Point Of Order – Referendum

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As both a former Leader of the House and a former Welsh Minister who led the referendum campaign in Wales in 1997, I can express some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s view. It seems to me paradoxical, to say the least, that Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, can make statements about the future of the United Kingdom outside the House, but cannot make such statements inside the House. As I understand it, the purdah applies to Government resources, and would prevent, for example, the sudden issue of a Government White Paper or a leaflet during the purdah period, but does not prevent the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow, or the Deputy Prime Minister at any time, from making a statement to the House. I therefore strongly endorse your interpretation of the point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said, not least because, as he reminded the House, he has done so on the back of considerable experience of leading the House and, previously, of leadership responsibilities in Wales. My understanding is his understanding, and it is also the understanding of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope). In any case, in so far as purdah is an applicable concept in this regard, it applies to what is said outside the House as well as what is said inside the House. There does seem to be a slightly paradoxical notion that it is okay to say something outside the House, but not okay to say it inside the House. The issue, it seems to me, is whether the basic convention is being adhered to or not: whether what is being said is a proper thing to be said. If it is a proper thing to be said, it is perfectly proper for it to be said in this House.

Hain Supports UAF Wales

Former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain MP is one of many high profile community figures to provide his signature on an open letter released by Unite Against Fascism Wales  giving public backing to the Muslim communities of Cardiff.

Mr Hain, who is a patron of UAF, is joined by Andy Richards the regional secretary of Unite, Roman Corria of the Cardiff Trades Council and Cardiff County Councillor Cecilia Love in signing the letter.

In the letter, UAF Wales argue that “no apologies are necessary” from the Muslim community leaders in Cardiff who cannot be held accountable for the actions of the three individuals, believed to be Aseel Multhana, his older brother Nasser and Reyaad Khan.

Instead they argue that the rise of Islamophobia, primarily through fringe right-wing Fascist groups but sustained by media outlets has alienated too many young Muslim men, driving them into the hands of welcoming extremist groups such as ISIS.

It states: “Not a week goes by without an anti-Muslim demo somewhere in Britain. Fascist groups are allowed to demonstrate while young Muslims are subject to harassment. The increased use of racism in the European elections raises the spectre of racism being made acceptable in an accepting and diverse society.”

You can read the full statement of the letter here.


Neath is a Close-Knit Community

NEATH MP Peter Hain, who last week made the shock announcement he would stand down at the next election, has described the town as a close-knit community.

But, he said, the villages are not quite as close as they once were — and he’s seen major changes in his 23 years serving the area.

Mr Hain, who lives in Resolven, said the main change was in the social lives of people across the area.

“I used to go down to Resolven Rugby Club on a Saturday night,” he said.

“The lounge bar used to be absolutely packed, with the men in their suits or shirt and tie and the ladies in their dresses.

“There would be 80 to 100 people in there, and that was the same in all the villages around the constituency.

“But these days, if you go into Resolven Rugby Club, unless there’s a function, there’s maybe one in the lounge bar.

“The pool bar is often full with youngsters.

“There’s been a big cultural shift, in very, very close knit communities.”

But, he said, Neath still has a great sense of community spirit and care for each other — but that people retreat to their own homes more on a Saturday night, with more choice on the television and affordable at-home drinking.

Speaking about his memories of his time as MP for Neath, he added: “One thing I remember is, when the Eisteddfod came to Neath, to the Neath Valley.

“I decided I would like to make an opening address in Welsh.

“I knew a Welsh speaking audience would be thrilled.

“My close friend, and agent at the time, Howard Davies, is a Welsh speaker and he said to me, ‘Don’t do it Peter, this is mad’.”

But on with it he went, and with the help of former deputy head teacher, Caryl Chiswell, of Godre’r Graig, he was tutored for the three or four months ahead of the festival.

“We wrote a speech, and went through it,” said Mr Hain.

“But then we had to change it, because she said it was too complicated, and that we could say the same thing in a different way.

“To cut a long story short, I delivered it and got a standing ovation.

“There was also a message from Nelson Mandela, thanking the people of Wales for their support in the freedom struggle.”

