HL Deb 12 June 1975 vol 361 cc535-76

5.20 p.m.

The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord GRENFELL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [The Welsh Development Agency]:

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 9, leave out ("It shall be the Agency's duty") and insert ("The purposes for which the Agency may exercise its functions are")

The noble Lord said: To make one correction, I am advised by those who should know that the word "Agency" is, for Parliamentary purposes, plural, so that the Amendment should read, "may exercise their functions". The reason for the Amendment is simply that the wording in the Welsh Bill is different from the wording in the Industry Bill and in the Scottish Development Agency Bill, and, although I see no reason why the Bill should necessarily follow the example of the other two Bills, at the same time, it did draw our attention to this fact, which I feel needs looking into.

In my view, the wording which I have suggested is preferable for the reason which I shall give. The wording in Clause 2 of the Industry Bill is: The purposes for which the Board may exercise their functions are". The functions are the same as in the case of the Welsh Development Agency, though of course the latter have the extra function concerned with the environment. In the case of the Scottish Development Agency Bill which we have just been considering, again in Clause 2 the wording is: The purposes for which the Agency may exercise their functions are". In this case there are the same three functions as those in the Welsh Bill.

The essential difference in the two forms of wording seems to me to be that the words "may exercise" leave discretion to the Board in the priority which they give to their various functions, whereas to say that it "shall" be their duty is much stronger and, to my mind, could possibly lead to some difficulty in deciding between one or other of these functions. The functions that spring to mind are those concerned with the promotion of industrial efficiency and with the maintaining or safeguarding of employment. I do not dispute in any way that these are the functions which the Agency should have. But it seems to me that there could, in certain circumstances, be a clash between them and that, in a particular case where there was overmanning in an industry, for instance, it might be difficult for the Agency, if they have a duty both to promote industrial efficiency and to maintain or safeguard employment, to make the correct choice. Therefore, I prefer the more open wording that I have suggested, which would allow the Agency, in a case like that where there might be a conflict between two of their functions, to make their own choice. I beg to move.


I am happy to begin the Committee stage of the Bill by indicating that I propose to accept the Amendment moved in such an economical space of time by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. The phraseology which he proposes will, as he has said, bring the Bill into line with the Scottish Development Agency Bill and, while we shall certainly not be slaves to the need to imitate that Bill in all or in too many of its respects, I feel that it is desirable that there should be parity of expression in this matter.

If the existing drafting conveys the thought of obliging the Agency, as a duty, to become involved in, for example, each and every incident involving loss of employment in Wales by making it a duty to safeguard employment, that is not intended. I believe that the intention of the original drafting was to achieve clarity and to emphasise the importance of the Agency's responsibility, but the creation of a statutory duty—and that is what the present text does—could tempt the litigious to seek to enforce it by legal action. Accordingly, I think the alternative form of words which has been suggested, and which should in no way be regarded as diminishing the importance of the Agency, should be accepted. That is, of course, subject, as the noble Lord has said, to the substitution, for apparently grammatical reasons, of the word "their" for "its" as the last word but three of the proposed Amendment.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I am sure that we shall continue in this harmonious spirit throughout the Bill.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.28 p.m.

Baroness WHITE moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 16, leave out paragraph (d).

The noble Baroness said: It may be for the convenience of the House to take Amendment No. 7 together with this Amendment.


We can perhaps also take Amendment No. 24.

Baroness WHITE

I was hesitating over Amendment No. 24, because it raises slightly different issues as to the manner in which we might revise Clause 13. However, if my noble and learned friend wishes it, I shall be happy to take all three Amendments together.

Noble Lords who were present at the Second Reading of the Bill may recall that I, at least, was much disturbed by the extremely open-ended commitment in the Bill to the improvement of the environment of Wales. The Amendment is perhaps not quite so serious as it would have been in view of the acceptance by my noble and learned friend of Amendment No. 1. However, as the Bill was drafted, there was an absolute duty upon the Agency to improve the environment of Wales. As I explained, there are certain areas in Wales which some of us regard as probably beyond improvement and certainly beyond improvement by any Welsh Development Agency that I can envisage. This therefore seems to us to be far too wide a duty.

In the Bill as drafted, it is a duty without any qualification. It is repeated in slightly different terms in subsection (3)(j), to which my Amendment No. 7 refers. In that, the functions of the Agency are described, inter alia, as being to, undertake the development and redevelopment of the environment. Again, in Clause 13 it is spelt out in further detail. Admittedly, it provides for consultation, with such local authorities and other bodies as appear to the Agency to have an interest", but it has a duty to prepare and submit to the Secretary of State, schemes for the performance of the Agency's functions … for the improvement, development or redevelopment of the environment in Wales. I repeat that I find this far too wide an authority to be given to the body which we are discussing in the present Bill. In the first place, I feel that it is primarily for the elected representatives in the local authorities to be responsible for developing or redeveloping their environment. There is no obligation on the Secretary of State to take local opinion into account, although the Agency have a duty to consult. They may consult; they may not take into account the feelings of the local authorities. It seems to me—and hence my Amendment to Clause 13—that at least the Agency should in some way be directed to exercise these functions, as I suggested in my Amendment No. 24, in so far as such improvement, development or redevelopment of the environment is required to fulfil the duties described in paragraph (a), (b) and (c) in section 1(2) of this Act. These duties are to further the economic development of Wales, to promote industrial efficiency, and to provide and maintain employment. If improving the environment is connected with any of these matters and the Agency has funds, no doubt much of this undertaking might be welcome.

Derelict land improvement is a matter which I am certain noble Lords on all sides of the Committee would wish to further. That is described as a separate function, under Clause 1(3)(h), so that the development and redevelopment of the environment is presumably something different from restoration of derelict land or improving its appearance. Therefore, I should very much like to know from my noble and learned friend just what the Government envisage in bestowing these exceedingly wide powers under the Agency? Do not the Government perhaps think that it might be desirable to circumscribe the powers in some way? I have made a suggestion in my Amendment No. 24; the Government may have other ideas in mind. But I cannot believe that the Government can be satisfied with the Bill as drafted. Therefore, without pursuing the matter further I should be most grateful if my noble and learned friend could go into some detail as to precisely what is envisaged and in what circumstances. I beg to move.


My noble friend Baroness White has a lifetime's experience of Wales. On the other hand, I must confess that much as I love Wales it is 75 years since I used to live there when my father was a bandmaster in South Wales, in the Cardiff area. But naturally one wants to do the best that is possible for Wales. My noble friend wishes to eliminate paragraph (d), but this forms an essential part of that subsection. What does the subsection stand for? It stands for economic development, for industrial efficiency and for the safeguarding of employment. Therefore, let us assume that we wish to fulfil each of those three very desirable objectives.

Let us imagine that in order to bring about economic development, to improve industrial efficiency, and to safeguard employment, we decide to set up a huge blast furnace in the Snowdonia area. According to the clause, as it would be amended by my noble friend, we would be able to do that. Therefore, it seems to me that it is desirable, when seeking this economic development, industrial efficiency and fuller employment in Wales, that we should also take steps to see that those desirable ends are not achieved at the expense of the environment of the country, much of which is far too beautiful to spoil. I ask my noble friend please to think again on whether there is something in what I have said.


First, I wish to pay due respect to my noble friend who moved this Amendment, because she has had experience as a Minister. I have an ambivalency about this Amendment, and I hesitate to contradict my noble friend in view of her vast experience in this area. But I wish to follow on from what my noble friend has just said on the question of improving the environment in Wales. I have recently been reading two fascinating books about ancient monuments in North and South Wales, some of which I know very well, and some of which date back to 2,500 years before the birth of Christ. I am aware that some areas in other parts of Great Britain, including Scotland, had ancient monuments which have been destroyed, because of an arid acquisitiveness, irrespective of the environment, to build roads and motorways. This has been done irrespective of the demands of modern man for some comfort of soul as well as material comfort.

