Second Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Tuesday 12 January 1993


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Ainger, Mr. Nick (Pembroke)

Allen, Mr. Graham (Nottingham, North)

Baker, Mr. Nicholas (Lords Commissioner to Treasury)

Brandreth, Mr. Gyles (City of Chester)

Churchill, Mr. Winston (Davyhulme)

Gill, Mr. Christopher (Ludlow)

Gorst, Mr. John (Hendon, South)

Hain, Mr. Peter (Neath)

Jones, Mr. Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine (Lancaster)

King, Mr. Tom (Bridgwater)

Knight, Dame Jill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Lloyd, Mr. Peter (Minister of State, Home Office)

Rowlands, Mr. Ted (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Shepherd, Mr. Colin (Hereford)

Wardell, Mr. Gareth (Gower)

Williams, Mr. Alan W. (Carmarthen)

Hanson, Mr. David (Delyn)

Dr. C. R. M. Ward, Committee Clerk

3 Second Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 12 January 1993

[MR. ROBERT HICKS in the Chair]

Draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1992

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee has considered the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1992—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

10.30 am

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower): I feel a little lonely on the Opposition Benches, but I am sure that someone will join me before long. I wish to thank the Boundary Commission for Wales for the thorough work that it has done in the report dated 30 September 1992, which it has submitted to the Secretary of State. I also thank the assistant commissioners who chaired the local inquiries into some of the changes proposed in the order. It is great to note that, for the first time, a Welsh name is to be given to a particular constituency. I am pleased to the Minister has accepted the commissioners' recommendation that Ceredigion Gogledd Penfro will be the name of the constituency of Ceredigion and Pembroke, North. My reason for speaking in the debate is that I am getting rather fed up of the errors that are made in orders. Just before Christmas, I served on a Committe considering an order relating to the Shetland Islands—it was a prohibition order on shellfish. It contained gross errors to do with latitude and longitude. I want to dwell—although not for too long—on a few examples of errors in this order and the accompanying report. I find such errors extremely worrying; indeed, they must cause the Minister concern when he has to ask his hon. Friends to accept such an order. I am very concerned about being asked to approve the order and I want first to point out some of the elementary errors that it contains. The order is defective. I am, as always, concerned about what criteria Ministers would use in deciding whether to withdraw such an error. In a letter dated 13 November 1992, the secretary to the commission, Mr. McLeod, said that the order and the report would be debated just before Christmas. As I have already said, the report submitted to the Minister was dated 30 September 1992. Paragraph 11 on page 4 gives a useful summary showing the effect on the relevant electorates. It demonstrates how small the effect will be in terms of the size of the electorates affected. Indeed, in the case of Montgomeryshire there is no change in the net number of electors. The maximum change is an increase of 49 in the Carmarthen constituency—the first constituency outlined in the information on page 4, paragraph 11. Although some of the changes relate to very small populations, it would have been useful if the report had included the changed areas because it takes a long time to go through the maps, as I discovered last night. 4 I am delighted that the HMSO report is bilingual, but I cannot understand the reason for the blank spaces between pages 11 and 14.I do not see what function is served by a blank page, other than to raise the price of the publication—which is £5.20 net. I do not know whether that means with or without the blank page, net of tax, or something else. Better use could have been made of the page. Either it should not have been included or it should have been filled with something useful that would have added to the quality of the report. I want to discuss the Welsh in the report. I am delighted that I am not the only Welsh speaker here and that some Conservative Members will have no difficulty in following my points. I want to refer to what I call the "Wenglish" part of the report—a sort of mixture of Welsh and English that I find rather strange. One example is on the Welsh front cover, which bears a translation of the English front cover giving the constituencies involved. I am amazed that it was not possible to translate the English names of constituencies into Welsh on the front page of the Welsh version of the report. I shall not read it out as English is the language of the House. Translations of constituency names such as Brecon and Radnor and Carmarthen are mixed with English names, and even the name Ceredigion, which is the Welsh for Cardigan, is combined with the English for Pembroke, North. The Welsh name Llanelli is then used—ending with an "i" instead of the English "y". Then again we are back to English with Montgomery and Pembroke. When English and Welsh versions are available it is important to be consistent in the use of Welsh throughout in the latter, rather than adopting a strange mixture. I wish to point out some elementary errors, which should never have been allowed to occur, in the Welsh version of the report, and which relate directly to the order. I shall give just a few examples as the last thing that I want to do is to delay the Committee. In the Welsh version, the seventh word of the last sentence of paragraph 4 on page 2 is "death". There is no such word in Welsh. The correct word is "daeth". In paragraph 12(iv) the seventh word is incorrect and is spelt differently from the same word in subsection (v)—the letter "b" should have been substituted for the letter "d" in the word in paragraph 12(iv). I do not recognise the meaning of the phrase in the third line of paragraph 23(v), "gan ei had-drefnu". I have to say it in Welsh because I cannot describe it any other way. I should like the Minister to check that before our proceedings finish. Paragraph 35 has two examples of new Welsh words. Line 3 of subsection (i) contains the word "y'i"—which, as far as I know is a new word. Another new word, "y'u"—which, of course, may add to our rich tapestry—appears in line 4 of subsection (ii). I do not recognise that, but perhaps the Home Office has incorporated it into our culture and language, in which case I am extremely grateful. If I am incorrect, I should like to know. The ward names in the schedule form the most serious part of what I have to say because they represent errors not only in the report, but in the schedule itself. Under the heading "Carmarthen" in the schedule—subsection (ii)—the last ward referred to is Tally. In subsection (ii) of appendix A on page 10 of the report, the last ward to appear under the heading "Carmarthen" is spelt "Talley". Therefore, the report spells the ward one way and the schedule to the order spells it another. I assure the Minister 5 that the order is incorrect—the ward is not spelt that way. If the order as it now stands is confirmed, could it be subject to challenge in a future election? I would not like to be part of such a thing having been a member of the Committee. In the schedule, subsection (ii) of the "Llanelli" entry refers to "the following wards of the Borough of Dinefwr, namely Ammanford, Betws"— and then gives a Welsh word that I do not recognise, then Pantyffynnon and Pontamman. The word that I do not recognise, is spelt Myddnfych. It could not possibly exist in Welsh because "n" cannot follow "dd". The answer to that is clear. On the map on page 13 of the report, the ward labelled "D"—which is east of the village of Saron on the A483—is Myddynfych, the correct name for the ward. In the schedule, "y" is missing between the "dd" and the "n", which has made the spelling incorrect. Another of the wards shown on the map on page 13 is spelt "BETWYS"—using capital letters. In the schedule, it is spelt Betws. There is no "y" before the "s". I assure the Minister that the map is incorrect and the order correct; there is no "y" in the spelling of that ward. Again, there is an inconsistency between the order and the report. My next point is perhaps the most serious of all. It may seem that I am nitpicking, but I assure the Minister that I am not. Orders should be spot on and I am disturbed that this one is not. After all, the order is brief. Someone, somewhere—the Minister or one of his officials—should carefully examine the matter. The Carmarthen constituency is listed on page 10, appendix A, of the Welsh version of the report. Subsection (ii) of the Carmarthen entry lists in Welsh the wards of the borough of Dinefwr. The second ward listed is Castell Cynwyl Gaeo—one ward. Of course, such a ward does not exist. I may seem to be nitpicking, but that entry in fact covers two separate wards, as is shown on page 10 of the English version of the report. Castle and Cynwyl Gaeo are separate wards of the Carmarthen constituency. I am concerned about being asked to approve the order, although I have no quarrel with any of the recommendations. When we are asked to approve an instrument containing such errors, it would be helpful if the Minister told us what tests he uses before deciding whether an order can be amended or withdrawn and then reintroduced. It could be a problem if a parliamentary election were contested under the provisions of such a flawed order. I hope that members of the Committee do not think that I have spent my time in any way other than trying to ensure that we do not approve an order that contains important errors which, although small, could create problems for us later. That is the last thing that we would want. We have enough to do in our busy lives. We do not want to be told that we have not scrutinised the order and the Minister would not want to be accused of ignoring some little points that could be important in the future. 10.50 am

