TORY leader William Hague urged Tony Blair to intervene in the timing of devolution referenda following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, according to newly-released official papers.

The vote, which led to the creation of the Scottish Parliament, was due to take place on September 11 1997, with a referendum on Welsh devolution a week later on September 18. 

But files released to the National Archives show that when it was announced the funeral of the princess, who was killed in a car crash in Paris, would be on September 6, Mr Hague wrote to the prime minister appealing for a postponement.

The National Wales: Conservative leader William Hague and Diana Princess of Wales Conservative leader William Hague and Diana Princess of Wales

“This inevitably means that the referendum campaigns will effectively close down, and only three days will then remain for the Scottish campaign. This cannot, in any respects, be regarded as satisfactory,” he wrote.

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“I strongly feel that Parliament should be recalled next week so as to arrange to amend the Referendum Act so as to effect a delay. With cross party agreement this would be a quick and straightforward procedure.”

The Conservative Party, which had lost that year's general election to Labour, was opposed to both Scottish and Welsh devolution.

The National Wales: The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles follow Diana's coffin during her funeral on September 6, 1997 Picture: Tony Harris PA WireThe Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles follow Diana's coffin during her funeral on September 6, 1997 Picture: Tony Harris PA Wire

Yorkshire MP Hague had been Welsh secretary but saw his Conservatives swept out of Wales in the Labour landslide.

However despite the party's humbling, and annihilation under his watch in Wales, Haugue had succeeded John Major as Tory leader.

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Blair rejected the idea, telling the Tory leader that there were “serious practical difficulties”.

“Recalling Parliament this week would have the effect of politicising this period of mourning – exactly what everyone wishes to avoid,” he wrote.

“In any case the campaign has already been underway for a month and a half – longer the than a general election campaign – and the issue of devolution has been under debate for many years in both Scotland and Wales.

“I do not believe that five days of suspended campaign really justifies the major upheaval that you suggest.”

The National Wales: Tony Blair celebrates the Yes vote in Scotland with then Scottish secretary Donald DewarTony Blair celebrates the Yes vote in Scotland with then Scottish secretary Donald Dewar

In a private note to Blair, his chief of staff Jonathan Powell, who drafted his reply, admitted the practical arguments were “not as strong a I would like”.

“The real argument is that we simply do not want to change the date of the referendum,” he wrote.

“Given that Hague is likely to use this letter after Saturday to show how unreasonable we are, I have nonetheless concentrated on the practical arguments.”

At the time some MPs were openly arguing for the Scottish referendum to be delayed.

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Other revelations in the newly released papers are that the Dean of Westminster, Rev Dr Wesley Carr, personally appealed to Buckingham Palace to allow Sir Elton John to deliver his famous rendition of Candle In The Wind at the funeral.

Papers released by the National Archives suggest there was resistance to the plan amid concerns that the rewritten lyrics by Sir Elton and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin were “too sentimental”.

Diana and her lover, Dodi Fayed – son of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed – died in a car crash in Paris on August 31 1997, prompting a huge outpouring of public grief.

The princess’s divorce from the Prince of Wales had been finalised the previous year and there was widespread public anger at the perceived indifference of the royals to her fate.

Candle In The Wind, originally written in memory of Marilyn Monroe, was widely taken up and played as a memorial to the princess, who had been a friend of Sir Elton.

In response, the singer and Taupin rewrote the lyrics, changing the opening line from “Goodbye Norma Jean” (Monroe’s real name) to “Goodbye England’s rose”.

The National Wales: Elton John performing a rewritten version of his song 'Candle in the wind' as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, at her funeral Picture: PAElton John performing a rewritten version of his song 'Candle in the wind' as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, at her funeral Picture: PA

Dr Carr – who was involved in negotiations over the service between the Palace and Diana’s family – said, in a note, it had captured the public mood.

“I respectfully suggest that anything classical or choral (even a popular classic such as something by Lloyd Webber) is inappropriate.

“Better would be the enclosed song by Elton John (known to millions and his music was enjoyed by the princess), which would be powerful.

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“He has written new words to the tune which is being widely played and sung throughout the nation in memorial to Diana. It is all the time on the radio.

“Its use here would be imaginative and generous to the millions who are feeling personally bereaved: it is popular culture at its best.

“If it were thought the words too sentimental (although that is by no means a bad thing given the national mood), they need not be printed – only sung."

It has also been shown how Number 10 official described current Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was branded a “publicity-mad loony”.

The National Wales: Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle pictured in 1997, left, and as he looks today Pictures: PACommons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle pictured in 1997, left, and as he looks today Pictures: PA

In summer of 1998, Mr Hoyle (as he then was) sought to press Tony Blair over the supposed involvement of “British security agents” in the Paris car crash.

Mr Hoyle had only been elected as Labour MP for Chorley in 1997, but had already attracted headlines after calling for a new national children’s hospital to be built as a memorial to Diana, and for Heathrow to be renamed Diana, Princess of Wales Airport.

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Following his latest intervention, one No 10 official scrawled in a handwritten note: “Lindsay Hoyle is publicity-mad loony.”

The Foreign Office drew up a suitably “dismissive and definitive” reply for Mr Blair to send to the MP, although officials suggested it may be better for the chief whip Nick Brown to speak to him instead.

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