I am all for maintaining any proposal that holds back the arid desire merely to pile up profit upon profit for the sake of the motor car, for instance, and for M1s and M6s. I have been looking at improving the environment—a big scheme is going on outside Cardiff—and thinking about such matters as ancient monuments and roadways. Nevertheless, if my noble friend insisted in pressing the Amendment I would not vote against her. But I put forward the caveat that in terms of the environment I understood that there was a broader idea than the one that rests on the mere expression written here. I should like my learned and noble friend, who now happens to be sitting on the Front Bench, to explain to me the connotation of the phrase to improve the environment in Wales".


I regret that having agreed to the last Amendment moved from the Opposition side of the Committee, I find myself in the rare position of being unable to accede to the Amendment put forward by my noble friend. The effect of her first Amendment is to delete as it now is the Agency's purpose to improve the environment in Wales. The second Amendment, No. 7, which is a consequence of the first, seeks to delete the Agency's function to undertake the development and redevelopment of the environment. The third Amendment, No. 24, is also fundamentally consequential, and that seeks to restrict the Agency's environmental activities by requiring them to be related to the duties of further economic development, et cetera.

I understand that the main anxiety felt by my noble friend is that the language of the Bill is too broad, but I believe that breadth of language is needed in the circumstances, and I fear that her Amendments would be excessively restrictive. If carried by the Committee they would undoubtedly have the unfortunate effect of preventing the Agency from carrying out effectively and efficiently, for the benefit of Wales, what we on this side regard as one of the main tasks of the Agency. We have made clear from the start that the Agency would have a parallel responsibility for economic development and for environmental development, and indeed that twin responsibility which is proposed for the Agency has been widely welcomed in Wales.

The Amendments proposed would have the unhappy result of destroying the attempt to unite in one Agency a positive role to enhance industry on the one side, and to protect and improve the environment at the same time. All of us who have lived in Wales will be very familiar with the devastatingly destructive effect brought about in an earlier age when the environment was ignored, when industrial development forgot about the lives of the people who had to live in valleys which were shattered. When one visits Wales, one sees that some of these eyesores remain. I know that my noble friend is a proud citizen of the North of Wales, but that area, too, has not been unscathed by the effect of bad planning in the far off days. The Rhondda-fach, and the Rhymney Valley have their equivalent in Blaenau Ffestiniog and in parts of the Wrexham area, to name but a few—if I may here coin a phrase.

In the view of the Government it would be quite contrary to the role which the Government propose for the Agency if they were to be denied or restricted in their function of carrying out environmental improvement work which would be subject to limitations and duties which I shall mention in a moment. As the Committee will have noticed, there is a comparable provision in the Scottish Development Agency Bill for the good of Scotland which commended itself to your Lordships; and I believe it would be a serious loss to Wales, especially since Wales has, thanks to co-operation with local authorities and others, established such a good reputation for environmental improvement, especially for derelict land reclamation.

We believe that if these Amendments were accepted, there would be a danger that they could restrict and severely limit the Agency's activities in respect, above all, of urban reclamation work. I am sure that my noble friend would not wish that result to follow from her Amendments. Her own concern and care, if I may say so, for the environmental health of Wales is well known and respected. She is Chairman of the Prince of Wales Environmental Committee and has often given the lead in discussion and debate about preserving the environment of Wales. There was a faint anxiety expressed by her at Second Reading, and to some extent today, that owing to some madcap enterprise the Agency would seek to beautify already beautiful valleys. It would have enough of a task to clear the derelict wrecks of so much industrial Wales. We have no intention of doing anything so foolish.

I think it was a Welsh poet who said, when he saw the Vale of Clewedd for the first time, Da lawn Duw which, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the language of the angels, means "Well done, God!" Some heretics in the Welsh Office have questioned whether this was the work of the Welsh poet and have claimed that it was said by Lord Tennyson when he saw the Vale of Llangollen. However, this is no moment to embark on an examination of the origin of the phrase. Certainly I can assure my noble friend that the Vale of Clewedd will remain inviolate. Even this Government will not improve the work of God in this vicinity or in any other beautiful part of Wales; and happily there are many of them.


Would this apply to the reservoirs? Would they have enhanced the environment or otherwise'?


It depends on how they were done. Some of the reservoir development in Wales has beautified the countryside remarkably and have become a place of frequent recourse. When I was a small boy in Llanelli, the reservoir in the valley was the great place to look at, especially after chapel on Sunday night if suitably accompanied—about which I will not develop any further particulars on this occasion.

I wish to assure my noble friend that the Agency will not presume to develop or to redevelop the environment without the full agreement of the local authorities concerned. Schemes will be brought forward jointly as may be required by the Agency and by the local authorities. The Agency will also not want to go ahead, I am sure, without having consultations with various organisations in the field of the protection of the environment. If the Agency were to presume to seek development or redevelopment in areas where this could not be regarded by any right-minded person as necessary then, not only would the Secretary of State, I think, wish to intervene, but Parliament and the local authorities concerned and the Press would have a lot to say. One thing that one can happily say without offence about the environment lobby is that it is one of the most articulate in the country; especially in this House. One can remember for instance the notable success of the late Lord Birkett in the old days in this field; and one can realise how astute this House would be to prevent any unnecessary "messing about"—if I may use that rather vulgar phrase—in the environment unnecessarily.

In my submission, the broad statement of the powers and functions in this field are necessary; but I should emphasise what has been referred to already by my noble friend Lord Leatherland that the normal statutory planning responsibility will throughout remain with the local authorities and the Agency will need planning permission in every case; so that will exercise the kind of control over the frivolous and unnecessary meddling with other people's responsibilities which my noble friend was worried about. In the light of these assurances, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her Amendment.

Baroness WHITE

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reply. I wish nevertheless that he had gone into the matter a little more fully. My noble friend Lord Davies of Leek wandered into the sphere of ancient monuments. We have an Ancient Monuments Commission and an Historic Buildings Commission. I must confess that I had not supposed for a moment that their functions would come within the purview of the Welsh Development Agency. Possibly they do; we have not been enlightened on this. What I had thought of was the Countryside Commission and the National Parks Committees who have quite special duties so far as the Welsh environment is concerned. I have not received any enlightenment so far from my noble friend on what would be the relationship between this Development Agency and, for example, the Countryside Commission. Might it not be better to give the Countryside Commission more money to get on with the job without their having to go through tortuous diplomacy with the Welsh Development Agency.

I do not propose to press this Amendment to a Division; but I think it needs taking rather more seriously because we are concerned with quite an astonishingly open-ended duty laid on the Agency. As we have other bodies with responsibilities in the Principality, I cannot help thinking—in fact, I know—that they have certain apprehensions as to how far the initiative may be taken out of their hands, initiatives which some of them would be very happy to exercise if they had more funds. The representation on the Agency of environment interests from the nature of things, the numbers that are laid down, could hardly be more than one person, it seems to me; whereas you have other bodies who are far more knowledgable than any single person could expect to be. Therefore, an Agency which is undertaking completely uncircumscribed activities in the environmental field is bound to arouse certain suspicion and apprehension among those who may have devoted their lives to environmental matters and who think that his body, after all, is primarily concerned with industrial and economic development and is not likely to have either among its membership or staff, persons of sufficient experience and knowledge in this field. I do not propose to press this first Amendment at this moment. I should be grateful if I could have slightly more comprehensive elucidation of the way in which the Agency is expected to undertake environmental duties.

I am still uncertain about my Amendment to Clause 13; because I can accept without too much difficulty the Agency undertaking schemes which might be desirable in relation to industrial and economic development because there, at least, it would have some circumscribed duty. Is it intended that it should supersede the kind of work normally expected to be done by the Countryside Commission or the National Parks Committees.


