Yr Arglwydd Morris o Aberafan

S4C | 1 x 60minutes

A programme covering not only the high points in the politician’s career but also some of the low points such as the failure of the devolution referendum of 1979.

Lord Morris of Aberavon is well-known as a Member of Parliament who served his constituency for more than 40 years, as a member of the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers and as the Attorney General, the United Kingdom government’s chief legal adviser.

But he is also “the father of devolution in Wales” according to one of the contributors of the programme.

According to archivist Rob Phillips, who is in charge of the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales, “Ron Davies has been mentioned as the father of Welsh devolution but, in my opinion, Lord Morris is the person who, perhaps, deserves that title.”

The programme covers not only the high points in the politician’s career but also some of the low points such as the failure of the devolution referendum of 1979.

As Secretary of State for Wales, it was John Morris who drafted the devolution Bill passed by Harold Wilson’s Cabinet and by MPs in the House of Commons in 1978. “Winning the battle with the anti-devolutionists in the Labour Party was a huge victory in itself,” said the political commentator, John Stevenson in the programme.

But the campaign for devolution failed and Lord Morris said in the programme, “I had no idea the defeat would be such a big one. The truth had to be faced, we had failed abysmally.”

The 1997 referendum succeeded with the ideas established in the old Act of 1978, according to Lord Morris. “There was very little difference between the old Act of 1978 and the new one. It’s the same piece of legislation. New work wasn’t needed and that’s how the measure was prepared so quickly. My fingers were on the strings of that harp from beginning to end.”

The programme follows Lord Morris’s life story from his early days as a farmer’s son in Talybont, Ceredigion, through his college years in Aberystwyth and Cambridge – where he joined the Labour Party – his time in the Army and his work as a barrister. As a politician, he was elected MP for Aberavon in 1959 and he served the constituency till his retirement in 2001 and he was then elevated to the House of Lords.

Lord Morris also talks in the programme about his time in Harold Wilson’s Cabinet, then in James Callaghan’s and finally in Tony Blair’s Cabinet in the 1990s as Attorney General. He also served as Minister for Energy; he was in the Transport Ministry and the Ministry of Defence before being appointed Secretary of State for Wales in 1974. He discusses the huge moral dilemmas he faced during his time at the Ministry of Defence and as Attorney General over the war in Biafra in the late 1960s and the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

We also hear about Lord Morris’s family life. He acknowledges his big debt to his wife, Margaret who ‘raised the family’. Their daughter, Nia is one of the other contributors in the programme along with Lord Morris’s brother, Professor David Morris.