LETTER : Tory reaction to Welsh assembly

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The Independent Online
From Mr Keith Darlington

Sir: John Redwood's hostile reaction (report, 13 May) to Labour's plans for a Welsh assembly was as predictable as his leader's position in Scotland. Yet it is easy to understand such hysteria given what has happened since the Tories came to power.

The Tories have a vested interest in preserving the status quo in Wales. They have never won a majority of seats in Wales, and currently hold only five out of the 38 seats contested. They neither control a single council in Wales nor have an MEP representing a Welsh seat. In the May 1995 local elections for the new unitary authorities, they finished fourth, with a mere 3 per cent of the total number of seats won.

Yet, despite being democratically rejected, the Tories have managed to extend their influence in every sphere of Wales by expanding the Welsh Office and creating quangos. In Wales, a minority party has set out to make itself a majority party, not through election but through its control of the public appointment process.

For proof of this one has only to look at the changes since the Tories came to power in 1979. The number of quangos in Wales has, even on the Government's own admission, more than doubled to 80 since they came to power in 1979; though many believe this figure to be much higher, depending on how a quango is defined. The Secretary of State for Wales now has the power to make about 1,400 appointments to Welsh quangos employing about 60,000 people. This is more than the total number of councillors elected to represent the whole of Wales in the unitary local authorities.

The composition of such quangos in Wales is, needless to say, predominantly Conservative. Such public appointments are bestowed entirely by a Conservative Secretary of State without external scrutiny. Thus, it is not hard to understand why they have reacted in such a hysterical manner to Labour's proposals in Scotland and Wales. For in Wales, at least, they know that doing anything other than supporting the status quo would be equivalent to turkeys voting for an early Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

KEITH DARLINGTON

Gants Hill, Essex

13 May

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