Full interview here:


Devolution Of Fiscal Responsibility

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is it not the case that people in Wales would be buying a pig in a poke if income tax were devolved without a proper floor being put underneath the Barnett formula? The failure to address that issue has resulted in Wales being short-changed, so if income tax were devolved without the Barnett formula being addressed, it would be a bad outcome for Wales.

Mr Jones: I fear that the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked the arrangements that we put in place with the Welsh Government in October 2012, which ensure that if there is any danger of convergence, then the issue will be resolved. I believe that we should all be ambitious for Wales, and we should indeed be looking for a lower rate of income tax in Wales to give Wales the competitive advantage that it needs.

Wales Bill – It Cannot Be Right For Losers To Become Winners Through The Back Door

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I, too, wish to speak in favour of amendment 13 and against clause 2 remaining in the Bill. The Secretary of State and other Members who have taken part in our proceedings on the Bill might recognise some of my comments from my single transferable vote speech on dual candidature, because I remain firmly opposed to that abuse of democracy. However, I will be brief, because my favourite premiership player, Frank Lampard, is captaining England at 5 o’clock, and I know that even Members from Welsh constituencies, with the possible exception of our Plaid Cymru friends, will want to cheer them on in their final game.

I repeat my basic argument, which I have expressed throughout the Bill’s proceedings, and the rationale for my ban on dual candidature in the 2006 Act: it cannot be right for losers to become winners through the back door, despite having been rejected by the voters. That is an abuse of democracy. People who stand for a single-Member seat and then lose can end up being elected anyway, in defiance of the electorate’s wishes, because at the same time they are in a list category, and that is an abuse of democracy. There is no real argument against losers becoming winners in that way.

There was a widespread abuse practised by 15 of the 20 list AMs prior to the 2006 ban. They used taxpayers’ money to open constituency offices in the very single-Member seats in which they were defeated. They then targeted those seats at the following election by cherry-picking local issues against the constituency AMs who had beaten them. Why are they so afraid of taking their choice to the people, and why are the Government so afraid of democracy? Why are they so afraid of losing constituency elections that they need the lifebelt of standing for the lists as well? That is what the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, for whom I have considerable admiration despite all that, is doing in Rhondda. In a leaked memorandum written in August 2003, she was refreshingly honest about promoting abuse of the dual candidature system by list Members using taxpayers’ money.
With the 2006 Act ban having been removed by the Government, there is nothing to stop such abuse being practised again. I suspect that Leanne Wood may need to reissue her guidance. Perhaps she could pass it round to all the political parties in Wales so that Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the UK Independence party can exploit the system together instead of leaving it to Plaid Cymru. Indeed, perhaps the Secretary of State could issue the document from the Wales Office so that it has the official approval he presumably wants in changing the law as he now intends, despite the strength of the arguments against it, because it is really a bible for the dual candidature that he and the Government are so enthusiastically preaching and want to restore following the 2006 ban in the wake of these serial abuses. I remind him, and the House, of just how valuable that guide could be for all the political parties. If the political system is to be brought into disrepute by the restoration of dual candidature and the ending of the ban following the serial abuses, why cannot all parties take part and make sure that the decline in respect of Assembly elections is endemic in the system, given that that is what he is encouraging?

Leanne Wood urged Plaid Cymru list Assembly Members to concentrate tens of thousands of pounds of their local office budgets, paid for by taxpayers, on their party’s target seats. She urged them to do casework only where it might benefit Plaid Cymru in those target seats, and to attend civic and other events in the constituency only if they thought that there were votes in it.

There has been a deafening silence from Ministers about this bible for dual candidature, so I will repeat its essential contents in case they have not memorised my two previous speeches on the subject. Leanne Wood’s memorandum, “What should be the role of a Regional AM?”, perfectly illustrates the problem that we faced before the 2006 Act banned dual candidature in Wales. She should be praised for her honesty—indeed, her transparency. She wrote:
“Each regional AM has an office budget and a staff budget of some considerable size. Consideration should be given to the location of their office—where would it be best for the region? Are there any target seats…within the region?”

She meant, of course, single Member target seats.