HC Deb 03 May 1978 vol 949 cc371-91

'In relation to any accounts examined by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with the provisions of section 52 of this Act, section 161 of the Local Government Act 1972 shall apply as if—

  1. (a) such examinations were an audit of accounts under Part VIII of the Local Government Act 1972;
  2. (b)the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General were a district auditor;
  3. (c)members of the Assembly were members of a local authority;
  4. (d)any reference in the said section 161 to a person being disqualified for being a member of a local authority were a reference to that person being disqualified for being a member of the Assembly; and
  5. (e) subsection (13) of the said section 161 provided as follows:—
(13) The Court having jurisdiction for the purpose of this section shall be the High Court."'.)—[Mr. Brittan]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Brittan

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is designed to provide an effective mechanism to deal with the situation in which the Welsh Assembly exceeds its powers. There is already in the Bill provision for the courts to determine whether and when that has happened, but there is no adequate provision to enforce a court order if it has happened. The clause seeks to adapt the provisions contained in the Local Government Act 1972 and to provide sanctions for use in such a situation. I stress at the outset that, in seeking to move the new clause and to provide sanctions on those lines, we are not in any way suggesting that it is likely to be a frequent occurrence for the Welsh Assembly to act unlawfully or for this sanction to be required to be used.

None the less, in our view there is a gap that should be filled in important constitutional legislation of this kind. It is unsatisfactory that there should be limitations on the powers of the Welsh Assembly and that there should be machinery for determining whether those limitations have been exceeded but that there should be no means of securing that the limitations do not continue to be exceeded once it has been decided that they have been exceeded.

Clause 70 enables the Attorney-General to institute, and the Assembly to defend, proceedings for the determination of any question whether anything done or proposed to be done by the Assembly is within its powers. The House will recall that when we debated that provision it was suggested from the Conservative Benches that it would be necessary to supplement that provision and to ensure that not only the Attorney-General but an ordinary individual who had the appropriate standing should be able to bring such proceedings and to ensure that proceedings could be brought not only to see whether anything had been done or proposed to be done in excess of the Assembly's powers but to make sure that the Assembly carried out its duties.

The one aspect of the amendment which was moved from this side of the Committee on that occasion which was not acceptable to the Government, in the person of the Attorney-General, was the suggestion that the court should be entitled to make any sort of order requiring the Assembly to do or not to do something if it was found to have exceeded its powers or to be contemplating exceeding its powers. The Court would be the High Court in England and Wales, according to where it was sitting.

I found it difficult to be persuaded by the arguments of the Attorney-General as to why that was an inappropriate procedure. On considering the matter, we decided that the appropriate remedy might be that, instead of permitting a court to make an order that would be difficult to enforce against the Assembly, a borrowing should be made from the Local Government Act 1972 to provide a sanction by means of the powers of the district auditor and the court so that the Members of the Assembly would suffer in appropriate circumstances, which, I stress, would be rare, the sanctions that members of local authorities suffer if they wilfully exceed their powers.

Of course, this is a severe measure if interpreted literally and if all the powers were exercised to the full, but the provisions of Section 161 of the Local Government Act, which the new clause suggests should be applicable to the Assembly, are discretionary and provide a wide measure of defences which would prevent their being exercised in an unreasonable way or in circumstances in which they were inappropriate.

It is appropriate to apply this sanction to the Assembly because it is, perhaps, the only effective sanction to deal with a situation in which the Assembly fails to carry out a duty or exceeds its powers.

I concede to the Attorney-General that if a court were empowered to make an order requiring the Assembly to do, or to desist from doing, something and the Assembly refused to carry out the order, there is little that the court could do in the face of such resistance. That would clearly be a most unsatisfactory situation.

I hasten to add that I am not expecting that such a situation will arise, and the inclusion of provisions to deal with it should not be regarded as a reflection on the Assembly or an indication that it is likely to occur. However, it would be incomplete to fail to provide an appropriate way of dealing with such a situation.

