Theresa May lies about the Welsh Assembly in bid to get MPs to back Brexit deal

PUBLISHED: 09:52 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:02 14 January 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA.

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photograph: Frank Augstein/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May is to use the vote for the Welsh Assembly as an example for backing Brexit - despite voting to block it in Parliament herself.

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The prime minister is set to use a speech in Stoke-on-Trent today to urge MPs to back her Brexit deal, using the referendum to establish the Assembly in Cardiff Bay - which was won by a margin of just 0.3% - as an example.

She will claim that all parties then accepted and backed the decision of the poll.

But in actual fact when the legislation came before Parliament in December 1997 May herself voted to block it.

And the Conservatives went into the 2005 general election with a manifesto pledging a new vote for the people on Wales, including an option to abolish the Assembly.

The comparison is set to be made by the PM today in a speech at a factory, where she will say that if her deal with the European Commission was rejected Brexit might not happen, which she will claim would be a betrayal of voters.

She will say: “On the rare occasions when parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance.

“When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned.

“Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger article 50. And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.”

But the Conservatives actually voted largely to block the legislation to create the Senedd, including prominent Brexiteers like John Redwood and Liam Fox, as well as then obscure backbencher May herself.

And the Conservatives continued to call the existence of the Assembly into question long into the decade following the vote.

The party’s manifesto for the 2005 general election - by which time the Assembly had been operating for six years - carried just one reference to the Assembly, saying: “In Wales we will work with the Assembly and give the Welsh people a referendum on whether to keep the Assembly in its current form, increase its powers or abolish it.”

Linking to the Hansard report of the debate before which May voted against the establishment of the Assembly, former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood tweeted: “But this isn’t true. The Tories did not accept the Assembly referendum result in Wales in 1997. They continued to campaign against devolution. Theresa May voted against in Parliament after the referendum result. #StopLying.”

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