HC Deb 22 July 1998 vol 316 cc1173-87

Lords amendment: No. 27, in page 8, line 9, at end insert (", or (e) he is a Minister of the Crown.")

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

With this, it will be convenient to take amendment (a) in page 28, line 12, at end insert— '( ) A Minister of the Crown may not—

  1. (a) be elected to be Assembly First Secretary, or
  2. (b) be appointed as an Assembly Secretary.'.

Mr. Hain

I will speak briefly at this stage in the hope of replying more fully to the debate later.

First, let us be clear about the terms of the Lords amendment. The entire argument by the Conservative peers who backed it was whether the Secretary of State for Wales could also be the National Assembly's First Secretary. They were particular about that, to the point of obsession. However, the amendment does not specify that. It does not even specify that the Secretary of State should be barred from being a member of the Assembly Executive; it seeks to determine who should be a Member of the Assembly itself.

I freely acknowledge that quite different constitutional functions will be exercised by the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Secretary of the National Assembly. We have never suggested that they could or should be exercised by the same person in perpetuity. What we have here is a smokescreen of concern, hyped up into a frenzy and disguising a blatantly political exercise to dictate to the people of Wales for whom they may or may not vote.

If the people wish to elect a Minister of the Crown as an Assembly Member, that is their right. Why should this House deny them that right? I urge the House to reject the amendment.

Dr. Fox

The arguments on the issue have been put clearly both here and in the other place, so there seems little point in detaining the House unnecessarily by reiterating them.

This is not just an exercise in political posturing, as the Under-Secretary suggested; it is about a point of principle. To understand what lies behind the Lords amendment and our amendment in lieu we have to look at two matters. First, what is the role of a Member of the Assembly; and secondly, what is the role of a Minister of the Crown?

First, the direct constituency Assembly Members have to do what we understand clearly in this House, which is to look after our constituents' interests as well as scrutinising the wider picture. Secondly, those on the party list will have to look after the general interests, under whatever arrangements they come to within their parties or relating to whatever constituency interest may be pertinent. Thirdly, all Members will have to scrutinise the political life of Wales independently, just as hon. Members are supposed to do in this House.

We have also to consider the role of Ministers of the Crown. The Prime Minister published a ministerial code in July 1997. The first principle set out is: Ministers must uphold the principle of collective responsibility. The second is: Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their Departments and Next Step Agencies. The eighth principle is: Ministers in the House of Commons must keep separate their role as Minister and constituency Member. I shall deal with the last principle first. Those of us who have been Ministers know that a great deal of discipline is required to keep ministerial and constituency roles separate. In many Departments, there is potential for the roles to overlap, so Ministers require a great deal of self-discipline to keep them separate. How much more difficult would that be if another role were added—ministerial, constituency and Assembly roles, all at the same time? There are phenomenal dangers in creating potential for conflicting interests.

The part of the code that deals with the policies, decisions and actions of their Departments and Next Step Agencies creates another difficulty. A Minister of the Crown may sit in a Welsh Assembly and be responsible not only for the scrutiny of, for example, United Kingdom-wide agencies, but for the agencies' actions in Wales. That is utterly preposterous. Upholding collective responsibility is the most difficult responsibility.

The Under-Secretary referred to the First Secretary. What could be more preposterous than having to be First Secretary and a Minister of the Crown at the same time? What is he supposed to do—write to himself, "Dear Secretary of State, I find myself in my position of First Secretary in the Assembly needing a bit more money so could you please arrange this for me because I am finding it awfully hard? Yours, the First Secretary." Then he has to write back to himself saying, "Dear First Secretary, Unfortunately, due to my collective responsibility in the Cabinet, my Treasury colleagues tell me that I am not able to discuss this with you. Yours, the Secretary of State."

