PM Salisbury was Welsh: a history lesson from the Lords

 

As MPs spent yesterday debating devolution for Wales, peers spent the afternoon debating Scottish independence.

Perhaps it was coincidence the Lords debate was scheduled to clash with England's World Cup match, but many of the contributions focused on the consequences of independence for the rest of the UK.

Labour former Welsh Secretary Lord Morris of Aberavon said the Welsh people should have been consulted: "I particularly regret that the people of Wales were not given the opportunity to play a similar role to the Scots in the contemplated divorce in the constitution of which they, too, are an important part."

He added: "Come to think of it, my ancestor, Morgan Jenkin, who in 1706 was farming in Cardiganshire, was not consulted either. I thought that with the coming of universal franchise and democracy, we had moved on."

Lord Morris suggested that whatever the result in Scotland, the Wales Bill would have to be looked at again: "We may indeed be driven to look radically at federalism for all the countries of the United Kingdom."

Another former Labour cabinet minister, Lord Richard of Ammanford (and of the Richard commission), said he was as passionate about Wales as Alex Salmond was about Scotland. He argued that if Scotland were to get more powers, then so should Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lord Richard said the commission he chaired in 2004 still formed the basis for his thinking on devolution: "We really cannot continue with this lopsided concentration of powers, held together by allegiance to the Queen and a rather looser one to the Westminster parliament."

Former Plaid Cymru leader Lord Elis-Thomas said that if he had a vote in Scotland he would vote 'yes' - the only peer who spoke in favour of independence. "That does not make me a nationalist with a capital N and it certainly does not make me a separatist."

He added: "What we are talking about is not the end of the United Kingdom but the creation of united kingdoms or the recreation of united kingdoms, which of course includes the principality of Wales and indeed a significant portion of the island of Ireland."

Gorseinon-born Tory Lord Garel-Jones argued that no fewer than half of 20th century prime ministers were Scottish or Welsh and offered a history lesson that rewrote popular conceptions about Welsh prime ministers.

"Noble Lords may think that I am stretching the envelope a little by including Lord Salisbury in that list, but more than 500 years ago the Cecils were Welshmen on the make from Allt-Yr-Ynys on the Monmouthshire border. True, they anglicised their name from Seisyll to Cecil.

True, they now sound like proper English toffs. But it is true too that the present Lord Salisbury clutches his Welsh origins to his bosom with pride."

You can read the debate on Scottish independence here.

In other news, prime minister's question time passed without a single prime ministerial references to the Welsh government's handling of the NHS. That hasn't happened for several weeks.

And shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith has been sharing his experience of security vetting with viewers of the Daily Politics on BBC2. The Pontypridd MP was "deep vetted" on his appointment as a special adviser at the Northern Ireland Office in the last Labour government and believes it's implausible Andy Coulson didn't have to obtain similar clearance.

He added: "It's the most intrusive form of vetting, in order to determine whether you're trustworthy, whether you are who you say you are, whether you are potentially somebody who would be subject to blackmail.

"They ask you all sorts of horrible questions about your sex life and your financial background. Mine was depressingly plain vanilla. I really ought to spice it up a bit."

 
David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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