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Mr. Win Griffiths: What does the hon. Gentleman expect after 18 years of Tory Government?

Mr. Evans: We had more victories when the Conservatives were in power than we have had in the past couple of years. We do not take credit for those victories, and I am sure that the Labour Government will not take credit for the recent defeats.

The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan said that my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) should not have led for the Opposition in the debate because he was not born in Wales and is not a Welsh Member of Parliament.

Mr. John Smith: To put the record straight, that is not the point I was making. I did not question the right of the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) to make that contribution: I questioned the nature of his speech because he talked down Wales, which I felt was wrong.

Mr. Evans: I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not ask the hon. Gentleman to write his speech for him, so that his contribution would have been more positive. What he said was ridiculous. My hon. Friend is a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament and has the right to speak about Welsh affairs or about anything else to do with the United Kingdom as he feels appropriate, just as the hon. Gentleman has the right to speak on the Greater London Authority Bill to which he is making useful contributions based on his knowledge of London.

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The Conservatives speak as the second party in Wales: at the last election, as we gained 100,000 more votes than the Liberal Democrats and twice as many as Plaid Cymru.

Mr. Llwyd: How many seats did the Tories gain?

Mr. Evans: Irrespective of that, we had more votes. It is a great shame that the hon. Gentleman is the only member of Plaid Cymru present. The nationalist party has four Members of Parliament. This is the only St. David's day debate we have had in two years, yet only one Plaid Cymru Member is present for the winding-up speeches, and only two have been present during the debate.

The leader of the Conservative party in Wales, Rod Richards, is relishing the opportunity to promote the cause of common-sense policies in the Welsh Assembly. At least we know that Rod Richards will be elected to the Welsh Assembly, whereas there is enormous doubt about whether the Secretary of State will win a seat. Many Labour Members secretly hope that the Secretary of State is not elected to the Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Llwyd: Two of my colleagues were busy elsewhere today, and it was unfair of the hon. Gentleman to make such cheap points. Secondly, Rod Richards would not understand a policy of principle if he fell over it.

Mr. Evans: That was a devastating intervention: I shall have to be careful in future, although I am sure that all the hon. Gentleman's colleagues were not at the dentist. This is the St. David's day debate and I should have thought that members of the so-called national party of Wales would make the effort to come here to contribute on behalf of Wales and their constituents.

We look forward to the Welsh Assembly elections on 6 May, but I am not sure that the Secretary of State is looking forward to them. He still has some fences to be fixed, and last Saturday's result was a denial of democracy for Wales. The Secretary of State has no credibility in Wales as a result of the rigged electoral college and the fixed trade union block votes. That was old Labour fixing at its worst--and a denial of one member, one vote in many of the unions--to deliver in Wales the Prime Minister's man, not the people's man.

Mr. Edwards: How is the leader of the Conservative party elected? How many Conservative party members voted in that election?

Mr. Evans: The leader of the Conservative party was endorsed by the entire membership of the party on one member, one vote. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Secretary of State will put himself before the entire membership in Wales for similar endorsement? He will not do that because he knows that the membership in Wales was 2:1 in favour of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). The members did not want the Secretary of State--they wanted the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, and the rigged voting denied them their choice.

Dr. Julian Lewis: Some time ago, the Labour party abandoned the block trade union vote for use at Labour conferences, and yet it has allowed it to continue for the

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choice of Labour leader in Wales. Why does Labour have a higher regard for democracy at the Labour party conference than in choosing the Labour leader in Wales?

Mr. Evans: It is not a matter of right or wrong--it is what system will deliver what the leadership wants. At party conferences, the Labour leadership takes away union power. When it chooses the leader of the Labour party in Wales, it uses the block vote to deny the membership of certain unions an opportunity to vote individually. They were consulted--sort of--but, in many cases, the result was ignored. In one union, the vote was split 60:40 in favour of the Secretary of State, but 100 per cent. of the union's vote went to the Secretary of State. That was a complete denial of democracy.

In today's edition of the Western Mail, an editorial--entitled "Way out of touch"--talks about the "arrogance and insensitivity" of the London Labour machine "reaching new heights". The report states that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, having had the audacity to complain about some irregularities during the election, has been told to "stop whingeing".

When anybody talks about what is wrong, they are told that they are talking Britain, Wales or the Assembly down. When the hon. Member for Cardiff, West complains about irregularities, he is "talking the election down" or "talking the Labour party down". That is ridiculous. The report states that Labour has labelled the hon. Gentleman a "ballot whinger". He has every right to feel dismayed, not only about the result, but about the way in which the election was held.

I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) in his place. On the subject of democracy, he spoke about the Welsh referendum result and said that the jury was still out on the Welsh Assembly. He is right. With a turnout of 50.1 per cent.--49.7 per cent. voting no and 50.3 per cent. voting yes, so that only one in four of the Welsh electorate supported the proposals--of course the jury is still out. People will look carefully at how the Welsh Assembly develops over the next few years in deciding whether to give it their support. We will have the first test on 6 May--the turnout of the electorate.

Mr. Touhig: I note what the hon. Gentleman says. Yes, the jury is still out, but will he commit his party, as we commit ours, to making the Welsh Assembly a success, so that we will be able to say to the Welsh people, "It has been good and has been proved to be valuable for Wales"?

Mr. Evans: We are fielding candidates throughout Wales. We want to get as many candidates elected as possible. They will go to the Welsh Assembly not to grind it to a halt, but to ensure that the Assembly works in the best interests of the people of Wales. I guarantee that that is exactly what we here in Westminster want: we want the Assembly to be a success for the people of Wales, now that we know that it is going to be a reality.

Mr. Swayne: How does my hon. Friend react to the contrast between Labour Members, particularly the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan), putting such great faith in, and setting such store by, the Assembly and building expectations--at one stage I thought it was

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expected to become the Assembly for the new Jerusalem--and the squalid fix in relation to the leadership election?

Mr. Evans: That is absolutely correct. Expectations of the Welsh Assembly have been raised to such great heights that it cannot hope to fulfil even 10 per cent. of what the Labour party has said it will be able to achieve. Contrast that with the way in which the elections were held, or the squalid way in which the referendum in Wales was held a week after the referendum in Scotland. [Hon. Members: "Squalid?"] I will tell hon. Members why it was squalid.

We were told that the people of Wales would not be able to cope if the referendum were held on the same day as that in Scotland because they would get confused as to what was being offered, with a Parliament in Scotland and an Assembly in Wales. There could be no other reason why they were held on different days--other than to bounce the people of Wales into a yes vote following a victory in Scotland, which we always knew would be delivered.

The absurdity is that, on 6 May, people will vote in local elections in Scotland and Wales. In Wales, they will also vote for the Welsh Assembly--not only for constituency candidates, but for those on the regional list. If people in Wales can get their minds around the d'Hondt system and how the closed-list system will work, they could certainly have got their minds around having their referendum on the same day as the people of Scotland. Of course it was a gross insult to the people of Wales to pretend that they could not cope with that.

Mr. Öpik: The hon. Gentleman said that he felt that the Welsh Assembly would not deliver even 10 per cent. of the expectations that have been raised by the Government. Is it therefore fair to assume that he expects the Welsh Assembly to fail?

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