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Column 961Perhaps the Minister of State will explain why he thinks that distinction was drawn. There must be a rationale--and I can think of no better rationale than that it was thought right in 1907, when the Standing Order was introduced, for all Welsh Members to have their voices heard in Standing Committees. If the Government believe, or if any previous Government believed--although our memories of other Governments are now fading--that Standing Order No. 86 as it relates to Wales should be brushed aside and should cease to be one of the Standing Orders of the House, they should have said so. It now seems to have become the rule that Standing Order No. 86 is not to apply to exclusively Welsh legislation. If that is so, what the Government are doing smacks of serious intellectual dishonesty.
Let us hear what the Government have to say. Do they foresee an occasion in the future when the second proviso of Standing Order No. 86 will apply ? If so, we may at least have an example of an issue in the distant future when all Welsh Members will sit on a Standing Committee discussing Welsh legislation. If not, let the Government bring to the House a proper motion setting out their real policy, which is to bring an end to the second proviso of Standing Order No. 86.
Mr. Wigley : Is not this the answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's question : the Government will never allow the provisions of the Standing Order to be used while they are in office, but they will not do away with them because they will want to use them when they are in opposition ?
Mr. Carlile : That may be right ; but, if it is, the Government should tell us so to enable the people of Wales to judge whether this case has any merit.
The Minister should tell us what the Government regard as appropriate qualifications for the hon. Members nominated to the Committee. I draw special attention to Standing Order No. 86(2), which states that, in
"nominating such Members the Committee of Selection shall have regard to the qualifications of those Members nominated and to the composition of the House".
I take the Minister's point that the Government will want a majority on a legislative Committee, but there are various ways of ensuring that that happens : there may be a Committee of 63 Members, or it can be achieved by debating part of the Bill in a Committee of the whole House. That would present no problems and there are plenty of precedents for it. It could easily be done and would ensure that everyone who wished to have his say could do so.
If that is not to be the case, and so that we can judge whether to vote with or against the Government tonight, the Minister should tell us what he regards as appropriate qualifications to press on the Committee of Selection and which might lead to the selection of an English or Scottish Member to serve on the Committee--presuming, of course, that the Government can find a Scottish Conservative Member. I hope that the Minister will confirm that an ability to remain silent in the heat of battle--to hold a gun but not to fire it--is not a qualification for someone wishing to be a member of the Standing Committee, although I suspect that the real intention is that there should be not only
Column 962soldiers standing stock still but also a few unloaded guns sitting on the Government Back Benches in that Committee.
Sir Wyn Roberts rose
Mr. Carlile : Perhaps the Minister is about to answer all my questions.
Sir Wyn Roberts : The hon. and learned Gentleman was kind enough to give us his speculative views on the what the thinking was when Standing Order No. 86 was drawn up in 1907. His interpretation is as plausible as any. I note, however, that the one part of the Standing Order to which he has not referred as much as he referred to the other parts is the reference to the requirement of the Committee of Selection to have regard to
"the composition of the House".
He mentioned it, but he did not expand on it. Surely he knows what it means.
Mr. Carlile : With respect, while I was speaking the Minister must have been remembering the delicious paella that he was eating in Catalonia 36 hours ago. I dealt with that very point, but I shall remind him-- [Interruption.] Perhaps there was some flamenco, too--who knows ? I said that I recognised the fact that the Government would want their majority and that there were ways of ensuring that. One solution might be a Committee of 63 Members, as proposed in the amendment, and another might be to discuss part of the Bill on the Floor of the House. Nothing could better reflect the composition of the House than debating part of the Bill--for example, clause 1 and schedule 1--in a Committee of the whole House.
I was asking the Minister to be a little more specific and I am glad that I am able to repeat what I said in order to penetrate the paella--perhaps there was some flamenco while he was eating the paella and that made his attention wander.
What are the qualifications to be ? Will one qualification be a familiarity with a rural area or rural counties ? If so, that will be very welcome. Will another qualification be having spoken on Second Reading, which is the usual qualification for being selected to sit on a Standing Committee ? If so, that, too, will be welcome. Or will someone be chosen who has been told that he has at least one hand on the greasy pole to ministerial office which might lead eventually to him as an English Member being appointed as Secretary of State for Wales ? We should like answers to those questions, and I hope that we shall be given them.
