§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
May I say with all humility that this must be a proud occasion for any hon. Member of the Principality to have this opportunity of moving the Second Reading of this, the Government of Wales, Bill. Perhaps you would permit me, Sir, for a few minutes, to make certain references to the background of this matter. I know that Wales is frequently regarded as being just a region, just an area somewhere within the United Kingdom with very little regard paid to its problems, to its intensely interesting history and to the culture which is peculiarly its own.
I have hon. Friends here who will verify my belief that never before has our country been more alive, more active, more articulate and more finely organised in the demand that a substantial measure of self-government should at long last be given to Wales. I have received many hundreds of letters, postcards and telegrams. Having mentioned telegrams, I may say that I am sure that the Postmaster-General would have been delighted to have seen the scores of telegrams, in my own language, that have come to me, wishing me good luck and supporting the Bill. The telegrams have, with but one or two exceptions, been perfect in their spelling. I think that the Postmaster-General would have taken some pleasure in that, assuming that he knows a little about our country.
These messages, which have run to thousands, come from every town, village and hamlet in Wales. They are not of the type that a Member of Parliament so often receives, that is, the circular type of letter which has been written in a central office, distributed 2440 among interested parties for signatures to be attached and then sent to Members of Parliament. In this case, the letters have very largely come from individuals. I have not had two letters that could have been prepared in any office in Wales that would in the least be interested in the contents of the Bill.
The sources of these letters have been amazing. I have even had sent to me by their clerks resolutions from several rural district councils in Wales. I have had scores from our Welsh chapels and churches, from unions of Welsh chapels and churches, from groups of young people, cultural societies, and so on, within our chapels and from many branches of the Cymmrodorion Society and quite a number from the Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Undeb Cymru Fydd, and from the staffs of several of our secondary grammar schools. Needless to say, I have had many from Cymrodorion societies throughout our country, and from hundreds of branches of the Parliament of Wales movement. I have even had them from branches of miners' lodges.
§ Mr. Davies
I have one here which is typical of quite a number. It says:Congratulations and best wishes for today, Penallta Colliery Lodge Committee, representing 1,800 miners.I am afraid that my right hon. Friend provoked me to read that telegram from the many which I have received.
In addition to the sources I have mentioned, I have even received some charming messages from some of the crews of our Welsh fishing trawlers. Need I say more? Whatever hon. Members may think, whatever representatives of Welsh constituencies may say, there is a movement in Wales, an uprising, as it were, that will not only support the Bill but will continue to insist upon it until Wales is represented in the United Kingdom as something more than a mere region.
I have received reports of the canvass made on the subject of the Bill throughout Wales. The results have been amazing. The canvass showed an extremely high percentage in favour of a Parliament of Wales. May I refer to my constituency, to see the manner in 2441 which the work was done? A part of my constituency known to many hon. Members is Dowlais. Well over 1,000 homes there were canvassed. I had nothing to do with the organisation of that operation and I did no personal canvassing. The percentage of refusals was 1.67 and over 1,000 houses were visited.
It is no use suggesting that we chose Dowlais because it was more Welsh than any other part of my constituency. That would not be correct. There are other parts of my constituency where probably the support would have been 100 per cent., in areas where the people still speak their own language and still passionately love their country. I refer to Heolgerrig and Clwydyfagwyr. I have here some figures. They are not confined to the rural areas of Wales. They include Mon mouthshire, Cardiff, West——
§ Mr. Davies
—Rhondda, and other places. Those of my hon. Friends who doubt the way in which the work has been done are welcome not only to see the reports which I have received, but to check up on them.
One aspect of the campaign has been the intense interest taken by the youth of Wales in this demand for a measure of self government. I doubt whether in any part of the world there is a youth organisation in any way comparable with our Urdd Gobaith Cymru. It has between 120,000 and 130,000 members between the ages of 16 and 25. It has branches, or aelwydydd in every town, village and hamlet, and in almost every secondary grammar school in our country.
Admittedly, it is largely a cultural and social organisation, but there is no doubt that it watches the interests and the well-being of Wales with a constant and jealous eye and that it is quick to take offence. I commend that fact to him with every respect, to the Home Secretary. I think that he knows quite a lot about his and my country. I should be most upset were this splendid youth organisation inflamed by a blunt refusal or by the continued indifference of this or any other Government to this reasonable demand.
There is also another profoundly solid reason why the Bill should be supported 2442 by every hon. and right hon. Member. Very few experienced Members of Parliament have not deplored from time to time the admittedly evil effects of the vast and unending spate of delegated legislation that goes on over the years. We may as well admit it. It has been said from both sides of the House over and over again. This means that the rights and privileges of elected Members of Parliament are taken away from them and handed over to an impersonal, un-elected and unrepresentative service. I do not complain about them, but I complain about the constant deadly whittling away of the powers of the United Kingdom Parliament.
I must repeat, that this is not the first time that this protest has been made about the vast plethora of rules, orders and regulations, which run into tens of thousands, and affect, in the most intimate way, the lives of every man, woman and child in this island. These Statutory Instruments are not merely administering instruments. Within them is a considerable amount of concealed executive power. More and more the people of this country are being ruled, directed—yes, and at times regimented—by outside influences, un-elected as I say, and certainly unrepresentative.
When one would protest against these things, one is invariably told that it cannot be helped. The answer, in the usual whining tone, is, "It cannot be helped." We are told that this delegation of power is unavoidable, because of the congestion of Parliamentary business. That is admitted by Government spokesman after Government spokesman. The congestion here is so appalling that the work and responsibility of Parliament must devolve, and progressively devolve, upon outsiders. That was the reason given at the time when the great nationalisation Bills were going through this House—coal, gas, electricity, and so on. Why were they handed over lock, stock and barrel?
§ Mr. Davies
It does not matter by whom. I am not criticising anybody for anything other than a chronic indifference to this appalling problem.
They were handed over, as I said, lock, stock and barrel to outside corporate bodies who, perforce, and by Acts 2443 of Parliament were made, as it were, a law unto themselves.
I have living in my constituency 7,000 miners, working within and outside the constituency. There is not a question of the least importance which I can put to the Minister of Fuel and Power about these miners, as miners. Were there a disastrous mining tragedy, it is only by the courtesy of this House that I should be able to put a question to the Minister. The Minister would express his sympathy and I should accept it sincerely. Then, after consulting the Coal Board, he would inform me, in all probability, that an inquiry would be conducted.
It is time that we objected to that procedure so far as miners are concerned, and the same applies to workers in other nationalised industries. As a Member of Parliament, as an ex-miner and mining engineer, there is nothing that I can do for the miners in my constituency, as miners, whether they be alive or dead. Many of us know how stultifying and frustrating all this can be and it is all created and justified by the appalling congestion of work in this House. This Bill provides an opportunity whereby, in process of time, we may relieve that congestion.
This is a modest Bill. To put it in a sentence, what is proposed is that at this stage some foundation should be laid, through its provisions, on which a considerable measure of self-government could be built in the future. I am certain that what I and my colleagues are asking for on behalf of the Principality will result in efforts, particularly in Scotland, and probably in some parts of England, for a similar measure of self-government. I am not exaggerating the effect on the life of a back bencher when he senses this frustration, this stultifying effect of delegated legislation. If any hon. Member can suggest some means of bringing back to the elected Members of Parliament powers which are increasingly being taken from them; if any hon. Member can advance ways and means of stopping, or even retarding the withering away of our Parliamentary democracy, I and my hon. Friends will listen with pleasure and with care.
Our Bill, on the whole, is a modest one. Inevitably, it is a lengthy Bill, but its substance can be appreciated by every 2444 hon. Member. I consider that it has one virtue—I say this in all humility—that it is one of the most lucidly phrased Bills I have ever had the pleasure of reading—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am glad we are agreed on that.
It will be seen that this Welsh Parliament is proposed to be known as the Senate of Wales. Welsh hon. Members will appreciate immediately why the word "Senate" has been used. It is an ideal translation of the Welsh word "Senedd", and we would not like it to be confused with the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It will have 72 Members, and the 36 Members from Wales who now attend this honourable House will continue to attend. I know that this proposal has been criticised, but, I suggest, by persons who probably have not read the Bill.
The taking over, by agreement with this honourable House, of powers by the Welsh Senate will occur on an appointed day. Then certain powers, known as reserved services, will be taken over during the first three years of the functioning of the Welsh Senate. Clause 2 (2) and the First Schedule deals with excepted matters. No one knows whether they will be excepted for all time, but some of the excepted matters may, by agreement, be handed over to the Welsh Parliament. As for the constituencies, my hon. Friends need not worry about the Welsh boundaries. They will be as they are at present.
§ Mr. Davies
I can assure my hon. Friend that, in time, a Parliament in Wales will give us an infinitely better opportunity of earning our salaries than we are permitted here. I am sure that my hon. Friends who represent Cardiff will be proud to find in the Bill that the Welsh Senate shall first meet at a place within the City of Cardiff. Then Cardiff will really become the capital of Wales and not the principal city of an area or a region.
We consider that Clause 2 is rather important. The references to excepted matters and reserved services make it abundantly clear that until such services are handed over to the Welsh Senate, the Welsh Senate will have the right to discuss them and the people of Wales will have the right to make their opinions 2445 known, but those discussions and the resolutions passed at the Senate will not have the force of law. But, harking back to the appalling conditions in Wales in the inter-war years, we suggest that powers be given to enable us to make laws for granting financial or other aid to trade and commerce, for we can never forget the depressed conditions of Wales in days gone by.
Clause 3, relating to executive authority, is perfectly clear, and I shall waste no time on it except to remark that the Privy Council of Wales will consist of Welsh Ministers, who ought to know their business. Also, we shall be removing certain disqualifications for membership of Parliament. There will be no difficulty on the part of a peer or a clergyman of the Church in Wales being a Member of the Welsh Senate, if the Welsh people so decide, of course. By Clause 8, the oath which is required to be taken by a Member of Parliament may be taken in the Welsh Senate in either English or Welsh.
We have been assisted by the Government of Ireland Act in the preparation of this Bill. We have paid close attention to it and have had regard to any changes which have been brought about by that Act. Clauses 12 and 13 are patterned on the Government of Ireland Act. In case there may be questions about Clause 14, which deals with the Welsh contribution to Imperial expenditure, may I say that we have here adopted very largely the formula laid down in the Catto Report. Clause 16 ties up very nicely with the Second Schedule. From there to the end of the Bill there is very little that is not known——
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
Will the hon. Gentleman assist us on Clause 21? It seems to be important, and I think he ought to deal with it if he is seeking to assist us to understand the Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
That originally appeared in the Government of Ireland Act but in the process of time it petered out of existence, and probably the same thing will happen in Wales.
§ Mr. Davies
At this stage, it is indispensable that the Clause should appear in our Bill. It was of value and importance for Northern Ireland when the Government of Ireland Bill became an Act.
2446 My hon. Friends, who know the Bill at least as well as I do, will answer fully any questions, if they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, but before I sit down I want to appeal to the House to treat the Bill seriously. I know that the relationship between Wales, the Welsh people and the British Parliament has been rather good on the whole. [Hon. Members: "Excellent."] But the Welsh people have one weakness—they are inclined to be long suffering. We ought never to forget the inter-war years.
I want to draw my hon. Friends' attention to this: some of us have profound misgivings about the future, particularly the future of industrial South Wales. We are on the eve of a colossal technical and technological revolution in the realm of nuclear fission, but the foundation of our economy is still the South Wales coal field. What is likely to happen to that coal field in the next ten or fifteen years?
I say that we are entitled to, should have and must have, more power to look after our own Welsh affairs than we have had. We know what happened in the inter-war years. We have memories of nearly half-a-million of our young people being driven out of South Wales and we do not want the same thing to happen again. We are quite confident of this: we are the people who know our country, we are the people who can best look after our country, we are the people who are conscious that we live in one of the richest countries in the world. Authorities who have made studies of countries, of their natural physical resources and wealth and of their productive resources have said that Wales could support and sustain well over three times its present population.
I hope that in the interests of all concerned the House will agree to the Second Reading of the Bill, and will allow it to go to Committee upstairs.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I beg to second the Motion.
In doing so, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on introducing the Bill and on giving the House an opportunity to debate a most important constitutional issue. My hon. Friend has put an immense amount of work into the preparation of the Bill 2447 and has tackled the task with his usual enthusiasm and pertinacity. We are grateful to him for having done so.
Might I enlarge briefly upon what he said, and give some additional reasons for bringing the Bill before the House? First, he is quite right when he says that Welsh problems are not adequately dealt with in the House, and cannot be fully dealt with in view of the present congested state of business. We have here a recurring story of failure to foresee and to forestall Welsh problems.
There has been no reasoned, constructive approach to the major problems of the Principality, and there is a constant feeling in Wales that the Government are patching here and patching there but are taking no constructive steps towards a permanent solution to our difficulties. It is time that the House realised that the same sauce will not do for the goose as for the gander.
Here are some examples of the difficulties which have confronted us. My hon. Friend referred to the chronic unemployment situation which existed before the war, when the average figure of unemployment in Wales was consistently higher than that in England. We have today pockets of unemployment in the Principality where the figures of the insured population out of work are higher than those in other parts of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friends and I, who are pressing the Government to take action in this matter, feel that there is a lack of urgency in the Government's attitude towards our problems.
Again, there is the problem which exists in the tinplate area in South Wales. We hope that this is a temporary problem, due to transition because of the conversion to modern methods, but, as all my hon. and right hon. Friends know, the problem is a source of concern to us. There is, too, the idleness of the Welsh coal ports, and the' serious question of rural depopulation.
§ Mr. Hughes
If my hon. Friend will give me an opportunity to develop my argument perhaps, in due course, he will see the light.
2448 When we had a debate on the Report of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire—a constructive Report from a Welsh body which has given very detailed consideration to this problem of rural depopulation—the Government's attitude to the problem, again, was lackadaisical and dilatory.
The slate industry is in an increasingly parlous condition. When my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) raised the problem of the slate industry in an Adjournment debate, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works refused even to mention the future of the slate industry to the President of the Board of Trade.
There is also the question of leasehold enfranchisement. Here, again, nothing has been done, although it is an. urgent problem in Wales, and particularly in Pembrokeshire. Leases will be falling in between 1955 and 1980.
§ Mr. Hughes
These are properties which have been bought by the workers out of their hard-won earnings; and we are pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West will shortly be introducing a Bill in an attempt to alleviate the position in the Principality. All these problems are of vast importance to the Welsh nation. Most of them are peculiarly Welsh and of the greatest consequence to the people of Wales, although by comparison with the English problems they may seem to the House to be negligible.
I would also argue that the failure to meet and to solve the problems of Wales often arises out of deliberate Government policy. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government act out of malice towards Wales, but it often appears to us that the Government's acts are calculated with an eye to the main body of the electorate—and the main body of the electorate is in England.
I would call in aid the analysis of the Welsh Reconstruction Advisory Council. The Chairman was a distinguished Welshman, Sir Frederick Rees. In pages 8 and 9 of that Report, paragraph 13, we find these words, which I think are highly significant and are relevant to our debate today:It is with the memory of this bitter experience behind them that the people of Wales 2449 approach the problem of post-war reconstruction. Reparations deliveries, the return to the Gold Standard, the Irish tariff war, the abandonment of the agricultural policy promised in the Agriculture Act, 1920, sanctions against Italy, the Trade Agreements, and punitive taxation against coal-using steam wagons, were all deliberate acts of State policy.The Report goes on to say that thematter of preparations for the future should not be dissociated from the life of the people or affected by entrusting the whole task to any remote central body of experts.These are Welsh problems which should be dealt with in Wales; that is an objective assessment by an independent council.
The accumulated result of all these matters has given rise to grave dissatisfaction in the Principality, and the situation has given rise to a trinity of feelings. First, there is the feeling that if Wales had a firmer control over her own affairs these problems would not arise as frequently, or with such intensity. There is also the feeling that they would be solved with greater alacrity than at present. We also feel that there are other less advanced and less well educated races who are shouldering the responsibility of solving their own problems.
At the same time—I stress this to the House—there is a desire among us that our association and our friendship with England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland should continue. The principle of devolution is in keeping with the policy of successive Governments in relation both to Wales and to Scotland, although Scotland has received far more careful consideration than Wales throughout the years.
In Scotland, there has recently been the transfer of the Hydro-Electric Board and the transfer of responsibility for transport. Constant steps are taken in this House to devolve responsibility to Scotland, but even in Wales in recent years there has been the creation, by the Labour Administration, of a Council for Wales and the creation of the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs by the present Administration. All these steps are an implied recognition that Wales has her own problems with which the existing machinery cannot cope.
