reason that the Opposition—and, I regret, some of my hon. Friends—are against the Bill is that they are centralists by nature. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), for whom I have great respect, adumbrated his reasons for opposing the Bill with great eloquence in Committee. He said quite clearly in one speech that he is a "centralist". He believes in it to the marrow of his bones.

Conservative Members have never liked devolution of any kind. If the Bill were written by Shakespeare, framed by Francis Bacon with all his constitutional abilities, blessed by Burke, by Pitt and by Kerr Hardie, hon. Members would still excoriate it, because they do not like devolution. They are, of course, perfectly entitled to criticise the details of the Bill. That is what we are here for. It is not, however, the details of the Bill that they are against but the spirit of the Bill. It is the process of centralism—

Mr. Dalyell

Before the word "centrialist" is used any further, may I put this to my right hon. Friend? We all regret his intention to leave the House of Commons, but if he were to become a Member of the Assembly, can he cross his hands on his heart and say that as a Member of the Assembly he would not soon be trying to take over some of the functions of local government?

Mr. Hughes

I will say this in reply to my hon. Friend, and I say it truly. If I were a Member of the Assembly my aim would be to make that Assembly workable before thinking about adding to its powers. That would have been my view had I been a county councillor for Anglesey in 1889. The people of Anglesey were not constantly cavilling and asking for more powers. The powers developed naturally as government became more interventionist. That is the story of local government. Their objective, as Welsh people, will be to make the machine work properly.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

My right hon. Friend is making the point that one has to be against devolution if one is against the measure. Is it not possible for one to believe in devolution without supporting the measure? I am sure that he believed in local government reorganisation, but he did not support the Conservative Party's proposals in that respect. I am sure that he believes that certain changes should be made in the National Health Service, but he did not support the Conservatives' proposals. Surely it is quite legitimate for those who believe in good devolution proposals for Britain to reject these proposals.

Mr. Hughes

It depends on what my hon. Friend means by devolution. We are talking about devolution of a democratic character, that is to say, devolution to an elected Assembly. Of course, the measure to set up a Welsh Office was a measure of devolution, which I supported strongly, as did many of my hon. Friends. Many Conservative Members opposed it. But this measure is more effective in democratic terms.

With regard to the problems of ad hoc bodies, to which I referred a little earlier—

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

My right hon. Friend has been reminiscing a great deal, and his historic reminiscences have been most interesting, but there is always one serious omission when he reminisces on this problem. Why does he not explain the profound differences of approach which exist within the Labour movement, and which existed in the 1950s when my right hon. Friend found himself in the minority? At that time people such as myself, under the leadership of Nye Bevan and others, always insisted that what we resented about those who talked of a parliament for Wales—my right hon. Friend consistently did that—was that it was ethnocentric, chauvinistic and nationalistic. The basic issue was not centralism and devolution inside Britain but whether we looked outwards, with windows to the world, or whether we retreated and looked inside.

Mr. Hughes

My hon. Friend tends to become intoxicated with adjectives. I am quite sure that when he reads some of his interventions in the Official Report he must regret them.

My answer is that devolution—and Home Rule, if it came to that—are not regarded by the Labour Party as chauvinistic, and so on. They were historically regarded as reasonable policies supported by Kerr Hardie, by Arthur Henderson, and by the founders of the Labour Party. The authority for this Bill from a Socialist point of view is a perfectly good one.

Socialism does not necessarily mean centralism. It does in some countries, and it has at times brought terrible pain and suffering to the people as a result. What we are trying to achieve is something which will improve and strengthen our democracy.

I have been led away from the paths of rightousness. I summarise what I have to say by quoting from the White Paper, "Our Changing Democracy", because this seems to me to set the scene properly. On page 59, paragraph 296 states that as a result of the measure The unity and coherence of British society will not be destroyed. Changes in our democratic machinery will not harm the deep sense of allegiance to the United Kingdom as a whole felt by our peoples, indeed, their success depends upon it. Nothing in the Government's present proposals will weaken the powerful social and cultural influences which help to build unity—highly developed communications; widely circulating newspapers; radio and television; and above all a close web of ties in family and friendship throughout the United Kingdom. The peoples of Scotland and Wales will find it welcome that within a larger unitary state, they will have their own assemblies concerned to foster their culture and traditions and to satisfy their needs in the ways they wish. That is the aim. This is a modest measure which will help in that direction, and I hope that the House will support it.

6.7 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) has made, if I may say so, the kind of speech that we are accustomed to hear from him and like to hear from him, even if we disagree with him. He was good enough to make some kind remarks about the work of the Kilbrandon Commission in which I played only a small part. He referred to the evidence which the Commission took in Wales, but I must remind him that the representatives of the Welsh local authorities, when giving evidence to the Commission, were very unenthusiastic about the prospect of executive devolution. They were totally opposed to legislative devolution, which was put forward in "Our Changing Democracy", and I am glad to say that the Government very wisely dropped that after listening to the long debate we had in 1976.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Commission, in effect, recorded that there was too much government by nominated bodies. Although he has finished his speech, I ask him to ask himself this rhetorical question and to contemplate on it: Does he think that the Bill will mean more government or less government in Wales? I shall submit to the House that it will mean much more government.

In turning to the question of the nominated bodies, I refer to what I regard as a slightly regrettable difference that I had with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Wales. I think there was a misunderstanding on each side, but the misunderstanding is inherent in the Bill, I believe, to a great extent. It follows from what the right hon. Member for Anglesey said about nominated bodies. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) put down a Question asking which bodies were covered by what was then Clause 62 and is now Clause 60. We find that among the nominated bodies are the area health authorities. But no one should be under the impression that these bodies will immediately be replaced by the Assembly. Nothing of the kind! They will not be replaced unless and until an order is made, and that requires the approval of the Secretary of State.

Let us take the example of the siting of hospitals. The Secretary of State, no doubt wishing to put before the House and the people of Wales what he hoped and believed would immediately be the prospect if the Bill were passed, said that the Welsh Assembly would decide where hospitals would be placed. That is the issue which I challenge. I do not want to make too much of it, but, as I understand the position, nothing will happen until an area health authority makes a proposal. It will then make a proposal to the Assembly; but, of course, the planning procedures will have to be gone through, starting with the local authorities.

The Secretary of State has reserved so much in terms of planning procedures, especially affecting compulsory purchase, that it seems to me from a careful reading of the "excluded" column—the second column of Schedule 2—that he will inevitably find that his responsibility is engaged. Therefore, one needs to look at this carefully and not over-simplify the matter. That was my quarrel with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am not accusing him of anything wilful, but those of us who, without the benefit of all the advice that he has received, have tried to understand this confused and complicated Bill must be forgiven if we sometimes find that his statements turn out to be over-simplified.

Mr. John Morris

I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on reflection, has withdrawn any suggestion that I was deliberately misleading the House. I am grateful to him. Let me remind him of the words that I used. I said: At Morriston, Bridgend, Wrexham, Llanelli and Gwent they will be arguing which district general hospital or its extension should come first. They will be coming up to the start line some time next year at about the same time. Some will have to go first. Some will have to follow. Who could best decide issues of this kind? Those are the words that I used. I am not sure whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman heard them right, but the responsibility is now mine. I am sure he will take it as a fact that this is so. Proposals emanate from below and decisions with regard to finance and order are really the Secretary of State's. It is that kind of responsibility which will be transferred. I am sure that on reflection the right hon. and learned Gentleman accepts the position.

Sir D. Renton

I accept that at present once a proposal has been made by an area health authority the responsibility is entirely that of the Secretary of State as to the approval of the authority's proposal, as to ultimate planning decisions, and as to finance. But what I quarrel with him about—I shall go into this a little late in a broader sense—is whether his responsibility has been entirely transferred. It is perfectly plain that, although he maintains that his responsibilities have been transferred to such an extent that there will be no new tier of government, when we look closely at the Bill we find that that is not so.

There would be no new tier of government if the Secretary of State for Wales and his office were being abolished and all his powers were being transferred to the Welsh Assembly. That would be perfectly true. But that is not what the Bill does. On the contrary, even when powers are to be exercised by the Assembly there are a good many occasions, some of which I shall detail, when the Secretary of State will, in effect, be breathing down its neck.

Let us take, for example, the very important Clause 9 and Schedule 2. The schedule sets out to devolve powers. Column 1 gives very considerable powers to the Assembly, but column 2 hands some of the most important ones back to the Secretary of State. I agree that in the case of the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973 the whole matter is handed over to the Assembly, subject to what I said earlier, except for Section 44 of that Act. But under Clause 9 and Schedule 3 both the Assembly and the Secretary of State are given concurrent powers over a number of important matters, including compulsory purchase of land, which enters into so much development.

In Clause 14 even the powers of Ministers of the Crown "under local acts" cannot be exercised by the Assembly unless the Secretary of State makes an order. Even then the Assembly may be required to obtain the concurrence, consent and approval of another Minister of the Crown, or it may just be required to consult with him. That is yet another example of this ambivalence and overlapping of functions.

Then there are the supplementary and reserve powers of the Secretary of State under Part II of the Bill, including Clause 36 which requires ministerial consent whenever the Assembly wants to exercise powers in relation to statutory undertakings, including some of the nominated bodies whether they come under Clauses 59 and Schedule 7 or clause 60. But most remarkable of all is the dichotomy in relation to the Secretary of State's duty when, with the consent of the Treasury, he lays down economic and industrial guidelines. Plaid Cymru has always argued that in Wales devolution was necessary for economic reasons.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), whom I have the pleasure of seeing so often on this Bench, must be bitterly disappointed that the Assembly will not be its own master in these matters to which he attaches such great importance, as do other devolutionists. The Assembly will have to obey Whitehall. There is no question about it; it is actual obedience to Whitehall. Clause 37(3) provides: The Assembly shall exercise its powers so as to give effect to guidelines prepared under this section. If I were a Welsh nationalist I would be burying my head in shame at the insults to my political conscience which run through this clause.

Mr. Hooson

Should not the right hon. and learned Gentleman go further and say that not only will the Assembly be subject to Whitehall but it will also be subject to this House, because under Clause 37(5) A statutory instrument made under this section that is, by the Secretary of State— shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament"? Therefore, the argument used by the Conservative Front Bench that the Assembly can pursue its own course is absolutely without foundation. There is control not only by Whitehall but by this House.

Sir D. Renton

What the hon. and learned Gentleman has last said is perfectly true. I was setting myself the limited purpose of showing that far from there being no new tier of government, far from there being proper devolution from the Secretary of State to the Assembly, there would be this overlapping, this ambivalence, this breathing down the neck of the Assembly. But what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said it absolutely true.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has given the example of hospitals and the decision-making process as it affects the Welsh Assembly. Has he looked at another example, that of roads? In recent years the vast bulk of road expenditure in Wales has gone on the extension of the M4 in South Wales. If a Welsh Assembly were in existence at present, it might well be that it would decide that there were other priorities with regard to road building and so on. Is it not a fact that, whereas at the present time the Secretary of State is making these decisions, they should really be made by an elected Assembly and its representatives?

Sir D. Renton

It may be that I have misunderstood the Bill, but, as I understand it, motorways remain a central Government responsibility, even in Wales.

Mr. John Morris

indicated dissent.

Sir D. Renton

In that case, the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) has made a point worth making from his point of view. But it does not alter my general case about economic and industrial development, and it may be that the need for motorways will be the subject of direction in guidelines. I do not know. We have not been told. But I should have thought that it could be so because it could be thought that a motorway was necessary either as an industrial facility or for economic purposes—a laudable one, perhaps—for creating employment in Wales. But it will be for the Secretary of State to impose those industrial guidelines so that even on roads the matter is not as simple as the hon. Member for Newport suggested.

One of the worst effects of the Bill will be on local authorities in Wales. They will remain partly under the supervision of the Secretary of State, but they will be placed partly under the supervision of the Assembly. In devolved matters the Assembly will come between the local authorities and the Secretary of State. But, of course, there are various non-devolved matters in which the local authorities will continue to be supervised by him and by other Ministers. Therefore, there will be parallel chains of responsibility. Even in devolved matters it seems to me that, because of the excluded items in column 2 of Schedule 2, the Secretary of State could sometimes brush aside the Assembly.

This confusing new system would be worst in relation to town and country planning, where we already have three-tier government for Wales. In many planning matters there will be the Assembly as well as the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State will still be able to call in any matter of planning in Wales in a good many circumstances including, for example, defence or an EEC obligation.

Developers and planners will meet with a good deal of uncertainty about who does what in the various tiers of government with which they will have to deal—the district council, the county council, the Assembly and the Secretary of State. That must lead to friction and conflict between the Assembly and the Welsh Office unless immense care is taken in working out these concurrent and overlapping powers. In January 1976, when we debated the White Paper, I took it upon myself to say that the planning arrangements in the White Paper would be delirium for developers and purgatory for planners."—[Official Report, 19th January 1976; Vol. 903, c. 945] Nothing in the Bill alters the opinion about it which I formed nearly two and a half years ago.

In my view, this scheme for devolution to Wales is against the interests of the Welsh people. It will cause conflict when we need harmony. It will cause confused administration when we need simplicity. It will give rise to more government when we need less. It will mean more public expenditure on bureaucracy when we want less of it. It could also limit seriously the economic and industrial help on which Wales depends. I hope, therefore, that this Bill will never be implemented.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Walter Padley (Ogmore)

It is strange that we should be debating the Third Reading of this Bill, because a lot of detail which is really Committee stage stuff is being gone over again.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) rightly said that the division on this matter was not on the detail but on the principle. That is the issue, and it is an issue which divides Socialists as well as the Opposition parties.

However, this is not a matter of today and tomorrow. It is a long story. Having been to the committee of the national executive of the Labour Party and then, because of my trade union interests, to a meeting of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments already today, I conducted a party from the Bridgend College of Technology around this House. On one's right at the Sovereign's Entrance there is a statue of Rosebery. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he had three ambitions. The first was to marry an heiress, which he did. She was a Rothschild. The second was to become Prime Minister. The third was to win the Derby. He was lucky enough both to win the Derby and to be Prime Minister at the same time. But, because the stronghold of the Liberal Party in those days was in Wales, his good fortune offended the Nonconformist conscience and he was obliged to go down to Cardiff in 1895 and promise the Welsh people a Welsh Parliament.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) is not with us, but there was a man called Tom Ellis who was Chief Whip of the Liberal Party—[Interruption.] I hope that you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker—we have known each other a long time—but we must get our historical perspective right—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

I hope that the hon. Member will not trade on the fact that we have known each other a long time but will keep strictly to what we are discussing.

Mr. Padley

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have known me long enough in my 28 years here to know that I am discussing what is in the Bill, and what is in the Bill is a very small step towards what has been demanded for a long time by influential groups in Wales. So I am discussing what is in the Bill.

As I was saying, it is a small step. Frankly, it does not go as far as Rosebery promised, but it must be remembered that this proposal has a long history and that it needs bringing up to date. There may be ambiguity about what people want but, of the voluntary organisations in Wales which organise national assemblies, only the Tory Party and the Confederation of British Industry are opposed to some form of devolution.

Mr. Fred Evans (Caerphilly)

As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, other times, other events. However, living as he does much nearer Swansea than I do, perhaps he will answer one question. He is probably aware of the poll conducted recently by Swansea Radio which showed a majority of two to one against the Government's proposals. Does he think that that result entitles him to say that the people of Wales—a phrase often reiterated by the Leader of the House—are behind the Government's proposals?

Mr. Padley

My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) is not only a good friend of mine, but, as he knows, my wife's father fought his constituency under different auspices from my hon. Friend, and so we have very close relationship in that respect.

But I do not accept the polls on this. All I say is that at present, apart from the Tory Party and the CBI, which represents the bosses, everyone else in Wales is in favour of some form of devolution which the content of this Bill is a contribution. That is and has been true of the Labour and Liberal Parties in Wales. I shall deal with Plaid Cymru in a moment. It is true of the Wales TUC. I believe that the Bill is necessary to demonstrate what the people of Wales want.

Let me now deal with the 40 per cent. clause. I was interviewed on Harlech Television immediately after the vote on that issue. I said then that the 40 per cent. requirement was no obstacle to the people of Wales, who, apart from the Norwegians, are probably the most politically conscious and cultivated people in the world. National dimensions do not mean much here. The Welsh people turn out to vote. I do not believe, therefore, that the requirement is much of an obstacle. In so far as there is an obstacle it is that this modest measure of devolution is linked with the Welsh nationalist party.

Nothing I am about to say refers to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) or his two colleagues in the House. Of course, the Welsh nationalist party has a pretty murky past. That is why I excluded those three hon. Members. I remember an ILP summer school at University College, Aberystwyth, in 1942, when the great James Maxton was asked about Welsh nationalism. He said that it was a perverted nationalism. I repeat that I am not referring to the hon. Member for Carmarthen and his hon. Friends. They know what I am referring to, and I shall leave it there.

The danger of a "No" vote in the referendum which will follow the Bill arises from the fear of the Welsh people that the Bill will lead to the slippery slope of separatism. I referred to James Maxton in 1942 because it is worth pointing out that in the New Leader of 13th February 1943 there appeared an article by me in favour of a Socialist United States of Europe on one page and James Maxton's reply to the Scottish nationalists on the other. The demand for Home Rule for Scotland and Home Rule for Wales, to which this Bill is a modest step, is not inconsistent with internationalism in either Europe or in the whole world.

Let me now refer to the West Lothian question. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is present. His children's great great great uncle was a supporter of the Barr Bill for Home Rule for Scotland. I do not know whether the West Lothian problem existed then.

Mr. Dalyell

If my hon. Friend is referring to John Wheatley, he was not in support of Home Rule, although some of the others were.

Mr. Padley

No doubt my hon. Friend and I can get together over that point later. I stress, however, that we are dealing here not only with the Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey said, but with a fundamental division of philosophy. I believe that it is possible to maintain a united Great Britain, with the Welsh, Scottish and English peoples taking an equal part in a Socialist United States of Europe and, in a larger context, with the United Nations. I therefore believe that given the long history of this issue it is necessary for the Bill to be passed so that the people of Wales may say "yea" or "nay." Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly, I believe that given the long and convoluted history I have outlined, it is as well to let the people of Wales decide.

I shall advise my constituents to vote "Yes". On Europe they took my advice—

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)


Mr. Padley

Whether they will take my advice on this issue I do not know, but I am assured that when they adopted me about 30 years ago they knew that I was in favour of Home Rule for Wales and of a Socialist United States of Europe. That is why the Bill should be given a Third Reading tonight.

6.38 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

It is a matter of regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) is not here to deliver this speech as he very much wanted to be, since he has assumed the main burden of the debate on behalf of the Liberal Party during the Committee and Report stages.

The Bill has one merit which transcends all its other merits and demerits: it provides the people of Wales with a great opportunity which they have not had for centuries, if ever, and which over the years they have wanted of having an elected body to speak in their name.

It is right to say, as the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) suggested, that this is not the Bill that the Liberal Party would have brought in had we been in power. The simple reason for that is that we are federalists and we believe firmly in the federal principle. However, I regard the provisions as a step in the right direction. I for one am not prepared to be in favour of devolution in principle and to reject it in detail. It is right—and this is very important—that it is basically a question of principle whether or not one is in favour of devolution. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley). It is a pity we do not hear him more often. I greatly enjoyed his contribution to this debate, though he was speaking from a viewpoint very different from mine.

I believe there will be difficulties with regard to devolution, just as there have been difficulties in the relationship of this country with the EEC, but, if I may borrow a term, it will be a "creative conflict". The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, when emphasising the scope for dispute and disagreement between the Assembly and this House, should have remembered that he was belittling the scope for disagreement between this House and the EEC in the Common Market debate simply because he was in favour of the EEC in principle, whereas he is against this Bill in principle. Therefore, he picks on every detail he can to underline his objections.

If there is one regrettable feature about the debates on this Bill it is the assumption that has been made by opponents of the Bill that it is bound to fail on the referendum. I do not happen to believe that that assumption should be lightly made. The hon. Member for Ogmore was interrupted by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans), who referred to a recent opinion poll by Swansea Sound.

Let me remind hon. Members that an opinion poll was taken by the Western Mail in Wales six months before the referendum on the EEC. It showed that a large majority of people in Wales were against joining the EEC, but six months or so later, when the referendum was held, there was a large majority in favour.

Mr. Padley


Mr. Hooson

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman presently. The wrong tactic made by many in this House is to try to kill the Bill at every point. Whenever the Bill has been in Committee on the Floor of the House its opponents have used virtually every debate as an opportunity for a Second Reading speech rather than trying to improve the Bill.

Sir David Renton

That is not so.

Mr. Hooson

With great respect, I would exempt the right hon. and learned Gentleman from that general criticism, because he has protested and it is right that I should do so because he has been one of the few exceptions. But if the history of this Bill exemplifies anything it is the danger of having a Committee stage on the Floor of the House. It would have been far better for the Bill had it been carefully studied in Committee upstairs. We would then have had a much more constructive debate. I see that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) accepts that. As it was, there was too great a temptation for everybody to make a point, particularly knowing that the proceedings are going out on the media. In almost every debate hon. Members have tried to make points for or against in principle and have not really dealt with the detail of the Bill itself.