I do not think it is. None of the agencies to which my noble friend has referred will be put out of commission by reason of the coming into being of the Welsh Development Agency. As she has indicated, the chief function in the environmental field will be in relation to the assistance with the removal of derelict land, and, in combining with a given industrial development, care to see the environment is also protected. This is constantly a subject of concern in the country, not only Wales. Where you give to a new Agency of this kind functions to perform involving industrial development, it is very important to highlight the parallel importance of protecting the environment. Therefore that will be the main sphere in which it will operate in the field which rightly causes concern to my noble friend. But, as I understand it, the Countryside Commission and even my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek is interested in ancient monuments—that is well known in all parts of the House—and there will be no interference by the Agency in dealing with that part of the maintenance of the traditions and inheritance of the beauties of Wales.


Regarding ancient monuments, I do not want to pretend I take an interest in nothing else. As somebody who saw Aberfan and the sliding tips, I understood the powers given regarding derelict tips which have been left by the Coal Board or private owners for 50 or 60 years, are in the Bill regarding improving the environment and saving life. I took it for granted that "improvement" meant working immediately, and not having delays such as we have had in Aberfan and cases like that. I am not some "fuddy-duddy" up in the clouds about ancient monuments.


I should like to ask my noble and learned friend if it is usual when an Agency, whose primary purpose is to deal with economic matters, is set up that if one also asks it—and I see no reason why it should not be asked—to deal with such matters as the environment, if it should be clearly stated that it should consult with those bodies which are primarily concerned with the environment? As my noble friend Lady White said, it is highly improbable that this Agency will have a number of people on it who are specifically concerned with problems of the environment. On the other hand, one has a number of bodies which are concerned with the environment and whose purpose it is to look at these environmental problems. As my noble and learned friend said, the environmental problems are just as important in North Wales as in South Wales.

If one goes through the derelict slate quarry areas, one sees exactly the problems he has mentioned. Surely these are matters which are already being considered. The Agency should not itself have to initiate these things—although it might—but it should be forced to take into account representations from the bodies which are concerned primarily with the environment. Would it not therefore be possible for the Government to modify the wording in such a way as to make it clear that it was an obligation on the part of the Agency to consult those bodies which were concerned with the environmental problems?


My noble friend will see Clause 13 says: The Agency's duty under section 1(11) above to prepare and submit to the Secretary of State for his approval, after consultation with such local authorities and other bodies as appear to the Agency to have an interest, schemes for the performance of the Agency's functions, includes in particular a duty to prepare and submit schemes, to be implemented either by the Agency themselves, or by the Agency jointly with any other authority or person, or through persons or authorities acting on behalf of the Agency, for the improvement, development or redevelopment of the environment in Wales. That is expressly provided for in Clause 13 of the Bill. Every development which the Agency will embark upon will need planning permission, and this will be the responsibility of the local authority. I really do not envisage any difficulty about this. The people working in this field will be people of good will pursuing the same purpose. I would have thought that such agencies as already exist in Wales to further the protection and improvement of the environment will be delighted to find an Agency of this kind which will have substantial funds at its disposal to help in the good work.


My noble and learned friend has misunderstood me. In Clause 13 it is not explicitly but obliquely referred to. One reads: … other bodies as appear to the Agency …". An Agency may say that there is no other body which has an interest and therefore dismiss it. It is left entirely to the Agency to decide. I was suggesting it ought to be an obligation on the Agency, not at its own whim, to consult with the bodies concerned regarding the environment.


I do not think we can take the matter any further. I have given an assurance on what is intended, and I find it inconceivable the Agency with the responsibilities and functions regarding the environment will fail to consult with those locally involved. They are engaged on the same work for the same purpose. I do not know that it needs to be spelt out more than it is. If there was a failure we should soon hear about it. However, if there is room for doubt, I will have a look at Clause 13 to see whether it needs to be made more specific before we reach the next stage of the Bill, but I do not think it is necessary.

5.58 p.m.

Baroness WHITE

I am somewhat disappointed with my noble and learned friend's reply. The Scottish Bill is worded less absolutely. There, in Clause 2, it says: The purposes for which the Agency may exercise their functions in relation to Scotland or any part thereof are—". And, among other things, it lists furthering the improvement of the environment. In other words, that allows room for other people to have initiatives in this matter. Whereas in the Welsh Bill it looks as though the Agency want to improve the Welsh environment with the minimum of regard for other people. They may all be trying to do the same thing. There are difficulties, when one has more than one body functioning in the rural areas; for example, there are the local authorities and the Countryside Commission, which is a statutory body. I would be far happier if this first clause was phrased differently. Safeguard the environment by all means: there are few industrial developments, however careful you are, that positively improve the environment. It seems a very insensitive way to have drafted this.

I will not press this Amendment, but I should like the Government to think again about it; the drafting could be improved. I recognise the difficulty of deciding which other bodies are to be consulted by statute. That would be difficult, although I sympathise with what my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones has said about this. I would have preferred in Clause 13 to have related schemes to the general work and duties of the Agency. I would ask the Government to think very carefully about the work which should be done by the Agency in areas such as the National Parks. Having said that, I do not want to carry the matter to a Division, and so I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.2 p.m.

Lord OGMORE moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert— ("; and (e) to be answerable to an elected Assembly for Wales when it is set up.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran and myself, on behalf of our noble friends on the Liberal Benches. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has very graciously accepted the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and resisted the Amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am hoping that we will now go back again and that he will accept my Amendment.


Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for a moment? Would it be convenient for the Committee to discuss Amendments Nos. 10 and 15, which I think raise substantially the same point, in conjunction with Amendment No. 3?


If that is the wish of the Committee, I have no objection. As the noble and learned Lord said, they cover substantially the same point though there is a slight difference which he has no doubt already perceived. I do not think my noble friends will disagree with that. There is a slight but important difference, but we would defer to the wishes of the Committee in that respect.

The acceptance of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, puts me in a slight difficulty. Now that that Amendment has been accepted, my Amendment is a little out of step grammatically and to bring it into line it should now read: The Agency shall be answerable to an elected Assembly for Wales when it is set up". The noble and learned Lord will see that unless that is done it is a rather awkward paragraph. As it is only a grammatical change, I do not believe the Committee would wish to object to the Amendment as now proposed.

This Amendment imports a very important issue into the Bill. We now get away from the economic and other aspects which have been, or will be, raised and come to the constitutional issue which, so far as we in Wales are concerned, is highly important. May I say now that my noble friend and I are delighted that this Bill has come forward and that it is a separate Bill for Wales. I have been a Member of this House for 25 years and, so far as I can recall, I believe it is the first occasion when Wales has had a separate Bill on highly important wide-ranging issues of this nature. I do not object at all to the Scottish Members taking up so much time on their Bill—they naturally ought to have the time which they need—provided it is realised that we also must have the time we need, and that there is no objection on the part of the Sassenachs in whatever part of the House they sit.

There are two bodies concerned in this Bill—the Assembly and the Agency. I do not propose to go through the long history of struggle by the Welsh people for a Welsh legislature. It goes back very many years and in more recent times I myself, at the beginning of 1968, presented to your Lordships' House a Bill for a Parliament for Wales. It did not achieve a great deal of success, but at least it was carefully considered on Second Reading in your Lordships' House. Quite recently, one or two matters have come forward which affect this problem. The first was the Kilbrandon Commission Report. As your Lordships know, we had a debate on it. In paragraph 1174 of its Report, the Kilbrandon Commission proposed that a directly elected Welsh Council would be set up, and paragraph 1180 stated that the Council would consist of about 60 members directly elected by the single transferable vote system of proportional representation for a fixed term of four years. I would ask your Lordships to make special note of that. Not only should it be an elected Welsh Council, but it should be directly elected by single transferable vote in proportional representation, thus bringing us into line with the system in Northern Ireland and many other parts of the world, though not as yet in England. Perhaps we will start an English reform.