We have therefore suggested an adaptation of the procedure in the Local Government Act, particularly in Section 161, which provides that Where the audit of any accounts under this Part of this Act is carried out by a district auditor and it appears to him that any item of account is contrary to law he may apply to the court for a declaration that the item is contrary to law except where it is sanctioned by the Secretary of State. I stress that this applies only if the district auditor believes that the item on which money has been spent is contrary to law. There is the further protection that it is not open to the district auditor to take action of his own. He has to apply to the court. In addition, he is not obliged to apply to the court. It is a permissive provision which says that he may apply to the court for the appropriate declaration.

Section 161(2) of the Local Government Act states: On an application under subsection (1) above the court may make or refuse to make the declaration asked for". It is clear that the court has a discretion, which it will not hesitate to use, against making a declaration if it believes that it is inappropriate to do so. Where the makes such a declaration, it may also order that any person responsible for incurring or authorising any expenditure declared unlawful shall repay it in whole or in part to the body in question and, where two or more persons are found to be responsible, that they shall be jointly and severally liable to repay it as aforesaid". The court may do that, but it is not obliged to do it, even if it finds that what has been done is contrary to law. It may also decide—but it is not obliged to do so—if any such ependiture exceeds £2,000 and the person responsible for incurring or authorising it is a member of a local authority, to order him to be disqualified from being a member of a local authority for a specified period.

10.15 p.m.

When considering the possibility of these penalties—namely, repayment of money and disqualification—it is crucial to take on board the implications of subsection (3) of Section 161, which lays down important limitations. That subsection provides that The court shall not make an order … if the court is satisfied that the person responsible for incurring or authorising any such expenditure acted reasonably or in the belief that the expenditure was authorised by law". That makes it clear that either of those situations provides a defence and disentitles the court from making an order. That means that if the person concerned thought that the expenditure was lawful there can be no surcharge or disqualification. Even if that person did not think that the expenditure was lawful and he acted reasonably, there can be no surcharge or disqualification.

These penalties can arise only if the district auditor has considered the matter and come to the conclusion that it is appropriate to ask for an order, if the court comes to the same conclusion and if the defences are not available.

The further provision is that in any other case, if the court comes to the conclusion that the person has not acted reasonably or has not acted in the belief that the expenditure was authorised by law, it shall have regard to all the circumstances, including that person's means and ability to repay that expenditure or any part of it. I shall not analyse the remainder of Section 161, which deals with other wilful defaults and provides a mechanism for an aggrieved individual to raise the issue.

I hope that I have illustrated the general nature of the power. We are operating under a time limit. The power is discretionary and is hedged in with all types of protections. The effect of it is that there is no risk of its being exercised in a draconian or unfair way. It can be exercised only if there has been a flagrant breach of the law.

In the new clause those provisions are adapted to the Welsh Assembly so that the audit of accounts referred to in the Local Government Act applies in such a way that the examination provided for by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General under Clause 52 is treated in the same way. The Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General is treated as if he were a district auditor and the Members of the Assembly are treated as if they were members of a local authority.

The important transformation of the provisions ensures that even when small sums are involved the powers can be exercised only by the High Court and not, as with local government, by the county courts.

We are seeking to provide a means of ensuring that, in the rare case of the Assembly failing to act according to the law and refusing to comply with it, there shall in the last resort be a means of taking the only action that would have any effect on the Members who wilfully act against the law—that is, surcharge and disqualification.

The only argument that I can think of—I dare say that the Minister will think of others—that could be raised against the provision of such powers is that in this respect it is in some sense inappropriate to treat the Assembly as if it were a local authority. Here again, as in so many cases, we come to one of the central features of the debates on the Bill—namely, that in some respects the Government wish the Assembly to be treated as a local authority and in other respects they shy away from that.

All that I can say is that, without seeking to anticipate arguments that may be put forward on this point, it is not sufficient to say that the Assembly is not the same as a local authority and ought not for these purposes to be treated as a local authority Those who seek to make that case must explain what the difference is that makes it inappropriate that the Assembly should be treated as a local authority in this respect. For my part, I can think of none.

It is not in any sense an affront to the dignity of the Assembly, because I would have hoped that local authorities were bodies which the House would wish to regard and treat as bodies of considerable authority and dignity. It is not meant in that sense as in any way a denigration.

