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Mr. Jones: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has strong views on the matter, for raising it in that way. I agree with him, and a number of the amendments grouped with his were tabled by me and some of my hon. Friends. I invite him to look at the wording of amendment No. 68--to which I shall refer later--which may allow him to develop his argument in that context, even if his amendment has not been selected.

All the amendments seek to do is to give the people of Wales an opportunity to be consulted on the real choices that face them and to enable the debate to be much more positive. We understand that the Labour party in Wales will want to campaign on its own proposals for an executive Assembly, but widening the options--as the amendments propose--would give the electors an opportunity to listen to all the arguments on constitutional change.

6.45 pm

Within this group of amendments, there is the opportunity to support a multi-option referendum. That would be fair, because it would give the people of Wales an opportunity to vote for the programmes put forward by the four political parties in Wales at the last election. Why should the only choice facing the people of Wales be between the status quo and the Labour party's proposals? Why should the Conservative party's programme--which was so decisively rejected by the people of Wales at the general election--have priority on the ballot paper? Its position is preserved, and the people of Wales will yet again have an opportunity to reject the Conservative status quo option.

In the circumstances, and given that hon. Members representing seats in Wales come from the Labour party, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, why should not the option favoured by the Liberal Democrats and my party be on the ballot paper? In the spirit of inclusive politics, the Government should surely take that on board. The group of amendments gives us the opportunity to vote for a multi-option referendum. The hon. Member for Wrexham has stated that had there been sufficient time, there would have been an opportunity to consider other options, including legislative and tax-varying powers. We would have liked an opportunity to have such a debate because we could then have looked at all the available options.

There are people in Wales who are asking why Wales should be treated differently from Scotland. Why are the Scots deemed to be mature enough to be allowed to vote for a Parliament with legislative and tax-varying powers, but, for some reason, the people of Wales are not? What difficulties might be created if a Welsh Assembly was established with only secondary, not primary, legislative powers? What would happen if the framework of legislation was set up here in Westminster by a Government of a different political complexion from that running the Assembly? There will be a straitjacket.

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Members of the Assembly could pass only secondary legislation on the back of primary legislation, which could have been imposed by a Conservative Government in Westminster. If the Assembly wanted to change primary legislation and invited Westminster to do so, what priority would be given in the administrative and legislative logjam at Westminster to legislation sought by a Welsh Assembly? These are questions which could have been answered if we had had an opportunity to widen the referendum question.

The group of amendments does not allow us to have a vote specifically on legislative and tax-varying powers as a discrete option, but we may want to divide the Committee on the amendment that would allow Members to vote on the principle of widening the questions. I invite hon. Members to look at amendment No. 68, which proposes to remove the word "propositions" from clause 2(2) and replace it with the word "options". If the Committee supports that amendment, we will be content to leave it at that. In other words, the Committee would have voted for the principle of widening the options. In the spirit of inclusive politics, we would leave it to the Government to decide what second question they would want to add later--perhaps in another place.

If the amendment is passed, the Government will need to look at the mood of the debate and the views coming from different parties to see whether there is a general demand for more questions to be included, and what kind of questions they should be. In the spirit of inclusive politics, the Secretary of State would want to consult other parties about the nature of those second or third questions. I hope that those hon. Members present who favour further questions--but who may not want to go all the way and support a multi-option referendum--will feel happy about supporting an amendment that simply looks at the principle.

I think that the Secretary of State will realise that there is a strong argument in Wales on the issue of parity with Scotland. It is strong at not only an emotional but a rational level. People simply cannot see the difference between Wales and Scotland on the issue. I ask the Secretary of State to reflect on the strength of opinion on the matter, and I know that he and his colleagues will want to carry support across the parties that have a positive attitude to the subject.

This is the Government's opportunity to reach out to all shades of opinion in Wales and bring them into the debate in a positive and constructive way. We make this offer to the Government: if they accept the amendment and consult on the second and third question, they will have an opportunity for all shades of opinion to be reflected. I think that that is a reasonable offer.

Mr. Martin Caton (Gower): Thank you, Mr. Lord, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate on a referendum that will decide how Wales is to be governed in the new millennium. I continue a long and proud tradition of Labour representation in the Gower constituency that goes back to 1906 when John Williams was elected as Gower's first Labour Member of Parliament. He was followed by D. R. Grenfell, supported by the South Wales Miners Federation, and then by Ifor Davies. I never knew either D. R. Grenfell or Ifor Davies,

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but there are a number of people still living in the constituency who remember them both with enormous respect and affection.

I did, and do, know my immediate predecessor, Gareth Wardell. He was my Member of Parliament for 13 of the 15 years that he represented Gower in the House. Many of the hon. Members who served alongside Gareth during that time will know much better than I do the contribution that he made in this legislature. From speaking to his colleagues, in particular his fellow Welsh Members, I find that there is clearly enormous respect here for the work that he did, and especially for his willingness and ability to master detailed subjects.

