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8.30 pm

Mr. Hain: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill is short and simple and my contribution can be similarly brief. During the debate on the Scottish amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) took up a point with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about the provision of local information in Wales. We are discussing with the chief counting officers at county borough level the provision of information and our intention is that it will be released. But, if possible, we want the result to be declared nationally first. We are discussing how both those objectives can be accommodated and we shall announce our conclusions in due course.

The Bill authorises the holding of referendums in Scotland and Wales as the first step in the Government's programme of radical constitutional reform. A mood for constitutional change is abroad in Scotland and Wales and the referendums will give people in each country the opportunity to express their views on the Government's devolution proposals. We promised them that opportunity and we now intend to deliver on that promise.

We do not have to do this. Our election victory gave us a clear mandate for our policy to decentralise power to the people of Scotland and Wales. We could simply have

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proceeded with the necessary legislation, but we want to secure popular support for those policies, as our manifesto promised.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin: The hon. Gentleman is just doing as he is told because the referendum policy was decided in London, not by Wales.

Mr. Hain: When we have a serious contribution from a Welsh Conservative Member of Parliament, he might have a serious answer to such a question.

We did not have to do this, but we decided that we wanted the authority of the people to support our legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who is waiting for the Tory party leadership election result, will recognise that if and when we have a yes vote in Scotland and Wales, Parliament must respect that yes vote.

Last time, some 30 days were spent on the devolution question--nearly 15 weeks of parliamentary time during which the then Conservative Opposition behaved in a typically destructive and negative fashion, filibustering through the night as best they could. We intend that Parliament will respect the mandate given by the people of Scotland and Wales in order to support the legislation that we will introduce.

Mr. Dalyell: I was there and my hon. Friend was not. There was serious discussion. People such as Enoch Powell on the one side and others of us on the other did not filibuster. I saw it at first hand.

Mr. Hain: The last thing that I would accuse my hon. Friend of doing is filibustering. I was talking about the Conservative Opposition. They would have done the same this time had they had the opportunity.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hain: I shall give way in a minute.

What we are proposing is sensible and the Government have chosen to introduce the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill first. That way there will be an efficient use of parliamentary time. There is a clear mandate from the people for the introduction of legislation and that is a sensible use of parliamentary procedure and time.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Will the hon. Gentleman, please, apologise to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The hon. Gentleman was not here when we debated devolution. I was, as was the hon. Member for Linlithgow. The debates were serious. They showed true division on both sides of the House. Many Labour Members were deeply unhappy about devolution in Scotland and in Wales. The Labour Government of the day did not attempt to drive the Bill through like a steam roller. The hon. Gentleman should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for what he said.

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend does not need any assistance from the Tory Benches to make his case. He is probably the most effective and admired Back Bencher in the House. I made no criticism of his role in that devolution debate.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position.

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He referred to the outcome of the referendum. If, as he hopes, it is a success and he comes back to the House with a detailed devolution Bill, he has said that we should not thwart the will of the people of Wales and Scotland. To that extent, does he also accept that the detail of those Bills is important to the success of what comes about? Therefore, will he undertake not to try to do what the Government have done this time, which is to ram some tight guillotines through from day one?

Mr. Hain: Of course the detail of the Bill is important and it will be considered with due care and attention by the House. It is a matter for the Procedure Committee to determine how that will be done. Our proposals for devolution for Scotland and Wales are different because they reflect the different historical circumstances and the modern-day realities of each country. But in each case they will allow diversity to flourish and the implementation of policies reflecting local circumstances and traditions and national needs. We must get away from the idea that London decides everything, regardless of local people's wishes, especially in the context of the nations of Scotland and Wales.

We also intend to get rid of the unelected Tory quango state which, during 18 years, the Tory Government ruthlessly packed with their own people who could not get elected through the ballot box. One English Secretary of State for Wales has been bad enough without him reproducing himself on virtually every quango in Wales. The Tories have developed a new meaning to the word "cloning" in Wales by their use of the power of the quango exercised through an English Tory Secretary of State.

What a rabble the Tories have represented in the debates on the Bill. They have made no constructive contributions. The only constructive, serious and intelligent contributions have come from Liberal Democrat and Scottish National party Members on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hain: No, I will take no more Tory interventions.

The reason why the Liberal Democrats and the nationalists have made constructive contributions is that they represent constituencies in Wales, unlike Tory Members.

It is good to see that the shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, has graced us with his presence at this late hour in the debate. Neither he nor his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) seriously addressed themselves to the issue of giving people an historic opportunity to vote for increased democracy in Wales and in Scotland.

The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe indulged himself in his usual barrack-room lawyer style, picking up a brief and indulging in all sorts of tit-for-tat debating points, but he never addressed the substantive democratic issues. Similarly, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks employed his best Oxford Union style in taking up a series of detailed debating points without seriously addressing the democratic issues. That is no surprise because the Tories have forgotten how to

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address democratic issues. In 18 years, they flouted every democratic tradition in Britain and imposed a centralised, elitist form of government on both Scotland and Wales.

When I dealt with the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks as Secretary of State for Wales, I respected the way in which he conducted his duties. I remember, however, that when he first took office, he walked into rooms all over Wales and was given a standing ovation. He thought that that was because he was popular; it was simply because he was not the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). It is important that we move forward in a spirit of unity in the House--

Mr. Robathan: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hain: No, I will not take any more interventions. I want to give as much opportunity as possible to Back-Bench Members to contribute to the Third Reading debate. I have taken plenty of interventions from Conservative Members.

Mr. Robathan rose--

Mr. Hain: No, I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman can make a speech in the time left to him before 10 o'clock.

The questions set out in the Bill invite the people of Scotland and Wales to express support for our devolution proposals. We will set them out in detail in the White Papers which are to be published before the House rises in the summer. I look forward to a constructive and informed public debate on those plans in each country. I hope that representatives of the Conservative party will make their contributions in a positive and constructive spirit. That will be the Government's intention.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): On that point, will the Minister now do what the Prime Minister conspicuously failed to do earlier today, which is to apologise for the misleading information the Prime Minister gave to the House on 14 May? He said:

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