Second Reading debate resumed.
My Lords, perhaps we may now return to the affairs of Wales, and I wish at the outset to thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the comprehensive exposition he gave of the provisions of the Bill. In the absence of my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, who is abroad, it falls to me, a Scot with an Irish Christian name living in England, to express the Liberal Party's view on the future of Wales.I am fortified by two things in facing this daunting task; first by the fact that that my noble friend will return in time for the Committee stage, and, secondly, by the thought that devolution, as we said many times during our debates on Scotland, is a matter which concerns the whole of the United Kingdom. That brings me to my first comment. I regret that we are not seeing the Wales Bill and the Scotland Bill as part of the structure of devolution for the whole of the United Kingdom, including England. We on these Benches, as we have emphasised many times, would prefer to see that structure a federal one, with a clear division of powers between each tier of Government. Two objections to that solution were put forward in the debates on this Bill in another place by the Lord President of the Council. He said that that would involve a Bill of Rights, judicial review and a written Constitution. I would welcome that. I believe we need a new constitutional settlement bringing together all the constitutional reforms on which we are engaged at the present time and those we are discussing, such as devolution, direct elections to the European Parliament, reform of the composition of this House and electoral reform. The second objection, which is not unrelated to the first, is that a federal solution would undermine the doctrine of the sovereignty of this Parliament in Westminster. But with some power going from Westminster to the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies, and with some power going to the European Community, that doctrine will be increasingly difficult to maintain in the future in any event. We on these Benches support the Bill because the Liberal Party, has throughout this century, argued that Wales should have a Parliament to deal with purely Welsh affairs; and we support it because we believe that it is a step on the road to a federal system. During the Second Reading debate in this House on the Scotland Bill, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, chided us for putting forward the agrument that it is a step on the road to a federal system. He maintained that a system which was neither fully unitary, nor fully federal, would break down. However, I do not believe that the system as set out in the Bill before us today will break down. I believe that defects in it will be revealed, once it is in operation, and I believe that those defects will cause further reform of the system, but in a federal direction. I reject the argument that the Bill will somehow destroy the unity of the United Kingdom, despite all that is said about the West Lothian question—or the West Glamorgan question, as it is more appropriately referred to in the context of this Bill. If the English do not like Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament having a say in matters relating to England—a say which English Members of Parliament will not have in similar matters relating to Scotland and Wales—then the solution is there: let them press for regional government in England. I believe that that is the way that they will go if they feel strongly about it. I regret that there is in the Bill a lack of legislative power for the Welsh Assembly—that the Welsh Assembly will have no power to pass primarily legislation, as the noble and learned Lord has explained to us, but will have power to pass subordinate legislation. Some of the powers of Ministers under existing Acts of Parliament are devolved to the Welsh Assembly; some of the powers of Ministers under existing Acts of Parliament are reserved. But it is specific powers that are devolved or reserved, and not subjects. This means that every time a Bill applying to Wales comes before Parliament, a decision has to be taken by Parliament as to whether the powers to issue orders under the Act should be devolved or reserved, or part devolved and part reserved. There will be a continuing debate, and it might be argued that that would be unsettling. Legislative devolution would have avoided that, as it has very largely with Scotland. In the Scotland Bill powers are devolved to Scottish Secretaries—in effect, Scottish Cabinet Ministers—and the structure is that of a Cabinet and a Parliament. In the Wales Bill powers are devolved to the Assembly as a whole, acting through committees, as the noble and learned Lord explained earlier. The system is much more like that of a county council. Indeed, there is some truth in the criticism that the Welsh Assembly will be a kind of glorified county council. It would not surprise me if, before long, the people of Wales express dissatisfaction with the absence of legislative power and with the county council image, and demand parity with Scotland. I cannot accept the argument, which has been put forward by the Secretary of State for Wales on more than one occasion during debates in another place, that no third tier of government is being created because there is only executive devolution, and not legislative devolution. Powers have been devolved to the Assembly, and if the Assembly was responsible to Parliament for the exercise of those powers, and had to come back to Westminster to give an account, I would agree that no third tier had been created. But the Assembly is not responsible to Parliament; it is responsible, rightly, to the electors of Wales. Therefore, there is no doubt at all in my mind that a third tier of government is being created. This leads to the question as to whether one of the tiers of local government in Wales should disappear, and that, in turn, leads to the further question of local government reform. I welcome the fact that the Welsh Assembly will review the existing organisation of local government in Wales, and report to the Secretary of State. The Welsh Assembly will not have the power to make any decisions in this matter, but it will report to the Secretary of State, and, as has already been said, its views will obviously be of very considerable importance and weight. It is argued that this should not be in the Bill, because it has created uncertainty. That may well be the case, but that is the consequence of the folly of proceeding to a wholesale reorganisation of local government before receiving and considering the report of the Kilbrandon Commission. If ever there was a case of putting the cart before the horse, that was it. I have referred to the absence of legislative power. There is also the absence of revenue raising power, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton referred; and here we have the same problem as that which we discussed when considering the Scotland Bill. I recognise the difficulties which have been described by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor today, but I feel that in the long run it will be essential for both the Assemblies, in Wales and in Scotland, to have some measure of revenue raising power, and I very much hope that there will be a continuing research into the possibilities of this. Finally, there is the absence of proportional representation in the method of election to the Welsh Assembly. The House was convinced of the case for proportional representation for the Scottish Assembly. Similar arguments apply for Wales, and I need not repeat them this afternoon. However, I hope that during the Committee stage we shall with the Wales Bill, as with the Scotland Bill, insert a measure of proportional representation into the electoral system. I need not say how strongly we on these Benches feel on this matter. To sum up the position of my noble friends and myself, I should say that we utterly reject separatism. We uphold the unity of the United Kingdom. We believe that some measure of devolution is necessary to secure that unity. We think that the ideal solution is a federal system. This Bill, and the Scotland Bill, fall far short of that. Furthermore, in our view there are defects in the Bill: the lack of legislative power; the lack of revenue raising power; the lack, at the moment, of proportional representation, being among them. Nevertheless, we support the Bill as a step in the direction in which we want to go.
My Lords, one morning in January 1957, a sister-in-law of mine, who is Welsh and at the time was living in Tenby, heard on the radio that I had been appointed Minister for Welsh Affairs. She was pleased; I think she sent me a telegram of congratulation. Then she went out shopping, and her eye fell on a newspaper poster, which read: "Government changes —shock for Wales". However, the shock was mitigated, at any rate in South Wales, when the reporters and the media discovered that I was the son-in-law of a Welsh rugby international. Of course that had no effect in Mid Wales or North Wales, but it was the greatest asset that I possessed in South Wales during those years. I served in that office for four and a half years. It was one of the most human and enthralling assignments I ever had in my political life. A personal gain to me was that, through it, I acquired a working knowledge of the whole of Wales which, curiously enough, very few Welsh people themselves have. So many who live outside Wales fail to realise the gap in geography and in outlook between North and South Wales. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will confirm that. It is a hard fact to which we must all adjust ourselves, and the Welsh Assembly above all will have to do that.The Assembly may serve a good educational purpose within Wales, in that people from North Wales and South Wales will be brought together in debate, and will gain considerably more knowledge than many of them possess at the moment as to how the other half lives. I remember addressing an election meeting one year in Tonypandy. I was not expecting to swing the majority of the Rhondda on to my side, but it turned out to be a model election meeting, and I am sure that, had your Lordships been there, you would all have enjoyed it. There was an excellent chairman, and everybody was represented. There were Conservatives, Liberals, Labour, Communists, Plaid Cymru and so on. The one complication was that, although all these people asked me questions, the questions which the Plaid Cymru supporters asked me were generally incomprehensible to the rest of the audience. This was because most of them referred to decision I had taken about incidents in North Wales which were unacceptable to the Welsh Nationalists or to the protagonists of the Welsh language, but they were incidents about which the people of the Rhondda neither knew nor cared. After a little, therefore, I decided that the best thing to do was to explain to the whole of the meeting what the significance of the question was before I proceeded to answer it. I must say that if I were myself a Welshman living in North Wales I should be worried about the risk of the people from North Wales in the Assembly being constantly over-borne and out-voted by the big battalions from Glamorgan and Gwent. It will be a virtue of the Assembly if it in fact brings these different outlooks closer together, because at present it is very hard in many fields to say with confidence what the Welsh outlook as such really is. Incidentally, is it proposed by the Government that the Welsh Assembly should be bilingual? Will the use of both Welsh and English be in order, as the Canadian Parliament is bilingual? The Government will have to make up their mind about this, because under Clause 15 the Secretary of State has the power to give directions for regulating the procedure of the Assembly before it will have had time to make its own Standing Orders. I think it is an important question which has not, so far as I know, yet been mentioned in your Lordships' House; and one goes on to wonder whether simultaneous translation will be set up not only for Welsh speeches into English but for English speeches into Welsh. When I first received my responsibilities towards Wales I set myself to get as far forward as I possibly could at that time with the devolution of administration from England to Wales. I have always had considerable sympathy with the Welsh Nationalist complaint that over many years in the past—though it is not so now—Parliament at Westminster paid too little attention to the fact that Wales is a different nation from England. Parliament at Westminster was for many years disposed to legislate with its eye upon England and to allow Wales to tag along afterwards. It does not surprise me in the least that very many people in Wales reacted against this; and, while I deplore some of the extreme manifestations of Welsh nationalism, I cannot resist having sympathy with the origins of the movement in the way that I have described. Of course, since my day, in respect of devolution and decentralisation of administration, a great deal has happened. A great deal of water has flowed down the Taff to the sea and down the Towy, and the Trifi, the Conway and the other great rivers of Wales, including those rivers like the Dee, the Wye, the Severn and so on which have the awkward feature of originating in Wales and flowing into England, causing intense difficulty to those who are trying to devise a Welsh national water policy. However, it is not so very long ago since senior civil servants who were charged with the administration of government affairs in Wales lived, in the main, in London. That has changed now, and so far as I know pretty well all of the principal civil servants administering Welsh affairs are, and have been now for some time, domiciled in Wales, as well as working in their offices in Wales; and I have absolutely no doubt that that is to the good. The Secretary of State, since there has been a Secretary of State, co-ordinates the civil servants, and he directs departmental policies. I venture to claim that the greatest contribution I made in my time to the better governing of Wales was when I pressed Mr. Macmillan, who was Prime Minister at the time, to appoint a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs who would be resident in Wales, who would have an office in Wales and—this was important—who would be a Member of your Lordships' House, because it seemed to me hard for anybody carrying heavy Ministerial responsibilities, resident in Wales, to be constantly obliged to rush up to London to respond to three-line Whips. Very fortunately for Wales and for us all, there was at that time available the late Lord Brecon, a man of outstanding gifts who also had exactly the right qualifications for this; and I believe it would be an excellent move forward in Welsh administration and Welsh politics if there can be found in Wales new men or women able to perform the sort of ministerial task that Lord Brecon carried out with such distinction. If this Bill becomes law, most of the responsibility, as I read it, will be transferred away from the Secretary of State to the committees of the new Welsh Assembly. That will surely require from a great many civil servants a dual loyalty—loyalty to the Secretary of State and loyalty to the Assembly. And if it is assumed that that will be overcome by the Secretary of State and the Assembly always taking the same view, somebody has got to think again. An exciting prospect is presented by this Bill. I am critical of it as a whole, but it is excitingly important. I believe that before Parliament embarks on something of this kind it must be sure that it has thought through all the principal difficulties that may arise. Remarkably little has been said, so far as I am aware, as to the way in which head-on clashes between the Secretary of State and the Welsh Assembly are to be mitigated or avoided, because that is liable to happen, not only when there are different Parties involved but even within the same Party, as we all know well. It may work, it may be a success, but I am very far from convinced that it really will contribute to the better government of Wales. Certainly it is not something which should be foisted on the Welsh people unless we have really satisfied ourselves that it is something which they want, something which the people of Wales themselves really want to experiment with; because if it is tried prematurely and then fails, that will be a serious setback for all. What I have said emphasises the appropriateness of holding a referendum. There is a real danger that the Welsh Assembly, if it is brought into existence with too little support, will become a white elephant, or perhaps I should say a white dragon—and that none of us want. Fortunately, it is not for me to decide these matters. My qualifications are too far out of date for me to dare to give judgments and expect other people to accept them; but so far as this Bill is concerned, I am anxious on two main scores. First, it seems to me to demote the part which the Welsh Member of Parliament will play in the future. That I would regard in principle as a very bad thing. I happen to be convinced that the relationship between the Member of Parliament and his constituents throughout the United Kingdom is a very precious one which at all costs must be preserved for our democracy. If I were a Member of Parliament for a Welsh constituency, whatever my Party, I should be unhappy, I should feel that my usefulness was being devalued to some extent if part of what had hitherto been my work is now to be handed over to an elected Member of a different body dealing with matters where I may be even warned off the ground because they are matters exclusively for the Assembly. The elected Members of Parliament for Wales will surely find themselves cut out of the decision-making process in many of the subjects which most closely concern the people whom they were elected to Westminster to represent—matters like schools, homes, health services and so on. That is the real essence of representation of constituents by their elected Member in the House of Commons, and it must not go. Under this Bill, the Welsh Member of Parliament will surely lose a considerable amount of his influence, power and responsibility in the social field; although he will still, of course, preserve the right to speak and vote on questions like the Solomon Islands Bill. The other matter which causes me anxiety is that this Bill is going to add £l2½ million a year to Government expenditure in Wales, on top of the initial non-recurrent £6½ million. I can hardly believe that £12½ million could not be spent more beneficially for the good of Wales each year. I may be wrong. I know it is thought that all this money will go a long way towards satisfying the as yet unsatisfied aspirations of the Welsh people; and some of those aspirations are very genuine. But I believe that the aspirations not yet satisfied, which the authors of this Bill claim it will satisfy, are shadowy compared with the solid reality of the greater happiness which could be secured for the people of Wales, for young and old alike, if there were an extra £12½ million a year available to be spent on the schools, the homes and the social services all these people would like to be able to enjoy.
My Lords, I regard it as both a privilege and an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. When he was Home Secretary and had all the exacting work of Home Secretary there was added to him the work of looking after Wales and, if I may say so, the work that he did was keen and invaluable. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, is not Welsh himself but he had at all times the assistance and support of his gracious Lady, Lady Brooke, and as your Lordships will remember she showed her Welshness by including as part of her name the charming village in which she had lived, that village which for all of your Lordships is a place so easy to pronounce and so simple to spell—and I refer of course to Ystradfellte. The noble Lord, as I say, at a time when he had to undertake such activities as those of Home Secretary, devoted as much time as possible to looking after the interests of Wales. There was no Secretary of State for Wales. There was a limit to what he could do, but he identified himself with the people of Wales and learned their conditions; and I am so very happy to have this opportunity of saying for myself that I think he rendered a great service to the people of Wales.In expressing the hope that your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill, I do so as one who is a staunch supporter and believer in the unity of the United Kingdom. There is no derogation from that position if I invite your Lordships to approach this Bill as dealing not with a region but with a nation. The word "region" suggests the cold calculations of the co-ordinator. When we speak of a nation we speak of something alive, vigorous and vibrant. Scholars may write learnedly on the topic of what constitutes a nation. Suffice it to say that Welsh people feel they are a nation and know that they are a nation. For Wales they have patriotism but that is not to the exclusion of their patriotism for Britain, the United Kingdom. It is a part of it. It is a preparation for it. I deplore at any time any talk which would suggest or provoke any rift or friction between the English and the Welsh. Rivalry, yes; good fun, yes. But when in this century we have had two cruel wars, how mightily was proof of unity and solidarity shown! I hope that I can say that both in the case of the Scot and in the case of the Welshman there is a special quality in the love of his own land. When he returns to it there is a thrill and a throb. What other nation has such a sturdy, first line of its national anthem as:
"The land of my fathers is dear to me". Yet how truly did the English poet proclaim of the Welsh when he said:"Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn anwyl i mi "—
The Welsh do not nurse grievances. They had no special reason to be grateful to King Edward I. In the last century there was undoubtedly a certain insensitivity in Whitehall due to a lack of understanding of Wales. But it is foolish to harbour resentments. We are legislating in 1978 for the future. We start from here and look to the future. That insensitivity to which I referred at the end of the last century I think undoubtedly contributed to the decline in the use of the Welsh language. Some there are who believe in the old saying, "There is joy in Heaven when a language perishes". I do not believe it. What a tragedy it would be if the Welsh language was to die! I can testify how much a Welshman loses if his knowledge of the language is imperfect. The words of Clause 10 of this Bill are deserving of study:"In whose fiery love of their own land no hatred of another's has a place".
