HC Deb 20 July 1978 vol 954 cc883-923

Lords amendment: No. 105, in page 46, leave out lines 15 to 19.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

I shall later be inviting the House to disagree with Lords amendments nos. 191 and 192 and to accept in their place the words printed on the amendment paper.

I wish to begin this debate on the National Health Service by indicating exactly the state of the Bill since it has been subject to a number of changes both here and in another place.

As the Bill stands, the terms and conditions of service, including the pay, of all NHS staff are completely devolved. That is where the Bill now stands. But that is not the policy of the Goverment, nor is it our wish that it should remain so. It is the Government's policy that the Assembly should exercise ministerial power in respect of the administration of the NHS in Wales.

The Government believe that the Assembly should not have the final say on pay and related terms and conditions of service of NHS staff. The Government agree with the British Medical Association that remuneration and closely related matters should continue to be uniform throughout England and Wales. We believe that to be important in preserving mobility within the profession and in the interests of health care generally. It has, however, not proved to be easy to separate the powers needed for the administration of the Health Service from those concerned with remuneration.

This difficulty is particularly acute in respect of general medical practitioners, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. Their remuneration is determined by regulations made under sections 29 and 34 to 43 of the National Health Service Act 1977.

The inter relationship between pay and other matters in those regulations is close. For example, disciplinary action against a general practitioner is possible by way of withholding part of his remuneration. It is not, therefore, possible to draw a clear distinction between those matters which are concerned exclusively with remuneration and those which are not. This cannot be done in the Wales Bill by reference to existing regulations as they may change over the years. The Bill needs to be able to cope with such changes.

The Bill left this House containing a scheme designed to overcome these problems in relation to the remuneration of general medical practitioners and others similarly placed. In schedule 2 the relevant functions in the 1977 Act were devolved to the Assembly. An amendment to the 1977 Act in schedule 11 then gave the Secretary of State the power to direct the Assembly on the exercise of those functions. He could, therefore, determine the aspects of any Assembly regulations concerned essentially with remuneration and then direct the Assembly as to what the regulations should contain in this respect.

A further complication is that the principal instrument affecting remuneration is called the "Statement of fees and allowances", and this is made under the terms of the regulations rather than contained in the regulations themselves. The intention is that the Secretary of State should be able to fix fees and allowances. This was achieved by including in the Secretary of State's directing powers a power to direct the Assembly to confer functions on him.

8.15 p.m.

At the time when the Bill left this House it was thought that the remuneration of employed staff, such as hospital doctors, did not present the same difficulties. It was later realised that the reservation of the relevant provisions—that is, paragraphs 10(1) and 11(1) of schedule 5 of the 1977 Act—could create problems for the Assembly in the administration of the NHS in Wales. It could prevent the Assembly from making regulations about the appointment of any hospital staff by the area health authorities. Consequently, amendment no. 105 devolves in schedule 2 the ministerial functions concerned as the first leg in bringing the treatment of remuneration of employed staff into line with that of general practitioners. Therefore, we hope that the House will accept amendment no. 105.

There is a further complicating factor. In Committee the Lords removed from schedule 11 the amendment to the 1977 Act which gave the Secretary of State the power to direct the Assembly. Without this amendment, the Assembly has full powers to fix remuneration of NHS staff. This is contrary to Government policy and to the views of the movers of the amendment in the other place.

Finally, if the House agrees to reject amendments nos. 191 and 192, the directing power will be restored only in respect of the provisions concerned with GPs, dentists, pharmacists and opticians. We have tabled an amendment which would extend the directing power to cover provisions related to all employed staff in the NHS.

Mr. Hooson

As the Minister knows, I have expressed concern about the appointment of consultants under this provision. Is the result of the Lords amendment that the Welsh Assembly could appoint consultants or arrange for their appointment without any reference to the Royal College of Physicians or the Royal College of Surgeons for outside referees? Does the provision now proposed—namely, for the Secretary of State to make regulations—ensure that the appointment of, say, consultants at Cardiff would follow the same kind of procedure as adopted in the appointment of consultants in London?

Mr. Jones

If we accept the Bill as it stands, the Assembly would be able to vary the regulations which affect the methods of appointment of consultants. It is that kind of protection that we seek to give by giving the Secretary of State this kind of power.

To sum up, I emphasise that this is a technical and complicated problem. I know of the great concern expressed by many hon. Members both here and in the other place on this matter. Our objective was to ensure that pay and closely related terms of service in the NHS should be reserved, but the Bill at present does the opposite. It now gives complete and outright devolution. We believe that, using the amendments passed in another place, we should accept the principle of devolution, but we must ensure that we give the Secretary of State power to direct. We believe that we have now done that in such a way as to ensure that negotiations and determination of pay and related terms of service affecting standards remain in the hands of the Secretary of State for Wales. That will ensure uniformity between members of the profession in England and Wales.

Sir Raymond Gower

Does the Minister consider that giving the power of direction to the Secretary of State is the best and most effective way of doing that? Is there no better way than that?

Mr. Jones

It is certainly one way. I should hesitate to say whether no other way could be found. Only a foolish man would suggest that there was only one way forward. It is a way that devolves sufficient functions to the Assembly to ensure that it can manage the National Health Service and at the same time ensures that, by the Government exercising their powers of direction, we maintain uniform standards throughout England and Wales. For that reason, I hope that the House will accept the amendment no. 105 but will reject the later amendments.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

The Minister is absolutely right. This is indeed a very complex situation. As the Bill stands, we have given complete and outright devolution over the Health Service to the Assembly. That was certainly not the Government's wish and it is not the wish of the Opposition.

Looking at the brighter side, Lords amendment no. 105 is notable not least because it is the first in the longest unbroken string of amendments accepted by the Government. According to the list, the Government have accepted Lords amendments nos. 105 to 126–21 in all. They are all amendments to schedule 2. which splits the functions between the Assembly and Ministers in accordance with clause 9(1). As we know, functions exercisable by the Assembly are listed in the left hand column of the schedule, whereas excluded functions reserved for Ministers are listed in the right hand column. Therefore, the schedule is the skeleton of devolution proposed by the Government.

Far be it from me to look a gift skeleton in the mouth—this string of amendments that the Government have accepted—but it is remarkable that the Government are still chopping and changing at this very late stage with regard to the functions that are or are not to be devolved and how they are to be devolved. I think that by now the Government would be well advised to pursue the old sub-editorial rule—when in doubt, leave out. We are clearly very much in doubt on how to proceed with devolution in connection with the Health Service.

As the Minister said, amendment no. 105 and the other amendments refer to the Health Service in Wales. There is considerable anxiety in medical circles in Wales that the Health Service there should in no way be separated from the National Health Service as a whole. The fears expressed to us have been to the effect that, if that were to happen, there would be a danger that different standards of health care would develop and that we would have difficulty in recruiting staff to the Welsh Health Service because of its separate character.

I have here a report of the meeting of the Welsh Council of the BMA reported in the Western Mail on 13th July. It is worth quoting the report to the House: Welsh doctors have again given a warning that devolution may lead to a lowering of medical standards. … The doctors are worried that home rule for Wales will lead to the Principality attracting fewer and less well-qualified staff. They also fear amendments to the Wales Bill could make manipulation of committtee membership possible. Specialists would then be appointed to areas where it would be politically expedient for the Assembly. Dr. Murray Jones, the chairman, said: In the field of general practice we are concerned, among other things, that the proposed executive assembly could usurp the present powers of the Secretary of State for Wales, regarding appeals from the investigation of alleged service breaches. As doctors we cling to the hope that medicine can be kept out of party politics.

Mr. Alec Jones

Certainly it is right and proper that the hon. Gentleman should refer to deeply held feelings on this subject. But I ask him to remember that the article was written and the meeting that it describes was held before the Bill had completed its passage in another place. As I indicated, I hope that the House will correct some of the errors that undoubtedly occurred in another place. The correction of those errors will allay the fears expressed in that article.

Mr. Roberts

I think that I can relieve the Minister on that point. We are as anxious as the hon. Gentleman to clear up the situation.

