Dear Mr Cameron
English Votes for English Laws and the draft Wales Powers Bill
On 20th October, your government published their draft Wales Powers Bill covering future devolution. The bill was greeted by Pippa Bartolotti of the Green Party as a missed opportunity, by Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru as affirming Wales’s second-class status, by Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, as an effective English veto on Welsh law, and by Sir Paul Silk, of your own Commission on Devolution in Wales, as a disappointment. Your government’s response was to accuse Mr Jones of using rhetoric to inflame dangerous nationalism.
These events took place one day before the forty-ninth anniversary of the destruction of a school and houses in the village of Aberfan by an unsafe slag-heap, and the loss of one hundred and forty-four lives; and the fiftieth anniversary of the drowning of Capel Celyn and the creation of the Tryweryn reservoir by Liverpool City Council. Capel Celyn at the time of its flooding was the last purely Welsh-speaking community in the world. Residents, their councillors and their MP were not told that their village was to be flooded, but read about the loss of their homes in the paper; the president of Plaid Cymru, Mr Gwynfor Evans, went to negotiate with Liverpool Council, who banged their desks to prevent him from speaking.
The bill that enabled Capel Celyn to be flooded was passed by a majority in parliament, although it garnered the support of not a single Welsh MP. Almost fifty people lost their homes, and the language barrier shifted west in a time of rapid colonisation and Anglicisation. The aftermath of this event was the establishment of the Welsh Office and Secretary of State for Wales, the election of Gwynfor Evans himself as Plaid Cymru’s first MP, and the foundation of MAC, a terrorist organisation, which thankfully no longer exists. Liverpool City Council apologised for the flooding in 2005.
In Wales, the anniversaries of the events were marked with services and ceremonies, with the public hope that they will never happen again, and – by some of us – with a sense of weariness. Parliament held its own celebration one day late, by reducing the voting rights of Welsh MPs.
Rob Mimpriss PhD
Member, the Welsh Academy
cc Mr Stephen Crabb
Mr Carwyn Jones
Ms Leanne Wood
Mr Hywel Williams