Thursday, July 03, 2014

Wales Bill

Glyn Davies: I am grateful to be called to speak on an issue that is of great personal interest. As well as being the Member of Parliament for the Welsh seat of Montgomeryshire, I served for eight years representing Mid and West Wales as a regional Member of the National Assembly for Wales. My dominant interests since becoming a Member of Parliament have been Welsh politics, the Welsh economy, Welsh public services and, indeed, the relationship between Cardiff Bay and Westminster as they deal with the devolution process, which will continue for many more years to come. The nature of constitutional process is that one does not reach an end stage.

Unlike the Shadow Secretary of State, I do not think this a dry debate at all. Debates about the constitution tend not to jokey or light hearted. But as someone who is deeply embedded in Welsh politics, I find a debate about a Bill concerning the future governance of my nation hugely interesting.

I declare my enthusiastic support for the Wales Bill. It is a significant step forward in the devolution process, even if there are aspects with which I do not agree. In this disagreements I may be in a small minority, but I should refer to them alongside my general support for the Bill, putting my opinions on the record for the benefit of anyone in my constituency and indeed the rest of Wales who might want to know what they are.

I have listened to most of the debate; I missed some of it owing to other meetings. My general impression is that Labour’s position in particular is thoroughly confused. Clearly, Members on this side of the House are pleased that Labour will be supporting the Wales Bill—that is a positive move—but the contributions of many Labour Members suggest that they just do not accept the principle of financial accountability underlying the devolution of income tax raising to the National Assembly for Wales. Some of their language has sounded more as though they oppose the Bill than being in support of it.

The Plaid Cymru contributions have been ‘churlish’—that is the word that I will use. During this Parliament it was a Conservative Secretary of State who introduced, with very great determination, the Bill that created law-making powers in Wales. I do not believe that it would have been introduced if it had not been a Conservative Secretary of State; I think that a Labour Secretary of State would probably have chickened out. It was a Conservative Secretary of State who established the Silk commission, which has done very good work. Like several other Members, I commend it for its work. It is a Conservative Secretary of State who has introduced this Bill. I perfectly accept that it does not go as far as Plaid Cymru Members may want—one would not expect that—and, indeed, there are differing views on the detail of the Bill across all parties, but nobody can disagree that granting tax-raising powers to the National Assembly for Wales, and the borrowing powers that go with them, is anything but a huge constitutional step forward. On that basis, it might have been at least fair of Plaid Cymru to congratulate the Conservative party on taking us down the road, not as far as it would want, but certainly in a positive direction.

Mr Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman said that he had been in and out of the debate, and I accept that—so have I. My colleagues were generous about various parts of the Bill, but nevertheless there are parts about which we are concerned, and that is the nature of politics. Do not call us churlish because we find fault in some way with the Bill. That is just politics, is it not?

Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He has been a friend for a long time. It is reassuring that he has decided to intervene and say how supportive he is of what the Conservative Government have delivered in the past few years. I shall read today’s debate in Hansard to pick out all those individual bits that he speaks so enthusiastically about.

There are several elements to the Wales Bill, the most important one by a long way being the tax raising powers and the commensurate borrowing powers that go with them. There will be continuing debate about this matter. It may well feature in the manifestos of the various parties leading up to the next general election, and I believe it will be revisited in the next Parliament. That is naturally the way of things with constitutional issues when. There will be a next step in this process, and I look forward to being a part of it after the next general election.

Another issue that is causing a lot of excitement is the removal of the ban on dual candidacy. Labour today is describing this change as political gerrymandering. If there has been any political intent to gerrymander, it was on the part of the Labour party when it introduced the ban. No independent body in Wales, including the Electoral Commission, thinks that it is any way partisan to scrap the ban on dual candidacy. It was brought in by the Labour Government in this place with the support of Labour in Cardiff, with the view that it would benefit the Labour party in Wales, and it is truly ironic that it did not. The Opposition should welcome what is a right and proper constitutional change being brought in by this Government.

Personally, I am not in favour of a referendum. In general, I do not like them. Political parties should tell the people what they intend to do and if the people vote for them at a general election they can carry it out without a referendum. I accept that I am in a minority in relation to a referendum on tax-raising powers in Wales. The Silk commission recommended one and there was a referendum in Scotland before tax raising powers were introducing. On this specific issue, I will have to sneak back into my box rather quietly.