Lords amendment no. 105 removes from the excluded functions the powers of a health authority, under the National Health Service Act 1977, to employ officers on such terms as it may determine in accordance with regulations and such directions as may be given by the Secretary of State after he has consulted such bodies as he may recognise as representing persons affected by his regulations.

The amendment to remove that function from the reserved powers, which meant giving it to the Assembly, was moved in Committee in the other place by Lord Donaldson and then, curiously, withdrawn after a powerful argument against it by Lord Hill of Luton. Lord Hill, in a related debate, made quite devastating points to the effect that appointments should be made by those who knew the circumstances and the needs of particular hospitals and that the respossibility should not be transferred to any other body distant from those running the Health Service. He seemed to be putting forward an argument against the devolution of the Health Service in Wales.

The noble Lord went on to ask a very pertinent question: if the Government's intention is to sustain current standards, why not leave the responsibility where it is now? He implied that it did not make sense to change and to transfer responsibility to the Assembly. It makes even less sense then to give the Secretary of State, under another amendment, the power to tell the Assembly how to exercise its responsibilities. Even Lord Donaldson accepted that it was an "admittedly elaborate system". The Minister confirmed its complexity. As I said, Lord Donaldson then withdrew the amendment. Nevertheless, it is now back with us again in the same form.

Amendment no. 191 would leave out the power of the Secretary of State to give directions to the Assembly as to the exercise of any of its functions in relation to the provision of general medical services by an area health authority, general dental services, ophthalmic services and pharmaceutical services. But the Government, as we have heard, disagree with this amendment as it stands, and in their own amendment to Lords amendment no. 191 they have added to the Secretary of State's power the power to give directions to an authority to employ officers on such terms as it may determine in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.

In short, it seems that what the Government have done is to reinforce the power apparently lost by the Secretary of State by amendment No. 105. They have strengthened it in particular with regard to pay and remuneration of doctors and other employees of the NHS in Wales.

8.30 p.m.

I am not at all sure that the Government have got it right yet. Their policy was stated in the other place on more than one occasion. I shall quote only Lord Donaldson, who said: It is the policy of the Government that the Assembly should have powers in respect of the administration of the National Health Service in Wales and in respect of the private sector of medicine. This was laid down in the White Paper on devolution and there has been no change in the Government's intent on this since. There has, however, been a change of policy with regard to pay and pensions of Health Service staff. The Government's original proposals in the Scotland and Wales Bills were to devolve pay and pensions of health service staff to the Assembly, but the exercise of the powers was to be subject to the consent of the Government. This is still the scheme adopted in the Scotland Bill; but on 26th July, the Lord President announced that the pay and pensions of Health Service employees in Wales would be reserved. Lord Donaldson then went on to talk about the difficulties of effecting this policy in terms of legislation. He said: To overcome these difficulties, the scheme adopted in the Bill achieves the Government's policy intentions which are, as mentioned, to reserve the essential matters concerned with remuneration and to devolve those concerned with the day-to-day running of the National Health Service in Wales. The arrangements are as follows. The functions in the relevant sections of the 1977 Act are devolved to the Assembly in Part VI of Schedule 2. But the amendment to the 1977 Act in Schedule 11 to the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to direct the Assembly about the exercise of these functions. The Secretary of State can therefore determine the aspects of any Assembly regulations which are concerned essentially with remuneration, and then direct the Assembly as to what the regulations should contain in this respect."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15th June 1978; Vol. 393, c. 564–6.] Lord Donaldson went on to talk of further complications in this connection. Nevertheless, he believed that the scheme devised by the Government achieved a workable and sensible result. Nevertheless, the Government have felt it necessary further to amend and strengthen, at this late stage, the power of the Secretary of State.

Lord Hill called this a bogus piece of devolution, designed to blind those who want more and more devolution. It is certainly a botched-up piece of devolution in the sense that it pretends to give to the Assembly control over the day-to-day running of the Health Service in Wales while it reserves to the Secretary of State the power to issue regulations which the Assembly is obliged to observe.

Earlier today we discussed the power of the Assembly to subsume the functions of various bodies, including the area health authorities, under clause 60. I can think of nothing worse for the Health Service in Wales than that Assemblymen should take over from the health authorities.

Finally, I refer briefly to amendment no. 192.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

Will not the hon. Member agree that, while, he argues that the Assembly might subsume certain functions of the area health authority, there does not in fact exist in Wales the tier which is the regional health authority in England which is, indeed, subsumed in the Welsh Office? Does he not agree that there are important decisions, particularly of resource allocation, which have to be taken at regional health authority level in England and which would be taken in Wales by the Assembly, in that the Assembly would be introducing into the Health Service in Wales a structure which seems to be acceptable to the Conservative Party in the context of England?

Mr. Roberts

But it is my understanding—and I am certain of it—that the area health authorities already come under clause 60 and that the Assembly can take over the functions of the area health authorities—and, indeed, of community health councils if it comes to that.

I was referring to Lords amendment no. 192, which seeks to remove the power of the Secretary of State to require functions to be conferred on him by or under regulations made by the Assembly. This requirement, contained in paragraph 94 of schedule 11, is in itself a reductio ad absurdum of devolution in connection with the Health Service, because the Secretary of State has got himself into the ridiculous situation where he may have to require the Assembly to give him back functions that he may have given it earlier. That is an amazing position for the Government to have got themselves into, but it might be even worse if we upheld their Lordships in amendment no. 192.

The Government should never have sought to devolve responsibility for the Health Service in Wales. They have found it well-nigh impossible to separate day-to-day responsibility from responsibility for the remuneration and terms and conditions of those who work in the service. What we have now, despite the Minister's assurance, is a very indistinct line of demarcation between the Assembly's responsibilities and those of the Secretary of State which will undoubtedly lead to confusion and probably a deterioration within the Health Service itself.

Mr. Dalyell

May I take 30 seconds for an expression of exasperation?

We are told by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that the Government accept the principle of devolution in this matter, and then he goes on to say that we are giving the Secretary of State power to reserve certain powers be- cause uniformity must be ensured—and, of course, we are referring to uniformity in certain delicate areas. We are then told that the Assembly can manage the National Health Service. I agree with the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) that if it means anything it means Assemblymen taking part in the day-to-day running of the service, and we are back, therefore, to the debate before last.

We are getting into great difficulties of window dressing. What irks some of us is that the cost of setting up the Welsh Assembly is now estimated to be about £12½ million. On 3rd March, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and I had a full day's debate on the need to help kidney patients. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services—who, alas, is in hospital, and we all hope that he gets better soon—gave us a very full answer that the basic trouble in dealing with those suffering from kidney problems was a shortage of money because the NHS was becoming more and more expensive for sophisticated operations.

Yet here we are spending all this money on setting up this huge structure, and it becomes clear as we go on, day by day, that sensitive issues such as doctors' pay are fudged. There is another tier of government introduced gratuitously at a cost of millions of pounds. We are talking about the National Health Service being desperately short of money in order to treat its patients, yet here we are squandering taxpayers' money under this Bill. That is my complaint.

Mr. Hooson

It seems that the critics of the Bill will carp at anything. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) spoke just to make the gratuitous point that the Assembly will cost £12½ million. Many things cost a great deal of money. We have allocated hundreds of millions of pounds to the National Enterprise Board and to British Leyland. Did the hon. Gentleman object to that? Of course not. It is because he is against devolution that he is prepared to run anything, however insignificant it may appear to the rest of us, just to make another point against devolution.

We are faced with a practical problem. It is right that the administration of the NHS should be devolved to the Assembly. It is a function at present exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales, and it seems natural that we should transfer it. We do not have a regional tier in Wales. That is represented by the Secretary of State and the Welsh Office. The Assembly will be performing in Wales the function that is performed by the regional tier in England.

We are all concerned to ensure that when devolution is brought about there is no slip-up that allows the possibility of a deterioration in the standards of the NHS in Wales. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) gave currency to misgivings and apprehensions that the Government have made clear they wish to remove. It is a complicated subject and the doctors are not concerned with how it is achieved, but whether it is achieved.

