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The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. I dislike interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but we are discussing the amendments. The hon. Gentleman is talking in general terms about devolution, but we are talking about a referendum and the amendments related to it.

Mr. Wigley: I shall show you, Mr. Martin, how my remarks are relevant.

If we have an Assembly that has nominal responsibility for education, but no legislative power for it in Wales, the reality is that our educational framework will be determined in this Chamber. Unless we have the power in Wales to pass legislation, we may find that in five or 10 years, or whenever we have the misfortune to have a right-wing Tory Government again, we shall be in danger of seeing our legislative framework being determined here. The Assembly in Cardiff will be unable to make a difference, by protecting the people from the privatisation of primary or secondary education. That will be determined by legislative capability.

Mr. Rogers rose--

Mr. Wigley: No, I will not give way. I know that the hon. Gentleman is busy going around the Welsh local

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authorities advocating the policies of his colleagues on the Labour Front Bench. He is persuading those representatives that Labour's proposal is important and will help those authorities. I am sure that his time will be well cut out for him. During his rounds, he can tell the people in the various local authorities in Cardiff, Rhondda and elsewhere how the educational framework may well veer again to the right unless the Assembly or Parliament has primary law-making powers. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has some sympathy with the model of a Parliament with primary law-making powers, as it would be a body relevant to the problems.

7.30 pm

Our multi-option amendment deals with the central question of what the people of Wales want. A year ago, there was not to be a referendum; then, the leader of the Labour party decided, for whatever reason, that there would be one. It was meant to be an inclusive referendum to find out exactly what the people of Wales wanted. Apparently, that is something that cannot be determined at a general election--many other matters can be determined, but apparently not this issue.

That being so, we must look at the four options being proposed by the various parties: the status quo, advocated by the Conservatives--or, at least, some Conservatives, as many Welsh Conservatives are thinking again about their party's position; the Assembly, without primary law-making powers, advocated by the Labour party; the federal model, advocated by the Liberal Democrats; and full self-government within Europe, advocated by Plaid Cymru. Apparently, the proportion of support for each of those four models cannot be judged from a general election result. That is the basis on which the Government are putting forward their proposals.

What is the support, as far as can be told, for the various models? Based on the NOP and Beaufort polls in Wales last year, it appears that of those who are in favour of, or not against, the concept of an elected Assembly, 71 per cent. are in favour of legislative powers and 69 per cent. in favour of tax-varying powers. If that is true and the people of Wales want an Assembly that has those powers, why are the opportunities to vote for those models being denied in the referendum? If it is a consultative referendum to find out what the people of Wales want, why will they not be allowed a full range of choice? Through our amendment, which allows for a 1, 2, 3, 4 vote on the four options, we could find out exactly what the people of Wales want. On that basis, it would then be possible to introduce relevant legislation.

Mr. Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West): The central question is how to maximise support for a yes vote in the referendum. As a representative of a party that rather grandiosely and incorrectly describes itself as the party of Wales, the hon. Gentleman should accept that that is the central question. Does he accept that a multi-option referendum would engender confusion and deny that central goal?

Mr. Wigley: As was explained in a previous debate, multi-option referendums have been run successfully in other countries. I do not think that the people of Wales have greater difficulty than the people of other countries in comprehending these matters. If it causes the

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hon. Gentleman a problem--and from what he said it clearly does--we could attack the issue from a different angle. We could have two questions: first, whether people want an Assembly, and secondly, whether people want legislative powers. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) tabled an amendment along those lines. It is another way of reaching the same determination. If the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas) has difficulty with a 1, 2, 3 transferable vote, it could be overcome in that way.

The people of Scotland are being allowed a second question, but the people of Wales are being denied that second question on the legislative powers that we believe to be essential if the Assembly is to be successful.

Mr. Garnier: The hon. Gentleman may find my remarks more friendly that he anticipates. Does he find it insulting that not only are the Scots to have two questions and the Welsh only one, but the Scots are to be allowed to vote a whole week or more before the Welsh? I understand that it is an attempt to use the Scottish vote to influence the Welsh.