Perhaps that will be the ultimate job share—or, in the lingo of the Welsh Labour party, the ultimate twinning. However, it seems to those of us who live in the real political world that that is extraordinary politics and will create incompatibility on a scale that we have never known in the House of Commons. It is not a point of party politics; it is a point of principle. The Secretary of State for Scotland has made it clear that he could not stand to be the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament while being Secretary of State for Scotland, because that would be a conflict of interest. If that is true of devolution in Scotland, why is it not true of devolution in Wales? If it is a point of principle for the Secretary of State for Scotland, why is it not one for the Secretary of State for Wales? It does not matter whether one holds the posts for a week or a year; a point of principle is involved.

Mr. Livsey

Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that the crucial difference between the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly is that the Scottish Parliament has primary legislative powers. It is a totally different situation from that which will obtain in Wales.

Dr. Fox

In the previous debate—about alter ego parties—I wondered whether we were talking about the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party, but I realise now that they are playing their usual welcome-mat role for the Labour party.

We are debating a matter not of degree but of principle—that there would be a conflict of interest, and one cannot serve two masters. If one is to represent someone in one body, one cannot be bound by collective responsibility in another. Such an arrangement—especially given the nature of the Welsh devolution settlement—would be constitutional nonsense. The Government would do well to accept now that it would be nonsense—before they land themselves in the hot water that they will so richly deserve if they do not accept the Lords amendment.

Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

I oppose Lords amendment No. 27, which is based on a narrow-minded personal vindictiveness towards my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State Wales. I therefore support the Government motion to disagree with Lords amendment No. 27.

Inclusivity is a fundamental aim and principle of the Assembly. Inclusivity is essential to ensure that the National Assembly for Wales reflects all the political and cultural traditions in Wales and that it gives fair representation to women; to minority ethnic groups; to north, south, east and west Wales; to Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh-speaking areas; and to areas that voted yes in the referendum and to those that voted no.

Another principle was to ensure that experienced and high-calibre candidates stand for the Assembly and that Members of the House of Lords should themselves be free to stand for the Assembly. Although the Lords cannot stand for this House or even vote in parliamentary elections, they will be able to be Members of both the House of Lords and the National Assembly for Wales. I therefore cannot accept the Lords intention of preventing hon. Members and Ministers from standing for or holding office in the Welsh Assembly. There is no constitutional reason why a Minister of the Crown cannot be a Member of the Welsh Assembly.

It would be wrong also to assume that there would be any conflict of interest. Ministers, and Ministers of the Welsh Assembly, will be accountable to both bodies and will be judged on their integrity by their own electorate. As the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) said, there are good reasons why such a dual mandate should be encouraged and given in a transitional period, to ensure continuity and co-ordination in the establishment of the new National Assembly for Wales.

Dr. Fox

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a difference between being an hon. Member and being a Minister of the Crown? One is about independent scrutiny of the Executive whereas the other is about being a member of the Executive.

Mr. Edwards

I say again that individuals' integrity will dictate how they should conduct themselves.

I have read the speech made in the other place by Lord Crickhowell. I think that it was a highly personal and spiteful attack that was not worthy of someone who has been Secretary of State for Wales and involved in public life since that time. I shall make no personal comment on Lord Crickhowell.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan

Why not?

Mr. Edwards

If I had more time, I would pay a long, glowing tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales for all that he has done to ensure that the Bill gets through not only the House but—perhaps more important—through the Wales Labour party. However, there is not time to do so.

I take exception to the right of the unelected House of Lords—especially of the dominant hereditary group in the House of Lords, 62 of whom voted in support of Lords amendment No. 27—to seek to overthrow one of the Bill's important principles. It is a serious indictment of our parliamentary system that we allow people to legislate who have inherited the right to do so—because they are the eldest son of someone who already had the right to be in the other place. We do not allow people to inherit the right to practise or implement the law; how can it be justified that anyone should inherit the right to make or amend the law?

If this debate and the fiasco offer one important lesson, it is that we must swiftly end the hereditary principle: abolish the right of hereditary peers to legislate. I hope that Ministers will act on that as soon as possible.

The principle of inclusivity must allow hon. Members to stand for the Welsh Assembly. I therefore ask the House to reject Lords amendment No. 27.