It would indeed be sad if the Welsh language were to decline. I hope that I can say with reasonable but not excessive modesty, and with an emphasis that only stops short of being aggressive, that the Welsh as a people have sufficient dignity and sense of humour as will deter them from harping backwards or finding some basis for resentment. I firmly believe that our country, the United Kingdom, has a great part to play today in the affairs of the world. The strength—and by this I mean the moral strength—of the United Kingdom is created and is sustained if there is a blending of the talents and the gifts of the English, the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh. Unity does not demand and could not command uniformity. To play her part in all this Wales must be outward-looking, but her contribution to the power and the influence of the United Kingdom will be the greater if first to herself she is true. What this rather modest Bill will do in creating an elected Welsh Assembly will be not only to stimulate all those activities to which I have referred in reading Clause 10, with which Clause 11 may be linked, and not only under Clause 12 to review and report on, but not to legislate on, the structure of local government in Wales, but to place not legislative power but executive decision-making in the hands of elected representatives in regard to matters which, very broadly speaking, are local matters. The noble and learned Lord and Lord Chancellor used the better word "domestic" matters. Those, not legislative, but executive decision-making powers will be in the hands of elected representatives in regard to matters which are very broadly domestic ones. Those representatives rather than Ministers can best know the needs of the people in the fields to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred, such as those concerning health, education, housing, the environment and roads. I am sure that all your Lordships listened with careful attention to the admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Undoubtedly he has given great thought to the matter, studied the Bill with great care and all his points demand close attention. He paid eloquent tribute to the Welsh people, and I am sure that the tributes were sincere. He made it quite clear that he disapproved of the present Bill. But what was not quite so clear to me was whether the tributes he paid to the Welsh people should lead him to the conclusion that there should be some devolution, that there should be a further devolution of powers to representatives of the people. But if so, I did not think that the noble Lord gave us a clear picture as to what he thought should be the devolution. If he is against any form of Welsh Assembly, so be it; but if, as his tributes to the talents of the Welsh would suggest, he is in favour of there being some Welsh Assembly, quite what kind and in what form? Maybe the noble Lord will put down Amendments to improve the Bill so as to have a form of Welsh Assembly of which he will approve. If so, will he be able to do it without having any officials to help that Assembly? The noble Lord remarked: "Look what it is going to cost!" Of course, if there is an Assembly there is going to be a cost. Will the noble Lord be able to set up some Assembly of his choice, to his liking, without cost and with no officials? I do not think that the noble Lord called them "officials"; I think he called them "civil servants". I noticed that throughout the Scotland Bill if one approved of the Bill one perhaps referred to officials; if one disapproved of the Bill one referred to civil servants or, to wipe them straight off the slate, one referred to them as bureaucrats. How is the noble Lord to produce what he would think would be an ideal Welsh Assembly? If he is willing to concede that there should be one, how will he do it without having officials? How will he have officials without paying them? Of course the present scheme involves cost, and those who will have to decide will have to say: "This is going to cost money". They will then have to decide whether the cost be worth while. Some will say that the cost is too great; others will say that the cost is well worth incurring in order to get the benefits of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor (whose speech, as I have already indicated, I so greatly enjoyed) raised points which will demand close attention. The noble Lord referred to the question whether speeches in the Assembly will be in Welsh or in English. Surely there can be no difficulty there. If a Welshman in his own country is more fluent in Welsh than in English, surely he will be allowed to speak in Welsh? Probably most of the speeches will be in English. But will there be the smallest difficulty in arranging for similtaneous translation and, if necessary, both ways? In the court of the University of Wales, over which I had the honour of presiding for many years, we had simultaneous translation, and those who wished to address the court in Welsh were of course allowed to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, raised another very important point. He asked: Will the work of a Welsh Member of Parliament be demoted if this Bill is passed and if the Act is put into operation? That is a most important point. Of course the duties to some extent will be varied and changed. Just before I conclude, may I refer to some of the concerns of the average citizen in this land and in Wales, and consider how they will be affected if this Bill becomes an Act in operation. One of the first concerns of the citizen is for the security of his country, his family and his home. He hopes that our defences are adequate; he looks to our Services, to the united Services of Army, Navy and Air Force. He would not begin to contemplate separate defensive Navies, Armies and Air Forces for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Next, the citizen is concerned with our relations with foreign countries, with our place in the world and our voice in the affairs of the world. The citizen will want our Foreign Secretary to speak for all of us. The citizen will continue to look to Westminster. We must pay by national taxation for all that we spend. The citizen will look to Westminster to consider its levels and its fairness. The citizen will need the products of the nationalised industries such as coal, gas and railway and telephone services. He will continue to look to Westminster. The citizen will be concerned to ensure law and order. He will want our criminal laws to be kept under constant review. He will look to Westminster. Particularly will he be concerned in regard to economic conditions and employment conditions. He will wish to support wholeheartedly the perseverance of the United Kingdom in its struggle against inflation and against unemployment. He will look to Westminster. He will have concern for trade union law and conditions of employment. He will look to Westminster. Furthermore, he will at all times be vitally concerned and involved in all the massive protections which we trust the Welfare State will provide: unemployment insurance, health insurance and pensions. The citizen will continue to look to Westminster. In all these vast and vital fields, the Secretary of State for Wales in the Cabinet must continue to represent Wales, and will be needed to do so. In regard to them, Welsh Members of Parliament will have undiminished concern. Their work will not decline in importance even though they are to some extent, as the noble Lord pointed out, relieved of local duties. The strategy which should guide the conduct of our national affairs will need their full consideration and guidance. So, my Lords, here is no major upheaval; here is no cause for alarm, suspicion or fear: rather, while the unity of the United Kingdom will be preserved, special heed will be paid to the welfare of the people."The Assembly may do anything it considers appropriate to support museums, art galleries, libraries, the Welsh language, the arts, crafts, sport and other cultural and recreative activities.".
My Lords, is it not a great pleasure to listen to the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken and to appreciate the gentle deftness with which he leads his argument sweetly, superbly and commandingly to a conclusion at which you yourself do not want to arrive! Nevertheless, this is the result of the vast experience of this noble and learned Welshman, and it is an honour and a privilege to follow him. I agree, of course, with 90 per cent. of what has been mentioned and some things were brought to my notice that hitherto I had missed in looking at the Bill.Now may I say something to the noble Lord who sits opposite—and I apologise because I interrupted. I was not at all excited, but when the noble Lord ploughed into a description of all these Welsh morons in the Assembly voting themselves vast salaries and vast pensions—did you notice that, my Lords?—that nearly brought me to my feet. Then I thought of the gentleness of this Chamber and said to myself, "You must not interrupt"— but I was on my feet before the gentleness and the courtesy of the Chamber hit me. Then I sat back again. I only want to draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that we would not do that. We are not a race of morons. In fact, the noble Lord himself, and the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken, called us proud, loyal and talented. I do not suppose the English people knew that the South Wales Borderers had eleven VCs until they saw Stanley Baker in "Zulu". We are very proud of that, too, and I did not put on my "grand slam" tie today because I regret that one of the Prince of Wales' feathers—you see the "Ich dien"—is the right way up but the coats of arms of the other three countries are upside down; and I thought that I could not wear a "grand slam" tie like that on a day when we are discussing devolution. Therefore, having explained myself to the noble Lord opposite, and knowing that he did not mean that impression to get across, I have put in this qualification just in case anybody should think he was being so mundane as to believe that we would vote ourselves all that money. In fact, I hope they are not too dependent, if they come to exist, on the other place because those of us who are noble Lords and work for nothing do not do very well ourselves out of the other place. I should like to think, though, that devolution has nothing to do with separatism—and this was emphasised by the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down. But with some of our ultra nationalists I depict a xenophobic extravagance that is sometimes unimpressive to those of us who also love our country. Others of us who may be over-stimulated by cries of "Devolution!" are just as much in favour of keeping alive the culture, the beauty, the music or the little cottage that is not far from Borth-y-Gest, Y Carreg Wen, where the greatest Welsh harpist lived. I know that the noble and learned Lord knows that lovely little cottage. We want to keep those things. My own mother enjoyed singing "Penillion" while the harp was being played. We want to keep those things, to stimulate and spread them, just as much as the ultra Plaid Cymru. Furthermore, despite all the debates on Scotland and Wales regarding nationalism, I still seem to think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, who had an Amendment down during the latter part of the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill, had a point. Devolution in Wales and Scotland does, to my mind, change the constitution of England or of the United Kingdom. It changes the constitution of this Parliament, and the relationship has yet to be worked out. Changes in the government of the United Kingdom are things that we learn ultimately by trial and error. We have had two speeches. One was from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke —and I remember his period in the other place when he served Wales well and, as the son-in-law of a Welsh Rugby player, who could think anything but grand of him? We would even let him walk on water! But I think it does change the functions of a Welsh Member of Parliament in this place. How, we shall have to learn by experience. We can argue that it will not, but I think the facts and realities of Government will mean that it will. I had the pleasure, with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with representatives of the Liberals and others, of discussing the Kilbrandon Report on television. All this has come out of the Kilbrandon Committee, which was set up by a Labour Government. They saw the force of nationalism and its movements in Wales and in Scotland. I want to use the word "nationalism" without the colour and without the prejudice. I do not want the word to be synonymous with xenophobia; in other words, I am talking about true nationalism. These were the objectives put to Kilbrandon and it is worth repeating them, despite the well-informed House to which I am speaking. The objectives were to examine whether any Government changes or economic changes—I ask your Lordships to note the word "economic"—were necessary in the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The report implied that Wales and Scotland should have Assemblies with legislative power. The minority report did not concur with this. But what I want to emphasise is that Kilbrandon also looked at the economic side of the question. I have said this before, but when I was a child there were 60 pits in the Rhondda and the old Welshmen used to say that the Rhondda was so narrow that the river ran sideways. Will the Welsh Assembly re-establish any of those mines? Will it bring to those valleys some hope of economic activity? Those are not nasty questions to try to prove a partisan point of view. They are important to all sides of this House and the other place, whatever our political views. I do not want to score a political point from it, because one does not know what will be the Party power in that Assembly. So we should now be concentrating on the realities—I shall now use an ugly word —of the doomed international business system. I say that, because in some ways the old-fashioned international business system is doomed. We have to find new ways for man to exchange his services, and the only ways which we now have which are working well, are the invisible exports. They are doing more than the man in the street realises for the prosperity such as it is, of a nation like this. I noticed that the other night in connection with a practical problem that I had, because I am interested in platinum. I do not want noble Lords to run away with the idea that my pockets are full of platinum, hut we are trying to establish the platinum market in London. Because of the competition from the Common Market and other places, this is a new activity and we are succeeding. This is the fifth year that men and women from all over the world who know what they are talking about in the platinum market have come here. What has this to do with Welsh devolution? It has to do with the fact that new methods of earning a living must be discovered by the United Kingdom. New methods applied to the old-fashioned ways of earning a living might be a better way of putting it. So I say we should be concentrating on these realities. Do not let us make this a Party point, because when the Conservative Party are in power they have to do it, too. They have to grant millions of pounds to shipbuilders. As I said years ago, we have discovered a system of society that socialises the losses, and privatises the profits. I ask your Lordships to look at the report of the Public Accounts Committee and see how much money we are putting into private enterprise in order to create employment. Will the Welsh Assembly have the same powers of distributing largesse to industries in Wales?—it might be mushroom growing, or it might be Welsh farming in carrion, which we were interested in when I was a little boy. Will the Assembly even have powers to contradict, sometimes, or to appeal for more money to help investment in industries which have under-investment? I need not go into the esoteric fact that economists are now discovering, that, because of mechanisation and modern technology, the more investment you put into something the less employment you get. Always one is shouting for more and more investment, but look at the machines that will be bought, and look at the printing industry and Fleet Street. That is part of the problem. You may not have had your Sunday Observer or your copy of The Times. Some of your Lordships may take the Daily Worker, which came out. These are the problems facing the entire world. Where does this Assembly stand? The Kilbrandon Report talked about economic changes. Do we realise, when we talk of nationalism, that it springs out of a dialectic? It springs out of the fact that part of the reason for the growth of some nationalism is work, and a feeling that it will do better for the country. I enjoyed the noble and learned Lord's remark and he was quite right; we are all a little prejudiced. When I am up against civil servants, they are just civil servants. When I think that they are doing moderately well, they are officials. But when I think that they have wrecked the Davies Plan they are bureaucrats. We all tend to think that. I do not want the Welsh Assembly to establish another 1,000 or more bureaucrats, because the responsibility in Government is already overlapping enough. The man in a remote Welsh village today probably has a little more difficulty than the Chinese—and I have been in a number of Chinese villages —in solving his little problem of sharpening his plough or repairing his little tractor, because of the simple system of Chinese production. That is the kind of Marxism which noble Lords opposite know about, because they are snuggling up to China, with its Mao-Leninist Marxism. I do not know why noble Lords laugh at the truth, although I suppose that one should sometimes do that. So I hope that there will not be serious points of overlapping in government. Another realm of exaggerated, eccentric and capricious promises was when the sovereignty of the United Kingdom was pruned and the loyal Commonwealth was cut off. We were promised many safeguards, and when the noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked whether we would discuss this Bill word by word, and paragraph by paragraph, I remembered that I sat on the opposite Benches when the Bill on the Common Market went through here like lightning. We did not make an amendment to it, we did not change a comma, semi-colon or full-stop, and it went through—whizz. The chief gardener with the pruning hook was the right honourable gentleman Mr. Edward Heath because he had instructed his minions not to let Davies or anybody else stop that Bill going through, so they went into the Lobby like rabbits to support the Bill on the Common Market. They did not want a long discussion on that, because it was the law of the Medes and Persians from the other place. This is different. I am prepared for a long discussion on this Bill, and am ready to cross the "Ts" as well, but I resented and regretted some promises that were made when that former Bill went through. We were promised that beef and dairy products from New Zealand and Australia would be safeguarded? Are they? I do not want to be controversial, but I do not know. If a Welsh Bill is enacted, it will mean fundamental changes in our conventions and, eventually—I may be corrected here—there may be some changes in our courts of law. The Welsh Assembly will be jealous of the power in local government. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest was meticulous, clever, articulate and so accurate when he pointed out that the Assembly can make recommendations for local government but cannot implement them. We ought to listen and we must listen to those recommendations. While there is all this interference with government, the economic bandwagon is going backwards. I do not think that we can afford the luxury of new national Assemblies. The whole nation should be dropping some of its bitter antagonism one against the other, so as to build up an economic system which can withstand the shock of multi-nationalism in firms and the shock of the economic system in which we are living. Genuine local government in Wales needs to be improved. The Welshman wants to feel that he has a say. There will be questions from Welsh Members on education, housing, water supplies, roads, social work, tourism, forestry. I notice that agriculture is not mentioned in the Bill. However, anybody who tries to make a living on a Welsh hill farm is a person who really works, and so is his wife. I remember that after the war the women of Britain were invited to celebrate their contribution to winning the war; but one woman was missing—the small farmer's wife who throughout the war had been milking and ploughing. She was forgotten. In many of the wilder parts of Wales hill farming is one of the toughest ways of earning a living. The hill farmer earns much less money than a bus conductor, but he lives that kind of life because of its freedom. He can breathe deeply. That kind of life develops the bass voices, the contralto voices, the tenor voices. There is a certain joy in that kind of life which has got nothing to do with making money. If I may turn to the question of who will be able to stand for the Welsh Assembly, I believe there will be nothing to prevent a Lord from standing. In fact, I might have a go myself; it might be a place where I can earn a few coppers besides the pittance I get here, which I spend every day.
My Lords, would it not be rather sad for this House if the noble Lord were to sit in the Welsh Assembly, for then we should not have the pleasure of listening to him?
My Lords, am sure that I should so work it that I could come here as well. To be serious, is there to be only Welsh representation in the Assembly? This House and the other place have accepted people from the Commonwealth. People from the Commonwealth have been elevated to this House —proudly and justly so—and they have been allowed to stand as Members of Parliament in the other place. However, will the Welsh Assembly allow an expatriate Welshman like me to stand for the Assembly? I would go back to Wales tomorrow to live, but I have to listen to my wife. I was delighted to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, say that of course there must be the opportunity to speak in either Welsh or English in the Assembly and that it should not create great difficulty. However, we ought to let Plaid Cymru know that a Welshman like myself might take it into his head to stand for the Welsh Assembly, and that it will not be packed with people who are madly ultra-nationalist.Clause 37 is full of economic guidelines. If I may refer to the Kilbrandon Report, economic changes are emphasised. We must not speak just about sweet nationalism and forget about the realities of the world in which we live. I do not believe that the Welsh Assembly has been given sufficient power to deal with the basic needs of Welsh industry and employment. May I ask what constructive schemes the Welsh Assembly will be able to generate for the small hill farmer, for the mining industry, for the quarrying industry and for research? Let us also consider the geographic possibilities in terms of looking again at the country and mapping it. May I ask what powers the Assembly will have to attract investment in industry and agriculture? Accompanying these essential questions is this point. If the Welsh nationalists insist that when my wife is driving her car through Wales she should read the signposts in Welsh, they will create the greatest confusion. The Welsh nationalists say that they want to attract tourists, but they will lose millions of pounds through loss of tourists. To change the signposts from English into Welsh is an absolutely idiotic idea. Noble Lords opposite will be travelling to China by the cartload now, and they ought to realise that even the Chinese are putting up signs in English. When I first went to Peking I knew about 100 words of Chinese and about three hieroglyphics. If I visit Peking now, though, I do not get lost because, sensibly, the Chinese are beginning to attract tourists and are catering for them. Surely the Welsh can learn this simple lesson and leave the English signposts alone. Welsh signposts could be put up as well, but for wild men to go around blacking out the English signposts seems to me to be idiotic if one wants to attract tourists to the country. Noble Lords will be glad to hear that I have come to the end of my speech and that I shall leave on one side the erudite information which is contained in the rest of my notes. Instead I shall say that I am quite sure that both in this House and in the other place we have shown the Welsh people that we want to try to find an answer to this problem. I hope that it will be a sound answer. When we are speaking of nationalism we should remember that the economic factors, too, are—I would not say of paramount importance, but of basic importance.