Mr. Wigley: Until we see the White Paper, we do not know the details of what will happen. However, one aspect of the Government's case is that it is necessary to differentiate between the arguments relevant to Scotland and those relevant to Wales. To that extent, it is a wise precaution to hold the vote on different days, so that there can be a focusing on the issue in the media--given that most of the mass media come from London and are seen in Wales and Scotland alike.

If the people of Scotland are being offered a Parliament with law-making and tax-varying powers, which can develop considerable clout within the European Union, it is absolutely essential that Wales has the opportunity to develop those powers as well. The clout of Wales in the EU will be that much stronger if we have a Parliament that can have a credible voice in Brussels. Catalonia and the Lander governments in Germany have successfully developed their prospects within Europe and it is essential that Wales likewise has that opportunity.

It is important that when the White Paper is published, we are able to understand exactly what the powers will be, because at the moment it is difficult to reach a decision. However, we know that there are various themes. The Secretary of State has said in the past that the status quo is no option.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ron Davies) indicated assent.

Mr. Wigley: I note the right hon. Gentleman's agreement.

In the referendum proposed for Wales, the status quo is an option. It is the only option being offered other than the Government's policy. The options of Liberal Democrat policy and Plaid Cymru policy will not be offered. The option of a law-making Parliament, which is supported by many members of the Labour party, is not to be put to the people of Wales. Between now and the completion of the Bill's passage through the other place, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look for a vehicle to allow the people of Wales to be genuinely included in a decision-taking mechanism in the referendum.

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If that is not to be the case and if there is a yes vote, the right hon. Gentleman will have his Assembly and he can build on that. I respect that. But if there is a no vote, it will not be worth the paper it is written on, because the reason for it will be unclear. Was it because people did not want that much power, or was it because they wanted law-making powers and a strong Parliament? The former Welsh Minister, Sir Wyn Roberts, has said that he would vote yes if there was the option of tax-varying powers. Without that second question, a no result would be absolutely meaningless. The Secretary of State must address that aspect. This is a vital debate and it is important that we get it right.

Mr. Ancram: I congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his eloquent maiden speech. He was particularly eloquent in his tribute to his predecessor and in his attachment to his new constituency. We look forward to hearing further speeches from him.

I listened to the debate with a certain amount of ambivalence as I heard the arguments in the Scottish debate being put slightly differently in this Welsh debate. It is interesting that in this debate, as in the other, I find myself sympathetic to the proposal to have more than two questions in the referendum.

I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). He, like me, finds it difficult to be precise in his reaction because without the White Paper we are not certain of the nature of the proposals that will be put to a referendum. I again make the plea that the White Paper is produced in good time. I make the same suggestion to the Secretary of State for Wales that I made to the Secretary of State for Scotland--that in accordance with declarations about future White Papers, he might consider attaching a draft of the Bill to his White Paper so that by the time of the referendum the people of Wales will have a full and clear idea of the detail of the issues.

The referendum, as currently set out, contains two questions: whether there should be a Welsh Assembly and whether there should not be a Welsh Assembly. Having listened to this and previous debates, it is clear that various people will vote for a Welsh Assembly for very different reasons. The hon. Member for Caernarfon said that a no vote would be complex; I think that a yes vote would be even more complex. I suspect that some people, such as the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), will support an Assembly because they believe that ultimately it will lead to an independent Wales. After all, that is the purpose of their party. They will see it as part of that process and will therefore vote for it. On the other hand, others will vote for a Welsh Assembly--I include the Secretary of State in their number, because I have listened closely to what he said in previous debates--because they believe that it will retain and, indeed, buttress the United Kingdom. Therefore, the so-called maximisation of the vote for an Assembly, referred to by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey), will be constructed on two totally contrary purposes. To claim that that is an endorsement on which an Assembly can be built would be dangerous ground on which to build.

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