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Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): On a point of order, Sir Alan. It arises out of the previous Division, and the conduct of Divisions in the House in the entirely unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves. According to "Erskine May",


That provision allows votes to be taken without the ritual of going through the Division Lobbies. Although it has been used rarely in the past, in the present situation, when the results of Divisions are entirely predictable--the result of one was 400 to 45, and another looks likely to be similar--for the sake of efficient running of the House and use of Members' time, it would be reasonable for us to consider using that provision on certain occasions.

6.30 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. Thank you for exercising your duties in the Chair so as to recognise the fact that the Division was not unnecessarily claimed, and was a very proper expression of opinion by hon. Members in the Committee. The procedure described should not be

4 Jun 1997 : Column 445

invoked as an alternative to a proper review of the voting system in the House, in the light of the new circumstances.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin: Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. If Labour Members are concerned about the time that we have to debate the measures before us, perhaps they should have thought twice about applying such a draconian guillotine.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. As someone who has been in the House for many years, I have the impression that the excellent procedure described by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) was introduced to stop time being wasted when Members call vote after vote. That is certainly not the case today. Will you also bear in mind the fact that on an issue as vital as devolution, it is desperately important that the people of Scotland and Wales should be able to see for themselves how each Member voted? That would not be possible if the other procedure were used. Do you therefore agree that although it is an excellent procedure, which has to be used on occasion, it should happen only when there is deliberate time wasting?

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) for giving me notice, albeit short notice, that he intended to raise the matter. I think that Standing Order No. 40 was conceived with different circumstances in mind, and I respectfully suggest to the hon. Gentleman that if he would like to pursue his point, that might be better done through the Procedure Committee. Now, if the Committee is willing, we shall proceed to the next amendment.

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Clause 2

Referendum in Wales

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon): I beg to move amendment No. 68, in page 2, line 7, leave out 'propositions' and insert 'options'.

The Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 70, in page 2, line 9, leave out '2' and insert


'(Referendum in Wales: Form of Ballot Paper (No. 2)).'.

No. 207, in page 2, line 9, leave out '2' and insert


'(Referendum in Wales (No. 2B))'.

No. 69, in page 2, line 17, leave out from 'shall' to the end of line 26 and insert


'under prescribed arrangements determine the order of preference of those voting in the referendum as between the options to be voted upon.
(7) "Prescribed" means prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument.'.

New schedule 1--'REFERENDUM IN WALES: FORM OF BALLOT PAPER (NO. 2)--


Parliament has decided to consult people in Wales on the Government's proposals for a Welsh Assembly and the policies of other parties. All four options are explained in the Government's White Paper
Mae'r Senedd wedi penderfynu ymgynghori a phobl yng Nghymru ar gynigon ar gyfer Cynulliad i Gymru a pholisiau'r pleidiau eraill. Esbonnir pob un o'r pedwar opsiwn ym Mhapur Gwyn y Llywodraeth.
Note your preferred options in order or preference by marking "1", "2", "3" or "4" by each option. You need not use every option.
Nodwch yr opsiynau sydd orau gennych yn nhrefn eich dewis drwy ysgrifennu "1", "2", "3" neu "4" gyferbyn a phob opsiwn. Nid oes raid i chi ddefnyddio pob opsiwn.

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ADIM NEWID NO CHANGE
BCYNULLIAD ETHOLEDIG fel a gynigir ym Mhapur Gwyn y Llywodraeth AN ELECTED ASSEMBLY as proposed by the Government's White Paper
CSENEDD GYDA PHWERAU I DDEDDFU AC AMRYWIO TRETHI A PARLIAMENT WITH LAW-MAKING AND TAX-VARYING POWERS
DHUNAN-LYWODRAETH O FEWN YR UNDEB EWROPEAIDD SELF-GOVERNMENT WITHIN THE EUROPEAN UNION

4 Jun 1997 : Column 445

New schedule 10--'Referendum in Wales (No. 2B)--

Part 1

FORM OF FIRST BALLOT PAPER
Parliament has decided to consult people in Wales on the Government's proposals for a Welsh Assembly or independence for Wales.
Put a cross (X) in the appropriate box:

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I AGREE THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO CHANGE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF WALES
or
I AGREE THAT THERE SHOULD BE A WELSH ASSEMBLY
or
I AGREE THAT WALES SHOULD LEAVE THE UNITED KINGDOM.'.

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Amendment No. 123, in title, line 4, after 'Assembly', insert


'and other constitutional proposals for Wales'.

Mr. Jones: This bank of amendments allows us to shift the axis of the debate in Wales away from the rather sterile arguments about the status quo and whether we should have constitutional change, to a more intelligent and less confrontational level. Indeed, it would allow us to consult the people of Wales not only on whether they want change but on what kind of change they want.

Such an approach is well within the spirit of inclusive politics that has been trumpeted by Welsh Office Ministers since the election, so their response to the debate will be an early sign of whether that new spirit of inclusive politics is meaningful.

Once we lift the debate to a different level and concentrate on the powers that any Welsh body will have, we can have a mature discussion on the way ahead. Let me make it clear at this early stage in the debate that this is not simply a party political issue in Wales.

There is a range of opinions within parties in Wales about the powers that an elected Welsh body should have. In the last Session of Parliament, the Government of Wales Bill--which called for an elected body with legislative and tax-varying powers--was given a First Reading and received support from all parties. The Bill was proposed by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) and sponsored by his Labour colleagues the hon. Members for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). The Bill was also sponsored by the former hon. Member for Montgomery, Alex Carlile, and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative former hon. Member for South-East Cornwall, Sir Robert Hicks, was a sponsor, as were my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and I on behalf of Plaid Cymru. That clearly showed that there was cross-party support for an elected body with legislative and tax-varying powers. From the opinion polls published in Wales in the run-up to the general election, it is clear to me that of those who favour constitutional change, a substantial majority favour legislative powers and a clear majority favour tax-varying powers.

One of the features of this debate that is in marked contrast to the debates of the late 1970s is that sections of the Conservative party in Wales and in Scotland are rethinking their approach to the topic. There was a tradition in the Conservative party of having an open mind on this issue, but that was stifled during the Thatcher years. One can well understand the Conservatives' need for change in the aftermath of the Tory wipe-out in Wales and in Scotland, and it has been refreshing to read the comments from Sir Wyn Roberts in Wales and Malcolm Rifkind in Scotland. How different their approach is from the flat-earthers now occupying much of the Tory Benches.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was not in the interests of the people of Wales for the Government to have fixed the timetable motion so that the group of amendments starting with amendment No. 48--one of which was tabled in my name--has no chance of being debated?

4 Jun 1997 : Column 448

One of those amendments would have given the Welsh people the opportunity to vote for exactly the same tax-raising powers as the people of Scotland. It is a great pity that the Government felt that they could not explain why they will not give the Welsh people that option. Does the hon. Member agree that we should appeal to the Government to come out of their shell, be honest and tell the Welsh people why the powers to be offered to Scotland are not to be offered to Wales?


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