Mr. Öpik

I should like, first, simply to comment on Conservative Members' persistent failure to understand what is going on—that politics has moved on in Wales. They do not grasp that the politics of conflict and confrontation can quite reasonably and effectively be replaced by something else: the supremacy of good ideas.

7.15 pm

Let us move on to Conservative Members' rather astounding failure to understand the opportunities presented by giving the new politics a chance and by giving the future Secretary of State for Wales—whoever he or she may be—the chance to participate in both this Chamber and the Welsh Assembly. Allowing the Secretary of State briefly to play both roles is a matter not of principle but of judgment and practical considerations.

Allowing a Secretary of State for Wales also to be First Secretary presents three benefits and two concerns. The first benefit is the expertise, experience and continuity that one person might bring to the job. The second benefit is having essentially a directly elected Cabinet member who will have a considerable vested interest in being a real voice for Wales. The third is the loyalty that that individual would most likely have to Wales. The job of First Secretary will be attractive and it is unlikely that someone would want to compromise it by being a party puppet.

I must, in fairness, say that the Conservatives have raised two legitimate concerns.

Mr. Evans

If one person is both First Secretary and Secretary of State for Wales, he or she will—as Secretary of State for Wales, because of Cabinet collective responsibility—have to attend Cabinet meetings. What if the Assembly wants that person as First Secretary to be somewhere else? He or she will either have to accept Cabinet collective responsibility or speak for the people of Wales in the Assembly and be sacked as a Cabinet member. Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that that would be a real problem?


That point was one of the two concerns that I was about to mention, and was raised earlier by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). It is a legitimate concern, although it is not sufficient to overcome the benefits of allowing one person to hold both offices.

I think that—without going too deeply into the Cabinet's functions—it should be possible for one person to represent both Wales's interests internally within the Cabinet and the broader public interest. However, as I said, one of the big jobs for whoever might hold both jobs will be to establish etiquette and precedent by temporarily holding the dual position. Then we shall see if he or she is sacked—perhaps because the pressures are too great.

Dr. Fox

I know that the Liberal Democrats have trouble with the matter—it is almost 100 years since any of them was a Minister—but the first point made in the ministerial code is that Ministers must accept collective responsibility. The code has been established by No. 10 Downing street. It will not be for the Secretary of State for Wales to decide on etiquette. A code has already been established and published by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Öpik

Such a one-dimensional approach to profound constitutional changes saddens me, but perhaps goes some way to highlighting why we sometimes have such a fatuous debate. We must be willing to experiment with new ideas on the assumption that we can make them work. If we cannot make them work, we will have to revisit the ideas and the processes that are failing. However, simply to assume that we must change nothing because of some legitimate concerns and obstacles is to assume that we must always maintain the status quo.

The fact that the Welsh people have voted for the Welsh Assembly and—more to the point—the fact that both the overwhelming majority of hon. Members and all three parties representing constituencies in Wales agree that we want to make the Assembly work should go some way in warning the Conservatives that they are out of kilter with the public mood.

My second concern is the fear of vesting too much power in one person. That is not in itself a problem, but if the individual concerned cannot help behaving in a compromising way, we shall need to review the situation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) said, the difficulty would be exacerbated if the Assembly had primary legislative power.

We should be willing to try having both roles held briefly by one person. In the light of experience, it may even turn out not to be a sustainable process, but we will find out soon enough. In the meantime, we have to cut ourselves some slack, try new processes and not be afraid to make a few mistakes. It is prudent to be honest about those concerns and imprudent to try to reduce every debate to simple political attack that does not serve the interests of the Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Swayne

Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that it is not a matter of going back to the drawing board every time? The politics will have moved on and Plaid Cymru Members will use the impetus and dynamics of that to shift matters further and they will not give a fig about new politics and consensus.

Mr. Öpik

I allowed that intervention as I hoped that it would illustrate graphically everything that I have said about the Conservatives. If they want to be taken seriously in Welsh politics, they had better recognise that things have moved on. The proportional representation train has left Cardiff station and, far from being even on the platform, the Tories have not bought a ticket.

Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)

I shall be brief. I oppose amendment (a), which is a bit rich coming from the Conservative party. We should extend the franchise for Assembly Members as widely as possible. There is no reason why a Minister of the Crown should not stand and be elected to the Assembly, as the Lords amendment provides. In respect of any dual mandate, the issue is what happens afterwards, but I believe that it is a matter for political parties to sort out and that it should not be enshrined in legislation.

In my view, any dual mandate should be for the shortest possible time. There are strong feelings in the Labour party against any dual mandates. There are two main reasons for that. First, we want people to be elected who are committed to the Assembly and not doing another job with different responsibilities. We told people on their doorsteps during the campaign that membership of the Assembly would be a full-time job requiring total commitment, bringing power closer to the people of Wales through people who were totally committed to the Assembly. That is why we want people who are committed to one job and one Assembly.

The second reason people in the Labour party are opposed to a dual mandate is that an awful lot of people want to become Assembly Members and think that it is a bit greedy of anyone standing for the Assembly to contemplate doing two jobs when so many are keen to do one. As there are only 60 seats, we are only grudgingly willing to contemplate a dual mandate for right hon. and hon. Members until the next general election in order to avoid by-elections.

As my hon. Friend the Minister said, it is obvious that, in practical terms, a member of the British Cabinet could not be at the same time a Member of the Welsh Assembly or First Secretary for anything other than the shortest transitional period because of the conflicting loyalties that would arise. The First Secretary would be voted in as leader of the Assembly by Assembly Members or by her or his political party—it is a bottom-up approach. She or he would then represent those people. The Secretary of State for Wales is appointed by the Prime Minister and is bound by Cabinet collective responsibility. There is a clear conflict between the two roles, which could not be combined other than for the shortest possible transitional period.

In bringing devolution to Wales, we are bringing democracy and inclusivity. We want to get away from the centralisation of power—and holding two jobs is just that. I am disappointed that we are to have a Cabinet system. It would be quite wrong for a Minister of the Crown to contemplate a dual mandate for longer than the shortest transitional period.

I oppose the amendment; we do not need legislation on something that could happen, but only for the shortest possible time as I know Labour Members are strongly opposed to it.

Mr. Grieve

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan) made a telling speech that rubbished everything Ministers have said on the issue. She correctly identified the nature of the conflict of interests, but then told the House that it might be allowed to continue for the shortest possible period. She never sought to explain or justify why even the shortest possible period should be allowed. No period should be allowed because the conflict is clear, manifest and unacceptable.

The Government's problem in putting forward their devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales has been their inability to think through the constitutional implications. Inherent in them is the scope for conflict between the way in which the Welsh Assembly runs its affairs, the way in which the First Secretary or other Secretary of the Welsh Assembly decides to operate, and his responsibilities and loyalties and those of a Minister of the Crown at Westminster. I do not welcome that—it was one reason I did not support devolution in the first place—but, to judge from what the hon. Member for Cardiff, North said, it seems that, for perfectly plain short-term political advantage, there is a refusal to accept the implications of what is being proposed. We cannot have a Minister of the Crown also being an Assembly Member—and certainly not being a First Secretary or other Secretary in that Assembly. There has to be a division and that division should be accepted.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)

Is my hon. Friend saying that we are dealing with mechanics of government that are not based on a sound constitutional settlement and political theory, and that political theories are being made up on the hoof after the mechanics have been put in place?

Mr. Grieve

I agree entirely. That is quite apparent from our earlier debate about the Official Secrets Act 1989 and its application to the First Secretary and Assembly Secretaries. The matter simply has not been thought through, but at least we can try to do something about it. The first step is to ensure that amendment is accepted, if not in the form proposed by the House of Lords, at least in the more limited form proposed by my hon. Friends.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

First, may I make it clear that I perfectly respect the aspirations of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to stand as a First Secretary and I wish him and the others who are standing well? However, that is not the issue. I regret that there has been an attempt to dismiss the matter with some quite irrelevant comments as it strikes at the heart of the constitutional basis of Cabinet government.