It remains the fact that without provisions of this kind, and with the Attorney-General resisting our amendment to Clause 70, in the rare but not impossible case of the Assembly refusing to obey the law this House would be powerless. That is a situation which we do not think should remain. It is not a state in which the Bill ought to leave this House, if it leaves it at all. It is for that reason that I move the new clause.

Mr. Dalyell

I should like first to ask a direct question of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary which was not cleared up in the previous context. In relation to the Welsh Development Agency, will the audit be done by the Comptroller and Auditor-General for the United Kingdom or by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General? This is not a pernickety point. It is a point of some substance and importance. If my hon. Friend does not know the answer from the top of his head, I should be grateful if he would get an answer from the Box, because this subject raises the whole question of the authority and economic powers of the Assembly.

Secondly—and here I speak with some diffidence because I am not a lawyer, but with the exception of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister, being the only Welsh Lebaur Members present, perhaps I speak for the unanimous opinion of the Labour Back Benches yet again—I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the issue of the High Court. As I say, I speak with some diffidence, but with rather less diffidence having studied the speeches of the Law Lords in another place. I quote part of the speech made on 18th April by Lord Wilberforce. I admit that there are differences that we have gone over endlessly between the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, but I think that this applies to the situation that we are discussing.

The noble Lord said: First, they are very complicated and technical "— those are the decisions— and require for their decision an expert body, inevitably of lawyers, and preferably an expert body of a permanent character. Secondly, since they are likely to give rise to friction between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom"— and for Scotland one could read "Wales" here— The decision must be in the hands of a body which has the confidence of both the citizens of Scotland and the citizens of the rest of the United Kingdom. Thirdly and most important, the questions which have to be decided are questions of a constitutional character such as in Europe would come before a so-called constitutional court, in Canada, Australia and the United States would come before a body set up to decide constitutional questions, and the system of law by which they are to be judged and decided I should think would be unquestionably constitutional law. I do not want to go on with this argument but wish to turn briefly to the arguments of Lord Scarman, who said: Why not have the courage to say that this calls for a new constitutional bottle, a new constitutional judicial body? We shall begin by calling it a Council. That is the British way of concealing the truth behind euphemistic terms like, for instance, the term 'devolution'. That is one very nice way of doing it. But sooner or later we are coming to a court as, perhaps sooner rather than later, we are coming to a federation."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18th April 1978; Vol. 390, cc 1089, 1112–13.] I agree that there were differences of opinion, that Lord Morris and Lord Dip-lock took somewhat different views in another context, but when the heavy-weight Law Lords of this country express such deep dissatisfaction, what is the Government's answer to the question of whether the High Court is a suitable place to resolve these matters?

It is late and I have truncated my speech. I let it rest on that question, but I hope that it gets an answer.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

As an English Member one hesitates to take part in a Welsh debate, but as a member of the Public Accounts Committee I am particularly interested in the new clause—especially since today we have had the extraordinary experience of the chairman of the National Enterprise Board expressing doubt whether the Comptroller and Auditor General has the right to reveiw the NEB's accounts.

Therefore, is my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) satisfied about the relationship under this new clause between the Comptroller and Auditor General of the United Kingdom and the holder of the Welsh Office? Will the Welsh one be above or below the United Kingdom one? How will accounts be considered between the two?

We are giving the Comptroller and Auditor General the powers of the district auditor, which basically involve more power to deal with the individual than the Comptroller and Auditor General has. Although in theory the latter has the power to surcharge an accounting officer, he has never done so, at least during this century. The same cannot be said of the district auditor.

Therefore, can these additional powers be enforced in reality. In practice, few accounting officers in this century or the last could afford to pay the surcharge which could be applied to them under the possible sanctions. Therefore we need to know whether the powers in the new clause, which I support, are practicable and whether they can be enforced in the ordinary course of parliamentary business.

If we refer to the law as having been broken will we be referring to Common Market regulations, the law of this Parliament or the law of the Welsh Assembly? Which would have priority? Answers to these questions would be helpful.

Sir David Renton

The points made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) deserve very careful attention. We are in a strange position, because we are brought into the realm of the twilight. The Welsh Assembly is neither a local authority, with the statutory disciplines that Parliament imposes upon a local authority, nor a Secretary of State with answerability to this House.