There has also been a certain amount of administrative devolution in Wales, although I am always extremely suspicious of administrative devolution. I do not like the idea of bureaucracy 2450 being projected into the Principality without simultaneous answerability to an elected body there. That is a dangerous development against which this House must guard. Finally, as my hon. Friend said, there is a formidable body of informed opinion in Wales which is in favour of a measure of legislative devolution.
I would summarise the Bill by saying that its purposes are four-fold. In the first place, it seeks to give Wales some measure of the status which befits a nation and which statehood alone can give. The essential institutions of Government are provided by the Bill—the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. They are the institutions by which the nation's life is traditionally protected.
Secondly, we seek to give the voice of Wales greater weight in matters which concern the United Kingdom as a whole. Thirdly, we seek to ensure greater efficiency in the way in which problems of Wales are met and solved. We seek to do that by the method of responsibility of Ministers to an elected body. Surely there is not a single hon. Member in this House who is a democrat and has regard for the liberty of the individual who would not say that that is a far better method than the projection of a large civil service into the Principality. Fourthly, we seek to ensure that the process of setting up the new Welsh organisation shall be carried through smoothly and without jeopardising the livelihood or the security of any person in the Principality.
My hon. Friend has dealt with some of the provisions of the Bill. I should like to underline what he has said and make some further observations. Hon. Members will observe that the Bill retains the authority of the United Kingdom Parliament, which will remain supreme. That is to be seen in Clause 46. Certain matters are excepted, such as foreign policy, trade and defence. That is done by Clause 2 (2), and the First Schedule.
Wales would continue to send representatives to Westminster, and taxation is a reserved matter. The economic unity of the United Kingdom would continue unbroken under the provisions of the Bill. The Bill establishes a Senate to deal with Welsh domestic affairs. The 2451 senate will not be an emasculated, powerless body; it will have complete control over the executive in most branches of government, and there will be an allowance for a margin of economic initiative. That I consider to be very important.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member has referred to the fact that Wales would continue to send representatives to the United Kingdom Parliament. There is one difficulty which perhaps he could clear up at this stage. His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, also remarked on this and compared it with the Northern Ireland Act. Before the Act setting up the Northern Ireland Parliament I believe there were about 28 Members from Ulster attending in this House. Following the setting up of the Ulster Parliament that representation was reduced to 12.On that basis it would be reasonable to suppose that the representation of Wales in this House would be reduced from 36 to about 14.
§ Mr. Hughes
That does not follow. In our Bill we allow for full representation. Great powers are retained by the United Kingdom Parliament. We argue that there should be no taxation without representation, and we want full representation.
The powers of the proposed assembly would be two-fold. They would be legislative and deliberative. The latter provision is significant. It is inserted to avoid the Ruling of the Speaker in the Northern Ireland Parliament that no discussion should take place on certain aspects of affairs—for example, discussion on foreign policy is not allowed in the Northern Ireland Parliament. We consider it advisable that there should be this deliberative function in the Welsh Parliament.
Clause 3 deals with the powers of control of the executive. Then there are the powers in relation to finance, which arc of great importance. Power of taxation is limited since Income Tax, Purchase Tax, Customs and Excise are excluded, 2452 leaving Death Duties, legacy duties and local taxation, such as licence fees, to the Welsh Senate. That may be reviewed after three years. It is interesting to note that these powers under Clause 21, in which the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) was interested, have lapsed in Northern Ireland.
What would be the scope of the powers of the new assembly? Four classes of work are envisaged. First, there are the transferred services. These would be transferred immediately the Act came into force; that is to say, about six months after the passing of the Bill. They include a Welsh Board of Health, a Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education, a Welsh Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, and a Welsh Office of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. As the House will be aware, the services to be performed by the Welsh Department of Housing and Local Government are housing, water, sewers, town and country planning, and general questions of local government.
Two matters are not dealt with by that Department in relation to Wales. Loans are not dealt with, but the Welsh Department would help in the vetting of applications to the Public Works Loan Board. Rate equalisation is dealt with entirely through the Ministry in London, and, therefore, this function could not pass on the date that the Act came into force. There is provision for the question of rate equalisation to be reviewed at the end of three years.
On the general financial provisions, hon. Members will be anxious to know how Wales could meet the cost of Government and what would be the sources of revenue. First, there would be the Welsh residuary share of reserved taxes—that is to say, tax as levied and collected by the United Kingdom Treasury. The Welsh contribution to Imperial liabilities and reserved taxes would be deducted, and the balance would be returned to Wales. This would be a matter for the Joint Exchequer Board which would be set up under Clause 12.
Secondly, certain taxes would be paid directly to the Welsh Exchequer. These, as I have already mentioned, are Death Duty and the like, and then there would be the local taxes, Road Fund licences, and Entertainments Duty. We hope and believe that following the setting up of 2453 this body for Wales, there would be increased efficiency and that this would result in higher output in the Principality.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda. West)
My hon. Friend says with certainty that the final net balance to the Welsh Parliament would be sufficient to sustain the form of government and executive power that the Bill envisages. Has he any estimate of what the net balance of these financial arrangements might be?
§ Mr. Hughes
It is extremely difficult to give an estimate. As my hon. Friend knows, we have been pressing over a number of years for a committee for Wales on the lines of the Catto Committee; we have been pressing for a Royal Commission to investigate the Welsh position. In spite of our efforts, we have failed to persuade the Government to set up such a committee. Our estimates are based on the standards that we have at our disposal. The figure of £75 million mentioned in Clause 14, for example, is based on the formula used by the Catto Committee for Scotland. If we have no additional figures, that is not our fault. We wish we had full details at our disposal.
I should like to deal briefly with the functions of the proposed Joint Exchequer Board, which would be the pivot in the operation of finance. The board's functions would be to decide what taxes were properly attributable to the Principality, to decide the Welsh residuary share of reserved taxes and contributions to Imperial funds, to decide what sums were necessary to conduct government in Wales before the Welsh Exchequer derived funds of its own, and to know how these sums were to be paid, to decide what share of the assets of nationalised industries should go to Wales, and to decide, lastly, the cost of the reserved services and the nature of certain taxes. As the House will appreciate, this latter would be a quasi-judicial function. These provisions which I have summarised are to be seen in Clauses 12 and 15.
Now, I turn briefly to the judicial functions as outlined in the Bill. I would argue that there is real need for a Welsh judiciary. Consider, for example, the long assize lists in Glamorgan and other counties. Cases are transferred from one town to another and to the next assize. This gives rise to forced settlements, 2454 which is very undesirable, and which, in turn, brings the law into disrepute.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not think that the proposal to enlarge the jurisdiction of the county courts would assist in this matter. There is scope for an appeal court in Wales because there are large numbers of appeals from Wales to the Court of Appeal and to the Divisional court. There is scope for masters and judges in chambers. That need is due largely to the growth in commercial work in South Wales and in north-east Wales.
There is nothing new in that proposal. It is tantamount to the resurrection and enlargement of the functions of the old Welsh Court of Great Session, and I regard it as a very desirable innovation. Hon. Members will observe from Clause 24 and the Sixth Schedule that the full rights of barristers, solicitors and litigants would be preserved.
The provision in the Bill is, first, for a chief justice and for two puisne judges and two judges of appeal. The appointment of the judges would be a matter for Her Majesty, and would be effected in the first place by an Order in Council under Clause 44. Clause 25 (1) contains a novel proviso for cutting out the divisional courts in divorce and in appeals from magistrates and in bankruptcy. That is also a desirable development. The result of these proposals in Wales would be that litigation would be cheaper and would be speeded up. The Bill provides that three years would elapse before the courts could be established.
In conclusion, I would say that the Bill seeks to give responsibility and makes for administrative and executive efficiency. It gives dignity to a nation that has deserved better for many hundreds of years. For example, for the first time it gives official representation to the Sovereign in Wales. It gives a capital city to Wales. Cardiff is the city that would benefit, and Cardiff would be the capital of a nation reborn.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Bill is not a frivolous experiment but is a proposal based on the experience of Northern Ireland and 2455 of the needs of Wales. In so far as it differs from the system in Northern Ireland—it does differ in certain respects, and it is unfortunate that I have not the time to deal with the differences between the Government of Northern Ireland and the proposed government for Wales—it differs because of the temper and needs of the two countries.
The Bill is certainly not a proposal which can be rejected out of hand. It is a proposal which is federal in conception. The reaction to it will be an interesting indication of the extent to which Welsh Members of the Government are alive to Welsh problems. The Bill is designed to preserve harmony in the United Kingdom while handing over responsibility for internal affairs to Wales to ensure that no economic or political storm in the future catches the Welsh nation unprepared and unprotected.
In the last 50 years, there has been a tremendous growth in the bureaucracy in this country. Civil servants have acquired tremendous power. As a consequence, we have seen the multiplication of administrative tribunals and administrative laws, and this development strikes at the very roots of our democracy, and endangers the sovereignty of Parliament and of the common law of the country. Here, in our submission, is one method of stemming this tide.
This proposal would help to strengthen and preserve our democracy and not to weaken it. It would help to preserve our civil liberties, and, for that reason and the others which we have adduced, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)
I would sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on using his good fortune in the Ballot to enable the issue of a Parliament for Wales to be debated in this House. A debate here on it, in my view, is long overdue. He spoke today, I think, with an endearing modesty, which, I think, was accounted for by the fact that he had a good deal to be modest about. The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C.Hughes) spoke at length about the various problems which have affected the Principality not only under this Government but under the last; but what I have 2456 entirely failed to see is the connection between the Bill and the cure of any one of those problems.
I would congratulate both hon. Members on ignoring the appendix to the "Parliament for Wales" pamphlet of 1953, in which the Parliament for Wales campaign suggested certain constitutional improprieties of which I shall remind the House and which may not be known to some of the Scottish Members whose names appear on the Bill and whose patriotism, no doubt, has taken them from this House today to Scotland.
There were three schemes which were bandied about on the platforms of the Parliament for Wales campaign.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I can well understand that the hon. Gentlemen would not want them examined now, but it is right that the people of Wales should know what is at the back of the hon. Gentlemen's minds even if it is not on the front of the Bill. There were three constitutional improprieties.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
First there was a proposal for a two-chamber parliament, in which the first chamber would have had, say, 72 members elected in the ordinary way, and the second chamber would have been elected on the basis of area rather than of population. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil objected to the treatment of Wales as a region, but I have yet to hear of his having protested against the treatment of Wales for parliamentary purposes as an area.
The second proposal was for a single-chamber parliament having not only members elected by the direct votes of the electorate, but also non-elected members nominated by the principal local authorities. I have heard the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil protest today against the influence of non-elected members, but I do not recall his having protested against the influence of those who were to have been nominated by the principal local authorities in Wales.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
—bandied about, in North Wales particularly, which was featured in this pamphlet, which must have influenced the minds of many people who read it. This was a proposal for a single-chamber parliament having only directly elected members; but those members were to have been grouped for voting into geographical groups and subject to the condition that no Bill should pass into law unless it secured, in addition to a majority of the whole house, the support of a certain proportion of the votes of members in each group or of a certain number of groups.
I will tell the House the groups which were proposed and the purpose of these schemes will become apparent to those not yet seized of their importance. I will also tell the House the electorate in those groups to the nearest 1,000 in 1951. The first group consisted of Glamorgan and Monmouth, and the number of electors was 1,127,000. The second group was Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke, and the number of electors 230,000. The third was of Anglesey, Caernarvon and Merioneth, and the electorate numbered 154,000.The fourth consisted of Denbigh and Flint, with an electorate of 217,000. The fifth consisted of Brecon, Montgomery and Radnor, with an electorate of 85,000.
This is the three card trick of classical design. Whichever card Glamorgan and Monmouth happened to choose of the three they were bound to lose. It was quite impossible for them to "spot the lady." Schemes one and three were methods of swindling Glamorgan and Monmouth out of their numerical superiority. The second was to ensure a veto. Yet the hon. Member for Anglesey talks here today about democracy, and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil protests here today against powers enjoyed by non-elected members.
§ Mr. Davies
Does the hon. Member not appreciate that we are not now debating a pamphlet? Today, we are debating a Bill, and we stand by every word, letter and comma in it now. What about the Bill?
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I deduce from the hon. Gentleman's interruptions that he is no longer willing to support the principle of "Mein Kampf"—the gospel on which the Parliament for Wales campaign was planned.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I can well understand that the hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to be judged by what is in the shop window, but the people of Wales are entitled to know what is under the counter at the back.
This Bill is, by implication, as these interruptions have indicated, an apology for those frauds, because they have all been dropped. However, they have not lost relevance to the Bill, because the Bill reverses the previous priorities. Instead of putting the people of Glamorgan and Monmouth under the political domination of the rest of Wales, the Bill places all the other counties of Wales under the political domination of Glamorgan and Monmouth. In so far as this has not been explained to the people of Wales the signatures to the petition for the Welsh Parliament have been obtained by false pretences.
The Bill would confer powers on the altruistic citizens of Glamorgan and Monmouth which we do not want, and of that there is a great deal of direct evidence. First, there is the vote of the Regional Council of Labour in South Wales. There is secondly the votes of the mine workers in South Wales. Then there are the indications which we all have had from the response which was made to the suggestion that the people should write to the Members of this House and protest their support in favour of the Bill and so influence their Members in that way. I have had under a dozen messages, and I was interested to note that one came from Ebbw Vale and the other from Tunbridge Wells.
Then there are one's own observations. I have spent a great part of my life in Glamorgan and I believe that I know how the people of Glamorgan think and react to political policies. There is no desire whatever in Glamorgan and Monmouth to be given the powers which the Bill confers upon those counties. As to the general political attitude of the people of Wales, not only in Glamorgan 2459 and Monmouth, they are more interested in a subtraction from sovereignty as a way to progress than they are in the multiplication of superfluous Parliaments.
I want to protest against that arrogant form of nationalism which claims that all who want a Parliament for Wales are patriots and all those who do not are disloyal to their native land. I am going to quote to the House from a few sample publications. These things are not in the Bill, but it is just as well that those who support the Bill should know the intellectual company which they are keeping. I have not gone looking for these things. They have been sent to me. I have not the money to spare to buy them.
First, there is an extract from the "Welsh Republican." This should be of particular interest to the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman), who I am sorry to note is not in his place, although his name appears on the Bill. There is a note about the author and it is right that the House should know and that the people of Wales should know exactly the methods which are adopted in the Principality in support of a Parliament for Wales. The paper describes the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil as… a true Socialist who can neither be bullied nor bought. He alone of the Welsh M.P.s voted against German rearmament. In doing so he fulfilled his mandate as a miners' representative. The other Welsh 'miners'' M.P.s pocketed the Union's money and ignored the Union's precise instructions.The paper says, of the hon. Member for Newport:The adherence of Mr. Freeman, of Newport, is particularly welcome. For Newport houses a nasty knot of snobs and renegades to whom the very existence of Wales is anathema. How they must be gibbering and gnashing their gums at the fine independent stand of their M.P.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I am coming to that. On this occasion I am coupled with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and many other hon. Members.
The paper says:But there are also those from whom we can expect nothing but the worst. Already we can sniff the malodorous cauldrons of lies and sneers brewing in the thieves' kitchens of apostasy and careerism.2460 The "Welsh Republican" is not the only one. There is also the "Welsh Nation," a copy of which was sent to me.
It says:Other Welsh Members"—that is, other than the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil and the fringe of Nationalists and Socialists around him—will equally probably show once more the worst facets of the Welshman's character—facets with which Englishmen in and out of Parliament are all too familiar—the treachery and self-abasement that are born of political servility.I am sorry to say that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil himself has not been as guarded in his speech as he might have been, to the advantage of his colleague, let alone the decencies of public life.
This is what he says, according to the "News Chronicle":It is evident that whatever happens to the Bill the demand for self-government will still be heard. Its defeat will only anger and intensify the insistence of every loyal Welshman and Welshwoman.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
The hon. Member is entitled to stick by it, but there are hon. Members in all parts of the House and in all parts of the world who do not want a Parliament and whose loyalty to the Principality is at least as great as his own.
From what evil is the Bill intended to rescue the people of Wales? The pamphlet on the Parliament for Wales says that the life of Wales is impoverished because the community cannot develop fully as a community, but we have evidence on all sides in Wales that that is not true. There has been, particularly since the war, the most marvellous progress in Wales so that today we have in Wales the fullest employment we have ever had, whatever unhappy pockets of unemployment may exist. Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor said in another place that the people of Wales had never been better off than they are today, and this has been achieved without a Welsh Stormont.
