HC Deb 19 April 1978 vol 948 cc496-619
Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)

I beg to move Amendment No. 344, in page 32, line 16, leave out from "shall" to end of line 18, and insert come into operation on 1st January 1979

The Chairman

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 345, in page 32, line 17, leave out "the Secretary of State" and insert "Her Majesty in Council".

No. 319, in page 32, line 19, leave out subsection (2).

No. 352, in page 32, line 30, at end add (5) Subject to the provisions of section 83 below, all orders under this section shall be made within 120 days of this Act receiving Royal Assent, and no such order shall appoint a day later than 1st January 1979 for the commencement of operation of any part of the Act.". No. 320, in page 32, line 30, at end add (5) Subject to the provisions of section 83(1) below, the first order under this section shall be made within 120 days of this Act receiving Royal Assent.". No. 318, in Clause 83, page 32, line 33, after "held", insert within 90 days of the Royal Assent to this Act". No. 361, in page 32, line 34, at end insert the referendum to be held on a day not later than 120 days after this Act receives the Royal Assent".

Mr. Howells

This group of amendments deals with the power of the Secretary of State under Clause 82 to appoint different days for the commencement of the provisions of the Act. The amendments have been tabled by the Liberal Party.

Amendment No. 344 is a probing amendment, but I have to warn the Committee that if I am not satisfied with the Minister's reply I shall press it to a Division.

In my view, this clause is so widely drafted that it could be used by the Government of the day to hold up the establishment of the Welsh Assembly. No time limit is set for the making of the orders, nor is there a specified time by which the Act should come into force. It provides a great temptation to any Government who want to put off indefinitely the setting up of the Assembly.

We Liberals also question the need to use this mechanism to bring the Act into operation. As it is, some of its provisions are already dependent on the making of orders by the Secretary of State, such as the timing of the elections and the payment of the block grants.

My colleagues and I believe that the Assembly should be set up as soon as possible after the passing of the Act, and we should like to see elections for the Welsh Assembly held not later than June of next year. We are therefore proposing that the Act should come into force on 1st January 1979. We want to know why the Government believe that this clause is necessary. I am sure that the Minister will give a reasonable reply to my request.

Amendment No. 345 is a technical amendment seeking to transfer the order-making power in this clause from the Secretary of State to Her Majesty in Council. If these orders are intended to be mere formalities, the power of the Secretary of State to make orders falls into the group of quasi-constitutional functions that he is expected to carry out under the Bill. We feel that it is more appropriate for such functions to be carried out by the Queen in Council than by a political Secretary of State.

Amendment No. 319 would remove subsection (2) from the Bill and would thus remove the power of the Secretary of State to bring into operation different parts of the Act at different times. We do not see why this power is necessary. It could be used by the Government to bring in only some parts of the Act and not others. For example, the Government could bring into force those sections dealing with the establishment of the Assembly but not those relating to the powers of the Assembly.

Amendment No. 352, which adds a new subsection to the clause, would require the Secretary of State for Wales to make all the orders under the clause within four months of the Act being passed and to ensure that the whole Act came into force by 1st January 1979. This is the same point as that raised by Amendment No. 344 but it gives the Secretary of State more flexibility by allowing him to specify different days for the commencement of different parts of the Act.

Amendment No. 361 would force the Secretary of State for Wales to appoint a day for the holding of the referendum. This must be a date not more than four months after the Act is passed. We feel that the referendum should be held as soon as possible after the Bill gets Royal Assent. As the Bill stands, the Government could hold up the referendum indefinitely. This would be particularly dangerous if there were a change of Government and the incoming Government were anti-devolution.

Mr. Ioan Evans

The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) is trying to write specific dates into the Bill—to state a date by which the Act must come into force and a date by which the referendum must be held. But has he taken account of the fact that there may well be a General Election? If he insists that the referendum be held 120 days after Royal Assent, assuming that a General Election could be held in October, the result could be that the referendum was held a week later than the General Election. Does he realise what his amendment could do?

Mr. Howells

I am not responsible for saying when a General Election should be called. That is up to the Prime Minister. If he is in favour of the Welsh Assembly, it is up to the Prime Minister. In case an incoming Government are against devolution, I believe, as a staunch devolutionist, that the referendum should be held this year, and the whole thing should be finalised by the end of the year.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Wigley

Perhaps I could help. The amendment of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) stipulates, in effect, that the referendum must be held by 1st January 1979. A week previous to that is Christmas Day, and not even the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) would suggest that a General Election would be held on Christmas Day. The amendment provides sufficient time for the referendum between the end of the parliamentary Session and 1st January, without any need for overlapping.

Mr. Howells

I agree. I hope that the referendum will be held this autumn and that the Welsh people will decide whether they want an Assembly. By January we will know one way or the other. In putting forward this amendment, I shall make it quite clear why I have mentioned 1st January.

The Act should come into operation as soon as possible, and that is why I have stipulated 1st January, which is both reasonable and possible. There has already been far too much delay over the years in bringing about devolution in this country. The aspirations of the Welsh people have been thwarted too often. To allow the matter to drag on indefinitely would be wrong for the people of Wales particularly and the people of Britain generally.

No one can possibly say that there has been no time for discussion. The Liberal Party has been advocating devolution for half a century, and thinking people over the years have considered the possibility. The Press and the media have given a tremendous amount of encouragement, and discussions following the Kilbrandon Report have been fruitful and interesting. The people of Wales are now anxious to decide the issue themselves through the promised referendum. It is a matter of principle that all these issues should be proceeded with with as much speed as possible to allay the anxieties and bring an end to the uncertainties. We have been waiting for 50 years. It is time to take swift action on behalf of the Welsh people. We need action, not words.

If the implementation of the Act is delayed beyond 1st January next year, there are a number of consequences that must be considered. It must be remembered that the Wales Bill provides for a review of the structure of local government in Wales. We are only too familiar with the long catalogue of complaints that have arisen in the last few months, both from the public and from those involved in local government, following the disastrous reorganisation five years ago.

The Liberals have very definite ideas about the organisation of local government under the Welsh Assembly. The main aim is to bring back a sense of involvement and to encourage people to make a positive contribution to the area in which they live. The important factor is to bring about the review as quickly as possible in order to end uncertainty and ensure a solid and lasting structure for the future. If the Bill is delayed more than is necessary, it will be unfair to the officers and representatives involved in local government and can only cause further unrest and anxiety. For the health of local government in Wales, we must have action soon.

The same principle applies to other functions that will come under the Assembly. We have seen with considerable dismay the way in which health authorities, which also were reorganised in 1973, have been faced with tremendous difficulties as a result of the over-large areas they have had to administer. Most of the money has been spent on administration which became necessary only because of the reorganisation, instead of on medical staff. We should have been spending that money on medical staff, equipment and vital new buildings. As in the rest of the NHS, something needs to be done fast before the whole structure collapses under the weight of bureaucracy.

In the last couple of years, we have seen the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales in action and they have made great strides in the encouragement of industry in Wales. Their functions are vital for the health of the economy and the recovery of industry in Wales. These bodies also need a background of stability against which to work, and the sooner the Assembly is established the better it will be for them. They cannot be expected to work in a vacuum.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how these bodies will be able to work with any sense of stability when Clause 62 enables them to be wiped off the face of the earth by the Assembly?

Mr. Howells

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will do his best to wipe the Board and the Agency out of existence. If he wants to tell the people of Wales that he wishes to abolish these bodies, it is up to him. Perhaps it will be in his manifesto at the next General Election.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman cannot dodge the question by misquoting my views on the Agency, which we are pledged to retain, and the Board, which we think might be organised in a slightly different way. How can he say that uncertainty will be removed when Clause 62 enables these bodies to be wiped out?

Mr. Howells

I do not believe that the Assembly will wipe out the Board and the Agency—though a Tory Government might do so. If the hon. Gentleman is against the Board and the Agency, that is a matter for him.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has not read the Bill.

Mr. Howells

I have read the Bill and I know what I stand for. As a staunch devolutionist, I want to make sure that we devolve powers to the people of Wales so that they can look after their own interests in the way that Liberals and the Government believe they should.

Mr. Ioan Evans

The hon. Gentleman was speaking earlier about local government, which is one of the major issues of concern in Wales. Can he give us the Liberal Party's views on this matter? Will he recommend to the Assembly that the county and district authorities should be abolished, that local government should stay as it is, or what?

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) has allowed his enthusiasm to carry him well away from the amendment.

Mr. Howells

Thank you for bringing us back to order, Mr. Murton.

I shall reply briefly to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). When the Bill was presented, the Government acceded to the request of the Liberal Party that the Assembly should have the right in its first year of office to discuss the local government structure in Wales. It will be up to Assembly Members to report to the Secretary of State on whether they wish a futher reorganisation. The Liberal view is well known, and I do not think that I ought to elaborate on that now.

The Chairman

Order. May I suggest to the Committee that honours are now even all round?

Mr. Howells

Forestry, which was debated at length yesterday, is also to be the responsibility of the Assembly. As was stressed yesterday, there has been a great deal of uncertainty about the future role of the Forestry Commission and the national water authority. The great uncertainty that exists in every sphere must be brought to an end, and the longer we delay implementation of the Bill the worse it will be. Confidence will suffer and local government, health administration and so on will be in an even worse state than at present. This must be avoided at all costs.

It also crosses my mind that there are a number of non-elected bodies in Wales, such as those already mentioned. Their members have not been democratically elected and there is no democratic control over their activities. It is to be hoped that, with the coming of the Assembly, there will be some measure of control. That is another good reason for not having delays. However, I do not want a repeat of the exchanges that we have seen between the Secretary of State and the Shadow spokesman, so I shall leave the matter there for the time being.

The Bill is not ideal. It has many flaws, and Liberals wished to see many other provisions included in it, especially the whole issue of a federal system for the United Kingdom. However, it is of the utmost importance for the well-being of the country that some form of devolution should come into being in the near future.

I am delighted that some Conservatives are now coming over to my party's way of thinking. When we debated a federal system in the Welsh Grand Committee in November, I was pleased to hear the hon. Members for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) and Barry (Sir R. Gower) say that they would prefer a federal system to what was proposed in the Bill which was before the House in the last Session. Who knows, perhaps we shall have a federal system in this country within the next five or 10 years.

Many people have changed their views and I hope that the hon. Members for Pembroke and for Barry will do what they can to help Liberals to further the cause of federalism in future. The whole country is fed up with centralised government that is remote from the people. They want to feel that they run their own affairs and have some say in running the country and shaping their future. The present system is causing much frustration and anger, not least in Wales, and it is therefore our duty to put the question to the people of Wales and to sort out our priorities in the very near future.

6.30 p.m.

It should have crossed the minds of a few right hon, and hon. Members that it is within the bounds of possibility that a General Election will be held, for example, in June. At this moment I should not like to forecast the result of such an election. It is possible that there could be a change of Administration. How much more convenient and orderly it would be to have the Welsh Assembly sorted out well before that time in case there is a change of Government. It may be that the next Government will not be in favour of devolving power to the people of Wales.

If the people of Wales decide in the referendum in the autumn to vote for a Welsh Assembly, I should prefer to hold the elections to the Assembly at some time in June of next year. In that way, the people of Wales will know once and for all that there will be a Welsh Government to look after the interests of the Welsh people in the way that the Welsh people want to be governed.

Mr. Ioan Evans

The mover of the amendment, the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), has taken us on a grand tour of Liberal policy on the various issues arising from the Bill. However, he has not spelt out specifically what the Liberals will recommend to the Assembly or their policy on the issues that the people of Wales will be considering.

The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that we should have the referendum as soon as possible. I note that he nods his head in agreement. There were those who thought that the best plan for Wales was a consultative referendum. We should have gone to the people of Wales to ascertain their wishes. In that way we would have had a clear indication of their wishes. We could then have deliberated in the House of Commons on the details of a devolution measure in full knowledge of the wishes of the people. I am glad that I carry the hon. Gentleman with me. It is to be regretted that we are putting the cart before the horse.

We are shaping a Bill before we know the will of the people. There is no one in the House of Commons who can predict with certainty what the people of Wales will decide. It is my belief that if the issue were put to the people in a consultative referendum they would say "No". However, that is only my opinion, and there are varying opinions. At the end of the day the people of Wales will decide. As I have said, it is to be regretted that Parliament has entered into a long discussion on the nuts and bolts of a measure bringing about so-called devolution for Wales when we do not know the wishes of the people.

The argument has gone away from the merits of the Bill. The real argument is whether the people of Wales want devolution. There are those who say that they want it and there are others who claim that they do not. It is a pity that we did not have a consultative referendum. If such a referendum had been employed, we should have known the will of the people. In the light of that, we could have acted accordingly.

I appreciate that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), for example, may say that certain things have been said during elections by various parties and that that is a way of assessing the will of the people. I do not believe that to be the case. When dealing with a constitutional issue of this sort, it is important to have a consultative referendum.

Mr. Wigley

I shall not raise the point to which the hon. Gentleman referred, although it is a good idea to raise it later. The hon. Gentleman was saying that it is not certain whether the people of Wales will vote "Yes" or "No" in the referendum. Will he tell the Committee how he will vote in the referendum? Will he vote "Yes" or "No"?

Mr. Evans

I have already said that I shall be voting "No" and campaigning for a "No" vote.

I said during discussion of the Scotland and Wales Bill and during our discussions on the Wales Bill that I believe in devolution. However, the form of devolution that is put forward in the Bill is not a satisfactory form for Britain as a whole. I have said that if we are to devolve powers from the House of Commons to bring them nearer to the people, we should do so on an all-Britain basis. The main purpose of the Bill, according to the Government, is to maintain the unity of the people of the United Kingdom. If devolution were to be on an all-Britain basis, that would be realised as we would be forming regional government for Wales, Scotland and England.

That form of regionalism and that alteration of the machinery of government would stand the test of time. It is my fear that the Bill will not meet that test. I am sure that that is why it has received the wholehearted support of the Welsh nationalists. Plaid Cymru Members take the view that we injure the chances of bringing about a change in the machinery of government if any alteration is made to the Bill. In that sense they seem to be terribly aroused.

For example, is the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) saying that he will tell the people of Wales to vote "No" in the refendum? Of course not. He will ask them to vote "Yes". The Welsh nationalists regard the Assembly as a launching pad for the separatist policies that they advance.

Mr. Wigley

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if each of the regions of England had identical provision to that contained in the Bill for Wales he would be happy, but that to the extent that it is being provided only for Wales he is not happy? Is that what he feels about the Bill? He says that he supports devolution but that the Bill does not contain the right type of devolution. Why is it that he has supported the Bill in the Government Lobby? Secondly, why has he not tabled amendments that would, as he sees it, improve the Bill?

Mr. Evans

I believe that there is an argument for devolving powers away from the House of Commons to bring them nearer to the people. The form of devolution proposed by the Government is not that which was originally put forward by the Labour Party in Wales. That form of devolution was, in effect, a top-tier form of local government in Wales which would have other powers. It was proposed that there should be a unitary authority underneath. In that way there would have been an elected council for Wales and a group of district councils underneath. That was a sensible and realistic approach. What has happened since those proposals were put forward?

The previous Conservative Government reorganised local government. The present Government have sought to introduce changes while ignoring the fact that local government has been reorganised. Local government in Wales consists of 37 districts and eight counties. We have the Welsh Office, the Secretary of State and all the paraphernalia of Government.

The Chairman

I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) to the sidenote of the clause that we are discussing—"Commencement".

Mr. Evans

I was trying to answer the hon. Member for Caernarvon, Mr. Murton. I agree that I should return to the amendment.

The clause as it stands is better than it would be if amended. Surely the reason for the clause being vague is not that the Government do not want to be more specific but that legislation which flows from decisions of this place and another place is dependent upon the progress of measures in this place and another place. To write in a Bill of this nature a commencement date of 1st January 1979 is a terrible presumption. It is being said that this Parliament must aim at that date and must get the Bill through, even if it is inadequately discussed, simply to get it on the statute book by that time. I am sure that that is not in the mind of the hon. Member for Cardigan, but that is what his form of words would mean.

The hon. Gentleman says that what we need is action, not words, but before one gets the actions one must have the form of words. The important consideration is to arrive at the correct form of words so that one will not have incorrect actions. I believe that the actions that would flow if the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Cardigan were carried would make the Bill worse than it now is.

The sad thing is that there are whole areas of the Bill which have not been debated. We must remember that we are dealing with a major constitutional issue. We are told that the House of Lords will examine the Bill through a microscope, but there are some clauses which hon. Members in this Committee have not even seen through a telescope. We have had no sight of them at all. Because of the mass of amendments tabled by the Welsh nationalists, we shall be denied an opportunity to debate fully the subject of the referendum.

Mr. Wigley

How does the hon. Gentleman know that?

Mr. Evans

If they intend to follow the actions which occurred earlier this evening, it looks as though, even before we reach 11 o'clock, the Welsh nationalists will vote on all their amendments.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman may not have been in the Chamber when a statement was made earlier by the Government spokesman to the effect that the Government, by allowing time for it to be voted upon, were endorsing the amendment relating to a figure of 40 per cent. tabled by a small minority of anti-devolutionists on the Labour Benches.

Mr. Evans

That is completely incorrect. The Plaid Cymru "dirty tricks department", since it cannot now write letters to the BBC or the Western Mail, is trying to create the impression that it is the Government who are getting up to all the dirty tricks. All that the Government have done is to give that amendment the same right as they gave to consideration of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). An opportunity was given to a Labour Back-Bencher to table an amendment seeking to change the previous decision of Parliament on the 40 per cent. figure. Therefore, the issue of the 40 per cent. will come before Parliament twice.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

It is important that I should repeat the Government's position. We said quite clearly that the Government do not endorse the 40 per cent. and that the Government will be asking their supporters to vote against that amendment. Nevertheless, we feel that the Committee has the right to come to a decision.

The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. It seems to me that the Minister is dealing with Clause 83.

Mr. Alec Jones

With due respect, Mr. Godman Irvine, the point was raised by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). They asked about the Government's attitude, and I thought it fair and proper that that attitude should be stated to the Committee.

The Second Deputy Chairman

I hope that for the rest of the debate hon. Members will confine their attention to the amendment before the Committee.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Member for Cardigan made lengthy reference, Mr. Godman Irvine, before you came into the Chair, to the question of the referendum. Amendment No. 361, which is in the group that we are discussing, requires that the referendum should be held on a day not later than 120 days after this Act receives the Royal Assent". I was referring to that amendment as well as to the provisions concerning the commencement date.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I know that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) is not in favour of my amendment, but is he in favour of the principle of devolving power to the people of Wales?

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Evans

I am a devolutionist, but I want to get the correct form of devolution. I do not believe that one would be pursuing the cause of devolution by threatening the existence of the county councils and the district councils, as could result from the setting up of a Welsh Assembly. It would mean moving local government from the county halls in Wales to Cardiff. That is devolving power not to the people but away from them It is the Liberal Members who will not say where they stand on this matter.

Mr. Wigley

The very proposal that the hon. Member espoused when he was a devolutionist in earlier years was a form of devolution which set up an all-Wales Council and a local government-type body. If that was not a centralisation of local government functions, what was it? Having advocated that, the hon. Member is going against the Bill, which has nothing to do with that principle.

Mr. Evans

That is a fair point. That was the idea earlier.

Let me say where I believe that the present policies have gone wrong. Instead of dealing with local government and devolved powers at the same time, the nationalists and the Liberals are now saying that they disagree with the present local government structure in Wales. I agree that there are features that need improving, but I want to avoid a system which, alongside the Assembly, would duplicate the present structure. It would be wrong to take such a course. If one wants to think in terms of a Council for Wales, by all means go ahead, but at the same time we must deal with local government. We cannot leave local government alone and bring above it this new form of bureaucracy—a spending body—which has not the power to raise finance.