The Government have done their best in almost impossible circumstances to create something to shed a little light upon that twilight area by inventing and—if the Bill ever by misfortune becomes law—appointing the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General. But, in order that be may know how he is to exercise his functions, it is essential that he should be given some kind of guidance.

10.30 p.m.

My hon. and learned Friend, in putting forward the new clause, had to adopt an unusual and rather difficult drafting contrivance in order that the position to which he has drawn attention could be brought into statutory form. Not everybody would agree that the provisions of a statute should be held to apply to another statute merely "as if". The purists in matters of drafting would indeed have a good deal to complain about in some circumstances if that were done. But in the circumstances with which we are faced this is one of the exceptions when a contrivance of the kind proposed is justified.

Although this is a twilight area, the analogy with the way in which the district auditor performs his duties in relation to local authorities could well be thought accurately to apply to the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General when he is auditing the accounts of the Welsh Assembly. Therefore, there is a justification for paragraphs (a) and (b) of the clause, and it follows of necessity that, whether they like it or not, the Members of the Assembly would have to be treated for the purposes of the audit as though they were members of a local authority.

If I may say so in passing, I trust without going out of order, I think that the Members will be somewhat over-alert to usurp the functions of local authorities. The temptations will be great. At any rate, for the purpose of the audit I think it is perfectly fair that they should be treated as though they were members of a local authority.

One hates in Parliament to have to assume that people might not come up to scratch, but it has been known for members of local authorities to incur disqualification through one misfeasance or another, and so, alas, we must have paragraph (d) in the new clause. It says: any reference in the said section 161", which I need not repeat, because my hon. and learned Friend has already described it, to a person being disqualified for being a member of a local authority were a reference to that person being disqualified for being a member of the Assembly".

Mr. Dalyell

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recall that he was a member of the Kilbrandon Commission, which had a great deal to say on the subject of how the Assemblies, if they were to come into being, were not to be treated as and not to be aligned with local authorities. Is not this a bit different?

Sir D. Renton

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has underlined a matter which is very much in the minds of every Member of the House, I should have thought, because it is an ambivalent situation. There is no doubt whatever about that. I have already referred to the temptation that there will be on the part of some Assembly Members—one would hope not the majority, but it might sometimes be the majority—to usurp the functions of local authorities in a state of almost subconscious empire building.

Mr. Dalyell

What the heck are they to do if they do not usurp the work of the local authorities? Here we are with an Assembly, which apparently is to sit 37 weeks in the year, without all these powers. Unless it meddles in local authority matters, it will be twiddling its proverbial thumbs.

Sir D. Renton

I think that there is a very grave danger of that. The hon. Gentleman is perhaps politically even more courageous than I for many years have tried to be. I am very grateful to him for pointing that out.

Mr. Dalyell

Not politically courageous but politically wise, as the election results in Scotland yesterday seem to show.

Sir D. Renton

I am not a Scottish Member, although I have some Scottish ancestry. But, as the hon. Gentleman, who is a Scottish Member—and who is paying very close attention indeed, I have no doubt, to the results of the elections in Scotland—has pointed out, there is a lesson to be learnt in relation to the Principality of Wales.

I do not propose, just for the moment—if I may give notice of this, Mr. Speaker—to yield any further to the hon. Gentleman, if he should wish me to give way, because I have other things, perhaps more pertinent to the new clause which I feel obliged to say. My next point, in fact, follows up the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will not ask me to give way yet again. He said, in relation to sub-paragraph (e) of the new clause—I must call it that because it is not a subsection—that in another place eminent Law Lords had suggested that any question of interpretation that arises under these devolution Bills should be decided by a new kind of court, a constitutional court.

I have the misfortune, Mr. Speaker, to disagree with those great Law Lords. I consider that those members of my profession who have reached the High Court bench after years of arduous toil at the Bar, and generally with very varied practices, are in as good a position, once they reach the High Court bench—and perhaps the Court of Appeal, and eventually the House of Lords—to decide on questions of interpretation of Acts of Parliament as the Members of any more specialised court would be.

Moreover, I think that if we were to establish a more specialised court we should have to face up to the fact that the judges upon it would have had the same sort of experience as High Court judges would have had before reaching the bench but that once they were members of that specialised court they would have the disadvantage, which High Court judges do not suffer, of having to confine themselves to constitutional matters and the interpretation of the administrative provisions of statutes, as happens on the Continent.