The next proposition which I want to put before your Lordships is a White Paper—though I understand that, strictly speaking, by some curious technical procedure, it is actually called a Green Paper—in which the Government stated their conclusions on this issue. That paper was presented to Parliament in September 1974, so the same Government was in Office. Paragraph 38 reads, The Government intends to legislate for the establishment of Scottish and Welsh assemblies as soon as possible. As all Parliamentarians know, "as soon as possible" is an elastic term, but there is a length to which elastic can go. You cannot stretch it too far, so we must assume that they have it in mind.

It went on at a later stage: They that is, the Assemblies, will be able to have a decisive voice in the running of their own domestic affairs. And, finally— The Government are, however, confident that, given the will to make devolution work, the proposals here outlined provide a framework which will give full scope for the creative energies of all our people. So this Government are committed to a legislative Assembly for Wales, and the Welsh people mean to hold them to it. Since then the Assembly seems to have gone into a rather nebulous position and I had great difficulty in finding out what is happening.

However, quite recently, on 28th April 1975, in the House of Commons a Question was asked of the Secretary of State as to, what progress he has made in regard to building accommodation for the proposed Welsh National Assembly. Of course, if we have an Assembly we must have a house in which to meet and offices for its officers. The Minister replied: Consultations are proceeding with a view to identifying and preparing suitable accommodation for the Assembly in Cardiff". So here is another pointer—consultations are proceeding and Cardiff is to be the place. Finally, in regard to the original proposals for building aspects, the Minister said: I do not think they need to have been sorted out, but they are being urgently considered and we are looking at the various possibilities. On these practical matters we shall be well up to timetable."—[Official Report, Commons; col. 29.] Perhaps we shall hear from the noble and learned Lord what the timetable is. However that may be, the point is that a legislative council is proposed and that building sites in Cardiff are being inquired into. The buildings will be constructed as soon as practicable.

Turning now to the Agency, this is a very powerful and important body. We have heard long debates on a similar body for Scotland, and no one who listened to those debates could say that this Agency will not be a very important body, indeed. A great deal of time, quite rightly, was taken up by noble Lords on the Tory Benches arguing that they would be far too powerful and that their powers in the Scottish Bill will make Scotland a very different place from what it is today, economically speaking, and that the Government appear to be giving far too much power to the Agency. I have noted the Amendments which the Tories have put down to this Bill and I would expect that much the same arguments will be put forward in this con- nection: Amendment No. 5 is one example.

The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill sets out the very important powers given by this Bill. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor emphasised that in his speech on Second Reading. Furthermore, quite recently there was a speech made in the Welsh Grand Committee by the Secretary of State for Wales on Wednesday, 7th May 1975. He went to great lengths in that Committee—the Welsh Parliament one might almost call it, at least for the present—to emphasise how far-reaching the Agency's functions would be. I shall not weary your Lordships by reading all that he said, but perhaps I might mention one or two points. He said of this Bill—the "No. 1 Bill" so to speak—and I quote from column 18: It will be the cornerstone for future development of my industrial policies for Wales. The agency will have a strong industrial and promotional base and one of its crucial roles will be providing, maintaining or safeguarding employment in any part of Wales. Then he went on to speak of other matters. There is no question that this Agency will be regarded by the Government as a very powerful instrument indeed. I do not think anybody will deny that. So we propose that this powerful body shall be answerable not only to the Secretary of State—because he may be here today and gone tomorrow and a different Party may be in power, though that is not likely in Wales at the moment—but answerable to an elected Assembly for Wales which will have knowledge of every Welsh issue and whose members will come from every part of Wales and will be able to express the feelings of people in their constituencies. The Secretary of State will be a "Poo-bah" under this legislation, and without the Amendment that we now propose we are very much afraid that the Agency will be a mere cipher and ciphers against "Poo-bahs" are not much use.

I believe I have said enough to make it quite clear to your Lordships how important I believe this Amendment to be and how important I believe it wilt be in the context of a Welsh Legislature. It is impossible to resist for long a change of this nature which is desired by the people of a country. I feel that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will have some sympathy with what I am saying because he knows Welsh feelings very well. I most sincerely hope that I shall have an ally in him in this Committee in connection with the Amendment I am moving. I beg to move.


In view of the importance and substance of this proposed Amendment, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Ogmore. May I first of all say how gratified we are that this very important Bill should be introduced by such a distinguished noble and learned Welshman. In view of the quotations which he made earlier this evening in dealing with the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady White, I feel inclined to say, "Da lawn" (well done) to the Labour Government for having asked him to introduce this Bill.

It is a Bill which, as my noble friend has pointed out, is of profound industrial and environmental significance for Wales. It is indeed, as my noble friend also pointed out, unique, in that it is a Bill dealing with Welsh affairs independently and directly, so usual has it been in the past that Welsh matters should be tucked into Bills referring to England and Wales, with Wales included somewhat parenthetically. But this is a Welsh Bill dealing with fundamental Welsh affairs and it is therefore to be dealt with in the context of Welsh matters. As to this proposed Amendment, in my submission it goes to the very heart of progressive political action in regard to the future of Wales. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will of course be fully aware of the steps which are under consideration to devolve more authority in domestic matters away from London to a domestic Parliament in Wales. My noble friend also referred to this. These domestic matters should be referred to an elected Assembly in Wales. We hope, therefore, that the noble and learned Lord will deal sympathetically with this proposed Amendment in the light of the intended devolution of more powers to Wales. Indeed the observations which have fallen from your Lordships as to the practical difficulties which may arise in matters such as those referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady White, would seem to support the desirability of a Welsh Assembly and therefore reference should be made to it in this Bill.

6.20 p.m.


I am very gratified indeed by the enthusiastic references to the Agency which have fallen from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. I am delighted to have received their enthusiastic approval. However, when we have to consider the Amendment proposed, it is an Amendment to the effect that the Agency shall be answerable to an as yet non-existent Welsh Assembly. It is the case that a detailed scheme of devolution for Wales, based on the proposals contained in the Government's White Paper. Democracy and Devolution, Proposal's for Scotland and Wales, is now under careful and indeed advanced study, and detailed proposals are being prepared. In the meantime, I venture to submit that it would be inappropriate, and indeed perhaps even legislatively improper, to attempt to link the Agency with a body, the Welsh Assembly, which undoubtedly it is intended to bring into being in due course but which as yet does not exist and legislation for which has not yet been presented.

Clearly the relationship between the Assembly when it comes into being—and it is intended that there should be an Assembly; and it is right that the preliminary studies of location, et cetera, which are taking place should be furthered—and the Agency, which will come into being before the Welsh Assembly exists, requires the most careful thought. But I submit that that thought must occur, and can only occur effectively, in the context of the Government's total devolution scheme which will be unveiled in due course, after the fullest examination of proposals which will affect the whole future, not only of the people of Wales but of the peoples of the United Kingdom as a whole. We shall then be able to go fully into the matters which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has raised. In the meantime, I respectfully submit that this Amendment, like Amendments Nos. 10 and 15, is premature. But I have no doubt that in due course, on another occasion, we shall be reverting to their subject matter.


It is hard for any noble Lord in this House to cross swords with such a distinguished lawyer as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. In this House one is always at something of a disadvantage in crossing swords with one of the great, eminent authorities of the time, although I have crossed swords with quite a number of Lord Chancellors in my time, not all of whom I held in quite such respect as I do the noble and learned Lord who now occupies that eminent position. Some of them I held in very little respect; at this long distance in time I think I may say that. Nevertheless, I must cross a very tentative sword with the noble and learned Lord on this question of whether something can be said in the Bill about an authority which is not yet set up. In this Amendment we refer to "an elected Assembly for Wales when it is set up".

