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Mr. Cook: The Government have been vigilant and vigorous in pursuing steps to ensure that we can bring to justice those who have committed crime. Indeed, the House will have many opportunities to debate that in the forthcoming Session, when there will be a number of Bills relating to court proceedings and criminal justice.
[That this House notes with concern the large number of resignations by town and parish councillors in protest at the implementation of the 'Model Code of Conduct for Parish and Town Councils'; believes that this is undermining local democracy and will severely weaken the representative character of these immensely valuable watchdogs; considers that the code is too Draconian for most small councils and that its implementation should have been delayed for one year to coincide with the local elections in 2003; and calls upon the Government urgently to reconsider both the terms and the application of these constraints.] May we have a debate on the effect of the new model code of conduct?
Is the Leader of the House aware that there have been a large number of resignations from parish and town councils, and that in one instance the entire council resigned? Such councils control very small budgets, and councillors receive no payment for the hard work they do for the community, but they are being asked to declare very small interests. That is a far more onerous requirement than the one placed on us.
Mr. Cook: I shall be happy to consider the point and write to the hon. Gentleman. In the meantime, let me say that I think the country and, too often, the media undervalue the voluntary contribution made by tens of thousands of people throughout the country who make local government work, and neither receive nor expect any financial reward. It is of course important for them to be open and declare what financial interests they may have, because we do not want anyone to be able to profit from his or her position, but most people in local government are driven not by a financial incentive but by a will to serve the local community, and to further their own genuine political convictions on behalf of the community.
[Relevant documents: First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 200001, on Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad, HC 38, and the Government's Response thereto, HC 270, Session 200102; Second Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee of Session 200102, HC 311Response of the National Assembly for Wales to the First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 200001, on Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad, HC 311, Session 200102.]
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): Welsh Members are rarely given the opportunity to engage in a day-long Adjournment debate, on a Thursday, about a matter affecting Wales. There is, of course, our annual St. David's day debate, which takes place around the time of that saint's day, but apart from that we have few such opportunities.
Mr. Murphy: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Welsh Grand Committee was due to debate the matter later in the year. For various reasons, however, this slot has become available, and I think it beneficial for Welsh Members to be able to rise to the challenge as I know only Welsh Members can.
I pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), who, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, initiated the inquiry into Wales's position in the world and what has happened to its profile since devolution. The Committee is extremely important. Over the years, it has more than once highlighted issues of great significance to the people of Wales and, indeed, to the whole United Kingdom. We currently await its report on objective 1 structural funding for Wales. Uniquely, it took evidence on that important issue from me and also from the First Minister of the National Assembly in Cardiff. We also await its reports on farming and food prices, and on broadband cabling. A report on transport in Wales is still under way.
That last example highlights the way in which the Committee is adapting to a post-devolution world. It now meets its counterparts in the National Assembly, where issues such as transport that are divided between the Assembly and the Government can be dealt with jointly. Today, however, we shall deal with an even broader subjectthe position of Wales in the wider world. The responses of the Assembly and the Government to the Committee's report on the subject also indicate that government in Wales is a joint affairthat the people of Wales are represented jointly by Members of the House of Commons here and by Members of the National Assembly in Cardiff. Clearly, in this and other instances, co-operation and partnership between the Assembly and the Government can work.
Mr. Murphy: I shall certainly mention that to the First Minister. My right hon. Friend the President of the Council has now left, but I know that he will read what my right hon. Friend has said in Hansard and take those points into account. We need to be innovative in the way in which we deal with issues constitutionally following the advent of devolution. I take my right hon. Friend's point.
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): I hope that the innovations will have a bearing on all our constituents, whether they live on the borders of Wales or are Welsh themselves. One of the difficulties that I face is that I cannot ask the Secretary of State questions about issues that are devolved: because they are devolved, it is impossible for hon. Members even to ask about them. Perhaps one of the innovations that the right hon. Gentleman will seek to bring in will permit some sort of dialogue or exchange in this Chamber to allow the concerns of our constituents on the borders outside Wales to be voiced to him.
Mr. Murphy: I have no problems with that. At most Welsh questions, there is no shortage of hon. Members on both sides of the House asking me questions that impinge on matters that are devolved, as opposed to those that are reserved.
Devolution has highlighted the international position of Wales in a special way. This coming Saturday, in just over 48 hours' time, the 2002 FA cup final will kick off at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. It will be watched by hundreds of millions of people in more than 100 countries, so the profile of Wales will be raised still more and in a special way this weekend.
As the Select Committee's investigation showed, the problem has been that, internationally, Scotland and Ireland have had a higher profile than Wales for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it is a question of size and of the extent to which the Scottish and Irish diaspora stay together in the United States, Australia and other countries. Although Welsh people did emigrate to America and elsewhere, because of the size of Welsh communities abroad, and for reasons of assimilation, Wales's profile was not as high as that of Scotland and Ireland. The Select Committee report did a great service in trying to find out why that was and, more significantly, how that profile could be raised to make Wales better known and more frequently visited by people from elsewhere.