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Mr. Rogers: Surely the right hon. Gentleman grasps the point that the issue of an independent Wales has been put in front of the electorate of Wales time after time after time by the Welsh nationalist party and the nationalists have never got more than or even as much as 10 per cent. of the vote. In the last general election, the people of Wales completely rejected the one policy on which the nationalist party stands, so what is the point of putting it in as an option in the referendum?

Mr. Ancram: Doing so would at least underline whether people were voting for an Assembly because they wished it to lead to an independent Wales, or because they wished it not to lead to an independent Wales. That is a relevant question and the only way it can be answered is by having a multi-option question that sets out the issues fairly and firmly.

Having said all that, however, I have to point out that because of the guillotine and the way in which it has affected the debate on the amendments, the amendment on which our vote is being sought this evening is not one that fulfils those criteria--it goes further and looks for order of preference to be part of the process. I repeat what I said in the previous debate: the idea that constitutional issues should be decided by second or third preferences would be a novel concept indeed and one that I certainly could not support.

On that basis, I say that although I support the principle of the amendment and the reasons why it was tabled, neither I nor my Front-Bench colleagues can vote for the amendment and I cannot ask my Back-Bench colleagues to do so. Nevertheless, a relevant issue has been raised and the Government have to address it. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will answer the questions raised. If he does, it will be a first because none of his colleagues from either Wales or Scotland has done so in previous debates.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I begin my reply to this good debate by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on his excellent speech. It was a model maiden speech--confident, articulate and witty--and I was especially delighted to hear him because we are neighbours in the Swansea valley. We share a road in the socialist village of Trebanos and I was delighted to hear him use that term. I welcome him to the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) made several telling points and I share his desire to deal with the quango state. The White Paper will address that matter. However, we must not pre-empt the Welsh Assembly and its own obligations to deal with the matter.

Mr. Denzil Davies: I was reading the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on 16 May. He said that the Assembly

But having powers to reform the quangos is not the same as the devolution Bill reforming the quangos. Will the Minister give an assurance that the devolution Bill will itself reform many of the quangos and subsume them into the Assembly?

Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend makes a similar point to that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr

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Tydfil and Rhymney. The point is an important one, and it will be addressed by the White Paper. When the White Paper is published, they will see what the detailed proposals are.

The issue of jobs was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith). I say frankly that, yes, I do believe that if we do not have a Welsh Assembly, jobs in Wales will be threatened, investment will be threatened and the strength of the Welsh economy will be threatened. Let me explain why. The Scots will get a Scottish Parliament; next year London will get the opportunity to vote for an elected authority; and the regions of England will follow within a matter of years thereafter--the north-east is already pressing hard for an elected authority. Is my hon. Friend really saying that Wales should be the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have a devolved form of government? In those circumstances--especially with the English getting regional economic development agencies--I believe that job prospects in Wales will be threatened if we do not have an Assembly. A Welsh Assembly will give us the power and the authority to reorganise the Welsh economy to protect jobs and, indeed, to increase employment and tackle unemployment.

Mr. Llew Smith: My hon. Friend the Minister just said that if we do not have a Welsh Assembly, thousands of jobs will be threatened. First, in yesterday's press release from the Welsh Office, he was talking not about jobs being threatened, but about jobs being lost. Secondly, if we take his argument to its logical conclusion, is he also saying that we have LG investment because LG recognises the possibility of a Welsh Assembly in the near future?

Mr. Hain: We got LG investment because the company knew that there was a Labour Government coming and knew that it wanted to be in a Wales ruled by that Labour Government. In a modern economy, inward investors will be attracted to Wales if there is an Assembly to assist with the development of our economic strategy.

7.45 pm

Mr. Flynn: The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) made the point that the LG jobs might not have come to Wales if it had had a Welsh Assembly. He was entirely wrong. As someone who was involved in the decision to bring the LG jobs to Wales and who discussed at great length with LG executives their decision to bring the jobs to my constituency, I know that they knew, as did everyone else, that a Labour Government were almost certainly coming and that a Labour Government would bring a Welsh Assembly. They are entirely comfortable with the idea of being in Wales under a Welsh Assembly. The links between Korean investment in Wales, which stretch from Caernarfon to Merthyr to Cardiff and to Newport, are very strong and will be greatly strengthened when we have our own Assembly in Cardiff.