I am also not in favour of introducing a five-year term between Assembly elections. Again I might be in a minority. I generally think that four-year terms are right for Parliaments. We have a five-year term here at Westminster, and I realise that there is a lot of support for a five-year term for the National Assembly. Again, that involves another little box that I will have to crawl into.

But let us not forget what the Bill will do if, as I hope it will, it receives its Third Reading today. This Westminster Parliament is granting to the National Assembly for Wales the power to raise taxes, including a significant proportion of income tax — delivering financial accountability. In future a Welsh Government will be accountable to the people whom they represent. There is further to go, but this is an important principle. A Bill put forward by a Conservative Secretary of State is making a significant contribution to the process of devolution in Wales.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Debate - Westminster : Organ Donation

Glyn Davies:

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak in this important debate on an issue that has long been a strong interest of mine. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) on securing the debate, and on the reasoned and comprehensive way in which he presented his case. I apologise to him and to you, Mr Hollobone; I did not notice that this debate was taking place until about five minutes before it started, so I must apologise if my comments are in any way disjointed.

Donating an organ is just about the greatest gift that anybody can make. It is wonderful to do so on death, but it is perhaps even more so in life, such as when people donate kidneys altruistically. I know several people who have done so, and it is one of the greatest things that anyone can do. Today is a particularly good day to discuss organ donation; the night before last, we watched Erik Compton, who has had two heart transplants, come second in the US Open golf championship. It demonstrates how a transplant can not only give life but can allow the recipient to live a life that is completely full and to do the most amazing things. Coming second in the US Open is a pretty amazing thing to have done.

My own interest started with a woman I knew, Trudy, who was a constituent, although I was not her MP at the time. She had one of the first heart and lung transplants at Papworth. She was a most amazing person. Together, we worked to deliver kidney dialysis in Montgomeryshire, where there was none. A dialysis unit has now been delivered by the Welsh a Government, and is delivering a terrific service. Trudy died a couple of years ago, but the dialysis unit stands as a monument to the fantastic woman that she was.

I am a trustee of the Kidney Wales Foundation. One of the disappointments in my public life is that I am in disagreement with the foundation about changing the organ donation system to one based on presumed consent. I am the only trustee who takes this view. I disagree completely with what the Welsh Government has done in changing the law to introduce presumed consent. I have always been a bit disappointed by this disagreement. The aim of every trustee—me and all the others, despite the disagreement-is to increase the number of organ donations and the number of organs available. I have always been driven by the evidence. I have never been influenced by the ethical aspects of this debatede. I am influenced only by where the evidence takes me in terms of how to deliver the most organs. I firmly believe that what the Welsh Government have done will absolutely not deliver more organs, despite what Welsh Ministers say, and which the media repeats, parrot fashion, without looking at the evidence.

The only time I ever feel resentful in this sensitive debate is when, as has so often happened on the numerous times I have been invited to speak about this issue in the media, somebody in desperate need of a new organ is interviewed and I am then asked why I want to prevent them from having an organ. I am utterly appalled by the media’s lack of objectivity and the lack of reference to evidence when dealing with the issue.

We need to move forward as best we can and I want to focus on policy for the future. I will make some specific points. We must look at what happened in Spain. Spain has been referred to in this debate on several occasions and it is a huge success story. However, it is often incorrectly referred to as a country that operates an opt-out system. That claim is absolutely false, even if the Welsh Government used it as part of the basis for their argument. Despite experts writing to them to tell them that their claim is false, it is still what they based their consultation on. It was a disgrace to conduct a consultation on those misleading terms.

What happened in Spain was that opt-out legislation was introduced in 1979. Twelve months later, it was pretty well abandoned. It remains on the statute book, but as sometimes happens to laws, it has never been implemented. Ten years later the Spanish Government realised that the legislation was not working and introduced a series of other changes. It was these changes that we should replicate and concentrate on if we are to make a difference.