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster): I commend the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) on his diligent attendance to matters that are important to people living in Wales.


10.51 am

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd): I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellet-Bowman), who makes a sensible point. I congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) on attending the Committee and making up effectively and efficiently for the absence of all his hon. Friends. It is clear that he has studied both the English and the Welsh documents and the various supporting documents and has noted the differences. The hon. Gentleman said that he regretted the fact that he could see no clear sign of the areas that have been changed. They are very small and maps covering large areas do not show them clearly. However, I understand that he and other people may have found it a little difficult to follow precisely what changes have been made. The changes are small and there is a problem in showing them. When I studied the report and tried to follow some of the changes on the map, I experienced some of the difficulties mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will be a little reassured if I say that I shall consider that point with my officials. The hon. Gentleman's remarks will be brought to the attention of the Boundary Commission for Wales because the preparation of the report and the maps and the recommendations made are its responsibilities, not those of the Home Office. The commission is responsible not only for the recommendations, the way that they are explained and the supporting material, but for the Welsh in the report. The hon. Gentleman referred to a waste of paper and the blank pages in the middle of the report. I tried to work out how we might rearrange the two texts so that we could use one complete sheet fewer. That would be difficult because there is a one-page surplus and I am not sure that expense would be saved if the report contained a single sheet, which had to be stuck in, rather than the double spread, which staples in neatly. It is a Christmas puzzle. I wish that the Committee had sat before Christmas so that the hon. Gentleman and his family could have spent Christmas entertaining each other by devising different ways of putting the report together. If it had been put together in any other way, probably it would have been more expensive, but I shall discuss that point with may officials. The hon. Gentleman raised a number of points about spelling. He also said that he regretted that the constituencies were not given Welsh names on the front page of the Welsh version of the report. The reason for that is that their official names are the same in English and in Welsh. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about some of his other points. It is important that orders are accurate—and when they are in two languages, they should be as accurate as possible in both. I cannot adjudicate on some of the hon. Gentleman's points because I do not know the names in Welsh and I am not familiar with most of them in their anglicised form. However, I have noted his remarks and, with half an eye on my officials to ensure that what I am saying is correct, I can tell him that where there is a clear spelling or printer's error, it can be corrected in the final order without difficulty. None of the errors will create difficulties in putting into effect the commission's recommendations and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman stressed twice the fact that he supports them. I am grateful to him for his praise of the 7 work of the commission and the conclusions that it has reached. I regret the fact that the order contains inaccuracies in the Welsh language and spelling mistakes in some place names. If they are simple inaccuracies, they can be corrected. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to them.

Question put and agreed to.


Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1992.

Committee rose at four minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Hicks, Mr. Robert (Chairman)

Baker, Mr. Nicholas

Brandreth, Mr.

Gorst, Mr.

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Gill, Mr.

King, Mr. Tom

Knight, Dame Jill

Lloyd, Mr. Peter

Shepherd, Mr. Colin

Wardell, Mr. Gareth