A KEY political opponent of devolution for Wales in the 1970s has admitted that the Labour Government of the period would have lasted even less time without the idea.
Sir Wyn Roberts says James Callaghan's Labour administration of 1976-79 used the scheme to gain valuable support from the Liberals and Plaid Cymru which bought him extra time in power.
He says that the Labour Party implicitly "bartered" with Welsh voters and offered Plaid Cymru "a strong and heady aperitif" with the embryonic Welsh Office.
Sir Wyn, now Lord Roberts of Conwy, was a vehement Conservative opponent of Welsh devolution at the time. As MP for Conwy in the 1970s he made powerful speeches and interviews against the Government of Wales Act.
"As a Welsh MP I was fundamentally opposed to any policy that smacked of separatism because I was fearful that Wales would lose a great deal by weakening its connection with the rest of the United Kingdom," says Lord Roberts in his memoirs published this month.
"Cultural and sporting nationalism was fine but economic and political nationalism was anathema. We needed more power and influence at Westminster, not less."
Despite his protestations, separate bills proposing a referendum on devolution for both Scotland and Wales were published soon after the Queen's Speech in 1977.
In his book Right From The Start, published by University of Wales Press, Lord Roberts admits that this was a valuable but ultimately doomed delaying device.
He writes, "Might the Callaghan government have fared differently if it had not made their devolution legislation such a flagship of their policy?
"Without it and the support it generated from the Liberals and the nationalists, the government could not have survived as long as it did."
However the Government could not hold out forever - in the referendum on March 1, 1979, the proposal was defeated by four votes to one and even in the nationalist bastion of Gwynedd the voting was two to one against.
Lord Roberts said this defeat was "elephantine" and it also "focused public disaffection with the Government in Scotland and Wales, and gave a foretaste of the election result to come."
But he admits, "Callaghan certainly believed in devolution and after the referendum famously claimed it would not go away.
"He was proved right some 20 years later."
Right from the Start charts Lord Roberts's career from his birth in 1930, the son of a Nonconformist minister, through his life as an MP and after his retirement in 1994.
It includes insights into the machinations of the Conservative Party top-brass during some of the most famous moments of British politics, including the election of Margaret Thatcher.
He was with Thatcher having lunch the day that Harold Wilson resigned in a shock move in March 1976 and even then he was clearly entranced with her potential.
"She was feminine, very feline - and her eyes became as sharp as a vixen's as we discussed the future."
His account also includes titbits of bizarre gossip from the everyday life of the House of Commons, such as bumping into the Prime Minister in the toilet.
"I was coughing in the gents when I heard Harold Wilson's unmistakable voice close behind me. 'That sounds bad!' he said.
"It might have been the start of an interesting exchange with the Prime Minister but it was not.
"I was accustomed to bowling googlies at him from the backbenches during Prime Minster's Questions but not standing beside him at an urinal.
"His presence arrested my flow and I could not for the life of me restart it. Harold had that kind of disconcerting effect on people."