We should also learn lessons from the organ donation taskforce, which my hon. Friend referred to several times. It did a terrific job under its great chair, Elizabeth Buggins, who is one of the most expert people on this issue. The taskforce considered the issue for two or three years. Everyone assumed that the taskforce would recommend a change to presumed consent. However, when it produced a report, all its members had changed their minds because they had looked at the evidence. The person who has taken over from me in Montgomeryshire as the driving force locally behind promoting renal dialysis believed that changing to presumed consent was a right way forward. I said, “Look at the evidence.” As soon as she studied that evidence, she changed her mind.

Andrew Griffiths: I thank my hon. Friend not only for attending the debate, but for making such an important and heartfelt contribution; I think that we all value that. I understand what he is saying about the opt-in system versus the opt-out system and the need to follow the evidence. However, does he agree that ultimately organ donation should be my choice? It should be the individual’s choice as to whether their organs are used for donation after they die, and nobody else’s choice.

Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. It is a perfectly reasonable position to take. I do not know what the figures are—I do not know how often this situation happens. them. I am interested to know because it seems wrong.

I accept the point that has been made, but one counterpoint is that sometimes people can change their minds even though they are carrying an organ donor card. However, if people have joined a campaign, we should assume that that is their view. I would be surprised if there are many instances where a family would overrule an individual’s decision; it would be interesting if the Minister could give us the figures to show how often that happens. If it is a major issue, we should address it.

The first issue that we need to address is the number of specialist nurses for organ donation. That is what made a huge difference in Spain, and it is the area where we really need to concentrate. That is what has made a big difference here already Since the organ donation taskforce reported in 2007, the number of donations has increased by 50%, which was the target. That is good news. It is the specialist nurses who have made the difference.

I spent some time talking to a SNOD (specialist nurse) in Shropshire. He has agreed to visit local schools and to organise discussions and debates. We can use specialist nurses to help people to understand this debate, which for most people only becomes an issue when they are faced with what is often a personal tragedy and is such a difficult time to talk to people. Talking to people when the person who perhaps they love most looks as if they are alive, because their bodies are still breathing, even though they are brain-dead, and saying that that person’s support system should be switched off and their organs taken is a hugely traumatic experience. We need trained nurses who have the skills to communicate with people in those difficult circumstances. It is the specialist nurses for organ donation who can do that.

Andrew Griffiths: Four out of 10 families refuse consent when they are asked to give it.

Glyn Davies: I think that that is a repetition of the previous intervention. However, the point is interesting and I would like the Minister to give us the figures to show to what extent that situation actually happens, and whether a specialist nurse in organ donation was involved in individual cases.

The second thing that is crucial, particularly in Wales, is the number of intensive care beds. A lot of people assume that an organ can be donated when there is a road accident or when somebody is suddenly killed in another way, but there can only be a donation when the person is in an intensive care bed and there is the facility to carry out the donation. We have a shortage of intensive care beds. The number of such beds in Spain is higher than in the UK, and much higher than the number in Wales, where it is particularly low. That is the area where the investment needs to go to ensure that there are intensive care beds. I know that in the last year there have been cases in Wales of organs that were available for donation but they were simply not used because there was not an intensive care bed to allow the donation to happen.

The final point I want to make is, I think, the reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Burton secured this debate today. It is about the issue of awareness. We should put every effort we can into campaigns to have everybody tell their next of kin their view on donation. That is what I say to people in schools when I talk to them; I say to people, “Tell your family what your view is, so that they know clearly.” Carrying an organ donation card is helpful in that respect, because it very much gives an indication of someone’s view. That is why I was interested in the point that my hon. Friend has made in his interventions on me.

What we really need, and the Government really must invest in it, is a big advertising campaign based on the message, “Tell the family. Make sure your next of kin know your wishes.” If we had such a campaign, we would raise the number of consenting next of kin. If we can increase the number of people in Britain who consent to organ donation to the level it is in Spain, we will not have the thousands of people dying on a waiting list as happens in the UK at present.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Queen's Speech Debate.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak. This is the first time that I have been called in a debate on the Gracious Speech since being elected as an MP in 2010, and since we are debating the final Queen’s Speech in this Parliament before the next general election perhaps it is the last occasion that I will have a chance to be called! Whether I have a further opportunity is a matter for the voters in Montgomeryshire next May. Anyway, thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me today.