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) : The House has the right to suspend Standing Orders, and it is right to do so on this occasion. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) cast a slur on people who play rugger. It was no doubt directed at those who live on this side of the border. As an Irishman who was brought up in Rugby and who was taught to play rugger, I defend the right to refer to the game of rugger. I believe that it enriches our experience as Members of Parliament for Welsh constituencies to hear speeches from colleagues across the border.
Between February and October 1974, hon. Members who are far more experienced than I will recall that Britain had the misfortune to be governed by a minority Labour
Column 963Government with the help of some Labour supporters who, in those days, described themselves as Liberals. They implemented legislation affecting England. The Government were a minority Government even in the United Kingdom as a whole and were certainly in a minority in England and yet, under the first-past-the-post system that we rightly retain, the Government doubtless ensured that they controlled the Committees of the House. It was not regarded as undemocratic by the House or, presumably, by the electorate of England who gave Labour a working majority in October 1974.
The Government have a mandate to introduce this legislation-- [Interruption.] They have a mandate in Parliament to introduce it, but they could not do so effectively without having a majority on the Committee. Opposition Members are too quick to impugn the suitability of hon. Members from this side of the border to serve on the Committee. I do not know who will serve on it, but I have no doubt that many of them will have local government experience. In my previous incarnation as an Irishman living in England, as distinct from an Irishman living in Wales, I was privileged to serve as a councillor at district and county council level for 14 years.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) : I heard the hon. Gentleman today and yesterday speaking at length about Wick, St. Bride's Major and Ewenny. I am from north Wales--I am none the worse for that--but may I ask how many hon. Members who represent English constituencies know anything about Wick, St. Bride's Major and Ewenny ?
Mr. Sweeney : That is a question for which I am unable to give a precise, definitive answer, not having canvassed all my colleagues on the subject. I suspect that few hon. Members on either side of the House, whether they be hon. Members representing constituencies in Wales, Northern ireland, Scotland or England, will have the same detailed knowledge of those areas as does the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) or myself. That is not to say that we are justified in having each and every Member of Parliament who happens to serve a Welsh constituency on the Committee. That would make the Committee unwieldy in the extreme.
To return to the point that I was making, many English hon. Members will have the experience similar to mine of serving in local government and, therefore, they will be well qualified to take part in deliberations on the form of local government, especially as the present form of local government in Wales is precisely the same--except that, of course, in Wales we have community councils instead of parish councils--as that which prevails in England.
Mr. Michael : As the hon. Gentleman is commenting on the experience of Conservative Members, why is that experience never reflected in any feeling of affection and respect for local government ?
Mr. Sweeney : I strongly repudiate that and regard it as a slur on the many Conservatives in England and Wales who devote considerable time and energies to providing effective local government and to providing a level of service at a lower cost to council tax payers than is provided in Labour-controlled local authorities.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West said that the Labour Government suspended Standing Orders only when that was not opposed. With respect to Opposition Members, the
Column 964answer on this occasion is that they should not oppose the motion. Opposition Members should realise when they are beaten. The reality is that all Governments, of whatever colour, need a majority to ensure the passage of proposed legislation which is included in their manifestos. I urge the House to support my right hon. Friend on his excellent motion.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) : I strongly oppose the Government's motion. There are overwhelming reasons why it should be rejected and alternatives are available, including the amendment tabled by the Labour party, which would be much more acceptable for Wales. I speak as one who served for a couple of years as a councillor on the old Merthyr Tydfil county borough council. May I say in passing that I was delighted to hear yesterday that Merthyr Tydfil is coming back into existence in its own right. That is one of the few aspects in the Bill which give great pleasure.
The Bill is a constitutional one and, as such, it should be debated entirely on the Floor of the House, or, at least, the many parts that have far-reaching implications should be considered in that manner. For example, in the other place, there was a debate on having an all-Wales elected tier of government as part of the Bill. If that is not a constitutional proposition, I do not know what is. As happened in the 1970s, when the then Conservative Opposition insisted that such matters be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House, surely today's provisions should also be dealt with on the Floor of the House. Not to do so is not only a disservice to Wales, but it does not follow patterns that have been established by precedent in the House. I am surprised that the Government have not recognised that. As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said, some of the detailed work could be considered in a Standing Committee and that we could have a split--the sort of motion that only a Minister bringing the Bill before the House has the right to put to the House. By not doing so, we are letting Wales down and letting the House of Commons down, too.