My Lords, I am no Welshman and I have no personal associations with the Principality. When I read that this debate was to take place I carried out an investigation in depth into my family pedigree to see whether I could find a modicum of Welsh blood flowing placidly through my veins, but not a drop came to light. I was told that nothing short of a massive blood transfusion would do the trick. Therefore, I do not feel qualified to express a personal view as to the feelings of the people of Wales as a whole about devolution, or about the strength of the demand in Wales for some measure on the general lines put forward in this Bill. We shall have to wait for the final reactions for the referendum which is to be held—I think deplorably and regrettably late in the proceedings.We have listened with pleasure to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, speaking with great charm of the Welsh nation. As he spoke, I wondered whether I could get on to the housing list of Borth-y-Gest or share the little cottage that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, mentioned with the Welsh harpist. I am very fond of the harp. I should like to say only this about the referendum. If there is to be a referendum, it seems to me to be a pity that it should not take place before instead of after weeks of Parliamentary time has been consumed in discussion about the actual format of Bills which may never be approved. If these Bills are eventually rejected by referenda I think many admirers of our Parliament as the most experienced Parliament in the world will feel surprised and confused at our Parliamentary methods. My own view is adverse to the use of referenda except in extremely rare circumstances. I regard a referendum as a device by which Parliament passes back to the electorate decisions which it is constitutionally elected to decide. Anyway, thank heaven that the Government on second thoughts have decided to bring forward separate Bills for Scotland and Wales because the circumstances in each country are very different. In all my Parliamentary experience I can never remember major Bills which have attracted less real enthusiasm from the ranks of any of the political Parties, including their respective heirarchies. The reactions to date are utterly confusing. Am I right in understanding that to date fewer than half the Welsh Labour constitutencies have supported the intention to set up a Welsh Assembly? My noble friend Lord Elton mentioned the number of clauses and the number of Schedules which have not received any consideration in the other place. Only a tiny minority have received consideration. That is hardly evidence of much enthusiasm there. Therefore the Bill which has come before us today is largely a bureaucrat-official-civil servant Bill. My Lords,
All I propose to do is to pass on to your Lordships a few reactions which I have received in my capacity as President of the Association of County Councils from members of the eight Welsh county councils. I see the noble Lord, Lord Heycock is in his place. He knows 10 times as much about the Welsh county councils as I shall ever know, and we shall look forward to hearing his views, derived from his long and expert experience. The Association of County Councils, with its membership covering both the 39 non-metropolitan counties in England as well as the eight Welsh counties, has naturally taken a great deal of trouble to elucidate the views of its Welsh members. I think it would be right to say that, while some members would be in favour of some measure of devolution and some form of Welsh Council, very few seem to favour this Bill as it stands. What are their criticisms? I will mention briefly four criticisms which have been brought to my notice by consultation with them. First, they believe that the net effect will be to weaken, and not to strengthen, local government in Wales. That is the most important conclusion. The Explanatory Memorandum says that the Bill does not alter the responsibilities of the local associations. That may be true at the time the Act comes into force, but many knowledgeable people believe that once the Assembly gets under way there will be a strong tendency for it to seek, and probably to obtain, additional powers and responsibilities, and almost certainly some of them from subordinate authorities. Thus, local government may well end up not closer to, but further away from, the people concerned. There is a strong Welsh opinion that that may happen. Secondly, the Secretary of State for Wales on many occasions in another place has protested that the Assembly does not constitute an additional tier on the grounds that the powers are already being exercised and only transferred. Nevertheless, it seems to me as it has seemed to the noble Lord, Lord Banks, apparently, that in terms of administrative machinery the Bill will, if it is passed, constitute an additional tier. Third, as regards finance, one cannot feel at all happy about Clause 58 which transfers to the Welsh authority responsibility for the allocation of the rate support grant between the local authorities. Will there not be a real danger that the local authorities may lose their rights of consultation which they now have with departments before grants are settled? What about the cost? We are told that the Bill will involve an additional number of—what am I to call them?—bureaucratic-official-civil servants, at a cost of £9½ million and another £3 million, adding up to a total running cost of £½ million. From past experience, such estimates in Financial Memoranda are almost always greatly exceeded in practice. Where will trained staff come from—from the Departments in London? One doubts whether that will happen. Then, the unfettered power of the Assembly to appoint as many officers and servants as they think appropriate and to pay themselves what remuneration they deem they are worth, seems to be an open-ended commitment. I do not know how the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, will find that if he gets himself elected to the Assembly. One cannot feel happy about the accountability of the Comptroller and Auditor General, as my noble friend has mentioned. Then the proposed committee system of the Assembly will mean that there will be committees dealing with the same subjects of education, planning, social services, transportation, et cetera, at two levels: at the level of the Assembly and at the existing level of the local authority. That might well prove a source of conflict between the Assembly and the local authorities and also bring about additional costs in manpower, time and potential delay. Lastly, Clause 12, to put it mildly, seems to have few supporters among members of the Welsh local authorities and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, has to tell us about that. The invitation in the Bill to the Assembly to suggest changes in the structure of local government in Wales is considered to be most objectionable, on two grounds. First, it is an open invitation to initiate—not more than that—a major reconstruction of local government when the dominating need is for a period of stability during which local authorities can concentrate their efforts on continuing to improve their standards of service to the community. Secondly, the Welsh Assembly having itself assumed responsibilities in this field must surely be the wrong body to adjudicate on problems in which it may well have acquired a vested interest by that time. This clause will clearly call for severe criticism at the Committee stage and I trust that it will be eliminated. In the dramatic phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, we must not let that clause "whizz through" without a great deal of comment. The last thing required is another basic reconstruction of local government and the transfer of responsibilities from more local authorities to a regional Assembly. As the Government's own White Paper, Devolution: The English Dimension, says:"When the trumpet gives forth an uncertain sound who shall prepare himself for battle?"
That is in paragraph 83. I believe that to be as true of Wales as it is thought to be in the case of the rest of the United Kingdom. There are a lot of other matters which will require clarification in due course which I will not mention now, such as what will happen on the transfer of the right of appeal from a local authority to a Minister in a devolved matter. Will it be adjudicated on by the Assembly itself or will the Assembly delegate it to a committee of the Assembly? If that last course were followed, I think it would be regarded as a further source of conflict and delay. The Explanatory Memorandum says:"A further reorganisation so soon after the last one would be bound to create confusion in the mind of the average elector. It is also probable that he would feel more remote from the affairs of a local government body administering services over a much wider area".
Perhaps, again, it is not without significance that the Government White Paper, Devolution: the English Dimension, says:"The Bill does not alter the responsibilities of local authorities".
My Lords, we have been warned. My noble friend, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I thought made a very good point when he referred to the depreciation of the responsibilities of Welsh Members of Parliament. So, my Lords, there we are. We have a Bill brought forward, I think, with no clearly explained reason, with no powerful indentifiable support, to deal with problems which many, perhaps most, Welsh people believe will not be solved in that particular way. Any improvements in local government organisation which can be seen in the light of experience of the past few years to be required, can perfectly well be brought about by consultation and administrative adjustments without major legislation such as we have brought before us, and without further complicating the system, without adding further to its expense, or counter-productively rendering local government not closer to, but more remote from, those whom it is its function to serve."Many functions of the counties would need to be raised to the new regional authorities".
My Lords, apparently there has been a typing error in the list of speakers. I am told that in the original list my name appeared as the eighth speaker to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and I have been directed by our Chief Whip to do so now. Let me state at the outset that I am a Welshman and very proud of the fact. The people of Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, stated, form a distinctive and separate nation. No one as yet has been able to define nationhood, but we do know what are its characteristics.First, we in Wales have our own language. According to the late D. R. Grenfell, M.P., it is the oldest language known to man. In that case it must have been the language of the Garden of Eden, but I am not suggesting that Adam and Eve fell because they spoke Welsh. I once had to spend a night in an hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan. It being a very hot evening, I took a chair and sat on the beach. An Arab came up to me and said, "Do you see that mountain over there? That is Mount Nebo. It was from there that Moses ascended to Heaven". I thereupon jumped to my feet and sang an old Welsh hymn appertaining to Mount Nebo. When I had finished he said to me, "What language is that?" "Oh", I said, "That is the language that Moses learned after he got to Heaven". In Wales all our place names have a meaning. Some names are short, others are rather long. For instance, we have Cwm which means a valley; that locates the village for you instantly. Then in Anglesey we have a very small village called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwillllantysiliogogogoch. I think we deserve to have this Bill passed if only because we have that name. It is a spoken language. It may surprise your Lordships to know that I have never spoken an English word to the Lord Chancellor, not once. I greet him in Welsh and we chat in Welsh, with never an English word. Representatives of Wales have been in the forefront in every sphere. We gave Britain its greatest king in the person of Henry VIII, who spoke Welsh. He was quite modern in the manner in which he dealt with wives. We provided the greatest statesman of all time in the person of David Lloyd George. What about the theatre? There we have had Emlyn Williams, Sir Lewis Casson, Richard Burton and Rupert Davies. What about our great singers. I am thinking of such persons as Leila Megan, James Sauvage and Ben Davies. Any great artists? Yes, Augustus John. What about architecture? Who can forget Inigo Jones and Sir Clough Williams Ellis? The man known as the Homer of Britain was our poet T. Gwynne Jones. Theologians? Yes, the greatest, C. H. Dodd. Doctors of Medicine—the renowned Sir Robert Jones. Boxers—Peterson, Tommy Farr and Jimmy Wilde. Variety entertainers—Harry Secombe, Max Boyce and Shirley Bassey. We hold sway in the world of sport, with Dai Rees the golfer, Billy Meredith, the footballer, and John Gareth Edwards, the rugby player. Lastly, we have our own country, and what a delightful country it is—visited every year by thousands of tourists from all parts of the world. I have said all this simply to establish the fact beyond all question that we are a separate nation. If this is true, then we are entitled to all that this Bill proposes. Let me make it quite clear that we do not believe in separatism. We do not want to separate from Britain. We are British and wish to be attached to the United Kingdom and governed by the central Government here in London. However, London is so far away that we feel a need for the proposed Assembly to consider Welsh problems and advise the Government as to the best solutions. The proposed Assembly, unlike the one in Scotland, will be an administrative body and not a legislative body. The Assembly will be composed of men and women who have spent years in social service. They will consider in great detail all the problems presented to them and then propose to the Government their solutions to such problems. The Welsh Office has neither the time nor the facilities to deal with the varied problems. Let us take as an example the good news given only last week by the Secretary of State for Wales. He announced a massive £6.5 million factory building programme in North-East and North-West Wales. The Welsh Development Agency confirmed the announcement, and added that the Agency is now programming advance factories at the rate of four a week. That is a remarkable achievement which has not been equalled since the end of the last war. The programme announced concerns 1,100,000 square feet of new factory space to he built during the current financial year. Would it not have been a blessing had the proposed Assembly been already operating and able to offer expert advice on the placing of these factories? That would have avoided the distress which we have so often experienced of seeing some of these factories unoccupied for several months and even several years. Indeed it is a waste of money. What pleases me most in the Bill is the inclusion of a provision requiring the Assembly to review the structure of local government in Wales. Local government in Wales is, in my opinion in a shambles. The last reorganisation of local government was bungled by the then Government and, of course, it was a Tory Government. In the process of reorganisation many local identities were lost. Many of the towns and cities that had carried out certain functions of local government over the generations and centuries lost their powers. That was most regrettable. Fancy the Borough Council of Wrexham being reduced to a community council, a parish council! Local Government reorganisation was a bureaucratic extravaganza. We have been reduced to eight county councils with a number of counties without identical interests being clubbed together. Fancy Merionethshire, Caernarvonshire, and Anglesey now forming one County! It is simply ridiculous, to say the least. The first duty of the Assembly will be to spend a few months studying carefully how to reorganise local government on a fairer, less bureaucratic and cheaper basis. When its recommendations are completed it will present them to the central Government here in London. The Government in their turn, knowing the care which had been taken by the Assembly to form its conclusions, will readily accept them. About an hour ago I picked up a volume in the Library entitled, The Principal Secretary of State. I was struck by the first sentence in the preface which read as follows:
Similarly, I believe that the problems of Wales can be solved by the sound and sagacious administration of the proposed Assembly. May I say in conclusion that, in view of the fact that in this Bill there is no impairment of the supremacy of Parliament and that the people of Wales by means of a referendum shall eventually decide the fate of the Bill, we should pass it in this House in a matter of days and not weeks. I cannot tell your Lordships what will be the result of the referendum. I have my doubts. However, let the people of Wales decide. Do not let us waste weeks and weeks and the time of this House discussing this Bill. Let us pass it and let the people of Wales tell us what to do with it."Queen Elizabeth solved her problems by sound and sagacious administration rather than by any striking political measure".
My Lords, I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, who has just spoken with such eloquence and others who have addressed themselves to the same theme that no one in this House for one moment doubts that the Welsh are a great people; Wales a great country; and the Welsh language a great language. However, that is not what we are debating. We are asking ourselves: is the Wales Bill a great Bill? And one of your Lordships at least thinks that it is a half-baked Bill!I shall try to explain to your Lordships why I take that view. I realise, of course, that with so many Welsh men and women of distinction in their places today, starting with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who has advanced the cause of the Bill with his customary charm and eloquence, Englishmen like the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and myself must give some explanation for having the temerity to address your Lordships at all. For three years I for my part was Under-Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs and in charge of them at the Dispatch Box opposite. I am happy to see the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, in her place, because I remember that Walter Elliot, of happiest memory, once remarked that there was no more rumbustious Parliamentary occasion, nothing to make the political pulse race more quickly, than a midnight adjournment debate on Scottish agricultural housing. Fortunately that type of thing did not happen in any Welsh debate in which I took part, and I assure those who have not done so that a debate in your Lordships' House about an attempt by some city like Manchester or Wolverhampton to flood a Welsh valley for the sake of its water supply turns Cardiff Arms Park into a mausoleum in comparison. Indeed, I remember that I also participated in a personal indiscretion when I allowed your Lordships to refuse the dismemberment of five Territorial Army bands. There were loud cheers in your Lordships' House. There was singing in the Valleys but that joy was not reciprocated in the Treasury where I had absentmindedly failed to obtain permission for my action. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the time was Mr. Enoch Powell who had hitherto been a friend of mine. He did not speak to me for quite a long time after this happened, and when he did he spoke with point and without his customary mysticism. My master in those days was Gwillym Lloyd George the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs. He was a most charming and sophisticated politician who came to this House as Lord Tenby and whose son made his maiden speech the other day. However, Gwillym Lloyd George was not a man who ever allowed excessive activity to interfere with his common sense. In other words, he let me get on with the job. He gave me two pieces of advice which I have never forgotten. The first was "Never venture to speak a single word of Welsh in Wales—they will not give you the benefit of the doubt". The second was: "If you want to hold a conference at which you wish people of both North and South Wales to attend, hold it in Birmingham or London". Occasionally he went to Wales but, fortunately he preferred to send me on a great number of occasions. I noticed, however, that whenever he did go the stationmaster at Cardiff wore a top hat but for me he only wore a bowler. My duties enabled me in the course of three years to travel all over Wales and I am happy to think that I know Wales better than many Welshmen. Once a quarter I used to preside over a meeting of the Welsh Heads of Government Departments in Cardiff and we discussed all the problems that primarily affected Wales in those days. (This was nearly 20 years ago.) We discussed unemployment, agriculture, the environment, health, education and other day-to-day problems. I do not know whether we achieved a great deal, but the Welsh civil servants (I shall not call them bureaucrats), the highly-skilled Welsh civil servants, listened to me with patience and courtesy, as all Welshmen always do, and then they went away back to their desks as if nothing had happened. There were Members of the Party sitting opposite who called this window-dressing, and it was for that reason, think, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, reminded us, that the post was upgraded to that of a Minister of State and the office moved to Wales. However, it was still called window-dressing and I have a nasty feeling that this Bill is also a bit of window-dressing. Look therefore who is talking now! This Bill is just a political expediency disguised as a modest administrative reform. There is even a risk that it will not be an administrative reform at all, but will turn out to be a costly administrative jumble. Of course, as has been indicated in the debate, it will help some people. I thought that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, in his most eloquent speech, rather played down the dangers of separatism and devolution. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was more frank about it. I do not say that this risk is widespread; I do not say that it is widely felt; but there is the danger—and we must admit it—of demands for more separatism, more devolution and a greater desire to separate Wales from England. The demand exists and it is stupid not to admit it. There are even those who wish to see the break up of the United Kingdom. They may not be numerous, but they are vocal. There are also those who would like to see a concentration of political power, and this will inevitably lead to cliques and caucuses. We have heard a great deal about unemployment being helped by the creation of 1,500 more jobs for the administrators. That does not worry me a great deal. However, the man I should like to see employed in this role is Mr. Leslie Chapman. He wrote a book, which was published only a few days ago, called Your Disobedient Servant, in which he describes his attempts to make savings in the Civil Service throughout Britain and the ways in which he was continually thwarted. The real danger however that I see here is the danger to the Welsh language. I would agree with every word that has been said about the rights of this proud people to maintain their beautiful, ancient though difficult language. But if one has to be able to speak Welsh in order to reach a senior position in the administration, I can see quite a few English speaking Welshmen saying "It is not worth it" and they will look for jobs in England to the detriment of the administration in Wales. So much for people who would be helped by the Bill. What about the potential damage? Frankly, I think that there will be constitutional and administrative confusion, particularly as it looks as though the Bill may come into operation about the time of a General Election. I think that there is real justification for the ministerial misgivings which we hear echoing down the corridors of Whitehall. I think that this Bill is an irrelevant diversion of effort and energy, which is greatly required elsewhere in Wales. There is also a risk of constitutional conflict, particularly if the Assembly starts to flex its muscles, remembers what Acton said about power tending to corrupt, and asks for more. I am also worried by the point made by several noble Lords about the relations between the Assembly and Members of Parliament in another place. I think that there is real ground for friction here. Nor have we discovered the relationship between the Assembly and your Lordships House. We know that the right honourable gentleman, the Member for Ebbw Vale, wants to "lop us off". But there are others—myself included—who feel differently. Are the Lords to be allowed to discuss Welsh affairs at all? What matters are to be confined to the Assembly? Has this been thought out? Where will the line be drawn? Therefore, I think that the whole constitutional situation requires very careful thought, and I hope that we shall give it that thought during the Committee stage. I hope we shall also pay particular attention to the relationship of the Secretary of State both to the Cabinet and to the Assembly. I impolitely called this Bill a piece of window dressing. I am in the retail trade myself. I am the chairman of a group of about 60 shops, and window dressing is a particularly important part of our trade. But we also make certain that the goods on the shelves behind the windows are worthy of the window. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has not so convinced me that he will find in me by any means an enthusiastic customer.