The expedient employed by the Government to achieve this result, namely, that the Secretary of State has a directing power, is a safeguard to ensure that the doctors' apprehensions and misgivings are removed. Does it do it? I believe that it does. I have had discussions with the Under-Secretary of State for Wales and he has been concerned to ensure that these apprehensions and misgivings are removed. It does not behove the Conservatives to give currency to apprehensions that the Government are determined to remove. If the Conservatives believe that there is another way of doing it, let them put forward their proposals. I do not see that their carping criticism on this point takes us any further.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman believe that people have serious cause for concern when, on the last day of our consideration of Lords amendments we are changing the Bill in a highly significant fashion and the Government are still talking about complexity and the difficulty of achieving what they want to achieve in a proper fashion?

Mr. Hooson

The Government have to do it at this stage because another place passed an amendment that put the whole control of the NHS into the hands of the Assembly—with no safeguards at all. That is why certain changes are necessary. Even if another place had not passed the amendment, it would have been necessary for the Government to introduce some means of safeguarding standards in Wales. The specialists who have been in touch with me are concerned that, for example, the Assembly should not be able to pass rules to enable it to appoint consultants without having the normal recourse to outside referees suggested by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. They are also concerned about pay, conditions and standards.

Surely the House should ensure that the Government have provided a sufficient safeguard. I believe that they have, and I have heard nothing to suggest that they have not found the right way of achieving the object.

8.45 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

With respect to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), he is deluding himself. He is a keen devolutionist, I know, but if he will follow me I think he will see that devolution in regard to the National Health Service is nothing like as complete as might be expected.

At the moment, the Secretary of State is responsible instead of a regional health authority for the NHS in Wales. The Government are purporting to hand over the responsibility for that and all the functions of the Secretary of State to the Assembly. But they are blowing hot and cold. What they give with one hand they are clawing back with another. That is what this debate is about.

It is regrettable that such an important matter should be hidden by so much complexity of legislation, but I have done my best to work it through. The Government are accepting Lords amendment no. 105, but with some insincerity because they are making an amendment to Lords amendment no. 192 so that the Secretary of State will retain considerable powers over the Assembly.

It is perhaps arguable, and it has been argued, that in order to maintain high standards of proficiency by medical practitioners, consultants, dentists, pharmacists and others, the Government should have some control. If that were all, I should not mind so much, but the powers that the Secretary of State will claw back are much wider than Government spokesmen in either House have indicated.

Our difficulty is that, under a guillotine, it is time-consuming to go through all the statutory provisions that we need to get on to the record, and if necessary to read them out fairly fully, to understand the position. I would point out that under section 29 of the National Health Service Act, which is one of those under which the Secretary of State will retain his powers, besides remuneration and conditions of service he will retain responsibility for the preparation and publication of lists of medical practitioners who undertake to provide general medical service; for conferring a right on any person to choose, in accordance with the prescribed procedure, the medical practitioner by whom he is to be attended". for the distribution of those lists among medical practitioners whose names are on the lists so that people can make a choice; for the issue to patients or their personal representatives by medical practitioners … of such certificates as may be prescribed, being certificates reasonably required by them". There we get into clinical matters.

Then there is the discipline of medical practitioners, which goes beyond what is normally understood as conditions of service—their removal from the list and so on. We find that under sections 34 to 43, which are also invoked, there are regulations for medical practices committees. Then for general dental services the Dental Estimates Board is covered by section 37, which is one of those invoked. Then for general ophthalmic services we have the same sort of provisions as those which quoted with regard to general medical services, and the same goes for pharmaceutical services.

The story does not end there, because we find that, as a result of this House being asked to reject Lords amendment no. 192, the power of the Secretary of State under the previous paragraph, which is the one which invokes all those sections of the National Health Service Act 1977, includes power to require functions to be conferred on him by or under regulations made by the Assembly. It means that the Assembly is not even its own master in the matters in which the Bill gives a power to make regulations. The Bill gives power to make regulations, but the Secretary of State can alter the regulations.

Mr. Alec Jones

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that he would advocate the complete devolution of these matters? If he is not prepared to accept the argument which I put forward, the only alternative available to the House is the complete devolution of these matters.

Sir D. Renton

I am not saying that. The Opposition have opposed the complete devolution of so many of these executive functions all along.

I am saying that the Minister ought not to try to anaesthetise the Welsh people in this way. I do not say that there is any blinding with legislative science, but when one gets down to the statutory references involved in all these cross-references one finds that the Secretary of State will have considerable power over the Assembly in the matters which have been mentioned and, indeed, in matters beyond those which have been mentioned, in addition to the powers which I had the temerity to refer to on Third Reading when I said that, although there was no allegation of deliberate misrepresentation, the Welsh people would be misled in believing that on, for example, the siting of hospitals the Assembly would be completely its own master. It will not be completely its own master, because the Secretary of State retains important, final decisive powers over town and country planning matters, over the compulsory purchase of land for public purposes and so on.

I say as mildly as I can that the Welsh people must understand that they are not getting complete devolution of their National Health Service. I think that it is better that they should not have it. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and his party and Plaid Cymru want them to have it. They must not think that they will get it completely.

Mr. Hooson

They do not.

Sir D. Renton

I am sure that a great many of them do, and we must make it clear to them exactly how much devolution they will get and what devolution they will not get.

Mr. Dalyell

It is, of course, the forty-fifth day of our devolution proceedings and we are still on these difficult arguments. Is it not a fact that almost 10 years ago the doctors made their views clear to Kilbrandon?

Sir D. Renton

I understand that to be so. I am not in a position, because I have not refreshed my memory, to deal with that matter in answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hooson

Surely it is the Conservative Party, with all its propaganda, which has suggested that the Assembly is to have much greater powers than is the case. The powers given to the Assembly are very limited. This has been abundantly clear to those of us on the Liberal Bench for a long time. It is the Front Bench speakers, particularly those on the Opposition Front Bench, who have been suggesting to the people of Wales that the Assembly would have draconian powers.

Sir D. Renton

The hon. and learned Member, in spite of his normal lucidity of mind, has got this thoroughly mixed up. All that we on the Opposition Benches have been doing to the best of our ability is to point out exactly what the effect of this highly complex Bill will be so that in some way the Welsh people can understand what a complete legislative dog's dinner they will be voting for—or against.

Sir Raymond Gower

I thank the Government for attempting to improve the position following the Bill's return to this House from another place. The Minister ought not, however to seek to give the impression that the damage was done by some outside body. It is my recollection that in another place one of the amendments to which he has referred was introduced by Lord Donaldson while another was introduced by an Opposition peer but accepted by Lord Donaldson on behalf of the Government. In some respects, the Government have created the situation which they now seek to remedy.

To deal with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), I do not believe that it is possible to accuse Conservative Members of trying to exaggerate the dangers of the Bill. There are dangers in it and it is right that they should be mentioned. If the hon. and learned Member does not see the dangers or is not concerned about them, that is because he takes a different view of the possibilities which may emerge from devolution. We are anxious about it. However, if the Bill is to become law we want it to be as perfect an instrument as possible, ensuring that the devolved Assembly will conduct its affairs in a businesslike manner and that its powers will be reasonably and properly exercised.

It is certainly desirable that questions of pay and remuneration should not be separated from such matters in the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not want the kind of treatment offered by the National Health Service in Wales to change radically—

Mr. Hooson

It will not.

Sir R. Gower

We sincerely hope not. We hope that the highest standards will prevail in Wales. There is obviously a danger that an Assembly will have priorities different from those we have in this Parliament. This is the danger we have to face when we seek to ensure that the wording of the Bill does not enable the Assembly to depart too far from general practice in the United Kingdom. This is what I hope the Government have achieved by the radical alterations to this narrow part of the Bill.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans

We have recently been celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service, and in Wales we are proud that it was Nye Bevan who, as Minister of Health, created the Service which led to the principle that health services would be available to people throughout Britain depending not on their ability to pay but on their need.