I do not think that that is a good evolution of our judicial tradition. I think that it is better that we should fasten upon the High Court in Scotland and in England and Wales the responsibility of determining all statutes which Parliament gives them the opportunity of interpreting. Sometimes, of course, Parliament deprives them of that opportunity. But, rather than creating separate courts, the new clause is right in saying that The Court having jurisdiction for the purpose of this section shall be the High Court. To that extent I disagree with those eminent Law Lords. However, it is a good thing that the hon. Member for West Lothian drew attention to what they had said. I hope that we shall not give too much encouragement to it.

Having said that, I feel that the Opposition Front Bench is right to have moved the new clause, both for the removal of doubt and for the inherent advantages which it would confer if by some misfortune the Welsh Assembly ever came into existence.

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

I have listened with interest to the clever and ingenious case that the hon. and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) made to promote the new clause. I have heard the interesting and complex contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House. As ever, I shall reply briefly, bluntly and most simply. I frequently find myself at the Dispatch Box at a late hour answering complex new clauses on legal matters.

For the information of the House, I should say that the Welsh Assembly will be exercising central Government functions. We feel that arrangements for the audit of its accounts should be based on those presently in operation for Government accounts. That is why we have Clause 49 of the Bill, which creates the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General. Clause 59 provides for access by him to the Assembly's books and other papers. It is Clause 52 which provides for him to audit the Assembly's accounts. In Clause 53 there is the provision for the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General's report to be laid before the Assembly and for the Assembly's Accounts Committee to scrutinise the report and itself to report to the Assembly. In Clause 54 there is the very important provision for publication of the accounts as well as the reports of the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General and the Accounts Committee. It is as well to inform the House again of those provisions, because they are very important.

I should like to assure hon. Members who have posed their questions that these procedures are adapted from the long-established and well-tried system whereby the Government are accountable to Parliament for their expenditure.

In one sense the position of the Welsh Assembly will be different, in that there is no separate Executive. But the Bill provides for a separate Executive Committee and an Accounts Committee. I want to reassure the House that financial initiatives may be made only on the recommendation of the Executive Committee. It is the Executive Committee which prepares the accounts of payments in and out of the Welsh consolidated and loans funds. I think that these are important points to make because, clearly, hon. Members have doubts and seek information, and I wish to give the background so that they get a better understanding of why the Government's case is that the new clause should be rejected.

10.45 p.m.

The Accounts Committee may include only one member of the Executive Committee and will reflect the party balance in the Assembly. It is an important provision that all political parties in the Assembly should be represented on that very important committee. The Accounts Committee, which will be very important, will be the Assembly's watchdog over the way the block grant is spent, and it can be counted upon to bring any irregularity to the notice of both the Assembly and the public.

The Executive Committee, or the individuals on it, will have to face all the resulting political pressures and justify its behaviour to the Assembly. It is fair to say that these pressures are not to be taken lightly, because the Assembly will be directly elected; it will be a directly elected political institution.

The Government regard it as important that the arrangements for accounts and audit should operate in a way that encourages the development of a powerful Back Bench watchdog on the lines of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee. I hope that the House will accept that in the Assembly there will be every conceivable safeguard with regard to some of the doubts that hon. Members are raising.

Sir David Renton

It would help the House a great deal and clarify the whole situation if the hon. Gentleman could tell us to whom the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General will be answerable. Obviously he cannot be answerable to the Assembly because he is to be its watchdog.

Mr. Jones

I think that the immediate and speedy answer I would wish to give is that as long as the Comptroller and Auditor General is doing his job properly and is ascertaining that things are being run well, that is the basic assurance that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would seek to have from me at this time of the day in this important debate.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

Surely local government committees, which are directly elected and which are all-party, still act ultra vires. Why should not the same situation apply in this case?