My Lords, when I last spoke in your Lordships' House I raised three distinct points. The first was that we should have a separate Bill for Wales, and I then indicated quite clearly to your Lordships' House that Wales had a background quite distinct from that of Scotland. At that time the urge for devolution in Wales emerged very clearly from its linguist c background; it sprang essentially from a desire to preserve the language. On that occasion I said that in Scotland it sprang from an economic motive. They were quite distinct and different philosophical approaches to the question of devolution.I then went on clearly to indicate that it was for the people of Wales to decide this issue. In the original Bill—and the debate on the Bill was guillotined—under pressure the Government conceded that in a purely free and democratic society a referendum should be held and the people should decide the issue for themselves. I have cited those two points because I believe that the people of Wales should be able to decide whether or not they require a devolved system of government. Because of the linguistic background I believe that it is necessary for the people to decide. Earlier the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor indicated that consultations had taken place since 1973. I took part in those consultations. During that time I represented the Welsh counties and we were given the clear impression that if we supported an elected Assembly for Wales, there would be no general effect upon local government in Wales. However, in the first White Paper there was no indication of that. When the Bill was published and for those reasons, six Welsh counties decided to support an elected Assembly; one county decided not to support any form of devolution in Wales, and a third county—a Northern county where my noble friend Lord Maelor comes from—was vitally concerned that Wales should have a legislative Assembly. That promise to support the Assembly was clearly based upon the promises made that there would be no interference in local government. I shall deal with the elected Assembly and its relationship generally in a moment or two. My noble friend Lord Maelor said that lie denigrated the local authorities; he said that local government was in a shambles. I say to my noble friend Lord Maelor that I would not dare criticise the Houses of Parliament, where he has sat for so many years. I have spent 42 years of my life in local government, so I know it. A prominent Minister has made the same statement, that local government in the Principality is in a shambles. If it has been in a shambles in the Principality since 1888—and local government is linked historically to England—it must be in a shambles in England. I made the point earlier, when I asked some years ago whether or not it was possible to prevent the advent of local government reorganisation before the Crowther Report, and the answer given me by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who is not here today, was that they would not anticipate local government reorganisation in advance of the Crowther and then the Kilbrandon Reports. But we had reorganisation. Noble Lords have stressed the importance of the preservation of the Welsh language. One realises historically that culture in any form springs from language. The moment people are able to convey their ideas to each other, that is the beginning of culture. Springing from the Welsh language is a fine cultural background. But I say to my noble friend Lord Maelor, "Who preserved the Welsh language in South Wales? Was it the Members of Parliament?" No, it was the local authority of Glamorgan, which with I am privileged to be associated. For 30 years I have been a member of that authority and we were able to preserve the cultural heritage of that part of the world. If the county council had not accepted its responsibility and decided to do everything in the primary schools of Wales, the language would have been lost. Let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that if we are not to have a division in Wales, which we could very well have, at least we should try to develop the concept that our schools in Wales should become bilingual, so that at the end of a period children would be able to converse in both languages. It has been said that the Assembly does not mean another tier of government. Certainly that is not the situation. I am concerned at this stage with the question as to why there are not the appropriate bodies to examine local government reorganisation. I have lived in Wales all my life, and it has been very clearly explained here this afternoon that the centre in the Assembly is precisely the same centre for the committee structure for the county council. In some parts of Wales it is said that the Assembly will become more or less a glorified county council. That is the body which is going to determine when local government is to occur in Wales. I opposed it before in this House. I felt it was premature to have local government reorganisation. West Glamorgan was a new county. We built it into a county in four years, and I want to give that county council many more years to establish itself. In four years what was the result of the administration in that county? Eighty-five per cent. of the children are in nursery schools. In the last Budget provisions was made for in-service training of 70 teachers. But those teachers cannot be released from school to do the in-service training required to enable them to fit in with the philosophical changes occurring in education. That is what the county council have done. I am not going to listen to people who say we are in a shambles. In the four years —and I am looking at the Minister for the Arts—we in Glamorgan have a Mozart Festival, and we are keeping abreast of all developments. For 30 years I was chairman of an education committee. I want to say this afternoon that I played second fiddle to no one in making provision for the boys and girls of our county. When I began there were 84 scholarships, and when I finished there were 8,400 scholarships. We say that, in a civilised community, boys and girls to whom God has given an intellect, should have the opportunity of using it to the full. The county councils in Wales are doing their job and I am privileged to be their president. I said earlier what would be their reaction if they had realised that there was going to be inserted in the Bill a clause, such as Clause 12, which gives responsibility for local government reorganisation. When local government reorganisation is being considered it is necessary to secure people who are completely independent. If the Bill had provided that independent people should examine local government in Wales, I would have said that is fair enough; but this Assembly will be self interested. The logic of this Bill is that there will be a new Assembly with no reservoir of experience whatsoever, and we are going to ask it to do fundamental things—to change the character of local government. There is to he a cleavage on the reserve powers given to the Secretary of State and the devolved powers given to the Assembly. At this moment on the rate support grant we can have consultation. But here we shall have to talk with the Secretary of State and talk with the Assembly—a complicated process of trying to get the allocation of money to carry out the services the responsibility for which Parliament has placed on the local authority. It is as complicated as it can possibly be. We come to the question of devolution. I was charmed, as I have been charmed for many years, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest. I have been privileged to serve for all the years he served the university. I admire his choice of words, his eloquence, his way of putting the case concretely and correctly. But I say with respect that I have been nearer to the political base of Wales than he has. I listened to the eloquence of Queen's Counsel and of the Lord Chancellor putting the case, but I realised the noble and learned Lord was not altogether with it; he was not quite the Lord Chancellor. He has a lot of charm, but he was not quite right in putting forward the case as a cause he believed in. Make no mistake, there are political elements in Wales that want separation, and those political elements are very important. There is one thing that I fear about this process of devolution. One does not object to devolution, because power has already been devolved in many ways to the Secretary of State. On further education, as I argued 10 years ago should have been done, powers have been devolved; also on agriculture. One does not argue on the philosophical basis of a devolved situation. But when devolution comes to change the character of government of a people one must look at it extremely carefully. I live in the constituency that the Secretary of State represents. I have been treasurer of the local Labour Party for 40 years. I am the man who finds the money for him. If I walk down Station Road and say to people, "What about devolution?", they say, "What are you talking about?". But if one walks down Station Road on a Saturday morning and asks them about developments in the Steel Company of Wales, and how to guarantee its future, one receives a ready response, very clearly. These issues will face any future Government: unemployment and prices —not devolution. It is said that inflation is going down, but my wife tells me that she pays more for food. Those are the basic situations. Having spent the whole of my life in the Principality, my concern is whether we are doing the right thing at this stage and whether the people of Wales want it. Recently a Gallup Poll was taken, as a result of which it was said that 48 per cent. of the people voted and that the vote balanced out. Where they got that from I do not know. The previous week another Gallup Poll said that 53 per cent. of the people were against and 33 per cent. were for. I hope that people's minds are not pre-conditioned by Gallup Polls. I hope that when the referendum is given to the people of Wales, logical and intelligent questions will be put to them. I hope that the people will decide their destiny, because—make no mistake—the change in local government will vitally affect the economic, sociological and philosophical life of the Principality. In that sense I am a democrat. In conclusion, I say this. We live in a free society. I have been a democrat all my life. I shall support the Bill on one premise: that it gives the people of Wales the right to decide their own destiny. That is the attitude of most people. If there were no referendum I would violently oppose the Bill. However, as there will be a referendum, and as the Government have been good enough to say that in a democratic society the people shall decide, I shall not oppose. I believe in government for the people, by the people. We know that phraseology. Let the people decide. Despite all my apprehensions about separatism from the central Parliament, I say "Let the people decide". I am pretty certain in my own mind that when the people decide, the decision will be "No" to this form of devolution that we are trying to force upon the Welsh people.
My Lords, I must first of all offer my apologies in advance, in case I am not in my place at the end of this debate. I have another engagement this evening: I must ask your Lordships to forgive me if I cannot stay until the end. I think that many of us must have a slight feeling of déjà vu about these whole proceedings, with the shadow of the Scotland Bill hanging over us, too, which has been going on for some weeks past and which is liable to go on for quite a while yet. And now the Wales Bill comes along. I have no doubt that many of the same arguments will be adduced for and against the Wales Bill as were adduced for and against the Scotland Bill. I have been looking back at the report of the debate on the White Paper, slightly over two years ago, in January 1976. I have read some of the speeches made then. I must be careful not to repeat what I said on that occasion. This debate has fewer participants than the Second Reading debate on the Scotland Bill. However, I am sure that that does not mean that any less interest w ill he taken by the people of Wales, as this Bill affects them greatly. It provides for the greatest constitutional change which anyone has introduced since the Union with Scotland. This proposal vitally affects the whole population of Wales.I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Elton on his really masterly speech. Although he is not a Welshman himself, he deserves to be one. That is the highest compliment I can pay my noble friend. We also had a notable contribution by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor. He has perhaps greater experience of government covering the whole of Wales than possibly anyone else in your Lordships' Chamber. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that his speech was one of the major contributions to this debate. I do not come in the same class, I am afraid. I was born in Wales. I have lived there all my life. I have a great love for the country. I would not choose to live anywhere else. I could never call myself a Welsh nationalist but I am, I think, a true Welsh patriot, because I love the country and want to do everything I can for the benefit of my country. However, I should hate anything to happen, or any legislation to be passed by Parliament, which would ultimately be detrimental to Wales. I believe this Bill to be just such a measure. It would eventually weaken Wales. It would make her a poor relation in comparison with the rest of the United Kingdom. As it is now, she has an opportunity to play her part as a partner in the United Kingdom and in the United Kingdom Parliament. I see a Welsh Assembly as a first step to an eventual break-up of the United Kingdom. The same, in my view, applies to the Scottish Assembly. I see them both as being eventually divisive. For that reason I cannot support this Bill. We must obviously give it a Second Reading today. But we must do our best to improve it during its passage through this House and try to make it slightly better than it is. However, one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I travel around mid-Wales and South Wales a fair amount. I have talked to people about this Bill. I have yet to find anyone who is in favour of setting up a Welsh Assembly. My travels do not normally take me to what I might call the more Welsh strongholds of North Wales and West Wales. There, doubtless, one would find more support for this Bill on nationalistic grounds. But the people with whom I have spoken in my own part of Wales and in South Wales cannot see any merit in the Bill or in the Assembly. It is to be thought of as nothing more than a monstrous red herring brought in for reasons of political expediency and a colossal waste of Parliamentary time, when we have far more pressing questions which we would be better employed in discussing—for instance, the national economy, Welsh unemployment, and the housing situation. I am sure that Parliamentary time could be far better spent on a constructive discussion of these matters. I suppose that we could be grateful to the Government for saving us in this Session from some ghastly piece of Socialist legislation. There are silver linings to every cloud—but this cloud is rather murkier than most. I wonder what a Welsh Assembly can do—what it can achieve—that cannot already be done by the Welsh Office as at present set up under the Secretary of State and under the present powers of the Welsh Council? There is probably room for enlargement of the Welsh Council, but it is a valuable advisory body and has proved itself so over the years. I see little that a Welsh Assembly could do that is not already achieved by the Welsh Council and the Welsh Office, and at far less cost. It is only four years since we had a major reorganisation of the local government areas in Wales. Local government has really been put through the mangle. I am not convinced that it was a change for the better. We were far better off under the old county councils. However, that is another matter. The point I wish to make is that here we are, only four years later, discussing a still bigger constitutional change affecting the whole of Wales when the 1974 reorganisation is barely beginning to work. It is much too soon to introduce yet another upheaval of this kind. The Welsh Assembly will mean a sixth tier of government and, so far as the people of Scotland and Wales are concerned, it looks like a severe case of over-government as well as over-representation in their respective Assemblies and in the United Kingdom Parliament. There is a grave danger that the Assembly will be dominated by the more thickly populated industrial areas in South Wales. They cover only a small part of the country, and the rest of the country is predominantly agricultural and relatively thinly populated; and there is a grave danger that the rural interests of Wales will find themselves in a minority and pushed on one side by the spokesmen for the industrial areas. The Assembly will have no legislative powers: it will simply be a talking shop. It will have responsibility, but it will have no real powers. What use is a body like that? My noble friend Lord Mancroft mentioned the question of the Welsh language. Of course I would agree with other speakers that the Members of the Assembly would have a perfect right to address the Assembly in whatever language they chose. The question of simultaneous translation is a complication, but those systems are quite workable now. The more important question is that of the officers and staff of the Assembly. Are they going to be required to speak both languages? If so, I can foresee a Welsh speaking elitist class of civil servant springing up, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft mentioned, and the monoglot English-speaking civil servants will find themselves pushed out in the cold. Let us take a closer look at the cost of this Assembly, because it terrifies me. There was a certain reluctance on the part of the Government at first to disclose some of the figures involved. They are now beginning to emerge. It appears that at present costs it will cost £3 million to adapt and equip the Exchange Building in Cardiff for use by the Assembly, plus another £1 million for office accommodation. Running costs, salaries and services, will run to about £3 million, and on additional civil servants to staff the Assembly there is the staggering figure of £9/ million per annum. Add to that the cost of the referendum and the initial elections to the Assembly, in which connection the figure of 1 million has been mentioned, and a similar sum for the initial removal of staff to Cardiff. Before the first word is spoken in the Assembly, in whichever language, £61 million will have been spent, and it will cost £12½ million a year to run at present costs, and who knows what inflation may bring in the future. When we are told of the necessity to curtail public expenditure in Wales and in the rest of the United Kingdom, especially on housing, the National Health Service, and on defence, it seems sheer insanity to talk of adding yet another £12 million per annum, on an increasing scale, to our budget. The next point I wish to talk about is the method of election to the Assembly. Although I am a firm supporter of the first-past-the-post system for Parliamentary Elections, I think that in the case of the Welsh Assembly we ought to have some form of proportional representation because there is a grave danger, looking at the present representation of Wales in Parliament, that you would get a permanent one-Party majority in the Assembly, which would be very undesirable. So for that reason I think you would get a much fairer representation of the minority Parties if the Assembly was elected on some system of proportional representation. The passage of this Bill in another place was a patchy one because, as my noble friend Lord Elton told us, the discussion of certain parts of the Bill was severely curtailed. It is a shameful indictment of the present Government that they were prepared to allow this to happen to a Bill of such major constitutional importance. Therefore, it is more than ever necessary, more than ever the duty of this House, to give this Bill a thorough and searching examination before we finish with it. We must do the best we can with this Bill. It is a thoroughly bad Bill, but we must try to knock it into some kind of shape before we send it back to the other place. When cases like this arise where the other place is inhibited from discussing a Bill in full, who can doubt the indispensability of a second Chamber in our Parliamentary system. At the end of the day when this Bill is passed—as I suppose it will be, although perhaps not quite in its present form—the issue will be put to the Welsh people to decide. The Welshman, or Welshwoman for that matter, is a canny individual and not easily hoodwinked. He or she does not easily allow the wool to be pulled over his or her eyes. In the end the native common sense of the Welsh will prevail. They will see through this Bill for the piece of window dressing which it is, and as my noble friend Lord Mancroft called it. It is totally unnecessary and it will not achieve anything. It will not improve the position of Wales one iota and I hope that, when the day comes for the referendum, the people of Wales will consign this half-baked idea to the oblivion which it so richly deserves.
My Lords, one of the many extraordinary features of your Lordships' House is that it gives someone with no political ambition a platform from which to pontificate. While noble Lords may not like very much what I have to say—I am sure that as usual, my Front Bench will not like it—noble Lords can always go to sleep. However, I hope to put a slightly earthy and plebian view on the Bill. Certainly I am unable to dissect it analytically and logically as other noble Lords have done, though I must say it gave me some pleasure to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor find that Schedule 2 was a little complicated.I am a mongrel Welshman, my ancestor sensibly and successfully seducing a very beautiful Welsh heiress a couple of centuries or so ago—which, in Wales, I would remind the House, was only yesterday—so I am therefore speaking with rather less knowledge than usual; I am happier discussing things like farms or sheep or even boats. I therefore ask for more indulgence than usual, particularly as I am sandwiched in the list of speakers between my noble friend Lord Swansea and the noble Baroness, Lady White, both of whom are unfortunate enough to come from the wrong end of Wales. I fully and completely sympathise with the spirit behind devolution for Wales. I understand and admire the wish to retain and enhance the Welsh language, the Welsh philosophy, individuality, sensitivity and particularly romanticism, and indeed the wish to see that Wales remains Welsh; and I hope I shall not be classed as a racist for making such a remark. I understand and agree with the resentment that is, and has been, felt in Wales against the interference, attitudes and actions particularly of the English Tory landlords in the last century. They were less than creditable in their attitudes and even today some of the actions of the English living in Wales—and I am half one—could do with more thoughtfulness. I understand and support the annoyance and irritation in Wales at having crazy legislation sent down from Westminster for them to obey; the idiotic reorganisation of local government, in my case the destruction of an efficient and personal county council in Anglesey to be replaced by a new and costly big and beautiful bureaucratic beast across the Straits somewhere—an idea thought up, I am sorry to say, by English academics and politicians. What better recipe for disaster? Added to that, the unfortunate Welshman is showered once a day and twice on Sundays with a litter of legislation so complicated and verbose that it cannot even be translated into Welsh, all of it originating from England. If that is not enough, the unfortunate Welsh farmer suddenly finds that he is being undercut by Irish cattle coming across the Irish Sea, and the reasons given to him are extraordinary things called green pounds, MCAs, co-efficients and intervention, in his mind all originating from England. No wonder there is the cry, "Let us set up shop ourselves and be rid of Westminster". Those are a handful of the reasons why Wales wants to be devolved, and I go along with the frustration of the Welsh people, and myself, and if this Bill solved any of those frustrations it would have my support. However, I fear I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that it will. It will not, and indeed I fear it will have the opposite effect and remove even further from the Welshman on the ground any control of his affairs. It satisfies none of the wishes of the Welsh and will in fact only add to the list of complaints. It will obliterate Wales in paper, and with the paper will come even more civil servants—sorry, I should have said bureaucrats; let me make my position absolutely plain—in district council, county council, Welsh Office, Water Board, Welsh Commission and, last but not least, at the Welsh Assembly. For obvious reasons I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, that Henry VIII was England's greatest king. I believe his father, Henry VII, also a Welshman, was. I doubt very much indeed whether he would have approved of this expenditure on bureaucracy. I think your Lordships will know of Henry VII's innate meanness; he might, if alive, have a few of their heads off to lie with my former kinsman's. The Bill is a horror and insult to Wales. I must complete the Sermon on the Mount of my noble friend Lord Elton by saying that Wales has asked for a fish and this Bill gives her a serpent. It will, of course, be up to your Lordships to try to improve the Bill and I am sure that, as always, the House will try so to do. I have three minor points which were touched on by Lord Elton and at some stage I should like them answered. First, who will act as the Executive in the Welsh Assembly when appealed to? If he is the person mentioned in Clause 18 in respect of cases under Clause 10 of land acquisition, will he not be the same person who authorised the original acquisition? As a Welsh farmer, I was not so thrilled as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, about parts of Clause 10. Secondly, who will be responsible for agriculture? The Bill states that agriculture will not be devolved, but all the powers relating to land—land use, control and requisition—are. It is somewhat difficult to farm without land, though I am sure that the ever-resilient Welsh farmer will try to do so; but some clarification of this problem from the Government might possibly be appreciated. Thirdly—perhaps noble Lords may think it a facetious question: How does one get from Anglesey to Cardiff? I will not bore noble Lords with more questions as time is getting on. I fear that the Bill is so hopeless, impracticable and expensive to Wales that it is past redemption. Fortunately, being a farmer, it is not up to me to suggest what the alternative should be; that is for greater minds. May we be told who is to explain the Bill to the Welsh people? Noble Lords may be able to read it like a James Bond novel, but, as will be apparent, I cannot. I do not think that even the Lord Chancellor will be able to put this question simply to the Welsh people so that he can know and give the correct answer to what he is being asked. There is a real problem here, and I have yet to hear anybody give me a perfect answer. Thank goodness we in your Lordships' House do not have to answer this question! It will be left to Wales, but in my opinion it is an insult to a great and talented people.