Under Cabinet government, there is Cabinet responsibility and Cabinet accountability. If a Minister cannot accept what the Cabinet decides, he or she must leave the Cabinet. With all respect to my right hon. Friend, how on earth can he give his full loyalty to a separate Assembly that may have different perspectives—although it may have the same political background—on policy, expenditure and so on? How can he give equal loyalty to each or full loyalty to either? When he steps out of No. 10 and is interviewed by the BBC and HTV, how will we know which hat he is wearing? When he disagrees, how will we know whether he is speaking for the Assembly and when he is speaking for the Assembly, how will he preserve Cabinet responsibility and accountability?

There is already a problem in that my right hon. Friend has announced that he is standing because every decision he takes between now and next May could influence the choice of leader. There is already a conflict of interests. If my right hon. Friend had announced that he was going for a commercial job that would depend on the decisions that he made as a Minister, he would have to stand down. That may be something that he has to consider in his own interests if he wants to pursue his other ambition.

It would be bad for Wales if we ended up with what in America would be called a lame duck president. We do not want a lame duck Secretary of State who cannot take unpopular decisions between now and May because they may prejudice his chances. I hope that that danger will be avoided, but it has to be perceived.

There is also the question of appearance. We have just had a referendum on whether there should be an Assembly. We are now giving the appearance of London trying to impose a leader on that Assembly. What a fine start to devolution—the London Cabinet has to have its hands on the helm. That cannot be right. My right hon. Friend should consider that.

My right hon. Friend may argue that this is a question of helping with one or two teething troubles. If he were the First Secretary of the Assembly, the wisdom of Ron would be available to the Assembly regardless of whether he was Secretary of State.

My right hon. Friend is lucky that he is among friends today. In an interview with HTV last week, I was asked whether I thought he was trying to influence the choice of leader unfairly. I had to say that the thought had not crossed my mind, but others are not as generous. I can think of no reason other than personal expediency for supporting the proposed course of action. I urge my right hon. Friend to change track now and make the right decision.

7.30 pm
Mr. Hain

My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) is a good colleague and a neighbouring Member of Parliament. He has fallen into the trap that the Conservatives have laid. I regret that very much.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) talked about an ultimate job share. Conservative Members are experts in ultimate job shares. Their Front-Bench Members persist in holding other jobs outside the House. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) indulged in transparently mischievous comments that did not address the issues.

Nobody seriously argues that the same person can be Secretary of State for Wales and Assembly First Secretary in perpetuity. It would be politically unacceptable and constitutionally undesirable. The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan) are pertinent on the issue of a long-term dual mandate.

Dr. Fox

Is not that precisely the point? If the situation is constitutionally undesirable, what difference does it make whether it lasts for a month or a year? If the principle is wrong, is not the time scale irrelevant?

Mr. Hain

If the hon. Gentleman had waited a moment, I would have explained the facts of political life to him and he would have realised that there is a difference between permanency and a transitional period. There is a very strong case for a transitional period, particularly at the beginning when the Assembly is bedding down and the order transferring the functions of the Secretary of State has still to be implemented. There is a great deal of sense in having some continuity in the interests of stability and good government.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) talked about potential conflict. If there were conflict, it would have to be resolved. If that conflict could not be resolved, there would have to be a resignation from one post. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West insults my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State if he imagines that he could ever be a lame duck First Secretary of the National Assembly or Secretary of State—he has demonstrated his abilities over the past year.

The Conservative Lords amendment is not about the Secretary of State.

Mr. Wigley

We almost all reject the Lords amendment because it would not allow any Minister to stand, but does the Under-Secretary understand that many of us would be uneasy about the prospect of any long-term dual mandate? Can he assure us that, to meet the points that have been made from both sides of the House, the Government would be prepared to consider an amendment in another place that would limit any dual mandate to the time necessary for the transitional orders?

