HC Deb 16 March 1994 vol 239 cc936-88
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are about to discuss an extremely important point for Welsh Members—a motion to amend the Standing Orders of the House in relation to the membership of Committees. I should like you to consider the constitutional implications of the decision that the House will take tonight, because the Bill deals with aspects of government in Wales. We want to know whether it is right that the Bill should be committed to a Standing Committee or whether, in view of its constitutional implications, it should be considered by a Committee of the whole House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Such a motion was not moved last night. The matter could have been decided last night, but it was not.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although I understand that last night a motion on this matter could have been tabled, do you accept that some parts of the Bill, particularly the schedules, have constitutional implications because of the way in which the legislation binds the way in which hon. Members are elected to the House? It was suggested yesterday that there was something not far removed from gerrymandering in those provisions. That must be a constitutional matter. Surely those parts must be taken on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the first point of order.

7.2 pm

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts)

I beg to move, That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of standing committees), any Standing Committee appointed for consideration of the Local Government (Wales) Bill [Lords] shall consist of twenty-eight Members, including not fewer than nineteen Members sitting for constituencies in Wales.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have to inform the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

Sir Wyn Roberts

This is a procedural motion. It is not about the merits of the Local Government (Wales) Bill, which the House debated fully yesterday and which will be debated further in Committee and, later, on the Floor of the House. The motion relates to the constitution of the Standing Committee to consider the Bill.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)


Sir Wyn Roberts

Let me get on a little, if I may.

As Standing Order No. 86 is referred to in the motion, it may, be helpful to hon. Members if I remind them of its main requirements. With certain exceptions, it requires: the Committee of Selection shall nominate not fewer than sixteen nor more than fifty Members to serve on each standing committee for the consideration of each bill". It also requires the Committee of Selection to have regard to the qualifications of those Members nominated and to the composition of the House". There is then a third provision which states: for the consideration of any public bill relating exclusively to Wales, the committee shall be so constituted as to include all Members sitting for constituencies in Wales.

Mr. Alex Carlile

I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House what he thinks was the reason for the introduction of Standing Order No. 86(2)(ii). In particular, does he recognise that he made a wholly inaccurate statement to the House when he said that there was a "third" provision? Is it not right that the proviso is an overriding proviso that governs Standing Order No. 86?

Sir Wyn Roberts

It is for the House to decide how the proposed Committee is set up. The House can certainly override the measure if it follows this motion.

It is not possible to constitute a Committee that satisfies all three requirements of the Standing Order—one with no more than 50 members that reflects the composition of the House and includes all hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies. Whichever way one tries to form such a Committee, at least one of those requirements will not be met.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)


Sir Wyn Roberts

I shall give way in a moment. We must provide a practical and precedented solution to a procedural difficulty.

Mr. Alex Carlile

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. So that the Minister of State—as always, he is doing his best to explain the position fairly to the House —can do so, will you confirm from the Chair that the requirement of 50 members does not apply under the Standing Order to Standing Committees relating to legislation that applies exclusively to Wales, because of the way in which the proviso is expressed? The right hon. Gentleman is speaking as though there were a requirement for a maximum of 50 members on such a Standing Committee. I submit to you that it is simply not so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is all a matter for debate in the context of this motion.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it is a matter for debate, would it not be appropriate and a courtesy to the House if the Secretary of State were here to listen to the excuses that are given? He is the moving hand behind this measure and the individual Cabinet member who is now going to take away from Welsh Members the right to sit on a Committee that influences their own local authorities.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a matter for the Secretary of State to decide.

Sir Wyn Roberts

All that I have said so far is based on the contents of Standing Order No. 86, and it is a matter for the House to decide.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

The Minister has just explained that it is somehow impossible for all these parts to be made a part of the whole, for the Committee to reflect the balance on the Floor of the House yet also include all the hon. Members elected from Welsh constituencies. Why, then, was the Standing Order put down? At the time that it was put down, there was not a single unionist Member in Wales, and presumably, if it had been impossible to set the system up and keep all those things part of the whole, it would not have been set up in the first place.

Sir Wyn Roberts

It is not for me to fathom what was in the minds of our forebears who put down this Standing Order. We seek to provide a practical and precedented solution to a procedural difficulty, and the Government's motion achieves precisely that.

Hon. Members will be interested to know that the Labour party's Welsh Language Act 1967, its Welsh Development Agency Act 1975 and the Development of Rural Wales Act 1976 all had Standing Committee membership other than that specified in Standing Order No. 86.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Does the Minister of State agree that in those three examples the setting aside of the Standing Order was done for the convenience of the House, and not for the convenience of the Government? It was done in the interests of both the Government and the Opposition because of Ministers and Front-Bench spokesmen, all of whom wanted not to be on a Committee on those Bills. It was, therefore, perfectly in order at the time, for the convenience of the House and of both sides, not on an opposed basis, to do that. What the right hon. Gentleman proposes, purely for the convenience of the Government and not for the convenience of the House, is entirely different.

Sir Wyn Roberts

The Committee stage of the Welsh Language Act 1967 was taken on the Floor of the House. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the Welsh Development Agency Bill and the Development of Rural Wales Bill were considered in Standing Committee. But there was a Labour Government at that time, and Labour Members were in the majority on the Committees. I cannot vouch for the circumstances at the time, but I guess that what was done was for the convenience of the Government of the day as well.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Does the Minister recognise another major difference between the three Acts to which reference has been made and the Bill that we are considering? The former applied to Wales generally or to large tranches of Wales, whereas this Bill applies specifically to every local authority area and every constituency. There is nobody else who can speak for our constituencies—in my case, Penarth and part of Cardiff. That is why it is so outrageous that the right hon. Gentleman is pressing ahead with this departure from the Standing Orders.

Sir Wyn Roberts

The hon. Gentleman, like me, knows only too well that hon. Members have opportunities in addition to those provided in Standing Committee to declare their views. There will be a Report stage and a Third Reading on the Floor of the House, and we have already had the Second Reading.

Mr. Michael

The Minister knows full well that it is in Committee that details relating to individual constituencies are considered. That is why his answer is entirely irrelevant to the point that I made.

Sir Wyn Roberts

I have never known hon. Members, particularly on Report, to be held back when discussing details further to those that were dealt with in Standing Committee. The same applies to Third Reading.

Mr. Wigley

Has the right hon. Gentleman established with the Clerks of the House that it will be in order for every matter dealt with in Committee to be dealt with on Report? Will the Government ensure that there is enough time for every such issue to be considered again on the Floor of the House so that we may all be involved?

Sir Wyn Roberts

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that that is a matter not for me but for the Chair.

None of the motions to set up the membership of the Standing Committees to which I have referred, which were similar to the one that we are now considering, was opposed.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

In the case of the Welsh Development Agency Act 1975, my recollection is that the rules were changed at the request of, and for the convenience of, the Opposition of the day.

Sir Wyn Roberts

I am sure that it was for the convenience of the then Government, as well. It may have been for the convenience of the then Opposition, as the current Opposition are only too happy to say time and again, but I cannot imagine that it would have been done had it not been for the convenience of the Labour Government.

The Opposition amendment proposes a Standing Committee of 63 members. That would be the largest Committee ever to deal with a Welsh Bill, and I guess that it would be somewhat unwieldy. It would certainly exceed the maximum of 50 specified in Standing Order No. 86.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

The Minister is talking about the Opposition amendment. I should like to take him back to the Government's proposal that the Committee consist of 28 members. Do the Government want a majority? If so, a membership of 28 would mean their having 15 places, leaving a mere 13 for 32 people. Would that be right? It would be far better and far more democratic if every Welsh Member were enabled to serve on the Committee. The Government's trumped-up scheme would deny at least 19 Opposition Members the right to membership of the Committee.

Sir Wyn Roberts

I am coming to that point. By my calculation, the Opposition would have a majority on the Committee of 63 that they propose if they intend that it should include all Welsh Members. In that case, it would not reflect the composition of the House. It ought to be obvious that no Government would agree that their legislation should be dealt with by a Committee on which the Opposition had a majority. That is the answer to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. This is a Government Bill, and the Government ought to have a majority on the Standing Committee. I am genuinely surprised that the Opposition should seek to establish, for the purposes of a Government Bill, a Committee on which they have a majority.

Mr. Morgan

The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for education, including mathematics, in Wales. He appears to have forgotten that one of the Committee members would be the Chairman and that, therefore, there would be only 31 Opposition members. Two times 3l is 62, so the Government would have a majority on a Committee of 63. Will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the garbage that he has been talking for the past two minutes?

Sir Wyn Roberts

My mathematics tells me that the Government would not have a majority. I am sure that it is absolutely right to say that they would be dependent on the Chair. [Interruption.] I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to think about what I have just said—what the Opposition propose would leave the Government without a majority and dependent on the Chair.

Mr. Morgan

Will the Minister please check his mathematics again? If he sticks to the case that he has just made, he will be impugning the integrity of the Chairman, who, as a distinguished member of the Speaker's Panel, is prevented by the rules—as I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will confirm—from being counted as a Opposition member. I am sure that I am correct in respect of this matter, as in respect of the mathematics. The Minister ought to be honest enough to reconsider what he has just said.

Sir Wyn Roberts

On the basis of the figures that the hon. Gentleman has produced, I conclude that the two sides would be equal, the 63rd vote being held by the Chair. I much prefer the Government's proposed Committee of 28 members.

Mr. Michael

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It seems that the Minister is casting doubt on the normal proceedings of the House. Can you clarify the position—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for the Chair.

Sir Wyn Roberts

I much prefer a membership of 28, and I am sure that the House will conclude that the Government are right. A Committee of that size would be small enough to work effectively and large enough to reflect the composition of the House, thereby ensuring representation for the minority parties. I therefore commend the motion to the House.

7.18 pm
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

I beg to move, leave out from the second "or to end and add "sixty-three Members".

Having listened to the speech of the Minister of State, I think that it would have been much better if he had stayed in Catalonia, where he might have learnt a bit more about democracy. His mathematics is absolutely absurd. The position of the Chairman of a Committee removes him from the configuration of the Opposition, although he or she counts towards a quorum. Thus, under our proposal, the Opposition would have only 31 members, and the Government would have a majority for all normal purposes of voting. The Minister should, therefore, check the rules of the House and how Committees are constituted. In his opening remarks, he attempted to stir up apathy, as he usually does wherever he goes in Wales, but he should produce some sort of argument for setting aside, for the third time in just under two years, the rules of the House.

Mr, Jonathan Evans (Brecon and Radnor)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will help me with his Aberpergau mathematics. He said that the Committee would contain 31 Opposition Members and the chairman, which leaves 31 Conservative Members. How would that give a Government majority?

Mr. Morgan

The hon. Gentleman should remember that it would be possible for the Government—so I am instructed by the authorities of the House—not to count the Chairman as a member of the Committee, even though he would count towards a quorum. The hon. Gentleman is welcome to check that with the Clerks of the House, as I did yesterday. I think that he will find that my mathematics are correct and my understanding of the procedure is the same as that of the House authorities.

Mr. Wigley

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Minister's argument has a serious bearing on the motion? The Minister includes the Chair of the Committee in the number that he regards as appropriate. He must, therefore, include the Chair among the 28 members mentioned in the motion. If the Chair were taken out, only 27 members would be left—a totally different understanding of the composition of the Committee from that given by the usual channels.

Mr. Morgan

The hon. Gentleman is right. It is only for the purpose of a quorum that the Chairman of a Committee counts towards its membership. Therefore, the Minister's mathematics are wrong.

The Minister of State's argument is fundamentally flawed now, as it was during discussions on 9 June 1992 on the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill and 7 June 1993 on the Welsh Language Bill. We face a sort of triple crown of the democratic deficit in Wales. It is the equivalent of England trying to get 15 extra players on the field on Saturday to ensure the right result. The people of Wales would object to that on Saturday, as they object to the undermining of the principle of democracy in Wales tonight. The Government cannot move the goalposts all the time in respect of Welsh legislation.

The Standing Orders of the House make special provision for Welsh legislation. The best thing for the Government to do—the sooner they do it, the better—would be to leave the Standing Orders alone in relation to Welsh legislation and accept that they have been put there for a specific purpose. The Government should not try to alter the Standing Orders every time such matters come before the House.

The problem faced by the Opposition is to understand why the Government use the same explanation each time that the matter arises. Reference has already been made to it by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). Each time, the Government try to say that the Standing Orders are defective. That is an absurd proposition. One cannot say that the Standing Orders, which have been in existence since 1907, are defective or inherently self-contradictory. That is an absurd proposition, which was the Minister's argument. He repeated what the Secretary of State said almost a year ago when he broke his duck in his current job, although that speech was even more abbreviated than that of the Minister of State's.

The Government's argument is that, as the Committee should not have more than 50 members and must reflect the composition of the House in terms of Government and Opposition—with a built-in Government majority—the third provision cannot be met. That final provision is that all Welsh Members must be members of the Committee. That is not what Standing Order No. 86 says.

Standing Order No. 86 contains a third provision that plainly overrides the first two—it makes an exception for Welsh legislation. It provides that, for Welsh legislation, all Welsh Members shall sit on the Standing Committee. It does not say that three co-equal propositions—the Government majority, the maximum of 50 members and the fact that all Welsh Members should serve on the Standing Committee—should be juggled around. It does not state, "Something's got to give, so try to fit them in as best you can. Perm any two out of three and see if you can come up with Littlewoods' home banker." It is not like that.

The final provision of Standing Order No. 86 is plainly meant to override its other provisions in terms of Welsh legislation. The Government will not accept that, and we all know why. They want to steamroller all Welsh legislation through unwilling Welsh Members in the House of Commons, who reflect the views of a Welsh people who are extremely unwilling to accept Tory Government proposals for Wales. That is the problem which the Government must face. They cannot win the votes normally and democratically on Welsh matters, so they have to use the undemocratic steamroller to try to push their legislation through the House.

In 1907, democratic support for the Tory Government was even worse, if that is possible to imagine, than it is now. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) said that the Conservatives experienced a total wipe-out in the 1906 general election. Not one Tory Member of Parliament was returned. They were lucky to get the nil, as it is sometimes said after football matches after one side has had a thrashing. The Tories are slightly better off now—they have six Welsh Members out of 38 —but they still have a problem.