If there is any anxiety that a change in the administration of the National Health Service in Wales will lead to the Service in the Principality being different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom, we should consider this matter seriously. Let us admit that we are faced with a difficult task because of all these various cross-references. We are moving towards the midnight hour, as it were, in deciding the contents of the Bill, and we ought to admit that had it not been for the other place sending back an amendment to the schedule we should not have been able to debate this matter.

We have been critical of the Conservative Party because of the way in which it dealt with the reorganisation of local government, of the water industry and of the National Health Service itself. If changes are to be made, let us be certain that what we do will lead to an improvement in the Service. Will there be any disparity between Wales and England in the benefits to be derived from the NHS? We are still not certain what is to happen. We have not yet been told what financial allocation will be determined by this House in the block grant that is to be administered by the Assembly. Will the finances of the NHS be affected by the block grant?

We ought to know the answer to that question before we make any changes, and I am certain that in saying that I carry with me the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). I am sure that if the hon. and learned Gentleman reflects on the matter he will realise that the debates in the Assembly will not be on whether there should be more Welsh language signs or more hospital beds.

I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is dealing with some of the problems facing us. There is tremendous controversy in my valley because the reorganisation of the Health Service has led to an increase in administrative costs. There is also the problem of the reorganisation of the hospitals. We are faced with the transfer of hospital facilities from one valley to the next. The valley communities think very highly of the Health Service. They are proud that it was from the valleys that Nye Bevan came to this House and established the National Health Service, which became the envy of the world and has been copied by many countries. We should not take lightly what is being proposed. We should not make changes before we receive clarification of what is to happen.

I believe in a more democratic answer. One can argue about the way in which the area health authorities and community health councils are being developed. Local authorities are allowed to nominate representatives to the local community councils. That is at least partial democratisation. If the community health councils and area health authorities are to be subsumed by the new Assembly—something which, presumably, the Assembly will have power to do—I do not think that we are talking about bringing the Health Service nearer to the people. We cannot be said to be doing that if the health authorities in Caernarvon, Carmarthen and Merioneth, to name but three localities, are subsumed by Cardiff. That is the problem that we face.

I am more seriously concerned, however, about the financing of the Health Service. I therefore seek an assurance that Wales will continue to get an allocation of resources comparable to the rest of the country.

Nye Bevan spoke of this important principle when he said that the mining valleys were crying out for medical attention to deal with serious illness but that no doctors would go to them. The doctors were going instead to places like Bournemouth and Eastbourne because of the financial incentive. We long ago turned our back on all that, and I hope that the Government are not suggesting that we should return to it.

The financial allocation to the Health Service in Wales must be based on the needs of the area, and we must retain the equality for which we fought and which we have celebrated over the last 30 years.

Mr. Dalyell

I would not be too sure about carrying the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) in this line of argument. He is the only man, apart from the nationalists and the Government Front Bench, who since yesterday's daylight hours has had a friendly word to say about the Bill. I am beginning to wonder where all the folk are who want this measure.

Mr. Evans

The hon. and learned Member has the right to express his view. He has had the opportunity of chatting this over with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and he has been given certain assurances—

Mr. Dalyell


Mr. Alec Jones

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) will be assured that I gave no extra undertakings to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). The explanation I gave the hon. and learned Gentleman was exactly the explanation I gave to the House today.

Mr. Evans

I had not even thought of the Lib-Lab pact. I was simply saying that the hon. and learned Gentleman had discussed the matter with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and had received assurances.

Like the rest of us, the Under-Secretary is proud of the Health Service and wants Wales to get as good as, if not better than, we have had in the last 30 years.

Mr. Alec Jones

With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate. It has been an interesting discussion basically on the principle of devolution. I do not object to that. In fact, I enjoy it because it gives me the opportunity to prepare my campaing speeches for the referendum.

It would be unthinkable for the Government to propose a scheme of devolution for Wales without transferring management of the Health Service in Wales to the Assembly. I say that for the very reasons adduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). We have this close feeling that it is our Health Service and no one alse's. It is not possible to contemplate a Welsh Assembly without the Health Service powers.

The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) quoted Lord Hill's remarks in Committee in another place. Of course, the hon. Member does not enjoy the advantages that I have, but I suggest that he ought to have read on. He would then have realised that on Third Reading Lord Hill virtually expressed himself satisfied over the points he had raised.

The hon. Member said that we were chopping and changing, but in the main we are simply reacting to proposals and amendments by another place. Without disrespect to those who took part, I point out that there were amendments carried on this issue which I am sure would not satisfy the anti-devolutionalists, which certainly do not meet with the approval of the professions concerned.

I realise that there are these fears. Indeed, I met the British Medical Association on this problem not so very long ago, and we set out to try to overcome those fears. In the main they were concerned with pay and the closely related terms of service the sort of question which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) raised in regard to consultants.

In the amendments we have set out to ensure that we can sustain standards right across the board and at the same time allow the Welsh Assembly to administer the National Health Service in Wales, while observing the uniform standards of England and Wales. This is why the Secretary of State has been given powers of direction in this field.

I accept the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes. He might say that it is a little untidy to give devolution with one hand and to take it away with the other. I accept that in a unitary State we are bound to get difficulties of this sort if we move at all along the road to devolution. There is no perfect, clearcut, easily understood answer, and I accept that there are difficulties which are inherent in the system. But I believe that amendment no. 105 brings the terms and conditions of service of employed Health Service staff into line with those of medical practitioners, dentists, opticisians and pharmacists. It brings them all into line.

At the same time, there is the question of ensuring uniformity in standards and in consultants' appointments and matters of that nature. Those matters were demanded when I met the representatives of th BMA, and certainly seemed to be demanded in most speeches made in the other place. I should have thought that they were equally demanded by those hon. Members present tonight.

We have tried to meet all the difficulties which were put to us—

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Before the Minister sits down, I should like to refer him, if I may, to paragraph 94(2) of schedule 11, at the top of page 86. It is said there that The power of the Secretary of State under this paragraph includes power to require functions to he conferred on him by or under regulations made by the Assembly. What sort of functions does the Minister imagine the Secretary of State requiring back from the Assembly.

Mr. Jones

This is one example of the sort of function which is peculiarly related to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, namely, that in the appointment of consultants the advisory committees play an important role. Those committees consist of a very large proportion of highly qualified consultants, and the committees ensure that there is a uniform standard among the consultants appointed. If the Secretary of State could not have that function transferred back to him, the fear would be, as it was expressed to me, that an Assembly might rejig the composition of committees in such a way as to reduce the representation of consultants, which might possibly have consequences for the standard of the consultants appointed.

That is the sort of power that we believe the Secretary of State ought to have if he is to try to bring about a standard uniform service and to prevent the variations about which fears were expressed to me.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments nos. 106 to 126 agreed to.

Lords amendment no. 127 disagreed to.

Amendments made in lieu thereof to the words so restored to the Bill:

In page 52, leave out lines 20 and 21.

In page 52, leave out line 30 and insert— and 13. The functions under section 14 except so far as exercisable in relation to property held by or on behalf of the Assembly or by a company all of whose shares are so held or by a wholly owned subsidiary of such a company. The functions under section 19(7) and (8).'.

In page 54, line 23, leave out 'and 48'.

In page 54, leave out lines 26 to 31 and insert— 'The functions under paragraphs 46 to 50 of Schedule 3 so far as exercisable by virtue of representations made by excepted statutory undertakers. The powers under paragraph 53 of Schedule 3 so far as their exercise is incidental to functions which remain exercisable by a Minister of the Crown.'

Line 22 on page 52 to 38 on page 54 transferred to Part VIII of Schedule 2 to the Bill.—[Mr. John Smith.]

