HC Deb 17 October 1994 vol 248 cc11-2
11. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what new proposals he has to improve the quality of democracy in Wales.

Mr. Redwood

We are taking many steps, but I should like to report to the House that democracy is alive and well in Wales. We are creating more powerful, all-purpose unitary authorities; I have recently transferred some economic development powers to local government; and we are creating true local participation through our policies on schools and hospitals. We are very keen on a vigorous debate; I only wish that its vigour was sometimes matched by its accuracy and the Opposition parties' helpfulness to Wales.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Secretary of State realise that, rather than being alive and well, democracy in Wales is in a deep coma because the Conservatives rule everywhere although they are a minority of a minority Opposition, having won only 32 of the 500 county council seats and only 14 per cent. of the votes in the European election? Why are the democratically elected representatives of the people of Wales overruled by a Conservative nomenklatura of unelected, sleazy quangocrats plus lords lieutenant, high sheriffs, the least democratic second Chamber in the world and a discredited and dying monarchy? Is not it time that democracy was given a chance in Wales?

Mr. Redwood

Many of us will wish to dissociate ourselves from the hon. Gentleman's very unpleasant remarks about the monarchy. Members of the Opposition may have been in a coma all summer, but I suspect that they will wake up soon, although it is a pity that the hon. Gentleman woke up to make that ridiculous intervention. He does not understand the first thing about politics in Wales. He said that the Conservatives ruled everywhere in Wales but went on to say that Labour controlled most of the councils. Labour does, indeed, have a strong hold on councils in Wales, and the councils spend a great deal of money and have a great deal of discretion. That, too, is an interesting matter for political debate.

Mr. Dafis

Is not the Secretary of State deeply embarrassed by the fact that he has no democratic mandate to occupy his present office? Is not he especially ashamed of his attack last week on European regional policy and its relevance to Wales? Is not it time that he accepted that the only way we can ensure that Wales takes its place as a nation in the European context is to have a Parliament of its own and to no longer be left to the tender mercies of people like him?

Mr. Redwood

The hon. Gentleman should read my speech because it was a warning to him and his party. I pointed out that if he formed an alliance with centralisers in Brussels, far from getting a stronger Welsh language, a stronger Welsh nation or a stronger Welsh policy, he would find that powers and money were siphoned out of Wales to Brussels. That is what the centralisers want, and it is very odd that his party should be in alliance with them.

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