My Lords, I rise to explain briefly and with considerable regret why I feel it will not be appropriate for me to take a very active part in the deliberations on this Bill. It is certainly not that I haughtily subscribe to the dismissive remarks of Alexander Pope:
although I would go along with his next line:"For forms of government let fools contest"—
It is certainly not indifference to the issue of Welsh devolution, which is one of the most important to have confronted the Principality for many generations. Nor is it due to opposition to the principle of devolution as such, because I believe firmly that certain functions of government would be better carried out even in Cardiff than in London. I am afraid that I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, in supposing that the Welsh Council—an advisory body—would be an adequate substitute for the proposals in the Bill. I was chairman of the Welsh Council for some time, and I know its weaknesses as well as I know its potential. Nor would I be unduly swayed by matters of cost, important though they are—this question has been touched upon several times by noble Lords opposite. There is another side to this question. For example, I could draw attention to several firms which have indicated quite clearly that, if there is to be a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff, they will think of locating their offices or enterprises there, and if there is not, they will look elsewhere. So the proposals could have a stimulating economic effect. My particular difficulty is that for me this is a situation in which the rules of the late Lord Addison are applicable. Perhaps I have not always paid the respect to Lord Addison that I might have done. However, I have thought very carefully about my position in relation to the Bill. My problem is this. I am the paid—part-time, but, nevertheless, paid—chairman of a public body which stands to be subsumed by the Welsh Assembly, should the Bill become law, and I seem perhaps to have too direct a personal and public interest in the matter to be able at least to appear to take an entirely objective view. Of course, I am concerned not only for the body itself—the Land Authority for Wales—but also for my colleagues on the board, and for the staff. Therefore, I consider that I shall have to be much more reticent than I would otherwise have been. I have spent quite a long time trying to work out how far I can, with propriety, comment on the details of the Bill, and most regretfully I came to the conclusion that really one cannot distinguish between what is proper and what is not; one cannot pick and choose. It is not in my nature to be unduly subservient, or to feign approval of any matters of which in fact I do not approve. Equally, I should hate to be in a position where it was supposed that I was approving something simply because it might be convenient for our particular case. Therefore, I think that the only course open to me is that I should simply take the opportunity to put on the record the reason I do not expect to be a very active participant during future stages of the Bill, although I expect to listen to much of what is said, and I certainly hope to read the rest. Perhaps as an envoi I may quote the lines of Dylan Thomas which, I see, were quoted by a colleague of mine in the final debate on the Bill in another place. This quotation contains the words of the Rev. Eli Jenkins, who was addressing his Maker as follows:"Whate'er is best administered is best".
In that charitable spirit I hope that your Lordships will bring the Bill to a successful conclusion."We are not wholly bad or good, Who live our lives under Milk Wood, And Thou I know wilt be the first, To see our best side, not our worst."
My Lords, I am sure that we are all very sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady White, cannot give us more information and help, as we know that she has great knowledge on this subject. We quite understand and respect her reasons, and we wish her the best of luck with her work. I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in the Chamber, because in the Second Reading debate in the other House, on 15th November, he was particularly mentioned by the Secretary of State as being one of the galaxy of stars who had helped with Wales. I do not necessarily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, because the Irish in Southern Ireland learned perfectly well to speak Irish, and it did not make them élite. They had it taught in their primary schools, and they could have it in their secondary schools if they wished. At that time all civil servants had to speak Irish, and most of them have to now. Furthermore, I did not find any difficulty with my Member of Parliament when I was on the London County Council. So I do not think that there will be here the effect which some people fear.I have spent some time in Wales, especially when I was young, when I was in Denbigh. One of my jobs during the war was to visit Ministry of Supply factories in connection with the welfare of the women. I spoke in General Election campaigns in Anglesey and in Ebbw Vale. At the latter place someone shouted that the only thing that he liked about me, on hearing my speech, was the colour of my red hat. I have read the Gallup Polls, and the whole of the debate in the House of Commons, and I listened on the radio last week-end to the Labour Party Conference, and it seems to me that on this question opinions are very divided; and this impression has also appeared in your Lordships' House. This makes the position all the more difficult when we know we must take the Bill seriously. Most of the points that I intended to make have been made, but I have one or two others which I want to put forward. Reference has already been made to the high cost, and I notice that the referendum, plus the elections, will cost £1¼ million. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, that the form of ballot paper, as shown in the Appendix on page 88 of the Bill, is most unsatisfactory. It states:
I do not know how the people will know what is in the Bill (if it becomes an Act) unless the details are spelt out in leading articles in local papers, and in other ways. Surely they could be asked a more direct question. They could be asked whether they want devolution, or the question could be put in some other way which is simpler than the proposed wording. I think it would be very unfair to ask people merely whether they want the provisions of the Wales Bill to be put into effect, when they can know very little about it. I also notice that the Bill is likely to involve an increase of about 1,150 in the number of civil servants in Wales, and that there will also be expenditure of about £1¼ million in respect of the initial movement of staff. I want to put in a plea for more local people to be recruited. Surely people can be trained locally. The unemployment rate in Tenby is 17·5 per cent., and in Rhyl 14·9 per cent., and I feel that there must be people living locally who could be qualified to join the Civil Service. I recall that when I was speaking in Anglesey during a General Election campaign someone who had three days' growth on his face got up and said that he was very worried about the question of civil servants, because there had been talk of cutting them down. I was slightly mystified, and I wanted to know what he was. He spoke in Welsh, and I asked for a translation. He said that he was the local rat catcher. I was able to say to him that I thought that, whichever Government got in, I did not think there would be any less work for him. I turn now to the question of powers. Clause 34 refers to the power of the Secretary of State to prevent or require action, and this provision seems to me to be all-embracing. This especially applies to subsection (6). Should the Welsh Assembly have one political complexion and the House of Commons another? It would appear to me that in those circumstances, the way the Bill is drafted, the Secretary of State would have too much power. I also do not like what is involved in Schedule 2. Pages 36 to 62 set out the existing statutory functions. I think that it will be necessary for us to go through the excluded functions because there seem to be so many—I do not want to enumerate them at the moment—which would be much better done locally. It also appears that the Assembly can implement the EEC international obligations. Yet the Secretary of State said, during the Second Reading debate in another place, as reported at column 360 of the Official Report:"Do you want the provisions of the Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?"
This might be against the direct wishes of the people. It seems to me that if we are to have an Assembly as laid out in the Bill, there will be too much interference. I also want to refer to Clause 61, in regard to tourism. It is stated that:"But, whenever necessary … the Government themselves will be able to ensure that international obligations are implemented within Wales, and elsewhere."
As we know, tourism is a very great asset to Wales. It brings not only a lot of money, but also friendship. According to this Bill as it stands, they have to go through the British Tourist Authority. I should like to take the opportunity to close down the British Tourist Authority, keeping the English, Welsh and Scottish Authorities and letting them manage their own arrangements. Clause 12, which has been mentioned by several noble Lords, deals with the review of local government. Surely this is unwise at a time when the Assembly itself will be building up its own house. I cannot see how it can do both at the same time. Therefore, if this clause must be left in the Bill I should like to see a date given, so that, if they must have those powers, they do not start reorganising local government until later. Furthermore, it is stated that the Executive Members—and this, too, I read in the Second Reading debate, at column 365 —together with, I understand, a small number of other Members, will comprise the Executive Committee of the Assembly and then apparently it will be for the Assembly to evolve its own detailed methods of working. I can see a lot of trouble in this because, after all, there will be, I presume, several different political Parties, with completely different ideas, and it may cause a considerable amount of delay. Furthermore, I should like to quote from the Secretary of State, also during the Second Reading debate, when he said, at column 365:"The Assembly may make arrangements with the British Tourist Authority for that Authority to undertake activities outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Wales."
Knowing the difficulties (or shall I say the differences? that is perhaps a better word) between North and South now, even in language—and, as has been mentioned before, if one wants to get them together they have to be invited to meet in Birmingham—I think this is going to be extremely difficult to implement. Also, there will be, of course, the very different views that we have heard expressed in this House. I consider, therefore, that it is unfortunate that the Assembly should have a committee system rather than a Parliamentary system. I would much prefer to have open debates. Having been on the old London County Council, I know the difference between the two; and I think that if we are going to set up something different in Wales, as opposed to local government, which seems to me to be working quite well, then we should have the Parliamentary system rather than the other. I would also think that it might be possible for the Welsh, who are so good at their language, to ensure that, if they are to have an Assembly, it is given a Welsh name, and that whoever is going to lead their House is also given a Welsh name, and not just be called the First Minister, or something like that. After all, the Southern Irish Parliament manage quite well. They call it the Dail, and they have a name for their Prime Minister. I would have thought it much better to have a distinction, and not just to call it an Assembly."Within that framework it will be for the Assembly to evolve its own detailed mode of operation, but I believe that we shall in this way be able to ensure that the representatives of North and South Wales, of industrial Wales and rural Wales, will be able to participate in the democratic control of decision-making."
My Lords, I can help the noble Baroness there. In medieval Welsh assemblies we had a Pendragon. That was the name of the official.
My Lords, if the noble Lord is going to suggest that, perhaps he will put down an Amendment. It might be an interesting debate. To finish, I hope that the financial provisions will not create regular conflict between Wales and Westminster, and so upset the unity of the United Kingdom. This is the one thing I really fear; that is, if there are going to be difficulties over the money allocated, then this may create unfortunate barriers between the Parliament in London and the Assembly in Wales.
My Lords, now that the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill is out of the way, and before proceeding to the Wales Bill, I should like to take the opportunity, with your Lordships' permission, to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, on the way he carried out his marathon task on the Scotland Bill. He did this with feeling, great tolerance and skill, with the exception of one slightly bitter comment on the Opposition being "loaded". Whether the noble and learned Lord meant that we were loaded with too many Members or whether he meant there was too large a representation of Scottish Peers, I do not know. If it was the latter, one thing is certain: we cannot be accused of the same thing with regard to the Wales Bill.I believe it is a fact that we on this side have only four truly Welsh Peers, although we can claim with some pride that in the person of my noble friend Lord Tenby we have the grandson of one of Wales's most distinguished statesmen. The paucity of Welsh Peers on our side means that the Committee stage of the Bill will have to be carried out largely with the help of an Anglo-Scottish alliance. Past history has shown that this alliance is not always the strongest of ties. Speaking for myself as a Scot, and one who has no wish to have a vicious ruck with the Welsh back row, I feel the Committee stage should be conducted with as few political differences as possible. It should be carried through with the object of modifying this Bill and producing the result which is most advantageous to Wales and to the United Kingdom. At this stage I do not intend to go into too many details—these will come later, when we start on the Amendments—but with your Lordships' leave I will touch on a few minor points and one major point to try to show that as the Wales Bill now stands it is like its elder sister, the Scotland Bill, and to a certain extent the Scotland Bill still is a Bill which requires many improvements. If one takes the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, one finds that in the case of the Scotland Bill it is fairly simple. This Act is not an Act which is solely for Scotland; it covers the United Kingdom. However, in the case of the Wales Bill it is loaded with section after section. Why, when it is the same Act, should Scotland have only a portion of it and Wales be burdened with considerably more legislation? Another difficult point will be when we come to make a decision on the Severn and Trent Water Authority. If your Lordships decide wrongly, this could cause offence both to England and to Wales. Then there is a strange clause in the Bill which forbids a Member of the Assembly to sit on a Scottish jury. I cannot find the reciprocal clause in the Scotland Bill. Why should a person in the Welsh Assembly be disqualified from sitting on a Scottish jury? I admit that the situation is unlikely to arise. However, this person in the Assembly might be eccentric and have a burning passion to sit on a jury North of the Border. After all, there are eccentrics in England and in Scotland, and I dare say that if one were to look hard enough one could find people in Ireland who are not eccentric. Finally, I come to what I consider to be the seriously bad part of the Bill, and this has already been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. That is the part of the Bill which was Part VI, Clause 72, in the Scotland Bill and is Part V, Clause 71, in the Wales Bill. This is the vexed question of reducing the delaying powers of this House to 10 days. This is a major constitutional alteration smuggled into the Bill—a Bill which has nothing to do with constitutional change of this form, which concerns your Lordships' House. My Lords, this side of the House will contest this part of the Bill with the utmost vigour.
My Lords, your Lordships' House is a dangerously disarming place. The noble Marquess, Lord Tweed-dale, from the Conservative Benches, rises to speak in resonant English tones in praise of a Welshman, a radical Liberal, David Lloyd George, who came out of Wales to govern Britain. Standing as one of the back row of the Welsh pack in this debate, and rising at this time of night at this stage of the debate, it would be inappropriate if I were not to say that we take considerable pride in the fact that this debate was begun and will be ended by a Welsh Lord Chancellor. Marginal figures in our history were mentioned by name and by reputation by other noble Lords, but we take equal pride and particular pleasure that Wales is so well represented in this Palace of Westminster at this time and in the affairs of the government of our nation. I do not say that in a parochial sense: I say it with a sense of patriotism, and it is right that other noble Lords throughout this debate have mentioned their patriotism. A country is a poorer place when the people who speak within it and for it are afraid to mention the fact that they are proud of it.At this point, having made those (I think necessary) praises of those who have spoken for this country and for Wales in this place, I should remind your Lordships that it was the Welsh wizard, David Lloyd George, who proved Hooker's contention that no change, even from good to better, can take place without hurting someone. I have been conscious as I have been listening tonight that voices raised have been, in some cases, those of people who are being hurt by the transition towards devolution for Wales. There are people whose lives and careers have been committed to creating the local government body in Wales. We heard a fine plea from the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, who has served his country well in its local government. He defended all that had been achieved in it and, rightly, too, defended his own position as one who had been, by means of the patronage of local government, a great benefactor of his nation and the children of that nation. I deliberately choose to single him out as an example as, one of those whose life's work seems in part to be threatened by the success that the Government are having in bringing their Bill through the various stages of the Commons—perhaps neutered, perhaps cut by friend and foe alike, but, not essentially changed. I think, in a sense, your Lordships in this House and our right honourable friends and honourable friends in another place are too close to the problem at this moment to see clearly what we are about. Inevitably, as legislation proceeds, those who take part in it, for and against various points, become so committed to it that they see themselves as dealing not so much with a policy change but with deep and fundamental principles. I have been sad to see certain hackles raised and tempers inflamed over issues which are quite properly political and procedural issues, and people have talked as though they had been wounded in principle when it is only a policy that has been criticised. That is why I say that this House is a disarming place. In it one feels almost always that so long as the debate is logical and so long as the arguments are sound, one can say almost anything to friend or foe alike and meet outside as one who has made a contribution to its procedures and the debate. I have been following the debate closely and I have tried to take some account of what noble Lords have said, from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor (should I say, in this House?) sideways. It seems to me that all of us have some doubts as to individual phrases within the Bill itself. As I walked into the Chamber—and I apologise that I was out of the House for part of his speech—I heard the noble Lord, Lord Elton, speaking a phrase in Welsh. It was a startling choice because, as I was approaching my place, he said, "Get out! Get out!" I thought for a moment that he was referring to me; but he was, as always, talking closely to the Bill. I want to try to follow him in that example at least. I am quite sure that when the Magna Carta was presented by those who were most likely to benefit from it to those who were most likely to lose most, there were considerable protests over the wording. I am sure that when the Petition of Rights was drawn up, there were those who believed that it was a fundamental attack on the standards of life of those most affected by it. As I heard the clichés being sprayed, one of those who sprayed most was a Commonwealth marksman; and although he fired all round the target in his description of this Bill, I could not help feeling that he was more wide of the mark than usual and would not have gained a gold medal for his performance this evening; I refer to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Swansea. It seems to me that what we are talking about here are not those issues as to whether the thing is going to pay for itself—important though they are, as my noble friend the noble Baroness pointed out; we are talking about the structure of this Bill and how it will affect the history of the Welsh nation which is a part of the United Kingdom. Lloyd George, when presenting his People's Budget to a Liberal Cabinet, met such bitter opposition that the thing would not have been carried through at all if it had not been for the English statesman who was his Prime Minister, who, when the row was at its height, said, "Now that we have reached a substantial measure of agreement, I declare the meeting closed." Here, my Lords, we have a Bill which deals historically with those key decisions that affect the lives of people living in Wales. These decisions have been made either locally or by Parliament till now. But during the last 30 years, there has emerged an intermediate level of decision-making. It is neither local nor national but positioned midway between local authorities and Parliament. To those noble Lords who see this Bill as threatening to create an intermediate stage, I would say that that intermediate stage is here already; it has been here, and with increasing power and strength, for the last 30 years while I have been in local government in Wales, and lately on a wider stage. In Wales this has resulted in the creation of a scale and nature of government addressing itself to the problems facing Wales—problems which are different from those faced in other parts of the United Kingdom, not in their essence but because they occur in Wales. It was a member of my own Party, the late Aneurin Bevan, who used to say that there was no such thing as Welsh unemployment, there was only unemployment which was bad where-ever it occurred. When it occurred in Wales, he did not call it Welsh unemployment, but unemployment occurring in Wales. The problems that occur in Wales, although they may not be different basically, are nearer and closer to the Welsh people; and their solution should, in fact, rest with them. Consequently, the solutions that have to be worked out and implemented should be worked out and implemented by the people who in their everyday contact are close to the Welsh people. We have no objection to—and I, personally, welcome, as I am sure other noble Lords who have spent all their time in Wales will have done—the helpful and positive interventions in this debate by noble Lords who have not pretended to call themselves Welsh, who have made no apology for not being Welsh, because this is an issue which is fundamental to the United Kingdom. And we must say—and here I might part company with some who seem to be firmly on my side and with whom I share the battle—that of course there must be an effect upon the United Kingdom and its future from the proposal to give even this diminished measure of devolution to Wales; because you cannot, in any sense, create a new structure or a new method of going about government in a unity of a Kingdom without disturbing the balance of that unity. Many of the all-Wales decisions to which I have referred are taken today by the Welsh Office. The principle of public accountability is maintained by the Welsh Secretary of State; and he is responsible to the British Parliament. During the hearings of the Crowther-Kilbrandon Commission in 1969, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Welsh Office conceded that there was a danger that Wales could be governed by a Civil Service élite—a point which was made in moving as well as intellectual terms by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest. I should also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, because I am trying to take as objective a look at our developing history as it is possible to take in this Chamber, where, at this hour of the night, we try to come to grips with the problems we face. Although I have not always in politics universally supported the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, as a Welshman I pay tribute to that period of the evolution of the Welsh Office over which he presided and to the identification of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, with the development of the Welshness of Welsh administration to its present point. Having said that, I think that few would claim now that the much wider range of functions of the present Welsh Office are adequately scrutinised by a Parliament overburdened by responsibilities, many of them arising from our membership of the Common Market and other dimensions of Government into which they have gone. It is as well to remind ourselves that this whole thing began not in 1960 or in 1955, but in the earlier 1950s when this nation rebuilt its institutions after the war; when it decided that some of the responsibilities which it was placing upon its Ministers were so huge that they could not fairly and properly be borne any longer by one man. I remember first hearing the word "devolution" used in the context of the fact that the Prime Minister of the day in the 1950s was a small individual physically, but a giant in intellect and energy, the late Lord Attlee, a Member of your Lordships' own Chamber. He said that it was probably impossible to foresee the development of so many functions of State vested in individuals who, no matter how good they might be, were only human. I think that at that point we went wrong. I interject here a little thought of my own: If the word at that time had been "de-centralisation" rather than "devolution", your Lordships would not be debating dots and commas of clauses in a Bill here tonight. Long ago your Lordships would have accepted the view of the Welsh people, the Scottish people, the Irish people and the people of the regions in England, that they do not through our current Parliamentary system appear to have, nor do they in fact have, an adequate say in the day-to-day administration of their lives. No matter how self-satisfied we may be with the eminence that we have achieved in this Chamber or in another place, it remains a fact that the people of Britain are not universally convinced that their Member of Parliament, or a noble Lord sitting in this place, knows better than them what is good for them. I say that as clearly as I possibly can. A whole host of decisions covering numerous activities in Wales are taken by an assortment of ad hoc bodies, authorities and nominated bodies. Like the noble Baroness, I too have to cite the Addision Rules because I am a member of a number of bodies, and I am a paid member of the Welsh Development Agency. Anything I might say in the context of this paragraph must be taken by your Lordships' House as being said by an individual and not by a member of either a nominated or a paid body. Currently there are some 70 committees, boards and other public bodies operating in Wales which are responsible for the authorisation each year of more than £300 million of public expenditure. Some, like the Welsh Council, are merelyadvisory. However, the advice they give can be enormously influential in determining ministerial decisions and Government policy. Others, including the Welsh Water Authority, have executive powers; and of course the Welsh Development Agency spends a very great deal of money on behalf of the nation in trying to expand and develop the Welsh economy. Here I would mention and pay tribute to the rich experience of the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, who spoke, as he always does, with such loving affection of his native land, and also side-swiped at one or two of us and the policies of building factories in anticipation of development in order to make that development easier when expansion comes. It is not in any sense an attack upon him when I defend myself from his gentle barb and say that I believe it is right and effective to prepare in advance for an expanding economic situation. However, he makes his point and I make mine. Despite their wide dissimilarities, all the public bodies have one thing in common: their membership is undemocratic—as undemocratic as is this House—and their meetings are secret. Their membership comes, as ours does, by nomination. Their nominated members—almost 2,500 people—are responsible for supervising an increasingly important element of Welsh public administration and they do not have an equal degree of democratic control. I have already said that I can go no further into the specific policies of these bodies; but the point I want to leave with you is that a Welsh level of authority already exists and has existed for some time year by year, month by month. It plays a key role in the process of government in Wales. This level of decision-making must now be democratised and made more accountable to the Welsh electorate. In case the question is asked again—because it has been asked over and over again in this debate as though it has never been answered—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales in another place on 9th May 1978 met head-on the question which is asked over and over again: "Is there not going to be some diminution of Parliamentary authority by the establishment of the Welsh Assembly?" Yes, of course there is; there is bound to be. This is what my right honourable friend said at column 996 in Hansard in the other place on 9th May, 1978, speaking of:
"… the position of Parliament after devolution in Wales and the relationship between Parliament and the Assembly. Let there be no question that we are, in the Wales Bill, completely devolving a large number of the powers and functions now exercised by myself and my colleagues—by Ministers—to the Assembly. The Assembly will be fully responsible for the exercise of those powers and functions and will be answerable for the exercise of those functions to the people of Wales and not to Parliament.