Mr. Jones

There is every certainty in my mind, as there was when I gave my previous reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), that the Comptroller and Auditor General will be responsible to the Welsh Assembly. I note the disappointment of Opposition Members. They would like to have a less clear answer at this time of night, but they will have to be satisfied with the correct answer that I am giving, which I am stating in as courteous a tone as possible to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Brittan

The objection is not to the courtesy but to the lack of relevancy. If a local authority can be subject to surcharge if its members wilfully and deliberately act contrary to the law—a local authority which is an elected body responsible to its electorate—why should not the Welsh Assembly be subject to the same procedure?

Mr. Jones

The Assembly is not a local authority, but I hope that I can come in a little more detail and in a little more time to the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Before I was interrupted, I was about to say that I did not think that these pressures should be taken lightly in a directly elected political institution. It is important that the arrangements for accounts and audit should operate in a way that encourages the development of this powerful Back Bench watchdog committee, on the lines of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee. The Government wish, and in many ways expect, to see an Assembly is confident, which is mature and which will be responsible in handling such matters as we are debating tonight.

I now wish to say something about the new clause. I noticed that in the ingenious way in which the hon. and learned Member for Cleveland and Whitby proposed the new clause he said that he does not wish the powers that it provides to be exercised to the full. He wants discretion to be applied. He does not want the powers in the new clause to be exercised inappropriately and unreasonably. The hon. and learned Gentleman implied that he and his hon. Friends think that there is a gap and that the new clause is the solution to that, but I think that to a degree he undermined his argument by saying "Do not place too much relevance on the new clause. In fact, do not use all the powers that we are proposing."

Mr. Brittan

That is not what was said. Nothing of that kind was said. I said that by adopting the procedure of the 1972 Local Government Act the new clause adopted a procedure that was not a blunderbuss automatically applied whenever there was an accidental breach of the law but was a careful instrument, with an abundance of safeguards, to ensure that the drastic powers of surcharge and disqualification were used only in the case of a flagrant breach. What the Minister has said is a misrepresentation of what the new clause says and what I said in support of it.

Mr. Jones

I think not. I stand by what I said. Perhaps I have stung the hon. and learned Gentleman a little by quoting directly in part what he said. I said that he does not want to exercise the powers in the new clause to the full. He wants discretion to be exercised. By saying those things, he is to a degree drawing back from the solution that he proposes in the new clause. At this late hour I do not propose to dally overlong on the complexity of some of the points that the hon. and learned Gentleman put forward from the Opposition Front Bench.

I was about to say that such an attitude can hardly be expected to be encouraged by the new clause, because it seems to me that its purpose is to treat the Assembly as a local authority. I think that to seize on the aspects of local government audit which deal with irregularities shows a misplaced mistrust of the Assembly and of the integrity of the Members whom the Welsh people will choose to represent them. The hon. and learned Gentleman somewhat slid over that aspect of the matter. He was slightly shamefaced in the manner in which he made his points.

The procedures under Section 161 of the 1972 Act are entirely unsuitable for a central Government institution. If the Assembly is to be a flourishing and responsible political body—and it will be, notwithstanding the disagreement of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards)—it is far better for it to devise its own way of dealing with any irregularities that are uncovered by the Welsh Comptroller and Auditor General and the Accounts Committee.

Mr. Costain

Will the Minister have the courtesy to reply to the points that I made in the debate? How does the Comptroller and Welsh Auditor General stand in relation to the British Comptroller and Auditor General, and why is the Welsh Assembly given more power than this Parliament to sack the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Jones

I listened with great care to the hon. Member's remarks. I think that he has raised a number of false points. He was rather mistakenly referring to the EEC. I would have thought that he would have been pleased, just as I am, that the Comptroller and Auditor General for Wales has substantial powers. Perhaps he is envious that such a situation will exist in the Welsh Assembly.

Before time runs out, I want to deal with the complex points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire with regard to the Law Lords. None of the arguments apply in Wales. The powers to be exercised by the Assembly are set out in the Bill, and there can be little or no room—[Hon. Members: "Oh."] Even at this late hour, Conservative Members should pay attention to the answers that the Government are giving to the important points raised in this brief debate.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

Will the Minister reflect that the attitude of the Conservative Opposition throughout the Bill has been to impede progress, with destructive amendments? Now that we are debating the essential issue of control of public expenditure in the Assembly, they are indulging in hysterics rather than listening to the Minister's response.