Mr. Kinnock

I wish to speak really on two points though I always hesitate to correct the Liberals' memory since it is too short to have anything done with it. Most of the debates on this Bill have not been on what the hon. and learned Gentleman has called the media since the proceedings of the House have been broadcast for only part of the proceedings on the Bill. Secondly, the poll by the Western Mail of which he spoke was originally a poll on whether we should join the Common Market, on which there was no referendum; and the poll which took place through the ballot box was whether we should stay in the Common Market. The consequences in terms of those two measures of opinion are entirely different, and entirely different, too, from the consequences of a referendum through the ballot box on the question of devolution for Wales.

Mr. Hooson

The hon. Gentleman can make his point as he likes. I am saying that it is very dangerous in this House for hon. Members to approach a Bill which might govern the relationships of this House with the Assembly on the assumption that the Bill will never become law. That is the very dangerous assumption that Members have tended to make concerning this Bill and it would have been far better for all concerned if the Committee stage had taken place upstairs and not on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Pym

The hon. and learned Gentleman has asserted that it has been wrong for the House to try to kill the Bill at every stage. The criticism we have made from these Benches is that because a referendum is being held Parliament is not to carry out its duty, if it believes that to be its duty, to kill the Bill at every stage. On the contrary, many hon. Members are committing what they believe to be a thoroughly bad and disastrous measure to pass simply to provide an opportunity for a referendum.

Mr. Hooson

I would basically disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is the duty of Members of this House, if they want to oppose the Bill, to vote against it on Second and Third Readings. That I perfectly well understand. But it was equally the duty of this House to try to ensure that the Bill, if it ever becomes law, is the best Bill we could have, and in that duty this House has certainly failed. I believe that there has been a great deal of deliberately engendered misunderstanding of the Bill. Let me give the House an example, referred to by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire.

Mr. Fred Evans


Mr. Hooson

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman presently.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to Clause 37 on the industrial and economic guidelines. I was present when it was suggested that there would be a very dangerous relationship between the Assembly, the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), for example, said that this was bringing the Assembly into the economic sphere, and how dangerous it was going to be. The Assembly could take over the Welsh Development Agency and so on. The right hon. and learned Gentleman correctly pointed out that the guidelines have to be laid down and determined by order of the Secretary of State. Clause 37 states: The Assembly shall exercise its powers so as to give effect to guidelines prepared under this section. The last provision of it is: A statutory instrument made under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. That shows, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman correctly pointed out, that control is firmly vested in Whitehall; and Whitehall itself is controlled by Parliament because any order made at the instigation of Whitehall can be annulled by this House. Therefore, there was deliberate misrepresentation or at least a total misunderstanding by those who were suggesting that there was scope here for conflict and that in some way or other the Welsh Assembly would run away with the Welsh Development Agency or the Development Board for Rural Wales. That is not the only matter on which there has been a great deal of misrepresentation.

Mr. Fred Evans

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman seriously suggest that this House could not do a Committee job as well as one of its Committees? Is he seriously suggesting that an adequate discussion in proper Committee terms could have taken place with the imposition of the guillotine? Has he any guarantee that the Government would not similarly have introduced the guillotine in Committee upstairs?

Mr. Hooson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a totally different atmosphere in Committee upstairs and we should have had a much more careful scrutiny of the clauses of the Bill, as every hon. and right hon. Gentleman knows.

Mr. Kinnock

With plenty of scope for conflict.

Mr. Hooson

I was referring to the relationship between the Assembly and Parliament. There is no provision in this Bill which in any way allows the undermining of the sovereignty of this House. To suggest the contrary is to fly in the face of the evidence. The proposed Assembly is a typical subordinate body. It does not even have minor primary legislative powers.

Mr. Kinnock

There is scope for conflict.

Mr. Hooson

Of course there is scope for conflict. The hon. Member does not have to emphasise that. As the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) has pointed out, there was great scope for conflict when the county councils were first set up, and it was perfectly well resolved. There is and was scope for conflict between the EEC and this House. For example, the Minister of Agriculture is engaged in mortal battle with the EEC at this moment on matters of agricultural policy. He argues the interests of this country as he sees them and the EEC and its constituent members argue from a different viewpoint.

We all know that in the end the matter will be resolved because a means is laid down for resolving these disputes. It is a great mistake to think that because there is scope for dispute and disagreement it will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom or anything of that kind.

Sir David Renton

The hon. and learned Gentleman was making a very important point about our own methods of scrutiny of a difficult and complicated Bill like this. Would he agree with me if I were to say that we might well treat a Bill of this kind in the same way as we treat the Finance Bill? Certain important matters of principle could well be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House. We have had to try to do our best here under the guillotine, but there is so much detail in the Bill, some of it very arid and difficult to follow, but detail that will be important in the long run, and that might well be better taken in Standing Committee.

Mr. Hooson

I respectfully agree with that suggestion.

Mr. Kinnock


Mr. Hooson

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Kinnock

I shall be brief.

Mr. Hooson

The hon. Gentleman is never brief.

Mr. Kinnock

I shall be very brief now.

Mr. Hooson

I want now to deal with the relationship between the Assembly and local authorities. Many people have the impression, from what has gone out from these debates, that the Assembly has power to reform and change local government. As we all know, it has no such power. It is charged with the duty of review. I believe that there is need for a review, but whether there would be changes as a result of that review is for this House and this House alone to determine. It is quite wrong that a false impression should go forth as a result of these debates because of misrepresentations that have been made that the Assembly would have the power to reform or change.

Let me give an example of what kind of change it might be the Assembly could suggest. We have area health authorities. Their boundaries coincide with those of the present counties in Wales. It might be thought that the counties could well take over the functions of the area health authorities. I do not know whether some right hon. and hon. Members below the Gangway would object to that, but there is obviously scope for reform there. I am not saying that it should or would make that kind of suggestion, but it is the kind of suggestion which might be made by the Assembly and which this House would have to consider.

There is the relationship, for example, of such nominated bodies as the Development Board for Rural Wales, which at present virtually operates only in the county of Powys and possibly to a slighter extent in Dyfed. It might be suggested in the future that there should be a development board for each county and that instead of its being a nominated body there would eventually be a branch of the county council dealing with this matter. This is the kind of process that I would have thought hon. Members would agree with—that the elected Assembly for Wales should review the matter and put forward suggestions, after which this House can either adopt or reject them.

Then it is suggested that there is some kind of duplication of functions with local authorities. This again is a total misrepresentation. There is no provision in the Bill that allows for duplication of functions between the Assembly and the local authorities.

In practical terms, one of the most worrying points in the Bill—and a matter to which the Government will have to give their fullest consideration before the Bill eventually emerges as law—is the question of the distribution of the rate support grant. That is an important matter, because over the years the rural areas have felt that they have had a fair deal from Whitehall on this question, and there is uncertainty as to how the distribution from the Welsh Assembly would take place.

I can understand that people are more afraid about that, as it is a practical point. The people of Wales need reassurance on it. What I disagree with is the way in which this point is exploited as a means of making sure that the principle of devolution is not acceptable.

Mr. Brittan

So that we may see the scale of the problem, will the hon. and learned Gentleman indicate what he would regard as amounting to adequate reassurance on that matter?

Mr. Hooson

I think that the right answer is to have a formula. When the rate deficiency grant is worked out there is a formula. Certain percentage points are attributed to various things. There is a balancing factor for sparsity, for example. We have been arguing recently that it should be increased. Discussions were conducted between my party and the Government on the actual grant this year, and this matter of the sparsity factor featured a great deal. If a formula were presented, and if it were emphasised that there would be adequate weighting of the sparsity factor and so on, I would regard that as reassuring. I would like the Secretary of State to make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Ioan Evans


Mr. Hooson

I shall not give way again.

I want also to deal with the issue of the Welsh language. I regret that a great deal has been made in debates in Committee of the suggestion that if we had a Welsh Assembly there would in some way be scope for Welsh extremists to push the language issue, and that it would become divisive. I do not think that that will happen. It is a bogy man that has been suggested by people prepared to use any unscrupulous arguments to try to defeat the Bill.

I regard the Bill not as my ideal Bill by any means but as a step in the right direction. It will be the first time for centuries, or even ever really, that the people of Wales have had an elected Assembly to speak on their behalf. There is great opportunity in this. There are undoubtedly grounds for dispute and disagreement with Government, but these matters can be ironed out. I regard this as an evolutionary process. I think that we shall gradually move nearer to a federal solution.

In practice, these matters will take years. It is highly likely that when the Assembly first comes into being it will take years to understand its own powers and learn to use them effectively before it starts thinking of obtaining further powers. But I think that in time it will evolve in a way that I would regard as desirable.

The right hon. Member for Cambridge-shire suggested that the setting up of the Assembly would lead to instability within the country. I absolutely dispute that. I think that there is great strength in diversity. The fact that there will be a somewhat diverse system of government in Wales, Scotland and England will be a source not of disunity to the United Kingdom but of strength.

I do not think that there will be uncertainty in local government. In fact, in local government at present people are well aware of the great opposition to the particular form of local government in use. With or without a Welsh Assembly, they know that their powers are under review. It will be years from now before the Assembly has reported on them. Any Government and Parliament here will have to consider the factor that by then the county and district councils will have been in existence for a substantial period. Therefore, there is no real ground for uncertainty there.

All in all, the progress of the Bill through the House has been an example of the House at its worst in many respects. The whole matter has been used as a propaganda exercise to try to defeat the Bill and misrepresent its content. I think that in the end the people of Wales will have a vote on the matter, and that they will not lightly reject the opportunity, which they have never had, of establishing an Assembly that can speak for them. No right hon. or hon. Member in any part of the House should underestimate the eventual realisation of the power of the Welsh people when it comes to the referendum to decide not to miss this opportunity.

7.0 p.m

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

The hon, and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) has just explained the Liberal position. It is a pity that he did not take this opportunity to explain why he was in cahoots with the nationalists to remove the commencement clause in the Bill, which had it been deleted at Report stage would have meant that the people of Wales would not have been able to have a referendum.

In fact, by their obstructive tactics in Committee, Liberal and nationalist Members would have ensured that the powers of this Bill would have been devolved to Wales without actually having a body in Wales to deal with those devolved powers. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) is not here to explain why he took that line in Committee.

No doubt when the referendum campaign gets under way, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery will be campaigning and explaining to the people of Montgomery—and no doubt he will carry the Liberal banner to other parts of Wales—why he tried to deny the Welsh people the opportunity to determine whether they want this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "He will campaign in Aberdare too."] Maybe so, but he will not find many Liberals in Aberdare who will take the same view as he takes. In fact many Liberals throughout Wales will be in the "No" campaign on this issue.

I quote from one of our greatest poets, Dylan Thomas, who, in his great work "Under Milk Wood", put these words into the mouth of the Reverend Eli Jenkins who, at the doorway of Bethesda House was reciting to Llaregyb Hill his sunset poem. I hope that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) will for give me for referring to this, because he represents Llaregyb.

The words are: We are not wholly bad or good Who live our lives under Milk Wood And thou I know wilt be the first To see our best side not our worst, I hope that in this debate we shall look at our best side, not our worst. I believe that from whatever position in the House we speak, we are all speaking in what we believe to be the best interests of Wales.

That is why I hope that we shall not have any of this nonsense expressed in certain quarters that if one is opposed to certain proposals, one is automatically anti-Welsh. That is a political absurdity. In fact, that absurdity was carried to the nth degree when the BBC and the Western Mail, which cannot be accused of being too anti-devolution in its stance over a long period, exposed the dirty tricks department of Plaid Cymru. We then had the Secretary of Plaid Cymru saying that the BBC and the Western Mail were anti-Welsh.

I think that it is regrettable that this has been a phase of all our discussions on devolution. That dirty tricks department was manufacturing letters to be sent to the mass media and various periodicals to try to express the belief that in Wales there was a demand for devolution. The fact that this manufactured attempt has been exposed is very significant.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

Is that not just the offence of which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) is guilty? He has suggested that anyone who disagrees with him about this Bill is guilty of misrepresentation. That was a grossly unfair charge to advance.

Mr. Evans

I think that the hon. and learned Member was saying that there had been certain misrepresentations about certain parts of the Bill. I certainly hope that within our party and our movement there is no name-calling. There is a fundamental difference of approach to the Bill inside the Labour Party. Nevertheless, I hope that we shall conduct our arguments without indulging in personalities. I hope that other parties will do the same. In fact, we should not approach the Bill in a party political manner at all.

We have had the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) speaking in the media saying that if one does not want devolution one should vote Conservative. He also said that if one supported devolution one should support Plaid Cymru. Of course that is not the choice, and we should not seek to make any party political choice.

Within the Labour Party there are those who are strong advocates of devolution and those who are just as strongly against it. When we put it to the people at a General Election they can vote for a Labour Government whether they are for or against devolution. They can vote Conservative in the same way. But if they vote for Plaid Cymru they are voting for a party which is not devolutionist but which believes in independence. Plaid Cymru is committed to a Wales separate from the rest of Britain. The Plaid Cymru Members in the Chamber remind me of those three wise brass monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. I know that they are not agreed about the words that should be used—they talk of national status and interdependence. But as a party Welsh nationalists argue for a separate political and economic system in Wales. Therefore they cannot speak of devolution.

This Bill has at last reached its Third Reading, and I regret that we have not had a complete consideration of its various clauses in the House of Commons. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has suggested that we should deal with the Bill in a different way. I am not so sure that sending it upstairs to a Committee is a way that we should deal with a constitutional measure. That is a good method of hurrying a Bill through the House. Then, of course there is always the question of who should serve on the Committee. It might please the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery if everyone serving on the Committee were for the Bill.

When constitutional matters are dealt with, the House of Commons comes into its own. We had that experience with the Bill to reform the House of Lords. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House played a leading part, together with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and others on both sides, in stopping that Bill even though there had been all-party agreement on it. The Whips had very great difficulty in arranging pairs because all the main parties were in agreement with the proposals. But my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Down, South quite rightly exposed the deficiencies in that Bill, which was in fact a compromise measure.

This measure is different. I believe that when one tries to make constitutional change there should be an endeavour to get some sort of consensus—

Mr. Kinnock

My hon. Friend has the advantage over me because he has been in the House longer. Can he remember any occasion on which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made any attempt to improve the House of Lords Bill, or did he use every opportunity, as quite honourably he should, to expose its shortcomings? Did my hon. Friend hear the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) agreeing with the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Sir D. Renton)—humbly agreeing in fact—that we should try to adopt a system similar to that used on the Finance Bill? If we did, can he imagine the fate of our hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Rooker) and Coventry South-West (Mrs. Wise) in those circumstances? After causing difficulties on the Finance Bill last year they have been excluded from the Committee this year. That is how democratic it is.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend has made his point. Certainly, on a constitutional issue like this, we should move correctly. I wish to refer to a statement that I made when I made up my mind about the proposals in the Scotland and Wales Bill when it was first published in 1976. We should look back to what we said then to see whether events have changed what we were saying. I said in 1976: I believe that the Government are getting their priorities wrong when at a time when we should be maximising the unity of the people of Britain to solve our critical economic problems we were embarking on a major debate to alter the machinery of Government in Scotland and Wales which would prove divisive. I believe that it has proved divisive. One cannot put one's hand on one's heart and say that the unity of the people of Wales, Scotland and England has been strengthened by the 18 months' debate—the 40 days and 40 nights, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).

I said at the beginning that it was wrong for the Government to deal with Scotland and Wales in the same measure. To be fair to the Government, they did separate Scotland and Wales. It was a political mistake to put them in the same Bill. Time was wasted by that long debate. I went on to say in 1976: The Government are having to request local authorities to restrict public spending on essential services—yet at this time in Wales it was proposed to spend £3.8 million on an Assembly building in Cardiff and create a new tier of government which would have running annual costs of £12½ million. There are those who say that it is not a new tier of government. This is semantics. If we are to have a Welsh Assembly, with all its financial costs and the powers that are to be devolved, the Welsh Office will be different after the Assembly is created. It could be said that we would be devolving powers exercised by an existing tier of government and therefore there would not be a new tier. I cannot follow that argument. I believe that we shall have a new tier of government. I said in 1976: In Wales in addition to the community council, the district council, the county council, the Welsh Office, the Civil Service, the House of Commons and in recent years the bureaucracy of the EEC we were now to propose the establishment of a new spending authority the Welsh Assembly although there was to be no extra resources to spend. I shall return to the question of extra resources. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery talked about wrong impressions being conveyed. We must make clear to the people of Wales that a Welsh Assembly will cost something. It has already been costed, but no attempt has yet been made to say that there will be extra financial benefit to the people of Wales as a result of setting up the Welsh Assembly.

There is no proposal in regard to extra money being spent by the Welsh Assembly. Increasingly, additional demands may now be made on the block grant. If the Welsh Development Agency, for instance, were to be subsumed from the Welsh Office to the Welsh Assembly, presumably the Assembly would have to deal with the finance. We have heard about the National Health Service. The planning powers now dealt with by the Welsh Office to determine where hospitals will be built is now to be transferred to the Welsh Assembly. Presumably the money which now comes from the National Health Service will in future come from this block grant. I went on to say in 1976: It seemed strange that when the Government was calling for resources to be transferred from public administration to manufacturing Industry that at this time—according to the explanatory memorandum Scotland and Wales Bill—the number of civil servants in Wales will increase by about 1,300 over forecast levels. We are concerned with jobs. The real concern of the people of Wales is unemployment. If we had spent the last 18 months dealing more radically with unemployment, it would have been far better appreciated by the people of Wales. We have been tinkering about with the question of the machinery of government at the wrong time. We have been doing it at a time when the Government, through no fault of their own, but because of a world recession, have faced the worst economic crisis that the Western world has experienced since the 1930s.

When we are talking about the need to get more people out of administration and put them into manufacturing industry, we have a proposal to create over 1,300 civil servants. Although I said that I was opposed to separatism, I said that we should set up an elected council of Wales. The Labour Party suggested the creation of an elected council for Wales. That is semantics. People ask what is the difference between an Assembly and a council. In the first General Election in 1974 we talked about an elected council, and between March and October the council had been transformed into an Assembly. One might think that an elected council was a top tier—a local authority.

Mr. John Morris

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Evans

I shall give way in a while. Is the Secretary of State going to quote my election address?

Mr. Morris


Mr. Evans

I have read it, because I wrote it. The Secretary of State will probably raise the question of my saying "elected Assembly or council". There was confusion at that time by the Labour Party. One minute it was talking about a council and the next minute it was talking about an Assembly. The proposal of the Labour Party in Wales to create an elected council implied a reorganisation of the local government structure. In 1976 I said: yet the Bill states that it does not alter the responsibilities of local authorities and in general does not alter those of other public bodies. It should therefore not materially affect their manpower requirements'. It was written into the White Paper that local government was not to be affected. It was quite clear and categorical. However, I suspected that if a Welsh Assembly were to be created, something would be done. It was not in the Scotland and Wales Bill, but in this Bill we have a clause stating that the Welsh Assembly shall be given powers to review local government. I said in 1976: It must be stated that if an assembly is created then it must follow that the existing district and county council structure must be scrapped. This would not be devolution but centralisation of local government power in Cardiff. When I made that point, some of my colleagues took issue with me in the Press and said that local government would not be affected. The proposals put forward by the Government have failed. It is no use our accusing the Conservative Party that it reorganised local government wrongly if we are to leave local government alone and add a Welsh Assembly which will be responsible for allocating the rate support grant to the counties and to the districts. That is a fundamental weakness of the Bill.

I would have said that if we were to reorganise local government we should have done it in a way different from the way in which the Conservatives did it. I now believe that there has been a traumatic experience in Wales about the way in which local government has been reorganised. If the people of Wales determine to set up a Welsh Assembly and we say that its first task is to review local government, it will create uncertainty.

Reference has been made to the Swansea sound survey. We had the survey of the NALGO employees of Mid-Glamorgan. A total of 80 per cent. of the people in NALGO said that with the development of a Welsh Assembly they were fearful of their job prospects. These are some questions which we have asked, but which have not been answered. If the Welsh Assembly is to be serviced by civil servants and there is an abolition of the counties, what will happen to the people involved in administration at county level?

It may be said that the Assembly will not abolish the counties, but will abolish the districts instead. If so, what is to happen to the people involved at district level? I said in 1976: Local government and the re-organisation of the Health Service in Wales by the Tory Government in recent years has proved disastrous. For the sake of the future of democracy it was important that we got future re-organisation plans correctly rather than quickly. That is where we have been at fault. The Bill has been rushed through the House and numerous clauses have not been debated. We are sending the Bill to another place which will have the opportunity to go through every clause when the primary House has been denied the right—let us not mince words—to debate about 70 of the 83 clauses.

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

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Evans

In a moment, but if the Minister is going to say that if we had speeded up consideration on one clause, we could have got on to the next, that is no answer.

Mr. Alec Jones

My hon. Friend will recall that no one wanted Clause 1 and I indicated that we would not pursue that clause, yet the House spent six hours discussing it. That was not a sensible use of the House's time.

