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Dafydd Wigley (formerly David Wigley; born 1 April 1943) is a Welshmarker politician. He served as Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament for Caernarfonmarker from 1974 until 2001 and as an Assembly Member for Caernarfonmarker from 1999 until 2003. He was leader of the Plaid Cymru party from 1991 to 2000.


Wigley was born in Derby, Englandmarker, but attended Caernarfon grammar school and Rydalmarker independent school before going on to the Victoria University of Manchester and training as an accountant. He was employed by Hoover as a financial controller before entering parliament.

He married the international harpist Elinor Bennett. The couple had four children, but twin sons died of a genetic illness. His sons' condition influenced the direction of his career, and he took a strong interest in the affairs of disabled people, being vice-chair of the Parliamentary all-party disablement group, vice-president of Disability Wales, vice-president of Mencap (Wales), former president of the Spastics' Society of Wales and sponsor of the Disabled Persons Act in 1981.

Political career

UK Parliament

In 1974 he became one of Plaid Cymru's first three MPs to be elected at a General Election, and first became the party's president in 1981. Gwynfor Evans had led Plaid Cymru since 1945, but resigned after the devastating defeat of the Yes Campaign in the devolution referendum of 1979. It was naturally assumed that either Wigley or Dafydd Elis Thomas would succeed him as president.

The election for president was seen as instrumental in deciding the future direction of the Plaid Cymru. Wigley represented a moderate, pragmatic social-democracy, in sharp contrast with rival candidate Dafydd Elis Thomas' left-wing socialism. Wigley's triumph in 1981 was largely a pyrrhic victory - he won the presidency, but Elis Thomas would have a greater influence over the party's ideology throughout the 80s. In 1984 Wigley resigned from the presidency because of his children's health, but returned to the job in 1991 after the resignation of Dafydd Elis Thomas.

In 1977 Dafydd Wigley in Parliament asked the Attorney General for England and Wales if he would provide the date upon which enactments of the Charter of Pardon of 1508 were rescinded. (Concerning the Cornish Stannary Parliament). The reply, received on 14 May 1977, stated that a Stannator's right to veto Westminster legislation had never been formally withdrawn.

National Assembly for Wales

In 1999 Wigley became a member of the National Assembly for Wales, and led the Plaid Cymru opposition to Labour, before his resignation from the leadership, officially on medical advice but amid rumours of an internal plot against him in 2000.

Housing and language controversy

Controversy erupted in mid-winter 2001 when Seimon Glyn, Gwynedd County Council's housing committee chairman and Plaid Cymru member, voiced frustration over "English immigrants" moving into traditionally Welsh speaking communities. Glyn was commenting on a report underscoring the dilemma of rocketing house prices outstripping that which locals could afford, with the report warning that '...traditional Welsh communities could die out..." as a consequence.

Much of the rural Welsh real estate market was driven by buyers looking for second homes for use as holiday homes, or for retirement. Many buyers were drawn to Wales from England because of relatively inexpensive house prices in Wales as compared to house prices in England. The rise in home prices outpaced the average earnings income in Wales and meant that many local people could not afford to purchase their first home.

In 2001 nearly a third of all properties in Gwynedd were bought by buyers from out of the county, and with some communities reporting as many as a third of local homes used as holiday homes. Holiday home owners spend less than six months of the year in the local community.

The issue of locals being priced out of the local housing market is common to many rural communities throughout Britain, but in Wales the added dimension of language further complicated the issue, as many new residents did not learn the Welsh language.

Concerned for the Welsh language under these pressures, Glyn said "Once you have more than 50% of anybody living in a community that speaks a foreign language, then you lose your indigenous tongue almost immediately".

Plaid Cymru had long advocated controls on second homes, and a 2001 taskforce headed by Dafydd Wigley recommended land should be allocated for affordable local housing, and called for grants for locals to buy houses, and recommended council tax on holiday homes should double, following similar measures in the Scottish Highlands.

However the Welsh Labour-Liberal Democrat Assembly coalition rebuffed these proposals, with Assembly housing spokesman Peter Black stating that "we [cannot] frame our planning laws around the Welsh language", adding "Nor can we take punitive measures against second home owners in the way that they propose as these will have an impact on the value of the homes of local people".

By autumn 2001 the Exmoor National Parkmarker authority in England began consideration to limit second home ownership there which was also driving up local housing prices by as much as 31%. Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Group Leader, said that the issues in Exmoor National Park were the same as in Wales, however in Wales there is the added deminsion of language and culture.

Reflecting on the controversy Glyn's comments caused earlier in the year, Llwyd observed "What is interesting is of course it is fine for Exmoor to defend their community but in Wales when you try to say these things it is called racist..."

Llwyd called on other parties to join in a debate to bring the Exmoor experience to Wales when he said "... I really do ask them and I plead with them to come around the table and talk about the Exmoor suggestion and see if we can now bring it into Wales".

By spring 2002 both the Snowdonia National Parkmarker (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Parkmarker (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro) authorities began limiting second home ownership within the parks, following the example set by Exmoor. According to planners in Snowdonia and Pembroke, applicants for new homes must demonstrate a proven local need or the applicant has strong links with the area.

In 2003 Wigley became Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales. In 2006 he sought and secured nomination to Plaid Cymru's North Wales party list as the secondary candidate for the National Assembly for Wales election, 2007 but, due in part to constituency seat gains, Plaid Cymru failed to a gain a second regional seat.


  1. 14th May 1977 - Cornwall Council - Stannator's right to veto Westminster legislation had never been formally withdrawn.
  2. Plaid bids to defuse 'racism' row, BBC Wales, 21 February, 2001
  3. 'Racist' remarks lost Plaid votes, BBC Wales, 3 September, 2001
  4. Property prices in England and Wales Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, extracted 24 Jan 2008
  5. House prices outpacing incomes Monday, 3 December, 2001, extracted 24 Jan 2008
  6. Apology over 'insults' to English, BBC Wales, 3 September, 2001
  7. UK: Wales Plaid calls for second home controls, BBC Wales, November 17, 1999
  8. Double tax for holiday home owners Thursday, 16 December, 1999, extracted 24 Jan 2008
  9. Controls on second homes reviewed Wednesday, 5 September, 2001 extracted 24 Jan 2008
  10. Gwynedd considers holiday home curb Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, extracted 24 Jan 2008
  11. Plaid plan 'protects' rural areas, BBC Wales, 19 June, 2001
  12. Park to ban new holiday homes Wednesday, 6 March, 2002 extracted 24 Jan 2008

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