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Earl Russell: The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has not understood what my noble friend was saying. My noble friend said nothing whatsoever which in any way denigrated the understanding of the Welsh people. He was
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for reminding me that the previous referendum was held on 1st March and for drawing my attention to what may very likely be the reason why the vote failed to reach the threshold.
The point about the UK-wide media is crucial. People may have a vast amount of ability to understand an argument but not the ability to get it into the columns of one of the national dailies. Many good arguments are sent off in press releases to the national dailies, which do not print them. All of us on every side of this Chamber have had experience of that.
It is unfortunately clearly the case that because Scotland is the larger country it attracts more attention from the UK-wide media. It has a slightly bigger share of leading journalists in London and a slightly bigger representation in Cabinet, and so it gets the lion's share of attention. The difficulty in getting Welsh arguments--especially specifically Welsh arguments--into the press during the Scottish referendum will be very much greater than it will be later.
As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will confirm, that will be particularly true because, regrettably, many Englishmen do not speak or read the Welsh language and, therefore, many will find it a great deal harder to get somebody to pay attention to arguments which are being conducted in the Welsh language and which may be of considerable importance. It will be easier to get a journalist with the requisite linguistic skills assigned to cover those arguments when there is not another referendum going on in Scotland. These are very good reasons for the Bill doing what it does.
Lord Rowallan: There is a quite large Gaelic-speaking minority in Scotland, so what is right in Scotland must be right in Wales. It cannot be argued that the Welsh will be less likely to try to find out what they want to do and how they are going to vote than the Scots. They are quite as capable of making up their minds as the average Scot, and should be encouraged so to do.
To give them a week or a fortnight, whatever we choose, to think about it--and maybe to say the Scots did that; perhaps we should do the same, or something completely different--is completely illogical. The answer must be that they should vote on the same day. It will be ascertained that the voters are not stupid in this country--if they are we should not be asking them to vote in a referendum at all; we have to assume that they know what they want--which is why we are giving them this referendum. Having said that, why do we not hold the referendums on the same day? There is nothing to be frightened of.
We had that system in England at one time when elections took place on different days. Lancashire voted first, and it used be said that what Lancashire said today the rest of England would think tomorrow. It is undoubtedly true that one can influence the other. That is why national polls are forbidden in a number of European countries a week or a fortnight before an election. People like to shout with a bigger mob. Therefore, I very much hope that the amendment will be accepted. If the noble Lord is inclined to treat it at this stage as a probing amendment, I venture to think that it is so important that it should be brought forward at a later stage.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I have known the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for a long time. We normally disagree on political matters and almost invariably, in the nature of our past employment, we have disagreed about legal issues. I have never heard anyone suggest that the noble Lord is patronising towards the people of the country from which we both originate and where he still lives. Incidentally, Sianel Pedwar C is not a small television station broadcasting to North Wales; it is actually based in Cardiff and broadcasts to the whole of Wales.
The general thrust of the amendments has been that it is absolutely essential politically, and virtually a moral imperative, that the referendums should be held on the same day in Scotland and Wales. Therefore, I focus my eye and my mind on Amendment No. 26. I do so because it says that the referendum in Wales shall be held,
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I feel that I should explain. In tabling such amendments, I was trying to be helpful to the Government. Amendment No. 25 seeks the same day, which I believe to be a very compelling argument. However, if the Government believe that the referendums ought to be held on different days, then Amendment No. 26 gives them the option of having the Welsh referendum before the Scottish one. It is up to the Minister to accept whichever amendment he wishes.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Well, well, well. How the world turns! A little while ago the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, was saying that he had never heard such a footling argument as that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. I would not of course be as graceless as to say that I have heard better arguments in my time in the Gowerton Magistrates' Court. This was going to be the perfect distilled question of principle; but it is not so at all.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who can plead not guilty to this particular amendment, said that the cry of the mob was not to be heard. I do not describe the electorate in Scotland as a mob; I believe that they are perfectly capable and entitled to make their own judgment on properly conducted campaigns. It seems acceptable to those noble Lords who have attached their names to the amendment that the cry of the mob in Wales is perfectly all right, if they wish to categorise it in that way, because there will not be any pollutant consequence upon the voters of Scotland.
The Earl of Onslow: My noble friend is quite capable of speaking for himself. However, it seems to me that what he is saying is this. What is the point of having the referendum in Scotland or in Wales first? Please justify which way round it should be? That is the point. We actually believe that it would be better to have them on the same day. Noble Lords opposite obviously feel that there is a moral supremacy in voting for Scotland first. Some of us may say later that there is a moral supremacy for the Welsh to vote first. That is the difference between the two amendments. The basic and fundamental difference between the two of them is that they lead to quite different roads.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I hear what the noble Earl says. However, I am entirely unconvinced by this attempt to dig a tunnel out of Amendment No. 26 and escape, first, through the tunnel and then jump over the barbed wire. Although I do not know this for certain, I believe that the material upon which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, was relying was not anecdotal evidence which he had gathered himself. I have read the document and I understand that the evidence came from the publication, The Road to the Referendum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred on Second Reading. It was produced by the independent Institute of Welsh Affairs. I shall not repeat the points about the disparity in media coverage in Wales and its origin because I believe that the statistics given by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, are correct.
The Institute of Welsh Affairs made another significant finding. It reported on the London-based press and its consequences in 1979. The detail is set out in the statistical material and I shall not repeat it. The institute found that:
Lord Rees: Before the Minister sits down, can he tell Members of the Committee what he would regard as a reasonable time, and on what basis, between the two referendums if they are to be held on different days?
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