Mr. Evans

I hope that my hon. Friend will acquit me of any guilt on that matter because during business questions on the Thursday before the first day allocated for the Committee stage of the Bill I asked the Leader of the House why, as the House had deleted a similar clause in the Scotland Bill, he did not announce that Clause 1 of this Bill would not be proceeded with so that we could go straight on to Clause 2.

Of course, it is a matter for argument whether the Bill will unify the United Kingdom. The clause was rightly deleted by the Government because they recognised that they might have been defeated on it. Why should they be defeated when they could easily remove it since it was only a declaratory clause? The important point was that the whole purpose of the Bill was contained in that clause.

I do not deny that the Government believe that the Wales Bill and the Scotland Bill will contribute to the unity of the people of this island. That is what all the argument is about because some of us believe that the creation of Assemblies in Cardiff and Edinburgh will bring about the sort of evil that the Government wish to avoid. That is why we needed that debate on Clause 1.

Mr. Wigley

The hon. Gentleman referred earlier to local government. He has done so many somersaults on this subject that his posture resembles that of a Catherine wheel. When the Bill was originally conceived, before the 1974 election, the hon. Gentleman was apparently in favour of having a Welsh Assembly in the context of local government. By the time the last election came around, local government reform had taken place, but the hon. Gentleman was still advocating an elected council or assembly for Wales.

Was that or was that not implying a change in local government? The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that he is afraid of upsetting local government and causing tumult and, at the same time, say that the only case in favour of a council is in the framework of local government.

Mr. Evans

The nationalists try to have it both ways all the time. They believe in independence, but come here as, apparently, the arch supporters of devolution.

If the Government say that they want devolution to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom and the nationalists admit that they do not want to retain that unity, but want separatism, they are trying to have it both ways.

The Labour Party submitted its proposals to the Kilbrandon Commission before the Conservative Government proceeded with the reform of local government. Labour Members told the then Government not to proceed with the reorganisation until the Kilbrandon Commission had reported. If we had not proceeded with that local government reorganisation, we might have had more sensible proposals in the Bill.

In 1974, elections took place for new authorities that had not been set up very much earlier. I would have gone along with the Labour Party's proposals, but there has been a traumatic experience in the reorganisation of local government in Wales. It is not possible to uproot organisations easily. The Glamorgan County Council was a first-class authority, but it has been split up into three authorities in West Glamorgan, Mid-Glamorgan and South Glamorgan and it has taken time for the people in the valleys and in South Wales to get acquainted with the new authorities. In my area, the two urban district authorities were merged into the Cynon Valley council. It has taken a few years for that authority to settle down.

We have only recently put the whole of local government into the melting pot and poured it into new moulds. If we create an Assembly and make its first task to review local government and make recommendations, can any hon. Member say that he believes that the Assembly will recommend that local government should stay as it is? I do not believe that it will. The Assembly will abolish either the districts or the counties. Indeed, I believe that the Assembly will put them all back into the melting pot and will say that the districts are too small and the counties are too large.

We have had a traumatic experience in my valley in bringing Mountain Ash and Aberdare together, but we have a first-class authority. I disagree with the reorganisation, but we are well served by the Mid-Glamorgan county authority and the Cynon Valley Borough Council.

If we abolish the counties and create larger district authorities, there will be a new upheaval and the Cynon Valley might be merged with the authority in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) or with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands). I see that the Ministers are smiling, but they know the sort of problems that are likely to arise if a local authority office moves out of one valley into another. There is strong community feeling in Wales and we need something really good to justify destroying that spirit.

Mr. Anderson

The Government would be destroying that community feeling in the name of the democracy that they claim to espouse.

Mr. Evans

Exactly. That is one of the problems with which I am faced.

One thing about this debate—and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian will agree that this also applies to Scotland—is that one can talk in platitudes about Home Rule and nationalism, but when the people look at the small print and the details and count the cost, they begin to reject it.

One of the sad aspects of the situation in Wales is that we were pulled along by the demand in Scotland. There never has been a great demand for devolution in Wales. We were having to deal with this matter to meet the nationalist challenge because oil had been discovered in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. I told the Government that if we were to debate the constitutional problems of Wales, we should be separated from the difficulties being faced in Scotland.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

I fail to understand why the hon. Gentleman is now feeling so strongly about the impact of the creation of a council or an Assembly on local government when all that must have been obvious to him, even if he was confused, as he said earlier, in October 1974. Why was it not obvious to him in October 1974 that there would be certain implications for local government? Why does he see the implications only at this stage? Is it not the fact that he is trying to use the argument of the impact on local government against the creation of an Assembly whereas he was committed to an Assembly within the structure of local government in his first manifesto address in February 1974? Indeed, when the reorganisation of local government had taken place he was further committed to that concept, as was plain in his second manifesto address of October 1974. The hon. Gentleman is wriggling and he should come clean.

Mr. Evans

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to my remarks, he would have known that I was reading from the statement that I made the year before last. I have not been convinced by the arguments that have been put forward at the various stages of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have understood my argument. He is so keen to make his interruptions that he does not listen to what I say. I was repeating what I had been saying the year before last. The hon. Gentleman refers to my manifesto address. Will he put in his manifesto address that he believes in an independent Wales? I shall give way to him again if he chooses to deal with that.

Mr. Thomas

I have tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman in debate after debate the policy of Plaid Cymru. Our policy is not one that advocates independence, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. Our policy is one of full national status for Wales within the Economic Community. That implies economic independence. That policy was set out in my election manifestoes in 1974. I stood by it in both elections, and I hope to stand by it again if I am returned to the House following the next General Election.

Mr. Evans

I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his two hon. Friends will make it quite clear to their constituents that they believe in a separate, independent Wales. They talk of national status but they are playing with words. The Scottish nationalists make it quite clear that they believe in independence, but the Welsh nationalists say "We believe in interdependence". If they believe in independence, let them put that to their constituents. When the referendum takes place let them explain to their constituents why, if they believe in independence, they are supporting devolution to an Assembly in Cardiff that is supposed to unite the Kingdom and denies them that which they seek as a party. Let them try to explain that. The explanations that they will have to give will be far more serious and comprehensive than any explanations that I shall have to give to my constituents.

At one time in my constituency we had the most serious challenge from the nationalists in Wales. Where have they gone? From having six county councillors in my constituency they now have only one, and that is because of a split Labour vote. They have suffered because my party has put to the people in the valley that it is opposed to the separatist policies of the nationalists. That is why it has happened.

I said in my statement: The constitutional changes that are proposed are the most fundamental of their kind in Great Britain for centuries. They raise complex issues. I believe that the people of Wales are overwhelmingly opposed to the ideas of nationalism and independence. That has been proved in the past and it will be proved again in future. I said: Any new system must be efficient and democratic to meet the needs of the people of Wales. The people should be given an opportunity to express their view in a referendum. In that respect I praise the Government. When I stated that which I have quoted from my statement, there was no proposal for a referendum. There was no such proposal in the Scotland and Wales Bill. At that time I had not been making a demand for a referendum. However, it it is to the credit of my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) and Gower (Mr. Davies), and others whom I shall not identify, that they realised that we should have a referendum.

During the debate we have sometimes moved away from the merits and demerits of devolution. However, what is important is whether the people of Wales want the Bill. That is why the Government are right to have a referendum. If I support the Government tonight, it will be because I wanted a consultative referendum. If we had had that, it may be that we need not have had the Bill. The option now presented is that if the Government do not get the Bill we shall not get a referendum. I may have to support the Bill so that the people of Wales are given that opportunity.

It is a difficult decision to make. I feel that there is built-in obsolescence in the form of the Assembly and that it is a body that will be politically divisive.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Perhaps my hon. Friend will agree on reflection that he may have been slightly inaccurate in his remarks earlier when he said that these proposals for decision-making for Wales were motivated by what happened in Scotland. With great respect, I appreciate that my hon. Friend was not here when the decisions were being made, but it is my understanding that following endless discussions in the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party we came to certain unanimous conclusions. At that time Scottish Members had not made up their minds about devolution. I understand that at the Scottish Labour Party conference they came out against devolution. Therefore, it is not right to say that the Scottish impetus led to our proposals. We were well ahead of Scotland.

Mr. Evans

If my hon. Friend reads what I said he will accept that I was making a different point. I said that when we had the Scotland and Wales Bill it was wrong for us to put Scotland and Wales into the same Bill. He may have disagreed with me at the time, but I am sure that he agrees now that the Government were right to separate the discussion on Scotland from the discussion on Wales.

I am aware that proposals have been put forward in Wales for the last decade or more for the formation of an elected council for Wales. More recently there has been talk that there should be an Assembly for Scotland, and that has led to talk about such an Assembly for Wales. I believe that the answer lies in some manifesto shorthand. Instead of referring to an elected council for Wales and an elected Assembly for Scotland, it was stated that there should be elected Assemblies for Wales and Scotland.

It is true that in Wales there has been much discussion on this issue for a long time. I was not present when the discussions took place among my colleagues in the Welsh Labour Group prior to the 1974 elections so I plead not guilty to any decisions that were then taken. I believe that at that time we were talking, both inside and outside the House, of a top-tier local authority that would deal with the nominated bodies and would involve reorganisation of local government.

Wales has benefited to a large extent in recent years. We have seen 246 advance factories built covering 1.56 million square feet. The factories have been built at tremendous cost. Financial assistance amounting to £38.9 million has been made to firms, involving the promise of 26,000 new jobs and safeguarding 5,000 other jobs. Priority has been given to the M4 and 31 miles of motorway have been built at a cost of more that £100 million. The Welsh Development Agency has been provided with £100 million, and that may be increased to £150 million. The Development of Rural Wales Act has been put on the statute book. That has all been done in the House of Commons.

Provision has been made for Wales in difficult financial circumstances. I am deeply concerned about the new arrangement because assistance is to be given to the Assembly through the block grant. The Assembly will have no power to raise money. It will have less power than a district council as regards raising money. However, it will be a spending body. We find increasingly that financial assistance to Wales in a whole range of spheres is to be contained in the block grant.

Mr. D. E. Thomas


Mr. Evans

I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman four times. I do not want to go on any longer. I have already gone on much longer than I intended. Hon. Members might like to know that we are going on until 11 o'clock tonight.

Mr. D. E. Thomas


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the time that the debate is to conclude. I thought that he had in mind that we should go on to the end of the week. He has already spoken for 41 minutes.

Mr. Evans

I am coming to a conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

There are numerous examples of financial benefit for Wales. Yet we have not been given the facts which determine the formula for the block grant. It is imperative for the Government tonight, or very soon, to tell us how the block grant will be calculated. The argument is that the Welsh Assembly will be financially beneficial. It may be disadvantageous. We need to know how the formula will be determined.

Certain needs must be tackled. There is the question of nominated bodies in Wales. We must examine that question. But again I ask my right hon. Friend: do we need to elect a Parliament of 80 Members with all the financial cost involved to deal with nominated bodies when the only difference will be that the Assembly, not this House, will nominate the people? Is it not possible for the Members representing Wales in this Parliament to sit with the Secretary of State for Wales with representatives from the existing counties and district councils and for them to determine who shall serve on the various nominated bodies for Wales? For example, people appointed to the Welsh Development Agency must be able to make a positive contribution to the industrial and economic life of Wales. Again there is no reason why we cannot nominate people for the Arts Council of Wales.

I am coming to a conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realise that, with the interruptions, I have gone on to a much greater extent than I intended. If the choice is that, in order to have a referendum, we must have the Bill, I shall be for the Bill. But when it comes to the referendum, I shall call on the people of Wales to reject this measure. All the indications are that the people of Wales will reject it. That will not be because they do not believe in the idea of devolving power to the people. As a Socialist, I believe that we have to bring power to the people as best we can. It does not mean that, because one believes in local government reorganisation, one should accept any set of proposals for local government reorganisation. In the same way, one can be a Socialist and a devolutionist, but one does not have to accept the proposals put forward for devolution. I believe that the proposals are weak. That is why I shall work towards having them rejected in the referendum.

7.44 p.m.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)

Nationalists have consistently approached this Bill from the standpoint that Wales is a nation and should live as a nation.

One hon. Member has seen fit to describe our nation as a spurious ethnic entity, but it is one of the oldest national communities in Europe. One can illustrate this from the standpoint of law and language. For instance, between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries the language of law in England was French. But up to the thirteenth century the language of law in Wales was Welsh. In fact, up to the sixteenth century the language of the civil law in Wales was Welsh. Indeed, in my constituency up to the eighteenth century it was in Welsh. The codes in which the law was enshrined were translated from Welsh into Latin. That system of law goes back to pre-Roman times. I say this to show that we have been there for a long time, that we are an old national community, and that I believe this to be a fact of major importance and basic to any consideration of the future of Wales.

During the last four generations we have seen the power of the State growing so enormously that, dominated as the State is by a nation 17 times the population of Wales, it is virtually impossible to expect that nation to survive, let alone to live fully. The prime condition of a national future for Wales is that its people should control the conditions of national life.

We believe that a national community has immense value as a community. We would go along with that great French Socialist, Jean Juares, who said that if we destroy the nation, we sink back into barbarism. We think that is close to the truth and that it should have support.

To continue denial to the Welsh people of all power over their affairs is a brutal affront to the Welsh nation. It has led to the increasing disintegration of our national culture, to the devitalising of the national economy, to a spirit of enervating dependence instead of confident self-reliance and to an impoverishment of the quality of life. Even at the beginning of this century, after a whole generation of English education, of massive immigration into Wales and the exclusion of Welsh from all official life, half of our people were Welsh-speaking, whereas today only one-fifth are Welsh-speaking.

The last 50 years have seen long periods of scandalous unemployment and, as we contemplate the present and likely future economic situation in Wales, we fear that increasing numbers of our people will suffer from this loathsome social disease which cruelly affects men's spirit. It is our conviction that this deterioration will not be reversed until we put into the hands of the Welsh people the power to control their national life.

London's centralism has been a calamitous failure in Wales. The poor economic condition of Wales is not due to any innate economic weakness or poverty of resources—in natural resources Wales has been one of the richest countries in the world and its people are at least as talented and able as any other people. Its cause is political. It is due to the lack of institutions which give the Welsh people the power of control over their national economy. If Wales had the kind of Parliament for which the Labour Party stood for a whole generation and promised Wales, the situation would have been transformed—and transformed for the better.

In our belief, economics should always be subordinate to politics. We think that if we had political control, we could create a strong economy in Wales. Of course, politics and economics should be subordinate to social ends. The social end for which we work is a society which is free, just and Welsh. We believe that ii the Welsh people are given the tools they will do the job of creating this society and that they will rise above the begging bowl mentality which makes them rely on what has been described euphemistically by an hon. Member as the generosity of the English regions.

The spread of unemployment is already leading to the abandonment of regional policies. The whole of Britain is being made a development area. With our own legislature—which the Labour Party promised a generation ago—we would see a different situation in Wales. We could produce our own economic policy for balanced economic development.

During the debates on the Bill it has been said several times that Wales is poor because of the accident of her being a peripheral region. Neither the comparative poverty of Wales nor the fact that it is a peripheral region is accidental. Both are due to the centralist political order. If Wales had her own Parliament—as the Labour Party promised—there would be a different order from that which exists today. Wales would be no more peripheral than Norway, for example. Norway is a difficult country to govern. It is 1,400 miles in length and has just over 4 million people who nevertheless have a higher standard of living than the people of England. Only 0.8 per cent. of Norway's working population is unemployed. Until the recent discovery of oil, Norway's natural resources were fewer than those of Wales. Norway has no England upon which to lean. Its success has been due mainly to self-reliant nationalism and to the small size of the population.

During the last two centuries Wales has produced more wealth than Norway. But what have we to show for it? It is argued that Norway has great maritime advantages in her ports. But so has Wales. Her deep water ports are inferior to none. One of those deep water ports today almost certainly would be a Europort if we had the Parliament promised us by the Labour Party. We should have emulated Norway the success of which is due mainly to a healthy nationalism. It is that and the decentralism of its system of government which has made possible its development.

We also have this tremendous advantage of nationalism, which is so disliked by some hon. Members. It is a great moral power which when harnessed makes impossible things possible for a country. One hears nothing of the horrors of separation in Norway. Her nationalism does not cut her off from neighbouring countries. On the contrary, she co-operates closely with them in the Nordic union.

Our ultimate hope is to see Wales still more closely related to her neighbours in the Britannic confederation of free and equal nations. That is a partnership of free and equal nations. That is how to describe the relationship that we see between Wales and its neighbours. The important word is "partnership". That word means that individual nations are involved, just as only individual persons can enter into a partnership. We aim at Wales being a responsible member of such a partnership.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Comparisons that have been made seem to depend upon the point which an hon. Member wishes to make. We have heard about Switzerland and Denmark, and now Norway. Norway is an independent country with far greater natural resources and more emigration to the United States than Wales has ever experienced. Can the hon. Member choose a closer example—that of Ireland—and talk about the advantages which Ireland enjoys compared with those enjoyed by Wales?

Mr. Evans

The hon. Member will remember the condition in which Ireland was found when she first got her Government. Under English government the population was reduced from 8 million to 4 million in the last century. The Irish had relations all over the world through her people's dispersion. But Wales is in a different situation. Ireland has never been an industrial country. Wales has been rich industrially and has had tremendous opportunities which Ireland never had. I am surprised that the hon. Member should forget that we lost 500,000 people through emigration in less than 20 years between the two wars. That is the situation from which we have suffered.

If England remained in the EEC and Wales had national status, it would be a full member of that organisation. It would have its own membership in the Commission and in the Council of Ministers and a full complement of Members in the European Parliament. We should be able to play our full part in the life of Europe. But in our present situation we cannot control those who are in control of us.

I am talking of the bureaucrats. We are now controlled by a bureaucracy, members of which are dedicated civil servants. In a society of human size like Wales, with only 2,750,000 people we could have greater control over bureaucracy. In a society of that size the power of the bureaucracy would be likely to wane and the power of the individual to wax.

In the meantime, any development which strengthens the Welsh community or gives the individual more control over his environment is welcomed by us. Those of us who fight for the existence of Wales and the Welsh nation feel that centralism is our greatest enemy. The centralists say that devolution means more government. What it means is more democracy, and they do not find that acceptable.

Here lies the chief merit of the Bill. Although it denies the Welsh Assembly the right to make primary legislation, which the Labour Party once promised Wales, it extends democracy in a valuable way. Small as are the Assembly's powers, it will give the people of Wales a stronger voice in the government of their own affairs. Every true democrat should welcome that. The amendment that it proposes to the centralist and bureaucratic way in which Wales is now controlled is a considerable improvement in Welsh government.

The authors of this policy are the Labour Party and the Labour Government. But it seems to us to have become increasingly clear recently that the heart of neither party nor Government is in the measure. I am sorry to speak in a critical vein because today we have heard some sincere friends of the Bill. They have been on the Front Bench and one or two have been on the back benches. They sincerely want to see Wales enjoying this type of devolution. Our fear is that this is not the Government's attitude and that the heart of the Government is not in it.

I felt this more strongly after the Government agreed to the inclusion of the referendum clause. This changed the situation. We did not object to a referendum. We thought that it would be a good thing. But we assumed that it would be decided by a majority vote, as referendums have been in the past. Once the Government proposed the 40 per cent. requirement, that added to our doubts about the Government's sincerity.

Mr. Ioan Evans

When there is a falsehood in Committee, does the hon. Member think that by repetition it becomes more true? The Government did not propose this amendment. The Secretary of State said from the Dispatch Box today that the Government were opposed to it. Back Benchers tabled the amendment, not the Government. Please play straight.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

The clause to which I referred was moved by a Government spokesman. He found time for it. He did not do that for any other clause in the Bill. This attitude suggests that the heart of the Government is not in the measure and that they regard it as a possible way of halting the growth of nationalism in Wales. This has been said on both sides of the House.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not lend his authority to disseminating such a suggestion. The reason the Government tabled that motion in the way they did was to enable the House to have the power to decide the matter. We thought that on a matter on which there had been such debate in the House and in the country it would be wrong if the workings of the timetable were to deprive the House of the right to vote on it. It was solely that consideration. The Government have made clear throughout that we were opposed to the 40 per cent. limit. We are still opposed to it. We believe that it can be overcome because we believe that it will command the support of a larger number of people in Wales precisely because that challenge exists. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will in no way disseminate the idea that the Government favoured that motion.

Mr. Evans

I greatly respect the right hon. Gentleman and he knows of the anxiety we have felt, not just in recent weeks, but over a long time, about the Government's sincerity in this matter. When the referendum was decided on, one expected members of the Government and Labour Party to organise throughout the country seminars, Saturday schools, conferences and other meetings to educate their members and the general public in what by general agreement is a complicated measure. But now we are approaching the holiday season and, so far as one can see, not one such meeting has been organised.

This leaves us in a state of great doubt. People are very confused about the measure. Obviously hon. Members are confused about it, and certainly people outside the House are still further confused. They confuse this kind of devolution with the federalism that is advocated by the Liberal Party. They confuse it even with the policies of Plaid Cymru.