Alongside those parliamentary colleagues, people all over Wales have recognised and valued the tremendous job that Gareth did as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, undauntedly leading investigations into all sorts of aspects of public life in Wales over the years.

I know and will remember Gareth best as a superb constituency Member. As a local councillor, I would take constituents to his surgery when I felt that any case needed his involvement. I honestly cannot believe that the concern that he showed for those people or the attention that he gave to seeking solutions to their problems have been surpassed by any hon. Member.

I know that Gareth's friends here will join the people of Gower in wishing him all the very best in his return to higher education as head of geography at Trinity college, Carmarthen. I know, partly because I was told it on the doorsteps so many times during April, that I have a very tough act to follow. I intend to do my very best.

It is probably not common knowledge this far east, but in south-west Wales the residents of the city of Swansea are nicknamed Jacks, and people who live in Llanelli are called Turks. Most of my constituency lies between those two population centres, which has led some bar-room wits to describe us as half Jack and half Turk--or Jerks, for short. People who talk in that way make a big mistake, first, because such terminology can seriously damage the health in the area that I represent, but, more importantly, because the people of Gower may be many things--indeed, they are many, many things--but a bunch of Jerks they are not.

It is a huge privilege to have been elected to represent so beautiful and diverse a constituency as Gower. I am acutely aware of the responsibility that I now carry as its Member of Parliament and I am conscious of the problems that I may well face in the years ahead because of that very diversity.

The Gower constituency cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as a single homogeneous entity. It snuggles around the south-west and north of Dylan Thomas's "ugly, lovely town" of Swansea, and provides the new unitary authority, the city and county of Swansea, with virtually all its rural population.

On the face of it, being non-urban seems to be all that the various communities that make up Gower have in common. Starting in the south, Mumbles, where I live, is an old fishing village that developed into a seaside resort and has expanded to become part of Swansea suburbia. Mumbles is currently struggling to revitalise and renew itself, always seeking to conserve and treasure the best of what we have inherited from the past.

To the west is the Gower peninsula, which most people think of when the Gower constituency is mentioned. It was the first designated area of outstanding natural beauty

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in the country, and a wonderfully fascinating combination of coast, countryside and estuary for palaeontologists, archaeologists, historians, zoologists, botanists, oceanographers or holidaymakers.

Even the peninsula itself can be divided at least into two. South Gower, with its glorious cliffs, caves and sandy beaches, is much more anglicised, even in place names and pronunciations. North Gower, on the Loughor estuary, is equally beautiful in its own way and still holds on to the Welsh language in villages such as Crofty, Llanmorlais and Penclawdd.

Penclawdd is, of course, the home of Gower cockle gathering, with the only commercial cockle beds in the country where people can harvest all year, every year, because they refuse to use mechanical drags; they still hand-rake and gather, thereby ensuring a sustainable shell fishery that provides an environmental example for the whole of Europe.

South Gower also provides a fine example for sustainable living and community action. Holtsfield is a remarkable collection of wooden chalets in a wonderful woodland setting, just outside the village of Bishopston, where more than 20 families are trying to live in harmony with their beautiful surroundings and the wider community.

Unfortunately, a property development company has different ideas. It has bought the land and is seeking to evict those chalet dwellers, who are resisting with enormous resolve and imagination and who have the support of the vast majority of the rest of the population of Bishopston, which was wrongly thought of previously by many people as merely a dormitory village for Swansea commuters.

Coming off the peninsula on the North Gower road, one enters Gowerton and begins to meet the community whose recent history is the history of coal, steel and tin. Like the rest of south Wales, it has suffered terribly from the economic decline of, especially, the past two decades.

Villages such as Loughor, Pontybrenin, Penllergaer, Penyrheol, Garden Village and Grovesend have over the years melded together around the central village of Gorseinon, but their sense of identity as separate communities remains strong, as I found out during the election campaign when I accused someone from Loughor of living in Gorseinon. She gave me the strong impression that she would much rather have been described as a "Jerk" than as a resident of her neighbouring village.

Those communities have learnt, often the hard way, the importance of solidarity to achieve common objectives and to enable fulfilment of individuals. They are strong, Welsh, socialist-minded villages where people and families look out for one another and are prepared fiercely to combat what they perceive as injustice. That is probably even more true of the separate settlements of Pontardulais, Garnswllt, Craig Cefn Parc, Pontlliw, Felindre and Clydach, all directly to the north of Swansea.

The tragedy of those communities is that so much of the tremendous talent and quality that exist there has been undervalued and wasted for so long. Very few jobs have come in to replace those lost in mining and steel. Even the small number of manufacturing employers based in the constituency have been shedding jobs in recent years. The decline is reflected in the commercial centres of the larger villages. One has only to walk the main streets of Clydach, Gorseinon or Pontardulais and see the number

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of empty shops and charity shops to understand why the posters declaring "Britain is booming" that sprouted this spring seemed like a sick joke to people who live there.

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