Let us look at Northern Ireland which has a Stormont and compare the relative figures. We find that last November, 6.7 per cent. of the male and 4.9 per cent. of the female working population were unemployed.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Yes, unhappily that is true, but in Wales, without a Stor-mont, the figures are 1.9 per cent. of the male and 2.8 per cent. of the female working population. There is no magic in the constitution of a Stormont. There is no substitute for wise State planning and diversification of industry and vigorous private enterprise. Wales enjoys all three in great measure now with full representation at Westminster and with Welshmen also representing English and Scottish constituencies in large and growing numbers.
It is suggested by the promoters of the Bill that a Parliament for Wales would lead to a greater discussion of Welsh affairs. That may well be, but it seems to me the Bill is creating a very costly hammer to crack that nut. I should have thought that there were many experiments that could be tried in this House first. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr.G. Roberts) has advocated from time to time a Welsh Grand Committee. Other suggestions of varying popularity have been made by myself and others. Some have gone so far as to suggest shorter Recesses and a revised procedure, and so on. I have an open mind on this subject and frankly I do not think that I know quite enough about the workings of the House to be able to give any very valuable opinion about procedure.
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I have been told that if anyone wants to be cured of the idea of a Grand Committee he should go on to the Scottish Committee.
It has been suggested that greater financial advantage would accrue to Wales from the proposals in the Bill. Not only has there been no proof, but there has been no attempt at proof. No sort of figure or estimate has been given, though I grant that estimates are difficult to make. But after the Catto Committee had made its Report, let no hon. Member deceive himself that when the answers were unfavourable to the extreme Scottish nationalists, the statistics were any more acceptable.
It has been said that there is insufficient administrative devolution. I have 2462 little doubt that there is considerable scope for inquiry and reform, but it is quite absurd to argue in the dark, as is so often done, that because some people want a Parliament for Wales and others are broadly content with the status quo, we should, therefore, go half way and give them something which neither wants—a St. David's House with the usual Ministerial appendages on the lines of St. Andrew's House.
What I believe is needed is a Royal Commission to examine the working of each Government Department in Wales with wide powers of recommendation. I do not think it is enough that each Government Department should be asked to look to its own work and report upon it, because it may well have administrative interests of its own to preserve. The Commission should investigate and examine in addition the moliferation of consultative and advisory bodies, which enjoy the blessing of the Departments in varying and sometimes in conflicting degrees.
Secondly, the Commission should examine the methods of selection to advisory bodies and the extent to which civil servants who have an interest in their membership—and quiescence—should be allowed to make recommendations. Thirdly, it should report upon the extent to which the ability to speak Welsh should influence appointments at all levels in the public service.
These categories are not exclusive, but I believe that along the lines I have suggested lies the real path of progress which may lead to greater advantages for Wales than a Parliament which Glamorgan and Monmouth neither want nor need and will not have.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
If I were called upon to pass judgment upon my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) and this proposed Parliament for Wales, I would ask where is the case, what single sentence can be taken out of their respective speeches, which pretends to lay down any basis at all for a Parliament for Wales. They referred to certain grievances and dissatisfaction which obtain in Wales; but they would be there whether there was a parliament or not. We have all experienced the situations which they 2463 have described, but we have seen a great deal of amelioration of those problems.
I doubt very much whether any Welshman would dare to say that the claim for a Welsh Parliament rests upon the number of people unemployed in Anglesey or because of threatened unemployment in west Wales. That does not deal with the problem at all. The question we have to face is in regard to the agitation in Wales about this subject. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) is quite right in referring to activities from outside. What lies behind this Bill? How can it be explained that the sponsors of the Bill in this House desire to shut out all reference to the movement and to the agitation outside? It is necessary in this House to face up to the logic of this situation.
The approach to this question has been placed upon an unwarranted and utterly groundless assumption, that the people who inhabit England are in some peculiar way wholly foreign and alien to the people of Wales. What basis is there for such a suggestion? The assumption may be derived from their desire to establish a basis for their claim that the people in Wales do, in fact, form a different people and should be the basis for a different nation. If one can advance the evidence that the people of England could in any way be identified with the people of Wales, away goes their case.
What, I wonder, is the view they hold of what constitutes a nation. What is a separate nation? Is it that the people are all of common stock? If so, where is the common and separate stock for the people of Wales——
§ Mr. Mainwaring
—as compared with England.
The people sponsoring this Bill seem to me to claim too much. They are not simply and solely the descendants of the ancient Britons. It is now exceedingly doubtful whether the Britons or their descendants ever formed a majority of the population of Wales, and, whatever percentage of the population they might have formed at some time or another, that percentage has gradually diminished through the centuries.
2464 At the present time the population of Wales and Monmouthshire is about 2½ million. At the end of the 16th century it was well under 200,000. By the end of the 17th century—in 1690—a computation was made—whether it was soundly based or not I know not—and it was estimated that the population of Wales was approaching one-third of a million. Advancing to 1801, a census was then taken. By that time the population was just over half a million. Ninety years later the population had suddenly grown to 1¾ million. I wonder where the 1½ million came from. No one would say that the natural fertility of the Welsh people was as high as that.
By 1953, the population was a little over 2½ million. In other words, nearly 2 million people were added to the population in 150 years. How many of the ancient Celts are represented in the present 2½ million, always remembering the heavy emigration? The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil referred to half a million people driven away through the depression. I should not be far wrong if I suggested that today there is a greater number of Celtic descendants resident in England than there is in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales put together.
If we talk in terms of descendants and of ancient stock, were the Government Front Bench represented more fully this morning we would find a few Celts there. There are, of course, quite a number of others amongst them. In this House of Commons there are twice as many Members who derive from Wales as Members who are sent here from Wales itself and, indeed, there are Welsh Members who could claim neither Celtic qualifications nor residence in Wales.
To constitute a nation and give people governing rights requires something much more than links with the past. Something far more fundamental is required than the mere association of people with some people who were at one time in the past living in the country. There needs to be a sound economic basis for the existence of any nation in any part of the world. Perhaps I might be pardoned for saying that, however valuable it may be in the cultural sense, we cannot build a nation on the basis of poets, preachers, and musicians, and, unfortunately, those people are far too prominent in this agitation in Wales.
2465 The problem of giving an economic basis to a nation is what preoccupies so much of the time and energy of the large nations of the world in dealing with the backward ones. The grave problem, especially for this House—especially in relation to the vast native population of Africa—is how to give those native populations a sound economic basis on which they may hope to develop to economic and political independence. Is there such a basis in Wales?
I know that the claim has been made from these benches that we are one of the richest countries in the world. The promoters of this gamble, heedless of the consequences, would rush this House and the country, if it were possible, into giving a separate Parliamentary institution for Wales, and in so doing would condemn the people of Wales to all the disastrous consequences.
I do not seek to be unfair to the people who are promoting this Bill, and especially to my hon. colleagues in this House, but they cannot dissociate themselves in their limited aim from the aims of the people outside. The fact is that every moderate proposal put forward here simply serves to hide the real intentions, and are not made for consumption by the people of Wales. However much hon. Members may differ amongst themselves, if they allow themselves to become the victims of the organisers of the agitation they will be aiming at one thing to which no hon. Member of this House would lend his support, namely, any proposal calculated to result in a lower standard of life for the people of Wales. Any proposal which we would support must give at least a possibility of a higher standard. That is how this proposal needs to be examined.
What section of economic interest in Wales would dare support this proposition? Does agriculture support it? It is well known that agriculture in Wales lags behind that in England both in productivity and output per acre. This is not due to any deficiency on the part of the Welsh farmer but to the natural conditions under which he suffers and works. Also, Welsh farmers, unfortunately, operate with smaller units of capital than their colleagues in England. They also engage much less wage labour. Indeed, one factor tending to the depopulation of our rural areas is the constant diminution 2466 in the number of men engaged in agriculture.
Further, it is no secret that the Welsh farmer is today demanding a greater measure of economic security by way of guaranteed prices for his products and for his stock. Why? The Welsh farmer is engaged in an agitation to be taken outside competitive conditions. The guaranteed, fixed price means that he is removed from the dangers of competing with somebody else for that market.
There is only one interpretation to be placed upon this demand from the Welsh farmer. It is, if I may paraphrase it, "If I am to survive as a farmer, you must carry the burden." In other words, the remainder of the people in Wales must agree to pay the prices required. Yet this relative decline in Wales goes on in agriculture despite the benefits given from the hill cattle subsidy, the hill sheep subsidy, the Livestock Rearing Act and the 50 per cent. cost of rehabilitation schemes embarked upon. It goes on despite all that.
No wonder the promoters of this Bill include in its powers to enable them to make grants in aid of capital operating anywhere. They know well that they cannot embark upon this movement without promising that the aid given to the Welsh agriculturists shall be at least continued, and probably increased.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, the fact is that this provision is simply taken from the Government of Ireland Act, and the intention of favouring agriculture deliberately simply did not occur to the mind of anybody.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I am not arguing where it came from, I am venturing to suggest that it is brought in because the agriculturists must not be disappointed; and so must be provided for.
Perhaps the proposal would fare better in the case of some other industry. Railways? I am reminded of that lock which might be built in the middle of the Severn Tunnel and which would be big enough to be a Customs and Excise station. Would the railways be protected? [An Hon. Member: "It is not in the Bill."] Of course not; hon. Members dare not put that in. What about iron and steel and tinplate, which have been referred to? Would any of those interests—safeguarded to the extent they 2467 are now, and particularly if a Welsh Parliament proceeded to operate its powers of levying and collecting taxes—be protected? And upon whom would the taxes be levied? There has been no suggestion as to what section of the population of Wales would be taxed in order to aid the other sections.
Coal mining? Yes, coal mining—the greatest employer of labour in Wales at the present time. But this is a diminishing asset. For how long will Wales maintain its present position in coal mining? There is no miners' representative from South Wales in this House—not even excepting the mining engineer, my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil who presented this Bill—there is not a miners' representative in this House who could say that at the present level of employment it will last 10 years.
Now let us see what is the employment basis in Wales which would serve as a foundation for a parliament. The present number of employed persons in Wales is 926,000.That is the basis of the economy. The foundation of all revenue produced in Wales is 926,000 employees, of whom 250,000 are females. The division of this labour force between productive and non-productive enterprise is fairly equal.
Among the productive occupations there are but two which find employment for more than 60,000 people. Mining and quarrying takes 139,000, and is far and away the greatest source of employment in Wales, and building employs 62,000. Let us now have a look at the superstructure, although a nation rests upon its economic basis and not the superstructure. In the superstructure there is transport, which takes 86,000 persons; distribution, 83,000; public administration, 63,000; the professions, 67,000; and miscellaneous services, 65,000.
Not one of those produces the means; they are all non-productive activities. If I were to get hold of all the agitators for a Welsh Parliament, I am sure that 99 per cent. of them would be found to come from among that group, including teachers.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
I content myself with the remarks that I have now made, for many of my colleagues wish to participate in the debate.
2468 However, there is one thing about which we must make up our minds. The people of Wales must be properly informed about the nature of these proposals. We must embark upon a considerable amount of public enlightenment. We must not shirk replying to charges about our being not Welsh and all that sort of thing. Curiously enough, many people believe that I am not Welsh because my name happens to be Norman. Perhaps I am descended from one of the 1066 invaders of Wales, but, like other hon Friends of mine, I am a resident of Wales and a Welsh-speaking Welshman. It is time that we grappled with this problem, and the people of Wales must be properly informed about the meaning of the movement.
§ 32.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if I intervene in the debate as early as possible in order to remove any doubts, if there are any, in the minds of the sponsors of the Bill about the attitude of the Government towards it. We have already had four speeches, two for and two against the Bill, and I am sure that hon. Members will agree with me that they were all powerful speeches. I thought it would be a good thing if I now said a few words about the Government's position.
The Government do not feel able to advise the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill. I think it is only fair to say that at the outset of what I have to say, but I do not think it is necessary for me to assure the House that that does not, of course, mean that the Government are unsympathetic towards the motives which prompted the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) to introduce the Bill.
As the House will probably know, I myself have some family connections, if I may put it that way, with this problem. Although hon. Members may feel that they are now watching the terrible spectacle of a house divided against itself, I can assure hon.Members—I am sure they will agree with me—that no one has a greater sympathy for Welsh aspirations than I have.
2469 I cannot help feeling that the issue which confronts us today can be very simply stated in two words, "nation" and "State." What we have to consider is whether, in the conduct of domestic affairs, the Welsh nation should become the Welsh State. There is a very important difference there. As the late Sir Reginald Coupland put the question in his recent study of Welsh and Scottish nationalism:Does the spirit of a nation require a political body in order to maintain its life and vigour.The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil referred to the various people who support the movement. One of the biggest was the Urdd Gobaith Cymru. Am I not right in saying that that is a body which eschews all politics?
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I was very careful in my statement. I said that Urdd Gobaith Cymru was largely a cultural and social organisation, but I had to appeal to this House not to inflame and anger the youth of Wales. That is what I said, and I stand by it.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I think it would be desirable for the House and also for the organisation if the name of Urdd Gobaith Cymru were not brought into this context. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] I am privileged to be a vice-president of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, and when I was chairman of the Youth Committee for Wales I did my best to help it. I very much regret that one of the finest youth organisations in the whole of the kingdom should be drawn into this matter.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and that is why I said what I did. One of the reasons for the success of Urdd Gobaith Cymru is that it eschews political motives. I referred to it to refute the suggestion that it had anything to do with such a Bill as this and to support my quotation from Sir Reginald Coupland:Does the spirit of a nation require a political body in order to maintain its life and vigour?It is on that fundamental point that the Government and the sponsors of the Bill disagree. We believe—I certainly do—that the vitality of the Welsh nation can be better preserved if the Welsh people remain within the framework of Great 2470 Britain, and that the proposals in the Bill would in the long run be advantageous neither to Wales nor to Great Britain.
Before making up their minds on this question, hon. Members should consider very carefully whether there is any evidence of any strong desire on the part of the people of Wales for the form of Parliamentary separation proposed in the Bill. I must remind the House that it is not the official policy of either of the major political parties represented in this House. I go further than that; there is no mandate for it from Wales. We hear a lot about the upsurge of this feeling, and we have heard about the canvass carried out in certain areas, which, it is said, showed that between 80 and 95 per cent. of all persons over 18 declared themselves in favour of a separate Parliament.
What is the biggest party in this? It is the Welsh Nationalist Party. I am now talking about fighting. A canvass is one thing, but getting people into this House is another thing. I believe I am right in saying that the first seat contested by the Welsh Nationalist Party was Caernarvon. The party contested three seats in 1929 and in each case the deposit was forfeited. In 1950 it fought nine seats and in 1951 four seats, and it forfeited its deposit in every single case. That is after twenty-five years of this "upsurge of feeling" for a Welsh Parliament and other things.
The canvass was carried out in Llanelly, Rhondda, West Aberdare and Wrexham, divisions contested by the party, and the total poll in those places where this "great uprising" is going on, for a candidate who could, if elected, put the policy into effect, was 11,000.If I may remind the House, that is .007 of the electorate of Wales. Even of the seats contested it is only about 6 per cent. Do not let us be carried away with the idea that the whole of Wales is demanding something because a pamphlet says that 80 to 90 per cent. of the people want it. There are people who will sign petitions for anything. They do not like to disappoint. The hon. Gentleman said 1.6 per cent. did not sign.
§ Major Lloyd-George
That does not stop the hon. Member from talking. The hon. Member said he had 1.6 per cent. refusals.
§ Major Lloyd-George
Undoubtedly. The Welsh are very polite people. The hon. Gentleman had experience of a Welsh Nationalist candidate in 1950. I think that he polled 1,500 votes.
§ Major Lloyd-George
Certainly, but I am answering the point about Wales being on fire because the Welsh want a Parliament for Wales. I will say no more on that, although I could go on for some time.
It must be embarrassing for the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that he has not had the support of his party. What support for the Bill is there from Welsh Members of Parliament? I should say that the overwhelming majority of Members representing Welsh constituencies are against this Measure. I am only putting that forward in asking where this demand is. This is a very important constitutional issue. We are all keen on the welfare of our land, so that this is not a thing that ought lightly to be passed, especially when there is grave doubt as to what is meant in our own country by keeping our language and culture and traditions alive. But that is a totally different thing.
On this issue of a Parliament for Wales the Opposition and the Government find themselves for once officially in agreement. The present Government have gone further in seeking to meet the especial needs of Wales—I am putting it no higher—than ever before. With all humility, I refer to my own position as Minister for Welsh Affairs and to the services to the Principality which everybody agrees were rendered by my predecessor and to the fact that a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State was appointed to have special regard for the interests of Wales.
There is the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, thanks to the action taken by the previous Government. It is a body, I should like to point out, which has no parallel in the United Kingdom. There is the Conference of Heads of Government Offices which meets regularly in Wales and which produces the Command White Paper on Wales and Monmouthshire, which we debate. I do not think it can be said, therefore, that 2472 the special needs and problems of Wales are not being given serious attention.