There is need for a great educational movement in the country to educate people in what devolution means, because they do not understand what it means. One feels that if the Government were sincere in wanting this measure to be accepted by the people of Wales in a referendum, such meetings would have been organised a long time ago. But nothing has been done.

Mr. Abse

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's thesis that after two Sessions on the subject of this legislation, and after all the material in the Press and on television and radio, he is now pathetically saying that the most politically mature people in the kingdom do not understand the position and are confused. What he seeks is indoctrination. What has happened is that there has been education and the people of Wales understand the illusion that has been presented to them by the Government—and, even more, by Plaid Cymru. Why has the hon. Gentleman such a lack of confidence in the people of Wales that he thinks that they are ignorant and cannot understand what the issue is about? Why is he searching for an alibi? He is doing so because the people of Wales have thoroughly rejected his party and this absurd policy on devolution emanating from the Government.

Mr. Evans

When travelling from London to Cardiff with a member of the CBI the other day, I asked him "Why is the CBI so utterly opposed to the devolution measure?" He said, "The answer can be given in one word—ignorance." That is the situation. We must face that fact, and if the Government were determined to see this measure through in the country in the referendum the Government and the Labour Party would have been very active in organising the educational campaign that is so necessary in the country.

The astonishing fact is that the "Yes" vote is as high as it is in the country. Reference was made to Swansea Sound which polled a low vote in favour, but it was, 6 per cent. higher than last year. It is astonishing in the circumstances that so many people see what this system means and also see value in it. There is no doubt that if the Government and the Labour Party threw themselves wholeheartedly into this campaign they have the resources with the unions to educate people and carry the people with them in their stride.

Sir Raymond Gower

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it would be right for the Government to spend money in this way on some campaign before the Bill is even enacted? Would it not be wrong and improper to spend Government money to promote a Bill that has not yet passed through Parliament?

Mr. Evans

I have not suggested that they should spend a ha'penny on it. I am suggesting that members of the Government and Labour Party members, if they are sincere and behind the measure, could have been active in organising a campaign in the country. This is what makes us doubt the sincerity, not of the present members of the Government Front Bench, but of the Government as a whole. Labour supporters of this measure in Wales have told me how disappointed they are that the Prime Minister has not said a public word on this matter. Since the beginning he has not spoken a public word in favour of devolution. This again suggests that the heart of the Government is not in this measure.

Now that we are expected to obtain a 40 per cent. vote of the total electorate, it makes the matter even more grievous. It is almost impossible to attain a figure of 40 per cent. in the circumstances because in any case only 85 per cent. of the electorate will be able to vote. We cannot attain a 40 per cent. vote unless there is an 80 per cent. turnout. A turnout of 60 per cent. in Wales would be a good turnout for a referendum of this kind. We did not have much more of the turnout for the referendum on the Common Market, with all the excitement engendered by weeks of exposure to the issue on London television and Press. We must remember that it is the television programme that influences most people. If there were a 60 per cent. turnout for this referendum, those in favour would have to have two votes for every one against. What kind of democracy is it where in a 50 per cent. turnout one would have to have four votes in favour for every one against? An average of 34 per cent. voted in the English local elections.

In these circumstances, one should expect the Government and the Labour Party to show more activity on behalf of their policy. We cannot campaign for their policies. They should undertake the task themselves, it is their policy. The fact is that is not being done at present. In the short time that remains before the recess we are looking forward to the Labour Party proving its sincerity. It should prove that it wants to see its policy implemented and that it is not taking Wales for a parliamentary ride. Labour Party members should throw themselves wholeheartedly into a "Yes" campaign. Labour will be judged by its energy and determination and the adequacy of the finance that is made available for this purpose. The next two months will prove conclusively whether this Bill is an honest attempt to ensure more open and more democratic government, or whether it is something less admirable.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

I found the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) fascinating. I have never heard assembled, in anticipation of a crime which has not been committed, such a collection of alibis for the failure of the nationalists and the pro-devolutionists in Wales at the referendum. It has become apparent to members of Plaid Cymru, as it has been apparent to us and to the Government, that the people of Wales will vote overwhelmingly against the Government's current proposals. The Government have said that they will abide by that judgment. I, for obvious reasons, and many of my hon. Friends who share my opinions, will abide by that judgment, and Plaid Cymru has no alternative but to do so.

Obviously, in anticipation of defeat, the nationalists have to build a series of alibis, to find something to blame, because they are a party—and I am sure that they will not take exception to this description—that lives off blame, a party that requires a feedstock of grumbles to give itself life because its members can enjoy no independent existence, even having thrown aside the one thing which did give them ideological identity, the demand for independence. They have not even got that, so they are left with alibis, blame, chips on the shoulder, and psychoses of various kinds. Consequently, we have just heard from the parliamentary psychiatrist's Bench the hon. Member for Carmarthen giving his full confession and searching around for his alibis.

But our main business in this debate is not so much with the disposition of the Welsh National Party, much as I would like to engage myself in that, because Members of it are much more interesting partners in conversation on this subject than many of my hon. Friends, since they are the only people who, as I have had cause to remark before, believe in the Bill—we do not find many other people who do. We must restrict our remarks, as I shall make every attempt to do, to the content of the Bill on Third Reading.

I told my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), who is not with us at the moment, that I would be making some felicitous remarks about his speech. We have heard from him and from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales not so much an argument for the Bill as an attempt to reassure opinion that they know exists in Wales. That might be a legitimate function for Governments promoting Bills, but here we have a Bill which, we are told, is the proud product of a spontaneous intellectual and physical act by Labour thinkers over the century. But instead of there being a proud and unreserved assertion of the virtue of the Bill at the triumphal point of Third Reading after the great storms that it has had to ride out over the last two years, instead of such a shout of victory, we have had reassurances from my right hon. Friends.

I am most sincerely sorry to hear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey will be leaving this House at the next General Election because I shall be seeing less of him. It will be to me a personal loss, and the House itself will lose a great deal—except, as I know he will allow me to say, in matters of debate on devolution. Whilst his contributions during the passage of the Bill have been frequent, well-informed and invariably witty and comradely, I think that he has got the whole mood of the Welsh people at this time in their history wrong, and that his support for the Bill, especially against his background and his commitment to a particular kind of constitutional provision for Wales, is misfounded.

My right hon. Friend draws, as other pro-devolutionists do—I had a rally of them in my constituency last week; it was held in a telephone kiosk outside the general post office—on the comparison which should be made between the development of county councils in the 1880s and the reservations expressed then about the changes that that would bring about, and the arguments presented by me and others who opposed these proposals in the 1970s.

I think that such a comparison is totally unacceptable on the basis of any historically applied criteria, for the simple reason that the county councils as then constituted, and as now constituted after subsequent reforms, whatever their shortcomings cover the whole country as a pattern of government. Whatever their shortcomings, too, none is a manifestation of special or separate or divided or demarctcd government or treatment in any part of the country.

They make claims on the central Government on the basis of need, and those claims are responded to, if not actually met, by the central Government, and there is no comparison between the existence of the county, local or municipal councils, whatever their size, and the setting up of a national Assembly endowed with all the splendour which it will be endowed with and which it will seek to endow itself with. It will be a perfectly natural political development. Comparisons drawn between existing structures of local government and the structure that will exist in the event of devolution, with its Assembly are totally inaccurate and unhelpful.

My right hon. Friend went on to characterise me, using words which, I suspect, have been quoted slightly out of context—but I give him full credit for that—as a centralist to the marrow of my bones. In that speech as well as in others I went on to explain—and I hope that hon. Members do not find the repetition as tiresome as I do—that the only reason why I espouse centralism now, the central organisation and co-ordination and government of our resources in this country, and would like to see much more of that co-ordination and organisation and control and democracy of resources in a Socialist country, is that I think that it is a structure that can give the best advantage to the people—the people I think I am here to represent, working-class people, irrespective of their nationality.

I believe, too, that there is another virtue in centralisation which I think my right hon. Friend would acknowledge. It is that, no matter what the character of local government in different parts of this country, there are elementary standards of provision that must be met because they are laid down and substantially financed from the central Government. So it is not because in Wales children may be at an advantage because of an enlightened and radical local government but because children in areas governed by reactionary and atavistic local authorities in other parts of the United Kingdom are disadvantaged that we try as far as possible in this House, and in the Government, regardless of their colour, to maintain certain standards.

So why is centralism getting such a bad name in this debate? We should examine what the benefits and what the advantages have been of trying to secure high standards, centrally laid down and locally administered but subject continually, one hopes, to a rise in standards. I am not sure that that could be achieved if we divided and diversified our structure of Government in the way that those who now espouse decentralism would have us believe.

We need to balance the picture of centralisation. The main criterion that I would like to put into the balance is whether the people of Wales are likely to get a better deal under the Bill, and on any examination—other than the fantastic arguments of some of my hon. Friends and others, mainly in the Welsh National Party—it is not possible to demonstrate that there can be any material, social, cultural, political or economic advantage to the people of Wales from these proposals.

It is on that basis that I regard these proposals and judge them and will continue to do so right unto the referendum. It is on that basis that the people of Wales will be judging them. If the people of Wales are wise and understand their present situation and future prospects, they will not be complacent about the result of the referendum but will come out in their hundreds of thousands and vote resolutely and overwhelmingly against these proposals.

We have heard from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State other reassurances. If he will excuse my saying so, I thought that it was the Aberavon anodyne—our fears were to be placated and laid at rest; there was nothing in the exaggerated claims of hon. Members about the reduction of representation, about changes in local government, or about the question of over-government and the costliness of devolution.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said that in the Kilbrandon Report, no less—the quarry from which the Bill was hewn, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey said—the question of parliamentary representation does not arise in executive devolution. The suggestion seems to be that because Lord Kilbrandon and the members of his commission, in 1972 or 1973, laid it down in black and white, it will ever be thus, from generation unto generation, regardless of political realities, regardless of political affiliations, regardless of the changes in our economy, and regardless of the different structures and relationships between the people of this country.

It is an absolute nonsense, of course, to pretend that that flimsy paragraph in the Kilbrandon Report has the weight of the tablets laid down by Moses. I do not think that even Lord Kilbrandon would aspire to such biblical levels of prophesy. It is absolute nonsense to seek credibly or seriously to hang an argument about the future representation of Wales in this House on the thinnest possible nail in a Royal Commission report—which has been neglected in many other respects by the architects of the Bill—and to seek to endow it with some kind of abiding truth, as though it is to be immunised from political realities, however they change over the years. What absolute nonsense it is.

Will it really be the case that this House, denied any other power in many spheres, will, regardless of the nature of Government, go on allowing Wales to send four or five more Members of Parliament here than it should have on the calculation of that very same Kilbrandon Commission? Or can we believe that there will not be any change in the attitude that English people might have to the people of Wales? About 10.6 per cent. of the people of Wales have been misguided enough to listen to the arguments of the nationalists, and I suspect that only a proportion of those people—

Mr. John Morris

I did not rely solely on one paragraph of the Kilbrandon Report in regard to the representation of Welsh Members of Parliament. Even though I prayed in aid a conclusion drawn by the Kilbrandon Report, the burden of my argument was that the responsibility for primary legislation would remain in this House, and also the responsibility for reserved matters. In fairness to myself, I must emphasise that that was the burden of my argument. The fact that I claim to be supported by a conclusion from the Kilbrandon Report is quite another matter.

Mr. Kinnock

I was trying to do my right hon. and learned Friend a favour by not referring too extensively to primary legislation. If it should remain in this House, as intended, so that decisions on primary legislation are made as a consequence of what people may regard as over-representation from Wales and Scotland, I think that the attitude of this House, as time and political tide pass, might be rather different from the rights that Wales and Scotland have to send enough Members here to make the difference between Government and Opposition in this House. That is a matter to which my right hon. and learned Friend should very seriously turn his mind.

By all means let us leave primary legislation here. That is in the very nature of the condescension of devolution. My right hon. and learned Friend likes to have his cake and eat it. He likes to give people in Wales the impression that we are giving them genuine self-determination while keeping all the power and purse strings in this House. If he thinks that that can be a permanent situation, he is deluding himself and not giving himself full credit for the great political skill and understanding that, generally speaking, he has.

Mr. John Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not want to exaggerate his own case. If he concedes that primary legislation remains here, and that reserved matters remain here, and if he concedes that the determination of the block grant remains here, does not this in itself ensure that we should retain the whole representation that we now have from Wales? Or does my hon. Friend set himself up as an advocate of the reduction of the number of Welsh Members?

Mr. Kinnock

No, it should ensure that the number should stay the same. I could make out a very good case—and probably my right hon. and learned Friend will have to do the same—for trying to increase the number of Members, due to the fact that we shall wish to influence our main source of wealth for Wales. I entirely agree with him there, and that is what should be the case. But there should also be love, peace and brotherhood, and sun throughout August, but these things do not come to pass. There should never be a Tory Government, as far as my right hon. and learned Friend and I are concerned, but there are Tory Government, as he may have noticed.

It is no good our sitting in May 1978 saying that there should not be a reduction, or that we should be able to ensure the maintenance of a certain number of Members of Parliament from Wales. That is absolutely no guarantee. Our life in Wales hangs by that very thread.

There is another consideration—

Mr. Dalyell

If we are told that the Welsh Assembly is to have nothing to do with meddling in local government, and if we are then told also that the Welsh Members of Parliament in this place will need to be as active as ever, what the heck will the folk in the Coal Exchange be doing?

Mr. Kinnock

That is yet another point that has not been answered thus far. But there are other areas, of course, in regard to which my right hon. and hon. Friends—not too many of my hon. Friends but a fair number of my right hon. Friends—would like to have their bread buttered on both sides.

The proposition is that with devolution we are answering an overwhelming demand from Wales to give people the determination of their own affairs or, in the words of my right hon. and learned Friend, to bring decisions nearer to the people. I am sure that that proposition is genuinely made, and an attempt has been made to carry it out in the course of the Bill. But here we have my right hon and learned Friend telling us that all matters of importance, such as primary legislation, budgetary control the block grant, and all the matters which really make Wales tick—if tick it does, and if it is allowed to tick afterwards—are to remain here.

This is the essential paradox of devolution. It does not provide the opportunity, to which reference is so often made, to release the latent energies of the people of Wales, because we are much too busy trying, simultaneously, to keep the firm centralist control that my right hon. and learned Friend wants, and should have, in the Cabinet over all important matters. But the attempt is made to give the people of Wales the impression that they have definitive decision-making powers. It was Cobbett who said that it is by the semblance of freedom that men are enslaved. It is by the semblance of devolution and of decentralisation that we harden centralisation. It is by the semblance of unity, for which my right hon. and learned Friend has argued in the course of the Bill, that we get disunity. We have semblances, pretences and half-way houses which can give no assurance or profit to the people of Wales.

Time after time, in the course of discussions on the Bill, we encounter just these paradoxes and these dilemmas, which my right hon. Friends have yet to resolve in their zeal for getting some form of devolution on the statute book.

Mr. John Morris

Will my hon. Friend say whether we are devolving too much or too little?

Mr. Kinnock

That is not necessarily a question for me to answer, but I shall answer it. The fact that a question is not for me has never yet stopped me answering such a question. I see that my right hon. and learned Friend's name is on the back of the Bill. The question whether it goes too far or not far enough depends on whom we have to please. Obviously it does not go far enough for the nationalists. That is pretty straightforward. Obviously it goes too far for the hard-line Unionists. In that respect I do no discourtesy, even though I frequently attempt to do so, to the Conservative Party by saying that it affronts its Unionists traditions.

As I have tried to emphasise to my right hon. and learned Friend, my consideration is not quantitative; it is invariably qualitative. My examination is not where it goes or how far it goes, but what it actually does. What this Bill does is to try to give the impression of decentralisations and to try to spawn the cosy idea of bringing decisions nearer the people, whereas in actual cynical fact it keeps those decisions just where they have, always been.

That is a relatively honest proposition. It is one in which I should like to see possibly more structural and constitutional changes than my right hon. and learned Friend. But at least it is understood and much less confusing, dazzling and misleading than the proposition made for the kind of devolution that is now being proposed. My right hon. and learned Friend should not be asking the question whether it goes too far or far enough of me. He should be asking whether we are doing the right thing. I say to him profoundly that he is not doing the right thing. The degrees do not particularly matter. It is the purpose and the consequences for the people of Wales that have concerned me throughout.

I move over the whole question of local government. My right hon and learned Friend dealt with this briefly and I shall try to do the same. The fact is that again this illustrates the dilemma and paradox of devolution. Here we are with a clause that awards power to the Assembly to review the structure. It is a body which according to my right hon. and learned Friend is superior to commissions and all the other bodies that have been set up. It may review and report back to this House. This House can deliberate upon the matter, but because it is primary legislation, the power to decide stays with this House. That is a little more fantastic than the average Hans Andersen story and a great deal more expensive. If that were the procedure adopted, it would be a ludicrous waste of time and money. If it were adopted, and this House for various reasons—because it is the United Kingdom Parliament—did not concur in an entirely different pattern of local government provision and power in Wales, such proposals would be highly unlikely to get through this House. I bring that to my right hon. and learned Friend's notice as a matter of reality with which he is well acquainted.

The other point is that it would be quite preposterous to introduce an Assembly and then, as I have noticed some of my right hon. Friends doing during the course of the debate, try to make the proposition that the Assembly might not necessarily change anything. What an idle and eunuch activity that would be for this Assembly which is supposed to voice the will and the view of the people of Wales.

What about the question of costliness and over-government? My right hon. and learned Friend has said that the great virtue of devolution, even if it is a little costly—I entirely agree with him in that respect—is that it will bring decisions nearer the people. I am not entirely convinced that the address at which decisions are made is as important to the people as the decisions which are actually made. If that were the case, there would be a great many changes.

For instance, a few weeks ago I worked in the Lambeth, Central by-election. I found the people of Lambeth, Central rather more alienated with a rather stronger feeling of distance from the centre of power, even though they lived but a five-minute stroll away from the epicentre of British political power. They did not live 153 miles away like my constituents, 200 miles away like the people of Machynlleth or 230 miles away like the people of Holyhead. Why were they alienated? Because this House and this system, economic and political, had not made proper provision for those people. It had nothing to do with the place at which decisions were made. Indeed, apart from being close to Whitehall and Westminster, the people of Lambeth, Central are rather nearer to their centre of local government, whether the GLC or their local borough council, than the people of most parts of my constituency.

The idea of proximity being equated with democracy is highly suspicious. Obviously it can make differences and stimulate interest. But to say that they are one and the same thing or that one is guaranteed to stimulate the other is an argument which any democrat and certainly any democratic representative finds highly suspicious.

We have been given the illustration of hospitals. The vein running through the arguments which are advanced when devolutionists talk about hospitals, schools and so on is that by linking the words "hospital", "school", "decision", and "democracy" together, there will be an automatic thought relationship set up among their audiences that we are all in favour of more democracy because with it we could decide that we wanted more hospitals and, therefore, if we had devolution which equals democracy, we could have more hospitals. However, the real problem with hospitals is the allocation of resources, and I have enough confidence in my right hon. and learned Friend to know that if sufficient resources are allocated to the people of Wales, he will exercise the most thorough judgment and the greatest sense of fairness in trying to give appropriate priority to a hospital building programme. I should not only give him applause for exercising that judgment. I should positively wrap my arms round his neck and then help to chair him down the streets of Blackwood if he decided that the hospital that I want is at the top of his list.

I think that that situation is unlikely to change, other than for it to become much more confused and no more democratic if that decision is left, without much more definition than we have in the Bill, to a committee of the Assembly or even to the will of the Assembly generally.

There is no lack of confidence in my fellow countrymen. If we ever have an Assembly, I shall do my best to see that comrades of mine with whom I am in close association and for whom I have great respect represent my constituency in the Welsh Assembly. I would invest in their judgment at any time. However, the decision that is arrived at about the allocation of resources first of all does not guarantee any additional resources—in fact, I think that the contrary is the case and that it will guarantee fewer resources—and, secondly, that it will not be arrived at more expertly or justly than it would be by my right hon. and learned Friend.

I do not think that my right hon. and learned Friend is engaging in false humility when he makes this argument. I think that he is just trying to find some justification for a body that has little justification in any other respect and that by connecting virile words such as "democracy" and "the needs of the people of Wales", the impression can be conveyed that devolution means roofs over heads, hospital beds, more schools and more school places. It will be difficult for anyone to sustain arguments of that kind when they come to be examined by people at the referendum.

I intend to talk only briefly about the referendum. The proposition has been advanced, especially by the nationalists and to a lesser extent by my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the referendum will be unfair because of the ignorance or lack of understanding of the people of Wales. What is more, they have said repeatedly that the resources of the bosses will be put on the side of the anti-devolution argument—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) rightly laughs. I think that my laughter will be a little more sour than his because, unless the position changes, I shall have fewer resources at my disposal to fight the referendum campaign than will people in the Conservative Party.

My right hon. and learned Friend knows there is no chance of the Confederation of British Industry or any other federation of bosses making an offer to me—and even less chance of one being accepted by me and my hon. Friends—to campaign for a "No" vote. There have been people in the history of this Parliament who have been known to change their opinions on matters about which there was a referendum and not to be too discriminating about the source of the finance for the "Yes" vote.