Questions of deep principle arise in the Bill, such as how may we, as Welsh Members of Parliament, serve our constituencies ? I accept the point that some hon. Members from English constituencies may have a contribution to make to the general argument about local government, although I suspect that the couple who spoke yesterday spoke for a deliberate reason : to ensure that they would not be Committee members. They quite clearly indicated their support for the retention of a county such as Montgomeryshire--an aspiration with which I certainly concur. That suggests a new principle--those who do not want to be Committee members will speak on Second Reading to avoid it. I make that point especially having followed the hon. Member for the Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney), who rightly said that he and the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) knew much more than anyone from any other part of Wales and certainly from England with regard to what was right for the good people of Wick. I accept that point. That is why hon. Members from Wales should have precedence over hon. Members from England. However good the general contribution of hon. Members from
Column 965England may be to the theory of local government, hon. Members from Wales know how that sort of legislation will affect their own square mile.
Mr. Sweeney : The point that I was trying to make was that hon. Members from the rest of Wales were unlikely to know very much more about Wick, Ewenny and St. Bride's Major than those from English constituencies.
Mr. Wigley : I even accept that. The point that I was making is that the people who know about Wick, Ewenny and St. Bride's Major should be on the Committee. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bridgend should be on the Committee to argue that case. Likewise, people who know what is needed in areas such as Dwyfor and Arfon should be on the Committee, or those who know about the needs of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, or of the needs of Ynys Mo n, or of the needs of the various constituencies in Cardiff, or of Delyn, or of the two sides of Newport, or of Pembroke. What is good enough for the hon. Gentleman--he will be able to serve on that Committee-- should be good enough for every other hon. Member who represents a Welsh constituency in the House.
Mr. Sweeney : Surely the point is that only a small proportion of Opposition Members desire or need to be on the Committee. They have no particular axe to grind. As I said in an earlier intervention, many Opposition Members have not even deigned to attend the debate, which shows that they, at least, are not unduly concerned about it.
Mr. Wigley : All four Plaid Cymru Members have certainly been here at various times during the debate, as has the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), representing the Liberals, and a good proportion of Labour Members
Mr. Michael rose
Mr. Wigley : I shall give way in a moment.
Hon. Members from Wales need the right to be on the Committee, and the right to take part in proceedings on parts of the Bill with far-reaching effects on their constituents and on the local authorities that serve their areas. That is what the Standing Order is there to provide, so that every hon. Member from Wales can serve on a Committee that deals with legislation affecting Wales alone. The Bill falls into that category.
Mr. Michael : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that people in the Vale of Glamorgan, which includes part of my constituency as well as the Vale of Glamorgan constituency, would be rightly horrified if the only views put forward from that area were those of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) ?
Mr. Wigley : Indeed. Conservative Members from Wales can rest assured that they have a safe place on the Committee. They will be there whether they want to be or not, and they will have the opportunity to speak up for their constituents--an opportunity that the Standing Order provides for us, but which the Government, by what they are doing tonight, are denying us. That is unacceptable. Of course the Bill will affect all hon. Members from Wales. It will affect what happens to the pattern of local government in their areas and to the employees of the
Column 966district and county councils in their areas. It will affect me because in the town of Caernarfon the local government offices will presumably
Mr. Richards rose
Mr. Wigley : No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Caernarfon will presumably have the offices of a smaller unit of local government than it has now with Gwynedd county council. The reorganisation will also affect towns such as Pwllheli, where many valuable local government jobs may be lost. I therefore believe that I have a right, as does every other hon. Member from Wales, to be on the Committee to argue the case. Our local authorities, our councillors and our electorate expect us to be there to speak for them.
There are mechanisms that could allow that to happen, one of which is the amendment. Yes, it would allow a slightly larger Committee, although the Minister of State's arithmetic was not quite right, and his sum was one out. Be that as it may, there would be a slightly larger Committee, and hon. Members would be able to join. Perhaps some would have an interest only in certain parts of the Bill. They need not be there for all the proceedings, but at least they would have the opportunity to be there.
The other possibility is a Committee of the whole House, which, as with certain other Bills, would enable hon. Members to take part in the debates on matters of direct importance to their constituents. How can we reasonably expect Members who represent English constituencies, however well versed they may be in the general theory of local government, to know of the problems experienced by a council such as Dwyfor, which undertakes all its work through the medium of the Welsh language ? Welsh is the lingua franca of the council. How would that council carry out its work through the Welsh language in the new structure ?