I go further. No one has suggested that the present arrangements are necessarily the last word. The Government are, of course, willing to consider whether the processes of administrative devolution, in which there have been important developments during the lifetime of this Government, can with advantage be further developed. But I do think, and I feel this most strongly, that as political units Wales and Great Britain are, in the world in which we live, essentially indivisible.
We have had figures quoted to us about unemployment. I will not go into that now. But anybody with any experience knows that what hits Great Britain hits Wales. The hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. Mainwaring) referred to unemployment figures being greater in Wales than in England. That is because, before the war, we had no light industries going to Wales. Whenever there was an interruption in the world export trade, Wales, being dependent on coal and steel, got it worst. A fairer comparison would be between Wales and the North-East. I will not go into figures, but it is encouraging to know that the situation in Wales today is much better than it was before we had this wide devolution of industry which has done so much for that area.
The problems which exercise Welsh minds very seriously are often economic. This is inevitable in view of the experience of the Principality between the two wars. I cannot think that a separate Welsh Senate, which was unable effectively to tackle Welsh economic problems, would serve the best interest of Wales. So far I have been speaking in general terms and I have not dealt with the Bill.
I congratulate the sponsor of the Bill on the thoroughness with which he has done this very difficult job. Like the sponsors of the Government of Wales Bill which was introduced in this House in 1922, but which never succeeded in getting a Second Reading, he has clearly made a very close study of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. But there is one difference which is that whereas the former Bill contained only 23 Clauses, this one has more than twice as many. I am not complaining about that.
2473 The detailed implications of these proposals have been very carefully considered and although, as I said, I cannot recommend the House to proceed to examine it in Committee, I think that we would all agree that the hon. Member has performed a very useful service in stating in legislative terms exactly what his proposals entail. As is made clear, the Bill is designed to produce a form of Government similar to that in Northern Ireland. On that point, I should like to say merely that the position in Northern Ireland is not really a valid precedent for any other part of the United Kingdom.
The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, was framed to meet a particular set of circumstances then existing in the whole of Ireland. It was hoped that it would be a step towards the reconciliation of North and South. I know that events have not worked out in that way, but I still think that it would be unsafe to draw general conclusions from developments in Northern Ireland, which were designed to take account of a set of circumstances which, fortunately, has never existed in the Principality.
I do not wish to take up too much time, but there are a few features in the Bill to which I must refer. The first is the question of Parliamentary representation at Westminster. Here I think that it is not unfair to say that the sponsors of the Bill are trying to have their cake and eat it.
§ Major Lloyd-George
No, but if he does, that is what he would like.
It can hardly be supposed that with the establishment of a Senate of Wales, representation of Welsh Members in the House of Commons should continue unchanged. After all, there are people who occasionally are rather keen on what they call "Home Rule for England." Even I as a Welshman can see that if Wales could determine its own domestic policy within its own Senate, there is no reason why it should still send 36 representatives to Westminster to discuss English affairs.
Having said that, I personally would deprecate any steps which would lead to a suggestion that the present level of representation by Welsh Members in the House of Commons should be 2474 reduced. I do not think that it would be of advantage either to the Principality, or, if I may say so with respect, to England. I think that it is a very important feature of our present system that Wales has an opportunity of sending its best men and women to Westminster.
I should like to say a word about the financial commitment. If I say that it is difficult, I think that that would be a triumph of understatement. It is a very complicated matter. It appears to me that the Bill is based on the assumption that, within the limits which Wales would reserve to itself, it could be self-supporting. Is that not at least open to doubt? The White Paper on Rural Wales, for example, shows that the 10 rural counties of Wales are all receiving Exchequer grants to the extent of 60 to 80 per cent. of their expenditure.
§ Major Lloyd-George
Perhaps we can come back from Bedlam to the House of Commons.
This is what is happening. The question is whether Wales alone would be able to maintain a comparable volume of subsidy from her own resources. We must face these facts. It is important that we should do so.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that it is misleading, perhaps unintentionally, to assess the viability even of counties in Wales on the basis of the present confused local government financed system? Secondly, does not he agree that Wales is one of the most heavily industrialised countries in Europe and has still got a substantial agriculture and a rather small residential element? The two rateable elements in our population have been derated and the one which is rateable is comparatively small. There is, for instance, the factory in Dowlais, but the shareholder does not live there.
§ Major Lloyd-George
Contributions made to rates in Wales are very much different from those in England. This is a matter for serious thought. There are also other matters which must be looked at very carefully. I certainly do not accept the rubbish which appears in the pamphlet about the exploitation of Welsh 2475 labour, and so on. It speaks of Welshmen workingat a depressed level of wages.That is nonsense. As one hon. Member said, how could development have taken place in Wales by itself? Where did it come from?
Can Wales really afford to contribute the £75 million expenditure which this Bill suggests she should? I estimate that that would cost about £30 per head of the population in Wales. I suggest that to raise that sum alone would place a considerable burden on her financial resources. Could that even be considered to be Wales's fair proportion, in view of what is happening at present? The Estimates for defence alone are £1,500 million in a year.
I note that Clause 21 would leave it open for certain revenue-raising functions to be transferred to the Welsh Senate in future. This is a most important point. One hon. Member spoke of it in connection with the Severn Tunnel. I do not know whether he thought that that was where the Senate would be. Would this mean, under Clause 21, that a Customs barrier could be set up between England and Wales? If so, could that conceivably be regarded as practicable, useful or desirable? But that Clause, in certain circumstances, would enable that to be done.
As a final comment on the Bill, I must say that in certain important matters it goes further than the Government of Ireland Bill. Clause 2, for instance, would give the Senate unparalleled freedom to discuss and to pass resolutions about matters for which it had no authority. That seems to me most objectionable. If Wales is to retain representatives at Westminster, that is surely the right place for subjects reserved to the United Kingdom Government to be discussed; that is a fundamental principle of the arrangement in Northern Ireland.
Then, in Clause 5,which provides that the Governor shall give and withhold the Assent of Her Majesty to Bills passed by the House of Assembly, there is no proviso, as there is in the Government of Ireland Act, that he shall be subject to the Queen's directions. Surely that is an improper omission, from any constitutional point of view.
§ Major Lloyd-George
But in the Bill he is allowed full right of veto, and does not come under the Queen's direction. That is a power which in a democracy would be absolutely unthinkable.
Clause 46, which purports to preserve the supreme authority of the United Kingdom Parliament, has what appears to me, and I am sure to everybody in the House, the most astonishing proviso which makes nonsense of the Clause by enabling the Senate, nevertheless, to repeal provisions of the United Kingdom Parliament. That, needless to say, has no precedent in the Government of Ireland Act, and its implications seem so obviously improper as to require no comment from me.
I apologise to the House for having spoken for so long, because there are many other hon. Members who want to speak. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr.Llewellyn) referred to the Royal Commission. That of course, like everything else in connection with this question, I should be very happy to look into, but I should like to make a few comments on the point before I go any further. I should like to remind the House of some of the principles which were suggested by the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs in the Report, which I know hon. Gentlemen have studied carefully as principles in accordance with which the functions of government could be effectively and acceptably discharged in Scotland, and they apply equally to Wales.
The first point is in paragraph 13 of the Report, which says:… in the absence of convincing evidence of advantage to the contrary, the machinery of government should be defined to dispose of Scottish business in Scotland.In Wales, with the considerable degree of administrative devolution already in existence, we have gone some way towards achieving this. Again, I quote:Scotland's needs and points of view should be known and brought into account at all stages in the formulation and execution of policyand, together with this:….effective arrangements should be made within Ministries to ensure that Scotland's voice is heard at all these stages.2477 So far as Wales is concerned, I should like to think that the appointment of a Minister for Welsh Affairs has ensured that this does, in fact, happen.
Finally, and most important, the Report says:… the vital community of interest between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom must be recognised.That hardly needs elaboration in view of what I have previously said.
The Royal Commission, while making many recommendations of value in the light of the particular conditions which exist in Scotland, did not find any ground for recommending radical changes in the present arrangements for the Government of Scotland.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The Minister should be quite fair and explain that the terms of reference of the Royal Commission were very limited.
§ Major Lloyd-George
The point was that it recommended very little change at all. That was the important point. The Commission did not find it absolutely necessary to have any change.
§ Major Lloyd-George
But if the hon. Gentleman looks at what it could discuss, he will find that there was not very much that the Report quarrelled with. A study of the Report has led me to believe that it is possible that a similar conclusion would be reached if an inquiry were to be made in Wales.
In the pamphlet published by the Parliament for Wales campaign, it is said:Today, the life of Wales is impoverished because the community cannot develop fully as a community.Frankly, I do not believe that. I see no sign in Wales today that the national life of Wales or its communal spirit is impoverished.
On the contrary, I am sure that those aspects of character which mark the Welsh out as a nation separate from others are as strong and vigorous today as they ever were, and I do not believe—and I say this with absolute sincerity—that the future well-being of the Principality would be aided by the provisions of the Bill.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I do not propose to refer to what has been said by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) hopes later to comment on that. I wish to make my remarks as brief as possible in order to give my hon. Friends an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Some of us have been waiting for a very long time for the opportunity to examine this question objectively. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) did as good a job as could be done in stating the case for a solution, as they regard it, of this sort.
On the face of it, the Bill looks attractive from a purely party political viewpoint. It proposes to set up a Senate, a Welsh Parliament, and if present political representation is a guide, that would give us 72 Labour Members, 12 Conservative Members and six Liberal Members. That is an attraction, but I am afraid that, in this case, we must sacrifice party political advantage for something which is of much more substance to the people whom we represent.
This Bill envisages a Welsh Parliament and a new panoply of Welsh government; a Welsh Prime Minister and a Welsh Chancellor of the Exchequer eventually; a Welsh Minister of Health, a Welsh Minister of Education, and a Welsh Minister of Agriculture immediately, a Welsh Minister of Housing and Local Government and—shades of colonialism—a Governor with a veto. This is not revolutionary thinking, it is Victorian thinking. This is going back. In three years' time we shall have all the Ministers except a Foreign Secretary and a Defence Minister.
I suggest that my hon. Friends give the case away when they put defence completely outside the control of the Welsh Parliament. They admit that, in this modern world, an independent Wales is not capable of being defended by Welshmen alone.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Perhaps my hon. Friend will be patient. He had a very good innings, and was listened to with 2479 great attention and little disturbance. But let us look at this matter objectively for once.
What power is this new political machinery to have? This is the apparatus of an independent State. I would say that this Bill expresses the mixed opinions that back it. It seeks to satisfy persons not in this Chamber. It embodies the conflicting purposes of people with conflicting views. The Welsh parliamentary apparatus is for those who want isolationism; who want a complete breakaway. But Clause 46—and this is an amusing thing—makes the United Kingdom Parliament the supreme authority over all persons and matters and things in Wales.
If the United Kingdom Parliament is the supreme authority, why do we want a Welsh Parliament? Is it that the Welsh Parliament is put in to satisfy outside opinion, but that my hon. Friends realise that they have to act responsibly, in order to retain their place within the United Kingdom, and have provided for overriding powers to reside in this British House of Commons? In that sense extreme Home Rulers would have a shadow of power, but the real power would remain here in London.
I am amused by Clause 11,because my hon. Friends are members of the Labour Party and they have agreed to a form of finances in the Welsh Parlia ment which does not include a capital levy. In other words, that possible Socialist financial method is excluded by the terms of their own Clause. That surely is strange. Who is to be appeased by including that in the Bill? What section of opinion is to be placated by a Clause of that sort? I will not bother with any more of the details of the Clauses, but my hon. Friend——
§ Mr. Llewellyn
I wish to be certain of the point which the right hon. Gentleman is making. I did not know that the capital levy was a Socialist policy. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that it is?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
No, I have not said that the capital levy is Socialist policy, but it might become Socialist policy. No matter what Socialist policy may be decided here, my hon. Friends have decided that the parliament in Wales 2480 is precluded, by its constitution, from adopting what might become the policy of this United Kingdom Parliament.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
There were two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey. The first was a general point on the economic problems that existed. Every argument he used in that sense was an argument which could be used in debating unemployment throughout the United Kingdom. In general terms, the inability to solve all these problems in Wales is the same inability which prevents similar problems from being solved in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a social and not a nationalist policy that is involved.
I wish to make one point to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. Mainwaring) regarding the nationalist basis for this agitation. I would commend to him the statement made by Mr. J. T. Jones, an editor and poet of some standing in North Wales. This is what he said in the "Western Mail" of 25th February this year:The idea of Wales as a unit, political or otherwise, was a distortion of truth by 19th century politicians, a distortion which had confused our minds, bedevilled our progress and 'demeaned our beautiful cluster of nation provinces to fit in with the prevailing fashions of European thought, now blown sky high'.That is what is said by one of the outstanding cultural representatives in North Wales, and I leave that question entirely with my hon. Friend.
My hon. Friends have apparently put forward this Bill, in association with other people, as a sort of climax of the campaign for the time being, to represent a general point of view for separating Wales from the United Kingdom. It is done on the assumption that Wales has within her economy the means of maintaining a standard of living comparable with that which is now enjoyed. About that assumption there are very great differences of opinion. My hon. Friends think that it can be done, but let us look at the facts as we know them.
Suppose a Welsh Ministry of Fuel and Power is set up to take over North and South Wales. Is North Wales to be treated separately from South Wales, or are they to be treated jointly? If this had happened in 1952 and North Wales 2481 stood on its own, the wages of the miners would have been 3s. 6d. a shift less than they were in 1952.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
In 1953 the wages of the miners in North Wales would have been 3s. 7d.a shift less. I repeat what I have already said about South Wales, which has never been challenged, that in the seven years since nationalisation, if we had had Home Rule and South Wales had stood on its own, there would have been an average weekly loss in wages of 13s. a shift in those seven years.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
My right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), when he was Secretary for Mines, did South Wales the greatest service that has ever been done. He established the Coal Charges Fund, which saved South Wales. Is that to be destroyed? The Fleck Committee Report recommended that South Wales ought not to have autonomy; coal divisions should be merged in the United Kingdom coal organisation. That recommendation was fully accepted by the National Union of Mineworkers and, I hope, by all mining Members of Parliament.
If a Welsh Ministry of Fuel and Power controls the Welsh mining industry, will that not mean removing the Welsh miners from the National Union of Mineworkers and putting them into their own union?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
But that is the implication. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) should show one of the virtues of what he regards as the Welsh way of life, and should be prepared to listen to arguments even though he may not agree with them.
Is it suggested that it is possible to take Welsh railways out of the United Kingdom set-up? Is it suggested that the Welsh Ministry of Transport, running the industry in Wales, would have sufficient resources to maintain the standards already laid down by the Transport Salaried Staff Association, the N.U.R., and so on? Is it not remarkable that 2482 not a single trade union of any standing in Wales has expressed itself in support of the principles of this Bill?
The clamour for this Bill has been mainly confined to certain sections of the community, and those are mainly the professional sections. The Bill has had some popularity in the universities, among some of the teachers. But has the teaching profession in Wales considered this problem seriously? Do they know that in 1952–53 the education rate in Wales brought in £7,417,000, while the United Kingdom Exchequer grant was £15,001,000? Without that Exchequer grant, without this association with the United Kingdom, unless some adequate substitute can be found, primary and secondary education in Wales collapses.
Let us at least examine these things and not dismiss them by saying "Nonsense." Let us not deceive the people in Wales. We are getting some of this clamour for Home Rule from the University of Wales. The colleges ask for separation from the hated English. Their language does not reflect a great deal of philosophy, nor does it reflect the academic opportunities which the members of the University are getting. Some of the things they say about the people with whom they do not agree spring from very low taste.
The total income in 1952–53 to maintain the colleges in Wales was £1,065,000. The Exchequer grant was £953,000. The total amount of money raised in Wales towards the maintenance of the University and its associated colleges was £70,000. Without the Exchequer grant, the University of Wales would go "bust."
It is amazing how some of the students hate the English. In 1952–53, there were 4,600 students at Welsh colleges; 3,700 of them had grants and allowances from the education authorities, and two-thirds of the cost of those grants came from the United Kingdom itself. Hate the English, but take their money. [Interruption.] None of these remarks is intended to refer to anything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts). I am dealing with some of the things that have been said outside this House, and of which I am sure my hon. Friend, who has a distinguished position in Welsh education, is heartily ashamed.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
These examples which my right hon. Friend is giving of Exchequer assistance to services in Wales should not be advanced unless we are also told that the money for those Exchequer grants is partially raised in Wales by taxation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The only point I am making is this. Here is something of great substance and advantage. The proposal is to cast it away, and I want to know what is to be put in its place. The proposal to take away this advantage is utterly irresponsible.