Sir Raymond Gower

In view of the very serious constitutional significance of the fact that only new clauses have been dealt with and not a single amendment has been reached, is it not an appalling situation to suggest that we should have discussed amendments when they have not been reached? The Government, even now, should relent and give us extra time.

Mr. Jones

The attitude of the official Opposition leaves a lot to be desired, particularly when one is attempting to give as good a reply as one can at this late hour.

The powers to be exercised by the Assembly in Wales are set out in the Bill, and there can be little or no room for argument whether a particular power is exercisable by the Secretary of State or the Assembly.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, in another of his pertinacious interventions, mentioned the funding of the Welsh Development Agency. The funding of the Agency will be from the block fund—

Mr. Pym

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since many of us feel that the Minister's reply, if such it can be called, is nothing less than an insult to Parliament, with 30 seconds to go I wish to move, That the Question be now put.

It being Eleven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [16th November] and the Resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 252.

Division No. 198] AYES [11.0 p.m.
Adley Robert Crouch, David Hicks, Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Crowder F. P. Higgins, Terence L.
Alison, Michael Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Hodgson, Robin
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Holland, Philip
Arnold, Tom Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hordern, Peter
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hunt, David (Wirral)
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Drayson, Burnaby Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Awdry, Daniel du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hurd, Douglas
Baker, Kenneth Dunlop, John Hutchison, Michael Clark
Banks, Robert Dykes, Hugh Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)
Bell, Ronald Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Bendall, Vivian (Ilford North) Emery, Peter James, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Eyre, Reginald Jessel, Toby
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Fairbairn, Nicholas Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Benyon, W. Fairgrieve, Russell Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Berry, Hon Anthony Farr, John Kaberry, Sir Donald
Biffen, John Fell, Anthony Kimball, Marcus
Biggs-Davison, John Finsberg, Geoffrey King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Blaker, Peter Fisher, Sir Nigel Knox, David
Body, Richard Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Lamont, Norman
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fookes, Miss Janet Latham, Michael (Melton)
Bottomley, Peter Forman, Nigel Lawrence, Ivan
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Lawson, Nigel
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Fox, Marcus Le Marchant, Spencer
Braine, Sir Bernard Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Brittan, Leon Fry, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Lloyd, Ian
Brooke, Peter Gardiner, George (Reigate) Loveridge, John
Brotherton, Michael Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Luce, Richard
Bryan, Sir Paul Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Glyn, Dr Alan McCrindle, Robert
Buck, Antony Goodhart, Philip Macfarlane, Neil
Budgen, Nick Goodhew, Victor MacGregor, John
Bulmer, Esmond Goodlad, Alastair MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Burden, F. A. Gorst, John Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Carlisle, Mark Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Marten, Neil
Channon, Paul Griffiths, Eldon Mates, Michael
Churchill, W. S. Grist, Ian Mather, Carol
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maude, Angus
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mawby, Ray
Clegg, Walter Hampson, Dr Keith Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Mayhew, Patrick
Cope, John Haselhurst, Alan Meyer, Sir Anthony
Cormack, Patrick Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Costain, A. P. Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter
Critchley, Julian Hayhoe, Barney Miscampbell, Norman
Moate, Roger Ridley, Hon Nicholas Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Molyneaux, James Rifkind, Malcolm Stokes, John
Monro, Hector Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Stradling Thomas, J.
Montgomery, Fergus Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Tapsell, Peter
More, Jasper (Ludlow) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Morgan, Geraint Ross, William (Londonderry) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tebbit, Norman
Mudd, David Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Temple-Morris, Peter
Neave, Airey Royle, Sir Anthony Townsend, Cyril D.
Neubert, Michael Sainsbury, Tim Trotter, Neville
Newton, Tony St. John-Stevas, Norman van Straubenzee, W. R.
Nott, John Scott, Nicholas Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Onslow, Cranley Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Viggers, Peter
Page, John (Harrow West) Shelton, William (Streatham) Wakeham, John
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Shepherd, Colin Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Page, Richard (Workington) Shersby, Michael Wall, Patrick
Parkinson, Cecil Silvester, Fred Walters, Dennis
Pattie, Geoffrey Sims, Roger Warren, Kenneth
Percival, Ian Sinclair, Sir George Weatherill, Bernard
Pink, R. Bonner Skeet, T. H. H. Wells, John
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Wiggin, Jerry
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield) Winterton, Nicholas
Price, David (Eastleigh) Speed, Keith Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Spence, John Whitney, Raymond (Wycombe)
Raison, Timothy Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Younger, Hon George
Rathbone, Tim Sproat, Iain
Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Stanbrook, Ivor TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Stanley, John Sir George Young and
Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Mr. Peter Morrison.
Rhodes, James R.
Allaun, Frank Davidson, Arthur Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Anderson, Donald Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davies, Rt Hon Denzil Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Ashton, Joe Davies, Ifor (Gower) Huckfield, Les
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Deakins, Eric Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hunter, Adam
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Dempsey, James Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Bates, Alf Dewar, Donald Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Bean, R. E. Doig, Peter Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Beith, A. J. Dormand, J. D. Janner, Greville
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Douglas-Mann, Bruce Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Duffy, A. E. P. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bidwell, Sydney Eadle, Alex John, Brynmor
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Edge, Geoff Johnson, James (Hull West)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Boardman, H. English, Michael Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Ennals, Rt Hon David Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Judd, Frank
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Evans, John (Newton) Lambie, David
Bradley, Tom Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lamond, James
Bray, Dr Jeremy Faulds, Andrew Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Flannery, Martin Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Luard, Evan
Buchan, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lyon, Alexander (York)
Buchanan, Richard Forrester, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) McCartney, Hugh
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald MacCormick, Iain
Campbell, Ian Freud, Clement McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Canavan, Dennis Garrett, John (Norwich S) McElhone, Frank
Cant, R. B. George, Bruce MacFarquhar, Roderick
Carmichael, Neil Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Carter, Ray Ginsburg, David Mackintosh, John P.
Cartwright, John Golding, John Maclennan, Robert
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Gould, Bryan McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Clemitson, Ivor Gourlay, Harry McNamara, Kevin
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Grant, George (Morpeth) Madden, Max
Cohen, Stanley Grant, John (Islington C) Magee, Bryan
Coleman, Donald Grocott, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marks, Kenneth
Corbett, Robin Hardy, Peter Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Hart, Rt Hon Judith Maynard, Miss Joan
Crawford, Douglas Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Meacher, Michael
Crawshaw, Richard Hayman, Mrs Helene Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Cronin, John Henderson, Douglas Mendelson, John
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hooley, Frank Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cryer, Bob Hooson, Emlyn Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Horam John Mitchell, Austin
Molloy, William Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Tilley, John (Lambeth, Central)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rowlands, Ted Tinn, James
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Ryman, John Tomlinson, John
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Sandelson, Neville Torney, Tom
Moyle, Roland Sedgemore, Brian Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Sever, John Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Newens, Stanley Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Ward, Michael
Noble, Mike Shore, Rt Hon Peter Watkins, David
Oakes, Gordon Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Watt, Hamish
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Weitzman, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Wellbeloved, James
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Silverman, Julius Welsh, Andrew
Padley, Walter Skinner, Dennis White, Frank R. (Bury)
Palmer, Arthur Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) White, James (Pollock)
Park, George Snape, Peter Whitlock, William
Parry, Robert Spearing, Nigel Wigley, Dafydd
Pavitt, Laurie Spriggs, Leslie Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Pendry, Tom Stallard, A. W. Willams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Penhaligon, David Stewart, Rt Hon Donald Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Perry, Ernest Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Price, William (Rugby) Stoddart, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Radice, Giles Strang, Gavin Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Reid, George Swain, Thomas Wise, Mrs Audrey
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Woodall, Alec
Robinson, Geoffrey Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Woof, Robert
Roderick, Caerwyn Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Rodbers, George (Chorley) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Young, David (Bolton E)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Rooker, J. W. Thompson, George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roper, John Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Rose, Paul B. Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Mr. Ted Graham.
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am now required by the terms of the Allocation of Time Order to put the Question on any amendment moved by a member of the Government. The Government amendments standing on the Amendment Paper to which this applies are Amendments Nos. 7, 13 to 16, 18, 40, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53 to 58, 62, 67, 70, 74 to 81, and 99 to 107. If there is no objection, I propose to put the Questions en bloc.

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