The Standing Orders are not meant to serve the convenience of the Government. They are meant to protect democracy. The nature of the United Kingdom is at stake tonight. The UK is not one homogeneous nation state comprising 651 Members of Parliament who all represent the same sort of constituency. As its name shows, the United Kingdom is an amalgam of four different home countries. That is why Standing Order No. 86 contains specific provision for Scottish legislation and Welsh legislation in the constitution of the Grand Committees and the Standing Committees. The Government say, "Yes, we know that's there, but we are going to ignore it. Every time it comes up, we are going to set it aside." I know that there are set-aside schemes in agriculture, but we do not want such schemes for dealing with the fundamental democratic rights of the smaller countries that make up the UK. The UK works only because there is protection for the smaller parts of the United Kingdom—Scotland and Wales—to prevent them from being abused and pushed around by the much larger majority, England, when legislation goes through the House.

Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify this point? When Labour formed the minority Government in the 1970s, it presumably had an overall minority in England. In matters affecting England, did it have a minority on the various Committees of the House?

Mr. Morgan

Provision for England, which comprises 82 per cent. of the total of the UK, is much less specific because it does not need the same measure of protection. But there is special provision for England. Earlier today, there was a debate on the redundant churches legislation that applies to England, but not to Wales—as far as I know, it does not apply in Scotland either. Hon. Members may have taken part—I certainly did not—in the debate on women priests in England. There is an established Church in England, so we in Parliament will, from time to time, discuss specifically English matters, such as the established Church. As far as I know, no Welsh Members take part in such debates, vote on them or bother to come in because they are on English matters. England does not need the same degree of protection from abuse by the majority of the minority.

The Government make so much fuss about the same argument in terms of Europe. The Foreign Secretary returns from Europe and makes ringing declarations about subsidiarity and wanting to build in special protection for Britain. He says that we do not want other countries to tell us what to do. We do not want qualified majority voting extended so that we in Britain can be told what to do when we might want to defend our little patch from the abuse by the majority of the minority. That is what Standing Order No. 86 is about.

The two special provisions on Scotland and Wales are saying to the Government and the House that subsidiarity begins at home. It is written into the rules of the House that Wales and Scotland, because they form only 5.5 per cent. and 9.5 per cent. respectively of the UK population, need special protection from abuse by the majority. They cannot be the majority themselves—Wales could never push England around in the House because it is far too small, and that is built into the demography of the United Kingdom.

We in Wales have special protections which, in 1907, were very sensibly built in, and the Government are once again trying to set them aside. That is regardless of the hypocrisy that they manifest when they go to Europe and try to restrict the spread of qualified majority voting because they do not think that this country ought to be pushed around.

Other points have been made in a couple of interventions from hon. Members. The Bill is perhaps even more of a crunch point for our attempt to defend the rights that were built in under Standing Order No.86 than the two previous examples which were quoted. The Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill applied directly only to the Cardiff area and it must be said that not everybody in Wales was directly affected by the Welsh Language Bill.

However, the Local Government (Wales) Bill [Lords] —to give it its proper title—applies in every hole and corner in Wales. There is no part of Wales that will not be directly affected by its provisions. We are all affected by it, but English Members—by and large—are not affected by it.

Therefore, it is absurd that the Government should consider setting aside Standing Order No.86 so that they can throw Welsh Members off the Standing Committee and import English Members who are not affected. That is cheating under the rules of the House, and the Government are moving the goalposts. They are trying to get around the provisions of Standing Order No. 86, which have been there for 87 years.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

The hon. Gentleman says that moving the suspension of Standing Order No. 86 is cheating the House. Has there ever been an occasion when a Labour Government moved the suspension of that Standing Order?

Mr. Morgan

It has not been done on an opposed basis, as the Minister is aware. It is not clear what would have happened if the Opposition at that time had objected, but it has never been done on an opposed basis.

Sir Wyn Roberts

Is the hon. Gentleman denying the right of the House to suspend the Standing Order?

Mr. Morgan

Absolutely not. However, the systematic removal of the Standing Order three times in 22 months implies that the Government do not accept its existence, or that they believe that it is only there for their own convenience. That is not the nature of Standing Orders of the House, which exist to protect minorities, the rights of Back Benchers and the ability of Welsh Members to represent Welsh constituents. Those rights have been built in. The Government want to build them back out again, and that is undermining democracy.

The Government are trying to turn the Standing Committee into another quango and pack it with Tory placemen in exactly the same way as they have done with all quangos. It is fair to say that Wales is fed up with quangos and with the three times that the Standing Order has been set aside. The Minister will be aware that quangos —although he is trying to get more people from all over to serve on them—are known as the great little gravy trains of Wales. The right hon. Gentleman wants more people to try to ride on them.

The Government are trying to change the Standing Committees so that they have the same political character as quangos. That simply means that they cannot accept the democratic verdict of the people of Wales in elections. They will be importing people who are not interested in the proceedings.

The top qualification for the English Tories who will be imported is that they will not be able to point out Wales on a map. They will not know the difference between Carmarthen and Caernarfon, and they will not be able to speak as they will be frightened stiff—as the Secretary of State mentioned last night—of Welsh pronunciations. Worst of all, they will think that the name of our national game is "rugger" rather than rugby, and we find that deeply offensive.

The Secretary of State last night kept referring to the "Rhonda valley". He has been Secretary of State for quite a while now, and we would have thought that he would mastered the fact that it is the Rhondda valley and not the "Rhonda valley". There may be some parts of Wokingham where people think that "Rhonda valley" is a product of some 30s slushy Hollywood romance where Rhonda Fleming married Rudy Vallee and had a daughter called "Rhonda valley".

We are talking about Welsh communities and the places that we represent, as distinct from the mythical Wales that the Secretary of State would like to present where, occasionally, the Tories win a seat. Tory Members will serve on the Committee even though they do not agree with unitary local government being introduced in England. They will be imported through the exemption from Standing Order No. 86 and will support hypocritically unitary local government in Wales which they would not support in England. That is another absurdity which will occur if we allow the motion to be passed.

The underlying purpose of the exemption from Standing Order No. 86 and the ability to import carpetbaggers from outside Wales is to defend the ability of the Government to get through Parliament a measure that, as of this morning, will be subject to follow-up action by the parliamentary boundary commissioner.

The most important thing for the Government in terms of the management of their business is that, once the Bill has had its Second Reading, they will immediately instruct the parliamentary boundary commissioner to review their interim recommendations. We heard last night the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) trying to deny that the intention of bringing the communities of Ewenny, Wick and St. Bride's Major into the Vale of Glamorgan local authority was to assist him in shoring up his majority of 19—which, we understand from the electoral returning officer, was itself artificially imported from Johannesburg.

I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) was unfair to the hon. Gentleman last night. Normally, it is fair to say that the forensic skills of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan would not extend to his being able to give away ice cream in the middle of the Sahara. My hon. Friend asked the hon. Gentleman to defend the indefensible, which is the bringing in of Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick for any sensible local government purpose. The clear underlying purpose is to try to shore up the hon. Gentleman's majority, and that is so open and obvious and so contrary to what the local community wants.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)


Mr. Morgan

I will give way to my hon. Friend, who I hope will be as unfair to the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan as he was last night.

Mr. Griffiths

I will try my best not to be unfair at this stage. I wish to point out that when the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan made that assertion to the gathered 200 at a meeting, there was a loud burst of laughter.

Mr. Morgan

Following my hon. Friend's inquisition of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan last night, I was thinking that we ought to call in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. However, there is not a special branch of the NSPCC to defend Government Members when they are in difficulty, as the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan clearly was last night. The Bill will introduce a new word to Welsh political vocabulary—Ewenny-mandering. It is a blatant attempt to shore up the hon. Gentleman and to take votes away from my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend.

What are the alternatives? The Opposition tabled the amendment to give the Government some sort of way out. On the previous two occasions, we simply voted against the Standing Order No. 86 set-aside motion.

Mr. Sweeney

I went to some lengths yesterday to repudiate the allegations of gerrymandering which were made by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has just said and, with respect, he cannot have it both ways. He says that the Government are trying to give votes to the Vale of Glamorgan parliamentary constituency, and then says that the Government are trying to take away votes from the hon. Member for Bridgend. Which is it?

Mr. Morgan


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House should not be arguing too much about the Bill. Hon. Members should stick to the subject for tonight's debate, and not last night's debate.

Mr. Morgan

I entirely agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We must stick tightly to the remit of the Standing Order No. 86 set-aside motion. I will say that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan is quoting me accurately. Of course my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend is happy to represent the constituents of Ewenny, Wick and St. Bride's Major. That is the simple fact of it. They do not want to leave and he does not want them to leave.

We are discussing the alternatives to setting aside Standing Order No. 86. We have offered the Government a way out. That way out is the subject of a simply solvable mathematical dispute. In the inconceivable circumstances that the Government were right and 63 members would not give them a majority, they could make it 64. We would not mind. That is one way out. Rather than taking Welsh Members of Parliament off the Standing Committee, on which they have a right, established over 87 years, to serve, the Government could add English Members. That would give the Government a majority. That is not provided for in the last proviso of Standing Order No. 86, but if that is what the Government want, it would be one way of doing it.

If the Government are absolutely insistent on keeping a majority on the Committee, it is still important that we are able to be present when the clause that refers to changes to the local government units in a Member's constituency is discussed. Each Opposition Member will fight like a tigress for her cubs for the right to be there when the matter is dealt with in Committee. We should like to have the right to serve on the Committee—even a large, unwieldy one —simply because each of us wants to be there when our local authority area is discussed.

Mr. Sweeney

If Opposition Members are so keen to fight like tigers, where are they this evening?

Mr. Morgan

I am not sure what sort of count the hon. Gentleman has made of the attendance during the debate last night and tonight. I am grateful for his solicitude for hon. Members. He will have noticed that the Secretary of State was not here for the beginning of the debate, but no doubt he exempts him because, in any case, he represents an English constituency.

The other alternative is simply to let the Committee be constituted as a form of Welsh Grand Committee; in other words, the Government would agree to give up their majority. The Minister of State says that the Government do not want to do that and that such action is almost unprecedented. But it is not unprecedented. The Government have said that they want to tune up the functions of the Scottish Grand Committee and allow it to take the Committee stages of relatively uncontroversial Bills. I accept that the Local Government (Wales) Bill is not uncontroversial, but, given the difficulties posed to the Government by the way in which Standing Order No. 86 is written, the Minister of State should at least have had the courtesy to the House of raising the hypothesis of constituting the Committee as a Welsh Grand Committee and then knocking it down. He should have given the Government's reasons for not being willing to accept the loss of majority.

All that the Minister said was that such a move was unprecedented. We know that that is not true because in their "taking stock" exercise the Government want to apply the principle to the Scottish Grand Committee. It is clear that the Government would lose a few votes in the Committee stage on the Bill. They would lose perhaps three or four votes. They would certainly lose the votes on a Welsh assembly. One or two of the boundary votes, such as the vote on Montgomery, would be lost in Committee. The Government could reverse them on Report. If they are interested in democracy, that is always a possibility. It is not a problem. The problem is that they are not interested in democracy. They are interested only in steamrollering. The Government must face that problem in the higher court of the views of the Welsh people, as expressed in past elections and undoubtedly in the next elections.

The Government have to face the fact that ever since the secret ballot was introduced they have not won a majority of votes in Wales. Yet we do not want them to come up with ideas to set aside the secret ballot in Welsh elections because they do not like the results. We cannot accept any diminution of the democratic rights of people in Wales.

Sir Wyn Roberts

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile his proposals in the amendment for a Committee of 63 or 64 with the requirement of Standing Order No. 86 that the Committee of Selection shall nominate no fewer than 16 and no more than 50 Members to serve on each Standing Committee?

Mr. Morgan

That is clearly overridden by the third proviso with reference to Scottish and Welsh legislation. Scottish and Welsh legislation is exempt from that part of Standing Order No. 86. One can read it 20 times or once. It is plain as a pikestaff. Scottish and Welsh legislation is exempt from that provision. What else can the provision that all Welsh Members of Parliament shall be on the Committee mean? It is clearly an instruction to the authorities of ' the House which is superior to the instructions on the composition of Committees and the maximum of 50 and minimum of 16. That is the only possible construction that the English language can permit anyone with common sense to put on the words of Standing Order No. 86.

The problem with the Minister of State is not his understanding of Standing Order No. 86 and what the English language plainly means. The problem is that he does not like what it means and is therefore trying to wriggle out of the consequences for the Government. If they accepted the consequences, they would have to show a little give and take, a little chwarae teg and a little flexibility in coming to meet us half way, representing as we do more than five out of six of the constituencies of Wales.

Those are the three alternatives that the Government could have adopted instead of the one that they have adopted on three successive occasions and which has caused them to stand condemned before the bar of Welsh public opinion. The Government's action is application of the steamroller, the packing of the Standing Committee and the acid test of whether they are interested in democracy.

Mr. Rowlands

My hon. Friend has listed all the reasonable options. If the Government are not willing to budge on this issue, does he think that they would go for even the most modest option and take clause 1 and schedule I in a Committee of the whole House? That would at least allow every Welsh Member to take part in the debate. That is a practical proposition. I wonder whether my hon. Friend could tempt the Secretary of State to comment on that option?

Mr. Morgan

That is yet another example of the flexibility with which, I think that it is fair to say, Opposition Members are willing to approach the matter. We are trying to tempt the Government into using some legislative method other than the steamroller across Welsh public opinion. The only language that we have heard from the Government so far is packing the Standing Committee with Tory placemen who are ignorant of Wales and proud of that ignorance. The way we are going, Wales will soon be renamed as Quangostan.

The Government are attempting to take Wales back to the evil days before secret ballots and before elected local government was introduced in 1884. Before that, everything was arranged cosily between the squire, the justices of the peace, the poor law guardians and the school boards, all of whom were relatives of the squire in any case. We reject that vision of disappearing democracy and circumscribed accountability. We want to develop democracy in Wales and take government institutions closer to the people. That is why we shall ask all our colleagues to support us in the Lobby tonight in the vote on the amendment and, if the amendment is defeated, the vote on the main motion.

7.46 pm
Mr. Rod Richards (Clwyd, North-West)

We see now why the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) aggregated a massive sum of 40 votes out of 270 when he stood for the shadow Cabinet.

The thrust of the argument from Opposition Members is that they wish to represent and speak for their constituencies in the Standing Committee. I find that interesting. I propose to develop their argument for a few moments. I have just come out of the Standing Committee that is considering the Coal Industry Bill. I noticed that the sole representative on the Opposition Benches from the south Wales coalfield was the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain). That surprised me because, coming from south Wales, I am fully aware that in a bygone era the coalfield fuelled an empire. Its socialism was championed by the likes of Aneurin Bevan and Jim Griffiths. So I wondered why the hon. Member for Neath was the sole representative from the south Wales coalfield.