Mr. Hain

No, we would not be willing to consider that. The right hon. Gentleman has played a constructive role in the passage of the Bill through both Houses. I caution him against falling into a Conservative trap.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of the track record of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, is not that the point? Let us put on record the reality behind the vindictive and pernicious amendment, which comes from a failed former Secretary of State for Wales and is directed at one who has an excellent track record.

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend makes his point powerfully.

The Conservative Lords amendment is not about the Secretary of State. That is the main issue before us. The amendment puts a blanket ban on any Minister being a Member of—and maybe even standing for—the Assembly. The Conservative Lords have not thought through the consequences of their proposal. It is difficult to imagine, but if the Conservatives won the next general election and a Conservative Assembly Member were elected to the House of Commons, there could be a ban on his being appointed to ministerial office at least until he had resigned from the National Assembly. If the person in question were Rod Richards—I take his name at random—perhaps that would be a good idea and in the interests of the Conservatives. I discovered him loitering with intent on the pavement outside the Welsh Office last week, taking an interest in our affairs. There may be no other Conservative Member elected from Wales. Perhaps that is why the Conservatives are so keen on the issue. Perhaps it is not a Ron amendment, but a Rod amendment to prevent his being put in that position.

Let us consider the issue another way round. Consider a serving Minister who wanted to stand for election to the Assembly in May, but was taking a Bill through the House to Royal Assent in the summer before standing down from a Government post. That person would be prejudiced from standing for the National Assembly. A Minister who was seeing out a British presidency of the European Union to the end of June would not be able to stand for election to the Assembly in May. The Lords have clearly not considered such transitional arrangements, which would be prejudiced by their amendment, which we reject.

Imagine a Conservative or Liberal Democrat First Secretary of the National Assembly who stood for the Commons and was appointed Secretary of State in a new Administration. There might be a new approach to devolution that would require some transitional arrangements. That would be blocked if the amendment were passed. Consider a further transfer of functions in the next century. Perhaps broadcasting might be transferred to the Assembly. A Welsh Minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport could usefully be an Assembly Secretary—not in the long term, but on a transitional basis. Others with inside experience of Whitehall as a Transport Minister or an Industry Minister would have invaluable experience for the post of Assembly Secretary, taking forward policies with maximum consultation and agreement.

We could consider the situation in reverse. A Welsh Secretary could have a great deal to contribute to a Whitehall ministerial post on a transitional basis. Such cross-fertilisation would be constitutionally and politically useful. Many other unforeseen circumstances could be blocked off if we put a rigid straitjacket in the Bill, as the Tory amendment would. It could be extremely damaging; it could prevent talented people from making a contribution to the good government of both Westminster and Wales.

Why is Wales being made a scapegoat? No such rule is proposed for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the European Parliament or local councils. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) that amendment (a) is just a vehicle for another petty, spiteful attack on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. The Conservatives cannot attack his policies on schools, health, jobs and housing because they are very popular. They cannot attack his historic role in establishing the Assembly because that, too, is popular. Even Tories are falling over themselves to stand for it. The Conservatives cannot cope with a Secretary of State who is popular in Wales for the first time in 19 years.

Dr. Fox

No such amendment has been tabled to the Scotland Bill because the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that no transition period is required and that he will not be standing as Secretary of State and First Minister. Why is that not so for Wales?

Mr. Hain

Since the hon. Gentleman has just taken a new job that he claims to be able to do, he, of all people, should know that the Scottish situation is different from the Welsh situation; that is why. The Bills are different and the powers exercised by the Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are different. He must acknowledge that.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it right for the Minister to mislead the House? No Member of the European Parliament can hold any office in any Parliament or Assembly. That is why the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) could not take the job in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a point of debate, not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Hain

The Conservatives are so used to Secretaries of State being unpopular in Wales that they find it difficult to comprehend somebody who holds the office being able to wander around the Royal National Eisteddfod, for example, without a phalanx of bodyguards protecting him, or mingle at the Royal Welsh show with demonstrating farmers who welcome rather than abuse him. The Conservatives cannot cope with a people's Secretary of State.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not out of sycophancy—I leave that to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith)— but out of admiration for his work. He is choosing willingly to leave a Cabinet post—one of the highest posts in the Government, to which most Members of Parliament aspire only in their dreams. He is giving that up—at some point in the future—and is prepared to take a salary cut and all the reductions in status that his self-removal from the Cabinet will entail in order to help give birth to Wales's new democracy. Unlike Conservative Members—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister must be given a hearing.