Without claiming to be pristine, I believe that I am a little more discriminating. The campaign we shall be conducting will be a Labour movement "No" campaign which will be financed from the constituency Labour parties, which are already part of the campaign, and from the trade union branches. They will be giving rank and file money, in spite of what the national union leadership might be doing, to that campaign. The funds might not amount to much, but they will buy us enough paper and print to get the message forcefully over to the people of Wales so that we may stimulate the feeling and knowledge they already have that the Bill is nothing more than an attempted appeasement of nationalism which cannot hope to succeed, and which if it ever were fully implemented, would be an automatic cause of disunity, an automatic feed for the development of separatism for which the nationalists crave.

There is no material, cultural, political or economic benefit in it for the people of Wales. They will reject it because they are the voice of the rank and file in Wales. They are not engaged in the semantics, academics and parliaments in the air with which some of my right hon. Friends have been involved over the years. They are concerned about the realities—the hospitals, the schools, and the homes that they need. They know that their chance of getting more of what they want in those directions, and of getting the jobs they need, diminishes if Wales becomes separate and different from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

I must remind hon. Members that they have only one hour and 20 minutes left before the winding-up speeches begin and that a considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members are waiting to speak.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Michael Roberts (Cardiff, North-West)

I am sure that the people of Wales and all Welsh right hon. and hon. Members look forward to the interesting referendum campaign. We shall be following the eloquence of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). He referred to the nationalists. I am sorry that the President of Plaid Cymru, the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), is leaving the Chamber at this moment. I realise that he has been here through the entire evening.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) appealed at one stage for a charitable and generous approach. He addressed his remarks on the issue of devolution and the referendum to the Plaid Cymru Bench. He should have known better. He should have known that it is always in vain that one approaches Plaid Cymru in search of an appreciation of anyone else's point of view.

The speech today by the hon. Member for Carmarthen was in many ways a revealing speech. He spoke of people coming to Cardiff and South Wales from across the border as immigrants. Yet these are the people who live in the Welsh valleys today. He spoke about our people—the Welsh people—emigrating when they crossed the border into England.

I am certain that when it comes to the referendum campaign the decisive factor will not be the eloquence of the hon. Members for Bedwellty and Pontypool (Mr. Abse). It will not be the case that we put up from the side of unionism in the Conservative Party. It will not be the inspiring campaign of the Government. The decisive factor will be the impression that the people of Wales will get of the Plaid Cymru Members. The people will remember what was said today. They are confused about where Plaid Cymru stands on this matter. It is no wonder that they are confused. They cannot get the nationalists to say honestly that they stand for a completely separate and independent Government.

The nationalists talk about independent partnerships. But everyone in Wales will know—and their instincts will be absolutely right on it—that the nationalists will use this constitutional device, which some see as an efficient improvement in the administration of the government of this country, for the sole purpose of moving towards self-government.

To take just one facet, education, very wisely and properly, in the interests of the children, the schools and education, this Bill keeps the inspectorate right out of the control of the Assembly. The inspectorate will remain the inspectorate for the United Kingdom. An inspectorate in terms of education has an enormous job to do.

I believe that when the Assembly is established one of the first things it will do will be to demand complete control of education throughout Wales. All kinds of chauvinist arguments will be developed to secure that control; and the people who will suffer will be the children of England and the children of Wales, because it is only through an inspectorate which covers the whole field that we can get the maximum benefit in education both for the children of Gloucester and the children of Glamorgan. I use that purely as an illustrative point because I believe it will be extended in every field that it can be and that the nationalists will use this purely for the establishment of self-government. Plaid Cymru are understandably coy about saying openly that they stand for a separate Government.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

This is a theme which the hon. Gentleman has developed before and is developing again tonight. May I make it quite clear to him once and for all that, although our party supports full national status for Wales, that does not mean independence; it means a partnership within Britain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) has said clearly. Although that is our medium and longer-term policy there is no way in which we can or would ever seek to make progress in this policy aim without the full-hearted consent of the Welsh people.

Therefore, our priority is to make the Welsh Assembly work. The hon. Gentleman must not go around Wales during the referendum trying to scare people off from supporting an Assembly by purporting to state that in the ultimate the Assembly will inevitably lead to some kind of independence or separatism. That is not the case. The position of Plaid Cymru is that we want to make the Assembly work as an Assembly.

Mr. Roberts

We are told by Plaid Cymru that its policy is not independence; it is partnership. If partnership means that we have a partnership with France—an equal partnership with that country—France is an independent nation and the partnership of which Plaid Cymru speaks states absolutely that Wales, too, would be independent. Plaid Cymru can go on protesting, "We are not going to try to get extra powers for the Assembly of Wales," but, fortunately, nobody in Wales will believe them, because the policy of Plaid Cymru quite clearly is to establish a separate Government. One can understand its members being coy about it because the nationalists in Scotland, emboldened by the lubrication of oil, boldly came forward with their policy of independence and they have been stung at the polls; and I suspect the same will happen when the people of Wales realise that Plaid Cymru is not basically concerned with just "Good old Wales" and "Let us develop things in Wales". Plaid Cymru is concerned with separation, and that will be the issue on which most electors in Wales will judge the referendum and will, in my view, come down against it.

I shall not speculate on the reason that the Assembly is to be charged with the role of reviewing local government, but I am heartily fed up with listening to the arguments put forward, as they were put forward again today, by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) and the Secretary of State that wherever they go in Wales they are told that people are annoyed about local government. It is an argument that I have heard the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) advance.

I, too, go about Wales. It is not the burning issue. People do not like paying rates. I never liked paying them before local government was reorganised. I do not particularly like paying them now. I pay them in anger. As costs have gone up, for all sorts of reasons, it is true that no one likes paying taxes and rates.

But anyone who believes that local government in Wales is totally hopeless and a complete failure should look at some of the departments. I state with complete confidence that the social services department of the South Glamorgan County Council is run with great efficiency and great humanity and does a marvellous job. That is just one example of a department of local government working effectively.

There is no evidence that there is widespread discontent with our system of local government. The local government officers and the councillors of all political parties are doing the best possible job and an effective job.

Mr. Wigley

Surely, even with the best social services department in the world in South Glamorgan—and I take the hon. Gentleman's word for that—there will inevitably be weaknesses in the organisation of local government, because social services come under the county and housing comes under the district. The hon. Gentleman will have the same problem as is experienced in every other part of Wales and elsewhere because of this structural ineffectiveness, where a sphere that is unnaturally divided between the two comes under different authorities.

Mr. Roberts

I recognise the great problem of reorganisation of local government which the hon. Gentleman touched on in his intervention. The problem is that some services are better organised in a small authority and some are better organised in a large authority. But that problem will remain whether local government is reorganised by the expertise of this House or by the expertise of a newly elected Assembly. That is the real problem of local government—to try to get the right authorities matched to the functions and responsibilities, to try to get a blend between town and country.

Does anyone in his right mind really believe that an Assembly which has just been elected is the experienced body to undertake that role as its very first task? However enthusiastic one is for devolution, however enthusiastic one is for a Welsh Assembly, I cannot believe that one would say that in anything like an ideal administration that is a task that the Assembly should be given. Clearly it will not have the experience to carry it out.

Secondly, not only will it not have the experience but the newly elected Assembly is essentially bound to be, by its very nature, a politically motivated body. I would not particularly want it in the first instance taking over for the first time. That would very likely lead to a local government reorganisation structured in the political interests of the majority party.

Mr. Anderson

Not only will the Assembly have no experience, but those who have the experience, the existing local government members, will not be called on in any way to add to the consideration.

Mr. Roberts

Exactly. I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point.

The third feature of any newly elected Assembly is that it is almost certain to be—I put it no higher—an empire-building organisation, creating more powers for itself. What a wonderful opportunity it will have to do so, at the expense of local government, in the process of putting forward proposals to reorganise and review the local government structure.

For these reasons, I shall certainly vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. I regret very much that, the fact that we are having a referendum has influenced the decisions of so many people in this debate. If there were no referendum there can be no doubt that a very large number of Members of this House would have looked at the Bill, analysed it and decided that it was bad. They would have voted against it accordingly. The authority of Parliament and respect for individual Members is damaged when a powerful speech is made against the Bill, yet hon. Members still go into the Lobby to support it.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

We are coming to the end of a very long road. We have had all the debates last Session on the Scotland and Wales Bill and debates this Session on the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, but nothing new has emerged. Nobody is likely to be influenced away from his opinion by anything that has been said in the debate tonight, and it is very difficult to conceive anything new that could be said at this stage. Nevertheless I shall persevere.

The details that have been discussed from Second Reading through to Third Reading will in no way affect the result of the referendum. People are not concerned with the minutiae. They do not care whether the Bill is improved during the course of progress in this House. They are concerned rather with the gut feeling whether the sort of Wales of which they feel a part will be improved or not as a result of the Bill.

The gut feeling of the great majority of people is that this Bill is unwanted and that it will lead the way to separation. I believe that they will reject it. It is difficul to find anyone in Wales who wholeheartedly favours the Bill and who will campaign for it enthusiastically in the referendum. I cannot see anyone enthusiastically going into the valleys and townships proclaiming that he is in favour of the Bill. I cannot imagine anyone claiming that it will bring immeasurable benefits to the people. Certainly the nationalists will not claim that. I am rather bemused by their attitude. I am not sure what their current formula is—whether it is community, partnership or interdependence.

Mr. Kinnock

I have tried to explain to him that the Welsh nationalists are not in favour of independence. They want to be like Norway.

Mr. Anderson

Perhaps they do want to be a non-dependent colonial territory like Norway. Perhaps they might learn something from that.

Enthusiasm for the "Yes" campaign will not come from Members of the Conservative or Liberal Parties. Looking at the broad Labour movement in Wales, over the past year, I have not seen Ministers or trade union leaders conspicuous in their campaigning or missionary zeal. I have not seen them working up and down the valleys declaring that the Bill must be supported. Nor has there been any great enthusiasm or change of heart among the mass of trade union supporters. They have not said that they have seen the light and that they are prepared to put time and money into ensuring a "Yes" vote. This is an orphan of a Bill. It is not supported by any sizeable block of opinion in Wales.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I have been listening with great interest to the hon. Mem, ber for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). He knows that the great majority of people in Wales will not support the Bill at the referendum. He also knows, because he has spoken so firmly against it in the past, that the Bill is a bad one. I am sure that he would support everything that was said in the devastating speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). That being so, perhaps he could tell me why we must go through the farce of sending the Bill to another place where there is no enthusiasm for it, bringing it back here eventually, making it an Act and going through the process of a referendum, when there is no doubt at all that it will produce a "No" result. Is it not his duty tonight, according to the dignity of a Member of Parliament representing his constituents, to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill?

Mr. Anderson

That is an important and cogent point and deserves an answer. I wish that the Bill had not been introduced. I wish that there had been a pre-Bill referendum, which would have shown that the majority of the people were against the Bill. The difficulty which I have is that there was a commitment by my own party at the time of the General Election from which I did not dissent. If the Bill were to be killed in the House we should be giving arguments to those who say that there is an element of skulduggery about it, which I did not believe. As there is a Welsh question and a genuine problem in Wales which needs to be dealt with, it is better to have the Bill exorcised by means of a referendum so that the Bill is dead in its present form, rather than give the impression to the people of Wales that, their expectations having been aroused, they will be denied a view on the Bill

There remain at the end of the debate on the Bill problems which have been discussed during the course of the Bill's progress. There are the conflicts which will inevitably arise, and the instability. Who really believes that the Bill will last for more than five years or so? There is the question of the role of Members of Parliament, the role of the Secretary of State and the unity of the Kingdom.

During the debate there have been a multitude of twists and turns by the Government. At one moment we are told "Here I stand", and the next moment—

Mr. Kinnock

"Here I lie."

Mr. Anderson

Indeed, the next moment we are told "Here I lie". There have been moves because positions have been unsupportable. This position arose on the two Bills, on Clause 1, the unity clause and on the referendum. It arose on the question of local government when we were told firmly at the time of the 1974 White Paper that there would be no change in local government as a result of the passing of the Bill.

We are now told that this is one of the major reasons for voting for the Assembly—that it will bring about a change in local government. It is ludicrous that an untried Assembly is invited to give its own inexpert opinion about the future of local government in Wales when those with experience of local government are not invited to give their opinion. The result will be an attempt to add power to the Assembly at the expense of local government, taking decision-making away from the real communities in Wales, which are the communities around our local government units, and putting it at an all-Wales level. It will result in a turning away from the more democratic elements.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State justifies the Bill by claiming that it will lead to better government and that it is in response to popular demand. He made the point about the choice of priorities of hospital expenditure. That has been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty. On the point about hospitals, it is a matter of the resources, in any event. The point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) about planning powers is relevant.

Roads expenditure has been mentioned. We may run into an anti-democratic argument here. It was said that almost all major road expenditure over the past couple of years in Wales had been on the M4. Then, when that is completed, we go on with a similar road in North Wales. With a quasi-local government body composed of local representatives, it is difficult to imagine an objective decision being taken to proceed with those two major roads, which are in the interests of Wales. The decision will be to split the investment in favour of many B roads in the Principality.

Does anyone seriously believe that the result of the referendum will be in favour of devolution? Its supporters are forced to rewrite the facts. The Swansea Sound poll showed that most people in South-West Wales do not want a Welsh Assembly. Asked whether they were in favour of Welsh Assembly, 53 per cent. of those polled said that they were not. A total of 33 per cent. were in favour and 9 per cent. did not know. It should be remembered that the poll was conducted in West Glamorgan, a border area comprising many Welsh-speaking districts where one would assume that there would be a larger proportion in favour of an Assembly than in other parts of Wales. Yet the article in The Guardian yesterday on that poll is headed: More Support for Welsh Devolution.

Mr. Wigley

The article was written by a Labour candidate.

Mr. Anderson

For fraternal reasons, I had better not comment on that, although, of course, it was a sub-editor who wrote the headline.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)

Can my hon. Friend explain why the Welsh people are so keen to have their own language and all the signs written in Welsh, yet they do not want an Assembly?

Mr. Anderson

My best answer to that is to invite my hon. Friend to visit Swansea to hear what the person in the street and the ordinary Labour voter has to say about expenditure on the symbols of the language rather than on the language itself. I shall not branch into a discussion on the language and I have never used it as an argument against the Assembly. Most Welsh people have a considerable regard for the language. We believe that it underpins our culture and the distinctiveness that many of us value. However, I do not believe that there is the overwhelming support for bilingual road signs—and the cost involved—that my hon. Friend assumes.

In the light of the certain defeat of this measure at the referendum, we should begin to look beyond the Bill to consider where we go afterwards—not in a negative way, because for most people in Wales this would be a step in the dark leading to instability and uncertainty and would be too large a step at this time.

Most of us in Wales accept that there is a Welsh dimension and something in Wales that sets us apart from, say the North-East and Merseyside and certainly the South-East. There is not in those areas the degree of identification and consciousness which exists in Wales.

Given the expected rejection of this measure, which is the only devolution measure before us, we should begin to bend our minds to the ways in which we can pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the referendum result.

Mr. Wigley

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that in the unlikely event of the referendum vote being "No" or not reaching 40 per cent., we should have another Bill in the next Session to take up more parliamentary time next year to get the right solution?

Mr. Anderson

No. I am certainly not saying that. The starting point is that there is a Welsh dimension to politics. The way of seeking to react to that in constitutional terms should, if possible, be by consensus, by discussion between the parties any by identifying areas where there are genuine dissatisfactions in Wales. For example, problems concerning nominated bodies and the problem referred by the Secretary of State about the decisions he has to make on priorities in hospitals would come under this heading.

Could we not, by looking at the present local and central government structures, devise means of seeking to meet those problems? If one wants to import a democratic element into the decisions on hospitals, could we not, as a first step, have from the existing local government bodies in Wales an indirectly elected all-Wales body that could meet specific problems without an enormous apparatus, paraphernalia or the expensive bureaucracy envisaged in the Bill?

Could we not also as a start consider the procedures of the House, ideally on a consensus basis, to ascertain whether measures can be found to meet those problems? That has been the traditional way in the House of moving to meet problems, ideally on a consensus basis. We should not seek to make giant steps that are beyond what public opinion will accept at the time. I am sad that we have wasted our time on the Bill for so many years. I hope that after the referendum we shall begin to learn our lessons and set off on a new path.

9.11 p.m.

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

The Government must be worried by the extent of the opposition that has been expressed not merely from the Opposition Benches but from their own Benches. It is opposition that has been expressed vigorously and effectively. The speeches of the hon. Members for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) were expressions of the doubts and anxieties that are felt on the Government Benches. As I said in earlier debates on the Bill, our anxieties would probably have been lessened had the Government not limited devolution to Wales. If there had been some similar devolution for the whole of the United Kingdom, at least some of our fears would have been lessened and we would have had greater confidence about the future and the unity of the British Isles.

The Bill is essentially the measure that was first presented to Parliament, with the exception of the matters referred to by the Secretary of State in his opening remarks. The harsh operation of the guillotine has meant that whole sections of the Bill have not been debated.

Mr. Alec Jones

Whose fault is that?

Sir R. Gower

I do not accept that it was the fault of any of my right hon. and hon. Friends, or any other part of the Committee as it then was. The operation of a guillotine in such a form made it inevitable that large parts of the Bill could not be adequately discussed. That is borne out by the fact that only 16 clauses out of 84 were discussed.

Mr. John Smith

Whose fault is that?

Sir R. Gower

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the form of the guillotine made it virtually impossible, however we arranged our debates, to get through the other 60 clauses.

Mr. Gourlay

Can the hon. Gentleman put his hand on his heart and say that the debates that took place within the operation of the guillotine were not verging on tedious repetition?

Sir R. Gower

There was far less repetition than we might have anticipated. The hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber for much of the debate. I have been present practically throughout the debates that have taken place on the Bill. I have not seen the hon. Gentleman in the Chamber all that often.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have never seen him in the Chamber for the debates on the Bill.

Sir R. Gower

The hon. Gentleman has been here once or twice but not very often.

Mr. John Smith

I give the hon. Gentleman a specific example. If he casts his mind back to the debate on Clause 1, he will recall that the debate continued for six hours on a clause that the Government announced they did not seek to make part of the Bill. Would it not have been better to use that time more usefully?

Sir R. Gower

The Government took that decision after refusing to do so on a number of occasions. There was a similar debate on the Scotland Bill. The Government refused to answer questions on that issue the day before the debate took place. An invitation to make a statement was neglected. It was not surprising that all sections of the Committee wished to comment on such an important change of policy. It was inevitable. The very nature of the change was bound to arouse a debate.

By no expedient could the Bill have been fully considered within the ambit of the timetable. Such a far-reaching constitutional measure demanded full and detailed examination. The Government refused to grant it. Indeed, they neglected to give the opportunity for it.

There are those in the Labour Party, as has been explained to us today, who have long supported the idea and principle of more self-government in Scotland and Wales. That was the tenor of the speech by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). We certainly respect the views that such Members have held and put forward for a long time. But I cannot accept the reasons given by Ministers and others for the Bill. We have been told that this is the culmination of a long process of consideration of devolution. I fear that all we have heard in speeches today and at earlier speeches indicate that the Bill owes far more to political expediency than to anything else. The very format of the Bill suggests that.

It is interesting to surmise what questions were asked by Ministers when the Bill was being framed. I can imagine them asking "What can we produce which will stem the nationalist advance, at the same time protect Labour bastions in Wales and Scotland and not sacrifice too much to the centralised Government at Westminster?" Those are the queries which seem to have inspired this legislation.

The enthusiasm of some Government spokesmen seems to have altered, waxed and waned according to the changes in the fortunes of the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales. I believe that had similar parties threatened Labour control on Merseyside or in the North-East we should probably have had devolution proposals for those areas as well.

Mr. Brittan


Sir R. Gower

In a way, I suppose it is a pity that was not the case. At least we would not then have had devolution which was identified with the national differences of Scotland and Wales from the rest of the country.

Mr. John Smith

Then could the hon. Gentleman tell us what inspired the Conservative Party in 1968 to promise an Assembly for Scotland?

Sir R. Gower

I cannot speak with any authority about what was in the minds of those who put forward certain views, but I am prepared to accept that the first nationalist successes in Scotland, and probably in Wales, created in all parties a spirit of anxiety and despondency which was highly exaggerated.

Mr. Kinnock


Sir R. Gower

The hon. Gentleman says "Panic". That was probably the reason.

My first criticism is that the Bill treats Wales, as the other Bill treated Scotland, in this manner, thereby creating a sense of national difference for Scotland and Wales from the rest of the United Kingdom.

My second criticism—I go a bit further than others—is that the Bill seems to be an almost classic recipe for conflict. We are to have an Assembly with considerable powers of decision on expenditure, but with no powers for collecting the revenue to finance the expenditure. In the event of economic problems and other similar difficulties, the Assembly would have a choice of alibis: either to blame the Westminster Parliament for not conferring adequate powers on it or to attribute its own failure to grapple with problems to the inadequacy of the powers conferred on it. In short, it will say either that it has not enough powers or it has not sufficient money to deal with problems.