When I asked the hon. Member for Neath why he was the only south Wales Member on that Committee—I am coming to the key point, Mr. Deputy Speaker—the reason that I was given was that other hon. Members who represent the south Wales coalfield were Opposition spokesmen. They had other duties and could not be selected for that Standing Committee.

I should like to develop the argument by assessing how many Opposition Members would be eligible to serve on the Standing Committee. I shall start with the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) who is the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely we must concentrate on the Standing Order and not have another repeat of a psychotic litany of hatred from the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair is quite aware of that.

Mr. Ron Davies

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) is suggesting that some of my hon. Friends would not be eligible to sit on a Standing Committee. Surely the only question that arises about eligibility is whether hon. Members are elected. As we are all elected, by definition we all must be eligible. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is out of order in suggesting that we are ineligible.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair will decide who is out of order, and so far the hon. Gentleman is quite in order.

Mr. Richards

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for clarifying that matter for Opposition Members.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

The hon. Gentleman seeks to mislead the House in relation to the Coal Industry Bill. My reply is quite specific. Not only are other valley Members Front-Bench spokesmen for the Labour party but they are on Select Committees. That is why it was difficult, if not impossible, for them to be members of the Committee examining the Coal Industry Bill. The hon. Gentleman should at least repeat my remark in its full context and give the full explanation rather than mislead the House as he does on every occasion.

Mr. Richards

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that. Now that he has drawn it to my attention I hope to add to the list of Opposition Members who are spokesmen for their party.

As I have said, the hon. Member for Rhondda is the Labour party spokesman on foreign affairs. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) is a spokesman on national heritage and the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) is a spokesman for education. The right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) is the Opposition's legal adviser, and the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) is a spokesman, as is the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells).

Mr. Michael

The hon. Gentleman points to the wealth of talent on the Labour Benches by mentioning those who speak on England and Wales issues. It is nice of him to advertise that fact to the House, but surely he accepts that that would not prevent any one of us whom he has just named—and he mentioned me—from being a member of the Committee within the rules of the House.

Mr. Richards

Perhaps I could continue, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) is the Opposition spokesman on office accommodation. I congratulate the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones) on his recent appointment as Opposition spokesman on agriculture. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) for his intervention because it brings me to the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), who is the Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) is Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, and the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) is a noted member of the Public Accounts Committee. We must not forget the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) who has now found his niche as a disc jockey.

I have listed some 12 Opposition Members who, according to the reason that I was given in the Committee examining the Coal Industry Bill, might not be eligible or might not wish to be eligible for the Standing Committee to champion the cause of their constituencies. I looked to see how much interest Opposition Members have shown in local government affairs since the last general election. There are interesting data. I obtained from the Library the aggregate number of questions on local government from the general election last year until 9 February this year.

Top of the list is the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. In joint second place are the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and, surprise, surprise, myself. Other hon. Members have asked five to eight questions, but the thrust of the Opposition's argument is that they wish to champion the cause of their constituencies in the Standing Committee. Let us look at a question asked by the hon. Member for Bridgend in order to champion his constituency. On 29 April last year, the hon. Gentleman asked the following question [Interruption.] This is pertinent, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Ron Davies

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman's remarks have nothing to do with the debate on Standing Order No.86. He is engaging in his favourite pastime of launching personal, vindictive attacks on Opposition Members. I contend that his remarks are quite out of order and have nothing to do with the amendment or the motion.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have already said in reply to other interventions that, so far, the hon. Gentleman is quite in order.

Mr. Richards

Let us get back to the question by the hon. Member for Bridgend. Bearing in mind that he wants to champion his constituency, he asked: what are the distances between (a) Wick, (b) St. Bride's Major, (c) Ewenny and (d) Coychurch and (e) Bridgend".—[Official Report, 29 April 1993; Vol.223, c. 517.] As the hon. Gentleman is the Member for Bridgend, I should have thought that he would know how far local villages are from his constituency.

Mr. Win Griffiths

If the hon. Gentleman were able to read Hansard properly he would know that my question was about distances from those communities to Bridgend and was in the context of the distance from Barry. The purpose was to show how much closer they are to Bridgend than to Barry. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would give us the full story and not a twisted half story.

Mr. Richards

The hon. Gentleman should be grateful to me for allowing him the opportunity to explain himself.

Bearing in mind that the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) wishes to champion the cause of his constituency in the Standing Committee, he asked the Secretary of State: what information he has received on the resolution passed at the European Assembly of the Regions bureau meeting in Hungary on 30 April regarding his White Paper,'Local Government in Wales'"—[Official Report, 18 May 1993; Vol.225, c.135.] Those are the sort of questions that Opposition Members have been asking. Sadly for them, most of them have not shown any interest whatever in local government in Wales since April last year. Since then, six of them have asked only one question on local government in Wales. Five of my hon. Friends from England have also asked one question each, almost as many as the number asked by Opposition Members. Three Welsh Opposition Members have asked no questions at all about local government in Wales.

Those are the people who tell us that they want to be on the Standing Committee to champion the cause of their constituencies.

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)


Mr. Richards

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) because he is one of those who have not asked a question on local government since April 1992.

Mr. Alan W. Williams

How many questions in total on local government in Wales have the 10 Conservative Members who are to be brought in from England to sit on this Committee tabled since the last election?

Mr. Richards

I am not familiar with who will be on the Standing Committee, but by the time I come to the end of my speech I shall have shown that my hon. Friends from England will be just as welcome on that Committee as Opposition Members because they have taken as much interest in local government in Wales as Opposition Members.

I shall move on to see how many speeches Opposition Members have made on local government reform. I appreciate that Opposition Members will argue that they cannot all speak in the debates as they serve on the Welsh Grand Committee and so on. I shall aggregate them to see how many there are. The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) is near the top of the list as is the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes). To try to demonstrate interest in Welsh local government I said to myself, "What would be reasonable for Welsh Members to ask to show an interest in local government since the general election? Should it be one question or two, one debate or two?" I decided that the criteria would be maybe one question, maybe two; maybe one debate, maybe two. If they scored three—either two questions and one debate or vice versa —that would be reasonable.

I went through the list of 15 people that I had left after chucking out the first 12. I found that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) scored one question but no debates, so he is out. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) scored one question and one debate, so he is out. The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) scored one question and no debates, so he is out. The hon. Member for Neath scored one question and one debate; goodbye to him. The hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) scored one question and one debate. The right hon. Member for Swansea, West scored no questions and no debates; the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) scored no questions and no debates and the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) scored no questions and no debates.

By the time I had taken out those who failed to score on that simple table, the only ones left were the hon. Members for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), for Cardiff, West, for Caerphilly. for Alyn and Deeside, for Delyn and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands). In my view, only six Labour Members would be eligible to sit on the Standing Committee—they would be equal in number to the Conservative Members.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am interested in what he has said and I am pleased to be one of the six that he has mentioned. I sat through the Committee considering the Welsh Language Bill with the hon. Gentleman and I cannot recall a single word uttered by a single Conservative Member representing an English seat. Does that affect his list? Do the same criteria apply to every other issue in which hon. Members take part? What are needed are their votes; not their contributions or ideas, but solely their votes.

Mr. Richards

My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Cranbourne (Mr. Coe) spoke very well on that Bill. I recall the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) complimenting my hon. Friend on his speech in the House.

We should take the six hon. Members who passed the test and allow the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central to join them for organisational reasons, along with obviously the four members of Plaid Cymru and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile).

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

I thank the hon. Gentleman for paying me the compliment of allowing me to sit on the Committee and for acknowledging me for my organisational skills, if nothing else. The hon. Gentleman is making the point that those who table insufficient questions to satisfy his idea of what is eligible should not be able to sit on Committee because they have not shown sufficient interest in local government in Wales. Does not my service for six years as a councillor in Cardiff entitle me to some acceptance for my knowledge of local government in Wales? Does not the fact that I was chairman of economic development in Cardiff four years entitle me to recognition of some knowledge of local government in Wales? How does that stand with the English Members to be parachuted in who know nothing about local government in Wales?

Mr. Richards

The hon. Gentleman misses the point completely. Opposition Members are burning to get into the Standing Committee to represent their constituents, but they have been burning so much that they have not shown it since the general election.

Mr. Sweeney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that the fact that 15 Opposition Members representing Wales are missing from the Chamber at this very moment demonstrates the fierce enthusiasm of Opposition Members to participate in the Committee?

Mr. Richards

I have now aggregated 12 Opposition Members who by certain criteria would be eligible, but even by the criteria that hon. Member for Cardiff, Central has set before me, at least seven of my hon. Friends have asked as many questions about Welsh local government as have Opposition Members. If we were to include those seven Conservative Members, we would have 13 on the Committee and the Opposition would have 12, but I reflect on what my right hon. Friend said in that we must have a minimum of 16.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

Bearing in mind the criteria adopted by the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) that six years service in local government in Wales is a demonstrable criterion for being a member of the Committee, in those circumstances, would not my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) qualify as a member of the Committee as he was a distinguished member of West Glamorgan county council?

Mr. Richards

My hon. Friend was a distinguished member of local authorities in Wales. However, he has other duties.

Mr. Flynn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Richards

The truth about the Opposition, the reason why Opposition Members are dying to get on to the Committee to champion the cause of their constituencies is that they do not have confidence in the hon. Member for Caerphilly to represent their interests on that Standing Committee. He could not even secure half their votes in the election for the shadow Cabinet. That is the truth, that is the sham, that is the agenda of the Opposition. They are exposed for the sham that they are.

8.6 pm

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

I support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) calling for the Committee to have 63 members. Despite the arithmetic of the Minister, that number would still give the Government a majority.

I listened with some interest to the comments of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards).

Mr. Flynn

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend, but he will recall that many hon. Members were criticised for not asking enough questions. It is a rare treat for me or for my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) to be criticised for not asking enough parliamentary questions, when we have asked more parliamentary questions in several Sessions than not only any Welsh Member but any hon. Member. Does he not realise that we ask questions to seek information and the fact that some of us have asked very few questions demonstrates that we already have a wealth of information and knowledge?

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that comment.

There is an enormous amount of experience of local government among Opposition Members. I am quite embarrassed at just how many of my colleagues have been in local government.

As regards the membership of the Committee, earlier this evening I had a word with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) to press my claim to be on the Committee. He pointed out his embarrassment about my part of the world. I defer to my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger), who feels that, in view of his county council experience, he should have first claim to represent Dyfed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) is also keen to be on the Committee, and so am I.

We all have legitimate territorial claims. Carmarthen has its own interest as capital of Dyfed and it is likely to lose many jobs in the reorganisation. Llanelli has a different industrial character and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli wants to reflect that in the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, with his recent and detailed experience and responsibilities on Dyfed county council, also has a claim. The embarrassment of riches is among those on the Opposition Benches, and I may lose my place on the Committee when I really want to be there. I shall not go into detail, but there is a real problem in that we have dozens of people who are very keen to be on the Committee.

Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South-West)

I am one of those who would like to be on the Committee. I have a specific problem in my constituency in that the town of Llangollen should be included in the unitary authority of Wrexham and I shall not be able to make that point in Committee. I should also like to make another point which my hon. Friend might like to convey to the Government statisticians. The Committee considering the Welsh Language Bill, which was set up in a similar way to this, had nine English Members who were eligible to speak. Only one of them spoke and his contribution consisted of only 41 words, which shows just how ridiculous it is to have English Members drafted in on Welsh legislation.

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. We have very much in mind his distinguished background on Clwyd county council before he became a Member of Parliament. What he says about the participation of Conservative Members during the Committee stage of every Bill is true. They sit there simply for the votes, contributing nothing to the debate, and I fear that that will be the case again on this Bill.

I was present for the opening and closing speeches of yesterday's six-hour debate on the Bill and I was astounded that the first Back-Bench Member to be called was the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason). I could not put a name to the hon. Gentleman. I have never heard him speak in the House before and certainly not on Welsh affairs.

Later in the evening we had a contribution from the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). What is his experience of local authorities? His main credential is that he knows well the right-to-buy policy—the right for someone else to buy so that he can buy back at a knock-down price. That is no recommendation to be on the Committee.

The hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) excluded Welsh Members one by one, but the converse of what he said is true. Of the 15 Conservative Members that the Government intend to place on the Committee, 10 come from outside Wales and know nothing about local government in Wales and our problems.

Mr. Hain

While my hon. Friend is drawing attention to those facts, will he also remind the House that on Second Reading last night, of the Conservative Members who voted against the united position of the opposing parties in Wales 30 are Conservative Members who wish to defy the Government on English local government reform? They will try to overturn the Government because they want to protect the old counties. I should like to know whether any of those hon. Members are likely to find themselves on the Committee considering Welsh reorganisation. They are happy to go through the Lobby for the Government on the Floor of the House, but I bet that the Government will not dare to put them on the Committee. They will put on that Committee other toadies who will toe their line.

Mr. Williams

I do not have my hon. Friend's residual faith in the Government. Despite their hypocrisy, the Government may well put them on the Committee.

Mr. Jonathan Evans

I want to return to the hon. Gentleman's uncharacteristically churlish remarks about my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason) whom he suggested knows little about local government in Wales. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is not aware that in fact my hon. Friend is a former leader of the Association of District Councils. He has wide experience and is widely respected. He made a thoughtful, analytical speech which was well received, even by Opposition Members.

Mr. Williams

I listened intently to his speech. It was that of someone with a great deal of experience in local government but with no direct experience of Wales.

Mr. Morgan

He did not even mention Wales.

Mr. Williams

His experience could have been in the United States or in any part of any country. His speech was that of an academic. It was of interest, obviously, but only in the sense that a speech made by any professor of local government or any chair of any local authority association in Europe would be. In contrast, each of the 38 Members who represents Wales has, by definition, a direct territorial interest in being on the Committee.

In preparing my speech for this debate I was reminded of some of the comments made by the former Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt), in the Welsh Grand Committee in Cardiff a year ago. In his introductory remarks he talked about the role of that Welsh Grand Committee and envisaged a larger role for it in Welsh affairs. Implicit in his remarks was the fact that that Committee was the proper forum for legislation concerning only Wales, such as last year's Welsh Language Bill and now the Local Government (Wales) Bill.