7.45 pm
Mr. Hain

Unlike many others whom we can imagine, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not making any presumptions about his position in the Assembly. He is standing in order to take part in the creation of the new and vibrant democracy in Wales. Instead of being denigrated, he ought to be congratulated on that.

I pay tribute to the way in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State fought many difficult battles—sometimes even in the tortuous labyrinths of the Welsh Labour party, and at other times—coaxing and persuading a hesitant Welsh nation into greater self-confidence and common citizenship. Notwithstanding the sniping of Conservative Members, Lord Crickhowell said of my right hon. Friend on 15 July: I wish the present Secretary of State for Wales well. I admire the way in which he has carried the legislation to this point; it is a considerable achievement."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 July 1998; Vol. 592, c. 370.] I am sure that, on reflection, even Lord Crickhowell accepts that his authorship of the amendment was misconceived.

Apart from on this matter and a few others, the Lords have shown much greater intelligence and responsibility than the Conservative Opposition in this House, as a reading of the debate shows. After the assurances that I have given, and considering the problems with the amendment that I have identified, I am sure that their lordships will not want to put a road block across the passage of the Bill and that, instead, they will allow Wales's exciting new democracy to grow and flourish on schedule, as we are determined it should.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Motion made, and Question put, That amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 27 be made—[Dr. Fox.]

The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 265.