Lords amendment: No. 128, in page 54, line 39, leave out Part X of the schedule.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Alec Jones

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

While designing and developing the policies incorporated in the Bill, the Government have sought to ensure that the package of functions to be transferred to the Assembly shall be as coherent as possible, so that the border between the functions of the Assembly and Ministers is clear and will not give rise to undue administrative complexity. I am not sure whether I carry the whole House with me when I say that that is what we have striven to do. There have been occasions when Opposition Members have suggested that we might not have achieved our aim, but that was the object of the exercise.

We believe that in considering forestry we must have regard to the analogous subjects of planning, land use, the countryside and tourism. Those subjects, which are intimately connected with the Government's concern for forestry, are dealt with in parts VIII, XIII and XV of schedule 2. One sees that a wide range of ministerial functions are to be transferred.

If functions in respect of forestry were to be reserved while those on other matters such as planning were to be transferred to the Assembly, the activities of the Assembly and those of the Government would tend to impinge on each other in a most undesirable way. There would be a danger that a range of interrelated functions would be carried out less effectively and without the full co-ordination that is required. There is certainly a need for co-ordination between land use and forestry. Most people, I think, would agree.

The extent of new afforestation in Wales is far less than in Scotland. The Forestry Commission is now planting about 10 new hectares in Scotland for every one in Wales. Nevertheless, forestry is a matter of great importance to rural life in Wales. The total area of existing Forestry Commission forest in Wales is almost one-third of that in Scotland, but if we make allowance for Scotland's greater size we find that the proportion of land afforested is about the same.

Unlike the position in Scotland, only an insignificant proportion of Welsh forest extends across the border into England. Most of that is to be found in Mid-Wales.

Forestry is of considerable importance to rural life and employment in Wales. The Government's view is that the Assembly should have the power under the 1967 Forestry Act to determine the extent and the form of afforestation to be undertaken.

However, we are in this matter, as in so many others, talking only about executive devolution. The Assembly will have no powers in forestry which are not currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales. As with the Secretary of State's powers, they will generally be exercised not directly but through the Forestry Commission. An order will be made under clause 59 after consultation with the commission, and after being subject to affirmative resolution of both House of Parliament that order will determine the precise arrangements for the commission's accountability to the Assembly.

I want to make it quite clear that the commissioners will continue to be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen. They will serve as a common source of expert advice on forestry matters to the Assembly and the Government. As an organisation, the commission will continue to operate as a single body, with a common staff structure and common pay scales. It already has a regional structure, with tripartite ministerial control. This is readily adaptable to meet the needs of devolution.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Assembly could alter the grants currently paid to private forestry owners

Mr. Jones

Yes, I think I must say that that is possible, but my understanding, after discussions is that of far greater importance to the private forester is the taxation level. I am sorry to see that the hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but my information is that the level of taxation is more important than grants. As the hon. Gentleman knows, decisions on the level of taxation are not being devolved.

The present position will be maintained in three further important respects. The fiscal treatment of forestry is to be reserved, and so also is plant health. The commission's research facilities will be maintained in a unified form, although the Assembly will be able to commission research if it wishes.

It has been argued that it is wrong to devolve forestry while reserving agriculture. Clearly there is a strong link between forestry and agriculture, but the Government's view is that this link is no greater than the link between land planning and other matters that I have previously described.

There are particular reasons for reserving agriculture which do not apply to forestry. Apart from its greater EEC implications, which we cannot ignore, agriculture is far more immediately susceptible to Government support policies than forestry is. In forestry, harvesting takes place many years after initial investment and prices are determined mainly by the prices of imported timber. Unlike agriculture, forestry can be devolved without significant implications for the United Kingdom as a whole.

We have weighed all the considerations with care and have concluded that it is right to transfer forestry functions to the Assembly.

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend says that there is no significant implication for the United Kingdom as a whole. But I think that many of his colleagues have had letters from the British Paper and Board Industry Federation and from Bill Keys, the general secretary of SOGAT, outlining the difficulties for the paper and board industry, for instance, if forestry is devolved.

Mr. Jones

I have seen letters indicating all sorts of fears, but I must admit that in my investigation into the subject—under the Secretary of State for Wales I have some responsibility for both agriculture and forestry in Wales—the evidence which has come to me does not confirm the fear expressed by my hon. Friend. Therefore, we believe that it is right to transfer forestry functions to the Welsh Assembly.

However, it is not possible to prejudge the priority which the Assembly will give to forestry. I could not give an absolute guarantee on that. Indeed, United Kingdom Governments have in the past often been criticised for giving too low a priority to forestry. Therefore, no one can suggest that the industry believes that it now gets an over-abundance of support from the United Kingdom Government, and we have no reason to believe that there will be any less support from a Welsh Assembly.

However, because of the close concern in Wales for the development of rural life—this has been reflected in the Government's decision to establish the Development Board for Rural Wales—we believe that the Welsh Assembly will be responsible in its approach to forestry and that it is entirely appropriate that the Assembly should take over the powers which are currently exercised by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

We are debating the future of an important industry which contributes about £160 million a year to the balance of payments and which, if developed, could substantially reduce the £2,000 million which we at present spend on imported timber and forest products. Of course, the industry has to operate in a European and world market, where it is comparatively small. It will not be helped to compete effectively in that market or to reach its full potential if its organisation is complex and fragmented. It is an industry which more than any other depends on confidence, continuity and certainty, because the time scale of production is so long. It will be our children even more than we ourselves who will suffer the consequences if we do the wrong thing.

Those involved in the industry are united in their opinion that forestry should be conducted on a United Kingdom basis. The unanimity is impressive. Because of the guillotine motion and because of the late hour, I shall not read a long list of all the forestry organisations, but I can say without fear of contradiction that all the representative bodies, including the trade union side and the timber trade, are united in their opposition to this proposal in the Bill.

That is also the view of the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee, which is an advisory committee to the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission, is a Government agency and its lips are sealed, but I do not think that it requires any great feat of detection to ascertain where its sympathies lie. Its former chairman, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, has written a letter making very clear his views about the matter. I shall not read again the whole letter for reasons of time, but he says that it would now be a piece of nonsense to devolve forestry. It would add to the bureaucracy and it would make it increasingly difficult for the industry to deal with so many government bodies if the Assemblies of Wales and Scotland were added". He goes on to ask that his views should be made known.

In the face of the need for continuity and certainty, and in the face of the unanimous view of those engaged in forestry, the Government have decided to fragment the industry. They are, of course, retaining a single Forestry Commission, but that commission is to be responsible to three wholly different bodies at the same time, each constituted in an entirely different way. Its bosses will be the Government here, a legislative Assembly in Scotland, and a quite different executive Assembly in Wales.

Land use policy, the tax structure and the grants system together play a vital part in creating the atmosphere in which the industry operates. It is no good the Minister picking out tax policy and thinking that that is all that matters. It is the combination of all the factors which decides whether timber is grown.

It is folly to create a situation in which fiscal policy is the responsibility of central Government at Westminster while land use and grant policy is in the hands of separate Assemblies. It is especially an act of folly when those factors are also critical to the well-being of agriculture, for which responsibility is not devolved, despite the fact that agriculture and forestry should be two industries working in partnership. Everyone who is interested in the proper use of rural land is agreed on this point, yet the Minister seemed pretty half-hearted.

9.30 p.m.

It is a matter for regret that we recognise a distinction at all between the two industries. We should not regard them as separate industries because they are really component parts of a single industry which bases its production on land. It is true that forestry usually employs the land which is not suitable for arable use, but plantings must be considered in relation to agriculture, hill grazing and shelter for stock. When roads are constructed for forestry use, particularly in remote upland areas, it makes possible agriculture operations which could not otherwise be contemplated.

I find it deeply disturbing that the Minister, who has responsibility for agriculture at the Welsh Office, understands this relationship so inadequately. On the last occasion he spoke in the House on this matter he said: The main links are between forestry and other devolved activities which are important to the economy of rural Wales—the countryside, tourism and the functions of the Development Board for Rural Wales. Forestry has closer links with those matters than with agriculture. That is why we feel we were right to devolve forestry. That really reverses the relationships. That is an urban view, and is very understandable coming from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) who looks at the countryside as a playground for towns people.