If I were a member of the Standing Committee I should like to raise other questions--concerning, for example, the right of teachers to be elected council members, which has not yet been clarified. I am sure that hon. Members from all parts of Wales will have had the same sorts of questions raised by their constituents.
There is a need for a Standing Committee that would allow us as constituency Members to take an active part. What was said earlier by Ministers and others who have defended the Government line made it clear that the Government regard it as perfectly in order for every issue raised in the Standing Committee to be redebated on the Floor of the House on Report. The occupant of the Chair at the time did not dissent from that idea, which can be the only interpretation of some remarks made earlier.
I hope that the Government and those who organise the business of the House will be able to stand by that promise and ensure that each of us who is not a member of the Standing Committee--we are being excluded by the way in which the motion is being steam-rollered through the House--will have an opportunity to come back on Report and go through every decision taken in Committee, because we will have been denied the opportunity to take part in the debates.
Another argument that I believe the people of Wales
Sir Wyn Roberts : We dealt with that idea earlier. I thought that I responded clearly to the hon. Gentleman by saying that the selection of amendments for discussion on
Column 967Report is a matter for the Chair, but that, of course, Report stage gives an opportunity for hon. Members not on the Committee to participate in the debates.
Mr. Wigley : Of course the selection of amendments is a matter for the Chair, but the amount of time allowed is so often a matter for the Government, as we have seen this year. Important legislation
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : Will my hon. Friend give way ?
Mr. Wigley : I shall give way in a moment.
Important social security legislation has been steam-rollered through the House, with guillotines applied. I hope that what the Minister has said now means that there will be no question of the Bill's being guillotined on Report, and that every amendment that is selectable and debatable will have the chance and the time to be debated on the Floor of the House, so that each of us, as Members from Wales, will be able to take part in those debates. If it goes on day after day and week after week, so be it, because the Government are making a rod for their own back.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : Will my hon. Friend reflect on the answer given by the Minister earlier, and bear in mind the fact that the Bill will probably be in Committee twice a week every week for perhaps a month or six weeks ? We will be lucky if we get one day, one and a half days or perhaps a maximum of two days on Report. Does my hon. Friend think that that is fair, in view of the Minister's answer ?
Mr. Wigley : I am interpreting the Minister's comments to mean that we will get considerably more than one or one and a half days on Report ; otherwise how on earth can we do what he said--debate all the amendments that are rightly selected by the Chair because they are in order ? I trust that no amendments will be ruled out of order by virtue of the fact that they have been discussed in Committee. The fact that they are discussed in Committee will not allow constituency Members from Wales their right under Standing Order No. 86 to be involved in those debates. That right is being taken away from them tonight by a Government who do not represent Wales in any shape or form. Tonight, we are seeing the epitome of the breakdown of democratic government in Wales. In the amendment that was tabled on Second Reading, we saw the way in which constitutional legislation, which normally has consensus support, was rejected by 32 of the 38 Members of Parliament from Welsh constituencies ; yet the motion is being railroaded through the House by a Government who have six out of 38 seats in Wales--they do not have a majority in Wales, and they can never aspire to one--to get a system of local government that suits their needs. To facilitate that, they are now rigging the Standing Orders to give them the majority that they need on the Committee.
The lesson for the people of Wales is clear : they cannot expect democracy for Wales from this Chamber. This Chamber is systemically incapable of defending the wishes, aspirations and values of the people of Wales, even in legislation to do with Wales--and Wales alone--because the Government insist on having their way, irrespective of the wishes of the people of Wales.
Until and unless we have our own elected Parliament in Wales with legislative power, we will have to suffer from the Government's behaviour year after year and decade after decade, giving us policies and structures of
Column 968government that undermine the wishes of the people of Wales and do not respond to the needs of our communities. That is the stark evidence for the need for us to have an elected Parliament, and the sooner we get it, the better.
Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth) : Madam Deputy Speaker
Mr. Win Griffiths : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that when Ministers come to the House and make statements, hon. Members are not called to ask questions if they have not heard the statements. Is it in order for hon. Members to speak in a debate when they were not present for the opening speeches from the Front Benches ?
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : As the hon. Gentleman will know, there is no rule about that ; it is at the discretion of the Chair.