This is what devolution is all about. This is what decentralisation of government is all about. The ill-assorted criticisms of devolution we have heard in this Chamber and elsewhere claim that it will lead to the creation of another level of "bureaucratic authority" in the life of Wales. The point that I am making is that this criticism not only misrepresents the position, it is meaningless. The all-Wales level of authority is already in existence, taking decisions and often prescribing the life-style and a pattern of service for many Welsh households. The question is: What degree of democracy do we want to achieve? I heard this said at least three times by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in his three Second Reading addresses in the course of the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. He was quite right when he said that the problem to which we must address ourselves is: Are we making democracy better? Are we making democracy more democratic? It is no good standing up here and saying how democratic we are in a non-elected Chamber of government, presiding over non-elected bodies that affect the lives of the people, if we do not analyse how we are going best to see that better control is exercised over it in the future than has been exercised over it in the past. Is the all-Wales nominated body, whose decisions affect the development of Wales and its people, to stand apart in splendid isolation from the pattern of democratic Government? Surely not, my Lords? Democracy must be extended to every level of Government where decisions are taken which affect the conditions and quality of life of people like ourselves—and some of us think we are extraordinary when we are very ordinary people. The Welsh Assembly will provide a significant and exciting opportunity. New policies within a broad framework laid down by Parliament will be initiated by a Welsh Assembly. It will determine its own scale of priorities in tune with the needs and aspirations of Wales. It will decide what is more appropriate to the Welsh situation and therefore more beneficial for the Welsh people. I do not think that we ought to have these things questioned as though we were not quite being honest. This whole innuendo has coloured argument on devolution. I do not take it as a crusade. My last crusade in this country is a long way back in my own personal history. I feel now that I am in a place where we are trying to bring what experience we have to bear on the problems of the day for as long as we are allowed to do it:In other words, the Bill transfers certain executive responsibilities of central government to the Assembly, but Parliament will continue to legislate in these fields for Wales, and Members of Parliament will continue to be responsible for all primary legislation applying to the Principality."
It will provide a new focus and bring a powerful, beneficial and democratic impetus to Welsh life, I believe. People, in their attitudes to polls, are totally ambivalent. They seem to delight in them when they come down in their favour, and they question them, either directly or indirectly, when they seem to be heading against them. We have had an interesting pair of polls this weekend which seem to show that the policies of the Government are receiving a wider support than appeared to be likely a week or so ago. I cannot be more forthcoming than that. I have tried to express that in the characteristic fashion of your Lordships' House. When it comes to what the polls say about what the people in Wales think, we ought to look at the detail of it. The public opinion poll showed that the people of Wales are moving towards the concept of the Assembly as defined within the Act. The opinion poll commissioned by the BBC in Wales, which was carried out by the Cardiff market research company Abacus as late as 5th May has revealed significant shifts in Welsh opinion in favour of devolution during the past 12 months. Fifty three per cent. of the people were then against it and 27 per cent. were for it out of 40·8 per cent. people polled in a Western Mail poll. Perhaps I should declare my interest here since I have from time to time worked for both the BBC and the Western Mail, but not for the poll. The poll also revealed that 67·3 per cent. of the Welsh electorate are determined to vote. This seems, I think, to disappoint those who fondly believed that the Welsh people knew little and cared less about the devolution referendum. If anyone were to ask me why I think this change has come about, I would say that the biggest single contribution to it has been made by the creation of those huge, amorphous, local government authorities which, though the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, defended them, as one would expect—not simply adequately but forthrightly and downrightly—have in fact caused more heart-searching among people in Wales and in Britain generally than anything else. Here I would say that if this Bill were to "decentralise" it would win even greater support than it seems to have under the poll. I would say that even the Tory Party in Wales, which seems to be opposed to devolution, has more than one-fifth of its supporters who were polled in this poll in favour of the proposal. The support for the Welsh Assembly related to Party voting and the intention is quite clear. The Welsh workers who would, under the social class registration, be classified by the old-fashioned terms to which I am prone, as "working class" seemed to be more strongly in favour. Although all social classes in Wales contain devolution enthusiasts, the support seemed to be strongest in those groups which would be classified under social groups as "working class". The support for the Welsh Assembly as it related to class background is clearly stated in the poll. I am going to keep your Lordships no longer. I have made this contribution, believing that in this House anything you say is listened to. I have attempted to show that this is not an issue upon which we should find ourselves embattled one with another. It is an issue we should approach as a sea-change, taking place in democracy. It is not something which is an expedient or which is window-dressing; it is an attempt to come to grips with a movement of opinion of those people who, in a democracy, from time to time vote for it by not voting at all. They register by their abstention from voting. They express their feeling that they are cut off from the democratic process by cutting themselves off. I think we can make this into a good Bill and a good Act, and I urge your Lordships to give it a Second Reading and a quick Committee stage so that we can go to the people in Wales and confirm the polls in a referendum, removing all doubts as to what the people of Wales think about the Bill."Seek ye the Lord while he is yet found."
My Lords, I much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Parry. I am only an Englishman, of course, and cannot speak with all the passion which has been exhibited by my noble friends who come from Wales and sit on the opposite side of the Chamber. However, there are two points I should like to take up with the noble Lord, if I may. I think he said that the problems which face Wales can be surmounted only by the Welsh people. As an Englishman, I find it very difficult to understand why, in a small country like Wales, it is not possible, with the representation we get in a British Parliament, to secure the satisfaction of the Welsh people in respect of some of their problems. I say that I speak as an Englishman in that connection and I find some of the arguments rather difficult to understand.The noble Lord also said that the Welsh people at the present time were rather fed up with the British Government, and with the British Parliament in particular, and therefore it was also necessary to devolve a certain amount of responsibility to people so that they might be responsible for their own affairs below a British Parliament. I do not think that any local Assembly, as such, or any body of people locally entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with the great problems which exist in this country today, can necessarily solve those problems. The problems facing us today are so great, compared with what our forefathers had to contend with, that the difficulties are simply immense. That is the reason why there is dissatisfaction: it is because we cannot solve these problems as quickly as we did in former times. I shall now turn to the Bill itself. I should like to say that I much enjoyed the speeches that have been given today on the Second Reading of this devolution Bill for Wales. That is not because I believe it to be a good Bill necessarily, or because I particularly like it. My only qualification for speaking on this Bill at all is the fact that I have had some experience overseas of granting independence to other peoples. I do not, of course, class my noble friends from Wales as being in any sense people of a colonial status; but I have had experience of devolving powers to a State legislature. With regard to the proposition of the Assembly, we were told, I think, by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—I think I am quoting him correctly—that the Welsh people now have a passion to obtain a greater degree of responsibility in the management of their own affairs. So it is now considered wise to give them this responsibility, and the devolution Bill is the means by which responsibility is to be granted to them. What follows from that is the establishment of a Welsh Assembly. The noble Lord then went on to warn us in the British House of Lords, that we only courted trouble for ourselves when we denied a people their legitimate aspirations. I well remember Mr. Ormsby-Gore, the father of the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, coming out to me in the jungles of Malaya when at that time we were about to give self-government or to bring people up to believe that they were fully capable of standing on their own feet. He asked me what I thought my duties were. I said I thought that my duties were to carry out my responsibilities to the best of my ability. He said, "That is not the position at all: your duties are to lead these people to their own self-government". There are two points I should like to make on this. I believe it was in 1965 that the Welsh were granted a Welsh Office and a Secretary of State for Wales—presumably because the Welsh at that time were dissatisfied with the existing arrangements for the administration of Wales. They have not been very long before concluding that this was not enough for their aspirations, for only 12 years later—that is, in 1977—it is considered by the Government to be necessary, in pursuance of legitimate Welsh aspirations, that the Welsh should now have their own Assembly. It seems to me that Welsh aspirations are somewhat insatiable. In another 12 years will they want a Prime Minister of their own and perhaps even their own independence? I submit to your Lordships that this is a possibility, for in my experience overseas in the devolution of powers to a State Assembly, it was only a matter of three years before that State Assembly was asking for its own Prime Minister. It is not my purpose, in anything that I have said in speaking about this Bill, to make any imputation of colonial status to any of my Welsh friends. They are as British as I am, and I am English. But in this small island, it should surely prove possible to meet all Welsh aspirations in a British Parliament at Westminster, which, after all, is only a few hundred miles from Cardiff. As my noble friend Lord Elton indicated in a particularly brilliant speech, which I much enjoyed, a duty now falls upon your Lordships to do what the other place failed to do, because of the guillotine. Of 83 clauses in this Bill, only 16 were debated; and only two of the 12 Schedules were discussed. So I know that at the Committee stage we shall do our best to carry out our responsibilities. Many of us on this side of the House feel that, whatever we do, it will be extremely difficult to improve the Bill, when many clauses seem to bring it into possible conflict with the Government's administration within the United Kingdom. For example, Clause 44 refers to payments into Welsh funds out of United Kingdom funds. Is there not a danger here that a Secretary of State in the British Cabinet may be fighting for adequate funds, but is unable to secure what is asked for by the Welsh Assembly? Is the new Assembly for Wales to be charged with the oversight of a whole series of services and functions, which have a direct or indirect bearing on financial and Treasury decisions? There is also the question of reform of local government in Wales, as envisaged in the Bill, and, under Clause 12, this is apparently to be undertaken by the new Welsh Assembly. Is there not a danger here that the Welsh Assembly will take over more and more powers from local government, and that this body to be established with these powers will not be able to act in an impartial way? These are just a few problems that will face us at the Committee stage of this Bill. It is an unenviable task facing your Lordships, but I am sure that you will do your best.
My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I rise, as somebody from the North-East of England, to speak about Wales. But my family originally came from the island of Lambay, where I believe that they mined alum or something like that in the 17th century. Further back, there was a chap named Llewellyn ap Jerwath. So I think that I can just call Wales Mae hen wlad fy nhadau.It is a pity that the referendum could not be held at this stage, rather than at the end of a great deal of work which will be done by local authorities and by Parliament, because that would have saved valuable time. Perhaps the argument is that people would not know what they were voting for, but I cannot help thinking that, at the end, the great majority who vote then will not know what they are voting for, either. I hope that that referendum will be followed by another in England, to see whether we can have English devolution from domination by the Scots and the Welsh. It is most important that local government should not be weakened, and the Explanatory Memorandum states that the responsibilities of local authorities will not be altered. But as the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, said, it would not be surprising if the Welsh Assembly were to seek additional powers and responsibilities, and wanted to take over some of the functions of local authorities. That would call into question the need for two-tier authorities, and open up the whole question of local government, ending up with administration further yet from the people. The fear is accentuated by Clause 12, whereby the Assembly will review the structure of local government. However bad the present system is in England and Wales, and I should not for a moment defend it, there was the 1974 reorganisation and any further reorganisation would be highly controversial and very costly in time, both to members of the authorities and to officers, and must be avoided. Furthermore, the Welsh Assembly would surely not be an appropriate body to review local authority reorganisation, as inevitably it must be totally biased. Certainly, the county councils are unanimously against any further changes. As regards local authority finances, Clause 58 transfers to the Welsh Assembly responsibility for the payment of rate support grants. How far will local authorities be consulted on this? In particular, will they be consulted on the allocation of grants as between England and Wales? Also, will they be consulted regarding the alloction of grants for local government and other services, and regarding the distribution of block grants to the devolved services? There is a great danger that local authorities will lose their present rights of full consultation on these matters. Under the present proposals, the Assembly will be an additional executive tier between central Government and local authorities, and it is believed that that would complicate Government processes and tend to move decision-making further from the consumer of local services and from local authorities. There is a strong feeling that it will cause confusion because of the variety of responsible authorities, particularly the Assembly and the appropriate Government Departments. What is needed by local government is a removal of central controls, not new processes and controls from Westminster, Whitehall or the Assembly. It is proposed not to devolve agriculture, as it is at the heart of the unity of the United Kingdom. However, there are many functions which are devolved and which seriously affect agriculture. Environmental and social matters are to be devolved, but the economy, industry, agriculture and training are not and are to remain with the Welsh Office. However, education, housing, the environment and roads will be controlled by the democratically elected body, and these will vitally affect agricultural interests. There is great concern that agricultural interests will not be adequately represented, and that agricultural problems will not be properly understood by the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly will be overwhelmingly an urban elected affair, with a proportion of nearly two to one of the electorate living in the town counties. Furthermore, many of its representatives will be from the towns within the rural areas. The power of the Welsh Assembly will be exerted through committees, and Clauses 17, 21 and 54 ensure that these will be composed to reflect the political membership. So that there is great concern that agriculture and agricultural problems will not be represented or understood by an authority consisting mainly of urban people, and that it will not take the right decisions on issues affecting agriculture. I hope that I shall be able to support an Amendment which may be moved to help agriculture repair that situation. With regard to nominated bodies, such as the Countryside Commission and the Water Authority, many of those are most concerned as they operate on agricultural land and are subject to great urban pressure. Again, the agricultural interests are most concerned that they will not have enough representation on those bodies, because they will reflect the political make-up which will be predominantly urban. Clauses 10 and 27 give wide powers to the Assembly to purchase agricultural land. Again this could lead to great urban dominance. I believe that it will be necessary to have a long stop appeal to the Secretary of State for Wales to determine what the effect would be on agricultural land of the acquisition of large stretches of such land. With regard to water and land drainage, Section 5(1) of the Water Act 1973 will have to be altered. The Welsh Assembly may direct water authorities regarding fish, land drainage and so on in the execution of the national policy. I hope that the Minister will be able to say whether that national policy is to be the national policy of the United Kingdom or the national policy of Wales. This point undoubtedly needs to be clarified. Hereford is to be treated as part of the Welsh Water Development Authority, yet it is in no way part of Wales. At the moment, Hereford has no representation. If Hereford has to be a part of Wales for this purpose, then it must be not only represented but thoroughly represented, so that again a country area is not totally dominated by an urban area. There is also the question of drainage. It is proposed that the Welsh Assembly should cover arterial drainage while the Welsh Office would retain responsibility for field drainage. At the moment, both of these kinds of drainage are grant aided centrally by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. There seems to be no reason why these two matters should be divorced from the present unified administration. Furthermore, separating them will involve delay and disagreement, and, so far as drainage is concerned, there will be an overlap between the Water Development Authority, the Welsh Office and the Welsh Assembly. Also, the drainage committee will apparently have to serve three masters. The county councils will exercise an important role in agricultural education and planning, both of which affect agriculture very severely. The Bill does not guarantee the continued status of county councils, as I mentioned earlier. It would be extremely bad for agriculture if local administration were to be removed to Cardiff, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance on this point. With regard to forestry, the Assembly may acquire land for that purpose. This could create enormous difficulties. All the functions under the Forestry Act 1967 should be retained by the Secretary of State for Wales. There are many other points which are of great concern to both agriculture and the local authorities. Agriculture is high in production and efficiency and low in labour, and it will be very, very low in representation. Agriculture needs to be protected from the block urban vote which little understands the problems of the land.