Our main criticism of the Bill is that no assembly is proposed. There is to be no accountable, elected, democratic regional tier of government. Support for that assembly is growing all the time. It reached a ratio of 2:1 in an opinion poll a week ago. Had the Labour party won the last election we might already have introduced legislation for that assembly. In our programme we had in mind setting up the assembly first and giving it the job of reorganising Welsh local government so that only Welsh people would be in charge of our reorganisation. That makes the point that only people with experience of, and who live in, Wales should be involved in such legislation because they know what is best for Wales.

Under the Government's proposal, the Committee will have 15 Conservative Members and 13 from Opposition parties. I understand, unofficially, that the Committee will have 11 Labour Members. I have already referred to the fact that I want to be on the Committee, as do my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli and, very properly, my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, but there is not room for all of us.

The Bill proposes to re-establish Carmarthenshire as a unitary authority. I am happy with that. It is the right unit in terms of size and history. It is an identifiable unit. It is viable and it is the fourth largest in Wales. Even though there are differences between Carmarthen and Llanelli—Llanelli has an industrial tradition while Carmarthen is more rural—there is a gradation across the Gwendraeth and Amman valleys between them. Llanelli borough council and the town in particular have grave reservations, misgivings—opposition even—to Carmarthenshire. There is a strong body of feeling in Llanelli that it should have its own unitary authority. I should like to be a member of the Committee with my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli so that he can present some of those points and I can respond to them, and perhaps reassure my right hon. Friend and his constituents that their doubts can be ameliorated.

Another point that I would wish to make as a member of the Committee concerns the number of councillors who will be serving on the unitary authorities throughout Wales. There is to be a cut from 2,000 councillors on the district and county councils to 1,250. We see a growth in quangos, but a cut in a number of elected councils. Specifically, in Carmarthenshire, we will have 82 where there are now 140. I am concerned because a recent Welsh Office document showed that, of those 82, 33 are allocated to Llanelli, 29 to Carmarthen and 20 to Dinefwr. They have not been allocated in accordance with the electorates. I cannot understand why the average electorate per councillor in Carmarthen will be 1,525, in Dinefwr will be 1,550 and in Llanelli will be 1,820. Members of Llanelli borough council have already made their feelings known about being denied three councillors. They have a legitimate grievance there. I should like to like to elaborate and develop that point in the Committee.

The Secretary of State said yesterday that he had an open mind about area committees for some parts of Wales, but that the unitary authority would devolve part of its powers in the Powys pudding model to local area committees. It is clear from questions to the Secretary of State from my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) and my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) that he does not have a clear mind about what he means by the area committees. It struck me from his phraseology and from the way that he presented his argument yesterday that there was a do-it-yourself devolution within each unitary authority, and that could lead to chaos.

This afternoon, I was reading some of the comments made last night by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli. He put it very well when he talked about the powers of community councils, town councils and now the odd idea of area committees. In a sense, in town councils such as Llanelli borough council, Carmarthen community council and all the other town councils throughout Wales, one has a ready-made structure of area committees. I should like to be on the Committee to hear some of the detailed arguments and what the Secretary of State has in mind or what he is hoping will turn up in the arguments on area committees.

My understanding is that there is a danger that the Bill could result in great erosion of the functions of local government. We know that the Government do not believe in local government and want to reduce it to enabling bodies. We in the Opposition parties believe passionately —I know that Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats do, as well as the Labour party—in local government. We believe that as many powers that can be devolved to local government should be.

Finally, I mention the constituency element in my disappointment that all Welsh Members cannot serve on the Standing Committee. Carmarthen is an old, historical town. Because it is on the estuary of the largest river in Wales, it has its own unique geographical importance. It is no surprise then that it is the capital of Dyfed. Dyfed is too large. I support the idea of going back to Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, but it is a fact of life that many of the jobs associated with Dyfed county council —for example, the headquarters for all its main services —are in Carmarthen and there will be quite a substantial job loss for Carmarthen and neighbouring areas as a result of the Bill.

I am disappointed that, because all Welsh Members cannot be on the Standing Committee, I shall not be able properly to represent my constituents. It is sad for democracy, for the people of Wales and for our constituents that the Government have chosen, through the motion, to abandon Standing Order No. 86. It would have been much more proper if we had had a Committee of those 63 Members so that all my colleagues representing Welsh constituencies would have had a platform to put their views.

8.23 pm
Mr. Jonathan Evans (Brecon and Radnor)

It seems to me that the debate turns substantially on our interpretation of Standing Order No. 86. I heard the intervention made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister. He said that Standing Order No. 86 sets out the number of people who can serve on Standing Committees. But we also have the proviso in relation to Welsh Members. Thereafter, it is an argument of semantics. Clearly, we are involved in an issue of balance; the balance being that the Opposition think it appropriate and right that we should aim to take the Bill into a Standing Committee that will be composed of 63 or 64 members.

We shall put aside the "Aberpergau" arithmetic of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) for these purposes, but he did at least concede that perhaps he would have to move the numbers up from 63 to 64 to ensure a Government majority. Be that as it may, he is talking about having a Committee of that size. That is the fundamental aspect of the matter, because it surely must be recognised, even as the Standing Order itself recognises, that the Standing Committee must reflect the balance of the House. Therefore, there must clearly be a majority for the governing party.

Let me deal with some of the things that we have heard during the debate. Sadly, we have heard yet again the hostility towards hon. Members representing English constituencies that seems to pervade so many hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. As one who recognises the great worth to Wales of being an integral part of the United Kingdom, I am greatly saddened to hear that misplaced hostility so often from Welsh Members and, may I say remarkably, less often from the nationalist Members than from Labour Members. We have heard it not only in relation to the debate on local government reorganisation but, sadly, on many occasions. For example when any hon. Member representing an English constituency rises in his place in Welsh Question Time, we hear complaints to the Speaker about such Members making any contribution at all.

I make it clear that, as a Member representing a part of Wales, which is within the United Kingdom, I very much value the interest in Welsh issues that is shown by English Members. I recognise the fact that the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) welcomed such interest. I remember his remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), who spoke in the debate on the Welsh Language Bill. He spoke with an independence of spirit about the situation in Cornwall and how he equated that situation with Wales, and gave us some caveats about the situation in Cornwall reflected on the situation in Wales. Therefore, the thrust of what I say is that contributions can be made by English Members on issues that apply to Wales.

Mr. Wigley

What the hon. Gentleman has just said encapsulates the difficulty that we have with the Standing Committee, bearing in mind what happened with the Welsh Language Bill. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) made a valuable contribution to the Second Reading debate. But the reality in Committee was that, with the exception of one hon. Member who opened his mouth once, none of the Members from English constituencies made any contribution whatever. That is why we feel that whereas there are Members from Wales who can make a contribution and are being denied the opportunity to do so, hon. Members representing English constituencies are put on just for party political reasons and do not have any contribution to make.

Mr. Evans

That may well be a reflection on the quality of the amendments that were being proposed by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. Certainly, an interest in those issues and a perception of them was clearly shown in the example that I gave and in the contributions made only yesterday by my hon. Friends the Members for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason) and for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan).

Mr. Flynn

Oh, God!

Mr. Evans

One of the more disreputable contributions was made by the hon. Member for Newport, East—

Mr. Flynn


Mr. Evans

If I may finish this point, I will happily give way to the hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton made an important point, which those of us who represent rural constituencies in Wales recognised had a reflection in his constituency. The deliberate attempts that were made by the hon. Member for Newport, East—

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)


Mr. Evans

Newport, West. I apologise unreservedly to the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes). The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) endeavoured to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton from making that important contribution, which we in rural Wales very much valued. That was a travesty of democracy. If the hon. Member for Newport, West wishes to intervene, I am happy to give way to him.

Mr. Flynn

The alleged attempt to stop that hon. Member from speaking was a brief, one-sentence intervention, which he allowed me, and in which I invited him to tell us about his personal experience of buying council houses.

Accusations have been made about the conduct of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), which he has failed to answer before the House in spite of invitations to do so. I think that the matter concerns all hon. Members: when such accusations are made, hon. Members should be prepared to answer them in the House.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman's disadvantage lies in the fact that I was present for yesterday's debate, and heard both his intervention and his subsequent sedentary remarks. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) had to plead for a hearing for my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton, which is a reflection on the conduct of the hon. Member for Newport, West.

All those examples show that English Members can make worthwhile and important contributions, drawn from their experience, which are relevant to us in Wales. It is nonsense to pretend that those contributions are in some way less valuable because they come from English Members.

Sir Wyn Roberts

Are not Opposition Members being disingenuous? I remember serving on Standing Committees when Labour was in office; I assure my hon. Friend that Labour Members were silent then. Silence is golden as far as Government Whips are concerned.

Mr. Evans

I do not know whether this is the right occasion for me to make a confession to my right hon. Friend, but my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) and I have just finished serving on the Standing Committee considering the Criminal Justice Bill, where we broke substantially with precedent by speaking for more than half the allotted time. No doubt a penance awaits us at the hands of the Whips.

The protestations that we have heard from Opposition Members sit ill with their own conduct during the debate. I note that at least 10 Labour Members have not been present; yet the thrust of the Opposition's case is that it is a constitutional outrage that they are not to be given seats on the Standing Committee.

That point also relates to the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Minister. It cannot be said that the suspension of the relevant aspect of Standing Order No 86 has only ever been suggested by Conservative Governments; it has previously been suggested by Labour.

Mr. Morgan

Well, at least it was not opposed.

Mr. Evans

I heard that excuse from a sedentary position. As far as I recall from my reading of the events involved, the Standing Order was revoked on that occasion because a number of Labour Members had Front-Bench responsibilities elsewhere. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) drew strongly on that point, and the protestations that we heard from Labour Members during his speech need to be seen in the context of the submission of the Labour party, when in government, that the Standing Order should be set aside.

Let me say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that, for the reasons that I have given, this is always a question of balance. It would clearly be difficult, in the circumstances, to proceed with a Committee composed of more than 60 members. I urge my right hon. Friend to proceed with the course on which he is embarked: many of the protestations that we have heard from Opposition Members are plainly ill founded.

8.33 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I do not wish to speak of outrage or gerrymandering; I want to talk about the Standing Order, and to raise a number of what I hope will be seen as serious issues.

I do not even want to criticise English Members who may contribute to our deliberations on the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) that two of them—the hon. Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason)—made valuable contributions last night, with which I agreed wholeheartedly. Both showed ample qualifications—I use the word advisedly—for service on the Standing Committee. I hope that the Government will recognise that both those qualifications and their interest in the matter should lead to their selection—subject, of course, to the views of the Committee of Selection—rather than the introduction of Members who would sit there silently, acting as lobby fodder. I am sure that it would be valuable for the Committee to hear more contributions from the hon. Members for Bromsgrove and for Rutland and Melton, especially on the subject of the potential for success of small rural local authorities.

Why do we have Standing Order No 86? Let me say, with great respect, that in opening the debate the Minister of State displayed a lack of understanding of the Standing Order. To be fair, and to issue a short plea in mitigation for the right hon. Gentleman, I suspect that he has not read the entire Standing Order for about 25 years—I think I see him nodding gently in assent—and certainly not in the past 25 hours, since his return from his pleasant trip to Catalonia.

In an intervention, I asked the Minister why he thought Standing Order No 86 had been introduced. I think that, in the context of this debate, the House is entitled to a head-on, direct answer to that question in the winding-up speech. Why was the Standing Order introduced, and why did it make special provision for Wales—special provision with which I shall deal in a moment?

It is my view, at least, that the Standing Order was introduced because it was thought desirable, in debates on Bills relating exclusively to Wales, for all Welsh Members to express their views in detailed consideration of such Bills—perhaps because of the fervour with which, for centuries, they have expressed such views.

Let me draw attention specifically to paragraph (2)(ii) of the Standing Order. May I ask whichever Minister winds up the debate to reconsider a statement made by the Minister of State in his opening speech? He seemed to be saying that he understood it to be a basic requirement that there should be not more than 50 and not fewer than 16 Members on a Standing Committee. Perhaps he should take advice. If he rereads the Standing Order, he will realise that the words "Provided that", just before paragraph (2)(i), are extremely important, and have an overriding effect.

Surely the basic requirement of the Standing Order, in regard to Wales, is that all Welsh Members should serve on a Standing Committee considering a public Bill—and this is a public Bill—relating exclusively to Wales. It is interesting to note that a specific distinction is drawn between Wales and Scotland. In relation to Wales, the requirement is for "all Members" to serve; in relation to Scotland, it is for not fewer than sixteen Members representing Scottish constituencies. Perhaps the Minister of State will explain why he thinks that distinction was drawn. There must be a rationale—and I can think of no better rationale than that it was thought right in 1907, when the Standing Order was introduced, for all Welsh Members to have their voices heard in Standing Committees. If the Government believe, or if any previous Government believed—although our memories of other Governments are now fading—that Standing Order No. 86 as it relates to Wales should be brushed aside and should cease to be one of the Standing Orders of the House, they should have said so. It now seems to have become the rule that Standing Order No. 86 is not to apply to exclusively Welsh legislation. If that is so, what the Government are doing smacks of serious intellectual dishonesty.

Let us hear what the Government have to say. Do they foresee an occasion in the future when the second proviso of Standing Order No. 86 will apply? If so, we may at least have an example of an issue in the distant future when all Welsh Members will sit on a Standing Committee discussing Welsh legislation. If not, let the Government bring to the House a proper motion setting out their real policy, which is to bring an end to the second proviso of Standing Order No. 86.

Mr. Wigley

Is not this the answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's question: the Government will never allow the provisions of the Standing Order to be used while they are in office, but they will not do away with them because they will want to use them when they are in opposition?

Mr. Carlile

That may be right; but, if it is, the Government should tell us so to enable the people of Wales to judge whether this case has any merit.

The Minister should tell us what the Government regard as appropriate qualifications for the hon. Members nominated to the Committee. I draw special attention to Standing Order No. 86(2), which states that, in nominating such Members the Committee of Selection shall have regard to the qualifications of those Members nominated and to the composition of the House". I take the Minister's point that the Government will want a majority on a legislative Committee, but there are various ways of ensuring that that happens: there may be a Committee of 63 Members, or it can be achieved by debating part of the Bill in a Committee of the whole House. That would present no problems and there are plenty of precedents for it. It could easily be done and would ensure that everyone who wished to have his say could do so.

If that is not to be the case, and so that we can judge whether to vote with or against the Government tonight, the Minister should tell us what he regards as appropriate qualifications to press on the Committee of Selection and which might lead to the selection of an English or Scottish Member to serve on the Committee—presuming, of course, that the Government can find a Scottish Conservative Member.