Mr. Evans : I believe in "back to basics". I had a commitment to dine my wife this evening and I took the view that that was more important than listening to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). I came here after listening to the opening words of my right hon. Friend the Minister. I took the view
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones rose
Mr. Evans : No, I shall finish this point. I took the view that the debate would follow the usual tedious, predictable course which we knew full well it would. As a great parliamentary occasion, this is mock outrage and indignation, and simply a squalid party-political battle of exactly the sort that all hon. Members who are here expected. Let me make that clear.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : What course of his meal was the hon. Gentleman eating when the Minister was speaking ?
Mr. Evans : Probably the first and second courses and then I came as quickly as I could. The Strangers' Dining Room is an excellent institution. I regard as very good those who afford all those facilities to us.
Let me take the matter a step further. At the end of the day, it is party which matters. Party politics introduce an element of principle and unity, not regionalism, factionalism and constituency interests. The Government, rightly or wrongly, as Opposition Members might say, won the last general election with a platform to put forward their policies. I know that Opposition Members say that the Government should not have done so, but they might take a different view now. It is clear that the Government have a mandate from the electorate to carry out their election platform.
The great difference between this place and the Italian Parliament is that under our system of one person, one vote, one constituency, at least what one votes more is more or less what one gets. There is none of the unpredictability which is a feature of other electoral systems. I have no doubt that the Conservative interest in Wales would be excellently served, as would be the Liberal interest in Wales, by some complicated system of proportional representation. There might be rather more of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr.
Column 969Carlile) on that sort of basis. But we are a United Kingdom Parliament and, on the basis of the accepted rules, that is the name of the game.
It is all very well indulging in mock indignation at what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has done this evening--a perfectly conventional and ordinary parliamentary manoeuvre for a Government who have a majority--but, in the end, it is complete nonsense. I listened with interest to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery construe Standing Order No. 86(2) as if it were a statute. We had the precise meaning of the proviso explained with the clarity and accuracy that I would expect of learned counsel explaining a point of law. But the House is not governed in its rules and orders by normal rules governing a statute. The majority ultimately, within those rules, gets its way, and rightly. It is what the British public expects.
Mr. Carlile : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this place is the High Court of Parliament and that, although we do not construe the Standing Orders like a statute, because we have rather more flexible rules and procedures, nevertheless we should at least strive to reach a just solution rather than a solution that serves the narrow interests of one political party ?
Mr. Evans : Unhappily, the just solution is a matter of controversy. I suggest that the important thing is that the Conservative Government won the last general election and, on the basis of their majority, will have their way. That is how the rules are until the next general election.
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, although this may be the High Court of Parliament, Opposition Members would have something to say if we all turned up in our wigs and gowns ?
Mr. Evans : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It might add, in the case of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, a certain dignity to the proceedings, but that is not the conventional way in which we proceed.
Ultimately, the Government have a majority. They have a mandate and they must do what is right and proper.
The second way of attacking what my right hon. Friend has done this evening is to say that, somehow or other, there is a lack of knowledge of what goes on in Ewenny, Magor or Wick, as my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) said. [Hon. Members : -- "Where is he ?"] I hope that my hon. Friend is having the dinner which his excellent speech deserved.
If one debates a matter of English local government, one cannot seriously expect an hon. Member from Cornwall to be familiar with the details and intricacies of communities in Northumberland, or an hon. Member from Kent to understand what goes on in Carlisle or thereabouts.
Mr. Wigley : That is the problem.
Mr. Evans : The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) says, with conviction and passion, that that is the problem and, from his perspective, he is absolutely right. If the Welsh republican movement wants to declare independence I can see that its argument is coherent and logical within the premises that it puts forward. But for those of us who stood for election, as did most of the hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, on the basis that we
Column 970are the United Kingdom, that is a minority viewpoint which, while eccentric, interesting and sometimes expressed with fascination and conviction, is simply, in the view of the great majority, wrong. I could develop this argument by pointing out that I do not think that the hon. Member for Caernarfon really understands the details in Llanthony or Portskewett. I could go on a geographical tour of my constituency to argue that perhaps not all hon. Members understand these points, but that would not be helpful. This is a perfectly straightforward, ordinary exercise of the Government's powers, a Government who command a majority in the House. That was the verdict of the British nation at the last general election and my right hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he is doing.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : As has been said many times, the whole purpose of this Standing Order is to enable Welsh matters to be debated by Welsh Members. Our amendment is very much a second-best arrangement in that, at least, the Committee would include all Welsh Members, even if the Government had to bring in English Members to secure their majority.
