Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wales' Constitutional Position vis-à-vis England

Another post from Cllr Gwyn Hopkins

Wales' Constitutional Position vis-à-vis England - Past and Present

Since the military conquest of Wales by the Normans of England in 1282-83, there have been 4 Laws relating to the status of Wales and its inhabitants:-

1. The first Statute of Westminster (1284).

Also called the "Statute of Rhuddlan", this was the basis for all that followed in the other three Acts. It was this Act that made Wales, as a political entity, a part of Norman England. It was a direct consequence of the military victory of the Norman King of England, Edward I, over Llewelyn II and his government in Wales. The Act legalised (in English Law) the absorption of Wales by England on the basis of military conquest, although it was attributed in the Act as the "Divine Right" of Edward I! Proximity enabled Wales to become a colony that could be, and was, swallowed-up by England. The Statute states :- "To put the country of Wales and her inhabitants under feudal authority" and "to annex and unify the said country with the crown of the Kingdom (of England) .........in one (political) body".

This Statute was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1887. However, this had little real effect because the Statute of Rhuddlan was confirmed, and effectively superseded, by the 1536 and 1542 Acts.

2 and 3. The Acts of 1536 and 1542.

In the Statute Books these Acts are referred to as "27 Henry VIII C26" and "34 Henry VIII C26" respectively. The first means the 26th Statute passed in the 27th year of the reign of Henry VIII; etc.

The first of these became known as "the Act of Union" in the 19th century. Both Acts deal with the status of Wales and confirmed the relationship that had existed between Wales and England since 1284. They put the stamp of authority of the English Parliament on the whole relationship in words that echo the words "annex", "unite" and "one body" of the 1284 Act. The Act proclaimed "The Country or Dominion of Wales shall be, stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with the Realm of England".

The two Acts – imposed by an English Parliament that had no Welsh representation - are best considered together. Between them very detailed Orders were made for administrating Wales including the provision and appointing of Justices of the Peace, establishing Assize Courts and a new thirteen County structure. The right to elect members to England's Parliament was established. Superficially this appears to have been a magnanimous gesture. In reality it was a very astute and cunning means of reinforcing, and of conferring legitimacy on, the status of Wales as an absorbed colony, for on entering Parliament the 27 Welsh MP’s implicitly provided “home-made” endorsement of the incorporation of Wales into England. Of course, these Welsh MP's posed no threat whatsoever to England’s huge, built-in, hegemony because they were so hopelessly outnumbered by 322 English MP's. Currently the ratio is 529 English MPs to 40 Welsh MPs so this swamping is now even more overwhelming.

The Acts contained draconian anti-Welsh language measures. The language was banished from all official and public life in Wales - where almost all the people spoke only Welsh! It must, even then, have been perfectly clear that ultimately the inevitable consequence of these Acts would be the genocide of the Welsh nation - not by physical extermination but - by (i) eradicating its language and associated culture; (ii) being swallowed-up in the very much larger English nation and (iii) swamping Wales with alien laws, government, administration, customs, language, culture and people. I leave it to the reader to surmise the extent to which these Acts succeeded in their purpose. Almost identical oppression is being inflicted by the Chinese on the inhabitants of Tibet today.
Both the 1536 and the 1542 Acts were finally repealed by Section 35 (Schedule 2) of the Welsh Language Act 1993. Hence the previous "de facto" recognition that Wales is a different country to (and from) England became "de jure" only in 1993.

4. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746.

This Act proclaimed that in future the term England was to be understood to include Wales (even though not explicitly mentioned) in Acts of Parliament. This Act was repealed by Section 3 of the Welsh Language Act 1967.

N.B. There is no mention of Great Britain or the United Kingdom in any of the above Acts as these political entities did not exist until the 18th Century.

The current position

As a result of the repealing of the above mentioned Acts, Wales is no longer a part of England, legally or in any other respect. However, Wales is still a part of a political entity known as "England and Wales", because of the mass of political and administrative Laws and Orders passed by the Westminster parliament that refer to this entity and which are still operational.

However, the principle of “self-government” for Wales was established by the setting up of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999. The Assembly Government has taken over the bulk of government administration within Wales and has wide powers to “plough its own furrow” in this respect, that includes the administration of some laws that relate only to Wales. Moreover, the Government of Wales Act (2006) has resulted in the Westminster government granting the National Assembly powers to enact laws relating to its own functions as from May 2007, albeit in a clumsy, grudging, demeaning and patronising manner by means of “Orders in Council”, i.e., subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Wales, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It is however inevitable that the National Assembly will be granted proper primary legislative powers – the same as those enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament (and the Northern Ireland Assembly) - in the not-too-distant future. The Labour – Plaid Cymru Assembly Coalition Government’s manifesto “One Wales” contains a commitment to hold a referendum on the issue by 2011.

Thereafter it will be a matter for the people of Wales to decide what degree of self-government they choose at any particular point in time. As time progresses it may well be that the people of Wales will gradually discard the centuries of intensive indoctrination to which they have been submitted that has succeeded in producing a stunted, down trodden and subjugated nation. They should then gain sufficient self-confidence to choose the only degree of national status that would satisfy any self-respecting nation, namely that aspired to by Owain Glyndwr – Independence, as it is understood in today’s highly interdependent world.


Carmarthenshire County Councillor Gwyn Hopkins

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Normans never conquered Wales. It was the Plantagenets. The Normans in any case were not from England. They were French. This post is nonsense from the very first sentence.

alanindyfed said...

I suggest that you post your own version of history so that they can be compared and the facts be known.
The Normans were descendants of the Vikings and 20% 0f their number were Bretons. You are right in inferring that they were not Englsh.

alanindyfed said...

The Normans conquered most of Wales (apart from Gwynedd) by 1090. They established Marcher lordships in the South and East. They were from England by this date, having come over from Normandy with William I in 1066. Many of them intermarried and became Camrbo-Normans. These people then invaded Ireland and created the strongholds of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork and Limerick, which had already been settled by Vikings.

Anonymous said...

The English are always going on about how THEY conquered Wales but let's face it Edward the bloody First didn't speak a word of English ... he was a Frenchman ... the English were a despised peasantry

alanindyfed said...

In comparison to the English the Welsh and Normans were well educated and sophisticated and the Aenglische were backward and servile.