Nia’s predecessors include three distinguished Labour parliamentarians.
They held the seat uninterruptedly for Labour since 1922: the Hon. Dr. J. H. Williams, who served the constituency for 14 years, the Right Hon. Jim Griffiths, who served for 34 years, and the Right Hon. Denzil Davies, who served for 35 years.
Dr. J. H. Williams: Dr Williams, who was the first Labour MP for Llanelli, was well known for his efforts to win fair compensation for mine-workers. When elected in 1922, he was one of only three Labour members from South Wales who were not themselves miners.
The Rt Hon James Griffiths: Dr Williams was followed by the Rt Hon James (Jim) Griffiths who also took up the cause of miners’ compensation. In the autumn of 1945 he was the driving force behind the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1946, with its provisions based on his experience as compensation secretary for the south Wales miners.
He is however perhaps best known for his work as Minister of National Insurance, with the introduction of the National Insurance Bill in 1948, which he described as “a unified and comprehensive scheme covering the whole nation”. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that Jim Griffiths introduced the first system of family allowances.
Already in the 1940s Jim was also campaigning — ahead of many of his parliamentary colleagues — for recognition of Wales as a distinct political unit and the establishment of a Wales Office. Eventually, he influenced opinion and was instrumental in devising Labour’s Welsh policy to that effect during the 1959 election. He pledged a future Labour Government to the inclusion of a Secretary of State for Wales in the Cabinet, and to specifying the devolution of administration.
When that future Labour Government was eventually elected in 1964, Jim Griffiths became the first Secretary of State for Wales and set up the Wales Office in Cardiff and London. In the 1970s—again, somewhat ahead of his time—he favoured a democratically elected national assembly, but he also wanted Wales to remain an integral part of the UK and to be represented at the highest level in Cabinet by its own Secretary of State. Jim would have been proud to see the recent Government of Wales Bill, which reflects the growing confidence that people in Wales have in the Assembly Government.
The Rt Hon Denzil Davies: Jim Griffiths was followed by the Right Hon. Denzil Davies, who was elected in 1970 and served the constituency of Llanelli for 35 years, until he stood down at the 2005 election.
After graduating with a first class honours degree in law from Pembroke College, Oxford, Denzil lectured in Chicago and Leeds Universities. He was called to the bar in 1964, practised as a barrister and became a Privy Counsellor in 1978.
His brilliance was soon recognised in Parliament and in 1974 he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to John Morris, Secretary of State for Wales. He was soon promoted in 1975 to serve as Minister of State in the Treasury, where he served in both the Wilson and Callaghan governments.
When Labour then went into opposition, he served as a Front Bench Opposition spokesman on Treasury and Economic affairs, on Foreign and Commonwealth affairs and on Defence and Disarmament.
Throughout his time as an MP, he was known both in Parliament and in the constituency for his immense ability, wit and eloquence.