I must admit that I am of a suspicious nature. Like the noble Lord opposite who is sitting behind the noble and learned Lord, I am a Welshman; and we are a suspicious race. We are a suspicious race because in the past we have been let down so often. When anybody tells me: "It will be all right. You wait. In time to come you can put up this suggestion and we will consider it," I regard those words from my experience, as being fatal words. They have been said to me so many times. I have heard them on many occasions, as your Lordships who have been Members for some time will remember. It has been said: "You just wait. Be patient. In time to come we will consider it." But the time never comes and therefore the issue is never considered, and we in Wales are left once more in the position in which we have been so often—of being fobbed off. In every kind of way we have been fobbed off through the centuries. There is no doubt about that at all. I am not one who pretends that we ought to have a very inflamed conscience about these matters. We have not an inferiority complex; the English are wrong about this. We have a superiority complex, not an inferiority complex; but that does not make it any less important that we should get our rights. I feel that this proposal would give us our rights.

I am not going to press the Amendment tonight because, obviously, I cannot expect very much support from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and his colleagues on this issue. Obviously I shall not receive any support from the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues. So we shall be once more like Horatius, manning the bridge on our own—perhaps with far less luck than Horatius had, but at any rate we shall do our best. I will keep the noble and learned Lord up to it and will see—and I hope I shall have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek—


Will the noble Lord give way? Of course, some of us will be glad to help later, but at the moment the matter is hypothetical. Knowing a little of linguistics and semantics, I could make a corkscrew argument that we cannot do anything until the Assembly is set up. I could do that if there were time, looking at the word "when". I will not however do it tonight, but I assure the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that when the appropriate time comes he will have our support.


I shall be glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and I hope to have that of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, as well. If I can get the support of a few more I will, I hope, return to this issue with my noble friend here and we will keep the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor up to it and not let him get away with it on this occasion. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.27 p.m.

Baroness WHITE moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 1, after ("persons") insert ("including the development corporation of a new town")

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4. It will probably be convenient if, with Amendment No. 4, we take Amendment No. 13 relating to page 2, line 26. At this stage this Amendment is really just a probing Amendment. I shall be grateful if my noble and learned friend can enlighten me as to whether it would be intended that these provisions to provide finance for persons carrying on or intending to carry on industrial undertakings", or to form partnerships with persons, would include the development corporation of a New Town. Later in Clause 4 it is proposed that the Agency may, if they think fit, appoint a development corporation of a New Town as an agent. But, as I mentioned oil Second Reading, an agent can work only within the confines of the responsibilities of the principal. Presumably if one formed a partnership with another person that person could be assisted to carry out the functions for which they were established. I wish to know whether it would be possible within the terms of the Bill for the Agency in suitable circumstances to enter into a partnership with the development corporation of a New Town. It would mean that the New Town could perhaps carry out some things which were not, I think, within the purview of the responsibilities of the Agency themselves.

May I, for example, refer to Clause 7. I have had queries from the Welsh Counties Committee and the Association of District Councils as to the meaning of Clause 7 and whether this could be interpreted in such a way as to enable the Agency themselves to undertake housing activities. I should have thought, probably not. But this is one of the related facilities—it could be interpreted as one of the related facilities—which might be required in establishing industrial undertakings. Of course, it can go wider than housing. One may need some social facilities as well. I am not clear whether the Agency would be able to help with such provision in suitable circumstances if it seemed desirable in promoting economic development. However, as I made clear on Second Reading, I have a particular interest in the development in mid-Wales, and in the mid-Wales context it could be very important whether or not the Development Agency could enter into a partnership with a New Town Corporation. I should be glad if my noble and learned friend could enlighten me.


So far as Amendment No. 4 is concerned, it is not intended that the Agency should provide finance for New Town Development Corporations. As my noble friend knows, they receive their finance direct from Government sources through the New Towns Act 1965. In any event the New Town Development Corporations do not carry on industrial undertakings, but perhaps that is a minor aspect in relation to the Amendment.

The answer is that it is not intended that the Agency should finance New Town Development Corporations. I have, however, a more satisfactory answer to give to the second Amendment, Amendment No. 13. It is that, as drafted, the clause will empower the Agency to form partnerships with other persons. In law, "person" includes bodies corporate, bodies like local authorities and, indeed, bodies like New Town Development Corporations, just as it includes companies—a fact illustrated on a famous occasion by counsel who wanted to ingratiate himself with a High Court Judge opening his submission by saying, "My Lord, in this case I appear for the plaintiff's God-fearing limited liability company".

Perhaps that was going a little far in extending the legal meaning of "person". However, the position is that there will be power to form partnerships. In view of that general power, the Committee may think that it would be inappropriate to single out just one organisation for special mention. On the question of housing, housing will not be within the Agency's purview. We feel that this is best left to existing organisations, and in the light of what my noble friend said earlier, I do not think that she will be disposed to quarrel with that proposition.

Baroness WHITE

I am much obliged to my noble and learned friend. The position is as I hoped it might be, and I am very glad to have that assurance from him. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.34 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 3, leave out paragraph (c).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5. Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 12. These Amendments follow on from a lengthy discussion that took place on the Scottish Development Agency (No. 2) Bill. I hope, therefore, that if I do not go into too long a statement of what we have in mind the Committtee will prefer this rather than that we should go all over the ground which was very adequately covered before.

Amendment No. 5 seeks to delete paragraph (c) on page 2 which is the paragraph that gives to the Agency the function of carrying on industrial undertakings and of establishing and carrying on new industrial undertakings. This is linked with Amendment No. 12 which gives the power to the Agency to form bodies corporate. What we are quarrelling with is the power given to the Agency to run companies and to set up companies of their own. The powers that are given to the Agency in this Bill reflect similar powers which are given to the National Enterprise Board in the Industry Bill. It is as an arm, as it were, of the National Enterprise Board that the Welsh Development Agency would be acting in these instances. This power is one of the reasons why those who are engaged in industry in Wales have not been all that happy with the Bill. It represents an extension of State control into the private sector without, in our view, proper Parliamentary control.

If the Government are seriously intent upon tackling our economic ills, if they are going to do what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, graphically described yesterday as "getting into the driving seat", they must win the confidence of private industry. Certainly this is one of the provisions of the Industry Bill and of the Welsh and Scottish Development Agency Bills, which have had quite the opposite effect. The CBI in Wales is just as firmly opposed to these powers which are given to the Agency in Wales as is the CBI in Scotland and the CBI as a whole.

I hope I made it clear at Second Reading that we are not opposed to the establishment of the Agency, nor to their many other functions. There are nine functions altogether, and this is one only of the nine. There is much good that this Agency could do for Wales within the powers given to them by the exercise of those other eight functions.

We are not suggesting that the Agency cannot provide financial aid to companies in Wales. We are not suggesting that they cannot invest in the equity of a company that they seek to assist. We are not suggesting that they should not have directors on the board of a company in which they are financially interested. The only suggestion we are making is that they should not themselves run companies—either companies that they have taken over or companies that they have formed. We believe this to be unnecessary for the performance of their functions and we do not think that the Agency are well suited to this purpose. They will have quite enough to do without themselves entering into industrial management, which we believe is best left to those who have made it their career.

If the Agencies in Wales and in Scotland and the National Enterprise Board in England are to move into company management, over the years we shall see a continuous process of the enlargement of the public sector into fields of activity quite unsuited to it. Also, we believe that companies that are operated by this Agency or by the National Enterprise Board are bound to offer unfair competition to other firms in the private sector.

I know that the noble Lord who speaks for the Government will deny this and say that there will be fair trading; but I think there must always be a tendency for either the Government or other nationalised industries to favour a firm that, like them, is in public ownership rather than a private firm. In any case, the fact that the Agency will be backed by considerable funds is bound to give to a company that is run by the Agency, much more readily than would be available to a private firm, the opportunity of new capital equipment. We believe that the answer to industrial regeneration in Wales, as in the rest of the country, lies not in further State interference in industry but in creating the right economic conditions in which industry can prosper. For us this Amendment is a matter of principle. We feel strongly about it, and I recognise that the noble Lord will probably not be able to agree with me, but I hope that the Committee will do so. I beg to move.