Mr. Alec Jones

The next time the hon. Member comes to the Rhondda he might have a look around. He will hardly see the mountains for the forests.

Mr. Edwards

Of course. But the Minister regards them as places in which the people of the Rhondda can indulge in recreation. Few people who live in rural Wales believe that we plant primarily for environmental reasons or for tourism. We plant to produce a crop and to make use of the resources of the land. Of course, we should take account of the environmental impact of large-scale afforestation, but it is the effective use of the productive potential of the land which is the prime objective. The other things usually follow from it—the scenery that attracts the tourists, the jobs, the roads and the ancillary services. They are the beneficial by-products. But it all starts with the decision about production, and not the other way round.

Britain has beautiful countryside because it has been farmed and planted. It was not farmed and planted to make it beautiful. Of course, the interests of agriculture and forestry must be recon- ciled with other interests. Modern farming techniques and plantations can be damaging to those interests. I have my home in a Welsh valley where agriculture, large-scale forestry and tourism all combine. I can hardly fail to be acutely aware of some of the problems that this produces.

It is rather curious that just at the moment when the advisory council for agriculture and horticulture in England and Wales has produced an important report at the request of the Government, recommending an integration of the work of the Ministry of Agriculture with that of the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission, and suggesting that the Ministry should take on a wider responsibility for landscape conservation in which the agriculture grants system would play an important part, we should be destroying the mechanism which already exists in Wales to ensure that such a policy is carried out.

It was partly because I saw a role for the Welsh Office in this area that I urged the transfer of responsibility for agriculture to the Welsh Office. That has been done. The opportunity for useful integration is there. The Minister spoke about the need for that integration, but he is now destroying the mechanism which he has created just at the moment when he has got it successfully established.

As Lord Skelmersdale pointed out in another place, the decisions about whether to permit plantings in Wales will now have to be tossed backwards and forwards between the Welsh Office responsible for agriculture and the Assembly responsible for forestry and environmental matters.

The nub of the Government's case is that the Assembly's land use policy would be prejudiced if forestry were not devolved. But they themselves recognise that this argument is by no means overwhelming. The Minister did not use the words tonight, but in the passage of the Scotland Bill the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, said that he felt that the balance lay that way, and the phrase "on balance" was repeated in another place.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge admitted that the extent of new afforestation and of existing forests in Wales is much less than in Scotland. Yet though the argument in favour is on their own admission only marginal, they insist on pressing ahead against the judgment and anger of the whole industry.

Surely one other vital factor should weigh in the argument, and that is the contribution that forestry can make, with agriculture, to the national economy. The Government rightly insist on retaining control of economic, industrial and agricultural policy, and yet they surrender much of their ability to influence the size and productive potential of an industry which is at present one of our largest importers and has a massive impact on the balance of payments.

On an argument that is finely balanced in their own minds, the Government should reconsider the economic consequences of what they are doing. They should take heed of the united opposition of all those engaged in forestry, and I believe that they should withdraw their proposals. If they fail to do so, I urge this House to support the Lords in their amendment.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I should like to take the House back to the great lockout that occurred in the mining industry in 1926. When the lockout was over, I had the honour to take a party of students, four boys and four girls, down to the Rhondda Valley. We stayed in Tonypandy with various miners involved in that lockout whom we had done our best to support in that great fight.

What struck us during the week we stayed there, in the dereliction that was evident following the collapse of the miners in that battle, was the fact that not only were there closed houses and closed shops but so few green leaves to be seen. We were told that in the past squirrels had been able to go from tree to tree along the whole length of the Rhondda Valley, but at that time only cats could go from one end of the valley to the other—and that was on the rooftops.

Many hon. Members who are interested in forestry have visited Wales to examine the work of the Forestry Commission and owners who have taken an interest in forestry matters. One of the great miracles of South Wales is the way in which the hillsides have been planted with trees in recent years. A great job has been carried out by the Forestry Commission in the Neath Valley and other valleys. Derelict areas have now been covered with trees and these areas are now blooming. This could have never have happened unless the money had been provided from United Kingdom resources. If Wales had been a separate community, the money would not have been available to carry out that work. A great success has been achieved for the mining valleys by building up the forests.

I visited one of these areas recently with a number of parliamentary colleagues. It is no longer an ugly scar in the countryside but an area of beauty which we enjoyed. Local people enjoy these areas as part of their community. However, I emphasise that that transformation would never have taken place without money from United Kingdom resources.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

The hon. Gentleman has obviously studied in great depth the amount that has been sunk into forestry in Wales in these areas. Can he enlighten the House with the exact cost of this tremendous investment which we poor paupers in Wales could not possibly have contemplated?

Mr. Parker

I do not have those figures in my head. One only needs to examine the Forestry Commission's figures to know what has been spent on that job.

1 did not always agree with Nye Bevan, but he made one important pronouncement on this matter. Regarding devolution, he said that the problems in agriculture and forestry, whether in Wales, England or Scotland—whether we were considering Cardiganshire, Argyll or Cumberland—were the same. Whether it was forestry or agriculture, the same approach had to be made by the United Kingdom Government. The problems were the same in all those areas and they had to be approached by the United Kingdom Government in the same way, allowing for local variations where necessary. On that point, I was and am a strong supporter of the views of Nye Bevan.

We cannot deal with this matter on nationalistic lines. On the last occasion that I and many of my colleagues went to Wales, local authorities in every area that we visited asked "Can we have a saw mill here"? If all the saw mills asked for had been set up in Wales, the timber would not be sufficient to keep them going. A great deal of the timber in Wales goes to Ellesmere Port or to St. Annes, in Bristol. Some of it also goes into Gwent. The timber is spread round the United Kingdom. If we are to have a bigger volume of timber in Wales, we must be able to utilise it wherever the resources are available.

We can make big mistakes by being too nationalistic.

I have for many years been interested in Yugoslavia. I admire Yugoslavia's system of Government and its devolution. But devolution can be carried too far. For example, when it first allowed the different republics to plan their own affairs, within a short time at least three of the republics created factories to provide all the transistor radios for the whole of the union. Some kind of planning control had to be transferred to the central Government. In that instance, I think production was controlled by the central bank. The same could happen here. If we develop resources in one part of the United Kingdom without regard to the United Kingdom as a whole, there will be great wastage in future. I believe in planning and using our resources to the best advantage. Therefore, we should not allow the Yugoslavia situation to happen here.

We need a greater production of timber. But we need to find the land for its production. That can be done only on a United Kingdom basis. This country imports an enormous amount of timber. Many industries use timber, whether for furniture, chipboard or paper. These industries need the timber resources to be produced here if possible. If we do not produce the timber here, other producers may line up against us. They will send in finished products from Sweden, Russia, Finland and so on. We need a greater production of timber here to keep our timber-using industries going, whether in England, Wales or Scotland. It is important that we produce a greater volume of timber than we do at present.

There will soon be a big increase in timber production due to the planning which took place at the end of the First World War. Hugh Dalton certainly instituted a big drive to increase timber production immediately after the Second World War. There will be a big increase in our consumption of home produced timber as a result of these plantings that took place many years ago, but further plantings are necessary for the next 50 years because there will be a world timber shortage. People exaggerate the timber resources that exist. Let us consider the whole of Northern Russia. The time that it takes to produce a large crop there is over 100 years. We cannot expect just to cut timber down there and reproduce it quickly.

9.45 p.m.

Britain can produce timber very quickly, particularly in Wales, Scotland and the western parts of England. We should be using those resources to produce more of our own timber and to cut down the volume of imports. We always have this big problem of the question of large imports. We could cut them down very much by producing a greater amount of timber for ourselves.

We must plan ahead. The new proposals for splitting, up the Forestry Commission and the organisation of forestry in this country will not help forward a bigger production of timber. I hope and trust that we shall turn down this proposal. Therefore, I support the Lords amendment.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)

I should declare an interest in forestry as I have an interest in my brother's company, which is engaged in forestry operations. However, my reason for speaking in this debate is another interest—namely, that the Forestry commission headquarters is in my constituency.

