HC Deb 18 June 1997 vol 296 cc294-5
3. .Dr. Marek

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the proposed powers for the Welsh Assembly. [2596]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ron Davies)

The Welsh Assembly will provide democratic control of the existing Welsh Office functions; it will have power to make secondary legislation; and it will have specific powers to reform and control the quangos in Wales.

Dr. Marek

My right hon. Friend knows that I support him in his policy and will be campaigning on his side during the referendum campaign. He knows that he does not have to answer my question or even answer a different one, and he could give me a facetious answer. However, I ask him to give me a rational answer to the question why the Welsh people cannot be trusted with a question on the referendum paper about tax-varying powers for the Welsh Assembly. They should be able to say yes or no to that. After all, it is a power that even English parish councils have.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his promise of support in the forthcoming referendum. It is precisely because we trust the people of Wales that we propose to vest in them the power to take greater control of their own affairs.

In relation to the tax-varying powers of a Scottish Parliament, there are procedures in Westminster for the establishment of a separate body of Scots law. We believe it to be important that that provision, when it is transferred to the Scottish Parliament, is married to the ability to vary tax rates. We are not proposing that such a provision be devolved to Wales, so it follows that we are not proposing that tax-varying powers be devolved to Wales.

Mr. Hague

If, as the Secretary of State intends, any future Welsh Assembly takes over the powers and functions of the office of Secretary of State, is he proposing that his office will continue in existence and that his salary will remain the same?

Mr. Davies

I am glad that the shadow Secretary of State is in his place; it looks as though he will continue for some time in that role. I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity of this first Welsh questions to announce yet another policy initiative, as he seems to have developed a remarkable intellectual flexibility.

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the excellent speech made in the House of Lords yesterday by a former Welsh Minister, Viscount St. Davids. He made a forceful speech in favour of Welsh devolution. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will be successful in our campaign to get democracy back to Wales. The role of Secretary of State will continue and we have no proposals to vary the salary of the office of Secretary of State.

Mr. Llew Smith

Is there any substance to the rumour that the original idea of 60 people serving on the Welsh Assembly has changed and the number has been increased to 80? What income levels are proposed for those people?

Mr. Davies

The proposal for a 60-person Assembly was the product of a lengthy debate in the Labour party in Wales. Our policy was adopted unanimously at our conference, held between 28 February and 1 March. It was included in the proposals that we put before all the people of Britain, which were unanimously endorsed in the general election on 1 May. We will include the detail in our White Paper, which will be published before the start of the recess. We have no proposals to vary our policy. The details of the salaries to be paid to Assembly persons will also be published in the White Paper.

Forward to