My Lords, the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, bring home a fact which seems to haunt me all the time; namely, the aspirations of these two Assemblies in Scotland and in Wales. It is absolutely clear to me that whatever is given to Scotland will be demanded by Wales. For many, many years there has been a Secretary of State for Scotland. Progress in Wales has been good and finally we obtained a Secretary of State for Wales. This arrangement has worked exceptionally well.I was, as always, impressed by the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest. To me, the noble and learned Lord is the symbol of Wales in all its dignity, honesty and imagination. I listened to the analysis by the noble and learned Lord of the remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and finally he asked, what kind of an Assembly the noble Lord, Lord Elton, could assemble without money. Then we heard, from his vast experience, the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, who pointed out with remarkable clarity the functions of local government in Wales—acting like mini-Parliaments—and the remarkable success which they have had. The noble Lord then brought out, I thought with great clarity, the issue that lies between the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton; namely, what kind of an Assembly shall we have? As he put it, it will be a cumbersome, contentious body. At this time in our history, surely we should not be divided. There are too many pressures from the world outside for us to be divided if we are to retain our position in the world. This is the time to close ranks. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said, is this the right time to be embarking upon a philosophical adventure in politics? The more I listen to all that noble Lords have to say and the more I read, the more I begin to doubt this word "devolution". As I listen to the arguments and try to understand them, it seems to me that the aims of the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill will lead to convolution. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said, these Bills are really political expedients to meet extremist points of view, and I do not think that this is the time in our history for us to be embarking upon that kind of adventure. I have been more impressed by reading the works of Professor Anthony Birch than I have been by reading the White Papers on devolution. Professor Birch published a book entitled Political Integration and Disintegration in the British Isles. It is a clinical evaluation of the situation that we have been discussing this afternoon. Professor Birch goes through the history and background to what is called devolution and he is not afraid to express a clear opinion about the problems that are confronting Wales. If I may quote from his book, this is what Professor Anthony Birch says. He is not afraid —as so many speakers in both Houses have been lately, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek—to refer to the Welsh Nationalists. He says:
I think that this statement is worthy of thought. What are these countries that we call England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? They are simply portions of the British Isles which are delineated by fictitious lines on a map. To give frontier status to these boundaries would be adding disaster to disaster. And by "disaster" I mean Northern Ireland. By drawing a line across that island we have caused the deaths of more people than we care to remember; and, what is worse, all of them think that they have God on their side. Surely we do not want to repeat this performance by the creation of Stormonts in Wales and Scotland—nay, even in Cornwall. I am in no doubt that the repetition of a tragic, nonsensical outburst of violence in Wales and Scotland might emerge from this nationalistic approach to boundaries. We have only to recall the antics of the Messiah of Plaid Cymru, Mr. Saunders Lewis, who, in a pamphlet entitled The Principles of Nationalism, says:"What Welsh nationalism lacks at the moment is an eruptive factor which might transform it from a small and rather sectarian movement into one of mass appeal. If further economic difficulties and a growth of unemployment led to a crisis of confidence for the Labour Party in industrial Wales, and if this coincided with the discovery of an oilfield off the Welsh coast, conditions might favour the growth of a nationalist movement that was not based on the language issue".
Thus spoke the Messiah of the Welsh Nationalist Party. If I may remind your Lordships, when the Air Ministry established a bombing range in North Wales, Saunders Lewis and two others—one of them a minister of the Gospel—went to North Wales and burnt down the aerodrome. At his trial he declared that he had done this"I personally believe that careful, considered public violence is often a necessary weapon for national movements, necessary to defend the land, the valleys of Wales, from being violated by the Government and the big corporations in England".
We have only to acknowledge that kind of outburst to realise what we are playing with. We have heard outbursts from young irresponsible people in Wales that they might become the dam busters of Wales and deny the English the water from the reservoirs. All this could happen, and this I see as one of the essential elements embodied in this ill-conceived idea of giving Wales an Assembly and divorcing it from England. I would say the same thing about Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, pointed out, we only have to look overseas. Let me pause for a moment to remind your Lordships what is happening in the centre piece of Africa at the moment, all because man has drawn artificial boundaries across a geological complex which contains strategic minerals. In Zaire there is tremendous violence going on, not because of nationalism but because of greed. So we come back to the materialism of this situation. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, put his finger on an interesting approach to this problem. He said "Would the Welsh prefer to spend the £12½ million per annum on something else?"Let us consider what they could do with it. First, I find that £4 million or thereabouts is going to be spent on rebuilding the Exchange Building in Cardiff to house the Assembly. Perhaps some noble Lords do not know where that building is. It is situated in the worst part of Cardiff's dockland, containing the most vandalistic elements of the city; and when it is completed it will stand out like a sore thumb against the magnificence of the civic centre of Cardiff. What an image for a Welsh Assembly! For £4 million. What could you do with £4 million? Just think of all the sophisticated equipment that could be bought for £4 million and used to create employment in South Wales. One could buy civil engineering machinery to remove the tips of Wales and formulate them into barrages. I have many times referred to the construction of the barrage between Cardiff and Newport. If I had £12½ million a year to spend for five years I could do it and remove every coal tip within 30 miles of Cardiff and provide work for 500 men. Inside that dam there would be placed turbines which I would buy out of the £4 million which is to be spent on the Exchange Building, to put in two-way turbines which would create enough electricity to service industry in South Wales for practically nothing. There you would have something for your money; something which would give the Welsh a chance to exploit their imagination, their verve, their drive, to create new industries in South Wales. Behind that barrage there would be about 20 square miles of land recovered from the sea—just like the dams of Holland—and here you would start a horticultural industry of permanence and in character with the Welsh way of life. I am choosing cases at random. With £12½ million to spend every year we could repeat the performance between Neath and Swansea and all the big estuaries, and if I may say so to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, by using schemes of this kind we may hear the bells ringing again in Aberdovey. These are not romantic ideas. With £12½ million worth of development money we could create industries in the very parts of Wales where we want to preserve the culture and the characteristics of the Welsh way of life. Take Merionethshire: with £12½ million there is no question about it that within that area there are potential gold mines, copper mines, lead mines and zinc mines which could be developed. In Pembrokeshire I could develop a mine which would satisfy the demands for silver for the whole of this country. It is there, but the money has never been there to develop it. Worse than that, there has never been any possibility of persuading the planning authorities to give permission to develop these strategic mineral deposits in Wales. I could go on for half an hour in the same vein about Scotland. If this Assembly were formed it would have built into it a cumbersome element of authority which would give the planners even more power than they have now—and they are strangling every bit of initiative in every venture that I have tried to portray to your Lordships this evening. So I feel this is not the time to develop an Assembly in either Scotland or in Wales. But we must wait and see what the people of Wales themselves will have to say about whether they will or will not have the Assembly in Wales. Unfortunately, the difficulties associated with referenda are that they become rather emotional, and I very much doubt whether the issues that will be presented to the Welsh and to the Scots will be presented with such clarity that the people will be able to judge whether this is good for the present and good for the future. I hope that too much emphasis will not be put on trying to remedy the bad things of the past. I hope that in projecting these referenda the advantages and disadvantages will be put fairly, so that the people of both nations can say "yes" or "no" to these two Bills."as a protest on behalf of the truly sacred things in creation: the nation, its language, its literature, its separate traditions and immemorial ways of Christian life".
My Lords, I thought my noble friend Lord Energlyn made a very wise speech and I hope his words will be heeded. My noble friend Lady White prefaced her speech by declaring that, because she was an employee of an appointed body in Wales, she felt that she could not participate fully in this debate and give her true expression of opinion upon the Bill. Until that moment the thought had never even crossed my own mind that I also am the chairman of an appointed public body in Wales, which also will be subsumed should the Assembly come into being. Nevertheless, I shall take that situation when it comes. If the new town of which I am the chairman is abolished, it is abolished. If it is decided to keep it and I am considered inadequate, I shall be sacked, but I hope I shall not be sacked for expressing my views upon this Bill in this debate.My noble friend Lord Heycock, did us all a service I think by reminding us that the rock upon which our democratic administration is founded is the local authority. The new local authorities have been much criticised, but they have really been attacked in Wales as a means of advancing the cause of an Assembly. They have been made out to be very much worse than they are. I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Parry; it is not right to claim that the Assembly would do more for people than the local authorities do. The Assembly will take powers from the local authorities—it cannot help but do so—and those local authorities are the very bodies which are closest, not just to the electorate but to all the people, and are by their nature most accurately aware of people's real needs and real aspirations.
My Lords, if my noble friend would allow me to intervene for one moment, may I explain that what I was saying was that it was proposed in the Bill that the Assembly would institute an inquiry into local government, and one supposes that reform of it would follow.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that intervention. I want to move to another theme similar to that with which my noble friend Lord Energlyn began the first half of his speech. There was a time, within the lifetime of many Members of this House, when those who dwelt in the area of Wales and in the area of England were politically integrated. But gradually, through the action of successive Governments, they have been levered apart, so that it has become the received opinion of most people that these are separate nations, and, therefore, not surprisingly, there has come a demand for a Welsh national Parliament, which is what this Bill proposes to set up, although it does not say so.I suppose that I am more sensitive to the whole question of nationalism, the cult of a nation, than otherwise I might have been because of the land of my birth. I live in the house in which I was born, which is in the county of Gwent, which used to be called Monmouthshire. There lies my affection, and, I suppose, what I would call my patriotism. All my life I have been only too familiar with the argument which still goes on about whether Monmouthshire, or Gwent as it is now called, is in England or in Wales. I early remember thinking what a footling question it was, because what does it matter? And because of the animosity between those who claimed they were Welsh and those who claimed they were English I believed the equivocal position of the county to be a positive bonus and an example to all. The county itself thought it had settled the argument when it adopted the motto Utrique Fidelis, which being translated meaneth "Faithful to Both". It has not been permitted to follow that advice. In the last few years we have been told quite firmly that we are in Wales. We have not been consulted; no one had that common politeness. We have just been told that we have lost our identity. Westminster and Cardiff collaborated in that, over our heads, as a gesture towards Welsh nationalism. That happening brought it home to me, perhaps as nothing else could have done, that nationalism is nothing at all to do with democracy. It is about ordering people to conform. Nationalists claim and they take. That is their historical record in the last 100 years or more. And it is quite in character that the Welsh nationalists, who like to declare that their beliefs spring from the hearts of the people, were passionately against a referendum being held on this Bill. If one reads the political philosophers of the 19th Century who propounded the theory of cultural nationalism, one sees that the whole concept is one which militates against democracy as we know it, against the liberty of the individual and against freedom of choice. They accepted that, they urged it, because in logic the theory of the cultural nation as a political unit could lead them nowhere else. The idea that the self-governing nation should be classified as one homogenous organism—one land, one people, one voice—has had terrible consequences. Some over here in this country flirted with the idea, some others were greatly attracted to it. We did not get totalitarian government in Britain because, I guess, our democratic traditions are very deep and well antecede the coming of the theory of cultural nationalism. Other places were not so lucky. But we have certainly not escaped being affected by its basic concept, which we know as racialism. I want to dwell upon that for the moment, because a number of generations of people in Wales now have suffered from the consequences of racialism. It is important to understand that that is so, and, of course, it is equally important to understand why it is so, and I shall attempt an explanation. At the time when the theory of the cultural nation was taking root on the mainland of Europe, most strongly, as we know, in Germany, and elements of it were filtering over here, came the theory of evolution and a sort of evolutionary theory became attached to nationalism. The idea was—and it has had wide acceptance, but in my view, and in that of many others, it does not fit the facts—that each race was developing its own culture independently, and had been progressing naturally on its way, though at a leisurly pace, towards improving itself. Each race was judged on how far up this sort of Darwinistic scale it had managed to progress. Germany, France, Britain and Italy—name one's own nation of course to be the top one, and judging from the recent newspapers one would name somewhere like New Guinea to be at the bottom. In other words, we grade it superior culture as against inferior culture. In the racial classification as it was applied to this country—and in some people's minds still is—the English were said to be Anglo-Saxon and the Welsh were said to be Celts. History said that the Saxons had defeated the Celts and so therefore the Celts were inferior. Furthermore, they must be required to better themselves by learning the Anglo-Saxon language. The result was pain and grief and the generation of much egalitarian sentiment. I do not think that I need elaborate on that to those who know the South Wales scene. I believe that resentment is very strong in the North, but I have had no experience of it since I am out of my region there. However, and this was about 100 years ago, some sturdy spirits retaliated. Using the same twaddle as that with which they had been attacked, they said: "We are Celts; we are a nation. We are a very ancient and great nation, and to prove it we have a Border which history ordained for us" and they pointed out the thing which squiggles from the Dee to the Severn about which everyone until then had forgotten. They said, "This side we Celt; that side you Saxon; just you get over there where you belong". And they followed that up by a recitation of ancient injustices perpetrated by Saxon against Celt. The nationalists are very great on history, or their version of it. So the scene was set for the creation of a Welsh nation and an English nation, and we have the belief that this Welsh nation is in subjection to an English nation. Lloyd George, who came from North Wales which traditionally has imperialistic leanings towards South Wales, was the first politician to give that belief governmental sanction and therefore general credence. True to nationalist form in imposing cultural uniformity on a chosen area he disestablished the Church in the area West of the boundary and he prohibited the sale there of alcohol on Sundays. I do not know who he consulted about the Church, but he certainly did not ask anyone about the drink. It was not until about 40 years later that someone—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor—decided that people might be treated as adult enough to be able to decide for themselves on this matter in a referendum taken county by county. Then, what began the count-down for this Bill was the Conservatives appointing a Minister for Welsh Affairs in 1952, since when things have moved rapidly, and I shall tell your Lordships why. As soon as the Government supported by discriminatory action, whether legal or administrative, the hypothecation that Wales was a separate nation from England, then the relationship of Wales with England was transmuted from that of being an equal and integral part to that of being a junior partner. Indeed, the relationship has been compared, with reference to devolution to Scotland, as being that of parent and child. The complaints consequent have been, and will be, endless. "We are deprived. We are oppressed. Why can't I have a bicycle like Jock". Anything which is devolved is looked upon as no more than Wales' due: anything which someone thinks ought to be devolved and is not is treated as a matter of dignity and an aspersion upon the maturity of the people of Wales. No one has known, does know or will know where the line should be drawn between matters that should be devolved and matters that should not, and we are in a hell of a mess. Even if the Bill is defeated on a referendum, as I hope, I can see the Welsh Office continuing to gather greater powers to itself, not for the purpose of good administration but on the grounds that anything less would be an insult to Wales and the Welsh are not an inferior race and so on. We get all that now, and the pressure would be even stronger if there were an Assembly. Because the people who reside in Wales, who once governed themselves undifferentiated from and together with people in England next door, have been removed by nationalists from their status of political adulthood, and relegated to a status of political adolescence. Nobody could have produced a better formula for generating political inferiority complexes. That is pointed up well in the reduced role which the Bill seeks to impose upon Members of the Westminster Parliament. Already they find it more and more difficult to make representations at the top, for the more powers which are acquired by the Secretary of State in his continual search for status, the fewer are the subjects upon which Members of Parliament can approach the specialist Ministers and Departments in Whitehall. Under the Bill they will be relieved of responsibility for those subjects which are of concern to most people and they will become ciphers in these matters—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor used the word "devalued"—and that is something which can only damage the interests of their constituents. And how it is expected that the English should allow these MPs to continue to vote on those same devolved matters when they concern England, I do not know; but it is typical of the blinkered approach of those who caused the Bill to be brought —either they have disregarded the English or expect them to swallow an inequitable and non-democratic arrangement. Such an arrangement would not last, because it could not in fairness and equity last. If those who live in Wales—or in Scotland—wish to be exclusive, the time will come when they will be excluded. That will be inevitable, and the loss will be great to all of us, particularly to those who live in Wales or in Scotland, nationalist and non-nationalist alike. The Nationalists allege that they wish to be excluded, although they thrive on what are imagined grievances. Successive Governments, through a lack of courage derived, I think, from a lack of understanding, have been encouraging and strengthening the basis of these grievances. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Parry, but I respect his views. Yet those who in their innocence have been led to believe that the purpose of the Bill is to help democracy should have another think: it is really about increasing the political status of Welsh nationalism. The time has come when the Government—whether this one or any future Government—must stop running away from nationalists of whatever Party. They are not placatable. They feed and grow in importance on every gesture made towards them. The problem has to be tackled with realism and understanding; and with sympathy too, because one is dealing with people who, however great their contribution may be in other spheres, in this case live in a world of their own. Future generations of the inhabitants of Wales deserve better than to be required to live in that world too.
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate. I shall be only a short time, as all noble Lords will be looking forward to hearing the reassuring words of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor while answering criticisms of this Bill from all sides of the House. Some of those criticisms from the other side of the House have been fairly sharp. The noble and learned Lord will have a lot of ground to cover, but I hope that he will deal fully with the matter of the use of the guillotine in another place. I think that even he will have difficulty in persuading your Lordships that to use the guillotine on two such important constitutional pieces of legislation as the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, is not a travesty of government.It seems to me that this House is being put into a well-nigh impossible position. As we are all well aware, this is a revising Chamber, unpaid and unsung, and, incidentally, run at the trifling cost of about £4 million a year, which compares favourably with the estimated cost of the Welsh Assembly which, as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor mentioned, is £12½ million. It is one thing to revise a highly complex Bill which has been disentangled with a fine tooth comb in another place; but it is quite another thing to place the responsibility on your Lordships of the detailed scrutiny of 68 out of the 83 clauses and 10 out of the 12 Schedules, plus the normal process of revising the remainder—and this at time when we are engaged in a similar task over the Scotland Bill. Furthermore, it is probable that we shall be on to a hiding to nothing; we shall either be accused of not having taken sufficient trouble in scrutinising the Bill or of having taken too long over it. So at this early stage of the passage of the Bill I wish to emphasise that if, in the course of time, the Bill is accepted in the referendum and is enacted, and if it becomes clear that there are serious deficiencies in its operation, the blame will lie fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the present Government. To shift that blame would require one of the most monumental shrugs in history. Therefore, I disagree with the noble Lords, Lord Davies of Leek and Lord Maelor, when they suggest that we should pass this Bill quickly so that we can hold the referendum. To do that would be the worst possible plan. There would have been much to recommend holding the referendum before having spent any Parliamentary time on this Bill. But to spend a lot of time but not enough to get the Bill as good as possible, and then to go to the referendum at half-cock, would seem to me to be a most misguided procedure. If I mistook what the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said, I apologise.
My Lords, for the record I did not even mention the word "referendum". I should like to look up my speech, but I am quite sure that I did not utter that phrase. If I did, I beg the noble Lord's pardon; but I do not think that I did.