The Prime Minister began his speech at the beginning of this debate last Wednesday by telling the House that the most important task facing the coalition Government during the next year is continuing the work of restoring our economy. That is absolutely the right approach. There are 11 interesting and important Bills in the Queen’s Speech, but underpinning everything that the coalition Government should focus on in the next year is economic recovery.

While I emphasise the important aim in the Gracious Speech of continuing in a determined way with the task of economic recovery, we should acknowledge what has already been achieved. It is far more than many of us would have expected and it has certainly defied the consistently dire predictions that have been made by the Opposition during the past four years. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor today listed some of those predictions, which have all been shown to be completely false. In particular, the falling levels of unemployment and the rising levels of employment have been nothing short of miraculous. Only yesterday, the employment figures for May were published. Unemployment fell by 161,000 in May. Since 2010, more than 2 million jobs have been created.

In May the number of unemployed people in my constituency fell to 647—just 2.1% of the economically active—which is 270 fewer than a year ago, and 33 fewer than in April. Those are astonishingly good figures, and they are reflected in constituencies right across the UK.

Montgomeryshire is blessed with many dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises across the range of sectors. Over the past few weeks I have visited several of them, accompanied by Ministers from the Wales Office team. We visited Sidoli, Invertec and T. Alun Jones in Welshpool, Makefast, Stagecraft, Quartix and Trax in Newtown, and last Thursday I joined a celebration at Stadco in Llanfyllin as that outstanding company received the Jaguar Land Rover quality standard award. Those businesses, which are mainly in manufacturing, are growing solidly, providing new jobs, creating apprentices, and demonstrating their confidence in Britain and in the Government’s long-term economic plan. The last thing they need is a national insurance jobs tax, which the shadow Chancellor so studiously refused to rule out earlier today.

Over recent months the Opposition have made a lot of noise about the cost of living—they have done so again today—as if Labour’s management of the economy while they were in Government had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Experience teaches us that the only way to create sustainable increases in wages is through the marketplace, through the pressure created by competition for good, well-trained employees who are willing to work. Therefore, it is absolutely right that the coalition Government continue with their brilliantly successful economic plans all the way up to the general election.

In the 20 seconds of my 4 minutes remaining I want to make a brief comment about the livestock industry. My constituency is rural and depends largely on livestock farming. Currently, the economy of my constituency is being seriously affected by what is happening to the beef industry. Beef prices have crashed following inflow of large amounts of imported beef. I have no problem with imported beef from Eastern Europe being on supermarket shelves, but I do think shoppers should know it is imported beef from Eastern Europe. The Government need to act to ensure that supermarkets accurately label imported beef with country of origin so that shoppers can make an informed choice.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

My Tribute to Mid-Wales Pylons/Turbines Protestors

As I reactivate 'A View From Rural Wales', it's seems right that I should begin by revisiting the issues that have taken my attention over recent years - a sort of issues update. And over the last 9 yrs no issue has intruded on my thoughts more than the proposed development of onshore wind farms in Mid-Wales. Now I'm not expecting to say much more about this issue. I feel that, in general, I have done what I can. It's now in the hands of a planning inspector named Adrian Poulter, the UK Government and the voters in 2015. I want to use this blogpost for two purposes. Firstly to give a general picture of where we are on the Welsh Govt desire to industrialise the uplands of Mid-Wales, and why I now believe the project is now unlikely to go ahead. Secondly I will pay tribute to the amazing volunteers who have given up months/years of their lives to defend Mid Wales from such a fate.

I) The Conjoined Public Inquiry into 6 planning applications for wind farms/132kv line has just ended. The Inquiry took a year. We expect the Inspector to write up his report, including decision recommendations and send it to the Dept of Climate Change before the end of 2014. We have no idea when the Secretary of State will announce his decision. And we do not know whether judicial review of that decision will be sought or secured. At the same time, National Grid are ploughing on with preparations to seek consent to build a 400kv line from North Shropshire to Cefn Coch (around 40 miles) to serve these and many other wind farms just sitting in the planning system. At some stage, National Grid will announce it's proposals for statutory public consultation. We do not know when this will happen.

