HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc575-7 4.26 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me this opportunity to make a personal statement.

Last Monday evening, I made a severe error of judgment in failing to protect my personal safety. I became the victim of what was for me a frightening and shocking crime. I reported the matter to the police, and the process of law will now take its course. For that reason, I shall make no further comment on that aspect of the matter. However, I offer my heartfelt apologies to the House for any embarrassment that I might have caused.

On Tuesday morning, I explained to the Prime Minister what had occurred, I apologised for it, I offered him my resignation, and he accepted it. I want to place on record my thanks to the Prime Minister for his personal support and solicitude over the past few days, which have been of very great comfort to me.

The events of the last week have been unremittingly agonising. I could not have got through them without the love and support of the two people most dear to me—my wife Chris and my daughter Angharad. Without the constant support of a few other very close friends I cannot imagine how I could have got through this nightmare, and I offer them my heartfelt and most profound thanks. I also want to thank many other close friends for their endless patience in the face of a constant barrage of media pressure. I am grateful for the messages of support from former ministerial colleagues, Members of both Houses—from both sides—and the public at large.

The shock, for me, of the events of last Monday, and the sadness of my resignation, have been added to by media intrusion into my private life, reporting as fact a stream of rubbish. Rumour and lies have been asserted as truth. The whole of my adult life has been pored over for something that could be twisted to suit the present prejudice.

Ultimately, this arbitrary abuse of power is an attack not just on me, but on all our rights. The right to privacy belongs to all citizens. The victims of crime, even if they are in public life, cannot be excluded from that. We all have rights; we also all have responsibilities, of course, and that applies to the media. The media have the right to freedom, but they must carry the responsibilities to exercise that right judiciously.

In my childhood, I learned a very hard lesson at a very early age—one cannot allow powerful people to bully the weak or to abuse their own power. How willing will the next victim of a crime be to report it; how eager will people be to stand for public office in the knowledge that one mistake might result in the whole of their lives being picked over and twisted out of all recognition? How can it improve democracy if our lives in this House, our influences and our relationships, were all laid out for public titillation? We are what we are. We are all different—the product of both our genes and our experiences. Members of Parliament are no different from the society that we represent.

Since I became the Labour party spokesman for Wales in 1992, the creation of a new democracy for Wales has been for me a personal commitment and a political responsibility. I know that the process that I started will go on, creating a more tolerant, more open and more mature way of conducting politics. My experience in the past week could not have provided me with a more vivid demonstration of the need for such a tolerant and understanding society. The support that I have received from colleagues, from ordinary citizens and, indeed, from the Welsh media reassures me that that is a vision that is widely shared.

Not for the first time in my life, I have been badly beaten and hurt. I believe that my defences are strong enough to see me through this very trying time. From adversity, of course, can come strength. That will be so in my current circumstances. I worked hard to change the face of politics and government in Wales. I am now more determined than ever to see those changes through.

I am very grateful to you, Madam Speaker, and for the attention of the House.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.