My Lords, I shall withdraw the comment. Before leaving this point I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to assure the House that there will be no question of a subsequent use of the guillotine when the Bill is returned with Amendments.I do not think that there is much argument over the advantages of decisions on local issues being taken locally, so long as they are made by impartial, prudent and fair bodies. Evidently there are many people in Wales who do not think that the institution of a Welsh Assembly at Cardiff will serve their purpose. As we have been told today, strong views are held by county and district councillors that the Assembly would steadily wrest power from them and in due course, using the power to undertake a review of local government structure in Wales under Clause 12, would recommend the demise of either the county or district councils, thus moving decision-taking further away from the people. My noble friend Lord Amory has explained this with his customary clarity, and I hope that his remarks will be faithfully recorded by the media. He was very fully supported by the noble Lord, Lord Heycock. It is vitally important that the possibility —and some would say probability—of any such future structural change is made known to those who will be voting in the referendum. They should also be made aware of the fact that under Clause 32, as the Bill stands, Assembly men will be able to pay themselves what they think they are worth. They should also know that the original Clause 1 of the Bill, declaring that the provisions do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom, has been dropped from the Bill. What is the reason for dropping Clause 1? Was it because the Government think that there is such certainty that the unity of the United Kingdom is in no way endangered, so that such a declaratory clause is but a superfluous truism? In that case, why was it originally included? Or is it that the Government have dropped the clause as it declares something of which they are in doubt? There are many other important points which have been raised today which will need to be subjected to critical examination during later stages of the Bill. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor asked whether the Assembly was to be bilingual. He also questioned whether £12½ million could not be used in more useful ways. The noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, made many very interesting suggestions for alternative uses of that money. My noble friend Lord Amory suggested that this figure would be sure to turn out to be an underestimate. What right of appeal will there be against decisions of the Assembly? That matter was raised by my noble friends Lord Amory and Lord Stanley of Alderley. What would be the relationship between the Assembly and both Houses of Parliament?—as was asked by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. Referenda are a novel method of government in this country. We are accustomed to decisions—right or wrong —being taken by Parliament, the Members of which have the opportunity of listening to the debates and reading the Official Report. For the Welsh voters to be put into a position where they can make a balanced judgment in the referendum, two things are essential: first, that Parliament spotligths the vital issues; and, secondly, that they are communicated fairly and objectively to the voters by the media. At a time when there is an even higher level of unemployment in Wales than in England—it is estimated at 100,000 during this summer—there will be a natural tendency to grasp at devolution as a panacea. So the issues must be made plain. There seems to be considerable vagueness in respect of the financial arrangements. There is a strain of open-endedness running through the Bill. Under Clause 24 the Assembly is empowered to appoint as many officers and servants as it considers appropriate. Clause 32 enables Members of the Assembly to pay themselves such salaries and allowances as the Assembly may from time to time determine, and to pay pensions and gratuities or allowances to persons who have ceased to be Members. Clause 50 enables the pay and pensions of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General to be determined by the Assembly; and arrangements for printing or not of official minutes are left to the discretion of the Assembly. These open-ended provisions will make very difficult the settling of the annual block grant, and even more difficult to gauge what it should be for a period of four years. Presumably this will be attempted by studying the total of Welsh expenditure in recent years, making allowance for inflation at the anticipated rate and adding the forecast costs of the Welsh Assembly. But this will be no easy matter as great variations occur in different sectors from one year to another. For instance, expenditure per head on health and social services rose from £86 in 1974–75 to £131 in 1976–77, and on education and libraries, science and arts, over the same period, from £106 to £152. At the end of these calculations Parliament will have to take into account the state of the United Kingdom economy as a whole and make such adjustments as is deemed to be reasonable. The likelihood then of annual conflict between Westminster and Cardiff is, I think, obvious. There is also concern over the rate support grant since the Assembly will be in a position to levy tax by withholding full distribution of the grant thus forcing the authorities to increase rates. Many noble Lords have referred to this today. I should have thought that the Assembly should not have this power, and we will return to this issue in the Committee stage. Since the original proposals of the Welsh Labour Party for a personal income tax, and I quote—
were turned down by the Labour Party and the Treasury, it seems inconsistent to leave open a backdoor method of taxation. We are considering here extremely large figures. In 1975–76 the rate support grant was 38 per cent. of total income and amounted to £427 million, rising to £463 million in 1977–78. In conclusion, my Lords, we on these Benches are not averse to the idea of transferring more power to the Welsh. After all, it was the Conservative Party which first appointed a Minister for Welsh Affairs in 1951 and later, in 1957, a full-time Minister of State for Wales. In 1960 it gave Members of Parliament the Welsh Grand Committee to debate Welsh Affairs, and it established the Welsh Office in 1963. In 1970 the Conservative Party transferred powers over primary and secondary education in Wales to the Secretary of State for Wales, and in 1971 responsibility for the urban programme. It also exerted consistent pressure on the Government to devolve agriculture to the Welsh Office, which occurred on 1st April this year. The Department is now responsible in Wales for housing, health, social services, primary and secondary education, child care, town and country planning, water, highways, tourism, forestry and agriculture jointly with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and many other functions. Doubtless there are other areas where the Welsh Secretary of State could extend his remit, for example, in the field of transport. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, pressed us as to our alternative proposals for devolution. We believe that there is great scope for consolidating the role of the Welsh Council. We believe that by introducing an elected element into this Council from local Government we would create a much more independent and worthwhile forum for Welsh opinion. We are committed to establishing a Welsh Select Committee which would probe and examine the Secretary of State's doings and those of the civil servants beneath him. We believe that this would be a powerful step forward in bringing democratic accountability to the people of Wales. This Select Committee would be free to sit in Cardiff, or elsewhere in Wales, and would form the democratic counterbalance to the increasing power of the Secretary of State. My Lords, I look forward to hearing what the noble and learned Lord says."a right to levy and utilise certain minor taxes on capital as well as stamp duties, motor vehicles and selective employment tax"—
My Lords, David Lloyd George, on one of his more eloquent occasions, described Wales as a nation of quarrelsome nightingales. In today's debate the nightingales have not been quarrelsome, but they have not entirely agreed with each other. We had the powerful array of those supporting the Bill, with some qualification, perhaps, of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, who is presently but no doubt temporarily absent, the noble Lords, Lord Davies of Leek and Lord Parry, singing a supporting song. What is interesting is the number of other noble Lords who spoke having had some fascinating associations with Wales. There were the two former Ministers for Welsh Affairs.The first of those who spoke, and with such distinction, was the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. As a Welshman, I would repeat the gratitude that Wales owes to him for his crucial role, when he was Minister for Wales, in the evolution of the Welsh Office and the great work he did for Wales. I give him that acknowledgement most willingly. He had the most interesting and particular Welsh association in that, apart from his lady, he is himself the son-in-law of a Welsh international. I never like to seek to improve on anyone, but I have the great privilege of being the brother of a Welsh rugby international captain. Indeed, the only distinction I shall ever really have in Wales arises from that fact. They tell the old story in Llanelli, "I met Elwyn-Jones the other day". "Who is he?" "Oh, he is the brother of Idris, the Welsh captain". They obviously have got their priorities right in Wales, and I share with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, a common vicarious distinction. While he was critical, he approached the matter most sympathetically. He was prepared to concede that the Bill may work and may be a success, but he thought it would not. That was rather different from the somewhat strident total rejection in most pessimistic terms that emerged from one or two other noble Lords who spoke. Then there were other noble Lords with Welsh connections. By now I have come to regard the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as an honorary Welshman, so often have we opposed each other on Welsh matters, and in a moment I shall come to one or two of the matters he has raised. Then we had the fascinating disclosure from the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, of the rather romantic roots of his family. Although he was highly critical of the way in which Wales had been dealt with in the past by England—perhaps he was indicating certainly by Westminster—I am sorry he was not able to agree with this step forward in recognition of the greater need to enable the great nation of Wales, which has commonly been so described, to have a greater voice in determining its own domestic problem. Then the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough —and I am afraid I was temporarily absent and did not hear the bulk of his speech—also is of Welsh ancestry. It is regrettable that owing to her present professional position the other distinguished Welsh speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady White, was required to adopt an unaccustomed role of neutrality in debates concerning Wales. We fully understand her restraint, while regretting that it should be constitutionally necessary. Having, I hope, mentioned those with Welsh connections, however remote in some cases, however indirect in others, the matters which arose in the debate have covered a very wide span, and I am not sure that I am entirely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashborne, for inviting me in the broadest terms to deal with them all. I am afraid that he would not thank me if I did so. Clearly very important points have been raised which call for critical attention in Committee, and any suggestion in the proposition that because the referendum is now expected and should be permitted to take place, therefore we need not rush, the quicker we have that the better, is absurd. It is clearly the duty of noble Lords—as they will do, as they did with the Scottish Bill—to give their full attention to it. The Government have indicated that they are certainly not inflexible on matters. As we did in the case of Scotland, we are again certainly prepared to listen to what is proposed. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, addressed a very direct question to me, which I shall not answer directly. However, I shall answer indirectly in a moment. It related to the fact of the guillotining of this Bill in another place. Your Lordships may like to hear again what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland drew attention to when there was a similar complaint in regard to the Scotland Bill. He quoted the observation of the right honourable Francis Pym, I think, in another place, which was made by him in a Press release issued by the Conservative Central Office, so it was said, on 23rd January, to this effect:
Of course, there are many precedents for guillotining constitutional measures. The recent example about which, I confess, in another place I complained with passion, even as intense as that we have heard tonight, was in regard to the European Communities Bill."But the Government is right in one matter. Under the present procedure no constitutional Bill could get through Parliament without a guillotine".
My Lords, while I take the point that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is making, it is fair to say that time was allowed for every clause of the Bill to which he has referred to be debated in some part in the other place. That cannot be said of this Bill.
My Lords, the noble Lord is anticipating with extraordinary prescience what I was about to deal with. If he will bear with me, he will have to listen to me for a little less time.As to the point that I was making, there are other examples such as the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Bill 1968. That, it is true, was the work of a previous Labour Administration. But at any rate there are other precedents. The most dramatic was that on the European Communities Bill, which was, of course, a major change, not only in our constitutional relationships but in our international relationships as well. So much for precedents. Now we come to consider—and I do so with some reluctance as those of us who are in this House always ought to exercise in regard to proceedings in another place. The position, as I understand it to be, was that there was a very lengthy consideration indeed of the Bill in another place. In the last Session four days were spent on the Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill. That was followed by a further 11 days in Committee before progress was halted. In this Session, following one day for the Second Reading, nine days were spent in Committee on the Wales Bill, and two days on the Wales Bill on Report and Third Reading—12 full days in all. What is more, of course, is that many of the provisions in the Wales Bill are identical to those in the Scotland Bill, which had previously been debated at great length. If I may respectfully say so, the allocation of time cannot really be regarded as unreasonable, particularly as the Government accepted representations in the Commons to have two devolution Bills in place of one. It is not for noble Lords in this House—certainly not for me—to reflect on whether the other place best used the time available for the discussion of the Bills. But your Lordships who may have had the pleasure of reading the debates may well have come to the conclusion, perhaps, that they used the time extravagantly and not well. But there it is. Now the matter comes to us. I could give further elaboration of what happened to the clauses and how there was a great deal of explanation as to why all were not discussed. However, I come to the question that I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Cullen, as to whether I could give an assurance now on whether there would be a guillotine in another place on the return of the Bill there. Clearly, of course, I cannot possibly give an answer to that, or any assurance about that, at this point of time. We must await the outcome of the Bill's deliberations in your Lordships' House. It may indeed be that so few Amendments are passed that a day or two in another place may be adequate to deal with the matter. Who can tell? As Mark Twain said, it is always dangerous to prophesy, especially about future events. Let us, to use the advice of a former Prime Minister, wait and see. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen, also asked me why Clause 1 was dropped. On the face of it, it looks rather sinister. I repeated, and I believe—and this is one of the reasons indeed why I support the Bill—that the unity, economic and political, of the United Kingdom must be retained. It is essential. How can we continue to succeed as a people if we throw that overboard? I, as a devoted Welshman, certainly feel that very intensely. What happened was this. It is true that there was a Clause 1 in the Scotland Bill, which the Government supported. But there was a vote against it that was carried by the strength of the Conservative Party. Who are they, now, to complain of the abandonment of the simple proposition that the unity of the United Kingdom must be sustained? No. I am not a man to make Party political points. But, really, now that I am standing two steps away from the Woolsack, I am entitled to do so. That is the case. The clause was in any event merely declaratory and, to avoid a repetition of that operation in another place, it went. I have been asked questions which have troubled noble Lords—and troubled noble Lords of great experience and seriousness. I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Heycock, who is a Welshman and has contributed enormously. He explained to me that unfortunately he had to go away because of a bereavement and could not be here. He has contributed enormously to the life of Wales—to its political life, its local government, and many other aspects of the life of Wales. He, along with several noble Lords, expressed concern about the impact of the Bill on local government in Wales. One of the matters that has caused concern was the proposal—indeed the provision—in Clause 12 of the Bill imposing a duty upon the Welsh Assembly (I had better get the words right) that it should:
I do not know whether there is a general opinion that goes so far as did that of one of the noble Lords who spoke. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, who spoke of the idiotic destruction of local government that took place. At any rate there is a real feeling in Wales that the local government structure which we inherited from our predecessors has been highly unsatisfactory and that it calls for review. The view we have taken is that the Assembly, as a democratically elected all-Wales authority, with substantial responsibilities in relation to Welsh local authorities, will be well qualified to conduct a review under Clause 12. It will be no more than a review. We expect that it will be a thorough one. However, the Assembly is neither given any material local authority tasks in the Bill nor any powers to reorganise local government. Its job will be to review the present structure, in consultation with local authority organisations, and then to make recommendations to the Secretary of State. It will be for Parliament to legislate, if legislation is decided upon. Therefore, there will be abundant opportunities to deal with any recommendations that may transpire from that review. The noble Lord, Lord Heycock, suggested that there had been some misleading of Welsh local authorities. But the record appears to show that the Government always made it clear—for example, in paragraph 236 of the White Paper of November 1975—that the Welsh Assembly would become responsible for central Government supervision of most aspects of local government. It was made equally clear that the Assembly would not, under the Government's proposals, take over any of the material tasks of local authorities, and I submit that that remains true. Then, as regards the proposed review of local government under Clause 12, notice of that provision was given in the White Paper of August 1976. That appears to be the position. We shall examine in due course in detail the exact relationship between the Assembly and local government, and between the Assembly and Parliament itself, which has been a subject of discussion and concern. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who began the debate with a pretty scathing adjectival attack upon the Bill, was, however, extremely gracious in commending the quality of Wales as a great nation, with a people whom he admired, and with an ancient language and culture. I am quite sure that he is sincere about that. He also seemed to be indicating that there was a case for the people of Wales having a bigger role in deciding their own domestic problems. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest——I am glad that he had already gone on the Bench before I started practising at the Bar on the Wales and Chester circuit, for his advocacy is superb—tried to smoke out the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as to how he was going to give effect to his pious declaration that something ought to be done; that we ought to walk on this devolutionary road. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, perhaps somewhat wickedly, was saying how he looked forward to seeing the new Assembly proposals emanating as the Bill proceeds through the Committee stage, and how I also look forward to Lord Elton's version in the fullness of time. I cannot wait to hear it."review the structure of local government in Wales and shall report its conclusions to the Secretary of State".
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord really cannot wait, I can relieve his anxiety at once. First, I would ask him to read the greater part of my noble friend Lord Cullen of Ashbourne's concluding passage. Secondly, I would point out to him that the terms "devolution" and "Assembly" are in no way synonymous.
Well, my Lords, that is good as far as it goes. It does not go terribly far. The truth is that the Conservative Party has been basically negative in its attitude to this difficult problem almost all along. But then I am getting Party political again. I keep trying to avoid that temptation.I cannot overpraise, with emotion, the noble speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest. I hope that all Welshmen will read it. It will give them pride that a man of that great quality should speak as he has done with such feeling about his people, to whose life he has contributed so much. The fact that he, with whatever modifications and reservations that may emerge, came out so clearly in support of what the Bill seeks to do has given me great comfort indeed. There was concern about the Welsh language aspect of this matter. Some anxiety was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and others about this. The noble Lord, Lord Swansea, also expressed concern that there might be discrimination by the Assembly against non-Welsh speaking members of its staff, and generally. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, whose delightful speech I am sure we all enjoyed greatly, expressed doubt whether non-Welsh speaking Members of the Assembly staff would be able to achieve senior positions in its administration. With respect, I think the doubt is answered. In Clause 65 the Bill provides that the staff of the Assembly shall be members of the home Civil Service. The procedures for recruiting, appointing and promoting civil servants I think provide ample safeguards against discrimination among the Assembly staff, if indeed such safeguards are needed. But I do not believe that the Assembly will discriminate against Welsh or non-Welsh speakers. It will be representative of all parts of Wales, and the fact must unhappily be faced that the considerable majority of the people living in Wales, alas, do not speak the Welsh language. They will be voting. Their representatives will be in and of the Assembly, and I would expect the Assembly to be fair to Welsh and non-Welsh speakers alike. As to the use of the Welsh language in the Assembly, of course it will be a matter for the Assembly itself. The Welsh language will undoubtedly be used there. It will be for the Assembly itself to decide whether simultaneous translation facilities should be used for debates and matters of that kind. I understand that some preparations are already being made technically for that possibility. It is better that it should be left to the Assembly to be sure that the arrangements are fair to both Welsh speakers and English speakers. Then the noble Lord, Lord Elton, very rightly pointed out that there was not a word of Welsh in the whole of the Bill. That is probably right; but of course nor is there in the end part of the very last page of the Bill, page 88, on the form of the ballot paper. I am happy to assure the noble Lord that there is no need to amend the Appendix to Schedule 12 to his exquisite Welsh—and I congratulate him on the convincing quality of the Welsh that he spoke. There is no need to amend the Appendix to Schedule 12 to provide for a Welsh version of the referendum ballot paper. Under Section 2 of the Welsh Language Act 1967 it will be possible for the Secretary of State to prescribe the Welsh version, which will certainly be necessary, and of course that will be done. Indeed, the Welsh text of the paper has already been considered, but I will not trouble noble Lords by giving the proposed Welsh version. I detect a note of disappointment on the face of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, but at any rate the two critical words at the end will be rhowch groes yn y blwch yn cynnwys ydwyf neu nac ydwyf, which, being translated, means Yes or No; or I suppose we should try, being the Chamber that we are, to put it down as Contents and Not-Contents. On the other hand, if one ever asks a Welshman if he is fully content, the answer will undoubtedly be No, so I should resist a question in those terms, but that at any rate will be dealt with. The hour is late and noble Lords have been patient with me. It is quite clear that there is room for a considerable difference of opinion about the Bill and its provisions. There is room for worry as to whether there will be conflicts between Parliament and the Assembly, between the Secretary of State and the Assembly, between the Assembly and local authorities. There are possibilities of conflict, but I believe the politically alert, educated and articulate people of Wales will want to make this thing work. I think they will make it work, and my expectation at the end of the day is that the result of the ballot, whether one supports the Bill or not, will be ydwyf, Yes.
On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.