The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, knows, as do most Members of your Lordships' House, that we cannot possibly accept this Amendment. We discussed a comparable Amendment at great length during the Committee stage of the Scottish Development Agency (No. 2) Bill on Tuesday and—and I say this with regret—that Amendment was carried by a vote of 91 to 54, despite the very reasoned and understanding explanations given by my noble friend Lord Hughes. It was clear to those of us who were here on Tuesday that noble Lords opposite were determined to press their Amendment, and to do so against all reason and against the wishes of Scottish men and women in all walks of life. The arguments put forward by the Opposition were very much in line with what was said in regard to Scottish industry, just as the arguments put forward today are in line with what would be the view of Welsh industry.

It was clear on Tuesday that when noble Lords opposite spoke of Scottish industry, namely, the directors and managers of that industry—as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has just said, those who have made it their career—there was very little reference then, and there has been very little reference today to the wishes and needs of all those who work for and make their contribution to Scottish and Welsh industry. The argument on the Amendment put forward today has been very far away from the needs and the thoughts of the workers in Wales—in Ebbw Vale, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, for example. The argument today has been to a large extent a repetition of what we heard on Tuesday, and as such it has really been to some extent a waste of your Lordships' time. The Amendment would prove as inimical to the real interests of the people of Wales as Tuesday's Amendment was to the people of Scotland. It will be seen to be an attempt to strike at the very roots of the Agency's industrial role, and to do so for Party political reasons and on doctrinaire grounds.

Noble Lords opposite are seeking to remove the very function which will help to make the Welsh Agency a viable new element in Government policies for maintaining and creating jobs in Wales. This is their contribution to the development, expansion and regeneration of Welsh industry which we all seek. If those employed in industry in Wales have an opportunity to read the criticism put for- ward by noble Lords opposite, I know what their reaction will be. They will simply say that noble Lords opposite and those who think like them do not speak for the great majority of workers and their families in Wales or in Scotland.

Let us look at the arguments put forward by noble Lords opposite both today and on Tuesday. They have argued that powers to involve the Agency in industrial undertakings would damage confidence in industry, and damage the performance of Scottish and Welsh industry. But the clear and overwhelming reaction to the Government's proposals from those who work in industry in Scotland and in Wales is one of welcome; indeed, it is a wish that the Government could give even larger financial support to the Welsh and Scottish Agencies. We have heard the argument put forward by those who resent the Government's intention to set up Agencies in Wales and Scotland, that they would absorb private industrial undertakings and compete unfairly against them, but the Government's intention is quite the opposite. The intention is to stimulate new investment and there is nothing in this Bill which gives the Agency an unfair competitive position. We are trying to get Wales into the driving seat of its own vehicle. In any case, it is somewhat odd to hear noble Lords opposite argue about the absorption of private industry, when such absorption by other private industries is regarded as a justifiable way of improving both economic performance and returns on investment.

It has also been said again tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that the Welsh and Scottish Agencies would act as an arm of the National Enterprise Board. We have made it clear—and I do so again—that this is a wholly mistaken view. The powers proposed for the Welsh Agency are powers to be operated by the Agency in Wales for Wales, in the same way as the Scottish Agency will operate in Scotland for Scotland. Where the roles of the Agency are comparable with the National Enterprise Board, this is because in the Government's view the proposals make sense. We have heard the argument that at a time of serious economic crisis nothing should be done to antagonise the good will and co-operation of Scottish or Welsh industry in helping to clear up the mess. It might well be said, however, that the present economic problems are to an extent the result of the failure in the past of Scottish and Welsh industry to grasp the opportunities they had; a failure to invest sufficiently, a failure to plan sufficiently far ahead, and a failure to up-date and improve their management skills.

I could go on in this way for some time, pointing out the lack of conviction in the arguments, but I will not weary the Committee or seem to invite antagonism from noble Lords opposite. Rather I would ask them to reflect and consider whether their arguments have any real merit. In doing so, I should like to take this opportunity to draw attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said, during his short and telling contribution to the debate on Tuesday. His contribution is worth re-reading in full, but perhaps I may paraphrase it.

First, he said that Scottish and Welsh business is more alarmed at the prospect of the continued decline in the economy of Wales and of Scotland than at the prospect of two new Agencies. Businessmen want to invest when there is a sense of growth and hope for the future. The Agencies proposed will encourage this growth, bringing new life and vitality to the Scottish and Welsh economies, and in so doing encourage private investment. Moreover, the board of the Agency, as everyone expects, will look at their problems with a sense of entrepreneurial responsibility rather than dogma. His conclusion was that some of the fears which have been expressed are hardly justified. I put it more strongly—these fears are not justified at all.

Wales needs an Agency which can help to make Welsh-based firms more viable, more competitive and more free-standing We firmly believe that this can be done in a way which will work to the advantage of Welsh industry as a whole, and will not be detrimental to the reasonable expectations and hopes and prayers of private sector industry in Wales. Noble Lords opposite take pains to give the appearance of welcoming competition, but only, it seems, when in fact there would be no competition. Otherwise, they would share with the people of Wales a welcome for the Agency in its role of establishing and carrying on industrial undertakings.

I hope, therefore, that this evening noble Lords may have had time to consider the effect within the Palace of Westminster and outside at many different levels of their voting pattern on Tuesday and will reject this Amendment. If, however, they want to stand in the way of the interests and wishes of the great majority of those people on whose life and work the economy of Wales depends, then presumably they will support the Amendment and in so doing increase the divide between themselves and the mass of people in the Principality. If they do, the Government will have to take steps at the first opportunity to restore to the Agency the power to establish and carry out industrial undertakings. The Government will do this because the power is a necessary one; it is a reasonable one in this day and age, and it is welcomed by those who will be most affected by it.


I have never heard such an arrogant reply in all my life. I do not think the noble Lord showed the slightest bit of respect for what are our principles, or treated them in anything like the sort of way in which we are perfectly prepared to treat his principles. He arrogated to himself what was best for Wales and the workers of Wales. I can tell him the best thing for the workers in Wales would be to get industry back on its feet in Wales. Unless we stimulate the private side of industry, and unless we satisfy private industry that they have a future, then the lot of the worker will be affected just as much as anybody else. We have to restore confidence in industry. The noble Lord derided us for Party political reasons and doctrinaire grounds, but these are matters of principle with us and I think he ought to respect the fact that we have principles and we stand by them.

He went on with the arguments about the Agency not being an arm of the National Enterprise Board, but I do not really think this can stand up in certain respects. The Bill is worded exactly the same as the Industry Bill in many clauses. I listened patiently all the way through to the discussion on the Scottish Development Agency (No. 2) Bill and. time and time again, it became clear that there was a link and that in that case the Scottish Agency would do in Scotland, and now the Welsh Agency in Wales, what the National Enterprise Board would do in England.

As for his charge about failure to invest over the years, this is a very familiar song, but I do not think it can be legitimately laid entirely at the door of private industry. I am sure there are others, particularly politicians of all Parties, and particularly some who have been threatening industry with nationalisation of one sort or another, who equally have made it difficult for private industry to invest. I do not think there is any board of directors which would not be only too pleased to invest for the future if they could make a profitable investment. The reason they cannot do

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

6.59 p.m.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 8, leave out paragraph (e) and insert— ( ) conduct its affairs in relation to the employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers of undertakings which the Agency controls in accordance with the best industrial practices.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6 to leave out paragraph (e), which refers to promoting

so is because at the present time there is raging inflation. I hope that the Government will direct their attention first to the curing of the present economic situation, rather than setting up Agencies which themselves are going to enlarge the public sector of industry by running companies for themselves. I am not in the least put off by what the noble Lord said about our Scottish colleagues who divided on this same Amendment. I certainly intend to press it.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 47; Not Contents, 35.