I hope that we shall reject this group of amendments. I shall be brief because I wish to get on to the subject of the referendum. It is important that we should first know the wishes of the people of Wales. I believe that the timing of a referendum will have some bearing on the question of the date of a General Election. We do not know when that will be; it may be this year or next year. Because we do not know that date, it would be wrong to write into the Bill that it should get through by a certain date and that the referendum should be held by a certain date.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I do not see why the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the people of Wales should be allowed to have their voice heard and take their decision and yet at the same time is rejecting a group of amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) and of my hon. Friends and myself which would stipulate a definite date or timetable within a specific number of days for a decision to be taken. I fail to see the logic of his argument.

Mr. Evans

I have tried to be logical. If the hon. Gentleman does not understand the logic, I do not know who is to blame. I was saying that if you say specifically that on a certain date the Act is to be passed and that within 120 days of a certain date a referendum must be held, you are saying that you are almost naming the date when the referendum is to be held. Let us suppose, however, that the date to be named for the referendum is 1st March next year.

Mr. Geraint Howells

This year.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman says "This year", but even you in your amendments do not talk of a date of 1st January.

The Second Deputy Chairman

I have made no such statement.

Mr. Evans

I am sorry, Mr. Godman Irvine. I meant to refer to the hon. Member for Cardigan. He does not say specifically when the referendum should be.

Mr. Geraint Howells

This year.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman repeats the phrase "This year", but, if we should have a General Election at the end of this year, is the hon. Gentleman making the point that the referendum must be held on 1st October when we might have an election on 12th October? I suggest that we do not want a referendum in close proximity to a General Election.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I am sure the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) will agre with me that it is not my duty to say when a General Election will be called or when a referendum should be held. That decision is entirely up to the Prime Minister of the day. He happens to be Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, so it is entirely for him to decide when a General Election and the referendum will be held.

Mr. Evans

I can see that we are not likely to agree on the sense of this whole thing. Of course we know that it is the Prime Minister who will decide the date, but the hon. Member is saying that he wants to stipulate a specific date. Is he seeking to imply that the Prime Minister should not hold a General Election or be free to determine when to do so because he himself wants the referendum to be held on a certain date?

Mr. Howells


Mr. Evans

It is very interesting to know that. We must try to find out when the Liberals think that a General Election should be held. It is one of the factors we must remember, and perhaps before we finish with the Bill we may know when it is likely to be. These amendments are completely impractical and I hope they will be overwhelmingly defeated. It is a difficult Bill, but I hope the people of Wales will say "No" to the final conception.

We should not compound the difficulties by trying to write definite dates into a measure, making it almost impossible to carry out the will of the House in giving the people of Wales the right, in the last analysis, to decide whether or not they want the Bill.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)

I am glad to speak to the amendments presented by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) and to stress two facts. One is that these amendments allow sufficient time for the Bill to go through all its stages. That, of course, includes a referendum, though I note that Amendment No. 344 leaves that question open. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman when he closes the debate will clarify that. Not only do the amendments leave sufficient time for the Bill to go through all its stages they also ensure that the time will not be extended interminably over an indefinite period. There must be time for the Bill to go through both Houses, but there must also be time for the referendum to be held, and that should not be held too late.

Since the referendum is a consultative one, it will be considered by the House again, in plenty of time for the Act to come into operation by the first day of 1979. When one considers that the Crowther Commission, the Royal Commission on the Constitution, later known as the Kilbrandon Commission, was set up in 1968, it must be agreed that this is reasonable. But for the referendum, an earlier date than that specified in the amendments might be possible.

It is no secret that many on the Government Benches were opposed to a referendum on this issue. The Common Market referendum was for them a one-off event not to be repeated. On the Conservative Benches, too, at the time of the Common Market referendum, great scorn was poured on the idea of a referendum as a device which derogated from the sovereignty of the House and from the status of Parliament itself. Now, however, in regard to the devolution of power from Whitehall and Westminster to Wales, they have become enthusiastic converts to the idea of a referendum. They are less enthusiastic now for the idea of the sovereignty of Parliament than for the idea of preventing the people of Wales enjoying any measure of control over their national affairs. That is true of some hon. Members of both parties. It is significant that no hon. Member of either party has moved an amendment to delete the proposal for a referendum.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is the hon. Gentleman saying he is opposed to a referendum, since he is objecting to hon. Members on both sides of the House calling for a referendum? Why does he object to the Government agreeing to a referendum when he said earlier that he was in favour of it? Is he now against a referendum?

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

I have made no objection to the Government agreeing to it. I called for a referendum when the hon. Member himself was proposing the idea of a referendum. I have long been a supporter of the idea of referendums. I remember the arguments that were deployed at the time of the Common Market referendum against the idea of it. Those arguments still have validity, but nothing is heard of them now. It is an open secret that the referendum on devolution was supported by many as giving another opportunity of defeating the very policy of devolving powers to the people of Wales. One concludes that this is the reason for general acceptance of this major change in constitutional practice.

A referendum needs time, and these amendments deal with this matter. It needs time to allow a campaign. It needs time to enlighten the people on what is a very complicated issue. It was because of the complicated nature of the issue before us that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans)—who, I am sorry to say, has now left the Chamber—opposed the Scotland and Wales (Referenda) Bill on 14th February 1969. I should like to quote his reasons for objecting to a referendum at that time. He said: a referendum was far too blunt an instrument to measure accurately all the aspects of the situation in Wales, which is so highly fraught with emotionalism; secondly, that the electorate had insufficient access to information. He concluded that In Wales the referendum would become a miniature by-election accompanied by the high emotionalism of recent by-elections in Wales.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)

Did the hon. Gentleman tell my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Evans) before he left the Chamber that he intended to make such extensive reference to him?

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman was here a couple of minutes ago and I assumed that he would still be here when I was speaking.

The purpose of the earlier Bill was to authorise referenda in Scotland and Wales to enable the Scottish and Welsh people respectively to indicate their views in regard to the future government of their country". That was the Bill against which the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) voted. Now, he is very strongly in favour of a referendum. I spoke in favour of that Bill. I spoke in favour of a referendum and I voted in favour of a referendum, but the hon. Gentleman, who was then the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley, voted against it. The hon. Member for Caerphilly not only voted against it but spoke against it as well. There were reasons why he objected. Those reasons have validity.

People do not grasp easily these constitutional issues which are very complicated. In arguing in favour of devolution, the hon. Member for Caerphilly in that debate had a number of interesting things to say. He said: the urge to devolution is almost an instinctive reaction on the part of the individual, to protect himself from being depersonalised any further in a world of gigantic scientific and technological advances, so that, while distance is shrinking through the development of communications, he at the same time is made to feel more remote, more isolated, and inside his own personality he is shrinking back into himself."—[Official Report, 14th February 1969; Vol. 777, c. 1776, 1778, 1775–76.] This was why, he said, in Wales and Scotland devolution had become an important issue and why to ignore devolution would be such a dangerous act of folly. That was the opinion of the hon. Gentleman at that time, and it must be said that he had very strong reasons for supporting devolution. I sympathise very strongly with those reasons.

The hon. Gentleman was putting forward a valid and very strong argument, but one does not hear such arguments being advanced now. It is the kind of argument that people cannot assimilate easily and quickly. If an appeal like this is made to reason, time must be given for people to understand it and the arguments must be set out clearly and often. The Bill therefore should give enough time. The amendments give enough time. Although they do not extend it interminably, they give enough time for people to understand the arguments and for the arguments to be set out and debated not only in the Press but in all the media. That is essential. That is why the consultative referendum that the hon. Member for Aberdare was arguing for would be nonsense.

The issue is so complicated that people would not understand what was before them. Now, at least the matter will have been debated for a long time by the House of Commons, and many people will have followed the arguments and be much more aware of them. Therefore, after the campaign they should be well versed in the subject. That is what we favour.

7.0 p.m.

We know that sometimes only a few people turn out to vote in a referendum. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel), in the debate on the referenda Bill in 1969, said that the experience of referenda in general showed that only a small percentage of the electorate voted. He said, for example, that only 29.8 per cent. voted upon whether to open pubs in Wales on the Sabbath. This cannot be the will of the people. The hon. Gentleman was arguing against referenda on the ground that only a small number turned out to vote. We know that that is often true, and that is one reason why the 40 per cent. demand is so unreasonable.

Mr. Wigley

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that if the 40 per cent. rule had applied to the referendum on the question of the opening of pubs on Sundays not one pub would have opened on Sundays in Wales?

Mr. Evans

Yes, I am sure that that would have been the case. The issue that we are dealing with now affects not only Wales; it applies to Scotland and to England, as the opening of public houses on Sunday did not.

When the right hon. Member for Cambridgshire (Mr. Pym) was leading for the Opposition on the Scotland Bill, he said that the chief reason for opposing it was its adverse effect on England. The Wales Bill has some effect on England, and therefore any debate on this issue should take place in Wales and Scotland, and on television in Wales and Scotland, and should also take place in London, and a great many programmes on this subject should be put out from London. It is an open question whether that will happen, but the Government should insist on it. Indeed, because the matter is so complicated, the Government should consider issuing a publication to all homes in Wales and Scotland setting out the arguments for and against. That would help people to understand the complicated issues. All this requires time. Radio and television programmes require time, and that time should be fairly shared between both sides. There must be fairness in the campaign on the referendum when it comes.

My fear is that the wealth will be on the other side, on the Conservative side, among the industrialists, the people of commerce and big business. They will pour their tens of thousands of pounds into the campaign against any devolution of power to the people of Wales and Scotland. Where will the money come from for those who support the case for giving the people of Wales and Scotland power? There may be unfairness here and we should all be aware of this, including the Government. Everything possible should be done to ensure a big turn-out. That is essential if we are to win our case in Wales, and the 40 per cent. rule would make that almost impossible, bearing in mind what has happened on past referendums.

Time is especially necessary if more than one question is put before the people. The Government say that there will be only one question—whether the voter is for or against the Bill as it has been debated in the House of Commons and, I hope, passed. Wales is a nation and, therefore, the people of Wales should have the opportunity in a referendum of saying whether they are in favour of full national status, full national freedom, as well as in favour of this mild measure of devolution which the Government propose. If that is to be done, even more time is necessary.

A great deal of time was allowed for the Common Market referendum. The 1974 Labour General Election manifesto said: A Labour Government pledges that within 12 months of this election we will give the British people the final say which will be binding on the Government on whether we accept the terms and stay in or reject the terms and come out. Twelve months was allowed there. This referendum is different because it is consultative and will come back to Parliament.

At the time of the Common Market referendum, the Prime Minister of the day stated that he had always said that we could not possibly take this country into the Common Market if the majority of the people were against it. The devolution referendum is to be handled through the parliamentary system. On the previous occasion, it was a matter of a clear majority either for or against, and that should be the method in our referendums in Wales and Scotland.

There must not be too great a lapse of time between the passing of the Act and the referendum; otherwise, boredom will set in and smother the interest aroused by the campaign. That is why I support Amendment No. 344 which requires the provisions of the Bill to come into operation on 1st January 1979. That allows plenty of time for the holding of the referendum and for the taking of all the other necessary steps to establish the Assembly in Wales.

If the Scotland and Wales Bill had gone through, the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies would now be established and in operation. As the hon. Member for Cardigan said, we have waited long enough in all conscience. We have waited since the end of the last century, and we are still waiting. Both major parties—the Liberal Party when it was a major party and the Labour Party—for the greater part of their history have been in favour of this kind of devolution and of parliamentary self-government for Wales. A time limit must be set, as it is set in Amendments Nos. 318 and 320. It is important that there should be a time limit.

Should there be a change of Government, we shall look for an assurance—which I hope will be forthcoming from the Opposition Front Bench—that the will of the people of Wales will be implemented if they vote in favour of the Assembly. I shall listen with great interest to hear whether that assurance is given tonight.

Mr. Alec Jones

I rise now because the Government's explanation on the amendment might be acceptable to the Committee and, if that were so, there would be a reasonable chance of Amendment No. 325—which has attracted considerable interest from both sides of the Committee—being discussed. I am making no attempt to curtail the debate or prevent hon. Members from taking part in it.

The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) described Amendment No. 344 as a probing amendment. No one can deny that he probed deeply and widely. The objective of the hon. Gentleman and of the other hon. Members who have spoken is the same as mine, namely, that we want the referendum, we want the election and we want the transfer of functions to be carried out as soon as possible and as soon as practicable. At the same time, we must ensure that the whole process, which is a novel one, is smoothly and effectively carried out, so that the Assembly will have a fair wind when it begins to take over its responsibilities.

That is the first reason why we object to fixing rigid dates, which would be far too inflexible. They do not take into account a variety of factors which need to be taken into account, the progress of parliamentary General Elections, and a whole range of issues.

Some of the amendments are contradictory, but they fall into groups. Amendments Nos. 344 and 319 ensure that all the provisions are brought into operation on the same day. I tell the hon. Member for Cardigan that it would be impossible to bring all the provisions into effect on the same day-1st January 1979 or any other day. I hope to convince him of that.

The reason for this is clear. Once the referendum has been held arrangements will have to be made for the Assembly elections. The provisions that relate to those elections will have to be brought into effect but the functions cannot be transferred to a non-existent body. They cannot be transferred until the Assembly has been established. Stages are involved. It is not possible to bring in all the provisions at one go.

Amendment No. 352 provides for a short transition period ending on 1st January 1979. Our view is that this date is unrealistic. Throughout his speech the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) repeated the phrase "time must be allowed". He was asking the Committee to accept amendments that were contrary to much of the thinking behind his speech. I apologise to the hon. Member if I have misunderstood him, but he used the phrase on several occasions.

That is my plea. Time must be allowed. I want the transition period to be as short as possible, but it must be long enough to ensure that the arrangements work smoothly. It is not possible for a newly-elected Assembly to assume responsibility for all the functions that it will administer within a matter of days or weeks.

The Government's intention is that the Assembly should assume executive functions as soon as it feels ready to do so. The intention is that there should be a main appointed day on which the majority of functions are transferred. It is most important that the transfer should operate smoothly, without disrupting the provision of any of the public services. If public services were upset the public would be inconvenienced. There might be a strike, or the impending introduction of some new important statutory provisions. That might make it expedient and acceptable for the Assembly to delay the transfer of certain powers. Apart from any special case the Assembly will wish certain powers relating to its own internal arrangements to commence on the main appointed day.

It will have to appoint committees under Clause 19, appoint staff, and pay salaries and allowances to its Members. If it is to pay staff and its Members it will have to set up a Consolidated Fund, obtain a block grant from the Secretary of State and establish appropriate accounting arrangements. All these steps will require that the coming into operation of the relevant sections of the measure is selective, in some cases for limited purposes only.

The process of implementation will be complex and delicate. It could not be concluded by 1st January 1979. The Government intend to work out a timetable in consultation with the Assembly when it has been elected.

Hon. Members referred to the timing to the referendum. This is the subject of Amendments Nos. 318, 320 and 361. We believe that it is unrealistic to lay down in the Bill time limits by which the referendum must be held and the first commencement order made. We have maintained this position constantly. We have said that it would be nonsense if this timetable were fixed rigidly into the Bill. We are convinced and satisfied that as a Government we can meet the requirements of these amendments. I am not opposing them from that point of view. I am opposing the writing of fixed rigid times into the Bill. This could turn out to be a pointless exercise, because there can be no absolute advance assurance of the date when the legislation will be enacted. No one can give that guarantee.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Wigley

I note the intentions that the Minister and his colleagues have. He hopes that he will meet the timetable. But there is a possibility that a General Election will take place, and the slightly less likely possibility that instead of his being on the Government Front Bench with his colleagues, those who are more hostile to this concept will be there. They may not have the motivation to keep to the timetable. Does the Minister not believe that there is, therefore, a need to protect what he is trying to do?

Mr. Jones

I see the hon. Member's fear. I do not hold that fear. I do not believe that the Conservatives have a snowball's chance of winning the next election. But that is a matter of opinion. To choose the date of January 1979 would tie us into such a straitjacket that the practical complications would make it impossible for the Assembly to take over all the functions in one go. We must go through the stages.

First, we must have a referendum. As the hon. Member for Carmarthen said, time is of the essence in that. We then have to set up the machinery for the elections, the administration of the Assembly and the provision of finance before the Assembly is in a fit state to take over.

If we said that we could give this absolute guarantee so that we could accept writing a timetable into the Bill we should be misleading the Committee and doing a disservice to the Welsh people. Even a small change in the date of the enactment of the Bill could be significant in the holding of the referendum. There are other constraints. There are constraints involving not only General Elections but holidays, and even the weather plays a part. Those factors and others must be taken into account.

For those reasons we are unable to accept Amendments Nos. 318, 320 and 361. We aim to meet the timetable that is envisaged in those amendments. We believe that that is possible. But we cannot accept that it should be written into the Bill because we should be tied and have no flexibility.

I turn to Amendment No. 345, in the name of the hon. Member for Cardigan. This provides that the commencement should be by Order in Council. The effect will be the same whether the commencement order is made by Her Majesty in Council or by the Secretary of State. It would be unusual, although not unprecedented, to bring an Act into effect by Order in Council. Despite the importance of the subject the Government feel that it would be inappropriate to use the ceremonial procedure. We are talking not of one commencement order but of a number of such orders. Some of the later orders would be of no great significance. For that reason we feel that it is better to retain the provisions in the Bill.

The Government's case is that they want the referendum, the elections and the transfer of functions as soon as is physically possible to ensure that the Assembly gets off to a fine start. If we were tied by writing a timetable into the Bill we should be undertaking an obligation which no one could guarantee to fulfil. I do not think that that would be honest.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

The Minister has been helpful by intervening at this stage of the debate. It is helpful to have the Government response now. But the Minister is not making provision for potential political disasters. I agree that it would be a disaster if the present Opposition sat on the Government Benches. Is not the intention of ensuring that the process takes place by Order in Council rather than by the Secretary of State an attempt to introduce a degree of objectivity and some statutory basis which would remove it from the influence of the strong opposition of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) should he, by some disaster, end up in the Welsh Office?

Mr. Jones

I approach these matters with a much more simplistic attitude. I cannot conceive of the possibility that the Conservatives will return to power. If one adopts that simple approach to life, these complicated problems will not arise. I see that that view is not shared by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). His baptism was in Rhondda, when he fought the Rhondda, West constituency many years ago. The argument that the hon. Member advances is a possibility for those who think along different lines from myself. But any incoming Government can change the legislation of the outgoing Government, so whatever is written into the Bill, if a different incoming Government did not agree with our Bill they could do just the sort of thing that the hon. Member fears.

The Committee would therefore be well advised to leave this matter as it is, thus giving the Government the right degree of flexibility. I urge hon. Members to bear in mind the promise that the Government share the aims and objectives behind these amendments.

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

I hope that the Minister will not be embarrassed if I say that I largely agree with him. I accept that it would be extremely difficult for any Administration to be bound by the restrictions that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) intends. I accept that his motives spring from enthusiasm, and I do not blame him for that. However, when he said that he wanted action not words, his enthusiasm was tending to run away with his judgment. I hope that in view of what the Minister said he will feel obliged to change his mind.

To impose the duty that this enactment should be completed by the first day of next year is imposing a narrow timetable. The Minister referred to the desirability of the Government's having a certain amount of elbow room in these matters, and that is a valid argument.

