Monmouth Parliamentary Constituency Candidates
Ambiguity over Welsh status
Monmouthshire’s Welsh status was ambiguous until the relatively recently, with it often thought of as part of England. The entirety of Wales was made part of the Kingdom of England by the Statute of Rhuddlan, but did not adopt the same civil governance system, with the area of Monmouthshire being under the control of Marcher Lords.
The Laws in Wales Act 1535 integrated Wales directly into the English legal system, and divided it into several counties. Monmouthshire, as part of England, was created by this Act (which gave it two knights of the shire rather than one as in the other Welsh counties). However, the Laws in Wales Act 1542 specifically enumerates the Welsh counties as twelve in number, excluding Monmouthshire from the count.
Despite this integration of Wales into England, the word “England” was still taken to exclude Wales in many contexts. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 ensured that in legislation passed subsequently that Berwick-upon-Tweed and Wales into “England”.
Despite this, Monmouthshire was often associated with Wales. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica unambigiously described the county as part of England, but notes that ‘whenever an act […] is intended to apply to [Wales] alone, then Wales is always coupled with Monmouthshire’. Most Acts of Parliament included Monmouthshire as part of England, for example the Local Government Act 1933 listed both the administrative county of Monmouth and county borough of Newport as part of England, but in the rare event that an Act of Parliament was restricted to Wales, Monmouthshire was usually included. For example, the creation of the Welsh Office in 1964 explicitly included Monmouthshire. Another typical example was the division of England and Wales into registration areas in the 19th century one of which, the “Welsh Division”, was defined as including “Monmouthshire, South Wales and North Wales”.
Being a part of the diocese of Llandaff, Monmouthshire was included in the area in which the Church of England was disestablished in 1920 to become the Church in Wales.
The question of Monmouthshire’s status continued to be a matter of discussion, especially as Welsh nationalism and devolution climbed the political agenda in the 20th century. The Wales and Berwick Act was repealed in regard to Wales in 1967 under the Welsh Language Act 1967. The Interpretation Act 1978 provides that in legislation passed between 1967 and 1974, “a reference to England includes Berwick upon Tweed and Monmouthshire”.
However, the Local Government Act 1933 clearly records Monmouthshire and its communities to be part of England. The territory’s status was arbitrarily changed by the Local Government Act 1972, which provided that, with effect from 1974, Monmouthshire would be part of Wales. In marked contrast to proposed changes of status in other parts of the UK, no referendum on this matter has been held in England.
The English Democrats Party stood in the 2007 Welsh Assembly Elections in Monmouthshire with the theme ‘Letting Monmouthshire Decide’ whether it wishes to be part of Wales or England.
The Murky Transfer from England to Wales
Monmouthshire did not exist before 1535, however Monmouth as a town did exist and was documented in the Domesday Book as being part of England. The 1535 Act (During the Reign of Henry VIII) was made because of the lack of law and order in the Welsh border areas from Mold to Chepstow which were ruled by the “Marcher Lords” – basically this lad was a no-man’s land between Wales and England.
The Act created the counties of Monmouth, Brecknock, Radnor, Montgomery, and Denbigh and annexed the remaining border area to the counties of Shropshire, Gloucester and Hereford – hence the Welsh place names there – so it is therefore not surprising that the Welsh language was in use in the border country.
In that Act, Section Three – notes four, five and six – and all of Section Four – especially note six – refer to everything in the county of Monmouthshire being done according to this ‘Realm of England’ and to the subjects and inhabitants of Monmouthshire to be ‘bound and obedient to the King, Justices, Council, laws, customs ordinances and statutes of this Realm of England, in like manner and form as all King’s subjects within every shire of this Realm of England’. Sections five, six, seven and eight refer respectively to Brecknock, Radnor, Montgomery and Denhigh as parts of the country of Wales. However, Section 36 states that until three years after the end of that Parliament, the King shall have the power to ‘repeal, revoke and abrogate’ the whole, or any part of the Act.
