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All Wales Convention

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

3. What recent discussions he has had with the chair of the All Wales Convention on the work of the convention. (250635)

I have been following the convention’s work with great interest and I have met Sir Emyr Jones Parry on a number of occasions.

When families across Wales are concerned about their future does my right hon. Friend think that anybody gives a fig about the All Wales Convention? It is wasting £1 million of taxpayers’ money, calling shambolic meetings, showing videos that give a distorted picture of Wales and pandering to those who think that the big issue of the day is independence. Would it not be better spending its time talking to the Corus workers?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his robust comments on the work of the convention. I think that the convention is doing a proper job in trying to find out what the people of Wales would think about extra powers for the Assembly. I agree with him that it is more important to concentrate these days on the effects of the economic downturn on the people of Wales than on constitutional issues, but I do not undervalue the work of the convention.

On constitutional issues, does my right hon. Friend have any plans to slash the number of Welsh MPs before any further devolution settlement and to gag them when it comes to speaking on UK parliamentary issues? If he does not have such plans, does he know anybody who does?

I think I do. The Government have no plans to reduce the number of Welsh Members of Parliament or the effectiveness of the Welsh representatives in the House of Commons. The Government have no plans to gag us in any way whatsoever. However, I was surprised at the Conservative Front Benchers when they decided some weeks ago to suggest that we might reduce the number of Welsh Members of Parliament. They then changed their minds, for which I am very grateful.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the chairman of the convention is aware of the success of the legislative competence order process in ensuring that, where it is appropriate, additional responsibilities and powers are provided to the National Assembly for Wales? Given the amount of disinformation that we see from the press and media in Wales and from some who seem to want to pretend that the process is not successful, is it not important that the convention should ensure that people understand that the process is successful?

Yes, it is. It would be useful for my right hon. Friend to meet Sir Emyr to put those points to him. The process has improved over the past months and will improve even more.