One of the worst features is that this legislation creates an Assembly which in some respects resembles a large local authority without the unpopularity of collecting rates. That at least is unpopular and instils in any authority some sense of discipline and restraint. There will be considerable temptation for a body such as this to press for generous expenditure programmes in order to impress its own electorate, if for no other reason.

Another criticism involves the so-called West Lothian question. It applies less to Wales than to Scotland, but there is an element of it for Wales. The enactment of the Bill must surely mean that Welsh Members of Parliament will be able to debate certain devolved functions in more detail as they apply to England than as they apply to their own constituencies in the Principality.

I am not impressed by Ministers' arguments that the Bill will unite the British people. As the hon. Member for Swansea, East said, we believe that it is possible that the Assembly will press for more powers. That is almost inevitable. The Assembly will probably seek legislative powers at an early stage. I do not want such powers to be granted without some constitutional protection which is not provided for in this legislation. I should like to see something of a federal solution as proposed by the Liberal spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), today.

Another criticism involves the instability which this must create in local government. It has created anxieties and uncertainties among those who work in local government. I have spoken to many such people in South Wales. They are anxious about the future of local government. Perhaps their fears are unfounded or exaggerated. But that clause which confers upon the Assembly the early duty to review local government tends to create such fears.

Mr. Anderson

One sad feature of the local government clause is that positive discussion, as there is in England about organic change between the counties and districts, has been prevented in Wales because of the Assembly.

Sir R. Gower

I agree.

What should the Government do about the Bill? That question has been asked before. Ideally, the Bill should be withdrawn. Careful consideration could then be given to framing something which is more viable and sensible for the whole of the United Kingdom. I accept that that would take some time. But it would be better to have a proposal which is soundly conceived and prepared even if it takes a longer time. It should be based on a federal structure, fortified by a constitutional court to decide conflicts between the Assemblies and Parliament.

If the Bill is enacted, and if, contrary to the expectations of many hon. Members who have spoken today, the referendum is carried, the need for further legislation will soon become apparent. I suspect that it will prove necessary at an early date to redefine the relationship between the Assembly and Westminster. It will be necessary to give the Assembly responsibility for collecting money as well as for spending it.

I do not believe that an Assembly of this nature could continue effectively for long without such a power. I accept that Northern Ireland, which had limited powers for raising finance, did not exercise those powers to a large degree. But the circumstances are different. In Wales and Scotland there will be pressure to expand institutions and services. If that is to be done, the Assembly which seeks to do it should have the responsibility for raising some of the revenue, as do the local authorities. The Assembly would then have to endure some unpopularity if its plans were too ambitious and cost too much. That is in the nature of the type of Assembly that we should seek to create. I am not a diehard opponent of the idea of democratic devolution or the spread of power, but I believe that to have it in one part of a kingdom which has four entities is wrong. It is a recipe for disaster. I should not like to see a Bill in this form enacted and passed into law.

Mr. Deputy Sneaker

For the benefit of any hon. Member who did not hear my appeal for reasonable brevity. I wish to repeat it. The House is now doing better, but earlier there were some long speeches and many hon. Members still wish to contribute to the debate.

The Chair must maintain the principle of fairness, but can do so effectively only if hon. Members co-operate. I hope that hon. Members will aim at a target of not more than 10 minutes per speech.

9.26 p.m.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

At this stage of the proceedings, I do not think I shall require more than 10 minutes, even if I were to exercise my right to participate for a little longer.

At no time during the whole of the proceedings in this Third Reading debate have there been more than a score of hon. Members present. People do not like attending wakes, and what we have here is a wake. Obsequies are now being given at a time when we have before us almost a corpse. It is sad that we have squandered so much time for so long to reach this stage on the Bill.

This is particularly sad because we have real problems to cope with in our constituencies. I am referring not to the silly illusions which have been chased in the last two Sessions but to the real problems in our constituencies. In my constituency a total of 1,500 redundancies has been announced within a matter of months. I know that similar agonising problems are being endured throughout the Principality, throughout Gwent and very much in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is to reply to the debate. We all know that the problems which we face do not arise from any political programme which has been adopted but from the fact that we face a third industrial revolution, the onrush of micro systems, and world recession. The only question that is being asked throughout Wales at present is "What is being done to meet the menace of unemployment?".

Yet, when we consider a Bill of this kind, we find that, far from assisting the solution of constituency problems, its provisions are irrelevant. The only job creation that arises from this Bill is the creation of thousands of bureaucratic posts in the new Civil Service—jobs that are unnecessary, unwanted and untested.

Far from assisting or strengthening the Government's armoury in attempting to deal with unemployment problems, the Bill will subvert that aim. I am well aware that there is great need for all the weapons within the Government's armoury to endeavour to mitigate unemployment. How droll it is that at this moment they are seeking to put through a Bill which is unlikely to reach the statute book and which will in any event be buried by the people of Wales. They are even attempting to put through a Bill which will cause the maximum degree of confusion within the Welsh Development Agency. Those outside interests which are contemplating bringing their activities into Wales will find that that Agency could be entirely controlled by the Assembly. The patronage that could be exercised by 80 untried, untested Assemblymen could mean that influences could be at work to prevent any objective judgment as to the needs of industry.

Mr. Foot

indicated dissent.

Mr. Abse

It is no use my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House shaking his head. With whom does industry want to deal? Does he really think that it will want to deal with creatures of the Assembly who will be appointed? Does he really think that, through the transfer of patronage away from this House to Assemblymen who will be intimately connected with local interests, those are the sort of people that industry will want to deal with?

Does anyone think for a moment that the multinational companies from abroad that we seek to bring, and have succeeded in many respects in bringing, into Wales will want to go into a Wales dominated by an Assembly which, as is well known, is bound to be more and more demanding, bound to be an instrument that is more and more likely to move towards a nationalist position? This is just the sort of institution from which big firms withdraw, and a Welsh Development Agency that will become a creature of the Assembly will be just the sort of agency from which the smaller firms would withdraw.

On the test whether the Assembly would in any way contribute to dealing with our major problem, unemployment, the answer is clear and unequivocal. The only creation of jobs likely to come from the Bill is the creation of new bureaucrats. The answer is equally clear that all that will come from the Assembly is suspicion from outside firms which otherwise would want to move in. All that will come from an Assembly which dominates a Welsh Development Agency is a hindrance to attracting more and more development to Wales. So, on the major problem that confronts us, the Bill is a disaster.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales pleads that he cannot control his own empire. He pleads that he has built up a huge empire, that now he cannot control his own civil servants, and that his only method of controlling them—

Mr. John Morris


Mr. Abse

No. I have only 10 minutes. My right hon. and learned Friend puts forward the view that it is necessary administratively to have another organisation because what he has got is not sufficiently accountable. He is saying, in fact, that he cannot effectively exercise surveillance over his own civil servants.

Mr. John Morris

There is no suggestion at all that the administration I have is out of control. The fact that I want to be more comfortable is entirely diplomatic. My hon. Friend must not imagine these things.

Mr. Abse

It is not imagination. My right hon. and learned Friend is urging clearly that he wants his Civil Service to be dispersed because, he says, he is not comfortable. He is not comfortable because he feels that he has insufficient surveillance and control over his civil servants. If he wants to abdicate as Secretary of State, he has other courses open to him than imposing devolution upon Wales.

What is more, there is no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend, just as he is undoubtedly diminishing the whole role of Members of Parliament who are representing Welsh constituencies, equally is diminishing the role of the Secretary of State for Wales. He is damaging Wales in doing that. I have more confidence than he has in the role of the Secretary of State, just as I have more confidence in the role of Members of Parliament representing Welsh constituencies.

When I began this struggle against the Bill, I expressed the main reasons why I am against it. I believe that there is an implicit evil within the Bill. I believe that it is an evil because it stresses all the time a certain form of spurious ethnocentricity. As a consequence of the Bill, we begin to talk, as we have never talked before, of Welsh Members, English Members, Scottish Members.

I do not know in what category some of the Members who represent Wales but do not happen to have been born there fall—whether they call themselves Members for Welsh constituencies, as I do myself, even having been born there, or whether they have to assume a new title and, even though they were not born there, become Welsh Members. If they follow that practice, they follow a good tradition in Wales.

In Gwent we have had a marvellous miscegenation. We have brought into Gwent people from the whole of Britain. They have come from Staffordshire, from Somerset and other parts of the West Country. They have come in and created, in this melting pot that is Gwent, probably all that is best within Britain, with a specific flavour of Welshness. This is the fact. These are the people to whom the leader of Plaid Cymru referred earlier today as immigrants. In doing so he brought an attitude of xenophobia to his consideration of the problem.

Whether or not the Secretary of State or the Leader of the House want to exculpate themselves from a charge of trying to corroborate ethnocentric views, that is what has happened, and it has happened because the demand for separatism came at a moment when within Britain, as elsewhere, there were feelings of estrangement and alienation. It is at such a moment—as in pre-war Germany and elsewhere in Europe—that immediately there are regressive choices taken by some people, particularly when paranoiac leadership begins to take over.

Our task should be to contain such moves and to fight them. The task of a Labour movement is not to placate such spurious and evil doctrines. Our task is to smudge boundaries. Our task is to teach people not to admire xenophobia but to be ashamed of it. Our task in Britain is to talk of ourselves as Members of this House of Commons, and not to talk of ourselves as if we are Welsh, English or Scottish Members. We are a common weal, and it is to that weal that we have a common loyalty.

As a result of the Bill coming before Parliament, we are diminishing ourselves as Members of Parliament. We are reducing the House of Commons to a parish pump down in Cardiff. That is what we are trying to do. But, fortunately, we have in Wales a people of great political maturity. Fortunately, too, this Parliament, in two Sessions, has enabled those of us who take a contrary view to be able to alert the people of Wales to the consequences of the Bill. As a result of those two Sessions, it can no longer be done by stealth.

Happily, with the aid of my hon. Friends, I was able to gain from the Government—reluctantly on their part—a referendum. Fortunately, on the initiative from the Labour Benches, we have obtained the 40 per cent. clause within the Bill.

The people of Wales will, I believe, express largely an old view within the Welsh Labour movement. It is a view which does not divide Britons into Englishmen, Welshmen, Scotsmen and Irishmen. It regards them simply as people of all kinds and characters, with the understanding that there are close links between workers in every part of the kingdom. I know what their response will be to the proffering of a miserable and puny Bill that is implicitly, if not explicitly, replete with xenophobia and nationalism. The response will be a complete rejection by the most politically mature electorate in the Kingdom.

9.39 p.m.

Mr. Geraint Morgan (Denbigh)

Perhaps I may be forgiven for repeating, at the outset of what will be a very short contribution to the debate, what I said in the Second Reading debate on the Bill, namely, that it is a great pity that the referendum which it provides did not take place before any legislative process in this House. If such a referendum had resulted in the rejection of the whole project, we should have saved a great deal of parliamentary time. If, on the other hand, the principle of an Assembly had been apuproved, one would have hoped that the House would have approached the whole matter in a rather more constructive spirit than has been apparent during the debates in Committee.

I also ventured the thought at the time of Second Reading that the Welsh electorate might not be greatly assisted in coming to its decision in the referendum by the Committee stage discussions at Westminster any more than the electorate of the United Kingdom as a whole was in voting for or against our remaining in the EEC by our interminable debates on the European Communities Bill. With due modesty, I think that I was probably right, in some respects at any rate. I should like to take one example.

The Bill as it stands gives no indication whatever of the likely future pattern of local government in Wales; nor have the Committee stage debates served to elucidate the position to any serious extent, as, indeed, today's debate has made quite clear. Accordingly, the comparatively new local authorities, which came into being as a result of the legislation of 1973, are left in a state of doubt and uncertainty as to their future. Clause 12 does not necessarily imply that there will be a restructuring of local government in Wales as a result of any review made by the Assembly, or any report that it thereafter presents to the Secretary of State. However, that possibility exists, and the unsettling uncertainty was illustrated by the divergence of views expressed during the Committee stage debates by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), who envisaged local government changes in Wales within the next four years, and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who foresaw no such thing at all.

It is small wonder in those circumstances that Welsh local authorities, particularly the county councils, should feel restive about this clause and express the view very trenchantly that local government should be allowed to get on with its jobs, because an efficient organisation cannot possibly go on wasting time and money in repeatedly considering reorganisation. They point out, too, that for more or less the entire post-war period—some 30 years—there has been talk of local government reorganisation in Wales and that the system decided on in 1973, for good or ill, should be given a chance to settle down without further upheaval.

I turn briefly to Clause 10, the terms of which have been criticised particularly with reference to what it says about support of the Welsh language. I hope that I shall not be out of order if I refer to the fact that an attempt was made, unwisely in my view, to introduce a fresh clause, Clause 4, by reason of the existence of Clause 10. It was, in my view, regrettable that so much time was unnecessarily taken up during the Committee stage with the language issue. It was an issue which I think some hon. Members on both sides tried to turn into a bogey. The matter was first raised by what I might describe as the "Welsh anti-party" on the Labour Benches, but at least those hon. Members did have the good sense not to press the amendment relating to the language to a Division.

Like the right hon. Member for Anglesey, I found that particular debate an unedifying one. I hoped that with the end of it that particular issue had been buried. Unhappily, however, the Conservative Front Bench saw fit to exhume it and take a whole book out of the "anti-party's" tentative leaf by pressing the matter to a Division. As I see it, there was really no necessity for that abortive clause even though, of course, it was arguable that on paper its terms were unexceptionable. The point surely is, in the words of the hallowed legal maxim, the law does nothing in vain that the words of that clause, had they been accepted, were writ in water.

I regard the protection and promotion of the Welsh language within the fair and sensible framework of the Welsh Language Act 1967 as being of paramount importance at a time when the language is fighting for its life. Indeed, if I could be persuaded that only the creation of a Welsh Assembly could guarantee us success in that struggle, I should regard that as a most powerful argument in favour of the creation of an Assembly, and certainly for me it would be a deciding factor.

I happen to believe, however, that as much if not more can be done to preserve the language by the Parliament at Westminster as by any Assembly in Cardiff. Far too little attention has been given and far too little tribute has been paid to the enormous contributions to the wellbeing of the language from the Westminster end over the last decade and a half not only in the form of the Welsh Language Act 1967, which I suppose is the central jewel in this context, but also in generous grants for Welsh publications and the £3 million or so spent on Welsh language road signs—a figure which, incidentally, a Welsh Assembly might have found it difficult to provide.

I should be the first to concede that Westminster had much to atone for, as the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) has pointed out in this House more than once, the very first move to give the Welsh language any recognition at all—and, even then, no status as such—occurred as recently as 1942, exactly 400 years after Welsh Members first took their seats in this House. Nevertheless, it is right to say that Governments of both parties have done their best, and done it in good measure, in the last decade and a half to remedy the wrongs of the past.

Having said all that, it is only right to add that the possible adoption of measures to further the use of the Welsh language cannot be any argument against the creation of a Welsh Assembly. No one can seriously suppose that the English language is in peril in Wales, with everything on its side—its world status, its overwhelming influence through all the media, its dominant position even under the 1967 Act, and, last but not least, the fact that more than 75 per cent. of the population of Wales are monoglot English speakers, anyway. Inevitably, the composition of a Welsh Assembly, by and large, would reflect the linguistic position, as indeed this House does. This was emphasised by many right hon. and hon. Members in Committee and by the Secretary of State today in this House.

Therefore, I feel that it would be perfectly fair and reasonable to leave it to the Assembly, if an Assembly comes into existence, to decide what measures, if any, it should take to protect and promote the language and to decide what rules it should lay down for the use of the language in its own procedures and processes.

As I said on an earlier occasion, in principle I have nothing against the type of devolution provided by this Bill or even more radical devolution, provided that there is a real call for it. But I am not persuaded that there is such a demand at present. On this issue the public opinion polls have been strikingly unanimous and, even though they can be fickle jades, as at least two former Prime Ministers in this House must have painful cause to remember, it is unlikely that they are all that wrong. If they are right, or substantially right, they seem to dispose of the matter altogether.

But if the issue were finely balanced, I would still advise rejection of an Assembly at present for three reasons, each of them a powerful one. The first is the cost of the increased bureaucracy, which would be considerable and escalating at a time of economic stringency. Secondly, we are only just beginning to settle down after a period of major local government reform. Thirdly, no adequate machinery has been devised for dealing with the inevitable disputes which will occur between a Welsh Assembly and the Westminster Parliament—disputes, incidentally, which would not necessarily occur only when Right-wing Governments were in power in London and Left-wing ones in Cardiff.

My own modest advice to the Welsh people is that the whole project should at present be rejected. However, the final decision must rest with them in the referendum, the holding of which is happily enshrined in the Bill. To me that is the most important provision of all. Above all we must find out what the Welsh people want and we must all loyally accept their judgment when it is made known.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) I have found little enthusiasm in Wales for the Bill. The Swansea Sound survey has been referred to. It showed 53 per cent. of the people against the Bill. Perhaps the most significant part of the survey showed that the greatest desire to vote exists where most people want to say "No", and that is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman), the Government Welsh Whip.

This is a sad and sorry Bill for which there is little genuine enthusiasm in the House. I have listened to most of the speeches that have been made on the various stages of the Bill and I have seen a few signs of positive conviction that when placed on the statute book the Bill will improve the condition and the government of the people of Wales. That conviction is occasionally lacking even on the Government Front Bench, the occupants of which are more adept than most of us at getting away with pretence.

I call it a sad and sorry Bill because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, it does not and will not do anything to meet the real needs of the Welsh people. Those needs are fundamentally economic and are similar to the needs of other peoples in the United Kingdom. The degree of need may vary in different parts of the kingdom. Therefore we have a predominantly unitary State to ensure the just distribution of resources to meet those needs. That argument used to be very popular on the Labour Benches. I heard it advanced by the late James Griffiths in the 1950s when he was addressing a Labour Party conference in Porthcawl. I was there as an observer. Mr. Griffiths changed his mind later. Nevertheless, those on the Labour Benches who put that view forward are today in good company.

The trouble is not the way in which we distribute our resources but their inadequacy. We are not creating enough wealth to distribute in support of the individual and the services that the State provides for him.

There are those who argue that the federal system of the United States and Germany accounts for the success of those countries. Their level of gross domestic product per head of the population is almost twice ours. I do not believe that that is the right explanation of the difference in growth between our countries. The difference lies in the respective attitudes towards wealth creation and its importance for the wellbeing of society. That provides a sounder explanation of their greater prosperity.

In any case, this Bill is not in preparation for greater growth and greater availability of resources. If anything, it is in preparation for quite the reverse. When the Government talk glibly about the Welsh people deciding their own priorities, they mean that the Welsh people will have the doubtful privilege of choosing and imposing cuts upon themselves. That will inevitably be our fate under the kind of Socialism that is in store for us, judging by the Labour Party's programme.

I strongly suspect that the future foreseen by the central Government, and of which we have a foretaste now, is one of inadequate resources for everything except for increasing bureaucracy. The Government therefore wish to create in Wales a new political structure that is as advantageous as possible to themselves in terms of the distribution of available resources and the political power that those resources will return to them by way of dividend.

Some of the sharper minds in the Labour Party doubt whether the stratagem will work, and they fear that their party will be hoist with its own petard. I believe that they are right. Stratagems of this kind are in themselves admissions of defeat.

The Government's motivations are in a kind of flux. There was a time when we thought that the Government were going to hang on to power over the Welsh economy but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) pointed out last week, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has provided scope for handing over to the Assembly ultimate power over the Welsh Development Agency and other important bodies.

It is true that he has retained his powers over Section 7 of the Industry Act, but one wonders for just how long he will be able to resist pressure from the Labour Party executive in Wales to deliver all his major economic powers to the Assembly. I agree with the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) that never has a man abdicated so much power to an untried body with such confidence and under so little pressure as the Secretary of State has done. His death-wish for his office has been working overtime. The whole scheme of devolution proposed in the Bill is a calculated insult to Parliament and to the Welsh Parliamentary Party in particular.

Much could have been done to develop the Welsh Grand Committee as a forum for Welsh Affairs. A Select Committee on Welsh Affairs could have been established. Have Welsh Members really done so badly by the people of Wales that we deserve the fate that is to be wreaked upon us? Have the Welsh Members of all parties failed so miserably to represent the best interests of their constituents that we are to be reduced to the status of second-class Members of Parliament? I do not think so, and the Government's expenditure figures per head of the population confirm my view.

The fault, if we are reduced to this situation, lies with the Secretary of State and the Government. Their declared motives have always been superficial. At their undeclared motives we can only guess, but we know that those motives have a great deal to do with the preservation of their power, both in Wales and at Westminster.

Mercifully, the majority of people in Wales recognise the dangers arising from this Bill and they are anxious to express their view in a referendum. Plaid Cymru are right to be worried about the referendum, because there are many indications that Wales will give a resounding "No" by way of answer. The people will be right to do so, because, sensibly, they would rather bear the ills they have than flee to others that they know not of—but of which they have a pretty good idea.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I am told by the Secretary of State for Wales that this is my ninety-fifth intervention in the Wales Bill debates.

