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The different parts of Gower vary enormously because of geology, geography, history and relative wealth, yet there is much that unites us wherever we live in Gower, as became clear to me during the general election campaign.

First, in every part of the constituency there is still a sense of community, an acceptance that we are responsible one for another; a belief that there is such thing as society. Secondly, many of the concerns are the same in the different communities. In every part of Gower, there is equal concern for improving our schools and colleges, rebuilding our national health service, protecting our environment and providing jobs for our young people and the long-term unemployed. When we come to ask the people of Gower, and of the rest of Wales, to vote for the creation of a Welsh Assembly, those same concerns will still be at the top of those people's minds.

I believe that there are enormously powerful constitutional and democratic arguments for making the Welsh Office accountable at last to the people of Wales. Those arguments are even stronger when we consider the might of the quangocracy that has grown up in Wales over the past decade and a half. However, I do not believe that it will be those arguments in the main that will win us the referendum in my constituency or across Wales. People will vote yes if they are persuaded that a democratic Welsh Assembly will provide a vehicle for creating a first-class education system for all our children; if they believe that our Assembly will play a central role in developing a national health service in Wales that can and will deliver quality treatment and care whenever they need it; if they are convinced that a Welsh Assembly can ensure that environmental protection will be at the heart of all policy-making in Wales in the new millennium; if we can show them that our Welsh Assembly--their Welsh Assembly--will be an engine for harnessing the skills and talents of the population of our country, to regenerate our economy and create decent jobs for our people.

We must prove that democracy in the form of a Welsh Assembly is not merely a nice idea if we can afford it, but an essential, practical mechanism for improving the quality of life of the people of Wales. I am sure that we will.

Tempting as is the amendment so eloquently moved by the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), it is time for the Labour Government to carry out their pledge to offer the people of Wales the chance to vote to create the sort of Assembly described in our manifesto. It is time for the democratic debate to move on, to engage with the people of Wales. It is time for all of us who believe that extending democratic accountability in Wales can and will help deliver the goods on education, health, the environment and jobs to prepare ourselves for the task of campaigning to secure a massive yes vote in the autumn.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnorshire): I heartily congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his excellent maiden speech. It is a test of a maiden speech as to whether one can mention all the villages and communities in one's constituency. I know his constituency well, and he had a jolly good go.

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My paternal grandmother, a redoubtable Welsh speaker who hailed from Alltwen, took me to Penclawdd when I was three or four to pick cockles. That has been etched on my mind ever since. People still do that in almost the same way, but one no longer sees donkeys there. He has a wonderful constituency to which he paid good tribute, as he did to his redoubtable predecessor, Gareth Wardell, who did a superb job as Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee.

Amendment No. 68 deals with multi-options. In theory, it is very attractive. If Wales had a multi-option referendum, there would be four choices. First, there would be the Government's proposals. Secondly, we would have the Liberal Democrat proposals for legislative and tax-varying powers, and a more thorough system of proportional representation, although we hope that that may be proposed in the Government's White Paper. Certainly, we favour a federal solution for Wales, which is an entirely logical way of proceeding towards the unity of the United Kingdom and a successful legislature.

Thirdly, there are Plaid Cymru's proposals for an independent Wales in Europe. The hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones) moved his amendment well, and that option would appear on a multi-choice ballot paper. Finally, there is the status quo, which was wiped off the map in the general election. That view has been defeated. As we have heard, some members of the Conservative party in Wales are having a rapid rethink, going back to the drawing board and saying that perhaps, after all, there is a possibility of meaningful government in Wales with devolution. I believe that more still will do so before the referendum is put to the Welsh people.

Clearly, this is a complex situation. We are trying to maximise support for a Welsh Assembly. Perhaps the choices should include a question asking people whether they favour a Welsh Assembly, and if so, what option they favour. It might be more logical to go about it that way.

We did not have a constitutional convention in Wales, which I regret. I approached the Labour party five years ago on two occasions to ask whether it was possible. I know that the former Member for Montgomery, Alex Carlile, did the same. We did not have the benefit of what they had in Scotland to have a proper debate. It would have been helpful, because the debates on the Scottish referendum have shown that there is perhaps a greater unanimity of purpose. It is certainly not the Liberal Democrats' purpose in Wales to frustrate the Government's efforts to create a Welsh Assembly. Polls before the general election showed that the Liberal Democrat federal proposals for tax-varying and legislative powers were the most popular options among people who favour a Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda): The hon. Gentleman has more than once spoken of a federal situation. Will he spell out his idea of a federation? We know that Plaid Cymru's patriotism is based on resentment of the English. That is why it put forward the proposition of a Wales in Europe. It does not want a Wales in Britain. What is the Liberal Democrat policy on the federal idea?

Mr. Livsey: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's intervention is helpful. As 20 to 25 per cent. of the

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population of Wales originates from the other side of Offa's dyke, if we are to win the referendum, we must get everyone, of whatever origin, to support a yes vote. We should not go down the path that he offers. He asked what a true federal situation was. I can spell that out simply.

In a federal Britain, the functions of the Welsh Office should reside with the people of Wales. That means that primary legislation that could affect those functions should be possible. Other functions in a federal Britain should be operated from a United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster. Those functions could be defence, macro-economic policy, foreign policy and other matters of wider impact. Other functions could operate on a European scale--for example, the environment, where problems of environmental degradation know no boundaries. All those scenarios are entirely logical. There are plenty of examples around the world, including Canada, Australia and the United States, of countries that operate successfully under a federal system.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): The hon. Gentleman said that one of the responsibilities of this Parliament would be macro-economic policy. Surely the Liberal Democrat party supports a federal Europe and a single currency. If that is the case, does he recognise that macro-economic policy in a federal Europe would be in the hands not of the United Kingdom Government but of the European central bank?

Mr. Livsey: I shall leave those questions for the contenders in the Tory party leadership contest. The hon. Gentleman opens up a big debate, and I shall not be led down that path.

In a multi-choice referendum, we could end up with just two questions such as, "Do you favour the status quo?" and, "Do you favour independence?" We hear Conservatives debating that situation ad infinitum, as if those were the only two choices that existed. Of course, there is a coalition of view elsewhere that we need a Welsh Assembly in order to achieve devolution. Such an Assembly is a much more constructive way of going forward and of achieving meaningful and effective government within Wales.

I have some sympathy with the multi-option referendum. It has been referred to as a preferendum. It is inclusive. People could vote for their own options and still produce an overall majority in favour of a Welsh Assembly. However, people in Wales must be united, especially at this time. They require leadership. I and my party are determined not to let slip this opportunity. We must combine across party boundaries to secure a yes vote in the referendum. That referendum is coming soon--in September. We do not have time to consider the possibilities of a multi-option referendum. That would delay a straightforward vote on whether Wales needs an Assembly and whether people in general want it.

We have to remember that, although many of us fervently back the creation of a Welsh Assembly, many aspects of constitutional reform do not interest all the people of Wales. People look on it as an academic exercise. They just know that they are in favour of devolution. The individual powers of such an assembly, which are important, have to be debated and defined within a Wales Bill.

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Those of us who have been waiting a long time for a Welsh senedd believe that it is better to proceed with one question. Although we have sympathy with a multi-option referendum, we must achieve a coalition of views in Wales if we are to win the referendum. Now is certainly not the time to hesitate, so we shall not impede the progress of the Bill. The people will decide. The options can be considered later when the Wales Bill goes through the House.

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