Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Times and devolution to Wales - Sept 1969.

Clearing out an old cellar space today and came upon a yellowed copy of The Times from September 16th 1969. A most interesting read. Two front page stories. First there's reports of an EEC summit conference to be held shortly in The Hague to consider terms of UK membership. Bill Cash MP is not quoted. Second story is about Whitehall greeting figures which demonstate that export-led expansion of the economy is finally underway. Amazingly, no politician of any sort is quoted. In Sept 1969, they would all have been enjoying their 4 month recess around the Med or in the West Indies. And then there's a photograph of Liberal Leader, the beautifully besuited Jeremy Thorpe with two handsome young men in swimming trucks on Brighton beach, chatting before a two day Liberal conference on constitutional reform. I promise you I have not made up a single word of this. So over to page 2, and what do we have here. A report about the interests of Wales not being properly represented at Westminster. Sir Goronwy Daniel, a man of fame when I first entered public life, insists that the interests of Wales are not being neglected. Sir Goronwy is of the view that at present the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State are well able to exercise considerable influence on the 'Whitehall and Westminster Gov't'. (No need for too much of this devolution nonsense perhaps). Sir Goronwy accepts the possibility of change and that the Welsh Office could be ready in a year or two to take over functions such as education, Home Office matters and agriculture. Wonder what Home Office matters he had in mind. But he is concerned that too much work would mean that the Secretary of State would not be able to cope, which in turn will mean a danger of Wales being increasingly governed by civil servants. He goes on to say that a reform of local governmnet is needed to reduce numbers of councils and councillors. Rest of report is about Lord Ogmore, a Labour MP who became a Liberal peer advocating a Welsh Assembly with extensive powers. Plaid Cymru are to outline its view tomorrow. What strikes me as interesting is how little has changed in 44 years!

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