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Mr. Rowlands: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on a wonderful and excellent maiden speech. He reminded us not only of the constituency with which many of us are familiar in both campaigning and personal terms, but of the remarkable representation that he follows in the form of Gareth Wardell. I also knew Ifor Davies as a Member of Parliament and a Minister in the Welsh Office in the 1960s. My hon. Friend said that he had a hard act to follow. I think we all agree that he has made an excellent start.

The hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones) moved the amendment. I recently read some internal memos and documents from the late 1950s on the development of Welsh administration and on Welsh constitutional change. In minute after minute by Mr. Henry Brook, the then Minister for Welsh Affairs, derisory, insulting references were made to the Joneses wanting to keep up with the Macs. I find offensive the notion that we have to follow the Macs; that we cannot devise a set of constitutional arrangements that suit our requirements and meet the needs and aspirations of Welsh people; the carping belief that we must follow some other model, which may or may not be suitable to another part of the country.

The hon. Member for Ynys Mon argued that because the Scots seek to do one thing, we have to follow them. That shows a curious inferiority complex. We should devise our own means and methods of constitutional change. The hon. Gentleman also observed that all the votes except the Tory votes added up to a vote for constitutional change. I would like to believe it, because it would mean that 78 per cent. of the electorate in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney voted for devolution. I do not believe that that is the case. So one should not invoke the argument that the result of the general election was a massive mandate for a Welsh Assembly. That is why we decided to hold a referendum, to test public opinion separately.

7.15 pm

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): Given that the general election did not reflect the attitude of the people of Merthyr or elsewhere to the constitutional proposals that the Government may make in a White Paper in due course, how can the Government or the hon. Gentleman say that only one constitutional proposal, rather than the full range supported by the various parties at the election, can be put to the people of Wales?

Mr. Rowlands: The vast majority of people in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney voted for a Labour Government. They did not vote for an option promoted by the nationalists, who polled only about 2,300 votes. So the notion that the nationalist option should be included on the ballot paper is not supported by the experience in my constituency or in the rest of Wales.

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I put it to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) that I sense a degree of ambivalence even towards a Welsh Assembly within Welsh communities. While opinion has changed, my own political instinct--I speak only for my own communities, not for anyone else's--is that if the prospect of a tax-raising, legislative Parliament is actively promoted during the referendum campaign or in any other discussion, the anti vote will grow. There will be alienation and a feeling that the Assembly will not be a measure of devolution such as we have promised during the past X years. The prospect of a tax-raising Parliament would lead not to a stronger vote for devolution, but to a stronger no vote. In terms of practical politics, it would increase the scepticism, if not the opposition to the principle of devolution.

I do not support the amendment. Two things have changed public opinion in the past 18 years. First, people have seen for 18 years an unrepresentative Government determining Welsh affairs. We have had Secretaries of State who did not understand, feel or appreciate Wales. They all made an effort, but most of them did not have a feeling for Wales and did not have the democratic mandate of the Welsh people to implement their policies.

The second contributory factor that has shifted public opinion in favour of our devolution proposals is the growing revulsion for the quango state, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower so eloquently described. That state offends the instinctive democratic instincts of the Welsh people. They have found the huge number of political appointments increasingly offensive. Because of that, it is far more important than any option about tax-raising or legislative powers that our White Paper and our subsequent devolution Bill should include the power to bring to an end decisively the quango state. I hope that my colleagues on the Front Bench heed those remarks.

I am concerned that we appear to be fudging the issue when we say that a Welsh Assembly may at some future date deal with the quango state. It was created by primary legislation passed by the House and it is the job of the Westminster Parliament to dismantle it. If we address that need directly in our White Paper and the devolution Bill, we shall appeal powerfully to the Welsh people. If they vote yes on that basis, they will know that they are voting for the dismantling of the quango state rather than for that possibility to be referred to a future Welsh Assembly. I stress again to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that it is vital that the White Paper states our intention to do that and that our Bill contains the necessary power to do so. Our rhetoric about the quango state must be matched by our legislative action in the autumn.