In moving the amendment, the hon. Member said that the Government should not have the power to delay. He repeated this later, when he dealt with the question of the referendum. He frightened me with some of his reasons why these matters were so urgent. He said that it was urgent that the Assembly should be set up and that there should be a referendum at the earliest possible date, so that the Assembly should have an early chance of getting to terms with the examination of local government. I should have thought that the Assembly would be the least suitable body to undertake such a task. In the past we have relied upon the considered judgments of bodies such as commissions, the members of which have been eminent persons in this subject—

Mr. Wigley

And a right mess they have made.

Sir R. Gower

There is no evidence to show that either of these bodies made a mess. I am sure that the hon. Member has not read the Maud and Wheatley Commission Reports—if he has, he is a marvel. Those bodies were far better equipped to come to balanced impartial judgments on such matters as this than an Assembly which has just been elected in the heat and fury of a recent campaign.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I do not want to go back over old ground, but since the hon. Member has mentioned local government and has compared what the Assembly could do in this area with what was done by certain Royal Commissions, may I ask whether he is suggesting that a democratic body elected by and representing the people of Wales, many of the Members of which will have had experience as elected members of local government, is less capable than Royal Commissions of dealing immediately with the structure of local government? I include in that not only the present services administered by district and county councils but the services of area health authorities and of the other nominated bodies which are to be answerable to the Assembly. Is the hon. Member saying that such a body as the Assembly is less capable of doing that than are the non-elected bodies and the Royal Commissions which have studied the subject from a centralist Whitehall viewpoint in the past?

Sir R. Gower

I did not say that the Assembly would be less capable of doing it, but it would be less likely to do it in an impartial way. In a sense, it will be a rival body. One of the objectives of some of its members will be to destroy parts of local government. I have spoken to people in local government who are most anxious about this. The hon. Gentleman wants this body, which will be elected in the fury of a new venture, to embark upon an examination of local government which was so recently altered and which needs more than anything else time to settle down.

I expect that the hon. Member receives the local government journal that is circulated to many hon. Members. If he read that regularly, he would know that further change is the last thing that is needed. A great deal of nonsense is spoken about the deficiencies of local government. The results of inflation are blamed on those so-called deficiencies. But local government in any form would have suffered severely from inflation in the last few years, just like every other activity in the country.

The hon. Gentleman frightened me also when he said that the Assembly needed to deal with the health authorities. That is a very difficult task to put before a new body which will not have had the chance to show its quality. Why should it immediately turn its attention to examining the so-called defects of the health authorities? Certainly they have their great problems, and there is perhaps room for a fresh look at their areas, but it would be absurd to expect the new Assembly to do that immediately.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of dealing with non-elected bodies. Perhaps some of them need looking at, but the other two examples that he gave were very bad. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), who is not here at the moment, said repeatedly that the Assembly would have formidable tasks to perform. Many things would have to be done before it was set up. He argued most effectively in favour of not having a date written into the Bill.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

My hon. Friend is temporarily absent, but while he is away perhaps I should explain that the lion. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) and the Minister were confusing two different parts of the argument. One part related to the commencement date and the other to the referendum date. My hon. Friend was pressing for having enough time for the referendum. He was pointing out the problem of finding sufficient air time and resources to conduct a full debate in Wales. The hon. Member was misconstruing my hon. Friend's point when he referred to the need for there to be enough time.

7.30 p.m.

Sir R. Gower

The hon. Member for Cardigan also suggested that the odds would be against those who were fighting the case for devolution. I should have thought that the resources of the Government—the governing party, anyhow—would be in favour of this campaign. Obviously, the Government are supporting this campaign. It may be that those who are anxious about devolution will be much more sadly handicapped in financing the work of the—

Mr. D. E. Thomas

The CBI.

Sir R. Gower

I cannot speak for any such body. It may be that they will be much more hampered if the official resources are put into this campaign.

I fear that the hon. Gentleman and those who agree with him in seeking speed will be sacrificing efficiency. They will be simply achieving a wording in the Bill which, as the Minister says, could be thwarted by events. It would also place a Government in great difficulty on the question of General Elections, as hinted by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). As it is, there are periods of the year when a General Election cannot easily be held. Holding an election in the very middle of the winter or near to Christmas is, I suppose, not practicable. There is difficulty in holding it anywhere near the time of the Budget. There is part of the year that is occupied by local elections.

If there is a time when the Bill must be put into operation and when a referendum must be held, one will reduce the freedom of choice for the holding of a General Election. It can be argued that the right of a Prime Minister or of an Administration to choose the date of a General Election is one that we could well do without. But it cannot be achieved in the ambit of a Bill of this character. That is an additional reason why it would be objectionable to pass these amendments which, though pleaded and moved with great enthusiasm by the hon. Gentleman, I feel would be unreal and should not be included in the Bill.

Mr. Wigley

I wish to address my remarks mainly to Amendments Nos. 319 and 320, which were responded to by the Government before we had put our case, although we have had an oportunity to intervene once or twice with some of the points that we wish to make.

Before I do that I shall refer to some of the points that have been made. The argument has been put forward that there should not be a fixed timetable or any limitations on the timetable for moving ahead with the implementation of parts of this Bill because that can be looked after by itself. I believe that there are very strong reasons why there should be these provisions. There can be nothing but continuing uncertainty if there is a lengthy delay after the Bill has received Royal Assent. Labour and Conservative Members have suggested that part of the Bill, if passed, would cause uncertainty. If that is so the continuing passing of time without the knowledge of whether the Bill will be implemented can only protract that uncertainty. If the argument is valid in that context, it is valid in the present context.

The argument should be that there is a definite time and that the people of Wales will know that there is a definite time, first, when the referendum is to take place and, secondly, when the implementation of the results of the referendum can be looked forward to. This affects bodies other than local authorities, as constitutional bodies.

The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) referred to local authorities. The question also concerns individuals who work within local authorities. If there is to be a possibility, as suggested by Members of the Government as well as by those in other places, of flexibility for people who may be in local government now to work in the confines of the Assembly, these people will want to know whether such a possibility will come sooner or later.

There is every argument for providing a safety net in terms of time. Clause 82 is of enormous consequence. It provides the facility for the referendum. I question whether the referendum could take place if Clause 82 were not in the Bill. I should be glad to have a response to this matter later. Perhaps that is a matter for a "clause stand part" debate rather for this amendment. We are very much in favour of a straight referendum. We are not in favour of a loaded or rigged referendum with a 40 per cent. "Yes" vote. If, in consequence of the debates that we have had and the attention that has been given in the media to the question of the Assembly and its powers, a straight referendum can take place a reasonable period of time after it has been in the headlines the people of Wales will have a fair opportunity of forming their own judgment.

If time elapses and other questions get across in the meantime and there are new ways in which the provisions of the Bill or of the Act, as it then will be, are construed, people can fall into all sorts of traps, because they will not be absolutely certain of what Parliament has passed.

The argument put forward by the Government for having a referendum on a specific Bill as opposed to a general referendum on three or four different concepts has been that the people will know exactly on what they are voting. That must be an argument for having a referendum as soon as possible. I would like referendums to be binding. I am not sure whether the referendum that we are about to have will be a consultative one—my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) suggested this a few moments ago—or whether it is to be a binding one, as suggested by the Chairman at the beginning of the debate.

The question seems to be very much in mid-air. I would like it to be binding. I believe that the concept of sovereignty, if it has any validity in this day and age, is a concept of power being transferred from the people to their representatives for a period of time. In a referendum we are passing that power back to the people for them to determine the matter. Having passed that power back to them, it is nonsense to say that we will then possibly not take into account what the people decide.

That is the real possibility that is facing us if we have a General Election and a Conservative Government are returned. The deafening silence that there has been tonight from the Conservative Front Bench has an ominous ring about it. If the Conservative Party comes to power after the Act has been passed but before a referendum takes place it may well play with the ideas to which it has previously made reference. It may call a Speaker's Conference. It may call for putting everything into the melting pot again and looking at the issue anew. If that is the case, although we will have passed the Bill, which will by then be an Act, nothing will come out of it. Everything will go back to square one and we shall start all over again.

If there is one thing that the people of Wales do not want, and which probably hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber do not want, it is a re-run next year of what we have had last year and this year—namely, considering the Welsh situation anew. But that is a very real likelihood if the lot on the Conservative Front Bench come to power and then consider the timetables and what they can do, and the loopholes that they can find in the laws that we have passed. That is the reason why we need to build into the Bill a time limit to prevent a Conservative Government avoiding the consequences of legislation that has been passed, and possibly the eventuality of its having been passed, and even a referendum having taken place, but then not being implemented in this Chamber and the Assembly not being set up.

Amendment No. 319 would delete subsection (2). The Minister has referred to this. He has referred to the need for different days for different purposes. This leaves a massive loophole. A Conservative Government could choose to hold back certain functions, even certain parts of certain functions, under subsection (2), for their own purposes. They could choose to hold back the powers that they do not like, although the Bill has been passed by the House of Commons. In a referendum, if the result of the referendum is a "Yes" vote, as I think it will be, it will have been endorsed in entirety and not in part. There will not be any provisions for saying whether subsection (2) of Clause 21 or whatever should come into effect.

There will be a situation in which the whole thing has been endorsed, but the then Conservative Government could decide not to press ahead with certain parts of it because of the powers that are built in in subsection (2). That is why we suggest in Amendment No. 319 that we should omit subsection (2).

I believe that there are other ways in which the present Government or a future Government could find a means, if necessary, of overcoming timing difficulties for things such as funds and the other implications to which the Minister referred. Unless we do this, we are in danger of someone finding a method of sabotaging the whole Bill. Every provision could be brought in on a different date.

Not only is there the possibility of something being held back in entirety; there is also the uncertainty of the Assembly not knowing where it stands, because there is a real possibility—I should have thought that Labour Members would be very aware of this—that the Welsh Assembly will be dominated overwhelmingly, as our politics have been over the last 100 years, by parties other than the Conservative Party. There has not been a Conservative majority in Wales since 1868. For much of the time there has hardly been a Conservative Member at all from Wales. Back in 1905 that was the situation.

If that is the case, and if there is a Conservative Government at Westminster, we may very well see that Conservative Government playing ducks and drakes with the Assembly by holding back some of the critical clauses and subsections under powers provided by subsection (2).

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I am rather concerned about my hon. Friend providing ideas for the Conservative Party should it return to office. I remind him that in the course of the debates on the Bill formidable arguments have been put forward by some Conservative Back Benchers against, for example, the transfer of education functions to the Assembly. Can my hon. Friend envisage a position in which a Conservative Secretary of State would not be prepared to transfer education powers to the Assembly for fear that the Assembly would use those powers in a way that would undermine policies that the Conservative Party might want to pursue in England? I am thinking particularly of the return of selection, which is advocated so much by a large section of the Conservative Party. A Conservative Secretary of State, by withholding the power for education to be transferred to the Assembly, could therefore ensure that selective policies which were being pursued in England might be pursued by certain local authorities within Wales, which would not, therefore, have the oversight of the Assembly in their education policies.

There are other areas of policy in which a Conservative Secretary of State could, by withholding powers in the way in which the Conservatives have been proposing in amendments to the Bill all along, ensure that policies that were totally against the democratic will of the Welsh people were implemented in Wales.

Mr. Wigley

Yes, indeed. That is my very worry. It is a worry that items such as education could well be the No. 1 target on the Conservative shopping list in the unfortunate event of the Conservatives returning to power. It may be the first thing that they try to cut out. We cannot cut out the possibility that even though the Conservatives may feel themselves tied to having a referendum at some time in the future—and no doubt they will put that off for as long as they can; that would be their way of going about it—when they have a referendum on the Act, as the Bill will then be, the people may vote "Yes" because they want to see the opportunity for the Assembly to have oversight powers on education or whatever functions they are, only to find later that it has been a blank cheque and that, in fact, those powers will not be passed over to the Assembly because of the powers in subsection (2).

I am looking not so much at the education possibility, although it is certainly a very real possibility, as at Clauses 38 to 40—the industrial and economic policy clauses. I know the attitude taken by the Conservative Party towards the Welsh Development Agency, and the hostile way in which the Conservatives have reacted to the WDA and have tried to stop it coming into existence and to stop £100 million coming into the Welsh economy. I know the way in which the Conservatives have reacted in more recent months to the Development Board for Rural Wales. I remember the assertion made from the Conservative Front Bench only a few weeks ago that the Conservatives would disband this when they came to power. In view of what was said a few moments ago, I am not sure whether the Conservatives are doing another of their somersaults on this issue. Perhaps they are.

I see the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) on the Opposition Front Bench. Perhaps he would like to respond to this question and tell us whether it is the Conservatives' intention to do away with the Development Board for Rural Wales.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) has never, to my knowledge, said that he would disband the Development Board for Rural Wales.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that assertion. However, a few moments ago the hon. Gentleman said that he would reorganise it. So we are left with the knowledge that the Board will not totally disappear but will be a different animal. We shall have to wait and see, I suppose, as we have to wait and see with so many other aspects of Conservative policy, particularly in relation to Wales.

This is the danger. We do not know where the Conservatives stand on this issue of the implementation of this part of the Bill. We have had no lead from them in this debate. We do not know where they stand in relation to the Assembly, or, if it comes into existence, whether they will cut out certain powers. That is why we need to close the loophole in subsection (2). That is the rationale of Amendment No. 319.

Another possibility is that in the event of the Assembly being set up under a Conservative Government—I can foresee that the likelihood would be that that Conservative Government certainly would not set it up—they might not clearly indicate in their orders what would be the circumstances for elections subsequent to the first election. That is the sort of uncertainty that is allowed by the provisions of subsection (2), and it cannot be overcome unless there is some amendment—if not Amendment No. 319, some other amendment—to ensure that we do not give carte blanche for those hell-bent on frustrating the Assembly's effectiveness.

Amendment No. 320 deals with the first order under the Bill when it is an Act. Even if different parts are to apply at different times, the question arises when the first order itself may be moved. We need to ensure that there is no delay after Royal Assent. I suggest that even if the Government cannot accept Amendment No. 319, as was indicated by the Minister, because it may restrict the Government in certain directions, they should certainly consider accepting Amendment No. 320. I should have thought that that was an eminently reasonable amendment from their point of view.

Amendment No. 320 refers to the provisions of Clause 83, to which we shall be coming later, but the amendment has been coupled for debate with the group that we are discussing. Subsection (1) of that clause refers to the first order. We say that that should be made within 120 days of the Bill's receiving Royal Assent.

I should have thought that 120 days was more than adequate to provide for a referendum as envisaged in Clause 83(1). For instance, if the Royal Assent to the Bill were on 31st July, which may be a reasonable time to suppose that that might happen, it would allow the referendum to be held at any time up to the last week of November. That allows for there being an early General Election. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) mentioned the dangers of the two cutting across each other. If there is an early General Election in, say, the first or second week in October, which is a traditional time for holding General Elections, it still allows a period of six weeks after a General Election in which to organise the referendum.

Equally, if there is a late General Election in November—as some commentators have suggested in the Press this week—there is equal facility for the referendum to be held on, perhaps, the last Thursday of September, with adequate campaigning time in September, after the holiday period.

A period of 120 days, as provided in the amendment, gives very real flexibility for the Government to avoid the ridiculous situation of a General Election cutting across the referendum. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdare in this context. I hope that he will support a later amendment that we have tabled in which we try to provide that the General Election and the referendum will not occur on the same day.

If, however, the Royal Assent is delayed, as could be the situation if certain hon. Members delay matters, and we do not obtain it until 31st October, that also gives a possibility of the referendum in a period of 120 days at some time up to the end of February. It allows the possibility of a referendum before or after Christmas. This gives flexibility, to avoid not only the festive season but the possibility of clashing with a General Education.

Any further delay than the 120 days suggests to us the intention, or at least the possibility in the minds of those in government, or those who may be in government then, to fix the time of the referendum to suit their own political purposes, with the Conservative Party fixing it at a time when it will maximise the "No" vote. We want to avoid this.

If the Government see the 120 days as reasonable, and a period within which they can work, which was the gist of the Minister's argument, why cannot they accept such a provision in the Bill?

Mr. Alec Jones

The simple answer is that, as the hon. Gentleman has said, no one can give now a firm date for when the Bill will become an Act. If Royal Assent is given on 31st July there will be certain consequences and if it is delayed until October there will be other consequences. It is because of that "if" that one cannot write that doubtful date into the Bill.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful to the Minister, but I am not sure that—with every respect to him, because this is very unusual—he has been following my argument. He is addressing what he said to the amendment of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), and I am speaking to Amendment No. 320, which gives a fixed period from Royal Assent. It does not stipulate a date. That gives flexibility and answers the points that the Minister rightly raised. It may be an argument against the fixed date that the hon. Member for Cardigan put forward, but the 120-day period overcomes those dangers and allows flexibility within a reasonable but fixed period.

Mr. Ioan Evans

But on the Scotland Bill an amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was carried to provide that three months should elapse between a General Election and the referendum if the referendum should follow a General Election. The principle has been accepted by the Government. We shall later debate New Clause No. 1. Will not that be in conflict with the amendment?

Mr. Wigley

The hon. Gentleman may be absolutely right, and the real reason why the Government must oppose our Amendment No. 320 is that they have tied themselves down to seeking an unnecessary and bogus uniformity between this Bill and the Scotland Bill, when only a few months ago they stated that the circumstances in Wales were so different from those in Scotland that the Bills should be quite different in their content and their format. We suggest that they should also be different in terms of the rules for the referendum.

If there is a need for a three-month waiting time in the context of a Scottish election, with all its implications in terms of legislation which do not exist in this Bill, we see no reason why we should be tied to a similar period. We do not believe that the two things should happen on the same day. There should be adequate time for a separate campaign, which means that there should be a three-week or four-week interval between the two. But it is unnecessary to have a three-month interval. Three or four weeks are adequately provided for in the amendment.

We on the Plaid Cymru Bench would be grateful to hear from the Government how they see the timing for the setting up of the Assembly in relation to the referendum. If, as is their intention, the Bill goes through between now and the end of this summer Session, will it lead to a referendum in the early aututmn? This is a reasonable time for the people of Wales—both those in favour of the proposals and those against—to look to so that they can gear their thinking and campaigning to a specific time schedule.

We know the arguments for flexibility in relation to a General Election date, although we may not accept them. We do not believe that the same flexibility is necessary. One does not have to hold back the date of the referendum as something up one's sleeve until the very last moment.

It would be reasonable for the Government now to make clear to the people of Wales and the people of Scotland when they foresee the referendum taking place, whether they foresee it taking place in a certain month later this year with what that would imply for the commencement date of the Welsh Assembly. People have to organise themselves in a way that facilitates their organising campaigns both for the referendum and for the elections to the Assembly.

I had also hoped that we would hear from those on the Tory Front Bench what they intend if and when the Conservatives come into office. Will they seek to frustrate the first order under the Act, or will they carry it out? I ask this particularly in view of their known opposition to this and the way in which some Conservative Members appear to be doing their best to make this a worse rather than a better measure.

We shall request a separate vote on Amendment No. 320, because we believe that it is the lowest common denominator in the argument. It gives flexibility, with a period that is acceptable to the Government, although they do not want to see it written into the Bill. We believe that the amendment should commend itself to hon. Members throughout the Committee.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

I have felt compelled to join in the debate after listening to many of the arguments. It seems to me that my hon, Friends in Plaid Cymru were starting from the very right viewpoint that it was difficult and dangerous to trust to the political processes in the United Kingdom. After studying the clause, I find some of its proposals so lacking in precision as to be almost worthless. It is a long time since I have come across such a provision as subsection (2) for parliamentary gobbledegook. It says: Different days may be appointed under this section for different provisions of this Act and for different purposes of the same provision. One might as well say in clearer language that it gives the Minister and the Government complete discretion as to how they intend to proceed.