Why should Welsh Members, rather than English Members, be given precedence for the purposes of considering the Bill ? Let us consider the process by which we arrived at this stage. A consultation paper was issued in 1991. During the consultation process, all Welsh Members were in close contact with people in local government. The White Paper that was issued subsequently generated further interest and debate. Then there were the Welsh Grand Committee debates on the Government's proposals. In addition, these matters have often been debated during Question Time. There was also the debate on the Queen's Speech, in which a number of important changes in the Government's proposals for Wales were announced. The debates in the House of Lords saw the involvement of Welsh Members in further consultation with those who have an interest in local government in Wales. Welsh Members have been constantly involved in the debate since the Government's consultation paper was issued about three years ago.
How can English Members, parachuted in at the last moment, be expected to be as well informed as Welsh Members ? Let us take, for example, what happened during the debates in another place. The Government were represented by the Lord Advocate, who is a Scottish earl. Let us look at some of the things that the Government, in notes and guidance, asked him to say. I refer hon. Members to columns 1735-36 of Volume 551 of the House of Lords Official Report , which record the reference of my noble Friend Lord Prys-Davies to the Minister's notes on clauses. Those notes point out that the weight of representations from the communities of Cynwyd and Llandrillo in Denbighshire was considered in the decision to allow them to move. In Flintshire, the changes covering the whole of Delyn reflected the overwhelming weight of local opinion. The communities of Ystradgynlais and Tawe Uchaf had been added to Mid-Wales after the publication of the White Paper because of the strongly expressed wishes of local residents. But in respect of the Vale of Glamorgan and the Bridgend changes, the notes on clauses said that they were
Column 971largely rural and agricultural communities and had more in common with the Vale of Glamorgan than with the town of Bridgend. Nothing was said about the three tests of opinion. In one of those, there was a turnout of 75 per cent., and nearly 90 per cent. of voters in the communities of Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick voiced their desire to remain with Bridgend. That was excluded altogether from the Government's notes. How could the Scottish earl be expected to know about things that had been deliberately hidden from him ? Lord Rodger of Earlsferry was led to explain one of the reasons for the case that these three communities should go with the Vale of Glamorgan in these words :
"Again, that is shown by the fact that in winter it is snow-ploughs from the Vale which clear the snow from the roads in the Wick area."--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 10 February 1994 ; Vol. 551, c. 1738.]
I have to tell the House that that is not true. All these roads are cleared by snow-ploughs from the Vale of Glamorgan. A snow-plough from South Glamorgan comes into Mid-Glamorgan in the community of Wick only because, when it gets to the boundary, there is no turning circle. The snow-plough has to come into Mid-Glamorgan and the community of Wick to turn round and get back into the Vale of Glamorgan.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Will the hon. Gentleman explain to me how the activities of the snow-ploughs relate to the number of Members who will form the Standing Committee ?
Mr. Win Griffiths : Quite simply, a Scottish earl in the House of Lords said something that was not correct about a community that I represent. Because of the Standing Order, I will not be able to represent those communities on the Committee. I would dearly love to serve on it, but the Government are stopping me representing my constituents, who do not want to be part of the Vale of Glamorgan, on the Committee.
There are other circumstances in which the House will not be able to hear the true voice of the people of Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick. The hon. Member for the Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) has just returned to the Chamber. He will be able to testify that, at a meeting in my constituency last Friday evening, he told about 200 people, of whom only one wanted to go with him into the Vale of Glamorgan, that he would entirely ignore their views because he felt that what they wanted was not in their best interests. They had told him clearly they did not want to be there.
Mr. Sweeney : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that I also told the audience of some 175 people that I would represent what I perceived to be the best interests of my constituents ? Does he agree that that is the duty of all hon. Members ?
Mr. Griffiths : Those people are not his constituents and they have told him plainly that it is not in their best interest to be in the Vale of Glamorgan. Quite a number of my constituents in the community of Ewenny can walk into the town centre of Bridgend in 10 minutes. If the motion is passed, those people will not be able to use the library in Bridgend because they will not be part of that community. If they do not work in that community, they will not pay tax in that community and they will be disbarred from using the facilities.
Column 972What the Government propose for Ewenny, St. Bride's Major and Wick is a complete negation of democracy ; they are putting democracy into disrepute. Their proposal negates the principles that they proposed for the reform--that it should be local and respect the wishes of local people. The Government are not doing that, and even at this stage I plead with Ministers to make a change that everyone in the three communities, apart from one person, would welcome.