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Welsh Assembly

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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42.

asked the Lord President of the Council what is the Government's timetable for the establishment of a Welsh assembly.

It is too soon to give a firm answer to this Question, but I can assure the House that we are proceeding as quickly as possible with this very complex issue. The House will, of course, have a full opportunity to debate devolution next week.

As the Lord President assures us that matters are proceeding quickly, and that he expects the establishment of assemblies for Scotland and Wales within a few years, will he tell the House whether any preparatory work is being done in Wales in the matters, for instance, of communications between the North and South, which are very poor; of a home for the assembly; and, especially, of developing a Civil Service which can take over the necessary work?

An enormous amount of preparatory work is being done in London and Wales. The question of a home for the assembly is one of the matters being dealt with at present, but it is much too early to give the whole timetable. The hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that we must get this matter right, and that it is much better to get it right than to do it very quickly and perhaps not get it right. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will bear with us and will perhaps put his point of view more fully in next week's two-day debate.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that devolution is not a subject which is constantly on the lips of our people in the pubs, clubs and chapels of Wales, and that if it must come at all they would rather have it done correctly than speedily?

Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to his fellow members of the Cabinet the feeling adverted to by the Secretary of State earlier today about resentment in Wales at the growth of bureaucracy and centralised local government organs? An enormous increase in the expense of local government and the imposition of what is virtually, according to the Government's proposals, only a glorified county council will be very unwelcome in Wales.

The assembly will be a great deal more than a glorified county council. It will be a question not of taking powers from the existing council structure but of real devolution of power from Westminster.