Perhaps I may say how strongly some of us on the Opposition side of the House agree with the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) when he says that forestry and agriculture should exist in harmony and co-operation.

I should like to mention, just as a factor which hon. Members are entitled to take into account, the fact that seven members of the Forestry Commission came to see me at my surgery. One of the matters about which we spoke was the devolution of forestry. They made it absolutely clear that while they might be split and have different views on devolution itself, they are united against the devolution of forestry. The reason why they are united is that they have a straightforward accounting system, and if devolution goes through this will be broken up. They will have a Welsh accounting system, an English accounting system and a Scottish accounting system, and possibly a United Kingdom accounting system. They said that this would lead to more bureaucracy and less efficiency.

I do not put it more strongly than that, and, of course, whatever this House decides, they will work flat out to make forestry operations work as successfully and efficiently as possible.

Mr. Dalyell

Some of my constituents work in the hon. Gentleman's constituency at the Forestry Commission headquarters, and they describe this proposal as gobbledegook.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am glad to hear confirmation from another source.

Mr. Dalyell

It is a very good source too.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

What they fear is that if these proposals go through, very soon there will be a demand for Welsh headquarters in Cardiff, and English headquarters in England. After all, the whole reason for sending the Forestry Commission headquarters to Scotland was that there was a tremendous amount of growth in forestry taking place in Scotland.

Mr. George Thompson (Galloway)

Does the hon. Member recollect that in 1966 the Heath-controlled Conservative Party, as it was then, was in favour of a separate Forestry Commission for Scotland? Why has the Tory Party changed its views?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

That is the first I have heard about that. I should be delighted if the hon. Member could inform me more about it. I shall check up on it, and perhaps we shall have some correspondence about it.

However, those working in the Forestry Commission headquarters believe very strongly that there is a strong case for an integrated forestry and agriculture policy throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dalyell

That is absolutely right.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I mention this because it is not only the Scottish and other various landowners' federa- tions and the Home Grown Timber Advisory Committee that feel this way, but also the officials working in the Forestry Commission headquarters.

There are two further arguments. One is the need for an integrated forestry policy. Our timber imports cost about £2,000 million a year. We import nearly 92 per cent. of our timber requirements Therefore, a United Kingdom national policy on forestry is required, especially in our dealings with the EEC.

If there are three masters for the Forestry Commission—the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Assembly and the House of Commons—it will be very much harder for the EEC countries, when they are formulating—if they do—a common policy on forestry, to know exactly what the position of Britain will be. There could be a conflict of interest between the three authorities.

The second argument is that there are constant calls for closer integration of forestry with agriculture. Both are vital to the country. Indeed, timber imports cost not all that much less than our food imports. As I have pointed out. 92 per cent. of our timber comes from abroad—an enormous percentage. The more we can do to produce our own forestry, the more we can help our balance of payments There is, therefore, a decisive commercial need to look at agriculture and forestry together. Especially in the case of the uphill farms, the planting of shelter belts can help food production considerably. Thus, to consider agriculture and forestry in harmony and together is important. If, however, the Government say that grants for agriculture are to be dealt with by Parliament but that forestry grants will be devolved, it will be much harder for agriculture and forestry interests always to co-operate in harmony throughout the United Kingdom.

The whole point of the United Kingdom is that on fundamental matters affecting the economy there should be a consistent policy. It would be greatly in the interests of Wales and Scotland and of forestry throughout the United Kingdom that there should be one integrated United Kingdom policy towards both agriculture and forestry.

Mr. Ioan Evans

I hope that after this debate the Minister will look at this matter again. I know that it is unfair to ask him to think again at the Dispatch Box, but perhaps I can pass him some information that may be relevant. I understand that the other place has given consideration to the forestry amendment on the Scotland Bill and that that amendment is to be brought back to this House. That is relevant. We are getting towards August, and it seems that there could be this ping-pong with the other place.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

Is the hon. Gentleman giving in to the Lords?

Mr. Evans

No. But on this question of forestry we have heard a moving speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), who knows the Forestry Commission. The Government should take into account the representations made by him and all those concerned with forestry, including the employees. I understand that the trade unions and the workers involved do not want to see the Forestry Commission devolved into three parts.

The difficulty with the Bill is that one can hardly see the wood for the trees. I am reminded of what Nye Bevan once said. He was invited to go into a debate on Welsh agriculture and he replied "English sheep, Welsh sheep—they are all the same". Agriculture is to be retained by the Welsh Office but forestry is to be devolved to the Assembly. Yet agriculture and forestry are closely linked. Why, then, separate them?

Mr. Wigley

Surely the hon. Gentleman will accept that with agriculture, of all areas of government, because of terrain and geography and climate in Wales, the charactertistics are so different that they have led to different policies and even to different farming unions in Wales. That is recognised by the fact that agriculture has been devolved by the Government to the Welsh Office.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman makes a false point. He is arguing that we should devolve agriculture to Wales. The Welsh Office is not devolving agriculture to Wales It is retaining it. If the hon. Gentleman proposes to argue that, because geography or terrain are different, agriculture should be devolved to Wales, he should have moved an amendment to that effect.

If the Welsh Office says that it must retain agriculture within the Welsh Office, what is the argument for devolving forestry? Are we doing it because it is being done in Scotland?

Mr. Alec Jones

The reason is clear. No body, including the Government and the Welsh Assembly, can effectively have control over forestry if it does not have control over land use. One cannot plant forests where there is no land.

Mr. Evans

I wish that my hon. Friend had spoken earlier. He has made a good point. Perhaps we should also have excluded the Land Authority for Wales. When we passed the Community Land Act, we had a regional authority in Wales, but I believe that we should not seek to differentiate between different parts of the United Kingdom in relation to land use.

We have oak trees, fir trees, birch trees, yew trees and so on. I do not look at trees and say "There is a Scottish tree. There is a Welsh tree". The old dereliction of the mining valleys has been transformed by the Welsh Office's derelict land unit and the Welsh Development Agency. Forestry has added to the landscapes. and the finance for that improvement of the environment is provided by Parliament.

I have asked before, without getting a reply, whether this work will have to be paid for out of the block grant that will be allocated by this House. There are so many demands on that grant. It will have to pay for the Health Service, the Welsh Development Agency and a whole range of services. Will it also have to pay for the administration of the Forestry Commission?

We still do not know how the grant is to be calculated. There will be great demands upon the grant. Many areas in Wales could be developed for forestry. Will the Assembly have to pay for that out of the block grant? I believe that forestry should be administered on a United Kingdom basis.

Mr. Benyon

I am glad that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) referred to finance in the last part of his speech, because I intervened during the Minister's speech to ask him about grants. Forestry in Wales in future will come not from existing forestry owners but from new owners and farmers who are integrating and enmeshing forestry within agriculture. They will be dependent upon the grant, and the level of that grant is important for the future.

If I had more time, I would draw the attention of the Minister to the Forestry Commission's document "Wood production—Outlook in Britain". This document postulates an alarming state of affairs. By the year 2000 world demand will have doubled, and by 2025 there will be an enormous deficiency of 7,000 million cubic metres in the world and the price of timber will rise dramatically.

The document postulates the planting of an extra 1 million hectares or an extra 1.8 million hectares. If we follow the latter course, we could halve import costs by the year 2025. We have had a great blessing with North Sea oil. If we use

just a part of its revenues over the next 25 or 30 years, we can transform the timber industry in this country, but it will require centralised direction.

Dividing this small island into three parcels, as the devolution Bills propose, will be gravely detrimental. Every forestry expert and the Forestry Commission itself know that this is crazy. If the amendment is rejected, it will be a sad day for forestry in this country and a sad day for the economy in general.

Mr. Dalyell

It will be a sad day, too, for the unions which do not want forestry devolved—SOGAT and the rest.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 247. Noes 280.

