HC Deb 26 March 1979 vol 965 cc1-4
1. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the devolution referendum in Wales.

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

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22 March.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am obliged to the Secretary of State. Does he understand how many English Members rejoice at the overwhelming majority decision of the Welsh people, and will be now, having recognised the elephant in his front garden, stress to his fellow Welshmen that it is more than possible for the proper and unique requirements of the Welsh people to be given proper consideration within the ambit of the United Kingdom Parliament?

Mr. Morris

I am always influenced by and interested in the interest shown by the hon. Member in Welsh affairs. That interest is somtimes to our advantage, and frequently to our disadvantage. I would attach more importance to his views if when the Kilbrandon Commission was set up the party to which he belongs and in which he once served as a Minister had given evidence to that Royal Commission.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Will the Secretary of State name a Labour constituency party which worked hard for the Assembly in the campaign? Will be tell us the number of Labour constituency parties in Wales which worked against the Assembly in the campaign?

Mr. Morris

The campaign was begun by a magnificent meeting addressed by the Prime Minister, the general secretary of the TUC and myself. The Labour Party organised 114 meetings in Wales, and I believe that between seven and nine Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers, addressed meetings from one end of Wales to the other.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Now that the issue of devolution in Wales has been temporarily put to one side, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this could affect the bargaining strength of his Department? Could not this in turn have a detrimental effect on Wales and its people in regard to possible closures or new projects coming to Wales to provide work for our people?

Mr. Morris

I assure my hon. Friend that, with his support, I shall do my utmost to ensure that the interests of Wales are protected. Over the years we have seen a massive transfer of responsibilities to the Welsh Office. I know that those changes have been welcomed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

What on earth was it that ever made the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that his devolution proposals responded to the wishes of the Welsh people?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Member has a short memory. He will recall that in 1974 the Government published a White Paper setting out the alternatives which had been proposed by the Kilbrandon Commission and that those were ignored by the hon. Gentleman and his party. I then had a series of consultations with every political party in Wales, including his. I also had consultations with the TUC, the CBI, major local authority organisation in Wales and other interested parties. There were massive consultations in Wales during 1974.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, whatever the result of the referendum, there is general agreement in Wales that the problems which the Assembly was designed to resolve still remain and that they will become more acute if nothing is done about them? Will be therefore concentrate his mind, and those of his right hon. Friends', on a solution to these problems and not abandon the possibility of some substantial form of devolution in due course?

Mr. Morris

There is concern in Wales, which came across loud and clear in speeches from all sides of the campaign, about the future administration in Wales. I wish that the belated interest of the Conservative Party had manifested itself when the Royal Commission sat between 1968 and October 1973 and that it had bothered to give evidence to it.

2. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what was the total cost to public funds of the referendum held in Wales on 1 March.

Mr. John Morris

The estimated cost of the referendum was about £525,000. The final cost will not be known until the various claims have been submitted and processed.

Mr. Gow

Since more than 41 per cent. of the Welsh electorate decided not to vote in the referendum on 1 March, and since of those who voted there was a majority of four to one against the Government's proposals, does the Secretary of State agree that £525,000 was ill-spent? Does he think that there is a case at least for a token contribution to be made by those Ministers who made such a massive error of judgment?

Mr. Morris

Perhaps my memory is short, but I assumed that the referendum resulted from pressure in the House. I cannot remember how the hon. Member voted on the amendment to the Scotland and Wales Bill, but I presume that he voted for a referendum.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does the Secretary of State agree that £525,000 is peanuts compared with, for example, the cost of more than 600 hours of parliamentary time which was spent on the Scotland and Wales Bill, the Scotland Act and the Wales Act?

Mr. Morris

It is for Parliament to decide its priorities.

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