2) We expect the subsidy arrangements for onshore wind to change in April 2017. At present, any wind farm which secures planning permission, is built and starts producing electricity will receive a guaranteed level of subsidy. Any wind farm not producing by April 2017 will have no guarantee of receiving any subsidy at all, which would make them totally unviable. The new system of Govt subsidy will be based on 'Contracts for Difference'. This involves a whole range of renewable energy projects applying to a 'pot' of subsidy on a competitive basis. At that time the Govt will decide which projects to support. And when the 'pot' is used up, there will not be more subsidy available. Wind farm permissions will no longer be a licence to print money.

3) The Conservatives have stated unambiguously that if they form the Govt after May 2015, steps will be taken to end onshore wind subsidies, except in special cases. The target that was set for onshore wind by Govt in support of carbon reduction policy will have been met - several years early. It's expected that the moratorium will be in place by Nov 2015 (17 months time). The Conservatives have also stated unambiguously that local opinion, as expressed through the planning process will not be over-ruled on appeal. No will mean No as far as refusal of planning permission is concerned. We do not know what the stance of any coalition or alternative government would be post 2015.

It's after taking all the above into account that I have recently taken the view that I do not think the Mid Wales Connection Project, which National Grid are reported to have already spent £10million on, will go ahead. Until a few weeks ago, I've never said more that that I thought there was a chance of stopping this project. I also think that the case against agreeing all the proposals before the Public Inquiry is so strong, that there is a very strong probability that the decision will be subject to judicial review. So now we await developments.

I want to end this post, and probably comments on onshore wind for a good while, by paying tribute to the amazing commitment by the protestors. Many of these volunteers have given up months, sometimes years, of their lives to organise a brilliantly professional campaign of opposition. I can never forget the astonishing public meeting at Welshpool Livestock Mart, and the 38 bus loads of people who travelled to protest on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. A picture which will remain in my mind forever was the scene when I gave my evidence to the Inquiry when there were just volunteers on one side and perhaps 15 barristers, etc., all paid for at electricity consumers expense on the other. We must be heartened that David did defeat Goliath. The protest movement has been brilliant. Without it I would have been able to achieve nothing at the Westminster level. They love Mid-Wales, and have shown a commitment and sacrifice which will ensure I, and others who really love this wonderful place, will forever be grateful.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Decriminalisation of Assisted Suicide.

Have decided to re-activate my blog, and run it up to the General Election. I wanted my first post to be about a current serious issue. There is none more serious that the Bill introduced into the House of Lords this week by Lord Falconer to legalise assisted suicide. I will be opposing this Bill, even though I accept that there may well be a majority of the public who take the opposing view. I can think of no better way of expressing my view that to share with you a speech I made on the issue in 2012. My view remains exactly the same today as it was then.
Thank you, Mr Speaker for calling me to speak in this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow Alun Michael in this debate. He and I do not always agree, but on this occasion I agreed with every word that he said. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Richard Ottaway on the tone that he adopted in opening the debate.  I thought it just right for the introduction of such an important debate.
I should declare an interest. I am a member of the board of Living and Dying Well, an organisation that commissions evidence-based research into end-of-life care. I have regular conversations with Lord Carlile who chairs it, and with Baroness Finlay, who has already been mentioned in this debate by other honourable members today.
I too have received several letters from members of the campaigning group, Dignity in Dying. I invariably write back disagreeing with them. However I always do so with a great deal of respect, because—like other Members who have spoken—I think that opinions on both sides of this debate are motivated by compassion. I do not think it right to be critical of those who take a different view from me when it is compassion that motivates them.
I have been concerned about some of the media coverage that has appeared before today’s debate. Much of it has seemed to suggest that we are contemplating, and perhaps moving towards, a change in the law. That is not the case. All that we are discussing today is a reaffirmation of the current position in law, which is why I am happy to support the motion before us.
I am probably unusual in the chamber today in having had an interest in assisted suicide for as long as it has been an offence. I was 17 in 1961, and an active member of my local young farmers club. As young farmers clubs do, we discussed the issues of the day in debating competitions. In one such debate I supported the decriminalisation of suicide, which was being considered at the time. Suicide was decriminalised. A key factor however, without which the law change would not have been passed was that an offence of assisting suicide was included in section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, it would simply not have been agreed without this clause introducing the offence of assisting a suicide. This clause was seen as an absolute protection, allowing the offence of suicide itself to be abolished.
My view remains exactly the same today. Over the last few days I have received many representations and briefings, as have many other Members. And over the months during which I have been a member of Living and Dying Well, we have commissioned several research papers. There so much information that it is almost impossible to engage one’s mind clearly with all of it. Because of the time limit on speeches today is so tight, I shall make just one fundamental point.
In 1961, I just knew that assisted suicide was wrong. I thought that it was extremely dangerous, and I still think that. If the Director of Public Prosecution's guidance became statutory we would, in effect, be legalising assisted suicide, and I believe that that would have a very negative impact on the frail elderly, the terminally ill, the incapacitated and the seriously depressed.
I have never believed that the malicious assister is the biggest problem, although that may well be a concern for many honourable members. What has always concerned me is the likelihood that the normalisation of assisted suicide would lead to uncertainty about their own worth among the groups whom I have listed. It would cause them to ask questions about their own value. They would see themselves as becoming a burden on society. When we talk to elderly people who are nearing the end of their lives, we often find that they are concerned about not being able to leave assets to their grandchildren. I believe that that concern would be much greater if assisted suicide were legalised and thus normalised. My view is that it was and is wrong, and that only in very special circumstances, decided as it now by the Director of Public Prosecution, should those guilty of assisted suicide not be prosecuted.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

