HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc10-1
10. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent representations he has received about a Welsh Assembly. [14166]

Mr. Hague

Five written representations and various others.

Lady Olga Maitland

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a Welsh Assembly would be a complete waste of public money—money that would be far better spent on health and education? Is not it significant that Labour Members are completely divided about the form that such an assembly should take and are in a shambles? Should not the idea be consigned to the dustbin?

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend is right—it would be a waste of public money, divide the United Kingdom and diminish the influence of Wales here at Westminster. She is also right to draw attention to the difficulty that Opposition Members have on the matter. In a recent BBC programme, some members of the Labour party insisted that their assembly plan involved legislative power; others insist that it would not. The attempts of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) to clear the confusion only confused some people who had not been at the start. It is time that Labour Members sorted themselves out.

Mr. Donald Anderson

As we gradually move into an election campaign, the Secretary of State will stand on political platforms parroting the formula that the Welsh Assembly will inevitably lead to the fragmentation of the United Kingdom. Will he stop for a moment and consider whether he is not demeaning and insulting the people of Wales, by implying that we are not as politically sophisticated as the people of Spain, Germany, Belgium and France, who have regional assemblies while remaining part of a united country?

Mr. Hague

The people of Wales are sufficiently politically sophisticated to have voted four to one against an assembly last time the proposition was put to them. The hon. Gentleman should reflect on that. A great many people in Wales believe that it would be a roomful of hot air that would serve no useful purpose. If the Labour party's plans were to be the subject of a referendum again, they would again be rejected.

Mr. Wigley

Is not it revealing that this question was asked by a Member of Parliament from the home counties and answered by one from Yorkshire, both of whom appear to know better than do the Welsh people themselves? A couple of weeks ago, when the Secretary of State appeared on the "Week In, Week Out" programme, did he not give the impression that there was not one issue on which he did not know better than 80 or 100 elected people from Wales? Does not that come over as the height of arrogance? How on earth can he justify overruling all the interests of Wales in that cavalier way?

Mr. Hague

We get a foretaste of what such an assembly would be like from the difficulties of Labour Members. When the hon. Member for Caerphilly wanted to propose a proportional voting system at a meeting in the House of Commons, the Daily Post reported that the Labour party in Wales ganged up on him, there was an explosion of anger and the mood of the meeting was vicious. If that is a foretaste of an assembly, the people of Wales want nothing to do with it.

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