Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 2:30 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:30, 26 Mawrth 2015

I made my maiden speech on 19 May 1992. By all accounts, it was a brilliant speech, because nobody interrupted me and within hours it was in a bound volume. I am very proud of that.

In ’92, of course, devolution was very much a minority sport. Nowadays it is central to virtually everything we do, as every Bill has on it its territorial reach. I mentioned many times in those early days that I was elected to Parliament in order to leave it, by which I meant in order to secure a Parliament for Wales.

In the 1992 Parliament, I well remember having to stay up all night during the Maastricht debates because I was the youngest of our Members and I was charged with waking up my friends and getting them in for the critical vote, which very often was between 4.30 am and 5.30 am. This went on for months, and often on two or three nights per week. It was at this time that I began to reflect on the enormity of what I had done in leaving a good legal practice and comfortable, rewarding job for this utter chaos, with its points of order, opera hats, “I spy strangers”, and general mayhem. Thankfully, of course, Maastricht came to an end, and something approaching normality descended in its place.

Looking back, I see that my Plaid Cymru colleagues, past and present, have a good record. For the past 35 years, we have pointed out, for example, the iniquity of the Barnett formula, with Wales losing out on billions of pounds over the years, and successive Governments denying it and making excuses. Post the Holtham report and the report from the other place, it is now received wisdom, and the fight goes on.

It so happens that I was the first person in the UK Parliament to argue for a Children’s Commissioner for Wales, and that came in 1993, swiftly followed by our friends in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some eight years ago, I began a campaign on behalf of ex-servicemen who find themselves on the wrong side of the law after I discovered that upwards of 8,000 were in prison. This became a manifesto issue for every party at the last election.

During the 2010-11 period, I was privileged to chair a working group that brought in laws against stalking. Those laws have now saved lives, and there are currently over 800 cases before the courts. Last month, the Government accepted a ten-minute rule Bill of mine that brought coercive behaviour within the legal framework of domestic violence law.

I well remember opening a debate on the need for Parliament to see the full version of the Attorney-General’s opinion on the legality of the war in Iraq. Mr Straw spoke for the other side and did everything he could to trip me up—which was his job, of course, at the time. I opened the debate and my friend Alex Salmond closed for us. From a joint group of nine, we secured a vote of over 280, which I think was quite a substantial thing to do.

I suppose that what I am saying is that someone from a small parliamentary party can actually make a real difference—free of the dead hand of the Whips and free of any ministerial ambitions.

I thank my family for their forbearance and sacrifices. We all know what I mean by saying that: it can be a sacrifice for our families. I am very grateful to you,

Mr Speaker, and your deputies for your fair-minded approach to all of us, whichever party we belong to. I thank all Speakers under whom I have had the privilege to serve. I also thank the Library and research staff, my parliamentary staff and constituency staff, and, last but not least, the security staff, police and Doorkeepers who enable us to do our work in the fashion that we do.

In an awards ceremony speech in Cardiff city hall four months ago, I said that I believe that 99% of Members of Parliament are good, honest people who want to make a real difference, and I hold very firmly to that view. I thank the electorate of Meirionnydd, Nant Conwy and Dwyfor for their steadfast support and loyalty over these last 23 years, and I wish my successor well in her endeavours.

If I could wind back the clock, I would do it all again—more than that I cannot say. For one who came to Parliament in order to leave it, I shall miss it and the many friends I have made across the political spectrum.