I have been greatly impressed by the scrutiny, seriousness and hard work being displayed hour after hour, day after day, in another place, by noble Lords of all parties on the Scotland Bill. In the six minutes that I have I would like respectfully to offer them, I will not say advice—that would be impertinent—but some hopefully helpful guideline of how they might look at it, having myself sat through the whole of the Wales Bill in the Commons.

First, they should look at the speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) today.

Second, they should look at the issues raised by the so-called West Glamorgan and West Lothian question, as reported at column 1256 of the Official Report of 25th April and column 474 of 1st March. This is an irreducible problem. The United Kingdom cannot go on with 56,000 Welsh and 65,000 from England in each electorate. We cannot just go on as we have in the past. Paragraph 905 of the Kilbrandon Report says the problem does not arise in relation to executive devolution. It is just not so; and the Kilbrandon Report emphasised that the whole report was based on having good will, as a basic assumption.

Third, separate legislation will have to be enacted for Wales. I refer their Lordships to column 475 of the Official Report of 1st March on the problem of statutory and non-statutory functions, which will be much more complex in Wales than in Scotland at present.

Fourth, I refer to the matter dealt with at column 479 of Hansard on 1st March, the pressure that will inevitably come from Opposition parties in Wales, to their leaders in London. They will try to prevent actions by the Assembly. Conflict will ensue. To say that in practice these powers will be seldom used is not politically realistic.

That is seen when, fifth, we turn to column 556 of Hansard on 1st March. The argument for more resources is no longer a Scottish-Welsh-North of England argument. It is a British argument, as we have heard from hon. Members arguing the case for East London.

My hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State says that of course the Welsh Assembly will make much better decisions. I believe that my hon. and learned Friend's decisions could not be rendered much better other than by tinkering. His limp reply to this is that unfortunately there will not always be a Labour Government. He cannot have it both ways, because that implies that there will be the deepest kind of conflict, which he has denied. Their Lordships might look at this point—a party of one colour in Cardiff scoring off a party of a different colour in Westminster.

Sixth, I refer to column 741 of Hansard on 2nd March. If devolution is a good thing, why is Scotland getting less? If it is about good Government, why does not the same thing apply to England?

Seventh, I refer to column 785 of Hansard on 2nd March, the question of the two Executives, and column 393 on 4th April, the question of how the Executive actually works. Their Lordships should also look at column 484 on 5th April, and the whole question of the committees of the Welsh Assembly on non-devolved subjects. I refer them in particular to column 815 on 2nd March, a very interesting interchange between my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy Council Office and the hon. and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). My hon. Friend said: I think that it would be extremely difficult to devise a scheme which, in all circumstances, prohibited both bodies from acting."—[Official Report, 2nd March 1978; Vol. 945, c. 816.] The Law Lords might look at this matter.

Eighth, I refer to column 807 on 3rd March on the question of nominated bodies. The question that many of us would like to ask is, "Will these nominated bodies be so much better if they are nominated by an Assembly than if nominated by the House of Commons?"

Ninth, I turn to column 1377 on 7th March and how the Assembly is actually to function, how the committees are to work and the whole question of quasidelgated legislation. How are the committees to exercise the powers that are to be conferred upon the Assembly?"—[Official Report, 7th March 1978; Vol. 945, c. 1377.] Their Lordships might look at that.

Tenth, there is the whole unsatisfactory question of the Attorney-General's powers, dealt with particularly in columns 1336 on 26th April and 1314 on 8th March. Action by the Attorney General could be the source of party political tension.

Eleventh, there is the whole question of the override powers. Here I refer to column 256 on 4th April. The Law Lords might particularly look at column 337 of Hansard on 4th May on the question of override powers.

Twelfth, there is the whole issue of one Assembly ordering another Assembly—column 258 on 4th April. How does one give directions to pass subordinate legislation to another body? The Assembly has to decide what to do about local government, and then it asks the House of Commons to legislate on that. The Lords might look at that matter.

Thirteenth, I refer to columns 335 and 359 on 4th April. The idea of having a block grant on a four-year basis is absolutely beyond anything the Treasury has yet achieved in terms of economic forecasting. How this total can be allocated, to mutual satisfaction, heaven alone knows. The whole idea in column 380 on 4th April that the Welsh can say "Our schools are not as good because we have spent more money on housing as a priority" is not very realistic.

Fourteenth, I refer to columns 387 and 388 on 4th April. Those peers with a special interest in the Civil Service might look at the exchange between my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Treasury and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock).

Fifteenth, there is the whole unresolved question of the responsibilities of the Comptroller and Auditor General and whether he is a separate Department—column 467 on 4th April.

Sixteenth, there is the whole issue of coalition Governments—column 473 on 5th April—and, if there were not to be a fairly permanent Labour majority, who would "coalition" with whom. Anybody who goes into an electoral coalition with Plaid Cymru will then have a price to pay. The alternative, to form an Executive, would be a Labour-Tory coalition in Wales in certain circumstances, and that would have its difficulties.

Seventeenth is the whole issue of the rate support grant—which was dealt with in columns 564 to 568 of Hansard on 5th April—being "tailored to particular Welsh circumstances". The whole issue of the Welsh local authorities is also dealt with, and I hope that my noble Friend Lord Raglan and others who are the chairmen of Welsh new towns will look at these issues.

Eighteenth is the whole unresolved question of forestry and waterways which is dealt with in column 587 of Thursday, 6th April.

Nineteenth is the whole cost of all this.

Twentieth is the fact that the Lords might well ask where, in fact, the support for all this has come from. A feature of the House of Commons debates has been that time and time again it has been the anti-devolutionists who have been there taking up time simply because we have been present. Where on earth are my hon. Friends who support this Bill? Where have they been all the time? If they had existed, Mr. Speaker would have called them.

Several hon. Members


Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With the greatest respect to you, only one English Member has been called from the Back Benches during the debate today. I respectfully suggest that the debate has not been balanced.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the hon. Member's frustration, having waited throughout the debate and not having been called. I would have been able to call the hon. Member if others had not taken so long over their speeches.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

Looking back on the proceedings on the Wales Bill so far there seem to be two features that give grounds for real concern in the event of this Housing giving the Bill a Third Reading and leaving the eventual decision to the electorate. This matter should give particular concern to the hon. Members for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who abominate the Bill but apparently intend to vote for it tonight.

It is wholly unsatisfactory that the decision should be taken on the basis of ignorance. Unfortunately, it is a fact that our debates, for understandable reasons, have hardly been reported at all in the national Press. There is still considerable ignorance about what is proposed and what has been revealed in Committee stage. I am afraid that for the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) to talk about alerting the Welsh people is to be unduly optimistic. Time and time again we have come to what have become known as the "manhole clauses", revealing whole new fields for conflict, or some new inconsistency or fresh threat to the union. Unfortunately, those flaws have been revealed only to the faithful few who have followed our debates.

Regrettably, it is not just the public who have been ill-informed. There have been occasions when Ministers have come to the House to deal with particular parts of the Bill and have revealed woeful ignorance of it. We had the Minister of State at the Treasury who thought that all he had to do was to pick up his brief and give us the Treasury point of view, regardless of the context. As a consequence he made a characteristically inadequate speech, and subsequently had to write to tell us that the information that he gave the House, in response to repeated interventions from these Benches, was wholly incorrect. His letter dated 28th April to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) confessing to that fact should be placed firmly on the record.

Then we had the speech from the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) about which the kindest thing we can do is to pass hurriedly on.

These speeches were bad primarily because the Ministers concerned had no appreciation of what had been revealed in these debates. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who deserves special tribute for his assiduity and attention to these matters and who has been present for a very large proportion of our debates, sitting in solitary splendour behind the Treasury Benches, has suggested that it would have been an immensely enlightening experience for Ministers to have listened to what was being done in their names.

The public will think that because the Bill has gone through the House, it has our stamp of approval. They will not understand what little support it had and will not understand that a considerable number of Members who voted for it had repeatedly declared their opposition to it.

The second disturbing feature, referred to with regret by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), is that, as a consequence of the guillotine, only 16 of the original 84 clauses and two of the 12 schedules were debated. The powers transferred are spelt out in minute detail in 26 pages of Schedule 2, but no detailed examination of those powers was possible. This situation was rightly described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire as a legislative scandal.

I come to the speech of the Secretary of State. In a fascinating exchange, sparked off by an intervention from the hon. Member for Swansea, East, he spilled the beans with a vengeance. He revealed what his objectives were in putting forward this great constitutional upheaval. The truth was out. He seeks to immunise Wales against what he regards as the evil of Conservative Government. He argued the case for one-party government and for democracy so long as it suits his book. That was the admission that he made. That is a pretty poor basis for long-term constitutional change, just as the fear of nationalism is a pretty poor basis for a constitutional settlement.

It is because the foundations of that settlement are unstable and because the structure has been put together in the wrong way that the Secretary of State's opening remark was greeted with such ridicule when he declared that the main structure of the Bill had successfully survived the scrutiny that it had been given. One thing that we have learned during the proceedings is that the Secretary of State is fond of making sweeping assertions, but that those assertions should be treated with a pinch of salt. On Second Reading he started by saying that the Bill did not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supremacy of Parliament. Yet the very first action of the Government in Committee was to withdraw Clause 1, the whole of the first part of the Bill, which claimed to give effect to that statement because, in the meantime, the Government had discovered that Parliament could not be persuaded to believe it.

The second declaration by the Secretary of State on Second Reading, which was repeated this afternoon, was that the passing of the Bill would mean that decision-making would become closer to the people. A whole series of debates has revealed that by weakening local Government, a great deal of their decision-making will be taken further away from the people. As the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) pointed out, the Secretary of State spent much of his speech boasting that nothing really important was being devolved in any case. He cannot have it both ways.

The third declaration made by the Secretary of State was that Westminster would retain the powers primarily concerned with the economy. However, when we had the opportunity to debate economic powers, we found that they are to be fragmented and that the Bill takes an important step towards the placing of economic powers in the hands of the Assembly.

Three crucial features emerge from our proceedings. In one aspect or another, in clause after clause and in speech after speech, we return to them again and again. They are fundamental to the nature of the Bill, they are irremovable, insoluble and incapable of disguise. The Bill is a recipe for conflict and a threat to unity. The Bill will be seriously damaging to local government. The Bill will gravely undermine the influence of Welsh Members of Parliament and pose an unresolved dilemma about their role in this place.

The causes of conflict emerge again and again. They emerge from the uneasy half-way house adopted on legislation, where the legislative process is impossibly divided in two with the certainty that it will provoke disagreement between the two Governments, provoke a demand for greater legislative powers and immensely complicate the job of this Parliament. I do not think that the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire that there is nothing fixed or final about this settlement is yet generally sufficiently understood or its importance appreciated.

As powers have been transferred individually, so they can be varied individually. Every time a Bill passes through this House, we shall have to ask on every clause and every line "What about Wales?". This Parliament, unable to govern effectively because of its inability to control the secondary legislation and administration, will be tempted to define and restrict the powers of the Assembly, while the Assembly will understandably demand wider powers.

Every statute presented in this place will represent a potential battleground between two Parliaments. Conflicts also emerge from the override powers, the reserve powers and the use of economic guidelines. They were well spelled out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton).

This cause of conflict emerges centrally when we consider the financial provisions, which are the linchpin of the structure, on which its success or failure must depend. It is of crucial importance for Wales because its special needs and problems make it critically important that we should receive a disproportionate share, on a population basis, of United Kingdom resources.

Within a unitary State there is no difficulty in overcoming that problem because people take it for granted that it is right to meet the special needs of every part, and within the machinery of a single Government that is easily achieved.

The Minister of State, Treasury, blandly told us that it would all be settled in the usual way by discussion with the Treasury and, finally, by the Cabinet—as if he would be dealing with the demands of an ordinary Government Department. His naïvity is extraordinary. He failed to recognise that we shall be in an entirely different situation. The methods that work and are accepted within a single Government and Parliament will not be suitable when there are, in effect, two Parliaments and two Governments. They are bound to work even less well when one of those Governments is a spender while the other allocates the money.

Because the Assembly will claim to speak for a nation and will have been brought into existence only because of that claim, its powers and influence will be entirely different from those of local government. Inevitably, if it feels that its needs are not being adequately met by central Government and it cannot meet the unlimited demands of its electors, it will, because it lacks the discipline imposed by the necessity of raising revenue, blame all its shortcomings on Westminster.

The Secretary of State said that the absence of revenue raising powers did not mean that the Assembly will be an irresponsible body. Of course it will not. It will act in a perfectly natural and understandable way, given the situation in which it will be placed.

In a unitary State, with a single Government and Parliament, if hospitals, schools, roads and social services are thought by the people to be inadequate, they get rid of the Government. But under the system proposed in the Bill, the challenge will be not to the Government or to a political party but to the system itself and the constitutional structure which has been erected. If the funds allocated are thought by the Assembly or those whom they represent to be inadequate, it will not matter that they have been distributed fairly or with generosity. The Assembly will blame Westminster and will demand the right to raise its own funds.

The pressures on the Assembly will be immense. The needs of Wales are immense. The Assembly will have every reason to demand, clamorously, more and more. The fact that it raises that clamour and that it is done not within the shelter of a Government but in a stand-up confrontation between Westminster and Cardiff will, equally inevitably, arouse demands in those parts of England that fear themselves to be seriously disadvantaged.

Today when we talk about those parts of the United Kingdom that suffer the consequences of industrial decline or high unemployment, we tend to do so collectively. We share our problems. We try to solve them together. However, we are now to introduce a new English and Welsh dimension. By isolating the treatment of Wales and Scotland on those nationalistic grounds, alliances are being breached and dismembered. The differences are emphasised rather than experiences shared. Competition is the theme rather than partnership.

These centrifugal tendencies, this move towards disintegration, will be magnified by the provisions of another part of the Bill—that which divides responsibility for economic powers between the Assembly and the Secretary of State. It is the part of the Bill that hands over such vital matters as the construction of roads and infrastructure. It assigns responsibility for the Welsh Development Agency to the Assembly and holds out the real possibility that the Assembly may take over and dissolve that body.

The continued existence of the Agency is likely to become a crucial factor in the fight that has already begun for economic supremacy and control of the Welsh economy. It is a fight that the Government have already begun to abandon. They have shifted their ground in a few short months. They have moved from the position where the Secretary of State would have enhanced economic powers and have handed over a crucial element in them to an Assembly that will in no way be content with that offering.

Economic powers are those that the Assembly will covet most. Aspirations will grow with time. They will not fade away. They will lead to mounting tension. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) admitted that there was scope for conflict but suggested that economic control was firmly retained at Westminster through the guidelines and the retained powers of the Secretary of State. However, he did not begin to face the consequences that would follow if the Secretary of State sought to impose himself dictatorially in the manner that he was implying.

It was exactly the same when the hon. and learned Gentleman commented on the possibility of local government reform. He suggested that it does not matter what the Assembly recommends because finally it will be a matter for the House to resolve. The mind boggles at the reaction if the Assembly comes forward with a great proposal only to have it thrown out in this place. The hon. and learned Gentleman failed to face the fact that if we introduce these provisions people may sometimes actually believe that we mean them to operate. It was wrong to accuse hon. Members of misrepresentation. The hon. and learned Gentleman was guilty of seeking to avoid unpleasant realities.

All the problems that I have been describing will be magnified and made worse by the insoluble problem of the West Lothian question, to which I now turn my attention. It is the second of the three crucial factors that have emerged from our debates.

Many hon. Members have spoken during our discussions on the intolerable position in which Welsh Members will find themselves. It has been said that they will be powerless to intervene in almost all the great social issues that most concern their constituents. However, we and our Scottish colleagues, numbering more than 100, will frequently decide the political fate of England. We shall have decisive power in this place to decide the outcome of individual votes and the political character of the United Kingdom Government. That is a position that will not be tolerable for long in England.

It has emerged clearly that within the structure devised by the Bill there is no solution to the problem. To reduce the number of Members in this place does not solve it and would be unjust to Wales. The alternative in-and-out proposition is rejected by almost everyone as an absurdity. Stimulated by the remark of the hon. Member for Pontypool on 25th April 1978, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said: 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."—[Official Report, 25th April 1978; Vol. 948, c. 1242.] The right hon. Gentleman was right. The time to stop, as he suggested, is now. We should reject this "irremediable contradiction". We should not insult the Welsh people by asking them to pass judgment on what we know to be an absurdity. I suggest to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) that we should have the courage of our own convictions and, not taking refuge in a referendum, throw out the Bill on those grounds alone.

I turn to the third feature which has emerged from our debates, the third reason why we should reject what is proposed in the Bill—the assault that it represents upon local government. I referred to "manhole" clauses—clauses which reveal hidden secrets of an unpleasant kind when we open them up. As frequently as we have stumbled into them, we have come up against Canute declarations by the Secretary of State. Those are declarations that Ministers believe will make unpleasant truths go away if repeated frequently and loudly enough. The favourite of the Secretary of State for Wales, made with enormous emphasis this afternoon, is that the Bill will not diminish the role of the local authorities. It is hard to believe that more than a handful of these more faithful acolytes can take that declaration seriously any more.

There are three areas where the local authorities will be under pressure. They will be under pressure, for their own existence as the Assembly, an interested party, is empowered to make recommendations about the structure of local government. Whatever happens, one thing is certain. Apart from the fact that this procedure ushers in a period of uncertainty and confusion, the process will lead to the abolition of one tier or another if the Assembly has its chance, and I suppose that it is likely that we shall see the introduction of about 20 to 25 all-purpose authorities. If that were to happen, it can confidently be predicted that the Assembly would increasingly take over the functions at present exercised at county level, because those all-purpose authorities would be too small and too weak to do the job effectively.

As the hon. Member for Aberdare rightly pointed out, both district and county councils are in danger—the former because they will be judged too small; the latter because they will be judged too large. I am certain that those who complain now about the size and remoteness of local government will complain a great deal more about the size and remoteness of an Assembly in Cardiff dealing with strategic functions. But, even without the reform of local government and the formal transfer of any functions, it is possible for the Assembly vastly to enlarge its role in relation to local government, and its committee structure makes it almost certain that it will do so.

The recent report of the Central Policy Review Staff on relations between the central Government and local authorities makes clear the huge scope which exists for the central Government to interfere with, to direct or circumscribe the activities of local government. Most of those vast powers are being transferred to the Assembly.

The Secretary of State said that local government would continue to exercise its own well-defined responsibilities. The trouble is that, as the CPRS report made clear, those responsibilities are in no way well defined. There is, in fact, a huge grey area.

The central fact that confronts us is that we are to have a large group of people with strong local interests, open to direct local lobbying, organised in specialist committees which are bound to interest themselves in local affairs and to want to have their own say about standards. There will be a permanent tendency for those committees to gather to themselves powers which are exercised at present by local authorities and by the means available to them to interfere with local government.

Worse still, the Welsh local authorities will no longer negotiate their own financial arrangements with central Government. No longer will there be a United Kingdom-Wales rate support grant negotiation. The Assembly will negotiate the financial resources for local government as part of the block grant. When it has done so it will have no obligation to pass the finance on to the local authorities.

Indeed, by withholding funds from local authorities it will have the power indirectly to tax the Welsh people without the odium for having done so. All that it will have to do is to hold back the rate support grant and force the local authorities to increase rates. The local authorities will be able to do nothing about that. I can think of no more devastating way to weaken local government than to remove from it the power to negotiate with the central Government about its own finance.

The Secretary of State made one of his sweeping assertions—his Canute-like declarations. He said that there would be no additional tier. I can think of no more solid additional tier than one that obtains, negotiates and distributes money. That is not an existing process. It is a new process. It is a cumbersome and unnecessary process. It is clear that this will create another tier at its most fundamental point—that of finance.

It is clear that there will be a weakening of local government. It is clear that the Bill represents an assault on and a weakening of local government. It is clear that it will take the whole process of local government further from the people.

We have a scheme which disrupts and threatens the unity of the Kingdom. We have a scheme which contains one central and irremediable flaw in relation to its elected Members that establishes a new type of political theorem—that it is impossible satisfactorily in a unitary parliamentary State to confer legislative or administrative devolution upon one part of the State to an extent which is not enjoyed by the other parts of the State. We have a scheme which is gravely damaging to local government.

All this is contained in a measure which is ill-considered and ill-prepared and which by days of debate has been shown to contain huge inconsistencies, confusions and sources of conflict. It is hardly surprising in those circumstances that the hostility to it within the House is so widespread and that even on the Government Benches that hostility is so ill-disguised.

Some would leave the issue to the people's veto and pass the Bill, though they condemn it. I believe that on a great constitutional issue it is right that the people should have that veto. But I do not believe that the existence of that right deprives us of our responsibilities, our judgment and our duty. I call on all those who, like me, believe that this is a bad Bill to kill it before it does more damage.

10.34 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

Before dealing with some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) I return to the opening speech by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). At the beginning of his remarks he made courteous and characteristic references to several of my hon. Friends who have borne the brunt of the presentation of the Bill in the House. He paid tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) and to the Minister of State, Privy Council Office. I am most grateful for those tributes. The right hon. Gentleman also paid tribute to the Secretary of State for Wales.

