HL Deb 22 January 1969 vol 298 cc923-5

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they propose to incorporate Monmouthshire into Wales without consulting Monmouthshire's inhabitants.]


My Lords, the county is already administered as part of Wales. The purpose of the change is to remove the anomaly arising from the present need to refer to Monmouthshire separately from Wales in Statutes. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State believes that the proposal commands wide support in the county. There will be full opportunity for discussion of it when the proposed legislation comes before Parliament.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, although I do not think the Government have really answered my Question. However, I appreciate that there will be opportunity to debate the matter later. Arising out of the Answer, may I ask my noble friend this supplementary question? If, as I understand the reply, this proposal is being made for administrative convenience, why is it that my right honourable friend Mr. George Thomas, in reply to the Welsh Nationalist M.P. in the Welsh Grand Committee, said that the dropping of the term "Wales and Monmouthshire" will be added to the many other things which the present Government have done for Wales"? May I ask whether this does not sound as if the proposal is in fact an attempt to bid against the Nationalists; and is it really the right policy that the Government should get embroiled in old-fashioned nationalism in this way?


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will be aware that the proposals for the reorganisation of local government in Wales are under discussion; and I know that the noble Lord will also appreciate that the members of the Welsh Grand Committee include representatives from the County of Monmouthshire. So far as I know Welshmen, they will not be lacking in sounding the views of their constituents in this particular connection—and I, too, have studied the account of these meetings. This question in fact arises at the moment, as the noble Lord will appreciate, because of the proposals which are under discussion and the creation of the new County of Gwent.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she does not think it would be better if Monmouthshire were treated on the same basis as Gibraltar, rather than like the Falkland Islands?


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether she believes there is any possibility of making a number of noble Lords and others resident in the County of Monmouth happy about becoming Welshmen, any more than there would have been a possibility of making the late Aneurin Bevan happy at being called an Englishman?


My Lords, I feel that it would be quite fatal at this point of time, and in view of the personnel of your Lordships' House, to enter into any war other than a sex war. I am quite happy to debate male and female, but not Wales and England.


My Lords, would not my noble friend agree that there is a very important point about Monmouthshire which I think is not shared with Gibraltar, and that is that the men play Rugby and are able to play in the Welsh team, which makes them an integral part of Wales?


My Lords, I am quite sure that there are several differences, on which I would not comment now.