S4C and Welsh Identity debate

S4C and Welsh Identity

Few weeks ago, I led a debate which I called S4C and Welsh Identity. I did quite a bit of preparation for my speech to open the debate. However I did not write anything down and just spoke as if in a conversation. Never again. I was shocked by how scattergun was the transcript. I thought it went rather well in the debating chamber, leading to a good debate, but I had to tidy it up a bit before putting up on my website. Anyway, here it is.
Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con):
S4C and its link with cultural identity are hugely important in Wales and a matter on which there is a large measure of agreement across all parties and among all Welsh MPs.  I would have liked to have had more Members from other parties present for the debate. Unfortunately, however, we clash with the Welsh Grand Committee, which meets at the same time.  So I fear that we may be short of the sort of numbers that I might have expected. This is certainly not a reflection of the strong interest of Welsh MPs in the future of S4C.

My personal interest developed in the 1960s and 1970s, when I became much more aware of my own identity - as we do tend to as we grow older.  I realised I was Welsh to the core.  First and foremost, I would always describe myself as Welsh. I have looked through records of my ancestors, and I do not have a single one who was not born in Montgomeryshire, Sir Drefaldwyn and every single one was a first-language Welsh speaker.

In the 1960s, my generation—my five sisters and I—were the first not to speak Welsh; we spoke only English. When I became a Member of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999, my sense of identity grew stronger and was such that I felt that I had to learn to speak Welsh. Since then I have become bilingual, and if anyone were to ask me what were the proudest achievements in my life, one of them would be becoming bilingual in the language of my own nation.

I have been asked why I sought today’s debate. It stemmed from a meeting with the chief executive of S4C, in which we talked about the channel’s forward budget and future programme development. It was about a chance conversation, three years on from the trauma experienced when the inflationary link on which S4C funding was based was broken. The avenue through which the funding is processed also changed so that it came via the BBC Trust, from the licence fee. That change was also significant, as well as being a sensitive issue, causing much concern in Wales.

Another factor in the timing of the debate is that we have a new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. There will inevitably be something of an induction course for the new Secretary of State.  He will soon realise that the S4C issue is not a quiet one. It might well be on his desk more than he expects. The issue is important, and he needs to be aware of just how important S4C, the Welsh language and the cultural link between them is to the Welsh people.

S4C is inextricably linked to the language and Welsh identity. More than anything else, it is the Welsh language that makes Wales special. As I said, my first interest in Welsh identity, including in the language, developed in the 1960s. At that time—this might come as a shock to my colleagues—I won a bardic chair for a 20,000-word essay on the future of the Welsh language. It might cause some amusement to hear that my pseudonym was Taurus ap Tomos; make of that what you will.