Aberdare, L. Elles, B. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elton, L. Rankeillour, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Redesdale, L.
Auckland, L. Falmouth, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Birdwood, L. Ferrers, E. St. Just, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gainford, L. Sempill, Ly.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gowrie, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Carrington, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Killearn, L. Strathspey, L.
Colwyn, L. Kinoull, E. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Sudeley, L.
Cowley, E. Long, V. [Teller.] Thurlow, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lyell, L. Vickers, B.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Macleod of Borve, B. Vivian, L.
Deramore, L. Merrivale, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Dundonald, E. Monck, V. Yarborough, E.
Balogh, L. Hale, L. Phillips, B.
Brockway, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. Raglan, L.
Bruce of Donnington, L. Henderson, L. Segal, L.
Castle, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Champion, L. Hughes, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Jacques, L. Strabolgi, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Leatherland, L. Summerskill, B.
Falkland, V. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller] Wallace of Coslany, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gaitskell, B. Lovell-Davis, L. White, B.
Gordon-Walker, L. Mais, L. Willis, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Melchett, L. (Teller.) Winterbottom, L.

Industrial democracy in undertakings which the Agency control;", and to insert—and here I must once again make some corrections to this Amendment, because the Agency should be plural. It should read: conduct their affairs in relation to the employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers of undertakings which the Agency control in accordance with the best industrial practices. Once again there was a rather full discussion of this matter on the Scottish Bill. The whole point of the Amendment is to try to define more exactly what is meant by "industrial democracy". The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, showed a good deal of sympathy towards this. At column 176 on 10th June he suggested that noble Lords should sit down together to get a variety of it which would at least be correctly described as a function, and if they could get together and draw up something which fits tidily into the Bill as it stands, he said, "I will not oppose it at the next stage".

If noble Lords now speaking for the Government would accept the same proposal as made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on behalf of the Government, then if I might be allowed to put my Celtic head together with my Scottish colleagues perhaps we could produce an alternative Amendment. I know this particular Amendment does not commend itself to the Government; at least it did not commend itself to the Scottish Ministers, and I take it it would not commend itself to the Welsh Ministers. If the noble Lord will agree that we might not be wasting our time in trying to find a rather more exact definition of industrial democracy" which might better go into the Bill, then I would be quite prepared to withdraw this Amendment. I beg to move.


The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has indicated that this ground was traversed during the debate on the Scottish Agency; therefore, I think we can take the matter shortly. As he has anticipated, his Amendment is not acceptable to this side of the Committee. We feel that the replacement of the objective of promoting industrial democracy by an exhortation to adhere to the best existing practices is inadequate at the present time. Perhaps I should say that it goes without saying that the Agency will adhere to high standards and follow accepted codes of conduct in all respects, and if it did not the Secretary of State could intervene. But it is the case, and it may well be recognised on the other side of the Committee, that fundamental changes in attitudes and relationships and in the balance of power and responsibilty within industry are needed; that is now becoming well recognised, not only in this country but on the Continent.

The Agency, in fulfilment of what is intended in this clause, will be expected to ensure that undertakings under their control will provide for the participation of employees in decision-making. We do not think that it is necessary, certainly on this occasion, to define in detail what form industrial democracy, participation by employees in decision-making, should take. We think it can have many forms, and the Agency will adopt the approach most suited to the circumstances. But certainly I do not want to discourage any effort by noble Lords, be they Welsh or Scottish or English, putting their heads together to see whether some language somewhat more precise than "industrial democracy" can be discovered to fulfil the objectives that we have in mind. I venture to think that it is going to be very difficult to do so without the concept becoming too rigid and lacking the flexibility the Government have in mind. Certainly we shall be willing to look at the outcome of any endeavour of the kind the noble Lord has indicated. In the meantime, I am afraid we cannot accept this Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 17, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 8.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I think his point is the same as mine, if he genuinely seeks to delete this subsection. I would submit that if that is the case my Amendment is the more accurate of the two, in that if the subsection were deleted a subsequent Amendment would be needed to delete line 22 and part of the following line. Perhaps he would prefer to discuss my Amendment rather than this one.


Perhaps we could discuss both Amendments together; it would probably be simpler. I have no intention of pressing my Amendment, which is a probing Amendment. I will leave it to the noble Lord to do what he likes with his. My Amendment was put down because it appeared that this subsection was very sweeping, that "The Agency shall have power to do anything in Wales …". It started off with words that were quite frightening. But the noble Lord, Lord Lovell-Davis, has been kind enough to write me a letter since we discussed the matter on Second Reading, and I now understand that although the clause requires only the approval of the Secretary of State for actions outside Wales he in fact also controls the actions of the Agency within Wales by virtue of his powers to give general and specific directions under subsection (7). So really perhaps our fire should be directed at the powers of the Secretary of State rather than at the powers granted to the Agency.

The noble Lord in his letter also drew my attention to several precedents in Statutes setting up nationalised industries. He pointed out, too, that these powers are limited to what is necessary to perform their functions, and further limited by subsection (13) of this clause which declares that …nothing in this Act is to be construed as authorising the disregard by the Agency of any enactment or rule of law". So far as I am concerned I am reassured about this clause, and, though we may wish to question some of the powers of the Secretary of State later on, I do not intend to press my Amendment.

I should like to ask the noble Lord, in talking about this subsection, whether he can confirm that where the Secretary of State is mentioned in this Bill that means the Secretary of State for Wales. That would be very helpful. I beg to move.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for his willingness to accept the case made out in my letter. On the last point he raised, I can assure him that the Secretary of State referred to is indeed the Secretary of State for Wales.


I thank the noble Lord, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.10 p.m.

Lord RAGLAN moved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 17, leave out from beginning to ("the") in line 23.

The noble Lord said: This is a genuine attempt to delete this subsection, because there has been concern expressed on all sides of the Committee about the very wide powers conferred upon the Agency. Here we have a very wide power indeed. I concede at the outset that two constructions can be put upon this subsection. One, if I may call it the innocent one, is that of my noble friend Lord Hughes, who replied to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, on Tuesday, when he made much the same kind of point as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has made now. In the Scottish Bill the powers conferred on the Agency are even wider than those conferred on the Welsh Agency.

The innocent explanation of this clause is that it is a kind of useful catch-all phrase to cover those points which the draftsman, or the Government, might have forgotten or do not care to specify. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, have merely protested slightly that the powers allowed here might be thought to be too wide, but that is only one point of view. On the other hand, it is without exaggeration the most astonishing and deplorable passage that I have ever seen in any Government Bill, although I understand just now from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that there are precedents. It is bad for us that there have been precedents and they have gone through without comment.

What causes me so much concern—and, as I remarked on Second Reading, lost me the most of a night's sleep—is that under our system of government the Government themselves control Parliament, and your Lordships know why; partly through patronage, control of the timetable, monopoly of access to the Civil Service, and so on. Mostly we are content to let them get on with it, provided however that any Government come to Parliament for any powers that they might need. But this subsection in effect removes the Agency's accountability to Parliament for the powers they have in Wales—the Scottish Agency Bill, as I remarked, gives the Scottish Agency powers outside Scotland without asking the Secretary of State—and it gives the Agency carte blanche. All that stands in the Agency's way of doing anything they like, provided that they can demonstrate they are facilitating the discharge of their functions—which incidentally, should never be difficult—is the Judiciary. There seems to me to be a constitutional point here which I do not think it right to expand upon at this Committee stage, and especially when there are people in this House cleverer and better versed on constitutional matters than I am. I remark only that under the allegedly despotic Tudors, even under the great and powerful Secretary, Sir Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's great Secretary, he thought it wise and prudent, and constitutionally proper, for Parliament to decide what he could do and could not do even if he had taken the precaution of packing the Parliament with his own supporters. I am glad to say that even they did not always do what he said.

One must next ask, if we are to keep this subsection, what the point of the rest of the Bill is—except perhaps for Clause 2, which gives the constitution of the Agency. All one has to do is to specify the composition, and then say, "Get on with it. You can do anything you like so long as it is within the law." Surely the point of a Parliamentary Bill is to specify what the law should be. Because of this subsection, the Bill at once becomes no longer specific, or restrictive, or instructive, or in any way is directed to the purposes to which Parliament labours day and night to improve the conditions of Her Majesty's subjects and defend their rights. It becomes permissive. This exalted Government Agency can do anything they like so long as it is legal.