Section two of the 1542 Act, states that Wales will comprise of 12 counties – the eight old counties of Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan, Flint, Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth and four new ones – Radnor, Brecknock, Montgomery and Denbigh over and besides the county of Monmouth and the other parts of Wales annexed to Shropshire, Gloucester, and Hereford.
Section five of the Act states that sessions will be held in every of the shires of Wales and then names the 12 above with no mention of Monmouthshire The 1933 Local Government Act lists the English and Welsh counties and the county boroughs and places Monmouthshire in the English county list and Newport in the English borough list.
Ordnance Survey maps published prior to 1974 also place Monmouthshire in England and correspondence with them will confirm this. Correspondence with the Welsh Office in 1974 confirmed that Monmouthshire had been part of England prior to 1974. Disputes about this matter have been caused over generations by misleading statements made and repeated by prominent statesmen and politicians for reasons known only to them, taking advantage of the fact that many residents of Monmouthshire were unable to read and write.
When the 1972 Local Government Act was being dealt with in committee, 3 MP.s with no political connections to Monmouthshire, Brynmor John (Pontypridd),George Thomas(Cardiff West), (later Speaker Thomas) and Gibson Watt (Hereford),on the 14 March 1972 constructed a paragraph that would achieve the transfer of Monmouthshire to Wales from England by stating “including the areas of Monmouthshire and Newport in the new counties of Wales.” ie. the 12 old counties would be replaced by 8 new counties,South Glamorgan.,Mid Glamorgan,West Glamorgan, Dyfed, Powys,Gwynledd, Clwyd and Gwent. They omitted to reveal that Gwent was almost entirely the English county of Monmouthshire. The committee comprised 36 MPs,but no MPs from Monmouthshire,or Newport, were members of that committee. The effect of that phrase was revealed to Parliament four months later at 5 minutes to midnight, 20.July 1972,by George Thomas, Gibson-Watt and Ray Gower (Barry).
The”debate” was over in less than one minute including Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Ardwick) statement “Am I to take it that an Act of annexation of such magnitude is to be carried though a sparsely attended House of Commons on the nod at 5 minutes to midnight on the same basis as Europe has annexed England,I wish to voice my protest.” The Bill had the Third reading less than 18 hours later before going to the Lords and then receiving Royal Assent. There is no record of the 5 MPs representing Monmouthshire,and Newport,Messrs Kinnock,Foot,Abse,Hughes and Stradling-Thomas speaking one word for or against, if they were present. As the paragraph was prepared 4 months earlier and there is evidence that indicates they knew about the paragraph, they could have, during those months, informed us what was being proposed, held public meetings, consulted their constituents and held a referendum, but they did not, and have not given any explanation for their inaction. There is no trace in Hansard of any protest that they were not aware of that paragraph prior to 20 July 1972. That transfer to Wales was the most momentous thing that happened in Monmouthshire’s history going back 430 years, and the most important thing that the 5 MP.s presided over during their careers as MPs. The fact that they spoke not one word, for or against, in Parliament and did not make us aware of what was about to happen, is an abuse of the trust that should exist between MPs and their constituents.
When Welsh devolution was proposed in the county, there was repeated visits from the Prime Minister,his deputy, senior members of all political parties, MP.s ,and Trade Union leaders, months of radio and television interviews, numerous articles in national and local newspapers. That was to transfer a few administrative powers from the UK to Wales, but when it was proposed to transfer an English county, with its population of 400,000 to Wales, there was not a whisper from the constituency MP.s or Parliament. What can be said to justify the actions of 4 MP.s, with no political connections to Monmouthshire and Newport, being allowed to override all democratic procedures by misleading statements in committee and in the commons, resulting in the transfer of Monmouthshire including Newport.
Northern Ireland, The Falklands,Channel Isles and Gibraltar have each been told their status will not change without a referendum.
The fact that the 1972 Act of Parliament was required to transfer Monmouthshire to Wales confirms that it was an English county; if it had previously been part of Wales such legislation would have been unnecessary!
(Born an Englishman in Monmouthshire)