The conclusion of my essay was pessimistic, not an unusual conclusion to draw in the 1960s.  It was that the Welsh language would disappear as a spoken language. We have made a huge advance since then, because that is not something that people would say today. It is easy to forget just how negative prospects were in the 1960’s.

Before 1982, there had been a build-up to the establishment of S4C. Some Welsh language programmes appeared in the 1960s and 1970s on other platforms, the BBC and HTV Cymru. Before the 1979 general election, there was much debate about whether a new Welsh language channel would be created. But it was created, even though there was a bit of a hoo-hah after the election. The Government of the day was facing economic and budgetary pressures and had to consider carefully before committing to new spending. There was a lot of support for a new channel; the Welsh community came together and applied pressure, as they did three years ago, too. The outcome was that the then Government, led by Mrs Thatcher, created S4C in November 1982.

Despite the hoo-hah leading up to it, the creation of S4C under a Conservative Government is something that I look back on as a major step forward for the language. If we look at the record of the Conservative party, creating S4C was not the only thing it did: the Welsh Language Act 1993 was also a major step forward.  The creation of the Welsh Language Board was another Conservative initiative.

I am therefore proud, not only of the creation of S4C in 1982 — there can be debate about how that came about, particularly the influence of Gwynfor Evans’s threat to fast to death, and Opposition criticism of the prevarication in introducing the necessary Bill—but the budget it was granted. There has always been a good and adequate budget.  Since the beginning S4C has been good value. In 1991, a guaranteed link with inflation was introduced, and that funded the channel on a confident basis right up until 2010, when the incoming Government faced a similar position to that of the Government which came to power in 1979, facing threats to the economy and a need to cut back on public expenditure.

There is room for debate about the impact of the inflationary link. On the one hand there was the positive element: S4C had a guaranteed income in a business in which forward commitments need to be made, and independence from Government interference. However, the statutory link to inflation may have led to an element of complacency. That guaranteed income meant that S4C had to keep thinking not about its market, but about satisfying the people in control of paying it.

It was quite an experience for me being involved in legislating to break the inflation link. I served on the Committee that examined the Public Bodies Bill. I had 1,200 e-mails on the issue, which is four times more than on any other subject since I became an MP. After I had spoken in committee I became something of a target. We even had someone carted out of the Public Gallery, because she began to shout at me. There was a huge rumpus in Wales as well. I was being doorstepped all over this building by various people lobbying. What all this showed me was that the people of Wales really cared about their channel. They were worried that changes would damage it, although over the past three years, in my opinion, things have worked out okay.

There was a second big change: rather than being funded directly from Westminster, the channel is now funded from the licence fee through the BBC Trust.  There is an issue consequent on this change that has raised its head this morning. Many were worried about that change at the time. Their worry is that we need an independent S4C that is not influenced by a paymaster—that is, not influenced by the BBC. 

The comments we have seen reported in the media today are a bit overblown. The director of BBC Cymru Wales has spoken about S4C viewing figures at peak hours, which might be perceived as wanting to influence the management of S4C.  I am not sure that that is right. What is crucial is that S4C is free and independent—editorially, operationally and managerially. The slightest suggestion that there might be some interference is what has caused a hoo-hah today. I welcome that, as it emphasises just how important that independence is.

I must say that the relationship between S4C and the BBC in Wales is probably better than anybody could have expected.

There is one aspect of the Public Bodies Act 2011 on which I would like a reassurance from the Minister—I am sure he will be happy to give it. Section 31 states that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport must ensure “sufficient funding” to deliver a Welsh language channel in Wales. That is rather imprecise. However, it is important that it is stated in the Act and that the Secretary of State has this responsibility.

My focus today is on the link between S4C and the language.  It is what I think is most important.  However, to a lot of people, the importance of S4C is about not just the language but the contribution that it makes to the economy. I was involved in economic development for the whole of Wales around the time that S4C was created. There followed a blossoming of the creative industries. A large number of small production businesses set up in parts of Wales where there had been depopulation, and to which it was difficult to attract other forms of business. S4C does not produce its own programmes but commissions it from others.  A large proportion of those commissions go not to the BBC but to independent companies. Today we have four major companies that produce programmes for S4C. These include: Boom Pictures, a successful international company; Tinopolis, a major company that produces “Question Time”; Rondo; and Cwmni Da, a company that has sold programmes to China.