If there were trust that the Government of the day, whether Conservative or Labour, were in favour of this legislation or could be relied upon to continue in favour of it, we might be able to accept some of the assurances that have been given from the Government Front Bench tonight. However, those of us who have studied the way in which the provisions of the Scotland Bill, this Bill and the much-lamented Scotland and Wales Bill have been adulterated over a period and the way in which the assurances given at the preceding General Election have been weakened must have great distrust that the provisions of this Bill as they are now couched will be put into effect.

The argument advanced earlier by my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru was correct. They put the matter in the context of the Conservative Party's coming into power, although I have many more reservations about the fidelity of the Labour Party towards devolution than they may have. Here I am talking principally in terms of Scotland. Certainly, there must be many reservations about how the Conservative Party stands in relation to this Bill. At least, we know that the Leader of the Opposition has given a pledge that there will be a referendum in Scotland. I am not sure that a similar pledge has been given for Wales. If not, that would be shocking treatment of the Principality.

How could one treat Scotland and Wales differently? The right hon. Lady has said on television that in Scotland she will go ahead with the referendum if she is in power and will see that the Bill is enacted. Apparently, in Wales there is simply silence. The Conservatives must do something to sort themselves out on this matter. Do they intend to remain quiet on whether they would proceed with the referendum on this Bill?

I know that in relation to the Scotland Bill certain Conservative Members have remained true to the mandate they received in the October 1974 General Election, when they said that they were in favour of an Assembly, although, regrettably, many have reneged on the attestation they gave to the electorate then.

8.0 p.m.

If I were a Welsh Member, I would put a number of questions to the Conservative Party as to where it stands in relation to the Bill. Will it follow through with the referendum? If so, will it accept it as the decision of the Welsh people? Will it go ahead with the transfer of powers if that referendum is positive, or, as has been suggested by my hon. Friends on the Plaid Cymru Bench, would it be the case that, when it came to the transfer of powers, those powers would not necessarily go to the Welsh Assembly although certain promises had been given?

I notice that the hon, and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) is leaving the Chamber rather than give any assurance at all on behalf of the Conservative Party that there will be a Welsh referendum and that the Conservative Government of the day—if there should ever be such a creature—would honour that pledge. In the absence of such a pledge, I counsel my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru not to trust the Conservatives much further than one would trust a king cobra—recalling the recent story in the Press. I would say to my hon. Friends: trust them not, because their word cannot be honoured.

I put some stress on that, because at the time of the last General Election it was part of Conservative policy in Scotland that it was in favour of a Scottish Assembly, yet only too soon, after the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), the former Leader of the Opposition, had retired, we found that that pledge was changed by a caucus inside the Scottish Conservative group of Members at the behest and on the orders of the right hon. Lady who is now Leader of the Opposition.

In looking at the amendments, I counsel my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru not to be beguiled by the honeyed words of the Minister about leaving it to the Government and that everything will then go well enough. We have left the devolution question to the Government, who had plenty of opportunities over the last four years to put it into effect. We have now reached almost the termination stage of this Parliament, if I may put it in that way, and only now is the Wales Bill before the Committee.

We have already seen that a pledge which was in the Government's manifesto—that they would introduce a Scotland and Wales Bill—was dropped. The Government could not even get support within their own party for a guillotine motion. We have also found that the referendum which we are now discussing appeared out of the blue. It is not as though the Government did not fight the last General Election on the basis of a Welsh Assembly which they would introduce without a referendum.

Clause 82 deals with the commencement of operation of the Bill. I have certain specific points to make concerning the amendments that we are discussing. Unfortunately, due to another meeting, I was unable to listen to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), but I know that the principle contained in his amendments is the same as that contained in the amendments of my hon. Friends. I have listened to certain of the arguments as to whether those amendments were rigid. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to vote on the Liberal amendments, and, indeed, on my hon. Friends' amendments if the hon. Gentleman is not successful.

Amendment No. 319 relates specifically to subsection (2) of Clause 82. As it stands, I fear that the clause is so badly drafted and so widely drafted as to be meaningless. Any clause which gives such wide discretion to a Minister of the Crown should be regarded by the Committee with a degree of suspicion, even if we were willing and able to accept that the Government of the day were motivated with the proper spirit in regard to the Bill. There is no guarantee that there will not be a Conservative Government in office in a matter of three months, six months, nine months or a year hence. We just do not know. But it behoves us as parliamentarians to be careful and cautious about these matters, and certain specific provisions should be made.

The first of the amendments from my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru is Amendment No. 319, which seeks to remove the wide subsection which gives too much discretion and power to the Government. It seeks to provide a period of time in which the transfer of powers would take place. The Minister seemed to me to be extremely cautious and timid in relation to the speed at which he thought the Welsh Assembly would be enabled to take over the reins of power after the go-ahead had been given by the Welsh people. The Government have spelt out the powers which are to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly. Therefore, there should be very little delay in the Welsh Assembly having those powers given to it.

Indeed, the whole basis of the policy of devolution for both Scotland and Wales is that trust should be placed in the elected representatives who will serve in the two Assemblies. From the knowledge that I have of Scotland, I have no doubt that the quality of representatives of all parties in the Scottish Assembly will be very high. It would seem to me, therefore, that there is no reason why we should not, from the start, fix a period of time within which the transfer of powers should take effect.

I warmly commend Amendment No. 320, which has been presented and explained by my hon. Friends.

In view of the history of the devolution legislation, there can be no real trust in the promises which are made. I have been following the debates in another place about the Scottish Assembly. It was decided that there should be election to the Scottish Assembly on the basis of proportional representation. I approve of the change which has been made in that respect, and I am glad that the other place has acted in a proper spirit. I was surprised and shocked, however, to find that the House of Lords decided not to support proportional representation for the elections to the European Assembly. It would appear that people are prepared, in whichever House or party, and whether in Government or in Opposition, to adopt whatever system they think best in order to prevent any real transfer of power to the Welsh Assembly or to the Scottish Assembly.

In my view, therefore, the best hope for the people of Wales would be to have a fixed statutory provision in the Bill concerning the amount of latitude and discretion to be given to the Government. The power given to the Secretary of State in Clause 82 should be restricted. The House of Commons should at this stage say that it does not have sufficient faith in either a Labour Government or a Conservative Government honouring the discretionary powers given in Clause 82. I believe that that ought to be the fundamental starting point—that there can be no faith in the promises of either the Labour Government or the Conservative Party that they will bring these provisions into effect. There must be a specific provision in the Bill for their enactment.

In his defence of the position, the Minister said that if there were a change of Government the Government of the day could change the legislation. The Minister is quite right in that regard. All too frequently, in matters such as pensions unnecessary changes in legislation have been made by an incoming Government. But it is much more difficult to repeal an Act of Parliament and to enact another measure in its place than to fail to make a start on the operation of discretionary powers. In the one case the Government, in order to bring in legislation, have to find parliamentary time.

In a new piece of legislation, the Government must decide what changes to make. They must work out the basic provisions in simple terms and then pass them over to the parliamentary draftsmen. It is occasionally very difficult to find time in the House of Commons for the reform of legislation. Only last Friday the Government were faced with the problem of finding time for the Protection of Children Bill, which came adrift at that stage. But it is very easy indeed in the second situation where the Government have executive powers entrusted to them by both Houses of Parliament. In that case there is no compulsion on the Government to exercise those executive powers and to carry out what was intended at the time of promulgation of the legislation unless specific provision has been made.

The Minister can give assurances from the Dispatch Box. Indeed, the Conservative spokesman can also give assurances, although in this instance the Conservative Party has failed to give any at all. But those assurances are binding only in relation to the piece of legislation which is before Parliament. If the assurances are accepted, what is to happen, say, two or three years later when a change of policy takes place or there is a change of leader or a change of resolution at an annual conference of which Members of Parliament must have cognisance? In that case, the Minister of the day may well have to go back on the assurances. There ate all sorts of tricky ways in which these matters can be presented so that Ministers can say "The change which we proposed was not encompassed in the assurances that we gave earlier."

I counsel the Committee to be very chary indeed of accepting the blank cheque which it is asked by the Government to sign. There is no guarantee that that cheque would ever be presented or that the timetable for the provision of powers to the Welsh Assembly would ever be implemented.

My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) referred to the referendum. In some ways, it seems to me, the Government have been following in the path of the Scotland Bill when they have come to accept certain changes. Of course, they have been trapped by the three months' rule, which has tied the hands of the Prime Minister and made it difficult for him to hold the referendum on the day of a General Election—which might save a lot of public money and get a full turn-out—or, alternatively, to hold it in the wake of a General Election. That is one reason why certain difficulties have arisen with regard to the timing of the referendum.

But if the Government, as they did in October 1974, went to the country on a clear mandate to get a Welsh Assembly going without any delay—and they have now taken four years to carry that provision into effect—they should be prepared to give primacy and urgency to the holding of the referendum. I suspect very much that the real reason why we have these difficulties is that the anti-devolution wing of the Labour Party—which is very strong and influential, very anti-Scottish and anti-Welsh—realises that it can still put a block on this provision. There is no real interest in this Bill in the Cabinet, apart from perhaps the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House.

Other English Ministers have shown no interest at all. In the many speeches which have been delivered on this topic, I have not heard any enthusiasm with regard to the provisions of the Wales Bill.

If I had any doubt about whether the discretionary powers in Clause 82 would be misused, it would be the fact that the Conservative Opposition seem to be in cahoots with the Government. The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) indicated that he was largely in agreement with the Minister. When the anti-devolution Conservative Party is in agreement with the Government—and when that Opposition hope in time to become the Government and are deeply hostile to the whole concept of the Welsh Assembly—I indeed worry very much about the position.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many of us who have expressed reservations about this Bill are not anti-devolutionist? Speaking for myself and for at least some of my colleagues, I can say that we are perfectly prepared to accept that if the Scottish people or the Welsh people are so foolish as to wish to saddle themselves with Assemblies of this kind, it is right for them to do so. But we wish to be quite sure that there are enough of them who really wish to rush into this potential disaster before we go ahead with it.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Wilson

I am glad that I tempted the hon. Gentleman into making that intervention. If ever an hon. Member declared that he was against the concept of devolution, I think that the hon. Gentleman has just done so. It is no surprise that the hon. Gentleman will later be presenting an amendment which would provide a barrier to the people of Wales deciding that they want an Assembly. It is he who is putting up this fence of 40 per cent. It is he who wants between 60 per cent. and 80 per cent. of the Welsh people to vote for the Bill before its provi- sions are enacted. He is well aware that there is no provision elsewhere in the world that I have been able to determine where a referendum result has been related to turn-out in the polls. In the main it is related to one vote over the 50 per cent.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

Can I satisfy the hon. Gentleman on one point which seems to have caused him to lose sleep? That is, to give him the absolute assurance that the Government are not in cahoots with my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann).

Mr. Wilson

I had understood that it was the intention of the Government to adopt the 40 per cent. amendment—at least, so it is rumoured.

Mr. Alec Jones

This is the second time tonight that I have come to my feet to make the same point. The Government are not in favour of the 40 per cent. rule. We said quite clearly when the statement was made that we would this evening be calling on those who support the Government to oppose the 40 per cent. amendment. But, nevertheless, we thought it right and proper that the Committee should have the opportunity of coming to a decision on the matter.

Mr. Wilson

I am glad to hear that the Government will not be moving the amendment which has been tabled by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann). But I had some doubts on that score, because in the other place the Government indicated that they did not propose to displace the 40 per cent. provision as it applied to Scotland. If that is their amount of will-power with regard to this important question of principle, I have some doubts. If, however, I have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, and the Government are at least neutral on the issue and will leave the matter to the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, so be it.

Mr. Wigley

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are a large number of important amendments which regrettably, because of the way in which timetable motions are drawn up, have necessarily fallen by the wayside and have not been moved? Does he not feel it is strange that of all these amendments, it is just the one which refers to the 40 per cent. barrier which the Government have seen fit to facilitate?

Mr. Wilson

I understood from the Minister that the Government did not intend to move that amendment.

Mr. Alec Jones

I am sorry to intervene again, but I think the hon. Gentleman is deliberately misunderstanding what I said. I said quite clearly that the Government would be calling upon their supporters to vote against the 40 per cent. rule but would, in fact, be seeking to give the Committee the opportunity of voting on it. My hon. Friend the Minister of State made this position quite clear. He said that, to enable the Committee to vote, a Government Minister would move that amendment if it were not reached in the normal course of events. Judging by the length of this discussion, it will never be reached.

Mr. Wilson

I am extremely surprised by the Minister's remarks. I am not surprised that he is hot under the collar. For a Minister who is presenting a Bill of this sort to say that the Government will enable such an undemocratic event to take place—and to give the anti-devolution elements the chance of mucking about with the Bill—only adds to my lack of faith in the present Government and their intentions.

Mr. Wigley

Is not my hon. Friend aware of why the Government have done this? A gun was held against their head by the rebels within their own party, who threatened to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill unless the Government conceded this point. They are hon. Members who are opposed to the Bill but who can be bribed by such provisions as the 40 per cent. barrier in order to prevent the desires of the Welsh people being brought to fruition.

Mr. Wilson

If that is so, it is quite shocking and it shows the lack of control which the Prime Minister has over his own party. When values like that are lowered in public life, there is little more that one can say except that the sooner we get out of this place the better.

I was about to terminate my remarks. I feel that Clause 82(2) is drawn so wide as to be quite meaningless. It should be dropped, and I gladly advise my colleagues to support our friends in Plaid Cymru when both their amendments are pressed to Divisions.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I had not intended to intervene in this debate, because I am extremely interested in a later group of amendments, but I think it essential to make two basic matters clear in this discussion. I do not intend to criticise the selection of amendments, but we are in some difficulty because the selection of amendments is such that amendments to both Clauses 82 and 83 have been grouped together. They refer to the coming into force of the Bill's provisions and the timing of the referendum. This has resulted in rather muddled debating in places. In my brief remarks, I hope not to confuse the two issues.

I intervene for two reasons. The first is that I do not consider that the response from the Minister has been adequate to meet our amendments. Secondly, on the vital issue of the coming into operation of the provisions of the Bill, we have had no intervention from the Opposition Front Bench. I shall give way willingly to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) if he wishes to explain whether his party has any view on the matter.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

I have no intention of joining in the hon. Gentleman's filibustering. Is he aware that he and his hon. Friends are making it quite clear that they do not wish the Committee to reach the group of amendments dealing with the 40 per cent. rule?

Mr. Thomas

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Member for Conway, and I am sorry about his insinuation that this debate on the coming into force of the total powers in the Bill and on the timing of the referendum can be construed as a filibuster on our part. I cannot imagine how he thinks that three members of a minority party can maintain a filibuster on an issue of this kind.

I am deeply concerned that we are here discussing what is, in effect, the most crucial clause in the Bill and that the response we have had so far from the Treasury Bench and the non-response from the Opposition Front Bench lead to the conclusion that we must press the amendments, although we may not want to do so.

The provisions in the Bill, which we have debated for nine days, would be totally undermined, because there is no time limit on their coming into operation and no specific date in the Bill for a referendum.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)

The hon. Member fails to understand the position of the Conservative Party and its attitude to reform over many years. Invariably, Conservatives oppose reforms of this kind. However, when they come into being, the Conservative Party tends to claim them as its own. The National Health Service in Britain is a glaring example of this.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. It is true that the Conservatives claim credit for many changes after they have been seen to be successful. I have no doubt that they will take over the Welsh Development Agency as their own. However, I do not wish to be drawn further on that.

I want to stress my deep concern that all our deliberations in the Committee for nine days could be undermined by the return to office of a Conservative Government, which is a political eventuality that we have to take into account. The powers to be transferred to the new Asseembly could all be undermined by the devices of a Conservative Secretary of State in implementing the provisions of legislation passed by this House. That is why I am not satisfied with the Minister's response.

For a moment I was attracted when the Minister made his intervention and said that there were difficulties about transferring powers to an Assembly which had not been set up and that if certain powers were transferred on different days it would make matters administratively more simple. That is a seductive argument, but it cuts both ways. What could be administratively convenient for a Government who supported devolution could also be a convenient weapon in the hands of a Secretary of State who was not prepared to see the powers transferred.

I suggest that the time limit that the amendments provide for the transfer of powers is sufficient to allow for those transfers to take place smoothly and pro- gressively over the period that we stipulate. We have stipulated carefully that we are not naming a date. We are naming a time span after Royal Assent. It means that within a period of 120 days it will be possible to organise the transfer of functions.

I fail to see how that is not a generous time limit for any planning of the transfer of functions, taking into account especially that this is an executive Assembly. It is not a legislative body that will have to set up complex structures for making legislation. It is an executive body, and we take the view that transferring powers to that body within a time limit of 120 days ensures that there is adequate time for the transfer of functions to take place.

I turn now to the timing of the referendum. Here again, I am deeply dissatisfied, and here again I think that we should press this amendment to a Division. We have had no assurance from the potential tenants of the Welsh Office about the timing of the referendum or, indeed, about whether they are prepared to allow a referendum on this issue should the political tragedy occur of their being returned to office.

It means that the people who campaigned for a referendum—members of the Conservative Party who were converted, apparently rapidly, to the need for a referendum on Welsh devolution, having opposed it as a general principle—are not prepared to say whether they will allow the people of Wales to take a decision on this matter at all. We are now faced with a situation in which, having spent eight days in Committee and having had a lengthy debate in Wales, the legislation may well be completed here, Royal Assent given and a General Election held which will return a Conservative Administration. That Administration could then destroy the whole concept of the Welsh Assembly.

8.30 p.m.

I want the Conservative Opposition to understand what it will mean in Wales if, by using these provisions, they delay the transfer of powers and do not hold a referendum. It will mean that there will be the kind of conflict between Cardiff and Westminster that they have envisaged in these debates. It will mean a deepening political divide between Wales and London. It will mean that the people of Wales will not have had an opportunity to express their democratic wishes.

This amendment alone will place the force of statutory power on any Secretary of State to ensure that not only are the powers under this Act transferred to a Welsh Assembly in an orderly manner but that the obligation of a referendum is placed squarely on whoever is the incumbent of the Welsh Office for the next two years. That is the crucial issue.

We are not dealing with just any piece of legislation that can be left to the whims of Ministers; we are dealing with the transfer of powers to a national Assembly in Wales. If there is any attempt by the Conservative Opposition to prevent the Welsh people from expressing their point of view after 10 years' debate both inside and outside Parliament—and we must remember that this is the party that refused to give evidence to the Royal Commission on the Constitution—and if they ensure that a political vacuum will be retained in Wales and that the wishes of the Welsh people are frustrated because they are not prepared to hold a referendum, the result will be conflict. Until we have a response from the Conservative Front Bench we shall have no alternative but to force a Division.

Mr. Wigley

Surely the clarity of the Conservative voice on this issue is just the same as its clarity on all Welsh issues. The Conservatives do not speak on Welsh issues, not even on this particularly Welsh issue.

Mr. Thomas

I thank my hon. Friend for elucidating the basic ideology of the Conservative Opposition in relation to Wales. I shall give them a final opportunity to make their point of view known. If they will not do so we shall press this amendment to a Division, so that the Welsh people will see that the Conservative Opposition are not prepared to allow their democratic wishes to be made known.

It is clear that by not stating that they are prepared to hold a referendum if returned to office, the Opposition are forcing us to press this matter to a Division because it is the only way that we can try to ensure that they are bound by statute.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

Perhaps I can clarify this point. The decision on whether or not we would have to hold a referendum does not have to be taken now, because we hope to defeat the Bill. However, our positive thinking about the circumstances that the hon. Member has posed—that the Bill passes into an Act, despite all the opposition—is that we would hold a referendum. We would feel that the position had been reached where the people of Wales would expect and want a referendum. Our thoughts would be that in those circumstances we should have a referendum even though we have opposed the Bill.