Let us take, as another example, the Exchequer equalisation grant. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey is not at present with us; I appreciate the reason for his absence. In Anglesey, to provide sufficient money to take the place of the present Exchequer grant, it would be necessary to raise an additional 20s. in the £ rate. Let me quote the percentage figures. I have obtained these figures from the Society of County Treasurers.
In Anglesey, 47 per cent. of the expenditure comes from the Exchequer Equalisation Grant. In Brecon, it is 39.58 per cent., in Caernarvon 30.6 per cent., in Cardigan 65.95 per cent., in Carmarthen 56 per cent., in Denbigh 34 per cent., in Flint 26 per cent., in Glamorgan 46 per cent., in Merioneth 60 per cent. Of the money spent by the Merionethshire County Council, 60 per cent. is provided by the Exchequer Equalisation Grant; in Monmouth, 51 per cent., in Montgomery 63 per cent., in Pembroke 56 per cent., and in Radnor 25 per cent.
If we look at all the allocations to counties and at the number of counties in England which get nothing at all in order that Wales should get more from the equalisation grant, we remember that we were the people who opposed the alteration of the scheme when the present Government were considering it because Wales stood to lose more than any other part of the United Kingdom.
Supposing all this were abolished. What has to be found? In Cardigan, an additional rate of 45s. in the £would have to be found in order to maintain the Cardigan services. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon to bear in mind that presumably we should have to 2484 find ways and means of replacing this money out of Welsh resources. Is he satisfied, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it can be found? If he is not satisfied, then he ought not to be prepared to proceed with the Bill at all, because we are not entitled to proceed to what might mean the bankruptcy of Welsh local government unless we are absolutely certain that we have something quite adequate to put in its place. Every county in Wales benefits by the equalisation grant, and that cannot be said either of England or of Scotland. We get far more in substance than is obtained anywhere else.
The purpose of politics and political administration is to try to better the conditions of the people whom we represent. We have been told that the eyes of Wales will be on us today. Those are the eyes of the old-age pensioners, of the miners, of the sick, of the injured, of the men in industry. Are we to take a step, particularly in the field of social services, which will throw all these advantages into the melting pot on the vague assumption that we might be able to put something in their place—something which would be decided by two Englishmen and one Welshman on the Joint Exchequer Board?
I take the view that the passage of the Bill would do great harm to the people whom I represent. I can be called traitor, I can be slandered in all sorts of ways, but I am prepared to pit my work for the people whom I represent in the mining industry of South Wales against that of the slanderers, who have never lifted a finger to improve the standards of the common people.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I should like to join with other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), who introduced the Bill. I congratulate him on his courage, because he has done something which the Parliament for Wales campaign, during the long time it has been in existence—ever since the National Eisteddfod at Llanrwst in 1951—has failed to do; he has produced a scheme for a constitution for a Welsh Parliament.
I welcome the opportunity which we have been given to debate this constitution because it is right, as the right hon. 2485 Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said, that the people of Wales should be properly informed about exactly what autonomy for Wales means to them. I do not entirely accept what the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. Mainwaring) says about Wales as a nation, for I do not think one needs to go as far back as he went into history to find the makings of a nation. I am one of those people who believe that Wales is a nation and has an individuality and way of life peculiar to itself. We undoubtedly have our own language and we are entitled to consider ourselves as a separate nation, entitled to separate treatment. That has always been my belief, and over the last few years it has, I think, become abundantly clear that the authorities themselves have recognised it.
When I say that I believe in Wales as a nation, I mean the whole of Wales. I do not believe that the heart beat of the nation can be found in any isolated part of Wales. It is to be found all over Wales, in its people—and I include in the Welsh nation the men in industrial South Wales and those in the industrial part of North Wales, as well as those who are in the least-populated parts of my area.
But when we talk about the people of Wales we should remember that we talk about people who, in the main, are engaged in industry which is firmly integrated with the economic and political life of England, and in considering a Bill of this sort their interests are of paramount importance.
The Bill, we have been told, is based on the Government of Ireland Act, 1920,in so far as that Act refers to Northern Ireland. I should like to repeat—because I think it cannot be repeated too often—what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs said about the Measure which relates to Northern Ireland. It was a compromise Measure. The constitution of Northern Ireland was accepted most reluctantly by the people of Northern Ireland and not one Northern Ireland Member voted for it—which means, of course, that not one Irish Member voted for it.
It works to a certain extent because, with good will, the people of Northern Ireland are trying to make it work, for they do not wish to be absorbed into the 2486 Catholic domination. We cannot take the Northern Ireland Act and say, "This is a constitution which works and it must be good for Wales." It was a compromise Measure, put forward in 1920 to meet an extremely difficult situation.
Too often in these matters, I think, we compare Wales with Ireland and talk about what happened in Ireland saying, "We also are a nation and are entitled to the same treatment." Can we fairly and properly compare Wales with Ireland or, indeed, with Scotland? Geographically, of course, we cannot, because there is the geographical barrier of the Irish Sea between the United Kingdom and Ireland; but historically, too, we must remember that Wales is very different from Ireland. In our very long history, about which we have heard from hon. Members who supported the Bill, we have never had a Parliament in Wales representing Wales as a whole, and since 1535 we have been economically and politically in partnership with England.
We have had four centuries of partnership and our lives have been very much fused during the passing of time. A Parliament for Wales, therefore, would be something revolutionary in our history. We have never had a Parliament representing the whole of Wales. Ireland has had Parliaments for centuries and Scotland has had Parliaments for centuries. If we had a Parliament in Wales it would be something which inevitably would bring about a constitutional upheaval. It would present tremendous problems and involve great changes.
Despite what some of our unenlightened friends may say about a Conservative, I am not afraid of change. If I were satisfied that a Parliament for Wales as envisaged in this Bill would be in the best interests of the people of Wales, I would not hesitate to support it. But I must confess that, far from being satisfied as to that, I am in grave doubts and am verging on the side of being satisfied that it would not. I say one should be satisfied in this matter because it is a matter of great importance. It must not be treated as a little constitutional frolic and must not be treated as a matter one can talk about for electoral advantage. It is a matter of great importance to 2½million people in Wales, and I am very 2487 glad we have had this opportunity of debating it.
The effect of this Bill is clear. Put quite generally, after a certain transitional period it would be possible under this Bill to transfer the whole of the powers to the Welsh Senate, apart from those which are the excepted powers, which can be put down briefly as foreign affairs and defence. In other words, the power contained in this Bill, especially when looked at in conjunction with Clause 21, is for Home Rule for Wales in all respects apart from the United Kingdom authority over foreign affairs and defence.
My right hon. and gallant Friend mentioned that the Bill contained a provision for sending back to this House 36 Members. It is quite clear that if the Bill had a Second Reading, and went into Committee that number of 36 would be changed to about 14 or 15.There could be no argument against it and not one of those who sponsor the Bill could properly support the proposed number. The effect would be that, although we might have our Parliament in Wales, the representation in this House would be cut down to about 14 or 15 Members. Therefore, the voice of Wales on matters of defence and foreign affairs, would be tuned down in volume.
One matter which many people want to know about is this, will a Parliament for Wales have real control, because the reality of parliamentary control bears on the ability to vote supplies and the question is who will hold the purse strings? We have heard from the right hon. Member for Caerphilly that today Wales is dependent to a very great extent on Exchequer funds. We have heard the figures he gave as to education. We have heard about the equalisation grants. I would say in reference to the interjection made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) that he, of course, will admit—because the figures are there—that in Wales we receive a great deal from Exchequer grants.
Every one of the counties of Wales and three out of four of the county boroughs receive high equalisation grants. As I understood the argument of the hon. Member, he said that the argument was not fair. I think he said that we cannot discuss either the viability or potentiality 2488 of a country's wealth purely on its county rates. He referred to industry and agriculture, of which we have a predominance in Wales, which, he said, are, in fact, derated. Is the hon. Member suggesting that the effect of a Parliament for Wales would be that agriculture and industry would have to be rated?
§ Mr. G. Roberts
No, that is not the question before the House, nor is it even in this Bill. The point I made was that we cannot argue from the figures turned out of the pandemonium of local government finance today and prove that every county and practically every borough in Wales is mendicant. That cannot be done in the face of the kind of prosperity on which the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) dilated so long. It is a paradox which cannot be sustained; one cannot prove that Wales is more prosperous today than ever and, at the same time, say that it is begging on its knees for Exchequer grants to its county councils.
§ Mr. Thomas
Wales is prosperous today, I think most of us will agree, because its prosperity is very closely allied to the general prosperity of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member said we cannot prove matters. I am not seeking to prove matters. The onus of proof is on those who put their names to this Bill. What I am seeking is to find the snags. It is all very well to put forward arguments and say that we cannot prove otherwise. I would say that if I have a doubt in my mind it is my duty to the people of Wales to say I have a doubt, that I cannot run the risk and, therefore, I cannot support it. If proof is required, the proof must come from the hon. Members who put their names to the Bill.
§ Mr. Roberts
Surely it is impossible to sustain the suggestion of the hon. Member that the viability of the whole of local government in Wales is proved by recourse to figures based upon the present figures of local government finance. I quite agree that the hon. Member is justified in doubting these matters, but I suggest that the kind of proof which he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) advanced will not stand the test.
§ Mr. Thomas
It is all very well to talk about it as being proof. All we have are some figures which can give us some guidance as to what will be required if there is Home Rule in Wales.
It is extremely disturbing to find that the whole of the Exchequer grants to a county like Cardiganshire amount to 83 per cent. of its total expenditure and its equalisation grant is 66 per cent. Even Glamorgan and Monmouth—on which we hope to depend for our wealth if and when this proposed Parliament comes to Wales—even Glamorgan has 73 per cent. of its county expenditure met by Exchequer grants and Monmouthshire has an even higher amount—76 per cent. In England and Wales together the average over all counties is about 52 per cent.
These are matters which we should think about. Another matter which also is of concern to myself, representing a hilly area in North Wales, is the effect of hill farming subsidies. Wales represents only 13 per cent. of the total land area of England and Wales, but nevertheless Wales gets 40 per cent. of the hill farming subsidies. Production grants amounting to £2½ million are paid to Welsh farmers each year. Many of us—and I know that the party opposite has the same concern as I have in this matter—have grave doubts whether the tax yield in Wales is as high as the national average.
If the proposed Parliament is to have Exchequer grants but does not hold the purse strings, what would it get? We would have reduced representation in Westminster in return for a Parliament which was incapable of any real control. If, on the other hand, it had the control and did hold the purse strings, we would have to find the money. We might then find ourselves in extreme financial difficulty.
I should want to know exactly what all this would entail. Would it mean added taxation or the contraction of social services and benefits? Would it mean that education, on which Wales spends much more per child than the United Kingdom average, would be cut down? We have heard about the fears in the coal industry from the right hon. Member for Caerphilly, who knows a lot about that industry. The farming community would want to know what was to 2490 happen to its production grants and subsidies, and whether these could be guaranteed and whether the industry could in future depend upon the same security of guaranteed prices and markets. In addition, the reorganisation of electricity and railways would involve tremendous capital cost, with no certainty of efficiency or benefit.
One thing which concerns me is the composition of the proposed Parliament. I give the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil credit for producing a proposed constitution which is democratic, which, of course, it would have to be. The suggestions put forward in the Parliament for Wales campaign were democratically scandalous. I am not talking from a political point of view—even the right hon. Member for Caerphilly has risen above politics today—although, as far as I can see, the present proposals would mean domination for ever by a Socialist Government. That in itself, however, is not a reason which entitles us to condemn the Bill.
Most of the people who support the Parliament for Wales campaign come from the remoter parts of Wales. They are people who are Welsh speaking and who believe in the Welsh way of life, which is really to be found in the non-industrial parts, where it is well preserved. I come from that kind of area, but I cannot see that the problems which it is thought would be solved by a Parliament for Wales, of the composition envisaged in the Bill, would have any better attention than they receive in this House. In fact, I do not think that the more Anglicised people in South Wales who are concerned with an industrial complex would have much understanding of the real problems of our rural areas.
We have heard about the present prosperity in Wales. It is agreed that the people of Wales are enjoying a standard of living that they have never enjoyed before. I myself have had no real experience of the poverty and depression that once existed in Wales, but there are men in this House who have experienced it. I know from my reading that Wales had a depression which we are determined shall never recur. In some parts there was misery and squalor.
Those people who knew that misery now know a new prosperity and a new hope. Have we the right to jeopardise 2491 their security for a constitutional experiment? As I see it, we have not. For the sake of their consciences, I only hope that the supporters of the Bill are as equally satisfied that the whole of Wales would benefit by the Bill as I doubt whether it would.
§ 2.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), to whose speech I listened with interest. It is a great pity that the hon. Member did not voice what I think would be the sentiments of the majority of his constituents about a Parliament for Wales.
§ Mr. Thomas
I assure the hon. Member that the majority of the sentiment in my constituency is opposed to a Parliament for Wales.
§ Mr. Watkins
That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I hope that if the Bill is carried to a Division, the hon. Member will go into the Lobby into which his constituents would expect him to go.
I am pleased that so many hon. Members have taken part in the debate. Except for one or two speeches, it has been worthy of the occasion of a Welsh debate. But I should have preferred that, for a change, all the other hon. Members of the House had been present to listen to a discussion of Welsh affairs, for up to the present such an opportunity is assured to us only once a year.
It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) brought into the discussion matters which were outside the Bill and which, perhaps, were not actually true. When quoting figures for Northern Ireland, he should have taken some responsibility himself, because he is a member of the same party which is responsible for Northern Ireland. I hope that when the Welsh Parliament does come, we shall have the same proportion of Members from Wales as we have here at present.
I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. Mainwaring). He must have delighted the students of the 2492 Central Labour College when he was a lecturer. He gave us a good lecture today, but he spoilt it in one respect by saying that the mining industry in South Wales has a future of only ten years. It is up to his colleague from the neighbouring constituency, the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), to refute that suggestion. As a loyal member of a great mining trade union, my hon. Friend should send a message to the people of South Wales that its mining industry, particularly in view of the amount of capital which will be invested by the National Coal Board, has a life of much longer than ten years. That one sentence marred my hon. Friend's speech.
I expected that we should get from the Minister of Welsh affairs something which we could put our teeth into, so that we could say that the debate had been worth while and the Government were in agreement that something should be done. Instead, we had nothing at all from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I valued his criticism of the many things he discussed. If it is logical to argue about the representation of Welsh Members, surely it is right for me to say that we in Wales ought to be outside conscription, because the Welsh Members are against it; but we do not get the opportunity of saying so or doing anything about it.
The Minister ought to know better than I do, because he speaks on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
If the Bill goes to Committee, would my hon. Friend be prepared to accept an Amendment which would prevent conscription?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
That does not arise on the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Watkins
Thank you for saving me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) put forward a valid argument on the question of Exchequer contributions. One would have imagined from his speech, however, that the Exchequer contributions were payable only to Welsh counties. The same proportion has been paid to English counties. If a better proportion is derived by the Welsh counties, that is the result of the legacy left to Wales from the Conservative Party for many years.
2493 I am very glad to give my support to the Bill, though I look at it from an aspect different from that from which it has been viewed so far in the debate. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) was admirable. My hon. Friend is not only a colleague of mine here but, from a constituency standpoint, a next-door neighbour. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) did very well, too. However, I myself would have called the Bill "The Better Government of Wales Bill." That is what I am interested in. Considerable interest has been taken in Wales in the last four and a half years in the matter of better government for Wales because of the problems which have arisen from time to time.
I make no apology for having associated myself with the petition committee which sought to effect a change here at Westminster in the interests of the better government of Wales. The people associated with that committee, irrespective of their political party politics, are united in one determined effort. I grant that, perhaps, the petition committee has been exploited to some extent. However, I am not made a devil because all the others are devils. Nor are all the others devils. The cause is justifiable. That is the point, and I hope that will be understood.
The petition committee has aroused a great deal of interest in Wales, and it has forced my own party to come to a decision on the matter. I am not going to argue now whether that decision is right or wrong. It has caused the National Union of Mineworkers to come to a decision. It is a great pity that the matter has not been discussed by the whole trade union movement in Wales in the way it has been discussed by the National Union of Mineworkers. However, the matter has certainly been discussed, and I am very glad of that.
Supporters of the movement are agreed that something must be done about rural depopulation in Wales, and I hope that some of my hon. Friends who know even more about this will support the plea that something new should be done in view of the situation with which we are faced.