My last point is a moral one. If I, or your Lordships, or the citizens at large, were brought up to believe that it did not matter what we did so long as it was legal, the mind boggles at what would be the condition of public morality. I am not referring to sexual morality, though that might come into it. In the context of this Bill, and indeed the other two Bills, I am thinking of probity, square dealing, and the general standards of public behaviour which we have grown accustomed to expect of public figures and public servants. I am sure that your Lordships will accept that it is naïve to imagine that the law by itself can defend public standards. The law is a very imperfect guardian of public morals, as anyone who has to do with social legislation knows very well. The integrity of our Civil Service, for instance, stems not so much from what the law is as to the fact that they conform to a traditional and accepted standard.

To write into a Bill and therefore, in effect, to enjoin and condone that a Government Agency can do anything within the law to facilitate the discharge of their functions is to enter on to ground where angels—and I take it that we are all on the side of the angels—fear to tread. I submit that this subsection is wholly undesirable from every point of view, and I beg to move its deletion.

7.16 p.m.


I would entirely agree with everything that the noble Lord has said if in fact he had not misinterpreted this particular clause. The Agency's accountability to Parliament is in fact through the Secretary of State. As he reads through the Bill, he will see the great care that has been taken in drafting to refer specifically from time to time to the Secretary of State. It is decided law that a statutory company can do things which are necessary, incidental, or conducive to the discharge of its functions. The provision in the Bill does not in any way seek to go beyond that. Subsection (4) does not confer any exceptional, extraordinary powers on the Agency, nor does it give the Agency any powers to override existing laws and practices. For the avoidance of any doubt this point is further made clear in subsection (13) of the Bill. The provision removes any possible doubts as to whether the Agency have the usual rights or powers of a private corporation.

The references to the Secretary of State's approval being required for activities outside Wales are intended to make all explicit. Because of the scale and the nature of the Agency's activities it is sensible to put it beyond doubt that they are empowered to do things outside Wales in the rest of the United Kingdom, or abroad, which are conducive to attaining their functions. They might wish to set up offices overseas to facilitate their promotion of Wales as an industrial location. In such activities outside Wales it has been thought right that the Agency should be expected to obtain the approval of the Secretary of State for Wales. Comparable provisions for giving public corporations explicit power to do all these things necessary, incidental, or conducive to the discharge of their functions are to be found in the Statutes setting up the nationalised corporations: the Gas Act 1972, the Civil Aviation Act 1971, the Post Office Act 1969, the Iron and Steel Act, and so on.

I think that I could put the noble Lord's mind at rest if, at the risk of boring the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I simply quoted a passage from the letter which I wrote to him: Those who drafted the Bill were seeking to emphasise that the body to be established is a Welsh Development Agency which will perform its duties and functions mainly in the Principality. It was therefore thought sensible to make it clear that any activities outside Wales, for example for promotional work, should require the approval of the Secretary of State who is better able to take a wider view and could if need be consult his colleagues and other interested organisations before approving what might be proposed by the Agency. This is the important point: At the same time all the activities of the Agency would remain subject to his powers of general and specific direction which the Bill also establishes. Unfortunately, this attempt to be absolutely clear has led to the possibility of misinterpretation, particularly the implication that the Secretary of State's consent is only required for activities outside Wales. I hope that the noble Lord will accept this and realise that this subsection in fact does not confer on the Agency the powers that he fears it does.


I do not accept it at all and the noble Lord has not listened to one word I said. He made up his speech beforehand, anticipating what he thought I might say. He says that I have misinterpreted the subsection, but if it is open to misinterpretation it surely must be wrong and should be redrafted. It is wide open to misinterpretation. I agree with him that the Secretary of State for Wales must be asked about any matters with which the Agency might be concerned outside Wales itself, and in that respect, as I said when moving the Amendment, this Bill is better worded than the Scottish Bill, under which the Agency do not have to ask anybody; they can do anything they like anywhere at any time. I do not intend to press the Amendment at this stage, but I hope that the Government will think again and deeply for the sake of all of us and find some way of doing what they want with- out conferring such wide powers. These powers are so wide that it would be dangerous to confer them on a Minister, let alone on an Agency. I trust that the Government will take this point on board and treat it with the deep seriousness and attention it deserves. In the meantime, I beg leave to—


Before the noble Lord seeks leave to withdraw the Amendment, may I ask for two points of clarification, one of which may already have been clarified and slipped past me too quickly. First, it appears from reading the Bill that the phrase, … with the approval of the Secretary of State … in line 18 is subordinate and depends on that which follows, and therefore, The Agency shall have power to do anything in Wales is not subject to the proviso that it shall have the approval of the Secretary of State. Secondly, later in the clause, subsection (13) says: For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that nothing in this Act is to be construed as authorising the disregard by the Agency of any enactment or rule of law. Can the noble Lord or his drafting colleagues say whether that phrase "any enactment" includes the Act we are at present engaged in making—that is, the Bill as it now stands—or is there not a possibility that this could be set aside?


I can only say at this stage that I should like to refer this back to the Parliamentary draftsmen to have a look at it. May I do that?


Yes. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN moved Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 18, after ("Secretary of State") insert ("or, when it is set up, the Welsh Assembly")

The noble Lord said: We on the Liberal Benches are very much encouraged by what the noble Lord said in dealing with Amendment No. 3. We rather felt that perhaps it was a technical objection that there was no reference to an Assembly in the Bill because it has not not yet been founded, and in those circumstances we do not propose to press the Amendment. Nor do we propose to press Amendment No. 50. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.25 p.m.


With the leave of the Committee, this may be a convenient moment at which to halt the Committee stage.


I wondered whether we might have gone as far as Amendment No. 12, because we have dealt with that Amendment—I spoke to it in moving the Amendment on which we divided—and I thought that we had an arrangement that 7.30 p.m. would be the time to halt the Committee stage, so it seems that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is a little in advance. If we could have reached that point, I think it would have been most helpful to the Committee.



Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 11: Page 2, line 24, at end insert ("provided that the disposal of these securities is achieved as soon as, in the opinion of the Agency, it is reasonably practicable to do so;")

The noble Lord said: I can deal with this Amendment quickly, because again it is one which was spoken to on the Scottish Bill and I therefore know that my Amendment is not acceptable to the Government. However, the object behind it is to try to ensure that the traffic is not all one way, in other words, that the Agency do not go on investing money in firms and never sells off any of their shares in the open market. We should like to see an Agency that injected necessary capital into one firm or another, but which were required, when appropriate, to sell their shares to the general body of investors; in other words, the fund would be a rolling fund, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, at column 191 of the Official Report of the discussion on the Scottish Bill. If this is the intention—that the funds available to the Agency should be used in this way, and that shares should be sold as well as being bought in private industry—then I would be prepared to withdraw the Amendment at this stage.


Yes, I think I can give the noble Lord the assurance he requires.


In that case, I beg to ask leave to withdrawn the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord ABERDARE moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, line 25, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: We coupled this with Amendment No. 5 and I hope that if I move it formally the noble Lord will be prepared to accept it in view of what has occurred.


I can do no better in the case of this Amendment than to echo the words and actions of my noble friend Lord Hughes in the debate on the Scottish Development Agency Bill on Tuesday. My objections to the removal of this paragraph are as fundamental as those I had to Amendment No. 5, which the Committee decided to carry. If that Amendment is to remain part of the Bill, the logical consequence is that paragraph (b) should also go. I accept this situation with no pleasure. However, I will not compel the noble Lord to divide the Committee on it and will simply leave it to the wisdom of another place to put it back.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move that this House do now resume.

Moved, That this House do now resume.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to and House resumed accordingly.