However, our aim and objective at present is to defeat the Bill. If we fail, the people of Wales will wish to record their verdict on the Assembly in one way or another. We believe that they must have that opportunity.

Mr. Thomas

I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) for that clear statement of Conservative policy. I think that we have made great progress, and we were glad to hear his very welcome statement.

There is one other small point. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that such a referendum would be held soon after Royal Assent was given to this Bill? Will he assure us that there will be no delay in implementing the provisions of the referendum?

Mr. Pym

The answer is that as long as we are on this side of the House we have no option. However, if, in the meantime, there is a General Election and we change sides, we would hold the referendum in accordance with the amendment, tabled by the Government and not yet discussed, to make this Bill coincide with the amendment to the Scotland Bill that was carried against the Government's wishes. That provides for a gap of three months between a General Election and the referendum.

In tabling their amendment, the Government have indicated not that the referendum would be held precisely three months after a General Election but that it would be held not less than three months after. If a General Election intervened between the passing of the Bill into law and the holding of a referendum, we would hold it in accordance with those terms—not less than three months after the election. We have no more intention than the Government of delaying it inordinately. If, for good reasons, the period were four or five month, that would be understood. The Government have not committed themselves to more than that.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that we would hold the referendum in accordance with the terms of the Bill passed by Parliament—if it is passed.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful for that intervention, which clarifies the position of the Conservative Party on this issue. As far as it goes, it will be welcome in Wales. We understand the opposition of the Conservative Party.

I am still concerned about the potential use by a Conservative Secretary of State of the commencement power in Clause 82, but I am satisfied that on the question of the timing of the referendum the Conservative Party has now made a pledge in the House and to the Welsh people that it will be prepared to hold a referendum and, in the regrettable political occurrence of the return of a Conservative Administration, at least it has made a pledge that a referendum will be held soon after the enactment of the Bill.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a further aspect of this matter that needs elucidation? The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that the Conservatives will still try to defeat the Bill, but he did not make clear who will inflict this defeat It may not be hon. Members; it may be done in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives have a large majority. Indeed, there are strong rumours that it is the intention of Tory peers to pass the Scotland Bill and to throw out the Wales Bill.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful for that news from another place. I am sure that it is accurate. If it is the intention of Conservative peers to try to frustrate the attempts of the elected House of Commons to set up a Welsh Assembly or to hold a referendum to ensure that the Welsh people can make a democratic decision on the question whether they want such an Assembly, they are writing their own death warrants. The people of Wales would never tolerate a non-elected Chamber preventing them from having a national, elected body. That is clear.

I am glad that we have had elucidation from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. We have made progress in that we have a slightly more bipartisan approach to devolution now than we had five minutes ago. I hope that this attitude of the Conservative Party will be endorsed and honoured if it is ever returned to power.

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's assurances, and I do not think that we need to press our amendments on the timing of the referendum. However, the case on the question of the commencement powers has not been answered by the Minister and we have had no assurance from the Conservative Front Bench about the use by a Conservative Secretary of State of these powers. In the absence of such assurances, we may wish to press to a Division our amendments on the commencement orders.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The debate on the commencement procedures is extremely important although the point at issue is narrow.

When I first approached the amendments before the Committee, I read them with a certain amount of sympathy. Obviously, all of us who are in support of the Bill wish to see the Assembly and all its works implemented as soon as possible. However, having studied the amendments further, consulted and taken into account all my little administrative experience, I agree strongly with the Government's attitude. It is virtually impossible in all the administrative and political circumstances to insert a firm date, or even a span of time, as was referred to by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas).

The intervention of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was helpful. In my mind it lightened the dark and forbidding prospect of a possible Conservative Government. It will help me to sleep rather better tonight.

I should have liked to make a long speech on this issue; there are a number of important matters that I should like to put before the Committee. However, as I feel that the Committee should have the opportunity to debate the 40 per cent. rule I shall exercise a self-denying ordinance, which is a difficult thing for me or any Welshman to do, and sit down.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I do not wish to contribute to the filibuster that we have heard from Plaid Cymru Members. I have some sympathy with Amendment No. 320 and even greater sympathy with No. 318. Those are the amendments that require that the referendum be held within 90 days of Royal Assent and that the Bill, subject to the referendum, should be implemented within 120 days. My reason is that, like the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), I do not wish to see the Bill frustrated by another place if this place passes it. I am strongly of the opinion that it is right that the Bill should be implemented by Parliament as a whole. The constitution of Britain has to be operated in a way that is based on the will of the House of Commons.

My fear is that if we had a referendum after a General Election the voting in the referendum would be substantially influenced if by a disaster a Conservative Government were returned at a General Election in October. Naturally enough, those voting in Wales, of whom the great majority support the Labour Party, would take the view "Let us have an Assembly that can frustrate the will of the Conservative Government". As a Labour Member I am attracted by the idea of an Assembly that can frustrate the will of a Conservative Government, but I am much more a constitutionalist than a partisan.

It is vital that the Government of a relatively small country such as ours should be capable of carrying out the people's wishes—namely, the will of the entire people. The consequences of having an elected Assembly in Wales which could frustrate the wishes of the elected Government of the country as a whole would be potentially disastrous. If that is the course on which Wales is determined, by all means let Wales decide it, but it is important that its judgment should not be clouded by any anxiety to frustrate the wishes of the Westminster Government.

If we hold the referendum during the life of the present Government, I think that the issues will be decided on their constitutional merits. If we hold the referendum after the General Election, I think that the voting in the referendum will be influenced by considerations of pure party politics. On a major constitutional issue, it is important that the issues are decided on their own merits.

I hope to have the opportunity later this evening to argue that it is desirable that there should be a sufficient majority who feel strongly that the constitutional position should be changed. There is little merit in the proposal except that it is said that many people in Wales desire it. Let us ensure that when the referendum is held the question whether it is desirable to have an Assembly which can frustrate the wishes of the elected Government of the country as a whole is decided on its merits. That is the issue to be decided in the referendum. Let it not be any other.

Therefore, let us have the referendum soon. I believe that the answer will be "No", but, whatever the answer, let us have it and let us have it unclouded by party-political considerations.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Geraint Howells

When I moved my amendment three hours ago, I did not realise that it would create so much interest in the Committee.

We have heard many speeches from both sides of the Committee. Some have been constructive and others have not been quite as good. The views of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) are well known. The least I say on that score the better. I respect his views and I hope that he respects mine. However, I must give him due credit. He said that he believed in devolving power to the people of Wales. Therefore, he believes in that principle, but he said that he would not support the Bill. It is up to him when the time comes whether he will support the Welsh Assembly. It is a matter for his conscience.

We had a contribution from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), whose views also are well known. He, in common with me, is a staunch devolutionist. We both agree with the principle that power should be devolved to the people of Wales. We do not hold the same view on devolution. I believe in a federal system and he believes in separatism. In his view the Bill does not go far enough, and I also hold that view. The hon. Gentleman went on to speak about the referendum and made a valuable contribution to the debate.

We then heard the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower), who was not in favour of my amendments. He gave us his reasons, but not very effectively. He said that he agreed with some of the points which I had raised in my speech. The hon. Gentleman said he supported my views on nominated bodies in Wales.

We then had a constructive speech by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), and I was delighted that he supported my amendment. He also spoke strongly on his own amendment. The Committee then had a contribution from the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). Recently we have had a number of speeches by that well-known orator the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). He has on many occasions taken part in the debates aimed at devolving power to the Welsh people. However, we have not seen him today. But what a change it was to have another Scotsman—the hon. Member for Dundee, East—to say a few words in defence of my amendment.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) then addressed the Committee with another constructive speech. He referred to the Opposition. I was a little surprised that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) had to defend

Conservative policy on devolution. For the last three hours or so, the hon. Members for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) and for Conway (Mr. Roberts) have been present. I am sure that the Welsh people will not understand why those two hon. Gentlemen have not said a word in this debate and why it was left to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire to defend them. I am delighted that he said what he did on behalf of his party.

Finally, I turn to what the Minister said earlier, that every aspect of the Bill should run smoothly and effectively. I agree, but at this late stage—we have had a long debate—I shall not go into a dialogue with him. He said that he objected to the amendment and to the date, 1st January 1979, and he went on to say "or any other day". I have always held the view that Where there's a will there's a way". Tonight, I have not had the assurance from the Under-Secretary of State and I have no choice but to say to my colleagues and all the other hon. Gentlemen who have supported the amendments tabled in my name that we must divide the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 14, Noes 239.

Division No. 181] AYES [8.50 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret MacCormick, Iain Wigley, Dafydd
Crawford, Douglas Reid, George Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Thompson, George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Henderson, Douglas Watt, Hamish Mr. Clement Freud and
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Welsh, Andrew Mr. D. E. Thomas
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Allaun, Frank Brooke, Peter Davidson, Arthur
Ashley, Jack Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)
Ashton, Joe Buchanan, Richard Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Budgen, Nick Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Deakins, Eric
Atkinson, Norman Campbell, Ian Dean, Joseph (Leeds, West)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Canavan, Dennis Dempsey, James
Bates, Alf Cant, R. B. Doig, Peter
Bendall, Vivian Carmichael, Neil Dormand, J. D.
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Clemitson, Ivor Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S.) Duffy, A. E. P.
Bidwell, Sydney Coleman, Donald Dunn, James A.
Biffen, John Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Durant, Tony
Blenkinsop, Arthur Corbett, Robin Dewar, Donald
Boardman, H. Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Eadie, Alex
Body, Richard Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Edge, Geoff
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Crawshaw, Richard Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Cronin, John Litterick, Tom
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Loyden, Eddie
Bradley, Tom Cryer, Bob English, Michael
Ennals, Rt Hon David Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Ross, William (Londonderry)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McCartney, Hugh Ryman, John
Evans, John (Newton) McCrindle, Robert Sedgemore, Brian
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McElhone, Frank Sever, John
Faulds, Andrew MacFarquhar, Roderick Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McGuire, Michael (Ince) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Flannery, Martin MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Shepherd, Colin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Mackintosh, John P. Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Ford, Ben McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Forrester, John McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Silverman, Julius
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McNamara, Kevin Skinner, Dennis
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Madden, Max Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Fry, Peter Magee, Bryan Spearing, Nigel
George, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W. Spriggs, Leslie
Gilbert, Dr John Mason, Rt Hon Roy Stanley, John
Ginsburg, David Mates, Michael Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Golding, John Mawby, Ray Stoddart, David
Gould, Bryan Maynard, Miss Joan Stott, Roger
Gourlay, Harry Meacher, Michael Stradling Thomas, J.
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Strang, Gavin
Grant, John (Islington C) Mendelson, John Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Grist, Ian Mikardo, Ian Swain, Thomas
Grocott, Bruce Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Molyneaux, James Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Moonman, Eric Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E.)
Hardy, Peter More, Jasper (Ludlow) Thomas, Ron (Bristol, NW)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Morgan, Geraint Thorne, Stan (Preston S)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tierney, Sydney
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Tinn, James
Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tomlinson, John
Higgins, Terence L. Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Torney, Tom
Holland, Philip Moyle, Roland Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Horam, John Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Newton, Tony Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Noble, Mike Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Hunt, David (Wirral) Oakes, Gordon Ward, Michael
Hunter, Adam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Watkins, David
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Ovenden, John Watkinson, John
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Padley, Walter Weatherill, Bernard
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Palmer, Arthur Weitzman, David
Janner, Greville Park, George Wellbeloved, James
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Parker, John White, Frank R. (Bury)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Parry, Robert White, James (Pollock)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Price, C. (Lewisham W) Whitlock, William
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Price, William (Rugby) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Pym, Rt Hon Francis Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Radice, Giles Williams, Alan Lea (Hornch'ch)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Richardson, Miss Jo Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Judd, Frank Rifkind, Malcolm Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Woodall, Alec
Kinnock, Nell Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Lambie, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Young, David (Bolton E)
Latham, Michael (Melton) Robinson, Geoffrey Young, Sir G. (Eating, Acton)
Lawrence, Ivan Roderick, Caerwyn
Lever, Rt Hon Harold Rodgers, George (Chorley) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Luard, Evan Rooker, J. W. Mr. Ted Graham and
Lyon, Alexander (York) Rose, Paul B. Mr. Jim Marshall
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)

Question accordingly negatived.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I beg to move Amendment No. 350, in page 32, line 26, leave out subsection (4).

The First Deputy Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)

With this we may discuss the following amendments:

No. 316, in page 32, line 26, leave out subsection (4) and insert— '(4) A statutory instrument under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'. No. 351, in page 32, line 26, leave out subsection (4) and add— '(4) A statutory instrument under this section shall be subject to approval by either House of Parliament.'. No. 334, in page 32, line 28, leave out from 'Parliament' to end of line 30.

No. 341, in Clause 83, page 33, line 2, leave out from 'House' to 'Her' in line 4.

Mr. Howells

Amendment No. 350 is consequential upon Amendment No. 344, which was discussed in the previous group. If a firm date is set for the Act to come into force and the power to make orders under subsection (1) is removed, the subsection dealing with the approval of orders should also be removed.

Subsection (4) requires that the orders made under this clause should be approved by affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament. This seems to be an unnecessarily difficult procedure for a matter which should be a formality. It would be simpler and quicker to allow the Secretary of State for Wales to make the orders without first acquiring the approval of Parliament.

Amendment No. 351 seeks to make the approval procedure for orders made under this clause simpler and easier. Instead of requiring the approval of both Houses of Parliament it permits the orders to be approved by only one House. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give me a satisfactory reply to this debate. If not, I warn the House that I shall press the amendments to Divisions.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

I admit that I was caught napping on this matter. If Amendment No. 350 were carried it would have an effect which I suspect the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) would not want. If we carried this amendment we should remove the parliamentary procedure provisions from Clauses 82 and 83. That would mean, in effect, that the referendum would no longer be advisory. We believe that all hon. Members have accepted that it should be consultative and that Parliament should not be bound by the result, hence the procedure adopted. I am sure that that is not the intention of the lion. Member for Cardigan, but that would be the consequence of his amendment.

Amendment No. 351 would make each of the commencement orders subject to affirmative resolution. The Government's attitude is that the first such order is of considerable political importance and that that would be the occasion on which Parliament would take the final decision in the light of the referendum. Subsequent commencement orders, however, could deal with fairly minor matters of administrative detail, implementing less important provisions in the Bill. We therefore believe that the subsequent orders would be better dealt with if no resolution procedure was provided.

Mr. Wigley

I wish to deal with Amendment No. 316, which stands in the names of myself and my hon. Friends and which raises another important issue. It concerns whether the referendum will be binding if the Act goes through. It does not go as far as the amendments to which the Minister has just replied. However, it would be wrong for us in any way to restrict ourselves so that the other place could prevent progress on this matter. We believe that, if provisions are to be annulled or not proceeded with, that should be done as a result of positive action in this House, not as a result of the negative procedure. The issue should be decided by the House of Commons. Although Clause 73 seeks to prevent the other place fouling up our intentions, we suspect that that clause could run into timing troubles in spite of the safeguards which enable the parliamentary recess to be taken into account.

It is possible that Clause 73 could go wrong, and this means that the House of Lords could cut across the wishes of the House of Commons and of the people of Wales. We would therefore prefer to amend the Bill as we propose so that the affirmative procedure would be required if parts of the Act were to be negatived.

We have seen the attitude of the Tories. Although they would presumably permit the referendum to take place, the outlook thereafter is uncertain. There could be a delay not only of three months as was suggested by the Minister but of considerably more than that. We would be most upset if we thought that this clause could be used to facilitate anything in that direction. Once the Bill has been passed, it should stand unless there is specific provision to the contrary. That is not the situation as the Bill is drafted, and we believe that our amendment would overcome that weakness.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I rise briefly to seek elucidation of the purpose of the Conservative Amendments Nos. 341 and 334. I should like to know the intention of the Conservative Opposition in seeking to ensure that the House of Lords is included in the negative resolution procedure proposed in Clause 82(4). That, I take it, is the intention of their Amendments Nos. 334 and 341—that the House of Lords should be included and should have to approve the affirmative resolution procedure, after approval by the House of Commons, orders both under Clause 82(4) on commencement and on the referendum in Clause 83.

In our debates on an earlier group Of amendments, the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) intervened and indicated that he was concerned that there might be an attempt by a Conservative majority in the House of Lords to frustrate the passage of the Bill and possibly to frustrate the results of a referendum being implemented or to frustrate the setting up of an Assembly after a referendum had taken place in Wales.

My suspicions were immediately aroused after the hon. Member's intervention and after his message from the other place about the intentions of some of their Conservative Lordships that this amendment should be included here. We have not so far had elucidation from the Opposition Front Bench of the purpose of their amendments, but my understanding is that it is to enable the House of Lords to intervene in the decision in setting up the Assembly at the commencement and after the result of the referendum is known.

What I said earlier in reply to the intervention of the hon. Member for Newport applies strongly in this case. This is why we oppose most actively the Conservative amendments and press our own amendment for an affirmative resolution rather than a negative resolution in Clause 82(4). We are strongly of the view that the undemocratic and non-elected House of Lords should not be allowed to interfere with a process whereby a Welsh Assembly is set up after the Bill has been passed by the House of Commons and after the matter has been put to the Welsh people in the referendum.

We can conceive of no possible role for their Lordships, once the matter has been put to the people of Wales, in either approving or disapproving of what the Welsh people have expressed by a majority in a referendum. We believe that a decision of the Welsh people must be final and binding in the context of the Bill. Once such a decision has been made, we believe that we should proceed immediately to implement that decision. Therefore, we see no role at all for the House of Lords in this process.

I would like to know why the Conservative Front Bench is tabling these amendments and seeking to involve the House of Lords in the commencement clause and in the referendum clause.

Mr. Britton

I understand the purport of what the hon. Member is saying and his objection to the House of Lords intervening. However, I wonder, if that is so, why he is party to an amendment which states: A statutory instrument under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. If that means anything at all, it must mean that the House of Lords, as much as the House of Commons, shall have the power to annul the statutory instrument under Clause 82. That gives the House of Lords a strengthened role rather than a diminished role. Has the hon. Member merely got it all wrong and drafted it incorrectly, or has he changed his mind?

Mr. Thomas

I can assure the hon, and learned Gentleman that our parliamentary draftsmen have not got it wrong in this case.

In this clause we are talking about something different from that which the hon, and learned Member is now trying to introduce. I am talking about the position after a referendum has been held and after the Bill has been enacted in this place and has been put to the Welsh people. I am talking about the role of the House of Lords in that process after a democratic decision has been put to the Welsh people. I am not talking about the statutory instrument procedure, which is a procedure of secondary legislation which can be scrutinised in the House of Commons and in another place. On the amendment tabled by the Conservative Opposition, I am talking about the intervention of the House of Lords after a decision has been taken by the democratic will of the Welsh people in a referendum.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Britton

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman is at cross-purposes. I am talking about the amendment to which he is referring—namely, Amendment No. 316. Under the Bill as it stands, subsection (4) says: The first order under this section"— that is, the commencement order— shall not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament". or by the House of Commons under the Clause 73 procedure. That means that, on the face of it both the House of Commons and the House of Lords have to approve the resolution, but if the House of Lords does not do it the House of Commons can do it alone if it does it a second time. For that, the hon. Gentleman seeks, in Amendment No. 316, to substitute a provision saying: A statutory instrument under this section"— that is, the order under the clause— shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. That would mean that a commencement order made under that clause could be annulled by the House of Lords, whereas, under the Bill as it stands, it could not be annulled by the House of Lords if the House of Commons overruled it.