I should have liked to have quoted a great number of figures which would have shown the House how strong is the 2494 support for the Bill in the different Welsh constituencies, or, at least, how strong is the support for some of the provisions in the Bill. However, I shall not at this stage do so. I will content myself with remarking that every county in Wales has taken an interest in the Bill. I have a personal interest in it because one of the Labour candidates for Brecon was the late Mr. E. T. John, and he strove gallantly in this House on behalf of this cause—indeed, for changes even greater than those proposed in the Bill.
I would say that in Wales there are in relation to the Bill three categories of people. First, there are some who would be "anti" any type of Bill. We can leave those well alone. The undertaker would be the best one to deal with them. Secondly there are the people who are favourably disposed to the Bill but who, because they are Socialist, say they are great internationalists. I can understand their saying that, but I think that the small nations can contribute to the management of international affairs, and can do so as much as anyone else.
The third group of people is composed of those who believe that something must be done but who hesitate to do it. I say to them that it is better to light a candle than always to complain about the darkness. I would place in that category some of my own hon. Friends who, perhaps, do not know sufficient about our real aim. I would ask them, and all Members of the House, please not to identify us with people like republicans who have said the things that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) read out from the "Welsh Republican."
There is a great deal of misrepresentation. I agree with the Welsh minister who, at a harvest festival last autumn, said that propaganda now had a new meaning, "lying in state." I am just wondering whether some of the propaganda about this movement has not been propaganda in that sense. Some of it has certainly been misleading. Some misleading sentiments have been expressed in the debate today.
We Labour Members who support the Bill would not stand for a separate trade union movement, for instance. We should not stand for a smaller pension for an old-age pensioner in Brecon than that for an old-age pensioner in London, 2495 or vice versa. That sort of thing does not occur in Northern Ireland. The same argument applies to all the National Insurance benefits. We do not believe in the economic separation of Wales from England, and that is clear from Clause 9 of the Bill, which provides for Welsh representatives to sit in this House. Whatever may be said about the Coal Board and so on, we have an excellent system in the Wool Marketing Board, which operates for Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland.
My main reason for supporting the Bill is that there is no machinery to legislate for the special needs of Wales. There must be some special Welsh needs, otherwise the Labour Government I gladly supported and whose good work I praise as much as I possibly can would not have done all they did for Wales. They set up special bodies to look after Welsh interests in various matters and under various Statutes. For instance, under the Agriculture Act, 1947,there is a Welsh committee, and there are special committees for the consideration of Welsh interests under the Forestry Act, Hill Farming Act and the Livestock Rearing Act. Under the Gas Act there is a Welsh Area Board, and we have two area boards under the Electricity Act. Over and above all, there is the Joint Education Committee for Wales.
There must have been some reason for setting up these Welsh bodies. The reason was—and still remains—that Wales demanded and required special consideration. Here, in the House, we have a "Welsh Day" for the discussion of Welsh affairs, and we annually are presented with a Welsh White Paper. Incidentally, I would welcome a Welsh White Paper which gave not only information under the same headings to paragraphs of the year before, with new figures inserted for the new year. I would welcome some statement of policy in a Welsh White Paper. If there were such a statement it would be a great consideration.
A Welsh Parliament is necessary to discuss rural depopulation. The Labour Government set up a council to consider that matter, and it reported to another Government. We divided on its Report. Nevertheless, we have not heard either from the Government or from the Par- 2496 liamentary Labour Party what the real answer to the problem of rural depopulation is. Some things have been done, as for instance with afforestation. Thank goodness, something has been done about that. It was done because of agitation outside the House, and perhaps, because of the agitation of some of us in the House. But that matter still requires a great deal of attention.
There is the question of the Council for Wales, whose Report dealt with a great number of other important matters. Perhaps we shall see the report, in the next twelve months, of the results of the farm survey in Central Wales. Would it not be better if that report were to be discussed by a parliament in Wales rather than by this Parliament at Westminster?
There are many matters which are affected by decisions taken here in London, whereas the decisions ought to be taken in Wales. Can we really think it satisfactory that the War Office decided to allow drink to be supplied on Sundays at drill halls in Wales, without any reference to a Welsh Parliament or Welsh Members of Parliament? Decisions like this annoy me. There is the question of Service land requirements. An announcement was made in this House that 500,000 acres would be required in Wales. When, at our insistence, that requirement was examined a little further it was discovered that 150,000 acres would do. There was no semblance of consultation with any Member of Parliament or anyone else.
In my constituency a Service Department requires gun sites from which to shoot over agricultural land. I have attempted time and again to question the Minister of Defence. When I do so I am referred to the Secretary of State for War. When I question the Minister of Works I am told to question the Secretary of State for War. When Questions are asked of the Minister for Housing and Local Government about these matters the questioners are, again, referred to the Secretary of State for War. The result is that one is constantly meeting the same person over the problem, instead of being enabled to ventilate it properly in the House and elsewhere. This would not be the case if we had a Parliament of our own.
Do hon. Members think that any gathering in a Welsh Parliament would put up with the interference experienced 2497 on the Welsh programmes of the B.B.C. without doing something much more drastic than has been done about it up to now? We are convinced that the Postmaster-General is not advised by his Department on the real situation in Wales. The merits of the hydro-electric scheme in North Wales would be far better discussed by members of a Welsh Parliament than by a Committee of the House of Lords, which is at present examining the Bill in connection with that scheme. Those are the kind of subjects about which I am really concerned.
Ministerial statements have been made about the roads and railways and hospitals, and we can do nothing at all about them, except on occasions when people like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) raise these subjects on the Motion for the Adjournment. Although I agree that we have had a great deal of consideration, since the end of the war there are a large number of things which still need to be done. We had an announcement from Lord Kilmuir, the predecessor of the present Minister for Welsh Affairs, to the effect that greater devolution in respect of Welsh affairs would be granted to the Ministry of Agriculture. My information is that there has been no greater devolution since then of the work of the Ministry, and no further transfer of duties to the Department at Aberystwyth. A statement is made and that is all that happens. Everyone seems to take for granted that all that is required is a Ministerial statement.
We should get some facilities on the lines of those which Scottish Members enjoy. They have a great advantage. When I ask for an opportunity to discuss an Estimate of particular interest to Wales, I am told that I can speak in the House or in Committee in debate on any Estimate, but there is a far better chance of catching Mr. Speaker's eye in a Senate of 72 Members than there is in this Assembly of 625 Members.
I do not agree with all the Clauses of the Bill. I agree that a Welsh Parliament should meet for the first time in Cardiff, but I do not see anything wrong with Llandrindod Wells. It would be far more central, provided that we had better communications. I should like to see us get down to the things that really 2498 matter. I am not concerned with Bills, Clauses and Schedules, although I agree that the Bill is an attempt to get down to brass tacks and to make some attempt at providing what is really wanted in Wales.
I do not accept all that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. W.Mainwaring) said about Welsh history, but as one of the oldest nations in Europe, with our own language and literature, our own religious and social traditions, with our own National Library and National Museum, we are entitled to the main provisions of the Bill. I look at my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. Ll.Williams) when I say that we all shout for our gallant rugby XV or soccer XI, but what is wrong with shouting for 72 M.P.s in Cardiff or Llandrindod Wells? Does our intelligence stop short with our hands and feet?
Whatever our objective before we were elected to this House, now that we are discussing this Bill only three days after St. David's Day can we not crystallise all the sentiments which we express on St. David's Day time and time again and put them in the form of legislation? I respectfully suggest that we should have a Second Reading of the Bill. If improvements are suggested, I am sure that they will be considered carefully and in detail during the Committee stage.
Even if the arguments against the Bill in Committee were to kill it, that would be far better than if the Bill were not given a Second Reading. I hope that a refusal to give the Bill a Second Reading will not be the final reply that Wales will receive from the House of Commons on some of the problems which have been mentioned today. If there is a way out of our difficulties other than by means of the main provisions of the Bill, I should be ready to listen to any such suggestions and to accept a really workable solution, but I would say to the House, as I have said in all my election addresses, "Deffro mae'n ddydd."
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am sure that we all agree that this debate is quite a historic occasion. I am open to correction, but I believe that the last time that a Bill of this nature was before the House was on the eve of the First World War. Conditions have changed 2499 rather substantially since that time, which, in some respects, was the high peak of that emotional desire for something approximating to a Parliament for Wales. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) upon giving us the opportunity to have this discussion. It has been an additional opportunity to consider Welsh affairs generally and it has proved most valuable.
I regret that I cannot support the Bill; not that I have any bitterness in my opposition against it, as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is well aware. I, too, received a few letters before the debate. Those who sent the letters, which, in general, did not come from my constituency, did the cause which they sought to advance an ill service in the way in which they framed them. One such message said:Do your duty on Friday. Do not shirk the issue. Many of your colleagues will.Another went something like this, "The eyes of all Wales will be on the 36 Welsh Members on Friday. We shall be able to distinguish the traitors from the patriots." That kind of advice is more calculated to stimulate opposition among hon. Members than to make them keener to pass a Bill of this nature.
I believe that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil recognised, even before the Bill was introduced, that it was most unlikely that a constitutional change of this nature could or would be effected by means of a Private Member's Bill. He has so indicated on a number of occasions at public meetings and in interviews with the Press.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
The hon. Member must know that the only recourse open to any Member of the House today on a Bill of this kind is to act as a private Member. We are entitled to do it.
§ Mr. Gower
I do not dispute that, but the hon. Member recognises that it was most unlikely that such a great change would be affected as a result of a Private Member's Bill. But any impartial listener to our debate today would be forced to say, if this were simply and purely a debating society, that the sponsors of the Bill have taken a bit of a hiding. I listened to the debate fairly 2500 and impartially, and that is my opinion. Were I, as a supporter of this Bill, sitting in the Public Gallery, I should be disappointed at the turn of events. That is the position up to now. I do not know whether the case may be reprieved during the later stages of our proceedings, but to date the case for it has failed.
Perhaps the main reason was that the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) and the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr.Mainwaring) were so effective. However, I felt that the hon. Member for Rhondda, East went a little too far. His argument could be construed as supporting a case against Wales having any separate representation at all. He pursued the matter to such a degree as almost to suggest that there was no need for a Minister for Welsh Affairs, a Council for Wales or any other kind of separate organisation. Successive Governments have given recognition to the fact that there is some difference between Wales and any other part of England. Their appointment of these committees, of separate Welsh offices and of the Minister himself indicates that.
The sponsors of the Bill want us to take a long step forward into what I might describe as the constitutional unknown. Why have they failed so lamentably today, in my opinion, to establish a convincing case? First, because they are venturing so far into the unknown; and, secondly, because they recognise that they are running ahead of public opinion in Wales and Monmouthshire itself. As I listened to the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) I could detect very little conviction in his voice. I thought that emotionally, from his heart——
§ Mr. G. Thomas
On a point of order. Is it not out of order for an hon. Member to impute insincerity to another hon. Member, Sir?
§ Mr. Speaker
Certainly, but I did not understand that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) was doing so.
§ Mr. Gower
I certainly would not do that, Mr. Speaker, and if what I said could be construed in such a way I hasten to assure the hon. Member that I was not trying to create that impression. May I put it this way? While, undoubtedly, 2501 the hon. Member sincerely believes in his heart in this matter, it was difficult for him to substantiate any reasoned argument. That is where the difficulty arises.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) quite rightly pointed out that it would probably be to the benefit of the Opposition if there were a Government of this kind in Wales. Undoubtedly for a long time, and perhaps permanently, they would have a political majority in the new Parliament. Equally, we on this side of the House could argue that it would pay a Conservative Government in England to have a Parliament in Wales, because that would ensure a reduction in the representation here from Welsh constituencies, thereby making it easier to ensure a Conservative majority in this House. So, on both sides of the House, those of us who are in doubts about the Bill are not seeking any easy party advantage. We have no such advantage to gain.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) complained that there is no special legislative machinery for the needs of Wales. I am paraphrasing what he said, and if he did not use those words that is what he meant. But does it really need a Parliament for Wales to create that? Have we not gone a considerable way already? What is needed is some improvement in the machinery of this House for dealing with Welsh matters. I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State will convey to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs that there is a case for the institution of some form of Grand Committee on the lines of the Scottish Grand Committee, with the numbers made up by the recruitment of Welsh Members who represent English and Scottish constituencies.
I also support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North about the desirability of a Royal Commission on Welsh Affairs. I certainly have asked for this at Question Time during the present Session, but, so far, I have only received negative replies. I support the argument of my hon. Friend. There is a case for such a Commission, and it is my sincere belief that we should move forward along those lines.
We should be looking forward to the gradual setting up of a secretariat. I believe that, ultimately, a Government of 2502 one side or the other in this House will deem it proper to set up similar machinery in Wales to that which obtains in Scotland, namely, a Secretary of State for Wales. That does not separate one country from the other, and it has proved its worth in practice in Scotland, for there it is working smoothly and is providing admirable facilities for the consideration of Scottish affairs by Scottish Members. Therefore, although, personally, I oppose this Bill, I ask my hon. Friend to put to my hon. and gallant Friend and, of course, through him to the Government the view that many of us feel that it is time for us to advance substantially on the lines suggested.
Finally, let Governments from both sides of the House try to avoid unnecessary things which may be construed as a slight to Welsh susceptibilities. It may be that perhaps people do take these things unreasonably, but one example of what I mean I mentioned in this House recently, namely, the appointment of a committee including a number of Scotsmen and Englishmen but not a single Welsh representative. I have had a hundred letters on that topic. People construed it as a slight and that type of thing can easily be avoided. It is the kind of affair which feeds extreme nationalism and republicanism. Let us all do what we can to remove such causes of grievance among the people of Wales.
On both sides of the House there is a balance of feeling against this Bill either in its present form or against the principle of it, but I also believe that many of us feel there is an ample opportunity for better and greater facilities for the consideration of Welsh affairs.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me at this hour on this occasion, which matters so deeply to me, as I believe it matters so deeply to the people of Wales. I only wish that I could have spoken earlier in this debate merely because I should have liked to have followed the Home Secretary. I realise that he has so many other duties to perform that at the present moment he is unable to be present in the House, and I deeply regret that.
2503 I want to convey two congratulations. One is to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) who introduced the Bill. I congratulate him not only upon the fact that he was successful in the Ballot, and successful in being so early in the Ballot, but upon producing a Bill which, for lucidity, is unequalled. During my long experience in this House, which now extends over a quarter of a century, I have seen many Private Members' Bills but never have I seen a Bill which was as well drafted and comprehensive as this one is. Therefore, I congratulate the hon. Member upon the obviously hard work which he has put into the construction of this Bill, which involves the people with whom he is most concerned.
My second congratulation is to the Home Secretary upon his complete conversion to the side he has now joined. Every word he uttered from that Box was uttered before him, 40, 50, and 60 years ago, by hon. Members on that side of the House—the Conservative Party. In particular, he has followed precisely the words that were uttered by the great Joseph Chamberlain, Bonar Law. Edward Carson, Walter Long—the whole gamut of them—in denunciation of the rights of democracy. Because that really is what it amounts to.
One of the phrases used by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was that the spirit of the nation does not require a Measure of this kind. I agree. The spirit of a nation does not depend upon legislation. The spirit of a nation does not depend upon the rights that some other superior power may grant unto it. If the spirit of the nation depended upon that, then we should still be under the domination of the great Empire-building people.
The spirit of the nation did not require the defence that the little peoples put up against the Kaiser in 1914,against Napoleon in the earlier days, against the domination that Hitler tried to impose upon us in later days. The spirit of the nation does not depend today upon the anxiety of every one of us, and specially in this House, to defend the freedom which is ours and our own mode of life.
I know that it is not perhaps right that I should refer to a predecessor of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I wonder what his great father—whose 2504 name will remain in the history not only of this country but the history of the world—would have said had he heard the speech that was delivered from that Dispatch Box today?
§ Mr. Davies
Right from the outset there was this anxiety to do for Wales what should have been done.
May I also remind the House that the first country for which the battle was waged was Ireland——
§ Mr. Thomas
Will the right hon. and learned Member give way? I thought he was referring to Ireland, and unless he wants to see the same mess made of Wales as of Ireland, it is not a good illustration.
§ Mr. Davies
I should have thought that my hon. Friend would have agreed that at all times self-government is to be preferred to any other form of government —at all times.
§ Mr. Davies
If I may, I will come back to it.
The question of what should happen to Ireland was brought up time and time again, only to be met with the same answer from the opposite side of the House and, unfortunately, from some hon. Members on this side of the House. Year after year this House could not express its own views and carry them until, at long last, it was possible to pass them without the other place putting a stop to it.
§ Mr. Davies
Let me finish this point first.