I hope that the Minister will confirm that an ability to remain silent in the heat of battle—to hold a gun but not to fire it—is not a qualification for someone wishing to be a member of the Standing Committee, although I suspect that the real intention is that there should be not only soldiers standing stock still but also a few unloaded guns sitting on the Government Back Benches in that Committee.

Sir Wyn Roberts


Mr. Carlile

Perhaps the Minister is about to answer all my questions.

Sir Wyn Roberts

The hon. and learned Gentleman was kind enough to give us his speculative views on the what the thinking was when Standing Order No. 86 was drawn up in 1907. His interpretation is as plausible as any. I note, however, that the one part of the Standing Order to which he has not referred as much as he referred to the other parts is the reference to the requirement of the Committee of Selection to have regard to the composition of the House". He mentioned it, but he did not expand on it. Surely he knows what it means.

Mr. Carlile

With respect, while I was speaking the Minister must have been remembering the delicious paella that he was eating in Catalonia 36 hours ago. I dealt with that very point, but I shall remind him—[Interruption.] Perhaps there was some flamenco, too—who knows? I said that I recognised the fact that the Government would want their majority and that there were ways of ensuring that. One solution might be a Committee of 63 Members, as proposed in the amendment, and another might be to discuss part of the Bill on the Floor of the House. Nothing could better reflect the composition of the House than debating part of the Bill—for example, clause 1 and schedule 1—in a Committee of the whole House.

I was asking the Minister to be a little more specific and I am glad that I am able to repeat what I said in order to penetrate the paella—perhaps there was some flamenco while he was eating the paella and that made his attention wander.

What are the qualifications to be? Will one qualification be a familiarity with a rural area or rural counties? If so, that will be very welcome. Will another qualification be having spoken on Second Reading, which is the usual qualification for being selected to sit on a Standing Committee? If so, that, too, will be welcome. Or will someone be chosen who has been told that he has at least one hand on the greasy pole to ministerial office which might lead eventually to him as an English Member being appointed as Secretary of State for Wales? We should like answers to those questions, and I hope that we shall be given them.

8.46 pm
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

The House has the right to suspend Standing Orders, and it is right to do so on this occasion.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) cast a slur on people who play rugger. It was no doubt directed at those who live on this side of the border. As an Irishman who was brought up in Rugby and who was taught to play rugger, I defend the right to refer to the game of rugger. I believe that it enriches our experience as Members of Parliament for Welsh constituencies to hear speeches from colleagues across the border.

Between February and October 1974, hon. Members who are far more experienced than I will recall that Britain had the misfortune to be governed by a minority Labour Government with the help of some Labour supporters who, in those days, described themselves as Liberals. They implemented legislation affecting England. The Government were a minority Government even in the United Kingdom as a whole and were certainly in a minority in England and yet, under the first-past-the-post system that we rightly retain, the Government doubtless ensured that they controlled the Committees of the House. It was not regarded as undemocratic by the House or, presumably, by the electorate of England who gave Labour a working majority in October 1974.

The Government have a mandate to introduce this legislation—[Interruption.] They have a mandate in Parliament to introduce it, but they could not do so effectively without having a majority on the Committee. Opposition Members are too quick to impugn the suitability of hon. Members from this side of the border to serve on the Committee. I do not know who will serve on it, but I have no doubt that many of them will have local government experience. In my previous incarnation as an Irishman living in England, as distinct from an Irishman living in Wales, I was privileged to serve as a councillor at district and county council level for 14 years.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

I heard the hon. Gentleman today and yesterday speaking at length about Wick, St. Bride's Major and Ewenny. I am from north Wales—I am none the worse for that—but may I ask how many hon. Members who represent English constituencies know anything about Wick, St. Bride's Major and Ewenny?

Mr. Sweeney

That is a question for which I am unable to give a precise, definitive answer, not having canvassed all my colleagues on the subject. I suspect that few hon. Members on either side of the House, whether they be hon. Members representing constituencies in Wales, Northern ireland, Scotland or England, will have the same detailed knowledge of those areas as does the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) or myself. That is not to say that we are justified in having each and every Member of Parliament who happens to serve a Welsh constituency on the Committee: That would make the Committee unwieldy in the extreme.

To return to the point that I was making, many English hon. Members will have the experience similar to mine of serving in local government and, therefore, they will be well qualified to take part in deliberations on the form of local government, especially as the present form of local government in Wales is precisely the same—except that, of course, in Wales we have community councils instead of parish councils—as that which prevails in England.

Mr. Michael

As the hon. Gentleman is commenting on the experience of Conservative Members, why is that experience never reflected in any feeling of affection and respect for local government?

Mr. Sweeney

I strongly repudiate that and regard it as a slur on the many Conservatives in England and Wales who devote considerable time and energies to providing effective local government and to providing a level of service at a lower cost to council tax payers than is provided in Labour-controlled local authorities.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West said that the Labour Government suspended Standing Orders only when that was not opposed. With respect to Opposition Members, the answer on this occasion is that they should not oppose the motion. Opposition Members should realise when they are beaten. The reality is that all Governments, of whatever colour, need a majority to ensure the passage of proposed legislation which is included in their manifestos. I urge the House to support my right hon. Friend on his excellent motion.

8.52 pm
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I strongly oppose the Government's motion. There are overwhelming reasons why it should be rejected and alternatives are available, including the amendment tabled by the Labour party, which would be much more acceptable for Wales.

I speak as one who served for a couple of years as a councillor on the old Merthyr Tydfil county borough council. May I say in passing that I was delighted to hear yesterday that Merthyr Tydfil is coming back into existence in its own right. That is one of the few aspects in the Bill which give great pleasure.

The Bill is a constitutional one and, as such, it should be debated entirely on the Floor of the House, or, at least, the many parts that have far-reaching implications should be considered in that manner. For example, in the other place, there was a debate on having an all-Wales elected tier of government as part of the Bill. If that is not a constitutional proposition, I do not know what is. As happened in the 1970s, when the then Conservative Opposition insisted that such matters be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House, surely today's provisions should also be dealt with on the Floor of the House. Not to do so is not only a disservice to Wales, but it does not follow patterns that have been established by precedent in the House. I am surprised that the Government have not recognised that.

As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said, some of the detailed work could be considered in a Standing Committee and that we could have a split—the sort of motion that only a Minister bringing the Bill before the House has the right to put to the House. By not doing so, we are letting Wales down and letting the House of Commons down, too.

Questions of deep principle arise in the Bill, such as how may we, as Welsh Members of Parliament, serve our constituencies? I accept the point that some hon. Members from English constituencies may have a contribution to make to the general argument about local government, although I suspect that the couple who spoke yesterday spoke for a deliberate reason: to ensure that they would not be Committee members. They quite clearly indicated their support for the retention of a county such as Montgomeryshire—an aspiration with which I certainly concur. That suggests a new principle—those who do not want to be Committee members will speak on Second Reading to avoid it.

I make that point especially having followed the hon. Member for the Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney), who rightly said that he and the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) knew much more than anyone from any other part of Wales and certainly from England with regard to what was right for the good people of Wick. I accept that point. That is why hon. Members from Wales should have precedence over hon. Members from England. However good the general contribution of hon. Members from England may be to the theory of local government, hon. Members from Wales know how that sort of legislation will affect their own square mile.

Mr. Sweeney

The point that I was trying to make was that hon. Members from the rest of Wales were unlikely to know very much more about Wick, Ewenny and St. Bride's Major than those from English constituencies.

Mr. Wigley

I even accept that. The point that I was making is that the people who know about Wick, Ewenny and St. Bride's Major should be on the Committee. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bridgend should be on the Committee to argue that case. Likewise, people who know what is needed in areas such as Dwyfor and Arfon should be on the Committee, or those who know about the needs of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, or of the needs of Ynys Mon, or of the needs of the various constituencies in Cardiff, or of Delyn, or of the two sides of Newport, or of Pembroke. What is good enough for the hon. Gentleman—he will be able to serve on that Committee—should be good enough for every other hon. Member who represents a Welsh constituency in the House.

Mr. Sweeney

Surely the point is that only a small proportion of Opposition Members desire or need to be on the Committee. They have no particular axe to grind. As I said in an earlier intervention, many Opposition Members have not even deigned to attend the debate, which shows that they, at least, are not unduly concerned about it.

Mr. Wigley

All four Plaid Cymru Members have certainly been here at various times during the debate, as has the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), representing the Liberals, and a good proportion of Labour Members—

Mr. Michael


Mr. Wigley

I shall give way in a moment.

Hon. Members from Wales need the right to be on the Committee, and the right to take part in proceedings on parts of the Bill with far-reaching effects on their constituents and on the local authorities that serve their areas. That is what the Standing Order is there to provide, so that every hon. Member from Wales can serve on a Committee that deals with legislation affecting Wales alone. The Bill falls into that category.

Mr. Michael

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that people in the Vale of Glamorgan, which includes part of my constituency as well as the Vale of Glamorgan constituency, would be rightly horrified if the only views put forward from that area were those of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney)?

Mr. Wigley

Indeed. Conservative Members from Wales can rest assured that they have a safe place on the Committee. They will be there whether they want to be or not, and they will have the opportunity to speak up for their constituents—an opportunity that the Standing Order provides for us, but which the Government, by what they are doing tonight, are denying us. That is unacceptable.

Of course the Bill will affect all hon. Members from Wales. It will affect what happens to the pattern of local government in their areas and to the employees of the district and county councils in their areas. It will affect me because in the town of Caernarfon the local government offices will presumably—

Mr. Richards


Mr. Wigley

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Caernarfon will presumably have the offices of a smaller unit of local government than it has now with Gwynedd county council. The reorganisation will also affect towns such as Pwllheli, where many valuable local government jobs may be lost. I therefore believe that I have a right, as does every other hon. Member from Wales, to be on the Committee to argue the case. Our local authorities, our councillors and our electorate expect us to be there to speak for them.

There are mechanisms that could allow that to happen, one of which is the amendment. Yes, it would allow a slightly larger Committee, although the Minister of State's arithmetic was not quite right, and his sum was one out. Be that as it may, there would be a slightly larger Committee, and hon. Members would be able to join. Perhaps some would have an interest only in certain parts of the Bill. They need not be there for all the proceedings, but at least they would have the opportunity to be there.

The other possibility is a Committee of the whole House, which, as with certain other Bills, would enable hon. Members to take part in the debates on matters of direct importance to their constituents.

How can we reasonably expect Members who represent English constituencies, however well versed they may be in the general theory of local government, to know of the problems experienced by a council such as Dwyfor, which undertakes all its work through the medium of the Welsh language? Welsh is the lingua franca of the council. How would that council carry out its work through the Welsh language in the new structure?

If I were a member of the Standing Committee I should like to raise other questions—concerning, for example, the right of teachers to be elected council members, which has not yet been clarified. I am sure that hon. Members from all parts of Wales will have had the same sorts of questions raised by their constituents.

There is a need for a Standing Committee that would allow us as constituency Members to take an active part. What was said earlier by Ministers and others who have defended the Government line made it clear that the Government regard it as perfectly in order for every issue raised in the Standing Committee to be redebated on the Floor of the House on Report. The occupant of the Chair at the time did not dissent from that idea, which can be the only interpretation of some remarks made earlier.

I hope that the Government and those who organise the business of the House will be able to stand by that promise and ensure that each of us who is not a member of the Standing Committee—we are being excluded by the way in which the motion is being steam-rollered through the House—will have an opportunity to come back on Report and go through every decision taken in Committee, because we will have been denied the opportunity to take part in the debates.

Another argument that I believe the people of Wales—

Sir Wyn Roberts

We dealt with that idea earlier. I thought that I responded clearly to the hon. Gentleman by saying that the selection of amendments for discussion on Report is a matter for the Chair, but that, of course, Report stage gives an opportunity for hon. Members not on the Committee to participate in the debates.

Mr. Wigley

Of course the selection of amendments is a matter for the Chair, but the amount of time allowed is so often a matter for the Government, as we have seen this year. Important legislation—

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Wigley

I shall give way in a moment.

Important social security legislation has been steamrollered through the House, with guillotines applied. I hope that what the Minister has said now means that there will be no question of the Bill's being guillotined on Report, and that every amendment that is selectable and debatable will have the chance and the time to be debated on the Floor of the House, so that each of us, as Members from Wales, will be able to take part in those debates. If it goes on day after day and week after week, so be it, because the Government are making a rod for their own back.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Will my hon. Friend reflect on the answer given by the Minister earlier, and bear in mind the fact that the Bill will probably be in Committee twice a week every week for perhaps a month or six weeks? We will be lucky if we get one day, one and a half days or perhaps a maximum of two days on Report. Does my hon. Friend think that that is fair, in view of the Minister's answer?

Mr. Wigley

I am interpreting the Minister's comments to mean that we will get considerably more than one or one and a half days on Report; otherwise how on earth can we do what he said—debate all the amendments that are rightly selected by the Chair because they are in order? I trust that no amendments will be ruled out of order by virtue of the fact that they have been discussed in Committee. The fact that they are discussed in Committee will not allow constituency Members from Wales their right under Standing Order No. 86 to be involved in those debates. That right is being taken away from them tonight by a Government who do not represent Wales in any shape or form. Tonight, we are seeing the epitome of the breakdown of democratic government in Wales. In the amendment that was tabled on Second Reading, we saw the way in which constitutional legislation, which normally has consensus support, was rejected by 32 of the 38 Members of Parliament from Welsh constituencies; yet the motion is being railroaded through the House by a Government who have six out of 38 seats in Wales—they do not have a majority in Wales, and they can never aspire to one—to get a system of local government that suits their needs. To facilitate that, they are now rigging the Standing Orders to give them the majority that they need on the Committee.

The lesson for the people of Wales is clear: they cannot expect democracy for Wales from this Chamber. This Chamber is systemically incapable of defending the wishes, aspirations and values of the people of Wales, even in legislation to do with Wales—and Wales alone—because the Government insist on having their way, irrespective of the wishes of the people of Wales.

Until and unless we have our own elected Parliament in Wales with legislative power, we will have to suffer from the Government's behaviour year after year and decade after decade, giving us policies and structures of government that undermine the wishes of the people of Wales and do not respond to the needs of our communities. That is the stark evidence for the need for us to have an elected Parliament, and the sooner we get it, the better.

9.6 pm

Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth)

Madam Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Win Griffiths

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that when Ministers come to the House and make statements, hon. Members are not called to ask questions if they have not heard the statements. Is it in order for hon. Members to speak in a debate when they were not present for the opening speeches from the Front Benches?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, there is no rule about that; it is at the discretion of the Chair.