Therefore, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that either he must have changed his mind, having started off with a great desire that the House of Lords should have a bigger role than the Government would wish it to have, or he has got the drafting totally wrong.

Mr. Thomas

With respect, I think that we are here dealing with two separate issues. We are dealing with the Statutory Instrument method of taking a decision, which can be subject, as we propose in Amendment No. 316, to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. That is one issue. The other issue, as at present laid down in the Bill, is the provision through, in this case, the negative resolution procedure. There is a difference between proceeding in secondary legislation through statutory instruments and proceeding through a negative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

What we are talking about in our amendment is a less cumbersome procedure of using a Statutory Instrument to do this. Of course, it is the convention of both our Houses of Parliament that Statutory Instruments can be introduced in either Chamber, and that is what is allowed for in our amendment.

What the hon, and learned Member is referring to in Amendments Nos. 334 and 341 is an attempt to introduce the House of Lords into the negative resolution procedure. With respect, I think that that is a different situation. In our amendment we are talking about the Statutory Instrument procedure. In our view, that is a simpler procedure than the negative resolution procedure for dealing with the implementation of this clause.

Mr. Brittan

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member yet again, but what we are saying is quite simple. It is that the House of Lords ought to have the role and it ought not to be cut out. But what I am asking is about the hon. Gentleman's amendment, because it does not talk merely about a Statutory Instrument. It talks about a Statutory Instrument "under this section", and "this section" is Clause 82. The sole purpose of the clause is for commencement orders. If commencement orders are to be made by Statutory Instrument, the procedure under subsection (4) is to be substituted by the hon. Gentleman's procedure, and under the procedure that the hon. Gentleman substitutes it is as plain as a pikestaff that the House of Lords shall have the veto.

If the hon. Gentleman does not want that, he would be doing the Committee a great service by saying that the drafting is wrong. As it stands, however, there can be no doubt about it. If the hon. Gentleman seeks to argue to the contrary, it is incumbent upon him to explain what is meant by A statutory instrument under this section", and it is no use his talking at large about a Statutory Instrument procedure in general under the Bill. He should say how he would apply a Statutory Instrument to this clause, which is concerned solely with commencement orders.

Mr. Thomas

The reference in our amendment to the Statutory Instrument procedure is to the whole commencement procedure, including subsection (2), which lays down that there can be different appointed days for different provisions of the Bill. We envisage that either House could have power to initiate action under that subsection in regard to the transfer of power.

Mr. Wigley

The point is that under subsection (2) there is provision for the commencement of a large number of different facets of the Bill at different times. We argued against this in the previous debate. Different Statutory Instruments can arise in relation to the commencement of those different facets. We are saying that there should be provision for the Statutory Instruments to be subject to annulment by either House when Statutory Instruments that we do not like are brought forward. If our wording is imperfect we shall not press the amendment, but our objective is to provide for annulment in pursuance of Statutory Instrument procedure through either House when Statutory Instruments that may not be what we want can be brought forward under subsection (2).

A very odd way of commencing an Act is provided in the clause. I cannot see why it is necessary to go through this cumbersome procedure unless it is to provide the sort of pitfalls outlined and suggested in the interventions from the Conservative Front Bench, which may be in the minds of Conservative Members.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I hope that it has helped to elucidate the point we are making and the difference between the two procedures.

Mr. Brittan

Perhaps I may intervene again on this matter, because it is clearly vital. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) at least hinted at the possibility that the amendment was incorrectly drawn. It would be of great assistance to the Committee to know whether the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) accepts that that is so. Would he not agree that, far from simplifying the procedure, what is proposed would complicate it?

The Government propose that the first order should be one that each House of Parliament must approve, subject to the Clause 73 procedure, whereas what the hon. Gentleman proposes is that not only the first order but all orders should be subject to annulment. That means that the hon. Gentleman would be in a worse position from the point of view that he is arguing as opposed to the point of view he put in his amendment, because that would mean that for every subsequent order made by the Minister, which at present is subject to no parliamentary procedure under this clause, there would be the possibility of the House of Lords, by a simple resolution, saying "This shall not come into effect."

Either the hon. Gentleman disagrees with my interpretation of the effect of his amendment, in which case I should be very interested to hear why I am wrong, or he wants what I have said, which is certainly a discovery to me. If he does not want it, the amendment cannot be right and he had better seek to withdraw it.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to the hon, and learned Gentleman for his further intervention. I think that the appropriate form of words to use now is "We shall take another look at this between now and Report, and we may seek to introduce another, better drafted amendment".

But the hon, and learned Gentleman's criticism of the drafting of our amendment does not remove the basic criticism I have made of his and his right hon, and hon. Friends' amendment to the negative resolution procedure. We have not yet heard an explanation why they are so anxious to include their Lordships' House in that procedure. Perhaps the hon, and learned Gentleman would care to intervene again and explain that. I should gladly give way to him, but I see that he does not wish to intervene now. I look forward to his detailed explanation in due course.

We feel deep anxiety about possible delay in any commencements under the clause, just as we expressed anxiety earlier about the timing of the referendum.

We attempted earlier this evening to ensure that there was a statutory time limit or structure to the decisions which have to be made by any Secretary of State after the Bill has been enacted. We are very anxious that such a procedure should take place as rapidly as possible, in terms of both the transfer of power and the holding and timing of the referendum. This has been the purpose of our amendments.

In view of the criticism of our drafting, we shall, if it stands, need to look at the matter in some detail. As we are not represented in the other place, we are unable, of course, to introduce our amendments there.

Sir Raymond Gower

On the whole, we approve of what the hon. Gentleman has done but we have doubts about what he has said. I think that that summarises our attitudes, although I am not, of course, attempting in any way to speak for my hon, and learned Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). I am not trying to plead the superior merit of the House of Lords but I am opposed to what the hon. Gentleman has said because, as we have said in dealing with an earlier clause, we uphold the constitution as it is and not as the hon. Gentleman would like it to be or as I might like it to be.

Parliament in its wisdom, under successive Governments in former years, has prescribed certain procedures. The usual procedure for dealing with a matter such as this gives certain powers to both Houses of Parliament. I do not know whether I speak for anyone else on this subject, but I believe that it is wrong to use a Bill such as this as a vehicle for changing a constitutional arrangement. We believe that the Government's form of wording in subsection (4) is objectionable. But we certainly applaud the wording that he has put on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Wigley

We have been able to discover what has happened. We are at fault in this. There has apparently been a transposition of wording from that in the original amendment to that which appears on the Order Paper. We understand, of course, the printing difficulties at the present time. Rather than "either House of Parliament", the term we had was "the House of Commons", and it appears that the wording in the latter part of Amendment No. 351 has found its way into Amendment No. 316. That seems to be the origin of the misunderstanding.

Sir R. Gower

At one stage, the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) said that he and his colleagues felt that after the Bill was dealt with by Parliament, providing for to the Assembly, the House of Lords had no status to interfere. I was almost prepared to hear him follow that by saying that after it had gone from the House of Commons to the Assembly, Parliament had no right to interfere. Perhaps that is what the hon. Gentleman would like to have said. I think that what he means is that he wants something which is far more sweeping than what appears in the Bill. That is a fair point of view, although it is one with which we certainly do not agree.

It is always bad to change constitutional procedures for the purpose of effecting a change at a particular time or in a particular measure. I think that it is not merely objectionable. I hope that we shall reject the Government's wording, which does not use the proper constitutional machinery but chooses to try to invent a new kind of machinery. As I indicated earlier, we also reject the import of what the hon. Gentleman said in his speech. It is not that we seek to establish a superior merit in one part of Parliament or one part of the constitution. Parliament is a choate whole, and our constitution, if it is to be changed, should be changed by other means.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Pym

I do not intend to intervene at any great length, because I know that the Committee wishes to make progress. In relation to the group of amendments before the Committee, I agree very much indeed with what my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) has just said. I greatly regret that the guillotine fell at 5 p.m. in such a way that it was not possible to have a debate on Clause 73. It is a matter for regret that on the Scotland and Wales Bill, the Scotland Bill, and now the Wales Bill, we have had no debate at all on this very important Clause 73, which seeks to interfere with the way in which Parliament operates, in the sense that it seeks to restrict the powers of the House of Lords and cause any decision that it may take to be overruled by this House on a second vote. It is not only a matter for regret; it is a legislative scandal of the first magnitude.

I do not think that it would be right for me to make the speech that I should like to have made with regard to Clause 73. Nevertheless, it is relevant.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)


Mr. Pym

I shall not give way, for a moment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, because I was asked what the purpose of our amendments was. This is relevant to the two amendments in my name that are being discussed with this group, because Clause 73 is intended to apply to the commencement Clause 82 and the referendum Clause 83. We Conservatives think that it is absolutely wrong, by means of this Bill, to alter the operation of Parliament and to say that the House of Lords shall have no say whatsoever.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) said that he could imagine no role whatever for the House of Lords in these circumstances. I can only say that we Conservatives totally disagree. This is a decision that is being taken by Parliament. The hon. Gentleman showed the anarchic element of his party's policy, which wants to have all the advantages of being a member of the United Kingdom, and especially favoured treatment, without anyone questioning it and everyone gladly working it out on that basis.

Mr. Crawford


Mr. Pym

I am sorry. I shall not give way for the moment, because I want to make my points briefly. The hon. Member for Merioneth wants to have it both ways. He wants to have all the advantages and then wants to provide that the House of Lords can have no say whatever in the matter.

The point about the referendum, which is relevant to the commencement clause, is quite simply that if the Bill becomes a;. Act Parliament will have decided that the people of Wales shall be consulted. After that, Parliament will take a decision in the light of the result of the referendum. The Government themselves will move an amendment to the preamble to the question in the referendum which states that Parliament has decided to consult the electorate in Wales". That is what we shall be asked to pass. I shall support that when the time comes, because an amendment in exactly the same terms was tabled in my name to the Scotland Bill. That is what the Conservatives have decided to do. Yet by Clause 82(4) and Clause 83(3) the Government intend to try to prevent the House of Lords from having any say whatever. That is an absolutely wrong change to make.

There is plenty of scope for change and reform in Parliament. But if we are to make changes in our constitutional practice, in my view is should be done in a constitutional Bill designed for that purpose. I am totally in favour of doing that. But until that moment arrives it is a mistake to make any adjustment at all—as it were, by the back door—and to alter our procedure. That is what this is, It is slipping in a few words which will have the effect of making irrelevant any decision or view of the House of Lords. I do not think that that is the right situation to envisage.

We must remember that the present Government do not have a very good track record with regard to the management of Parliament. We should remember how, in previous Sessions, they have used their majority, for instance, to overturn the hybridity rule. They may wish to overturn a decision both of the House of Lords and, conceivably, of a referendum result carried out by the Welsh people. It is possible. We are legislating here for all circumstances, and I am saying that it is wrong to cut out the House of Lords in the case of the commencement and the referendum clauses.

The other area where Clause 73 was to be used is in terms of the override powers. We had some mention of this matter in the debate on the clauses dealing with the override powers, and the Government's reply on that occasion treated it as though it were a minor matter, as though it were impossible to imagine anyone criticising the idea, and that if the House of Lords came to a view different from that of the House of Commons, the House of Commons must overrule it.

If we are to change our constitutional practice in that way, it must be done on the basis of a properly thought out proposal put before the House by the Government and considered by both Houses. Then, if Parliament decides to make the change, so be it. But it is wrong to slip in what is in principle a very big change in our constitution and practice in a Bill of this kind, which is not designed to affect the constitution of Parliament although it is designed to deal with the working of the constitution in Wales.

I make those brief remarks about Clause 73 in order to give a full and frank explanation, as briefly as possible, of what was behind the Conservative Party's thinking in tabling these amendments. Although I do not expect the hon. Member for Merioneth to agree with it, that was the thinking behind the amendments.

Perhaps I may be allowed to make a suggestion to the hon. Member for Merioneth. If he wants to make progress in the direction in which he believes, he would be wiser to do so by seeking the agreement of Parliament, if that could be achieved, rather than by attempting, as the Government are attempting, to cut out the possible decision which might be taken in another place.

We realise that these amendments cannot be voted upon. We have not asked for a separate vote on them, and I do not imagine that you, Sir Myer, would grant one if we did. But we have tabled them in order to try to make sure that our normal, well tried constitutional procedure and practice will be used in the normal manner after this legislation has been passed, assuming that it becomes an Act.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I said that I had no intention of delaying our proceedings any longer than necessary. There are very important amendments to be debated in the next hour or so. But I am not satisfied with the Under-Secretary's reply, and I have no alternative but to advise right hon, and hon. Members to support my amendment.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

I was always warned that when assessing the speeches of politicians I should be very suspicious of those who said that their full and frank view was such-and-such. My suspicions of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) have proved well founded in the light of his speech. He asked for properly thought out proposals, but when have we ever had properly thought out proposals from him or any other member of the Conservative Front Bench on devolution for either Scotland or Wales? My admiration for the right hon. Gentleman goes up by leaps and bounds when I hear him at the Opposition Dispatch Box, without any policy, making interesting and exemplary speeches which have no substance to them.

The right hon. Member said that it was a pity that the guillotine had fallen thereby not allowing us to discuss Clause 73. It is a great pity that many matters have not been discussed on numerous clauses in both this and the Scotland Bill. However, if we take that to its logical conclusion the Conservatives will probably tell us that if we discussed all these matters in detail we should be sitting here morning, noon and evening for about seven months. If we are to make progress we have to have some kind of discipline in discussion, but so far we have had no alternative suggestions from the right hon. Gentleman or from any of his Front Bench colleagues.

I was very touched by the right hon. Member's concern about the House of Lords. One would never imagine that the Tories had a permanent majority in that House. Apparently, they are the great fountains of wisdom in considering legislation, particularly that which affects other nations of the United Kingdom. I have never found the House of Lords in any way sympathetic to the aspirations at the people of Scotland or Wales at any time in the history of these islands.

The right hon. Member said plenty about the scope for change in Parliament, but I have not yet heard what changes he proposes, or what proposals his party will bring forward. The question of the Welsh Assembly has been debated at considerable length for very much longer than any Welsh piece of business for many years. This reflects great credit on my hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) and Merioneth (Mr. Thomas). It is only because of their presence in Parliament that so much time has been spent discussing Welsh business during the last year. Because of them the Bill is here today.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is the hon. Member aware that as a result of the time wasted on this Bill there has been no Welsh affairs debate in the House for one and a half years? This Bill has meant that we have been unable to debate the things that really matter to the Welsh people.

Mr. Henderson

I am sure that that intervention from the Opposition Front Bench means that a Conservative Supply Day will be allocated to Welsh affairs very soon.

Mr. Edwards

I would point out that on the last occasion that Welsh affairs were debated it was on an Opposition Supply Day.

Mr. Henderson

I have been in this House only four years, and therefore my membership is not long enough to remember the last time Welsh affairs were debated on a Conservative Supply Day. I take it that we shall have a discussion on Welsh affairs in Opposition time in the next few weeks.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. I certainly will not permit the line of argument in which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is indulging. We are not discussing when we shall have a Welsh debate. I ask the hon. Member to stick to the amendment under discussion.

Mr. Henderson

If you are criticising me, Sir Myer, for saying that we should have time to debate Welsh affairs you should also criticise the Conservative Front Bench. They raised this matter, and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) has given a pledge, or a semipledge—which is the nearest we can get to a pledge from the Conservatives—that Welsh affairs will be discussed in Opposition time very soon—

Mr. Pym

On a point of order, Sir Myer. That is a total misrepresentation. I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) will withdraw that remark. He has alleged that my hon. Friend gave a pledge that there would be a Welsh debate on an Opposition Supply Day very soon. The hon. Member is inventing that. It is a mischief, and he must withdraw.

Mr. Henderson

I gladly withdraw the allegation that the Conservatives are about to devote a day's debate to Welsh affairs. Obviously, they are not interested in Wales.

We are discussing the question whether the House of Lords should have a definitive role in relation to the future of Wales. When we have discussed this Bill, and it has gone through the various stages and received the Royal Assent, the people of Wales will have the opportunity to vote—I hope resoundingly in favour of a Welsh Assembly—in the referendum. The question is whether the House of Lords should then have a role in deciding whether the Assembly should come into being. I look forward to the support of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who may be no friend of Plaid Cymru but who, in all honesty, is no friend of the House of Lords either. Is he really going to say that if the Welsh people vote for an Assembly he will incite the House of Lords to stop the Welsh people from getting what they want?

Will the hon. Member for Bedwellty be true to the principles that he has enunciated so often in the House and say that the House of Lords should have no say in a matter that has been the subject of democratic decision by the ordinary people of Wales? That is the cleft stick in which he and so many of his hon. Friends are caught.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Kinnock

One of the best uses for cleft sticks is the trapping of snakes, and I look forward to doing that to Plaid Cymru, the SNP and any other reptilian politicians who enter this House or any other place.

Mr. Henderson

I do not know whether you consider that to be an unparliamentary expression, Sir Myer. You may wish to reflect on that matter. I could talk about dinosaur politicians, and there are a few such representatives on the Government side. The hon. Member for Bedwellty has given no straight answer. Does he believe that the House of Lords should have a veto over the Welsh people?

Mr. Kinnock

I do not believe that the House of Lords should have a veto over anything, but if the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had been as resilient and insistent on giving the Welsh and Scottish people a voice in this matter from the outset, we might have had the referendum much earlier. The question could have been settled without the waste of time of this House or the waste of money involved in continuing with legislation that the people of Wales will never support.

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Gentleman is being presumptuous in saying that the people of Wales will or will not support something. It is up to them to make a decision, as it will be up to the people of Scotland to make a decision on the matters relating to them.

I accept the belated and circumscribed assurance of the hon. Member for Bedwellty that he would not allow the House of Lords to override the people of Wales. The assurance was not made in the usual resounding tones that the hon. Gentleman uses when speaking about the House of Lords or the rights of the people of Wales.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire complained that the amendments would make irrelevant any decision or view of the House of Lords. It is time that we made all views of the House of Lords irrelevant in relation to anything that the people have decided upon.

I look forward with great interest to hearing from the right hon. Gentleman about all the proposals that he is to put forward to change things, and about the scope for reform that he is talking about. For example, he spoke about extending proportional representation. What is it to extend to? What are his proposals? We have heard not a word so far.

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman will not hear the proposals tonight. Let us get on.

Mr. Henderson

You have never spoken a truer word. Sir Myer. We shall not hear them tonight, and I do not believe that we shall ever hear them.

I hope that we shall make clear in the vote that the voice of the people of Wales will not be stilled by the House of Lords or anyone else.

Mr. Alec Jones

Perhaps I could say something about the amendments that came on the scene after my first intervention. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) found my reply unsatisfactory, but it could not be any other sort of reply because I could not recommend the House to accept an amendment the consequences of which would be that the referendum would no longer be advisory to Parliament. I regret that he feels that this issue should be put to the vote.

Mr. Kinnock

Is my hon. Friend aware that however satisfactory or unsatisfactory his reply had been to the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), we would have had a vote anyway, because some Opposition Members are more interested in wasting time than in hearing replies of any description?

Mr. Jones

I have tried in today's debates to cut my remarks short in the hope that we might reach mystical Amendment No. 325, which is apparently arousing excitement.

I must tell the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), who spoke to Amendment No. 316, that I was in some difficulty. I assumed that there was something slightly wrong with the amendment. I took that view because it is rather unusual. I am grateful to the hon, and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), who finally sorted out the difficulty.