Mr. Rogers: Would my hon. Friend care to carry his argument a little further? Many of the quangos were set up by a Labour Government. However, because the Conservatives could never win seats in local government, they distrusted it--they even went to the extent of abolishing the Greater London council--and they side-stepped Welsh local authorities and gave their powers to quangos. If those quangos were not dismantled prior to the establishment of a Welsh Assembly, I am extremely fearful about whether the powers that would

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normally have gone to local authorities would ever be given back to them. We would then get not devolution, but evolution upwards from local authorities.

Mr. Rowlands: My hon. Friend has raised an important point. As the basis of our appeal during the referendum campaign, our devolution Bill must guarantee not only the dismantling of the quango state but, wherever possible, the return of powers to local authorities, particularly from housing quangos. We must demonstrate that we shall legislate to dismantle the quango state, because I believe that the growing revulsion towards it has been a major factor in increasing the mood in favour of devolution. I sense that that feeling has grown in the past 18 years.

Again, I stress to my colleagues on the Front Bench and elsewhere that we must make the right case for devolution. We must not make exaggerated claims about the Welsh Assembly. We must not talk about the huge number of jobs that may be created as a result of its creation, or those that may be lost if that Assembly is not established. The proper case for our devolution Bill is a fundamental democratic one, based on the need for appropriate Welsh administration.

I accept that, in the past, we wanted such Welsh administration and that we set it up deliberately. When one looks at the minutes from the 1950s, there was little Welsh administration, but we built it up with the development of the Welsh Office and the increasing powers of the Secretary of State for Wales. Despite our belief that the Welsh Office should be better scrutinised by a Welsh Assembly, it is accountable, through the Secretary of State, to the House. The quango state is not similarly directly and effectively accountable. We have witnessed growth of a new administration at the Welsh Office and a host of non-departmental bodies, which constitute the quango state. It is their democratic control which will be vital to our campaign for devolution, and not any of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Ynys Mon about the tax-raising and legislative powers of our Parliament.

Mr. Llew Smith: Yesterday, our colleagues on the Front Bench stated that if we did not have a Welsh Assembly, thousands of our people would find themselves thrown on the dole. What evidence has my hon. Friend found to substantiate that claim?

Mr. Rowlands: I do not have to take responsibility for the speeches of my colleagues, but I am sure that they will justify that claim.

It is extremely important that we make the proper case for the Assembly which can be justified and which will not be received sceptically. The Assembly must not be seen just as another political creation. It must address the instinctive feelings and wishes of the Welsh people, who are against the growth of the quango state. We should appeal to the Welsh people on the need for a directly elected Assembly, which will oversee the dismantling of that state and scrutinise and deliberate on the key issues of the Welsh administration that has developed since the

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1960s. We should not campaign on the options that the hon. Member for Ynys Mon wants to include on the ballot paper.

Mr. Wigley: I am grateful to follow the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) because I want to address some of his arguments in due course.

First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his maiden speech. Members from all parts of the Committee were warmed by his comments about Gareth Wardell, who was an excellent Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman speak on many future occasions.

One theme that the hon. Gentleman stressed in his speech is important to the debate on a multi-option referendum. He is right to say that if we have an elected Assembly or Parliament for Wales, it must be relevant to the people of Wales in their ordinary circumstances. As he said, it must be relevant to education policy, economic policy, jobs and the health service. It must be relevant to those policies, which have been at the heart of Welsh politics down the years. It is those services which, to some extent, have been undermined by the growth of the quango state to which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney referred.

Therefore, the question that arises in the context of the comments from the hon. Members for Gower and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney is how we can make a difference to the prospects of the ordinary people of Wales, whether they live in Merthyr Tydfil, Gower or Caernarfon. It is our belief that, unless the Assembly or Parliament has adequate powers, it will not be possible to tackle the problems that arise.

An example is education policy. We know that the Conservative party tried to privatise education in Wales. We know that from the way in which the Tories introduced nursery vouchers. If there were another Conservative Government, particularly led by one of the right-wing contenders--

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