Division No. 344] [7.44 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Brady, Graham
Amess, David Brazier, Julian
Arbuthnot, James Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Browning, Mrs Angela
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Beggs, Roy Burns, Simon
Bercow, John Butterfill, John
Beresford, Sir Paul Cash, William
Blunt, Crispin Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim Chope, Christopher
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Madel, Sir David
Collins, Tim Maples, John
Colvin, Michael Mates, Michael
Cran, James Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Curry, Rt Hon David May, Mrs Theresa
Dafis, Cynog Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Moss, Malcolm
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Nicholls, Patrick
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Norman, Archie
Duncan, Alan Ottaway, Richard
Duncan Smith, Iain Page, Richard
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Paice, James
Evans, Nigel Paisley, Rev Ian
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Paterson, Owen
Faber, David Pickles, Eric
Fabricant, Michael Prior, David
Fallon, Michael Randall, John
Flight, Howard Redwood, Rt Hon John
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Fox, Dr Liam Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Fraser, Christopher Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gale, Roger Ruffley, David
Garnier, Edward St Aubyn, Nick
Gibb, Nick Sayeed, Jonathan
Gill, Christopher Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair Shepherd, Richard
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gray, James Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Green, Damian Soames, Nicholas
Greenway, John Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Grieve, Dominic Spicer, Sir Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
Hague, Rt Hon William Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Streeter, Gary
Hammond, Philip Swayne, Desmond
Hawkins, Nick Syms, Robert
Hayes, John Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Heald, Oliver Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Horam, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hunter, Andrew Thompson, William
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Tredinnick, David
Jenkin, Bernard Trend, Michael
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Trimble, Rt Hon David
Tyrie, Andrew
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Viggers, Peter
Key, Robert Walter, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Wardle, Charles
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Wells, Bowen
Lansley, Andrew Welsh, Andrew
Leigh, Edward Whitney, Sir Raymond
Letwin, Oliver Whittingdale, John
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Lidington, David Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Wilkinson, John
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Willetts, David
Loughton, Tim Wilshire, David
Luff, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Woodward, Shaun
McCartney, Robert (N Down) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Ayes:
McLoughlin, Patrick Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. Nigel Waterson.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Austin, John
Ainger, Nick Battle, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Bayley, Hugh
Allen, Graham Begg, Miss Anne
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashton, Joe Bennett, Andrew F
Atherton, Ms Candy Benton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger Golding, Mrs Llin
Blackman, Liz Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Blears, Ms Hazel Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Blizzard, Bob Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boateng, Paul Grocott, Bruce
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gunnell, John
Bradshaw, Ben Hain, Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Browne, Desmond Hanson, David
Buck, Ms Karen Healey, John
Butler, Mrs Christine Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Byers, Stephen Hepburn, Stephen
Caborn, Richard Hesford, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hill, Keith
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hinchliffe, David
Canavan, Dennis Hodge, Ms Margaret
Cann, Jamie Hoey, Kate
Caplin, Ivor Hood, Jimmy
Caton, Martin Hoon, Geoffrey
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clapham, Michael Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Clelland, David Hurst, Alan
Coaker, Vernon Hutton, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Iddon, Dr Brian
Cohen, Harry Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Colman, Tony Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Connarty, Michael Jenkins, Brian
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Corbett, Robin Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cox, Tom Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Crausby, David Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jowell, Ms Tessa
Cummings, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cunliffe, Lawrence Keeble, Ms Sally
Darvill, Keith Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Davidson, Ian Kemp, Fraser
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly) Khabra, Piara S
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Kidney, David
Dawson, Hilton Kilfoyle, Peter
Denham, John King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Dobbin, Jim King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Kingham, Ms Tess
Doran, Frank Laxton, Bob
Dowd, Jim Lepper, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Levitt, Tom
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Edwards, Huw Linton, Martin
Efford, Clive Livingstone, Ken
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Ennis, Jeff Lock, David
Field, Rt Hon Frank Love, Andrew
Fisher, Mark McAvoy, Thomas
Fitzpatrick, Jim McCabe, Steve
Fitzsimons, Lorna McCafferty, Ms Chris
Flint, Caroline McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Follett, Barbara McDonagh, Siobhain
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Macdonald, Calum
Fyfe, Maria McIsaac, Shona
Gapes, Mike Mackinlay, Andrew
Gardiner, Barry McNamara, Kevin
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McNulty, Tony
Gerrard, Neil MacShane, Denis
Godman, Dr Norman A Mactaggart, Fiona
Godsiff, Roger Mahon, Mrs Alice
Goggins, Paul Mallaber, Judy
Marek, Dr John Ruddock, Ms Joan
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Ryan, Ms Joan
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Savidge, Malcolm
Martlew, Eric Sawford, Phil
Maxton, John Sedgemore, Brian
Meale, Alan Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Merron, Gillian Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Michael, Alun Singh, Marsha
Milburn, Alan Skinner, Dennis
Miller, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mitchell, Austin Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Moran, Ms Margaret Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mudie, George Soley, Clive
Mullin, Chris Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Steinberg, Gerry
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stevenson, George
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) Stinchcombe, Paul
Naysmith, Dr Doug Stoate, Dr Howard
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Stringer, Graham
O'Hara, Eddie Stuart, Ms Gisela
Olner, Bill Sutcliffe, Gerry
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra Temple-Morris, Peter
Palmer, Dr Nick Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pendry, Tom Tipping, Paddy
Perham, Ms Linda Touhig, Don
Pickthall, Colin Trickett, Jon
Pike, Peter L Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Plaskitt, James Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Pope, Greg Vis, Dr Rudi
Powell, Sir Raymond Ward, Ms Claire
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Wareing, Robert N
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Watts, David
Purchase, Ken Whitehead, Dr Alan
Quin, Ms Joyce Wicks, Malcolm
Quinn, Lawrie Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Rapson, Syd Winnick, David
Raynsford, Nick Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N) Wise, Audrey
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S) Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Rogers, Allan Wray, James
Rooker, Jeff Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Tellers for the Noes:
Rowlands, Ted Mr. David Jamieson and
Ruane, Chris Mr. Kevin Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their amendments to the Bill: Mr. Nick Ainger, Mr. Ron Davies, Mr. Stephen Day, Mr. Nigel Evans and Mr. Jon Owen Jones; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Jon Owen Jones.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.