HC Deb 07 July 1999 vol 334 cc1013-4
2. Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

What plans he has to introduce amendments to legislation dealing specifically with the needs of Wales with regard to (a) the Government of Wales Act 1998, (b) the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, and (c) the Welsh Language Act 1993; and if he will make a statement. [88522]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alun Michael)


Mr. Wigley

I believe that this is not a devolved matter. I thank the Secretary of State, who also doubles up as First Secretary, for that comprehensive answer. Does he agree that there will be times when legislation to deal with Wales alone, such as the three Acts referred to in the question, will need amendment—perhaps relatively minor amendment—to enable the Assembly to undertake its work and to allow other activities in Wales to go forward? Does he agree that it would be helpful to have a fast-track procedure to deal with such legislation? Is he involved in discussions about the possibility of the Welsh Grand Committee being reinvented to enable such relatively small changes to go forward?

Mr. Michael

The Assembly is free to ask the UK Government to amend primary legislation. In another place, the right hon. Gentleman and I might well discuss where it was appropriate for those requests to be made. If the Government agreed, the Secretary of State for Wales would steer the amendments through Parliament. It is for this House to decide how it would deal with such matters. I am sure that the appropriate authorities understand the right hon. Gentleman's point and will consider it.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

My right hon. Friend's predecessor as Secretary of State for Wales said that we needed a Welsh Assembly because Wales was increasingly run by quangos. I was not a great supporter of the Welsh Assembly, but I am certainly opposed to quangos. The previous Secretary of State also gave a commitment to end the quango state in Wales and make a bonfire of the quangos. Will the present Secretary of State give us a date when the commitment will be met and the bonfire will happen so that we can all attend?

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend should attend regularly as we remove quangos. The Cardiff Bay development corporation will wind up its affairs by the end of March next year. A number of organisations, have already been folded. It is important that the Assembly is taking on its responsibilities. During the Assembly's short time in being, a lot of which has been devoted to preparing the ground for future action, Members of the Assembly and the Assembly Cabinet have been engaging with the policies and activities that have previously been the responsibility of quangos. The underlying trend of my hon. Friend's question is being pursued.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

As the Secretary of State has said, the National Assembly for Wales has been running effectively for only a week. It is no surprise that the nationalists are looking, under the Government of Wales Act 1998, for further transfers of power. Will the Secretary of State give a commitment to the House of Commons and to the people of Wales that there will be no more transfers of powers from Westminster to Wales, particularly tax-raising powers, until the people of Wales have been given their say in a referendum?

Mr. Michael

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. He attacked the nationalists for wanting to go further, but his party did not want to go anywhere and has made a sad lack of contribution to date. The job of the National Assembly is to make the current devolution settlement work. It is good settlement, which provides an opportunity for those who have been elected to the Assembly by the people of Wales to bring accountability and creativity to bear on policies directly affecting Wales. That is what is happening in Cardiff bay now.

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