Mr. Wigley


Mr. Jones

I am not making an issue of that. It seems that we are right in providing that the first commencement order, because of its importance, shall be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, with the standby of Clause 73. I know that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) does not like Clause 73, but that is to be the arrangement. The subsequent commencement orders, because of their lesser importance and because the second batch of orders will be brought forward after consultation with the Welsh Assembly, will not involve further parliamentary procedures. We do not think it necessary that they should do so for the reasons that I have outlined That is why I was somewhat surprised when Amendment No. 316 appeared.

Mr. Wigley

I, too, am grateful to the hon, and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) for pointing out an error in the drafting of Amendment No. 316. For that reason I shall not be pressing it in the way that I indicated earlier.

Mr. Jones

I am glad to hear that. The hon. Gentleman may rest content that it is not only Back-Bench Members or Members of minority parties who find drafting mistakes in their amendments; that sometimes happens to the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench and to Government Ministers. I have learnt that from sitting on both sides of the Chamber.

I now turn to Amendments Nos. 334 and 341. We dealt at some length with the partial exclusion of another place. It seems, from Hansard of 4th April, that we went into the matter in considerable detail. On that occasion the Government's position was explained. I know that it is not one that the Opposition accept. They still think that we were wrong and, equally, we still think that we were right.

Our basic position is that when the issue is put to the people of Wales by means of the referendum the people will make the first decision. If that decision is in favour of devolution, the first commencement order will be made. It will be subject to the affirmative resolution of both Houses, subject to Clause 73. We believe that it would be wrong if the will of the people as expressed through the referendum, and the will of hon. Members as expressed in the House of Commons, were thwarted by the non-elected other place.

We are not suggesting that there is no role for another place. There will be a role for the other place, but that will largely be confined to powers of delay, which may oblige the House of Commons to reconsider. Therefore, I hope that those amendments will be rejected by the Committee.

Mr. Crawford


The First Deputy Chairman

Does the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) wish to take part in the debate?

Mr. Crawford

I do, Sir Myer.

The First Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman has heard hardly any of the debate. I deprecate the attitude of hon. Members who have heard hardly anything of a debate and have to get notes at the last minute to tell them what to talk about.

Mr. Henderson

Not correct.

Mr. Crawford

I am grateful to you, Sir Myer. I have no doubt that Hansard will have reported our remarks.

I do not wish to detain the Committee too long, but I have one or two comments to make about the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). The hon. Gentleman accused the nationalists of being reptilian. He is in company with his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen. North (Mr. Hughes), who accused us of being worse, as being friends of Dr. Goebbels. He has said that we are wasting time. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that some of his hon. Friends—no doubt in this instance he will regard one or two hon. Members on the Conservative Benches as his friends as well—have been wasting time.

We are interested in the sovereignty of Parliament on this amendment and on the clause. We have been very concerned in our party, as have the Plaid Cymru Members, about the sovereignty of the House of Commons, the Treasury, and so on. However, I wish to ask the Conservative Party why it has not sought to speak to, and perhaps force a vote on, its Amendments Nos. 334 and 341. I look forward to hearing what they say on those amendments.

The First Deputy Chairman

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) spoke to those amendments, but the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) was not present. That was the point I made earlier.

Mr. Henderson

On a point of order, Sir Myer. I did not realise that you were here to reply for the Conservatives.

The First Deputy Chairman

I am not here to reply to the debate. I am here to maintain order and the dignity of the Committee.

Mr. Ioan Evans

On a point of order, Sir Myer. I believe that it would be in the good traditions of Parliament that that remark should be withdrawn.

The First Deputy Chairman

It was directed to the Chair, and I shall treat it with the disdain that it deserves.

Mr. Evans

Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. It is a reflection on Parliament as well as on the Chair, and I call on the hon. Member for Aberdeen-shire, East (Mr. Henderson) to withdraw that remark.

The First Deputy Chairman

I am not bothering with it. I shall put the Question.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 242, Noes 12.

Division No. 182] AYES [9.56 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret MacCormick, Iain Welsh, Andrew
Crawford, Douglas Reid, George Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Stewart, Rt Hon Donald Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Freud, Clement Thompson, George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Henderson, Douglas Wainwright, Richard (Colne V) Mr. A. J. Beith and
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Watt, Hamish Mr. Cyril Smith.
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Allaun, Frank Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Morgan, Geraint
Anderson, Donald Garrett, John (Norwich S) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Armstrong, Ernest George, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Ashley, Jack Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Moyle, Roland
Ashton, Joe Ginsburg, David Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Golding, John Noble, Mike
Atkinson, Norman Gould, Bryan Oakes, Gordon
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Gourlay, Harry Ogden, Eric
Bates, Alf Grant, George (Morpeth) O'Halloran, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Grant, John (Islington C) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Grocott, Bruce Ovenden, John
Bidwell, Sydney Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Padley, Walter
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Palmer, Arthur
Boardman, H. Hardy, Peter Park, George
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Harper, Joseph Parker, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Parry, Robert
Bradley, Tom Hart, Rt Hon Judith Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Heffer, Eric S. Price, William (Rugby)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hooley, Frank Radice, Giles
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Horam, John Richardson, Miss Jo
Buchanan, Richard Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Campbell, Ian Hunter, Adam Robinson, Geoffrey
Canavan, Dennis Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Roderick, Caerwyn
Cant, R. B. Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Carmichael, Neil Janner, Greville Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Jeger, Mrs Lena Rooker, J. W.
Clemitson, Ivor Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rose, Paul B.
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Johnson, James (Hull West) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cohen, Stanley Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Ryman, John
Coleman, Donald Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sedgemore, Brian
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sever, John
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Corbett, Robin Judd, Frank Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kaufman, Gerald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Kerr, Russell Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Crawshaw, Richard Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cronin, John Lambie, David Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lever, Rt Hon Harold Silverman, Julius
Cryer, Bob Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Skinner, Dennis
Davidson, Arthur Litterick, Tom Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Loyden, Eddie Snape, Peter
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Luard, Evan Spearing, Nigel
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lyon, Alexander (York) Spriggs, Leslie
Deakins, Eric Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Stoddart, David
Dempsey, James McCartney, Hugh Stott, Roger
Doig, Peter McElhone, Frank Strang, Gavin
Dormand, J. D. MacFarquhar, Roderick Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McGuire, Michael (Ince) Swain, Thomas
Duffy, A. E. P. MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Dunn, James A. Mackintosh, John P. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dewar, Donald Maclennan, Robert Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Eadie, Alex McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Edge, Geoff McNamara, Kevin Thorne, Stan (Preston S)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Madden, Max Tierney, Sydney
English, Michael Magee, Bryan Tomlinson, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Mallalieu, J. P. W. Torney, Tom
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Evans, John (Newton) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Faulds, Andrew Maynard, Miss Joan Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Meacher, Michael Watkins, David
Flannery, Martin Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Watkinson, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian Weitzman, David
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Ford, Ben Mitchell, Austin White, Frank R. (Bury)
Forrester, John Molloy, William White, James (Pollok)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Moonman, Eric Whitlock, William
Willey, Rt Hon Frederick Wilson, William (Coventry SE) Young, David (Bolton E)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch) Woodall, Alec TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford) Woof, Robert Mr. Ted Graham and
Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton) Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. James Tinn.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment No. 320 proposed, in page 32, line 30, at end add— '(5) Subject to the provisions of section 83(1) below, the first order under this section

shall be made within 120 days of this Act receiving Royal Assent.'.—[Mr. Wigley.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 18, Noes 222.

Division No. 183] AYES [10.9 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Pardoe, John Welsh, Andrew
Beith, A. J. Reid, George Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Freud, Clement Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Henderson, Douglas Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hooson, Emlyn Thompson, George Mrs. Winifred Ewing and
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Watt, Hamish Mr. Douglas Crawford.
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Allaun, Frank Edge, Geoff Litterick, Tom
Anderson, Donald Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Loyden, Eddie
Archer, Rt Hon Peter English, Michael Luard, Evan
Armstrong, Ernest Ennals, Rt Hon David Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Ashton, Joe Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Evans, John (Newton) McCartney, Hugh
Atkinson, Norman Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McElhone, Frank
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Faulds, Andrew MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bates, Alf Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Bean, R. E. Flannery, Martin MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mackintosh, John P.
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Foot, Rt Hon Michael Maclennan, Robert
Bidwell, Sydney Forrester, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McNamara, Kevin
Blenkinsop, Arthur Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Madden, Max
Boardman, H. Garrett, John (Norwich S) Magee, Bryan
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur George, Bruce Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Bradley, Tom Gilbert, Rt Hon Or John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ginsburg, David Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Golding, John Maynard, Miss Joan
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Gould, Bryan Meacher, Michael
Buchanan, Richard Gourlay, Harry Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Graham, Ted Mendelson, John
Campbell, Ian Grant, George (Morpeth) Mikardo, Ian
Canavan, Dennis Grant, John (Islington C) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cant, R. B. Grocott, Bruce Mitchell, Austin
Carmichael, Neil Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Molloy, William
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Moonman, Eric
Clemitson, Ivor Hardy, Peter Morgan, Geraint
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Harper, Joseph Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Cohen, Stanley Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. (Openshaw)
Coleman, Donald Hart, Rt Hon Judith Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Heffer, Eric S. Moyle, Rt. Hon. Roland
Cook, Robin F. (Edin. C.) Hooley, Frank Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Corbett, Robin Horam, John Newens, Stanley
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Huckfield, Les Noble, Mike
Crawshaw, Richard Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Oakes, Gordon
Cronin, John Hushes, Roy (Newport) Ogden, Eric
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hunter, Adam O'Halloran, Michael
Cryer, Bob Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Davidson, Arthur Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Ovenden, John
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Janner, Greville Padley, Walter
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil Jeger, Mrs Lena Palmer, Arthur
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Park, George
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Johnson, James (Hull West) Parker, John
Deakins, Eric Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Parry, Robert
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Dempsey, James Jones, Barry (East Flint) Price, William (Rugby)
Dewar, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Radice, Giles
Doig, Peter Judd, Frank Richardson, Miss Jo
Dormand, J. D. Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kerr, Russell Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Duffy, A. E. P. Kilroy-Silk, Robert Robinson, Geoffrey
Dunn, James A. Lambie, David Roderick, Caerwyn
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Rooker, J. W. Stott, Roger Weitzman, David
Rose, Paul B. Strang, Gavin Wellbeloved, James
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Surmmerskill, Hon Dr Shirley White, James (Pollok)
Ryman, John Swain, Thomas Whitlock, William
Sedgemore, Brian Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Sever, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Shaw Arnold (Ilford South) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Thorne, Stan (Preston S) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Tierney, Sydney Wilson William (Coventry SE)
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Tinn, James Wise, Mrs Audrev
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Tomlinson, John Woodall, Alec
Silverman, Julius Torney, Tom Woof, Robert
Skinner, Dennis Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Wrigglesworth, Ian
Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Young, David (Bolton E)
Snape, Peter Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Spearing, Nigel Walker, Terry (Kingswood) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Spriggs, Leslie Watkins, David Mr. Thomas Cox and
Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Watkinson, John Mr. Frank R. White.
Stoddart, David

Question accordingly negatived.

The First Deputy Chairman

The Question is, That Clause 82 stand part of the Bill. As many as are of that opinion say "Aye"—

Mr. Wigley

On a point of order, Sir Myer. I wish to speak on the Question, "That Clause 82 stand part of the Bill".

The First Deputy Chairman

Yes, that is all right. The Question is, That Clause 82 stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful for being called to speak on the clause. This is a vital clause in the Bill. There are several aspects of it which have not been debated on the amendments this evening.

We are particularly disappointed that the Government have not been in a position to give certainty about the date of the referendum in relation to the date of the passing of the Bill. Neither has there been certainty that any other Government cannot avoid implementing the provisions of the Bill or cannot put severe delays on its implementation. We do not know in what circumstances the Secretary of State will introduce the commencement orders, and particularly in the debates that we had earlier on the amendments to subsections (1) and (2)—

Mr. Henderson

On a point of order, Sir Myer. Can the hon. Gentleman have some attention from the Committee?

The First Deputy Chairman

Order. There is no doubt that the hon. Member will receive the attention that his speech deserves.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful for that back-handed compliment, Sir Myer.

As I was saying, the one question that has not been cleared up is the relationship between the timing of a General Election and the timing of the referendum. Given the provisions that the Government are bringing forward, that there will have to be a delay of three months in the case of the Wales Bill, as has already been built into the Scotland Bill, and that the referendum can take place after a General Election, this leaves the question of putting a date on the referendum in a most unsatisfactory way.

However, there are other aspects of Clause 82 to which I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would apply their minds. I am very surprised that Conservative Members have not made any comments on subsection (3). It states: An order under this section may contain such transitional and supplementary provisions as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient, including provision for expenses to be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament." This is clearly a most important provision. The funds for the implementation of certain aspects of the Act are related to the clause, but it is not clear from this wording what will be included in the expenses. Does this cover anything that has any relevance to any part of the Bill, or does it relate specifically to one order only? We would have expected clarification of this.

We also ask whether money can be spent under the clause prior to the referendum taking place. That leads us to a question which was raised in an intervention in a previous debate about expenditure on letting the people of Wales know the pros and cons of the argument in relation to setting up a Welsh Assembly prior to a referendum. There are many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—and I think that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) may have raised this point in another amendment that we have not reached—who are concerned about the amount of money that is available to project and propagate the arguments for and against the Assembly in a balanced fashion.

Recalling the arguments that took place at the time of the debate on the referendum on our membership of the EEC, it is clear with hindsight that a far larger sum was spent by those arguing for a "Yes" result than that spent by those arguing for a "No" result. Anyone looking at that argument dispassionately cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that the amount of money available to one side must have influenced the result. I do not think that anyone would want to see a referendum for the Welsh Assembly—or for the Scottish Assembly, for that matter—undertaken in a situation in which people could argue that the result had been bought.

The fear of my colleagues and myself is that this result could be bought by money from big business—the CBI and other such institutions, which have taken a very positive line against a "Yes" vote in the referendum. However, I accept, although I do not follow the argument, that it is conceivable that those who are arguing for a "No" vote could have similar fears—that money could be pumped in in favour of the "Yes" campaign to an extent much greater than that available for the "No" campaign.

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

Does the hon. Member seriously consider that any amount of money could have produced a result against the Common Market in that referendum, bearing in mind the leaders of the campaign against the Common Market in the referendum?

Mr. Wigley

If it was my opinion that the people of Wales—or of England or of Scotland, for that matter—had voted on an issue as important as the Common Market purely in response and in reaction to a number of individuals who might have been heading one campaign or the other, my opinion of the people of these three countries would go down considerably. I think that the people voted on the issues as they were presented to them. But the argument in relation to money is about the facility for presenting the arguments to the people. It is not just the number of pieces of paper that one can shove through letter-boxes. It is the amount of money that one can spend on the design, the graphics and the presentation that make the pieces of paper that appear before people readable and presentable, and pieces of paper of which they will wish to take notice.

Mr. Crawford

I take all the points that the hon. Member has made. However, does he agree with me—and I am very sorry about this—that certain amounts of money will be made available by big business in Wales and in Scotland against a "Yes" vote in the referendums? Will he ask the Minister who, presumably, will be winding up the debate if he catches the eye of the Chair to make it very clear that there will be no discrimination for or against a "Yes" vote or a "No" vote?

Mr. Wigley

This is something that causes us considerable concern. Will there be controls on the expenditure of either side in the referendum campaign? It is a matter that I have raised both publicly in the House and privately with the Minister of State, Privy Council Office in order to try to find a formula by which such control can take place. But the absence of control—and, unless amendments which have not been tabled so far are forthcoming, the situation is that there will be no controls in the Bill—leaves the issue wide open for those in the CBI and big business who see their interests and the interests of those they represent as benefiting from not having a Welsh Assembly or a Scottish Assembly spending all the money they like in order to propagate their campaign.

One way of overcoming that problem, to some extent at least, would be—if the Government were in a position to do so and were determined to do so—for the Government to put money towards presenting the "Yes" case and the "No" case together, cogently, coherently and in a balanced fashion, to ensure that the arguments for both cases went into every household. That was done to a certain degree in the context of the Common Market, although it was swamped by the money that came from outside.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Kinnock

I sympathise with the view the hon. Gentleman is expressing that he does not want people's opinions to be unbalanced by the expenditure of large amounts of money. It is an argument that I find very appealing. Indeed, I agree with every word of it. But if, instead of initiating this debate on "clause stand part" or participating in the delaying tactics that we saw earlier in the day, the hon. Gentleman had allowed us to proceed to Amendment No. 256, in my name, and I had been able to rely on the support of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends and other hon. Members throughout the Committee, we might even have amended the Bill to ensure that there was full and legal scrutiny of any money or services tendered in kind to either side of the argument in the referendum campaign. That would have provided a severe discipline against the over-balancing of one argument or one set of opinions or the other by the expenditure of very large amounts of money.

With regard to the hon Gentleman's point about big business, he and I can see, on the basis of what has happened hitherto, that for the referendum in Wales all the money—substantial amounts—will be spent by the "pro" vote and hardly any by the "anti" vote.

Mr. Wigley

No. The evidence that came over television from the CBI conference in Cardiff the week before last was that, unfortunately, there appears to be a strong opinion there against the "Yes" vote and that it is moving in the direction of using its funds to support the "No" campaign. We can see that this is happening already, as, I believe, is the case in Scotland. I believe that the Keep Scotland British campaign—if I have the title correct—has funds at its disposal way out of proportion to any funds available to the campaign for a "Yes" vote.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)

Does my hon. Friend remember that during the Common Market campaign there were two "For" pamphlets to every one "Against"? Apparently, that was paid for out of public funds. Bearing in mind that experience, will my hon. Friend remember that the "For" campaign suggested that the SNP was alarmist when it said that we would not get 50 miles for our fishermen? When we said this we were ridiculed in the House of Commons, but the fact is that we did not get 50 miles for our fishermen and they were sold down the river by the Conservative Party, which took us in, and by the Labour Party—

The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)

The hon. Lady must not allow her intervention to develop into a speech.

Mrs. Ewing

I shall not do that. I shall just finish my intervention, Mr. Murton.

The Chairman

I ask the hon. Lady to be very quick.

Mrs. Ewing

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that experience when he considers that only 57 per cent. of the Scots voted "Yes", on a misleading set of facts? May I ask him, having that experience in mind—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Lady is now going very wide of the clause.

Mr. Wigley

I am grateful for that intervention, because it underlines what can happen when funds are available disproportionately to one side compared with another. I believe that many people now look at the EEC differently from the way they were led to believe was correct at the time of the referendum.

I return however, to subsection (3) which says, including provision for expenses to be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament. We do not know from those words what those expenses will be used for. Will they be used for the provision of information about the campaign? Will they meet any of the campaign costs, or are they purely for the bureaucratic work relating to the first order that may come under the clause?

I should have thought that this would be an issue on which hon. Members of all parties would have a deep concern. I was under the impression at one stage that the Conservatives had tabled an amendment to the subsection. It does not appear to be on the Amendment Paper now, though I may have missed it. It certainly has not been called. I should have thought that there would at least be a cogent argument.

I come back to what the hon. Member for Bedwellty said, that unfortunately we had not reached his amendment, which he says could perhaps have protected us over this issue. I regret very much that we shall not reach another amendment, standing in my name, which comes before the hon. Gentleman's amendment, but this is what happens with a guillotine. I suggest that, if he were to put forward his amendment on Report there could be cross-party agreement on this type of provision, which could then be built into the Wales Bill—and possibly also into the Scotland Bill—to ensure that, whatever differences we may have on the content of the Wales Bill and the proposals for a Welsh Assembly, there shall be a balance in the expenditure, so that at the end of the day each side can say, whether it won or lost, that everything happened fairly.