Mr. Hain: I take my hon. Friend's point. This is not simply an erudite constitutional matter, and these interventions have focused our attention on the fact that this debate is about jobs, health, schools and housing. If we get a measure of self-government in Wales, we will better be able to deal with all those issues.

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Let me now directly address the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones). He effectively advanced the proposition that there should be what is called a preferendum and I respect his right to argue that case--indeed, given his party's policy, he has a duty to argue it. He did so constructively and in an inclusive spirit, which I acknowledge. However, I have to say that his policy at the general election was roundly defeated and that our policy won overwhelmingly. We are putting that policy in a confidence vote in the referendum, which will take place later this year.

People in Wales do not want separatism; they do not want Wales to break away from the United Kingdom. We do not want more taxes; under the Tories, ordinary people in Wales have paid more taxes than ever before.

Dr. Marek: Will my hon. Friend the Minister give way on that specific point?

Mr. Hain: On that point, yes.

Dr. Marek: It is an important point, so I ask my hon. Friend to give a concise and intellectual defence of the reasons why the people of Wales are not being offered the same choice that is being offered to the people of Scotland.

Mr. Hain: The defence is clear: we did not give in our election manifesto a commitment to give tax-raising powers to the Welsh Assembly. [Laughter.] It is no laughing matter. That commitment was given in the election manifesto to the people of Scotland. We are honouring our election manifesto in Wales, just as we are honouring it in Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said, Scotland is different from Wales, which is why there are different propositions for Scotland and Wales.

People in Wales want the enormously powerful functions of the Welsh Office to be exercised by democratically elected people from Wales; that is our policy. The new Welsh Assembly will be a very powerful institution. No doubt it will evolve over the years. When, in 1964, James Griffiths was established as the first Secretary of State for Wales, it was not nearly as powerful a position as it is now, and no doubt there will be opportunity for it to evolve in future, but we need a Welsh Assembly to make it possible.

I want to address the points made in the amendments tabled by, among others, the hon. Members for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and for Ynys Mon. There is great potential for confusion in what one might regard as a complex multiple choice examination paper, the "preferendum" that is suggested. It is quite possible that no single majority view will be expressed for any of the options. Where will that leave us, given the arguments and the momentum for devolution and decentralisation in Wales? It might leave us where the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and other Members want to leave us--with the devolution process delayed or abandoned. I urge hon. Members not to fall into that trap.

Several technical questions have not been answered by the hon. Member for Caernarfon and his colleagues. Would the multiple choice referendum be conducted on a first-past-the-post basis, as they have suggested, or by single transferable vote? If it was conducted by single

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transferable vote, which would allow a majority view to be expressed after preferences had been transferred, it would be the first time ever that that electoral procedure or form of preference had been used in any referendum or election in Britain.

The referendum in Wales on this vital principle should not get bogged down in a complicated voting arrangement tried out for the first time. We want the people of Wales to have a simple, straightforward and clear choice--yes or no: "Do you support the Government's policy, which we advocated in our manifesto, on which we received an overwhelming mandate to establish a Welsh Assembly, or do you not?"

The greater the yes vote, the more authority the Welsh Assembly will have, and the bigger will be the mandate from the people to make progress in the House in the months to come. In those months, the negative, destructive, filibustering tactics that have been attempted by the Tories in the past few days will be used. We do not want to give them an opportunity to pursue them.

On one of the ballot options that the hon. Member for Caernarfon has proposed--envisaging self-government within the European Union--it is not clear whether Wales would be a sovereign state or something different. If he proposes a full sovereign state of Wales in the European Union, that would require a treaty amendment, because it would enlarge the European Union. A unanimous vote by European Union members and a new intergovernmental conference would be needed. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman seriously wants us to go down that route simply to create a Welsh Assembly.

We made a contract with the people on 1 May for a referendum in Wales to enable the people of Wales to express their precise view on this question. We spelt out exactly the terms of the question when we said that it would be on a Welsh Assembly, and we are now implementing that commitment, as we did our commitment regarding Scotland. We are keeping our promises. It may be novel, given the Governments of the past 18 years, for an incoming Government to keep their promises, but we are doing so and deserve credit for it. We are inviting the electorate to endorse a clear principle that they will support our policy for an elected Welsh Assembly.

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