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Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davies: No; I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for

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Wales asked the Secretary of State 15 questions. Would it be in order for the Secretary of State to answer one of them?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): That is not a point of order. The Secretary of State is in order. He must be in order, because I am allowing him to speak.

Mr. Davies: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we have less useless time wasting, I shall have more time to answer those questions.

The policies of grant-maintained schools and nursery vouchers were designed to meet ideological party needs in London, not practical educational needs in Wales. On a range of domestic policy--but especially on education, health, the environment and economic development--Conservative ideology and party interests have prevailed over Welsh interests and Welsh values. I know that my Scottish colleagues feel strongly about the subordination of Scottish interests and values to Conservative dogma.

Last night, the shadow Secretary of State for Wales admitted that the Conservative party had

I suppose that that is a small step in the right direction but, given the events of 1 May, it is not a startling proposition. He went on to say that his party was

    "tainted with sleaze, greed, self-indulgence and division."

The former Secretary of State for Wales should know. If ever there was sleaze, greed and self-indulgence--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We must not have these interruptions.

Mr. Davies: If ever there was sleaze, greed and self-indulgence, it was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman created and used the quango state in Wales to suit his own party interest. I welcome his repentance, but I would urge him to move quickly, because the road to this particular Damascus is getting very crowded.

Many in his own party now embrace the case for devolution. The Tory grandees are leading the charge--Sir Wyn Roberts, Viscount St. Davids, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, Tristan Garel-Jones and the former leader of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath).

Mr. Hague: In the hope that the Secretary of State will in the time available answer at least one of the questions asked, I wish to ask him whether members of the Labour party, such as the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), will be free to campaign against devolution in the referendum if they wish to do so.

Mr. Davies: My right hon. Friend does not need the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman to ask questions. He is capable of putting his own questions, and I am capable of answering them--but I will do so in my own time.

The list goes on--Glyn Davies, the defeated candidate in Montgomery; David Evans, the defeated candidate in Newport, East; Gareth Jenkins, a former candidate in Newport, East. They recognise that democracies must be flexible, dynamic and evolutionary.

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We are not going to find simple uniform answers to the many challenges we face, and the Opposition will be foolish if they do not learn the lessons of 18 years of failure in government. Increasingly, government needs to establish a framework which will encourage and facilitate local initiative to empower local people to work out the solutions that suit them best. The Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament will enable the people of those countries to make their own decisions on their own priorities and on the matters that directly affect them in their own day-to-day lives.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Davies: No. The hon. Gentleman has not been here for the debate, and I want to reply to some of the questions that have been asked.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) asked whether the long title of the Bill would allow for amendment. No decision has been taken on that, but I can assure him that there will be full opportunity to debate the White Paper when it is published. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make representations on that White Paper, we will listen to them carefully.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) asked certain questions. It is right that people are concerned about jobs, education and the health service, and our proposals for a better democracy will help us to bring better government to deliver better public services. He asked about the pre-legislative referendum, and expressed his own reservations. But the principles on which we will invite the people of Wales to vote will be made clear in the White Paper.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East asked about the David and Goliath scenario, whereby advantages will be given to those campaigning on either side of the argument. Let me make it clear that the Government will set out our proposals, and we will inform the public. It will then be for the political parties to decide how to campaign, and we are not proposing to provide any state aid to any party to campaign either for or against our proposals.

I wish to refer to the timing of the referendum. In Scotland, some 90 per cent. of daily newspapers are generated within Scotland. In Wales, the figure is less than 10 per cent. In Scotland, more than 90 per cent. of public broadcasting is generated in Scotland. In Wales, the figure is less than 60 per cent. Our proposals for Scotland differ from those for Wales, and it seems to me wholly unexceptional for us to argue that there should be separate debates to allow the separate forms of devolution to be debated separately in Scotland and Wales, or that the people of Wales should be invited to vote at the appropriate time on the proposals we have for Wales.

Freedom of speech is a matter that is exciting the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks--although what it has to do with him, I do not know. No one would attempt to deny my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West--who has been a Member of this House for a long time--or any other hon. Member freedom of speech. The Government have a policy and the Labour party has a policy, and, obviously, we expect people to support that policy. If my right hon. Friend has difficulties with that, he will have to discuss them with my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, and reflect and discuss with his colleagues.

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The Labour party wishes to create an inclusive and tolerant Assembly. We will campaign as a party vigorously and wholeheartedly, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will lead that campaign. I and my Front-Bench colleagues will campaign as vigorously as we can with all the resources available to us. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West will reflect on the wisdom of setting out on a course of action that would bring him into conflict with his party and the Government.

While the case for change is essentially a democratic one, our proposals are not only about democracy. By allowing people to have a greater say in fashioning their own lives, asserting their own values and determining their own priorities, we will be able to achieve greater economic prosperity and, by improving our public services, improve our quality of life.

Let me turn briefly to some of the other points made in the debate. First, it was suggested that we should not hold these referendums at all. I reject that. We are asking the people of Wales and the people of Scotland whether we should proceed with the process of democratisation which we clearly signalled in our manifesto, on which 34 out of 40 Members of Parliament were elected in Wales and 56 out of 72 in Scotland. Forty out of 40 Members representing Wales in this House were elected on the basis that the status quo is not an option.

I welcome the Liberal Democrats' support for our constitutional reform policies set out in the report of the joint committee between our two parties. I know that Plaid Cymru would prefer a different option--what it has come to call a "preferendum", with a number of options put before the people. The hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones) made a strong case for his party this evening, but the Government do not agree.

The use of referendums is relatively novel, and is part of the new, more inclusive politics which began on 1 May. But there is no precedent in the UK, and little logic, for having complex multiple-choice options. The most likely outcome of such a procedure in Wales would be no overall majority view--and no endorsement, therefore, of the Government's policy.

That is why the Government propose to put a clear choice before the people. The people should, and will, be given that clear choice. We seek endorsement of our new vision of an inclusive democracy, and we shall spell out the full details of our proposals in our White Paper.

The question of thresholds was raised in the debate and it was suggested that the threshold should be 40 or 50 per cent., as the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) has suggested. We know what that means--the creation of artificial rules, which count non-voters, absent voters or even dead voters as all voting against the proposals. Let me be clear: we shall conduct the referendums on the basis of normal democratic principles, without the construction of fancy franchises, and we shall seek majority support among those who cast their votes.

The shadow Secretary of State for Wales represents now, and represented when he was Secretary of State, all that was wrong with Conservative government. He was unaccountable to the people. Time after time, he appointed failed Tories to run the quango state in Wales. Month after month, he twisted and conspired to pack Welsh questions with his Tory cronies. His priorities

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reflected his party needs, not the values and aspirations of Wales. He gave us unaccountable government, and the unaccountable Government gave us bad government.

Our proposals offer a better way: the prospect of open, democratic and accountable government. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 155, Noes 406.

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