This argument applies not only to the propaganda put out by the protagonists on either side. It also applies to the amount of television time available for proposing one side of the argument or the other. This aspect ought to be borne in mind in securing a proper balance in the expenditure.

I move now to another aspect of Clause 82—

Sir Raymond Gower

Did not the hon. Gentleman notice a statement on behalf of the Government that money was not to be spent in this way? Does not the term "expenses" probably mean simply the actual costs of the operation and not expenditure of the kind that the hon. Gentleman proposed?

Mr. Wigley

I congratulate the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) on his elevation to the Government Front Bench. I would rather have from the Government the categoric assertion on the meaning of the phrase, with all due respect to the hon. Gentleman. I have seen many statements from the Government over the past weeks and months as to various aspects of the Bill. Some of them are contradictory. Some have changed from time to time. The Government should still be receptive to the type of representation made by the hon. Member for Bedwellty in favour of securing a balance in the expenditure.

When the hon. Member for Barry intervened, I was about to move to another aspect of Clause 82. I understand the reason why it was impossible for Mr. Deputy Speaker to accede to our request that Amendments Nos. 310 and 311 should be debated. Perhaps I may refer to them briefly in passing, even though they were not on the Amendment Paper and have not been debated. They provided that, even though the Welsh Assembly might not come to fruition after the referendum—although it is the belief of my colleagues and my own belief, as it is of Government Ministers, that the people of Wales will vote positively in the referendum—certain aspects of devolution contained in the Bill could still go forward with a consensus from all parts of the House of Commons. I have in mind the provision for a Welsh Countryside Commission. There is no reason why that provision could not still be enacted and taken under the wing of the Secretary of State for Wales if the Assembly does not come into existence.

To summarise, I have made three main points. The first concerned the dates and the timing, on which we have had detailed amendments. The second concerned discussion of the expenditure of moneys by Parliament. The third concerned the aspects of devolution which could still go forward if the referendum result were to be negative. We are unhappy with Clause 82, and we await the response of the Government to the points which have been made.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) said that with hindsight one could now say that there was a great deal of one-sidedness in the referendum campaign on the Common Market. I question whether hindsight is required in coming to that conclusion. If the hon. Gentleman will look through the records, he will find that a number of right hon. and hon. Members, well before the campaign, pointed to the monstrous one-sidedness which would occur.

It is quite clear that the time at which to raise these points is before a referendum campaign is organised, and the hon. Gentleman has rightly done so in this case. No matter what view we take on the devolution issue and on the sort of outcome that we might desire, there ought to be common ground in all parts of the House of Commons on the need for equity in organising the campaign.

But I wonder whether I carry the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends with me in the further point that I shall now make. If there is to be a fair campaign—that, again, ought to be in the interests of all concerned—we ought to have a decision on the issue. In fact, the issue of devolution ought to be put to the people of Wales and Scotland. That ought to be the campaign. It would, therefore, be completely wrong for the Government to start a campaign on the referendum by saying to the people of Wales "You must vote 'Yes' on devolution in order to express your confidence in the Prime Minister and the Labour Party." That would be completely illegitimate, as well as a travesty, with regard to a campaign on devolution.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)


Mr. Mendelson

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I have intervened very little, and I want to give the Minister time to come in before all the votes take place. I really have no time for interventions. This ought to be as much an agreement between us—a compact, an understanding of honour—before the campaign is organised as the point made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon, which I support.

But, equally important, there is a great deal of concern in many circles outside the House, as well as in Parliament, among people who say that the referendum is a dangerous instrument in a parliamentary democracy. The referendum is an instrument which ought to be treated with great care and caution. I take that view, as do other right hon. and hon. Members. That is all the more reason why we should establish principles regarding the referendum which do not allow for a referendum to become a plebiscite. The history of democracy in other countries is full—

The Chairman

Order. I regret having to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but Clause 82 deals with commencement rather than with the referendum, which is dealt with in Clause 83. Passing reference was made to Clause 83 by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), but we are dealing with Clause 82.

Mr. Mendelson

Since the "passing reference" of the hon. Gentleman was a fairly outstanding passage into the subject, Mr. Murton, I thought that I might make a passing reference myself, so that at least more than one point of view is on the record. I indicated that I wanted to be brief. That is one reason why I am reluctant to give way. However, it would be churlish not to give the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) a chance.

Sir A. Meyer

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The only point I wanted to make is that in any consideration as to whether or not this measure has to come into force, and in any campaign which may take place—I shall not mention the word "referendum"—on whether or not it should come into force, one of the arguments that will be adduced by the Government is that hon. Members, such as the hon. Gentleman himself, the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and others, who have spoken courageously against the Bill have not voted against the Bill on any occasion. That fact that they have not so voted will undoubtedly be used by the Government in favour of getting a "Yes" vote.

Mr. Mendelson

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has in mind with regard to my colleagues. They must speak for themselves. When the hon. Gentleman examines the record, he will find that with regard to myself his statement is factually incorrect.

However, I want to conclude by saying that, whatever issues are put in the campaign, there are three principles upon which we ought to agree now. It ought to go out to the people of Wales and Scotland that we are agreed on them in honour. The first is that there must be a campaign which treats everyone equally. Secondly, there must be equality in the financial resources which any side can apply. Thirdly, we must do nothing that would allow the constitution of this country to develop in the direction of a plebiscite, because that would be dangerous to our parliamentary system beyond the immediate issues involved.

Sir Raymond Gower

On the whole, I agree with the statement by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) that there should be some equality in the expenditure. Unfortunately, the provisions of the clause do not permit any such expenditure. I think that the hon. Gentleman wrongly, possibly inadvertently, related subsection (3) to the context of the next clause, which deals with the referendum. Subsection (3) relates to expenditure on the commencement of the Bill.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Wigley

The first order under this provision is geared to the referendum itself. For the first order to happen, the referendum must happen. There are aspects of expenditure relating to the first order and the referendum which may overlap, and this may be one of them.

Sir R. Gower

On the other hand, I question the hon. Gentleman's assertion that the weight of financial support will necessarily be opposed to the Bill, as was suggested was the case in Scotland. So far, we have had no campaign in Wales comparable to that to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom. There has been no campaign on either side, apart from in the House of Commons and amongst politicians. So far, the public in Wales have not been drawn into this controversy.

I hope that the Minister will consider the reasonableness of the request that there should be some expenditure by the Government which is apportioned fairly. So far, the Government have indicated that this is not their view, but I hope that the Minister will put it to his right hon. and hon. Friends that this proposal could have a lot of support outside the House. It appears to be reasonable and fair, and certainly on one would want the campaign to be distorted unduly, as it might be without such expenditure by the Government. In my view, this is a reasonable proposition.

Mr. Henderson

I am sure that the Committee is extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) for raising some of these issues which might not otherwise have been aired. Hon. Members who were comrades in arms on the EEC referendum but who may take different views of this matter will be wondering whether we have learnt anything from the experience of the EEC referendum, especially in terms of the supply of funds and the capability of both sides to present a fair view to the electorate.

The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower), who at present is engaged in urgent consultation with his Front Bench colleagues—and I am not surprised when I see the state of his Front Bench—referred to the Keep Scotland British campaign, which many of us prefer to call the Keep Scotland Subordinate campaign, which has considerable funds at its disposal in Scotland. I am anxious to hear what comparable campaign there will be in Wales. I have no doubt that there will be one. However, the Government have a responsibility in this. It is for them to decide the allocation of funds, whether in their judgment, the amount of resources may be disproportionate to one side or the other and whether in those circumstances they should not themselves intervene by the provision of funds to both sides to enable a reasonable statement of the case for each side to be made.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the hon. Member spell out the sources of funds for the campaign in Scotland? We have a reference in the clause to the availability of funds. It has not been specified so far what expenses are to be defrayed from funds provided by Parliament. What are the sources of the funds in question?

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) has asked a very important question. There is a famous poem by Robert Burns describing the passage of the Act of Union in 1707 and which runs: We were brought and sold for English gold Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation. I have no doubt at all that the funds that will come flooding in for the Keep Scotland Subordinate or Keep Scotland British campaign will come from south of the border, or, in the case of Wales, from east of the border.

The Government have a definite responsibility—and I hope that the Minister will assure about this—for television and radio time. Will the Government give a directive to the television and radio authorities insisting that equal time be made available for the presentation of both points of view? It would be quite wrong to leave this coverage to the disdiscretion of the broadcasters. This is a matter in which the Government have a definite role to play. They should make a direction.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) really saying that the Government should issue directions in peace time about the content and balance of political programmes in a political campaign?

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to the hon. Member. He is normally an intelligent Member, but in this case he has totally misunderstood what I have said. In any General Election, we expect a fair balance between the different opinions. I am asking the Government to make clear to the broadcasters that we expect the same in this campaign. The Lord President is in the Committee. He should tell us the terms in which the broadcasting authorities are requested to make fair time available to all sides of the argument. Before we pass the Clause, we should have an assurance from the Government that there will be this sort of impartiality in the campaign.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

I want to refer to one of the provisions of Clause 82 (1). Passing reference has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) to the Welsh Countryside Commission. We have had no time to debate this matter, but I hope that the Government will continue with the plan to establish a countryside commission in Wales, whatever happens to the Bill.

I was in the House when the matter of the Welsh Countryside Commission was debated 10 years ago. At that time countryside commissions were established in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but all that Wales was given—as usual—was an advisory committee. We were told that we could not even look after our own countryside. The Labour Government spokesman had the effrontery to say at the time that we did not have the specialist knowledge to run a countryside commission. That is ridiculous. The persons who are best able to look after the Welsh countryside are the Welsh people. They are very proud of its beauty and want to preserve it.

Even more important are the people who live in the countryside. We are very concerned about the effect of what is happening on the culture of the people who have lived in the countryside for generations, and sometimes centuries. We have a culture which is rich and intellectual, and this is even more worthy of preservation than the countryside.

Sir A. Meyer

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Can you please enlighten me? I do not understand how this bit of filibustering has anything to do with Clause 82.

Mr. Wigley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. The point at issue is that there are amendments relating to the bringing in of a Welsh Countryside Commission irrespective of whether the Assembly is set up.

The Chairman

Order. It is unnecessary for the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) to answer the point of order. The Chair is quite capable of doing that. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) is in order.

Mr. Evans

I had assumed that this was one of the provisions referred to in the first subsection of the clause.

Even more important than the beauty of our countryside is the character of the culture of the people who inhabit it. Any planning of the countryside in Wales should be done by the people of Wales, inside Wales, with a view to preserving our culture. The preservation of the culture requires more than looking after the beauty of the land. It requires work, and we find that very few light industries are allowed inside the national parks, which cover nearly one-quarter of the area of Wales. There is a great need for more of this sort of light industrial development inside the national parks.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman must make some reference to the coming into force of the Act. He has not yet done so.

Mr. Evans

We look forward to the countryside commission coming into force soon. It will certainly come into force when the Bill is implemented and the referendum is carried in Wales, but if that is lost we shall lose the commission as well.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Some hon. Members, including myself, cannot hear the hon. Gentleman because of the rude behaviour of other hon. Members who are not interested in the debate.

The Chairman

That is a matter for the Chair to decide.

Mr. Evans

The committee responsible for running the Welsh countryside has alienated the sympathy of farmers and many workpeople on the land. Much national opinion is against the committee and there is a strong conviction that the only people who can run the countryside of Wales properly are the Welsh people. Indeed, there is a strong convition that the only people who can run Wales properly are the Welsh people. We look forward to a full Government with full freedom.

Mr. Kinnock

The hon. Gentleman says that he wants a full Government with full freedom. Will he now say—contrary to anything else he has said on the Bill—that he is in favour of independence for Wales?

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman can use whatever words he likes. We use the words "national freedom". We want full national freedom.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Before the guillotine falls, will the hon. Gentleman explain what benefit his party hopes to gain by preventing debate on the threshold amendment by this filibuster which has lasted for most of the evening?

Mr. Evans

I wonder why the hon. Gentleman and so many of his hon. Friends voted for the guillotine. We are operating under it, and many matters cannot be discussed. We must take every chance we can to debate important matters.

The farmers of Wales agree that the future of the Welsh countryside is very important, and they are angry when they find their walls, gates and fences broken down under the present administration.

I hope that we shall have fuller freedom in the near future to ensure that the people of Wales will be put in charge of their own land, territory, lives, culture and economy. The whole life of the people of Wales should be in the

control of the people of Wales. That is the future that we look forward to. The small matter of the Welsh countryside is not so small if it is an indication of the direction in which we want to move. We want to look after the land of Wales and look after the Welsh nation. We want to ensure a national future for this nation.

It being Eleven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded pursuant to the Order [16th November] and the Resolution [1st March], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 232, Noes 259.

Division No. 184] AYES [11.00 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Douglas-Mann, Bruce Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Anderson, Donald Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dunn, James A. Judd, Frank
Armstrong, Ernest Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Gerald
Ashton, Joe Eadie, Alex Kerr, Russell
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Edge, Geoff Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Atkinson, Norman Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lambie, David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) English, Michael Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Ennals, Rt Hon David Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bates, Alf Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Litterick, Tom
Bean, R. E. Evans, John (Newton) Loyden, Eddie
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Luard, Evan
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Faulds, Andrew Lyon, Alexander (York)
Bidwell, Sydney Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Flannery, Martin Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McCartney, Hugh
Boardman, H. Foot, Rt Hon Michael McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Ford, Ben McElhone, Frank
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Forrester, John MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bradley, Tom Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mackintosh, John P.
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maclennan, Robert
Buchanan, Richard George, Bruce McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Gilbert, Dr John McNamara, Kevin
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Ginsburg, David Madden, Max
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Golding, John Magee, Bryan
Campbell, Ian Gould, Bryan Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Canavan, Dennis Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cant, R. B. Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Carmichael, Neil Grant, John (Islington C) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Grocott, Bruce Maynard, Miss Joan
Clemitson, Ivor Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Meacher, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Cohen, Stanley Hardy, Peter Mikardo, Ian
Coleman, Donald Harper, Joseph Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mitchell, Austin
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hart, Rt Hon Judith Molloy, William
Corbett, Robin Healey, Rt Hon Denis Moonman, Eric
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Crawshaw, Richard Hooley, Frank Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Cronin, John Horam, John Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Moyle, Roland
Cryer, Bob Huckfield, Les Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Newens, Stanley
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Noble, Mike
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Hunter, Adam Oakes, Gordon
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Ogden, Eric
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) O'Halloran, Michael
Deakins, Eric Janner, Greville Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jeger, Mrs Lena Ovenden, John
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Padley, Walter
Dempsey, James Johnson, James (Hull West) Palmer, Arthur
Doig, Peter Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Park, George
Dormand, J. D. Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Parry, Robert
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Snape, Peter Ward, Michael
Price, William (Rugby) Spearing, Nigel Watkins, David
Radice, Giles Spriggs, Leslie Watkinson, John
Richardson, Miss Jo Stallard, A. W. Weitzman, David
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Wellbeloved, James
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Stoddart, David White, Frank R. (Bury)
Robinson, Geoffrey Stott, Roger White, James (Pollok)
Roderick, Caerwyn Strang, Gavin Whitlock, William
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Rooker, J. W. Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Swain, Thomas Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Rowlands, Ted Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Ryman, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Sedgemore, Brian Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Sever, John Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Thorne, Stan (Preston S) Woodall, Alec
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Tierney, Sydney Woof, Robert
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Tinn, James Wrigglesworth, Ian
Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Tomlinson, John Young, David (Bolton E)
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Torney, Tom
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Silverman, Julius Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Mr. Ted Graham and
Skinner, Dennis Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Mr. Thomas Cox.
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Adley, Robert Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Aitken, Jonathan Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) James, David
Alison, Michael Elliott, Sir William Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Emery, Peter Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Arnold, Tom Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Eyre, Reginald Jones, Arthur (Daventry)
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Fairbairn, Nicholas Jopling, Michael
Awdry, Daniel Fairgrieve, Russell Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Bain, Mrs Margaret Farr, John Kaberry, Sir Donald
Baker, Kenneth Fell, Anthony King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Banks, Robert Fisher, Sir Nigel King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Bell, Ronald Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Kitson, Sir Timothy
Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Fookes, Miss Janet Knox, David
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Forman, Nigel Langford-Holt, Sir John
Benyon, W. Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Latham, Michael (Melton)
Berry, Hon Anthony Fox, Marcus Lawrence, Ivan
Biffen, John Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Lawson, Nigel
Biggs-Davison, John Freud, Clement Le Marchant, Spencer
Body, Richard Fry, Peter Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bottomley, Peter Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Loveridge, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Luce, Richard
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Glyn, Dr Alan McAdden, Sir Stephen
Braine, Sir Bernard Godber, Rt Hon Joseph McCrindle, Robert
Brittan, Leon Goodhart, Philip McCusker, H.
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Goodhew, Victor Macfarlane, Neil
Brooke, Peter Goodlad, Alastair MacGregor, John
Brotherton, Michael Gorst, John MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Bryan, Sir Paul Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Gray, Hamish McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Buck, Antony Grieve, Percy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Budgen, Nick Griffiths, Eldon Marten, Neil
Bulmer, Esmond Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mates, Michael
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Grist, Ian Mather, Carol
Carlisle, Mark Grylls, Michael Mawby, Ray
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Channon, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mayhew, Patrick
Churchill, W. S. Hampson, Dr Keith Meyer, Sir Anthony
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hannam, John Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Clegg, Walter Harvle Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Miscampbell, Norman
Cockroft, John Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Moate, Roger
Cope, John Hawkins, Paul Molyneaux, James
Cormack, Patrick Hayhoe, Barney Monro, Hector
Costain, A. P. Henderson, Douglas Montgomery, Fergus
Crawford, Douglas Heseltine, Michael Moore, John (Croydon C)
Critchley, Julian Higgins, Terence L. More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Crouch, David Hodgson, Robin Morgan, Geraint
Crowder, F. P. Holland, Philip Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Hooson, Emlyn Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Hordern, Peter Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Mudd, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Howell, David (Guildford) Neave, Airey
Drayson, Burnaby Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Nelson, Anthony
Dunlop, John Hunt, David (Wirral) Neubert, Michael
Durant, Tony Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Newton, Tony
Dykes, Hugh Hurd, Douglas Nott, John
Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tebbit, Norman
Page, John (Harrow West) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Temple-Morris, Peter
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Royle, Sir Anthony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Page, Richard (Workington) Sainsbury, Tim Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Pardoe, John Scott, Nicholas Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Parkinson, Cecil Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Thompson, George
Pattie, Geoffrey Shelton, William (Streatham) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Penhaligon, David Shepherd, Colin Townsend, Cyril D.
Percival, Ian Shersby, Michael van Straubenzee, W. R.
Peyton, Rt Hon John Silvester, Fred Viggers, Peter
Pink, R. Bonner Sims, Roger Wakeham, John
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Sinclair, Sir George Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Skeet, T. H. H. Wall, Patrick
Price, David (Eastleigh) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Walters, Dennis
Prior, Rt Hon James Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Watt, Hamish
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Speed, Keith Weatherill, Bernard
Raison, Timothy Spence, John Wells, John
Rathbone, Tim Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Welsh, Andrew
Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Sproat, Iain Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Stainton, Keith Wiggin, Jerry
Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Stanbrook, Ivor Wigley, Dafydd
Rhodes James, R. Stanley, John Winterton, Nicholas
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Steel, Rt Hon David Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Ridsdale, Julian Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Rifkind, Malcolm Stewart, Rt Hon Donald Younger, Hon George
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stokes, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Stradling Thomas, J. Mrs. Winifred Ewing and
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Tapsell, Peter Mr. Gordon Wilson.
Ross, William (Londonderry) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)

Question accordingly negatived.

The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Eleven o'clock.

Forward to