Mr. Evans

I believe in "back to basics". I had a commitment to dine my wife this evening and I took the view that that was more important than listening to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). I came here after listening to the opening words of my right hon. Friend the Minister. I took the view—

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones


Mr. Evans

No, I shall finish this point. I took the view that the debate would follow the usual tedious, predictable course which we knew full well it would. As a great parliamentary occasion, this is mock outrage and indignation, and simply a squalid party-political battle of exactly the sort that all hon. Members who are here expected. Let me make that clear.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

What course of his meal was the hon. Gentleman eating when the Minister was speaking?

Mr. Evans

Probably the first and second courses and then I came as quickly as I could. The Strangers' Dining Room is an excellent institution. I regard as very good those who afford all those facilities to us.

Let me take the matter a step further. At the end of the day, it is party which matters. Party politics introduce an element of principle and unity, not regionalism, factionalism and constituency interests. The Government, rightly or wrongly, as Opposition Members might say, won the last general election with a platform to put forward their policies. I know that Opposition Members say that the Government should not have done so, but they might take a different view now. It is clear that the Government have a mandate from the electorate to carry out their election platform.

The great difference between this place and the Italian Parliament is that under our system of one person, one vote, one constituency, at least what one votes more is more or less what one gets. There is none of the unpredictability which is a feature of other electoral systems. I have no doubt that the Conservative interest in Wales would be excellently served, as would be the Liberal interest in Wales, by some complicated system of proportional representation. There might be rather more of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) on that sort of basis. But we are a United Kingdom Parliament and, on the basis of the accepted rules, that is

It is all very well indulging in mock indignation at what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has done this evening—a perfectly conventional and ordinary parliamentary manoeuvre for a Government who have a majority—but, in the end, it is complete nonsense. I listened with interest to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery construe Standing Order No. 86(2) as if it were a statute. We had the precise meaning of the proviso explained with the clarity and accuracy that I would expect of learned counsel explaining a point of law. But the House is not governed in its rules and orders by normal rules governing a statute. The majority ultimately, within those rules, gets its way, and rightly. It is what the British public expects.

Mr. Carlile

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this place is the High Court of Parliament and that, although we do not construe the Standing Orders like a statute, because we have rather more flexible rules and procedures, nevertheless we should at least strive to reach a just solution rather than a solution that serves the narrow interests of one political party?

Mr. Evans

Unhappily, the just solution is a matter of controversy. I suggest that the important thing is that the Conservative Government won the last general election and, on the basis of their majority, will have their way. That is how the rules are until the next general election.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although this may be the High Court of Parliament, Opposition Members would have something to say if we all turned up in our wigs and gowns?

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It might add, in the case of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, a certain dignity to the proceedings, but that is not the conventional way in which we proceed.

Ultimately, the Government have a majority. They have a mandate and they must do what is right and proper.

The second way of attacking what my right hon. Friend has done this evening is to say that, somehow or other, there is a lack of knowledge of what goes on in Ewenny, Magor or Wick, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) said. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I hope that my hon. Friend is having the dinner which his excellent speech deserved.

If one debates a matter of English local government, one cannot seriously expect an hon. Member from Cornwall to be familiar with the details and intricacies of communities in Northumberland, or an hon. Member from Kent to understand what goes on in Carlisle or thereabouts.

Mr. Wigley

That is the problem.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) says, with conviction and passion, that that is the problem and, from his perspective, he is absolutely right. If the Welsh republican movement wants to declare independence I can see that its argument is coherent and logical within the premises that it puts forward. But for those of us who stood for election, as did most of the hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, on the basis that we are the United Kingdom, that is a minority viewpoint which, while eccentric, interesting and sometimes expressed with fascination and conviction, is simply, in the view of the great majority, wrong.

I could develop this argument by pointing out that I do not think that the hon. Member for Caernarfon really understands the details in Llanthony or Portskewett. I could go on a geographical tour of my constituency to argue that perhaps not all hon. Members understand these points, but that would not be helpful. This is a perfectly straightforward, ordinary exercise of the Government's powers, a Government who command a majority in the House. That was the verdict of the British nation at the last general election and my right hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he is doing.

9.14 pm
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

As has been said many times, the whole purpose of this Standing Order is to enable Welsh matters to be debated by Welsh Members. Our amendment is very much a second-best arrangement in that, at least, the Committee would include all Welsh Members, even if the Government had to bring in English Members to secure their majority.

Why should Welsh Members, rather than English Members, be given precedence for the purposes of considering the Bill? Let us consider the process by which we arrived at this stage. A consultation paper was issued in 1991. During the consultation process, all Welsh Members were in close contact with people in local government. The White Paper that was issued subsequently generated further interest and debate. Then there were the Welsh Grand Committee debates on the Government's proposals. In addition, these matters have often been debated during Question Time. There was also the debate on the Queen's Speech, in which a number of important changes in the Government's proposals for Wales were announced. The debates in the House of Lords saw the involvement of Welsh Members in further consultation with those who have an interest in local government in Wales. Welsh Members have been constantly involved in the debate since the Government's consultation paper was issued about three years ago.

How can English Members, parachuted in at the last moment, be expected to be as well informed as Welsh Members? Let us take, for example, what happened during the debates in another place. The Government were represented by the Lord Advocate, who is a Scottish earl. Let us look at some of the things that the Government, in notes and guidance, asked him to say. I refer hon. Members to columns 1735–36 of Volume 551 of the House of Lords Official Report, which record the reference of my noble Friend Lord Prys-Davies to the Minister's notes on clauses. Those notes point out that the weight of representations from the communities of Cynwyd and Llandrillo in Denbighshire was considered in the decision to allow them to move. In Flintshire, the changes covering the whole of Delyn reflected the overwhelming weight of local opinion. The communities of Ystradgynlais and Tawe Uchaf had been added to Mid-Wales after the publication of the White Paper because of the strongly expressed wishes of local residents. But in respect of the Vale of Glamorgan and the Bridgend changes, the notes on clauses said that they were largely rural and agricultural communities and had more in common with the Vale of Glamorgan than with the town of Bridgend.

Nothing was said about the three tests of opinion. In one of those, there was a turnout of 75 per cent., and nearly 90 per cent. of voters in the communities of Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick voiced their desire to remain with Bridgend. That was excluded altogether from the Government's notes. How could the Scottish earl be expected to know about things that had been deliberately hidden from him? Lord Rodger of Earlsferry was led to explain one of the reasons for the case that these three communities should go with the Vale of Glamorgan in these words: Again, that is shown by the fact that in winter it is snow-ploughs from the Vale which clear the snow from the roads in the Wick area."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10 February 1994; Vol. 551, c. 1738.] I have to tell the House that that is not true. All these roads are cleared by snow-ploughs from the Vale of Glamorgan. A snow-plough from South Glamorgan comes into Mid-Glamorgan in the community of Wick only because, when it gets to the boundary, there is no turning circle. The snow-plough has to come into Mid-Glamorgan and the community of Wick to turn round and get back into the Vale of Glamorgan.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to me how the activities of the snow-ploughs relate to the number of Members who will form the Standing Committee?

Mr. Win Griffiths

Quite simply, a Scottish earl in the House of Lords said something that was not correct about a community that I represent. Because of the Standing Order, I will not be able to represent those communities on the Committee. I would dearly love to serve on it, but the Government are stopping me representing my constituents, who do not want to be part of the Vale of Glamorgan, on the Committee.

There are other circumstances in which the House will not be able to hear the true voice of the people of Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick. The hon. Member for the Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) has just returned to the Chamber. He will be able to testify that, at a meeting in my constituency last Friday evening, he told about 200 people, of whom only One wanted to go with him into the Vale of Glamorgan, that he would entirely ignore their views because he felt that what they wanted was not in their best interests. They had told him clearly they did not want to be there.

Mr. Sweeney

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that I also told the audience of some 175 people that I would represent what I perceived to be the best interests of my constituents? Does he agree that that is the duty of all hon. Members?

Mr. Griffiths

Those people are not his constituents and they have told him plainly that it is not in their best interest to be in the Vale of Glamorgan. Quite a number of my constituents in the community of Ewenny can walk into the town centre of Bridgend in 10 minutes. If the motion is passed, those people will not be able to use the library in Bridgend because they will not be part of that community. If they do not work in that community, they will not pay tax in that community and they will be disbarred from using the facilities.

What the Government propose for Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick is a complete negation of democracy: they are putting democracy into disrepute. Their proposal negates the principles that they proposed for the reform —that it should be local and respect the wishes of local people. The Government are not doing that, and even at this stage I plead with Ministers to make a change that everyone in the three communities, apart from one person, would welcome.

9.22 pm
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

We are approaching the end of the debate and we are about to see in the Chamber a spectacle that disgraces our democracy. From the four corners of the Palace, from rooms and dining rooms, streams of Members will enter the Chamber to vote and decide on an issue of which they have no knowledge and in which they have no interest. We do not blame them because they are English Members—they are Members who represent English constituencies.

Mine is not mock, but real indignation. The policy for Bills that affect Wales and only Wales is decided by people who are alien to Wales and have no knowledge about or interest in the subject.

Mr. Richards


Mr. Flynn

The hon. Gentleman must sit down as I am not giving way.

A number of years ago, in the 1980s, I visited Estonia, which was then smaller than Wales. Estonians were saying that they were being run by a nomenklatura of people who could not win elections—by a particular party and its fellow travellers. Estonia is now free, but Wales is still run by an unelected nomenklatura of Conservatives and their fellow travellers. That is no way to run a democracy.

There was a debate in the Chamber on 31 January 1881 that continued for 41 hours. My speech will be briefer than that. That debate was significant for a number of reasons. It introduced part of the constitution of the Chamber. Mr. Speaker Brand closed that debate in a way which he had no power to do, but he did so with the collaboration of both Front Benches. The debate went on for those hours because of the collaboration of a group of people from another corner of the British Isles, led by Charles Stewart Parnell.

We saw something yesterday in the Chamber which I think was ignored by the press, although it had some historic value. Every non-Tory Member signed a single motion, and we must learn from that. We must stay together in the Chamber. In the first vote in 1979, the anti-Tory vote in Wales was divided and the Tories ruled. They continue to rule because of that vote, and we must not let it happen again. We must realise the value of a union that comes together and sticks together.

Another union of nations is being discussed at the moment. The Government are demanding that if 27 per cent. of the European Union decides to block a motion, it cannot go through. Here we have a nation where 85 per cent. of the representatives are against the Bill, and we are being denied. Where is the democracy in that? Is not it outrageous that that is the Government's view in the European Union, and that they deny us it here?

Mr. Win Griffiths

What about subsidiarity?

Mr. Flynn

My hon. Friend mentions subsidiarity. Our definition of that would be that decisions should be taken at the best level—the level at which people have the most knowledge and where representation is most sensitive to the decision-making processes. To the Government, subsidiarity means taking decisions at the level at which they have political control. That is not the case in Europe, because they have only one set of allies in Europe. They have broken away from the European Union and their only allies on the issue of the social chapter are Mr. Le Pen's fascists. Those people are the inheritors of—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman warms to his theme too much, may I inquire how this relates to the matter before the House tonight?

Mr. Flynn

Because this is a matter of democracy, Madam Deputy Speaker. You interrupted me before I did in fact warm up.

The whole process is about democracy. The point of Standing Order No. 86 is to allow every hon. Member elected by the people of Wales to determine Bills that affect Wales, and Wales only. We make no claims to sit on Bills that affect Scotland, Northern Ireland or England. [Interruption.] Most Welsh Members take no part in Bills that specifically affect England, and those are very rare. However, we demand that right for Wales in the name of democracy, justice and common sense.

The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) is a great advocate of the name Monmouth itself, and he appeals to history in this matter. Yet the hon. Gentleman would like to see the name Gwent disappear from the map. Let us have some historical pedigree. The name of Gwent has existed for 2,000 years. One of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues on the Front Bench, who was born in my constituency and is a former Home Secretary, has described when Christianity came to this country. When St Augustine brought it here, the ancestors of the speakers of anglo-saxon English were howling, pagan barbarians. At the same time in Wales and Ireland, there was a sophisticated Christian religion.

I must sit down, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are being asked to accept that a wholly undemocratic system can be imposed upon us. What has happened in Wales is the reverse of what has happened in every country in eastern Europe. Those countries now have their own democracies, and they have people running them who were elected. The Government cannot be elected in Wales and, in imposing Bills that apply to Wales, they deny us the right to sit on Committees relating to them. We do not object to hon. Members representing English constituencies contributing to the debates—of course they can. However, I question whether the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), who regularly contributes to Welsh questions, is worth denying Welsh Opposition Members the chance to speak.

I find myself limited to a few sentences tonight and I must sit down in a moment. The problem is the fatuous ramblings from Conservative Members. We have the psychotic, elephantine venom of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) and speeches that are intended to waste time. That means that we, the elected representatives of Wales, are denied the opportunity of making the full speeches that we would like to make to the House.

9.30 pm
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

It is a great honour to be able to speak at the Dispatch Box and represent the Welsh cause. After I have made my speech, I may never get the opportunity again, so I am grateful. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) for giving me such a wonderful warm-up speech.

Standing Order No. 86 has existed for 87 years. For 85 of those years, it has not been the subject of any controversy or debate. Yet this Government in this period of office have, in less than two years, whipped their English Members through the Lobby to overturn the constitutional safeguards for Wales in Standing Order No. 86, not just once or twice; they are about to do it for the third time in less than two years. They did so on the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill, on the Welsh Language Bill and now on local government reform. What greater testimony can there be to the centralising tendency of the Tory party?

As other hon. Members have mentioned, the Foreign Secretary is today in Europe. He is portrayed by his party as a champion of devolution. He is ranting against centralising Brussels, but here in London the least devolved of all Europe's democracies wishes to overturn the constitutional safeguards given to the people of Wales in the 1900s, would you please. What audacious hypocrisy that is.

Mr. Roger Evans

While I understand the hon. Gentleman warming to his theme, the comparison with France suggests that we are a very decentralised, locally democratic country compared with the Jacobin republic, which believes in centralised administration. Does not he recognise that a prefect in every commune might be the ultimate Tory threat?

Mr. Jones

From that intervention I can only gather that the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) has not been to France for more than 20 years.

Why do the Government, alone in Europe, feel so insecure that they deny the right of their constituent peoples to make any independent decision, even on when and where they can use their own language, while simultaneously jealously guarding their veto on collective action taken in Brussels? Even the Secretary of State must acknowledge that there is a certain degree of schizophrenia in that action.

