HC Deb 12 February 1979 vol 962 cc777-8
Mr. Roderick

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many persons he appointed to public bodies in Wales in the past 12 months.

Mr. John Morris

I had sole responsibility for 225 such appointments in the period 1 February 1978 to 31 January 1979.

Mr. Roderick

Can my right hon. and learned Friend claim to know all these people he has appointed? Can he think of a better way of running these public authorities?

Mr. Morris

Even though I traverse a great deal of Wales, I cannot admit to knowing everyone. I think that there is a better way. The best way of all is to ensure that, where possible, decisions are taken not by nominated bodies but by democratically elected people.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

How much do these quangos cost annually? To whom are they democratically accountable, and to what extent?

Mr. Morris

Speaking from memory, I think that they expend about £400 million to £500 million each year. However, if the Assembly comes about it will control the expenditure of about £1,400 million, including the work of the nominated bodies.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that even if we have an Assembly—which is most un- likely as things stand, in view of the way in which the campaign is going—there will still be nominated bodies, or does he think that the jobs of those bodies will be taken over by the Assembly?

Mr. Morris

I am sorry that I must continue to try to educate the hon. Gentleman, even after the prolonged discussions that we have had on the Wales Act. Of course it will be possible for some of these bodies to remain. It will also be possible for the Assembly to subsume some of these bodies. As regards those that it can subsume, it will be a matter for the Assembly to ensure the best way of conducting those functions, be it through a body or directly through the Assembly. However, I hope most fervently that as many as possible of these bodies will come under direct democratic control.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that the latest opinion poll in Wales confirms all the other opinion polls in saying that there will be a "No" vote? In view of the fact that there may well not be an Assembly after 1 March, will my right hon. and learned Friend address himself to the problem of nominated bodies, bearing in mind that there are those of us who are opposed to an Assembly who have put up alternative suggestions whereby there could be greater democratic accountability by nominated bodies?

Mr. Morris

I enjoin my hon. Friend not to put too much faith in polls—no more than the Conservative Party should. One of the encouraging features of the latest poll was the increase in the Labour vote, contrary to some other polls. We should be encouraged by that. I am glad that my hon. Friend wants to ensure that nominated bodies are controlled. This is of the essence of the case which I am putting forward about the need for more democracy in Wales, and I look forward to that.

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