Division No. 301] AYES [10.00 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Dean, Joseph(Leeds West) Hunter, Adam
Archer, Rt Hon Peter de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A.(Edge Hill)
Armstrong, Ernest Dempsey, James Jackson, Colin(Brighouse)
Ashley, Jack Dewar, Donald Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Doig, Peter Janner, Greville
Atkinson, Norman (H'gay, Tott'ham) Dormand, J. D. Jeger, Mrs Lena
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Duffy, A. E. P. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Sain, Mrs Margaret Dunnett, Jack John, Brvnmor
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Eadie, Alex Johnson, James (Hull West)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel(Heywood) Edge, Geoff Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Bates, Alf Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Bean, R. E. Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Beith, A. J. English, Michael Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bennett, Andrew(Stockport N) Evans, John(Newton) Judd, Frank
Bidwell, Sydney Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Kerr, Russell
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kilfedder, James
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Flannery, Martin Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lambie, David
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lamborn, Harry
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Ford, Ben Lamond, James
Bradley, Tom Forrester, John Lee, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Broughton, Sir Alfred Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Brown, Robert C.(Newcastle W) Freud, Clement Litterick, Tom
Buchan, Norman Garrett, John (Norwich S) Loyden, Eddie
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) George, Bruce Lyon, Alexander (York)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Campbell, Ian Ginsberg, David Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Canavan, Dennis Golding, John McCartney, Hugh
Cant, R. B Gourlay, Harry McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Carmichael, Neil Graham, Ted McElhone, Frank
Carter, Ray Grant, John (Islington C) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cartwright, John Grocott, Bruce MacFarquhar, Roderick
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Clemitson, Ivor Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Hardy, Peter Maclennan, Robert
Cohen, Stanley Harrison, Rt Hon Walter McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Concannon, Rt Hon John Hart, Rt Hon Judith McNamara, Kevin
Corbett, Robin Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Madden, Max
Cowans, Harry Hayman, Mrs Helene Magee, Bryan
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hooley, Frank Mallalleu, J. P. W.
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Hooson, Emlyn Marks, Kenneth
Crawshaw, Richard Horam, John Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Crowther, Stan(Rotherham) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cryer, Bob Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Maynard, Miss Joan
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Meacher, Michael
Davidson, Arthur Huckfield, Les Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Davies, Bryan(Enfield N) Hughes, Rt Hon C.(Anglesey) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil Hughes, Mark(Durham) Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Moonman, Eric Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Tierney, Sydney
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Tilley, John
Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Rowlands, Ted Tomlinson, John
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Ryman, John Tomney, Frank
Morton, George Sedgemore, Brian Urwin, T. W.
Moyle. Rt Hon Roland Sever, John Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Noble, Mike Shore, Rt Hon Peter Ward, Michael
Oakes, Gordon Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Watkins, David
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Watkinson, John
Orbach, Maurice Silverman, Julius Weetch, Ken
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Skinner, Dennis Wellbeloved, James
Owen. Rt Hon Dr David Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Palmer, Arthur Snape, Peter White, James (Pollok)
Park, Georgo Spearing, Nigel Whitehead, Phillip
Parry, Robert Spriggs, Leslie Whitlock, William
Pavitt, Laurie Stallard, A. W. Wigley, Dafydd
Perry. Ernest Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Prescott, John Stoddart, David Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Stott, Roger Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Price, William (Rugby) Strang, Gavin Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Radice, Giles Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Woodall, Alec
Richardson, Miss Jo Swain, Thomas Woof, Robert
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Young, David (Bolton E)
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertiliery)
Roderick, Caerwyn Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Mr. Donald Coleman and
Rooker, J. W. Thompson, George Mr. James Tinn.
Roper. John Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Adley, Robert Costain, A. P. Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)
Aitken, Jonathan Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Alison, Michael Critchley, Julian Hampson, Dr Keith
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Crouch, David Hannam, John
Anderson, Donald Crowder, F. P. Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)
Arnold, Tom Dalyell, Tam Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss
Atkins, Ri Hon H (Spelthorne) Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Haselhurst, Alan
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hastings, Stephen
Awdry, Daniel Douglas-Mann, Bruce Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Baker, Kenneth Drayson, Burnaby Hawkins, Paul
Banks, Robert du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hayhoe, Barney
Bell, Ronald Dunlop, John Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Bendall, Vivian Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Heffer, Eric S.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Durant, Tony Heseltine, Michael
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Dykes, Hugh Hicks, Robert
Benyon, W. Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Higgins, Terence L.
Berry, Hon Anthony Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hodgson, Robin
Bitten, John Emery, Peter Holland, Philip
Biggs-Davison, John Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Hordern, Peter
Blaker, Peter Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Body, Richard Eyre, Reginald Howell, David (Guildford)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fairgrieve, Russell Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bottomley, Peter Farr, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Finsberg, Geoffrey Hunt, David (Wirral)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Fisher, Sir Nigel Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Braine, Sir Bernard Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Hutchison, Michael Clark
Brittan, Leon Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Fookes, Miss Janet James, David
Brooke, Hon Peter Forman, Nige, Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Want'd & W'df'd
Brotherton, Michael Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Jessel, Toby
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Fox, Marcus Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Bryan, Sir Paul Fry, Peter Jones, Arthur (Daventry)
Buchanan, Richard Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Jopling, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Gardiner, George (Reigate) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Duck, Antony Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Kershaw, Anthony
Budgen, Nick Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham) Kimball, Marcus
Bulmer, Esmond Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Glyn, Dr Alan King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Carlisle, Mark Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Kinnock, Neil
Carter-Jones, Lewis Goodhew, Victor Kitson, Sir Timothy
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Goodlad, Alastair Knox David
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Gorst, John Lamont, Norman
Clark, William (Croydon S) Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Latham, Michael (Melton)
Clegs, Walter Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Lawrence, Ivan
Cockcroft, John Gray, Hamish Lawson, Nigel
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Griffiths, Eldon Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cope, John Grist, Ian Lloyd, Ian
Cormack, Patrick Grylls, Michael Loveridge, John
Corrie, John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Luce, Richard
McCrind [...]lert Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Speed, Keith
McCusker, H. Page, Richard (Workington) Spence, John
Macfarlane, Neil Paisley, Rev Ian Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
MacGregor, John Parker, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Parkinson, Cecil Sproat, Iain
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Pattie, Geoffrey Stainton, Keith
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Percival, Ian Stanbrook, Ivor
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Pink, R. Bonner Stanley, John
Madel, David Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Price, David (Eastleigh) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Marten, Neil Pym, Rt Hon Francis Stokes, John
Mates, Michael Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Stradling Thomas, J.
Mather, Carol Rees-Davies, W. R. Tapsell, Peter
Maude, Angus Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Mawby, Ray Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rhodes James, R. Temple-Morris, Peter
Mayhew, Patrick Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Ridley, Hon Nicholas Torney, Tom
Mills, Peter Rifkind, Malcolm Townsend, Cyril D.
Miscampbell, Norman Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Trotter, Neville
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Moate, Roger Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Molloy, William Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Viggers, Peter
Molyneaux, James Ross, William (Londonderry) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Monro, Hector Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wakeham, John
Montgomery. Fergus Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Moore, John (Croydon C) Sainsbury, Tim Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
More, Jasper (Ludlow) St. John-Stevas, Norman Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Morgan, Geraint Sandelson, Neville Wall, Patrick
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Scott, Nicholas Walters, Dennis
Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Scott-Hopkins, James Warren, Kenneth
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Weatherill, Bernard
Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Neave, Airey Shelton, William (Streatham) Whitney, Raymond
Nelson, Anthony Shepherd, Colin Wiggin, Jerry
Neubert, Michael Shersby, Michael Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Newens, Stanley Short, Mrs Rente (Wolv NE) Winterton, Nicholas
Newton, Tony Silvester, Fred Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Normanton, Tom Sims, Roger Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Nott, John Sinclair, Sir George Younger, Hon George
Onslow, Cranley Skeet, T. H. H.
Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Smith, Dudley (Warwick) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Osborn, John Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield) Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and
Ovenden, John Spearing, Nigel Mr. Jim Lester.
Page, John (Harrow West)

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [18th July], to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Ten o'clock.

Lords amendments nos. 147 and 153 to 155 disagreed to.

Forward to