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Mobilise for a Democratic Welsh Parliament

[1995; Socialist Outlook leaflet]

Wales is at a turning point. Unemployment is at catastrophic levels and the majority of new jobs are appallingly low paid. The WDA is consciously advertising Wales as a low wage, high productivity area. The public sector, now the largest employer in Wales, is threatened with vicious cut-backs.

We face a return to the 1930s.

Fifteen years of Tory rule have left many people deeply dissatisfied with the centralist British state. It is clear that decisions which affect the very fabric of the Welsh economy and society are being made by people who have scant regard for the majority of the Welsh people. There is a growing mood that we need more democracy, more control, here in Wales. People want a Welsh parliament to represent them and begin to redress the balance.

But what sort of parliament do we want? What would it do? And how will we get it? Democracy is the watchword here. The last thing we need is a miniature version of the present British parliament. We need a parliament which is both genuinely representative and accountable. To that end, we propose:

  • A parliament elected by proportional representation, based on small constituencies.

  • A 50% quota for women.

  • All representatives to be paid the average wage in Wales.

  • Frequent elections.

  • The right of constituents to recall and replace their representatives.

Who should decide the powers of the new parliament? We believe that the parliament itself should decide. Its decisions should not be subject to any veto from Westminster. Ultimately it is the Welsh people themselves - through the candidates and parties that they support - who must determine what the parliament will do.

We do not advocate an independent Wales. We favour Welsh autonomy within a democratic federation on British and European levels. But we do believe that the parliament must be free to decide its relationship to the British state. This includes the right to declare independence, if that is the will of the majority.

A parliament in itself will not solve any of our problems in Wales. It is not the solution, only the beginnings of a solution. To begin with, the parliament would have to break with the present strategy of relying on inward investment to create jobs. It would also have to break with the market driven economic policies being implemented across Europe, codified in the Maastricht Treaty, which are leading to greater centralisation of wealth and greater impoverishment of peripheral regions.

The parliament would have to take specific measures to defend the rights of Welsh speakers - such as passing a comprehensive Welsh Language Act - in open defiance of Westminster.

None of this will be granted by the present government without a struggle. The Tories have made their position abundantly clear: they are committed to maintaining the United Kingdom in its present form. If a parliament is to be won, it will only be won through active campaigning and mass mobilisations. Neither can we rely on the election of a future Labour government. We must begin campaigning immediately.

It is clear that Labour has the support of the majority of the Welsh people and that a Welsh parliament will be a Labour parliament. But this must not lead to complacency and inactivity. We must take the lead in the campaign for a Parliament, by building a mass movement that will force the Tories to give way. Our failure to act leaves the initiative with the Tories.*

The burning question in Wales today is one of democracy: who decides? who controls? At the same time, the Welsh working class faces a daily struggle to maintain jobs and services in the face of recession and cut-backs. The campaign for a parliament must champion all these struggles if it is to win. It is up to us to seize this opportunity and actively mobilise for a truly democratic and accountable Welsh parliament.



* In some versions of the leaflet, this paragraph was replaced by the following:

This does not mean we should downplay the importance of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. Like it or not, they still command the support of the majority of the Welsh people. And if we look to the base of these organisations, we will find enthusiastic support for a parliament. We must pressure the Labour and Trade Union leaders into turning their paper positions into a concerted mass campaign for a parliament.


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