HC Deb 08 July 1991 vol 194 cc638-9
10. Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales with whom he consulted, and over what period of time, before concluding that there is no case for an elected Welsh assembly; and whether he will consider any further representations that any all-Wales forum should have some directly elected component.

Mr. David Hunt

My discussions with the local authority associations began in January. I have received a number of representations since then which I have been considering. The hon. Gentleman will know the conclusions that I have reached. With regard to any further representations, I hope that he will accept that I have not tried to stop him making representations to me.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful for that answer. I assure the Secretary of State that I would make any representations that I felt were appropriate. Does not he consider it very odd that when £5,000 million is spent by the Welsh Office, when there are 70 or 80 quangos and when he appoints 1,200 people to nominated bodies, we do not have any directly answerable structure in Wales? When will there be an end to the Secretary of State's role as governor-general? When will we have what every other country has—elected democracy?

Mr. Hunt

The fact that the hon. Gentleman asked me that question and that I must stand here in the mother of Parliaments and answer it shows that I am democratically accountable for what happens in Wales. With regard to the assembly, I must confess that I considered it very carefully. There is a very wide range of proposals. However, none of them explains satisfactorily what would happen to the position of the Secretary of State for Wales. There is a deep suspicion that if Labour's proposals were implemented —the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) may or may not support them—that all-important seat in the Cabinet might be denied to Wales.

Mr. Grist

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the calls from the Opposition Benches for a Welsh assembly and for a guided economy and the opposition to service industries are reminiscent of the 1970s and show that the Opposition parties have learnt absolutely nothing during their period in opposition? Should not they learn some lessons in the future?

Mr. Hunt

They certainly have not learnt the lesson of the referendum in 1979 when the people of Wales rejected the concept of an elected assembly by a four to one majority. I agree with my hon. Friend: the Opposition do not learn the lessons. People do not want to return to the policies of the 1970s and to that shabby Labour Government who were propped up by an equally shabby Lib-Lab pact. They do not want to return to socialism at a time when the USSR is removing the word socialist from its title and the rest of central and eastern Europe is throwing off socialism. It is remarkable that the Labour party wants to return to just that.

Mr. Ron Davies

Is not there a more recent example of what the Secretary of State has just told us about? Is not the poll tax a better example for him to cite? The Government were trying desperately to hold a line against the overwhelming majority of public opinion and against the views of all the Opposition parties in Wales and a sizeable minority in the Conservative party. Given that the poll tax was ultimately swept away, will the Secretary of State be as consistent in opposing devolution as he was in advocating the poll tax?

Mr. Hunt

I certainly will not support a return—as the Labour party would have us return—to an unjust and inequitable domestic rating system and then to proceed to a revaluation. I strongly condemn the Labour party for failing to enter into consultations, unlike the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, on the future of local government structure, functions and finance. The door is still open and will always be open. It is about time that the Labour party valued the results of consultation.