Standing Order No.86 would give all 38 Welsh Members the right to scrutinise and debate the Local Government (Wales) Bill in Committee. The Bill will change historic boundaries and institutions of long standing. In yesterday's debate, the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason)—who made a useful speech —made much of the need to find the right balance between efficient delivery of service and the strength of local community and tradition. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree about the importance of achieving and establishing that balance.

The assessment of how to deliver efficient services is a contentious matter on which the Secretary of State will have no shortage of professional advice. Local knowledge is useful, but not, I contend, essential. But how are we to assess the second part of the equation—the strength of local community and tradition to which the hon. Member for Bromsgrove referred—if not by debate with local representatives?

The Government will allow no more than 19 Welsh Members to serve on the Committee. Only 13 of the 32 Welsh Opposition Members who signed yesterday's amendment will have the opportunity to debate the Bill in detail in Committee. Only Tory Welsh Members will have an automatic right to represent their constituents. We are all affected: there should be no first and second-class constituencies in Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who was supported by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), suggested that the Government could get out of their difficulties by agreeing to debate important parts of the Bill—clause 1 and schedule 1—on the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend offered the Government a way out of their problems.

The hon. Members for Clwyd North-West (Mr. Richards) and for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) tried to explain that Opposition Members were somehow ineligible for the Standing Committee because of their Front-Bench responsibilities. I am grateful to the hon. Members for their concern. They clearly propose that the Government's decision to abandon Standing Order No. 86 is an attempt to aid the Opposition, to avoid causing us embarrassment. I can tell the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West that I have been inundated by pleas from my Front-Bench colleagues to serve on the Committee, and there is no rule to prevent them from doing so.

They are my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) who is our spokesman on education; our law and order spokesman, if I can call him that, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael); certainly my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) and many others. I shall not mention them all. They are united in demanding their right to sit on the Committee, but I cannot provide all of them with the right to do that so I am afraid most of them will be disappointed.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon said, those who will sit on the Committee will be English Members whom we believe have no interest in local government in Wales. Time will tell, but we have had recent experience of the Welsh Language Bill. Nine English Members were parachuted into that Bill and an examination of the proceedings shows that between them they managed to contribute no more and no fewer than 41 words in the entire debate.

The Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household (Mr. David Lightbown)

That was far too long.

Mr. Jones

That comment is to be expected. What proper debate or scrutiny can the people of Wales expect in the light of such a comment?

No fewer than 19 Opposition Members managed with considerable difficulty to take part in yesterday's debate, but many of them will not be allowed to represent the strength of their communities when the Bill is examined in detail. Of course the hon. Members for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney), for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) and for Brecon and Radnor will be able to represent their communities, as will the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West in his own inimitable style. They will represent their communities whether they want to or not, but most Opposition Members will be excluded and, as a result, their communities will be denied the advocacy of their elected Members.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has reason to congratulate the Government on some of the decisions that they took yesterday, but what about my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and for Rhondda and for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells)? They have important issues that they want to raise in detail in Committee, but they will be excluded. I tell Conservative Members what my hon. Friends know: the strength of community feeling in Merthyr is no less than that in the Rhondda or in Cynon Valley or Taff Ely. As a Rhondda boy, I speak with some feeling about the strength of community feeling there. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend wishes to represent the strength of community feeling that remains in Bridgend. He has done so today and he did so briefly yesterday, but he should have the opportunity to debate the matter when the Committee meets before the Easter recess.

Reading the debate on 15 April 1907, following which Standing Order No. 86 was instituted, I was struck by the similar arguments being used then, as now, and, by and large, by the same political parties, although my own political party was a rather minor part of that Parliament. Then, as now, the Conservatives—calling themselves the Unionist party—were not too well represented in Wales. Indeed, in the 1906 election they did not succeed in electing a single Welsh Tory. If today's Tories continue to treat Welsh sentiments with such disregard, they could soon find themselves repeating that 1906 result.

During that debate, the Conservative Member for Gravesend, Sir Gilbert Parker, remarked: Behind the proposals of the Prime Minister"— then Sir Campbell-Bannerman— was a process of devolution … intended to lead up to the larger policy". Some 87 years later, the people of Wales are still waiting for that. It has been a long time coming but we will get there, and quite soon now.

Sir Gilbert Parker went on to make another statement which has loud echoes today: Presently they would have from the Nationalist Benches"— meaning the Irish— a proposal to establish an Irish Standing Committee."—[Official Report, 15 April 1907; Vol. 172, c. 674.] What an irony.

Only last week, the Government set up an Irish Select Committee. Perhaps if devolution had been extended 87 years ago to the people of Ireland, the history of these British islands in the 20th century would have been somewhat different and less bloody.

While talking of Ireland, may I take the opportunity of thanking the Irish Unionist Members who walked through the Lobby with us last night? I certainly shall not forget their support.

The Government maintain that the Standing Committee must reflect the composition of the House, yet they are perfectly happy to set up Select Committees—such as the one dealing with Northern Ireland—which are clearly anything but representative of the House of Commons.

If the Government argue that Select Committees are an entirely different matter and that only Standing Committees need reflect that balance, why do we have the prospect of eight or nine English Tories being parachuted into the Committee but no Ulster Unionists? Given the way that they voted last night, most Opposition Members would have more confidence in the interest and sympathy of Unionist Members than some bored, disinterested whipped Staffordshire Member who is reading his mail.

Labour is prepared, though reluctantly, to concede to the Government a majority on the Committee if the Government will allow all Welsh Members the right to take part. Our amendment would allow the Government to place 25 whipped and loyal foot soldiers on the Committee. That guarantees a Government majority, when the Minister has done his mathematics properly, yet enables the arguments to be made for all of Wales. How could we possibly be more accommodating than that?

Sir Wyn Roberts

There is nothing wrong with my mathematics. There are 32 Welsh Opposition Members; 32 taken out of 63 leaves 31.

Mr. Jones

I am surprised at the Minister's difficulty in learning from what has occurred already. One of those Welsh Opposition Members will, of course, be the Chairman. I was a Whip on the Welsh Language Bill Committee when a poor job was done by my opposite number and two Conservative Members went AWOL. Nevertheless, the Chairman voted with the Government, as all Chairmen have to do, and so succeeded in stopping an Opposition amendment.

Rejecting our offer is a calculated insult to the people of Wales; calculated because the Government have no realistic ambition of gaining seats in Wales and, with so few at present, they are not unduly concerned at sacrificing what remains. Local government reform in England, especially in the south-east of England, will be treated in an altogether different fashion, with far more concern about the strength of feeling, about the views of elected Members and, above all, about the number of seats that they may lose.

The six Welsh Tories today are in a difficult position. Let us have some sympathy for them. They know that they have their seats on a short lease. Their electors expect them to speak for Wales, but their party expects them to ignore Wales. What should they do? Welsh interests, they recite, are safeguarded here in a London Parliament. Yet they would tear up or set aside the rules of the House in order to secure advantage for their own party.

Welsh Conservative Members say that there is no need for devolution, no need for a parliament or assembly in Wales. Any other conclusion, as the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor was saying to me the other day, would set us on a slippery slope with full independence and the end of the Union at the bottom. Those so-called Unionists have so little faith in the Union and so little faith in the historic and economic ties that bind the United Kingdom for better or for worse. This fragile flower, they believe, cannot allow the independence of action in Wales to determine whether we dam our own rivers, would you please, or whether we can draw up local government boundaries, or when and whether we can speak our own tongue.

There comes a time when decisions like those and others will be taken not here in London but in Wales where they should be taken. If the Government succeed tonight in overturning the Standing Order, it will only bring forward the day when such decisions will no longer be taken here. I urge the House to accept the Opposition's amendment and to reject the Government's motion.

9.46 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)

Last night, we had a symbolic wind-up of the Local Government (Wales) Bill when two former councillors concluded the debate. Tonight, two former members of Cardiff city council have concluded the debate on how we should handle the Bill's Committee stage. I should congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) on his appearance at the Dispatch Box this evening, although my congratulations must be full of sympathy for him. I feel sure that he will make a better fist of trying to handle the Welsh portfolio than the exhausted dinosaurs sitting alongside him who are now burnt out.

I must take the hon. Gentleman to task. He sought to accuse my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary of ranting today about Europe. What a monstrous charge. Clearly, it was the hon. Gentleman who was trying to rant, but he was completely out-ranted by that representative of the Welsh republican movement, the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn).

I fear that there is one other hon. Member whom I must take to task this evening for his contribution—my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans). I have to reject what he said in that he was unkind about Opposition Members when he accused them of mock outrage, mock protest and mock indignation. He should know that what we heard from the Opposition Benches this evening was a traditional debate on Welsh affairs. We had the full depth of intellect and sincerity that they always bring to these matters. I want to make up for that with my hon. Friend, because I am grateful. We heard a scholarly legal discourse matching, even surpassing, that of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), in considering exactly the Standing Order that we are supposed to be debating this evening but which many hon. Members did not choose to debate. That is what we must be concerned about.

My hon. Friend returned to the high point of debate that had been established by my right hon. Friend the Minister when he opened the debate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his ringing endorsement of the motion.

The debate for the Opposition was opened by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). In his typically gentle and thoughtful way, he suggested that we should not alter the rules. He sought to concede that, naturally, the Government would want to maintain their majority on any Committee examining a Bill. He then trotted out the most dubious of figures, which even he had to admit he could not understand, and said that there would be 63 members on the Committee, or, if he had got it wrong, 64. We were almost into a bingo caller's evening—"Any advance on 64?"

Mr. Morgan

The Under-Secretary has changed his speaking style in this debate. He is trying to sound as though he is Wynford Vaughan Thomas describing the battle of Britain from the back seat of a Spitfire. We much preferred his old masonic lodge, retirement do, avuncular manner. What I actually said was that, in the almost inconceivable circumstance that I was wrong, the Government had a solution. I am not wrong. The Minister of State is not claiming that I am wrong, so why is the Under-Secretary taking so much trouble to accept that the figure of 63 gives the Minister the Government majority that he so urgently seeks? Am I wrong, or am I not wrong?

Mr. Jones

That question was answered most succinctly by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans), who nailed the hon. Gentleman's point and said that he had come out once again with "Aberpergau" mathematics—his own peculiar breed of mathematics that only he could come out with. The hon. Gentleman tried to give us his personal interpretation of Standing Order No. 86(2)(ii).

Mr. Morgan

The Under-Secretary says that it is my personal interpretation. I assure him that it comes from the authorities of the House. Has he checked with the authorities of the House—as I did before I spoke—the mathematics that would mean that 63 would give the Government a majority if the Chairman were an Opposition Member?

Mr. Evans

Quite simply, if one takes 32 from 63—the number of non-Conservative Members of the House—that leaves 31. If one of those 31 is the Chairman of the Committee, that leaves 30 for the Government, does it not? That is quite simple mathematics that anyone can do. If the hon. Gentleman had stopped to think, he could have checked the mathematics before he had anything to do with the amendment.

I refer now to the personal interpretation that the hon. Gentleman offered about Standing Order No. 86(2)(ii). I suppose that I had better reassure the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that I have read the Standing Order again this evening, and clearly my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has read it. Indeed, I am reading from his copy of it.

Most amazingly, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West sought to accuse the rationale behind what we propose as gerrymandering, dragging out the same old arguments again. I was almost expecting to hear him claim that we changed our minds and are now going in for separate unitary authorities for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney and for Blaenau Gwent because we believe that that is the simple step towards winning those constituencies at a general election.

It was with a sense of nostalgia that I listened to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West—not that he made his usual speech. I looked back to Hansard of 9 June, which reports that I moved the suspension of Standing Orders to deal with the Bill that is now the Cardiff Bay Barrage Act 1993. I found, amazingly, that the hon. Gentleman had engaged in an old ploy, and waved the old school tie at me. "We boys from Whitchurch grammar must stick together!" That was his cause for intervening on my speech—a tactic which he has used more than once.

I do not know whether I have ever thanked the hon. Gentleman for using the old school tie in that way. In fact, he is not the only hon. Member with whom I share an old school tie; I also share one with the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field).

Once, when I was speaking from this Dispatch Box, I found that I was running out of material and that my speech was likely to finish early. My Whip told me that, whatever I did, I must carry on speaking until 7 pm. Suddenly, I saw a lifebelt in the Chamber—the hon. Member for Cardiff, West was trying to intervene. When the hon. Gentleman gets going, a Minister has minutes, even hours, to fill out his speech.

But I must not confine my remarks to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West. I want to sum up, properly, all the important questions that have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) referred to the basic criteria on which Opposition Members might serve on the Committee, or might not think it appropriate to do so. He listed 12 Opposition Members who—because of Front-Bench responsibilities, or for other reasons—might be considered ineligible, or consider themselves ineligible. He went on to discourse very knowledgeably on hon. Members' contributions in regard to local government, and local government reorganisation.

Mr. Michael

Does the Minister accept that his hon. Friend was entirely wrong? Opposition Members represent their constituencies first. That is why we want to sit on the Committee—even those of us with Front-Bench responsibilities.

Mr. Jones

No, I do not accept that my hon. Friend was entirely wrong. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I mean to adduce from tonight's debate confirmation from his hon. Friends that my hon. Friend made an appropriate contribution!

The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) acknowledged the criteria advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West—I think because he recognised that he had been identified as being to the fore on the Opposition Benches in taking an interest in local government matters. The concept was expanded by the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central, who suggested in an intervention that membership of a local authority would be an appropriate criterion—another form of selection to contribute to a debate begun by my hon. Friend.

The question of eligibility was further enhanced by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams). His view was that English Members would not say enough in Committee. I find it difficult to reply to anything else that the hon. Gentleman said, as the rest of his speech rehearsed arguments about the Bill. That is not the context of tonight's debate. I am afraid, however, that his suggestion that English Members should not sit on the Committee because they would not say enough suggested to me the truism about empty vessels.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor explored further the apparent hostility to English Members, citing last night's speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason) and for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). His view—which has been echoed by others—was that they had made valuable, worthwhile contributions; another instance is the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) to our debate on the Welsh Language Bill. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor made a meaningful point when he pondered the philosophical question whether the balance of contributions might not have much more to do with the absence of depth of the amendments tabled by Opposition Members in Committee.

The House would do well to reflect on the hostility frequently displayed by Opposition Members towards Members representing English constituencies. Such hostility can sink as low as calling "Taff" in order to heckle non-Welsh Members who wish to speak during Welsh Question Time. It certainly betrays an arrogance that is completely unentitled and most inappropriate to our debate.