He did not embrace me in the tributes, but I felt a certain glow of innocence by association from the compliments that he paid to the others. I am grateful to him for what he said in that respect. I also thank him for the tribute that he paid, on behalf of the House, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). I am sure that the House is deeply saddened at the suggestion that my very learned Friend should depart from this House. I very much hope that he will reconsider his decision, even at this late hour, if it is a late hour. None of us knows how late the hour may be. I know that in the coming days, weeks and months he will have plenty of time to reconsider the situation. I believe that the House will be very much the poorer if he is not here to represent his constituency and to speak for Anglesey, as he also speaks for Wales and, in many respects, for all the people of this country. I am sure that the whole House will urge him to reconsider his decision.

The right hon. Gentleman did not speak at great length today on the manner in which the Bill had been discussed, although he has referred to it on a number of other occasions. The hon. Member for Pembroke referred to the operation of the time-table motion on this Bill—and, I presume, on the other devolution Bill as a legislative or parliamentary scandal. I wish to comment on that charge—a charge which he has made on a number of occasions.

Sometimes even Members of the House of Commons, who are most experienced in knowledge of the way in which legislation passes through this House and intimately acquainted with the procedures of the House, underrate the special burdens that the House of Commons has had to bear in these respects since 1974. This is the first House of Commons in British history that has had to bear the full impact of British membership of the European Community and all the consequences that that membership must have for the business of this House. It is a heavy burden indeed. It means that many of the measures passed by the Commission or Council of Ministers have to be presented to this House in one form or another, and that takes up a great deal of time—time that previously may have been available for other propositions.

It is also the fact that this is the first Parliament in which we will have to combine with the extra legislative burden that we have had presented to us through membership of the Community the allocation of a great deal of parliamentary time to the business of Northern Ireland. I am not complaining, because I voted for the measures that made it necessary. That has added greatly to the legislative and timetable burden that the House of Commons has had to bear.

I hope, along with many hon. Members—I do not say that I carry all hon. Members with me, and possibly not even the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), although on this subject he is occasionally slightly ambiguous in the way he speaks to the House—that we can look forward to the time when we are able once again, although in a somewhat different form from the manner in which it was done before, to have proposals for devolved government in Northern Ireland. I am not quite sure whether that is the official policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his party, but I look forward, as I believe does the House, to that occasion. If we can return to that situation, and combine it with the passage of the Scotland Bill, which is now speeding on to the statute book, and this Bill for Wales, the three measures together will greatly alleviate the burden that Members of Parliament have to bear and will leave them freer to deal with many other subjects—and freer even to be able to devote a larger amount of time to dealing with the extra burden that arises from the EEC.

The right hon. Member for Cambridge-shire complained about the timetable motion applied to the Bill, with all the restrictions that it has meant. In view of our experiences in the last Session and of the extra burdens that Parliament has had to carry and cannot possibly avoid, if we had not presented timetable motions to the House on the Scotland Bill and this Bill it would have been quite impossible for us to get the measures through the House. I think that the House fully understands that.

I am not disputing the fact that timetable motions present difficulties to the House and that they mean that legislation goes through in a form not perfect by any means. I acknowledge that point. But particularly on this Bill and the Scotland Bill, and in the light of our experience in the last Session, if we had not had a timetable motion, as the right hon. Member knows better than most, it would have been quite impossible for us to get both Bills on to the statute book.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

If the right hon. Gentleman had brought Parliament back a few weeks earlier in the summer instead of having one of the longest summer holidays ever he could easily have made up the time spent on European matters, most of which is after midnight.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman voted for the timetable motion, or at any rate the rest of the Liberal Party did. I hope that he will not revoke on that matter now. Even if the House had been brought back a fortnight earlier from the Summer Recess, as the right hon. Gentleman should know, and as the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire certainly knows, it would have been quite possible to lengthen to any extent whatever the amount of debate devoted to these measures, and it would still have been impossible to get them through without a timetable motion.

I repeat—and this is a matter of concern on Third Reading—that if we had not had a timetable motion we would not have been able to consider the possibility even of carrying out what we on the Government Benches believe to be our obligation to the electorate since we had made the firmest possible pledge on the subject. We said that We will meet the genuine demands for new democratic developments with an elected Welsh Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) will recall those words, because, as he knows better than anyone, they were in his own election address. That was the pledge that we made to the people of Wales, just as we made a pledge to the people of Scotland. Therefore, we had an obligation to ensure that that pledge should be carried out.

I understand it if my hon. Friend and others consider that the situation has altered and now believe that we should not proceed with such a measure and do not think it necessary to do so, but he should not upbraid those who hold the view still that he held himself, and the view that the Labour Party presented to the people of Wales in two General Elections in 1974. We are carrying those pledges into operation, and if we had had no timetable motion it would have been impossible for us to do so.

Mr. Kinnock

It is somewhat flattering for me that, from all the words used in the course of the last two elections, my right hon. Friend should pick my words. But was not there something in the manifesto about a fundamental and irreversible shift of wealth and power in favour of the working people? Is it not also the case that the word "genuine" that I used means what it says, and that my right hon. Friend is in no sense representing the genuine demands of the Welsh people, as will be proved in the referendum that he has so wisely provided?

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend told the people of Wales in his election address exactly what I have said—that in this Parliament we would proceed to introduce proposals for the establishment of a Welsh Assembly. He no longer wants to do it, but we do. We are entitled to stand by our pledges, and we are doing so. I say to him—he knows it as well as the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire—that without a timetable motion it would have been impossible to fulfil that pledge.

I now come to the second theme, if I may so describe it, of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. He put forward three main objections to the Bill as it stands and as it is now proceeding through the House. His second objection apart from his objection to the manner in which the Bill was taken through the House, was that it will tend to create a diversified system of government and a diversified relationship between this house and different parts of the United Kingdom. He seems to think that it is a damning or telling attack upon the measure to say that it may lead to a position in which there are different strengths in the different bodies in Scotland, Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, and that there may be different relationships between them.

I am very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should object to any kind of diversification in the way in which we govern ourselves in the United Kingdom. I have never understood that it was part of Conservative philosophy, or of any sensible philosophy, that there had to be an absolutely homogeneous method of government in all parts of the United Kingdom. Indeed, I think it can be of great benefit to the people of this country if there can be a development of different forms of government in different parts of the country.

The right hon. Gentleman may laugh and think that that is an extraordinary development, but the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, when she went to Scotland a month of two ago, said that at heart she was a passionate devolutionist. She was disguising her passions in a way, but if that is the way in which she disguises her passions, she must be a very dangerous woman. If that was her idea, I am sure that it derives from the fact that in her wiser moments—I think that all of us would come to this conclusion—she realises that we should not try to insist that the whole of the United Kingdom should have stamped upon it exactly the same method of government and the same forms of local government.

Indeed, that was one of the principal errors made by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends when they were in Government. They sought to rivet on the whole of the United Kingdom exactly the same form of local government, and it is precisely because of that attempt to rivet such a uniform system on every part of the United Kingdom that they created such hostility in so many parts of the country.

The hon. Member for Pembroke lamented the injury that he fears this measure may cause to local government. That is pretty cool, coming from the hon. Gentleman and his party. The hon. Gentleman was, I think, one of the distinguished members of his party who at least tried to oppose the system of local government forced upon Wales by the Conservative Government. I do not know whether he has abandoned his constituents' views on the subject, but Pembrokeshire, together with Gwent, opposed the system of local government reform that was enforced upon us by the Conservative Government.

If a Welsh Assembly had been in existence that almighty botch of a local government reform would never have been imposed upon us. Indeed, we would have been saved 10 years of agony, and perhaps several years more. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire and others, and even my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) say "You must not lay a finger on this perfect system of local government". They say that the system should be left undisturbed for a period. That may be my hon. Friend's experience in Aberdare and Mountain Ash, but it is not my experience in my constituency. Nor is it my belief of what people throughout Wales think about the system of local government that was introduced by the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party imposed a system that grates on and injures the whole working of democracy in Wales. Sooner or later it will have to be transformed. I happen to believe that the sooner we can proceed to change that system the better. I certainly agree that far and away the best people to advise on the way in which that system should be transformed are the people of Wales themselves, through their own elected Assembly.

Mr. Ioan Evans

My right hon. Friend referred to the botch that took place in local government reorganisation, but in these proposals local government is being left alone and we are putting another tier of government—a Welsh Assembly—upon the existing county and district councils. It is already a botch, what the Government are doing is creating a bigger botch, because they are establishing an Assembly in Cardiff on top of the tiers that already exist.

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend cannot have been listening carefully to what was said earlier by the Secretary of State for Wales. My right hon. and learned Friend disposed of any charge about establishing a new tier of government. What my hon. Friend is now saying, although he has wrapped it up a hit, is that he is content that the present system of local government should be retained for a considerable period. He is saying that because for other reasons, whatever they may be, he is content that it should be left as it is at present.

In my belief the vast majority of the people of Wales will not be content that the situation should be left as it is. Indeed, I do not believe that the people of Wales will ever be content with the kind of system that may have been satisfactory for England and other parts of the country but was certainly not devised to suit the people of Wales. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey, when Secretary of State for Wales, in association and consultation with local authorities in Wales, devised a full scheme of local government reform that was exactly adapted to suit our interests, traditions and ways of life in Wales. The whole of that system was swept away—

Mr. Anderson


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Foot

I shall give way in a moment. Several Conservative Members, who have not attended our debates, are not aware that I am replying exactly to what the right hon. Member for Cambridgcshire claimed.

Mr. Anderson

If my right hon. Friend is correct and the vast majority of people in Wales are against the system, and presumably have been since 1973, why has nothing been done about it until now? If there is such a demand, why cannot this be done irrespective of devolution?

Mr. Foot

I am sure that if my hon. Friend examines the matter a little more carefully he will recognise—as I believe was indicated in all the discussions that we have had on these matters—that when a change takes place in local government somebody has to examine the details and the general proposition and come forward with recommendations to this House of Commons about the way in which it should be done.

What we are proposing—I am sorry that some of my hon. Friends find it such a revolutionary suggestion—is that a body representative of the people of Wales themselves shall recommend what those changes should be. We believe that that will he a far better and more democratic approach to the matter than to leave it, as the Conservative Government did, to a body that had drawn up a highly bureaucratic system, repudiated all the representations that had been made from people in Wales, and forced upon us the system of local government that we have at present.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare, who, I gather, also wants us to go speedily forward to a review of local government as soon as possible, will come a little more enthusiastically into the Division Lobby with Government supporters than he was inclined to do earlier to ensure that we may speed up that process. But that is one of the reasons why the provision for a review of local government was written into the Bill, and I believe that that is welcomed overwhelmingly by the people of Wales.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) seemed to suggest that in some way or other there was a lack of enthusiasm for the measure on the part of the Government. I can assure him that that is not the case, and I am very glad to learn that the hon. Gentleman will not misrepresent the proposals that were made for the referendum and for the 40 per cent. clause. It was no desire of the Government that we should have a 40 per cent. clause written into the Bill. We opposed it in the case of the Scottish Bill, as we have done in this Bill. But we believed that it was right, if the House of Commons so desired—and it is clear that a substantial majority of the House of Commons did—that there should be a referendum, and I gave a pledge to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty and others that we would seek to make that referendum one that was regarded by all parties to the discussion and all parties in this House as a fair way of presenting the choice to the people of Wales. No hon. Member has questioned that that is exactly what we have done.

Mr. Pym

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that since he, like other Ministers, has been mainly absent from our debates on the Bill, his reply is shatteringly inadequate? Although I am glad that he has been present today, I think he must agree that many points of criticism and important issues have been raised to which he has made no reference at all. He has spent his time defending the guillotine motion and criticising local government. In the remaining few minutes of the debate, will he address himself to some of the matters that have been raised by my right hon. and hon. Members?

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman has been guilty of a serious misuse of the convention about interruptions. He knows perfectly well that every comment that I have made has been in reply either to what he himself said or to what other right hon. and hon. Members said. It may be that he has thought up a stronger argument for the case that he was trying to put, but certainly he did not put it when he addressed the House earlier today. I am also dealing with what was said by other hon. Members. I have dealt with what the right hon. Gentleman

had to say on these matters, and I have dealt with his principal arguments.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had not made full statements to the House on this subject. He must understand that in the most important debate at the beginning of this Session, my right hon. Friend made it clear what was the view of the Government on the matter. He said: I see no need for an election. The Government, with Liberal support, have a working majority and I hope that hon. Members in the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru agree that it would he a disservice to the people of Scotland and Wales if the two Bills were not brought to a conclusion, so that Scotland and Wales can then vote on the issue in the referendum on the specific question of whether they want to see these Assemblies brought into being. The passage of these two Bills is a major issue for the Government."—[Official Report, 3rd November 1977 Vol. 938, c. 29.]

That has always been the case. Opposition Members have been bitterly opposed to any form of self-government for Wales and to every growth of democracy in Wales. That is why the people of Wales, on every possible occasion in the last 100 years, have repudiated any proposition put to them by the Conservative Party. I am sure that when we get this Bill safely on to the statute book—

It being Eleven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [16th November], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 264.

Division No. 201] AYES [11.0 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cohen, Stanley
Anderson, Donald Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Colquhoun, Ms Maureen
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Concannon, Rt Hon John
Armstrong, Ernest Bradley, Tom Conlan, Bernard
Ashley, Jack Bray, Dr Jeremy Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)
Ashton, Joe Brown, Hugh D. Provan) Corbett, Robin
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cowans, Harry
Atkinson, Norman Buchan, Norman Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Buchanan, Richard Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Cralgen, Jim (Maryhill)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Crawford, Douglas
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Crawshaw, Richard
Bates, Alf Campbell, Ian Cronin, John
Bean, R. E. Canavan, Dennis Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)
Beith, A. J. Cant, R. B. Cryer, Bob
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Carmichael, Neil Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Carter, Ray Davidson, Arthur
Bidwell, Sydney Carter-Jones, Lewis Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Cartwright, John Davies, Rt Hon Denzil
Blenkinsop, Arthur Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Boardman, H. Clemitson, Ivor Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Deakins, Eric
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kerr, Russell Rose, Paul B.
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dempsey, James Kinnock, Neil Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Dewar, Donald Lambie, David Rowlands, Ted
Doig, Peter Lamborn, Harry Sandelson, Neville
Dormand, J. D. Lamond, James Sedgemore, Brian
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Selby, Harry
Duffy, A. E. P. Lee, John Sever, John
Dunnett, Jack Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Eadie, Alex Lever, Rt Hon Harold Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Edge, Geoff Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
English, Michael Litterick, Tom Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Ennals, Rt Hon David Loyden, Eddie Silverman, Julius
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Luard, Evan Skinner, Dennis
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lyon, Alexander (York) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Evans, John (Newton) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Spearing, Nigel
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Spriggs, Leslie
Faulds, Andrew McCartney, Hugh Stallard, A. W.
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McDonald, Dr Oonagh Steel, Rt Hon David
Flannery, Martin McElhone, Frank Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stoddart, David
Ford, Ben Maclennan, Robert Stott, Roger
Forrester, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Strang, Gavin
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McNamara, Kevin Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Madden, Max Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Magee, Bryan Swain, Thomas
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mahon, Simon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
George, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Ginsburg, David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Golding, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Gould, Bryan Mason, Rt Hon Roy Thompson, George
Gourlay, Harry Meacher, Michael Thorne, Stan (Preston S)
Graham, Ted Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mikardo, Ian Tierney, Sydney
Grant, John (Islington C) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Tilley, John (Lambeth, Central)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Tinn, James
Grocott, Bruce Mitchell, Austin Tomlinson, John
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Molloy, William Tomney, Frank
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Moonman, Eric Torney, Tom
Hardy, Peter Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tuck, Raphael
Harper, Joseph Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Urwin, T. W.
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Moyle, Roland Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hayman, Mrs Helene Murray, Rl Hon Ronald King Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Newens, Stanley Ward, Michael
Henderson, Douglas Noble, Mike Watkins, David
Hooley, Frank Oakes, Gordon Watkinson, John
Hooson, Emlyn Ogden, Eric Watt, Hamish
Horam, John O'Halloran, Michael Weitzman, David
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Orbach, Maurice Wellbeloved, James
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Ovenden, John Welsh, Andrew
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David White, Frank R. (Bury)
Huckfield, Les Padley, Walter White, James (Pollock)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Pardoe, John Whitehead, Philip
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Park, George Whitlock, William
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Parry, Robert Wigley, Dafydd
Hunter, Adam Pavitt, Laurie Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Pendry, Tom Willams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Penhaligon, David Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Perry, Ernest Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Price, C. (Lewisham W) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Janner, Greville Price, William (Rugby) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Radice, Giles Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Wise, Mrs Audrey
John, Brynmor Reid, George Woodall, Alec
Johnson, James (Hull West) Richardson, Miss Jo Woof, Robert
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Young, David (Bolton E)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Robinson, Geoffrey
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roderick, Caerwyn TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Judd, Frank Rodbers, George (Chorley) Mr. Donald Coleman and
Kaufman, Gerald Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Mr. Peter Snape.
Kelley, Richard Rooker, J. W.
Adley Robert Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)
Aitken, Jonathan Awdry, Daniel Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)
Alison, Michael Baker, Kenneth Benyon, W.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Banks, Robert Berry, Hon Anthony
Arnold, Tom Bell, Ronald Biffen, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Biggs-Davison, John
Blaker, Peter Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, John (Harrow West)
Body, Richard Hsrvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Haselhurst, Alan Page, Richard (Workington)
Bottomley, Peter Hastings, Stephen Parkinson, Cecil
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hayers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Pattie, Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Hayhoe, Barney Percival, Ian
Braine, Sir Bernard Heseltine, Michael Peyton, Rt Hon John
Brittan, Leon Hicks, Robert Pink, R. Bonner
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Higgins, Terence L. Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Brooke, Peter Hodgson, Robin Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Brotherton, Michael Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hordern, Peter Prior, Rt Hon James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Buck, Antony Howell, David (Guildford) Raison, Timothy
Budgen, Nick Hunt, David (Wirral) Rathbone, Tim
Bulmer, Esmond Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Burden, F. A. Hurd, Douglas Rees-Davies, W. R.
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Carlisle, Mark Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda James, David Rhodes, James R.
Channon, Paul Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W df'd) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jessel, Toby Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, William (Croydon S) Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Rifkind, Malcolm
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Clegg, Walter Jopling, Michael Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Cockcroft, John Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Ross, William (Londonderry)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kaberry, Sir Donald Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cope, John Kershaw, Anthony Royle, Sir Anthony
Cormack, Patrick Kimball, Marcus Sainsbury, Tim
Costain, A. P. King, Evelyn (South Dorset) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Critohley, Julian King, Tom (Bridgwater) Scott, Nicholas
Crouch, David Kitson, Sir Timothy Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Crowder F. P. Knight, Mrs Jill Shelton, William (Streatham)
Davies. Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Knox, David Shepherd, Colin
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Lamont, Norman Shersby, Michael
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Langford-Holt, Sir John Silvester, Fred
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Latham, Michael (Melton) Sims, Roger
Dravson, Burnaby Lawrence, Ivan Sinclair, Sir George
du Cann, Pt Hon Edward Lawson, Nigel Skeet, T. H. H.
Dunlon, John Lester, Jim (Beeston) Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Durant, Tony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Dykes, Hugh Loveridge, John Speed, Keith
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Luce, Richard Spence, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McAdden, Sir Stephen Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Elliott, Sir William McCrindle, Robert Sproat, Iain
Emery, Peter McCusker, H. Stainton, Keith
Eyre, Reginald Macfarlane, Neil Stanbrook, Ivor
Fairbairn, Nicholas MacGregor, John Stanley, John
Fairgrieve, Russell MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Farr, John Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fell, Anthony McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stokes, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey Madel, David Stradling Thomas, J.
Fisher, Sir Nigel Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Tapsell, Peter
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Marten, Neil Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Fookes, Miss Janet Mates, Michael Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Forman, Nigel Mather, Carol Tebbit, Norman
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Maude, Angus Temple-Morris, Peter
Fox, Marcus Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mawby, Ray Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Fry, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Townsend, Cyril D.
Galbraith, Hon T.G. D. Mayhew, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Meyer, Sir Anthony van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gardiner, Edwards (S Fylde) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Mills, Peter Viggers, Peter
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Miscampbell, Norman Wakeham, John
Glyn, Dr Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Moate, Roger Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Goodhart, Philip Molyneaux, James Wall, Patrick
Goodhew, Victor Monro, Hector Walters, Dennis
Goodlad, Alastair Montgomery, Fergus Warren, Kenneth
Gorst, John Moore, John (Croydon C) Weatherill, Bernard
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wells, John
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Morgan, Geraint Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Whitney, Raymond (Wycombe)
Gray, Hamish Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wiggin, Jerry
Grieve, Percy Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Winterton, Nicholas
Griffiths, Eldon Mudd, David Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Grist, Ian Neave, Airey Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Grylls, Michael Nebbert, Michael Younger, Hon George
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Newton, Tony
Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell) Nott, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Onslow, Cranley Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Hampson, Dr Keith Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Mr. Michael Roberts.
Hannam, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.