We should not forget, however, that the last thing we want is for S4C to drop into a comfort zone of just working with established companies. We need to make certain that it is not just the four established companies with good relationships with S4C that continue to get all the work, and that there is still a blossoming of new, small companies in the more remote parts of Wales where it is still more difficult to develop the economy.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): My hon. Friend will have heard that S4C is moving its headquarters to Carmarthen. The economic contribution that that will make across west Wales is profound. His point is a good one, and one that S4C is beginning to realise itself.

Glyn Davies: I agree with my hon. Friend. There will obviously be views on whether S4C should move its Headquarters from the capital, where political activity is mainly based and the creative industries are concentrated.  In my opinion the move is the right one to where the language is under most threat, in what I term the heartlands, where Welsh is still the language of the street and the playground.  Carmarthen is one of those places. Those are the areas where we have seen the biggest loss in Welsh speakers in recent years and where S4C can play a role in helping to stabilise decline in use of the language.

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): Like others, I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. To return to education and the importance of the language, does he agree that an essential role of S4C has been to buttress education policy in schools? It is not a tool of Government policy but has meant that children from an anglicised background have had the Welsh language made familiar in their homes in a natural way. Does he also agree that evidence for the fact that S4C is in no way complacent is the international success of many of its commissions, not least “Hinterland”, which was filmed in Ceredigion?

Glyn Davies: Indeed. The only difficulty I had with ‘Hinterland’ was that it rained pretty much throughout the first episode and was probably not particularly helpful to attracting tourists to Ceredigion. However, I have watched the later episodes, and greatly enjoyed them.

My request for today’s debate was instigated by a meeting with S4C where we discussed future funding. Decisions on future programming have to be made two or three years ahead, and those making the decisions need to have an idea of what their budget will be. Although most of S4C’s budget comes from the licence fee, which is fairly predictable, a certain amount still comes from the Westminster Government—from DCMS—and is guaranteed for only a limited period. Programmes such as “Hinterland” take more than two years to deliver, from initial discussions to delivery.  To commit to a programme such as ‘Hinterland’ a fair degree of certainty is needed. That is one of the main reasons I requested today’s debate, before discussions on S4C’s future funding are taken. The licence fee we know about, and the Minister may have already started discussions on its future. Officially, they will probably start after the next election.  If we are going to see good and internationally successful programmes such as “Hinterland”, we need to have a period in which the board and chief executive of S4C can commit to delivering programmes in two years’ time.  That requires some certainty about the budget.

Very soon now — perhaps it has already begun — the Secretary of State will be starting the long process of reviewing the BBC’s charter, and part of that will be its relationship with S4C and the continuation of the funding stream. There will also be discussions, which I hope honourable members will be part of, about S4C deciding what sort of organisation it wants to be. There will be changes — nothing stands still, particularly in the fast-moving world of the creative industries. There needs to be a serious look at how much money comes in from advertising which is a significant part of S4C’s funding.  This income inevitably is effected by viewing figures.  When I see headlines about audience figures, I never really trust them.  We have to look at the whole picture and what is behind the figures. S4C produces a lot of children’s programmes, which do not count in the way audience figures are measured.  S4C has been incredibly successful in that field, exporting children’s programmes all over the world. Also, there is a viewing trend affecting all television channels by the growth of online viewing, which inevitably leads to a reduction in audience figures. We have to look at the issue in the round before we make a judgment about viewing figures. There will be a significant debate about the sort of S4C we want. As I said, I think S4C is producing a document later this month which will be a chance for us to start engaging with it.

The United Kingdom has been a hugely successful entity for centuries. A key part of that is that each nation within the union, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has to feel a sense that it is belonging to a team and that its differences and uniqueness are properly recognised right across the UK; that the whole team recognises its special features. In Wales, we have a much loved language, which about 20% of people speak; it is very successful. We have probably stopped its decline, but there remains a constant battle to protect and boost it. That has to be respected throughout the United Kingdom, not just in Wales, where we are very aware of it.  That is why it is important that we have a debate about S4C, the language and the identity of Wales here in the UK Parliament. That is why I have secured today’s debate and why I have enjoyed sharing my views on the issue with hon. Members.