I can at least contrast such hostility with the contribution of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, who sought to debate the Standing Order. He asked whether we would be introducing new proposals to change it and in the same way that my hon. Friend—

It being Ten o'clock, MADAM SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [11 March], That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 271, Noes 318.

Division No. 168] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Adams, Mrs Irene Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ainger, Nick Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Denham, John
Allen, Graham Dewar, Donald
Alton, David Dixon, Don
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dobson, Frank
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Donohoe, Brian H.
Armstrong, Hilary Dowd, Jim
Ashton, Joe Dunnachie, Jimmy
Austin-Walker, John Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Eagle, Ms Angela
Barnes, Harry Eastham, Ken
Barron, Kevin Enright, Derek
Battle, John Etherington, Bill
Bayley, Hugh Evans, John (St Helens N)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fatchett, Derek
Bell, Stuart Faulds, Andrew
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bennett, Andrew F. Fisher, Mark
Benton, Joe Flynn, Paul
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Berry, Dr. Roger Foster, Don (Bath)
Betts, Clive Foulkes, George
Blunkett, David Fraser, John
Boateng, Paul Fyfe, Maria
Boyes, Roland Galbraith, Sam
Bradley, Keith Galloway, George
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gapes, Mike
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Garrett, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) George, Bruce
Burden, Richard Gerrard, Neil
Byers, Stephen Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Callaghan, Jim Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Godsiff, Roger
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gordon, Mildred
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Canavan, Dennis Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cann, Jamie Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Gunnell, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Hain, Peter
Clapham, Michael Hall, Mike
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hanson, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hardy, Peter
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Harman, Ms Harriet
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Harvey, Nick
Coffey, Ann Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cohen, Harry Henderson, Doug
Connarty, Michael Heppell, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hinchliffe, David
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoey, Kate
Corston, Ms Jean Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cousins, Jim Home Robertson, John
Cox, Tom Hood, Jimmy
Cryer, Bob Hoon, Geoffrey
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Hoyle, Doug
Dafis, Cynog Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Darling, Alistair Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Davidson, Ian Hutton, John
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam Paisley, Rev Ian
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Parry, Robert
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Patchett, Terry
Jamieson, David Pickthall, Colin
Janner, Greville Pike, Peter L.
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Pope, Greg
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Prescott, John
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Purchase, Ken
Jowell, Tessa Quin, Ms Joyce
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Radice, Giles
Keen, Alan Raynsford, Nick
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Redmond, Martin
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Reid, Dr John
Khabra, Piara S. Rendel, David
Kilfoyle, Peter Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Kirkwood, Archy Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Lewis, Terry Rogers, Allan
Litherland, Robert Rooker, Jeff
Livingstone, Ken Rooney, Terry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Llwyd, Elfyn Rowlands, Ted
Loyden, Eddie Ruddock, Joan
Lynne, Ms Liz Sedgemore, Brian
McAllion, John Sheerman, Barry
McAvoy, Thomas Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McCartney, Ian Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McCrea, Rev William Short, Clare
Macdonald, Calum Simpson, Alan
McKelvey, William Skinner, Dennis
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McLeish, Henry Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McMaster, Gordon Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McNamara, Kevin Soley, Clive
McWilliam, John Spearing, Nigel
Madden, Max Spellar, John
Maddock, Mrs Diana Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mahon, Alice Steinberg, Gerry
Mandelson, Peter Stevenson, George
Marek, Dr John Stott, Roger
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Straw, Jack
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Martlew, Eric Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maxton, John Tyler, Paul
Meacher, Michael Vaz, Keith
Meale, Alan Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Michael, Alun Walley, Joan
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Wareing, Robert N
Milburn, Alan Watson, Mike
Miller, Andrew Welsh, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Wicks, Malcolm
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wigley, Dafydd
Morgan, Rhodri Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Morley, Elliot Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Wilson, Brian
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Winnick, David
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wise, Audrey
Mudie, George Worthington, Tony
Mullin, Chris Wray, Jimmy
Murphy, Paul Wright, Dr Tony
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Young, David (Bolton SE)
O'Brien; Michael (N W'kshire)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Olner, William Mr. John Cummings and Mr. Ray Powell.
O'Neill, Martin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Arbuthnot, James
Aitken, Jonathan Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Alexander, Richard Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Ashby, David
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Aspinwall, Jack
Amess, David Atkins, Robert
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Faber, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fabricant, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Baldry, Tony Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fishburn, Dudley
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bates, Michael Forth, Eric
Batiste, Spencer Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beggs, Roy Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bellingham, Henry Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bendall, Vivian Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Beresford, Sir Paul French, Douglas
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fry, Sir Peter
Body, Sir Richard Gale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gallia, Phil
Booth, Hartley Gardiner, Sir George
Boswell, Tim Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Garnier, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gill, Christopher
Bowden, Andrew Gillan, Cheryl
Bowis, John Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brandreth, Gyles Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, Julian Gorst, John
Bright, Graham Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Grylls, Sir Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Burns, Simon Hague, William
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Butcher, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butler, Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Butterfill, John Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Carttiss, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Nick
Churchill, Mr Hawksley, Warren
Clappison, James Hayes, Jerry
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heald, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hendry, Charles
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Coe, Sebastian Hicks, Robert
Colvin, Michael Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Congdon, David Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Conway, Derek Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Horam, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensboume)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunter, Andrew
Day, Stephen Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jack, Michael
Devlin, Tim Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dickens, Geoffrey Jenkin, Bernard
Dorrell, Stephen Jessel, Toby
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dover, Den Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Duncan, Alan Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Kilfedder, Sir James
Eggar, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom
Elletson, Harold Kirkhope, Timothy
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, David (Dover)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Legg, Barry Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shersby, Michael
Lidington, David Sims, Roger
Lightbown, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Soames, Nicholas
Lord, Michael Speed, Sir Keith
Luff, Peter Spencer, Sir Derek
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spink, Dr Robert
MacKay, Andrew Spring, Richard
Maclean, David Sproat, Iain
McLoughlin, Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maitland, Lady Olga Steen, Anthony
Malone, Gerald Stephen, Michael
Mans, Keith Stern, Michael
Marland, Paul Stewart, Allan
Marlow, Tony Streeter, Gary
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sumberg, David
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sweeney, Walter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sykes, John
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Merchant, Piers Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mills, Iain Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Temple-Morris, Peter
Moate, Sir Roger Thomason, Roy
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Monro, Sir Hector Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Moss, Malcolm Thurnham, Peter
Needham, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nelson, Anthony Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Neubert, Sir Michael Tracey, Richard
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tredinnick, David
Nicholls, Patrick Trend, Michael
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Twinn, Dr Ian
Norris, Steve Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Ottaway, Richard Walden, George
Page, Richard Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Paice, James Waller, Gary
Patten, Rt Hon John Ward, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Pawsey, James Waterson, Nigel
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Watts, John
Pickles, Eric Wells, Bowen
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Porter, David (Waveney) Whitney, Ray
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Whittingdale, John
Rathbone, Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Redwood, Rt Hon John Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wilkinson, John
Richards, Rod Willetts, David
Riddick, Graham Wilshire, David
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Robathan, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wolfson, Mark
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Wood, Timothy
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Yeo, Tim
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxboume) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tellers for the Noes:
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Sackville, Tom

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided:Ayes 317,Noes 271.

Division No. 169] [10.18 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aitken, Jonathan Dover, Den
Alexander, Richard Duncan, Alan
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Dunn, Bob
Amess, David Durant, Sir Anthony
Arbuthnot, James Dykes, Hugh
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Elletson, Harold
Ashby, David Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Aspinwall, Jack Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Atkins, Robert Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Faber, David
Baldry, Tony Fabricant, Michael
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bates, Michael Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Batiste, Spencer Fishburn, Dudley
Beggs, Roy Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bellingham, Henry Forth, Eric
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beresford, Sir Paul Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Body, Sir Richard French, Douglas
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fry, Sir Peter
Booth, Hartley Gale, Roger
Boswell, Tim Gallie, Phil
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bowden, Andrew Garnier, Edward
Bowis, John Gill, Christopher
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gillan, Cheryl
Brandreth, Gyles Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brazier, Julian Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bright, Graham Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gorst, John
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Budgen, Nicholas Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Burns, Simon Grylls, Sir Michael
Burt, Alistair Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Butcher, John Hague, William
Butler, Peter Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hanley, Jeremy
Carrington, Matthew Hannam, Sir John
Carttiss, Michael Hargreaves, Andrew
Cash, William Harris, David
Churchill, Mr Haselhurst, Alan
Clappison, James Hawkins, Nick
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hawksley, Warren
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hayes, Jerry
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Heald, Oliver
Coe, Sebastian Hendry, Charles
Colvin, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Congdon, David Hicks, Robert
Conway, Derek Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Horam, John
Cormack, Patrick Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, James Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Day, Stephen Hunt, Sir John (Ravensboume)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hunter, Andrew
Devlin, Tim Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Jack, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard Richards, Rod
Jessel, Toby Riddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Robathan, Andrew
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Key, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kilfedder, Sir James Ross, William (E Londonderry)
King, Rt Hon Tom Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knapman, Roger Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Sackville, Tom
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knox, Sir David Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sims, Roger
Legg, Barry Skeet, Sir Trevor
Leigh, Edward Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Soames, Nicholas
Lidington, David Speed, Sir Keith
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Spencer, Sir Derek
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lord, Michael Spink, Dr Robert
Luff, Peter Spring, Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Sproat, Iain
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
MacKay, Andrew Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, David Steen, Anthony
McLoughlin, Patrick Stephen, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stern, Michael
Maitland, Lady Olga Stewart, Allan
Malone, Gerald Streeter, Gary
Mans, Keith Sumberg, David
Marland, Paul Sweeney, Walter
Marlow, Tony Sykes, John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Temple-Morris, Peter
Merchant, Piers Thomason, Roy
Mills, Iain Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Moate, Sir Roger Thumham, Peter
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Townend, John (Bridlington)
Monro, Sir Hector Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tracey, Richard
Moss, Malcolm Tredinnick, David
Needham, Richard Trend, Michael
Nelson, Anthony Trotter, Neville
Neubert, Sir Michael Twinn, Dr Ian
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholls, Patrick Viggers, Peter
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Walden, George
Norris, Steve Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Waller, Gary
Oppenheim, Phillip Ward, John
Ottaway, Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Page, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Paice, James Watts, John
Patnick, Irvine Wells, Bowen
Patten, Rt Hon John Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Whitney, Ray
Pawsey, James Whittingdale, John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Widdecombe, Ann
Pickles, Eric Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wilkinson, John
Porter, David (Waveney) Willetts, David
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wilshire, David
Rathbone, Tim Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Yeo, Tim Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Abbott, Ms Diane Dowd, Jim
Adams, Mrs Irene Dunnachie, Jimmy
Ainger, Nick Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Eagle, Ms Angela
Allen, Graham Eastham, Ken
Alton, David Enright, Derek
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Etherington, Bill
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Armstrong, Hilary Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Ashton, Joe Fatchett, Derek
Austin-Walker, John Faulds, Andrew
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Barnes, Harry Fisher, Mark
Barron, Kevin Flynn, Paul
Battle, John Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bayley, Hugh Foster, Don (Bath)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Foulkes, George
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fraser, John
Bell, Stuart Fyfe, Maria
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Galbraith, Sam
Bennett, Andrew F. Galloway, George
Benton, Joe Gapes, Mike
Bermingham, Gerald Garrett, John
Berry, Dr. Roger George, Bruce
Betts, Clive Gerrard, Neil
Blunkett, David Gilbert, RtHon DrJohn
Boateng, Paul Godman, Dr Norman A.
Boyes, Roland Godsiff, Roger
Bradley, Keith Golding, Mrs Llin
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gordon, Mildred
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Burden, Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Byers, Stephen Gunnell, John
Callaghan, Jim Hain, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hall, Mike
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hanson, David
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hardy, Peter
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Harman, Ms Harriet
Canavan, Dennis Harvey, Nick
Cann, Jamie Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Henderson, Doug
Chisholm, Malcolm Heppell, John
Clapham, Michael Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Home Robertson, John
Coffey, Ann Hood, Jimmy
Cohen, Harry Hoon, Geoffrey
Connarty, Michael Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hoyle, Doug
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corston, Ms Jean Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cox, Tom Hutton, John
Cryer, Bob Illsley, Eric
Cunliffe, Lawrence Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Dafis, Cynog Jamieson, David
Dalyell, Tam Janner, Greville
Darling, Alistair Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Denham, John Jowell, Tessa
Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Don Keen, Alan
Dobson, Frank Kennedy, Charles (Ross.C&S)
Donohoe, Brian H. Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Khabra, Piara S. Prescott, John
Kilfoyle, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Purchase, Ken
Kirkwood, Archy Quin, Ms Joyce
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Radice, Giles
Lewis, Terry Raynsford, Nick
Litherland, Robert Redmond, Martin
Livingstone, Ken Reid, Dr John
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rendel, David
Llwyd, Elfyn Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Loyden, Eddie Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lynne, Ms Liz Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
McAllion, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
McAvoy, Thomas Rogers, Allan
McCartney, Ian Rooker, Jeff
McCrea, Rev William Rooney, Terry
Macdonald, Calum Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Rowlands, Ted
Mackinlay, Andrew Ruddock, Joan
McLeish, Henry Salmond, Alex
McMaster, Gordon Sedgemore, Brian
McNamara, Kevin Sheerman, Barry
McWilliam, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madden, Max Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maddock, Mrs Diana Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (SheWeston) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Soley, Clive
Martlew, Eric Spearing, Nigel
Maxton, John Spellar, John
Meacher, Michael Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Meale, Alan Steinberg, Gerry
Michael, Alun Stevenson, George
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Straw, Jack
Milburn, Alan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Tyler, Paul
Moonie, Dr Lewis Vaz, Keith
Morgan, Rhodri Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morley, Elliot Walley, Joan
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wareing, Robert N
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Watson, Mike
Mudie, George Welsh, Andrew
Mullin, Chris Wicks, Malcolm
Murphy, Paul Wigley, Dafydd
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Wilson, Brian
Olner, William Winnick, David
O'Neill, Martin Wise, Audrey
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Worthington, Tony
Paisley, Rev Ian Wray, Jimmy
Parry, Robert Wright, Dr Tony
Patchett, Terry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L. Tellers for the Noes:
Pope, Greg Mr. Ray Powell and Mr. John Cummings.
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)

Question accordingly agreed to.


That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of standing committees), any Standing Committee appointed for consideration of the Local Government (Wales) Bill [Lords] shall consist of twenty-eight Members, including not fewer than nineteen Members sitting for

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