This is the challenge that has been thrown out: what did you do for Wales? I am pointing out that the first battle which was waged concerned Ireland, and I am pointing out the difficulties there were in dealing with it. It was impossible to deal with Ireland until the power of the House of Lords was broken. Only then was it possible. May I remind the Welsh Members that it was exactly the same difficulty which confronted us when we were dealing with another Measure, relating to Wales, and Wales only—the disestablishment of the Church of England. We could not possibly deal with it until the power of another House had been broken. Those who were representatives for Wales in this House felt themselves unable to do what they desired to do until at long last, by legislation, the power of another place—in fact, the power of the Conservative Party—had been broken. That is why that was delayed for all that time.
One last word on this matter. If one will refer not only to the speeches but to the addresses at the Election of every Liberal candidate for Wales in those days, one will find that every one of them put forward this matter as the chief desire of Wales.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
Will the right hon. and learned Member explain to the House why it was that the Gladstonian Liberal Administration refused to give Home Rule to Wales?
§ Mr. Davies
I have told the hon. Member, if he had only followed me. I thought he was at least able to follow that. We could not get it even for Ireland until we had broken the power of the Lords.
§ Mr. Williams
Would the right hon. and learned Member tell the House if the other place at any time threw out a Bill for a Parliament for Wales?
§ Mr. Davies
It never had the opportunity because, since No. 1 had never reached them, No. 2 would never have reached them.
§ Mr. Davies
For the very good reason that No. 1—for the disestablishment of the Church of England—was thrown out before it ever reached them.
I now come to what I regard as probably the main reason why the House should give the Bill a Second Reading. I have heard little of it in this House except from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). I refer to the position of democracy in the world today. Never was democracy in a more difficult position than it is today.
In the early days to which I have referred we thought that democracy was winning and that it was only a question, of time before the whole world would become democratic. Yet, what have we seen? Even when new democratic institutions are created, they unfortunately have less power compared with the central power than their predecessors had.
The Bill is a Measure in favour of better administration and better democracy. Would anyone deny that this House is overworked today? Is there anyone who does not desire to see this House working far better than it is working today? There is not one of us who does not deprecate the kind of thing that happens. Bills are introduced, Amendments to them are tabled, and time is so short that the Closure and the Guillotine are used; and there is no one who does not deprecate the use of such measures as those. We have to pass through this House a number of Measures without their having had the fullest debate and consideration, as they ought to have. What is worse is that we have passed Votes for millions of pounds without any debate whatsoever merely because we have not got the time to devote to them.
That was not the position 40 years ago. I have never had the honour of being a member of the Cabinet, so I should like to refer to what was said by Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister, in support of a rather similar Bill which was introduced in 1912:In the first place, there is no time or room to deal with their separate needs …that is, the separate needs of England, Scotland and Wales.
2507It is hardly an exaggeration to say that when the season annually comes round for compiling the King's Speech, the practical question for those concerned with its composition is what is the least instalment of that which is admittedly overdue by which England, Scotland, and Wales can respectively for the Session be bought off? That is what it comes to, and, further, not only is our local legislation hopelessly in arrear but under our existing arrangements it is constantly coloured and twisted and warped by the voices and votes of those who have no direct concern in the matter.
§ Mr. Davies
These are the words of Mr. Asquith speaking in favour of the Irish Home Rule Bill which the Conservatives threw out, as, I understand, many Labour hon. Members now want to throw out this similar Bill with regard to Wales. The Conservatives were not concerned about such a position, and I am sorry to see that there are now Labour hon. Members who are equally unconcerned.
Mr. Asquith went on:Except as a safeguard, which is not often needed, against wanton repitition or obstruction, does anyone welcome it? Is it satisfactory to anyone, I do not care in what quarter of the House he sits, that large fragments of important legislation are passed without adequate debate, or sometimes without debate at all, or that vast sums of public money should at the end of every Session be voted, undiscussed, unexamined, silently and en bloc? No; there is no one who cares for the dignity and for the efficiency of the House of Commons who would use this modern machinery with anything but reluctance, and, indeed, with repugnance. But it is the creature of our own self-imposed necessities …"—[Official Report. 11th April, 1912; Vol. 36, c. 1403–.]Unfortunately, those words are truer today than when they were uttered in 1912.
One is anxious about democracy. Democracy will fail unless its institutions are effective and efficient. If they become ineffective and if they become inefficient, then democracy itself will fail. I am anxious, as I think every hon. Member in the House should be anxious at this time when democracy is more threatened than it ever was before, that democracy's institutions should be efficient and effective. What time is given by this House to the multifarious questions that come before it? Was there ever any institution in the world from the earliest times that had put upon it such a tremendous 2508 conglomeration of questions as are put upon this House?
One has only to look at the Question list for a whole week. Questions are addressed not merely to the Foreign Secretary on foreign matters but also to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Colonies—matters from outside this country—and then come all the amazing Questions relating to this country. How many Questions are put down relating to the country of which you are, rightly, Mr. Speaker, such a proud member—Scotland?
How much of the time of the House is occupied in considering Scottish matters and Scottish Questions? The extent of it is such that not only did we have to have a Secretary of State for Scotland appointed in the 'eighties, but his assistants have had to be added to so that they can deal as adequately as possible with Scottish questions far away from Scotland—here rather than where they could best be dealt with.
With regard to my own people, one day, and one day only, is allowed for the discussion of our questions, and one Minister, and one Minister only, sits on the Government Front Bench to listen to what we have to say about our own questions. That Minister has to answer every one of them, whether they are concerned with economic, agricultural, social, or political questions, local government or whatever it may be. He, and he alone, is charged with the duty of answering them. Is it fair, primarily, to this House, and, secondly, to my country of Wales?
We in Wales have an honourable history. We are proud to think that we were here before anybody else arrived. We are proud to think that the language which I, fortunately, can speak, was the language that was spoken then. We are proud that today we have a literature, a poetry, and a prose even finer than anything that can be shown in the English language.
I commend to the attention of the House a recent commemoration service in St. Martin's Church within half a mile of here. We gathered to honour the memory of one man who has done more to preserve the Welsh language than has ever been done by a whole body of men doing anything else, a man who ultimately 2509 became a bishop and who was for a time the rector of my own little parish, William Morgan. He alone translated the Book upon which we all depend, whatever our views, the Holy Bible—the New Testament and the Old Testament. It remained for a number of learned men to be called together by James I before it could be translated into the wonderful English which we all love today.
That is only part of our tradition. The greatest part is our love of our liberty. We fought for our liberty 2,000 years ago. We fought against: the Roman who was then the aggressor, aye, we fought against those who came across the ocean afterwards, and we maintained our language, we maintained our tradition, we went on fighting right down to the 15th century.
Is it to be said that, while the Government give self-government to India, Burma, Ceylon, the Sudan, or Cyprus, as I have asked, we shall be denied a merely local power to look after our own affairs? We understand them better than anybody else. In looking after our own problems we should leave to this House, with its great position and its great tradition, the major issues. Those issues concern not merely us, not merely the English people, not merely the Scottish people, but the people of the whole world, so that they may be able to live in harmony.
That is all we ask. Surely this House of Commons, which has on so many occasions granted the right to look after their own affairs to so many peoples the world over can grant this right to Wales.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) wishes to intervene in the debate and I am obliged to him for allowing me about ten minutes to support the Bill. I want to emphasise one thing from the outset. It is that the Bill does not suggest economic separation from the rest of Britain. If it were to do so, I would not be here supporting it, for the simple reason that I believe that economic severance would be suicidal for our nation.
Everyone who has read the Bill intelligently—I doubt whether it has been read intelligently by everybody—will agree that it cannot be claimed that there 2510 is a trace of a suggestion of economic separation. I admired the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for his tact and modesty in the number of excepted matters to which the First Schedule refers. The excepted matters suggested should satisfy the most imperially minded person in the House, even the hon. Member for Cardiff. North (Mr. Llewellyn).
§ Mr. Llewellyn
Before the hon. Member leaves the point he has made about his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, does he admire the charges of disloyalty which he has levelled against his own colleagues and his own party?
§ Mr. Jones
No. The Bill is obviously based on the Government of Ireland Act of 1920,and the Government of Wales suggested is identical with the one we have today in Northern Ireland. The Government of Northern Ireland Act has stood the test of thirty years and I emphasise that it has stood the test in spite of the fact that when it was first enacted this was not a popular Measure.
As hon. and right hon. Members know, the people of Northern Ireland divided into three sections: those who wanted to remain with Southern Ireland, those who wanted to retain the status quo, and those who wanted the present system. The Government of Northern Ireland works, and it works because it was based on justice, equity and, indeed, on common sense. If it works in Northern Ireland, why cannot it work in Wales? I should like an answer to that question.
In common with all hon. Members on this side of the House, I believe in the principle of the ultimate self-government of all the colonial peoples. When we consider here whether a Colony deserves self-government we usually ask two or three questions: are the inhabitants of the Colony able to rule themselves; have they learned the art of government; have they ability to make laws and, having made them, to administer them? When we are satisfied on those three points we are prepared to grant self-government to any Colony.
§ Mr. Jones
What an easy passage the Bill would have today if we were to content ourselves with asking only those 2511 questions. No one would question our ability to govern ourselves in Wales. I remind the House that one of the greatest Prime Ministers of all time was a Welshman. I am not given to flattery, but I would point out that the two most important Acts of Parliament passed by the Labour Government after the war were sponsored by two Welshmen, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). Indeed, we were told that the Home Secretary was promoted to his present position because of his success as a Minister in a previous post.
Wherever we find Welshmen we find that at least they are able to govern themselves. I was speaking in Luton last Friday and I was told that the four county councillors who represent the area on the Bedfordshire County Council are four Welshmen, three of whom are named Jones. Not only are there four Welshmen, but three have the right pedigree as well.
There is no need to prove to the House that if that is the test—are we able to govern ourselves, able to make laws and to administer them—then we pass with top marks. We sit the examination and come up with a diploma. Therefore, it is up to me to prove, in five minutes, one point—are we a nation? I suggest that we possess the distinctive features of nationhood. We have a language different from any other language in the world, not known outside our own country except in Heaven. Probably it is the language there. We have a literature without which the world would have been much poorer.
We have a culture based on a love for education. Let me remind the House that the universities of England were built and established by the wealth of class and privilege. But the University of Wales was established by the pennies of the poor miners and quarrymen, and it was due entirely to our great love for education and culture. We have also a tradition which goes back beyond the arrival of the Angles, Jutes and Saxons. I am reminded also, as was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) that we originally inhabited this country. We were never conquered by the English. All we did, 3,000 years ago, was to act 2512 on the principle of peaceful co-existence. We allowed them to remain for our own good.
§ Mr. Jones
This afternoon we should not be considering a Parliament for Wales. We should be sitting in a Welsh Parliament, considering whether, at long last, the English were worthy of a Government of their own. But here we are, asking for consideration of what is our right as a nation, and what we declare to be the right of all other nations in the world—to rule ourselves.
I am sometimes asked, can a nation of 2½million people exercise any influence on world affairs? Disraeli once said that all the great things were done by small nations. I would remind the House of little Greece and its contribution to world thought. Indeed, I would respectfully remind the House that the greatest Man who ever trod the earth was born in the small country of Palestine. I am sure that we, as a people distinct from all other people in the world, and loving all the peoples in the world—I see my Scottish friends present this afternoon and they are real comrades of ours—have a contribution to make to world thought and the life of the world. We can do that only with our own Parliament which, as a result of the presentation of this Bill, I trust will be an accomplished fact in the course of the next 12 months or so.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
About twelve months ago many of us joined with our compatriots from the Welsh Labour movement in a discussion of the whole problem of the future Government of Wales. At the end of the conference, a distinguished political correspondent told me that what he thought was the best argument for a Parliament in Wales had not been used at all. It was that, were there a Welsh Parliament, it would be the finest example of sustained oratory anywhere in the world. I think that our debate this afternoon has maintained the very high level evident at that conference.
I promised to sit down at half-past three, because I am anxious that my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), who is one of the sponsors of the Bill, shall have a full 2513 opportunity to wind up this debate. I therefore propose to say a few words, speaking for myself and for the movement to which I am privileged to belong and which represents the majority of the people of Wales, explaining why we came to the conclusion we did and why, therefore, we regret the proposals in this Bill.
It is not because we do not like our own country, nor because we are not good Welshmen, nor because we are not good democrats. The issue is not whether Wales is a nation. Who doubts that? The question is not whether the Welsh people should have the right to govern themselves. The question is whether it is better for the Welsh people to have a separate Parliament and a separate Government. It is to that issue that we addressed ourselves, representing the whole of the Labour movement of Wales. We came to the conclusion that such a step would not be to the advantage of the people of Wales.
Surely the test must be: what is best for the people of Wales—not some of them but all of them?
§ Mr. Griffiths
That may be, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has changed his mind before now. The test is: what is best for the people of Wales?
Let me state briefly why we came to the conclusion we did. The major reasons were economic. None of my hon. Friends from Wales can deny that in my lifetime the greatest threat to the Welsh nation and the Welsh people came from the economic disintegration of the inter-war years. That is still the greatest fear. It is, therefore, natural that when the Welsh Labour movement, representing the trade unions and the Labour Party of Wales, discuss this problem, the first question they pose is: is this step in the interests of our economic security, prosperity and the well-being of our people? Will it give us an economy which will sustain and improve our standard of life?
Believe me, we examined this problem as people with experience, with a background of bitter experience, and during some part of our examination of the problem it was my privilege to lead what I still think are the salt of the earth—the miners of South Wales. We came to 2514 the conclusion that this step would not be in the best interests of Wales.
I would give the reasons. There is no separate Welsh economy, as there is no separate Scottish economy. Two centuries ago the Industrial Revolution transformed the life of these islands, and the economy of Wales and of Scotland is an integral part of the British economy. It has grown up within its ambit. It has been patterned, shaped and moulded by the economic developments of the last two centuries. We therefore posed the question: would any step, even a slight step, which would break up that integration be in the interests of the people of Wales? We came to the conclusion that it would not.
Now I come to a matter of which I and my hon. Friends who belong to my party are very proud. I refer to the economic and social changes which it was our privilege as a Labour Government to initiate. Those six years of achievement for the people of Wales by the Labour Government brought about the greatest economic and social integration that has occurred under any Government. The integration of the mining industry is very much closer. The same applies to transport and steel, which, it is true, are denationalised—although I am glad to say only partially—but we shall repair that state of affairs when we get back into power. All these are an essential part of the British economy. We therefore came to the conclusion that to break this integration would not be in the interests of the people of Wales, but would jeopardise their livelihood.
Let us remember that two-thirds of the people of Wales live in three counties—Monmouth, Glamorgan and Carmarthen. When we speak of the people of Wales, those who speak for those three counties have a right to be heard, because they represent the vast mass of the Welsh people and the Welsh workers.
That was the first reason, and the second arose when we considered the matter from the standpoint of what is equally vital to Wales, which is the provision of social services in their widest sense—education, social insurance, the health services, housing and all that which in these days we can describe in the collective term as the Welfare State. In no part of the country have the blessings of the Welfare State been 2515 received with greater recognition of then-value than in Wales and Monmouthshire.
We came to the conclusion—and I hope the House will take it that I speak with some degree of authority here—that if we break up the social services of this country into separate national compartments and let each finance and sustain its own social services in the wider sense, it will be an enormous loss. For those reasons—on economic grounds and on grounds of the social services—we came to the conclusion that to create even the slightest break between the integrated economy of the whole of the United Kingdom and the integrated social services would not be in the interests of the Welsh people.
I will add one further reason, if I may, and it is that if such a proposal were introduced it would be politically disadvantageous to the whole of this kingdom. I say this frankly as one who is coming within sight of the pension age which I laid down for the nation in my own Bill. I believe that in the mid-20th century to take the Welsh people out of the main stream of British political life would be a grave disadvantage to the Welsh people and to Wales. That is what we have done with Northern Ireland, although I do not want to discuss that country. I have been in the House for eighteen years, and I believe that one of the effects of the Government of Ireland Act has been to take the Northern Ireland Members out of the main stream of our politics. That is what would happen for Wales.
For those reasons, among others—and I have limited myself to those reasons—we thought that this was not a step which should be taken if the test is the interests of the people of Wales as a whole. But on Second Reading we are entitled to say something else, something positive, and I therefore propose to outline six needs which we believe are still among the main needs of Wales and to which we should devote attention. I can only mention them.
The first is that it is still imperative to strengthen the foundations of, and to continue to diversify, the structure of our economy in Wales as an integral part of the British economy. We should do that in order to make perfectly certain that we do not get back at any time to 2516 those years in which the Welsh people—I use these words deliberately—suffered so grievously and the Welsh nation nearly died.
Secondly, it is important and urgent to plan—and I use the word "plan" because it can be done in no other way—the rehabilitation of the countryside in Wales—Cefn Gwlad—as an integral part of reviving and rehabilitating the oldest and foundation industries of Wales and this country. Both of those problems will call for immense resources.
As a member of the committee responsible for thinking of future policy for our party and our country, I have had the opportunity of examining what will be the cost in capital investment of doing these things; and, believe me, they can be done only on a United Kingdom basis. The resources necessary for this enormous diversion for investment cannot be found unless the work is done on a planned scale for the United Kingdom as a whole.
The third point, which has scarcely been mentioned by anybody, but which is very important indeed, is the need to examine fully and carefully how to revive, rehabilitate and strengthen the foundations and structure of local government in Wales. Were it not for the rate equalisation fund which the Labour Government brought into operation, local government in Wales would have broken down. I believe we ought to look at that problem very soon. When we are talking about such a subject many people are in favour of a Parliament for Wales, and so on, but when it comes to uniting their county with another county we have to look out. It seems to me that for democracy in Wales one of the most important things is the revival of local democracy and making really effective units.
Fourthly, we want to strengthen the Council for Wales, which has been much derided and attacked, but which has done very good service. I should like to see it strengthened and made more representative, certainly more representative of our local government. I should like to see whether its powers could be extended. Let us make it an effective body, let us make it more representative so that it can play a bigger part in representing the needs and views of Wales to this country, to Parliament, and to the Government.
§ Mr. Griffiths
No. If the right hon. and learned Member means democratic in the sense of being elected to the Council I would not but I would make its composition much more representative of the authorities which are representative of the people. In that case it would be more democratic.
Fifthly, we should continue with devolution. Much more has been done for Wales in this field since 1945 than at any other time, than even in the days of Gladstone and David Lloyd George. It has been said that we only have one day for discussion of Welsh affairs, but we did not even have that until 1945.We did not have a White Paper on Wales, nor a Minister for Welsh Affair's. Nor did we have devolution, which sometimes is very difficult. I will give one example. It was not easy to devolve the administration of the National Health Service for Wales. That was because, for generations, the health service of North Wales had been linked with Liverpool and was cut off from South Wales. But we did make that improvement. We want that to go on so that we may build up a body of administration for Wales which, while carrying out United Kingdom policy, can adjust it to the needs of Wales.
Sixthly, we want a representative in the Cabinet. We welcome the step taken by appointing a Minister for Welsh Affairs with a seat in the Cabinet. We want those steps to continue. The suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) that a Royal Commission might be set up to examine the whole of these problems. He suggested very limited terms of reference. If I understood the Minister aright he was prepared to consider this question without committal. It ought to be looked at. The terms of reference ought to be those which were laid down for the Royal Commission on Scotland, whose Report is very valuable. Those terms of reference are:To review with reference to the financial, economic, administrative and other considerations involved, the arrangements for exercising the functions of Your Majesty's Government in relation to Scotland.Substituting "Wales" for "Scotland" I think that that would do.
2518 There have been many changes since 1945 towards devolution. That has been done to give greater opportunity for attention to be given to the problems of Wales. I think that that ought to be examined by a competent body. Let the voice of Wales be heard, not only in this House, but in local government, in trade unions and in every organisation in Wales upon whom administrative arrangements for carrying out decisions of Her Majesty's Government fall. Then let us consider it with a body of knowledge such as is contained in the Report before us on Scotland.
Wales is a better Wales than I have known it in my lifetime. People have talked about Wales being in chains. There are still grave economic, social, rural and other problems. I should not like it to go out from here this afternoon that any of us is speaking for a Wales which is, as I have seen it in some places, a Wales in chains. Fifty-one years ago I worked in the pits. Today's Wales is a better Wales in which to grow up, a Wales in which better chances are given to the ordinary people. It is a better Wales for the countryside and for all the Welsh people. It can be better still, and I believe that if we continue in the process which we have begun, maintaining the integrated life of the United Kingdom while seeking to devise and build up machinery and organisations by which Wales gets its fair, due and rightful place in the life of the United Kingdom, that is the best thing in the interests of the people of Wales.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
Perhaps it would be useful at this stage if one of the supporters of the Bill attempted to answer the major criticisms which have been made against us this afternoon. I say at the outset that I do not for one moment regard any hon. Member or any member of the Welsh nation who does not agree with the Bill or the principle enshrined within it as being in any way inferior to anybody else in loyalty and patriotism to Wales. I do not subscribe to the kind of language and aspersion which the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) thought fit to quote. Indeed, I have myself been subject to it in two languages, not in one.
2519 My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) at one point spoke under the stress of emotion. My right hon. Friend, like myself, is a language enthusiast, and although he may not agree with us about the best governmental machinery for doing something to sustain that language and culture in Wales, I pay tribute to him as a great political and industrial leader who has testified to the values of the language and spirit of Wales throughout his lifetime—and there are many like him. So let us not this afternoon divide the nation or ourselves into classes of loyalists to its best traditions.
One of the major criticisms of the Bill was that Wales does not want a parliament of its own. It is true that there has been no referendum, and that this is a question which can easily be decided at a General Election. It is an issue which is swallowed up among a host of other varying issues in a by-election or General Election. But we believe—and I say this sincerely—that there is a substantial and growing body of opinion in Wales, as in Scotland, which cuts across party loyalties and sectarian prejudices, which is looking forward to a rearrangement of the democratic government of Great Britain on what I might call federal lines. I have never believed that this country is naturally a unitary State. How could it be when there are four positive, definite, and vociferous nationalities within its shores? It is obviously, naturally, a federation.
Hon. Members have talked about the implications of the Bill. To me, the implication of this small Bill is that it is not only a gesture to my own country in the federal sense. It might be the beginning of the organisation of government in Britain on federal lines, and it might help the organisation of the whole world on federal lines. I support the principle of local self government for Wales as one who fervently believes that the whole world—and soon—must be organised on federal lines and not in terms of economic and ideological separation.
We say that there is a growing body of opinion in Wales in favour of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) referred to hundreds of messages he had received. I have seen some of them, and I have received a few myself. They are not 2520 messages in favour of economic separation. They are messages in favour of this modern, federal, progressive solution of the stresses and strains that sometimes arise in multi-national countries.
We have, too, the evidence of the canvass in Wales. We cannot brush aside this petition, which has been very scrupulously taken from door to door in many parishes in Wales. It is evidence, to put it no higher, of a considerable feeling in favour of some arrangement which would ensure the government of Wales, in regard to its own domestic affairs, by its own people.
§ Mr. Garner Evans (Denbigh)
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would give us some indication of how many people in Wales have signed the petition. We know it has been organised for over four years, and we know that a great deal of enthusiasm and organisation have gone into it. We admire the enthusiasm and the organisation. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would tell us, not in percentages but in straightforward figures, how many people have signed it.
§ Mr. Roberts
I cannot give that figure. I am not in charge of the petition. I understand that it has been organised, not with a view to a swift and big numerical result, but parish by parish, and so carefully that it is taking a very long time.
I understand also that when the result is published it will be startling. Time is being taken over it because there has been some suggestion—I say this with all due respect to my Scottish friends—that the Scottish petition was open to some objection in that it had been rather hurriedly and not always very carefully subscribed. It will not be possible to raise such objections against the petition for Wales when it has been completed. So it is taking some time. One cannot say at this time what the total of signatories is.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner Evans) must await his turn, should he catch my eye.
§ Mr. Roberts
That brings me to the second major criticism of the Bill. It is suggested that the Bill would mean the economic separation of Wales from England. The answer briefly to that is that the Bill is modelled on an Act, namely, the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which was specifically designed to avoid precisely such an economic separation. The evidence of the intention of the sponsors of the Bill to avoid such a separation, the evidence that they did not for one minute contemplate it, is that, in spite of the objections of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr.Grenfell) and of the other objections that have been raised to the; Northern Irish system, they modelled the Bill on that 1920 Act, which was framed to avoid an economic separation. It is only necessary to read the Bill to see that it in no way weakens the true and abiding unity of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Roberts
That would be a valid point if we were prepounding a Bill for independence, but, as I shall explain, this is a Bill for federal devolution, not to give Wales independence. Why have we wasted three hours on arguments against Dominion status and republicanism when the issue is not that at all, but federal devolution? Within those terms the Bill will stand any test, and the argument that the Bill calls for economic separation will not stand.
I tell my hon. Friends who represent the Welsh mining valleys that if there is in the Bill a single Clause which they feel constitutes a threat: to Welsh economic life, the remedy is in their hands during the Committee stage.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams
I am particularly interested in my hon. Friend's reference to the mining valleys. As I understand the Bill, the service provided by the Ministry of Fuel and Power for the United Kingdom will be transferred to a Welsh Parliament. How, therefore, will the Welsh coal industry be subject to the Parliament of the United Kingdom when the power of the Minister of Fuel and 2522 Power will lie in the parliament in Cardiff?
§ Mr. Roberts
I was coming to that. I was dealing with the economic question, and I was about to specify the coal industry. It has been suggested that the proposals in the Bill would endanger the coal industry. The present set-up of a unified Coal Board for the United Kingdom can and will remain. If there is any doubt about the provisions of the Bill under that head—and I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) that there really is a doubt—the House can put that right during the Committee stage.
In the modern age, we are familiar with unified economic boards operating in different countries. The Schuman Plan and the Franco-Italian economic agreement can be mentioned. In this country the British Wool Marketing Board was set up for the whole of the United Kingdom, and it operates in Northern Ireland although there is a federal Parliament there. Why could not the National Coal Board, which could best be described as the British Coal Board, operate throughout the countries of the United Kingdom, although those several countries had a measure of legislative devolution? It is perfectly possible. If there is any doubt about that, let us tackle the matter in Committee. That, of course, means that we must give the Bill a Second Reading.
In any case, if a Welsh assembly were to seek to legislate on the coal industry or any other Welsh industrial matter, who would be in the dominating position in such an assembly? Quite half the constituencies of Wales have substantial coal interests. Is it conceivable that a Welsh assembly, whatever its powers, could possibly legislate with regard to the coal industry in direct contradiction to the wishes of those members? The thing is impossible.
I say to my hon. Friends from the mining valleys of Wales, "In Wales, you are the masters. Here, you are in a minority and between the wars you were in a hopeless minority." I urge them to examine the Bill again because, if they wish to take them, it gives them powers not to break up their industry but to increase its progress and improve its organisation within its Welsh social 2523 setting. That is something which is completely different from economic separation.
Then there were suggestions by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), for whom I have a high regard. I was rather surprised at one or two arguments that he adduced. He spoke eloquently against Dominion status and republicanism. He made a great case against them, but he did not touch the Bill. What he did try to do was to wrench one or two parts from the Bill to achieve the objectives he had in mind, but the fact remained that the case he made out was against something totally different from this Bill.
I could not understand the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). He could not have read the Bill, nor could he have listened to the debate if he says, as he does, that the weight of the argument has been against this Bill. The weight of the argument has been in favour of the Bill because no one has faced up to it. They have all concentrated on putting the case against Dominion status and republicanism, and they have not disproved the central principle of the Measure because they could not. The central principle is federal devolution, not the kind of separation that has been spoken of by some hon. Members who have taken part in the debate.
Let us look, for example, at what my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly said about the break-up of the British trade union movement. Why should that happen? In Northern Ireland, there are 83 registered trade unions, 68 of which are registered in London and Edinburgh, and only 15 are indigenous, and they are very small. The number registered in Edinburgh and London represent 166,000 individual members and the 15 in Northern Ireland represent only 15,000 members. There is a unified British trade union movement which can operate in a part of the United Kingdom which enjoys a modified form of self-government. Why not Wales?
If that is objected to in principle why is it tolerated in another part of the country? The fact remains that trade unionism in the modern age does not stop at boundaries. I should have thought 2524 that we would welcome the march of trade unionism even across the face of Europe. We must think in modern terms of this question of devolution.
§ Mr. Grenfell
The main point of objection which I have to this Bill, and I sustain it to this moment, is that it does not combine and amalgamate, but divides. It separates Wales from that for which we have spent a lifetime struggling in order to accomplish proper standards of life, namely, amalgamation and cooperation with our neighbour.
§ Mr. Roberts
I thought I was putting a reasonable argument as to why that kind of thing need not happen, and, in point of fact, where we have the only example of actual devolution in the United Kingdom, it has not happened.
There is a suggestion that the Welsh social services and insurance benefits would suffer under this kind of federal devolution, and that old-age pensions, family allowances, and so on would be reduced through this kind of system. That argument could reasonably be applied if we were advocating a Parliament of the Dublin type, but it cannot be applied to a Bill of this kind, in view of the experience of more than 33 years in Belfast. Nothing of the kind has happened in Northern Ireland. Social benefits and social welfare schemes are substantially the same there as here, with this difference, that they are adapted in certain particulars to the local needs of that part of the United Kingdom.
In any case, while we may learn from the constitutional example in Northern Ireland—which, by the way, has been the subject of appreciative study all over the world—why should we in Wales expect that exactly the same economic results will follow, when we are a country whereas they are half a Province, when we have twice their population and many times their resources, and, on top of that, we shall probably have a Labour Government while they have had a Conservative Government for 33 years?
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
My hon. Friend is putting forward a theoretical argument about Northern Ireland. I invite him to go and look for himself at the standard of the social services there, and at the manner of administration. If he does this, he will not advance the argument that separation 2525 improves those standards. In fact, in Northern Ireland, because of their poverty and unemployment, it has worsened the standards of the unemployed.
§ Mr. Roberts
I have seen those, but in the interests of Wales, I will certainly examine them again, and if further experience shows me that there is a weakness in this Bill, I will try to improve it.
As I see it at the moment, however, substantially the same social benefits and welfare schemes apply throughout the United Kingdom, even in Northern Ireland, which enjoys a measure of legislative autonomy. It is important to remember that the devolutionary experiment of Belfast was conducted by a Conservative Government which did not use all the powers to its hand.
The position would be different in Wales because there we would have a progressive hand on the levers—[An Hon. Member: "All levers, no engine."] What have we now? There has been a substantial study of the devolutionary experiment conducted by Professor Mansergh, whom hon. Members know as a man of standing in this kind of study. He says that the advantage which this type of federal devolution gives to a component part of the United Kingdom is that, first, it brings the administration closer to the people, which in this day and age is of enormous importance; secondly, it enables the local legislature to adopt the master legislation of the central legislature to the local needs. That is an important power and it is one which we could do with in Wales.
I am not arguing for complete power of legislation; I am arguing for power to adopt the master legislation of the central parliament to the social and local peculiarities of Wales.
§ Mr. Roberts
But this is the Bill.
Thirdly, there is what my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C.Hughes) has called a power of marginal economic initiative possible. He mentioned the problem of the slate industry and of the rural areas. Clearly those are marginal in extent, but they are of considerable social significance to the national life of Wales. Who is going to 2526 tackle the problem of the decline of the Welsh countryside?
§ Mr. Roberts
I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend, but I say that it should be Welsh people meeting with authority in Wales, on an elected basis.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am sure that that kind of marginal economic question could be tackled more effectively by the kind of elected body proposed in the Bill. Those are the kinds of powers which a Measure of this sort would give us.
I have tried to give honest answers to the main criticisms which have been made. I have expressed what is my honest opinion at the moment, but I am prepared to revise what I have said in the light of anything that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) may be able to show me.
If the Bill is given a Second Reading, not only will it provide Wales with a means of legislative initiative, but it will immediately lead to a full-scale inquiry into the position throughout the whole of Britain. There are hon. Members who are prepared to consider an extension of local autonomy if it covers the whole of the United Kingdom, and I can appreciate that. We have done our best, in advancing the case for Wales, to promote the idea that we can have complete unity, cultural—in a certain sense, as mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies)—social, and economic, in the United Kingdom, and within that unity an opportunity for the component nationalities of these islands to develop their resources, to deal with their domestic affairs, and to make more fully and more brightly their individual contributions not only to the common treasury of Britain but also to that of the world and mankind.
§ Mr. S. O. Daviesrose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ The House divided: Ayes 14, Noes 48.2527
|Division No. 40.]||AYES||[3.58 p.m.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Willis, E. G.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Roberts, Coronwy (Caernarvon)||Mr. S. O. Davies and|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Wigg, George||Mr. Watkins.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Beswick, F.||Kaberry, D.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gt'n, S.)|
|Callaghan, U. J.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfleld, W.)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Molson, A. H. E.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness(Caerphilly)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Finch, H. J.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pearson, A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Probert, A. R.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Raikes, Sir Victor||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Heath, Edward||Russell, R. S.||Mr. George Thomas and|
|Holman, P.||Sharples, Maj. R. C.||Mr. Llewellyn.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|